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World Tarot Day

Today is World Tarot Day, and so I thought I (as a Tarot reader myself) would contribute by reviewing my own favourite Tarot decks.

Golden Dawn – Robert Wang

Golden Dawn Deck – artwork by Robert Wang

The Golden Dawn was my entry into occultism generally, and consequently the Tarot as well. Hence Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot was the first deck I ever bought: it was the one on which I learnt. The trumps struck me as the most impressive, although I confess I thought the art-work was a bit ordinary. Nevertheless this is still my default deck today, the one which I most use for doing readings. I have to admit though that if I were buying a Golden Dawn deck for the first time today, I would probably get Tabatha Cicero’s versioninstead, mainly because the art-work is livelier.

Crowley-Thoth

Crowley-Thoth deck. Designed by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris.

Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck is one of a number of decks which I keep at home mainly for the sake of comparison. One has to remember that for 19 years from 1969 until 1988, this was the closest thing to a Golden Dawn type deck that was publicly available. In many ways this would be an ideal deck, due to its bold artwork courtesy of Lady Frieda Harris and its wealth of symbolism which is all authentic … from a Thelemic point of view. Essentially Crowley took the GD symbolism, right down to the particular colours appropriate to each card – and augmented it with ideas derived from his own visionary work, e.g The Book of the Law and The Vision and The Voice. Hence, whilst it is mostly GD-ish, and undoubtedly superb for actual Thelemites, a GD purist would need to be wary of this. (Incidentally, a good book to read about this deck is Lon Milo Duquette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot).

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot

This is not really a Tarot deck per se, more a Cartomancy deck. It is not based upon the traditional Tarot format at all: instead, each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers and the Tablet of Union. Meanwhile, the reverse of each card instead of having a uniform backing has elemental symbolism (corresponding to the Enochian associations on the obverse side) which can be used in skrying. The meanings of the individual cards take a bit of getting used to, although there is a logic to the general scheme which is based on GD teachings.

This has given me an idea – about how an Adept might incorporate this into ceremonial magick. When performing a divination with this deck, typically there will be one card which points to the solution of a given problem. Because each card represents a portion of the Enochian Watchtowers, the “solution-card” will therefore represent a particular Enochian angel – a being who can be evoked by constructing a magical ceremony with the appropriate symbolism.

Rider Waite

Rider Waite – designed by A E Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

Given that the Rider Waite deck is the world’s most popular version, I suppose that I could hardly call myself a tarot connoisseur unless I actually had a copy. Undoubtedly Pamela Coleman-Smith’s artwork must be a big reason for its popularity – especially the fact that each of the Minor Arcana is individually illustrated.

The Mythic Tarot

The Mythic Tarot

I decided to get hold of this after seeing a fellow Tarot reader use this. What I find most appealing is that the creators of this deck have based the artwork on Greek mythology. Hence: the suit of Cups is the story of Cupid and Psyche; Wands is the story of Jason and the Argonauts; whilst the characters in the Major Arcana are identified as Greek gods and goddesses. This is a visually appealing deck because, like the Rider Waite one, all 78 cards are fully illustrated. Also it is refreshing to see a deck which goes with an original idea for a change which comes off successfully.

Builders of the Adytum

The BOTA deck.

Of all the Tarot decks which are available, the ones that particularly interest me are those created by Occultists – as opposed to the many which appear to be novelty decks, or created by people with only a superficial understanding of the subject. Hence my reason for being drawn to not only the Golden Dawn, but also the Crowley Thoth, Rider Waite, etc decks. I suppose it was thus inevitable that I would seek out the Builders of the Adytum, given that it was designed by not only an occultist but by an actual Tarot scholar, Paul Foster Case. The thing about the BOTA deck is that it comes uncoloured: the point being that as a student learns about the Tarot, they use their own knowledge of the esoteric associations of colour to colour it in themselves. Unfortunately I discovered that the BOTA deck is very hard to come by on Amazon – with one going for over £100.

So I cheated.

The unfortunate fact, I am ashamed to say, is that a full set of scans of the entire BOTA deck is available via bit-torrent and certain P2P clients. So whilst I have never purchased a BOTA deck, I am nevertheless using my Adobe Photoshop skills to illustrate it anyway. 😉

The Black Tarot

The Black Tarot – illustrated by Luis Royo

This is something of a curiosity which came into my possession, and of which I have not made use since acquiring it. The trumps feature a lot of lurid artwork – dragons, monsters, scantily-clad buxom women, etc – which only vaguely references traditional tarot imagery. Meanwhile the accompanying booklet puts a Vama-marga Tantric spin on interpretation of the cards.

