The Smart Limitation Tarot Pt.2

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As an experiment and a preparation for a future tarot project I have (to be announced), I decided to further modify this deck. Over the years I have had many ideas for various decks, and I’ve made a heap of notes, many sketches, and even a handful of prototype cards, however, In a weird way, this is sort of “my” first completed tarot. Not one I ever expected to make, but it’s strangely fulfilling nonetheless.

In part one of this tarot adventure I mentioned that this deck had taken on a life on its own, and that really is the only way to describe this transformation. It has come to life in a real Frankenstein way, and I definitely feel like a mad scientist experimenting with forbidden technology, combining things that maybe should not be mixed together…  creating a monster!

Get Colour

I’ve been taking Gordon White’s Tarot course, which I highly recommend by the way, so this experimental phase is very coloured by what I’ve been learning there. Below is some work in progress photos of the pip cards

The four suits colours are easy enough, and has the traditional associations, with Swords/Air/Yellow and Wands/Fire/Red swapped to Swords/Fire/Red and Wands/Air/Yellow respectively, because that’s how I roll these days.

It gets a little more complicated with further colour combinations, but it does follow its own internal logic, which I very much like. This is based on some historical context, but it’s mostly speculative, and experimental (and that’s the spirit of this deck).

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Here the Major Arcana has been given colours according to their association with the cardinal virtues (Justice, Fortitude, Temperance and Prudence) and their correspondence to Swords, Wands, Cups and Coins. It’s worth noting that in this case The World is linked to Prudence, which seemed to make a whole lot more sense to me, than The Hermit that is perhaps more common.

I won’t go into much detail on how and why the colours are what they are, as that’s probably a topic for another post but a quick rundown is like this:

  • Coins: Prudence (The World). The Moon, The Sun, Judgment and Princesses.
  • Swords: Justice. The Hanged One, Death, The Devil, The Tower and Princes.
  • Cups: Temperance. Lovers, The Chariot, The Hermit, The Wheel and Queens.
  • Wands: Fortitude (Strength). The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant and Kings.

It’s also worth noting that I put The Hierophant in the Wands/Fortitude category, because all the other ones had five Trumps in them, and sequentially and symbolically it seemed to fit there. And lastly The Fool gets no colour or cardinal virtue association, while The Magician is also standalone but with all 4 suit colours.

The full deck in all its glory:

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I’m really pleased with the whimsical nature of this deck. It has its own unique look, and it has inspired me to explore the hyper-dimensional world of the Tarot on a deeper more intuitive level.

Next I’ll get a completely blank deck and see if I can take this experiment even further.

PS The basis of this deck is the out of print first edition of The Minimalist Tarot, however you can get the second edition here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/616021759/minimalist-tarot-deck-2019-edition (and from what I can tell it looks like it has addressed and improved upon some of the issues I had with the first edition).

The Vitriolic Tarot – expansion pack

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This is a follow up to my previous review of the original 1st edition The Vitriolic Tarot deck, which you can read here. I might consolidate these separate reviews somehow somewhere further down the line… but as of right now they exists as two separate blog posts.

The expansion pack is for the 1st Edition Vitriolic Tarot and it includes seven new cards: Mercury, Sulphur, Salt, Wands, Swords, Cups and Coins,(more on these later). the It also comes with a set of instructions for how you can implement the new cards in your original Vitriolic deck, as well as alchemical correspondences, descriptions of the iconography and divinatory interpretations. The cards are identical in size and finish as the originals, and they of course have the same exact card back too. This means that there’s no issues with adding them to your old deck. Plug and play, as the kids say. And it brings the deck to a nice round total of 30 cards (the Major Arcana has two Fool cards (An Alpha and an Omega). 

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The first three of these seven cards, Sulphur, Mercury and Salt represents the Alchemical trinity, also known as the thrice-great Hermetic mystery.

Sulphur is soul,  Mercury is mind (spirit-intellect) and Salt is body. They can also be divided into a multitude of other things, like for instance:

  • Hot – Wet – Cold
  • Fire – Smoke – Ash
  • Active – Neutral – Passive
  • Sun – Mercury – Moon
  • Odin – Vile – Ve
  • Art – Magick – Science 

I could go on and on, but I encourage you to go find your own connections, and while its suggested in the little white book that you’d use these three cards as clarifiers, and qualifiers in your reads, I offer another alternative, which is to utilise them as modular three-card read templates. Deal them out at random, on decide before hand the order you lay them out in.

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The last 4 cards are Wands, Swords, Cups and Coins. For those already familiar with tarot, the meaning of these are very obvious. They are the four suits of the Minor Arcana, which represents the four common elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth respectively.

