I am always awash with diverse projects, and I had to keep putting my translation of Paul Marteau’s Le Tarot de Marseilles on hold. So, I was delighted–and a mite relieved–to see that some other enterprising fellow just released a complete translation of his own, and in a print version, too. Hooray! No more need for me to chip away at my own translation. All the same, I’ll leave the parts I’ve translated—which includes all the Major Arcana and a third or so of the Minors–up on my site for anyone to consult who cannot avail him- or herself of this new English translation (which can easily be found on Amazon).
Now, I haven’t seen the new English translation and so I’m in no position to offer critical comment on it. I’m just pleased to see Marteau accessible to the Anglophone world.
The synthetic meaning of the Eight of Swords is characterized by the blue flower in the the oval which, placed at the enter and representing a square with two crosses, one spiritual and the other material, symbolizes an internal balance between the two infinities which coexist on the higher plane of Being, and indicates therefore the possibility of future liberation.
The 8 is resolved into two squares (8 = 4 + 4) which, as all that which is seen by analogy, differs at the extremes. The square breaks down geometrically in two ways: by the two line in a cross and by the two diagonals; the first symbolize the spiritual and the second the material. Their union in the shape of a square establishes a perfect stability; and the blue, which colors it to the exclusion of yellow and red, shows that it is uniquely produced by the psychism of Being.
The four flowers on the outside on which yellow is equally absent are the sensible manifestations of work which is internal and conscious of Being, which uniquely realizes a fusion of the spiritual and the material.
This fusion, taking place in a harmonious balance, engenders in Being a mystery, a desire, to reach out onto the planes of the Above.
The yellow only appears in the operation of mental activities of mulling something over [malaxation], and this takes place in the subconscious currents of Being, represented by the stylized swords, an operation which takes place outside of his will.
The Eight of Swords is the only even set of of Swords in which the hilt guards of the swords are placed like those of the odd cards: yellow on the right at the top and red to the left. As was already explained in the Three of Swords, it is because of its representation of a quaternary equilibrium and to indicate that divine intelligence, by this Arcanum, penetrates human activity.
Meanings As They Replace to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Elevation of the spirit, a connotation of spiritual effort, of mystical momentum.
ANIMISTIC. Disinterest, love servingthe masses, apostolate.
PHYSICAL. Stability in action, stagnation, by virtue of the status quo, and which constitutes an established balance which would have to be disrupted in order to go in other directions.
INVERTED. As the Arcanum is symmetrical it cannot be inverted, indicating that it represents a balanced form from which nothing bad can emerge.
In its Elementary Sense, the Eight of Swords represents the effort of liberation of Man through an interior evolution, the consequence of his mental activities and which objectively translates as a reward conferred by fate.
The blue sword, precisely drawn, which on the Seven of Swords passes through the oval formed by the six stylized swords, represents an animistic impulse which sets free currents of mental activity buried in the subconscious.
This Arcanum symbolizes, therefore, the enthusiasm we feel from verifying our innermost knowledge acquired through experience.
7 = 6 + 1; 6, through its work balancing the spiritual ternary with the material ternary, has accumulated riches; the purpose of the strength added to the 6 is to put them in play. For this, the sword cuts through the oval and symbolizes the act of will which follows the momentum and, through this internal shock, allows the work of the subconscious to become sensitive and to know the possibilities which are in it; in other words, it is Being which, having become conscious of its balance (by the 6), reaches out to know itself through action, that is, through the imposition of its mark (the opening of the oval).
The literally-drawn sword is blue because 7 is a number of sensitive action: the struggle therefore takes place on the psychic plane with success and must complete the work of the Arcana which precede it, spiritualizing with the blue color of the sword their heaviness. It bears a single black line along its length, while the blade of the blue sword of the Ace has at its base an enhancement of two other lines, and the flesh-colored blades of the 3 and 5 of swords have a double black line at the base, since the Seven of Swords, being more active, meets less resistances, symbolized by the black lines.
The yellow hilt guard and red grip are similar to those of 3 and the 5, but the shape of the yellow pommel is different, showing thus an activity more concrete and intelligence in matter.
The explanation of the stylized swords does not vary for this Arcanum. That of the flowers on the outside is similar to that on the 2 and 3 of Swords, but with increased power.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Understanding of things, clarity of ideas, equitable judgement.
ANIMISTIC. Harmony, psychism, altruism, union, agreement of viewpoints.
PHYSICAL. Smooth beginning, outcome.
INVERTED. Depression, darkness, lack of inspiration, groping about to get free.
