Zillich Tarot by Christine Zillich: A Thoth-Inspired Watercolor Deck

Those of you who attended Readers Studio 2018 in New York will recognize this deck as having come in the event gift bags, courtesy of U.S. Games. The artwork is done in watercolors by German artist Christine Zillich. The deck art blends mythological, astrological, and Kabbalistic symbolism, featuring Crowley’s keywords on the pips.

Click on photo for enlarged view.

The cards are petite at 2.25″ x 3.75″ (compared to standard tarot size: 2.75″ x 4.75″) and remind me more of a typical Lenormand size deck. You get the deck in a keepsake metal tin. I love the blue-purple tones of the reversible card backs. I know I’m getting nitpicky here, but there’s just the slightest imbalance in terms of vertical spacing in the white caption boxes at the bottoms of the cards–there’s not enough space between the bottom edge of the artwork and the first line of text, compared to the amount of spacing between the bottom edge of the card and the last line of text.

There’s a typo with the roman numeral for Key 21: The Universe, but it doesn’t really bother me. While Key 20 (XX) in the Thoth deck is titled Aeon and in the RWS is Judgement, here in Zillich, it’s Justice, which confused me, so I turned to the LWB. Indeed the card is supposed to be titled “Justice,” so this isn’t a typo on the card (unless it’s a typo that appears on both the card and in the LWB…)

The description of the artwork for Key XX reads in relevant part: “Golden light from heavenly trumpets awakens the dead. . . . An old age ends and a new era begins. The eternal consciousness is reborn in the spirit of the primordial fire.” So that sounds very Judgement-y and Aeon-y to me. Assuming the keyword “Justice” for Key XX is correct, I’m not entirely sure how justice fits in to the card, even with the deck creators’ own meaning attributions for Key XX.

Click on photo for enlarged view.

The abstract cubist style pays a clear homage to Lady Frieda Harris’s style. That Death card is just absolutely beautiful and to me, almost has a dark goddess vibe to it. Some of the symbolic renderings in the Majors feel more RWS to me than Thoth, like how Key 8, while titled Lust, is positioned as it would be in the RWS (whereas Crowley goes through quite the trouble explaining white Lust/Strength “should” be Key 11) and Key 11 is Justice/Adjustment. Also, the depictions, most notably in The Hermit card, or even the Wheel of Fortune feel more RWS than Thothian.

Continue reading “Zillich Tarot by Christine Zillich: A Thoth-Inspired Watercolor Deck”

Taoist Metaphysics

This is the continuation of a six-part video series I’m doing on Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism as it has been practiced historically and culturally. We are now on to Video 4.

4. Taoist Metaphysics

This video lecture will be a beginner-level overview of Taoist metaphysics, which will begin with the Taoist mythology for the origins of the universe, cover Taoist expressions and esoteric thought on reality as it has been created by our minds and by physical matter. Concepts of magic and non-physical entities will also be addressed.

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Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice

This is the continuation of a six-part video series I’m doing on Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism as it has been practiced historically and culturally. We are now on to Video 3.

3. Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice

What is the impact of Taoism on the everyday Chinese culture and the collective consciousness of its people? What are some of the guiding principles underscoring Taoist sorcery? This lecture will discuss some of the practical ways Buddhism and Taoism get syncretized in Chinese occultism.

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History of Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism in China

This is the continuation of a six-part video series I’m doing on Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism as it has been practiced historically and culturally among the Han. Video 1 released earlier was the Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism. We are now on to Video 2.

2. History of Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism in China

In this video lecture, we are going to cover over 4,000 years of history, going through the dynasties, beginning with the Xia, Shang, and Zhou, until we reach modern China. Our coverage will span beyond 4,000 years, preceding the Xia, to talk about shamanism in the Neolithic Era.

Works cited for everything covered in this lecture are in the end notes of The Tao of Craft (North Atlantic Books, 2016).

Next Lecture: Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice

All videos in this series are closed-captioned for the deaf, hard of hearing, or those whose native tongue isn’t English. I’ve also made my best attempt at accommodating for the blind. If there is room for improvement in these regards, I’m open to friendly critique. Thank you!

For the full playlist, go here:

tinyurl.com/chineseoccultism

Continue reading “History of Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism in China”

Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism

Taoism is a nature-based religion, philosophy, and a 2,000 year old tradition of sorcery native to China since the Zhou Dynasty. In that same time, Buddhism enters China and a modality of it–esoteric Buddhism–is blended in with Taoist magic. Yet the roots of Taoist magic trace back even further than the dynasties of antiquity, back to Neolithic shamanism.

This introductory six-video lecture series will cover the ontology, theory, history, and cultural practice of sorcery at the intersection of esoteric Buddhism and Taoism. You’re on Video #1: Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism.

1: Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism

2: History of Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism in China

3: Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice

4: Taoist Metaphysics

5: Chinese Occultism as a Syncretic Practice

6: Taoist Magic in Contemporary Times

I’m creating this lecture series as an invitation to you to learn more about the occult traditions I practice. I hope you find within these offerings bits of insight, knowledge, and methods that you can integrate, syncretize, adopt into your own Path.

