Masonic Tarot Card Deck

Masonic Tarot Deck by Jean Beauchard.  They were published by Grimaud © 1987 France.  They were purchased brand new, still in original shrink-wrap.  The deck includes 78 cards and instruction book in French, English and German.  The colors are fantastic and they measure 6 inches by 3 inches.

Note:  Nowhere in Freemasonry does the Craft practice or approve of this form of mysticism.  This tarot card deck originates strictly from the imagination of its creator.

THE MASONIC TAROT

(A HISTORY)

A paper prepared for

Lyceum Lodge of Research No 8682 E.C.

by 

W/Bro P.C. BROWNE

Civil Service Lodge No 3118 E.C.

17th June 1998

 

The speculations over the origins of the Tarot are as varied and diverse as those proposed for Freemasonry. Yet interestingly the chronological, geographical and theosophical sources proposed for the Tarot's origin seem to run in tandem with the theories on the origins of Freemasonry. The author of Tarot Symbolique Maconnique, Jean Beauchard concurs with this, stating that, " The origins of the Tarot, as for those of Freemasonry, are to be found (or lost) in the domain of myths and legends at the dawn of our civilisation; their evolution participates, in any case, in what is called Tradition"(1). Is it possible therefore that they have the same origin, or are they both, as many would argue, merely some of the surviving parts of the plethora of occult polemics that are part of man's historical religious baggage?

 

I would however first like to clarify that in my opinion divination (fortune telling) forms only a minor part of the Tarot's function, and indeed is it's lowest aspect. Fortune telling has done great harm to the image of the Tarot, principally due to the many charlatans and confidence tricksters who have seen fit to hijack it for their own ends. I hope to show that like Freemasonry it has much to teach and is in the same way much maligned by certain sectors of society. Indeed there may lie our first clue as to the common ancestry of the Tarot and Freemasonry.

 

I would further state that the link as I see it, between the Tarot and Freemasonry hinges on their common connection with Kabbalism. I firmly believe that Brother F. de P. Castells has proved beyond any reasonable doubt in his numerous books on the subject, that Freemasonry contains within it's rituals a modernised form of the ancient Kabbalistic teachings. (2)

 

Also it should be noted that two of the two most prolific and respected writers on the more occult aspect of the Craft, Brothers A.E. Waite and Manly P. Hall both accept that the Tarot is firmly entrenched in Freemasonry. Indeed the famous Rider Waite Tarot Pack compiled by our brother is generally regarded as the bench-mark pack against which to judge all others, and is of course full of Masonic symbology. It must be stressed though that both these brethren were involved in sects outside of Freemasonry, and were as such lifelong seekers of the great esoteric truth. Therefore we must always be aware that Freemasonry may not have been regarded in their lives as being any more significant than their other occult associations.                                                                      

One of the most influential and informed accounts on the origins of the Tarot is generally accepted to be our learned Brother Hall's essay entitled The Tarot. In this work he traces the first recorded pack back to 1485 in Italy, this being the Mantegna deck (3), where he tells us that "...the Cabalistic (sic) significance of these cards is apparent". (4). This pack consisting of fifty subjects in numerical order, and being he tells us ".... ascribed to Botticelli and Baldini."(5), but it is not however in the format as we know it today. It does contain however about 12 cards that bear a definite resemblance to their current major arcana equivalents (6). Bro. Hall tells us that no genuine evidence concerning the Tarot is to be found before the Middle Ages, and it was not ".... until Court de Gebelin projected them into fame."(7) in 1781 that the art escalated. He notes that "Court de Gebelin was a man of unimpeachable

 

(1) J. Beauchard, Tarot Symbolique Maconnique, France Cartes, Paris, 1989, p.4.

(2) F de P. Castells, Antiquity of the Holy Royal Arch, A. Lewis, London, 1927.

(3) M.P. Hall, The Tarot, P.R.S., Los Angeles, 1978, p.22.

(4) M.P. Hall, The Tarot....ibid., p.22.

(5) ibid., p.22.

(6) S. Kaplan, Encyclopaedia of the Tarot Vol. 1, U.S.Games Systems Inc, New York, 1978,            p.40.

(7) M.P. Hall, The Tarot....ibid., p.15. 

