Asklepios and the 2 of Disks

I’ve been thinking about this post for so long that it’s no longer current.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.

Read more: Asklepios and the 2 of Disks

Decans?

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.

Gods

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).

Asklepios

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.

Synthesis

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.

Probably.

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.

Wrap Up

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!

Support this work

If you like this piece and the work that I’m doing here, you can support it through Ko-Fi, Paypal, or Patreon.

You might also consider signing up for my courses! Or book a reading! I perform traditional readings as well as tutorial sessions. You could even grab a copy of my new tarot reading zine!

Your support makes the this work possible and I am thankful for your consideration!

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Mutual Reception in the Tarot Minors

I sat down recently and tried to figure out if any cards in the tarot minors create a situation of mutual reception. If I didn’t miss anything, eight cards do so. That creates an interesting situation in which pairs of cards are linked by their planetary rulers and thus can be contemplated together, as though they’re linked in some way.

Continue reading “Mutual Reception in the Tarot Minors”

Eruption at the End of Things: the Tower Sequence in the Tarot

I was thinking about how the Lovers card is an expression of Gemini and brushing my teeth when this sequence dropped into my head, almost fully formed.

These three cards — The Devil, The Tower, and The Star — are in order, and what’s more remarkable about them is that they are two Saturn cards bookended around a Mars card. And with that, an entire sequence, a narrative, forms around the three cards that is worth investigating to increase our facility with reading with and meditating on these cards.

Continue reading “Eruption at the End of Things: the Tower Sequence in the Tarot”

Golden Dawn Influence on the Waite Smith Tarot

I’ve been talking about tarot a lot lately, in the past few months I mean, on the Hermetic House of Life server. It’s always nice to have other people to discuss stuff like this with. One of the themes that tends to come up is this perceived gulf between people who use stuff like astrological symbolism in tarot reading and those who don’t. And generally, I feel like the gulf isn’t really there. The Astro information is just information, like anything else, and if you don’t know it, you don’t use it, and that’s fine. And if you know enough to say that the 2 of Wands might mean the time around the Spring equinox and that’s it, great!

What I’m here to write about today, though, is the Waite-Smith tarot and astrology. It’s not necessary to know astrology to use the Waite-Smith deck, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that astrology was instrumental in the design of the deck. And that’s my thesis for today: to fully understand the WS deck you do need to know how it uses astrology, even if you don’t really end up using it for readings. However, let me be clear now: you can absolutely use the deck without knowing any of this stuff. But it’s in there.

Continue reading “Golden Dawn Influence on the Waite Smith Tarot”

Para-Hermeticism: Goofy Name, Common Experience

I’ve been wrestling with an idea for a while that’s turned into a tough nut to crack. Yes, that’s a mixed metaphor. Mix your metaphors. Spurred on by my series of posts reacting to Rufus Opus’s book Seven Spheres, I’ve found I had to come up with some kind of bodge sooner rather than later.

The previous posts are here: one, two, and three. The idea here is not to continue to talk about Opus’s system, or even companion planting per se. This idea is related to the latter though. What I want to do is to first discuss the apparent omnipresence of hermeticism, introducing a term I cobbled together as a joke to begin with, “para-hermetic.” In the following post (yes, there’s another one) I will sort of demonstrate companion planting in action by juxtaposing ideas from hermeticism and Druidry.

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Tarot Case Study: Card Permutations 1

Here’s a kind of case study we can do every so often: I’m going to pull two cards and answer a variety of hypothetical questions with them. Keep in mind these aren’t advice readings, like my monthly Patreon forecast: they aren’t going to particularly apply to you, or to anybody. They’re pulled as exemplars, so I can demonstrate a variety of methods in something as close to a “real life scenario” as possible.

The Questions

Every time I do this “case study” exercise I’ll use the same questions, though I may add to them over time if I think of more, or if you suggest some! For now they are:

  • How can I improve my career prospects?
  • How can I meet a person who I can begin a healthy romantic relationship with?
  • What should I focus on in my spiritual life?
  • What’s something important in work environment that I haven’t noticed?
  • When should I move?

That covers a wide variety of topics, and are all things one might be asked by a querent.

The cards

We need a pair of cards at this point. Here they are:

The 4 of Swords and the Magician from the Sigil Arcanum tarot

The cards are from Sigil Arcanum by Taylor Bell, which you can find here if you’re interested.

