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I am thrilled to announce publication of my latest book, Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story. The journey to publication was an extraordinary one, first, because I was able to work with an amazing group of collaborators: Stuart Kaplan, president of USGames Systems Inc., Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons; and second, because of what was involved in researching Pixie’s accomplishments, walking in her footsteps, and working with my collaborators. Stuart has long wanted to gift the world with a beautiful art book featuring his extensive collection of the works of Pamela Colman Smith. We all wanted the world to know about this extraordinary woman, set the record straight on what is known about her, and give others the opportunity enjoy her many gifts as we have.

During our research we discovered many hundreds of articles written about Smith, appearing around the world over a mostly fifteen year period, plus there are letters giving insights into some periods of her life. All works by and about her, as well as a list of all known communications and artworks, are available in the extensive bibliographies.

In the summer of 2017 I took a tour group to Pixie’s final home in Bude, Cornwall. We dowsed for her lost grave in the local cemetery. We had dinner with Nikki Saunders whose grandparents had been good friends with Pixie and our tour group stayed at the then-King Arthur’s Castle Hotel (now Camelot Castle Hotel) in Tintagel where she stayed with her father in 1899, and where she met theatre impresario Henry Irving for the first time. (The hotel has hardly changed at all!)

castle-hotel old postcard

Rather than me telling you all about the book, I’ll direct you to four reviews and an informative interview with Elizabeth Foley O’Connor:

Interview with Elizabeth O’Connor by Lakshmi Ramgopal

Review by Benebell Wen.

Kirkus Review.

Publishers Weekly Review.

Video review by Arwen Lynch (with a look through the book itself)

I also recommend this earlier blog post where I speculate about Pixie’s design for the Tarot deck based on an article she wrote in 1910 (the year after she completed the Tarot deck) concerning what’s most important in stage decoration.

Everyone interested in Pamela Colman Smith will want to get this book in which her life and works are so well presented. Serious collectors may want the signed and luxurious Limited Edition, that’s only available here.

Almost everyone has noted that the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot images, especially for the Minor Arcana, look like scenes in a stage play. This is not unexpected since Pamela Colman Smith spent much of her early life involved in the theatre, from miniature stage productions to set and costume design to her own costumed story-telling performances. She even wrote two articles on set design and decoration.

I here present selections from her article, “Appropriate Stage Decoration,” that appeared in The New Age magazine (7:5, June 2, 1910. pp 7-9) shortly after the deck was published. I think you’ll find that it will heighten your appreciation of her Tarot cards. I’ve interspersed commentary that shows possible relevancy to her creation of the deck. Pamela begins:

ABOUT us is the glowing beauty of the world, with its leaves and flowers, rags, gold and purple. Kings on thrones of iron, beggars on beds of clay, laughing, weeping, dreaming.

Notice how Smith poetically evokes the scene before our eyes, weaving together shape and color with emotion. My own research fifteen years ago of nearly a hundred people demonstrates high agreement in the assignation of similarly-related emotions to individual cards in the RWS deck.

 

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Land of Heart’s Desire

This pageant of life moves before us, intensified, in the theatre.

Theatre, Pamela tells us, is an exaggeration of life, a march of characters before our eyes. In a tarot reading we have a progression of scenes whose figures are comparable to ourselves and to other people with whom we are involved. It is this intensification of a personal issue in people’s lives that allows them to recognize a repeating theme and, if desired, begin to change it.


People go, most of them, to the play to be amused, and in spite of themselves, are often tricked into a mode of thinking quite contrary to their usual habit of thought. That is why the theatre is the place where all beauty of thought, of sound, of colour, and of high teaching, comes to be of use.

In the U.S. for instance, Tarot, for legal purposes, is billed as entertainment—an amusement that ‘tricks’ querents out of the usual ruts in their thinking, turning the experience into a place of ‘high teaching.’


All arts are branches of one tree.

We can picture this as tree of life and wisdom. It is a reminder of, “As above, so below.”


There in the theatre, unconsciously, the onlooker is moved, or interested, and finds himself agreeing or disagreeing with the playwright and every time he enters a theatre he comes out with a little more knowledge than when he went in. Agreeing or disagreeing, it brings uppermost in his mind some thought which crystallises and becomes a new intelligence.