In its Elementary Sense, the Seven of Swords represents the test which Man is obliged to submit in order to become aware of some knowledge and without which he would be able to penetrate its intimate meaning.
The coins symbolize offering, the thing given in addition: the coin of St. Peter. Added to the other cards, it represents an additional divine contribution. The Coin also suggests the work of Man, but in view of his exterior activity and, for this reason, indicates activity in passivity.
By representing in the center of the card a yellow circle dived into three concentric areas, the Ace of Coins symbolizes an undulating emission of mind limited by the resistance of its surroundings.
This coin is represented differently from those depicted in the following cards; a simple black line marks the outline, because the unity it symbolizes the radiance which penetrates all.
The repetition of the elements drawn in the different areas, corresponding to the numbers of the construction of the cosmos, indicates that this projection is balanced; this is why it causes, through contact with its surroundings, the flowering stems to pour out whose identical disposition, up and down, shows that they are able to manifest as well in the spiritual world as in the material world.
If the Ace of Cups represents the receptive side of Man, followed by an internal development, the Ace of Coins corresponds to the tendencies of its interior constructions realized externally. The former gathers elements in the cup, the second gives birth to constructions which remain in their latent state and whose gestation and resolutionare indicated in the nine cards which follow.
The Coin has been chosen to characterize not only the internal kneading of feelings stored up in Man, as happens in the case of the Cup, but also their layout for building. Furthermore, with its circular shape implying movement, with its monetary nature implying exchanges, it symbolizes the balance of the mental and the physical in view of making their union fertile from a material point of view. It becomes the agent of the necessary relationship between the Sword and the Baton, between the Cup and the Baton, that is to say, between mental activity and physical work, between the psychic and the material world.
Being works as a creator: Being tends to project into its environment something complex in its own image, and the branches flowering from it represent concrete manifestation. It endeavors to project diagonally psychic emanations (blue), combined with intelligent actions (yellow) and vital forces (red) to achieve, not through a straight line that would be lost in abstraction, but a germ, by folding back on itself, prone to arriving at its own birth, symbolized by the flower at the tip.
These branches equally signify that all power of the Cosmos is maintained in balance by the poles of spirituality represented by the branches ending in flowers. Their yellow color indicates that there can be no link between spirituality (blue stems) and materiality (red flowers) without divine and human intelligence. The flower is a tulip whose six petals represent the five senses plus one, on the inside, opening up to receive and closing when it has received; it is a chalice which receives and which keeps.
The Ace of Coins represents the radiance of Man in the image of the Cosmos and, with its circle, express its emanation being made in regular waves, whose characteristics are indicated by the lines drawn in each, namely: sixteen triangles, large and small, symbols of projections into space, and by the central flower with four round petals and four triangular ones: the quaternary (the flower), the octonary (the eight petals), the duodenary (the twelve stamina) and the successive extension of the octonary in the universe by 16 and 32 (the triangles of the third zone).
At the center of this circle there is a flower forming six other circles; the one in the middle, containing twelve points, recalls the notion of the duodenary which, in the Cosmos, translates to the twelve planets or the twelve signs of the Zodiac, depending on whether we consider the active forms or passive elements; the four circles which surround it contain the quaternary and its different senses, the four elements, etc., and the three trinitarian lines that each contains, as well as the intermediate points which reunite them, show that these four planes are indissolubly linked to the planets, thus they have their destiny marked and represent the four elementary planes.
The triangles around the edge of the circle indicate an activity radiating into all domains and the area which separates these from the central flower, a conciliatory passivity between the foundations and the exterior; the yellow color of the Coin shows that intelligence impregnates all activity.
The stems are the extension of this activity which crosses the material world (the red collar) and transmitted by the flower, symbol of harmonic fertility, after having produced manifestations of an intellectual and psychic order, as indicated by the blue of the stems and the yellow of the twigs.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
The Ace of Coins is the reservoir, the capacitator of activities in all domains, in all parts of the Cosmos.
MENTAL. Active support, well balanced and realized.
ANIMISTIC. Radiating, flourishing.
PHYSICAL. A card of luck whose effects are delayed or advanced, according to its place in relation to the Arcana which surround it. Abundance of health. Profit continues. Affirmation of success.
INVERTED. The inverted Arcana of Coins are barely different in meaning. Being generally symmetrical, they relate to the principle of the Universe whose equilibrium is constant, symbolized by the circle which has neither a top nor bottom.
In sum, in its Elementary Sense, the Ace of Coins represents the desire of Man to project into the environment a complex work made in his image and likely to bloom on its own for his benefit.
