Archive for the ‘Tarot of the Saints’ category

St. Jude – King of Coins

March 27, 2010

“Thanks to St. Jude for favours received” was in constant evidence in the personal ads in the local paper I read when young. I always wondered what that meant, it seemed so mysterious to a non-Catholic.

My only other reference for St. Jude is the actor Danny Thomas, who founded the famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital back in the early 1960s as a thank you to St. Jude for favours received when he met success in his acting career. I always wondered what that was all about too.

So here I am. As it says on The Saint Deck, “anguish” or “desperation;” St. Jude is the patron Saint of lost causes.

Jude was the brother of James and also an apostle. I didn’t know that, and he is rarely mentioned in the bible. He was martyred by being clubbed to death, hence the staff or club he is holding on the Tarot of the Saints card. His full name was Judas Thaddaeus but for obvious reasons, he is known as Jude to differentiate him from the traitorous Judas Iscariot. He is often called Thaddaeus too, again to set him apart from the Traitor.

Although there is an epistle from Jude in the New Testament, it is not actually clear that he wrote it. He may have preached the gospel with Saint Simon who shares his feast day, and they were both martyred in Persia. Or not, that is an apocryphal document so not accepted by all; another saint whose history is somewhat iffy. He is also mixed up sometimes with another Thaddaeus who preached in Mesopotamia.

It is thought that because of Jude’s neglect and apparent non-existence in accounts and documents, this is why he morphed into the patron of those who were neglected or a lost cause. That only seemed to happen in the 20th century, thus encouraging his current popularity and invocation. My edition of The Penguin Dictionary of Saints says: “St. Jude enjoys great popularity as a powerful intercessor for those in desperate straits, as students of the publicity columns of The Times newspaper are aware.” Or students of the personal ads in the Toronto Star are aware!

As the King of Coins, the coin he holds has the face of Jesus on it, and his kingly intercession for people seems to fit well with this archetype of worldly matters and practical groundedness. He is secure in his position as an apostle whether we remember him or not, and he passes that security on to those who invoke him.

That is my final card in the court cards of this deck, so I’m almost done, just six more Major cards. I shall miss these people.

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St. Elizabeth – Queen of Coins

February 21, 2010

This is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the daughter of the King of Hungary in the early 13th century. Her mother was German and was murdered by Hungarian nobles in what is described as a hate crime. Elizabeth was a serious and pious child who happily married at the age of 14 and had three children. She wanted to spread her happiness through charity. She funded hospitals, orphanages, and personally took an interest in the poor and sick, often ministering to them herself. As a princess, she had her own family money that she used for charity.

Coins, otherwise known as Pentacles: this Queen has always meant a mother archetype to me as opposed to The Empress who other people feel is the mother in tarot. Elizabeth thought of others instead of herself and spent her life committed to the welfare of others, much like a mother. She sewed clothes for people and baked bread for them, some stories have her going fishing to get food for people. I wonder if losing her mother at an early age made her more mindful of care for others? My own mother was like that.

Her husband Ludwig, who was always supportive of her charity, died of the plague during a crusade, and her brother used that as an excuse to kick her out of her home, and took over the handling of her money so that she couldn’t give it away. Apart from losing her home and autonomy, Elizabeth felt the joy had gone out of her life with the death of her husband.

There are some stories of her joining the third order of St. Francis, where the man who was her confessor, Conrad of Marburg, bullied and made her fearful, even physically abused her with corporal punishment. He was an experienced papal inquisitor in cases of heresy so his reputation might have come down through history influenced by people’s attitude toward that, but he was a severe fellow, and I get the feeling he took a personal dislike to Elizabeth and used his position simply to bully her. He was apparently harsh with himself too, but his wild accusations and fanaticism eventually got him murdered. An act which few seem to have been sorry about, he was so unpleasant.

Yet Elizabeth was obedient and humble and carried on, comparing herself to grass that is beaten down by heavy rain and then pops up again. She refused to marry again and lived austerely, depriving herself of basic needs, and died as a result when she was only twenty-four. Maybe if she’d had a different spiritual advisor she would have found a better way to live and contribute to the world than opting for excessive mortifications causing her own death? There is something of the martyrdom of mothers in her death. Mothers can sacrifice themselves to their children’s well-being, denying themselves greatly: a small warning bell to this archetype.

I was interested in what exactly a third order, or tertiary order, is. It is a way for lay people to join a religious order without taking full vows. Some people live in the monastery and others live in the secular world while still being associated with the order in this way. The name comes from the formal Third Rule of religious orders like the Benedictines or Franciscans. The Third Order of St. Francis has become the model for other orders, so it seems natural that in addition to her devotion to poverty, Elizabeth would have gravitated toward this order in particular, since it might have been more welcoming to laypeople during her time period.