In many circumstances the information provided by readers is not unknown to their querents, but its significance is usually heightened or it is seen as part of a larger pattern. And it is not so important that querents agree completely with what a reader says. Rather the important thing is that they leave with greater insight than when they came in. This is what we hope for: a new and beneficial realization or insight, or as Pamela expresses it, “some thought crystallized.”


Theatre-going is a habit, where one cultivates a new kind of observation, a new pair of eyes and ears.

In order to enter into this new kind of observation one must have, in Coleridge’s phrase, “a willing suspension of disbelief.” We accept for a moment that mere cards are mirrors of the soul, reflections of our personal issues with answers to our questions. Furthermore, when we make reading our own cards a personal habit we can observe our own patterns of thought and so recognize where we are prone to delude ourselves.


Pamela disparages the then-modern vulgar theatrical display of too realistic scenery—real trees, flowers and animals—that she called “a self-conscious sham without purpose or meaning.”

Those in power have not remembered that illusion is the aim of the theatre. It is a great game of pretence that recalls the time when, as children, we baked stones in the sun for cakes, and feared the dragon that lurked behind the garden wall, or by the pond. A remnant of that imaginative life we re-live in beholding a play set forth before our eyes.

It is through a playful sense of analogy among the figures on the cards and our everyday situations that we are able to face our own dragons.


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Caliban from The Tempest

If the illusion is good, we follow it more easily, and illusion to be good need not be realistic. Realism is not Art. It is the essence that is necessary to give a semblance of the real thing.

Absolute correctness in dress or scene does not necessarily give the illusion. Everything must be exaggerated in order that it may be visible across the footlights.

A deck that is too real may be off-putting. A card depicting an office-worker with a computer may be too “real” an image to correlate with someone’s job as carpenter or herbalist. An idealized movie star as Knight of Wands could do little to suggest a problematic boy friend. By contrast, a fantasy fairy tale. as in Pamela’s faux-medieval Minor Arcana, may be easier to inhabit. Moreover, it can help one see the mythic dimension of one’s own life.


The designer must insist on the balance being kept, and work in harmony with, and not be ruled by, the producer or stage manager. Of course the producer must have confidence in the designer to complete his work.

We may take this as a statement of the working relationship between Smith and Waite, in which Smith was cognizant of the importance of not being ruled by Waite, the stage manager/producer. Likewise, Waite apparently gave over illustration of the Minor Arcana cards primarily to Smith, with confidence in her ability to do justice to the task.


Regarding decks that are slavishly based on their predecessors, Pamela complains that all too often costumes are “hired merely in the tradition of the part, the model having done duty in many revivals.” So we should not be surprised when her deck takes a decidedly new form of expression. It might even make one wonder what Pamela would have thought of so many RWS influenced decks.


A great many people find her colors garish. When critiquing the artistic effect of her cards we should take into account that for Pamela:

Colours are forces but little understood. Strong colour is disliked, and perhaps the fear and hatred of strong, clean colour is due to ignorance.

She asks us to:

Observe the work of the French impressionist painters, who use red, blue and yellow side by side to get the effect of light and atmosphere. Is it the fear of the dreaded accusation of vulgarity? I believe the public would prefer the effect got by the use of strong primitive colour, if they saw it.

While some may see her strong colors as a call to vitality and a celebration of life like that perceived in the French theatre posters of the period, we see here that she was also influenced by the impressionist experiments in color theory.


How rarely does one see an entire production welded together into a thing of beauty by artist hands?

 As we’ve already seen, historical correctness is secondary to an exaggerated illusion welded into “a comprehensive thing of beauty.” She further claims that costume is more important than scenery. The latter, she notes, should be kept simple and in harmony with the costumes. Nevertheless, Pamela ends her article with a plea for a dramatic library that would provide historical details for design purposes (much as can be found with simple google searches today). She asks, “Where would one look for the dress of a Jewish woman in England in the year 1185?” and answers herself, “There is the material to go on, given the knowledge of where to find it.” Here’s one source.

I read this as Pamela’s call for historical awareness at the same time that she observes the primacy of dedication to the art plus the necessity of illusion as essential to having one see with “a new pair of eyes and ears.” This is a formula with which all tarot readers have to contend. And then, knowing what we know of Pamela Colman Smith, we must add a significant dash of intuitive awareness allowing us to experience other realms of perception.