There’s lots of ways to utilise The Vitriolic Tarot. You can look at it from a purely alchemical view point. i.e. as a learning tool or an interactive study guide, in which these additional cards will no doubt prove to be very helpful. It’s great as a meditative focus by pulling one card at a time, but it works extremely well in a traditional divinatory way too. Either with or without the seven new cards shuffled in, and I have experimented with both, even though at the time of writing I prefer to have the new cards separate, and using them to expand (see what I did there?) on my reads instead. 

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It also works great in conjunction with other decks, and before this expansion pack was released I made joint reads with the Vitriolic Major Arcana and the adopted Minor Arcana from the Aetheric version of the Dark Exact Tarot. I’ve been experimenting with making Frankenstein decks like this a lot recently, and in this case I really wanted to see how it might possibly work together with a fuller deck, and I have to say that the results were really interesting. It resulted in a couple of experimental spreads that I hope to share with you in the future.

If you already own the first edition without these 7 extra cards, and you love it, then it really is a no brainer: Get this Expansion pack now! However, if you don’t have this deck yet, but are looking for something a little different and more unique than what you usually see on the market these days, then the second edition might just be for you. Especially if you are into the more esoteric aspect of the Tarot, and if you have more than a little passing interest in alchemy.

This truly is one of my all-time favourite decks, and one that I use all the time, particularly for my own personal reads, and with the seven additional cards thrown in the mix, it definitely adds an extra dimension or two, or three.

The Vitriolic 2nd edition is out now and it contains the extra expansion pack cards as well as an expanded booklet with the new content mentioned above.

You can buy the Expansion Pack here and please make sure to visit Dark Exact digitally using one of these links: https://linktr.ee/darkexact

The Smart Limitation Tarot Pt.1

A Minimalistic Tarot Mod.

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This idea came about after I had gotten the Minimalist Tarot and when I discovered that it was eerily similar to another minimalistic tarot I have, namely the Dreslyn Tarot. At first this was a real bummer, but then I thought about the possibilities as to how I could reverse engineer this… That’s when it hit:

Tarot remixing!

Of course, it was so simple and so obvious! All I had to do was go all punk rock DIY witchcraft on this thing, and problem solved!

I’ve done plenty of tarot deck modifications before, but never anything beyond edging and trimming really, so this was a little scary. But I decided to be brave and just grab a black permanent marker and go to town.

Now, I don’t have any before pictures, but here are some after:

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This is still very much a work in progress, but it’s turned into a really fun little project, and it has definitely taken on a life on its own. I’ve even started writing its own special guidebook. It’s also been given a new name, The Smart Limitation, which I’m sure you can figure out what it’s an anagram of. I’ll keep you updated about the progress.

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this is because I think other people might want to start remixing their own decks. It’s a really rewarding experience, and it’s a great way of learning more about the tarot, but also to break some of its limitations.

Here’s some minimalistic decks to choose from:

The Minimalist Tarot. This is the one I’ve used. First edition is sold out, but there’s an preorder for an upcoming second edition. It’s supposed to have some revisions, but I don’t know what they are.

The Dreslyn Tarot. This one is cool, but it’s rather expensive, so maybe not the best economical choice.

The Tarot. Is that its name? I think so… I just found it after quick search, but it looks like it could work very well. It claims to be the most minimalistic tarot. Trust me, it’s not. It’s intriguing though.

However, if you just want go ahead and make your own, you can buy blank decks from various places. I have one from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/design/design-your-own-tarot-cards.html Which I might turn into the second edition of my Smart Limitation deck. We’ll see.

Blood And Rockets: Movement I, Saga Of Jack Parsons – Movement II, Too The Moon

The Claypool Lennon Delirium, consisting of none other than Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, recently put out a wonderfully trippy and psychedelic video for this catchy tune:

It definitely harkens back to Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animations and it’s indeed very beatlesque, and most certainly reminds me a lot of Sgt. Pepper’ for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, and even She’s So Heavy at the tail end there, but that’s not the point of interest here.

The subject of this song, Jack Parsons, is infamously interesting character and occultist. He’s someone that will pop up in popular culture from time to time, most recently in the TV Series Strange Angel, which I sadly have yet to seen.

Anyway, enjoy this rare treat of progressive musical weirdness. Love is the law, love under will.

Maybe I’ll do some more magical music recommendations soon. Sorry about the lack of posts, but don’t fret, there’s more to come.

 

One-armed Bandit Tarot

A Slot Machine Spread

The archetypical slot machine usually has three reels of symbols, but there’s of course nothing wrong with adding more reels (rows of cards) if you are so inclined, and if it fits a particular reading you would want to do.

