Welcome to a new Western Qabalah Tarot Card Comparisons blog, comparing the Western Qabalah's Thoth Tarot Deck with that of the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot. I think this comparison is long due, as it is arguably even an older metaphysical system than that of Western Tarot, which the Egyptian System of the Thoth Tarot, is also old and from the African/ Middle Eastern influences. Although,New Orleans Voodoo has a lot of Haitian influence, one must remember the Haitians were originally from the African continent; That Dark Continent of Magic and Mystery, that has so enthralled Europeans for centuries.To quote Sallie Ann Glassman, the Author of this voodoo tarot system:" Voodoo has always grown through contact with other religious traditions. The Trend continues and seems to be very active through contacts with Thelemic and earth-based traditions. However, in the march to common understandings, individual differences can sometimes be caught underfoot and flattened. If the powers and scope of the loa have been altered through the use of the Tree, or if the Tree has been-gently or otherwise-twisted beyond proper form, we hope that the creation of common accords in some way balances the damage."
For all you neophytes out there, Thelema is a religion that was invented by Edward Alexander Crowley, commonly known as -Aleister Crowley, out of which evolved the Thoth Tarot under the considerable artistic skills of Lady Frieda Harris. Pictured below, is the Qabalistic Tarot Tree of Life complete with the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot card comparisons, and I dare say the Tree has not been twisted beyond "proper form", since this is not a 2 dimensional diagram, even though presented as such due to artistic limitations. Besides each Path, being a figure eight rather than a "singular" path, each Sephiroth has a Tree of Life of its own. The only real difference between Western Qabalistic Tarot and Voodoo Tarot, is that the Element of Earth is in no way seen inferior to the rest of the elements. The inferiority of Earth to Spirit, is a Christian perspective, and Christian influence is often shown in Western Tarot Traditions. I fail to see Crowley describing Earth as inferior, since his significator card is the Ace of Disks, a card that is of the Above and the Below, combined with the Prince Beast and Princess of Earth; Complete with the Wings of the Archangels of the 4 universal elements. It seems that to him, the Earth was the complete answer to the Will of Kether, which is described as "Eheieh", Hebrew-meaning- "I Will Be", and Earth is that will fulfilled as "I AM Being".
In the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, the 22 Trumps and/or Major Arcana, are called "Roads"( a Wild Card is included to bring the number of Trumps to 23), the 40 Minor Arcana are called "Spirits" and the 16 Court Cards are called "Temple Cards". Like Thoth, the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot also uses the form of Tetragrammaton, with its elemental attributions of fire, water, air and earth, to provide a structure for the Spirit and Temple cards. Tetragrammaton literally means "4 letters"-YHVH, which in modern speech is Yehova ( there was no "J" until the 13th Century). In Western Qabalah, Tetragrammaton-the 4 letters- are used to symbolize the power of the Divine Creative as it moves through the 4 Universal Elements of Pythagoras: Y is yod-fire, H is heh-water, V is vau-Air, and the last H, heh- is Earth. These elements are both symbolic and real and refer to whole categories of more or less arbitrary associations.
In Voodoo Tarot there are Nations, which refer to the 4 elements of Western tradition. Nations refer to a grouping of rites and spirits that walk together and are related by common origin or theme.
- The first of these Voodoo Nations is Petro, a form of worship common in Haiti, corresponding to Fire. La Flambeau rites are associated with the element of Fire. "La Flambeau" is taken from the torch carriers who light the way for night time carnival parades. The word "Carnival" literally translates to "farewell to flesh" and it is thought that within the heat of carnival that the "flesh", or the established order of things, is upset and transcended.
- Is considered the rites of the Congo nation, according to Milo Rigaud (1969,p.72) and are attributed to water. These rites and the Loa ( African spirits that traveled to America, used interchangeably with "Mysteries" and "Spirits"). The Loa and rites attributed to the water element are considered of a more jarring character than the Rada, or air rites, yet not so jarring as the Petro rites.
