King of Cups — Tarot of the Absurd

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

KIng of Cups Meaning


The King of Cups was the final card illustrated for the Tarot of the Absurd. My baby was coming soon. Working all day in front of the computer made my ankles disappear into puffiness. I needed a King, and I needed him fast. I cheated— I, too, stole the image of an ancient god.


At first, humans were rather wretched and lived like all other wild beasts. But within one year, a reasonable beast named Oannes emerged from the Erythian Sea, at the point where it borders Babylonia (i.e.: the Persian Gulf). He had a fish’s body. Above his fish’s head he had a man’s head. Human feet emerged from beneath his fish’s tail. His voice was human. He was never seen to eat.


He passed his days among civilization. He taught the use of letters, sciences and arts of all kinds. He taught men to construct cities, to found temples, and to compile laws. He explained the principles of geometry. He made them learn their plants and showed them how to harvest. In short, he humanized them. No one has ever improved on his instructions. And when the sun set, Oannes retired into the sea, for he was amphibious. After this, there appeared other animals like Oannes.**


Over the years, the confusion of gods multiplies. Who came from whom? Where are the origins? One can trace the threads of mythology’s history like a spider’s web, each strand weaving back upon the others to create a structural whole that makes sense for the present time. Deconstructing mythology— deconstructing the spider’s web— is fascinating from a historical point of view, from a story-teller’s point of view, and from the point of view of those interested in following multitudes back to unity. Mythology is the bizarre sort of lineage where a parent begets a child and the child becomes not just a parent, but the parent of his own self.


Deluge and recovery. Subjugation, assumption, resurrection. In order to better subjugate the conquered people, the gods of the victors assume characteristics of the gods of the vanquished, and the gods of the vanquished rise again. Thus the names and places of gods change through the ages, one god after another taking on similar forms and forces, gods amassed and gods split


Adapa. Oannes. Dagon. Poseidon. Neptune. Triton. Delphin. Noah. Names of gods come and go, but the robes of priesthood have changed very little. Three or five or seven thousand years later, Catholic popes and bishops still wear the headdress dedicated to an ancient Babylonian water god.



… and after this, there appeared other animals like Oannes…




* My illustration is very, very closely modeled after a bas-relief carving of a fish-garbed priest on temple of the god Ninurta (Saturn) at Kalhu (biblical Calah), ca. 883-859 BCE Assurnasirpal II. Source: Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary, p. 83. fig. 65. Published in London by the British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press, Austin. 1992.

fish garbed priest


** Story, in italics, adapted from Berossus, a 3rd century BCE Babylonian priest. Oannes is born of the Mesopotamian god Enki, whose origins go back to the 5th century BCE in Sumer; i.e.: as far back as we have writing.


*** Pen&Ink ilustration by Syrena Seale. Image used without permission, but I would like to use it, with permission, in my book. To see the original image and to see more of Syrena Seale’s work, click here or click on her illustration.


pope mitre



Page of Cups — Tarot of the Absurd

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Jessica Rose ShanahanArtist: Jessica Rose Shanahan


Interpretation: A dreamy youth or youthful dreaming. The surfacing and realization of emotions. Artful expression. Inspiration from the realm of the unconscious and the spirit. The beginning of a creative project or venture.


I think my dreams have always flown like books in the form of butterflies— or butterflies in the form of books. I am ever the youthful dreamer. The main purpose of this blog is to extract a storm of words from my brain in order that I might have enough material to write a book within a year and a half. Then I just have to edit everything and publish it somehow. So simple to say! So easy to dream! So challenging to do—


When I began this deck over a decade ago, I was using the tarot pack as form and framework for an illustration project for myself.  I saw the deck as a mythic tradition, similar to faerie tale or fable. For each card, I would use a certain number of traditional symbols to illustrate a given meaning. It was a dream, and the more I learned of the reality of the tarot deck— or the lack thereof— the more difficult my task became.


Even the simplest of things are inconsistent: the four suits are called by different names and people interpret the cards in ways that make sense to them. The mythology of tarot makes divination integral with multiple forms of divination and magic: the zodiac, kabbalah, the elements, alchemy, the divine name, etc. It has been said to come from the Gypsies via Egypt. It has been said to be a lot of things. Beautifully so, with just a little tweaking here and there, it can align with any system one chooses to align it with. Verifiable history, on the other hand, is another matter. Truth is often the destroyer of dreams.


