Sunday, November 29, 2015

The First House of Astrology

First house of astrology

The First House; Personality and New Beginnings

By Steven Seinberg

If the astrological Houses are the "rooms" of our lives – those places where we focus our various energies – then what do we find in the very first one? What does the First House signify?

True to as its name suggests, the First House deals with new beginnings that you undertake. And beyond that, the shorthand names often assigned offer us clues as to what more can be attributed to it. References abound in which the First House is deemed to be the "House of Self" or the "House of Personality." The First House is where we go whenever we're refining our presentation of ourselves to the world. It speaks of our personal style, our appearance, and the early impression we make on people who don't know us well.

Here's an analogy that may help… consider the superhero character Iron Man, long a staple of the Marvel Comics universe, and recently immortalized in several major films. Iron Man is the hero guise adopted by Tony Stark, a brilliant engineer and inventor who creates a shining suit of high-tech armor that grants him amazing abilities when he puts it on. But remember that Tony Stark, the man, is not the same as the Iron Man armor.

The armor is something that Stark puts on in order to deal with his world… but once he's firmly sheathed within it, the armor is this intermediary layer through which the world and Stark see each other. People who don't already know the identity of the person inside the suit have no idea who they're really dealing with. Even the people who do know his true identity can't help but factor in the staggering capabilities of the Iron Man suit when Stark is wearing it.

So think of the Iron Man armor as something much like the personality overlay that we each build in the First House to cloak ourselves in, so that we don't have to be naked and unguarded every time we step out of our front doors. That external, constructed layer of persona isn't us – not exactly – but it's a vital extension of ourselves, and it definitely represents our tastes, our likes, and the version of ourselves that we're comfortable sharing with the world. And what we are underneath that outer layer may be very similar to the shell, or it may differ significantly.

We humans are very complex, and anything is possible: imagine that someone in the Iron Man armor plummets down from the sky and lands right in front of you, and then reaches up to remove their helmet… but until the helmet is pulled clear, you'll have no clue if the face that's about to be revealed will be Tony Stark's… or some other man's… or possibly a woman's… maybe a child's, for that matter. Or maybe there will only be a smaller Iron Man helmet under the first one! What lies beneath the outer layer can only be determined by examining the rest of the chart.

The First House, though, describes not only our own individual "personality suit" that we wear almost perpetually, but also how we tend to further hone and polish it. Tony Stark didn't just create a first prototype Iron Man suit, and then sit around his mansion with his feet up, content to take on super-villains and techno-competitors with an ever more obsolete product. He constantly upgraded his work, always striving to keep it absolutely cutting edge. And we do the same with our own First House personality constructs; we're forever updating and upgrading them, incorporating changes based on things we see in the world, things we experience, things we like or don't like.

...and whenever we work on this process, upgrading our own external suits of "personality armor," we're working in the First House.

The first house is an angular one, is opposite to the seventh house, and is ruled by Aries, as well as Mars. Element: fire.

The Second House of Astrology

Second house of astrology

The Second House; Your Possessions

By Steven Seinberg

Astrologers receive all sorts of requests when it comes to applying their specialized art. Questioners want to know about the past, the present, the future... and their questions can be very general, very specific, or anywhere in between. One of the most common elements of those questions, though, involves delving into the realm of the financial…

This sphere, of course, is extremely complex, and truly comprehending it can require examination of a whole slew of different Houses before the task is done. When it comes to assessing a person's astrological “blueprint” for money matters, though, it will be virtually impossible to gain any real understanding there without including some analysis of that person's Second House.

Commonly thought of as the “House of Possessions,” the Second House does indeed include our financial holdings, along with other physical possessions (stocks, bonds, cars, clothing, artwork, jewelry, home furnishings, etc). Noting which Sign colors the Second House cusp, where that Sign's ruling Planet falls within the chart, and then also studying any Planets situated within this House, can all help to gauge how this person will view possessions.

For example, one person might derive maximum pleasure from those belongings that register in physical ways. That is, possessions are important to this person because they add to the serenity or sensuality of the person's environment: soothing paintings, plush carpeting, a hot tub deep enough to comfortably house a small aquatic dinosaur... In contrast, a different person might instead tend to acquire only those items that have a definite spiritual component – meditation aids, metaphysical books, crystals... Still others might lean toward possessions that carry some emotional value, such as family heirlooms or tokens of romance. Yet others prefer acquisitions that reflect intellectual energy (“My technical analysis of that stock was spot-on – I made a bundle on it!”).

It would be too narrow a focus, though, to limit the Second House to only these more material belongings. Consider, for a moment, the values that we place on our possessions – our value systems themselves are Second House business. This House can tell us about not just the things that we need to possess, but also about why certain kinds of possessions will matter to us in the first place, while others won't. And then we also turn these same analytical parameters on ourselves (think of our very selves as things that we possess...). In other words, the Second House also tells us about our self-esteem, and how we best strengthen it.

For instance, some people will most highly prize possessions that have to do with courage, and with meeting and conquering challenges. Such people might spangle their walls and shelving with medals, ribbons, and trophies, and their sense of self-worth might rise and fall most when their bravery is somehow put to the test. Other people might primarily acquire things that trumpet their material success to the world – when onlookers see emblems of their status or power, this makes them feel successful all around. Still more people will obtain things based on what strikes them as fun... and the more of the merrier that they can amass, the greater their self-esteem will become. Yet others place their highest value on the exotic and the unusual, and even if they don't necessarily like all of their acquisitions, if these things boast an unconventional air, then people of this persuasion feel an increase in their own sense of self-worth…

The Second House, then, is definitely about our possessions, including our financial holdings, and it's also about the values that we apply to those possessions... including the value that we place on our very selves.

The second house is a succedent one, is opposite to the eighth house, and is ruled by Taurus and Venus. Element: earth.

The Third House of Astrology

Third house of astrology

The Third House; the House of Communication

By Steven Seinberg

Contemplate, if you will, Star Trek...

Initially a short-lived American science-fiction television program, and later a conglomeration of sequel-series, films, toys, and enough other merchandise to choke George Lucas; Star Trek chronicled the adventures of the crew of a spaceship: the USS Enterprise. Throughout the run of the original show, viewers were regularly treated to the sight of the leader of the Enterprise – Captain James T. Kirk – striding purposefully into the bridge of the ship, taking his place at the fancy swiveling chair at the center of everything, and demanding a status update from all personnel on hand. The incoming reports would of course then enable Kirk to make the best decisions possible for all concerned…

And this image – that of Kirk installing himself in his command chair and probing into the currently prevailing circumstances surrounding his ship – is a pretty fine analogy for what the rest of us do whenever we enter Astrology's Third House.

On Amazon: Astrology, A Cosmic Science: The Classic Work on Spiritual Astrology

Often referred to as the “House of Communication,” the Third House is where we go when we – like Captain Kirk – need to take stock of our immediate environment, and of our place in it. Very often, the Star Trek audience would follow along as various Enterprise crew-members would feed Kirk detailed information about some new eventuality facing them all, or factoids describing some newly encountered world: is this new planet hospitable to lifeforms like us...or is it merely hostile? Will it welcome us? Will it attack us? Will it be completely indifferent to us? What resources does it boast, and what perils characterize it? In short, will spending time on its surface help us, harm us, or just leave us kind of bored and unaffected...? Should we beam down at all, or move on to someplace else entirely?

Whenever we peer into our environment and analyze the effects that it might have on us (and vice versa), we're engaging in Third House activity...and we do this all the time.

