Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adam McLean's 25-lessons on the artwork of modern Tarot are available for free at this link.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Five of Swords on a bronze Etruscan hand mirror. Though there are six blade-bearers in the image, the two central figures grasp the same blade. See a larger image at Peacay's flickr album.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It’s well-known that an author can draw Tarot cards to inspire a literary work (see James Ricklef’s Tarot Tells the Tale and Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies). But does the dreaming mind draw upon Tarot archetypes to formulate a dream narrative? An intriguing example in point is the apocalyptic nightmare recounted in Frederic Tuten’s Self-Portraits: Fictions (pages 177-203); no fewer than six Tarot archetypes figure into the story, in the following order:

  • The Lovers
  • Death
  • The Tower
  • The Hermit
  • The Hanged Man
  • The Fool
We’ve worked the pertinent quotations into a mini deck of Tarot card images. If you aren’t familiar with Tuten’s dream narrative, you're in the perfect position to objectively read the spread of Tarot archetypes drawn by his subconscious. What story behind the story is lurking in the shadowy recesses of Tuten’s dormant mind? If you’re intrigued to learn about the context of these archetypes, see Tuten’s chapter entitled “The Park on Fire,” one of several anecdotes comprising what author Cynthia Ozick calls “an amazing, glittering, glowing, Proustian, Conradian, Borgesian, diamond-faceted, language-studded, myth-drowned Dream.”

Here's the link to our card images.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Elizabeth of York, queen consort of Henry VII, is immortalized on card decks as the Queen of Hearts, holding a Tudor Rose.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Devil from The Philistine, Dec. 1906.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

As above, so below:
An Arch-Druid, depicted in Charles Knight's
Old England: A Pictorial Museum (1845)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall.
—Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses

(Image by tutincommon. See full size here.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photo by Robert Doisneau, via.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saint Columba (left) looks out from Oronsay, Inner Hebrides.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"I stood with my back against the forest, stood there on a giant cliff, years above the spreading fires, and the dying rubble below, my eyes searching everywhere for dawn." —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Everywhere lovers are grasping for dreams jumping through burning windows." —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Soon ... we'll have shredders to pulp all the books in the world. And with the compost, we'll fertilize a million trees, each taller than eternity, their branches leaved with hanged bodies." —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"He had given up his pin-striped suit and was in a flowing black robe—like a wizard in King Arthur's days. . . . 'It's less constraining than a suit,' he said, when I noticed the change in his attire, 'and more befitting our time.'" —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Monday, October 11, 2010

"In the distance, a crenellated tower sprouted long arms of orange fire . . . 'It's a beautiful castle,' I said. 'Lancelot might have sequestered his beloved there when he stole her from his king.' 'A castle only good for storing memories and old keys,' he said. 'A castle for us when we were very young,' she said, giving him a sharp look, 'because then as now we had no place to go.'" —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Seeing them made me happy, in a restless way. Happy for their youth and for all their time ahead to be foolish and oblivious to the endings of anything, let alone the end of love." —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Perhaps over time the goddess had become less Greek and more Sicilian, a trickster, granting favors but not the ones prayed for." —Frederic Tuten, Self Portraits: Fictions

(Geometric goddess archetype by Rachel Budde.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Fool and The World come together in the "Fool's Cap Map of the World," of unknown origin, dating back to c. 1580. Read more about the map here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nothing to do
With the time or the place but I feel it
Like dust on the moon beneath my feet
—Erasure, "So the Story Goes"

(Tarot Luna card by Jason Juta.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Destiny: a moon eclipsed
In the shadows all is darkness now
—Devo, "I'd Cry If You Died"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Soone as ASTREA shewes her face,
Strait every ill avoides the place,
And every good aboundeth.
—Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, "Astrea" (1611)

Astrea (Astræa) refers to the Greek "star maiden," the celestial virgin.

Note that Mary Sidney is a strong contender for the true author of the Shakespeare plays. See the compelling and convincing Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I lift my eyes
To the sound in the sky and I hear it
—Erasure, "So the Story Goes"

(Image from The Payen Tarot of Marseille of 1713. See more images here.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Five of Pentacles traditionally reflects hardship, but Umberto Eco paints a different sort of picture of "people who live on the credulity of others ... false paralytics who lie at church doors ... rascals who pretend to be weak in one of their limbs, carrying unnecessary crutches and imitating the falling sickness ... to wrest food or money from the frightened people who recalled the church fathers' exhortations to give alms" (The Name of the Rose).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Such is the right of the sun: it riddles the wounded man with its rays and all the wounds widen, the man uncloses and extends, his very veins are laid open, his strength is now incapable of obeying the orders it receives and is moved solely by desire, the spirit burns, sunk into the abyss of what it is now touching, seeing its own desire and its own truth outstripped by the reality it has lived and is living. And one witnesses, dumbfounded, one's own raving."
—Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Sunday, August 22, 2010