- Air, the element Rada, has rites that are characterized by a formal subtle quality. They claim origin from the well established kingdom of Dahomey, with its highly developed religious structures. In Western tradition, air is Intellect and as such is being the same in Voodoo Tarot. The intellect is seen as airy flights of imagination and its quick rush of thoughts, that often tumble over one another. However, in the Rada rites, the intellect is not the child of illusion, but a lib liberating force-a force useful in the forging of connections. Ofen a force that can be used to clothe spirit in a cloak of many colors.
- Santeria is the sister religion to Voodoo. In deference to this power and influence in the "New World" is is used in the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, as the nation that resonates well with the earth element. Related to the Earthly element, is Strength, Solidity and the ability to take hold of the conditions at hand and grow. Santeria derives a good deal of its heritage from the religious practices of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The Fon-speaking people of the once-great Dahomey, look to be the major source of Voodoo, with contributions from the Ibo, Congo, Nagos and other African peoples. Thought the families of spirits of the African peoples are related, they are also different. It is a continent of many cultures and nations, whose belief systems varied. Hence, Santeria has developed a strong and elaborate ceremonial structure firmly connected to a widely recognized hierarchy. The Voodoo of New Orleans is individual in tone and in most cases chronicles one person's or a group's relationship with the spirits. The Traditions of Voodoo emphasized the religion as a family affair. The Author of the Voodoo Tarot, considered it to be disrespectful not to include the names and some information concerning the great orishas, spirits of Santeria, in the cards and text of the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot.
Sallie Ann Glassman, included a table that brings together elements of the deck that are scattered throughout the accompanying book. The table from her book should provide sufficient information for divination purposes.
There is such a fertile and fruitful history here, that I could write a book on the subject of Voodoo and Tarot but Sallie Ann Glassman already has and it is worth reading her book, and having these Tarot Cards at hand. Although I am an extensively Thoth Tarot Divinor, I personally, love the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot. I would also recommend that one buy and read her other book, "An encounter with Divine Mystery"-Voodoo Visions.
On the World Egg Tarot Card, a point of power is shown bursting forth from the waters of undifferentiated possibility. Ayida Wedo has given birth; from the Abyssal Womb the egg of directed or focused possibility, is carried and warmed by Damballah Wedo. Here is shown cold space retreating at the contraction of his coils, as the Will to Be has dared to manifest.
- Ayida Wedo: She is the water serpent that is the Rainbow, the atmospheric water above the firmament that prisms light into colors of the electromagnetic spectrum. She rains down on earth, into streams and rivers, into the water table that nourishes the race. She is everywhere the water, prismatic like the rainbow. She dances with her husband, Danbala, (Comparable to the Greek "first husband", Lord Python). Ayida's head is the serpent's head, reflecting on the reptilian serpentine nature of the Goddess (Spirals of Energy). Together She and Danbala, form the series of rising and relaxing tensions that reflect the muscular movements of sexual union.
- Danbala Wedo, the snake god, gave rain to the world. According to legend, as the drops of rain fell though the sky they formed a rainbow -Ayida Wedo. He fell in love with her, the rainbow serpent that arched over the sky. They married and joined as a double helix of snakes, giving birth to mankind. Therefore, Ayida is also the power of the sky, and is the all-beneficent mother and protector of creation. In rites, Ayida is rarely summoned without Danbala. She is a very ancient , root Loa/Lwa (both spellings are used) together with Danbala, she represents fertility and fecundness. Her colors are azure blue and white.
Being the holy serpents of Voodoo, Ayida and Danbala Wedo are likened to the female and male serpent pair that comprise the Caduceus, Therefore, this pair of serpentine forces, brings change and creation of new possibility. The World Egg (Orphic Egg) forms the center of the Crossroads, the point where all creation takes its measure (The invisible Sephiroth-Daath). The Hebrew word Olam, captures the sense of this card completely in that Olam also means "eternity". To us, eternity is the eternal now. The World Egg, is the embodiment of the leap from "non-being" and/or "no-thing" to being and/or something. The eternal now, is the first step of all that would manifest.
