An Equinox Newsletter
Welcome to Spring, 2022 . . . .
Hello all. I think Substack did not send this out as scheduled yesterday. I decided to resend, with a small correction. Hope you get this one. C
Of course—I was looking forward to the Vernal Equinox of 2022. A year I thought would be perfect for a deep focus on Tarot.
The first day of Spring is like an opening door, through which we usually catch a glimpse of fresh green foliage and bright blue skies, just ahead. It’s hard to focus on those inviting images right now, with so much darkness in the world—but I thought I’d start out with something to remind us of happier days . . . .
The Cosmic Egg Tarot
In the spring of 1987, Tarot theorist Guido Gillabel was inspired by the mythic dimensions of Easter to create 22 major arcana designs—based on the archetypal symbolism of birth and rebirth. He executed the designs in minimalist (almost diagrammatic) ink drawings, and produced a limited edition of 2.5”x 2.5” decks.
I’m lucky enough to own set 11/99.
Here are The Fool and The Empress from Gillabel’s original deck.
Two years later, artist and collaborator Carol Herzer translated those original designs into a series of richly colorful paintings, producing a slightly larger (3.4” x 3.4”) deck:
A tiny booklet accompanies each of the decks, offering Gillabel’s brief commentaries. For example:
0. The Fool represents “the cosmic egg,” out of which everything arises and in which everything finally disappears. He is the breath of the universe, in and out. He identifies himself neither with the one nor with the other. Thus he is free from the limitation of identification.
. . . freedom / liberation, folly / purity . . .
In revisiting these two wonderfully inventive decks, I discovered that Guido’s brother Dirk (who is also Carol Herzer’s life companion), had created a counterpart to the “Cosmic Egg”—in this case, the “Physical Egg.”
For his playful project, Dirk painted directly on empty egg shells, spontaneously creating simplified images that reflect the essentials of Tarot iconography.
So . . . this gifted trio has provided us with three ways to contemplate the archetypes of origination and return, permanence and change.
And that brings us back to the reality of 2022 . . . .
So far, this year has been dominated by a few themes, symbolized in our darkest Tarot trumps:
The Tower, for disaster
The Devil, for greed
Death, for . . . well, death
It would be nice to think that someday this terrible ordeal will end in “renewal” (or some other euphemistic notion) for the people of Ukraine. But in reality, many of them will just be dead.
Vladimir Putin seems type-cast as The Devil. But I think we also have to throw in a little Hierophant (for his mystical obsession with Ukraine), and some Emperor (for his evident identification with Peter the Great and other rulers of Imperial Russia).
There’s one other association—which I didn’t think of at first. In Russian, the name “Putin” is usually said to mean “road” or “path.” But according to this discussion on Language Log, the word “putin” is not used to talk about roads or paths, only as a surname. And as a name, it’s generally taken to mean “someone on the path” or “going along the way.”
Which of course puts one in mind of The Fool: a card that seems to reflect almost perfectly the heedless hubris of Putin’s most recent war. Clearly, he did not think through the consequences before stepping off this particular cliff.
So no problem putting together a Tarot portrait of Putin. But what about Volodymyr Zelenskyy? His surname is related to the color green in some way—I couldn’t find out more than that. And it’s obviously interesting that he and Putin have slightly different versions of the same given name. Both versions come from Old Slavic, and mean (more or less) “great or famous ruler.”
My choice for Zelenskyy’s Tarot avatar would be The Magician. Not just for his background as an entertainer, but also for an interpretation of The Magician that’s often overlooked: someone who can change. Though Magician is routinely identified with the shapeshifting Trickster archetype, there’s a tendency to think of Trickster mainly as one who plays tricks. Or someone who creates complexity, even chaos.
However . . . consider the classic story, in which Trickster is seen walking one direction, then flipping his hat, so it’s a different color when he walks back. You can look at that as a trick—a “con”—and it’s true that in the folktale, Trickster means to cause mischief. But you can also think about someone telling two different stories about themselves, through two different projections.
I like to believe that people have many dimensions, and can adapt to changing circumstances by drawing on different parts of their own nature. But we rarely see that happen in real time, or under such consequential circumstances—so Zelenskyy’s perceived transformation has been all the more affecting.
One other trump is needed, I think, to lay out the story of what’s happening right now: The Hanged Man. Individually and collectively, consciously and unconsciously, we find ourselves in a state of suspension. Poised on the brink, perhaps. Or stuck in outworn systems, outdated assumptions.
With no good options.
So as not to end on a completely bleak note, I’ll let you know that CNN/Impact, along with Public Good, created a hub site where you can easily send aid to Ukraine. Donate to a central fund that supports 37 different groups, or review the individual groups and choose the best fit(s) for your personal affinities.
As always, thanks so much for reading. And don’t give up on Spring. C