From the creator of the Alchemical Tarot
The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery expresses the transcendental philosophy that is linked to the origin of the Tarot. It illustrates the ancient Western systems of the three soul levels and seven soul centers that function as steps on a mystical ladder of ascent to higher consciousness. It can be read on many levels, from the mundane to the spiritual, it is a source of inner wisdom and advise, and can uncover the longings of the soul.
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Please Read On
Burne-Jones based his tall female “stunners” and melancholy heroes on the paintings of Botticelli (1445-1510) and Michelangelo (1475-1564), two artists whose works are considered primary examples of Renaissance Neoplatonic mysticism. His work expresses the Renaissance ideal that physical beauty and spiritual beauty are linked in one continuum that can lead to the mystical experience of beauty itself, as a timeless, underlying reality. Plato (428/7-348/7 BC) described this reality as a radiant light that is the true food of the soul. He said that this light is made of the true essence of Virtue, a higher quality of Virtue, beyond mere codes of behavior. In the Renaissance, artists, like Botticelli, symbolized this spiritual essence as an ideal female nude and it is this ideal that allowed early Tarot artists to place a nude on the World card as a symbol of the primary beauty.
Because Burne-Jones was inspired by the beauty and symbolism of the fifteenth century (the century in which the Tarot was created) it is not surprising that he painted many of the same themes that we find in the Tarot, such as Temperance, Lovers, and the Wheel of Fortune. It seemed to me that he was creating a Tarot but he never finished it. I started this deck with a desire to finish Burne-Jones’s Tarot for him. I wanted to see what a deck would look like if it were done in his style and with his sense of sensuality and symbolism. I also realized that it would express the Neoplatonic ideal that I believed was expressed in the Tarot from its origin. By proceeding with this intent, this deck became a bridge between the art and occult symbolism of the nineteenth century and the iconography and mystical philosophy of the fifteenth century. It shows that they are both rooted in the perennial mystery that is like a golden thread running through Western History.
In Neoplatonic mysticism, numbers are used as symbols and the numbers three and seven are of primary importance. As testament to its Neoplatonic origin, the Tarot has a fifth suit composed of an unnumbered Fool and three times seven trumps. The sixth century BC philosopher, Pythagoras, was said to have theorized that there are three kinds of people, each characterized by their level of spiritual development: those who love profit, those who love fame, and those who love wisdom. Plato continued this idea by stating that each person has three souls: the Sole of Appetite, the Soul of Will, and the Soul of Reason, which he symbolized as a chariot with two winged horses and a driver.
These three represented a spiritual hierarchy and as individuals developed and balanced each through the practice of virtue they were able to advance spiritually and operate at a higher soul level. The keys to spiritual advancement were the Cardinal Virtues. Plato and later philosophers assigned three virtues, one to each of the soul levels, and these are the same three that are depicted in the Tarot: Temperance to the Soul of Appetite, Strength to the Soul of Will, and Justice to the Soul of Reason. If we divide the twenty-one trumps into three groups of seven we find the theme of each group corresponds sequentially to the three soul levels and the sequence also depicts the three virtues that are necessary to bring them into balance.
In Plato’s theory the complete set of Cardinal Virtues contained a forth called Prudence. In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, philosophers theorized that the forth virtue. Prudence, contained the other three. So that Temperance, Strength, and Justice were the three virtues necessary to develop the totality that was Prudence. In this view, Prudence represented not just wisdom but a mystical state of enlightenment that was reached when the lesser three virtues brought the soul levels into balance and health. In the Tarot, Prudence is represented by the Wold card, which represents Prudence as a Botticelli-like beautiful nude. Philosophers equated her with the Soul of the World, which helps to explain the title of the trump. Her Christian counterpart was Sophia, the wisdom of God, who was said to be the mother of the three Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. With these three the total number of virtues is brought up to seven and this is the sevenfold mystery.
The importance of the number seven was derived from its role in ancient cosmology. From the ancient world until the late Renaissance, the Earth was believed to be the unmoving center of the universe and the fixed stars, formed into constellations, revolved around the Earth from east to west. Between the fixed stars and the Earth, there were believed to be a series of seven crystal spheres, forming seven layers each one closer to the stars as they ascended. On each sphere the ancients placed a planet that orbited independently from the fixed stars. When the sky is viewed with the naked eye, the planets are the only celestial objects that seem to do this. The planets were each named after a god; from the bottom up, they were: Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The planets were, also, believed to from a ladder between Heaven and Earth that the soul would descend at birth and at each planet the soul was given certain qualities by the god of the planet. These qualities are the source of the lists or seven virtues and seven vices.
