The Lovers

The Lovers

My lasting sensory impression of this card is velvetor another sumptuous textile, maybe polar bear fur. The Lovers is the 6th card of the major arcana and the first featuring more than one figure. The imagery is so Venusian, I might have assumed the correspondent sign would be Libra or Taurus…but it’s Gemini.

On first glance, this card couldn’t appear less like the Twins. It feels opulent. Heavy. Weighted like bodies or feelings. When I think of Gemini, I imagine more aerial beings, like bees whisking between stalks of lavender, spreading their pollen. (There is actually bee imagery on this card, if you look closely: on the Empress’ robe. By contrast, the Emperor wears snakes.)

But the entire card is a mirror. At this point it is worth acknowledging that the card itself is a twin to the Art card (equivalent of Temperance in other decks.) Both cards feature twin imagery, and they mirror each other. In The Lovers, we see a red lion and white eagle. In Art, these colours are reversed. Two naked babes stand at the centre: one carries a bouquet of flowers and a chalice. The other, a hammer and a lance. According to Crowley, they represent Cain and Abel. Above them, we see the Emperor and Empress, and above the Emperor and Empress: a violet wizard (the Hermit), his face shrouded by the magic that whips about his hands. At the top, we find two nude figures: Lilith and Eve. Cupid arcs over the Hermit with his bowand even this shape is reflected in the hidden bow at the bottom of the card, which nestles an Orphic Egg. It’s one of the most complicated cards in the deck.

In his Book of Thoth, Crowley writes: “Each of these symbols is in itself double, so that the meanings form a divergent series, and the integration of the Card can only be regained by repeated marriages, identifications, and some form of Hermaphroditism.”

I like this sentence as it applies to Gemini minds: themselves double, forever spinning a divergent series of thoughts, finding integration by way of repeated symbolic marriages, identifications, “and some form of Hermaphroditism.” (Side note: Hermaphroditos was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. As the name implies, they possessed traits of both sexes.) 

It makes me think of how light shines off the surface of the ocean: catching many faces in the surface of the wave. Does that make the light, or the wave, inconstant? Only if you’re fixating too narrowly on fluid shards of water. Only if you’re trying to fix a moving thing.

Gemini’s air element may be represented by the sacred lance in the centre of the card. There are also swords in the background, curved and projecting a form of cage. This imagery is important because sharp items sever. How do you reach two? By splitting the one in half.

Chani Nicholas writes that no one looks harder for their counterpart than Gemini. As if they yearn toward a mirror image they can’t fully embody on their own: not without shifting, not without tasting everything. Not without reaching and bending and veering toward their imagined twin.

Angeles Arrien’s interpretation of The Lovers card begins with a quote from Anais Nin: “The value of personal relationship to all things is that it creates intimacy and intimacy creates understanding and understanding creates love.” And love is not singular. What we use one word for in English, other languages find plural; Arabic includes eleven words for love; Sanskrit has 96 (!). Ancient Greek differentiates between eros (passionate love), philia (friendship), storge (parents and children), agape (universal love), ludus (playful, 5th house love), pragma (enduring love), and philautia (self love), among others. All shifting faces in the body of a wider ocean.



Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley

The Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien

Chani Nicholas’ Love Horoscopes 

Ace of Disks

Ace of Disks

The Ace of Disks represents the root of the powers of Earth, which Crowley did not view as passive or inert, but active, in motion. To highlight this animated quality of earth, the Thoth deck invokes a whirring disk, rather than a coin or a pentacle. Crowley writes:  Thus, in particular, the old conception of the Earth as a passive, immobile, even dead, even “evil” element, had to go. … Nor are the Disks any more to be considered as Coins; the Disk is a whirling emblem. Naturally so; since it is now known that every Star, every true Planet, is a whirling sphere. The Atom, again, is no more the hard, intractable, dead Particle of Dalton, but a system of whirling forces, comparable to the Solar hierarchy itself.

The background of this card is lush green stippled with gold: the colour of sun leaking through fir branches, or a beam of light rinsing the face of an emerald. We see four sets of wings, of angels or peacocks. (The Book of Thoth does reference Isis with this card, and a peacock is one symbol for the Egyptian goddess.)

