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Wilhelm Hauschild-Lohengrincu01Santo Griaal-Rogelio Egusquiza 1893

The Waite-Smith Ace of Cups image is not unique. A winged figure surmounts a fountain from which streams water in the Visconti-Sforza card. In the Marseille deck two of the aces (Wands and Swords) have a hand emerging from a cloud—a standard medieval device to indicate creation, miracles and gifts from a Divine source. We also find similarities in the pictures above. The first one is from Wilhelm Hauschild’s Temple of the Holy Grail (1878) and the third one is Santo Griaal by Rogelio Egusquiza (acquired by the British Museum in 1901). By the way, if you are Pagan, like me, I encourage you to look at the Christian references as psychological metaphors. Read Part 1 here.

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To display His divine nature, the hand of God is often depicted emerging from a cloud which hides his body, veiling us from his power as no person could see Him and live. As it is the right hand, it is actively giving the viewer one of the four sacred treasures found in the myths of many cultures. In the Talmud the Cup of Blessing is held on five fingers of the right hand representing the five leaves that protect a rose from its thorns. This image signifies a divine gift in the form of a supernatural vision (the cloud) that is often the starting point for a spiritual quest.

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Waite has a lot to say about the dove, describing it as the invocation and descent of the Comforter or Holy Spirit to renew the virtue of the Grail and to consecrate the elements.

“In England during the Middle Ages . . . the Eucharist was reserved in a Columbarium, or Dove-House, being a vessel shaped like a dove. It recalls some archaic pictures of a Cup over which a dove broods and the descent of a dove on the Graal.” …
“There is the flight of the mystical dove from the casement to inmost Shrine, as if the bird went to renew the virtues of the Holy Graal.” …
“The Dove descends from Heaven carrying the Arch Natural Host to renew the virtues of the Stone [the form the Grail takes in some of the stories].” …
“O central point and sacred meeting-place of all the sacraments, there falls the Bread,  broken within the Wine-Cup, and from both issues one living Spirit of Life Divine.” …
“On Good Friday, by the descent of a dove from heaven, carrying a sacred Host . . . the crown of all earthly riches were renewed.”

The Holy Spirit represents the life-giving spirit of air, and it was present at the baptism by water of Jesus, the awakening into a new life:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11.

Additionally, the Dove maintains its pagan association with Goddess Venus/Aphrodite and with Love (Waite includes the ancient pagan mysteries in the Secret Tradition). The Dove blesses with supernatural gifts, like the gift of tongues (pictured as Yods, see below), and so it can be associated with the ancient “language of the birds” or gift of divination and with miracles. Waite favors the idea of Grace: “it is grace which fills the heart; it is the Holy Spirit of God which makes holy the spirit of man.” Grace, equated with the Hebrew word Chesed, is a blessing that gives guidance and protects us from the dangers of earthly power and adversity.

So, the Dove can be seen as the descent of Spirit into flesh, of the supernatural into the natural, a theme repeated by the cross on the Host composed of the vertical axis of spirit and the horizontal of matter. (The cross, which represents Christ’s suffering and sacrifice on the cross, becomes a blessing.)

I should note that Waite was known to have a prodigious and exacting memory. He was extremely precise in his use of language, so when an odd phrase appears it is usually a sign that he is quoting a source to further elucidate his meaning. The internet has made it possible to find a good number of these allusions.

For instance, for Waite the Host is the panis quotidianus that has been changed into the panis vivus et vitalis”: that is the everyday bread is transformed into a living and vital bread.  This quote from Waite refers to a popular hymn by Thomas Aquinas (circa 1264) called the Lauda Sion Salvatorem. It speaks of the Eucharist and presents the transformation of bread and wine ending with a familiar maxim “as above, so below”:

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden,
Signs, not things, are all we see. . . .

Living bread, thy life supply:
Strengthen us, or else we die,
Fill us with celestial grace. . . .

Thou, who feedest us below:
Source of all we have or know:
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the feast of love,
We may see Thee face to face.

Spiritual nourishment, the Host, is sent by the Holy Ghost; in many of the Grail stories it is found to heal all wounds.

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Cup, Grail and Fountain of Living Waters

This is the signature image of this card and is filled with meaning on so many levels. We will touch on only a few. As container, it is a major symbol of the receptive feminine and, in Christianity, the womb of the Virgin Mary, the seat of creation and manifestation of Love, esoterically seen as “the Bride”. It is a vessel in which things are “cooked,” making raw materials capable of providing rich nourishment and even, in alchemy, changing lead into gold. It is the cup of transformation containing the waters of life in which water is changed into wine and then into blood. It is the cauldron of Dagda in Celtic myth from which no company ever left unsatisfied. 

“The message of the Secret Tradition in the Christian Graal mystery is this: The Cup corresponds to spiritual life. It receives the graces from above and communicates them to that which is below. The equivalent happens in the supernatural Eucharist, the world of unmanifest adeptship, attained by sanctity [Grace].”

Both cup and water represent the soul.

The Practicus Ritual in Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross initiates one through an encounter with the Living Waters. First we are informed that Water symbolizes the emotions, desires, and psychic nature of earthly man. But this is not the Water one is to encounter in the ritual, “The Waters that are below desire after the Waters that are above. . . . May the peace of their Union be upon us; be we dissolved therein.”

“The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the Waters, and the Spirit of the Most High God shall move upon the Waters of the Soul. . . . The stilled waters of the soul receive the Spirit of God moving upon the face of its waters. . . . Open thy heart, O Brother of the Rosy Cross, and receive the Water of Life.” 

“Fountain of fountains, and of all fountains. Chalice of saving rain. Grace on the soul descending, as rain on the dry grass. Life-giving Rain of Doctrine. Mystical Fruit of the Doctrine. Dew of Divine Speech, falling in stillness on the heart, filling the soul with Knowledge. Enter into the heart and purify; come into the soul and consecrate.”

