Something for my Tarot-reading readers: Sigil Arcanum Tarot Kickstarter

On occasion, there’ll be something nifty on Kickstarter that crosses my path that I’ll throw money at.  Most of the time they’ll get funded (to my joy), and sometimes not (to my disappointment), but a little bit of advertising and spreading the word tends to go a long way.  If you’ll indulge me, dear reader, I think there’s something that you might consider nice to back yourself.

Now, I’m not a big Tarot reader myself; I started off with Tarot back when I was in middle school and high school, but geomancy’s been my thing for far longer than I ever used Tarot.  I can read Tarot if I need to, sure, and I’ll use some Tarot cards for scrying or magical purposes, but it’s not really my thing when I have other tools at my disposal.  That said, many of my colleagues, friends, mentors, and readers use Tarot for pretty much anything and everything, and I totally get and see why: it works, and particular Tarot decks can often be beautiful as well as symbolically powerful.

To be honest, how many Tarot decks are there out there?  Hundreds in common use, thousands that are easily accessible?  And how many do my readers actually have?  Some people have crates full of decks they’ve collected, some which haven’t even been opened yet!  I don’t collect Tarot myself (I have two decks to my name, and I only ever use one of them maybe a handful of times a year), and it’s not common that one strikes me as particularly nice or that elicits an “omg I need that” reaction.  But then, I’ve rarely come across something as beautiful and absolutely my aesthetic as the Sigil Arcanum Tarot project on Kickstarter.

I won’t go into too much detail here, as the good Rev. Erik Arneson over at Arnemancy already did a review on some of the cards, style, and design choices of the deck that Bell is making.  From the Kickstarter page itself, Bell is structuring the deck according to the principles behind the well-known Thoth deck:

This deck can be considered a Thoth compatible deck since it follows the same order in terms of the Major Arcana, and all of correspondences match the Thoth system. This choice was made to ensure that the attributions are as close to accurate as possible, a task which turns out to be more difficult than it may seem at first, because many tarot decks deviate from standards, and the two primary decks of the modern day (Thoth and Waite) deviate slightly from each other.

Each of the Major Arcana features a spectrum gradient of colors that relate to the energies of the card, and are particularly situated around each of those relative symbols; e.g. XVII The Star features a pentagram, hexagram, and double-heptagram. Inside the heptagram are the seven planets of alchemy, each colored according to their Sephirotic attributions (Mercury is orange, the Moon is purple, Venus is green, etc).

The Minor Arcana feature a two-tone color scheme to match the element. The core pips are the color of the element, and the special design is a shade darker, while the numerals and symbols at the bottom are white.


In addition to a colorized version, Bell is also making a Blackout version, which replaces all the colors with a glossy black paint on a matte black background:

The Blackout Edition of the Sigil Arcanum Tarot–which will feature all the same cards–will be printed with rich glossy ink offset on a substantial matte black paper stock. The result is a mesmerizing and sleek appearance which is best read by candle light. The deck appears entirely black on black, and you must shed light on the cards to reveal their hidden meanings.

The edges of the cards appear matte black due to the card stock, which adds to the dark effect. The box will be printed on the same matte black cover, with thicker, more sturdy paper, and will be printed offset to give the same illusory appearance. The booklet, however, will be printed normally, because let’s face it, nobody would want an all black instruction booklet.

As of this writing, it’s sitting at about $18.2k, and it needs $25k to get funded.  That being said, there are two stretch goals involved here, which would be fantastic for us to get to.  The first is for $30k which enables Bell to upgrade the packaging/storage quality, card quality and protection, and an upgrade to the Little White Book that comes with the kit; this is what I’m really hoping for.  But, even better than that, if we can get to $50k, there will be a full-size complete book on the Tarot that fully dives into the symbolism of each card, the historical significance of each symbol, more interpretations, ample examples of spreads, and more.  While having the whole book would be great, and while I’d be happy with just the decks themselves, I think the $30k stretch goal is more than enough to make everyone happy.

