Alchemical Tarot Little White Book

The second and third editions of the Alchemical Tarot came with a little white book with the basic meanings of the cards.  The fourth edition did not.  For those, who have the fourth edition and do not have the companion book, the contents of the little white book are posted on this page.  Feel free to copy this information and print it.

 

72dpi Flat-3rd Ed Alchemical book 1 cover

Introduction by Robert M. Place

In August, 1987, during the time of the Harmonic Convergence, I was studying an alchemical image that symbolized the Philosopher’s Stone, the mystical goal of the alchemical work, and I had a flash of insight.  It seemed that the image had unlocked a secret door in my mind and in an instant I saw that the alchemical Great Work and the story told in the Tarot’s trumps were interchangeable.  I immediately picked up my copy of Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy and began to make notes in the margins next to the alchemical images comparing them to Tarot cards. This was the beginning of a process that would take several years. The fruit of this insight and labor was the The Alchemical Tarot, which was first published by Thorsons in England, in 1995.

In this new edition, the illustrations have been improved and the columns that flanked the cards on the original have been removed.  The images are larger, filling more of the card. In keeping with the explicit nature of alchemical symbolism, the image that I originally drew for the Lovers card was sexier than the censored version that was published by Thorsons. This edition has both versions of the Lovers.

The Fool and the trumps in the Alchemical Tarot each relate to an alchemical material or process, which is part of the Magnum Opus (great work) of alchemy that leads to the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, a mystical catalyst that transforms what it touches into its highest form. Composed of a mysterious fifth element, it can cure any illness, turn lead into gold, and turn an ordinary person into a sage. The Philosopher’s Stone is represented by the World card.

The four minor suits are related to the four mundane elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. And each of the elements is related to one of the four functions of consciousness as described by Jung: sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling, respectively. Thus the feminine elements align with the  passive observational functions: sensation and intuition, and the masculine elements align with the align with the active decision making functions: thinking and feeling.

The Alchemical Tarot Key to Divinatory Meanings

The Fool and Trumps: the Alchemical Magnum Opus

The Fool – the alchemist beginning the Work – his blindfold equals ignorance – he is a naive beginner and the rabbit is his guide

I. The Magician – Hermes, the god of alchemy and the Matter of the Work, containing all four elements – a messenger, gesturing, “as above so below,” indicating the way of Heaven on Earth

II. The High Priestess – begins the separation of the elements – she is Water, esoteric spiritually, intuition, a secret, or something that cannot be spoken – her book has the triangle of water but it is the color of Fire.

III. The Empress – she is the White Queen and the element Earth – sensation, attraction, fertility, and the feminine principle

IV. The Emperor – he is the Red King and the element Air –  thinking, intelligence, authority, and the masculine principle

V. The Hierophant – he is the element Fire and esoteric spiritually   – he is Hermes Trismegistus holding the Emerald Tablet, with feminine symbols on the left and masculine symbols on the right -he is what can be spoken, fought, or published, balance, and morality

VI. The Lovers Kissing – the foreplay of love – the elements recombined in the Minor Conjunction -sex, attraction, coming together, partnership

VI. The Lovers Joining – the action of love – the same as above but more active

VII. The Chariot – Sublimation – the wheel wight he internal sun is his goal, the three glyphs in the wheel are, left to right, Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury (the three alchemical essences and the three parts of the chariot) – speed, impatience, travel

VIII. Justice – Disposition (in which the part are weighed) – the furnace connected to Heaven with the glyph for vitriol (the secret fire) on the sword handle – the process of weighing, truth, balance, justice, the law

IX. The Hermit – Exaltation (an enhancement) – the alchemist following the footsteps of the Anima Mundi, with the ouroboros (serpent of time) and the raven of the Nigredo (the first black stage of the Opus) – meditation, solitude, inner guidance, the desire to be alone

X.The Wheel of Fortune – the Fixed and the Volatile – the unwinged dragon is fixed and the crowned and winged dragon is volatile – fate, transformation, change

XI. Strength – Fermentation – the female virtue controls the Green Lion (the destructive aspect of Mercury) – control through love, self control, discipline