The image is one of both the Baptismal font and the Eucharist. “A Eucharistic allegory concerns [the dissolution] of the body by Divine Substance communicated to the soul, putting an end to the enchantments and sorceries of the five senses” and to the suffering on the cross (mentioned earlier).

This leads us directly to the five streams coming out of the cup.

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Why five streams of water and not the four that Waite specifies in Pictorial Key to the Tarot? Furthermore, Bible readers all know that there are four streams that come out of Eden. This could be an error either on the part of Waite or Pamela Colman Smith. Or, it could veil a secret: These five streams might, after all, represent the five senses (see the quote immediately above), or the five ways of salvation and five gates of grace (from Masonic ritual), or the five wounds of Christ, the five points of the Pentagram, the five petals of the rose that rest on five leaves (the fingers), or the four elements plus aether—the quintessence. In terms of the symbolism, five yields far more relevance according to Waite himself:

“In the Longer Prose Perceval we have seen that there is an account of five changes in the Graal which took place at the altar, being five transfigurations, the last of which assumed the seeming of a chalice, but at the same time, instead of a chalice, was some undeclared mystery: so the general as well as the particular elements of the legend in its highest form offer a mystery the nature of which is recognised by the mystic through certain signs which it carries on its person; yet it is declared in part only and what remains, which is the greater part, is not more than suggested. It is that, I believe, which was seen by the maimed King when he looked into the Sacred Cup and beheld the secret of all things, the beginning even and the end. In this sense the five changes of the Graal are analogous to the five natures of man, as these in their turn correspond to the four aspects of the Cosmos and that which rules all things within and from without the Cosmos.”

I believe that despite their blue color, the five streams best represent blood, for as Marie-Louise von Franz tells us, “Grace was depicted as a fountain of Blood from the five holy wounds of Christ,” The Psychological Meaning of Redemption Motifs in Fairytales.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb-GhentBut it is in Evelyn Underhill, Anglo-Catholic author of a well-known book on mysticism, who perhaps reveals the deepest mystery. Underhill was a student or acolyte of Waite, having joined his branch of the Golden Dawn in 1904 and achieving at least four initiations. She wrote for Waite’s Horlick’s Magazine and  published a novel in 1909 featuring the effects of the Holy Grail on a woman who came into its possession. In an article titled “The Fountain of Life” in the Burlington Magazine (1910) Underhill examined the fountains of water and of blood depicted on several religious works of art including the famous Ghent Altarpiece (right). She notes that baptism and penance which ‘renews the grace of baptism,’ are still spoken of by Catholic theologians as ‘effusions of the Precious Blood,’ i.e., of grace. She went on to describe:

“, , , a fountain which is filled by the Blood flowing from the Five Wounds. The Soul, or ‘Bride,’ holds out her heart, and the blood from the wounded side of Christ falls upon it, causing flowers to spring up from the place which has been touched by the vivifying stream. The Precious Blood then . . . stands not merely for an emblem of the Passion, Redemption, or the Eucharist, though it includes all these manifestations of Grace, but for the medium of communication of the Divine Life . . . since for ancient and mediaeval thought the spirit of life resided in the blood.”

Given that the Aces are also seen by Waite as the four Celtic treasures, I’d be remiss in not presenting this option from Celtic Myth and Religion by Sharon Paice MacLeod:

“In Cormac’s Adventures in the Land of Promise, Cormac has a vision of the sacred center of the Otherworld where he saw a shining fountain with five streams flowing out of it. He is told that it is the Fountain of Knowledge [others call it the Well of Wisdom], and the five streams are the five senses through which knowledge is obtained.”

Drops of Dew or YodsFullSizeRender (5)

These drops, in the shape of the Hebrew letter Yod are found on many of the Tarot cards, generally signifying divine Grace. Shaped like a flame a Yod is the divine spark of creation that is the foundation of all the other letters and is the first letter in the Tetragrammaton or four-letter name of God. There are 26 yods and Eoin Keith Boyle notes in the comments that this is the sum of the 4-lettered name of God, the Tetragrammaton, in Kabbalistic gematria. They are also the shape of the tongues of fire at Pentecost:

“They saw tongues like flames of a fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:3-4.

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The alchemist Thomas Vaughn, in a compendium by Waite, calls it the divine spark or star-fire that is sympathetically attracted to its origin in God. It is spirit fructifying the soul.

These drops can also be seen as alchemical dew. Thomas Vaughn again explains that divine dew penetrates and transforms all that is physical. Waite claims that for the Rosicrucians “dew is light, coagulated and rendered corporeal. . . . When digested in its own vessel it is the true menstruum of the Red Dragon, i.e., of gold, the true matter of the Philosophers.”

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[In the beginning]the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2.

It is the soul that desires union with the spirit, “The Waters that are below desire after the Waters that are above.”

This is also the generative water of renewal and rebirth. It also represents the emotions which here have become serene and calm, being fed by the waters of the Holy Spirit. In the parlance of Carl Jung it is the rich and fertile pool of the unconscious psyche—the soul. And Evelyn Underhill already explained that the blood from Christ’s wounds causes flowers to spring up—in this case water-lilies that grow only in sweet waters, reaching up from the mud toward the light. Regarding sweet waters, in Waite’s book of aphorisms, Steps to the Crown, we find: “The Cup of bitterness ceases to exist for him who has drunk from the chalice of immortality”.

 W or M ?

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Finally we come to the major controversy associated with this card—What is the significance of the letter on the cup? The fact is that we will never know, but we do have some very likely possibilities, and knowing Waite, all of them may have been what was intended, for Waite saw all symbols as multi-valenced. 