I first acquired this when a dear friend of mine was getting rid of her spare tarot decks, so I just happened to pick this up. Ironically, the same friend later received a present – another copy of the Black Tarot. Hmm seems to me this must be more than coincidence – perhaps the universe is trying to tell her something???

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Books for Beginners

Recently I asked the question:

What book(s) would you recommend to a complete beginner on magick? Shameless plugs only if genuine.

I now present some of the answers I received.

Wicca

Enchanted: Titania’s Book of White Magic comes recommended from Facebook fan Diane J Reed, who says:

 I absolutely love this book … (it’s out of print, so you have to get a used copy). The book is just gorgeous and only deals with “white” magic used for good purposes, but the photography is so beautiful it will make you drool.

I personally am not cognisant with this work, but Titania Hardie, the author, describes it as being within the Wiccan tradition. Whilst on the subject of Wicca, another FB fan, Philip Dean Fox, recommends Witchcraft: A Beginner’s Guide by Teresa Moorey, and two books by Susan Bowes: Life Magic – The power of positive witchcraft. and Notions and Potions: A safe, practical guide to creating magic and miracles. Meanwhile, another FB friend, Adrien, recommends Christopher Penczak’s The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation and Psychic Development (Penczak Temple).

Hermetic Magick

Oliver St John recommends Hermetic Qabalah: A Foundation in the Art of Magick by, er, Oliver St John. He assures me:

 I still use my own copies for reference, tables, correspondences and other information stored all in one place and easy to find. When I started out I had to have 6 books open at once to find all this stuff.

Oliver also makes the point that:

… plugs to one side, it is a really good question. Where on earth do we start? The milestones like “Complete Golden Dawn” and Crowley’s “Magick” are useless to a complete beginner. I would recommend getting a grounding in at least the basics of astrology and setting up a horoscope. It amazes me how many occultists don’t know the first thing about astrology.

Indeed! Several months ago I gave myself the task of doing a short ten-minute talk to members of a highly secretive branch of the Illuminati (nb: they are not secretive at all! They just don’t want it publicly known that they have a scruff like me as one of their members!) outlining a number of basic reference works for people who might, for all I know, be complete beginners to the mysteries. I remember that many years ago I read a remark by Israel Regardie about the first Knowledge Lecture of the Golden Dawn, recommending to just get any old book on astrology to look up basic terms thereon – so that is exactly what I did, and what I recommended in turn to the members of this order. As it happens, when I went into Waterstones that fateful day, the first book on the subject which I picked up was Teach Yourself Astrology.

Apart from that, there are a few other old favourites that I would personally recommend, e.g.

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In Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Vault of the Adepti

30th Anniversary Announcement

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Public Challenge to David Griffin

Stop all your verbal attacks against Chic, Tabby, Nick Farrell, Pat Zalewski, the SRIA and all the rest, and use your supposed EU trademarks to stop the neo-nazis in Greece from bringing the “Golden Dawn” name into disrepute.

If you want to be remembered for doing something good for the Golden Dawn community, that is.

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QOTD: Israel Regardie

Israel Regardie

An Order is simply a temporary vehicle of transmission — a means whereby suitable individuals may be trained to awaken within their hearts the consciousness of the boundless Light. But sooner or later, it would appear that the initiates foster loyalty to the external husk, the shell, the organisation of grades at the expense of that dynamic spirit for which the shell was constructed. So often has it happened in the past. Every religion stands as eloquent witness to this fact. It is the fate which has overtaken the Golden Dawn. Practically the whole membership is fanatically attached to individuals conducting Temple work as well as to the mechanical system of grades of the Order. But when this piece of teaching and that document of importance is withdrawn from circulation, mutilated, and in some cases destroyed, none has come forward to register an objection.

Its Chiefs have developed the tyranny of sacerdotalism. They have a perverse inclination towards priestcraft, and secrecy has ever been the forcing ground in which such corruption may prosper. Obligations to personal allegiance whether tacit or avowed, is the ideal method of enhancing
the personal reputation of those who for many years have sat resolutely and persistently upon the pastos of the hidden knowledge. If by any chance the hidden knowledge were removed from their custody, their power would be gone. For in most cases their dominion does not consist in the gravitational attraction of spiritual attainment or even ordinary erudition. Their power is vested solely in the one fact, that they happen to be in possession of the private documents for distribution to those to whom they personally wish to bestow a favour as a mark of their
esteem.

