Alchemical Tarot Little White Book

jhnjj 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, paste it in a file on your computer, 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 trumps in the fourth edition each have an alchemical symbol on then that stands for the card’s alchemical process. They are mentioned below with each trump.

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. His symbol represents the squaring of the circle (a description of the Opus)

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. His symbol represents Mercury and is composed of the Sun the Moon and the cross of matter

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. Her symbol represents Water being separated from solution

III. The Empress – she is the White Queen and the element Earth – sensation, attraction, fertility, and the feminine principle. Her symbol represents Earth being separated from solution

IV. The Emperor – he is the Red King and the element Air –  thinking, intelligence, authority, and the masculine principle. His symbol represents Air being separated from solution

V. The Hierophant – he is the element Fire and exoteric 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. His symbol represents Fire being separated from solution

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

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

VII. The Chariot – Sublimation – the wheel with the internal sun is his goal, the three glyphs in the wheel and around his chariot are Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury (the three alchemical essences and the three parts of the chariot) – speed, impatience, travel. His symbol represents sublimation

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. Here symbol represents disposition

IX. The Hermit – Exaltation or exultation (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,\. His symbol represents exaltation

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. This symbol represents circulation

XI. Strength – Fermentation – the female virtue controls the Green Lion (the destructive aspect of Mercury) – control through love, self control, discipline. She has the symbols of the Green Lion and for fermentation

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

XIII. Death – Putrefaction – the dark vessel of the Nigredo – the end of anything, decay. His symbol represents putrefaction

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

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 habits. his symbol represents coagulation

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, The symbol represents the greater dissolution

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 blood red fear and milk white hope, calm, understanding, ascent. Her symbol represent purification or baptism

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

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

XX. Judgement – Resurrection – the skull with wheat symbolizes life from death – rejuvenation, healing, removing blocks, recalling the past, a judgment. The symbol represents reviving or resurrection

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. Here symbol represents the Philosopher’s Stone

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 symbols for the seven ancient planets  – moving through stages, transformation

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

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 by the 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 -a breaking of a 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. The women on the three of vessels are her support group

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 green 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 – fixing what is broken, righting wrongs

6. The Loving Breeze – filling the sail of the boat and carrying it away from the points 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 in spite 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 judgment

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.

To learn more about the Alchemical Tarot read

The Tarot, Magic , Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism, Second Edition


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Issue 56 of the Restored Temple of Hermes was sent out on August 3, 2019. If you did not receive it you may need to send me an updated email address.

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12 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 😉


  3. veronicaanab says:

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


  4. Debra Crehan (Delainey) says:

    I just received my second Robert M. Place tarot deck. They are both beautiful, I had intended to not open the second one (The Alchemical Tarot: Renewed) but I couldn’t resist! It reminds me of my other deck, King Solomon Oracle Deck. I had to open it and touch each card!
    Thank you, blessings!


  5. Michelle says:

    I have a special request and I have no idea if this is where to leave it but it is so important to me, my heart to try. I have your first deck. It is precious to me for the one card my little son chewed on (he was lost to me at 18 months and the heartache has been very difficult). My Father also died the year you published this deck. It actually has a lot of positive and loving memories. Unfortunately 2 cards were lost during a move. I know people consider these collectors but this deck was a beautiful piece of my little family. The cards missing are the Ace. Rabbit in the hole and the boat. Is there anyway I could find these two cards so I could have a complete deck again? Thank you and compliments on your fine work and creative insights.


    • robertmplace says:

      I often replace missing cards for mt most recent edition but I do not have any cards from my first edition. Sorry.


      • Michelle says:

        I have a special request and I have no idea if this is where to leave it but it is so important to me, my heart to try. I have your first deck. It is precious to me for the one card my little son chewed on (he was lost to me at 18 months and the heartache has been very difficult). My Father also died the year you published this deck. It actually has a lot of positive and loving memories. Unfortunately 2 cards were lost during a move. I know people consider these collectors but this deck was a beautiful piece of my little family. The cards missing are the Ace. Rabbit in the hole and the boat. Is there anyway I could find these two cards so I could have a complete deck again? Thank you and compliments on your fine work and creative insights.


      • Michelle says:

        I am very grateful for your efforts. It is quite a loss but I thank you for trying.


    • robertmplace says:

      Sorry, I don’t have any extra cards from he first printing.


  6. Page O'Reilly says:

    Hi, I have received the 4th edition Alchemical Tarot – powerful imagery. Do you sell the Little White Book separately? I travel with my work and the book would be great to have with the cards. Thanks.


  7. Pingback: The Alchemical Tarot | Robert Place |4th Edition – Tarot Thrones

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