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integrity, an eminent scholar of his day, and a high Freemason of the Grand Orient of France."(8) This is of course also the same time period beyond which Freemasonry starts to become a subjective affair. However like Freemasonry the logical supposition that nothing so well organised in structure could be developed out of thin air also applies. Bro. Hall says of the Tarot that "The mathematical formulas involved in the organisation.... belie the probability of an accidental origin". (9) With regard to the rich symbolism in the Tarot, much of it overtly Masonic, he says the following. "Where, we may ask did the designers of the ancient or original Tarot secure the mass of symbolism which has led men to attribute so great an age to the designs?.....Is the medieval Tarot possibly a product of the craftsmen of the Freemasonic Order and enriched with the archaic symbolism so abundantly apparent in the rituals and the trestleboard?"(10)

 

Interestingly the Tarot and Freemasonry are linked again through their association with the Knights Templar. According to Mrs John King Van Rensselaer the Devil's Picture Book was brought back from the crusades by them ".... because they realised that all the Knowledge of the ages was epitomised in this little loose leaf picture book."(11) The theory that Freemasonry as an organisation evolved from the murder of Jacques de Molay and the suppression of Templar knowledge, is convincingly argued in John Robinson's book Born in Blood (12), and supported by Brother Pike in his book Morals & Dogma (13). But this is a separate subject in it's self.

 

A further coincidence is that the oldest surviving complete pack in the modern format is dated at 1718 by Naomi Ozaniec (14), that being the Marseilles Pack . This of course is coincidentally only one year after the founding of the United Grand Lodge in 1717. It is interesting that two ancient forms of esoteric study and practice should emerge to public view the same time. This would not however be as unusual as it first appears if the two were tied in some way and formed part of a natural paradigm shift in human spiritual consciousness. Yet again we see as in many aspects of Freemasonry, that whilst the historical path is distinctly broken at numerous irregular intervals, the closing of one era dovetails with the opening of another, as if there is a perpetual metamorphosis of knowledge right from the very beginning of time.

 

There is however obviously a problem with the dating of anything as ephemeral as a pasteboard card, particularly one that is found in so many countries and has developed stylistically over the years, as has the Tarot. Further we must also consider if the surviving examples we have, particularly the uncut fragments, are actually of the highest quality and purest form? Or could they be merely rejects or cheap copies of the real system? It is the opinion of Stuart Kaplan that the early examples of the Marseilles Pack fragments can be dated as far back as the late 15th to early 16th centuries (15). This of course would negate Ozaniec's date mentioned earlier.

 

With regard to Stuart S. Kaplan's huge volumes of work entitled Encyclopaedia of the Tarot vols. 1,2, & 3. It is my contention that this is not an encyclopaedia at all, but rather a huge

 

(8) Ibid. p.16. 

(9) Ibid. p.15.

(10) Ibid. p.14.

(11) Ibid. p.6.

(12) J.J. Robinson, Born in Blood, Arrow Books, London, 1993.

(13) A. Pike, Morals & Dogma, L.A. Jenkins, Richmond Va, 1917.

(14) N. Ozaniec, Tarot, Element, Shaftsbury, 1994, p.5.

(15) S. Kaplan, Encyclopaedia of the Tarot Vol. 2, U.S.Games Systems Inc, N.Y., 1986, p.270.

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compendium and source book, that looks at issues historically and pictorially, and side-steps the esoteric issues. If the subject matter where of a secular nature this would be no real problem, but the Tarot is distinctly and overtly esoteric and occult, as is Freemasonry. It is interesting that whilst he gives much space in his books to the Freemasons who have been associated with the Tarot, and are indeed it's most prestigious exponents like Court de Gebelin, Hall and Waite. He gives only one minor mention of the Brotherhood in his works, indicating Freemasonry to be one of the Tarot's many speculated origins. He states that "The Tarot cards are believed by some to contain the total knowledge of the entire world, as preserved in the sacred and supreme symbolic book of the Rosicrucian movement and other secret societies such as the Knights Templar and Freemasons"(16).

 

On the purely historical side, Kaplan is of the opinion that the earliest reference to playing cards generally is from a prohibition in Bern of 1367 (17). Noting that the earliest reference to games of any type before that time is, "Ovid (43 BC to 17 AD) (who) "enumerates several games... but among them is no reference to cards."(18). He also analyses the issue of the incomplete other Tarocchi decks which we will consider later and are of the same time period as the Mantegna deck, but bear an even greater resemblance to the modern major arcana, although they are not numbered or named, as are the Mantegna pack.

 

There is already in existence a Masonic Tarot pack produced recently by Jean Beauchard (19). However whist M. Beauchard provides us with an excellent text and a sound written concept, as quoted previously, the resolution I believe leaves much to be desired. In my opinion the cards are of a general astrological format set in a 1970's mystic genre, with a couple of Masonic symbols thrown in to try a justify his concept. His initials JB also seem rather convenient for the marketing of such a product.

(16) S. Kaplan, Encyclo...Vol. 1 p.22. 

(17) ibid. p.24.

(18) ibid. p.33.

