The Lovers and The Devil – That Old Black Magic Called Love


Falling in love always seems like a magical experience.

You see someone across the room at a party and suddenly a giant, sizzling fireball shoots directly from your second chakra into theirs, or vice verse, and you involuntarily shout, “Zounds!”

Well, you’d shout, “zounds,” if you were at a party in the Middle Ages.  Today it would more probably be, “holy shit!” or, “wow!” or, “OMG . . . WTF?”

The point is that it’s often sudden, totally unexpected, and irresistable.  It’s like an outside force has taken over your conscious brain and turned you into a stuttering, romantic, totally bedazzled, HAPPY fool.

The scholars tell us that the notion of romantic love first appeared in the Middle Ages (zounds!).  Presumably before that, “Romeo, wherefore art thou?” was more a matter of, “Me, Tarzan, you Jane, let’s . . . ahem . . . reproduce.”

That doesn’t seem likely, though.  Solomon had some pretty steamy stuff going on 900 years before Jesus appeared and even talked about how much he enjoyed, “eating my honeycomb,” on his wedding night.  Must have been a very sweet woman.

Despite it being a wonderful, magical experience, there have always been a certain number of men who find it problematic.  One assumes they feel it’s not manly to be turned into a gibbering idiot by another person and that someone must have put a damned spell on them to make them feel all gooey inside.  The word, “glamour,” is directly descended from the word, “glimmer,” which means to cast a spell on someone. We speak of beautiful women as being, “enchanting,” and an enchantment is, of course, a spell.  And look at this version of The Lovers from an old Swiss Tarot deck:


Yep, that’s still Cupid shooting his arrow but there’s also a nasty old hag of a witch cackling away on the side.  She obviously just slipped him some Love Potion #9 and he doesn’t know if it’s day or night.

So we’ve pretty much got the picture on falling in love.  It’s overpowering. It’s magical. It seems to be beyond our rational control.  The Waite Tarot takes that a step further and shows it as a holy, sacred experience, guarded by an angel.  An experience as innocent and fresh as the Garden of Eden.

But wait. ( Or maybe I should say, “But Waite.” ) What’s that snake doing in that apple tree on the left hand side of the card?  Who invited him to the party?

Which brings us to The Devil card.


It’s the same naked couple but they’ve got an entirely different angel hovering over them.  And they’ve sprouted horns and tails and the guy’s tail is on fire. Typical male – only thinking of one thing, right?

Now, The Devil card can have a lot of meanings.  Materialism with NO spirituality. Violent sex. Black magic.  Just plain evil. But in this context, let’s look at it as the opposite of romantic love.

Say it’s fifteen years after the couple fell in love.  They’ve got three kids and a mortgage they can’t afford.  The wife just caught the husband playing hide-the-sausage with the baby sitter but doesn’t feel like she can leave him because of the kids.  And she is SO not interested in going to bed with him again. Ever.

They’re still the same couple and they’re still together, but their love has been transformed into a chain that binds them together in emotional slavery.

If you’ve ever been in a loveless marriage, or even knew someone who was, then you know that it shares some of the characteristics of romantic love.  It’s overpowering. It seems to come out of nowhere. It turns normally rational people into gibbering fools. But eventually, it makes you dead inside.

And I would guess that there is a further message in this couple appearing in The Devil card.  Living in a loveless union with another human being isn’t just wrong, it’s evil. It robs both of the partners of the love that they deserve, the love that makes us grow and blossom into full human beings.  It defeats the purpose of our being here on the earth plane, which is surely to learn love and compassion.

Here’s to love!

The Moon

 

Moon2

A bright moon hangs in the center of the sky, it’s unhappy face showing both the full and quarter moons.   Beneath it a dog and a wolf howl at its’ light while a cray fish crawls out of a pond, claws extended. A shining road runs off into the distance between two towers.

This is a card of illusion and self-deception.  Think of seeing the world under the light of the moon rather than the sun.  Shadows and light blend into one another and our eyes and mind see things that aren’t really there.  Or maybe they are.

There is a tendency for the unconscious, unexamined contents of our minds to come forth when The Moon is present.  The craw fish is a primitive, almost prehistoric, creature and it reminds us that our emotions are ultimately based in the very ancient and equally primitive portion of our brains.  That theme is repeated with the presence of both the dog and the wolf. The dog is our modern companion, tamed and loving, but its’ genes and brain rest squarely on it heritage with the wolf.  

The Moon shows that the questioner is involved in a very murky area of his or her life.  There doesn’t seem to be any definite goal or destination right now, just a road running off into the darkness.In terms of a relationship, The Moon shows that the questioner may be involved with someone on a very primitive, unconscious level and that there may be deception on the part of the partner or, more likely, denial on the part of the questioner.  There is a lot of emotion present but it may not be of a healthy, evolved nature.

If finances are involved, The Moon gives a huge warning that things are NOT what they seem to be.  Slow down, delay, wait for better light to illuminate what’s going on.

Another, somewhat vexing, aspect of this is that the Tarot may just be telling you that this really isn’t a good time to do a reading.  Things may be a bit murky and uncertain and it might be better to try again a little later.