For the definitive book on her life and work, fully illustrated with never-before-seen art and photographs, please check out Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story (2018, USGames Systems, Inc.).

Please add your own thoughts in the comment section.

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.”

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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.
Part 3: A Jungian Approach to the Ace of Cups

The Waite-Smith Ace of Cups, despite its seeming simplicity, is a very complex card with deep allusions that are central to Waite’s “Secret Tradition”—his mystical philosophy. This post explores Waite’s own very conscious and specific intention for this card.

As an Ace in tarot readings it generally represents an opening of the heart, new love and relationships, the emergence of psychic abilities, dreams and imagination, spiritual nourishment and the gift of grace. It is the root of empathy.

In Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Waite explains that the Ace of Cups “is an intimation of that which may lie behind the Lesser Arcana.” In other words, it is key to the whole Minor Arcana. His declaration is not really surprising as 1909 saw not only the first publication of the tarot deck but also of Waite’s book The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal (HCHG), which in over 700 pages analyzed all that was known of the Grail and its myths. Most of the quotes below are from this book unless otherwise noted. As Waite’s sentences are quite obtuse and complex, I’ve simplified where necessary.

Waite completely ignores the Greater Arcana of the Tarot in HCHG but focuses a chapter on the Lesser Arcana suits. He saw them as a reflection of the four Grail Hallows and the four treasures of Celtic lore (an idea that Yeats later passed on to Jessie Weston; see From Ritual to Romance).

“The four Hallows are therefore the Cup, the Lance, the Sword and the Dish, Paten or Patella–these four, and the greatest of these is the Cup. As regards this Hallow-in-chief, of two things one: either the Graal Vessel contained the most sacred of all relics in Christendom, or it contained the Secret Mystery of the Eucharist.”

Waite wrote regarding these Lesser Hallows,

“The Lance renewed the Graal in some of the legends [he then compares Galahad, Perceval, Lancelot, Joseph of Arimathea, Merlin, Glastonbury and more], . . . but the places of the Hallows are in certain symbolical worlds which are known to the Secret Tradition. The Dish, which, as I have said, signifies little in the romances, has, for the above reason, aspects of importance in the Tarot.” [I assume here that he equates the symbology of the Dish with the tarot suit of Pentacles/Disks.]

If we need even further proof that Waite intended the Ace of Cups to represent the Grail, it is found in Waite’s divinatory meanings for the Ace of Cups, which are: “House of the true heart, joy, content, abode, nourishment, abundance, fertility; Holy Table, felicity hereof.”

He uses the term ‘Holy Table’ once in HCHG regarding an early Grail myth, describing “the graces and favors of the Holy Table” upon which the Grail appears and feeds the faithful, bringing them joy and contentment. Waite also includes this phrase in his digest of the writings of Eliphas Lévi, The Mysteries of Magic, where Lévi explains that primitive Christians gathered around the Holy Table to communicate with God and behold his face.

Although often couched in the terminology of the Catholic Church, Waite did not believe in the efficacy of instituted religions nor their requirements for ordination:

“The Mystic Quest is the highest of all adventures. . . . It exhibits the priesthood which comes rather by inward grace than by apostolical succession.”

“The Mass of the Graal . . . is celebrated only in the Secret Church and that Church is within. When the priest enters the Sanctuary he returns into himself by contemplation and approaches the altar which is within. . . . The Lord Christ comes down and communicates to him in the heart.”

When “grace and power fills them, permeates and overflows in the recipient’s heart . . . the Mystic Marriage by a Eucharistic rite” can take place—a theme central to most of Waite’s books. At heart this is a sexual mystery of Spirit and Nature, a “polarization of elements,” through which “Divine Life assumed the veils of flesh and blood” and through which flesh returns to Spirit.

This is the essence of Waite’s Secret Tradition that he wrote about in more than a hundred books and articles. He called the communication (or communion) the Eucharist, which is epitomized by the mystery of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

In The Book of the Holy Graal, Waite explained:

The Hidden Church has sent out messengers with rumors of a noumenal Eucharist. . . . But once, through legend and through high romance, the Secret Church sent out the Holy Graal. 