  • 4 of Swords
    • Jupiter
      • Greater Benefic
      • Peace
      • Religion
      • Generosity
      • Lucky breaks
      • Day sect
    • Libra
      • Cardinal
      • Air
      • Justice (major card)
    • Chesed
  • Magician
    • Major card
    • Mercury
      • Clever
      • Communication
      • Words
      • Magic
      • Calculation
      • No sect
        • Matches what is around it in a chart
    • Four elements
      • Earth
      • Water
      • Air
      • Fire

These are just some of the correspondences the cards bring up. Let’s answer those questions!

How can I improve my career prospects?

Have you been fighting something or someone at work lately? Center yourself and breathe. Take a break – don’t stop working, but stop fighting. When you see an opportunity to give in, take it, so long as it does not weaken your position too much. Use that new time and freed-up energy to do something clever. Find someone to communicate with that you don’t usually loop in and see how you can learn a new skill or manipulate an existing structure to figure things out. The magician is the calm center of the universe, and the 4 of Swords supports this. Look out for opportunities you weren’t expecting. This isn’t about brute forcing it or showing yourself off. It’s about taking advantage of a something new or new-to-you that comes because you stop fighting a battle you can’t win at this time.

How can I meet a person who I can begin a healthy romantic relationship with?

Talk to your prospective partners and dates in calm situations, not rowdy messes. Don’t go to a bar or even a restaurant. Go to a café and spend a few hours actually getting to know each other. Think about what you actually want from a relationship. Get all the hopes and dreams out of your mind, breathe, focus on mindfulness, and then imagine what it is you need and what it would look like to have a relationship that gave you what you need. Be honest. If you’re sort of clingy, accept that you need a person who likes hugs. If you are standoffish, accept that you need somebody who can do their own thing for hours at a time. Go through this carefully. Make a list! When that’s done, go on a date and, very peacefully and happily, find out if this person can do those things. Go on a bunch of dates! Don’t brandish the list at people, but keep it in mind and slowly, gently discover the person, not the image. This process sucks, because everyone thinks they have to portray an image when they’re dating. Take your time.

What should I focus on in my spiritual life?

Meditation. Do imaginal workings in the middle of meditating. Read Jung’s Red Book, or at least a portion of it, and do what he did. Close your eyes, get peaceful, and imagine a door. Then open that door without any expectations. Find out what’s behind it. Examine the scene and the objects or people from all angles. Ask questions. Expect answers, but don’t expect specific answers. Repeat as necessary.

What’s something important in work environment that I haven’t noticed?

You’re probably not networking during down time, and someone else is. Take advantage of lulls in the workday, or in the seasonal calendar, to talk to everyone about any old thing. Learn what makes them tick. Don’t plan to blackmail anybody, or even hold it over their heads formally. But when you know a person, you know the names and the calls for them, and can ask them for help more easily. The process works in reverse, too, so be generous with your time without causing yourself stress. Stop anything that starts to stress you out though. But pay attention to the grapevine while also avoiding getting engaged in malicious gossip. If you never encounter anybody in all the gossip that everyone rags on, it’s you they’re ragging on when they talk to other people. Fix that.

When should I move?

Not right away. Take a breather. Start a calendar and get fussy with it. When does the sale go through? Add a month to that. When are all your deadlines? When does the current landlord want you out? How much would it cost to stay in a hotel for a week? Can you crash on a friend’s couch? Does that friend know you might need to? Get specific, get annoying, and only after that’s all done can you think about actually moving. Possibly September or October, most likely October. If you’re into astrology, look for when Mercury transits into Libra and try to move just before that, right when they’re near the cusp.

And we’re done

You’ll notice I haven’t gone into details about why each reading is the way it is. You can presumably see the obvious patterns, such as the 4 of Swords being associated with meditation and “breathing space.” Take the list above and think through the readings that followed. I want this to be a kind of guided exercise. You know the beginning and end points, so you can think through how to get from one to the other.

Next time, we’ll answer the same questions using the Magician and a randomly drawn card. In this way, we can work through how what the cards say changes when they’re paired up with different cards.

Support this work

If you like this piece and the work that I’m doing here, you can support it through Ko-Fi, Paypal, or Patreon.

You might also consider signing up for my courses! Or book a reading! I perform traditional readings as well as tutorial sessions. You could even grab a copy of my new tarot reading zine!

Your support makes the this work possible and I am thankful for your consideration!