The Third House is also our communications hub. Captain Kirk made it a regular practice to sit in that cool chair on the bridge, and receive updates from his Communications Officer, Lt. Nyota Uhura: who was contacting the ship, what were they saying, what should we say in return? Uhura received all incoming broadcasts from outside sources, and also transmitted any outgoing messages from Kirk and the Enterprise. And similarly, whenever we converse with the world around us and any of its individual inhabitants – whether these communications take the form of the spoken word, a gesture, a facial expression, or even a written language – we're again working from a Captain's chair in our own Third House.

And the Third House also includes what we do with all of this information and communication. It speaks to us of how we approach and process information, and how our more rational left-brain functions operate for us. Are we brash and impulsive when we probe into our surroundings, when we communicate, and when we get intellectual in and around these processes? Or are we perhaps emotion-driven, and more concerned with how others are affected by all this than with how we ourselves fare? Do we take pride in our abilities here...or are these functions sources of fear and unease? What does your own Captain's chair represent for you? How can you get the most out of the countless hours you'll be spending there in this lifetime?

The Signs and Planets that work through a given individual's Third House can provide answers to many of these questions. Examining which Planets are placed there, and which Signs color the Third House cusp or are perhaps intercepted within that House, can provide the kind of hard and useful data that would be fit for even Captain Kirk himself...

The third house is a cadent one, is opposite to the ninth house, and is ruled by Gemini, as well as Mercury. Element: air.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Fourth House of Astrology

Fourth house of astrology

The Fourth House Explained; the House of Home

By Steven Seinberg

In most House systems, the cusp of the Fourth House is a specialized dividing line known as the Imum Coeli, or “IC” – this is a Latin term meaning “Bottom of the Sky.”  This particular cusp indicates the absolute lowest point that the Sun will attain on the day of one's birth; its whereabouts at midnight. 

But in order to understand the conceptual territory bounded by this particular House, a very helpful device might be to pretend that “IC” is also an abbreviation for “Inner Child”... 

You see, the Fourth House is commonly referred to as the “House of Home”...but what does that mean? While it's true that “home” can refer to a person's literal, present-day living space, the Fourth House isn't restricted to such a relatively limited scope.  This House is at least as much about the past and our origins, as it is about our present day circumstances.  It's as much about the archetype of “home” that each of us carries around within ourselves, as it is about the physical buildings where we live.  At some point, each of us was a wide-eyed innocent, learning all about the great big world, and that innocent is the one who formed our core definitions of “home” for us.  And that same little youngster still lives on inside each of us in spirit: this is our own personal “inner child.”  The primal definitions created by that inner child persist throughout our lives, and they carry the vast weight of mythology for us, casting shadows across everything that we experience.

Think about what your own home life was like way back in early childhood, when everything was so strange and new and towering.  Your home was the most familiar place to you, and was the place where you spent the greatest percentage of your time.  And it was far more than just the building itself…

“Home” for you back then also included parts of grander things that flowed through your early residence – things like cultural heritage, nationality, religious affiliations and practices, ancestry. You wouldn't have understood these things in their entireties, but you surely recognized the presence or absence of them in your household.  What specific marks did they leave on you? Back at that early age, that younger self of yours processed all of this and more, and eventually landed on a certain complex definition for what a “home” is...and your present day inner child continues to whisper that definition into your psyche even now. How well a given environment lines up with your inner child's conceptual blueprints will determine whether the current version of you can accept that environment as a true “home.”  

And aside from considerations about one's origins (be they familial, ethnic, religious, cultural, economic), another critical facet of the Fourth House is privacy. Just as the IC points to the darkest place in a chart – the point that's furthest from the public world and from the light of day – the Fourth House speaks volumes about a person's relationship with privacy. What does each of us need in terms of private time and space? How much privacy do we require, and what qualities must that privacy possess in order to satisfy us? What do we like to do with our privacy?  And how do we regard the private domain: is it a nourishing place to escape to...or is it an oppressive place to escape from?  

These are the kinds of questions that can be explored in the Fourth House – the House of Home – by analyzing the Sign on the cusp, along with the Ruler of that Sign, and by examining any Planets located within that House.  Start at the IC...and let your own unique inner child give voice to the answers.

The fourth house is an angular house, is opposite to the tenth house, and is ruled by Cancer, as well as the Moon. Element: water.

The Fifth House of Astrology

Fifth house of astrology

The Fifth House in a Nutshell - Offspring, or Perhaps, the Factory

By Steven Seinberg

Traditionally, the Fifth House has been dubbed the “House of Children.” Before getting too tangled up in that concept, though, think of the Fifth House instead as a sort of factory... We use that factory to produce things – we create output there, both tangible and intangible. And the fuel that this factory runs joy. More on that part of things in a moment...

But first: yes, the results of our joyful Fifth House activities can certainly include actual, physical children. The birthchart offers clues as to what our child-bearing potential might be. Maybe we'll go forth into the world in adulthood to be fruitful and multiply, spawning scads of youngsters within the bounds of a very traditional kind of marriage relationship. Or maybe we'll encounter some obstacles along that road (maybe options like in vitro fertilization or adoption will become necessary avenues of exploration). Maybe we'll have children, but in less traditional arrangements. Or maybe we'll have no children at all. The Fifth House can outline our child-bearing potentials.

We can also learn about “figurative children” here: the things that we generate in the courses of our artistic pursuits, our hobbies, our happy diversions. The Fifth House plays host to the stories and songs we write, the paintings we produce, and the coin or stamp collections we amass over dedicated time. These things can be seen as our metaphorical children, in that we give them life in symbolic terms much like we would bring our actual flesh and blood progeny into being. The birthchart can reveal a lot about our potentials for giving life to “children” of this nature, as well.

This House is also where we find our romances when they're still flourishing upward through their early stages. The initial phases of any new attraction are joyful almost by definition, and while more enduring relationships will eventually pick up and relocate to the Seventh and possibly Eighth Houses, it's the Fifth House where they first begin to bloom. The new relationship itself can be seen here as a “child,” yet another product of joyful activity.

Now, obviously, “joyful activity” will vary quite a bit from one individual to the next, and one person's idea of joy might well be another person's definition of horror. Picture two next-door neighbors – they get along well enough when crossing paths out by the mailboxes, so it might be safe to assume they have some basic common ground as people. And maybe they do...but upon closer examination, it could turn out that one of these neighbors finds their greatest delight in combative activities such as going to a gun range or playing simulated war games. The other neighbor, however, might run screaming from such martial pursuits, preferring instead to stay in and bake cookies.

The Signs and Planets that populate the Fifth House in a given person's birthchart will clarify just what registers with that person as joyful and fun. What kinds of pursuits make a person happy? What's their relationship with joy itself? Do they devote a lot of energy to this House in this lifetime, or are Fifth House endeavors relatively minor priorities for them? Also, Aspects and Planetary Rulerships can connect this House to one or more of the other Houses. Are joyful activities the gateway for a given person to a successful career, or to finding a mate...or will these activities always just be intermittent hobbies: fun, but ultimately modest in overall lifetime impact?

The true linking thematic thread here, then, isn't exactly the concept of the child, so much as what a child ideally represents: evidence of creativity, and pure, unbridled joy. The Fifth House is where we go when we're experiencing the things we love best. When we choose to take Joseph Campbell's advice to follow our bliss...that bliss will invariably lead us right into the Fifth House.

The fifth house is a succedent one, is opposite to the eleventh house, and is ruled by Leo, as well as the Sun. Element: fire.