XII. The Hanged Man – Calcination (in which gold is sacrificed) – the serpent is Mercury – willing sacrifice, suffering, loss of money or position, discomfort, illness

XIII. Death – Putrefaction – the dark vessel of the Nigredo – the end of anything, decay

XIV. Temperance – Distillation – capturing the process of evaporation and precipitation and nurturing the rose of perfection – health, beauty, balance, art, timing

XV. The Devil – Coagulation – the red dragon is the Devil, the hermaphrodite of the King and Queen is his captive – the bad, vice, enslavement, Hell, bad habbits

XVI. The Tower – Greater Separation of the red and the white – the beginning of the Albedo (second white stage of the Opus) – breaking, separation, sudden change, expulsion, divine intervention, sudden insight

XVII. The Star – Purification – the Siren of the Philosophers giving blood (suffering) and milk (nurturing) with the ladder of the planets above – the peace beyond bloos red fear and milk white hope, calm, understanding, ascent

XVIII. The Moon – Diana with her hounds representing the White Stone – rest retreat, anticipation, preparation, dreams

XIX. The Sun – the Greater Conjunction – the Citrinitas (the third yellow stage of the Opus) – spiritual love, soul mates, marriage, enlightenment

XX. Judgement – Resurrection – the skull with sheet symbolizes life from death – rejuvenation, healing, removing blocks, recalling the past, makes a judgment

XXI. The World – The goal of the Opus, the Phliosopher’s Stone, the Red Elixir of healing – the woman is the Quinta Essentia (fifth element) and the Anima Mundi (soul of the world)  – the good, the inner guide, the attainment of our goals

Coins – Earth- Sensation

Ace. The Rabbit – the hole in the coin is the unseen Anima Mundi and the arrows point to the four directions and the four elements – manifestation, a new source of wealth or health

2. The Fixation of the Volatile – the lion is fixed and the eagle volatile, the lion swallows the eagle – polarization, something that is stuck or blocked

3. The Artist – The glyphs on the coins are the three essences: Mercury, Salt, and Sulphur – creating art, creative work that earns a living, observation

4. The Miser – burying his gold in the ground – investment, hoarding, stinginess

5. The Beggar – the coins on the ground are the four elements and the coin in the sky the Quinta Essentia – sickness, poverty, something is missing

6 Youths – Athena’s owl (wisdom) is on the coin held by the boy on top – generosity, sharing, innocence, trust

7. The Obelisk – the coins represent the seven metals, from the bottom to the the top: lead, iron, tin, copper, mercury, silver, gold, these are related to the seven ancient planets  – moving through stages, transformation

8. The Coin Stamper – stamping coins represents receptive work but also making money –  tedious work, habbits

9. The Money Tree – growing coins – investments that pay off, prosperity, health, well being

10.. The Materialist – with coins covering his eyes, drawing possessions to one’s self, selfishness, only seeing the physical or your own interests

Lady of Coins– with a silver lunar coin – wealth, patronage, aesthetics, art

Knight of Coins – with a protective pentacle – protector of wealth and health

Queen of Coins – with a six-pointed star of harmony and well being and a cornucopia – sensuality, health, prosperity, well being

King of Coins – a lion (the master of Earth) with his image on his coin -mastering one’s environment and occupation

Vessels- Water- Intuition

Ace. The Fish – the grapes come from seeds planted but he Anima Mundi in the heart of the soul – finding one’s destiny or purpose

2. The Lovers – a couple with the rose of perfection above – attraction, lust, sex, cooperation

3. The Support Group – supporting the three elements not of this suit: Earth, Air, and Fire – friends, support, support group

4. The Elephant – standing on four vessels – a conservative position, strong but stuck, not moving

5. The Quake – vessels falling off shelves – breaking of position, a sudden breakthrough, new possibilities, birth, a shake up

6. The Gardener – filling different vessels according to their need – nurturing, not too much or too little

7. The Tools– choice, inner guidance – the golden goblet with the glyph for the Anima Mundi is the best choice

8. The Potter – the glyph over the potters wheel is another one for the Anima Mundi – creative work, variation, being present in the moment