The baton of green color, in the shape of a club with its branches cut off, held vertically in a closed hand, indicates a material energy created by a condensation of universal life, for the unnecessary extension have been pruned.
The handling of the Ace of Batons, specified by the line followings cards of which it is the synthesis, engenders a fertility on the three planes, marked by the rain of colored flames.
The Baton, concentrated strength, indicates material energy, allowing action and shaping of matter. Contrary to the projection before the Sword, it is made to describe, in its handling, a circle consisting of a closed closed curve which envelops, circumscribes, and symbolizes the shape in an elementary fashion.
The firm way in which the hand holds the baton indicates the power which is between the hands of Man and his mastery over matter. It is a right hand, signifying as does the Ace of Swords, will and control, but opposed to this latter, the wrist is turned to the right and the hand is presenting its internal side, because the energy in matter is manifested immediately, without prior deduction, as is the mental activity of the Sword. The palm suggests a direct actin, the interior being visible and not hidden by the thickness of the hand.
The Ace of Batons stores up strength and brings about the consolidations and energetic powers which he has in it. With it, Being enjoys its strength of resistance, by the manner it resists, by its weight and its solidity, in an external shock.
It is an active power of construction and of realization in matter, having enclosed in it a supply of spirit. This supply is indicated by the arm which passes through a flesh-and-blue colored, fluted sleeve of a circular shape, indicating a material universe and its psychic waves. The red bracelet affirms the bond of this card to matter and its essentially material significance.
The falling colored flames have the same meaning as they do in the Ace of Swords.
The baton is represented by the trunk of a tree from which one has cut the branches, because, its spirituality amounting to nothing, it is not able to raise up its branches to what is Above. It is strictly a terrestrial state on the material plane, but its green color indicates its grand power of fertility on this plane, and the red border of its cut branches express that the branches come about in the material world. The lower extremity, bordered with yellow, signifies that despite the entirely physical state of this symbol, it takes its origins in the Divine Intelligence.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Inspiration in the domain of the practical, an idea coming forth in the course of a matter to activate it.
ANIMISTIC. Overwhelming feelings, a little exaggerated, more expressive than affective.
PHYSICAL. Active, brilliant transactions. Success through force. Abundant health, a little excessive, causing incessant activity.
INVERTED. Bad, lack of energy. Continuous restarting of that which has been undertaken. A result obtained through force will be negated by another force.
In sum, in its Elementary Sense, the Ace of Batons represents material energy put into Man’s hands to permit him to resist collisionscoming from outside, or for him to use as leverage for building something in the physical world.
The cup implies passivity in passivity because it deals with a man’s interior work involving himself.
With its red-colored cup, the Ace symbolizes symbolizes a receptivity on the plane of material activity, grounded in the intelligence of the ternary, the fulcrumof the worlds (the yellow color of the triangle pedestal) and receptacle of divine thought made concrete in the tangible image of of a reliquary.
This arrangement shows that the Cup is the point where the spiritual and the material come into contact with each other. This communion is symbolized by the red semicircle representing the Host; and the cup, concealing its contents, indicates the internal work which is accomplished in everything to balance in itself that which it was able to retain of the riches of divine love with the achievements accomplished in the material world. This internal work permits man to become aware of himself by means of the imagination and sensibility, the one being the point of contact of the soul with the spiritual plane through mysticism, the other being basic awareness with matter.
The Cup, by what it contains, will always suggest an internal elaboration, hidden in passivity and in the uncertainty of action.
The cup has been selected as a symbol of an essentially-receptive passivity because i is a recipient which, with its covering, becomes a sphere, which is to say, a closed receptacle, maintaining its internal forces and permitting their development in isolation.
The Ace of Cups opens the door for clearing the mind and for the internal feeling of riches and the things which have been acquired by Being on the different planes of the animistic, spiritual riches dressing up in matter and entering into the sensitivity with which it animates the different planes.
This card represents spiritual thought transposed onto a concrete form. It is represented in the shape of a cup to show that Man is able to be enveloped and absorbed by his higher mind. This is surmounted by a construction in the shape of a reliquary or a symbol of the Grail, signifying that the spiritual contribution of the divine is a kind of wealth which is able to be contained and protected, because all divine thought made concrete which is scattered does not reach its goal and does not bear fruit. Its gold color, as well as its base and the central part, red, bringing them together, indicates a polarization between the High and the low; the Divine Intelligence descends, by a communion, into the base of beings and things, after having crossed through matter, but as the reliquary it is larger than the base, that which predominates is the spiritual.
