The Tarot Moon – a positive force

I have been reviewing all my tarot material lately as I gather information on a book I have been meaning to write for a while.  What is interesting from a Golden Dawn perspective is how Samuel Mathers appears to have started well with the Tarot, but then clung on to some things within tarot to maintain a tradition he was undermining.
Take for example the Moon card. The traditional interpretation of the moon card is bad.  It represents illusion and suggests that the querant is being fooled by themselves or others.   This is the negative aspect of the Moon.
However Mathers made it clear that the Moon as seen by the Golden Dawn was on the side of Mercy and therefore its symbolism should be seen in a positive way.  The Golden Dawn attributed the card to the letter Qoph and Pisces.
The image of the letter Qoph is the back of the head which is the most primitive part of the brain.  It is that of the automatic consciousness and carries out functions which we do not think about.  The symbol is sometimes seen as an axe.  While you might think that an axe is simply a primitive weapon, in ancient Egypt it was a symbol for a God’s power.  This reveals to us that magic works at the unconscious level and any miracles on the material plane happen by manipulating the subconscious.  The shape also looks like an ear, which means that we are dealing with psychic “hearing.”
When Qoph appears in a reading it is indicative of something powerful which is going on behind the scenes.  It might indicate that what is happening is unconscious.  Something new is coming and something powerful.  The Moon is the sun reflected and it is also the Sun at midnight.
One of the more unusual meanings of Qoph is a monkey.  This is a reference to what Buddha called the Monkey Mind.  It is that clever, but automatic consciousness, which drives us from one thing to another.  Buddha said that the human mind is as if filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, and chattering, which need to be quietened before real meditation takes place.  This is the automatic conscious at its worst and it acts as a destraction.  In some readings Qoph can represent distractions and too much going on.

Qoph has the number 100, which is the same number as the Archangel Michael who was “like unto God”.  The fact that there is a 100, and Cabbalah says that there are ten spheres in each sphere of the Tree of Life, gives us the impression that Qoph is a totality, a perfect mirror image of the Universe.
The world is written Qoph [Back of Head, 100] plus Vav [Nail, 5] plus Peh final [Mouth, 800], all of this equals 905, which reduces to 14 (Temperance) and again to Vav.  905 is the same number as the word Resheth which means net.  Qoph then links all creation and forms a connection between all beings.  It gives a method for the unconscious forces to communicate (Peh).  The letter is important because it is first letter in the word Qesheth, which means rainbow.  This was the rainbow which God revealed to Noah after the flood, promising that there would be no more wiping out of humanity by floods.  Notice that a rainbow is prominent in the Temperance tarot key.  So when Qoph shows up in a reading, we are being told about communications, links and networks.  It is also indicative of promise that things will get better.
The Sepher Yetizirah says that God produced Qoph and made it “predominant in Joy, crowned, combined, and formed Pisces in the world, Adar in the year, and the spleen in man”.  Joy, is an unconscious reaction to a situation.  Joy takes away the power of restriction expressed by Ayin and makes a mockery of the illusion that is material reality.   Adar is the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar and it is seen as a  month of good fortune for the Jewish people.  Purim, the holiday of Adar, commemorates the “metamorphosis” of the Jews’ apparent bad fortune to good.  The festival of Purim marks the high point in the joy of the entire year.  Cabbalists say that Purim is a time of great wonder, which symbolises the infinite essence of God’s transcendent light entering into the finite context of physical reality and revealing itself.  Thus Qoph can indicate that things are about to change for the better and if joy is not already there, it soon will be.
So lets look at the astrological connection. Pisces rules secrets and is in turn ruled by Jupiter.  This emphasises the idea of something secret going on behind the scenes.  Jupiter is the sign of expansion and success and so it underlines the idea that things are getting better.   But this will not be so hot in the area of relationships and creativity.  Venus falls in Pisces, which means that love and creativity cards are weakened by the presence of Qoph in a reading.  Communications and magical operations will fail, as Mercury is in detriment in Pisces.
On the path of involution, which is questions of a material nature, Qoph is Venus acting on the Earth through Pisces.  As we have seen above, that is not a good thing.  Divine Love is weakened through the sphere of Pisces which explains a lot of why the world is in the mess it is in.  Divine Love instead manifests as material growth and evolution.  On the path of evolution it is the material nature working on divine love through Pisces.  Again, this is difficult in a spiritual sense, as the Earth cannot really understand the Venus side of God.  Instead it attempts to create more forms which is the earthly inclination.  For this reason Qopth sometimes relates to pregnancy, new theories and ideas, which are built on existing developments rather than true breakthroughs.
So if the Moon is looked at in a general reading,  it is the unconscious mind which links all things together, but with an  emphasis that something is always on things going on behind the scenes.  Nothing will be immediately obvious, but seems to be moving for the best.
It could be a period of great happiness, with everything slowly moving towards a perfection.  If things have been bad, Qoth indicates that there is a turning point about to happen which will change things.  The answer to questions that you seek might be found by networking and asking others.
It is a good letter for business because it shows that a plan will go forward and develop and expand.  But it could show up in a relationship reading for someone who has been concentrating too much on their work at the expense of their relationship.
In a relationship reading, the question “does he love me?” is probably not answered.  It suggests unconscious forces at play, but these usually work to block a successful relationship.  If it is a question about an established relationship, it could mean that while everything is under stress, everything is evolving and in time the true nature of the relationship will reveal itself, usually positively.  In a spiritual reading, the message is to quiet your monkey mind, relax and accept that you are moving towards your goal.
So this creates a totally different Moon card from that of tradition.   So the question is, “why did Mathers go for the traditional meaning of the card when he wrote it in Book T?”
Instead of using his own suggested attributions, Mathers said “Dissatisfaction, voluntary change. Error, lying, falsity, and deception.”  This is certainly not the mercy side of the lunar forces, nor has it anything really to do with Qoph or Pisces.