See our interview about the Punctuated Tarot project, courtesy of Bonnie Cehovet and the folks at Aeclectic Tarot.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tom Blunt identified Tarot trumps in Aesop's Fables. Strength is pictured above. View the entire collection here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A literal manifestation of the Judgement card occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, on July 6, 1874: something like a giant trumpet was seen suspended, vertical, approximately 425 feet long, oscillating gently, for five or six minutes. (See Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned, ch. 24.) We've chosen to depict the Serpent trumpet in honor of Quetzalcoatl.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"When empress, her prime duty had been to charm her subjects."
—Toby Faber, Fabergé's Eggs (2008)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"The magician's trademark 'top hat and tails' dates from Robert-Houdin."
—Michael Symes, Magic and Illusion

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Strength braces every nerve."
The Philosophical Magazine, 1809

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"The rebirth of the long-forgotten interrobang."
—William Saffire, Quoth the Maven

Friday, July 16, 2010

"He really got a kick out of the way that Numero phrased things. ... That sly devil sure is slick."
—Stephan R Hutchinson, A Trucker for President

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"The sign & is said to be properly called Emperor’s hand, from having been first invented by some imperial personage, but by whom deponent saith not."
—William Shepard Walsh, Handy-book of Literary Curiosities (1892)

Monday, July 12, 2010

"If the world does not want it, the copyright is of 'no account.'"
The Publisher's Weekly, 1888

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Eye-in-the-wall don't look at me!
I wouldn't give you the Moon's degree.
Delta: A Review of Arts, Life and Thought in the Netherlands

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The unprecedented run of that space 'chariot.'"
Space World, 1971

Monday, July 5, 2010

"This will be the Signal tower, whose silhouette will be an impressive exclamation mark."
—Georges Binder, 101 of the World's Tallest Buildings

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"And that blind paragraph mark with the curled tail!"
—Herbert Jones, Stanley Morison Displayed: An Examination of His Early Typographic Work

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"The hierophant is therefore an expounder."
—Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, The Message of Philo Judaeus of Alexandria

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Ritual as Punctuation": our guest blog at Tarot Elements.

"A wheel of fortune (hereafter called the reference wheel)."
Management Science, Vol. 24

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our interview about the intricacies of the Punctuated Tarot may be read here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

See our guest blog at Bonnie Cehovet's place, in which we reexamine one of Bonnie's personal card readings in the light of our Punctuated Tarot.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Tilde gives a letter a liquid sound.
—John Wilson, A Treatise on English Punctuation

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"I slipped over to the gardens and to the Lover's section."
Once Upon A Time In Berbice

Monday, June 21, 2010

In what we call "Divinatory Sentences," Tarot cards form the basic parts of a sentence and are "read" as a single statement. Of course, the divinatory sentence could follow any pre-determined structure -- the noun could very naturally be the significator, for example. The point is simply to create a structure for the cards to communicate their message.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"The Saints' days marked between brackets [ ], are not appointed by the Church."
—Charles Walker, A Prayer Book for the Young

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"She sees the sun like a bullet."
—Sue Walker, The Critical Response to Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"For like a double dagger, it may stab both ways."
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1913

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The asterisk "originated as the sign that an enraged Hera placed on Zeus's brow when he slept where he shouldn't to remind him when he gazed into the mirror that he should be somewhere else." —Sylvia Söderlind, Liminal Postmodernisms (1994)

Friday, June 11, 2010

"It means we have justice for all, for everyone. That is 100 percent."
Congressional Record, Nov. 12, 2002, p. 28768

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Death is a textual ellipsis."
—Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (1992)

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Her marks on the pillars of wisdom are those of the question mark."
—Heather Busch & Burton Silver, Why Cats Paint (1994)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gordon inquires why it is that stage magicians ask, "What's your favorite card?" Gordon adds that this question is a pet peeve of his, and he contends that the question is "almost always rhetorical as many magicians barely pause to allow the participant to answer."

Here's our answer:

Like electricity that loses potential with each step through a circuit, solemn rites lose meaning and become mundane over time. Today, when a magician casually asks an audience member to name a favorite playing card, we hear a faint echo of the mystic of old seeking a "significator"—the one Tarot archetype best representing the supplicant.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Magician from a 19th century woodcut. See full poster here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Here's a proposal: always leave one card in every Tarot spread face down. Why? Consider this definition of the future:

"It should remain part of the definition of the future that it is unknown; and therefore allowed to retain its proper mystery." —The Future is Tomorrow: 17 Prospective Studies, 1972

Substitute the word "divination" for "definition":

"It should remain part of the divination of the future that it is unknown; and therefore allowed to retain its proper mystery."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

See our analysis of Tarot archetypes in the Star Wars series over at

Monday, May 17, 2010

See our guest post at about Tarot archetypes in Tom Stoppard's absurdist film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The sunlight was a forgery, or a precise Tarot reading.
—J. Karl Bogartte, Antibodies: A Surrealist Novella

Photo: The Capricious Sun King, by Gilderic

Monday, April 26, 2010

In honor of Bonnie Cehovet's article about working with Tarot shadows, here's an illustration from 1912 featuring a procession of Tarot shadows, including the Fool's dog!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A scene from the story, "Inchcape Rock" (Charles H. Sylvester, Journeys Through Bookland, 1909)