Israel Regardie, What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn

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The Middle Pillar

The Middle Pillar is the subject of a paper I recently delivered at a Golden Dawn themed open day.


This talk is aimed at everyone including complete beginner to the Qabalah. In a little while we will be doing the Middle Pillar Ritual itself.

But first, some background.

The Middle Pillar Ritual seems to have been an original creation of Israel Regardie, which he synthesised from Golden Dawn teachings. The Golden Dawn before Regardie did not really use it per se, although they did contemplate the Tree of Life as a whole in ones aura.

The Middle Pillar corresponds to the Sushumna of Yoga – the channel down the centre of the body where are located the Chakras. The Middle Pillar Ritual is thus a technique for rousing the energies of the chakras, but with two key differences:

  1. In the Qabalah we work with 4 or 5 (I’ll explain later) chakras, not the full 7;
  2. In the Golden Dawn we always invoke the highest first – always. Therefore we always start from the top (Crown) and go down.

Many schools of Yoga do the opposite – they open the chakras from the bottom upwards. However: Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga, said that the correct Yogic method should be to open the chakras from the top down – like we do in the Golden Dawn. The reason – he says – is that by opening the chakras from the top down one prevents a sudden uncontrolled explosion of Kundalini, because the superior chakras will have already been stabilised and dedicated to God before the Kundalini (which resides in the base chakra) is awakened.

NB: Kundalini rising in a controlled manner is good; exploding uncontrollably is bad, because despite feeling good it leads to bad side-effects.

The “chakras” (actually “Sephiroth”) with which we work are: Kether, the Crown chakra; Daath, the throat; Tiphereth, the heart; Yesod, the sacral or genital region; and Malkuth, the base chakra.

NB: The Sephiroth do not correspond exactly to those of Yoga, so it is best not tot try and keep looking for correspondences where none exist. The Middle Pillar Ritual does not necessarily fulfil the same function as raising Kundalini – it is an invocation of the Divine from above, as opposed to raising energy from below. References to chakras etc are but a convenient peg on which to hang my metaphor, for those not familiar with the Golden Dawn.

Kether – the crown – does correspond fairly well to the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus. Both represent ones connection to the Universe. In the Golden Dawn the Kether point of one Qabalistic world is the connection to the Malkuth of a superior world: so we may imagine that energy spirals down into our crown chakra from a higher plane of existence.

Daath – the throat – is slightly problematic. It is not actually a Sephirah – technically, it is a place where a Sephirah should be but tellingly, is not. Daath should be considered as a marriage of Chokmah and Binah. Daath does not have any attributions of itself: however, in the Hexagram ritual which we use in the second order, the point corresponding to Daath is associated with the supernals generally and Saturn specifically. For that reason, when we perform the Middle Pillar Ritual we use the divine name of the sphere of Saturn, i.e. Binah.

In any event, Daath does not correspond perfectly with the throat chakra of Yoga. The “Vishuddi” chakra is associated with the element of Akasha, which in the Golden Dawn is more associated with Tiphereth.

The next Sephirah is Tiphereth itself. As it happens both Tiphereth and its corresponding Chakra, Anahata, are associated with the element of Air, in spite of the Tiphereth’s other associations with Akasha or Spirit. Tiphereth itself is associated with the Sun.

Below that is Yesod. This is in the same place as the Svadisthana chakra, however: Yesod is associated with Air, and Svadisthana is associated with Water. All of the Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar are associated with Air, in fact, apart from Malkuth, which is associated with Earth. Yesod itself is also associated with the Moon.

Finally we have Malkuth, which like the Muladhara chakra the lowest chakra, represents the Earth – ones connection with the Earth. There is a fairly major difference, however: because the Yogi does his meditation sitting down, his connection with the Earth is the base of his spine – the perineum. However, because we do our Middle Pillar Ritual standing up, our connection i.e. our Malkuth centre is in our feet. Both the Muladhara chakra and Malkuth are (as said previously) associated with Earth.