(19) J. Beauchard, Tarot Symbolique Maconnique,....ibid.

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Let us now look for the Masonic references in these early cards, as by general agreement it can be seen that since the publication by Bro Court de Gebelin of his Monde Primitif in the late eighteenth century many Masonic, as well as Egyptian details have been added to the Tarot.

 

The Tarocchi of Mantegna Cards (circa 1470)

 

This set is divided into five sub groups of ten cards, which are numerated in a heirachy. The A series (41 to 50) details the Firmaments of the Universe, which match the astrological aspects of the Ten Sephiroth of the Otz Chiim. These being The Earth, The Seven planets, The Zodiac and the Primo mobile. This would tie in with Freemasonry through it's connection with the Kabbalah as discussed previously from Bro Castell's work.

 

The Sun and the Moon are illustrated with flying chariots, and could be representative of the SW and JW's at their pedestals.  Mars is shown sat on the throne of a chariot between two columns with his arms and legs f.i.a.sq. and could well represent the WM. These three cards closely resemble the La Lune, Le Sol and Le Chariot typologies of the later packs produced. Saturn is believed by some to be the forerunner of L'Ermite, and the Eighth Sphere the forerunner of Les Etoiles, but these cards appear to have more to do with Classical literature than Freemasonry. Venus however has references to an e o c near to a f o w. from the FC degree and is speculated by some to be the forerunner of L'amouraux.

 

The B series (31 to 40) depicts the Cosmic Principles, seven of which are the noble virtues, all of which are highlighted for our guidance in the ritual. These being Charity, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, and Temperance all mentioned specifically in the First Degree Charge, along with Hope and Faith specifically mentioned before and after the First Degree Prayer. The remaining three are interestingly Astronomy, Chronology and Cosmology.  The card called Astronomy we will see later would be masonically more correct in the following C series, but mathematically it sits quit happily with the other two aspects.  It is note worthy of course that we again have a seven to three relationship, which is masonically appropriate. From this series Temperance, Fortitude (as La Force), and Justice appear in more modern packs under those titles, but again these cards are more Classical than Masonic generally in appearance. However Fortitude illustrates a broken Ionic column, and Chronology has two mushroom-like trees as columns forming a masonic five to three relationship, with a three times three relationship in total.

 

The C series (21 to 30) depicts ten Liberal Arts and Sciences, six of which are inculcated in the FC Degree. The missing one from the seven in the FC degree is Astronomy, as noted in the B series, which is here split into it's more ancient disciplines of Astrology, Theology and Philosophy, but as Freemasonry is a progressive science the change is understandable. The tenth Poetry I feel does have illusions to an e o c near to a f o w. in the styling of the fountain, which is again from the FC degree. Whilst none of these cards appear to connect with the modern major arcana there are some masonic references.  Astrology shows the terrestrial globe, a five-pointed crown, a sacred volume and a wand. Geometry has a waterfall along with point, circle, triangle and square inculcated in the RA. The figure of Rhetoric holds the T. sword with her r.a.f.i.a.sq.   

                             

The D series (11 to 20) depicts Apollo and the Muses, reflecting the Kabbalistic world of emotions and speech. Urania holds a sphere aloft along with a pair of compasses which are in her right hand in one version. Euterpe sits under what appears to be an Acacia tree and has her r.a.i.t.f.o.a.sq. Apollo rests his feet on the celestial globe and has his l.a.i.t.f.o.a.sq. holding a stem of lilies.

 

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The E or S series (1 to 10) depict the conditions of man, and appear to have very masonic references incorporated. Further many of the characters are believed to be the foundation from which the modern arcana types developed.                                                                                 

 

The Beggar bears many similarities to the modern  Le Fou and could well be representative of the non-mason.  The card shows a ruined and possibly incomplete brick wall with the serpent of knowledge emerging from the debris. This card may also be representative of the ambitions of the unskilled craftsman, as the Tree of Life (Otz Chiim) has been depicted dead and barren behind him.                                                                                                                                                       

 The Servant is well dressed and groomed and could be representative of a Steward of the Lodge. 

 

The Artisan is of course the Craftsman as he has on his bench the working tools of his trade, his apprentice is to his side, and behind him is a window in the form of a square.

 

The Merchant and The Gentleman (5) are both men of opulence and learning and are stood erect with their f. f. i. a. sq.

 

The Knight carries a p. and may well represent the IG, as behind him is another character, standing square to him with a sword who could be the T.

 

The King is seated on a throne in the shape of a double cube with his l.a. and r.l.f.i.a.sq.  He carries interestingly a wand of office, not a sword, and he wears a ten-pointed crown.  