In the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot-World Egg, birth has taken place and the egg is protected and carried by the mouth of the snake. This refers to the creative powers of the Logos, The Word and/or the rhythmic sound (vibrations) that defines, and thus shapes the World. In Western Qabalah, these rhythmic sounds or vibrations came from the shouting out loud, "I Will Be", attributed to Kether.
In divination the World Egg implies:
- The unexpected.
- Influence from the Highest in spiritual matters.
- Possible disruption of physical matters.
Fear not. What is not real, never was and never will be.
What is real always was and cannot be destroyed.
The Fool is the universal key that is associated with the state of conscious energy that is us before and after death. In other words, the conscious state that is Holy Spirit. Many of us know that we “have a spirit" but few of us know that we are Spirit and seek not spirituality but rather are Spirituality; a Spiral Vital Force/Soul that brings whole-conscious liberation and expansion to Earth anima (female animal mind) and animus (Male animal mind).
Rather than just being assumed as being mystical, transpersonal, transcendent, and ecstatic in its nature, the Fool represents the power of wonder and ecstasy that is so apparent in the very young (and the “enlightened”) before they succumb to indoctrination and form a "cultural identity". The cultural identity is not real so Cabalists call it "reality" which we all know as relative and subjected to the “I” of the beholder. The Real is the infinite part of ourselves that observes the eternal now!
The Oriental symbol for fear is the tiger. In this card, fear is seen as attempting to gnaw on the leg of the fool who isn't giving any consideration to fear. He looks forward, and the tiger can't even make a dent in his perspective.
The Fool is the energetic essence of who we are---an unflappable immortal spiritual flow of energy consciousness that flows from the Infinite Source. This card symbolizes the creative expression that is needed to give birth to new parts of our lives and to boldly take risks that are so necessary to evolutionary development!
When this card falls in a reading it shows us that this is the moment to do what you fear and trust the spirit within!
As a Path (Road in Voodoo Tarot), THE FOOL connects Kether (Crown) with Chokmah (Wisdom). To the Qabalist, Kether is known as the Source of All, and Chokmah is known as Father God.
The Path of Aleph, (The Fool) meaning OX, is about the "flowing of Life Force and creative power", showing that the SPIRIT had a beginning aim to be that of Earth and/or Sensual Being.
Crowley symbolizes this "Holy Spirit" (The Spirit on every level of the Tree of Life) as a dove in the Thoth Deck Card. Crowley also called The Letter Aleph, a phallic symbol.....but then so is the Projected Will that is THE MAGUS, and one wonders if Crowley was so besotted with the Phallus, that he was unable to see anything else; However, truth be told, by reference to Sexes and sexuality do we come to the minutest glimmering of understanding about the Universe. We begin seeing that the Below is a mirror reflection of the Above The Divine Spirit is all we know, we breathe it, we live within it, it is ourselves. Because we know this Divinity to be "the One Energy that cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed" (Psychics-Thermodynamics 1st law), we know that everything is of this One, as symbolized by THE FOOL- the Path of Aleph.
In this context, Aleph is attributed to Air and means Life-Breath. Just as Spirit is from the Greek root word Spiro, which means Breath. The One Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is then the Life-Breath. This is well known in Eastern cultures, and Pranayama (Breath yoga) are a major if not primary part of all Spiritual development. The Sanskrit Word Prana, is the Life-Breath energy; Prana meaning life and Yama meaning death. Simply, inhale and exhale. The Qabalah and I have described the Magus as relating to "Words" (vibration), the underlying sonic of patterned manifestation. However, it is the power of breath that expels the sound. Thus THE FOOL activates THE MAGUS.