REVERSED:  Pretty much the same as the upright card but probably on a slightly less serious level.  Think of one of those irritating periods in your life when your friends are lying to you for no particular reason, nothing is going quite right and you keep losing your car keys, and you’ve got The Moon reversed.

A Few More Thoughts About The Moon:

The designers of the Tarot sort of crammed all of the astronomical cards in at the very end of the deck:  The Star, The Moon, The Sun, The World. Only The Moon had a bad reputation.

The Sun, of course, brings life to our planet.  It gives us warmth and light and makes seeds germinate into plants.  It’s power has been recognized and worshipped in nearly every culture.

The Moon, on the other hand, is a much closer body but it’s magic was poorly understood and frequently frightening to primitive humans.  True, it provided light, but it was a wavering, false light, so unlike The Sun, and provided neither warmth nor comfort. Moreover, it changed mysteriously, appearing as a sliver, growing into a silvery golden ball and then gradually diminishing until it disappeared.  What could be so ephemeral and fleeting as a creature that was born, grew to full life, and died, all in a few weeks?

Even the most primitive peoples, though, recognized its’ powers.  It seemed to pull the waves high out of the oceans and control their movements.  It caused women to bleed from their wombs and men built, “moon houses,” so that women might live apart from other people when they were, “stricken” by the beams of The Moon.

Worse, still, its’ energy seemed to drive some people insane and turned others into werewolves and monsters.  The words, “lunacy,” and, “lunatic,” still live in our language and hearken back to a commonly held belief that the Moon could make some unfortunate people quite mad.

There’s a certain amount of truth in the old tales.  Cops, firefighters, and emergency department nurses will all tell you that things get worse when there’s a full moon.  Many farmers still plant their crops according to the cycles of the moon. If you’re a psychically sensitive person you probably know what it’s like to be knocked ass over tea kettle by The Moon.

There is something about its’ power that calls to the most primitive part of our brains and souls.  The Moon card shows a cray fish – a VERY primitive organism – rising from the depths of a pool of water to contemplate a full moon, a perfect metaphor for the way that it affects and transforms us.

Fairly modern Tarot decks like the Waite deck usually depict both a wolf and a dog baying at The Moon to emphasize that its’ power still holds sway over us, no matter how much we may have evolved.    And, as in the Temperance card, a long road stretches off into the distance, as if showing the way out of the Land of Lunacy.

The older decks didn’t bother with the wolf/dog metaphor and there was no road leading to salvation.  There were just two howling beasts and a folk art moon with a fancy collar flinging out psychedelic moon beams.

marmoon

And perhaps that’s more fitting.  Madness is a part of the human psyche and – in measured doses – is just as important to our existence as sanity.  Madness makes us question reality in the same way that The Moons’ light makes us question what we see. Is it a rope lying there in the darkness or is it a snake?  Is it a bush or is it a bear?

When Magellan said that the world was round and not flat people told him he was mad.  Quite, quite mad, darling.

Time travel back to the early 1950s and tell someone that one day we’ll have computers that fit in the palms of our hands and we’ll be able to talk to anyone anywhere on the globe if they have one too.

What are you nuts?

It’s never comfortable having The Moon in your reading.  It feels like things are confused and muddled and don’t make any sense.  Still, sometimes we need that. If we didn’t have those periods of mild insanity we might never change, might never fall in love.

There’s a great line at the end of, “Zorba the Greek.”  Zorbas’ boss is a very proper Englishman who would never, ever do anything out of the ordinary.  Zorba looks at him and says, “I like you too much not to tell you, boss. You have everything a man needs except one thing.  Madness. A man needs a little madness or else he’ll never dare to cut the rope and be free.”

 

Pamela Coleman Smith – The Real Genius Behind the Waite-Rider Tarot Deck

 

The most popular Tarot deck in the world is the Waite-Rider deck, authored by A.E. Waite and published by the Rider Company.  The illustrations in the deck were done by Pamela Coleman Smith and it’s been within recent memory that people have started referring to it as the Waite-Smith deck.  The standard description of it is that the illustrations were prepared by Pamela Coleman Smith, “under the directions of A.E. Waite.”

It might be more accurate to say that the illustrations were prepared by her DESPITE the instructions of A.E. Waite.

 

Pamela_Colman_Smith_

PAMELA COLEMAN SMITH

 

She’s one of the more fascinating people in the history of modern occultism.  She had a wonderful smile and was so tiny that she was nicknamed, “Pixie.” As she was growing up her family shuttled between London, Jamaica, and New York and she spent several years living in Kingston and absorbed much of the Jamaican culture.  Her mother was an artist and she, too, developed artistic talents at an early age and began attending the Pratt Art Institute in New York at the age of 15.

By the age of 21 both of her parents had died and she moved by herself to London where she supported herself working as an illustrator, author, and set designer for theatrical productions.  It was there that she met the poet William Butler Yeats who introduced her A.E. Waite, one of the founding member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Shortly thereafter Waite commissioned her to illustrate his Tarot deck and the rest is history.

