We wanted to share this terrific use of the Art of Life Tarot. This pieces was originally posted March 20th, 2014 by Joy Vernon of Completely Joyous.
Thank you, Joy, for featuring the Art of Life Tarot. This deck was a Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Award Finalist 2013. We are very proud to offer this unique deck.
Now enjoy Joy’s post.
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Resurrection and Rebirth
Death from the Art of Life Tarot
I just finished the beginning tarot class that I teach once or twice a year. On the last day I usually have time set aside for students to do readings for each other (as we do in one or two other classes). But this group was insistent that they would get more out of seeing me do a reading. I was hesitant—I thought it was a faulty argument, in that practice is the only way to increase one’s skill. But they wanted to see my techniques in action. I finally said that I would, but only if they could provide me a deck I hadn’t used before—otherwise it would be too likely that I would not be using the skills from the beginning class but using built up associations from my familiarity with the cards. One student reached into her bag and pulled out an Art of Life Tarot. It’s one I haven’t read with, so I finally consented.
I taught them my favorite 7-card spread, the Split Hexagram, which I originally learned from Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig (RIP, 1951-2014).
We decided to do a general reading on how the students as a group would progress with their tarot studies. I’d like to share the reading with you.
Reading for Magician’s Tools Tarot Basics Class
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Split Hexagram Spread
Art of Life Tarot Deck
Question: How will the students in this group progress with their tarot studies?
Card 1. Spiritual Influence
9 of Pentacles
The 9 of Pentacles in the AoL deck shows a man in a black Edwardian tailcoat and black top hat standing on a balcony under a red and white striped canopy looking over the green leafy treetops of the boulevard below him while a long row of attached houses or apartments curves into the distance. There is a sense of solitude and nature in the midst of a crowded city.
This card wasn’t saying much to me as I started the reading for the group— it came to life when I moved to the second card and compared the two—which ironically is one of my teaching points: the cards are meaningless out of context, which has to be built through their relationship to the question, the querent, the spread positions, and the surrounding cards.
Card 2, Spiritual Influence (stronger)
The Star is portrayed by The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. In stark contrast to the impressionist piece preceding it, this work seemed to embody more of the psychic energy of tarot reading with its swirling, heavy strokes and sharp contrasts of dark, inky blues with the bright yellows of the stars and moon. I felt that the black suit of the man in the first card, in some ways out of place in the otherwise bright card, was tied in to the darker colors of van Gogh’s nighttime scene. This led me to say that the intuition represented by the moon in the card and the spirituality represented by the church steeple were what was going on inside the man in the previous picture. Externally, he was alone looking out over the city, internally he was experiencing the heightened psychic energy of a deep spiritual connection.
Card 3, Spiritual Advice
Queen of Cups
Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt
The Queen of Cups in the AoL Tarot is illustrated by Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt. The image is of a woman lying in bed, her arms around a child sitting on the edge of the bed. The white of the bedclothes, her white nightgown, and the child’s white garments contrasted with the darkness of the previous card. The child, I thought, represented those who couldn’t understand what we were doing but who supported us anyway.
Putting the three cards together now, I said that the Spiritual Advice represented here in this card was to be able to easily move back and forth between a state of awareness of conscious reality, shown by the man on the balcony overlooking the boulevard, and the state of deep intuition, represented by The Starry Night. Just as one experiences the transition between the dreaming state and the waking state every day as we wake up, we needed to learn to consciously integrate the two states such that we could inhabit both at the same time.
Card 4, Material Influence
Knight of Pentacles
The Knight of Pentacles shows a woman rehearsing on the violin, a stand with sheet music in front her, a couch strewn with books and perhaps more music behind her. The reds and browns in the card combined with the creativity of the music made me want to lean towards a more fiery interpretation, but I could see that clearly she was not performing but practicing, and ongoing dedication and commitment to a craft is a very earthy, Pentacles thing. To me, the card represented practice with an intention to eventually perform.
Card 5, Material Influence (stronger)
Page of Wands
The Page of Wands threw me off because the child was shown with a sword. A boy sits on a stone bench in a courtyard, holding a sword haphazardly in front of him, point to the ground, while a bearded man sits next to him. The child and man look at each other, perhaps the bearded man is instructing the boy.
What I liked about the combination of the material influences was that solitary practice was shown first, then instruction shown second. I told my students that the recommendation here was to work on their own, practicing their current skills, and then when they felt accomplished in their work, to move on to additional instruction. I think there is often a tendency to jump from one class to the next without fully integrating the experiences and knowledge of the first.
Card 6, Material Advice
It’s always helpful when a difficult card comes up in class and we can address it!
Death and Life by Gustav Klimt
Death here is illustrated with Death and Life by Gustav Klimt. The figure of skeletal Death, draped in blues and purples, covered in Latin crosses, swaying and hunched, clutching a short wooden club to his chest with his white, bone fingers, stands separate from but looking over toward bodies of men, women and children, entwined and embracing, forming an amorphous mass. Although the figures are mostly nude, bright, colorful swatches of fabric with printed geometric designs swathe and shroud them.
Following as it does our two cards that represent practicing and gaining instruction, I read in this card that the students are the figure of Death itself—they lose the amalgamation of the colorful variety of their different teachers and influences and come into their own distinctiveness and uniqueness, intuitive and spiritually based, in alignment with the color and religious symbolism of the Star card.
Card 7, Final Outcome
7 of Pentacles
This final card utilizes a detail from The Empress of China Culling Mulberry Leaves by Bernhard Rode. We laughed at the ridiculousness to our minds of the Empress needing her entire entourage to accomplish a task that the average peasant could easily do alone. I talked about the ways in which we use our techniques like servants to support us, just as one servant lowered the branch, one held the bowl to receive the leaves, and one held a parasol to shade the sun.
Then I noticed the words on the card. I try my best to avoid words and interpretive card titles, and had successfully up to this point not noticed any of the other quotes offered in the lower part of each card. But this one caught my eye, and turned out to be educational—I did not know the meaning of the Mulberry tree in the image. The quote is a Chinese proverb: “With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” I now understood that the Empress in the painting was harvesting silk worms and their cocoons from the tree.
Years ago during a Denver Tarot Meetup event, down in the basement of Gypsy House Café, Jordan Hoggard told us all that when a caterpillar encases itself in the cocoon, it actually dissolves completely and the butterfly is created out of the primordial ooze of this dissolution. The silk worm, if left alone and not turned into a silk gown, will transform into a beautiful moth. (One of my students Googled it for me during class.)
As a final outcome, this certainly played nicely off the preceding Death card. Like the Empress shown in the image, they would be supported by the skills and techniques they had learned. But each student would go through a complete dissolution to become their own totally unique reader, like the silk worm transforming in its chrysalis.
I think of rebirth as beginning a new cycle: second verse, same as the first. These cycles are on the same plane, like tracing a circle over and over again. Cards that I use to represent new cycles can include the Wheel of Fortune, Death, the Moon and the Sun. I think of resurrection as moving to whole new level, from the ephemeral to the eternal, from the mortal to the immortal. This is a spiral, pushing off from and moving up and away from lower planes into new levels, like climbing a spiral staircase. I usually associate this idea with cards such as the Fool, the Tower, Judgment, or perhaps Temperance under certain conditions. An example of rebirth would be a seed that holds the complex code that perfectly recreates what is was before. Resurrection does not recreate what went before, but transforms utterly to something completely new.
To me, this reading spoke to the students of undergoing a resurrection of their tarot abilities, dissolving into the slime of death, and utterly transforming into their own unique and beautiful tarot selves.