Above is a reading I did in honor of the launch of the Indiegogo campaign for the Raziel Tarot Major Arcana special edition. The spread was a variant on Zoe Matoff’s Don’do/Do three-card spread, where the center card is first, then the card on the left, then the right, while the fourth card is the bottom of the deck. Zoe calls that “what’s at the bottom of this.”
The big difference here, however, is that the cards on either side of the center are not “don’t do” and “do,” but simply supporting energies for the central card, which represents the basic situation.
I actually looked at the bottom card, Strength, first, so I will discuss that first. The Strength card shows the Queen of Sheba, guarded by her lion, an animal associated with Goddesses throughout the ancient Mediterranean. There is an Ethiopian legend (the land of Sa’ba included parts of Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula) that King Solomon gave the Queen a ring engraved with the Lion of Judah, which then passed through the ages to Haile Selassie.
Sheba came to test Solomon’s legendary wisdom, and he surpassed all her expectations. Thus, part of this Strength card, as the root of the reading, is that the Raziel Tarot is a kind of treasure chest of wisdom and lore. I do not say this to brag about my or Robert Place’s great knowledge, but rather because the deck is based on the thousands of years of Jewish myth, mysticism (Kabbalah and other traditions), magic, and tradition.
The central card of the actual three card reading is The Sun, card 19. The image is based on the Tarot of Marseilles Sun card (compared to many other cards, such as The Lovers on the right, which are based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). It shows two young people rising from the shards of a broken bowl and celebrating the light.
The idea comes from the Kabbalistic myth known as the “breaking of the vessels.” Very briefly, this teaches that at Creation, God’s light traveled through the ten “vessels” on the Tree of Life. Vessels 4-9, however, could not contain such power and broke, with the pieces falling into 10, the material world. Restoration comes when each of us liberates our own inner light. Publication of the deck is a kind of liberation of its inner light.
The Sun card also comes after a series of trials in the cards before it, and shows the joy of having passed the tests (helped by the wisdom and knowledge of Strength). For Robert and myself, of course, the publication of the Major Arcana cards is indeed a joyous event. The deck was a labor of love, but definitely labor, and for me, this period working on it has also seen me struggle with cancer. Recently I finished a very intense second round of chemo, so the publication of the Raziel Tarot is joyous on many levels.
To the left we see the Hanged Man. The image comes from a Jewish myth of an angel named Shemhazai, who suspends himself, upside-down, between Heaven and Earth, either (there are two versions) to atone for falling to temptation, or to offer himself as a kind of sacrifice to plead with God not to destroy all humanity in the Flood.
What strikes me most in this reading is the idea of a link between Heaven and Earth. The deck is based on stories and mystical teachings, and yet it is still a traditional Tarot deck, based in many ways on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Notice the stony ground at his feet. So many people come to the cards when we have troubles, when life feels like stones. But then there is the light beyond the face. Because the Raziel Tarot is linked to spiritual ideas and stories, it can bring us to a greater awareness, and a sense that readings about our personal problems can lead us to something beyond ourselves.
To the right we see The Lovers. The picture (inspired by the Rider Lovers) shows the central myth underlying the deck–that an angel named Raziel (“God is my secret”) gave a book–some say a magical stone–to Adam and Eve when they had to leave the Garden. This book of secrets revealed both the mysteries of the cosmos, and all future events. This is also the central myth of Tarot for at least 230 years–that it reveals the hidden structure of existence, yet also can be used for divination.
On one level, the card’s presence here simply marks the fact that Robert and I are giving this new deck to the world, the way Raziel gave the Book to our ancestors. On another, it celebrates the deck as a deck based in love as well as secrets.
Here is the link for the Indiegogo campaign for the deck: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-raziel-tarot-majors-edition-cards/x/116526#/