Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month we’re going to take a dive beyond astrology into the realm of another divinatory system, the tarot, to explore how it connects with both astrology and magic.
This journey will lead us back to ancient Egypt to explore its culture and its profound significance in the occult traditions of the west. Indeed it is in this land that we find the known origins and seeds of the modern western systems we now know as the tarot, astrology and magic. We can say that, in the western tradition at least, nearly all paths lead back to ancient Egypt, but unfortunately so many of the written texts (on astrology and especially magic) have been lost to history and the twists of fate and so the ability we have to trace the development of these early ideas is beyond us, at least intellectually. However, some fragments of knowledge from that time do remain, particularly in the writings of later Hellenistic thinkers on astrology who refer to these ancient sources, and we can also acquire information about these times from within, via intuition and the recovery of memories from previous incarnations or the Akasha. Such information is not provable intellectually, but can be verified in other ways. Some of what I will be sharing in this message comes from my own memories and recollections of life in ancient Egypt, some of it comes from information I have been given by others, and some of it comes from the historical record, whether that is physical or Akashic.
Remarkably, it seems that the seed notions of astrology and magic and possibly also the tarot that we use today emerged at roughly the same time (historically speaking) or in some fashion that was synchronous (possibly over centuries, or all at once – we don’t know), and that each was fully integrated into Egyptian culture and society as well as their day-to-day lives. Even more remarkably, these ideas may have been the invention of a single individual known only as Hermes Trismegistos (‘thrice great’). It’s possible this “thrice greatness” refers not only to a mastery of the physical, astral and mental world (as often presumed) also the delivery of these three inventions, but I doubt this. We have to include alchemy in Egypts legacy as well since this also originated in ancient Egypt (the name of the land at that time, Khem – ‘blackness’, referring to the dark soil of the Nile – gave its name to alchemy, such was the mastery of alchemical wisdom in ancient Egypt).
Back to Hermes – it is possible that at some point this individual, whom the historical record vaguely suggests actually existed as a contemporary of Moses (which Rabbinical Judaism calculates as being 1391–1271 BCE), played a founding role in systematizing these branches of knowledge and organizing them into a body of practice and wisdom. We are told many times (by papyrus fragments, Firmicus Maternus, Manetho, Manilius and others) that the system of modern astrology (planets, signs, houses, aspects) was delivered by Hermes, added to by Asclepius (called Imhotep in Egypt) and then by two other figures named Petosiris (assumed to be an Egyptian priest) and Nechepso (assumed to be a pseudonym for an Egyptian king or Pharaoh). We are told these individuals invented our astrology from the Babylonian tradition of astrology, with Diodorus (1st century) claiming that the Chaldeans had told him they had been making observations of the stars for 473,000 years (almost certainly exaggeration intended to impress, but the claims about ancient traditions persist in other writings, for example in Pliny the Elder, Critodemus and Berossus). Whatever the truth of this claim we can be certain Hermes was drawing upon an even more ancient source about which we know little or nothing, with the knowledge seeming to have been transmitted to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Iran) and to then have found its way into Egypt.
Venturing for a moment into an aside, we may speculate that this ancient stream of knowledge stems from legends of a previous civilization which we call Atlantis. Actually the forbidden evidence in archeology (meaning the evidence that is conveniently ignored) would indicate that this previous civilization was more than a land mass but instead encompassed the entire world much like ours does today and it may even have made it to the Moon or Mars before destroying itself, which would present interesting discoveries in our future. This was the view of Franz Bardon himself who tells us in the Practice of Magical Evocation that such a civilization existed and possessed gravity manipulation technology before they destroyed themselves (see Virgo 28°). Many objects from so-called primitive civilizations in South America, Asia and other places fluoresce under black light, that is, light which is in the ultraviolet spectrum. Numerous maps on stone exist which show an advanced knowledge of continents and oceans, some with apparent trade routes marked upon them. Giant structures built by no known civilization stand in plain view (Gobekli Tepi, built around 12,000BC), under hills, or under the sea (Gulf of Cambay, west India, a 10,000 year old settlement). Ice may also conceal lost structures. It is possible survivors of the catastrophe found their way into Africa and migrated inland towards the Nile region. My own sense of things is that there was a catastrophic war followed by a flood and that these structures as well as the Sphinx (which I believe was built before the flooding) are the remnants of the survivors, making the Egyptian people we know the survivors of the survivors of the survivors. The original civilization brought low was the fabled First Time of Egyptian mythology, the time of the Gods, and the flood came after.
