I noticed some refreshing ideas in the Threes of the deck in comparison to the same old ideas from the Rider-Waite deck that abound in other tarot decks. I also noticed again how much I liked Robert Place’s artwork. In a world filled with dreary photo-collage decks and the one-trick pony atmosphere of those who appropriate the artwork of others to create their “own” deck, Place shines as someone who truly creates an original deck.
THREE OF CUPS
This is Mary Magdalen and two companions approaching the tomb of Jesus. The usual interpretation of this card is of celebration, but I like his subtle thoughts about support groups and people you can count on to give you help in discovery and the transformation of your life. Because of the biblical story, one gets a sense of incredulity turning to “This is really happening!” and the excitement of change, and commitment to an ideal or credo as well. It’s an inner celebration and anticipation that suffuses your soul. I often get a bit of that feeling of extreme, transforming joy with this card in other decks but here we have the reflection of faith and martyrdom, and strength of character and calling. There is a quiet seriousness underlying this one and the spectre of crucifixion in the background.
THREE OF SWORDS
I am not a fan of the three stabbed hearts on this card because everybody draws that and I find it tiresome. Robert Place has turned it into the Immaculate Heart of Mary though, which is usually shown being pierced by seven swords for her seven sorrows, and her pain and suffering are deeper than a mere sweetheart leaving you, which is often depicted with this archetype. The persecution, torture, and murder of a child is a fearful thing where the heart sinks and doesn’t feel like living. It seems fear and hatred are contained in that heart, and yet a wreath of roses springs to life. Empathy for others instead of self-pity for yourself is held in the heart of Mary.
In Catholicism the Immaculate Heart is an image of a physical heart symbolizing Mary’s compassion, joy and sorrow, but more about love of God than humanity; less emphasis on embracing and sacrificing for the world as in the Sacred heart of Jesus devotions. It’s a subtle difference, perhaps born of the classic patriarchal view of the Church where women are submissive and inner directed, and men go out and change the world. Another way of putting it might be to imitate Mary’s virtues and thus connect to God rather than directly responding to Jesus as in other devotions. I think that’s it anyway, it is somewhat confusing and mired in hundreds of years of Church history and change.
Roman Catholics often connect to God through saints or the mother figure of Mary. It seems quite alien to a Protestant, and yet I can imagine a feeling of accessibility and nurturing through the Catholic devotional way. That’s why I like studying the Saints I suppose, it’s different, but friendly in its connection to the faith and strength of others as a conduit to God. I get a sense of that here, in that no matter how bad or painful things are, you can connect to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; she will be your vessel. Again, such a deeper meaning for this card and full of ideas and human history.
THREE OF COINS
I had never heard of this legend of Saint Luke painting Mary’s picture until I bought this deck. What a wonderful story, even though it’s probably not true. Place describes it as “the first icon” which is a greatly inspiring phrase. My first awareness of Luke was years ago in Taylor Caldwell’s bestseller Dear and Glorious Physician. I don’t remember a scene in that of Luke painting or mention of his artistic ability but I simply might not remember. I think of this tarot archetype as the Master Artisan card, where the apprentice now heads up his own shop and workers. You’ve got to be good to paint the portrait of the Mother of God, right?
The same scene is painted on the Three of Pentacles in the Golden Tarot of the Tsar which is a lovely deck printed with gold foil backgrounds and accents and really gives the feel of Russian icons, and thus strengthens this idea of Place’s of the first icon being painted. It’s hard to scan these foil backgrounds as they often look black, so I’ll try for a photograph to show this card properly. Its richness is a fine comparison for the ideas in this card. I love Russian icons, I think many people do, and they are still painted and collected all over the world.
THREE OF STAFFS
This one really seemed fresh to me, what a great card! This is one card that I often find ambiguous because the classic Rider-Waite image shows a man on a cliff looking out to sea at a boat. The boat could be coming or going, it could mean loss or your ship coming in.
In this card the boat is under full sail, chopping through the water, and Robert Place specifies that it is approaching. So, expect more of the same or expect needed reinforcements to arrive. That seems pretty clear, and the boat looks quite purposeful on a steady course with visible wake and spindrift. The phrase “expect more of the same” could be good or bad so there is some ambiguity left here, but I found the picture charming with the ornamented Bishop’s croziers hanging over it all.