Do you have a problem with
Women Mr Crowley?

Based on this meaning Crowley would be justified in his particularly vile meaning of the Moon card in his Book of Thoth which he admits is for the waning moon. “… the moon of witchcraft and abominable deeds. She is the poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light.“
While I would suspect that Crowley might be projecting his attitude to women in this meaning, both he and Mathers would be wrong.
While I am finding myself agree less with Paul Foster-Case’s meanings of Tarot, I think he hit this one on the head quite well.
The Card is one of unconscious evolution.  The moon is the light in darkness it is the reason why we develop.   When we encounter it in regards to a problem it means that we are developing, slowly and surely towards something better.

Good and bad tarot cards

Lately I have been doing a lot of work on the Golden Dawn version of the angels of the Shemhamphorash. For those who came in late, the Angels of the Shemamphorash are based on a cabbalistic system connected to the 72 letter name of God. The Golden Dawn did some serious surgery to the system by orientating them to Leo rather than the more traditional Aquarius and assigning each of the two angels a Tarot card connected to their decan.

While I will probably report back later on my experiments, one thing that all this has taught me is that there are no good or bad cards in tarot.
The Golden Dawn attributed some pretty nasty titles to some of the cards. Perhaps the worst was the Lord of Ruin connected to the Ten of Swords, which often leads to a reading sliding down the pathway to Doom. You can have a reading with lots of good cards and then suddenly the ten of swords pops up and you start seeing the riders of the apocalypse.
But equally you can have readings with lots of good cards when evidence suggests otherwise. For example a person whose life has collapsed has cards which say everything should be coming up roses right now.
The Golden Dawn said that each of the minor keys (without the aces) were under the control of the zodiacal trumps. Most of these are seen by readers as being more powerful and get a more optimistic reading than the minors.
The list is

Emperor controls the Two, Three and Four of Wands
Hierophant controls the Five, Six and Seven of Pentacles
Lovers controls the eight, nine and ten of Swords
Chariot controls the two, three and four of Cups
Strength controls the five, six and seven of wands
Hermit controls the eight, nine and ten of Pentacles
Justice controls the two, three and four of Swords
Death controls the five, six and seven of Cups
Temperance controls the eight, nine and ten of Wands
The Devil controls the two, three and four of Pentacles.
The Star controls the five, six and seven of Cups.
The Moon controls the eight, nine and ten of Cups.