The red cup supports the septenary indicated by the seven yellow turrets which, with their seven red summits, shows through the number 7 that the elevation of Man must be established by all the ranges of vibration of the soul, expressed in the highest part of the material plane.
The central motif of the highest part, in the shape of an ogive surmounted by three balls, and a triangle above, brings to mind the universal intelligence which builds on the perfection of the triangle, a symbol of the Trinity.
The three blue spurts make manifest the psychic momentum which rushes towards matter, while the later marks the momentum towards the High, first by its three red ovals at the base of the reliquary, then by the red extremities of the 7 columns. This momentum thus shows its manifestation in the three worlds, then its expansion in the Universal, by the activity of the septenary.
The base, by its ternary shape, bearing a triangle and four waves on one of its sides, recalls the quartenary within the ternary, evoking also the latent state of the number 7 which will find itself fulfilled in the 7 elevations of the reliquary.
The blue color of the mount indicates spiritual support, existing before all communion; this cannot take place without it. The five blue leaves at the base are a symbol of activity and affectivity at the Spiritual level (the 5 indicates a vibrational note within an activity).
The ground, partially flesh colored [sic] and striped with black lines, and partially white, specifies that this animistic cup rests as much on the vital activities of the physical plane as it does on the light of the abstract plane.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
This card maintains a rapport with the Universal, because it is based on the septenary and essentially on the ternary. It is a powerful spiritual contribution, a great psychic protection. It does not descend into the into the individual anima like maternal love, but it maintains itself in the higher planes.
The cups are in rapport with altruism and spiritual offerings, and the Ace of Cups, through itself, opens the doors for engagement with the spirit.
MENTAL. Clear, inspired judgement, against which there is no turning back.
ANIMISTIC. Beauty of feelings, rising above a personal note. Altruism, works of charity. Mass education.
PHYSICAL. In contact with the higher things of the material world. Great enterprises. Artistic productions of genius.
INVERTED . Protection is not withdrawn, but its effects are less felt and is unknon to the person who receives it. Being deprives itself of matter and loses all spirituality. Gross materialism.
In its Elementary Meaning, the Ace of Cups represents in Man the internal development of riches acquired on all planes of the anima.
1. In general, the Cup cards inverted signify that the readings which concern the physical plane are accomplished almost without remission. The upright cup represents plentitude and, inverted, the inability to receive.
Not wearing a crown, his head covered with an intricate hat resting on white hair, and in a rich and elaborate outfit, the King of Coins, sitting, with one leg crossed over the other, his body turned to the left and his head towards the right, symbolizes thereby mental richness and the human sciences [i.e., psychology and sociology, which used to be grouped under the rubric “sciences morales”], allowing by their judicious use and, from case to case, the gradual or immediate realization in matter of constructs engendered by the mind.
The complexity of the hairstyle of the King of Coins indicates the ensemble of working plans which he embodies and which he reflects in the material world.The absence of a crown shows, in effect, that he does not radiate in the Universal the way the other kings do, but that he operates through the leans at the disposal of Man, in other words, through psychology which, by itself, cannot give communication with the Universal, that is to say, mastery through a higher plane.
The triangles on his hat represent constructions, because the triangle, through its immutable balance, is the essential schematic element of every edifice . The blue colors of his cap, the flesh color of the higher section, and the yellow of the lower section indicate deduction and inductions, exercised over vital work, which allows matter to be directed and controlled. Its shape in an 8 indicates an undertaking in a closed circuit, thus complete and with the possibility of being realized.
The white hair below it is a rich supply of knowledge, in various currents and in the effluences from a higher plane; it denotes that in the King of Coins is powerful erudition, elaborate and luminous.
His white beard, an indication of will and the means of carrying it out, confirms an emission of synthetic currents, while his moustache, flesh colored, represents the contribution of nervous force.
The part of his blue cloak which his left hand is lifting implies, in as much as it is a coat, an envelopment by intuitive forces and, by his drawing it back, a willful condensation of auric fluids, a collection of psychic activities for a specific and precise action. That fold being made on his raised right leg accentuates a disposition towards action and makes it evident that it is soon.
