How To Create Your Own Tarot Deck, part two

This is a sequel to a post I wrote last year. So I finally went and did it: I put my money where my mouth is, and used one of the sites mentioned in my previous post, makeplayingcards.com, to convert a set of tarot cards I had designed into an actual deck. It will not be commercially released, for two reasons: firstly, it is far too derivative of other well-known decks, so there would be a rights issue if I tried to do so; and secondly and more importantly, I don’t claim to be a great artist.

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Tarot trumps. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

The Majors and the Court Cards I created from the BOTA deck, which is deliberately printed black and white for the purpose of colouring in – as one learns about the colour correspondances of the Tree of Life. I didn’t paint the actual cards, but large scans thereof, which I then re-scanned once finished. The pip-cards, on the other hand, were mostly done with Photoshop (except for the suit of Cups). Incidentally, the pip-cards on the BOTA deck are a bit of a let-down compared with the art-work of the rest of the deck. I ended up photoshopping scans of the Rider-Waite: not only re-colouring them, but also altering the background imagery to suit my own particular interpretation of the symbolism.

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Wands. Fire. Atziluth. King Scale. The Spiritual Experiences of the Sephiroth.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Cups. Water. Briah. Queen Scale. Archangels. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Cups. Water. Briah. Queen Scale. Archangels.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Swords. Air. Yetzirah. Prince Scale. Choirs of Angels.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Pentacles. Earth. Assiah. Princess Scale. The Gods as they are ensouled in the material universe (or in other words, “the Planets”).
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Ten out of the seventy-eight cards ended up being original compositions, not based on any pre-existing tarot card. For the back, I printed the text of the invocation used in the Golden Dawn at the start of every tarot reading, for the practical reason that if I put it there, I wouldn’t forget it!

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Back view. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

I have to say that the emotional satisfaction of getting this project completed – which is no small thing, subjectively speaking – is the exclusive advantage of this method of acquiring a new tarot deck. It is neither a costly nor timely method. Quite apart from the effort in trying to assemble all the images necessary, the website I went with, makeplayingcards.com , outsource their manufacturing and distribution to China. Not only did this add considerable time to the shipping, I discovered they stopped work over the Chinese New Year period, which of course is a major holiday for them.

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BBC News – Sir Terry Pratchett, renowned fantasy author, dies aged 66

Sir Terry Pratchett

So, farewell to Sir Terry Pratchett – an author whose books I certainly enjoyed (as did millions of others). Speaking as a writer myself, Pratchett to me is a perfect example of an author who achieved superstar status by working steadily and sticking through tough times at the start of his career before eventually achieving his destiny. He is therefore a far more realistic model of success for aspiring writers than e.g. the J K Rowlings of this world.

Speaking as a magician, Pratchett holds a special interest for me in that it is quite obvious from a careful reading of his Discworld novels that he knew perfectly well the kind of pretentions that occur within the real-life Neo-Pagan, Occult, and RPG communities, and often subjected them to good-natured ribbing. Or – if you are a fluffy-bunny type without a sense of humour – he  harshly mocked them and subjected them to cruel and merciless satire. ;)

BBC News – Sir Terry Pratchett, renowned fantasy author, dies aged 66.

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How does the Tarot relay to the tree of life?

Answer by Alex Sumner:

Ten of Cups: Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

From the late 18th century onwards, occultists retconned the story of the Tarot to make it appear to have an ancient Egyptian origin, or to be associated with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, or both. The way this has been done, e.g. by the Golden Dawn, does make for an appealing set of correspondences from the point of view of a modern occultist, but a very traditional Kabbalist might equally say “They’re not related at all. The Tarot is foreign to the Kabbalah.”

That being said, however, the basic scheme is as follows:

  • The four worlds of the Kabbalah – Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah – correspond to the suits Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles;
  • The pip cards correspond to the ten sephiroth, i.e. Ace = Kether, 10 = Malkuth, etc;
  • In addition the court cards are assigned King to Chokmah, Queen to Binah, Prince (Knight) to Tiphereth, and Princess (Page) to Malkuth;
  • The twenty two trumps correspond to the twenty two paths linking the sephiroth.

The Golden Dawn system uses the Athanasius Kircher Tree of Life, and gives “The Fool” as Trump 0, Strength as trump 8, and Justice as 11 (in older versions of the Tarot, Strength was 11 and Justice was 8, whilst the Fool didn’t have a number but was poked between the last two trumps).

How does the Tarot relay to the tree of life?