 

The Emperor is seated as the king, but is an elderly bearded figure illustrated in semi profile, and carrying an orb of office. Behind him is hung a veil and before him a falcon. This is the card, which is known by the same title in the modern packs. 

 

The Pope would on face value be a strange card to include in the series, however needless to say it was vital for any person who valued his life in the fifteenth century not to omit the church or its royal heirachy from any aspect of life. Even if the compiler had a secret or non-Christian belief he dared not express it. This is why over the years as society became more tolerant and enlightened and the churchesí powers waned, the card earlier called The Pope has been transcribed into the more occult Hierophant and displayed in a more Egyptian manner. There is also the matter of the modern card called La Papesse, noting that the Mantegna card clearly illustrates the Pope in a feminine form. The Mantegna Pope is seated on a sided throne and carries the keys of his office and a copy of the VSL. On his chest is the Vesica Pisces, which is the mother of all platonic shapes, and on his head is the tripartite crown. The floor is interestingly a chequered pavement as in a lodge.  

 

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OTHER EARLY SETS

 

Whilst the following cards have no titles or numbers they depict typologies similar or even identical to the current forms, and have many masonic references. It should also be noted that these sets are incomplete and the missing cards would naturally be fundamental to our understanding of the whole pack's genre.

 

The Visconti and Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi Cards  (circa mid 15th Cen)

 

The Magician sits at a table or trestleboard, which has upon it a p. ,a cup, two coins and an undefinable shape or heap. He is dressed in red and holds in his hand a wand.

 

The Fool  is depicted in white undergarments with both legs bare, he carries a wand and he  has seven feathers in his hair.

 

The Papesse is seated on her throne with the VSL in her left hand and a wand in her right. She is dressed in brown with a tripartite crown over a white wimple.

 

The Empress is throned in the same manner as The Papesse but in her left hand is a shield emblazoned with a black eagle. She has an emblem of three interlaced rings on her dress.

 

The Hanged Man wears a white blouse, both arms are bare and f.i.a.sq also his r.l. is f.i.a.sq.

 

The Star illustrates a female figure in a pose similar to the Scottish 2nd Degree H Sn. with a star in her hand. She is stood at a precipice with two hills as columns behind.

 

The Goldschmidt Cards (circa mid 15th Cen)

 

Death is illustrated by the p. with the scull and crossbones of HAB superimposed.

 

The Sun has the emblem of the MWGM over a cross of Constantine with three symbolic green hills with M A and C upon them, all on a chequered pavement.

 

The Ace of Cups shows a hexagonal font or grail on a chequered pavement encompassed by the serpent of infinity

 

The Gringonneur Cards (Circa mid 15th Cen)

 

La Lune has two Craftsmen with compasses plotting the astrological movements of the Moon, which rises above a veil.

 

La Mort has a skeleton clad in innocence with h.w. removed, mowing down a King, The Pope and his Bishops. Could this also be the spirit of Jacques de Molay extracting revenge?

 

L'Ermite wears monksí robes and has what appears to be a white apron hung form his belt. He also appears to wear chain mail and has a long uncut beard. From all this he could well be depicting a Templar Knight.

 

Le Pendu  has is r.l.f.i.a.sq and he holds money bags in each hand, below his head appears to be sprigs of acacia.

 

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The Rothschild Tarot (circa late 15th or early 16th Cent)

 

The Moon shows two men in Roman garb, one is holding a square and the other compasses

 

The Star shows three figures arranged as the three Prins. of the RA. with an eight pointed star above.

 

All the above cards with the exception of the Mantegna pack, which is engraved, are hand painted and embossed. Needless to say these were expensive and created purely for the use and pleasure of the nobility. The development of woodblock printing in 15th Century enabled cards to be mass produced and more available to the general public. This coincided with a rise in educational standards and an increase in the rate of dissemination of knowledge. If esoteric doctrines could now be more easily made available to the masses as Freemasonry intended, these would be far better issued as a simple game rather than a ponderous manuscript or book. Further the Catholic Church could ban books, but cards where a different matter. The fact that the aristocracy had access to this knowledge for a considerable time was something the church could do little about, but it did not want their poorer congregations enlightening, and challenging their authority. Therefore the essence of esoteric knowledge could spread in the guise of a card game that unlike many other works of art and literature has slipped through the censorship net. As stated earlier it was the Freemason Court de Gebelin who finally brought the Tarot out of the closet 64 years after Freemasonry itself became public. As John Robinson points out of Freemasonry in his book, by 1717 it had ".... no more need for secrecy, no reason to hide from the establishment, or to plot against the establishment. Freemasonry had become the establishment"(20)

 

Sadly with this desire to be the establishment there has been a move in recent years to make Freemasonry become more mundane and secular by denying it's very obvious past. Whilst it must be acknowledged that there have been speculations made by Brethren, particularly in the late 19th C, that where beyond the bounds of historical common sense and reason. To deny at this stage of human spiritual consciousness and tolerance within world thinking, that Freemasonry is not a continuation of an age-old esoteric teaching free of sectarian rhetoric, is equally fallacious. If Freemasonry and the Tarot are not of a common stock why are the cards so masonic and why do Freemasons appear at every stage of their development?