The numbers 3, 2, and 7, marked by the three black points on his yellow collar, two buttons on his red vest, along with six white diamonds and a white line on the black back of his armchair, by their shapes, preside over the nature of the operations which the King of Coins effects on the three planes: mental, animistic, and material. On his collar, the three units, or points, indicate abstractions in a ternary mode, and, consequently, the application of mathematics to the triangular constructions of his hair. The two circles of his vest constitute a polarity, one which implies the reconciliation of opposites and presides over all combinations. The seven white figures (four squares and a line) traced on the black part of the chair, raised over four legs, shows by the seven the range of knowledges acquired in the material plane, represented by the double quaternary. The overall consideration of these three numbers affirms the materialization of the designs of the King of Coin, since the last number can be found inscribed outside of him. The six black dots on the flesh-colored crossbar of the chair define the small struggles which he encounters in the physical world; the four black lines connecting the base of the two visible legs of the chair represent the small points of resistance in his development, and the five black lines above are the small points of resistance in the transition that leads to the result.
The coin held in his right hand, therefore active, and placed on his raised knee, representing therefore the hinge of a levering arm ready to act, confirms an imminent setting-into-motion and an almost immediate realization. The coin is small because it represents a gathering of the human sciences, which is to say, an ensemble of means of construction more abstract than concrete, the smallness symbolizing the synthesis which, at his greatest, is reduced to a point.
On this Arcanum, the royalty of the figure is not indicated by the crown, this being absent, but by the richness and intricacy of his clothing, whose multiplicity of elements means an abundance of powers.
The King of Coins the only one who reposes on uneven ground. Because of this he stirs up matter through his mental and material activity. The tufts of grass which grow on the rough ground are flourishes of intelligence, and the white part of the soil represents the equipoise which he brings.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Powerful, universal, insightful intelligence, the capacity for introspection in all domains.
ANIMISTIC. Not very lively, it is neutral in matters of affection. The materialization of hopes, support in the material world.
PHYSICAL. Diverse and very active affairs, changes in nature. Health, with the conflicts due to changes of temperament, for it is charged with fluid currents.
INVERTED. Great disorder, failure. Complete absence of scruples, imagination led towards evil.
In its Basic Meaning, the King of Coins represents the mastery of constructions in the material world through science and knowledge.
1. We see it by noticing that the trusses and frames at the base of all constructions are an assemblage of triangles.
Dressed in a rich military costume and fitted with a large hat surrounding a crown, the King of Batons, with his scepter directed towards the earth with a firm hand, his left hand positioned near his belt, and his knee raised, signifies that all material success can only be achieved by work which is precise and balanced, and carried out with resolve.
The military appearance of the King of Batons is meant to show that his work is enveloped in energy. His white hair represents his internal equilibrium.
The heavy scepter, clearly directed at the ground, indicates that this personage, in order to obtain the realization which is incumbent on him as King, must take charge of situations and free himself from doubt while fixing things concretely.
The white scepter, aimed at the lower extremity and not resting on the ground with black oblique stripes, having on its tip a white part surmounted by a yellow ball with black stripes, and with a ponderous yellow ornament attached to its base, is an expression of the power of the King over matter and, although the king wishes to act impartially, the obstacles he must overcome on his way are numerous.
Under his breastplate, on his blue skirt, the slats of the same color represent the rays flowing from the bottom; on his shoulders, the yellow slats indicate a flowing radiance emanating from Above, the power of Man radiating both upwards and downwards.
Against the base of his cuirass, his left hand, of a passive nature and one finger of which points to the four dots, while his forearm rests on his bent knee, signifies that the interior work of his active thought, in the search for balance (the belt), is exercised in various ways and extends into the three planes of matter.
The fourteen dots which are depicted on his entire set of clothing express this extension; their symmetrical position in relation to the center line of his doublet indicate that they are polarized and that they represent 7 x 2; or 7 gives the range of all the vibrations, and its polarization implies that in happens in an internal mode, as it does through sound, and in an external way, as it does through colors. His hat, wavy and of regular shape [.e., symmetrical], as oppose to that of the Kng of Cups, indicates the personal, direct activity of the King of Batons in the physical world, and the position of his crown on this hat blue on the inside and red on the outside makes it clear that this activity is not the principle element of mental effort, but that this later is balanced in the interior, mostly by psychism, before cloaking itself in matter and that it extends as much into the active as the passive worlds. The black lines of the hat represent the forces of inertia which the activity of the King will have to overcome in the physical world.
His elevated heel, as well as the shadow it casts to make it stand out, indicate that the immobility of the King is only momentary and that he will put himself in motion when he feels the need. This amounts to saying that every realization is not a function of a duration, but of an effort of preparation which can, suddenly, reach maturity.
The throne on which he stands shows, with its black lines, the resistances which the King of Batons meets in order to commit an act, and the feet of the throne, resting on the flesh-colored plinth, show that this act is physical.