In this example, I will use 3 card reads, which literally could be anything that’s supposed to be read in a linear fashion (past, present, future – mind, body, spirit etc.)

You will need: A deck of cards, a coin or something similar (like a stone)  and at least one six-sided die.

With your, or your client/sitter’s question in mind, shuffle the cards in your normal fashion. Cut the deck as normal, and deal out three rows of cards, each with six cards in them, laying them all face down. 

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Offer a coin as a symbolic gesture. This could be a “magical” (consecrated) coin if you have one, or you could make one specially  for this specific purpose, or if you like to practice post-apocalyptic witchcraft, you could use a bottle cap, or really any kind of stone or an object of symbolic value to you or your client. Whatever you feel will work best for you. 

Pull an imaginary lever. Roll the die one time for each row. Turn over the card corresponding with the number on the die. Violà! There you have your results.

Variations:

It’s easy to modify this spread to better suit you needs. I’ve got some more thoughts and suggestions though, if you’d like to try it out. 

For instance, you could use more rows, as mentioned above, or put more, or less, cards in each row, and use polyhedral dice, like a D4, D8, D10, D12, or a D20 if you own them. If you don’t, you just use a random number generator either online or on an app on your phone. They’re easy to find. 

You might also consider using only 9 cards total if you are short on space. Still use three rows, but with only 3 cards in each one. And then use the 6 sided die as a D3:

1-2 = 1

3-4 = 2

5-6 = 3

Additionally, If you have one of those mini tarot decks or oracle cards, then that might be easier and more handy if your reading table or floor is small. 

If you’re like me, you probably have more than one deck. How about using three different decks? A separate one for each row. Maybe just use the Major Arcana from the decks, so that you increase the chance of getting two or three similar cards in a row! Jackpot!  

You could even turn over all the cards before rolling the dice and “pretend” you are allowed to step up or down a number of times in order to make a more favourable read Yes, I know this is a heretical notion, but shouldn’t we break the rules once in a while and deconstruct how to read cards? Why do you think I made this spread up in the first place? Trust me, I’m all for tradition, but let’s experiment more when it comes to actually using the cards. 

Here’s an example of a read: 

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You can see that I rolled 2, 2 and 6. The Four of Pentacles didn’t quite “fit” and I didn’t really see how it related to my question. So decided to “step up” one card (Page of Cups) and that made much more sense, and was definitely something I had hoped for regarding the outcome.

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The Vitriolic Tarot

The Vitriolic Tarot is designed by Colman Stevenson and published by Dark Exact.

V.I.T.R.I.O.L. is an alchemical motto which stands for:

“Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem”*

And translates into:

Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying (correcting or purifying) what you find there, you will discover the hidden stone.

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Impressions

My first impression is that this feels very alien, but in a good way. It’s so different from all my other decks, and the only one that I can compare it to is the perhaps The Magic tarot by Frederic Lionel, and even that is a stretch, so maybe the similarities are more in spirit than anything else.

The red cardboard box, with the white stickers, as well as the design and layout of the cards themselves makes it seem like a long lost underground Tarot pack from an alternative 70s. I can just picture bespectacled intellectuals clad in black turtlenecks with crystal necklaces raving about the importance and artistic quality of this arcane artefact.

I keep finding myself staring at the symbol on the card back. It does leap out in a three-dimensional way to me, like sacred geometry. It suggests a series of Möbius strips, sort of tilting away, as if to remind us that time is not linear. And I can’t think of a more perfect representation of the tarot than this, as my work of the tarot as a tool through the years has taught me that our relationship with time is very misunderstood.

Now, it should be noted that since the image on the back isn’t mirrored, reversals might be a little tricky. It’s not a huge deal, as it’s perfectly fine to just use this without reading reversals, and since it’s only 23 cards, you could easily modify it by applying coloured contact paper on the backs anyway. And if you haven’t already started to modify your decks, I highly urge you to try it out as it’s an extremely potent way to connect to a deck. I’ve been reading the cards using only the upright meanings and I’ve been referring to the more specific “interpretations” in the LWB**, although the booklet does provide a small list of the more traditional interpretations. 

The Great Work

This is an esoteric tarot, and more specifically, an alchemical tarot, which I guess all proper tarot decks really are (or at least should be), but here it’s clearly the intention.

Nigredo, blackness, that which many alchemists believe to be the first step towards the philosopher’s stone. A purification or a sort of decomposition. In a psychological context it’s a metaphor for when you confront your own shadow, aka “the dark night if the soul” or having an “existential crisis”. Also known as The Black Phase. This is followed Albedo, The White Phase, then Citrinitas and Rubedo, known as The Yellow and The Red Phase respectively. 

