I have been very busy for – well, however long it’s been – and so lately I had to almost abandon this project. However, I have actually written some more card details in a private document, which I recently dug up and am now trying to resurrect. I think it is probably bad practice for me to attempt to keep this blog updated when it is more likely than not I will go on indefinite hiatus again, so I will first increase my “buffer zone” because I post any of it!
So far, starting from The Fool, I’m halfway through The Lovers.
A butterfly-bird pours water onto a cup of fire.
The great thing about the Major Arcana is that the cards all have names, and so interpreting a card’s meaning is much easier than an unlabeled pip card. Temperance is all about, well, temperance – blending two extremes and reconciling opposites. Another meaning of temperance is to improve or change something by heat treatment – tempered swords, for example – or to adjust something to your needs, as in musical scale tuning temperament. It’s a card about finding the best solution by compromising, and obtaining the best results from moderation rather than excess or shortage. You may have to finely adjust, keep changing your approach and technique, and pay attention to balancing each tiny detail to achieve these results.
Flying insects and birds are stand-ins for angels in the Major Arcana; it is the main character here since many decks depict an angel with the two elements. Pouring the water onto the fire in this situation doesn’t extinguish or waste either element, but blends them into a mysterious new one. (Presumably only an angel could do that.) The butterfly-bird combination is also a fusion of two completely different creatures and so fits in well with the theme of this card. The scene as a whole is peaceful, balanced and serene – as a properly tempered scene should be. The cups used are the same design as the suit of cups, so the temperance here might refer to emotional balance before other types.
Another point about Temperance as a card is its slightly out-of-place position in the middle of foreboding cards such as Death, The Devil, The Tower… Its presence here might serve as a place of calm between extremes, and the neighbouring ideas of “change” and “too much” of Death and the Devil are two somewhat negative sides of trying to incorporate Temperance badly.
artist’s note: Not really much to say about this one.
Nine of Pentacles – Luxury
A large snake rests on a field of grass, surrounded by scattered pentacles. A bird-angel hovers and watches over it.
The Nine of Pentacles is all about enjoying life and having the means to enjoy life. Luxury is only enjoyed properly when it’s the result of hard work, and so this card might also indicate self-sufficiency and independent living. So, the two sides of this card are: one, the peace and reward of being able to support yourself or the happiness of having a bank account large enough to accommodate a rare time of plenty, and two, the self-control and continued motivation to reach such a place. Other negative readings could touch upon when too much luxury becomes an overindulgence, or whether your hard work to live independently is having a detrimental effect on the rest of your life.
A snake in a garden always brings to mind the Garden of Eden, although in this scene the focus is more on the comfort of living in such a Garden rather than the over-indulgence of eating too much of the wrong fruit. This is a positive card, after all. The bird with insect (butterfly) wings refers to a couple of the Majors, where other birds and bird-insects stood in the usual place of angels. Its appearance here – more notable because the Pentacles are “cold-blooded” cards – also steers the card to a Garden of Eden reference, and of course is a general representation of beauty and happiness.
The only thing that might be slightly disconcerting is that the main creature in the picture is a snake with a chain-pattern on its back. The chain is a small thought of the chain of self-control and hard work that led you to this fine situation, and the snake also symbolises rest after a bout of hard work (swallowing large pieces of food).
artist’s notes: I was thinking of drawing a bloated snake fresh from eating a meal, but then… I don’t think that would have looked very pretty. It would probably be more horrifying than peaceful, and this card doesn’t need too much negativity in it. I’m very happy with the pentacles overall, probably because they were the last suit that I drew. Hence better drawing skills.
Sorry for basically abandoning this blog in the last few months. I’m not particularly good with sticking with a project, and this is definitely a pretty big project! I’m also currently preparing for university exams, and over the next summer I’ll be busy with a full-time job as well. There’s not really any other justification for my giant absences, I’m afraid.
So, I’m going to try and get back into this. I do really want to get a meanings book published with the deck before calling it a ‘completed project’, since the bare pack of cards seems a little bare without an accompanying booklet. I’ll try to post regularly – at least once every three days, if not more. Now I’ve just got to find my camera cable…
Knight of Cups – Flight
A flying fish (with extra fins) displays itself in the air. It’s hard to tell whether it’s leaping upwards, falling down or trying to clear the cup entirely.
A ‘teenage’ card, the Knight of Cups describes intense emotions and temperamental moods. Since the cups are more emotion-related than the other suits, the Knight is especially likely to be about emotional mood swings. When describing an environment or a moment in time, it indicates flights of imagination often followed by a quick return to earth, or excesses of emotional ups and downs. The Knights, as with other court cards, often describe a person – in this case, the person described is probably a teenager – or someone who acts like one – with a sensitive soul, and thinks about life like a true romantic.