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Astrology on the National Health Service

David Tredinnick MP

David Tredinnick MP

News this week that a British MP told an astrology journal that the NHS would be improved if Doctors knew about astrology. This has provoked outrage in the gutter press, with many publicly calling for the MP in question, David Tredinnick, never to be made a minister! They are conveniently ignoring that the fact that Tredinnick was forced to renounce any possibility of a ministerial career many years ago: which is probably why he is not afraid to speak out on issues which he feels are important.

As an astrologer myself I must say that I have great sympathy with Tredinnick. However, in my opinion, it will be unfeasible to incorporate astrology into our National Health Service, and it’s not for the reasons that the Yellow Journalists trot out. To wit:

Firstly, whilst there is such a thing as “medical astrology,” it is my understanding this is used for long-term chronic concerns, not conditions which arise from referrals from Accident & Emergency, or which arise in circumstances of urgency. Unfortunately, it is just such cases which form the majority of the workload of the NHS. “Medical astrology,” if it were to be used at all, could only really be used for general health check-ups.

How the NHS sees new patients...

How the NHS sees new patients…

Secondly, there is the peculiar way in which funding is allocated in the NHS, which is basically that the money follows the patient. An unpleasant side-effect of this is that it encourages NHS workers to visualise patients as if they have £ signs stamped on their foreheads – which further encourages different fund-managers (e.g. different GP practices, different primary health care trusts within the same local area, etc), within the the NHS to compete with one-another for the same patients. Hence, if one GP refuses to offer astrological consultation but another down the road does, there is the danger that the first GP will dissuade the patient from transferring to the second one not on scientific but on financial grounds.

And before you accuse me of scaremongering, I actually once worked in the NHS many years ago, and I was firmly told by management that if a potential patient came through our door who we would not ultimately be able to treat ourselves, we were to get him on our books anyway before transferring him to an external agency, instead of redirecting him to the external agency straightaway – precisely for this “money follows the patient” principle. This sort of shit does go on.

Thirdly: if NHS professionals do give astrological readings to patients, it would force the NHS to stop treating patients as statistics but as people – because, astrology, as properly done, is a skilled art which needs great sensitivity and tact on the part of the astrologer. NB: astrologers will get the point immediately, but non-astrologers ought to be aware that the kind of thing that Tredinnick was talking about was not the daily horoscopes which appear in the newspapers, which are not real astrology anyway, but a full reading which involves drawing up and going through the patient’s entire birth chart.

Thus the irony is that although we may not see Astrology on the NHS in its current state, the effort involved in trying to introduce it would inevitably shake up our health service and cause radical reform in terms of quality all the same.

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Why does astrology still exist?

Answer by Craig Weinberg:

I also wondered why astrology was taken seriously by anyone, until I took the time to actually investigate what it is and what it is not. What I found, and what anyone who is able to study astrological systems should find if they are able to view it with scientific objectivity, is that confirmation bias, like the placebo effect, can go both ways.

Just because it is easy to be fooled by the vague generalities of astrological interpretation does not mean that there is nothing at all of value there. To the contrary, divination systems such as Astrology, Numerology, Tarot, and the I Ching are among the most insightful ontological tools that I have ever encountered, and represent the sum total of the wisdom and philosophy of pre-scientific history.

After doing hundreds of charts for people I know, interesting world figures, and periods of history, I can say with confidence that anyone who thinks that astrology is nothing but scientific illiteracy and fraud does not really know very much about astrology. Not that there is not a tremendous amount of illiteracy and fraud out there, especially in the psychic-horoscope market, but again, popular abuse of something is not an argument against proper use. Looking at the charts of a family, the number of unlikely coincidences and meta-coincidences among the natal charts of the family members has never failed to blow me away. Every chart tells a story, and every family is a like a quantum mechanical ensemble of stories and themes.

Astrology still exists because neither science nor religion offers a comprehensive theory of identity and history which respects the subjective qualities that actually matter in such considerations. It provides a language to talk about esoteric themes within personal and social experience, as well as a compelling framework with which to analyze historical events.

The mistake that people make is to assume that the purpose of astrology is prediction. While astrology can indeed be of some predictive value, it would be a mistake to try to use it that way intentionally. Astrology doesn’t predict events, it maps the coincidence of psychological themes to the coincidence of planetary configurations.

Applying those coincidences can invite apophenia (delusional projection of patterns), but when attended to with maturity, they can also be used to cut through mental clutter (associated with activity of the prefrontal cortex) and pick up on deeper, more intuitive sensitivity to the flow of our personal lives.

In recent years, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theory has become popular, and enjoys more respectability than astrology among highly educated audiences. MBTI was based on Jung’s work on personality types, which itself was based on astrological dichotomies.

Why does astrology still exist?

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Which book by Israel Regardie would be advisable for a complete novice?