The Sixth House of Astrology

Sixth house of astrology

The Sixth House - it Pertains to Maintaining the Physical Self

By Steven Seinberg

Judging by commonly used titles alone, the Sixth House might seem like an especially unfocused collection of barely-related topics.  To some, it's the “House of Health.”  To others, it's the “House of Work.” To yet another school of thought, it's the “House of Servants.”  Can one House honestly fit so many varied concepts under its one roof...?

Actually, it can.  It all makes perfect sense if you look at each of those seemingly disparate notions – health, work, servants – as being primary and equal subsets of true Sixth House business.  That is, the Sixth House isn't just about health...or work...or servants.  It's about all of those things, plus a few more... The Sixth House is where we go in life when we're working on the upkeep of our physical selves.  In this existence, we're each granted a physical body...and these bodies require maintenance if they're to persist at all, and even greater care if they're to thrive.

Of course, we have our biological imperatives: we need to breathe, to eat, to drink, to sleep.  We need clothing and shelter if we're to survive the elements.  We need to cultivate cleanliness if we want to stay ahead of the vast assortment of parasites, bacteria, and viruses that would feast on us, given the chance.  And if we fall down on the job in providing these things for ourselves in sufficient quantities and qualities...we get sick. This is why the Sixth House is, at least in great part, a House of Health. Here's where we find our own relationships with things like nutrition, exercise, hygiene, any tendencies toward illnesses or injury.  And tending to all of these needs requires concerted ongoing effort – effort that never ends.

We're never permanently, once-and-for-all “done” when it comes to things like taking showers, flossing and brushing our teeth, doing the laundry, buying our groceries, visiting the doctor and the dentist, taking out the garbage, doing our household chores and cleaning.  Instead, we do them when they're needed, we relax for a minute...and then we need to do them again.  As opposed to “career,” this is what's meant by “work” in a Sixth House context: the performing of necessary tasks so as to keep our physical selves functioning at sufficient levels.

As to how we each approach our mandatory tasks; some people procrastinate, while others jump right in with gusto.  Some people loathe work as the most wretched form of tedium, something to be avoided at all costs...while others find great spirituality in the simplest of chores.  The Sixth House, through Planetary and Sign placements, explains much about how we each approach tasks in life. 

Then there are the people who can perform work through extensions of themselves: they have employees, as well as independent contractors and agents do their bidding for them.  Such agents are our “servants,” in Sixth House terms.  Our charts can tell us how we might be wired in terms of dealing with such servants.  Some people regularly delegate work to agents, while others will characteristically do everything themselves.  Some get along with agents and subordinates on very friendly terms, while others will keep things rather distant and formal. Again, the chart always offers great clues as to how these relationships might generally play themselves out.

And the Sixth House includes a few other concepts as well, also crucial in maintaining our physical selves in this world: our various improvable skills fall here, as do our relationships with teachers and mentors, and also with co-workers.  All of these things can help us to get maximum enjoyment from our existence on the physical plane.

Each of us is gifted with a flesh and blood body to inhabit during our time here on Earth...and the Sixth House can be viewed as nothing less than a simple but powerful owner's manual for that body!

The sixth house is a cadent one, is opposite to the twelfth house, and is ruled by Virgo, as well as Mercury. Element: earth.

The Seventh House of Astrology

Seventh house of astrology

The Seventh House; Partnerships

By Steven Seinberg

The “House of Marriage”... the “House of Partnerships”... the “House of Open Enemies”... Despite its collection of diverse titles, the Seventh House is one of which the main subject matter is actually fairly straightforward and understandable. Simply put, the Seventh House is where we go when we're dealing with our primary one-to-one relationships...

The relationship that we each maintain with our spouse, lover, or significant other is very much a Seventh House affair. Many astrologers look immediately to this House to get a feel for what kind of mate a person will need in life, and what kind of luck they'll be predisposed to encounter when seeking out potential candidates for mate-hood. Someone performing synastry analysis – the comparison of one person's chart to another's to see how the two might naturally affect each other – will virtually always want to at least take a look at the charts' respective Seventh Houses to see how they might line up and interact.

Other less romantic but still prominent partnerships also have a place here: business partnerships and artistic collaborations come to mind. Again, synastry can indicate whether any two people might be well or poorly wired for strong togetherness in this life, and that togetherness needn't necessarily be of the love-centric variety. As examples, take a look at Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the core of The Rolling Stones, one of the most successful rock bands in history. Even a quick look at a synastry chart for the pair shows that Keith's Sun lights up Mick's Seventh House – a major partnership connection! – while Mick's Moon, Ascendant, and Uranus all beam energy into Keith's Seventh House. These factors in the charts of both men serve to nourish the partnership bond between them quite naturally and in an extremely powerful fashion. Given these placements, it's not shocking that their connection has been so momentous and enduring.

And then “open enemies” – this is the notion that acknowledged arch-foes share a bond that's just as deep and meaningful as the connection between lovers, though it's far more dark and ominous in nature. Consider Batman and the Joker, or Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty – characters like these would represent the kinds of overt arch-enemies that can conceivably appear in the Seventh House. Hopefully, most of us will make it through life without attracting arch-nemesis energy into our orbits, but the Seventh House will be the best place to look for any such potentials.

To perform these kinds of assessments, look first for Planets that lie within a given person's Seventh House – these can serve as terrific indicators as to how that person will operate with respect to these various major one-to-one relationships. The quantities of Planets placed here will say a great deal about how much of a person's energy in life might potentially go toward feeding these major relationships, while the qualities of those Planets can describe the “personalities” these relationships are most likely to exhibit.

A very common concern with this House in particular is that if no Planets naturally fall within its bounds in a person's chart, then that person must be destined for a life of loneliness. This is not necessarily the case! Even in the absence of any resident Planets, the Seventh House – like every other House – is colored by one or more Signs. Look to the Sign on the Seventh House cusp, as it will offer valuable information about that person's predispositions where primary relationships are concerned. Next, a study of that Sign's Ruling Planet in the chart will then add more detail to the picture...

Curious to know more about your propensities for partnerships? Spend some quality, partner-style time with your Seventh House!

The seventh house is an angular one, is opposite to the first house, and is ruled by Libra, as well as Venus. Element: air.

The Eighth House of Astrology

Eighth house of astrology

The Dark Eighth House

By Steven Seinberg

This is easily one of the darkest of the astrological Houses. Then again, given that the Eighth House is commonly referred to as the “House of Death,” its ominous vibe isn't especially surprising. It's also known widely as the “House of Other People's Resources.” When taken together, the various items covered by those two titles do start to add up to a more coherent whole...

When invoking death as a primary component of this House, not all astrologers are talking strictly about actual, physical death. Some are, it's true, but many will tend to lean more toward discussion of metaphorical death (not to mention regeneration and rebirth). In fact, it might be helpful to think about the more figurative “death of innocence” that comes when childhood is left fully behind. Put simply, the Eighth House is rather linked to the worldview that was established by our young adult self as she or he was about to leave the family home and set off on the journey into independence.

A newcomer to the adult world is suddenly faced with all of the serious and even frightening realities of life that may have been kept at bay partially or almost entirely by parental intervention. Think about grown-up concepts such as mortality (“Death!”), or loans and banks and corporations (“Other People's Resources!”), or inheritance (“Death” and “Other People's Resources!”). These are all Eighth House affairs.

On Amazon: Astrology for Yourself: How to Understand And Interpret Your Own Birth Chart

Consider also the evolution of romance... Children experience sweet, inexperienced crushes, and they possibly sample the guileless pleasures of holding hands. As they become teenagers, they move onward to somewhat more mature pursuits such as dating, increased physical contact, and they may even begin taking their initial steps into exploring the world of actual sex. When they evolve into young adults who are truly leaving innocence behind, though, they may then advance into the Eighth House realms of more sophisticated sexual practices, including edgier play, fetishes, and sadomasochistic activities. It's no coincidence that the dark and sexy Sign of Scorpio and the power-focused Planet, Pluto, are associated with the Eighth House...

