About New Wine and Old Farts in the Tarot

Old and new Tarot readers

Credo quia Absurdum (I believe because it is absurd / impossible / irrational)

The company name of Ana Fragateiro en Tiago Pimentel

I follow a lot of Tarot blogs because I’m always curious about the insights of other tarotists. One of those blogs is written by a man who is very passionate about the Tarot. He has been working with the Tarot for almost 50 years and he is a well known Tarot tutor and mentor in the US. He sometimes posts 2 blogs a day, all very extensive and also very educational. His specialty is the Crowley Tarot and I always enjoy reading his articles.

However, in a recent post, he went on a kind of rant against “all those young people who just think they can do something with the Tarot.” Whether it was creating a new deck, writing blogs or giving courses and consultations. “Those young people didn’t know anything because they hadn’t studied anything and they didn’t stick to ‘the original symbolism’. But in the meantime they try to earn money by using the Tarot and/or put themselves in the spotlights by writing articles or workshops…

I was a little disappointed. But also annoyed. For the following reasons:

1. Innovation does not equal ‘scamming people’

It is certainly true that there are many people who ethically cross a line and try to make money from vulnerable people by telling them they can predict the future or solve their problems. But this is something that is completely different from those who want to find new and creative ways to work with the Tarot and those who like to create and renew!

2. The Tarot is not owned by anyone

The Tarot is not owned by anyone. It is there for everyone and everyone can do what he or she wants using it as they please.

3. There is no such thing as ‘original’ wisdom

There is no ‘original’ symbolism or ‘ancient’ wisdom. All those symbolism and wisdoms that are supposedly ‘original’ have been put into the tarot by people who were once young and also worked creatively with the Tarot. They have searched for ancient texts, myths, religions etc. and found a way to connect it to the Tarot and let the Tarot grow.

A number of these “reputable” occultists, by the way,  are not exactly spotless when it comes to acting ethically. This applies to all decks and all occult societies from the moment the Tarot existed (and that is already since the 15th century, so quite a while!).

To name a few examples, Eteilla and Gebellin have emphasized Egyptian mythology in the Tarot. Gebellin said that this “ancient” knowledge came from an Egyptian book that had once been “rescued” from a fire-ravaged library in Alexandria. Eteilla claimed that he had received the secrets of the Tarot from an ancient Italian fortune teller from Piedmont.

Levi  and Waite tried to unite the Tarot with the Jewish, Theosophic, Alchemical and Christian traditions. Waite first tried the Theosophical approach, but didn’t like it. Kabbalah was of interest to him for a while, but he later distanced himself from it. In other words, Waite was also searching and was also experimenting with the Tarot. He didn’t have the ‘original’ knowledge either. He read a lot and tried a lot (and discussed a lot, because he himself did thought he had all the knowledge 😉

Paul Foster Case said he was initiated into important ancient wisdom during séances under the guidance of a mysterious ‘Master R’, after he was approached out of the blue by a stranger when he was waiting at a bus stop….

Paul Foster Case, Arthur Edward Waite and Eliphas Lévi

The Golden Dawn claimed to possess an ancient manuscript (but this is highly debatable and most likely fabricated by Westcott). Aleister Crowley said he had received the knowledge of an Egyptian spirit (through his wife) He relied heavily on the “knowledge” of Edward Kelly and John Dee, who in turn had gained it through contact with Angels.

depictions of Eteilla, William Wynn Westcott, John Dee and Edward Kelly

And I could go on like this for a while (and I certainly will, but in a next blog article).

It’s not to say that these people weren’t passionate and serious and that they didn’t “believe” in what they were doing. On the contrary, they have made a huge contribution! But if someone were to come up with one of these claims in our current time, we would declare them crazy. However, when it comes to Tarot, we find the above-mentioned occultists very “credible” just because they are “ancient” and “authentic.”

Samuel Lidell Mathers wearing an Egyptean costume performing a Golden Dawn Ritual

The ‘old’ occultists worked very hard on their concepts and theories and they also shared a lot of knowledge. It’s is really interesting and good to go back to their time and their publications and see how they explained the symbolism. By knowing the history, you can better understand the present (and shape the future as the saying goes). But you can also use contemporary consciousness to renew the Tarot and perhaps clarify it. Nothing is certain, except change (to use another cliché).

A great example of Tarot innovation

Het Terra Volatile Tarot Deck van Ana Fragateiro en Tiago Pimentel
The Terra Volatile Tarot Deck by Ana Fragateiro and Tiago Pimentel

A wonderful example of how the Tarot innovates (and of the creativity, knowledge and skills of young people) is the Terra Volatile Tarot deck, designed by two designers (Ana Fragateiro and Tiago Pimentel) who quit their 9-5 jobs in 2016 and started focusing on Alchemy, Esotericism and Tarot, something that was already a hobby of both of them.

First of all, the design is aesthetically beautiful! But not only that; Ana and Tiago have studied and emerged themselves into the symbolic world very well; They have added a 5th suit to the deck, namely ‘vessels’ that are assigned the element ether. They write:

The Vessels embody the Quintessence, a celestial substance that connects the different realms of reality, binding all four classical elements in a harmonious balance..

Visually, the cards may have immediate references to the German illuminated text Splendor Solis by Salomon Trismosin.

The symbology of most of the cards, however, do not follow the book’s sequence or general iconography. We opted to follow different approaches from different alchemical proposals as well as mythological or psychological perspectives…

The tarot itself has its very own and well-established symbolism that confront in certain aspects the most respected alchemical premises.

Our job was to find a reasonable concordance that allowed our own sensibility to have its say.

After all, this is a holistic new suit that aims to give you tools for your own self-discovery and learn to follow your intuition, because the key lies there.

Ana Fragateiro en Tiago Pimentel

There is also the possibility to add a number of extra cards or ‘expansions’. You can decide for yourself which cards you want to put in the deck or not. And with this you are able to create the Tarot deck as you want it. I think this is a really great idea. If you were to use all the cards (including the extra suit and the expansions) you would have a deck with 107 cards. And all equally beautiful and skillfully made.

The extra 'expansion' cards to be added to the Terra volatile deck
Some examples of the expansion cards to be added to the deck

There are 15 ‘extra’ or ‘alternative’ Tarot cards that you can add to your deck

What I often miss about Tarot decks is an accompanying book or explanation. Many decks are indeed designed ‘aesthetically’ or with a certain theme (cats, movie stars, Tatoo’s etc.) but there is no description of the intention or symbolism, which makes it sometimes difficult for those who want to buy and use the deck (I have to agree with the ‘old’ farts on this). But in addition to a book that you can order, Ana Fragateiro and Tiago Pimentel also have a very extensive website with a description of the symbolism and a keyword list for each card. They also have a site with a glossary where you can look up alchemical symbols.

Two Major Arcana Cards from the Terra Volatile Tarot Deck
Two beautiful examples of the Major Arcana Cards in the Terra Volatile deck

And to top it all off, they also design fashion inspired by Alchemy with prints of  Alchemical symbols.  

Webshop of Credo quia Absurdum
Visit the webshop for Alchemy-inspired fashion and more

For what it’s worth: I am very impressed and seeing the passion of these people as well as their creativity and craftsmanship makes me very happy! So, I will let the old farts grumble!

Go to the descriptions of the Terra Volatile deck

Go to the website of Credo quia Absurdum for webshop

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