The yellow feet, the visible blue part surmounted by a white ball, the yellow part of the chair on which the King is seated, along with the yellow base of the soil where his feet are resting, by avoiding the flesh color of the center, represent the forces which are accorded to him for overcoming the resistances which he will encounter on the planes where he is going to act with intelligence.
In his right hand he holds a sword with a flesh-colored blade, and in his left is a scepter of authority; he wears a hat with a white interior and a blue and red on the outside, with an actual crown for the crown of the hat; his head is turned to the right and he is in a semi-sitting posture. The King of Swords suggests preparation for lucid action carried out with the higher knowledge that comes from mental activity.
The parts of the King of Swords depicted in white indicate, on the one hand, his impersonality and, without specifying a particular action, reveal a state of consciousness of Being, fit for being adapted to the invitations implied by the calls towards evolution and, on the other hand, an impregnation of light in the intimate organization of the part of his conceptions realized by the universal [?] (the white interior of his hat), in his mental activity (his white hair), in the balance of his desires with their physical operations (his white belt) and in the direction of his actions (the white scepter).
The King is turned towards the left, his head towards the right and sitting with one foot forward; that is to say, that he is passive and stable, but ready for action.
The sword is flesh-colored, showing that the action of the King is being exercised with a lively dynamism and extends to humanity, that is to say, that he is dressed in altruism; he animates the things which are presented to him. The hilt guard, large and yellow, symbolizes the intelligence behind his activity.
On the other hand, his sword is resting on his knee. The circle depicted there is relate to activity, just as the two circles on his other knee relate to passivity. These circles reinforce their reciprocating effects when they meet each other.
His scepter of authority, white with black stripes, suggests mastery over his subconscious, just as he has over his superconscious [superconscient], because it is held in his left hand, and indicates by that fact that the king no longer has to worry about acting outside of his own will. The black stripes show that his own impersonality remains below the divine impersonality, which is absolute. Finally, its gold pommel is similar to the pommel of the sword.
The hat, with a wavy shape, specifies that the mental constructs of the King put him in touch with cosmic infinity. The crown on the interior of his hat and partly hidden shows that, while partly manifesting itself, there are spontaneous exchanges between the cosmic elements and the subconscious acquisitions of the mind.
The two different masks on his shoulders indicates his action on contrary planes, because they are contrasting in their expressions.
The twelve twists on his belt refer to the twelve Major Arcana, marking the balance of these 12 principles between the animistic and the physical, as the points on the belt of the Queen of Swords. But since these later are points—that is, abstractions—they are associated with the intimate and deep role of the Major Arcana, while the twists are connected with the practical role of the King. The other points appearing on his garb are the fluid centers of condensation manifesting the action of the King on different planes, corresponding to the parts of of his clothing on which they are found, and in the reference implied by the number of points: the four placed under the mask which covers his right shoulder signify their role in the quaternary of elements, which is to say, in matter. The six points on his breastplate, on the left, show that which he must do to evolve through physical sacrifice or his animistic evolutionary role, and the eight on the right represent that which he must do to evolve through the rectitude of his judgement.
The chair on which the King is seated is flesh colored with a yellow border, of which a part is striped with black lines, repeated on the ground under his feet, recalling the karmic shadows which contain a certain fatality as well as the resistances to overcome on the material plane.
The black cracks traced at the bottom of the chair show the workings of the material world, based on past experience, as the chair is made of matter and providing support for the benefit of internal work. These cracks are composed of a spiral and some leaves, indicating by this that this work is manifested by geometric laws applied to the evolution of matter or nature, as the spiral is an extension of (nebulous) forces, and the leaves an expansion of vegetative life.
Their black color indicates their hidden role and the karmic darkness which can ensue from it.
The figure on the right shoulder, surrounded and framed in black lines, seems to smile; on the other side, the figure with lines has its mouth closed; these are the two faces of an issue, that on the left representing psychic activity; that on the right recalls, with its lines, the destiny which weighs on the King of Swords.
All of his clothing, analogous to that of the personage of the Chariot, speaks to setting something in motion and to a psychic energy, reinforcing his mental activities and appropriate to the Sword.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Rich, complicated input, characterized by the importance of skill. His judgement is fair and profound. Influence in all domains. The ability to take stock, to give solutions for different things (action defined by the two masks on his shoulders).
ANIMISTIC. Protection and solace.