I may not read Tarot all that much, but hot damn, this deck makes me want to start.  With 12 days to go in the campaign, there’s still plenty of time to reach the goal, but that’s no reason to wait; hurry up and make your pledge today!  If you want a Thoth-structured deck that’s sublimely potent and elegant in its refined simplicity, head to Kickstarter and back the Sigil Arcanum Tarot!  Probably the best choice most people would go after is the US$42 option, which gets you one deck of cards, but there are lesser options and greater options available (including a US$70 option for two decks).  For more information, go head over to the Sigil Arcanum website proper!

Here’s hoping for a successful campaign; all luck to you, Taylor, and here’s wishing you all the best for this beautiful project!

Proper Spelling

I spell it “magic”.  Not “magick”, not “magik”, not “majiq” (which I have seriously seen used before, probably by some McWiccan tween on reddit).  No K, no lack of C, no Qs or Xs.  “Magic”.  I understand it’s a really minor, trivial quibble to have, but I just wanted to make my own thoughts known.  As usual, I like to resort to etymology and historical usage to inform my choice.  From

magic (n.): late 14c., “art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces,” from Old French magique “magic, magical,” from Late Latin magice “sorcery, magic,” from Greek magike (presumably with tekhne “art”), fem. of magikos “magical,” from magos “one of the members of the learned and priestly class,” from Old Persian magush, possibly from PIE *magh- (1) “to be able, to have power” (see machine). Transferred sense of “legerdemain, optical illusion, etc.” is from 1811. Displaced Old English wiccecræft (see witch); also drycræft, from dry “magician,” from Irish drui “priest, magician” (see druid).

Only in Greek do we find the use of a K in magic, only because Greek doesn’t have the letter C.  We find the use of a Q in French, only because the phonological evolution of French uses “que” to indicate a hard C or a K sound.  Latin uses “magia” or “mageia”, depending on how Greek it wants to seem, since it got the word from Greek, which got the word from ancient Persian.  You know, the home of the old astrologers, Chaldaeans, and the like, the Urheimat of most Western occultism.  Only in some nonstandard spellings in older texts do we find the variant “magick”; this doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it’s definitely not my preferred spelling any more than “shoppe” is for “shop” or “ich” is for “I” or other Middle English spellings today.

The distinction between “magic” and “magick” that I’ve seen is that “magick” is reserved for the “real” stuff, i.e. conjuration, alchemy, theurgy, thaumaturgy, and energy work.  This spelling was invented (or supposedly “revived”, depending on whom you ask) as a reaction to the use of the word “magic” to refer to prestidigitization, stage magic, optical illusions, and other practices that are often tied up with swindling, begging, and fraud.  This supposed debasement of a holy word to something common and vulgar is tripping us up from being the established, respected wise people we should be seen as.  Heavens forbid that people take us for some conjurers of cheap tricks!  We’re not trying to rob you, we’re trying to help you!

So what?

I don’t find the difference between magic-like-conjuration and magic-like-stage-magic to be that important, really.  In fact, working with illusions, tricking people, and providing them shocks is part and parcel of the work of the magician, no matter the altar or stage or field he chooses.  Magicians have always played the role of wise sage and street performer, providing help or harm as needed to people in any number of ways.  Keep in mind that, especially for Hermeticists, magicians fall at least partially under the archetype of Hermes and definitely within that sphere’s power.  Even the powerful and mystical Gandalf had fun and trickery with his fireworks for idle entertainment, despite that he was tasked by the gods of Middle-Earth for one of the gravest tasks of all.