IMG_2891MacGregor Mathers, in his 1888 book Tarot: A Short Treatise on Reading the Cards claims that an inverted M on the front of the Spanish Ace of Cups represented the waters of creation in Genesis and all that remains of an Egyptian motif of twin serpents (as per this 19th century deck reproduced in the Cagliostro Tarot by Modiano of Italy). The Golden Dawn paper on the Tarot, “Book T,” says, “The great Letter of the Supernal Mother is traced in the spray of the Fountain.”

First it is note-worthy that the letter is shaped exactly like Pamela Colman Smith’s MsAr01 and not like her WsWaPg.

The main contenders for W are:
Waite (see the monogram on the Ten of Pentacles)
Water (“the implicit is that the Sign of the Cups naturally refers to water” PKT.)
Womb
Wisdom (more specifically, Well of Wisdom)

The main contenders for M are:
Mystery (“For this is the chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal testament: the Mystery of Faith”).
Mem (or Maim, Hebrew for “water”)
Mary (or Mara, which also means “bitter sea”)
Mother (Matter. As Supernal Mother she is associated with Binah on the Tree of Life and the 2nd letter of the Tetragrammaton, He.)

Mercury (an alchemical maxim: “What wise men seek in Mercury is found”)

I believe that the letter is M and that it stands for Mystery, as viewed from above by the Holy Spirit. It is probably the word Waite uses most in his books where it is usually capitalized. To support this I have found almost this identical summary statement in several of Waite’s books:

“[In conclusion] the maxim which might and would be inscribed over the one Temple of the truly Catholic Religion when the faiths of this western world have been united in the higher consciousness–that is assuredly ‘Mysterium Fidei’–the mystery which endures for ever and for ever passes into experience.” HCHG, p. 469

We might also view the letters like this:

Waite – Mystery
Water – Mem
Womb – Mary/Mother
Wisdom – Mercury 

An Act of Imagination

I suggest one final way of getting at the deeper meaning of this card.

Imagine for a moment that you are the Chalice and, perhaps, the liquid in the chalice. Picture yourself reaching up for the host held in the beak of the dove. You might see yourself as a baby bird stretching up to be fed by a parent. Can you experience the yearning? Or you may be a font of water that wells up from a deep source. Feel the draw from above and your yearning toward the source of that draw. Become aware of the wounds gathered through your earthly experience. The water (or blood) within you could begin to spill over, rising up and falling out in a continuous stream. Can you let yourself go, surrender to the movement, and then to gravity so that you fall into the pool beneath? What happens when you spill into that pond? Where do you go? How do you reflect back what is above?

One final characteristic of Cups, which Waite mentions over and over again through his discussion of the suit, is fantasy—the ability to imagine super-sensible things and have experiences of what he calls the Arch-Natural world. While there are dangers in doing so (the Seven of Cups), it is in through mystical experience, first accessed through the door of the imagination, that we are ultimately able to commune with Spirit. I hope to speak more about this in a third post on a Jungian interpretation of this image.

See also: Part 1-Waite’s Eucharistic Ace of Cups.

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Announcing two Tarot Tours this coming summer in the British Isles. Last year’s trip, Tarot Magic in Merlin’s Britain, sold out early. We are doing it again, with a Tarot trip to Sacred Scotland preceeding it, and a discount if you go on both. Don’t let these journeys pass you by! Sign up before the November 30th deadline. Above is a photo of our private full moon sunrise ceremony in the circle at Stonehenge.

Just two weeks ago I discovered that the hotel where we stayed while searching for Tarot artist Pamela Colman Smith’s burial place, was a hotel she actually stayed at as a young woman. It was in 1897, the year King Arthur’s Castle Hotel opened, with its magnificent roundtable at which we did readings, that Pamela met Henry Irving of the Lyceum Theatre fame. Subsequently she toured with the Lyceum Theatre and designed costumes and sets, getting her nickname, Pixie, from her foster mother, the actress Ellen Terry. Here is what is now called the Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel, with Merlin’s Cave in the far bottom right.

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I can’t begin to tell you all the amazing things we encountered on our journey: sacred wells in out of the way locations; stone circles, several of which we had to ourselves; the special fairy glen; a ritual on a hilltop labyrinth; Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Well where Dion Fortune made her home. IMG_2104One of the most magical moments was our using dowsing rods to find what we believed was Pixie Smith’s unmarked grave. Linda dropped her pendulum, hearing it fall. We searched for it in vain, only to have the bus driver when we returned ask who had dropped a pendulum on the bus. It was Linda’s. That night at the Camelot Castle Hotel we used the pendulum to ask Pixie questions about her life – and it was months later that I discovered from one of her letters that she had probably drunk her favorite “Opal Hush” drink in that same bar 120 years before.

The Tarot Magic in Sacred Scotland Tour is

14-23 May 2018

and will feature Tarot readings in sacred sites for gaining insight into your own spiritual journey…readings whose messages will continue to unfold for years to come. Experience:

  • Inverness and surrounding area – Prehistoric Clava Cairns and standing stones, Rosemarkie Fairy Glen, Loch Ness
  • Orkney – Skara Brae, Maes Howe, Stones of Stennes, Ring of Brodgar, archaeological dig on the Ness of Brodgar
  • Iona – Abbey, Nunnery, St Columba’s Chapel
  • Standing stones at Kilmartin.

More information: https://globalspiritualstudies.com/travel/sacred-scotland/

The Tarot Magic in Merlin’s Britain Tour immediately follows on

23 May – 1 June 2018

and takes us to:

  • Stonehenge
  • Avebury and West Kennet long barrow
  • Glastonbury and surrounding area – Chalice Well, the Tor, Glastonbury Abbey, Cadbury/Camelot
  • Tintagel and surrounding area – Tintagel Castle, Merlin’s Cave, St Nectan’s Glen
  • Boscastle – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
  • South Cornwall – Boscowen-un stone circle, Merry Maidens stone circle, holy wells of Madron and Sancreed.

