Second Edition Available Now!!
I have published the cards in a second edition with the Hong Kong based Print on Demand company, MakePlayingCards, releasing both a Large size (89 X 146 mm or 3.5” X 5.75”) and a Poker size (89 X 146mm or 2.48” X 3.46”). They are printed on premium 330gsm smooth card stock, which gives rich true colours and high definition. This is particularly important with the Poker size, as reducing such detailed imagery to a small size requires very clear definition to do it justice.
Cards are printed in sheets, which means that in the Poker size, 90 cards cost the same to produce as 78. I realised I could use these spare 12 cards to reproduce the booklet information from the first edition, and so the Poker deck comes with a booklet in card form. The options for a printed booklet in the Poker size were too small to be useful and so this is the only way I could have included it. There is also a signature card and two bonus art cards. You can see previews of every single card if you click on see preview at the deck page.
The Large deck comes with 80 cards, the two extras being a signature card and a Qabalah key guide that complements the eight page folding booklet, which contains all the other key information and is also signed. People seemed to want signatures so I did my best on that this time.
I decided to forego boxes, but I intend to create custom designed pouches that people can order separately. A tarot deck that is used is usually kept in a bag, preferably silk. Only ones that gather dust on shelves need boxes, and above all I want this to be a deck that people love to use.
I am happy to send anyone who contacts me the pdf of the User Guide. The only condition is that you will be added to my mailing list. Its best to use my gmail firstname.lastname@example.org, because I am having trouble with my Asherah Tarot email. Take the opportunity while you can, because once I format and re edit the book to make an ebook and print version I will stop giving it away.
I hope you enjoy this new version!
Numerical Value : 3
Esoteric Title : Daughter of the Mighty Ones
Path 14 : Daleth (Door)
Chokmah – Binah
Planet : Venus
Double Letter : Peace – War
Sepher Yetzirah : Illuminating Intelligence
The Empress is the goddess of creation, giving life and taking it away. She is the Solar feminine, consciousness creating union. As the creative and destructive aspect of feminine energy, she is continuously conceiving new life in infinite variety and consuming it again it in death. As the motive power of love, she inspires creativity and passion of all kinds. When we love what we do our work shines. When we feel love for ourselves and for all created life forms, we become happy and productive. Love is the great creative energy of life, and so the Empress rules over all creation effortlessly. Who else but the great goddess can make things make themselves? She doesn’t bother forming men from clay, but simply delegates the endless perpetuation of material existence to the powers of attraction and reproduction.
The Empress is ruled by the planet Venus, or Aphrodite, who is a goddess of Love, in the broadest and highest sense. She rules not only sexual attraction, but the love between friends and colleagues, and even the love of an artist for their work. As passion in all its manifestations, her gift is the power to create new forms in any realm. She is the carrier of the dream who fertilises our aspirations. The mysterious phenomena of magnetic attraction goes much deeper than physical sexuality, and is an urge that is both psychological and spiritual. It is a desire to know and be known, the need of the soul for energetic interchange on higher levels. In the words of Dion Fortune, the cult of Aphrodite was “concerned with the subtle interaction of the life force between two factors; the curious flow and return, the stimulus and reaction, which plays so important a part of relations between the sexes, but extends far beyond the sphere of sex.”
The Empress is the Illuminating Intelligence, who fills us with enlightenment and inspiration. This title is a suggestion of her Solar Goddess origins, which are very clearly symbolised in this card, by her head dress and by the sun rising behind her. The Solar feminine is the life giving energy of the suns rays, which makes all things grow and heals our wounds and sorrows. The sun gives to all without favour, and under its blissful warmth we all come together joyously to create society and family. Its brilliant light gifts us with the power to see reality for what it is, and work with it constructively for the greater good. It can also bring death and drought, and so it has much in common with the great goddess. It’s very easy to understand why Sun Goddesses were so common throughout the ancient world and also why they have been so ruthlessly suppressed by the patriarchy.