Consider Trump I of the Tarot, often called the Magician in modern decks.  In older decks, like the Marseilles Tarot, he was called le Bateleur, “the Juggler”.  He had his Sword, his Cup, his Coins, and his Wands on the table, sure, but he also had his dice, his hat, his magic bag of holding.  With his baton he points out what to look at, distracting us from his hands while he juggles things behind the scenes before us.  He’s a trickster, and he’s inviting us to a show.  He sets up his altar, his portable playing-card table, out on some random spot on the road that’s natural, rugged, and completely real.  He wears brightly-colored, fun, and floppy clothing, wild hair tangled about in his lemniscatesque hat, partially to draw crowds, partially to distract, both of which are sources of his power in addition to the holiness of his garb.  He’s a holy fakir and wholly a faker, and that’s the whole point of being a magician.  When you’re wielding the forces of the cosmos, you need to have some way to relate it to other people here on Earth, whether it be through insightful metaphor or playful card trick.  Then again, what else is Tarot but both metaphor and trick played out on the same deck of cards?

It’s only later when the professionally fraudulent theurgic magicians wanted to separate themselves out from the fraudulently professional stage magicians that people started affecting a difference in appearance and spelling.  It corresponds more-or-less with trying to keep the occult science a science, much how astrologers have wanted to keep their art up to speed with discoveries in astronomy.   Thus we see an evolution from Marseilles’ Bateleur to Rider-Waite’s Magician: instead of a wild mane, we find a well-maintained solemn coif; instead of a roadside stand, we find a to-spec altar in a trimmed garden; instead of tools and gimmicks and toys filling the table, we find just the bare minimum and duly consecrated Weapons; instead of a playful hat indicating his connection to the cosmos, we find only symbolic metaphor.  We find utter seriousness where before we had fun.  This isn’t wrong, but it cuts out the liveliness and livelihood of the magician in the process for trying to obtain priestly acceptance and sacrosanct privilege.

Even in religious settings where the lines between priest, shaman, and magician are blurred, vulgar illusionry and divine experience both have their place.  Using hidden gears and wires to cause statues to move, pipes through walls to make rooms boom with unseen voices, and even ancient primitive batteries to provide devotees and dedicants with a shocking experience in multiple senses.  Jedi mind tricks and other mental stimuli can help produce trances, sometimes by brief distraction and sometimes through powerful hypnosis.  These illusions help move people out of the day-to-day, drawing them off the well-worn path just for a second to see that whole fields and lands exist besides just their already-familiar destination.  They might be for profound revelation of the spirit or for a brief distraction from daily toil, but illusions help people break out of their normal headspace and into a wider, more magical one.

We shouldn’t forget that just as stage magicians work in a world of illusions, so too do “real” magicians work in a cosmos of them.  We have to build and destroy illusions for both other people and ourselves, for profit greater than mere coin but by no means excluding it (the Weapon of Earth is, after all, the coin and all that it implies materialistically).  We aren’t necessarily priests, authorities, or establishment, and we don’t need to follow suit by filling the suit they expect their people to wear.  We need to do our own thing, use our own set of tools, and start playing games with the world and cosmos, wherever we may find ourselves.  Just as God made the planets to fly around the spheres, we need to learn to juggle those forces just as we juggle our own affairs down here.  All this isn’t even touching on those who live in more dangerous parts of the world for occultists, where magicians need some way to disguise themselves so that their phenomenal cosmic powers can fit into itty-bitty living spaces and social roles that push them to the social role of “silly entertainer” instead of “dangerous heretic”.

Still, it always trips me up when I read someone using the spelling “magickian”, because then I end up pronouncing it “mah-jik-kee-an” instead of “magician” and it crashes my train of thought.  I think we should just all use “magus” or “magos” instead, and save ourselves the keystrokes and quibbling.  (Kalagni, hon, you get a pass because you’re Canadian.  Nobody else has an excuse.  ♥)

Also, it’s spelled “altar” (n., a raised or prepared surface for worship and sacrifice), not “alter” (v., “to change or make something different”).

Holding your feet to the fire

A story popped up in my head today.  I don’t know the original source, but it’s told in the book Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols (fascinating read).  I forget how she phrased it, but I’d tell it like this:

One day, sitting on his ancient throne deep in his underworld halls, Satan called together all the demons, devils, and spirits of Hell.  He convened them to figure out a plan to vex God and stem the growth and grace of humanity above, since he was short on ideas and wanted to hear what his infernal denizens would do.