For the full playlist, go here:

tinyurl.com/chineseoccultism

Continue reading “Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism”

Top 5 Oracle Decks of 2018

Continuing with the 31 Days of Tarot community challenge by Ethony, let’s talk about my top five oracle decks for 2018.

These are my top five oracle decks from the previous year, meaning (1) acquired the deck in the year 2018, and (2) actually worked with the deck in 2018, but most of these were published well before 2018.

The Celtic Shaman’s Pack by John Matthews and Chesea Potter is a deck I plan on reviewing in-depth at some future point. It’s an older deck that was then re-released  (and given a redesign) in 2017, but one I didn’t acquire myself until 2018. And I love it. Wow, I can’t even.

The guidebook that comes with the cards is everything you want to get you oriented in working with Celtic shamanism for yourself. I cannot shower this oracle deck with enough high praise, except to say you’ve got to try it to believe it. You can look forward to me posting a deck review of it this year, in 2019.

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Top 5 Tarot Decks of 2018

In 2018 we saw so many incredibly innovative and ground-breaking decks to name that I could not reduce it down to just five. This was a difficult list to make and I wish I could name more. I even thought about doing a special mentions section, but then even that would get unduly long!

These are my top five tarot decks from 2018, though two of these decks were published in 2017. Also, my own deck, Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, was disqualified, since come on. I can’t pick my own deck.

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31 Days of Tarot 2019: Day 1

How many years before something becomes a tradition? I don’t know. In any event, you may have heard of Ethony Dawn’s yearly “31 Days of Tarot” community challenge that she hosts every year.

You can watch Ethony’s YouTube video here introducing the 2019 prompts and get the full listing here on her website. Be sure to also connect in to the tarot YouTube community or find the community on Instagram via the hashtag #31daysoftarot19 to catch up on what everybody else is saying in response to each of the daily prompts.

I’ll be participating via Instagram and by blog posts (though after the first few prompts, I’ll be aggregating the daily prompts into end-of-the-week blog post recaps).

Reading, Energy, Major Lesson for 2019

I’m using a prototype test deck for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot where I’m test printing different shadings of sepia and different styles of the parchment background to get the aesthetics as close to what I want as possible. In the SKT deck, you’re given 3 versions of Key 0 to choose from for a significator card. For this reading prompt, I’m using The Seeker card as my Key 0 significator.

Continue reading “31 Days of Tarot 2019: Day 1”

Introduction to Chinese Esotericism

Taoism is a nature-based religion, philosophy, and a 2,000 year old tradition of sorcery native to China since the Zhou Dynasty. In that same time, Buddhism enters China and a modality of it–esoteric Buddhism–is blended in with Taoist magic. Yet the roots of Taoist magic trace back even further than the dynasties of antiquity, back to Neolithic shamanism. This introductory six-video lecture series will delve in to Chinese occult practices that syncretize Buddhism and Taoism.

Video 1 is an introduction to the course and the distinction between exoteric and esoteric Taoist/Buddhist practices. Video 2 covers the history of Taoist and Buddhist mysticism in China. Video 3 gets into the cultural practice of Taoist sorcery while Video 4 gives you a crash course into Eastern metaphysics. Finally, Videos 5 and 6 will give a primer on practicing or integrating Taoist magic and esoteric Buddhism into your path.

1: Introduction to Buddhist-Taoist Esotericism

2: History of Taoist and Buddhist Mysticism in China

3: Taoist Sorcery and Its Cultural Practice

4: Taoist Metaphysics

5: Chinese Occultism as a Syncretic Practice

6: Taoist Magic in Contemporary Times

I’m creating this lecture series as an invitation to you to learn more about the occult traditions I practice. I hope you find within these offerings bits of insight, knowledge, and methods that you can integrate, syncretize, or adapt for yourself.

For the full playlist, go here:

tinyurl.com/chineseoccultism

Continue reading “Introduction to Chinese Esotericism”

Redesigning Cards in SKT for the New Edition

Scan of the pen and ink line drawings that will become the new card back design

It’s been back to the drawing board for me on account of a few cards from Spirit Keeper’s Tarot. As a rare books and art collector myself, I have some sense of considerations for what retains value of limited edition decks, and I wanted to honor those who supported me in the first edition black and white run by doing everything in my control to assure that your acquisition of the SKT first edition deck was a worthwhile investment. =)

Rejected drafts of card back designs.

I see SKT #2 as a sibling of SKT #1. It’s the same deck the same way siblings share the same DNA, but there are distinct physical and personality differences between #1 and #2. At least that is my hope for what you’ll be able to perceive between the two editions.

First, let’s just talk about the drawings. I’ll share with you which cards I’ve scrapped entirely, went back to a blank drawing board, and did an entirely new illustration.

Continue reading “Redesigning Cards in SKT for the New Edition”