March / April 2014 Issue
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Review of Dame Fortune\'s Wheel Tarot
This article was written by Barbara Moore on November 30, -0001
Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot is an elegant marriage of historical research and practicality. It celebrates the Tarot’s introduction as a divinatory tool, stripping it of modern esoteric burdens. The result is a deck that is eminently easy to read with a focus on practical advice.
I was prepared to dislike this deck. I tend not to like many of the historic decks or decks that pay homage to historic decks. I did not like the garish coloring. I did not like the "not so pretty" pictures. I did not like the "female pope." I did not like my Magician being downgraded to a mere juggler. I did not like the cold Empress on a cement throne instead of in a lush garden where she belongs! And I did not like the Fool with his bum hanging out. And what was up with this extra "significator" card?
Luckily, I did not just stop there, but looked more closely at the deck, read the booklet, did a little research, and—most importantly—tried it out. My little journey shows just how wrong first impressions can be. What won me over? Well, it didn’t happen all at once. There was phase one: the historical interest and compelling argument. Then there was phase two: the practical application.
In the US, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck has become the standard by which most of us measure or compare other decks. It is what most readers call their "mental" deck—the deck that their mind uses when thinking of certain cards. Even when reading with other decks, many readers will add, "in the RWS card, …." There is no doubt that this deck has changed the Tarot world. And there is no doubt that most of us have a special love for this deck. But what came before that deck?
Way back when, the nobles sat around playing trick-taking games with decks of cards that we, today, call Tarot decks. In the sixteenth century, there is some scant evidence that the cards were used for divination. But it was not until the late eighteenth century that a professional Parisian card reader, Jean-Baptiste Alliette (aka Etteilla) printed instructions for using the cards for divination. Later these meanings were used by occultists to shape the meanings used by the likes of Waite. And yet, Waite and friends denounced Etteilla as nothing more than a fortuneteller. Huson tells all this better than I do, so you should read what he has to say about it.
Which leads me to a secret surprise that I will share with you. You know how sometimes we wish we could get just a little bit more information than comes with the LWB? Well with this deck there is. If you visit Huson’s website (www.paulhuson.com), there is a link to download an expanded booklet for free. It is wonderful and I highly encourage you do so.
We know that Tarot has evolved over the centuries and will continue to evolve. But it seems dangerous and foolhardy when we discount part of its history in order to substantiate our current beliefs and practices. It is over one hundred years since the RWS deck was published. Perhaps instead of saying "this is the standard deck and most appropriate for our use today," we should look at why, at that time in history and by these particular people, it shifted from the older design to the one with which we are so familiar. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not saying to throw out any babies, or even any bath water. I’m just saying let’s muck around in the tub see what we might not have seen before.
Since I like to practice what I preach (at least occasionally), I looked at those particular cards that upset me so at first glance. As modern Tarot readers, we have come to hold The Magician and The High Priestess in very high regard. I imagine that as Tarot readers and magic makers and metaphysicians, we identify very much with these two cards as put forth in the RWS deck. Seeing them both made into something of a con is upsetting.
Huson explains this in a fascinating interview with Arlene deWinter, which can be found here: http://www.winterspells.com/1942/interview-with-tarot-historian-paul-huson/
"In the oldest decks the Juggler is a quite obviously a mercurial Mountebank, a Tregatour, a Street Huckster, who is bamboozling the crowd with the oldest trick in the book, the Cups and Ball trick or Find the Lady. He was elevated to mage status by Éliphas Lévi during the nineteenth century as part of Lévi’s transformation of Tarot into an instrument of Transcendental Magic – not even the earliest commentators on the cards, Court de Gébelin, de Mellet or Etteilla himself, made that mistake. I feel that making the Juggler into an all-wise wizard is just plain wrong. Real magic, per se, is not actually represented in the historical Tarot.
"The Lesser Trumps are supposed to be earthbound. That’s exactly their point. The Tarot trump parade describes an arc beginning with the lowest of the low, the homeless Fool, climbs through all the ranks of society, through betrayal and death and hell, and finally ends up in the celestial regions with sun moon and stars and finally eternity, as shown in the so-called Greater Trumps. As I say in my most recent book Mystical Origins of the Tarot, basically they tell of the soul’s journey through life into the afterlife, an archetypal and perennial story recounted in Christian imagery typical of the late medieval period."
Again, there is so much more to this. But my point is: this is fascinating stuff and we should be thinking about it.
So, we’ve established the cards in this deck are a little different than we are used to and that’s okay. Now on to using the cards.
In the expanded booklet, Huson includes a spread called the 42-card layout that involves some complicated shuffling and piling and re-shuffling and re-piling. When finished, you end up with six rows of seven cards. Then you just read them like a narrative. I thought this would be overwhelming and just crazy making. But it wasn’t.
Years ago, I was at a Tarot conference and Rachel Pollack taught us this fun reading/game. As the reader, you use all 78 cards and just flip through them (after they’ve been shuffled) and read each card really fast, one after the other, trying to keep the reading under one minute. These days, we tend to spend a lot of time on each card, squeezing out every last drop of meaning. Reading in this quick way is very different and really exercises both the intuition and the memory.
Doing the 42-card reading felt much like that 78-card game, only slower and more serious. The "garish" colors that affronted my sensibility earlier now seemed "clear and easy to read." While focused on my question and moving my eyes over the rows, a narrative emerged. The clarity was almost shocking. For once, it did seem to matter that the cards did not look like the RWS-style images that I was so used to. I didn’t have to stop and ponder about how a particular image related to the pages of meanings I’ve gather in my mind over the decades about what the 2 of Pentacles means. The pictures told the story. Did I have an hour-long reading where I explored the shadows of my secret soul or have spiritual revelations? I did not. At least not this time. Instead, I received a clear reading filled with practical information about my situation and useful advice. And that, my friends, is usually what I want from a reading.
Name of deck: Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Paul Huson
Brief biography of creator: A student of the occult and paranormal for over forty years, Paul Huson is the author a wide range of books exploring esoteric matters, among them the widely acclaimed Mystical Origins of the Tarot.
Artist’s name: Paul Huson
Name of accompanying booklet: Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 63 (14 in English)
Author of booklet: Paul Huson
Available in a boxed kit?: No.
Reading Uses: General
Ethnic Focus: Medieval European
Artistic Style: Primitive
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: ) Mostly. Justice is VIII and Strength is XI.
Does it have extra cards? If yes, what are they?: Yes. There is an extra card to be used as a significator.
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: Yes
The Magician = The Juggler
The High Priestess = The Female Pope
The Hierophant = The Pope
The Lovers = Love
Strength = Fortitude
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No.
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: No.
Why was deck created?: Paul Huson created this deck to explore the work of Jean-Baptiste Alliette, or "Etteilla" as he styled himself, the man who, although now much disparaged as a "mere fortune teller," put Tarot on the map as a divination method.
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: The best suggestion for this book is the expanded little booklet available for free as a download. The link to it can be found at Huson’s website: www.paulhuson.com .
Alternative decks you might like:
Ancient Tarot of Lombardy
Golden Tarot of the Renaissance
Universal Tarot of Marseille
Universal Wirth Tarot
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