More information: https://globalspiritualstudies.com/travel/avalon-to-camelot/

Watch this video of our trip, created by Linda Marson, to catch just a little of the magic: 

 

PCS-fr Russian Ballet

Pamela Colman Smith was known for telling Jamaican folk tales about the spider-man trickster figure, Annancy, and also for her toy theatre performances. The toy theatre scene shown below is from her play, Henry Morganbased on a real life Welsh pirate who became lieutenant governor of Jamaica. The photo above of PCS telling a folk tale using her cutout figures was recently discovered by Dawn Robinson in Cornwall glued into a copy of The Russian Ballet.

PCS-Brush & Pencil-9

Toy theatres were nothing new, as from 1811 they had become a popular pasttime in pre-television, Victorian England (check out this toy theatre site). Below are two newsreels of the original Pollack’s Toy Theatre construction showing how Pamela herself would have made her theatres and especially how she would have used stencils to color her illustrations for “The Broad Sheet”, “The Green Sheaf” and other works.

Finally, join author Ronald Hutton (Triumph of the Moon, Pagan Britain and The Witches) on a tour of modern day Pollack’s Toy Museum and view the Toy Theatres seen in the old newsreels above (view about half way through Hutton’s video).

A photograph of a modern toy theatre using figures from Pixie’s Tarot deck can be found on Pinterest, but since I don’t have the original source for the photo I won’t show it until permission is given by the creator.

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Photograph by Alice Boughton from the Brooklyn Life magazine, January, 1907. Thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library for a better resolution photograph than I was able to get previously.

PCS-Metropolitan Magazine 1907

Drawing by Pamela Coleman(sic) Smith in the Metropolitan Magazine, 1907.

PCS-first print

from American Printer and Lithographer, vol. 31, 1900.

“A young designer, whose work has considerable interest, is Miss Pamela Coleman Smith. Miss Smith was a student of Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, where her work, especially in coloring and decoration, attracted attention. She was a tireless worker and produced a great many posters, prints and designs, all peculiar for the wealth of decorative detail and the strength of the coloring. Among other labors of love, Miss Smith designed for her mimic theatre the entire scenery and costumes for eight plays, the text for which she wrote herself. This work showed a marvelous study of costume and great ingenuity and invention. After leaving Pratt much of her work was published by R. H. Russell, notably her color drawing for the play, “Trelawney of the Wells.” In the same line was her work with Irving and Terry for subjects. This latter attracted the attention of Miss Terry. The actress became interested in Miss Smith and when she left for England took with her the young designer. While I know nothing of the plans of either Miss Smith or Miss Terry, it is interesting to think that Miss Smith may be added to the staff of the Irving-Terry company as a sort of official designer, in the same way that Alphonse Mucha is the staff artist and designer of Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Here is reproduced probably the first design for which Miss Smith was paid. It is an illustration of AEsop’s fable of the “Crow and the Pitcher,” and the original is in three printings—green, red and black. The noticeably weak point in Miss Smith’s work is the lettering. In fact, it is the weak point of all students of Pratt Institute. Good as is that school of design, under the management of Arthur B. Dow, no provision is made for teaching the principles of good, strong, vigorous characteristic and individual lettering. Amateur designers, and in fact many professional designers, do not understand the importance of lettering. The lettering should be a part of the design, not simply an interruption or an impertinence.”

I just had to add this additional piece from The Reader: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, September, 1903, p. 331-332. (note: date corrected).

PCS-1904 The Reader Magazine

MISS Pamela Coleman Smith was born of American parents in London, where her father was at the time engaged in business. On both sides her forebears exhibited in some degree the tendencies which have brought Miss Smith to the front in literary and artistic circles. One may say that from her mother she derived an intense, individual creative desire, which very early in life began to satisfy itself in a curious sort of drawing, later developed into the style already so well known, especially in England. While she was still a child the family removed to the island of Jamaica, where she lived seven years. During the time her chief diversion, outside her drawing, was learning the West Indian negro folk-tales. A volume of this folk-lore was later published by Harper & Bros.; among her other activities in London are her readings from this collection. It is easy . to understand the grace of original composition in one so thoroughly imbued with the simple naturalness which characterizes the style of all spontaneous popular tales, lyrics and ballads.

Two years’ study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N. Y., followed this period. As no noticeable change showed itself in the character of her work under this tutelage, and as she became more determined to work out her own problems in her own way, she ended her connection with the school and shortly went to London, wehre she became identified with the Celtic movement. For some time she contributed regularly to “The Broad Sheet.” With the beginning of the present year, however, she started a paper of her own, called “The Green Sheaf,” of which thirteen numbers will be published annually. This she edits. To it also she contributes poems and illustrations in color. Herein lies the most striking feature of her work. For, whereas in outline the influence of the pre-Raphaelites is very evident, her colors and color-schemes are all her own. Though fantastically fanciful and in a way impossible, the Mendings always please. From recipes which she has evolved, she herself “prepares many of the unusual shades which she employs, adding more individuality to the general effect thereby. “It is very interesting to see her,” says one who knows, “dressed as ‘Gelukiezanger’ in parti-colored, gypsy-like gown and with beaded hair, sitting in Turkish fashion on the floor of a drawing-room, reciting her outland tales full of their queer conceits and unpronounceable names.” She is an indefatigable worker, enthusiastic and rapid.