Regardless of how the Egyptians came by their astounding knowledge it would seem that Hermes delivered the astrological doctrine of the 12 houses and their significations (Antiochus, Thrasyllus, Timaeus and Dorotheus, writing in the 1st century after Christ, indicate this for example). This may have been the key which shifted astrology into its more egoic horoscopic era (in which every person had birth charts, whereas before then the use of astrology was more what we would now call mundane astrology and was focused on the political, agricultural, land, weather, etc). Asclepius/Imhotep and then Nechepso and Petosiris seem to have then greatly expanded on or compiled the astrological doctrines introduced by Hermes. In fragments from later Hellenistic writers we are informed of “14th and 15th volumes” by these last two authors (who are often cited together) which were evidently in wide circulation at the time but have now vanished, along with everything they wrote, but for these fragments quoted in later Hellenistic texts. If this is correct, it would seem reasonable that these individuals lived around the 1st or 2nd century before Christ, giving about a century or two for the doctrines to take root in Hellenistic thinking, but what we have to remember here is that there was a strong tradition of taking the names of previous adepts for oneself, (not out of ego but as an honour to them), and also in later centuries for signing texts with the name ‘Hermes’ as a way to legitimize them, and so it is almost certain that the 1BC Hermes (supposing they lived at that time) who devised the modern house doctrine is just the latest incarnation of that name and that there was an even earlier ‘Hermes’ whom they were honoring.
Whatever the case may be we have persistent whisperings and fragmentary evidence that the systems we use today in astrology, magic and the tarot all have their origins in this ancient culture, and have become intertwined through the centuries by the adding of layers of analogy and correspondence. The tarot seems to provide an interesting symbolic link between astrology and magic, plugging directly into both ideas. Its history is assumed to have begun in the mid 15th century in Italy as a development of the introduction of playing cards in Europe in the late 14th century (from Egypt no less). This means that the entire concept of the tarot is considered to be only about 600 years old, but this is only its known history and, I suggest, this is only the beginnings of its use as a tool for divination in the form of cards. I propose that the images and the concepts date back farther in time through the secret mystery schools that stem back to ancient Egypt and that the original purpose of these images, which would have changed forms but not essence over the centuries, was an initiatory one. I think these images are in essence many thousands of years old, just like those in magic and astrology.
We know that the earliest example of the astrological decans goes back to Egypt of 2,100 BC, where we see them as part of magical inscriptions carved into coffin lids. We also know that the Egyptian calendar was divided into 36 ten day periods, with 5 days existing beyond calendar time, bridging one 360 day cycle with the next and each being dedicated to 5 major deities – Horus, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nepthys. The 36 Egyptian decans were derived from the rising of stellar constellations not zodiacal divisions, but over the vast period of time that the Egyptian culture thrived the phenomenon of precession caused the stars to rise at different times of the year, so that gradually the decanic lists were revised, resulting in great confusion today as to which stars were connected to which decans. Each of the 36 decans and its 10 day period of the year was given over to the evocation and activities of a minor deity, but these deifications also shifted over the vast period of time involved. Thus, the specifics of the system itself are lost but the entire rhythm of Egyptian society was ritually linked to the 36 decans, which were viewed as gods or spirits who called for specific activities to be undertaken in their ten day period, and each year culminated in 5 days that existed beyond time and were given over to major rituals that renewed the cycle of time itself.