The pink bat wings of this Empress are reminiscent of a birth canal, and they reach out to embrace the whole world. Her fingers elongating into wing bones represent our universal connection in spirit, and also reference the mega bat totem of the artist. She presides over the union of the waters of emotion with the fecund earth of material existence, the result of which is unlimited fertility, which is why a waterfall framed by lush vegetation forms her back drop. In the mythology of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, an earlier and more powerful version of Aphrodite, the rite of her sacred marriage to the vegetation god Dumuzi ensured the seasons harvest would be fruitful. Inanna was a goddess of both Love and War, reflecting the full spectrum of feminine divinity. Originally the deity was both dark and light, and only later became divided. The passions can lead to conflict as well as union, and in fact the two often come together, hence the meaning of the double letter of this card, Peace and War. If we are honest the desire to make love and the desire to fight are not so very different, either in intent or in result. The feminine archetype needs to be rebalanced by remembering its warrior aspect. Its all very well to hope for peace and kindness and love, but we also must be ready to fight when we have to. All nature must struggle to survive, and we are no exception.
Both the dove and the serpent are connected with the Tree of Life, the dove being the representative of the higher worlds and the serpent that of the lower chthonic realm. They are also often characterised as two types of love energy, one passive and the other aggressive, Agape and Eros. The dove represents the ability to give life and it appears in Christianity as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is fertilising the womb of the Grail in the Ace of Cups. The “Holy Spirit” has usurped the throne of Asherah, the original feminine divinity in the Hebrew triad. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are represented in the Qabalah by Chokmah, Tiphareth and Binah respectively, and Binah is very much the sephirah of the goddess. In this card the dove is perching on an alchemical symbol for Salt, which is the attribution of the Empress and the function of feeling. Salt represents Love and Tears and its properties are bitterness and wisdom. It also refers to the great primordial sea of Binah from which all life emerged. Tears and sorrow are bitter but they teach wisdom. Binah is ruled by Saturn and this is reflected in its emphasis on material restrictions. The gift of life is also a responsibility, and often a very demanding and limiting one.
The Hebrew letter that rules this card is Daleth, the Door or the Womb. The Empress is the womb of nature in all its abundant fruitful glory. She is all mothering and sublimely beautiful but also quite ruthless and brutal. Being born is the beginning of dying because what lives must inevitably die. So the door of Daleth goes both ways, being the Gate of Heaven from which all life emerges and through which it returns to dust. The path of Daleth on the Tree goes from Binah to Chokmah, linking the All Mother with the All Father, and forming a cross with the path of the High Priestess. Metaphorically she is the outpouring of life energy that results from the equilibration of the feminine and masculine polarities, natural creation in all its glory. Her crown is a flaming solar symbol of her ancient origins as a Sun Goddess, and it is surrounded by the twelve stars of the zodiac. Her gown is the green of the sphere of Netzach, which is the sphere of Venus. The number three refers to the product of the union between the one and the two, and is traditionally the number of the goddess.
If we want to have a future, we must learn the art of the gardener and the healer and become the faithful stewards of all creation. Our mechanistic, money driven society is toxic to anyone with a heart and soul, male or female, and at the core of its dysfunction is a lack of respect for our own feminine side, for the feminine divinity or archetype, and for Mother Earth herself. In order for us to evolve as individuals and as a species we must all learn to respect and value our creativity, and our emotional connection to the planet and all its inhabitants. Acknowledging the intrinsic spiritual unity and material interdependence of all life on Earth is the only hope we have to ensure our survival and the preservation of this beautiful planet. This profound realisation is the gift of consciousness, the illumination of the Solar feminine.
The values and qualities of the Empress are integral to our well being. She is compassionate, loving, and sensitive to the needs of all, with her arms open to embrace the world. There is a great power in her vulnerability, and in her uninhibited gift of love, especially when she remembers to include herself in her loving and caring, and establish healthy boundaries. An unbalanced manifestation of the Empress can result in an excess of self sacrifice, and a tendency to smother and over protect. It’s important not to try and compensate for the lack of Empress ability in others by doing everything for them. The power to nurture and create is available to all of us regardless of gender, and we don’t do anyone any favours when we allow them to avoid developing it. Our souls are bisexual, and we all have a feminine side and a masculine side. A balanced, sane individual has integrated both equally and actualised all four modes of self expression; intuition, feeling, thinking and sensation.
The Empress is a very powerful and demanding influence, requiring us to get real with our dreams and plant them into fertile earth. She judges by results and is not impressed by big talk and empty promises. She can also be a destructive and limiting force, because she binds souls into form and in doing so dooms us to experience death. This might be why our society has pushed her to the edges of consciousness, and denied the Goddess in our religion. We fear the Mother archetype, because she consumes us and controls us and we spend our formative years trying to escape her. Life is a journey in which we run from her grasp and then are unwillingly returned into her arms, and there is no escaping that fate, so we might as well relax and allow life to unfold as it wishes. The first lesson of creativity is the humble acceptance of what is given to us. We cannot consciously control or will our creations, but simply prepare to receive them. We prepare our tools, hone our skills and wait for the inspiration to arrive.
