The Alchemical Visions Tarot was born out of ten years of study of Jungian psychology. Combining his interests in mysticism, mythology, psychology, anthropology, and art, Arthur Taussig has created a deck to be used as a powerful tool for self-transformation—personal alchemy. He focuses on the cards as a path for the Great Work—the journey of the Traveler from an unconscious state to one of integrated conscious wholeness. These complex and beautiful cards are rich with multiple layers of symbolism and are meant to be studied one by one. Through this process each card becomes a key to unlocking the subconscious mind. Taussig’s deck presents a pathway for understanding the work of the alchemists, universal archetypes, and the quest for psychic health.
PAGE OF WANDS
Just as the leaves burst forth from the great wand, so the animal skin seems to be curling back to expose the Page. His outer psychic layers are being removed and the core of the man is being exposed. The leopard, according to Cirlot, “like the tiger and panther, expresses the aggressive and powerful aspects of the lion without his solar significance.” The pattern on the leopard’s skin resembles eyes and thus relates to the many-eyed giant, Argus Panoptes (or Argos), of Greek mythology. Jealous Hera set Argos as a watchman over Io, one of Zeus’ mortal lovers. Symbolically, Argos watches over the psychic feminine, the Anima. However, simply “watching” the Anima is a very weak way of learning and interacting. Thus, shedding the “watching” mode and accepting the Anima with open arms is a much better strategy. And this is exactly what the Page is doing.
The Page’s gesture of pride and open arms speaks to his past psychic work in both gathering the Earth’s psychic energies and controlling them. Without past work on various aspects of his psyche, he could not have arrived in this place. His Persona, the outermost layer of the personality, the aspect of ourselves that we present in public, means little to him. He does not fear the shedding of his outer skin to reveal the man underneath.
For the first time, an ordinary woman appears in a Tarot card. Yet her title is the very opposite of the cultural stereotype for a woman—Strength. Despite the changes in the culture vis-à-vis the role of women, this woman represents inner strength. As the Anima, she will mediate between the male Traveler’s ego and the more primitive, animalistic powers within the psyche. By taming his animal nature, she will rescue the Traveler from being wholly under its thrall. For all its danger and threat, the lion is traditionally associated with wisdom—a good prognosis for the Traveler about to meet the personal lion of the unconscious. Wild beasts are often symbolic of self-fulfillment because they are true to their instinctive natures.
In most Tarot decks, we see a woman who must deal with and overpower a single lion. She typically has her hands on his mouth, either opening it or attempting to close it. In this card, she faces six lions—the number that Pythagoreans acknowledged to be the first perfect number (1 + 2 + 3 = 6). Typically, the number six symbolizes beauty and high ideals. Numerologically, six is associated with a loving, caring, and healing nature. It also represents self-sacrifice which, the woman of Strength is more than willing to do to gain whatever benefits may accrue, not to her, but to the Traveler and to the collective she serves.
The Empress sits enthroned in the midst of an ancient forest. She is the first figure of the Tarot who faces us directly and makes strong eye contact with the Traveler. Whereas the High Priestess represents the spiritual feminine, the Empress rules closer to our mundane world. While the world of the High Priestess is occupied by monsters, gargoyles, and invisible people, the world of the Empress has no such creatures. She rules a kingdom of human beings, male and female, old and young, happy and sad. She is the fruitful mother of multitudes. Flowers flow from her genitals indicating abundance. She is above all things universal fecundity.
On a tree near her throne is a shield to remind us that, if necessary, the Empress becomes a warrior. The golden eagle atop her shield, according to Cirlot, is “an emblem of the sublimated soul in the bosom of spirituality.” There are two more shields behind the Empress, heart-shaped and with the symbol of the planet Venus. These shields tell us she is a warrior of the heart, and should she become a warrior in the mundane world, she will still be a woman.
Before Justice is an armillary sphere, a starry messenger. This spherical astrolabe is a model of objects in the sky—framework of rings, centered on the Earth or the Sun (which are here absent—Justice supersedes the self-centered ego). Yet this three-dimensional map is better for the psychic journey than the simple scroll to the left.
The Armillary sphere provides a map of the universe giving the lines of celestial latitude and longitude, the location of all significant celestial objects. Next to the Armillary sphere is the real thing—the universe. It is represented by a three-dimensional solid sphere on which are emblazoned myriad stars. This is the goal of the journey, a journey that can only be achieved with the help of Justice meting out her feminine wisdom.
Justice, reinforced by her astrological relation to the constellation of Libra, represents not so much the concept of external justice or social order as she does the idea that there is a mechanism involved in the process of setting in motion the internal wheel and cogs of the psyche to distinguish the path that leads to psychic health from all the other side paths, dead ends, or the quicksand that will swallow the Traveler, who may be drowned in the chaos of the unconscious.
Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, The Alchemical Visions Tarot by Arthur Taussig is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.