An Overdue News/Letter
The Wheel turns again . . .
Veteran EP readers won’t be surprised by this post. But for those who signed up since the last newsletter went out—I just want to let you know there’s plenty of lighter fare available in the EP archives. Here are some guided tours:
And here’s a quick recap/introduction:
This publication started out as an “Exploration Project.” Not just in name, but in purpose. And I believe it has fulfilled that description along the way.
My goal? Creating a place where I could look both deeply and broadly at Tarot—finding new ways to think about the subject, discovering valuable resources, highlighting significant issues, and revisiting parts of modern Tarot history.
My method (insofar as I had one!) has been threefold:
Follow the leads presented by serendipity, which have very often taken me to Tarot-related items I would never have thought to look for
Think about how Tarot might relate to some general topic or specific idea that has interested me
Ask myself what Tarot-related opinions/experiences I have that would be worth sharing with others
That threefold path has been fascinating to follow, and I’ve learned a great deal along the way. But now, eighteen months later, there is a new and compelling question:
What is worth saying about Tarot today, in a world where our temporary illusions of safety and order have been shattered yet again?
Here’s my answer.
We are watching a strange proof of why Tarot is so powerful
Let’s assume the Tarot trumps were created as small paintings sometime in the mid-fifteenth century, and were later recreated in a reasonably similar printed version. There were many variations in style, but a core set of images persisted, and remains recognizable today.
Here’s the remarkable realization: At least six centuries have elapsed since those images first appeared—and yet every single thing represented in them is still right before our eyes, every day. You can choose a set of trumps to represent any story, fictional or factual, personal or global—past, present, or future.
If you think of history as a series of Tarot spreads, you will see there have been times with more positive cards than negative ones. More Stars and Justices than Devils and Towers. More Lovers than Deaths.
At other times, the balance has been reversed. And there have been long periods in which there was an overwhelming preponderance of dark cards.
Most non-historians don’t give much thought to the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), a series of inter-connected conflicts that raged across Europe for 116 years—killing at least two million people. But students of Tarot will notice that this very long war ended just around the time we know of early Tarots.
Now let’s give a thought to the Thirty Years War (1618 to 1648), in which at least three times as many people were killed, in one-third the time. Millions dead, and by some estimates, half the population of Germany wiped out.
Students of Tarot will notice that this protracted and destructive conflict ended just around the time we have the earliest examples of Marseilles-type Tarot.
Based on these striking “co-incidences” (and much more could be said), I suggest that Tarot, as we know it, is a distillation of the cosmos, or known reality, as revealed by war.
It’s a prevalent assumption that the original Tarot images were shaped by a pervasive Catholic religiosity. I could offer a dispute, but let’s not bother. After all, religious zeal—along with thirst for power, material greed, hubris, and ideological obsession—is one of the threads permanently intertwined in warfare, from the Siege of Troy to Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine.
So it’s all the same story. And that story is condensed into the Tarot. Intentionally or otherwise, it doesn’t matter.
The “plot” of the story is not circumstantial, it is archetypal. That means it will play out along lines that are predetermined—by fate, by human nature, or however you want to look at it. And it has never ended, just paused.
We are presently watching the same chain of events that has transpired over millennia in different forms. But like everything else in modern life, it is now speeded up, and magnified. So we have a time-lapse view of this archetypal process. Plus a fore-knowledge of its outcome.
Not one war in history has ended cleanly, or left the world in a better place. People just stop for a while, nurse their grievances, plot their revenge, and look for the next excuse or provocation. Not everyone, of course—but a majority.
In the last couple of centuries, there have been efforts to prevent the next round of bloodshed, and we even see a little progress in that direction. But it’s a very steep uphill journey. And in a sense . . . Tarot tells us why this is so.
Every trump is like a see-saw, tipping from light to dark. The Fool is a sage or an idiot, The Chariot is constructive or destructive energy, The Star could be aspiration or delusion. And so on.
Since entropy always tends toward disorder (that’s why a broken egg cannot become unbroken), every time you put the seesaw back into balance, it will stay that way for a while, then slowly tip toward darkness and disorder. Exactly the same thing happens in the lives of individuals, and of nations.
We can level out the see-saw, time after time. But since combatting entropy takes more energy than just going along, it takes a lot of effort. And humans (as a species) don’t work that hard proactively. They wait until there is no choice.
So here we are, again.
Closing thought: Tarot is arguably the best of all divinatory tools, though that is only one use. It works for many purposes because the Major Arcana provides us with a condensed catalog of the cosmos, depicting every element I can think of—and it is utterly realistic about the mixture of goodness and evil that makes up our world.
For that reason, we can use it to study anything realistically. Even war.
We can also use it to evade reality, by pushing down on the light side of the see-saw, and insisting on a happy meaning for every card. But that seems like a waste.
Which brings me to the Wheel, turning again. I’ve rethought this publication several times over the past eighteen months—and it seems like time for another re-think.
I am clear on one thing. I’ll be continuing the Tarot | In Four Dimensions series. The first group has reached the third month, and I plan to start another group on May 1. Here’s a preview, if you’re interested.
I also want to continue the Tarot Time Capsule. I’m not sure exactly how that should work, but will update soon. Beyond those two decisions, I’m still dithering.
Thanks as always, to everyone. C