Astro Flash Cards: Tarot Astrology At-a-Glance

I think this one is TheNewAkkount’s fault: in the course of a conversation about getting into astrology, I mentioned that sometimes I use tarot cards to quickly understand planetary placements in the sky. The method is simple: just put together the planet(s) in a sign with the sign, and pull cards for each one. This method obviously uses the Golden Dawn’s attributions, and so your mileage may vary, given that not everyone finds those attributions to be, shall we say, bullet proof? Additionally, once the cards are lying in front of you, you also have to remember that the card meanings aren’t exactly the same as the planetary meanings. It is still helpful though, it’s just not going to immediately teach you everything you need to know about astrology! I wonder if the Sefer Raziel angel knows somebody who does astrology instead?

Continue reading “Astro Flash Cards: Tarot Astrology At-a-Glance”

Esoteric Tarot Associations: Practical Uses

Recently someone asked me how I use the more esoteric associations in tarot to clarify readings, or, at least, how do I use them without getting involved in vague esoteric mumbling? (Hi Vathy!) I kept thinking about it, and thinking about it some more, and realized this is probably a post instead of a few sentences for a discord. So that’s what this post is about! The ways that I use the correspondences between tarot and various esoteric strata of information, such as kabbalah and astrology, in a more or less practical way.

Theory

First, briefly, if you don’t already know about these association layers: over the years, information has been layered onto the tarot cards, which were fairly information-light to begin with, since they were just for gaming. To oversimplify, three systems have been added to the cards.

  1. The four classical elements
  2. Kabbalistic imagery, particularly the Tree of Life and its connections between “nodes”
  3. Astrological information, such as signs, planets, and decans

The four classical elements are earth, water, air, and fire. They each correspond to a suit of the minor cards: earth-disks-material matters; water-cups-emotional matters; air-swords-intellectual matters; and fire-wands-inspirational matters.

The Kabbalistic imagery includes, but is not limited to, Hebrew letters and positions on the Tree of Life. For instance, the Fool is given the attribution of Aleph, the beginning and the “ox goad,” as well as the first “path” on the Tree of Life, connecting Kether, the unknowable Godhead, with Chokmah*.

Astrological information includes, but is not limited to, planets, signs, and decans. For example, Mars is associated with the 2 of Wands and the 10 of Cups. The 8, 9, and 10 of Cups are associated with Pisces. And they each represent one decan of Pisces.

It’s likely you know what Mars and Pisces are, but you may not know what decans are. So as a brief aside: the decans are ten-degree sections of the zodiac. As each sign is thirty degrees, each sign has three decans in it. Each decan has a planet that is its “ruler,” which means that in the sign of, say, Pisces, everything is ruled by Jupiter, who rules the sign, but a small area of it is ruled by Mars – the final decan, between 19 and 29 degrees. Plenty of models and descriptions abound for understanding that relationship, but you can think of it this way for now: if Jupiter rules everything in Pisces, it must need administrators to help keep things going smoothly, and Mars is the administrator of the last section of Pisces.

I’ve ordered the three groupings in ascending levels of complexity – and I know, the Tree of Life isn’t exactly simple. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I have ordered them in the sequence I learned them in. Most any book you get on tarot will mention the elemental associations, at least briefly. I learned Kabbalah imagery because I bought a “Golden Dawn tarot” in Memphis, TN and wanted to make sense of it. And I learned the astrology stuff as I got more interested in the Thoth deck and its tradition in tarot.

Praxis

Now that I’ve given you background information we can get to the practical advice, insofar as I have any! Given how common the elemental correspondences are, you likely know what to do with those, but here are a few ideas. If you get a preponderance of swords cards when you have a problem, take a second to ask yourself if it’s a concrete or an abstract problem. Swords, associated with air and the intellect, often point to abstraction, and even anxiety. If you get a lot of disks cards, check your wallet! If you get a lot of cups mixed in with a few majors, ask if any life events (majors) are uncontrollable but negatively affecting your emotions (cups), and begin to pick apart the things you can control (which would be, to a greater or lesser degree, your emotional responses or, at the very least, the amount of time you give something. After all, if you can’t control something, you might as well go play Pokemon and wait it out).

Kabbalistic imagery can often give you pointed advice. Let’s say you get the Fool card. Well, is the deck calling you stupid? Probably not (though, sometimes…). The Fool often means something like “freedom” or “innocence,” and that’s fine, but if you’re asking how to get a promotion at work it’s not all that helpful.

