The Orbifold Tarot comes from the inventive mind of Michael Bridge-Dickson and I have been granted the privilege of reviewing a pre-release version. The Orbifold Tarot is grounded on the cosmological principles of sacred geometry, a cross-cultural concept that the physical world and its metaphysical dimension can be expressed through mathematics, specifically, geometric design.
The god principle and intelligent design are not mutually exclusive from geometric design, and if we accept that “as above, so below,” then the mathematics of our universe is synchronistic with the mathematics of our personal lives. All that we as tarot practitioners have accepted as occult theory is thus rooted in mathematics, in sacred geometric forms. That is the premise from which we begin our journey with the Orbifold Tarot.
There are 80 cards in total, with the traditional tarot structure of 78 plus 2 cards, The Void and Manifestation. Initially I associated The Void with Key 0, The Fool and Manifestation with Key 1, The Magician, so I was confused by the distinction made between these two additional cards with Keys 0 and 1 of the Majors. However, Bridge-Dickson explained it cogently to me.
Bridge-Dickson himself debated whether to make the distinction. To him, Key 0, The Fool is the blank slate individual, a soul ready for the new adventure ahead, the journey through the three septenaries of the Major Arcana. The Void, in contrast, is the non-individual, the utter lack of manifestation whereas in The Fool, we still have the ego present. Key 0 represents beginnings, as traditionally associated with the card, whereas The Void is before the beginning.
Manifestation, too, is the non-individual, beyond being, though as manifestation, of course it encompasses being. Together, The Void and Manifestation represent the paradox of simultaneous being and non-being beyond the individual. Bridge-Dickson felt the principle had to be separated out from Keys 0 and 1, as The Fool and The Magician include personal Will, which renders both cards affirmatively being.
The Orbifold Tarot is color coded to represent the elemental correspondences that Bridge-Dickson sees as the deconstruction of each card’s essence. White is Spirit. Yellow-gold is Air. Red is Fire. Blue is Water. Green is Earth. Keep that in mind as we examine the card samples. Here in The Fool card, we see Air encompassed by Spirit in the form of the unit circle. The beginnings of the formation of self are thus Air, the mind or thought, beginning to occupy a specific space of Spirit.
From The Fool, we see that space of Spirit beginning to transform, now inclusive of the four elements, Air (yellow-gold), Fire (red), Water (blue) and Earth (green) in Key 1, The Magician. Spirit remains in command, as the dominant center. We see the traditional representation of Key 1, The Magician card in the imagery here, though the imagery is distilled to its geometric root.
Key 2, The High Priestess is the classic binary, the Vesica piscis, represented by the simultaneous concord and discord of opposites, Fire and Water, doing and feeling. Bridge-Dickson explains to me his correspondences for the four elements– Air: thinking; Fire: doing; Water: feeling; and Earth: being. With that construction in mind, we continue through the Majors. The depiction here is said to represent the genitals, which echoes with the sexual energy traditionally associated with The High Priestess. What’s more, the center eye of the Vesica piscis is a rational depiction of the square root of 3, which brings us to Key 3, the next card in order.
Key 3: The Empress is the universal trinity. That trinitarian force is expressed by the mathematical concept of Borromean rings, color-coded red, blue, and green, and where the topological rings interlock, white. Doing, feeling, and being altogether begin the blooming flower that reveals Spirit. Here in The Empress, we see the card’s essence expressed by the triquetra. It is also the set diagram that represents fruition of logic.
Key 4: The Emperor is full being. It is the individual manifested in the material plane, and thus Bridge-Dickson has opted to express The Emperor card with four topological circles of green, representing pure Earth energy. Note how this deviates from the more common elemental association of Fire with The Emperor card. Yet here, as Earth, The Emperor card in the Orbifold Tarot is more expressive of universal cosmological beliefs of the number 4 and the four corners it represents. The quadrilateral in Eastern metaphysics, for instance, is Earth. In East Asian esoteric numerology, the number 4 is often associated with the element Earth. Thus, this tarot deck is expressive of an ontology that moves away from the Western correspondence of the zodiac sign Aries, ruler Mars, element Fire.