 

Having considered the earliest examples we will now consider the Rider-Waite pack from the turn of the century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(20) J.J. Robinson, Born in Blood.... ibid. p.304

 

 

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The Rider-Waite Tarot Pack

 

As stated earlier the Rider-Waite pack is the one that others are measured against. It was conceived in 1909 when W.Bro Waite undertook with an artist called Pamela Colman Smith to produce a Tarot pack which had allegorical paintings for all of the 78 cards of the series rather than just the 22 major arcana as was the norm. Also as stated earlier there is very obvious Masonic symbolism in these cards, as would be expected under the circumstances. We will now consider a few of the more literal examples of such.

 

The High Priestess  sits between the two demarcated columns, with a veil behind her of lily-work and pomegranates. On her head is the crown of Isis, on her breast is the equal armed cross, in her hands is the Jewish VSL and at her feet the upturned crescent Moon. 

 

The Empress is clothed in a garment of pomegranates and is sat beside ears of corn near to a waterfall. Her coronet is adorned by laurels and 12 stars. At her feet is the symbol of Venus.

 

The Devil is featured as a goat and is crouched on a black double cube, with a man and a woman shackled to it. The couple are naked with their f. f. in a sq. Lucifer's head is embossed with an inverted pentagram.

 

The Star  has a naked woman kneeling on her l k, with her r f formed in a square as in the first degree S O. Behind her are seven white stars and one large yellow luminary in the same format as the First degree tracing board but inverted. On a tree is an Ibis the symbol of Thoth the Moon God of magic and wisdom.

 

The Hanged Man is suspended from a Tau with both arms and his left leg in t f of a sq.

 

The World displays the four principal RA banners, which also reflect the four fixed points of the zodiac.

 

The Ace of Cups denoted the Root of the powers of Water shows a Dove bearing an equal armed cross descending into a grail embossed with a letter W formed in the shape of two columns with a Square. The water falls as either five rivers or twenty-seven (3x9) droplets in the form of Yods.

 

The Two of Wands is denoted Dominion and illustrates a man holding the terrestrial globe in his right hand and supporting a wand with his left. Set in a square on a pedestal below is a logo of an equal armed cross two arms of which are white lilies and the other two red roses.

 

The Three of Wands is denoted Established Strength and illustrates a man with his f in t f of a sq. supporting a wand in his right hand.

 

The Two of Swords  is denoted Peace Restored and depicts a h...w...d woman clad in the robes of innocence with her f in t f of a sq, holding two swords in saltire. 

 

The three of Pentacles denoted Material Works shows the operative mason with maul in hand and aproned, with the Architect clad in red holding the drawings and the Abbott making up a third. Behind and above them is a tripartite window of three pentacles supported by the central column.

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Within this pack are many more subtle and at the same time possibly more contentious symbols which could be considered Masonic, some of which may be from Degrees of which I am not a member. I hope other Brethren will now look at the Tarot from their own personal perspective and find other meanings hidden in the cards.  There are many packs available and each individual will find his own path.

 

 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

ALBERTSON, E.     UNDERSTANDING THE KABBALAH. LOS ANGELES: SHERBOURNE PRESS, 1973.

 

BEAUCHARD, J.     TAROT SYMBOLIQUE MACONNIQUE. PARIS:

FRANCE CARTES, 1989.

 

CASTELLS, F de P.     ANTIQUITY OF THE HOLY ROYAL ARCH. LONDON:LEWIS, 1927.

 

FORTUNE, D.              THE MYSTICAL QUABALAH. LONDON: WILLIAMS &NORGATE, 1957.

 

HALL, MANLY P.  THE TAROT (An Essay by). LOS ANGELES: THE PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH SOCIETY, 1978.

 

KAPLAN, S.R.               THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE TAROT. NEW YORK:U.S.GAMES SYSTEMS INC, 1978.

 

KAPLAN, S.R.                 THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE TAROT VOL 2.

NEW YORK: U.S.GAMES SYSTEMS INC, 1986.

 

OZANIEC, N.             TAROT HANDBOOK.SHAFTESBURY, DORSET:ELEMENT, 1994.