Let’s survey The Fool’s description from a few decks off my shelf. In the book for the Lubanko Tarot we find that the Fool is “about one at the beginning of their journey. Optimism, ignorance (often blissful), dumb luck, and pitfalls avoided by chance.” The book goes on to say the lesson is to “acknowledge[e] when we ourselves are at this stage [of ignorance].”

The Robin Wood Tarot says, more simply, “Thoughtlessness, folly, lightheartedness, innocence. Purity of heart. Lack of discipline. One seeking fulfillment and experience. Freedom, lack of restraint.”

The Botanica Tarot says, “a dreamer. Freedom, a life without worry. The start of an adventure. A happy lack of responsibilities.”

If we asked something like “how will my vacation go?” this would be fantastic! But in other contexts, like the “how do I get a promotion?” question from above, we may be left wondering a little. The Fool is associated, as above, with the “ox goad.” So there’s a piece of data: get moving! Force yourself! The Fool doesn’t stop walking, they keep going and going, even off that cliff! The Fool also connects Kether and Chokmah: Kether is the infinite source of all things, while Chokmah is the head of the pillar of mercy. So maybe you need to “go back to the source?” That’s reinforced by the Fool’s connection to Aleph, the first letter. The pillar of mercy is open and receiving, so you need some force but you need to avoid being forceful. Apply energy to keeping yourself open, while moving forward at a constant clip, even if it’s a slow one.

Astrological associations can work in a similar way. Let’s say one’s question is something like “what should I do to find a romantic partner who respects me?” I really did, this time, shuffle my cards up and pull one for this example: we’ve got the 5 of Swords, notorious smirky man. Waite says the meaning of the card is “degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these. Reversed: the same; burial and obsequies.”** That’s… well… all right, Arthur. Oof. Honestly, that’s not a bad start to answering the question: cut and run! But the question was about avoiding “degradation, destruction” and so on, surely?

So the astrological information for the 5 of Swords is that it’s the first decan of Aquarius, administrated by Venus. Venus is not exactly at home in Aquarius, but she’s got an office here, at least. Maybe just a desk. Aquarius is ruled by Saturn. Aquarius is a fixed sign, which means it’s the middle of the air triplicity: Libra -> Aquarius -> Gemini. That means it’s somewhat stubborn, “fixed” in its ways, as opposed to the cardinal signs’ tendencies to start things and the mutable signs’ tendencies to change or finish them.

So if the card means loss and degradation and all those things, and it’s fixed, and it’s associated with Venus and Aquarius, what can we do to improve the outlook of our querent? Venus isn’t a bad planet to get in connection with a romantic question, obviously. But just as obviously, things aren’t going so well. This is the “cardinal” decan of Aquarius, too – some models map each decan of a sign onto the same triplicity model as above, so every sign as a cardinal, fixed, and mutable section to it. So, beginning of fixity, uncomfortable Venus administrating a section of Saturn’s land, and Aquarius as the “weird sign,” the world outside the boundaries that Saturn sets up in Capricorn…

OK, OK. How about this? You’re going to have to cut and run, suffer some losses, and then you need to think very carefully about the next step. Do something new, and stick with it, don’t waver partway through. Govern your romantic sensibilities with a careful eye for details and limitations. Set boundaries before you meet anyone and guard them: if anyone tries to cross those boundaries, cut and run.

And that’s it!

The thing about Kabbalistic and astrological correspondences is that you don’t always need them. Sometimes the card is extremely clear about things. But sometimes it’s not, and if you can dive into on a deep pool of signification, mapping connections and correspondences, then often you can clarify a mysterious card, connect cards in a spread that may not be obviously connected otherwise, and offer more information to querents than otherwise possible.

If you want to learn all these correspondences, and more, I can’t recommend Fortune’s Wheelhouse enough. I didn’t even get into the images associated with the decans by Agrippa and the Picatrix, or the four worlds of Kabbalah and the elemental connections between them, or the royal family YHVH and its esoteric marriage to connect one suit to the suit following, and, and and… You see the point. There’s always more there there, if you know how to squint just right.

If you found this article useful, well, as my dad always said, “don’t clap, just throw money.” I mean, you should clap too, if you want, and leave a comment! But here are some ways you can “throw money” if you’d like to see me do more stuff like this in the nearer future:

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~

*This is the first piece of information I had to look up: I was blanking on Chokmah’s name.

**Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Arthur Edward Waite. US Games Systems, Inc. 1971. Print.