The Science of Crowley’s time, considered Air to be a vacuum, as related to THE FOOL, so did Crowley, but the Ancient Wisdom is that the Element Air is not a vacuum, as in empty of anything, but rather a No-thing who is the fertile No-thingness and egg of Spirit. The universal Egg of Spirit is known by students of the mysteries, to be the EGG OF AKASHA, the zero of THE FOOL, also represents this egg of spirit, and is the mathematical formula of one Male, minus one female= 0 . Therefore, the understanding is that the Egg of Akasha, is a fertilized ovum of undefined sexuality, but having the potential for both! Hence, a 0 that becomes 8.
On the Thoth Fool, the Tiger, "fawning about" THE FOOL'S leg, is an archetype representing the Animal Nature of fear based Survival thinking as related to the Higher Spiritual process of Love that is fearless. Again, as this cannot be said enough, the Horns on the Thoth figure represent those ancient mysteries of Dionysus Zagreus. The green clothing is that of the Celtic Green Man of Spring, the grapes at his feet are a tribute to Bacchus, the Greek God of Ecstasy, and the Crocodile (great creative energy) is “a swimming at his feet in the Nile" (Crowley quote). Making this 0, a complexity of subtleties and far from empty.
Images referring to the Godhead in the Thoth card, are the dove of Venus and the vulture of Maat the Dark Egyptian Goddess of Judgment, where she is the Mother of Dark Matter. Then there is the triple egg shape created by the caduceus in motion, symbolizing the Ain Soph Aur (The three states of No-Thing).As you may realize, the imagery is so subjective that I haven't the space for words to detail it all for you. If you need more detail, and you do, I would recommend reading Crowley's BOOK OF THOTH., Robert Wang's Book: THE QABALISTIC TAROT and also investigating the Mythology of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians.To even begin understanding THE FOOL, we must entertain a multifaceted and fluid interpretation of Will to Force and Will to Form.
Kabala, Qabalah, Cabalah.etc.
Sr.Paul Foster Case, the creator of BOTA calls this 11th Path of Aleph, in his book THE THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM, the fiery or Scintillating Intelligence. Which makes sense as The Path of Aleph borders on the Limitless Light (Ain Soph), which is "not" or 0. Light without limit is darkness to us who need a beginning and an end to see. So here we try to explain what can't be seen as The Fiery Darkness which is the possibility of vibration or motion and the First Perception of the One having potential for activity. This would make a modern definition of “Dark Energy” as the “first I” or identity.
In the context of Masculine sexuality, the Fool is the Testes, and the Magus is the Phallus, (Represented by the three flowers beneath the spread legs of THE FOOL) as He directs active first flow from the Fool rather than potentiality doing so. However, I fear that is a rather limiting concept of the ONE as the Ain Soph is "No Thing", but then, all concepts are less than the potential for conception.
We may reason that the potential for Thought, comes from the Dark Energy (Dark Father) as Dark Matter (Dark Matre or Mother)-The First Material-Thought was born. The appearance of Thought emanates Mind, which is the vessel for Thought and/or Womb of Thought Forms, i.e. The “I-magi-nation”, transcending all reason. Thus, as often is so with the Supernal Triangle, our reason leaves us with more questions than answers. However, Imagination is the Womb with a View, and/or womb of all forms.
Limitlessness is a very difficult concept! To say that THE FOOL represents the initial potential for thought which transcends reason, i.e. the All Seeing I, is about the best I can do with words.