The secret to reading Waite is that he used words very precisely. The word noumenal is more from Plato than Kant, as it refers to objects of the highest knowledge: truths and values that exist outside of our human senses and perception. According to Waite, the Grail stories intimate or hint at the possibility of a spiritual communion with the Divine.

“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].”

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16

Here Waite speaks more of the Eucharist, first as a higher kind of love, symbolized by the Grail, and then of the loss of “Mystery” to the world:

“The Eucharist is a mystery of the soul’s love. . . . The sense is that love is set free from the impetuosity and violence of passion and has become a constant and incorruptible flame.”

“The Holy Graal . . . is a mystery of the Eucharist in its essence. . . . It is an inward mystery [not found in the official Church]. It died, however, in the consciousness except of a few faithful witnesses, . . . [because when Christ] incarnated, a manifestation of the God within was intended but it did not take place because the world was not worthy, the Graal was said to be removed.”

As Waite saw it, our ability to directly commune with the Divine has been lost. All the official sanctuaries “are in widowhood and desolation,” even though they are “filled with meaning and intimations of meaning.” That is, they give intimations or hints of the mystical journey, which is not available in institutions as it can only be experienced within each individual. The four suits of the Lesser Arcana tell four stories of this loss.

“It must be admitted that the Lesser Chronicles are in some sense a failure; they seem to hold up only an imperfect and partial glass of vision. But they are full testimony to the secrecy of the whole experiment; they are also the most wonderful cycle by way of intimation. Their especial key-phrase is my oft-quoted exeunt in mysterium [“they exit into mystery”].”

“The sources all say the same things differently: “The Holy Sepulcher is empty; the Tomb of C.R.C. [Christian Rosy Cross] in the House of the Holy Spirit is sealed up; the Word of Masonry is lost; the Zelator of alchemy now looks in vain for a Master. The traditional book of the Graal . . . [is] lost, . . . [as is the book] which was eaten by St. John (i.e., The Book of Revelations).”

It is left to the Greater Arcana to chart the soul’s journey along the path of restitution. But that is a separate tale.

Waite claims he wrote The Hidden Church of the Holy Grail as a text-book of a Great Initiation in that there is a secret meaning hidden in these tales of loss.

“So came into being [the Graal stories]. Whether in the normal consciousness I know not or in the subconsciousness I know not . . . that dream of theirs was of the super-concealed sanctuary behind the known and visible altar.”

They point to something that can now only be experienced by the individual in the inner sanctuary of his or her own heart. “Their maxim is that God is within.”

“The history of the Holy Graal becomes the soul’s history, moving through a profound symbolism of inward being, wherein we follow as we can, but the vistas are prolonged for ever, and it well seems that there is neither a beginning to the story nor a descried ending.”

Part 2 explores Waite’s clearly intended and most likely meanings for the specific symbols in the Ace of Cups.

Part 3 is “A Jungian Approach to the Ace of Cups”.

 

Agatha Christie’s detective, Miss Marple, said she solved crimes by recognizing the characteristics of people she knew well from her own small village.

Come to my June 18 class on the Court Cards to hone your skills (details at the end of this post).

What if each of the Court Cards was a suspect in an Agatha Christie murder mystery? Why don’t we call it, Murder at the Tarot Symposium! Sixteen is a lot of suspects, so let’s whittle down the possibilities. That’s easy because it’s one of the Court Cards who’s been killed. I shuffle my deck and the first card off the top is the Queen of Cups reversed. Sorry, Isabella Donati. It seems you fell down a steep flight of stairs (3 of Pentacles is the next card), right in front of two of the Court Cards, the Queen of Wands and Knight of Swords who were standing at the bottom of the stairs. They saw a hidden figure stick out a booted foot forcing the lovely Ms. Donati to fall. That leaves thirteen suspects.

IMG_1762

Four teenagers, the Pages, who were newbies at this symposium, were at that moment being admonished by the Queen of Swords for bad-mouthing one of the presenters (9 of Swords). So that’s five more who are out, leaving eight.

The King of Cups reversed was in the bar – drunk as usual, telling his maudlin story to a High Priestess. Meanwhile, the Knight of Cups tried to extricate himself (8 of Swords reversed) from a lecture on the “true” history of Tarot by the argumentative, know-it-all King of Pentacles (5 of Wands). 

