Newsletter 0

The beginning of a journey . . .

While I was making a nicely worked-out plan for the first month of my new newsletter—I came across a flurry of things I already can’t wait to write about.

And so: I decided to offer a couple of teasers, along with something I wanted to share right away.

First, the teasers . . .

Last weekend I wrote a story for my Medium publication, focusing on the “New Revolution” in Tarot that unfolded between 1970 and 2000. I set out to create a year-by-year timeline of significant events—and in the process, came upon a few items I hadn’t known about.

First, the life of Bill Butler, whose Dictionary of Tarot (1975) was an early and valuable attempt to organize/describe multiple deck designs and interpretations for each card, all in one volume. Here’s a sample—a bit fuzzy, but it gives the idea:

Butler’s book is long out of print, with just a few “well-used” copies available from Amazon at $50+—so I didn’t want to tear mine up for scanning. Someone was willing to, though, and kindly made the whole book available for free reading on the Internet Archive. If you’d like to see more, just visit archive.org and search on the title.

After revisiting this ambitious book—which also has an extensive and very useful glossary—I wondered what had become of Bill Butler after writing it. The story that emerged from my research was unexpectedly important, but ended on a sad note.

Butler, who was just 43, died a little over a year after Dictionary of the Tarot was published. Which accounts for why you may never have heard of him.

His story, however, turns out to be part of the poetry/Tarot complex that bloomed in mid-century; and at the same time, it’s a cautionary tale of British censorship. So I look forward to writing more about Butler’s life and work in a future newsletter.

I’ll make the other teaser short for now. This one relates to the counterculture/Tarot nexus—and in fact, it actually is a “Counterculture Tarot.” There were several decks styled as such, of course, but this project is something more and very different, using photographs and commentary to chronicle the 1960s through the metaphor of Tarot.

I may be the last Tarot enthusiast to know about the Counterculture Tarot. But in case not (or even so), I’ll look forward to offering a substantive overview soon.

In the meantime, here’s something I wanted to share immediately—taken from poet Diane di Prima’s 1978 manuscript “Structures of Magic and Techniques of Visioning.” She writes:

I’m interested in the combining of the Tarot—the Tree as it was worked out by the Golden Dawn people and later people in terms of changing my point of view or my perspective so that my way of seeing the world is in terms of correspondence, so that everything has a thickness of dimensionality instead of linearity, so that blue also means Jupiter and also means whatever planet it means, [and Wheel of Fortune card and lapis or sapphire] so that everything moves thru several dimensions at once like certain so-called “primitive" languages do: both because it’s a way of seeing and because it’s a way of using words and image that seems to me breaks down the necessity for metaphor in the old sense and makes all that stuff obsolete. I really want to enter that head and live there, not just have it as a quaint old idea, the idea of correspondence.

This passage made me realize that I have understood correspondences mostly as an abstract, informational matter. Di Prima’s poetic perspective opens up a sense of what it would be like actually to experience the world as a web of interconnected qualities, in such a way that “everything has a thickness of dimensionality instead of linearity.”

Mary Greer, whose work illuminates so many aspects of Tarot, includes a concise yet comprehensive table of correspondences in Appendix C of Tarot for Your Self. But for me, anyway, it took a found bit of poetic musing to engage my imagination, and make the table come alive.


That’s it for Newsletter 0. Please join me for issues 1 through 4 by clicking below!