 

PIKE, A              MORALS & DOGMA of the ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE OF FREEMASONRY. RICHMOND VA: L.H. JENKINS, 1917.

 

ROBINSON, J.J.                       BORN IN BLOOD. LONDON : ARROW BOOKS, 1993.

 

WAITE, A.E.               THE ORIGINAL RIDER WAITE TAROT DECK. BELGIUM : A.E. WAITE, 1993.

 

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The format of the lecture

 

1.      Introduction. I will very briefly explain what the Tarot is for clarity. (duration 3 mins)      

2.      The Lecture. This will be as the attached document and illustrated by slides as indicated. (duration 30 mins)                                                                                                 

3.      My Masonic Tarot. I will lay a spread of the Tarot cards which I have painted on a table in the lodge for examination. (duration 10 mins)                                                          

4.      Questions. I will take questions on the Lecture, the Tarot generally and my personal cards as required ( duration will be at the WMís discretion)

 

Slide 1 Masonic Tarot Card

Slide 2 A.E.Waite Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p23

Slide 3

Slide 4 The Tarot p24 & 25

Slide 5 Court de Gebelin Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p13

Slide 6 Marsailles Pack Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p138

Slide 7 4 Masonic Tarot Cards

Slide 8 The Tarot p 24 & 25 (repeat)

Slide 9 The Tarot p 24

Slide 10 The Tarot p 24

Slide 11 The Magician Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p82 col plate

Slide 12 The Fool & The Pappess Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p65 & 66

Slide 13 The Emp, The Hanged Man & The Star Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p67 70 & 72

Slide 14 Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p110

Slide 15 Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p114 & 115

Slide 16 Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p114

Slide 17 Encyclopedia of the Tarot vol 1 p129

Slide 18 Rider Waite

Slide 19 Rider Waite

Slide 20 Rider Waite

 

A STUDY OF THE MAJOR ARCANA IN LIGHT OF MASONRY

 

By Brother P. D. Newman

 

Tupelo Lodge No. 318, Mississippi

 

 

He who desires to attain to the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and will undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his tablet of Emerald, and follow, to class his aquisitions of knowledge and direct the operation, the order indicated in the Kabalistic alphabet of the Tarot. - Albert Pike ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 777)

 

The Fool card features a wanton youth who is skipping along a mountain ridge, daydreaming & completely ignorant of the fact that before him is a cliff off of which he is about to step. In Masonry, the Fool card correlates to the candidate for initiation. The due & true preparation of the candidate is to signify that he is symbolically bound by his own ignorance & blind to the true workings of nature, & like the fool, he is about to take a great leap of faith into the unknown. Culturally the fool is represented in the figure of Wagner's 'Parzifal' whose mother, so as to avoid his being considered for knighthood, dressed him as the villiage idiot, not unlike the candidate for Masonic initiation. Also, the word 'Parzifal' is a rearragement of the Arabic words 'Fal Parsi' which mean 'Pure Fool.'

 

The Magician card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Beth' which means 'House.' Masonically the Magician card is therefore suggestive of "that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." On the card itself is depicted a young man before a table on which is displayed the weapons of his trade, similar to the working tools of a Mason. In his right hand is held aloft a wand with which he points to the heavens, while with his left hand he points to the floor of the Temple, as if to say that the plans for the building of the earthly Temple are to be sought in the tracings of the heavenly bodies.

 

On the High Priestess card is depicted a young woman seated on a throne between two pillars. In the Rider-Waite deck the pillar to the left of the High Priestess has inscribed upon it the letter 'J,' & to her right, 'B,' alluding to the pillars which were set in the portico of King Solomon's Temple. One of the Three Great Lights in Masonry, the Sacred Volume of the Law, rests open atop her lap, & from it flows a bubbling stream which irrigates the rest of the Major Arcana. The High Priestess card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Gimel' which means 'Rope,' Masonically suggestive of the rope or cable tow which binds the candidate for initiation. Also, the Latin equivalent of the Hebrew Gimel is the letter 'G,' indicative of the self-same letter which is suspended over the head of the Worshipful Master in the east of the Lodge.

 

The Empress card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Daleth' which means 'Door.' Masonically the Empress card is therefore suggestive of the door of the Lodge on which the candidate must knock for admission. The Empress card itself is representative of the archetypal mother, & in the world of symbolism there has always been an explicit connection between the idea of a 'door' & the reproductive anatomy of the female. As Ida Craddock points out on page 241 of her exhaustive 'Lunar and Sex Worship,' "The usual and natural symbol of femininity is a doorway or archway, suggestive of the vulva or external genitals."