The seven planets were thought of as the soul centers of the cosmos and corresponding soul centers could be found ascending the spine, from the sacrum to the crown of the head, in the microcosm of the human body. Pythagoras developed the diatonic music scale with seven notes to capture the sound that each planet made as it orbited the Earth. This was called the music of the spheres. He marked each note with one of the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet and through a musical treatment used this scale to bring the human soul centers into harmony with the planets. These notes functioned as virtues meant to heal each soul center. Later, lists of seven virtues meant to cure seven vices-each associated with a soul center-began to appear in Hermetic, Gnostic, and mystical Christian philosophy. I believe that the Tarot’s trumps depict Virtue driving an ascent through the seven soul centers depicted repeatedly on three levels, corresponding to the three Platonic soul levels. The final achievement of this ascent is illustrated on the Soul of the World card, which depicts Prudence/Sophia as the light of higher consciousness and the true food of the soul.
The minor suits in The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery related to the four elements and the pips and courts are similar in meaning to the same cards in The Alchemical Tarot.
The Design for the Back of the Cards
The Staff of Serapis
Serapis was the principle god of the mystery religion that dominated Hellenistic Egypt. He was a combination of the Egyptian Osiris and the Apis bull. The Hellenistic Egyptians equated him with the Greek Hades and they provided Serapis with a three-headed dog like Cerberus. The three heads of the Egyptian hound were transformed into the head of a wolf, a lion, and a dog, representing the past, present, and future.
In the 15th century, this image was introduced to Renaissance artists and philosophers. They equated the image with Prudence, who in the Middle Ages and Renaissance was often depicted with three heads to represent the three lesser virtues that were her parts. They also made it a symbol of Apollo instead of Serapis, who was less well known to them. Besides the past, present, and future, they said that the three heads represented the three aspects of the Platonic soul as well as memory, intelligence, and foresight. The Wolf as a symbol of appetite devours the past like memory, the lion as a symbol of courage and will dominates the present with his intelligence and action, and the dog as a symbol of reason and virtue creates a better future through his prudence and optimistic hope. As a symbol of Prudence and the three Platonic souls it relates well to my theory of the symbolism of the trumps and shows how this theme was commonly expressed in the iconography of the Renaissance.
The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery decks are $30 each plus shipping-$8 in the USA, $26 for Canada, or $35 International (New York State residents must add 8% sales tax)
To order in the US you can use this link:
For combined shipping on orders, or for international orders,
or just because you want to
contact me at:
Or you can send a check, a Visa or Master Card number with an expiration date
Robert M. Place
34 Moon Rd
Saugerties, NY 12477
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A comparison of the World cards from the Tarot of Marseilles, The Alchemical Tarot, and The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
Lovin’ the New Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
A review Posted on March 17, 2013, by Val Sherill
Robert Place’s newly released deck, The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, is beautiful, stunning, gorgeous. It is magnificent. I love the richness of color and clean lines. The images were inspired by the paintings of the 19th century painter Edward Burne-Jones who, also, worked with stained glass.
The standard little white book (LWB) is included and well worth reading. In the introduction, Place reveals the inspiration behind the deck along with a brief explanation of the beliefs of the Pre-Raphaelites and Neoplatonic mysticism.
“My Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is designed to illustrate and clarify this mystical heritage…”
There are, of course, meanings for all of the Major and Minor cards, but there are no meanings for reversed positions. To paraphrase Mr. Place from various interviews I’ve heard on why he does not use reversed cards in his readings, “As an artist, upside-down images make me crazy.”
A certain train of thought among a number of Tarot folk would have one simply toss the LWB that comes with a deck without ever reading a word of it. I am not one of them. Especially with this little white book. If anything, the introduction, alone, is well worth the time.
There are title changes in the Major Arcana:
The Fool becomes “Stultitia,” a Latin motto meaning foolishness.
The Lovers is “Cupid” and depicts the image of a young man having to choose between two women as can be seen in the older Marseille and Italian decks.
The Hanged Man is “Traitor” as such criminal behavior was punished by hanging from the feet. Here, the LWB states, “Suffering was a necessary part of the initiation into the ancient mysteries.”
In the Minor Arcana, the suits are named:
The Court cards:
The image on the card back is very interesting (Read the LWB and you’ll know what it is. ~wink~wink~).
My favorite image from the deck is The Unnamed Seeker (aka The Hermit).
The floating seven-pointed star and the purples in the sky just take my breath away.
Read more about the deck in my interview with Tarot author, James Ricklef:
mailto:email@example.comA video presentation of The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery by Shy Fox
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