How does this bring us to the tarot? Simply put, if you remove the 16 court cards (which represent personages and their analogous stages of initiation) as well as the 4 aces (which represent the 4 Elements), you are left with 36 ‘minor’ arcana cards, and the images on these cards depict the same spirit that was honoured by the Egyptians. Spirits have an immutable essence and a mutable form which means that their essence does not change but their form does. These beings informed the creation of the modern images. These 36 cards depict the magic of living and doing, the magic of navigating through mundane circumstances and the constant challenges or changing seasons of the world. If we wish to we can still map these cards to the 36 decans of the modern day, which are derived from tropical astrology and not the stars. This transforms the minor arcana back into a calender device, but one that is used for divinatory purposes. The 4 suits are analogous to the 4 Elements (Wands are Fire, Swords are Air, Cups are Water and Pentacles are Earth), while the numbers correspond to the astrological modes (Cardinal or Active signs are 2,3,4; Fixed or Stable signs are 5,6,7; Mutable or Reactive signs are 8,9,10) and to the decan (2,5 and 8 are the first decan, 3,6 and 9 are the middle decan; 4,7 and 10 are the last decan). When we put all this together, this is the result:
The Minor Arcana
The Pages: Initiates of the 4 Elements (images pertaining to the investigating of the Elements and to the internal/passive personal expression of the Divine virtues of the Elements in human form, for example the expression of the omnipotence of Fire as human faith, trustworthiness and enthusiasm (Page of Wands) or the expression of the omnipresence of Earth as deep concentration and application (Page of Pentacles).
The Knights: Disciples of the 4 Elements (images pertaining to the Element when matured or astrally equilibrated, the horse denoting this shift, and also to the more external/active and less internal/passive expressions of an Element, for example the skilled capacity and bravery of the Knight of Swords or the swift flight of the Knight of Wands).
The Queens: Adepts of the 4 Elements (images pertaining to the Elements when mentally equilibrated, the throne denoting this shift, or to Magnetic expressions of the Element, for example the calming and warm hearted magnetism of the Queen of Cups or the charming and graceful sincerity of the Queen of Wands).
The Kings: Masters of the 4 Elements (images pertaining to the mastery of the Elements following the realisation of the One Self, or ‘kingship’, or to Electric expressions of the Elements, such as the honesty and conscientiousness of the King of Wands or the experience and practical acumen of the King of Pentacles).
The Aces: The four pristine Elements – Fire, Air, Water and Earth – and all their analogies in the microcosm and the macrocosm.
The Twos: 0°-10° Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These four images explore how humans experience connection, duality and plurality with the Element.
The Threes: 10° – 20° Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These four images explore how humans grow, expand and develop with the Element.
The Fours: 20°-30° Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These four images explore how humans build, consolidate and bring order with the Element.
The Fives: 0°-10° Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. These four images explore how humans will, change and challenge others with the Element.
The Sixes: 10° – 20° Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. These four images explore how humans lead, support and celebrate with the Element.
The Sevens: 20°-30°Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. These four images explore how humans challenge themselves, overcome obstacles and set goals with the Element.
The Eights: 0°-10° Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. These four images explore how humans access inner strength, externalise force and steadily advance through trials with the Element.
The Nines: 10° – 20° Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.These four images explore how humans reflect, review and genuflect with the Element.
The Tens: 20°-30° Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. These four images explore how humans learn from, share and bring closure with the Element.
This correspondence is very useful. For example, going from the tarot to astrology, the 5 of cups would represent the first 10 days of Scorpio (roughly Oct 23-Nov 3), while the 3 of Swords the middle 10 days of Libra (roughly Oct 3-13). We can also draw an analogy from a chart to the tarot, for example a Sun at 23° of Pisces (or any Pisces Sun beyond 20°) is connected to the 10 of Cups, and thus to the concept of how we bring closure through Water magic (forgiveness, love of all beings). Every part of the chart as well as transits and progressions – indeed, anything that involves a zodiac position – can be mapped to one of the numbered 36 minor arcana cards. We have to be very careful here though, as some images in the minor arcana appear to be decidedly negative, a twisting and cloaking of the meaning which came about probably due to the adaption of the tarot as a divinatory tool i.e. more recently. These more negative seeming images (which include many of the Swords) must be deeply penetrated in order to perceive their initiatory meaning and their magic. One solution is to bring the significations of number from the Tree of Life to the minor arcana cards, adding another layer of interpretation that helps to restore the magical dimension of the arcana:
1: Kether, the One self, the Unity. Thus, the Aces are connected to the awareness and presence of the 4 Divine virtues, Omnipotence (Fire), Omniscience (Air), Infinite Lovingness (Water) and Omnipresence (Earth). One is the number of oneness.