 

The Emperor card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Heh' whose Yetziratic attribution is the zodiacal sign Aries. Aries is the ram or lamb & signifies the childlike innocence of the coming spring. In the Thoth deck there is even depicted a lamb seated next to the Emperor in the lower left hand corner of the card in commemoration of this fact. Masonically therefore the Emperor card is suggestive of the lambskin or white leather apron which is worn over the sacral region as an indication of the Mason's moral purity.

 

On the Hierophant card is featured an adult male whose attire is indicative of a papal position. Two or three monks kneel before him in reverence as he blesses them with the sign of benediction. Masonically the Hierophant card correlates to the Worshipful Master whose working task it is to initiate, pass & raise candidates. The Hebrew letter which corresponds to the Hierophant card is 'Vau' whose Yetziratic attribution is the zodiacal sign of Taurus, the sign of the bull. Mythologically he is connected to the Egyptian Osiris, the 'solar bull,' whose death & resurrection serves as the prototype for that of Masonic hero H. A., whose mystery play is acted out by every candidate for the degree of Master Mason.

 

The Lovers card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Zayin' which means 'Sword.' Masonically the Lovers card is therefore suggestive of the Tyler who, during the working or business hours of the Lodge, can be found standing without the door of the Temple with a drawn sword in his hand in order to ward off all whose intention it is to intrude or evesdrop upon Lodge work or business. This is the same function which the Lesser Bannishing Ritual of the Pentagram serves in the Magical tradition where the magician performing the ritual, having armed himself with a specially consecrated sword, 'bannishes' any intruding thoughts or spirits from the Magick Circle or Temple.

 

The Masonic implications of the Chariot card are not as easy to trace as have been the preceding cards, but the connection is clear if one but approach the problem from a slightly different angle. In most Qabalah-based Orders and Societies the Rungs of the Ladder of Attainment are based upon the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, & the Paths which lead up to each Sephirah are the means by which an initiate attains a given Rung. Each Path corresponds to a specific Hebrew letter, & the Path which leads to the Rung which correlates to the Grade of Magister Templi in the MSRICF is that of Cheth, the same letter which is attributed Yetziratically to the Chariot card. The title 'Magister Templi' appears to have been borrowed by the SRIA from the Freemasons, for not only is 'Magister Templi' Latin for 'Master of the Temple,' a possible reference to the Masonic 'Master of the Lodge,' but the Grade of Magister Templi also happens to be the entry point into the Rosicrucian Third Order, structurally analogous to the S.'.S.'. or Holy of Holies of King Solomon's Temple in Masonry. Masonically the Chariot card is therefore suggestive of the Master of the Lodge as one of the Three Lesser Lights in Masonry. Also, on the Chariot card is depicted a knight being drawn in a chariot by two sphinxes. The canopy of the chariot is, like the ceiling of the Lodge, the starry vault of heaven itself, & the sphinxes which pull the chariot are mix-matched in black & white, reminiscent of the groud floor or checkered pavement of King Solomon's Temple, indicating that creation is propelled by the interplay of opposing forces.

 

Masonically the Strength card is related to Fortitude, the same title by which the card was known in the old decks. Fortitude is the Cardinal Virtue which corresponds to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the pectoral region. The Hebrew letter which is attributed to the Strength card is 'Teth' whose Yetziratic correspodence is the zodiacal sign Leo, the sign of the Lion, indicating that the Sxxxxx Gxxx of the Lxxxx Pxx is also suggested by the Strength card. Similarly, the Hermit card corresponds to Prudence, the Cardinal Virtue which relates to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the hands. The card itself is connected to the idea of 'Silence,' & in the old decks the card was even called 'Prudence,' keeping in step with the actual nature of the card.

 

The Wheel of Fortune card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Kaph' which means 'Gripping Hand.' Masonically the Wheel of Fortune card is therefore suggestive of the token or grip whereby one Mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light. The Yetziratic correspondence of Kaph is the planet Jupiter which, as Albert Pike tells us on page 202 of 'Morals & Dogma,' is "an emblem of the ever-approaching dawn of perfection and Masonic light."

 

The Justice card is related to the Cardinal Virtue of the same name which corresponds to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the feet. The Hebrew letter which is attributed to the Justice card is 'Lamed' whose Yetziratic correspodence is the zodiacal sign Libra, suggestive of the balance that comes structurally from building on the square.

 

The Hanged Man card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Mem' which means 'Water.' In the magical tradition each of the four elements is attributed to one of the four cardinal directions, & the element which correlates to the occident is that of water. Masonically the Hanged Man is therefore the Senior Warden seated in the west, representative of the setting sun. Mythologically the setting sun is signified by the Egyptian Osiris who was, like the figure depicted in the Hanged Man card, bound and hung from a living tree.

