Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Ruminations on the Court Cards

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Rumination Notes:

Aces to Threes

Drawing the cards in sets of three, actual card size. This is how I begin.

I’ve been struggling with how to depict the tarot courts since back when I was still doing the Majors. And the whole time, I’ve been reading, brainstorming, researching, thinking– though no drawing– how the heck am I going to do this, and do this with any semblance of justice.

The more texts I studied on angelic correspondences to the elements, directions, and/or astrology, the more confused I got. Do I go Golden Dawn since up to this point so much of my point of view with the deck has been GD-influenced, or do I follow the lead of religious scholars turned mystics who say some of the Golden Dawn attributions for the Kabbalah are anti-Semitic in their source origins? How do I reconcile Christian mysticism, Jewish mysticism, and Islamic mysticism when it comes to angels? How do I also do it all with resonant subtext to Chinese, Taoist, and Buddhist ideas of angelic(-like) realms?

Also, when deck creators want to incorporate multiculturalism, they typically follow– shit–what’s his face–I can’t think of the name without looking it up. I’ve got it in an end note citation in Holistic Tarot if you really care. Anyway, Eden Gray followed what’s-his-face and everybody after Eden Gray followed Eden Gray so we go with this whole notion of Wands medium-hair, fair-eyed, Cups light-hair, light-eyed (or those two swapped), Swords dark-hair, medium-eyed, and Pentacles dark-hair, dark-eyed, so we typically end up with Asian or Middle Eastern for Swords and then Middle Eastern, Native American, or African for Pentacles. I opted not to go that route.

Agrippa made note of correspondences between geography, directionality, and the four elements, though he kept it relatively vague. Crowley then gave his thoughts on geography, directionality, and the four elements. His directionality conflict with Agrippa’s, but the geography and four elements kind of lined up. Well, lined up close enough to work for me. So that’s what I went with instead of what has become the more popular and trending ethnic associations for the four courts.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg of daunting considerations for the courts.

Drawing angel wings on the knights assembly line style…

The more I thought into it, the more stressed and nervous I got. And I did not want to go the direction of “screw everything and everyone, I’m gonna follow my intuition and channel it from my own higher consciousness” or whatever it is people say when they don’t want to listen to precedent or read books. How do I honor precedent and still acknowledge my intuition?

The art style for the deck I opted for is in the spirit of Renaissance humanism, a time when Christian mysticism and paganism merged in eclectic ways and mystics of that time were far more cosmopolitan and worldly than we folks today give them credit for being. I think the louder establishment voices of that time in history for structured Catholicism and the Church came as a knee-jerk reaction of the establishment to the subversive undercurrent of diverse thoughts that were emerging at the time.

Click to enlarge for viewing.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Aces to Threes

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Rumination Notes:

Fours to Aces

Annnnd…. I’m done with the pips. Phew!

Let’s recap. On June 13 of this year, I got into my head this fantastical idea of drawing my own tarot deck. It was supposed to be a ha-ha fantasy but then I couldn’t shake the ha-ha fantasy out of my head, so immediately I got to work.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces

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Ritual Coloring of the

Major Arcana

I shared all my digital files for the Major Arcana from the tarot deck I’m currently drawing at the end of June, 2018 here: Spirit Keeper’s Tarot (Majors Only). Then went on to explain the purpose for ritual coloring of the Majors, among other thoughts, here in a subsequent video and blog post: Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana, though there I share some draft images from the Minors as well. If you’re not subscribed to my Instagram, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been sharing progress photos of my work as I go along. In the event that interests you, subscribe here, IG: @bellwen.

So as I explained in the last blog post on drawing my own deck, after completing the Majors and beginning on the Minors, I started with the Fours. And the suit order I’m going in for each number set is Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, which I’ve renamed to Scepters, Chalices, Swords, and Orbs. Lots of really specific reasons for the renaming. I definitely didn’t do it just for shits.

The above thumbnail snapshot does not show the cards in the order I completed them. Because of the digital filenames, when I take a screen shot of the file folder that the scans of these images are in, they’re in alphabetical order. Also, these screen shots don’t include the titles and captions.

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Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana

I posted a video over the weekend in which I ramble in many different directions. It was supposed to be a video in which I introduce you to the black and white line drawings of the Major Arcana from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, which are now available for your free download. It was also supposed to be me making a case for undertaking a ritualized process of coloring in the black and white line drawings.

