Some of life's best things come unexpectedly. Last Saturday I went to check the mail and found a package waiting for me. Stumped, I took a look inside and found the Hermetic Tarot with a note from Paul, one of my clients who also studies the tarot. I felt a heavy blend of gratitude and excitement as I tore off the cellophane wrap to get my first impression of card stock. Those first few seconds of holding a deck for the first time feel like magic. Meeting what feels like an old friend with a new look is part of the joy of adding to a modest collection of thoughts and experience. With every new deck of tarot cards that comes into my life, a new layer of experience comes to life. Therein lies the embodiment of ancient wisdom in brand new paper stock.
The Hermetic Tarot is based upon the esoteric workings of the secret order of the Golden Dawn. The deck was designed by Godfrey Dowson and emphasizes astrological attributes with further sephirotic, angelic, geomantic, numerical and kabbalistic elements. The black and white illustrations are meant to enforce the legacy of the symbols depicted in the cards. I could stare at it for hours!
I have identified my signifier in this deck as the High Priestess as opposed to the Moon. It was the first card that jumped out of the deck, and has been showing up multiple times after that. Sometimes it embodies a signifier in a spread, sometimes it comes out by itself. The Hermetic Tarot also depicts my relationship with J as the Sun and the Moon showing up side by side. There is so much magic in reoccurring cards and messages, it feels like a direct reminder of something that needs attention. What are the chances of pulling the same card out of 78?
When I first approached this deck to read with it, I found myself intimidated with its royal mantle of black and white. There are no color references unless you're familiar with the Thoth Tarot, and even then I think that direct association to the Thoth is a disservice to this tarot. Granted, the illustrations are similar in some respects, but they don't fully echo the style of the Thoth. They are also laden with more symbols, thus placing the Hermetic Tarot in a visual correspondence with the reader. Some familiarity with the Thoth definitely helps beginners, but this is definitely a more advanced tarot deck. I would recommend tackling this deck after being familiar with the work of Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris.
There are heavy astrological influences in the cards, present around the card titles. You can see also the elements of the cards as they combine and react, done in simple icons. It helps to understand the alchemy of energy as it interacts and trades off. It is worth noting also that the titles at the bottom "Lord of..." are the original Golden Dawn names for the cards. They are poetic names that suggest personalized stories and conceptual information that gives the cards personality.
THE HERMETIC TAROT INTERVIEW:
Sometimes I start out in synchronization with this deck, but as I pull more cards I find myself entangled in meanings that I can't decipher. Hermeticism is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. He may be a representation of the combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognized the congruence of their god Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth. It makes sense that these teachings intertwine, since the Thoth Tarot has so many similarities. It is worth mentioning also that the secret order of the Golden Dawn was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced high magic and spiritual development. It has been one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism. They shared the same occult beliefs, and it is said that members at the time had their own tarot decks based off those principles. These beliefs have heavily influenced the Western esoteric tradition and were considered greatly important during both the Renaissance and the Reformation.
♡ What is your most important characteristic?
Four of Swords. The Lord of Rest from Strife. According to this card, the information therein should be extracted in moments of mental clarity or peace. To really understand the symbols and their correspondences with other cards, one needs to be balanced and in the right mindset. I don't think this suggests openness of mind as much as it suggests finding a place that allows for a temporary break from the rest of the world while the meanings are worked out.
♡ What are your strengths as a tarot deck?
Queen of Cups. Queen of the Thrones of Waters. Vast and divine connections to the waters of emotion. This card is double water sign according to the icons on the borders. It transmits the idea based on emotions flowing as a stream of consciousness that pools with feelings and psychic intuition (based on that crustacean.) The Queen controls those divine waters of inspiration and keeps them churning so they won't go murky from inactivity.
♡ What are your limits?
Princess of Swords. Princess of Rushing Winds. I get a sense of dislike for profanation of sacred ideals. It seems to be insular in the sense of not wanting to step out of Hermetic boundary unless it is to defend it. We have here a real advocate of olden time teachings! Another possible interpretation is not getting the message through to people that go too fast and don't really make the time to sit and ponder. This deck requires time to understand fully.
♡ What are you here to teach me?
The Hanged Man. Powerful card! I have always known that the Kabbalist undertones in the tarot are important, but I haven't paid attention to the correspondence that they have with the tarot. I always focused on the messages that I could draw from the cards according to how they interacted with each other, and left these rich indicatives as superficial symbols. From time to time I could associate a shape or direction with the situation if I had the time. That wasn't always the case, time is luxury in a quick or timed tarot card reading. Those Kabbalah teachings can't be ignored here because everything is in black and white. This pushes everything to the foreground, ready to be interpreted. I suppose I will be working with the Golden Dawn legacy more closely with the Hermetic Tarot.
♡ How can I best learn to collaborate with you?
Seven of Swords. Leaving the old views of tarot behind, sneaking into a secret world. This deck will let me know when I'm in the wrong mindset or when I'm not approaching things in the correct manner according to this card. It will try to maintain balance in times of instability to provide some mental support. I like the idea of weeding out the incorrect tools (swords) also for just the ones that work.
♡ What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
Aceof Wands. A new spark of energy ignites to a familiar craft. This sparks new passion and interest, and also sources creativity. It looks like the start of a very interesting road with new passions and new things to learn. This card always feels like a positive manifestation to me, and at times a highly phallic one.
♡ Which card do you want to show off?
Nine of Coins. Lord of Material Gain. The luxury of clear messages in black and white. I have always regarded Hermeticism and high magic with due respect, and this deck reaffirms the importance that its source has. It boasts of luxury and comfort in times of need, which makes it a very bold claim to the tarot world. I like it, it tells me that it has a lot to offer.
♡ How do you see me?
Eight of Cups. Powerful messages! Lord of Abandoned Success stands for walking away from a set stability or comfort to begin a new journey elsewhere. Having already filled 'all my cups' to the brim with experiences and knowledge, I grew bored. I wanted another challenge, a reason to make divination with cards feel new again. This new addition added another layer of cups to fill with the departure from old ways of thinking about or seeing the tarot.
♡ How do you see yourself?
Seven of Wands. Lord of Valor. As a valiant warrior, an example of how to break through controversy and opposition. When faced with difficult times, this is the push forward to keep battling even though its been a long road to get to this point. There is a previous battle suggested, one that is won before the losers start opposing once more. The victory was short, and now there are some more obstacles ahead to overcome. However, once you have a grasp on that, you fight with fearless courage.
This year has tripled my collection and taught me a lot of things about myself. I feel very comfortable where I am currently at with my experience, but I will continue to evolve my consciousness as my compass of fate dictates. After seeing the secrets of the universe in the trance I had last December, things have been falling back into place. I can say that I've healed from that brew's test and that I am once more feeling as I used to. Eight months of recovery? That's a long time... but it was well worth it. It's time to throw out the things that are not worth it before moving on.