We reproduce two of Miss Smith’s drawings published in “The Green Sheaf” (colored, of course) at the time Sir Henry Irving was giving his farewell performances at the old Lyceum Theatre, now being torn down.

The following apologia appears on the cover of ” The Green Sheaf “:

“My Sheaf is small . . . but it is green.
I will gather into my Sheaf all the young fresh things I can—pictures, verses, ballads of love and rear; tales of pirates and the sea.
You will find ballads of the old world in-my Sheaf. Are the)—not green for ever . . .
Ripe ears are good for bread, but green ears are good for pleasure.”

PCS-illus The Reader Sept. 1903

PCS-Henry Irving led on by Courage

With these later news articles it becomes apparent how much of Pamela Colman Smith’s work has been lost. We find a tendency among the reporters to “damn with faint praise” as Pixie moves out of the realm of neighborhood parlour entertainment and begins to be taken seriously by people like Alfred Stieglitz—always dangerous for a woman of the time. I’ve placed Pixie’s paintings-to-music here rather than in my 1907 post (when she began exhibiting them) because these news articles are more slanted toward her musical works. See also this article in Current Literature on “Pictured Music.”

Stieglitz purchased quite a few of Pixie’s paintings, which Georgia O’Keefe sold off separately soon after he died—despite his desire, stated in his will, to keep them together—amid some speculation that a decades-old jealousy was involved. The Delaware Art Museum has a few in of her works in their collection and produced an exhibit in 1975 curated by Melinda Boyd Parsons (she wrote the catalog and has an unpublished biography of Smith), also shown more recently in Santa Fe. Virgin of CzWe now know for certain, from the article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, that Pixie split up her drawings for the Tarot deck, bringing some of them to the US. In what attics might they still reside? 

Demonstrating Pixie’s evolving Catholicism, we find a series of works called the “Litany of Loreto,” described as “byzantine” and taking their names from the call-and-response list of titles given the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1587: Spiritual vessel, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, Morning star (see below in Latin). This poster featuring the Holy Virgin of Czenstochowa (c. 1915-18) is the only hint we have of what the “Litany” paintings may have been like:

czenstochowa

“strong and full of the mystic, impressive power”
Mon., Mar. 18, 1912

Red Cloak

Schumann’s “Doubt”

Pamela Coleman Smith, a Brooklyn artist who made a name for herself early in her career at the Pratt Art Department, is exhibiting “drawings suggested by music, paintings on silk, and other original work” at the Berlin Photograph Company, Manhattan. There are twenty paintings on silk, framed like water colors and her handling of the material is very clever, having much of the strength of water colors, added to the softness of the silk texture. Five pictures exemplify what Miss Smith’s ideas of five Debussy compositions are: “L’Isle Joyous,” Gardens in the Rain,” “The Little Shepherd,” “What the West Wind Saw,” and “Snow is Dancing.” The first two pictures are in the Japanese style, largely, and have gorgeous color schemes. Less fantastic is “The Tree of Dawn,” suggesting an aria, by Mozart; it is the best of the paintings, full of tempered imagination and fine in color. “The Little Shepherd” is charming and natural. When Miss Smith does not give her fancy full rein, she is more enjoyable purely and simply. There is a fine sense of rhythm and swing to her pictures. When the drawings have the merest touches of dark, for example, there is a freedom and action about them which is impressive. “Spring Carried by Showers,” suggesting an aria, by Arthur Foote, and “People of the Rain” are two interesting paintings; in the first the goddess is carried in a litter by personified rain columns, and in the latter, rain people are suggested by falling masses of rain; they are two most attractive designs. “Dancing Trees,” and “Rain Passing Through a Valley.” both inspired by Dvorak music, are tree forms and rain forms, made into figures, cleverly and charmingly. “Snow is Dancing” and “Cloud Faces” are two more nature studies in which faces look out at you from the contours of snow and cloud. “The Ship of Dreams” and “Dreams Returning Home” (Nachstuck), the latter by Schumann, are very different, one being a fantasy and the other a realistic theme where dream people are shown returning home up a hill, toward its top, where a figure stands unfurling a flag. “Ruined Temples and Spilt Wine,” “Seven Towers of Fairy,” “Blue Smoke” and “Phantom Inn” are other color pieces. Designs for the “Litany of Loretto” are: “Vas Spirituale,” “Rosa Mystica,” “Turris Muideca,” “Turris Eburicca” all weird and mystical. A Caesar Franck Prelude has suggested a woman with a paddle in a foreground of rushes an a man in the distance with a paddle. 

Hamlet is not a musical reflection but is strong; the snow drifts around the Dane and his ghostly father. “The Call to Earth” is a Caesar Franck idea, and is clever and imaginative, but most persons will prefer to retain their own impressions of what music suggests rather than exchange them for other’s thoughts. Some of these sonatas, arias and symphonies are highly descriptive, suggesting “Dancing Cloud,” “Ruined Temples and Spilt Wine,” “Seven Towers of Fairy,” “Blue Smoke” and “Phantom Inn.”

Beethoven's Symphony #5

Beethoven’s Symphony #5

The drawings are strong and full of the mystic, impressive power. Miss Smith’s conception of the “Appassionata Sonata” is a swanlike figure, huge and having the face of a woman, billows and turrets, or they may suggest trees, to some observers. The Mozart music themes are interesting as the dress of the time, figures in the drawing. A Schumann symphony suggests a swaying, giant woman’s figure and a background of trees. Miss Smith takes violin concertos, fugues, quartets and other musical divisions to make pictures about. “E Tourdine” shows Debussy’s music suggesting two figures bearing heavy burdens. Strauss music suggests a bold and mystical drawing to Miss Smith.