St. Lawrence – Knight of Coins

February 14, 2010

St. Lawrence is carrying a metal grate or gridiron which reminds me of the torture of poor St. Blandina and the martyrs of Lyons. In our current society I hear of shootings, massacres, and death frequently, but this prevalent violence hasn’t inured me to the horrific deaths of some of the Saints.

Lawrence was a deacon of the Church in Rome under Pope Sixtus II. Not much is known about him apart from this association and his death.

The Roman emperor Valerian had forbidden Christians to assemble and also forced them to worship using pagan rites in the year 257. Naturally, the Pope defied this order, so he and several officials were beheaded in 258. The remaining officials of the Church were also killed; St. Lawrence met his death four days after the Pope. Some accounts say he was beheaded like the Pope and others say he was roasted on a grid. It could be another instance where the legend was embellished centuries later because by the fourth century he was firmly venerated.

St. Lawrence was buried and his grave marked through the years with plaques and churches, and as veneration for him grew, so did the churches. His shrine is now housed in the Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls (San Lorenzo fuori le Mura) in Rome. It is one of the seven pilgrim churches of Rome. It was bombed during World War II in 1943 and lost some frescoes, and during restoration in the late 1940s they removed some 19th century renovations, but it still stands, with frescoes, carvings and reliefs, tombs, and mosaics from various periods. This is a picture of the 13th century facade, which reminds me so much of Florentine architecture and Dante.

In the imagery on the tarot card, Robert Place has Lawrence holding gold coins, a reference to the wealth of the Church, supposedly entrusted to Lawrence after the Pope’s death, which he distributed to the poor to keep the money from Roman coffers. Lawrence was then singled out for special torture because of this act of defiance, which is why the gridiron story might have started with this part of the legend.

Who knows? The Church cautions against support of such verbal embellishments since there are no contemporary written accounts of such things in relation to Lawrence. Place mentions it, but then I sometimes find Place using his own projections in his writing. However, it’s part of the legend which is naturally why he depicted it.

As for the tarot archetype, I am starting to think I am being followed by “Old Stodgy” as I call him. This knight is a reliable fellow, as Lawrence was. Good with money perhaps and with feet solidly planted to the ground of steadfast belief. Not a bad guy to have as a deacon of the Church in a crisis.

St. Norbert – Squire of Coins

January 17, 2010

I was keen to get to St. Norbert because I don’t know his story. As I’ve been doing these cards, I find I look forward to finding things out about people I don’t know. Some Saints were not real people, but most were and they have a quiet reverberation I like. Norbert is not a popular Saint, and it’s hard to find information or artwork of him.

Norbert reminds me of St. Francis (he was born before Francis), in that he was born to a noble family and gave everything away and had a rather extreme approach to his faith. He was German, and escaped death when a lightning strike missed him. He then decided to devote his life to God and become a priest. It wasn’t enough to have faith, he had a lot of enthusiasm and seems to have offended people with his passion for his faith. Perhaps I could put it kindly as saying he liked to assert his own preaching rather than meld himself with the community of monks he was part of. There is nothing like a recent convert to put people off with their earnest intensity. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints refers to Norbert’s “accustomed vigour” which made me laugh.

Norbert wanted more and went to the Pope to ask for more, to ask to do more. The Pope gave him permission to preach wherever he wanted, so he went to France where he started a community near Laon with another monk. Founded in 1120 by St. Norbert at Prémontré, hence called the Premonstratensians or Norbertines, they used rules of St. Augustine with a bit of Norbert thrown in. This grew rapidly into other abbeys while Norbert still preached in both France and Germany. Finally they made him archbishop of Magdeborg, the town in Germany where he was born.

Again, he managed to rub people the wrong way, and some attempts were made to kill him, after he tried to get back Church property that had been stolen by wealthy men, and criticized the generally scandalous lives of priests in the area.  Still, he influenced and nourished the abbeys he started. During the schism in the Church where an anti-pope was set up, Norbert supported the real Pope Innocent II.

We don’t hear much of him. There was only one manuscript around for centuries, attributed to Hugo, a disciple of Norbert’s. Then in the latter 19th century another account of him with a few different particulars was found, and the extra information revived interest in him. That’s when Norbertine orders started to be created again. I wondered why he became associated with Bohemia and Prague, and this came about when Protestants took control of Magdeborg. To protect his body from the infidels, they moved it to Prague. Relics often moved around like this after the Protestant Reformation when so many of the old churches were destroyed or vandalized.