As a side note, this always makes me think of the Fibonacci inspired lyrical pattern in Laterlaus by Tool:

Black then white are all I see
In my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be,
Reaching out to me,
Lets me see.

Anyway,  in this deck the Fool’s Journey in the Major Arcana is split up into these four phases. And in my opinion Colman has done a great job of linking the Major Arcana and Alchemy in a way that is both elegant and easy to understand.

Colour Codes

This brings us to the ingenious colour coding of this deck. And this is done in two ways, or perhaps three, if you count the colours of the sigils, and the guidebook does say that the colours of these where chosen by the ideas they often represent, but we’ll focus on the two most obvious ways.

The first one is the four phases in the Magnum Opus (The Great Work), and this is done simply by a thin line going across the card in a colour corresponding to its respective phase. Fool (Alpha) to Death all have a black line for instance. Then Temperance to Moon has a white one and so on.

The second colour coding expands on the four stages already mentioned, and it goes into further detail about each stage, and this is clearly shown by a rectangle in the upper right corner. It starts with Calcination visualised as charcoal grey on the Fool (Alpha) and Magician card, moves on to Dissolution in violet on High Priestess, then onto red for Separation with Empress, Emperor and Hierophant and so on and so forth.

Sigils and Symbols

In addition to the name and number of the card, and the previously mentioned colour coding, each card has little symbol (referred to as “icon” in the LWB) attached to it, as well as a specially constructed sigil. The symbols are shown in black and white and its drawings lifted from The Personal Oracle, also available from Dark Exact. These are simple and effective, and serves as a visual hint to some of its cards meaning. I particularly like the upside down tree on the Hanged One card.

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The largest part of the card is the space for the sigil. These vary in colour but are all done in a fairly similar style. This is perhaps the most mysterious, or “occult” part of the deck, and here I feel like I’ve yet to crack the proverbial code. And maybe there is isn’t much to crack here, but still, my gut tells me that over time these sigils will perhaps reveal some profound insights. I speculate that with some meditation or just quiet contemplation whilst looking at the cards, you surely should be able to scry these sigil gateways and come up with your own ideas about what they mean. An idea for the next edition of the LWB  is to leave room so that you may write down your notes and own thoughts on these. Just a suggestion.

 

And also, although it’s not a big deal, the yellow sigil on the Magician card is a little hard to see, but except for that, the printing is exceptional and everything is clear and easy to read. 

Oh, and here’s a crazy idea for the daredevils and alchemical adventures out there… How about if you use whiteout, or something else to cover the sigils, and then you make your own and put them on there instead? Now that sure would be an exercise worth investigating, and one that truly would make this your own unique journey. And I must say, I’m really tempted to do it myself some time in the future. Not because I don’t like the sigils already on the cards, but because I like the tarot, and magick in general, to be an interactive and personal experience.

The Tarot De/Re/constructed

In a way, The Vitriolic Tarot is a very minimalist deck, at least on the surface, and at first glance, and although first glances, and initial intuitions are important, every student of the occult knows that if we look deeper, the veil will be lifted, and hidden truths will be revealed.

One thing though, that seems to be a way of stripping the tarot down to its essence, is the removal of the “The” from the titles of the cards. It’s no “The Lovers, and it’s instead only “Lovers” and it’s just “Sun” and not “The Sun”. I like this. There’s also one name change, which I also really like, and that is instead of “The Hanged Man”, we get “Hanged One”.

It’s also worth mentioning that this deck includes a second Fool card, known as Fool (Omega). For those already familiar with The Dark Exact Tarot this will come as no surprise, but others might at first be a bit puzzled, but it really does work in context, and it fits with the whole theme and philosophy of the deck (the Fool’s journey loops and is a life long process).

My box came with a little note explaining that “The Booklet is sort of still a draft and I might add to it later”. Still, I’d say that this very good booklet, which does a good job of describing the thoughts and ideas behind the deck. It also provides us with a handful of spreads, and that’s always welcome. 

I also, once again, have to applaud Coleman Stevenson to be so kind as to include a bibliography,  presented as “Works Consulted” at the back of the booklet. And I know this might sound a little silly but trust me, rarely do the creators of tarot list their research and influences like this. And sure, the tarot is mainly visual, but we are sorely lacking the actual thoughts behind a lot of the work being produced these days, and it just goes to show that most decks on the market are just “art decks” lacking real esoteric depths. 