As a ‘true romantic’, the Knight loves to create and imagine, pouring emotions into dreams and art. They will probably idealise love and become melodramatic over beautiful or spiritual occasions. Because of this, they may be prone to mood swings and excessive sensitivity perhaps to the point of unhealthiness and danger.
Flying fish are noted for their beautiful wing-like fins, which they use to glide in the air to evade predators. While their flights into the unknown are useful, leaping into an environment where they cannot get oxygen (and contains land and boats that can be landed on) may seem rather dangerous… Soaring in the air suggests ‘flights of imagination’ and creativity of the Air/wands, and the slightly damaged fins on the right side of the card hint more about the painful side of drama and intense love. Real flying fish have either one or two pairs of ‘wings’; there are three to emphasise the point here.
notes: I haven’t really got much to say about this card – I suppose the only noteworthy thing about it is that it’s the only Cup card where you can’t see the whole cup. It’s also one of the few that has the ‘camera’ out of the water rather than an underwater camera looking at a submerged cup. I quite like the fish drawing but I am a bit concerned about the water – there are no ripples or splashes so it looks kinda strange how there’s a fish leaping out of it.
Three of Wands – Heartbreak
Three wands pierce through a heart, a mosquito perched on its side.
While this card clearly refers to pain and heartbreak, since the wands are air and thought-related the actual hurt will probably come from information given rather than an action or event. It could be a secret revealed – a partner confesses to cheating, knowledge of a friend betraying you, etc. The painful event itself is likely to already have happened – in the picture, the heart was cut out before the stakes were stabbed through, and its been long enough that a mosquito has settled on it. Unlike other cards such as the Ten of Wands or The Tower, however, the secret may not be entirely unexpected. You might have already suspected that something was wrong, since you have already put your bare heart out there.
In some ways this card might be more welcomed since it will put an end to a build-up of foreboding suspicions and warnings – or if early enough, used as a warning itself against such an event. If you do want to look on the positive side, stakes through a heart do also suggest a message about laying evil things to rest (vampires!) by painful admissions and wounds, eventually bringing light back to any darkness.
The design of this card is clearly based on the Rider-Waite tarot three of swords (in this case swords and wands are effectively switched); heartbreak is one of the more basic and painful of emotions. The bloody heart is brutally painful and emotional – blood is usually a reference to emotions in this deck – even without the stakes/wands, it is already severed from the body and dead. The mosquito is similarly an immediate symbol of parasites, being drained, disease and death.
notes: This is actually one of my favourite drawings! Although yes, I do think it would be pretty horrible to get it in a reading. The only thing I would change is to make the mosquito slightly more visible and separate from the heart; the general darkening of the deck through printing makes it quite hard to see. Still, the overall effect of the card and the perfect way that wands being the air suit translates into stakes through a heart makes it one of my personal favourites.
Queen of Cups – Empathy
A shark and its newborn swim over a cup.
Queens represent feminine or mother figures as well as nurture and development, and the Queen of Cups is the empathetic and emotional counselor in your life. A person represented by this life will be an ultimate example of “thinking with your heart rather than your head”, and greatly intuitive, perhaps spiritual and sensitive. As a positive figure, she is warm, caring and able to sense and fix any emotional or spiritual problems simply by being with you. As a negative figure, her emotions and temper in an angry mood will be that much harder to bear than any other Queen, since they will cut deep to the heart. Being able to naturally see and understand emotions, she may be an emotional manipulator for whom logical reasoning will not help.
The card may also represent a time of development and nurture (growth seeded by the Jacks), in which case this card represents a time of emotional growth such as a moment of maturity (growing up), a new relationship commitment or a family event. It may also mean that you should attempt to empathise with other people’s emotions, or to think more emotionally about others.
Like some other sharks such as the hammerhead, blacktip sharks are viviparous, symbolising a “heart-to-heart” connection through the placenta (constant attention and blood ‘exchange’) rather than a disconnected egg. (Or at least that I think of it.) They are also capable of parthenogenesis (virgin births). Sharks in general are well-known for their ability to sense minute quantities of blood, trace it and deal with the source in minutes. They are also capable of detecting prey from their electric fields, another factor in the “able to sense emotions” representation.
The Black Fantasy Tarot generally depicts the court cards as more imposing than many decks suggest; after all, Kings and Queens are powerful rulers and not just helpful fluffy happiness.
notes: It’s hard to show in a black and white drawing from the top down that this is meant to be a blacktip shark; in any case, the olfactory and electrosensory abilities of sharks is pretty much the same between them all. Also, I’d be pretty wary of all the Queens and Kings in the deck (except the King of Pentacles, I suppose)...