He still seems not to be a favourite. My guess is that the overly pious usually put people off, we can’t identify with their extreme fervour. There is a type of human who, regardless of their endeavour, is too much to take. These are the people that walk into a room and people cringe and think “Oh no, not him.” They lack balance in some way. Frank buttonholes you in the corner to tell you all about how much he gave to missionary work and how effective his charity work is and you shrink away from him, longing for escape. Edward rabbits on in your ear about how women think he is fantastic in bed and he never lacks for sex, and Daniel holds you hostage to a seemingly endless rave about his new Porsche and the canny investments that are going to make him rich, rich, rich.

Cringeworthy. Norbert strikes me as a similar type. Avoidance is key with these folk.

The Pages in Tarot often point to a youthful immaturity. Energy, enthusiasm, always new ideas and projects, and totally fascinated with work and accomplishing things, this particular Page can be great to have around, he can move mountains in the world. He can also be a nerdy, self-involved twit, entirely wrapped up in his own fantasy, best suited to a solitary life.

Robert Place also mentions money, because this is the Coins suit, and to relate it to St. Norbert, Place says not to be ruled by money but use it to create beauty and well-being, as Norbert did.

Both aspects are a perfect archetype for St. Norbert. I feel I’ve been a bit harsh with Norbert. It took me days to sort this out in my mind, and eventually I gave up and stated my own impression. One has to think of the times he lived in and make allowances for his pious passion. He can’t have been all bad, he inspired an Order, but there is something about him that makes me cringe, I don’t like him. Many of his contemporaries thought so too.

Tarot of the Saints – Tens

January 11, 2010

TEN OF COINS

This is a card of materialism, which can be good, but it can be a sign of greed or prosperity without the spirit. You know what I see when I see those coins all lined up? Stasis. Rigidity.

We all know them, people that brag about the big house or the certain type of car they own. They buy these things not to enjoy them but to tell other people about them. Endlessly. Yeah, yeah I get it, the big car, the big house, the fancy job, the fantasy vacation, the parties, the one-night stands where you perform better than anyone else that has ever lived, and you once talked to Johnny Depp and know the Pope personally and toodle around with Madonna.

Then they start rabbiting on about their health and all the money they spend on treatment and spas and new scientific methods (which they helped develop with generous funding), and they personally advised global economists on several books, and have many successful investment ventures, and they also went to school with Anthony Robbins and play golf like Jack Nicklaus.

Not completion or satisfaction but excess. It’s all about them, a one-dimensional ride to boring self-involvement. See how fast people run from them.

TEN OF SWORDS

This shows two putti holding a banner with symbols of the five wounds of Christ. Place says the symbols form a sacred quincunx, which is something I’m not familiar with. Here, the quincunx represents the cross and the four cardinal points of the Earth meeting the central fifth point, like Heaven and Earth meeting.

It was originally a Roman coin where the value could be indicated by a pattern of five. I was interested to learn that the quincunx pattern is used in sampling for anti-aliasing in computer programs. The pattern is also used in heraldry and echoes the crux decussate or the St. Andrew’s cross of Christianity. If you look on dice, the pattern on the five is a quincunx. Because it’s a geometric pattern, it shows up in Sacred Geometry and is a Celtic pattern and an alchemical symbol, similar to the image below, a quilt block pattern. The quincunx represent wholeness.

Martyrdom, criticism, this card often shows someone stabbed to death. Wounds take time to heal, and I also like the suggestion with this of a martyr complex, holding your wounds indefinitely instead of getting through them or past them. It’s that aspect of the mind again, holding ideas that aren’t valid, and inventing stuff that doesn’t exist.

Wholeness comes when you pull all aspects of life together. The 10 of Swords can shake you up and redistribute things evenly into balance, the balance of heaven and earth.

TEN OF CUPS

This shows Jesus blessing some children, and represents tradition and connections. I usually call this the Happy Families card. Shiny, happy people, doing well in life and living in stable, prosperous homes. This is a card of blessings. Think: “My cup is full.”

TEN OF STAFFS

Interlocked staffs and the resurrected phoenix rising from the fire are depicted on this card, pointing to renewal and becoming unblocked. Sometimes this can also mean burdens or expecting too much. Renewal is renewal, it’s a new start, rebirth, all those life-changing things, but don’t overdo it, relax and enjoy life too.

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This ends my study of the minor cards in the Tarot of the Saints. I have found them to be delightful with their semi-illustrated pips and hints and clues as to larger meaning. I don’t often hear people talking about this deck, even Robert Place seems more interested in talking about his newer creations, but I find it very solid in its meaning if you bother.