In the centre of the card, the whirling disk itself is printed with Crowley’s seal: ΤΟ ΜΕΓΑ ΘΗΡΙΟΝ. It means “the Great Beast,” a reference to the Beast prophesied in Revelation. The letters add up to 666 using isopsephy, and 666 is inscribed in the centre of the disk inside the tiny triad of circles. Here we land on a striking archetypal point: the earth element as corrupt or corruptible. Our bodies and the material realm as somehow embarrassing or wicked. The Devil in this deck is linked to the sign of Capricorn, for instance. (The goat.)  I can’t help but wonder if the subtle maligning of the material realm in western culture has contributed, even tangentially, to how little we respect our planet.

This card represents the purest form of the Earth element: raw material; money; exchange; prosperity; abundance; pragmatism; security; stability; the ability to make shit real, or manifest. Angeles Arrien suggests this card signifies inner and outer success. The four sets of wings indicate the four levels conscious development (mental, emotional, spiritual, physical), while the coins and crystals signify prosperity. To me, this card represents a seed. A new venture that involves the material realm, possibly money, but also any form of physical reality: seizing an idea or ideal (represented by air and fire) and crystallizing it into being. A sort of psychic 3-D printing. This card represents the triplicity of Earth in astrology: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn. Earth as the stretching of tree roots, the weaving of words, the building of castles. Earth not as a static lump, but a whirling disk, the planet we’re living on.


Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley
The Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien
Esoteric Meanings

Knight of Wands

Knight of Wands

On first glance, the black steed rears from a lake of fire. And then you realize fire is climbing the Knight’s cape—indeed he is cloaked in flames— , and flares shoot from his helmet in a sort of eyebrow-singeing visor. To say nothing of the enflamed torch emerging from his groin area: the ace of wands. As the cards go, this one’s pretty masculine.

In the Thoth deck, the Knight is the highest court card: equal to Kings in other decks. And so, the Knight of Wands represents fire in its most advanced form. According to Crowley, this Lord of Flame and Lightning rules 21° Scorpio to 20° Sagittarius. His wand represents his vision: the truth he wishes to share with the masses. Fire signs don’t keep their truths to themselves: they yearn to burn outwards, to gather others around their heat. In this way, the card does call to mind Sagittarius. The Knight is on a mission. He’s energetic: we’re talking teenaged-levels of virility. He’s combustible. Before the dank mould of self-doubt creeps in, he will burn all spores of uncertainty in his path.

And maybe he’s not a he. The King of Wands might represent that part of you that has mastered vision and vitality (according to Angeles Arrien), or other fire themes, such as creativity. This archetype is relentlessly optimistic. Buoyant. Surging.

It’s appropriate Crowley linked this Knight to Scorpio too, for the imagery on this card is uncompromisingly Martian. The reds and yellows. The phallic torch. The fire. The focus and thrusting forward.

But there’s a danger to unyielding self-belief. It results in dogma. Cultural genocide. Tyranny. The Knight of Wands could be lifted from a Crusades painting: man on horse, wielding his creed. This Knight is unmitigated by the other elements: such as the empathy of water, the detachment of air, the discernment of earth. We’ve seen the results of unmitigated fire before: it doesn’t stop eating.

So with this card, take the green light, but bring your own caution. Pace yourself. Unlike the Knight of Wands, your birth chart has the in-built support system of more than one element.

Repeat after Borges:  Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

And Maxine Hong Kingston:In a time of destruction, create something.

Queen of Cups

Queen of Cups

When I first glance at the Queen of Cups, my eyes land on the shell in her palm. Her face is hard to locate: I work back from the reflection, where her eyes gaze plaintively from the water. In her shell, a crayfish stands on end, forming the shape of Neptune’s trident. The Queen holds a lotus with her free hand, which she also drapes over the head of a stork. Two more lotuses glimmer from the pond: possibly representing the twin nature of Gemini.

The Queen of Cups rules the 21st degree of Gemini to the 20th degree of Cancer, according to Crowley’s Book of Thoth. If this looks like the least Gemini card in the deck, Crowley has a riposte:  Instead of assigning the three decans of each sign to one card, the influence begins with the last decan of one Sign and continues to the second decan of the next…The reason for this is that in the realm of the Elements all things are mixed and confused; or, as the apologist might say, counter checked and counter-balanced.