 9. The Chamois – a surefooted mountain goat/antelope on his mound of cups – experience, confidence, perspective

10. The Still – the many connected to the one – connectedness, a network, a family, the Internet

Lady of Vessels – she walks on water with the glyph for Water on her vessel, intuition, trusting the unconscious

Knight of Vessels – he samples the water, the fish is a messenger from the unconscious – seeking information, questing into the unconscious

Queen of Vessels – her vessel is sealed but she need not open it – mystery, patience as a spiritual virtue, the facts will emerge at their own pace

King of Vessels – a whale who fills his own cup – self-fulfillment, finding answers within

Swords – Air – Thinking

Ace. The Basilisk – the serpent is a basilisk growing from the unripe free tail to the ripe red head – positive thinking, the pursuit of wisdom, a good idea

2. The Duel – with the owl of wisdom on top -a debate, actively questioning and seeking wisdom

3. The Bleeding Heart – the eye on the heart is consciousness and the rose underneath is perfection being watered by tears – pain, suffering, heartache, growing through suffering

4. The Sage – she sits below the swords of troubled thoughts – meditation, concentration, thought, clear intent

5. The Blacksmith – hammering a blade while it is hot 0 fixing what is broken, righting wrongs

6. The Loving Breeze – filling the sail of the boat and carrying it away from the range of the swords, going with the flow, a higher power

7. The Fox – with a jumble of swords – cleverness, dishonesty, amorality, without judgment

8. The Beast – The Four Evangelists in one, chained and caged by swords – trapped, blocked

9. The Hero – facing a curtain of swords hung by threads – fear, facing fear, acting inspire of fear

10. The Victim – with ten swords in his heart – severe criticism, stabbed in the heart, rejected, injured

Lady of Swords – playing her lute on a cloud – eloquence, poetry, song

Knight of Swords – slaying a beast – righting wrongs, slaying evil, being judgmental, a hero is judged by the size of his foe

Queen of Swords – with different colored wings and two swords – she presents a choice between the red, mature, positive side and the green, immature, negative side

King of Swords – an eagle with an upright sword – clear thinking, positive thinking, confidence

Staffs – Fire – Feeling

Ace. The Salamander – the Fire animal, who mates in Fire, with a living staff, sprouting leaves – a new passion, a new project, a value judgement

2. Hermes and Aphrodite – joined torches with the glyphs for Hermes and Aphrodite – one lover lost in the other, united passion

3. The Boat– the boat returns guided by its eye, a new wave, reinforcements, renewal, replenishment

4. The Bride and Groom – the embracing of opposites- marriage, commitment to passion

5. The Burning Hand – its five fingers are becoming torches – creative energy, a flow of creativity

6. The Master Craftsman – with glyphs for purified silver and purified gold under his feet – honor, respect, good work

7. The Fighting Dogs – the big dog is biting the little dog – competition, argument, aggression, passion out of control

8. The Woodcutter – cutting down burning staffs – cutting back, simplifying, focusing

9. The Grey Wolf – being burned in a fire to reclaim the King, who was swallowed by the wolf – a necessary sacrifice, being overcome with passion

10. The Phoenix – a symbol of the rejuvenating power of the Stone – rebirth, strengthened by ordeals, renewed strength

Lady of Staffs – dancing in the hot, dry desert – dance, love of the new

Knight of Staffs – marching into the desert – seeking a new location

Queen of Staffs – holding a natural staff in one hand and a refined staff in the other – presenting a choice between what is raw or natural and what is refined

King of Staffs – a dragon the master of Fire clutching his staff – a master of feelings

Hermes Publications

copyright Robert M Place 2007

All are free to copy this material for personal use but not for resale without permission form the author.

3 Responses to Alchemical Tarot Little White Book

  1. Pingback: Review: Art of the Tarot at Ghost Gallery - Scream Sirens

  2. melissa moss says:

    thank you so much! You are brilliant and I love your work. are you married 😉

    Like

  3. veronicaanab says:

    Thank you so much for this! I just purchased the deck today, so this helps very much! Many blessings!

    Like

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