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The Tarot and the Alchemical Deck
The Deck Cover
How I Found This Deck
Richard Place's set has many unique attributes. These special features set it apart from most decks I'm familiar with and have worked with in the past. I've been reading tarot off and on for over twenty years, but I never before encountered his work. I was drawn this set right away while shopping in a metaphysical shop in Manhattan. I wasn't there for tarot cards. There were several beautiful decks in a glass case that I was drawn to while looking at a book. This deck picked me, as they say. My eyes kept returning to the dreamy, secret keeping High Priestess on the box cover. I wanted to get a look at the other major and minor arcana cards based on her alone. It's turned out to be a perfect choice. A lot of powerful, sexy energy emanates from these cards. They are endlessly interesting. They are becoming a great alchemical guide to transformation for me. This deck is valuable for both the experienced and novice seeker. This deck can replace or compliment the Rider-Waite-Smith, Shadowscapes, Wildwood or others. Each has its own particular strengths and benefits. I find this deck is the best for novice and experienced alchemists.
The Major Arcana
A Quick Look at the Major Arcana
Each of the trump cards is a story unto itself. The details are stunning; each card is rich with alchemical symbolism. Enough is rendered here to interpret clear answers to many different questions, even when using only one layout. As a warning, if you are easily offended, many, if not most of the drawings are artistic nudes, there is nothing at all vulgar or harsh about them, they are very beautiful representations of feminine and masculine principles and powers. However, I realize that some people are not comfortable with such things, so this serves as a heads-up to those who prefer their tarot card trumps fully clothed.
Let's take a look at the major arcana card meanings (in number order):
- The Fool - The Fool is sometimes given the number zero in a tarot deck, or often, no number at all. He always represents the uninitiated or the unlimited potential of the novice and the beginner. Many feel the fool is someone who is being easily tricked or is making rash, stupid choices, and that might be the case based on the other cards surrounding him. However, his presence may also mean the opposite.
- I The Magician - As with other tarot decks, the Magician in this deck holds a wand up towards the heavens and reaches down towards the earth, in a physical representation of "as above so below." While other decks allude to Mercury/Hermes, this deck portrays the god in his classic persona. There is no disguise. This card has many meanings including the need for balance and unity, the art of negotiation, use of wisdom and growth in commerce.
- II The High Priestess - There is a lot of moon and water symbolism present on this card. The Priestess is in the ocean, she stands in a crescent moon boat and is crowned with one also.There is a full moon high in the sky signaling nighttime endeavors, mystery, quiet and completion. In addition to the moon, the crescent represents the metal silver in alchemy. She is the soul mate of the Magician and the spiritual partner of the Hierophant.
- III The Empress - She is the white queen of the earth element. The earth contains and sustains the other three elements and so can never be destroyed or consumed by them. She stands in a lush garden with a child near by. These elements represent her fertility in all things including life, love, ideas and sustenance. She is all things feminine and she overflows with feminine power and appeal.
- IV The Emperor - He is the red king of the air element. The natural male partner of the Empress, he stands alone on a high mountain, which represents his singular duty and unyielding masculine power. A large eagle is perched on his left arm, but he holds tightly to the birds left leg to keep it from flying freely. This represents his dominion over the air element and his need for tight control.
- V The Hierophant - He is the male spiritual partner to the High Priestess. He is dressed in red robes and sits on a throne in front of windows showing night and day. These represent his mastery over light and dark. He is the element fire, a teacher and spiritual adviser. He holds open the Emerald Tablet showing the masculine and feminine symbols, while statues of a man and woman are perched on the arms of his throne.
- VI The Lovers Card One - The first Lovers card shows them sitting in the garden, hugging.It is the beginning of love, the elements combined, partnership, strong attraction and potent sexual energy. The moon (feminine power) is above the Empress's head and the sun (masculine power) is above the Emperor's head. Cupid pulls back his bow ready to shoot the couple with his arrow so that lust may turn to love. The amalgamation symbol adorns the upper right corner.