One demon stepped up, who was widely respected and who had overseen and won many a battle, and shouted out “Tell the humans that there is no God!”  Many spirits cheered at this, thinking it was a fine idea.  Satan, however, grew displeased and silenced them all, sending off the demon away from the gathering.  Many humans had a very solid faith in God, so this wouldn’t advance him very far, Satan thought.

Another demon stepped up, hoary and old and well-versed in ancient lore long forgotten, and told them all “Tell them that there is no soul!”  The demons and spirits looked around and nodded, murmuring their assent and amazement at such a subtle idea.  Satan, on the other hand, snarled and commanded the old demon out of the hall; Satan liked this idea even less, since a belief in the soul was even more widespread than a belief in God.  How could he get anywhere with these sorts of ideas?

Finally, a small demon, young and unheard of, came out from the throng of spirits and calmly walked to the middle of them all.  He grinned and shouted out, “Tell them that there is no hurry.”  The hall went silent, the demons looked at each other in surprise and confusion, and then looked to their leader.  Satan was smiling, each fanged tooth shining in the firelight, and instantly promoted the small demon to a major position of power in Hell for his excellent plan.  Belief in God and souls may be absolute, but humans could always be tricked into complacency and procrastination.

Those demons?  Those are us.  Those are the parts of us that try to get us to stumble and fall off our proper path, and some are trickier than others.  That last demon, telling us that there is no hurry, is the worst.  It has us think we’ve got all the time in the world, that we can spend today to enjoy ourselves and tomorrow to get down to work.  It wants us to think these things day after day, and in effect getting nothing done.  It’s downright insidious and harmful to our progress as individuals, as groups, and as a species.

Truth is, we’re not assured another day after today.  We’re never assured that the next step we take on our path could be our last.  We have work to do that can’t be put off until tomorrow, because we have work tomorrow as well, and the day after that, and the day after that.  Putting off today’s work only makes things difficult for us later on at best, and at worst leaves some things behind and never gets it accomplished at all, which will only come back to bite us in the ass later.  There’s no such thing as a break from our life’s work, our own Great Work, what our will demands of us.  There are places to go, people to meet, feats to accomplish; how could we put these things off for one moment when now is the best and only time we have?

Yes, I’ve been lazy recently.  Yes, I’ve been cutting my meditation session short and putting off my comtemplations.  Yes, I got complacent and overly satisfied with the work I’ve done so far, but what I’ve done doesn’t suffice for what I need to do.  Time to get off my ass, off the dating sites, and back into the fun.

Kings and Hands

No, this isn’t a post about Game of Thrones, though I’ve been addicted to the series and just finished the third book (vtec just kicked in, yo).  Martin, you better hurry up and finish that shit, son, because if you die before you finish this series and have your family turn this into another Frank Herbert’s Dune 6, imma be ANGRY.

So, I’ve been having chats with the four Kings of the Tarot recently in order to understand more about their respective elements.  I’ve so far chatted with the first two by contemplating their cards and symbols, kind of like pathworking with the Qabbalah.  I tried doing that with the King of Swords recently, but the first few times didn’t go so well and I had a hard time visualizing the environment around me; eventually, he said “we can’t stand to be still”, so I took that as a hint to move on and go on a walk instead.  Along the walk, I figured it’d be nice to have the image of the King of Swords from the card tag along, and we chatted just as successfully walking through a few local parks as we would have with me at his throne.  Plus, it gave me some much-needed visualization practice, so I can better tackle the card itself more.

I’m using a variant of the Rider-Waite deck (the Original Rider-Waite, which is softer on the eyes and is very subtly different from the standard Rider-Waite) as my keys to contemplation.  In trying to picture each of the four Kings, and as someone with their Venus in Virgo, I took especial notice of their hands and what each holds.  The Kings of Coins and Cups hold both a scepter of office and their suit’s symbol, but the Kings of Swords and Wands hold just their symbol.  They all hold their elemental weapons differently, and this alone carries significant meaning.