 

The Death card is indicative of the ritual which every candidate for the degree of Master Mason must undergo in rememberance of the fallen architect of King Solomon's Temple, H. A.. As stated above, the prototype of this mystery play is the death & resurrection of Egyptian deity Osiris, & it is Osiris' murderer, the Saturnal Typhon, who is depicted on the face of the Death card harvesting the souls of the dead with a sickle, the astrological symbol for the planet Saturn. The handle of the sickle forms a Greek Tau, the Hebrew equivalet of which correponds Yetziratically, like the sickle itself, to Saturn.

 

Like the Strength, Hermit, & Justice cards, Temperance corresponds Masonically to one of the four Cardinal Virtues. It is attributed to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the gutteral region on accout of the fact that "TEMPERANCE [signifies] the antipodes of Gluttony." ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 727) Robert Macoy, on page 682 of his 'A Dictionary of Freemasonry' tells us that it is "By temperace [that] we are instructed to govern the passions, and check unruly desires."

 

The Devil card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Ayin' which means 'Eye.' In Masonry the Devil card is thus suggestive of the All-Seeing Eye, a symbol which is used by Masons to signify the ever-watchful eye of deity. On the card itself is depicted a goat-headed beast which is seated atop a cubical stone. The beast is highly reminiscent of Baphomet, the deific icon of the Templars, while the cubical stone on which he is seated most readily brings to mind the idea of the perfect ashlar in Masonry.

 

The Tower card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Peh' which means 'Mouth,' indicating that the words or names of the tokens which are imparted during the taking of the degrees are Masonically implied by this card, while the Star card is suggestive of the five-pointed blazing star which is depicted amidst the black & white checkered pavemet in the floor of every Masonic Lodge, over which the majority of the words are imparted.

 

Along with the Chariot, the Moon & Sun cards correspond to the remaining of the Three Lesser Lights in Masonry, completing the triad of Sun, Moon, & Master of the Lodge. To quote again from Bro. Pike, "The Sun is the ancient symbol of the life-giving and generative power of Deity...The Sun was His manifestation and visible image...The Moon was the symbol of the passive capacity of nature to produce, the female, of which the life-giving power and energy was the male...The "Master of [the Lodge]" was the Supreme Deity, above both, and manifested through both..." ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 13).

 

Similar to the Hanged Man card, the Judgement card is suggestive Masonically of the second of the two Wardens. The Hebrew letter which correlates to the Judgement card is 'Shin' whose Yetziratic attribution is the element of fire. Like the relation of water & the west, the element of fire is related to the south, for when the sun reaches the south it is generally the hottest portion of the day. The Judgement card is therefore indicative of the Junior Warden in the south, whose task it is to call the workers from labor to refreshment while the sun is at its miridian height. On the card itself is depicted the angel Israfel whose trumpet blast calls the dead from the refreshment of sleep to the labor of the next life.

 

Finally, the World card is suggestive of the central icon of Masonry: the combined square & compasses. In the Qabalistic document 'Liber 777' we are told in so many words that a correct design of the World card should contain a demonstration of the "Quadrature of the Circle." The Alchemical concept of the squaring of the circle is not an idea traditionally associated with Masonry, and yet the square & circle are precisely the geometrical shapes in which the square compasses are used to inscribe by operative masons. Thus the demonstration of the quadrature of the circle contained in a proper depiction of the World card is Masonically suggestive of the combined square & compasses which are placed upon the open Volume of the Sacred Law atop the altar, thereby completing the Three Great Lights in Masonry which, in the peculiar words of Gadicke, "are immortal, and neither limited by time nor space..." (Quoted in Robert Macoy, 'A Dictionary of Freemasonry,' p. 528).

 

REFERENCES

 

Case, Paul Foster. Introduction To The Study Of The Tarot

Case, Paul Foster. The Secret Doctrine Of The Tarot

Case, Paul Foster. The Tarot: A Key To The Wisdom Of The Ages

Craddock, Ida. Lunar & Sex Worship

Crowley, Aleister. The Book of Thoth

Crowley, Aleister. Liber 777

Frazer, J.G. The Golden Bough

Jones, Charles S. The Chalice of Ecstacy

Macbride, A.S. Speculative Masonry

Macoy, Robert. A Dictionary of Freemasonry

Mathers, S.L. MacGregor. The Kabbalah Unveiled

Pike, Albert. Morals & Dogma

Regardie, Isreal. The Golden Dawn

Waite, A.E. The Pictoral Key To The Tarot  

Wescott, W. Wynn. The Sepher Yetzirah Or Book Of Creation

 

 

         

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