The designs for a set of Tarot cards are excellent. “Page of Cups,” “Page of Pentacles,” “Ace of Swords,” “Nine of Swords,” “ Five of Cups,” “Four of Wands.” Several hand colored prints are included in the exhibition: “Alone,” “Charles and Annie,” “The Recitation” and other designs.
—  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Cards brought to US by PCS, 1912.

Drawings brought to US by PCS, 1912.

“an imagination of no common order”
Sun. Mar. 17, 1912

Henry James has called music “the great dissolvent,” but after looking at the exhibition of drawings “suggested by music” at the Berlin Photographic company signed Pamela Coleman Smith, one is inclined to think the precise opposite. Miss Smith’s lines seems to quicken into creative activity when she listens to music. The sound waves set her pencil weaving strange arabesques and always to a distinctly recognized rhythm. She is nothing if not rhythmic. Mr. Birnbaum tells us that the artist makes her designs in the concert room. But we hasten to assure those to whom this mixing of the sister arts is incomprehensible that these drawings qua drawings may be enjoyed without their musical genesis obtruding itself. If Miss Smith is affected by music and produces work of such a distinctive delicacy, charm, subtlety, why that is her own psychology. Certainly some of the Debussy illustrations are as satisfactory as their tonal originals. Debussy thinks so himself, owns and admires an entire portfolio.

“Snow is Dancing” is truly an evocation in which the decorative impulse looms large; “Garden in the Rain” is lyric. “People of the Rain” betrays true fantasy; indeed, fantasy rules these singularly attractive paintings on silk and all the drawings. Since Miss Smith first exhibited at Mr. Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession Gallery she has much improved technically. Her line is less crabbed, more firm and sweeping; her color sense is warmer. Naturally these memoranda are never welded into a whole. Miss Smith has yet to make a composition. She has a preference for ultramodern music, possibly because of its indeterminate form, its raporous melancholy and its rhythmic variety, yet she can ring in a virile manner the changes on Beethoven as exemplified in the Appasionata Sonata op 57. Her water colors are exquisite notations. Let us suggest that the entire collection be taken at its face value, artistically speaking, without troubling over the evasive correspondence of tone and form. Theophile Gautier’s poem, “Correspondences,” might serve as a general title for the entire exhibition. The designs for the Litany of Loreto—Rose mystical, Turris Davidica, Turris eburnea and Stella matutina—demonstrate an imagination of no common order. They are decorative, spiritual and with a touch of the hieratic that may be noted in Byzantine art.
— The Sun (New York)

PCS woman mountain

Overture. “Egmont” Beethoven, 1907

“we must not take these very personal expressions too seriously”
Mar. 17, 1912

“Illustrating Music”

pcs - BlueCatwatercolorw

The Blue Cat, 1907

Pamela Coleman Smith is exhibiting at the Berlin Photographic Company’s gallery a group of drawings made to music. Her method is simple. She is not a musician and the laws of structure and harmony known to the composer are not in her mind. While she listens to music she draws lines suggested by the emotion the music causes. Sometimes they are long and slow, sometimes broken and staccato, sometimes whirling, sometimes curly and rococo, and the observer recognizes in some of them his own impressions while listening to certain movements.

It is a guileless art rooted in the great truth that all arts meet somewhere on common ground; but too much easily could be made of it. Miss Smith is sensitive to inspiration and delightfully suggests spontaneous feeling. Many a well-trained painter fails to do this. On the other hand, a painter as well grounded in his art as the musical composers illustrated in this charming exhibition are in theirs would probably not interrupt the rhythms of his line so inadvertently as we frequently find them interrupted here. Three dancing figures twining in swift movement are to the laymen very inspiring, but an artist would feel impatient at noting a stiff little square made by four unnecessary accents of dark among the flowing rhythms, which only means, of course, that we must not take these very personal expressions too seriously.

Miss Smith has given pleasure in a very quaint and personal manner. In a few of her drawings she communicates a genuine thrill, and all are well worth seeing for a quiet half hour. In her paintings, several of which are also on exhibition, she shows anew her fine sense of color. Her hilltop with a sky full of the tints of dawn and the figures of dreams trooping homeward is a rare piece of color and a lovely little fairy story.

All the work, drawings, and paintings alike illustrate childlike feelings and imaginings, and have a sweet, old-fashioned freshness of style, a simplicity of thought not often to be found in public galleries. Children love Miss Smith’s drawings because they retain the sparkle of childish fantasy.
— New York Times

PCS-Unlocking the Door-2

See also:

• Pamela Colman Smith: “out of the heart of the Heights”
Pamela Colman Smith 1896-1899
Pamela Colman Smith 1907 – story teller
Pamela Colman Smith 1909 – magic spectacles
• The Art of Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Colman Smith on Reading the Cards

• Biography of Pamela Colman Smith (biographical resource)
Roppo’s Gallery for the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith

pcs - initial I

N NOVEMBER of 1909, Pixie wrote Alfred Stieglitz that she had “just finished a big job for very little cash!” These were the black and white designs for a pack of Tarot cards. She also mentions her painting, “The Wave.” Along with her trip to New York (described below), 1909 proved to be a very busy year for her. Her artwork was featured three times from 1907-1909 at Stieglitz’s 291 (Photo-Succession) gallery. Here’s a comment on her first exhibit back in 1907:

“Stieglitz decided to shake things up, and he did so by mounting the first non-photography show at the gallery in January, 1907. This is notable because it signaled the beginning of Stieglitz’s role as a pioneer promoter of modern art in America. The show, drawings by artist Pamela Coleman Smith, initially attracted little attention, but after a prominent critic praised the work it became the best attended exhibition to date. A substantial number of the works were sold, and interest in the show was so strong that it had to be extended eight days.” [wikipedia summary of Robert Doty, Photo-Secession: Photography as Fine Art (Rochester, NY; George Eastman House, 1960) p. 43.]