2: Chokmah, Wisdom, Light of awareness, interconnectedness of everything. Two is the number of polarity and balance.
3: Binah, Understanding, bridging the universal with the personal, the Great Work. Three is the number of karma, fate, time and intuition.
4: Gedulah, Mercy, connection with others, orientation in space, spiritual teaching. Four is the number of law, order, justice and sequence.
5: Geburah, Severity, distinction of the spirit, difference, discrete and unique powers. Five is the number of might and strength and of humanity.
6: Tiphareth, Beauty, presence and the present Now, radiation of individual Divinity. Six is the number of life, light and the mental or macrocosmic universe.
7: Netzach, Victory, purity, truthfulness, vitality, personal feelings and emotions. Seven is the number of art, harmony, growth and fertility.
8: Hod, Splendor, wonder, intellectual growth, reasoning, choices, personal thinking. Eight is the number of knowledge, learning and thought.
9: Yesod, Foundation, the astral awareness, the way of the soul, subjectivity, personal issues. Nine is the number of motion, rhythm and the astral universe.
10: Malkuth, Kingdom (Domain or Realm), consequences, karma, completion, necessity, rhythms of physical existence. Ten is the number of cohesion, matter and the microcosm or physical universe.
For example, the 10 of Swords depicts a corpse laying on the ground with 10 swords piercing its body; the sky is blackened and grey with cloud but there are beams of Sun trying to break through. The closure looks bleak. Usually it is interpreted as a painful ending to something with a need to look for a silver lining – not great news. However if seen in the context of being connected to Malkuth (necessity, completeness) and the qualities of Air, it is perceived as the termination of a painful thought-form that the mind has become identified with and must be released from – not too bad after all, and actually more accurate than the standard view. The magic here is about disengaging from the suffering of the story you have told about your life and yourself and reclaiming the parts of your own consciousness that became trapped in it. Each of the minor cards hides a magic that we all know deep down inside and often one we use all the time in our mundane everyday lives without ever consciously realizing it.
The Major Arcana
So the minor Arcana cards connect with the systems of astrology and magic through the decans and the sephiroth of the Tree of Life, which leaves us with the major Arcana. What are they and where did they come from? To give you the answer I have to these questions I need to talk to you about my memories of my lives in Egypt. I remember a land of incredible colour and vibrancy, a culture literally saturated in magic and spiritual practices. We were extremely advanced in the alchemy of metals, stones, powder and pigment and could produce many things which are today lost to us. For example, alchemy was so integrated into our culture that it was even involved in the creation of the make-up which we put around our eyes and on our faces. Society was modeled on the heavens, including architecture and art and design, with advanced mathematics, physics and other sciences holding hands with occult practices and magical awareness. This went on for many centuries. Within society there were many mystery schools teaching the esoteric lessons of these subjects to initiates, with extensive and complex priesthoods and temple activities driving the various systems of initiation. The temples above the ground were the exoteric or mundane structures representing these mystery schools within society – the real places of sacred instruction were mostly underground and connected to these places through extensive tunnel and cave networks. At certain points during their initiation, individuals would be led to secret chambers within this network where they would receive instruction into a deeper level of understanding and practice.
Within these chambers there were astonishing and breathtaking works of art. The presence of gold and other precious metals, alchemically changed to radiate specific qualities of consciousness, of intense aromas and sensations, sounds, and of many objects of power arranged in specific ways, caused an immediate alteration of consciousness when viewed and experienced. Central in some way to the experience was a magnificent veil, often decorated with hieroglyphs preparing you and cautioning you to be silent before the gods, which was withdrawn to reveal a vast mural or panorama, sometimes a mosaic, other times a painting, taking up one wall and often with a statue or series of statues before it. These statues were often decorated with the most precious gems, colours and garments, especially around the eyes, and appeared to be extremely alive, because they were. They had been magically animated and housed their own intelligence. The same had been done with the mural – it was a living image, magically animated. This means that when you entered the chamber to receive instruction, you received it directly from the image and the hieroglyphs decorating it and the intelligence in the statue/s. The pillars also contained many spells that both protected and taught you. This wasn’t like watching TV or seeing a picture or suit of armour move in a spooky movie. Instead it was more akin to some kind of virtual reality experience, but far more immersive – your consciousness was drawn into the scene being depicted, it was changed by the atmosphere and presence of the beings and they spoke directly to your mind via telepathy and mental transference – in many cases you became them for a time. In this communion you received your instruction on the next stage of initiation and the mysteries that would be revealed to you were introduced. Periodically, you might return to the chamber to receive further instruction or to commune with the spirit and deity of that place.
