Those Useless Extra Cards

File this one in the “Don’t give me any crazy ideas . . .” folder.

Although printing technology may have changed to the point that it no longer happens, the production of a 78-card tarot deck used to consume two 40-card printer’s sheets, with left-over space for two extra cards that were typically used by the publisher for advertising. Some enterprising artists created additional images to be placed on those spares, with varying degrees of usefulness to the tarot reader. Occasionally, as with the Haindl deck, the empty cards were packed into the box for buyers to do with as they choose. Some publishers sought to make them useful, as in the case of the two extra Magus cards included with the Thoth deck back in the ’80s (which some people insist on adding to their readings, even though the publisher’s stated purpose was that they be seen only as examples of the creative process that Crowley and Harris went through when developing the deck). The extra “art” cards included with the Smith-Waite (aka RWS) Centennial Edition are another example.

For years I simply ignored those extraneous cards. But when I got the Haindl deck, that vacant space was practically begging to be put to practical use. As a trained graphic artist with some digital experience, I realized that the availability of public-domain clip-art, scissors, a wide assortment of artist-quality colored pencils and chalk pastels, a bottle of rubber cement, a scanner and a high-end photo printer were just waiting to be brought to bear on the opportunity. After tackling that project, I used the same approach for the two “advertising” cards that typically come with a Thoth deck.

My first goal was to create a personal Significator card (which I also developed as an example of “qabalistic heraldry” or “magickal sigil”). I did this by converting the letters of my first name into their Hebrew equivalents, treating the numerical value of each letter as part of a series, reducing the series numerologically to a single digit, equating the result to its associated tarot trump card and creating images based on the various esoteric meanings for that card in conjunction with the qabalistic symbolism for the Hebrew letters. The second blank card I used to create a 23rd trump card to show the next logical step in the Fool’s Journey beyond the World, a kind of “jumping-off place” into the realm of cosmic consciousness that avoids (or at least delays) starting over at  the beginning of a new cycle (think of it as the “2001: A Space Odyssey” of the Fool’s voyage of self-discovery). Here are the results:

Extra Cards.JPG

The “galaxy” card I titled “The Threshold,” or “The Gateway to Cosmic Consciousness,” and created the following interpretive text for it:

The Threshold (Gateway to Cosmic Consciousness) – Supplemental Trump XXII

Dignified: The “Aha!” moment; a major epiphany or quantum leap in awareness; the next critical step in the evolution of the matter; an irreversible turning-point, an adventure into the Unknown; a transcendent, visionary and creative impulse; a unique opportunity; approach to a new frontier; thinking outside the box; the “dawn of a new day.”

Ill-Dignified: Unwelcome intervention by a higher authority; the matter is taken out of the querent’s hands; being “blind-sided by an irresistible force; a loss of objectivity; the need for a fresh perspective; being “taught a lesson by the Cosmos;” abuse of authority by those in power; indifference or hostility from unexpected quarters; spiritual sustenance denied or withdrawn; the “dark night of the soul.”

Esoterically, “entering upon a higher arc of the soul’s journey on the Path of Return,” ascending beyond the “Celebration of the Great Work Completed” as symbolized by the “dance of the elements” on The Universe card. “Loosing the bonds of Earth.” Spiritual enlightenment. An “Awakening” into an exalted state of consciousness. A “crisis of conscience” or moral dilemma of the highest order.

The Significator card was developed around the following iconographic analysis:

Iconographic Basis for My Personal “Magical” Sigil (“Coat of Arms”)

The iconography of this sigil is rooted in the gematria and numerology derived from my first name.

Converting the letters to Hebrew form produces the number “717,” or Zain-Aleph-Zain (ZAZ). Reducing this by numerological addition results in the number “6” – the number of the tarot Trump card “The Hierophant” (sixth Trump in the series from 0 to 22).

The astrological sign attributed to the Hierophant is Taurus, which is ruled by Venus, and in which the Moon is exalted. The symbol of Taurus is the Bull, and the Hebrew letter Aleph (associated with the tarot Trump card “The Fool”) also means Ox or Bull. The element of Taurus is Earth. The path of the Hierophant on the qabalistic Tree of Life connects the Sephiroth Chokmah and Chesed; the color of this path is Red-Orange. The color of Chokmah is Gray and the color of Chesed is Blue.