Answer by Alex Sumner:

If the operative words are “complete novice” I would say The Middle Pillar followed up by Foundations of Practical Magic (I would also have recommended “How To Make and Use Talismans” if you can get it, but it appears to be out of print).
The Golden Dawn is advanced reading, though ultimately highly rewarding.

I have to confess I didn’t actually like The Tree of Life as I found Regardie’s language rather pompous, and it didn’t actually cover anything that had already been done better elsewhere (e.g. by Aleister Crowley or Dion Fortune).

Which book by Israel Regardie would be advisable for a complete novice?

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Is there any way to manipulate your dreams, for example changing your place, changing persons?

Answer by Alex Sumner:

It is possible to program the contents of your dream in advance, by fixing a firm intention in your mind immediately before falling asleep. This is akin to a form of self-hypnosis.

It is also possible to do it “in-dream.” Contrary to what other responders have answered, this is not simply a case of just lucid dreaming, but of becoming lucid and using self-hypnosis again but this time to convince yourself that you have the power to alter your dreams on the fly. It takes practice but it can be done.

I write more about it here: http://solascendans.com/articles

Is there any way to manipulate your dreams, for example changing your place, changing persons?

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Alex Leaves Facebook

Over the past few days events have made me consider, where does my first loyalty lie: the Temple of which I am a member; or Facebook? Considered in this light, the answer is obvious: Facebook loses.

I shall therefore be withdrawing from Facebook: the only thing left of me there will be my author page which will exist to promote my publications.

I deeply regret cutting off contact with over 800 friends and well-wishers in this way, but I can still be reached via my own website.

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Misadventures of a Golden Dawn Imperator 1: Oriental Adventures

Who said AD&D lead people into the occult?

Just to be clear about this: the proper role of an Imperator in the Golden Dawn is to supervise the Ritual that takes place in the temple. The Z documents issued to Adepti describe the Imperator as akin to a “Director of Ceremonies,” although in practice the role is nothing like that of the DC in e.g. Masonic orders, where the DC is jumping up and about all round the temple. Instead, the Imperator just sits there looking stern (except for the adorations to the Lord of the Universe), and only gets a speaking role during the ceremony of the Equinox.

Some GD orders give the Imperator a more substantial astral-role to play: however the precise details of this are confidential, as it is one of the few unpublished teachings.

Nevertheless: when asked to act as Imperator in a temple recently, I decided to try and take the “Director of Ceremonies” side of the role seriously by doing things like arranging rehearsals, and finding solutions to common difficulties which arise in rituals, one of which I describe below:

I was born on the east side of town, but the East faced South.

What do you do when the room in which you conduct your rituals does not face true East? If one goes by Regardie’s Black Book and nothing else, one invariably ends up fudging the issue if one does not want engage in all sorts of callisthenics when trying to perform ritual in an oddly-shaped temple. HOWEVER: the original GD thought up a solution to this way back in 1888! It’s just that this one of a large number of original teachings which did not make it into Regardie’s opus.

Quite simply: the Temple is set up according to the natural layout of the room. Then, immediately before the formal opening of the ritual, the Hierophant goes round to Compass-East, stretches forth his sceptre, and prays:

Creator of the Universe, Lord of the Visible World, who hast by Thy Supreme Power set limits to its magnitude and conferred special attributes on its boundaries, we invoke Thee to grant that whatever Hidden and Mystic Virtue doth reside in the radiant East – the Dayspring of Light – the origin of Life – may in answer to this our prayer be this day conferred upon the Throne of the Hierophant of this Temple, who is the emblem of the Dawning of that Golden Light which shall illuminate the Path of the Unknown and shall guide us at length to the attainment of the Quintessence, the Stone of the Wise, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.

and returns to his throne, which from this point on is taken as the Magical East for the rest of the ceremony.

Incidentally, this prayer is useful not just for a full temple meeting, but also for practising rituals at home.

After the break-up of the original GD, the Stella Matutina continued the use of this same prayer in their own rituals. Mathers, however, wrote a new version for use in the Alpha Et Omega (which Nick Farrell has now published in his book Mathers’ Last Secret):

Hidden forces of the Universe acting through Matter unto whom have been assigned according to your nature the Cardinal Divisions of Space. Invoke ye by the All Powerful Name of your Creation to seal in just orientation the Inner Limits of this Temple. Let the Throne of the Hierophant mark the radiant East, though its direction accord not therewith, and let the South, West and North send their secret currents towards the points established in their correspondence by our Rites.

 

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Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer – by Theresa Crater | Visionary Fiction Alliance

Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer – by Theresa Crater | Visionary Fiction Alliance.

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