- VII The Chariot - The driver holds the reins of a red (fire) and white (earth) horses, but leans towards the horse of fire. The symbol for sulfur/spirit is above the head of the red horse, while the symbol for salt/body is above the white horse's head. The symbol for mercury (mind) appears below the carriage. He rides towards the wheel of life and sun which contains the prime symbols for salt, sulfur and mercury/body, spirit and mind.
- VIII Justice - She is the keeper of truth, balance and wisdom. Justice in this deck is not blindfolded, but rather, her eyes are wide open and her gaze is steady, unwavering and sure. She hold the scales in one hand with fire and water in perfect balance. Her other hand holds up the sword of truth.
- IX The Hermit - In all decks, the Hermit represents completion, wholeness, infinite wisdom, and isolation, inner knowledge and the silent reflection required to advance spiritually. His companion, the raven, rests on his shoulder and speaks to him of important matters of the past, present and future.
- X The Wheel of Fortune - The wheel of fate and fortune spins and where it stops will be decided by fate alone. It may stop on earth, fire, air or water, or somewhere in-between. The possibilities are endless. Place's rendering has the winged red king (fire) eating the tail of the wingless white queen (earth), and so she also completes the circle of infinity. Both are in the form of dragons. This card has multiple meanings including the fact that the situation in question is in the hands of destiny, not people.
- XI Strength - In most decks a woman is shown with a lion. She has tamed savagery with love and virtue. She is self control, self discipline and courage. The strength this card represents is not physical, it indicates emotional, spiritual and mental strength.
- XII The Hanged Man - His presence in a spread usually means a difficult situation bought about by willing sacrifice borne of duty or a desire for personal or spiritual growth. This card can also mean loss, illness, suffering and the discomfort that comes with sacrifice.
- XIII Death - Death in any layout means the end of one thing and the beginning of another. The progress of death is ascertained from the surrounding cards. Death can be a long, difficult process and can go from various stages of decomposition to reach the final end, or it can be quick and happily painless.
- XIV Temperance - The presence of this card in a spread usually means the reaping of rewards after great sacrifice. It can also be a reminder that one should stay balanced and moderate when making decisions.
- XV The Devil - The Devil in all spreads means dark forces and literally evil circumstances are occurring in and around the seeker's life. The devil, once an angel and a servant of Heaven, is now a dual beast who serves the darkness. He is tortured by his memory of being an angel who once basked in the light of the Divine. There are no good signs to this card except that it offers an opportunity for change and growth after terrible, debilitating pain.
- XVI The Tower - The Tower often means physical destruction rather than spiritual. It usually also means changes of some sort are in process pertaining to the home or home life or something that was "built up." It can signal the end to ambitions built on lies. An end to materialism and fortunes collected in a dishonest manner. It can also mean isolation and despair, positive, sudden changes and liberation.
- XVII The Star - A true bright spot. It's very great fortune if this card turns up in a spread. The Star is everything good and light and wonderful. Like the Sun card, there is no darkness here. It is purification after difficult sacrifice and the attainment of deep understanding and peace.
- XVIII The Moon - The Moon is all about water and the night. The moon is the heavenly body associated with the astrological sign Cancer. It is the intuitive, mellow side of Cancer, the bright side of the moon. This card can have multiple meanings in a spread.
- XIX The Sun - This card represents the ultimate union of romantic love. If this card shows up, happiness, joy the coming together of soul mates is sure to occur. This card usually means marriage is impending; it can also mean full spiritual enlightenment.
- XX Judgement - The Judgement card represents the final judgement, but it can also mean that you are being judged or that you are judging others. This card also means resurrection and rebirth; the phoenix raising from the ashes.
- XXI The World - The World is the last card in the major arcana. It is the culmination of all effort and work. It is the meeting of goals and fulfillment of dreams. In alchemy it is the attainment of the Philosopher's Stone. If this card shows up in a spread the questioner is very lucky indeed, as it means their inner most dreams and desires will be fulfilled.
A Sample Layout
A Simple Eight Card Layout
The above shows a great, straight forward layout that's good for many different questions. This is an actual spread in answer to the question "will I get married in the next year?" I couldn't have asked for a better learning spread. The details of this reading are covered in "The Mystery and Magic of the Tarot" on Barnes and Noble.
The Back of the Alchemical Deck
© 2017 Lavender Crownly