PHYSICAL. This card has rapport with the Major Arcana V, VI, and VIII. If some matter has been dormant, it is revived. State of questionable health, for the black flower on the chair indicates a danger coming from the past. The black lines of the chair, on the other hand, are the shadows of which the flower is the outcome and the part in the shape of a 9 is an element which detaches itself, a disintegration of this past. All together this indicates a certain fatalism in this card.
INVERTED. The heaviness of this massive chair entails angers, profanities, low pleasures.
In sum, in his Elementary Sense, the King of Swords represents the success of Man in every movement of his mental activities, whenever this is accompanied by reflection.
[THE USUAL DISCLAIMER: These are notes and drafts, not a completed work. As such, I have not worried too much about the academic niceties of form, and everything I write is subject to change, and people are welcome to make suggestions or criticisms. In fact, I’m hoping that you do. –Kitos]
Usually when Tarot cards make an appearance in movies, they are laid out without any rhyme or reason. Or you’ll see them in a scene in which someone draws a single card and throws it dramatically face up on the table. And—gasp!—it’s DEATH or THE LOVERS or something a Tarot-naive audience can make sense of without foreknowledge. Twin Peaks is a television series which aired on CBS in the United States between 1990 and 1991, the creation of Mark Frost and David Lynch. Twin Peaks shows some sophistication about the actual use of tarot. For example, the American villain Blackie has a Rider-Waite-Smith clone deck and the layout she uses is the Celtic Cross. That kind of deck and spread are in fact most popular among Americans and British.
By contrast, the French Canadian Québécois villain Jean Renault (who just happens to be in the midst of a tarot reading when we first meet him) is using a French Marseille deck in a the three-card spread, both more common in the Francophone world.
Clearly someone involved in setting up these scenes knew at least that much about Tarot culture. Now to look at the cards to see if they seemed to be deployed with any significance. We are somewhat limited in making this evaluation, as there are only a few shots where the cards are visible and identifiable.
First Season: Episode 8
When we first see the tarot cards, they are presented in the same shot as the television monitors for the casino, obviously to establish their identical purpose: surveillance. Blackie O’Reilly, the madame-manager of the One Eyed Jacks Club in Canada, is in her office laying out cards in what is clearly the traditional Celtic Cross arrangement. The King of Pentacles is clearly visible in the “What Crown You” (or Conscious Influences) position at the top of the cross. The deck O’Reilly is using is the Hansen-Roberts Tarot, by the way.
Blackie O’Reilly is the #2 in command of this moneymaking operation, working under Benjamin Horne, the richest man in Twin Peak, so it is easy to see how the King of Pentacles in this position would be relevant. King Benjamin Horne is what crowns Blackie.
And precisely when O’Reilly is in the act of laying a card in Position 8, or the What-You-Need-To-Know-About-The-People-Around-You, the door in the background opens and in comes her new hire, reporting for inspection.
And what Blackie really Needs To Know About Her, but doesn’t, is that this woman is actually Audrey, on a secret mission of her own, and the daughter of the club’s owner, Benjamin Horne. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell which card Blackie has just laid in Position 8.
[Two Asides, before I move on to the other tarot deck we see in this series. If you like, you can skip over these asides to get to the other Tarot deck in Twin Peaks.
1. The Lesbian Innuendo of the 52-Card Deck
After looking her over, Blackie tells Audrey to pick out a card from a standard 52-card deck (spread out face up), and Audrey picks out the Queen of Diamonds. What’s the point of having someone pick out a card from a deck face up? Is the Queen of Diamonds is obviously meant to represent Blackie herself, as the Club-cum-Brothel-cum-Casino’s Queen (Diamonds equate to Pentacles) and Second-in-Command under Pentacle King Benjamin Horne.
After Audrey deliberately chooses this card, she and Blackie make prolonged eye-contact, Blackie puts her hand on Audrey’s, and we hear some cliched sexy music. Blackie has made a lesbian overture, and Audrey has signaled interest. (Later in the series, we will see Audrey, as if branded, wearing a Queen of Diamonds on her sexy clothing.)
The details of this exchange are interesting to note.
When Blackie spreads out the deck with the cards face up, we see the cards in partial order: nothing but straight-flush runs of five or more cards. The Queen of Diamonds violates this pattern: she is all by itself between straights of spades and clubs. This can only mean that Blackie had deliberately positioned the card in the deck.
The visual pun is that the Queen doesn’t belong to the straight crowd.
Even though the Queen’s index number is only partially visible, it stands out as the only red card by itself, and Audrey picks it out right away. Did Audrey realize what the overture was and so signal her acceptance of it?