For pure divinatory purposes I rarely use the Major Arcana only, and I’ll usually reserve that for special occasions and for special intents. But the Vitriolic Tarot have yielded g great results and have proven to be a potent tool in my ever-growing tarot toolbox. And I sure as hell feel like I’ve actually learned a thing or two just by using it. And I’ll continue using it, play with it, and learn from it.

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* This motto apparently originated in the book L’Azoth des Philosophes by the 15th Century alchemist Basilius Valentinus.

** Little white book

The Sleeper Must Awaken

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(Photo by Kate Williams on Unsplash)

First and foremost, happy new year!

Secondly, my apologies for waiting so long to write a new post, although, I doubt that anybody is really keeping track. It does, however, offer me a great opportunity to address the frequency of how often I will post. I’ve purposely avoided to set any kind of schedule as to which I shall share my content, and it will most likely, over time, be sporadic at best. However, at the very least, I’m aiming for at least a couple of new posts a month. I’ve got a few planned, and I do have some things in my archives and notes that I might revise and publish on this platform through the coming year(s).

Anyhow, the 12 Days of Christmas (aka “Omen Days”) have mostly been spent reading, watching season 2 of Preacher, some superhero movies, and perhaps one of the most interesting/best/coolest movies of 2018, namely Mandy.

I’d like to take a moment to disclose my reading list, henceforth lovingly referred to as The Desert (reading) Sessions, as well as add some commentary.

The Desert (reading) Sessions

Presented in (almost) chronological order in which they were read by yours truly.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

This is of course a classic that I’ve been meaning to read for year, and boy am I glad I finally decided it was time! Because it did not disappoint. I wish I had read this much sooner, but in a way, it couldn’t have happen at a better time. It’s a genuinely inspiring story, with many deep lessons and it offers some great insight, about following your heart and your dreams. Your true desires. Your “True Will” as Crowley would have put it. It also teaches you alchemy. Real alchemy. This is a contender for my top 10 favourite books of all time. Time will tell, but the story is one that has stuck in my mind.

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Folio Society has an exquisite hardcover edition that will elevate the reading experience if you have the funds to spare. Well worth price if you ask me,

Dune by Frank Herbert

Another classic, and an old favourite of mine, and one that’s literally on my top 10 list. I can’t recommend this enough, as it might possibly be the best sci-fi novel ever, and also because it transcends the genre and subsequently has become a timeless story that has yet to be captured with live action (but I have hopes that they’ll one day manage to do it justice).

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Once again, although I already owned two other editions of this book, I opted for the utterly breathtakingly gorgeous hard bound Folio Society published one.

Entering the Desert by Craig Williams

So, while I was still in the middle of Dune, this paperback desert grimoire showed up, and in ways it stands in stark contrast to the sublime talismanic bindings of the two previous books discussed. However, it also goes to show how a paperback edition of an occult release could and should look like. If every publisher took as much care in the presentation and design of their paperbacks as Anathema Publishing then I think this whole niche market would flourish, as I surely would splurge on even more strange tomes as this. Anyway, I’m digressing… This was a much quicker read than I had anticipated and I found myself plowing through the text in just two days. Now, I’ll surely have to go back and study it more, as there really is a lot in between the lines here. And although I might not agree with every notion and idea presented here, it still offered some insight and has inspired me to pursue some more creative occultism and to hopefully one day be able to explore and share some of my own take on magick sometime in the future. However, this book might not be for everyone, and I’m still on the fence if this really fits into my path, as this clearly is leaning towards a more Left Hand and sorcerous approach. Yet, I am of the belief that any which path you choose, if applied correctly, will end up in the same place regardless.

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I’ve already started on the connected book Cult of Golgotha by the same author, which at the time of writing this is still available in a couple of hardback editions over at the publisher’s website: https://www.anathemapublishing.com/

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Now, lastly, from one kind of reading to another:

The Year Ahead Spread

I did my Year Ahead Spread for 2019, and it suggests a strange journey to come.

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January starts with The Magician, and so far I would say that that is indeed the archetype I’ve decided to embody this month. It does lead into The Hierophant for February and The Hanged Man in March and continuing on with the Chariot in April, which to me suggests a sort of gathering of momentum, that turns into The Sun and The Universe respectively. July is all about the Wheel of Fortune spinning a yarn that might very well do all it can to trip me up in the form of The Tower in August, something I’m not exactly looking forward too, but at least I have a heads up, right? The Last four months came up as The Empress, The Fool, The Emperor ending with Strength in December, so seems like there is some good news after all.

I’m still taking in the information laid out in the circle, and I will take it to heart, and use it as a map, still with the knowledge of “the map is not the territory” held clearly in mind. The sleeper must awaken indeed. I can’t sleep forever, can I?

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Lots of reviews and articles to come my fellow travellers.