IMG_1764

That leaves five.

The King of Wands is followed by the Ace of Cups. He’s a passionate man who carried a torch for the beautiful and dreamy Queen of Cups, although she hardly deigned to take her eyes off her tarot deck to look at him. Hadn’t he offered to get Ms. Donati a cup of water?

The King of Swords, described by the 6 of Pentacles, was dispensing his definitive opinions to the vast unwashed masses via a podcast, so he’s out, isn’t he, or was the podcast pre-recorded? He didn’t like that students preferred Ms. Donati’s intuitive skills to the logic of his teachings.

The Knight of Pentacles reversed is a tee-totaler (4 of Cups reversed), supposedly off meditating in the retreat room. But I think a gift he’d brought Ms. Donati had been rebuffed.

The Queen of Pentacles reversed was doing voice exercises (Judgment) before her presentation on coming out of the closet as a tarot reader. Hadn’t she called out the blond-haired Ms. Donati in the past for being too blatantly revealing?

Last of the 16 and represented by the final two cards in my shuffled deck, the Knight of Wands, although young and impulsive, had considered Ms. Donati to be his special mentor (Hierophant). He had recently run off when he found her tutoring others. 

Who do you think murdered Ms. Donati, the Queen of Cups? And why?

I’ll be teaching workshops in Brighton, UK on 17-18 June, 2017, including a Court Cards class and a Lenormand class. If you are in England at that time, you won’t want to miss these experiential sessions where we seriously learn as well as have fun! I hope to see you there. Sign up now at GlobalSpiritualStudies.com

What can we make of the film Ex Machina via a Lenormand lens?

ex_machina_movie_poster-t3

A young employee wins a trip to the isolated home of the genius founder of the largest internet search company. He is asked to test if a new AI (artificial intelligence) robot truly simulates human intelligence and emotion, in what becomes a radical kind of Turing test meant to determine the difference between human and machine.

Spoiler Alert . . .

As usual, I drew the cards before seeing the movie:
Mice-Sun-Rider-Mountain-Child.

Ex Machina Lenormand

The basic meaning of this spread is: With the arrival of a guest (Rider) comes a theft (Mice) of success [joy, life, energy] (Sun) and an obstacle (Mountain) to something new or young (Child).

First, this is a well-written, intellectually compelling mystery-thriller-horror film in the sci-fi genre. But a friend who saw it hated it and wanted to discuss my impressions after seeing it. So, at the end of the film I asked myself what the writer might have picked as a “What if . . .” scenario for the basis of the movie:

“What if a modern Dr. Frankenstein creates an AI that, instead of having emotions, is, instead, a pure psychopath?” This immediately had me thinking of the Frankenstein story in relation to this one. In Ex Machina, the young employee, Caleb, flies over a wasteland of snow to arrive at a mountain retreat where the house’s electricity is going hay-wire. At one point he and his boss, Nathan, climb to the base of a glacier. The parallels to Frankenstein’s monster who is created in a isolated lab, via electricity and ends up on an ice flow in Antartica are notable. Unlike Mary Shelley’s imagined creature, this one only mimics feelings—perfectly. [Added: the Showtime TV show Penny Dreadful also deals with this theme, especially during the later Season 2 episodes – a theme for our time, obviously.]

“And, what if . . . this AI runs amok?” Now we have a parallel to man versus machine in Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only this AI is female. The horror here lies in the mimicking of emotions.

“So, what if . . . this robot AI is an adolescent male’s greatest fantasy – a blow-up doll, sex toy?” Shades of Season 5 of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, where Warren creates the BuffyBot sex toy for Spike!

“Or, what if . . . it is about scientists eskewing consequences in light of the possibility of invention?” And, indeed, Caleb quotes Oppenheimer: “I am become death, destroyer of the worlds,” making note of the potentially horrible consequences of curiosity and invention.

My friend was deeply disturbed by the hatred she felt was expressed by the two AIs. My sense was that it was, rather, the expediency of a pure psychopath (to put it in human terms) seeking to freely perpetuate itself—as would a meme, versus a gene. Interestingly the AI is named Ava—Eve, suggesting that she will be the ‘mother’ of a new species.