The special reality we may touch in sleep, often gives us images that do not correlate to our mundane understanding of reality. This being so, our dreams seem to be so much abstraction and are considered as nonsense to our waking condition. However, the Great Work (As above so below) involves the assimilation of The Real, not a reality conceived of mundane ideas. And the Real Concepts are from what is not, making what is, from Dreams of Potential- Self! To think of the Universe as God Dreaming (Darkness Dreaming it is Light) is very difficult to grasp, and the fact that you are a "Lucid" Dreamer (Image of God), who has been given the Power of Observation that changes a thing, meaning you can change the Principle that is Things, is just about as mind boggling as it gets. But I dare postulate that just such a glimmer of insight requires a more than mundane understanding of self! Thus, your Divinity is not often acknowledge by the mundane world of survival thinking. However, your Spiritual Womb, the conception of "the image of God", is the invisible Sephiroth, Daath (knowledge) seated within the
Abyss, and is the Child of the Goddess (Understanding) and the God (Wisdom) who are face to face (Yab Yum). This middle path of Union is known as the Path of Gimel (meaning Camel); THE HIGH PRIESTESS OR HIGH PRIEST; the Divine Androgyny.
All the Paths leading upward to Kether, THE FOOL, THE MAGUS, AND THE HIGH PRIESTESS, must be approached with a certain understanding of whimsy, as we realize that by crossing the Abyss and approaching Kether (As above, so below) means the total annihilation of Self as we perceive it. Thus presenting us with the irony of our attempt to grasp such esoteric and refined principles from an earthly-mundane perspective. Often, when teaching the Major Arcana and knowing what I speak, cannot truly convey what I am saying, brings a smile, if not outright laughter to my face. To me, the subjective I AM- potential is ironically displayed as a limited conception—a Me. Being a Me must never be taken too seriously, for that concept will change daily especially when one enters the Higher Self, and becomes a manifestor of subjectivity.
To reiterate, THE FOOL- 0, is the initial potential for thought, transcending all reason. Thus objectifying the Upper Regions, the Supernal Triangle is a futile endeavor. However. Once we recognize the impossibility of consciously approaching the Highest Levels of the Tree of Life, i.e. The Universe, in a direct manner, we are forcibly driven into the key Principles of the Mysteries/Metaphysics of As Above, So Below.
In reterated conclusion: We begin seeing that the Below is a mirror reflection of the Above- The Divine Spirit is all we know, we breathe it, we live within it, it is ourselves. Because we know this Divinity to be "the One Energy that cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed" (1st law of Thermodynamics), we know that everything is of this One, as symbolized by THE FOOL, the Tarot image of the Path of Aleph.
In this context I dare to repeat, Aleph is attributed to Air and means Life-Breath. Just as Spirit is from the Greek root word Spiro, which means Breath. The One Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is then the Life-Breath the “one rope of Life” that we are all woven strands of. This is well known in Eastern cultures, and Pranayama (Breath yoga) are a major if not primary part of all Spiritual development. The Word Prana, is the Life-Breath energy and is also called the Sex force and means “life-death”. Now I have described the Magus as relating to "Words" (vibration), the underlying sonic of patterned manifestation. However, it is the power of breath that expels the sound. Thus THE FOOL activates THE MAGUS.
THE FOOL, represents the fertile Nothingness and egg of Spirit. The universal Egg of Spirit is known, by Qabalists, to be the EGG OF AKASHA, THE Fool is also the mathematical formula of minus one Male, minus one female= 0. Therefore, the understanding is that the Egg of Akasha, is a fertilized ovum of undefined sexuality, but having the potential for both!
THE FOOL, is the very expression of the god name of Kether, Eheieh, which means I will be. This is the essence of the Divine Child as yet unborn, who is all potential and who is our very beginning!
When THE FOOL or World Egg are thrown during a reading the querent is in or experiencing:
- A state of ecstasy and/or a state of Peak experience.
- Courage that is completing all motion by Faith, absolutely trusting THE SPIRIT.
- A feeling of being protected, and that everything will work out.
- Being open to what the future brings!
- Magic, amazement and desire in a relationship.
If ill-defined by accompanying cards:
The Fool, is then the harbinger of folly, mania, extravagance and even negligence.
Thank you for your interest, comments and supportive donations. May you live long and prosper.