The Hebrew letter Zain means Sword, and is represented by the tarot Trump card “The Lovers.” The astrological sign attributed to the Lovers is Gemini, which is ruled by Mercury and in which, according to traditional astrology, the Lunar North Node is exalted. The path of The Lovers on the Tree of Life connects the Sephiroth Binah and Tiphareth; the color of this path is Orange. The color of Binah is Black and the color of Tiphareth is a golden (solar) Yellow.

The iconography begins with the Cube of Earth at the bottom, signifying the elemental (Earth) power of Taurus and the Sephira Malkuth. The visible sides of the cube are Orange, representing the path of The Lovers. The visible top of the cube is Bright Yellow, representing the path of the Fool on the Tree of Life. The Hebrew letter Zain is inscribed on the left and right faces of the cube and the Hebrew letter Aleph is inscribed on the top center, forming a pictogram or “magical signature” for “ZAZ.” The globes at the corners of the cube are colored Red, Yellow, Blue and Green, with the colors of the Moon (Blue) and Venus (Green) aligned along the central vertical axis.

The “Bull Rampant,” representing the Hierophant (Taurus) and the Fool (Aleph) straddles the top point of the cube. The head and hooves of the bull are Red-Orange, the color of the path of The Hierophant. The body of the bull is a verdant Green, the color of Venus. The tail and horns are Gray, signifying that the descending path of the Hierophant has its root (“tail”) in Chokmah, and the ascending path conversely has its culmination (“horns”) in that Sphere. The collar or yoke on the bull represents the fact that the primal creative urge associated with the symbol of the Bull or Ox is brought under control and used for productive purposes (i.e. agriculture). The collar has the shape of the Lunar crescent, representing the exaltation of the Moon in Taurus, the path of the High Priestess connecting Tiphareth to the top-most Sephira Kether, and the Luna-themed Sephira Yesod directly beneath Sol-invested Tiphareth on the Middle Pillar of the Tree. Its color is Blue, one of the colors associated with the Moon as well as the color of the path of The High Priestess and the Sephira Chesed at the lower end of the path of the Hierophant.

The blades of the swords on either side of the bull are colored Orange according to the attribution for the path of the Lovers; paired, they provide a visual suggestion of the symbol for the astrological sign Gemini. The left-hand, upward-pointing sword represents the ascending path from Tiphareth to Binah and thus has a golden Yellow hilt. The right-hand, downward-pointing sword represents the descending path from Binah to Tiphareth and thus has a Black hilt. The swords are curved scimitars, echoing the shape of the crescent Moon.

The crown over the head of the bull symbolizes Kether; it has nine points representing Yesod, Sphere of the Moon. The stars atop the points are colored a Lunar Blue, also referring to the path of the High Priestess between Tiphareth and Kether. The crown itself is colored golden Yellow on the outside to represent Tiphareth and White on the interior reflecting Kether, which is concealed behind Tiphareth (“the Sun behind the Sun”) when ascending the Tree of Life via the Middle Pillar. Taken together, the combined symbolism is a compact glyph of the Middle Pillar itself, which has as its uppermost extension the Path of the Moon elevating the coarser emanations of Malkuth (the “Kingdom” symbolized by the the Cube of Earth) and Yesod (the “Foundation”), after their refinement in Tiphareth (“Beauty”), to their ultimate sublimation in Kether (the “Crown”)

The background is a vibrant Green reflecting the spring-time fervor of Venus in Taurus.

If this exercise inspires you to dive into a similar intellectual netherworld, just remember:

You have been warned!

2 thoughts on “Those Useless Extra Cards

    • My reading style is roughly 60% analytical (all that Thoth study over the last four decades) and 40% inspiration, imagination and ingenuity. I don’t generally buy decks with extra cards that are intended to be included in the reading; I get enough meaning out of the original 78 and the large knowledge and experience base I built over the years.


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