The Star, Goddess at First Light

You’ve got to hand it to Pamela Colman Smith on this one. She took one of the least attractive cards in the Tarot de Marseilles deck, and without substituting any major new elements, turned it into one of the prettiest cards in the RWS deck. But new or old look, The Star raises many questions. Who is she? What Star in particular? Why eight points on the star? Why eight stars? Its order in the majors is important, for one. It is first light after the darkness of The Tower. This is why it’s dawn. And the Goddess appears to be the female goddess from the dawn of civilization herself: Ishtar. There are a number of reasons for the eight stars of eight points each, some of which Waite rolled into his mystical Christian skewing of the tarot. Waite was as heavy-handed on this one as Colman Smith’s hand was deft. The Star is one of those cards where stories and myths abound; and it is through those stories and myths that we can understand it better.

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The Six of Swords – A One Page Guide

It is no doubt a startlingly long leap from Charon, the ferryman of Hades who’ll leave your spirit wandering on the shore of the river Styx for one hundred years if you don’t have the penny for his fare, to a positive affirmation of life and continuity that foresees safe journey through the person of your child. It is odder still, in my opinion, to see A.E. Waite, in the Six of Swords, not only make that leap but also get away with it! We shall see that an unusual word—commissionary, a Christian qabalistic take on Tiphareth, and perhaps a bit of “soloing” by Colman Smith while Waite wasn’t looking are the clues by which we arrive at this serrendipity for what otherwise might be a dreary card.

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The Five of Swords – A One Page Guide

The desolation and despair of the Five of Swords contains the seeds of recovery. Note, first, the difference between Waite’s and the Golden Dawn’s divinatory meanings. They’re both about loss, but the GD’s meanings are about personal losses, while Waite’s are communal. Waite has changed the focus and intensified the divinatory meanings. The astrological and planetary influences in particular suggest, through Ganymede, Saturn and Venus, the Trojan War. And the qabalistic influence brings us the fiery left hand of the Almighty. Waite’s state-oriented divinatory meanings of infamy and dishonor recall, possibly, the “traitors” of Homer’s Iliad: one who had a section of Hell named after him by Dante, and another who reputedly invented the game of dice! But the alternative, the hero, may be in plain sight, the “master in possession of the field.” Because for every Ganymede, swept up and buggered by the gods, or for every traitor slinking away by sea, there is an Odysseus, the most famous adventurer literature has ever known, or an Aeneas or a Brutus of Troy, the latter two having founded great empires. This article considers whether Waite and Colman Smith had Troy in mind when they designed the Five of Swords card.

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The Seven of Swords – A One Page Guide

The Seven of Swords draws us in deeply. It makes us wonder what the story behind it is: is it simple theft or a military operation? It holds drama: will he be caught? Colman Smith illustrates Waite’s divinatory meanings, centered around a cunning but risky plan, taking the story of Zeus and Ganymede as her cue. That Colman Smith depicts the thief at a moment when it looks like he’s going to pull the job off adds a positive spin to the divinatory meanings of the Seven of Swords. This is like a modern heist film in which the gang of thieves are the heroes. Previously I had looked on this as a card only of sneakiness and theft. But now I look at it as something that speaks of planning and intelligence, possibly bravery; definitely high risk, high gain. It’s been fun forcing myself to look at each of the minor arcana as if I’d never really looked at it before. The Seven of Swords was a particularly fun one.

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