Many astrologers also place explorations into the occult and various psychic experiences in this House, as well. This makes sense if you think about the things that occult investigations and psychic perceptions can uncover: the thoughts, secrets, wisdom, writings, and collected lore of other people. These are all subsets of that category of “Other People's Resources.”

Addictions may be located here, as well as in the twelfth house. One could regard being caught up in an addiction as being a sort of death of one's true self, or a transformational experience.

There's also a trend toward placing “soul-merging” here, the most intense kind of bond that can evolve between humans. Imagine two people who have recently started dating, and who find themselves in the throes of early attraction. Their young relationship would most likely be deemed a Fifth House property – early romance is generally fun and joyful, and the Fifth House is home to all those things that bring us joy. If our hypothetical couple lasts beyond the initial stages of dating, their pairing would most likely be reassigned into the Seventh House – this is the House that hosts our primary one-to-one relationships.

But every once in a while, a partnership or romance goes beyond simple happiness, and even beyond long-term persistence. Sometimes, two people seem so right for each other, so much like a storybook coupling, that it's as if their souls begin to actually merge. If this kind of profound melding were to happen for our same hypothetical pair, then their relationship would become Eighth House material. This is so because each participant can be seen as gaining possession of parts of the soul or spirit of the other – and once again, the soul is yet another “resource” of a person.

The Eighth House, then, contains all those things waiting to greet us when we permanently cross the threshold that separates the inside of our parents' house from the wild world outside.

The eighth is a succedent house, is opposite to the second house, and is ruled by Scorpio, as well as Mars and Pluto. Element: water.

Related video on YouTube (another person's perspective on this topic): The Astrological Eighth House.

The Ninth House of Astrology

Ninth house of astrology

The Ninth House; Extended Travel and Journeys

By Steven Seinberg

Out of the great flurry of nicknames that get attached to the various Houses, the “House of Long Journeys” is one of the most accurate. The Ninth House does indeed involve long journeys. To be clear, though, there are actually two very distinct types of long journeys contained within the bounds of this House...

The first would be the literal long journey: significant trips through physical space. Ninth House journeys generally involve the kinds of distances that you can't cover and then return from on the same day. Overnight stays are not only likely when it comes to this variety of travel, they're almost certain. Trips to other cities, countries, or even continents will seem especially at home in this House, as will the need to cross one or more time zones. Ninth House-style forays may require you to bring along a handy guidebook filled with phrases in some language that's unfamiliar to you. You may need to study up on the food and the customs of the alien locale you're visiting, and to change currencies when you arrive, and again when you leave.

In a similar vein, the Ninth House can also provide data regarding how you'll view people and things that can only appear in your homeland after they've undertaken these same types of long physical journeys to get there. In other words, the Ninth House discusses both you going to foreign lands, and foreign lands coming to you. Whether or not you'll be generally predisposed to appreciate visitors from far off places, foods from different areas around the globe, and fashion and entertainment from beyond the borders of your birthplace, can often be understood after studying your Ninth House.

The second species of major voyage that also falls within the purview of the Ninth House is the figurative long journey. This is the metaphorical venture forth into what's known as “the higher mind.” This includes almost any attempt to expand the self by taking in major doctrines that try to explain existence or to impose meaning upon it. Long “journeys” of this sort include voyages into philosophy, religion, the law, and the pursuit of higher education (the kind that goes beyond secondary schooling, is virtually always elective rather than required, and yields up advanced degrees at studies' end). Also, the “journey” of the word can fall within this House: teaching, publishing, and long-distance communication are all Ninth House affairs.

Many astrologers place our dreams within the Ninth House, as well. This inclusion is consistent with the notion that this House encompasses those ways in which we expand our minds and all that we can explore with them. Our waking dreams – those things we long for, even when not especially realistic – allow us to consciously envision things in our lives that don't actually exist there.

Our nighttime dreams – those surreal visions that we experience during periods of REM sleep – also offer us ample opportunity for experiencing and processing various eventualities that often don't exist in our day to day lives. One interesting and significant difference between conscious and nocturnal dreams, is that events that unfold within nighttime dreams would often be impossible within the strict bounds of things like the laws of physics, and the linear natures of space and time as we perceive them in our waking lives.

The Sign lying on the cusp of the Ninth House in your chart, as well as any Planets located within it, will provide excellent information about your own relationship with these various Ninth House phenomena. Some thoughtful contemplation of this expansive House can reveal a lot about the relationships you're likely to have in your life with long-distance travel, with people and things that hail from faraway parts of the globe, with metaphorical “travel” into higher realms of thought, and with dreams, both in your waking hours and in slumber.

The ninth is a cadent house, is opposite to the third house, and is ruled by Sagittarius, and also Jupiter. Element: fire.

The Tenth House of Astrology


The Tenth House; Your Public Self

By Steven Seinberg

Of the 12 Houses that make up the great wheel of an astrological birth-chart, the Tenth is arguably the single most straight-forward. Most of the other Houses gather scads of topics together inside their definitional boundaries, and many of those topics seem barely related to each other at first glance. The Tenth House, in comparison, is almost shocking for its internal consistency of theme. Often dubbed the “House of Career” or the “House of Public Standing,” that's what the Tenth is all about: our public/professional self. It's what the world knows and remembers us for. It's our reputation and our calling. And to be clear here, the Tenth House doesn't deal with the minor jobs we slog through every day with to pay the bills – it describes our life's work. That's the key to understanding this House: it's our work on a grand scale, not just how and where we punch some uninspiring time-clock out of sheer necessity.

It's important to remember, though, that having a certain signature etched into our Tenth House doesn't necessarily guarantee us anything in the career realm. It's still each person's responsibility to put in the concerted effort that will bring their Tenth House potentials to life.

Another element to keep in mind: the Tenth House is the most public face that we wear. The beginning of this House is an important cusp called the Midheaven. This cusp is also often referred to by its Latin designation, Medium Coeli (this is why “MC” is often used as shorthand for the Midheaven line). The MC in a birth-chart represents the highest point in the sky...and obviously, the highest point in the sky will be visible to a maximum number of people across a rather large area... The MC is therefore about being seen, far and wide. While your Ascendant describes how someone might perceive you upon first encounter, the MC, by comparison, reveals what their impression of you might be before they've actually even met you at all. We like to talk about how someone's reputation precedes them...and that reputation is their Tenth House imprint advancing before them into the world.

On eBay:

Imagine being told at your office that a new manager will be transferring in from another region...and word around the water-cooler has it that this manager is tough on people, but really gets things done. You're now developing a take on this person without ever having met them...because their reputation precedes them. Their Tenth House will quite likely reinforce the perceptions, that spur the chatter, that reached you before you laid eyes on them.

When performing career analysis for someone using Astrology, it's always excellent policy to examine their Tenth House. Note which Sign their MC lands in, and then look to the Planet that rules that Sign. That Planet's own Sign and House placements will add a layer of meaning to your analysis. Look, too, for any Planets in the Tenth House itself – if you find some, see which other Planets they connect up with in the chart by Aspects, and which other Houses they rule. All of this information combined, will then describe what kinds of energies and activities this person is most geared for when it comes to their ideal life's work.

