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The Alchemical Tarot: Renewed

by Robert M. Place

Alchemical Tarot: Renewed
Price: $30.00

Number of cards in deck: 79. There are two Lovers cards.

Measurements: 2.8 x 4.8 inches; or 70 x 122 millimeters.

Back of card: A red rose on a green stem, with two branches with three leaves each. Behind the rose, a mottled gray-green background. The very edge of the card is a dark green border. Inside that is a red frame. Not for inversion.

Booklet included: Yes, 16 pages, 2.45 x 4.5 inches; or 63 x 114 millimeters.

Publisher: Hermes Publications. A professional card printer printed the cards, but I do not know where.

Note on packaging: The very nicely printed cards, along with a very nicely printed booklet, are placed in a very nicely printed box, but the cards are not shrink-wrapped, nor the box wrapped in clear plastic. So the cards may have been handled before you get them, and you should count the cards carefully to determine if they are all there. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.

Note on the Renewed edition: Originally these cards included a book, but the Renewed edition does not. The cards from the original edition had fancy Grecian columns framing each of the illustrations. These have been removed. The backs of the cards are different. Aside from these changes, the cards are otherwise identical.

The book is especially missed. In the booklet, delineations are restricted to a single line. For the first row, the complete text reads:

1. The Magician: Hermes the Master of the Work, containing the four elements - a messenger, gesturing as above so below, indicating the way of heaven on earth.

Two of Swords: The duel - a debate actively questioning & seeking wisdom.

Queen of Coins: Sensuality, health, well-being.

Ace of Vessels: The fish: Finding one's destiny or purpose.

Comments: If you've not guessed already, this is Rosicrucian inspired alchemy, which is spiritual, not actual. The physical process of alchemy involves a quantity of white clay, the ash of a particular tree, spring dew, perhaps mercury & sulfur & a few other ingredients, added in the proper order & at the proper time in total darkness. This soup is heated & cooled & heated again over a period of perhaps two years until it slowly becomes something different. Don't try this at home as gunpowder is one of the accidental by-products & the classic formulas heat this right to the point of explosion. The final result is said to be a stable super-heavy element with an atomic weight of perhaps 135. One of the elemental properties of this substance is the ability to catalyse (ie, transmute) other metallic elements into gold or silver, depending on the operation. It can be prepared as an elixir, which is said to prolong life indefinitely. It is this life-enhancing quality, not a quest for gold, that drove would-be alchemists harder & harder as they got older & older. In case you're wondering, the last known successful alchemist completed the work & disappeared around 1920. This was the legendary Fulcanelli. Given what I've heard of Nicholas Flamel, public scrivener of the 15th century, Fulcanelli should still be alive, though given what I've learned of conscious reincarnation, I can't say he would necessarily be in the same body. It would make a lot of sense to stash the stone & take rebirth from time to time.

It was eventually noticed that spiritually advanced students tended to have more success with this process than others, which lead to the Rosicrucian order (17th century or so). So as the early Rosicrucian experimenter purified his physical materials, he purified himself of his lower desires & we all know what those are. Today both the Rosicrucians & the Masonic orders are more symbolic than actual. In crude terms, the Masons were once builders, the Rosicrucians once chemists.

I wanted this deck to show the classic steps in the production of the Philosopher's Stone, but it does not. This is a major failing. Yet the symbolism in this deck, while disjointed, is fascinating & will repay close study. Since there has been a great surge of interest in alchemy in the last twenty years, perhaps a student of the art will someday produce a serious deck. Knowing these guys a little bit, I suspect they may have already & given it some misleading name. After all, what do rosy crosses have to do with feet of clay?

Notes on the two Lovers cards:
For one reason or another I had excuse to contact Robert Place. He told me his original Lovers card was censored, and another one substituted. When he reprinted the deck, he decided to include both, which I have shown above. No need to guess which of those two were censored.

Whereupon I was curious to discover the symbolic meaning of the censored card. I wrote this:

Your original [censored] Lovers card implies a link between the male crown chakra & the female sex chakra, which will give me something to think about. Her left hand is raised & open, though I notice the Sun is not in alignment with it, nor is her hand aligned with cupid's arrow. The upraised hand could imply that she is giving her consent to congress with the male, but from her position, it would seem as if she's already done that. Or it could be that she is signaling cupid to fire his arrow. Since the arrow is aimed at their genitals, the result would presumably be pregnancy, ie, the germination of an idea, the founding of a concept, etc. But since cupid is usually shown on this card & since it (I think it's an it) always has its arrow pointed at someone and since, in this case, that arrow clearly indicates pregnancy, there is no need for the female's signal to confirm it. Or is she warding cupid off? Attempting to deny the man his prize?

The male right hand is active, the left, passive. With the female, it's the reverse, which means her hand is commanding or ordering something. But what? Is she waving at the viewer? Warding off something unseen? Will that unseen something be found on the next card in the reading? But would this not muddy the basic meaning of the card, which is the moment of conception itself? No ifs, no buts, no qualifiers of any kind. Does the hand signal an outgoing phone message? "We are conceiving now. Please call back at another time."

We can see from the position of her hips & legs that the card was drawn by a knowing male, as she is in, shall I say, a most comfortable position, for a man, at any rate. This exact position would seem to have nothing whatever to do with any esoteric meaning of the card. It's just the artist having fun, reliving a pleasant memory, teasing the viewer to go further than mere skin, the way that all esoteric nudes do.

Whereupon the author wrote back, The pose of the active lovers is based on Eric Gill's Earth Receiving, which is intended to depict intercourse as a joyous spiritual act. The gesture is meant to be open and receiving.

Eric Gill was an interesting eccentric, Wiki will tell you all about him. I went searching for Earth Receiving, but was unable to find it. I wrote Robert Place back that overinterpreting cards was a personal failing of mine.

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Established 1993, The Astrology Center of America is owned & operated by David Roell. Except where noted, this entire site (AstroAmerica.com) & its contents are Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by William R. Roell. All rights reserved. Tarot card images are Copyright © by the copyright holder (generally the publisher).