Focusing on the doom card of the ten of Swords we see that it is controlled by Gemini which is probably the lightest major arcana. True the GD did try to give a more pessimistic image of it (Andromeda rescued by Persius) but that is still no justification for the pile of doom which the eight, nine and ten of swords are attributed. True Air is not exactly “happy” in the stodgy element of Earth

The Angels of the Shemamphorash who look after the ten of swords are Damabiah and Manaqael.
Damabiah takes the energy expressed by the Lovers card and converts it to the 10 of swords and Manaqael releases it so that it can move into the next decan (in this case the “extremely positive” two of cups).
So what then is this energy expressed by the Lovers’ card. The lovers appears in tarot it is always sorting out wheat from chaff, dividing things apart. This makes the Tarot attribution “the Lovers” all the more stranger as you would think that Love is a unification. But this is one of the Mysteries of the Tarot. You are separating things knowing that they are One thing. You are saying this is man and this is woman, but they are separate aspects of One Thing. This is real love or true marriage. The couple are both separate but at the same time working together. The only time they express true union is during the sexual act, but the rest of their lives are working together at something they call their relationship, or their marriage.
So based on these combined meanings, the ten of swords should be read as an ending or separation which which leads to a new beginning or union (emphasized by the two of cups in the next decan). In a relationship reading this meaning would be more obvious but in a business reading, it would mean that a project will end and the result will be good.

This is far from the Lord of Ruin of the Golden Dawn. In fact I have said before that this card is better to be called the Lord of Endings and Beginnings. The connection between the Lovers (zain) suggests that there has to be a separation before there can be a union.
So what about so called positive cards. The sort of cards people like to see are the two of Cups which suggests partnership and union. Is it possible then to see a negative aspect to the Lord of Love, which is the Golden Dawn title of this card?
The cards are ruled by the Chariot and the Hebrew letter Cheth. While the Chariot is generally optimistic card, Cheth rules over the Hebrew month of Tammuz which was seen as a “month of tragedies.” Tammuz was a Babylonian god and the Babylonians enslaved the Hebrews. It is connected to the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf and begins is the three week period which commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Cheth is seen as a force which brings things together which might not normally be joined (it even looks like a vav and a Zain linked together). Since the two of cups shows a bringing together of things it does not necessarily mean that this is a good thing. A sword and a nail are opposites. One joins and the other splits apart. Cancer is the co-dependant sign of the zodiac and tends to want to hold relationships and families together no matter how destructive they are.
With the Two of Cups follows in sequence from the ending of the ten of swords. Our first Shemhamphorash angel is Eiael and as we have seen he has elements of the ten of swords the second angel is Chabuiah who has elements of the three of cups. Inside these two elements can be found the negative aspects of the cards. Eiael suggests a possibility that two things have been bought together, but it could contain the seeds of an ending, it has has been bought together too soon, or is two things that should not be together. The energy of Chariot (opposites bought together) could contain the seeds of destruction. Chabuiah suggests that it could move into a more friendly aspect over time or established partnership (three of cups).
So looking at this in a reading we can have a negative from a positive card.
Say a querant wants to know if their relationship will last. The card representing the relationship is the two of cups. Traditionally you could say that this is one of the great loves which should be able to overcome everything. But when you look at other cards you see negative ones which indicate there could be arguments and quarrels. Indications that there are two sides at odds with each other. The near future is the ten of swords but the long term future is the two of swords. This would indicate that the relationship is probably one of two people who have different world views and are not getting along. The ten of swords may not mean that the relationship is doomed (although it could) because it is followed by the two of swords. This would suggest that the couple work out away to resolve their differences and the problems end at least in the short term.

