I’ve been thinking about this post for so long that it’s no longer current. this year, 2022-3, the Sun passed into Capricorn on the 21st of December, the solstice. That’s of course also the time it passed into the first decan of Capricorn. And this piece is about how that decan, the spirit who rules it, and the tarot card are all intertwined. And, well, the Sun is in the last decan of Capricorn now, but here it is anyway, as a sort of case study.
I’ve written about these before, so feel free to skip this section if you don’t need to know. But just in case:
Decans are ten degree arcs in the zodiac. Each sign, being thirty degrees, has three. They were a relatively obscure division of the zodiac until the 19th century (the terms were more important to astrologers before that). But what happened is that a bunch of 19th century occultists realized that tarot cards map to the decans fairly well.
That’s because there are 36 of them, and if you remove the aces from the pips, there are 36. Additionally, each decan is ruled by a planet, and the sign is ruled by a different planet (though sometimes they’re the same). Andrew Watt is fond of saying that the decan planet is the "administrator" who fulfills the orders of the sign ruler in their own way. So you and Eugene will do your work differently in the office, but you’re doing the same thing. In that way, a Mars-ruled decan will be different from a Sun-ruled decan, in, say, Pisces, but since that whole sign is ruled by Jupiter they have to do Jupiter-ish things.
Which is how the 10 of Cups ends up being such a positive card: it’s a Mars card, the final decan of Pisces. But Pisces is ruled by Jupiter. The situation ends up being one where the lord of war is tasked with fulfilling Jupiter’s action plan for emotional completion and therefore you get, as in the Waite Smith tarot, a rainbow: fierce light refracted by water vapor.
There’s also a historical system that assigns gods to the decans. This isn’t too weird: the decans were, such as in some Hermetic texts, conceived of as separate from the zodiac, like how if you look at a fence you also see what’s behind it. You can check out Andrew’s site above for a lot of information about the decans and the gods who rule them, but in this case the only one you need to know is Asklepios, who rules the first decan of Capricorn: from the solstice to 10 days afterwards (roughly solstice to New Year’s, in fact).
If you don’t know who that is, in short, he’s the human physician who was so good at healing that he could bring the dead back to life.The bereaved family of someone who died because the gods killed him went to Asklepios and asked him to heal the dead person. He did so, and so the gods sent him to the realm of the dead.
I think that’s an important distinction. In some versions of the story, like Elijah, Asklepios didn’t so much die as get forcibly removed to the province of death.
Asklepios is also the father of medicine. Famously, when Socrates drinks the cup of hemlock in "Phaedo," he tells his followers to sacrifice a cock at the temple of Asklepios. It’s a clever way to end the dialogue, which is about the immortality of the soul and how philosophers should welcome death — Socrates is effectively saying the poison is medicine, and the god should be thanked accordingly.
How does all this go together directly? Because certainly if you’re in the norther hemisphere and you’re approaching Christmas and everyone is sick, you should practice medicine — at least insofar as you can yourself. I don’t know if you’re a physician, so don’t go practicing it on other people if you’re not licensed I guess.
But this post is, believe it or not, about tarot.
The tarot card that corresponds with this decan is the 2 of Disks. The Waite Smith image shows a figure balancing on one foot, holding, and perhaps juggling, two coins or disks. It’s a positive card most of the time, though it always depends on exactly what you’re asking. It’s ruled by Jupiter, though, which is the reason I can say that. It connotes material changes, and the classic logic of a professional tarot reader is that if a client is coming to you, they probably don’t like something about their material circumstances — so a change is probably going to be good.
At any rate, the idea here is that Asklepios practiced humoral medicine, which is all about keeping the body in balance. And while we may not necessarily think it a good idea to let out some blood when we’ve got too much of it, we can certainly agree that too much or too little of things in our life and our diet will affect our health. Too much meat? Not enough vegetables? Not great!
So the thing is, since the card is associated with the first decan of Capricorn, and Capricorn is pragmatic, and the first decan of Capricorn is associated with Asklepios, and he’s all about balancing one’s health, the cluster of ideas builds up around the card, right?
You can read the post I wrote for Arnemancy about using word clouds for tarot over here.
The decan the sun’s in as I write this, by the way, is Tolma, and they seem to be about decisiveness in the face of uncertainty. And the tarot card is the 4 of Disks, which in WS depicts a figure crouched over their treasures, holding them in place, something Andrew goes into more detail about in that post.
This is an odd one, as it feels to some degree as though it’s just repeating things I’ve learned from Andrew, and from writers such as Susan Chang. But I haven’t written anything about tarot in quite a while, so consider this my apology to those people if this post is as derivative as it seems.
So have you seen cohost.org?
It’s not exactly like I stopped writing here in order to write on cohost. But I have been writing there recently, at this page. You might be particularly interested in the series I’ve done on gothic literature. This post you’ve just read is also getting cross-posted there, as a bit of an experiment. You can keep reading me here for magic and tarot related stuff, certainly! I’m not going to stop using a site that I have more control over. But if you’re interested in the stuff you find on my page over there, you might consider following me on cohost as well!
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