I’ve featured images that go best with these newspaper articles. The next post, although later than the 291 exhibits, shows more of her paintings to music.

pcs - women in sea

“a belief in fairies and goblins”
Thu., Mar. 25, 1909

BroadSheet#6 - Version 2Imagination in art was the general theme of a novel lecture by Pamela Colman Smith under the auspices of the Pratt Art Club delivered Tuesday night in the Assembly Hall of Pratt Institute on Ryerson street. Miss Smith labeled her informal illustrated talk “Magic Spectacles,” and devoted it principally to “people interested in art.” Quite a large number of people, mainly art enthusiasts from Brooklyn and Manhattan, where her work is greatly admired, greeted Miss Smith and gave close attention as she elucidated the force of imagination as expressed in the paintings of the foreign artists. She described and illustrated examples of French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese art and showed that in each case the imagination of the artists predominated to a large degree. Miss Smith recited in the dialect, stories of folklore and fables of Jamaica where she lived for seven or eight years. She proclaimed a belief in fairies and goblins, which she said existed when her imagination could be set to work. After her lecture, Miss Smith, who was formerly a Pratt art student, held a brief reception and met many of her friends. Her works are now on exhibition in Manhattan and have attracted a little attention.
— The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BroadSheet#7 - Version 2

“a little Kat Greenaway girl”
Sat., Mar. 27, 1909

BroadSheet#4 - Version 2At the Macbeth Gallery there were such interesting personalities as Janet Scudder, the clever young sculptor, and Pamela Colman Smith, who created such a furore by her recitation of old West Indian folk stories when she came over from England with Ellen Terry a year or two ago. Miss Smith is a niece of George Colman, an American artist, who spent most of his life in Italy. Recently she has been holding a “one man” exhibit at the Photo-Secession Galleries [Stieglitz’s gallery]. Of particular interest on this side of the river is this singularly gifted woman, for she is a niece of the late Mrs. Samuel Howard of Amity Street, and there are still many on the Heights who remember her mother, a brilliant young woman, especially clever in private theatricals which were often given at the Howards residence forty years ago. The well-bred crowd at the Macbeth Gallery was too polite to stare at Miss Smith as she made her rounds, but when she left the room one heard many inquiries as to who that remarkably picturesque little woman could be. Her gown and coat were long and floppy and of a sort of pussy-willow gray. On top of her curly coal black hair she wore a high-crowned gray hat, which in place of a brim, had a box pleating of bottle-green ribbon. When she entered the room you felt as if a little Kat Greenaway girl had suddenly been endowed with life and walked right out from the covers of a book.
— Brooklyn Life

BroadSheet#9 - Version 2

PCS-Chimney Corners Fairy

What does he see but the fairy.

Most of the illustrations here are from The Green Sheaf (1902). I also included the painting that I believe is called “The Wave,” and “What Does He See But the Fairy” from In Chimney Corners (1899).

See also:

• Pamela Colman Smith: “out of the heart of the Heights”
Pamela Colman Smith 1896-1899
Pamela Colman Smith 1907 – story teller
Pamela Colman Smith & “De Six Poach Eggs”
• The Art of Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Colman Smith on Reading the Cards

• Biography of Pamela Colman Smith (biographical resource)
Roppo’s Gallery for the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith

“Once in a long before time before Queen Victoria came to reign over we . . .”

This post features newspaper articles from Pixie’s 1907 visit to New York where she concentrated on presenting her Jamaican folk tales along with recitations of old English ballads and poetry by Yeats. Waite made it clear that “one other” had helped in the creation of the Tarot deck and from the accounts in these papers it is clear that she knew Yeats well. Separately I’ve learned that around this time she performed some recitals with Florence Farr, who taught Tarot to Golden Dawn initiates. [Note: please get permission from Stuart Kaplan at USGames who owns it before using a reproduction of the painting below.]

Pamela Colman Smith portrait-large

Collection of S. R. Kaplan, Further reproduction prohibited!

“never in the least bound down by the traditions”
Sat., Jan. 12, 1907

Miss Pamela Colman Smith, some of whose very interesting pictures are now being exhibited across the river, at 291 Fifth avenue, has recently returned to this country, after several years spent in England. Miss Smith had a studio in Chelsea, where she accomplished some quite remarkable work in the color schemes displayed in the late Sir Henry Irving’s and Beerbohm Tree’s stage settings. Miss Smith is a special protege of Ellen Terry and she has designed many of the most beautiful costumes worn by that actress. Brooklynites will always have a sort of proprietary claim to this interesting young woman, her parents having lived for many years in this borough. Though she commenced to draw pictures as soon as she could hold a pencil, Miss Smith’s artistic career really started at Pratt Institute. Never in the least bound down by the traditions of any conservative master, who was, supposedly, instructing her, she calmly used their studios as convenient workshops. Absolutely original, with a wonderful, almost garish, sense of color, Miss Smith’s pictures represent not so much what she sees, as what she feels. After an evening spent at the opera or concert, she will sometimes work all night, not illustrating the music she has heard, so much as the thoughts suggested, and these paintings she calls musical symphonies. In the current exhibition a group of Shakespearean studies is very interesting, but her series of “Impressions of New York”—the huge skyscrapers, the smoky atmosphere, Annancy Stories-children listeningthe crowded streets, and the night effects—are the more remarkable. Like many others of an artistic temperament, Miss Smith is too versatile to confine herself to one kind of work. As a sort of side issue, she gives recitals of Jamaica folk stories, and old English ballads, dressed in the costume of the people and time she represents. Often in the most gorgeous colors and wearing strings of many hued brilliant beads and astonishing arrangement of head-gear, Miss Smith tells her stories seated flat upon the floor, with candles as footlights. She has been in great demand, both in London and here, especially as an entertainer at children’s parties; for all youngsters plainly adore her. [Picture from my copy of Annancy Stories.]
— Brooklyn Life

