Thursday, 21 June 2007

Idea: Tarot of Kells

Someone, and I'm probably not allowed to say who, but anyone who knows us both will be able to guess, put me on to the book Meditations on the Tarot recently. It's a remarkable book, by a devout Catholic who's also a very knowledgeable Christian esotericist and hermeticist. He uses the symbolism of the Marseilles version of the Tarot cards as a jumping-off point for all kinds of fascinating philosophical, theological and spiritual discussion. There's a lot of practical mysticism in it. I'm planning to write up a summary of his main points in each chapter (or "letter"; they are "letters to an Unknown Friend", one for each of the Major Trumps).

Unfortunately, the Marseilles is far from being a beautiful Tarot deck, and the beautiful decks that are out there (like the Gilded Tarot, which I will probably buy) have imagery that doesn't always reflect the points the Unknown Friend makes. For example, the High Priestess in the Marseilles Tarot wears a triple tiara (which is why she's the Papesse in French) and carries a book; the UF uses these as a symbol of four levels of spiritual thought and understanding. The Gilded Tarot's High Priestess (image here) has no headgear and no book. The Rider-Waite-Smith, which most people think of when they think of Tarot cards, has a three-part headdress, but the three parts are horizontal rather than vertical.

So, inevitably, I return to an idea I've had before and probably will never act on: making my own Tarot. But if I did do it, I'd do it like this:

  • Base the imagery on the Book of Kells, since that's an artistic style I've done before and like.
  • Probably call it the Tarot of Kells.
  • Make sure that I incorporated the symbolism that Meditations on the Tarot uses, so that it could be used with that book; almost certainly add other symbolism as well.
  • Add two more cards (probably the Celtic Tree of Life and the Great Serpent as ourouboros and labyrinth) to make 80, since that's an easier number to divide into sheets for printing than 78.
  • For the "pip" cards (1-10 of each suit), make an illustration of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, scan it, and insert the appropriate number of suit pips at the appropriate Sephira.
  • That would mean I would only need to do the 22 Greater Trumps, the 16 Court cards, the two extra Trumps, one image of the (Kabbalistic) Tree of Life and one fairly simple one for each of the suits, a total of 45. Plus a "carpet-page" to use for the backs, 46. (That's still a lot of images.)
  • For the Court cards, use the Four Archangels (Kings), the Four Seasons (Queens), the Four Living Creatures (Knights) and the Four Elements/Directions (Pages), or something of that kind, as per the associations of each rank.
As I say, I probably will never do this. But if I do, I've now recorded my ideas.

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