I also note, by the by, that the only other card that is by itself and not part of a suit sequence is the top card Blackie’s hand is covering when she fans out the deck, and it is another Queen: the Queen of Spades. So, true to her name, Blackie’s also a very dark queen.
It’s striking that we have a scene with both tarot cards and an ordinary poker deck at work in it. Since one of the primary themes of Twin Peaks is the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the mystical, perhaps this is being expressed in this scene by the juxtapositioning of an ordinary 52 -card poker deck and the Tarot.
Second Aside:. Other Peripheral Tarot Symbolism
When I first saw this scene, I wondered whether or not the roulette wheel in the second monitor was another Tarot reference (The Wheel of Fortune, obviously). The roulette wheel calls attention to itself, since is odd for the monitor’s camera to be aimed at the wheel itself and not at the table. And that in turn led me to wonder whether the figure in the first monitor, FBI Agent Dale Cooper was meant to suggest the First Arcanum, the Magician. Cooper is visible from the waist up before a table (like the magician) table and making a fortune with his usual aplomb and luck. He is even depicted at the same angle as the Marseille Magician always is. The fact that he’s wearing a tuxedo is also evocative of a stage magician. (Remember, the traditional Tarot magician is more like a stage performer than a magus. Cooper is a bit of both.)
So, subsequently I found out that someone had designed a Tarot deck featuring characters from TWIN PEAKS in the Major Arcanum. It turns out that the character used for the Magician card is, in fact, Special Agent Dale Cooper.
I don’t know much else about the deck besides this. It may be a splendid deck, but it makes it difficult to do internet research on tarot in Twin Peaks, since since virtually every internet search I try connecting Lynch with Tarot just turns up references to this Tarot deck.]
Now, on to the other Tarot deck in Twin Peaks. ]
Jean Renault’s Tarot
(Episode 4 of Season 2, also known as Episode 12)
Jean Renault is one of those villains whose veneer of elegance makes him all the more frightening. As noted above, he’s using a Marseille tarot.
It looks to me like the deck Jean Renault is using is the 1974 U.S. Games CLASSIC TAROT, which is a reproduction of the 1751 Claude Burdel deck. I was only able to tell after seeing this shot of the cards in a different scene.
The giveaway is the card with that red object on it. Can you make it out? Here, I’ll invert the image.
It’s the lightening-struck tower of Arcanum XVI. The only deck I know with a red tower belongs to a deck in the Marseille genus: the U.S. Game 1974 TAROT CLASSIC, a reproduction of the 1751 Burdel deck.
As for the spread itself. The cards he has drawn are the Devil, the Three of Swords (inverted), and Death (inverted).
We might start off by noting that, if nothing else, this at least shows an awareness that inversions in Tarot have meaning.
Is this spread relevant to the dramatic situation? Well, let’s consider this. The dramatic context is that Audrey, being held captive to work as a prostitute subsequently has had a heroin habit forced on her to render her more helpless. Since she has been refusing to have sex with clients, Emory Battis, her “manager” has dragged her to Jean to sort her out. But Audrey tells Jean that Emory has struck her for her non-cooperation. Jean finds this unacceptable promises Audrey that nobody will ever hit her again. By way of reassurance, Jean then shoots Emory dead right in front of her.
So, you’ve got the Devil card, associated with bondage and imprisonment. The Three of Swords (inverted) is associated with sorrows of some sort. It is sometimes said to represent the resolution of a conflict with coworkers (!). Or, one could get visual about it à la readers like Camelia Elias and see the card as a heroin needle being plunged downward into Audrey’s arm. But however you take the Three of Swords, the inverted Death card is not hard to work into the reading in some way. Is it the imminent murder of Emory—a murder which ostensibly is committed to reassure Audrey but is probably intended more to intimidate her? An evil sophisticate like Jean Renault might relish a double-entendre like that.
Obviously Jean’s reassurances are meant to seem hollow and insidious. As if to drive this point home, when he’s trying to reassure Audrey, he inadvertently keeps flashing the Maison Dieu (Tower) card at her.
Later, when we see Jean and Blackie together, the Death card is visible on the counter as they discuss killing Audrey.
But in actuality Jean is preparing to kill Blackie herself. As if to conceal his intentions, he places his glass on top of the Death card.
To be continued…
[THE USUAL DISCLAIMER: These are notes and drafts, not completed works. As such, I have not worried too much about the academic niceties of form, and everything I write is subject to change, and people are welcome to make suggestions or criticisms. In fact, I’m hoping that you do. –Kitos]