Key 5: The Hierophant shows the interlocking of five topological rings, which are Air-dominant. But where Air and Spirit merge in the four interstices, we see blue, for Water, feeling. Again, sharp deviations from commonly held elemental associations. Most tarot practitioners will have been trained to associate The Hierophant with Earth, though here we see Air. The blue four-petal mathematical rose here is also for spirituality and intuition.
There is an esoteric rationale to Bridge-Dickson’s elemental associations that arguably pre-dates, say, both Golden Dawn English and Tarot de Marseille European-Continental tarot cosmology. The Orbifold Tarot theory is based on Euclidean geometry, a mathematical form incorporating mystical principles that date back to Alexandria, circa 4-3 B.C. and seems to follow Euclid’s elemental theories and axioms.
Key 6, The Lovers is where the flower of life (or mathematical rose) truly begins to take form. The binary of active and passive principles, which Chinese metaphysics refers to as yang and yin, merge from white Spirit. Here there is an equal proportion of Fire (red) and Water (blue), doing and feeling, an incredibly powerful representation of the traditional meaning we assign to The Lovers card. That duality also represents the primordial choice, a meaning we often associate with The Lovers.
Key 7, The Chariot contains a center point of Spirit, but here we see the form of Air and Earth, thought and being respectively, which gives birth to individual Willpower. For those who have always felt the Water correspondence of The Chariot card to feel contrived, you’re going to appreciate the clearer elemental representation in the Orbifold Tarot, thinking and being as the cause of control, willpower, and the elements required for conquest: potential (Earth) and precipitation (Air). Those who are visual are going to look at the imagery for The Chariot and I am sure you will see the chariot, the charioteer at the center of that geometric pattern, and the two dichotomous sphinxes.
Now that I’ve gone through the First Septenary in detail, you’ll see how the sacred geometric forms of each subsequent card in the Majors is formed. Key 8, Strength, a multiple of 4, shows the square again, though here we have Fire and Air, the active forces, doing and thinking combined, that create the force necessary to drive forward. What’s more, the geometric square is symbolic of full manifestation in physical form, the result of Strength. The geometric representation here for Key 8 also calls to mind the base of a pyramid, which brings us to the imagery of Key 9. Key 9, The Hermit shows gradients of Water and Earth, though the petals of the flower are Spirit.
Key 10, The Wheel, shows collective forces that began with The Magician now set forth in motion, spinning by the laws of karma, spirit glimmering through as the color wheel turns. Again, it is a clear expression of the classic Wheel of Fortune card, showing the foundational numerological root of four embedded into the wheel. Justice is wholly of the Earth, hence green, with the 11th circle hanging in the balance, ready to sway one way or the other. This is the card of equilibrium in the plane of being. The Hanged One is the balance of Air, Water, and Earth, or mind, heart, and body in suspension. I love how Key 13, Death is the metatron cube. Temperance shows the tempering of Fire and Water through Air. Look closely in those abstract forms and you will see the angel Time.
The dominant Fire association for The Devil card is interesting to me, reflecting Bridge-Dickson’s interpretation of the card as emphasizing the “doing” aspect of life. The Star is Water, or feeling essence, with supplement components of Earth tempered with Spirit. The Moon reflects traditional elemental correspondences, i.e., heavily Water. The Sun is predominantly Air, yellow-gold, with rays of Fire. It is encircled by Spirit. Key 20, Judgement diverges from the developing rhodonea curve progressing through the Majors and calls to mind molecular geometry. For The World card, I might have gone with a representation that was more definitively the Flower of Life, which could conceivably be formed from 21 circles.
While the Majors are depicted with black cards, the Minors are white. Given the association of white with Spirit, I found this interesting. To me, it suggests the continuity and presence of Spirit throughout the material plane of being.
Proceeding with the Minors, we see here that all Aces are represented by a single topological circle, filled in the color of the element it corresponds with. The center point of each, though, is still Spirit. Aces begin to split into Twos, the twin topological circles, with the center points filled in solidly with the corresponding color of the element.
Here in the Minors, I wondered about the choice of using words rather than the roman numerals plus glyphs representative of the four elements. I suppose the elemental glyphs might not be universally recognized by practitioners, whereas the words make the identity of each card clearer. For me, sometimes words can be distracting, and given the nature and characteristic of the Orbifold, I might have found the roman numerals and glyphs more visually harmonious.