The great goddess is an inexorable force of nature who makes a mockery of our pretensions of mastery and control. We are free to act on our desires, but we do not choose our desires. Due to our cultural conditioning, when we envision the divine feminine we see only her light aspect, loving and maternal, but the truth is there is a much more elemental and sexual side to her. A limitless sexual energy and a limitless creative potential, which truly scare those not able to freely express their own elemental nature. Love is not just nurturing, it is all consuming, and often quite destructive. When people fear the feminine within, they fear loss of control and the forces of chaos. And yet it is from that chaos that all creativity and life energy emerges. Without surrender we become barren and lifeless. The divine feminine is the forces of nature, our animal passion, and the deep underlying connection to all life and to the Earth itself. It is the root chakra, the source of all our power and material existence.
Numerical Value : 2
Esoteric Title : Lady of the Silver Star
Path 13 : Gimel (Camel)
Kether – Tiphareth
Planet : Moon
Double Letter : Wisdom – Folly
Sepher Yetzirah : Uniting Intelligence
The High Priestess is a huntress of the ineffable guarding access to the Inner Realms. Her powers are attractive and hypnotic, and her gifts are profound intuitive wisdom and enlightenment. The High Priestess is as deep as the still waters of the ocean of the unconscious that lie behind her. She is the Anima or Soul Image protecting the hidden treasures of the collective unconscious, that fecund, intuitive, imaginative world which all artists and poets inhabit. Largely passive in the material world, she is a silent and secretive soul, who meditates and studies the mysteries. Her meditative stillness is indicative of an intense and active inner life. The two lotus crowned pillars on either side of the card represent the Pillars of Severity and Mercy, while the High Priestess herself is the unifying central pillar, resolving and equilibrating all pairs of opposites. Life is continual process of rhythmic balancing between two poles of activity, and the High Priestess represents this eternal fluid motion, the ebb and flow of life.
The double letter Wisdom – Folly is an appropriate paradox to describe the way of the High Priestess. True spirituality can seem foolish, but its rewards are peace of mind, serenity and a clarity of purpose, without which it is impossible to make the most of our material existance. Modern society demands continuous activity and material success at any cost, and this fixation is highly detrimental of both to our psychological well being and our practical effectiveness. Stillness, receptivity and intuitive wisdom are essential qualities for sanity and happiness, as well as being the basis for truly useful productivity.
The High Priestess sits before a veil decorated with pomegranates, symbolic of the Veil of Illusion that separates us from the mysteries and from our own unconscious minds. Pomegranates (literally apple with many seeds) were one of the first fruits ever cultivated, originating in Mesopotamia and travelling to all corners of the ancient world. As the true fruit of the Tree of Knowledge it is associated with the study of the Qabalah, which is known as entering the Garden of the Pomegranates. The pomegranate was regarded by the Greeks as the fruit of the dead, and features in the story of Persephone. The journey to the Underworld is a central myth in all mythologies and a metaphor for descending into the abyss to gain spiritual wisdom. This is an experience of great sacrifice and suffering, but also the essential source of all creative inspiration and self knowledge. The title Uniting Intelligence refers to the merging of the individual into the great sea of our collective unconscious, from which the wisdom of the ages emerges.
The central, integral position of the path of the High Priestess, from Tiphareth to Kether, says everything about her awesome spiritual power. Her path crosses the Abyss and passes though Daath, the hidden sphere of Gnosis, or spiritual knowledge. Gnosis provides the inner strength we need to bridge the void, and cross the great desert that divides divinity and mankind. The Hebrew letter is Gimel, the Camel which carries its water supply in its hump, a metaphor for spiritual self sufficiency. This path forms the upper reaches of the middle pillar of the Tree, that of balance and harmony. The middle pillar is known as the Path of the Arrow by which a mystic ascends the Qabalah and so the High Priestess holds a bow, while she herself represents the arrow. It is a truly heroic path, a quest of the soul to glimpse the crown of divinity through the sphere of Gnosis. Significantly, it forms a cross at this point with the path of Daleth, the Empress. This cross represents the union of spirit and matter at the highest level possible, the true purpose of incarnation. The High Priestess is the resolution of vertical spiritual polarity, while the Empress is the resolution of horizontal material polarity.