But that’s where it really gets interesting.

There have been many, many people who have claimed that they were channeling some sort of a higher power that guided their creativity and, “co-created,” with them.  Painters, sculptors, writers who felt the presence of a greater power than themselves literally telling them what to paint, carve, or write. Some of them talk about spirit guides, others describe the guides as angels, a few might even think that god was talking to them.

It is my strong belief that this is exactly what happened to Pamela Smith when she created the Waite deck.

Consider this:  Smith created ALL 78 cards between April and October of 1909.  That means that for that 6 month period she was pumping out an average of 13 highly complex illustrations a month.  As an artist I can tell you that’s nearly impossible.

There is also strong evidence that Waite may have had fairly precise instructions about the Major Arcana but Smith pretty much invented the illustrations for the Minor Arcana herself, even using some of her close friends as models.  With the sheer volume of illustrations she produced and her admittedly short exposure to occultism, you have to think that those pictures were almost painting themselves.

And, finally, there is the evidence of the nature of A.E. Waite himself.  He was, to put it mildly, one incredibly boring old fart. Shortly after Smith produced the cards Waite published a book called, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.”  Here’s just a bit of his definition for the card The Magician:

“With further reference to what I have called the sign of life and its’ connexion with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change, ‘unto the Ogdoad.’ “

And it gets a lot worse.  Can you imagine having a drink with that guy?

The Waite-Smith tarot deck is truly magical.  Every card is beautiful and tells its’ own unique story.  That magic definitely didn’t flow out of A.E. Waite. It flowed out of the eyes and soul of Pixie.  She was in the groove and some higher force was using her mind and her hands to bring those cards into being.  Aren’t we lucky that happened?

 

Can You Learn to Read Tarot Cards?

Over the 50 + years that I’ve been reading Tarot cards I’ve had many people ask me if they could learn how to read the cards.  The answer, of course, is, “No.”

Just kidding.

The answer is an unreserved, “Oh, hell, yes.”

Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards.  There are really only three things you need:  a deck of Tarot cards, a good set of definitions and layouts, and a little time.

The deck you choose will probably depend on what sings to your subconscious.  You have a very wide choice already and it seems like some enterprising artists and writers are coming up with new designs almost every month.

If you’re a purist at heart you may want to consider a nicely done reproduction of The Marseille Deck.  This most closely resembles the original decks that were used in the 15th and 16th centuries. A word of caution:  the, ‘pips,” – cards ace through ten of the four major suits, AKA the Minor Arcana – do not have the intricate illustrations of themes and situations that we associate with modern Tarot cards.

A nice alternative is The Aquarian Tarot Deck.  These are beautifully illustrated with knock-your-socks off Art Deco pictures.  Not the deck I use, but absolutely elegant cards.

The most popular deck by far – and the one that I personally favor – is The Rider Waite Tarot Deck, Rider being the company that manufactures them and Waite being A.E. Waite, the person who authored them.  Thanks mainly to the amazing artist who did the illustrations – Pamela Coleman Smith – it’s definitely the most magical deck out there. There have been several variations in colors and inks through the years so you can find them in hues that range from fairly muted to near neon.

You can find nearly all of the decks that are available on Amazon.com if you want to browse through them and most decent occult shops or larger book stores will have a few on hand.  Something to be aware of when selecting cards is to be sure that they actually ARE Tarot cards. There are a ton of card decks that are used for fortune telling or intuition work that have nothing to do with the Tarot.  The Inner Child Cards and Medicine Cards come to mind – both lovely decks but not the Tarot.

Finally, it is highly NOT recommended that you ever, ever purchase a used deck of Tarot cards.  They do tend to retain the vibrations of the original owner and you don’t want that popping up in your readings.

As far as finding a good set of definitions and card layouts, I personally recommend

STAND BY FOR SHAMELESS ACT OF SELF-PROMOTION 

my book, “Just the Tarot,”  by Dan Adair available as an Amazon Kindle ebook for only 3 bucks.

END OF SHAMELESS ACT OF SELF-PROMOTION

There are, of course, a lot of alternatives.  The most popular of the free online definitions at this writing are at biddytarot.com and tarot.com.  Both of them have excellent definitions but tend to be a little New-Agey so be prepared to be inspired, uplifted and filled with positive thoughts whether you want to be or not.

You can also, of course, browse through the books on amazon.com and compare the various reviews that the readers have left.   A strong caveat: if you’re thinking of buying, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot,” by A.E. Waite, don’t bother. Ironically it’s one of the worst books on the subject that’s ever been written and it is MAJORLY boring to boot.

As far as the third element necessary for learning the Tarot – time – that’s up to you and your individual temperament.  Some people are really into taking classes and socializing and you can find online courses or, if you live in one of the hipper locations of the country, you can probably take personal classes.  If you’ve got a busy schedule like most of us do, try to do a reading or two a week. Write down the results and then go back to them at the end of the week and see how accurate the readings were.  As time passes you’ll start to get a personal feel for each card and begin to develop a talent for putting all of the cards in a layout into a story.

Have fun!