And instead, I went off on a tangent about God, the Devil, my lifelong love of art, and the role of religion in occult study. I do at a couple points keep to topic and mention the tarot deck and coloring in a tarot deck, but I’m afraid most of it is just a winding road of rambles.

Yes, you can tell I’ve cut and edited the clips because the original rambling was even longer, which all but turned into an unfiltered incoherent video diary of what I did for each Key. When I went to edit the video clips, I thought, yeah, I’m not going to post a one hour video, so I literally cut about half of the footage. Hence the noticeable heavy-handed cutting here. Don’t worry, I promise you, you’re not missing out: the cut ramblings were very boring.

If you haven’t already downloaded the Majors-only black and white line drawings (all umteen zip file folder versions of them…) and the companion guidebook (your operation manual), go here:

Download the Majors from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

I’m now at work on the Minors, but it’s going to take a lot longer to complete than what it took for the Majors, because I need to return my focus to other projects in the pipeline, both professional and personal.

For the Majors, I worked on them pretty much during every single millisecond of non-day-job-work time I had for sixteen days (new moon in Gemini to the full moon in Capricorn). I won’t be able to commit that full-force on the Minors, so the time allotted for the Minors will need to be distributed out more evenly and in a more balanced way with my regular schedule.

Like I did with the Majors, my process for the Minors is to first read Mathers, Papus, Waite, and Crowley, find the common denominator (not easy at all; really struggled with this), then factor in my point of view, philosophy of life, and how I’m sensing that common denominator energy in today’s collective unconscious, and then depicting that personalized and updated extrapolation, all while attempting to keep with that medieval grimoire woodblock print art style.

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Is Reiki Bullshit? The Critique on Reiki in the West

After folks watched the above video, they reached the conclusion that I hate reiki (and one commenter even arrived at the far-fetched conclusion that I hate America and/or American values).

Guys, I think reiki is awesome. I told you: I love it, but love it the way I love a day at the spa or how pampering it feels to get my hair done by a professional. If you think that means I’m devaluing reiki, then you have no idea how much I value a day at the spa or getting my hair done.

Reiki as it is peddled and sold in the United States is fine in its own right, but I would assert that it’s a misrepresentation to call it “traditional” and then attach it to Eastern mysticism. It’s a modernized, Westernized version of Eastern mysticism. As it is now presented, it is certainly not “traditional” Eastern mysticism. At best, and that’s presuming the entire mythology and alleged history of reiki’s origins is true, it’s modern Japanese mysticism that, even while in Japan, got blended with Christian mysticism.

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Thunder Rites (雷法) | Tinkering Bell #9

This is a free introductory course into Lei Fa, a classical form of Taoist sorcery. Lei Fa (雷法), translated into English as Thunder Rites or Thunder Magic, is a tradition of ceremonial magic and Chinese occult craft that rose in popularity during the Song Dynasty of China (A.D. 960—1279). In Eastern esoteric traditions, Lei Fa is considered one of the more advanced practices.

Chinese characters for Lei Fa, Thunder Rites. Left: Oracle Bone Script. Right: Traditional Chinese. Click to download.

There are both inner and outer alchemical forms of Thunder Rites. Methodologies are premised on the belief that thunder is the divine command of Heaven and a practitioner can harvest the power of thunder to absorb powers from Heaven and use those powers to both exorcise demons and heal sickness (because, for the most part, historically sickness was attributed to demonic possession).

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Tarot, Occultism, and Modern Witchcraft at Tarot Summer School 2018

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is structured after a graduate-level seminar with a series of lectures plus guided tarot readings ritualized and crafted to show rather than tell you about tarot in witchcraft. We’ll mimic an oral tradition where you listen to me talk about the who, the what, and the why, alongside my perspectives on the how. You may want to take notes throughout the course, for both the lecture and training modules, so that beyond this course, you’ll have a consolidated reference file on occult tarot.

The lecture portion covers a comparative analysis of exoteric, psychology-based tarot reading and esoteric, psychic-based tarot reading, and also tarot as a witch’s tool. We’ll cover the history and legacy of tarot in Western occultism, focusing in on applying Hermetic principles to the tarot, and consider the role of tarot and witchcraft in the modern era.