I am currently reading A Wicked Pack of Cards by R. Decker, T. Depaulis & M. Dummett. It is an excellent account of the history of tarot as a playing pack and how it came to be transformed into a popular method of divination. Although some people prefer to know only some mythology and are satisfied to call it truth, I prefer to see how mythology interweaves with history and realize that neither is complete without the other. I believe that learning names and dates of history does not destroy the tarot as a tool of divination— though some may have no interest in such stuff— either one or the other.


I am the dreamer of my own mythology. I do not see differing mythologies as systems that must necessarily be in conflict. Hindu Mythology, Greek Mythology, Judeo-Christian Mythology, Zodiac Mythology, Egyptian Mythology and Evolutionary Mythology can all live in peace with one another, if we choose to be peaceful people. There is no need to wage wars. We just need to agree that every truth is also a mythology, and each mythology a truth. What a beautiful dream that would be!


The Star — Tarot Lukumi

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Artist: Luigi Scapini
Author: Emanuele Coltro Guidi
Interpretation: “The stars are so far that they don’t listen to anyone. The path (avatar) of Yemaya, Yoruban Goddess of the sea, called Asesu is a deaf Entity. Yemaya Asesu goes on with her business and doesn’t listen to much. The patiki tell us that before listening to questions she counts all the feathers of a duck who was sacrificed as ebbo to her.”
Part of the purpose of the Tarot Lukumi deck is to build a bridge between the world of Cuban Santera (Relga de Ocha or Relga Lukumi) and the occult tarot to demonstrate universality of the rules of Magic. I am especially fond of this purpose.
Throughout the history of the occult tarot, different readers have used their preferred method of magic to divine meaning from the cards: Astrology, Kabbalah, Masonic Hermetism, Jungian psychology, and so on. In order to find meaning in a foreign system, one must find the correspondences with an understood system. This is the basis of syncretism. It is also the basis of learning to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
Santeria is an anamistic religion coming from the syncretism of the religion of the west-African Yoruban tribes people and Catholicism. Following their abduction to the Indies for the purpose of slavery, Spanish law mandated that these people be baptized Roman Catholic. But Catholicism was not a big hit among the slaves. [If someone abducted me from my homeland; placed me on a ship in a manner similar to which I do not approve of cattle being treated; left me there for weeks with minimal life support on a nauseating ocean voyage; separated me from my family & sold my children & subjected me to a life of forced labor I, too, would have trouble accepting their notions of god.] In attempt to appease their tormentors, many slaves pretended they were Catholic. Thus began the syncretism of Yoruba and Catholicism into Santeria.
The Star, in this image, is pictured as a mermaid sitting on a sandbar pouring water from two conch shells into the sea. Behind her is the sacrificial duck whose feathers she counts before listening to questions. In the sky are seven stars.
I learned the star as a card of hope, and when I think of hope, I think of Pandora. In Greek mythology, Prometheus, champion of mankind and traitor to the gods, stole fire from heaven. Zeus punished Prometheus by binding him to a rock. A great eagle ate his liver every day; the liver grew back and was eaten again the next.
The gods, still bitter that Prometheus had given the gift of fire to man, then took vengeance on humankind by means of Pandora, the first mortal woman. Pandora was endowed with every gift known to women: beauty, grace and desire from Aphrodite; cunning and boldness from Hermes; gardening msp free vip codes from Demeter; manual dexterity and spinning from Athena; sweet singing and lyre playing from Apollo; and a pearl necklace from the god of the sea who promised she would never drown.
The gods then placed every plague and sorrow into one jar and presented the jar to Pandora with the instructions do not open under any circumstance. Pandora was then presented as a gift to Prometheus’ brother.
So of course Pandora, endowed with an ample amount of curiosity, opened the jar. Out poured Death, Sickness, Insanity, Pestilence, Addiction, Greed, Theft, Lies, Jealousy and Famine and on and on until all the evils were loosed upon the earth. Then out the bottom, just before she managed to slam the lid, flew Hope. It is Hope that sustains humanity.
Anyone who calls on a deaf goddess who counts all the feathers of a duck before listening to a question really has run out of places to turn for help. It is when we feel most alone and lost that we need to call on hope the most.
Shining, shining in the basket’s bottom,
a jewel of hope lies beneath
the monsters of destruction.