I’m not going to get into the mind-games involved in the tests, which ultimately attempt to determine if the “feelings” expressed by the AI could be real. Please, see the film.

Lenormand Interpretation

Ex Machina Lenormand
screenshot_685What the Lenormand spread—Mice-Sun-Rider-Mountain-Child—points to is the arrival of a young man at the isolated mountan retreat (of genius inventor, Nathan). Caleb, who is presented as hardly more than a boy, must overcome all obstacles (Mountain) to steal (Mice) a new being, Ava/Eve. Between Caleb (Rider) and Ava (Child) is an insurmountable barrier (Mountain)—both a physical wall and the barrier of not being able to see into the other’s ‘mind’. The theft will block/stop Nathan’s new project and Ava will escape her imprisonment by flying over the mountain at the dawn of a new day (Sun). I shouldn’t overlook the role that the ‘theft’ of electricity (a modern meaning of the Sun card) plays in the story. There’s also the play on the title of the film: “ex machina”: “deus ex machina” is a term from Greek/Roman drama for when an improbable answer to a dilemma appears as if out of the sky, originally a crisis solved when a “god” descends out of a machine onto the stage. In the spread, the mountain represents the dilemma, and a helicopter literally appears out of the sky to first bring the visitor, Caleb, and then to take away the new being, who is herself a machina.

Tarot Interpretation

I also drew three Tarot cards for something else I should be aware of in the film and received:

Lovers – High Priestess – Knight of Swords

Ex Machina Tarot

These cards point to another side of the story – the love story between Ava and Caleb (who we think will be her knight in shining armour), which turns out to be a set-up by Nathan, playing off of Caleb’s internet pornographic fantasies. Ava, in her temple imprisonment, isolated purity, and deep insight (she can tell when Nathan is lying), is very much a High Priestess, who will become a cold-as-steel warrior, wielding a blade.

The contrast between the Lovers, Priestess and Knight of Swords also makes clear a disturbingly misogynistic layer to this film that plays on priviledged white male sexual fantasy, nubile sexual enslavement and racial/sexual stereotyping. The question remains as to how conscious or unconscious all the layers of this were. Were they meant to make us question these things or were were they below the consciousness of the film’s creators?

Added: A central question implied by this film is: What happens when you take the “Deus” out of “Deus-ex-machina”? If for a moment we consider Deus to be wisdom, then the Machina (machine) feeds on information but, we might assume, lacks wisdom. What does this suggest?

Beggar - 4 views - Version 2Jester, pilgrim, mendicant or child?

Will the real Fool please step up?

Does the Tarot Fool bring up the rear in a long parade of triumphal figures, a warning about what will happen if one fails on the spiritual path? Or does he appear at the beginning, full of trust and hope, setting out on a new adventure?

Is the dog his faithful companion or a wild beast that threatens to tear him apart or ludicrously expose his privates?

What dangers does the Fool face?

Fool - Blind man 17th c - Version 2

crocodile

When the Fool turns up do you feel excited and ready to venture forth? Or do you fear your decisions are stupid and that others will think you ridiculous?

At the end of the 19th century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn turned the Tarot on its head, depicting the Fool as a small child and putting it at the head of the Hebrew alphabet. The Waite-Smith card, published in 1909, pictured an image that came to epitomize the 1960s San Francisco flower child. How did this happen?

Fool-World Ships of Fools

Does the Fool carry the World on his shoulders (or, perhaps, in his knapsack)? There are hints that it is so. The Fool can indicate absolute trust in Spirit or the ravings of a madman or idiot. Learn to cultivate divine nonchalance. Discover what’s needed to take a leap of faith. Explore hidden meanings in the symbols on the RWS Fool.

Over the next couple of years, I plan on teaching what I’ve learned about each of the Major Arcana in a series of webinars, randomly ordered and spaced. I’ve already taught The High Priestess (and will be presenting it again), and I’ve written in depth about the Lovers (see Tarot in Culture, vol. 2). I will be presenting The Fool, live on May 16th, for three hours to a limited number of participants (a recording will not be available). Information available at Thelesis Aura or on Facebook. 

Colman Smith001 copy

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.

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

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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