The images were the major Arcana images, or rather Egyptian versions of them. The first image was always The Magician – the deity we call Thoth – and the primary chamber of this first initiation was below Hermopolis. When the initiate had mastered the teachings of this first image, they were taken to the next. And so it went on, for thousands upon thousands of years, with souls being tracked through the afterlife so that their return would be known. This is where we gain the major Arcana images from. Each of the images depicts an entire system of initiatory magic. However, since they are no longer magically alive and animated with a living intelligence, and since many centuries have passed since then, the images have altered and are now more heavily veiled than before. It requires a deep meditation to perceive the initiatory magic being depicted in each of the images, but that meditation is part of the initial Arcana, part of the work of that degree of initiation.
The images in these cards, unlike the images in the minor Arcana, are not about the experience of doing things in the world, they are about the states of being that are inherent to every human consciousness and the magic that arises when that aspect of human consciousness is fully realised. They are symbolic depictions of this magic and the process of accessing it, and many of the details are hidden ‘inside’ the card, i.e. you must mentally transfer into the scene in order to be able to see what is ‘off stage’ in the card. A central human or humanoid figure or figures is often provided for you to inhabit for this purpose, but in cases where it is not the object to transfer into is obvious (and actually not all that important, as you can project into any part of the image).
The first image, the Magician, is a prerequisite for the practice of the other initiatory forms of magic i.e. it is training that you have to complete before you can make use of the later lessons. Bardon revealed the 2nd and 3rd leaves in this Book of Arcana, leaving us with no comment on what the rest might be. If we look again to the Hebrew Tree of Life, however, we can begin to see clues about these remaining leaves. The correspondence of the major Arcana cards to the paths connecting the sephiroth of the Hebrew Tree is the key that we need. In this scheme, the Magician connects Kether with Tiphareth – meaning, the 1st book is the key that connects the individual consciousness with the Divine or Unified consciousness. The 2nd book – the High Priestess – connects Chokmah to Gedulah, and the 3rd book – the Empress – is the path connecting Binah with Geburah, both of which also aptly describe the content of those books. The path connecting Chokmah with Gedulah is the path which creates a hierarchy of individual spirits and Binah to Geburah is the path by which causation takes form (in shape, colour, tone, sensation, etc).
Therefore we can perceive what the remaining leaves of the Book of Arcana relate to by contemplation on i) the tarot image itself and ii) the position of that major arcana card on the Hebrew Tree of Life. Since as I said above the reflection on these matters is a part of the Arcana I will not give detailed descriptions of them here but will just give short descriptions of the initiatory magic that they connect with. Note that in most cases we do not even have a handy name for the type of magic that the Arcana card is referring to (i.e. ‘alchemy’ or ‘evocation’) but must instead describe it with a phrase. I have added the Hebrew Tree Path for those interested in exploring the connection between the tarot images and the Tree.
0 The Fool (Path 8, Gedulah to Geburah): The magic of unifying meaning and form through symbolization (sigils, runes, etc) and the initiatory step of bringing unique expression to the innocence of our innate loving kindness, the magic of stepping into or finding ones incarnation purpose, lifting of the mental veil of time-space and revealing the timelessness beyond it, crossing the Abyss. This is card 0 because we must begin to seek initiation before it begins.
1 The Magician (Path 4, Kether to Tiphareth): Initiation, the magic of the four Elements in the microcosm and macrocosm (Bardons 1st book).
2 The High Priestess (Path 12, Chokmah to Gedulah): The magic of evocation, sphere magic, the sequential expansion of consciousness, revelation and Divine vision, the art of working with the essential thought behind forms (Bardons 2nd title).