“rare knowledge of dramatic values”
Sat. Jan. 26, 1907

Under the auspices of the Pratt Art Club, Miss Pamela Colman Smith gave an extremely interesting recital at the Institute las Saturday evening. While telling her Jamaica folk stories, Yeats by Alice BoughtonMiss Smith sat upon a low platform with her feet tucked under her, and a row of half-dozen big fat candles before her to serve as footlights. The room was darkened and the young narrator presented a very picturesque figure gowned in a loose robe of flame colored silk, with an arrangement of tulle and beads bound about her head like a kerchief. Her capital West Indian dialect rendered the stories all the more piquant. In a charming recital of old English ballads, this clever artist dressed the part in soft gray and white with a quaint cap; while in her tragical odd lilting of a group of poems by William B. Yeats, Miss Smith again showed her rare knowledge of dramatic values by wearing a long dark green cloak with hood drawn close about her face, and only one nervous hand visible. [This intriguing photo of Yeats was taken by Pixie’s former NY roommate, Alice Boughton.]
— Brooklyn Life

“quite exceptional brilliancy and absolute originality”
Sat., Feb. 9, 1907

Possibly the best number on the program—certainly the greatest novelty—was furnished by Miss Pamela Colman Smith, who gave Jamaica folk stories. Having passed many years on that island, Miss Smith is conversant with the correct Jamaican costume and has acquired a capital West Indian dialect. Gowned in old rose cashmere, with deep black fringe, and wearing beads about her neck and chiffon twined about her bead to represent a kerchief, Miss Smith sat flat upon a small round table with her feet tucked beneath her gown and a row of half a dozen short fat candles at her knees to represent footlights. An artist of quite exceptional brilliancy and absolute originality, Miss Smith knows the value of every gesture, every smile and every inflection. The Entertainment Club, nearing its majority, can surely be congratulated upon its twentieth celebration. [PCS at The Entertainment Club. Image below from ChimChim, my collection.]
— Brooklyn Life

PCS-ChimChim back cover lg - Version 2

“thoroughly unconventional femininity”
Sat., Feb. 16, 1907

One successful young woman leading almost too strenuous a life for this chronicler to keep tab on, is Pamela Colman Smith. She has not only given recitations at the Fine Arts Club, Pratt Institute, the Pen & Brush, and Mrs. Hitchcock’s Entertainment Club, but has appeared at numberless private houses, both here and in Boston, was at the Brooklyn Barnard Club on Tuesday, and will tell her Jamaica Folk Stories before the Associate Alumnae of Packer, within the next fortnight. Even with the prestige of English approval, Miss Smith’s instant success here is a bit unusual. I think it is largely due to her absence of all pose; queer, unexpected, absolutely original as Miss Smith is, one realizes her unmistakable genuineness as well as appreciates her talents. She is a gentlewoman, presenting an odd type of thoroughly unconventional femininity—therein lies her greatest charm.
— Brooklyn Life

“the favorite reader of London drawing rooms”
Sun., Feb. 24, 1907

“Miss Pamela Colman Smith Furnished Delightful Programme at Midwinter Gathering”

Pamela Colman Smith, the favorite reader of London drawing rooms, furnished a delightful program of Jamaica folklore, fairy tales and troubadour ballads given in most artistic manner and with a fascinating accent which Miss Smith acquired through intimate acquaintance with the people whose folklore she has brought to this country. Her costumes added to the good effect—a red dress with black fringe, one in green and white stripes, and a dull blue troubadour cloak. Candles burned in front of her during the telling of the stories. . . . An alligator brought by Miss Smith from Jamaica was an attractive exhibit.
— The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

“rendering Yeats’ ballads”
Sat., Mar. 2, 1907

Miss Pamela Colman Smith was chief attraction at the reception of the Associate Alumnae of the Packer Collegiate Institute last Saturday afternoon. The readings were held in the chapel and Miss Smith, who made perhaps her most favorable impression in her rendering of Yeats’ ballads, was very well received.
— Brooklyn Life

“a bewitched pudding and Mr. Ringdalee”
Sat., Mar 23, 1907

Sketch of PCS telling storiesMiss Pamela Colman Smith mounted the platform carrying her foot-lights, a pine board bearing four fat yellow candles. These she lighted and spreading out the folds of her voluminous pink cashmere skirt and bestowing a pat to her turban, sat on the floor behind them and gave three of her quaint Jamaican folk stories which the negroes tell to one another and the nurses to their white charges. with the quaint phrase of “Once in a long before time before Queen Victoria came to reign over we,” prefixing each of her selections she told her attentive audience about a spider, whose name refused to stick in the writer’s memory, a bewitched pudding and Mr. Ringdalee, who married a pigeon.
— Brooklyn Life

[Note the mentioned platform, the bird (known as Chim-Chim) and an extra costume in the picture below – only the candles are missing. The little squiggle to the right of Pixie’s signature is Annancy, the spider.]

PCS-The Lamp 1903

Read this account of Mark Twain’s laughter at one of Pixie’s performances, picked up by a New Zealand paper. It contains the text of one of her stories and a more detailed account of her story-telling: Pamela Colman Smith & “De Six Poach Eggs”.

 

See also:

• Pamela Colman Smith: “out of the heart of the Heights”
Pamela Colman Smith 1896-1899
Pamela Colman Smith 1909 – Magic Spectacles
• The Art of Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Colman Smith on Reading the Cards

• Biography of Pamela Colman Smith (biographical resource)
Roppo’s Gallery for the artwork of Pamela Colman Smith

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