Here you’ll see the reasoning behind the depictions for each of the pip cards. It’s rooted heavily in numerology and elemental correspondences, delineated by topological circles to reflect the sacred geometric shape for each tarot card essence. Whether the center point is white for Spirit or the solidly filled color corresponding with the suit is also significant in how you interpret the mystical properties of each card.
The geometric form for each pip card number is the same throughout the four suits. Thus, the Six of Air bears the same geometric form as the Six of Fire, Six of Water, and Six of Earth, with the only difference between the four cards being the coloration.
For me, I might have gone with a Shield of Trinity form for the 9th card and for the 10th, a form more representative of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Also, generally, a clearer link between the abstract forms with Platonic solids would have been a stronger demonstration of the sacred geometric principles that the deck seems to be founded upon. I was also curious about why Bridge-Dickson opted for the monochromatic scheme in the Minors, and didn’t utilize touches of contrasting color to represent the elemental affinities, i.e., all the Aces containing a touch of red for Fire, all Twos with a touch of blue for Water, etc.
The courts are visually the most vibrant cards in the deck. The color of the card reflects the suit’s elemental correspondence. Thus, courts in the Air suit are yellow-gold, courts in the Fire suit are red, etc. However, the elemental affinities corresponding with each court card is represented by a single three-dimensionally rendered sphere. Pages are attributed to Earth, and thus are green spheres. Here, Bridge-Dickson again deviates from more commonly-adopted correspondences. The majority approach is to follow Papus correspondences, but here, while Earth is Page as with Papus, the Orbifold Knight is assigned Fire, in contrast with the Papus assignment of Air.
Queens here are Water, similar to Papus correspondences, though Kings in the Orbifold are Air, which Papus attributes to Knights (per Papus, Kings are Fire). The divergence may throw off traditional tarot readers and thus certain cosmological adjustments may need to be made in your tarot practice to conform to the correspondences of the Orbifold. As I mentioned to Bridge-Dickson, creating your own distinct system of correspondences has its set of challenges, though I do believe that the Orbifold presents that system with clarity, well articulated rationalism, and will perhaps resonate better with Eastern esoteric traditions than Western.
Since I am reviewing a pre-release version of the Orbifold, at this time there is no companion guidebook. If the deck is sold without a comprehensive guidebook, I foresee many user challenges. Such a guidebook wouldn’t be focused on explaining the deck or card meanings per se, but rather, would focus on the “why” for the geometric representations of each tarot essence. A companion guidebook on the philosophy of the Orbifold would help immensely.
Now how does the deck read?
I’ve been following Bridge-Dickson’s blog over at Mirrors of Consciousness, and he noted that the deck seems to be keyed well to four card readings. So I decided to try out a four card reading by using my go-to IHVH cutting method, which seems like it’d resonate well with the cosmological principles of this particular deck, given the strong emphasis on elementals.
To read this deck, I adopt a more Tarot de Marseille reading approach, even though the numbering of this deck seems to conform with Rider-Waite-Smith. Here, in my I-Fire-physical-plane-career-health pile, I drew the Four of Water, a card of balance. Relying heavily on numerology and elemental correspondences, I’d read this card as a sign of validation, that matters relating to health and career in my personal life right now are stable and secure. There is a strong sense of emotional stability here and feelings of security.
In my emotional plane, the second pile from the right, corresponding with love and relationships, we see the Seven of Earth. To me, seven is about wisdom, divine insight, and intellection beyond mundane concerns. It’s high up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as they’d say. That’s very true as an expression of where Hubby and I are at these days in our marriage. Earth corresponds with being, per Bridge-Dickson, and here we see coexistence and, given the Earth association, material wellbeing.
We see Earth again in the V-pile, and as usual, my readings are dominated by Earth/Pentacles/Coins. Here we have the Ten of Earth, and I often get the Ten of Pentacles upright in personal readings, and even when other tarot practitioners read for me. In the material plane, we see the Knight of Earth, that single bright sphere of Fire. Action may be required of me going forward, perhaps a matter relating to financial investments.
Now, after working with the deck, I feel the optimal way for using the deck is to create mandala reading spreads that will offer a prescription for what is going on in your life right now, specifically the four sectors of your life. I incorporate Eastern geomancy here, in terms of how I construct my mandala. To me, the entire structure of a mandala needs to be built upon the four gates, which correspond with the four cardinal directions.