The attribution of this card to the Moon is something I struggled with because I object to the widespread exclusive association of feminine divinity with the Moon. There are Solar Goddesses all over the world, and in ancient times they were common throughout the Middle East and Northern Europe. Both Isis and Artemis were Sun Goddesses forced to adapt to the rise of the Solar masculine principle. Osiris is easily identifiable as Moon type god, and as Egyptians never had Moon goddesses at all, it’s quite likely that the disc that appears on the head of Isis is in fact a solar disc. Artemis was originally Diana, the Solar Goddess of the Scythians, and the presiding goddess of the Amazons. It was only when the Greeks adopted her that they made her into a Moon goddess to complement Apollo. In the end I decided not to make any alterations to the attributions, because there really is something very Lunar and nocturnal about the High Priestess. You could say she is the Lunar manifestation of femininity, while the Empress is the Solar manifestation. Similarly the Emperor is the Solar masculine, and the Hierophant the Lunar masculine. In this analogy Lunar and Solar refer to unconscious and conscious, and spiritual and material. The spiritual and the material are both equally sacred, and outward expression relies on inward attributes for its authenticity and effectiveness. The unconscious is the source of all creativity and collective wisdom, while the conscious is our ability to use and interpret those gifts. In esoteric terms masculine and feminine have nothing to do with physical gender or its superficial attributes. They are rather modes of being which naturally alternate and complement each other and are ideally perfectly balanced within the individual. The masculine urge to separate establishes our individuality and personal power, while the feminine urge to union connects us with the source of all life and energy, our fellow life forms, and the planet which nurtures us. The Lunar feminine, therefore is unconsciousness leading to union, an ineffable spiritual connection to the great sea of the collective mind.
The snake is a potent and ancient symbol of transformation and wisdom transmitting divine will between worlds. The seer who whispered the secrets of life and death into the ear of the Sybil at Delphi was a serpent, and is just one example of the a long tradition of sacred serpents and Snake deities. The High Priestess has snake bracelets on her arms after the fashion of the Cretan snake goddess (yet another Solar goddess) and in front of her two serpents form an undulating S. The serpent is a potent symbol of the Kundalini energy, the life force that flows through all life and is coiled at the base of our spines, traveling upwards during meditation, and inspiring enlightenment. When our chakras are opened this vitalising energy, which is also universal love, flows strongly through us and effects healing and transformation. In the symbolism of the Qabalah, the spine is the central pillar and the Kundalini which undulates up and down is the two side pillars.
We are living in a society where disconnection to the spiritual realm and its healing powers is endemic both in men and women. Organised religion has lost its relevance in the developed world, but the spiritual needs of human beings remain. In the midst of our material affluence we are facing an epidemic of neurosis and psychopathology, largely because of our failure to address these intrinsic needs. We enjoy unprecedented material comforts and wealth, but without the guidance and balance of spiritual wisdom, we become destructive both in our individual lives and in the collective. One of the keys to healing our deeply dysfunctional civilisation is honouring our Inner Life and reclaiming the intuitive healing powers of The High Priestess archetype. This card represents the vital importance of quiet retreat and contemplation, something accorded very little time in our modern world. The most profound understanding can never be communicated in words, but must be experienced personally.
Numerical Value : 0
Esoteric Title : Spirit of Aether
Path 11 : Aleph (Ox)
Kether – Chokmah
Element : Air (Maternal)
Sepher Yetzirah : Scintillating Intelligence
The Fool is the first and last card of the Major Arcana tying the journey together in a loop represented by zero. The circular nature of existence defies the limitations of linear time, revealing it to be an illusion. A holy wanderer in a sun decorated coat with a warm and child like spirit of play, the Fool is utterly free from inhibitions and limitations and welcomes all experience joyfully. Being a guilelessly honest and harmless soul expressing unconditional love for all other beings gives an appearance of stupidity, but also the charisma of an idiot savant. The innocence of the Idiot is a state of divine grace and holiness.