One final note: traditionally, astrologers often viewed the Tenth House as the place to go when studying the chart-holder's relationship with their mother, with clues about the father being assigned to the opposite House, the Fourth. In modern times, however, it's become common to let go of purely gender-based House attributions for the parents, and to say instead that the Tenth House can speak of the chart-holder's “shaping parent” – the one who was more present during the chart-holder's formative years – while the less-present, more “hidden” parent is assigned a place in the Fourth House. You can examine your own chart to see which approach seems to fit more naturally with your experiences growing up in the world...

The tenth is an angular house, is opposite to the fourth house,  and is ruled by Capricorn, as well as Saturn. Element: earth.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Eleventh House of Astrology

Eleventh house of astrology

The Eleventh House; Friendship, Hopes and Dreams

By Rhaine McFae-Dvornak

The eleventh house concerns friends and acquaintances, social networks, groups, organizations and organized charities, and the hopes and dreams you hold dear and how you work with them. You can see the qualities you possess as a friend and what type of friends you tend to choose, by looking at the signs and planets associated with this house. Though this is "the house of friendship," it concerns friendships other than close ones involving only two people, as those are relative to the seventh house.

Within groups of people there are alliances and power. Oftentimes goals that we can't achieve alone are easily met with the help of a friend, or else through a network connection, an organization, or an acquaintance. Additionally, when we participate in social activities and groups, donate to charities, and do what we can to improve society as a whole, we're working to manifest the fruits we expect our lives to bear, and in the process we gain support in our endeavors. In essence, through putting ourselves out there, we reap the things we strive for. And by this reasoning, this is also the house of hopes and dreams; what lies within it may refer to you making achievements in this area.

One eleventh house related concept, is that sometimes in our efforts to create improvements in society, we ruffle a few feathers along the way, or even unintentionally make things worse. But through having created change, we've opened the possibility for a new way to come about... in the end, if the intent was good there should be no regrets. Make no mistake, our behavior as individuals is a facet of what creates society as a whole; we each influence the big picture.

Book: Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living

In regard to working for someone else, what lies within this house can give you an idea of the financial state of their business, and can also give you an idea as to whether a position will be profitable, or even how to access available profit from it.

"No man is an island;" and if they are, they shouldn't be...

When an individual chooses not to engage in groups and society, they limit themselves and are stunted to grow in person and in spirit. Through exercising our personal strengths within a group, we subsequently bolster that group's strength. Furthermore, being part of a group influences what members do beyond the walls of group meetings, hopefully in a positive manner. It's not always easy to participate in society; and although some have the ability to block themselves from the truth of it, opting not to participate in group events, makes for a bland and less than satisfying life.

The eleventh house is a succedent one, and is opposite to the 5th house. Aquarius rules here, as do the planets Saturn and Uranus. Element: air.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Twelfth House of Astrology

Twelfth house of astrology

An Overview - the Twelfth House, the Realm of the Subconscious

By Rhaine McFae-Dvornak

The twelfth house of astrology, it is the house of the subconscious mind as well as all things that are hidden, this including our drive of instinct, our dreams, and the things we hide from others including secret meetings and affairs.

The twelfth house concerns things we adhere to that limit us, such as thoughts, ideals, and habits. It can also be home to behavior that will ultimately lead us to a confining institution such as a hospital, a prison, or a monastery, for example; and as well it can relate to the building itself. It is also the place where we stash our weaknesses that we don't want the world to see, and the strengths that others, and sometimes even we ourselves have no awareness of.

Much of what it takes to meet our goals comes from our subconscious mind, it helps us to face and work through our failures and limitations in order to reach them. And when we choose not to face life issues, the twelfth house is where they end up. Rather than a trash can though, it is more like a reminder board... much is there, including everything we've done and what we might do to create better than what's unfolded so far. And when tuning into what is held there, we can focus on our virtues and our shortcomings, and become inspired to work through them in order to grow and flourish.

From our subconscious mind we build our successes, our imprisonments and our failures. From it we dream of what we want in order to manifest it, the subconscious has a knowing of what it doesn't want as well. Its knowing, unfortunately, can be contrary to what we are striving for consciously. When this contrast of motives exists, we tend to feel confined. Distortions and confusion within the subconscious mind that cause such contrasts are a self created form of imprisonment. Dancing on the dark side too long, hanging on to what was, focusing on loss, grief and pain, etc, are examples of what causes its finely honed, deep wisdom and life enhancing abilities to veer off course through negative programming. And perhaps it is no great wonder that this house can refer to addictions as well.

There is much wisdom and valuable advice arising from the subconscious, and if we don't take time to tap into it, we can miss out on some truly life-changing benefits. Tuning in can be the difference between getting caught up in life's limitations and drawbacks, or learning to grow from every single experience, good or bad. Grief, fear, and hurt; so much of how to make better of it all has already been answered there, and too we can access lessons that may inspire us to learn faster, such as what the karmic repercussions of our thoughts, choices, and actions consist of. And the twelfth house therefore reminds us that as we learn to create better in the future, we may still have elements of the past to make amends for, as doubtlessly, at some point karma will otherwise catch up; this is where acts of charity, also associated with this house, fit in especially well.

What we have put ourselves off from pursuing for various reasons, what we have deprived ourselves of and have been deprived of, as well as temptations we have avoided will end up here as well. It is like seeing cause and effect, including how decisions we make play in, and how our life unfolds as a result of it all.

In life we are handed good and bad, with it we are to create the type of life we want, but to do so we have to act wisely. Thus the finished result will be as like a beautiful painting, where even the deficits add richness to its character, or like a used old drop-cloth, where you'd perhaps really like to scrap it and start with a new and better one (which of course is not going to happen). Much of what you need to contemplate in order to create a smoother future to your journey, lies here in the twelfth house.

The twelfth house is a cadent one, and is opposite to the sixth house. It is ruled by Pisces, as well as Neptune and Jupiter. Element: water.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Haindl Tarot Card Deck in Review

Haindl Tarot card review
Haindl Tarot cards. Click to open in new window for a clearer view.

The Haindl Tarot Card Deck: A Review

By Viv Dulac

The Haindl Tarot was one of the first decks I ever bought, and it remains a favorite. First published in the 1980s, it is the creation of German artist Hermann Haindl. The LWB that accompanies it was written by no less than Tarot expert extraordinaire Rachel Pollack. However, unlike many decks where the works of a particular artist are adapted or chosen after the fact by a Tarot writer, or that are developed as a collaboration, the Haindl Tarot was a finished creation in itself before Lotos Verlag ever contacted Pollack.

Pollack was so enthralled by writing up on the Haindl Tarot, that instead of a single book, she produced three  - one dedicated to the majors, 'Haindl Tarot: The Major Arcana'; another to the minors, 'Haindl Tarot: The Minor Arcana'; and a third called 'The Haindl Tarot: A Reader’s Handbook'. The first two have been revised and reprinted and are highly recommended; sadly, the third one remains OOP. The LWB includes excerpts of Pollack’s books.

Haindl did not follow any particular tradition, but instead chose to let the symbolism grow from within as he was painting the images for each card. This is particularly apparent in the minors, which originally carried Thoth titles but were renamed in later editions; i.e., the Two of Wands became 'Self-Control' instead of 'Dominion'. These changes, however, are not reflected in the English edition, which is by US Games, so serious Tarot readers should consult Pollack’s revised book to deepen their knowledge on the subject.

Haindl Tarot
Haindl added runes, planetary symbols and Hebrew letters to the major arcana and I-Ching hexagrams to the pips, transforming every single card into a veritable cornucopia of meanings. Each suit is themed after one of the four points of the compass and a corresponding culture. Thus, wands are East and show Indian motifs; cups are North and Northern European; swords are South and Ancient Egypt; and pentacles (renamed stones) are Native American and West.