Make your own talismans and sigils

For many years I have been making talismans (and Sigils) on the computer. This is mostly because I am messy and cannot get paint to do the things I really want to do.
Traditionally however magicians were told to “make their own” and I reasoned that I had actually made my own talismans on the computer and had just printed them out. My belief was that it was not so much the physical body of the talisman which was important, as the entity which you ensoul it with.
Recently though I have been experimenting with making sigils using a half computer half me approach. I make the template for the talisman on the computer and print it out in light gray. I then colour it in with ink and ink pens.
The final result does not look as good but something weird happens when I charge it. The talisman appears to be better tuned to me than the others. While the others still worked, they were not as focused, and tended not to be attached to my personal universe.
There is something that happens when you sit down and draw or paint the symbols onto the surface of the paper. You are interacting physically with the symbols.
This factor was well known to the Hebrew biblical scribes who, before the printing press, had to copy the bible by hand. There was a magical interaction between the copiest and the work they were writing.
The first-century scribe Ishmael told his student: “My son, be careful in your work for it is the work of Heaven, lest you err either in leaving out or in adding one iota, and thereby cause the destruction of the whole world.”
This is not a call to be a pedant, but the awareness that when you create a magical document you are “creating a universe” where your intention is the main theme.
The rules for the creation of a cabbalistic document were similar to those of the magicians using the Key of Solomon system. A scribe was to purify himself before beginning his day of writing, and especially before writing the name of God. A shallow washbasin discovered was found next to the remains of the tables at Qumran where the scribes would have an extra scrub before writing the name of God. Sometimes prayers were said before writing each sentence.
It is worthwhile mentioning that the Key of Solomon also had invocations to be said over the inks, paper and pens that were used to create seals, sigils and talismans.
When I think about it, Madaline Montalbon’s system of angel magic was based around this principle. She would have you write your intention down and then use your magical inks to write the intention in a magical script such as Passing the Rivers or the Theban script. With Montalbon, the invocations and ritual were limited, but the magical act of writing these letters in ritual space was surprisingly pressured and difficult. Even with the highest amount of concentration, it was possible to make mistakes and the process had to be started again from scratch.
I know this process could be applied to your tools and I am still outsourcing those, but I tend to make more talismans and sigils than I do tools.
Anyway for what it is worth if you have not tried using pen and ink to create your sigils and talismans I suggest you try it.  If you are like me and are messy, create your talisman in light grey on your computer, and then print it out on your virgin pieces of paper.  Then draw the symbols in ink, much like you did when you were colouring in books as a kid.  This will make the sigil or talisman unique and your own.  If you want to beef up the process by saying a few prayers to the being you are calling first, then by all means try it, but at least wash your hands before you start.