The Hebrew letter Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, meaning Ox, suggesting an honest, earthy lack of pretension. The Ox pulls a plough, digging up impacted earth to allow new life to grow. The shape of the letter resembles a plough, and also a whirling swastika, the glyph of the birth of chaos. The path of Aleph travels between Kether (Spirit) and Chokmah (Wisdom), in one direction the ultimate union with spirit and in the other a manifestation into being, both a beginning and an ending. The Fool is also associated with the hidden sephirah Daath representing Gnosis, the intuitive spiritual knowledge which we osmose from the ineffable.
The Spirit of Aether is the quintessence, the mysterious fifth element which unites the four elements of manifestation and gives them life. The Maternal element of Air suggests emptiness, a vacuum into which the life breath of all creation flows. It is the state of no-mind valued so highly by Zen wisdom. An open mind is ready to receive inspiration and divine guidance. The Greek word Pneuma means breath and also spirit or soul. Breathing is the instigator of life and life is defined by its presence. Breathing techniques are the foundation of all esoteric spiritual disciplines. Air is the element that lifts us into higher consciousness, the elusive medium of freedom, independent thought and enlightenment. Scintillating Intelligence, the title given to the letter Aleph in the Sepher Yetzirah, suggests a sparkling, bright, dazzling and stimulating energy, a manifestation of pure light and joy. Merriment and loving laughter disarms all opposition, innocence and joy overcomes oppression effortlessly, bringing healing and creative inspiration into the world.
The Fool is sexually naive, balanced on the cliff edge of puberty, an androgynous entity on the brink of becoming in every respect. The act of dancing with a huge crocodile demonstrates a complete lack of fear. Interaction with dangerous animals is a metaphor for Initiation and the Fool is the card of the Initiate. To trust the beast is to make it your playmate. The crocodile is an animal of two realms (land and water) and so represents the transmission of the divine will. Crocodiles make a purring vibration which sends drops of water into the air dancing on their backs.
Initiation into the mysteries is an experience of death in life leading to a descent into the underworld. We are always acting out this initiation, descending into the pit of our own misery and sickness and finding healing and inspiration and rebirth. The descent into the Abyss is metaphorically associated with the dormancy of nature in winter and its inevitable resurrection in spring. The Fool is the Green Man, the vital energy of renewal, representing the moment when nature bursts into life again, vibrant and lush, after the death of Winter. Dostoevsky’s holy Idiot has been condemned to death and reprieved at the last minute. Faced with certain death he realises separation is an illusion and that we are all one. When his life is unexpectedly saved he resolves to act with loving kindness to all, and in doing so makes himself a laughing stock.
We have to be prepared to lose the respect and approval of society and family or we will never find our own authority. The ultimate goal is to truly think, feel, sense and desire for ourselves at all times, even if that means standing alone. As the captain of our own ship consciously charting our individual course we are no longer vulnerable to outside influence and manipulation. When we find our strength within, and generate our own ideas and opinions we can gain true confidence in our own path and become impossible to dominate or intimidate. Succumbing to the social pressure to conform and accumulate possessions and status results in clinging desperately to a false security. It’s a tragedy to discover too late that we have wasted our lives fulfilling the expectations of others. Permanence and certainty are a delusion and death and decay and loss are inescapable.
A fearful or cynical state of mind impedes the unconditional giving and risk taking that is necessary to achieve great things or even to enjoy life. Counting the costs of every venture virtually guarantees inertia. Our fundamental acceptance of the natural ebb and flow of life gives us strength and freedom to enjoy its abundance and endure its privations.
Manifesting a healthy Fool archetype is extremely liberating and empowering. Openness and kindness to others and to the Universe gifts us with an intuitive sense of direction and the assistance of all those we encounter. The Fool is like Hexagram 25 of the I Ching, Wu Wang or Innocence, which counsels that our egos must be disengaged before we can awaken our divine guidance. Innocence is the absence of the selfish ulterior motives which stain our actions with unworthiness. The Fool ignores all of the expectations and conventions of society and embraces freedom, liberation and individuality. Taking the first step of a great journey, an adventure into the unknown, it is essential to let go of everything. If we love our own fate, and to accept that it is all exactly as it is meant to be, we can live fully in the moment and enjoy good humoured serenity. To those who value social hierarchies, conformity and wealth a person like this seems like a Fool. Enlightenment and inspiration often do seem like madness and idiocy. If we love and honour our inner holy idiot we can be liberated from our shackles to truly enjoy life, love and creativity.
From The Asherah Tarot
by Sarah Wheatley