I still have four court cards and six Major cards to do, but I enjoyed the quiet exploration with these minors. They were worth a deeper study.

Tarot of the Saints – Nines

January 10, 2010

NINE OF COINS

This depicts the abundance and multiplication of the loaves and fishes, which was one of the miracles Jesus performed. Robert Place says this also can indicate health and prosperity as well as abundance, or perhaps in that case types of abundance.

I have recently been reading about the artwork in the Saint John’s Bible, and they treated this story with an exuberant piece of art based on a Byzantine mosaic, that bursts into the margins. For some of the patterns, they used native American basketry, which fits the story as fish were carried in baskets in biblical times. As well, the spirals of the baskets echo the mandala designs they’ve used throughout the bible and are also patterns of Sacred Geometry. The entire piece generates the idea of radiating goodwill and charity.

This is a two-page spread in the bible, and this is a snippet of the left-hand page. I just love it.

NINE OF SWORDS

This poor lady is praying desperately for help from an threat, or as is more usual in this card, an imagined threat. It might be better if she quit bothering God and calmed her mind. While I understand the wish to consult God about problems and solutions, there is a certain type of person who is maddeningly needy and bothers everyone with every niggly worry and wringing of hands over nothing. They love prostration and prayer and carrying on with a big fuss over nothing. Try sorting your intellect out first. The human brain is a powerful tool and just as much a gift from God as prayer, for those with awareness.

This is a card that points to that. I call it the “daggers of the mind” card: problems are often only in the mind, mere phantasms.

Oh, people like this make me want to shake them! They are annoying, like the boy who cried “Wolf!”

NINE OF CUPS

The woman in this card is climbing a mountain with a Saint beside her. Proceeding with confidence and gaining perspective, which is more like the conventional 8 of Cups cards rather than the 9. The 9 of cups is often referred to as the Wish Card, yet here is seems more subdued, although I imagine with a Saint leading you, life might get pretty good.

NINE OF STAFFS

A cross with two martyr’s palm fronds in front of it. The palm association comes from the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem of Jesus, when palms were strewn in front of him, a triumph only to lead to his crucifixion. Palms are evergreens, so there is the suggestion of resurrection and the triumph over death here. St. Paul is often shown with a palm, as are other martyrs in artwork.

This card often indicates the need to press on with determination. Maybe you got an extra bill or a bad cold or something that’s interfering with your life, but if you steady on you’ll come out of it. You can overcome obstacles, which is a less strenuous meaning than Place’s interpretation of sacrifice and martyrdom. Still, if they got through it and triumphed over death, you can overcome a cold. There’s a perspective to this card that I like when you compare situations.

Tarot of the Saints – Eights

December 28, 2009

EIGHT OF COINS

This shows Joseph and his son Jesus doing carpentry work. Jesus apprenticed to his father to learn the trade. I like Robert Place’s text in which he states “To be satisfying, labor must bring spiritual rewards as well as monetary.” We so often place the emphasis on making money and people don’t make things or make art because they can’t make money at it.

I nearly gave up my artwork for the same reason but I absolutely love making things. It’s important to foster that, to labour at what you love. If you feel compelled to use a talent, to sing, to draw, to play an instrument, then you must, regardless of what else it brings you. This card is a classic of apprenticeship and workmanship and I imagine Jesus worked for many years as a carpenter, increasing his skill and knowledge.

EIGHT OF SWORDS

I usually call this the “dagger of the mind” card. Here a saint sits chained in prison awaiting his execution, at least in his mind. The suggestion here is of the mind making things worse or blocking you. Sometimes we do make things worse with our imagination, inventing shadows and beasties to threaten us. I have found that making things with my hands counters this. You need to give your mind a different focus, give it something concrete to grip, or it drifts into fantasy scenarios of the worst kind.

EIGHT OF CUPS

This depicts King David singing and playing the harp. Sing with joy as David did, be creative, write songs and poetry, foster a creative occupation. The usual meaning of this card is to move on, and there is some of that here in the choice to be creative which in itself is a movement forward.

EIGHT OF STAFFS

How timely, since I just studied Saint Martin. Here he is hiding and hoping they’d leave him alone when they offered him the Bishopric at Tours. I think of this as a defensive card where you shut yourself away, but is this always the best action to take? We may feel overburdened or put upon and want to hide but you could change the world with your acceptance. I like that Place mentions this could mean not living up to your potential. We can be stubborn about that sometimes.

How bad can it be to reach your potential?