Book review: Madeline Montalban The Magus of St Giles by Julia Philips

Madeline Montalban (8 January 1910–11 January 1982) was a fascinating character in the field of 20th century magic. Stories swarmed around her until the real Madeline disappeared leaving only the stories. Writing a biography about her, as Julia Philips has done is nearly impossible, even her close friends had difficulty getting past the stories that surrounded her.
In 1998 David Goddard told me one such story about how he and Maxine Saunders met Montalban to discuss her legendary Angel Magic course. He said he had never met her before and it was a late at night meeting. He believed that she was a woman in her late 40s. They sat up talking until dawn and when the sun came into the room he suddenly realised that she must have been about 80 and he believed that she must have been casting a glamour.
Philips’ book then is a collection of stories about her told through the people that knew her and there are a lot of them. In her life it is hard to find a notable occultist who was not connected to Madaline at some point. Phillips has done a good job tracking down and interviewing her students and friends and this manages to give us a good picture about the sort of person she was.
From my perspective I was interested in Madeline’s connection to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Madeline formed a magic order called the Order of the Morning Star and I had worked with some of that material. There were elements of it which could be seen as being inspired by the Golden Dawn.  When I met him, the French occultist Nicolas Tereshenko told me that he was a member of Madeline Montalban’s Order of the Morning Star and he said that this had links to the Golden Dawn. On a web site connected to him it claimed that he had the grade of Adeptus Maximus in her order.
I was also aware that my former teacher David Goddard had been teaching material based around the Order of the Morning Star which he described as a system of Angel Magic which pre-dated John Dee was was more reliable because “it did not come through a tainted scryer like Edward Kelly.” He also claimed he was one of the few in an ancient line of Angelic initiators who had the right to teach it.
Phillips shows that Montalban was a different sort of magician from those who were following the Golden Dawn line. Indeed she looked upon them with contempt. Her magic system, which was self created and based on her researches at the British Library, was deliberately less dramatic and simple. It was also based on her own story of Lucifer the Light Bringer. Instead of a dramatic ritual she would use an altar, talismans, tarot cards and a clearly written intention translated into a magical script. This would then be activated by working with a planetary angel on the correct day.
All this was placed in a series of 42 lessons which were a correspondence course. Promising students were sometimes given extra training but the Order of the Morning Star was the same course of Angel Magic which David had talked about. There were no initiations, no grades, it was exactly the magical path that Montalban wanted. It was certainly not connected to the Golden Dawn or any method of Angelic initiations.
To clarify this I contacted the author who told me that there was was no link she could find between Madeline and the GD.
“She was scathing about GD-style lineage and initiations so I can’t imagine she would ever have any real connection to any GD group. Going along as an invited guest is another matter – she would totally do that and then ridicule it all later!” Phillips wrote.
Madeline Montalban 
All I can think of is that Nicolas Tereshenko thought the Order of the Morning Star was an English translation for the Stella Matutina. However it would be difficult how he could claim a high grade in an order that despised grades and certainly did not have an Adeptus Maximus grade.
The book also looks at Montalban’s influence on Wicca. The Angel Magic system found its way into the teachings of Maxine Saunders where it was treated with a reverential awe. It is one of the few times I saw a senior Alexandrian witch throw his toys out of the pram was when he discovered that I had some parts of the course and I was not an initiated witch.
But Montalban also had a close connection with Wicca’s founder Gerald Gardner and was probably his ghost writer forHigh Magic’s Aid. As a journalist, writing regularly for Prediction Magazine on Tarot and Astrology,  she was well equipped to adapt the book from his notes. Later in her life she did not seem to hold him in much regard.
Like the “Old Sod” which was a biography about Bill Gray which I reviewed earlier, this book has to tackle the fact that its subject had a reputation for being difficult. Montalban appears to have thrown temper tantrums just because she was bored and also tended to embellish her stories.  She could also be manipulative of her students.  In the case of her stories it was because she often wanted to make a point, but sometimes it was just for the joy of telling it. Julia Phillips deals with all this in the polite way of someone who admires her subject — calling her “mercurial”. But this attitude appears to be backed up by Montalban’s students, such as Leo Vinci, who feel the same way.
For the reader there is a message. Madeline’s path made her the Avatar for the self initiate. Not only did she managed to prove that such a path was possible, she convinced a lot of people that it was a better way. But Madeline was different from many modern occultists. Her self initiation system was harder than many would bother with and was built on countless hours of study and thought. However it is the way of magic that if one person manages to do it, and built their own system, then it should be possible for others.
The book is well worth it.  My only problem with it is that it is a little short and I would have liked to have seen more stories of Madeline’s magic in action. 
There are not many copies of Magus of St Giles available. The print run is limited to 400 signed copies which are available from AtlantisBookshop  in the UK. Given that the shop’s owner Geraldine Beskin is quoted in the book, and the shop was one of Madeline’s haunts it is probably the most appropriate place to buy it. I bought it online from them. I am told that Weiser Antiquarian in the US has a few copies too.