The court cards feature historical characters and/or deities of each particular culture. I particularly like the big-bellied, big-breasted Venus of Willendorf as Queen of Cups (or Mother of Cups in the North), the Black Kali as Queen of Wands, and the rather abstract representation of Old-Man as Father of Stones in the West.

At 5” x 3”, the cards are larger than your regular Tarot cards (which tend to be around 4.75” x 2.75” or 4.75” x 3”); the original Lotos printing is even larger, about 6” x 3.5”. While that could make shuffling a tad uncomfortable for some, the wealth of details in these magnificent cards does need room to be truly appreciated. The colors are muted earth tones, and the gray borders are unobtrusive. 

Those who like trimming the borders from their card decks (as I do) may find that trimming the Haindl makes it not only easier to shuffle, but also more vibrant. It is as if freeing the images of those borders which are the color of storm clouds, allows the sun to shine on the somewhat somber and melancholy images and change their mood to a happier one.

The Haindl Tarot is a good deck for any purpose, be it divination, meditation, or study. It is above all, however, a thing of beauty. If you plan on checking it out, it would serve you well to note, as previously mentioned, that the Haindl Tarot bears more resemblance to the Thoth Tarot system than to any other.

Copyright attributions for the Haindl Tarot: US Games; Lotos Verlag

On Amazon: The Haindl Tarot, Minor Arcana The Haindl Tarot, Major Arcana

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The John Waterhouse Oracle Deck

The John Waterhouse Oracle Deck in review
The John Waterhouse Oracle Deck
The John Waterhouse Oracle Deck

About the John Waterhouse Oracle Deck by Seven Stars

Article by Viv Dulac

If you, dear blog reader, have been around Tarot or Lenormand for a while, it's possible that you have already heard of Seven Stars. But if you haven’t, don't feel bad; she is not as well-known as she should be, in my humble opinion. Seven Stars is a well-seasoned Tarot reader, based in Oklahoma. She is also a maker of original decks that are beautiful, vibrant, and unique; I like to think of her as a luthier, one of those people who devote their lives to crafting precious musical instruments. Each and every one of her creations deserves its own review, and perhaps I’ll get to that in time.

Of Seven Stars' works, I personally favor the aptly named Deck of the Bastard - a mash of several classics artificially aged to perfection, and several of her Lenormand decks, some of which she calls “Lenoracles” because of their added cards and definitions. I would like to dedicate today’s review to her new and first oracle: the John Waterhouse Oracle Deck.

The paintings of John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) are so famous that those of you who have not heard of him probably know some of them by sight; copies of his Miranda, Lamia, and Lady of Shalott are literally everywhere one looks. I happen to love them; they are evocative, mysterious, and exquisitely rendered. I also have a weakness for oracle decks; when good, they often make for excellent “cards of the day,” nicely complement a Tarot or Lenormand reading, or can be used on their own in more involved spreads.

Given my admiration for Seven Stars' creations, you can see how purchasing the Waterhouse Oracle Deck was both irresistible and somewhat inevitable! I purchased it as soon as able, and waited, nail biting and all, until the package arrived. Unlike most oracle decks which usually carry 35-50 cards, this one offers 76, almost as many as a regular Tarot. The cards are borderless, unnumbered and unlabeled, and are printed on the silky, luxurious cardstock one has come to expect from Seven Stars. They are a thing of beauty.

Several Waterhouse paintings have been split into two cards, which makes for very interesting readings. A degree of familiarity with the myths and literary works that the paintings illustrate may prove helpful; for instance, a young man staring into his reflection in a pool is Narcissus, enamored of his own image, while a melancholy female figure who (when you join the cards, completing the picture) looks yearningly at him is the nymph Echo, who wasted away in unrequited love and became, well, the echo.

In another card, a damsel kneels alluringly before a handsome knight in full armor. She seems to be lost in adoration; but note the snakeskin that descends around her arm, waist and legs and goes into the ground. She is not the lovely damsel she seems to be, but a Lamia, ready to devour him. Or perhaps she loves him, despite what she is, and wants to protect him from herself? Remember, the cards are not labeled or numbered in any way, and there is no book, so your intuition is free to decide. I loved, loved, loved the John Waterhouse Oracle Deck, and could not wait to share it with you; I hope you resonate with it. Here is the link to Seven Stars' Etsy store, and here's the link to her website.

All copyrights to the John Waterhouse Oracle deck images belong to or are relative to its author or publisher.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Winged Spirit Tarot Review

Winged Spirit Tarot
Winged Spirit Tarot review

Reviewing the Winged Spirit Tarot

By Viv Dulac

I have a confession to make: I'm not a fan of angels. I do like the idea of angels as liaisons between our world and the divinities though. And I find the hierarchies of Judeo-Christian angelology... intriguing to say the least. But, as a whole, angels leave me cold. And within the increasing proliferation of angel Tarot and oracle card decks, there exists a deplorable tendency towards the fluffy and the sugary; I see feathered wings, and I run in the opposite direction –well, unless it is a flying peacock, such as this.

There are, however, a couple of exceptions, and one of them is the Winged Spirit Tarot, by David Sexton. Published by US Games in 1999, it has sadly gone out of print, though it can still be bought quite cheaply through places like eBay. It is a Tarot deck structured around the Rider-Waite tradition; I have deliberately left (Pamela Colman) Smith out of the equation because the Winged Spirit’s images owe very little to Smith’s classic illustrations.

The cards show muscular figures in balletic poses, set against a featureless background. The pearlescent hue of the background changes with the suit: cloudy grey (majors), burnt orange (wands), lilac (cups), greenish-blue (swords) and acid green (pentacles). For all those contortions, Sexton’s art has a hieratic, stained-glass quality that is explicit in the Fool and is more or less implicit in the rest of the cards. The backs are fully reversible.

Each of the minor suits features a set of characters that appear in all the pip cards in different circumstances; they could be telling a story, or enacting the diverse aspects of a particular situation. In this respect, I found the LWB – devoted to “the bridges between humankind, tarot and angels”— particularly helpful. “Little white books” (the booklets that come with most Tarot decks) tend to be hit or miss, but this one (written by Sexton himself) is satisfactorily substantial.

There are enough shades of the esoteric in the Winged Spirit Tarot and its LWB, to pique the interest of those so inclined. Personally, I feel that this is a deck designed to spur the reader’s intuition. The hands of the hooded, somber angel that haunts the suit of swords speak to me, as does the scarlet lady that appears on the Moon card (and that the LWB identifies as Lilith), and the same goes for the gentle Page of Wands. Perhaps that's the reason why some people find it “decorative” – it either speaks to you or it doesn't. It is, in any case, not recommended for the novice, unless of course the images appeal strongly to your intuition.

The cards are quite large, and heavily laminated, which makes for a thick, heavy, unyielding deck – its only downside for me. Trimming the sides could make them more manageable for those with small hands, and a little fanning powder or card wax (available in magic stores) will make shuffling them easier for everyone.

All in all, the Winged Spirit Tarot (whose author has also created the Tarot of Oz) is a worthy addition to any Tarot collection, if only because of its beauty and relative rarity. It can also be a godsend for the intuitively inclined reader. I hope this review has at least stirred your curiosity about this mostly forgotten little gem.

Winged Spirit Tarot card images copyright (c) US Games Systems Inc

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Golden Tarot (Kat Black)

Golden Tarot by Kat Black, comparison
First row: Wheel of Fortune, Visconti Sforza (Lo Scarabeo); Wheel of Fortune, Golden; Wheel of Fortune, RWS. Second row: Queen of Wands, RWS; Queen of Wands, Golden; Queen of Wands, True Tarot of Marseilles, Hadar (Spanish edition).

