Sunday, June 28, 2009

I really like this German coat of arms. It makes a lovely Ace of Cups.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This is a first century mosaic from Pompeii that contains both the Wheel of Fortune and Death. The Wheel is flanked on either side by a purple cloth (symbol of wealth and power), and a goatskin (representing poverty). The viewer is thus reminded that a person's fortunes can change in an instant - for better or worse. Death, of course, always lurks nearby, and can come at any moment. The soul, symbolized by the butterfly resting upon the Wheel, is then freed from its bodily home and flies away.

The Wheel of Fortune.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is Priestess Offering Poppies, by pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon. I love the way the trees frame the Priestess. It brings to mind the columns in RWS Priestess card.

Here's a Knight of Swords made entirely of American one dollar bills. It's one of dozens of money collages by artist Mark Wagner.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Justice and Death come together in this detail from a political cartoon. (Source: Albert Bigelow Paine, Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures, 1904.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

This watercolor of a shaman is reminiscent of a Tarot Magician, one hand raised toward the sun ("as above") and the other lowered toward to the earth ("so below"). See full-size here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A figure reminiscent of the Knight of Swords, from a Russian poster c. 1914-1918. See full-size at the Hoover Institution Poster Collection.

Monday, June 15, 2009

  • torn apart by conflicting urges
  • divided within oneself
  • torn between two paths
  • in a tug of war
  • torn between two ideals

"Tarot Major Arcana cards ripped through my mind."
—Laura Faeth, I Found All the Parts, 2008, p. 116

(Artwork by Mctira)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Here is a beautiful Fortuna, by 16th century German engraver Hans Sebald Beham. She is shown holding her Wheel. This figure has wings, most likely to symbolize her fickle, flighty, and fleeting nature.

Another work by Beham, this time of the Moon. Notice the crayfish at her feet. Both these images would make lovely Tarot cards.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Often headlessness stimulates many questions which need addressing."
—David Jones, Innovative Therapy, 1994, p. 92

"So try this exercise I am talking about—the exercise in headlessness—and suddenly you will feel a strange thing: it will be as if for the first time you are at the heart. Walk headlessly. Sit down to meditate, close your eyes, and simply feel that there is no head. Feel, 'My head has disappeared.' In the beginning it will be just 'as if,' but by and by you will feel that the head has really disappeared. And when you feel that you head has disappeared, your center will fall down to the heart—immediately. You will be looking at the world through the heart and not through the head."
—Osho, The Book of Secrets, 1998, p. 165

(Tarot Magician by Emmanuel Polanco.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Trojan prince Paris, whose fateful choice was responsible for starting a war, is associated with The Lovers card, and I think that The Judgement of Paris would be a fine selection for a classical Tarot. Above is a charming late 16th century work by Hendrick von Balen. We see the three goddesses posing before Paris: Athena, with her shield and owl; Hera, with a peacock by her feet; and, rounding out the fetching trio, Aphrodite with Cupid by her side. Hermes looks on, perhaps a little anxiously, as Paris decides who will receive the golden apple.

In this engraving by Renaissance artist Marcantonio Raimondi (after Raphael), some other gods have turned up to participate in this drama. Apollo is suspended mid-air in his chariot, while Zeus surveys the scene from his throne.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Greek goddess Astraea ("star maiden") personifies Justice. One of the final immortals to dwell amongst humanity, Astraea fled the world's degeneracy and ascended to become the celestial virgin—the constellation Virgo. Her scales of justice became the constellation Libra.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Here's a Hermit from Lisle de Vaux Matthewman's Brevities (1903). The caption reads, "It is difficult to know who are your friends; it is impossible to discover who your enemies are."

Monday, June 8, 2009

This is an image of a Druid, taken from a work by Charles Knight titled Old England: A Pictorial Museum, published in 1845.

I think he would make a fine equivalent of the Pope card in a Druid inspired Tarot.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Norse god Odin is sometimes associated with the Hanged Man, because he hung upon Yggdrasil, the world tree, while being pierced by his own spear, thereby acquiring wisdom.

In this wonderful 19th century image, a majestic Odin seems more like the Emperor.

Edward Gorey presents a humorous Tarot set interpreted by one Madame Groeda Weyrd, a Finnish-Egyptian who has "devoted her life to divination and is the author of, among a shelf of other works, Floating Tambourines, a collection of esoteric verse, and The Future Speaks Through Entrails.”

The Magician's table sports a waltzing mouse. (Has the Magician himself been flayed into the écorché figure below?) The Sun is a burning head. Note that the Death card's skeleton has been miniaturized into a child with a toy dog on a leash. "The toddler, taking its first steps as a [human being], drags its whole world along as a pull-toy" (Madeline Gins & Arakawa, Architectural Body, 2002).

See bigger card scans at Aeclectic Tarot.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The design of these 19th century Tarot cards confounds the idea of a "reversal." Every card is upright, with the bottom half suggesting an inherent inversion.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Here's a Justice from Lisle de Vaux Matthewman's Brevities (1903). Note that the judge is placing a book of law onto his scale. The caption reads, "If advice is good why give it away?"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The evocative and beautifully composed works of 19th century artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi are as mysterious as Tarot cards, and indeed, some would make arresting Trumps. Above is a drawing of the Emperor Jimmu. While the Emperor is traditionally shown seated, I think this Emperor possesses all the attributes one normally associates with this card: authority and mastery over those around him.

This drawing is titled 'The Ghost of Yugao,' from his series 100 Phases of the Moon. I think it makes a haunting (quite literally) Moon card, one that expresses the nocturnal beauty and mystery one typically associates with this card.
"Everyone should experience strange beauty every day." -- Barbara Bestor

[Engraving from the 18th century Japanese anatomical work Kaitai Shinsho.]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This early 19th century painting by Michelangelo Maestri looks like something my Grandmother might have in her dining room. The Chariot tarot card is typically associated with Mars, since it depicts the triumphal chariot ridden by the victor of a war in the victory parade. Nevertheless, I usually think of Apollo, since the mastery required to ride the chariot across the sky properly ties in with the themes of control and discipline implied by this card.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Here's a combined Magician and Devil from Lisle de Vaux Matthewman's Brevities (1903). The caption reads, "Proverbs, like figures, can be made to prove whatever one will."

Monday, June 1, 2009

A figure reminiscent of the Knight of Wands, from Landjuweel (1561). His blooming staff appears to be standing in a tiny pool of water and overseen by equally tiny custodians. He has removed his gauntlets and holds them in his free hand. (See full context here. Via BibliOdyssey.)