Here, what you see at the top the “north” part of the photograph corresponds with the south gate. At the bottom where a Western compass would typically point south is the north gate. At right from your viewing perspective is the west gate and left is the east gate. The center cross of cards represents the fountainhead. It also shows the central theme of what’s going on in my life right now. I’m going to go through how I read the mandala spread in the hope that you might give it a try, especially once you get your copy of the Orbifold. Check it out now at Indiegogo.
With low numbers, 3 and 2 respectively, I’m in a developmental phase, and near the beginning. Three of Fire tells of playing the waiting game, and perhaps venture partners, though what blocks me and the challenge I face involves choice. There are two ways I could go, and my mind is split. With the Air association, we’re likely talking about writing projects or intellectual endeavors relating to the legacy I want to leave behind. (That is very true.) Given the position of the Two if Air here, I must choose one path over the other to remove the blockage and proceed with the goals I’m trying to manifest (and waiting on) expressed in the Three of Fire.
You’ll see in the mandala spread that extending beyond the central crux are four cards representative of the four directions. The top card sums up the physical plane, i.e., work, career, health matters. Interesting. Investments, again, but related to my career trajectory. May be indicative of my sophomore book to come. For finances, we see the Two of Fire, for ambitions, aspiring for a far away horizon. Continuing on, the bottom card in the set of four for the four corners represents the emotional plane, love and relationships. The final card in the fourth on the left shows the intellectual plane, occupied by The Hierophant. I won’t get into the details of interpretation, but I hope I’ve provided enough here for you to start reading with the mandala spread, and I highly recommend using the spread for the Orbifold Tarot.
Similar to the positioning of the ba gua or eight trigrams of the I Ching that is also used in feng shui, up above we see what corresponds with insights into my ambitious pursuits. At the fulcrum there we see the Tower card. Always a pleasure to see you, Tower card. It’s surrounded by court cards, which indicates to me a social issue, that lots of people or egos are going to be involved.
As you read your mandala spread, we look at the next gate, the north gate, which is at the bottom of the mandala. The north gate corresponds with career matters, per the ba gua, though keep in mind that The Emperor card position represents what’s going on in the emotional plane. The offshoots from The Emperor are what prognosticate career matters.
The west gate corresponds with matters of the mind, though again the Two of Fire card position is about material concerns. The Two of Fire show the money and resource related issues that the other cards in the west gate spring from. Any questions about fertility or creative endeavors are revealed here. This is also about our contributions, what we create and put forth into the world.
Finally, the east gate relates to family matters, though springing from The Hierophant, representing Air matters, or my mental perceptions of family relationships, or even heritage. Using the mandala spread to understand the metaphysical mathematics and sacred geometric structre of your life right now is incredibly empowering, and while you can certainly do so with any tarot deck, the Orbifold design seems to lend itself particularly well for the mandala spread where you can then stand back and absorb the geometric patters of your life.
It’s my understanding that the final printed version of the deck will have a matte finish background with raised, high-gloss designs for each of the card images. The above photograph shows the texturing and layers pretty well.
The Orbifold Tarot is a cerebral deck that I surmise will resonate more strongly with a very small and select core group of tarot practitioners. The deck may very well be beyond the intellectual abilities of the vast majority of readers and while I know that sounds elitist, I just don’t see this deck being suitable for everyday fortune telling. This is a deck that requires a strong knowledge base in the inner esoteric workings of the universe and how art can be expressed through mathematics, how science is spirituality, and how the universe can be deconstructed physically and metaphysically down to core geometric principles. The divinatory power of this deck can only be harnessed by tapping into the geometric lattice of The Void and Manifestation. To do so is unequivocally an advanced practice and therefore not suitable for the novice. The Orbifold is an advanced deck that will require an incisive, analytical mind.
Michael Bridge-Dickson is currently fundraising to help launch the Orbifold Tarot. Please check over to Indiegogo and donate! Also, I’d love to hear your initial impressions of this deck in the comments below!
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received pre-release proofs of The Orbifold Tarot from its creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck. Furthermore, after review, I happily went to its Indiegogo page and donated.