The images above and below serve to encourage you to compare the Golden Tarot to other decks - both the RWS, which some say that it clones, and a couple of vintage decks as well.

Reviewing the Golden Tarot (Kat Black)

By Viv Dulac

Nowadays, when one says Golden Tarot, a lot of possible decks come to mind. They include Race Point’s beautiful reproduction of the Visconti-Sforza playing card pack, as well as Lo Scarabeo’s whole collection of Tarot decks enhanced with golden foil. But long before them all, there was one Golden Tarot: that of Australian artist Kat Black.

My first Tarot deck ever – apart from an incomplete Marseilles received as a gift from a witch - was the Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack by U.S. Games Systems, with the yellow box and the blue backs. I remember the trepidation with which I bought it. I looked at it, read the accompanying book by E.A. Waite, and put it aside. Somehow, for me, the cards lacked the magic I expected from them.

Many years later, my interest in Tarot was renewed. Among other books and other traditions, I discovered Eden Gray’s A Complete Guide to the Tarot and Rachel Pollack’s Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, and was hooked. The problem was that, well, I still found Pamela Colman Smith’s images uninspiring. To the rescue came Kat Black. Both an accomplished artist and a Tarot connoisseur, she spent years patiently deconstructing European paintings from the 1300s to the early 1500s and assembling her Tarot images through layer upon layer of digital collage. The most astounding thing about these cards is that they do not look collaged, as most collage-based decks do. They look like real paintings of the era.

There has been some debate as to whether the Golden Tarot is an RWS clone or not. Tarotpedia, for instance, does classify it as a “sumptuous Waite-Smith clone”, whereas Black herself has a very different opinion. Personally, I feel that, while she does stay faithful to the Waite-Smith in spirit, she pays homage to other traditions, and does bring new and different things to the table.

Golden Tarot by Kat Black, comparison 
First row: Ace of Cups, RWS; Ace of Cups, Golden; The Sun, RWS; The Sun, Golden. Second row: The Moon, Golden; The Moon, RWS; Six of Wands, Golden; Six of Wands, RWS.

Her take on the Wheel of Fortune, for instance, plays a little like “find the reference” (her St. Joseph is almost straight out of the Visconti-Sforza), but her use of the Nativity theme gives the Wheel a whole new spin, if you will pardon the pun. On one hand, the baby Jesus does effectively illustrate the traditional meaning of the card from humble origins to divinity. But on the other, by introducing the numinous, his presence hints at an idea of transcendence from the wheel, that is in my humble opinion, entirely new, and uses the Christian symbols in a way that will resonate even for non-Christians. It reminds me, for instance, of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment stopping, or breaking through the Karmic Wheel of Life. 
Published in 2004 by U.S. Games, the cards have beautiful, reversible backs, lovely borders, and luxurious gilded edges. (As a compulsive trimmer, I hesitated a lot before lopping them off. They are lovely). The cardstock is on the sturdier side, but it does become more supple with wear. The box is both sturdy and striking, and the cards are accompanied by a pretty substantial book – not to mention pretty - also by Black. Amazingly enough, this little gem is widely and cheaply available everywhere.

Kat Black’s kaleidoscope of Renaissance images somehow reconciled me to the Waite-Smith cards, which I have come to value and respect for the legacy they are. But my heart, I regret to say, is with the Golden Tarot.

Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright ©1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck® is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

The RWS images are scans from the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative (Centennial) Tarot.

The images shown are acknowledged to be the property of their respective legal copyright holders. And with that said, these images may not be used without permission.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tarot: The Dark Season of Samhain; a Quickie Review, Multiple Decks

Samhain Tarot cards
From top left: Vampire Tarot by Robert Place, Bohemian Gothic by Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov, 
Bosch Tarot by Lo Scarabeo, Tarot of Vampyres by Ian Daniels, Deviant Moon by Patrick Valenza,
Gothic Tarot by Joseph Vargo.

This post revisits a piece written by Viv a couple of years back.

Samhain Related Tarot Decks in the Spotlight

Yummy dark themed cards!

By Viv Dulac

The dark season of Samhain recently came and left – at least here in the northern hemisphere (Oct 31st). In ancient Celtic lore, it was believed that the gods of winter, the fairies and the spirits of the dead walked more freely amongst us on Samhain. Be it as it may, let’s celebrate the beginning of the dark season by taking a look at some dark, gothic, and mysterious decks. And what would be more appropriate for beginnings than taking a look at their first card?

The Fool of Robert Place’s Vampire Tarot is no other than Jonathan Harker, entering the castle of Count Dracula in remote Transylvania. We do not see his face. He wears the dark, conventional clothes of his profession. He climbs the stairs, apparently oblivious to the fact that the door he is about to enter resembles a monster’s maw, from whose eyes blood streams as if the monster were crying. Blood also drips from the barred window at his right hand, and from the banister at his left. Will he let that monster swallow him? Will he survive the trials that await him inside that lugubrious castle?

The androgynous Fool of the Bohemian Gothic Tarot (by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov of Magic Realist Press) seems about to gracefully step off a gargoyle and into the void. Is that the moon at his back, or is it the sun? It is hard to tell, with those roiling clouds blotting out the light. He or she appears lost in an elaborate dancing step, or is perhaps immersed in casting a spell. Will she survive the fall? Why is he up on that tower?

Lo Scarabeo’s Bosch Tarot shows a vagabond figure that seems in accord with the Marseilles traditional card. His clothes are ragged, and he carries a walking staff; but instead of the usual dog, he is wresting his staff from the jaws of a nightmarish beast, all hooves and ears. The landscape behind him is open and beautiful, but why is the soil next to him such a bright, arterial red? Is that the road, or grass, or a pool of blood?

Ian Daniels’ Tarot of Vampyres (Llewellyn) also features a dancing, androgynous figure. This Fool extends pale, tattooed arms; there is a blood chalice in his/her raised left hand, and a white, bleeding and luminous rose in the right one. Red roses bloom around the tomb the Fool is dancing on, and up in the air a murder of crows fly high – or is it a kettle of hawks?

White and red are the colors that the Fool of Patrick Valenza’s Deviant Moon Tarot (U.S. Games) is wearing. It is hard to tell if it is a jester’s getup or pajamas. He is walking in water to his ankles – in Venice? I see a gondola on the right side - and, instead of the traditional Marseilles dog, he is being attacked by a couple of greenish fish that look like enormous piranhas.

The mist that envelops the Fool card in Joseph Vargo’s Gothic Tarot is also greenish - a sickly, yellowish green. Accompanied by a black wolf, a ragged, hooded figure looks on from a dilapidated gate. A ghost? A vampire? It is hard to tell. Would he or she come down those steps and venture onto that seemingly treacherous terrain? At least the wolf appears to be an ally, not an enemy.

Samhain Tarot Review; the Fledgling, Wisdom of the House of Night oracle
Wisdom of the House of Night oracle, 
by Colette Baron Reid and P.C. Cast.

Finally, the Fledgling from the Wisdom of the House of Night oracle, by Colette Baron Reid and P.C. Cast (and Jena Della Grottaglia) reminds us that “we cannot know things until we experience them.” The Fool, the Fledgling, has to take that step, no matter how unprepared or how foolish he or she may feel. Do not be afraid of the dark. As Ursula K. Le Guin puts it, darkness is “the right hand of light,” and the two are one.

Here's hoping you had a Happy Samhain!

Copyrights to images used belong to their respective legal holders, more often than not that's the publisher. Do not reproduce these images without permission from site owner.