The King of Pentacles holds a large coin in his left hand and a scepter in his right.  The scepter is simple and is capped with a large sphere on the end; given the weight of this mace-like scepter, it shows the heavy force that earth can apply to a situation but only if controlled and directed, since his scepter is in his right (active and dominant) hand.  The scepter is also similar to that of the Empress (Trump III), who holds hers in her right hand as well, indicating the relationship between the pure element of earth and its bounty and generative ability.  He is the only king to hold his elemental weapon in his left hand, the side of reception and passivity.  This shows how the element of earth is set apart from the other three: indeed, this goes all the way back to Plato, where he claims that earth is the only element that comes out from any process as earth, while air, fire, and water can all transmute into each other.  Earth is the foundation and materia for all things, and can only ever be acted upon: earth can be shaped, molded, tilled, heated, broken, or carried, but it will always still be earth in one form or another.  Fire can cool into air, air can condense, water can evaporate, but earth will always be earth.

The King of Cups holds a large but simple cup in his right hand and a decorated flower-like scepter in his left.  The scepter is shaped like the top of a cup, much like the back of his throne, and indicates that his will as King does not direct, since the scepter doesn’t have a proper point to direct his orders; rather, it dissipates and spreads.  Much like how a hose directs a stream of water which splays out on contact, water does not force but spreads out over and covers its object.  He doesn’t hold rest the base of the cup on his throne’s arm like he does his scepter, but holds it out as if he were asking for it to be filled.  The cup, after all, is the ultimate symbol of reception, representing the female side of the universe and always takes in, but as a force of nature can also be poured out and give its essence back to the world in a new form.

The King of Swords holds a sword in his right hand and nothing in his left.  His sword points away from him towards his right, showing that air will always tend to the objective and detached and logical side of a situation.  His left hand is empty, but he wears a ring on his middle finger, the finger associated with the element of Air and with balance and judgment.  The King of Swords hinted to me that this is actually a signet ring, which bears his mark showing authenticity and truth of whatever he applies it to.  This, an abstract symbol, is his tool of office instead of a scepter, and is particularly well-suited for the element of logic and communication.  The scepters, then, would represent a force that needs material and weighted direction and can be held onto to be controlled; the Kings with scepters represent the heavy elements that form the material world, while those without represent lighter and more active forces which are more wily.  Plus, both the Kings of Cups and Swords hold their weapons in the air without support, while those of Pentacles and Wands support them by resting them on something.  Water and air are fluid and must always be in motion; earth and fire are fixed in one direction (downward for earth, upwards for fire).  Fire and earth have to have something to substantiate themselves on, while air and water can be freer and travel around as they wish.

The King of Wands holds a tall staff resting on the ground below his throne’s dais, with his left hand empty and resting on his lap.  His staff shows signs of life, with green leaves sprouting from it, and represents vitality and energy (surprise! it’s a penis).  However, the King here is pointing it slightly to himself, indicating that will and decision begin first with oneself and then directs it outwards; after all, the staff supports first and helps move around second.  Both his wand and the sword of the previous king have their business ends above their heads, while the weapons of the Kings of Pentacles and Cups are bounded or framed by their bodies.  This reflects that the elements of fire and air are active and extend beyond themselves, while those of water and earth are passive and receive forces from outside.  His left hand is clenched into a fist, thumb pressed down; his is the only King’s hand whose free hand’s thumb is closed and hidden.  This might imply that his will is absolute and will not receive any input from anyone; notice how he’s almost pulling his arm away from the world into himself.  (I haven’t had a chat with this King yet, so this is just what I’m making sense of.)

All this is just about their hands and what they hold.  I haven’t even touched on the layers of symbolism of their thrones, crowns, clothing, armor, or backgrounds.  The Tarot really is just dripping with meaning, and everything is in it for a purpose and with a point.  Why I’m not already a palmist is beyond me.