Monday, February 2, 2015

Oracular anomalies (Tarot Blog Hop)

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Today's Tarot Blog Hop subject is Oracular Anomalies, those cards that do not match the standard, yet nevertheless actually work. I must admit that I struggled to find a card that fitted into this scheme. Either there were none because each deck is a creature onto itself, and therefore correct in its own way; or there was a blizzard of cards to pick from because most decks stray from the initiatic system which I trained with.

Then it finally hit me at the eleventh hour, it is the initiatic system that I am used to using that is the anomaly.

As most of my readers know, I am a student of the Hermetic Golden Dawn, a lodge organization that sprung out of 1888 London. During one's studies in Golden Dawn, the student memorizes a set of attributes assigned to the Tarot, including astrological, elemental, and sephirothic attributions. In addition, the Major Arcana are each associated with a Hebrew letter.

Golden Dawn attributes of the Major Arcana on the Tree of Life.
 As can be seen from this chart, each of the Major Arcana has a Tree of Life path. a Hebrew letter, and an astrological energy associated with them. Every card of the Tarot deck can be placed on the Tree of Life.

Paths of the Tree of Life, as mapped out in the Golden Dawn system. 
As a result of this, a Golden Dawn student uses the Kabbalah, in the form of the Tree of life, and astrology, as well as the numbers and elements of the cards, to build their readings of the cards.

So how is this an oracular anomaly?

Simple, the Kabbalah in the hands of the traditional Jews never had anything to do with the Tarot. Not a single word about the Tarot can be found in the Kabbalah before the nineteenth century. So all the Kabbalistic attributions of Golden Dawn are actually wrong...well, at least as far as the traditional Jewish Kabbalists are concerned.

So how did the idea that the Tarot was connected with the Tarot come about?

The association of the Tarot to the Kabbalah, in the form of the Hebrew letters, was first put forth by Louis Raphael Lucrece de Fayolle, the Comte de Mellet, in a small essay included in the 1781 printing of Volume Eight, Book One, of the Monde Primitif, analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne (The Primitive World, analyzed and compared with the modern world), assembled, contributed to, and edited by Antoine Court de Gébelin.

In his essay, the Comte de Mellet associates each of the twenty-two Major Arcana with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Gebelin adds fuel to the fire by claiming that the Tarot is a book of mysteries handed down though the ages from Ancient Egypt, another "fact" that is actually false. Both French and English occultists would inherit these ideas, and build systems around these fairy tales.

So why does a system of Tarot attributions built on mistaken ideas work?

In the case of the Golden Dawn Tarot, I believe it is because the human mind steeped in the attributions, learns to communicate with oneself, and the spiritual universe, using those attributions. It does not matter that the symbols assigned to the Tarot cards are a recent invention, and have no actual correspondence to the older mystery system that they are linked to---what matters is that the human mind communicates though symbols and associations. In other words, the mind is quite willing to act as if the fairy tale of the Tarot being a Kabbalistic tool is actually true.

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Vivianne said...

I see that; almost as if the attributions provide a frame of reference, as words create language.

Anonymous said...

I love your first paragraph, as I must admit, as soon as I posted up the topic, my brain went through that exact chain of thought and I thought oh poop! I've not even asked a question...

I'm very happy you crafted an answer.It was a most interesting read. Thank you.

Ania said...

I've never understood why people find it necessary to add all these additional systems and attributes onto Tarot. It always feels like banging a square peg into a round hole just because you don't appreciate the bits around the hole sufficiently.

Giuliana said...

I enjoyed reading about your method. I am fascinated with The Tree of Life. Your practice and explanation was interesting and thoughtful. Thank you. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post! I am truly curious about how there is so much unknown about how the human mind works, and this example of symbolism "coincidence" is just fascinating.

Joy Vernon said...

When I was first learning the Golden Dawn qabalistic associations of the cards and leading my Tarot Geeks through that material, I had one participant who repeatedly called the associations specious. Yes, I told her, they are. C. de M. assigned aleph to the World and went backwards--the only remnant of this is Crowley's Heh for the Star. Levi started with the Magician as aleph. I learned this system first, as my initial experience was with Oswald Wirth. When I picked up Paul Foster Case's book, I was ready to throw it against the wall--it didn't make any sense! Everything was off! But eventually I learned that system too and since it actually is the most common system, that's the one I use exclusively now. It is specious. But what's fascinating is how by agreeing to use a particular random structure, and playing within the rules of the game, we can get so much depth of information and insight. Thanks for talking about this anomalous system!

Inner Whispers said...

I love this reminder of the way we humans are meaning-making creatures. There is no inherent meaning to any of these systems, and yet we get so much from them through how we use them. As you say, us talking with ourselves :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent perspective, Morgan.

What Chloe (Inner Whispers) said. Indeed, us talking with ourselves. All these correspondences in different contexts (22 Hebrew letters, 22 Major Arcana cards) are just we humans playing with symbols of various sorts. I figure if an aspect of the esoteric systems (kabbalah, astrology, etc.) seems to add value to your tarot life/readings, then go for it. If not, then that's cool, too.

I take a relatively simple approach, but I do like to add astrology now and then. I will leave the Kabbalah to the Jewish tradition, however. I find it taxes my brain too much to remember all the path associations with the cards. :)

Mayet said...

The 22 Hebrew letters and the tarot are the same entity, just different aspects and branches of the same universal tree of life.