The practicum portion will be a series of guided tarot readings and training videos to demonstrate the basics and preliminary exploration of using tarot to commune with your Holy Guardian Angel, spell-craft for financial gains, extracting cards for talismans, petitioning forth spirit entities to conduct a divinatory reading, using tarot to commune with land spirits or assess the characteristic properties of a land, and tarot in pathworking, with proprietary training models shared on how to enhance your clairvoyance and clairaudience during a tarot reading.

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Grimoire Inspiration: The Wooden Books Series

By far my favorite source of inspiration for my grimoire comes from the Wooden Books series published by Bloomsbury. I have the four-book set shown above, which I like to keep displayed out on a coffee table in our living room.

I reach for these books often and you’ll see why once you peek inside the page spreads. One of the questions I get asked the most is about my grimoire or personal book of methods/book of shadows.  I’ve given my thoughts into how you might structure and organize your grimoire here (How to Create Your Grimoire: Inspiration From One Approach) and you can check out a three-video series I did for the 2017 YouTube Pagan Challenge where I share the pages of my own private book.

Each one of these four books informs my grimoire work in a different and valuable way. You can click on the photos in this post for the enlarged 1200 pixel-side image file for a closer viewing. I’m hoping these few snapshots already start to generate amazing ideas and inspiration for you.

Designa I use to inspire decorative borders, ornamentation, and just the design elements in my grimoire pages. If you’ve ever seen a flip-through of my book and now see these page spreads from Designa, you’re going to see the influence for sure.

What I most love about using these books for inspiration is not just the design elements, but the explanatory entries as well. That way I’m informed about the design elements I’m using and I can use them with intention and significance. Everything in my grimoire is meaningful to me and symbolic, and much of that capacity comes from consulting these books.

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The Mother Wound Tarot Reading

In feminist circles, the mother wound is oft talked about. The mother wound is the relationship tension often inherent between a mother and a daughter. It’s a daughter:

  • feeling like the mother is fundamentally disappointed in how the daughter has come out, that the daughter hasn’t met the mother’s expectations;
  • feeling dysfunctional because the mother has explicitly or implicitly conveyed to the daughter that there is something fundamentally wrong with the daughter;
  • feeling like you can never repay the enormous sacrifices the mother has made for the daughter; or…
  • feeling afraid that she might outshine the mother and therefore hurt the mother’s feelings somehow, so plays down her attributes intentionally, tries to be smaller and more helpless than she actually is.

For me, when ill-dignified maternal cards are consistently showing up in synchronistic patterns throughout a tarot reading for a querent who is biologically female, who identifies by gender as female, or has transitioned, I’ll explore the mother wound. The mother wound can be such a pervasive root cause of the internal conflicts in our lives.

If you intuit that you may be affected by the mother wound at some soul or fundamental level, a tarot spread programmed specifically to address that mother wound can help.

If you’re looking to explore the mother wound or just probe deeper into the spiritual implications of your relationship with a mother figure, try out this spread.

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Relationship Compatibility by Your Tarot Court Significator

Queen of Swords from the Tarot in Wonderland (Barbara Moore); Game of Thrones Tarot (Liz Dean and Craig Cross); Bad Bitches Tarot (Ethony Dawn)

Even though I don’t personally buy in to generalizations about astrological sign compatibility, they sure are fun to read (and write). Instead of zodiac signs, I’m going even broader and exploring elemental compatibility between the tarot courts. Zodiac signs aren’t the only way to determine tarot court correspondences, but it’s the one I’m going to go with for the purposes of this blog post.

Since there are differing elemental correspondences for tarot out there, here’s the one I’m working with:

Those who are Fire signs are part of the Wands court, Water signs are Cups, Air signs are Swords, and Earth signs are the court of Pentacles. Psst… I’m the Queen of Swords by both sun sign and rising.

To determine your elemental court, you can use your sun sign (what is commonly referred to as your horoscope sign), but for some relationships, you may want to go with moon sign. Checking compatibility points for moon signs, rising, and Venus signs in addition to sun signs can bring a more well-rounded insight to a very specific romantic pairing. Closeness of friendships can also be determined through an account of the moon signs in addition to the sun.

The relationship compatibility I want to explore here is not limited to love. These considerations can be applied to friendships, acquaintances, or professional partners, or heck, even which public figures seem to resonate with you and which for some inexplicable reason just don’t.

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