3 The Empress (Path 14, Binah to Geburah): Kabbalistic utterance, magic of causation and the universal laws (legality) of nature in shape, colour, tone, sensation, number, etc. (Bardons 3rd book).
4 The Emperor (Path 2, Kether to Chokmah): Magic of the universal anatomy and the primal Fluids, perception of Divine Wisdom in the interconnectedness of everything (this would have been Bardons 4th title, the ‘Book of Golden Wisdom’)
5 The High Priest (Path 5, Kether to Binah): Alchemy, magic of the primal Elements, division of light and dark into distinct substance. Bardon began some work on this book but did not complete it.
6 The Lovers (Path 6, Chokmah to Tiphareth): Magic of Light and the mysteries of consciousness and intuition, understanding of role and ‘mission’ in infinite Creation.
7 The Chariot (Path 9, Binah to Tiphareth): Magic of space-time and the translocation of consciousness, exploration of past lives, prophecy, communion with the totality of the Greater Self.
8 Strength (Path 11, Gedulah to Tiphareth): Magic of the mental Fluids and animation of mental life, the path of individual self perfection in all forms i.e. of spiritual and mental self improvement
9 The Hermit (Path 17, Geburah to Tiphareth): Mastery of the mental Elements and the magic of individual power or the inner light (Holy Spirit).
10 Wheel of Fortune (Path 18, Gedulah to Netzach): Magic of the creation of astral effects via the mental – fortune and luck, karma, and spiritual liberation.
11 Justice (Path 20, Tiphareth to Netzach): Magic of conscious feeling and its creation, of using the will to consciously create harmony and equilibrium in the world.
12 The Hanged Man (Path 16, Netzach to Hod): The magic of consciously unifying thought and emotion, magic of the astral veil and altered states of personal consciousness.
13 Death (Path 22, Tiphareth to Hod): Mummial magic and multiplication of astral form, physical-astral preservation magic.
14 Temperance (Path 27, Netzach to Yesod): Magic of the astral Fluids and animation of astral life, the path of personal self perfection in all its forms i.e. of astral self improvement .
15 The Devil (Path 28, Hod to Yesod): Magic of the astral Elements and animation of astral symbols, affirmations and the unconscious, the magic of consciously using reason to transform the personality.
16 The Tower (Path 21, Geburah to Hod): Magic of astral transformation through willpower, ‘wish magic’, also power over all thought forms.
17 The Star (Path 29, Netzach to Malkuth): Magic of astrology and the astral light, creation of physical effects through the astral, magic of resonance.
18 The Moon (Path 31, Hod to Malkuth): Magic of meditation, the subconscious mind and mental influence over matter.
19 The Sun (Path 25, Tiphareth to Yesod): Magic of the mental matrix (violet cord) and the mental equilibrium.
20 Judgment (Path 24, Chokmah to Binah): The magic of giving life to forms, e.g. golems, resurrection magic, etc.
21 The World (Path 32, Yesod to Malkuth): The magic of the astral matrix (silver cord) and the astral equilibrium.
The tarot is therefore not just a divinatory tool, nor just a powerful system of initiation in itself, but a meta-system that connects the various branches of magic as well as connecting those branches with astrology. In ages past this Book of Arcana was complete and open, but in time its pages were scattered and many were lost when the mystery schools died, the oral transmission dried up, the temples collapsed and turned to dust and the few written records were burned, spoiled or secreted away. In the dark ages after Rome fell, cutting many of the threads to the wisdom of the ancient world, scholars and private seekers tried to piece together the lore that had been consumed by time, but they were severely challenged and later driven into hiding by the threat of torture and death. Even the 1st leaf – genuine instruction in magic – remained largely lost except in fragmentary form and this was buried under cryptograms and ciphers, until Franz Bardon restored it to the world. With the restoration of this first leaf it became inevitable that the remainder of the Book of Arcana would eventually return. Although we are only at the beginning of that process on an evolutionary level, in time all 22 leaves will be recovered and restored to humanity. They will undoubtedly take new forms just as Bardon’s book is a new form for the ancient ways and knowledge, but they will lead to the same things and we will ultimately receive instruction from the same spirits who knew our ancestors.