Deviant Moon Tarot (Patrick Valenza) in Review

Deviant Moon tarot

This post revisits a review written by Steven a couple of years back.

Deviant Moon Tarot Review

By Steven Seinberg

No other deck in my Tarot collection gives rise to the intensely polarizing effect that the Deviant Moon inspires. People really like it...or they really, really don't. It doesn't prompt much in the way of indifference. Surprisingly, then, this is a deck that actually has very strong ties to the familiar Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) template. Card nomenclature and deck structure almost universally follow the RWS mold; the only exception is the Justice card holding position VIII, with Strength at XI.

So if the deck's underlying structure and terminology are transferred almost whole cloth from the widely embraced RWS deck...then why are the reactions to the Deviant Moon so strong?

Deviant Moon tarot

In a Word Visuals:

Patrick Valenza started with a drawing for each card, then used a computer to stack on subsequent layers of imagery winnowed out from photographs that he took in local cemeteries and in an abandoned insane asylum. Think about the kind of energy such source material might add to the mix, even on more subtle levels!

Also, the artist's taste for the dark and the macabre isn't limited to the original building blocks of his artwork. He seems to enjoy presenting those same elements in his finished pieces. His style might appeal to those who appreciate the works of, say, Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, or Tim Burton. It's this darkness that seems to either attract or repel people.

Admirers find his odd little characters, and the intensely earnest ways in which they go about their various little bits of business, to be whimsical and endearing. Those less impressed, however, find the deck to be creepy, scary, unsettling, nightmarish, and distinctly lacking in whimsy. This seems to add up to an irreconcilable case of different folks preferring their different strokes…
Meanwhile, love it or loathe it, the deck itself offers an utterly consistent and well-imagined little world. All the action seems to take place in and around one fantastical city, which is subdivided into several districts, each with its own personality.

The Suit of Pentacles takes place in an industrial section of the city, all gadgetry and factories. The Court Cards feature characters whose garb is as much machine as clothing, and they all wear hats or helmets that belch fumes, much like the omnipresent smokestacks in the backgrounds of virtually every card in this Suit. The citizens here – inventors, misers, flesh-peddlers – can be bright and innovative, but they all seem preoccupied with material productivity and gain, often to the detriment of their spiritual selves.

Deviant Moon tarot

The Suit of Swords is the darkest in the deck. It speaks of conflict throughout, and of power struggles and wounds. Its citizens seem to be of aristocratic standing, but beset with suffering, often self-inflicted. The theme seems to be that the intellect itself can be quite the double-edged sword, yielding the great rewards that come with incisive thinking, but also cutting deeply into everything around it at the same time.

The Suit of Cups unfolds in the city's harbor district, often quite visibly adjacent to the sea. There is much more humor and good cheer evident throughout this suit, and the images are eloquent and extra-fantastical. There's the giant fish swallowing up the trio of unworried revelers in the Three...there's the regal genie presumably ready to grant the wishes of the stunned young lad holding the Aladdin-style lamp in the Nine...and there's the fabulous image of what appears to be Death Himself hitting on the female personification of Midnight at what must be a pretty terrific party in the Two…

The Suit of Wands showcases scenes occurring in the fields and forests that border the city. The “fire” captured in these Wands isn't so much about traditional flames, as it is about the life-force found in green and growing things. The Wands characters come across as simple in some ways, hard-working, and often contemplative. They wear much less fancy dress than their fellows in the other three Suits, and seem more directly connected to the land itself. 

The Majors at times vary from their RWS underpinnings in terms of visual details, but their overall meanings still hold. For example, rather than depicting a Fool on the almost obvious precipice, the Deviant Moon's Fool is a manic chap dashing about the city's canals in a nightcap and pajamas, grinning madly upon finding himself in this strange place, with no idea how he came to be there. The card is still about beginnings and potential, but instead of a leap or fall into an abyss, the Majors here begin with an awakening from out of the calm, womb-like waters of a canal. 

Deviant Moon tarot
The Chariot card features a character who has been so successful in achieving focus and marshaling his will, that he has actually become his own chariot. Over in the Moon card, two seemingly higher-class citizens dance puppet-like at the end of a set of gossamer tendrils that have come tumbling down from the mysterious full Moon itself. The image reminds us that regardless of our social standing, we're all to some extent just servants to the whims of all that the Moon represents… 

Overall, this is a tremendously imaginative deck that conveys classic RWS meanings in an unconventional, unique style. It will seem “too dark” for some sensibilities, but will be a true delight to others. The only way to know which end of that spectrum you'll occupy is to give the deck a look for yourself...preferably by moonlight!

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Gorgon's Tarot; A Review

Gorgon's Tarot
Click on images for a clearer view (Blogger compresses images). 

The Gorgon's Tarot, up Close and Personal

By Viv Dulac

Albeit rare, round Tarot decks tend to be memorable. Amongst some others, lies the mother of them all, the Motherpeace; it was the first of the feminist Tarot decks, and it's still going strong after more than 30 years. Then there is the beautiful Tarot of the Cloisters, which is out of print and commands a pretty penny. And this year, fresh from Schiffer, there is the Gorgon’s Tarot...

Created by Dolores Fitchie (a Spanish artist based in London), its vibrant black and white images, which appeared on Fitchie’s website as they were being created, caught the eye of author Andria K. Molina, who was writing a book - A Guide to Tarot and Relationships. Molina wanted to include them in her book; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gorgon's Tarot

The Gorgon’s Tarot comes in the usual Schiffer box, which I have come to enjoy - they are solid, usable, and well designed, although I am aware that they are not everybody’s cup of tea. Two things I did not like stood out immediately. One was expected (the too-shiny, too-sticky Schiffer cardstock), the other was not: its size. At almost 6” in diameter, the Gorgon’s is probably the largest round deck in existence; the regular-size Motherpeace, for instance, is 4.5”. (Fitchie herself has expressed her disappointment about this and is trying to get a smaller version out.) Manipulating these huge round cards is almost like playing Frisbee.

Now for the positive. The cards of the Gorgon’s Tarot deck are just beautiful. In stark black and white, the art manages to be both simple and intricate, and paradoxically the unyielding size shows the images to their best advantage in a way than a more manageable deck would not. The cards follow RWS tradition recognizably, but never slavishly; and I can fully appreciate Fitchie’s personal spin on many of them.

For instance, the female Hermit sits by a fire in her cave, holding a mirror. The cave mouth opens into a desert, and the spirals in the moon seem to continue from the swirling lines of the cave. The overall impression is of serene introspection in search of hidden depths. Death shows two dancing skeletons flanking a coiled serpent that sheds her skin; flowers grow on both sides, and two white cats sleep peacefully. In traditional Golden Dawn fashion, Strength is VIII, Justice XI.

Only two cards show a rather vivid splash of red: the Devil and the card that somehow names the deck, an extra trump or unnumbered “wild card” called The Blind Gorgon. The LWB, or “little black-white-and-red book” in this case, is quite substantial and well written, a big plus in any case.

Gorgon's Tarot

This deck is brimming with feminine energy, and is predominantly populated by females and androgynous figures. However, the males, although fewer, are never seen in a harsh light. Gender balance and/or representation are important for some, so I thought I would mention it here. To me, it feels like a deck that strives for an affirmation of the feminine, not a separation from the masculine.

In short, the Gorgon’s Tarot is an enormous, enormously interesting deck. In its present size, it is not easy to shuffle (although it can be done, as you can see here, but its virtues more than compensate for that shortcoming. Here's to it being shortly available in mini form or at least a more manageable one.

On Amazon: The Gorgon's Tarot

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