Incidentally, Dion Fortune worked out a method of working with all the chakras, albeit using Qabalistic associations with all of them. What she did was to work with the four (or five) Sephiroth which I have already mentioned: however in addition, she imagined the brow chakra (Ajna) as jointly-representing Chokmah and Binah; whilst the solar plexus chakra (Manipuraka) as jointly representing both Hod and Netzach. Daath becomes the Luna plexus, whilst the Vishuddi chakra is imagined as jointly representing Chesed and Geburah. She also formulated an exercise in which after these eight were opened one imagined them being ruled over by Egyptian God-forms. She also specified a method for partner-working – i.e. one partner invokes the chakras for the other and then vice versa.

That digression aside, I will now speak about the Middle Pillar Ritual itself, and what it is used for. It is primarily a method for invoking spiritual blessings for ourselves. Israel Regardie however said that it could also be used for healing, and even as a simple method of practical magic. Regardie’s theory was this. One performs the Middle Pillar ritual – after which one is imagining and feeling oneself filled with light and energy. Then, to perform healing, whilst still contemplating that light and energy, one concentrates on the part which needs to be healed, imagining that light is flowing into that part. It is in effect a Qabalistic form of Reiki. This can be done on oneself, or with a patient who is present, or it can be used as a form of distant healing.

As to practical magic, Regardie said that the Middle Pillar ritual could be used in a way that is similar to what people who work with the aura know as colour breathing. So for example, to attract a specific influence into your life, one would perform the Middle Pillar ritual, and then still contemplating the light circulating in your aura, visualise that your aura is being filled with the colour representing that influence – whilst vibrating the diving names associated therewith.

Regardie also said this could be extended to consecrating talismans. Having created a talisman for a particular purpose, one performs the Middle Pillar ritual, one contemplates the particular influence and its colour, and then one imagines that that light is flowing into the Talisman.

In short, I recommend reading “The Art of True Healing” (which is included in “Foundations of Practical Magic”), “How to Make and Use Talismans” and “The Middle Pillar” itself – all by Israel Regardie. In actual fact the material added to the current edition of “The Middle Pillar” by Chic and Tabatha Cicero almost makes it worth reading by itself.


After the introductory talk, I then led those present in the Middle Pillar Ritual, rather as it is outlined in Regardie’s book, though with a certain amount of adaptation:

By way of setting the scene, I asked all present to imagine themselves in their astral body, which had grown so large that they were the size of the Earth itself. Around them were the stars, whilst directly above their heads a mighty Dragon – the constellation Draco – was flying around and around in a circle, creating a Tourbillon of power (i.e. a vortex or whirlpool) drawing down energy from above.

NB: this is essentially a simplified version of the visualisation that an Adept does when contemplating the Tree of Life projected in a sphere.

A point of light appears in the centre of the circle traced by the path of the Dragon. The vortex draws this light down from above, so that it touches the crown of the participant. As is touches the crown it lights up the Kether centre – visualised as a sphere of white light directly above and touching the top of the head. The light is swirling around inside this sphere, following the perturbations of the vortex.

At this point I asked everyone to vibrate the divine name of Kether – EHEIEH – six times, imagining that the vibrations were occurring in the sphere of Kether itself.

Then I asked everyone to imagine that light from Kether was spiralling down the Middle Pillar like a corkscrew to the throat, lighting up Daath. Again the light was imagined as swirling around inside Daath. The name YOD HEH VAV HEH ELOHIM was vibrated six times, again imagining the vibrations were taking place in that sephirah.

In a similar manner, Tiphereth was invoked with YOD HEH VAV HEH ELOAH VE-DAATH.

Likewise: Yesod with SHADDAI EL CHAI.

Likewise: Malkuth with ADONAI HA-ARETZ. The light was imagined as cork-screwing down even into the Earth.

Then I got the participants to imagine light going down their left-side and up their right-side, enclosing them in a Vesica Piscis, the symbol of transmutation to a higher spiritual level.

Then I got them to visualise the light going down the front of their body and up the back.

Then I got them to imagine light coming up the Middle Pillar from Malkuth to Kether, where it fountained-out and poured down on all sides.

Then I asked them to imagine that light was spiralling back up their bodies, literally wrapping them up.

Given that I had previously been talking about using the Middle Pillar Ritual for healing, I told them that if anyone felt in need of it, they should spend a moment contemplating the person or part being filled with white light. Thereafter – as the flooding in Pakistan was current in the news at the time – I encouraged those present to send healing energy to that country and its people – and also the middle East generally.

Finally, we closed by bringing our attention back to our heart-centres, and vibrating once the mystical names of Jesus – YEHESHUAH, YEHOVASHAH. I personally felt that the ritual was very powerful performed this way, especially with all the chanting.

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