For Crowley, the lotus represented Isis, a divine mother in Egyptian mythology, who helped resuscitate her dead husband, Osiris. Imagine a lotus blossom on the surface of the Nile. The flower represents both the physical world and the entrance to the spirit realm below. To quote the Beautiful Isis blog: the water’s reflection of the petals “suggests the ghostly reflections of either realm when viewed from an alternative or parallel reality.”

I think of people with prominent water or Neptune placements. How they have such ready access to other people and other realms. They are the empaths, the seers, the dreamers. But it’s not always easy to identify what belongs to you and what you’re absorbing from others.

I think of the symbols: how the glyph for Cancer appears like a reflection off water (so too for Gemini, of course.) How the moon doesn’t produce light of her own, but offers the perfect curve in the sky to scoop the sun back to us.

Angeles Arrien describes the Queen of Cups as mastery of emotional integrity. This Queen represents Mother, how we nurture, and the practice of “owning one’s feelings and expressing them without blame or judgment.”

Now that’s not something we’re encouraged to do everyday. Arrien stresses this point. The Queen of Cups does not repress her feelings, nor use them to attack. But she doesn’t apologize for her feelings either.

A Cancer Queen at her finest.

The Book of Thoth

The Book of Thoth

Aleister Crowley named his tarot deck the Book of Thoth after many ancient texts of the same title, attributed to the Egyptian god of writing and knowledge.

The deck itself was illustrated over five years by Lady Frieda Harris, who became a close friend to Crowley. I know a few people who don’t touch this deck, because of Crowley’s dark reputation. I’m not going to argue he was a nice, or even “good,” guy, but my feeling is that no deck is dark or evil on its own. It’s a medium. Like any medium, it channels the energy you pour through it (or the energy that pours from the other side.) The deck is blunt, certainly, owing to the words that caption the grimmer minor arcana, such as the 7 of disks (“failure”) or 10 of swords (“ruin.”) But the artwork is breathtaking, and like any deck, it has a sense of humour.

When I got back into tarot as an adult, the Thoth deck appealed to me because of its astrological correlations. (If you look closely, astrological symbols are painted on many of the minor arcana cards… the 7 of Cups (“Debauch”) is represented by Venus in Scorpio, for instance.)

I already possessed basic knowledge of astrological language, so I thought this deck might be more intuitive to work through. Though we didn’t know each other at the time, Jasmine was drawn to the same one.

As we travelled together for three weeks in Greece and Egypt, we continued to consult our cards. What we found is they sent us the same messages. Loudly at times. One evening, we had the idea to draw cards from each other’s decks to receive guidance on whether to proceed, or not, with an idea. We drew exactly the same card: the 8 of swords. (“Interference.”) Jasmine went on to flip this card at least four more times over the next forty-eight hours. And this is what we found: if there was a message we needed to receive, it came through. If we didn’t listen the first time, the deck would repeat herself.

Over the last few months, as we’ve come together under the banner of Kosmic Tonic, we’ve repeatedly drawn the same card. (“Art” has made a regular appearance: Thoth’s Temperance. As has Aeon: Judgment.) I’ve been getting to know this deck over my Fall in Switzerland, but I still find some of the astrological correlations a mystery. For instance: the 9 of disks, “Gain,” is represented by Venus in Virgo, where’s she’s technically in her fall. And Thoth links the 5 of cups, “disappointment,” to Mars in Scorpio, where he’s domicile. Crowley designed this deck according to his own understanding of the decans, which originated in Egyptian astrology, I’ve recently learned. (Shout out to Chris Brennan’s book on Hellenistic Astrology!) Crowley was more influenced by the Kabbalah and other occult histories than a direct interpretation of the essential dignities, I suppose. But it still niggles at me. I want to knit the gap between some of his astro correlations and the cards as I’ve studied them.

This is all a rather long-winded precis to announce that we’re going to use our blog as an online Thoth laboratory of sorts. We don’t claim to be experts, but we hope to lean into the cards, brainstorm their astrological links, and start a wider conversation with anyone else willing or curious.