The next thing that I am going to suggest you do is make a friend within the deck. Once I had “made friends” with the Princess of Cups, everything else began to fall into place.
The tarot contains ‘court cards’. These cards are usually 16 in number and represent figures – kings, queens, knights and pages usually. In the Thoth deck, we have Knights. Queens, Princes and Princesses. Don’t worry about why that should be, there’s plenty of time for that later.*
Separate these cards from the deck and choose one you like the look of.
Do you remember that I said the Thoth tarot has layer upon layer? There is an opportunity here to add an extra layer here if you want.
There are astrological correspondences in the Thoth deck.
Most of the Court Cards correspond to star signs (not the Princesses though). Here’s the List.
Aries: Queen of Wands
Taurus: Prince of Disks
Gemini: Knight of Swords
Cancer: Queen of Cups
Leo: Prince of Wands
Virgo: Knight of Discs
Libra: Queen of Swords
Scorpio: Prince of Cups
Sagittarius: Knight of Wands
Capricorn: Queen of Discs
Aquarius:Prince of Swords
Pisces: Knight of Cups
I feel that I must add that this List isn’t completely ‘right’. However, it will kind of work, most of the time. I don’t want to load too much information upon you just yet! Let’s just say that the boundaries aren’t so clearly defined so sometimes Virgo is represented by the Queen of Swords, her neighbour. In a similar manner, Libra might be represented by the Prince of Cups and so forth. Don’t worry about it for now (unless*)
So, having chose your Court Card, which ever one you fancy, have a close look at it and note what you see.
I’ve chosen the Knight of Cups, quite randomly.
So what have we here? A figure, dressed in green, riding a white horse. A flying horse, no less. The figure has wings, like an angel, and the horse turns his head towards the viewer – it seems friendly! In the lower corner, there’s a peacock. An albino peacock, perhaps, which seems kind of heavenly and exotic. The figure holds a golden cup aloft, with a crab hovering above. The figure has tight golden curls.
So, having listed what I’ve observed, next we think what associations we already have with the images. Here are a few of mine – Pegasus, Heaven, Angels, Stanley Spencer, kindness, rural England, William Blake, choirs, the WI (tea, scones, white marquees).
Do you see? There’s no right or wrong in this process.
Now – or later, if you prefer, look at the meanings in the booklet.
Here’s what Frieda Harris (she painted the deck) wrote about him: “He is the strength and energy of water, the ocean. The peacock in the waves stands for brilliance, the crab for the aggression of the flood.”
In another essay she writes “..fiery part of Water, or water’s power of solution. The card represents him as a warrior in black armour [it’s green in the image chosen for the final deck, but FH painted several versions] with white wings, on a white horse. In his hand he carries the Cup from which issues a Crab, sign of water in aggression. The peacock symbolises the brilliance of water.”
I am quoting Frieda Harris because as I mentioned previously, the little white book was my only source of information. No, not my only source – I also had my previous education and other books upon my shelves and my imagination. I was used to think interpretatively. so I understood that the Knight of Cups is akin to the Ocean and all that implies. I remembered from reading Greek mythology that Pegasus was connected with Neptune in some stories; I knew from personal experience that crabs can be nippy and nasty!
So even though I didn’t entirely understand what she was writing, I knew enough to be going on with.
Elsewhere in the booklet we’re given more straightforward meanings – “..a man who is a graceful dilettante, amiable in a passive way, quick to respond to attraction…” etc etc. The source of these meanings is Aleister Crowley himself, lifted from The Book of Thoth, which I will discuss soon enough.
In the meantime, all we are doing is getting to know the Court Cards one -by-one. In my opinion, it’s the easiest place to start. Think of them as 16 individual people. Read their bios. Look at their images. Does anyone remind you of any one you know? Who do you like the look of?
So to re-cap
- what do you literally see?
- what do the symbols mean to you?
- what does it say in the booklet?
- what do those words mean to you?
Anything you don’t understand, look it up! Ask me or ask Google. But remember, this is your adventure! My answers may very well turn out not to be yours.
*having said that, there is no reason why you can’t follow any train of enquiry your wonderful curiousity leads you onto. The purpose of these posts is to demonstrate how I began myself, and when I started, I only had the little white booklet.