Friday, June 1, 2018

Tarot Architecture

This post will consist of some reflections on the architectural or built environment elements in the RWS tarot deck. It probably won't be rocket science for those who know their architecture, kabbalah or Masonry better than I do.
1. The two specialties of Colman Smith and Waite - esotericism and theatre design - merge in their tarot deck so that the architectural details take on both a magical and a dramatic function. For example the building in the 3 of Pentacles is both the setting for the action and contains much symbolism.
2. The first obvious source for the symbolism is the Masonic and Kabbalistic symbolism of the Golden Dawn, which has been influential on almost all the magical traditions which have followed, not least through the use of this tarot deck. For example the pillars in the High Priestess reference both Masonry and Kabbalah.
3. The other obvious source for the imagery is the world of Christian imagery, with its ideas of the heavenly city and the attendant imagery of houses and builders/buildings, which is the natural source for the Masonic imagery. For example Colman Smith would have been exposed to the Catholic images of Mary as a garden enclosed and as an ivory tower.
4. True to her theatrical background, buildings are often the'set' for the action in the card and frequently provide added meaning.
5. The pseudo-Mediaeval city which so often features provides much detail to the card's action, since it equates to safety and containment. The figures' positions show their relationship to the city, for example here the figure stands over the city, which equates to power and command.
6. The absence of buildings can indicate being out in the wild.
7. While the presence of buildings can also suggest being given the cold shoulder by their inhabitants.

8. The position of buildings also adds layers of meaning to a card. Some cards' action takes place inside the building and thus inside what that building represents, such as civilised society or safety. The charioteer, for example, is riding away from the city. The woman in the 8 of Swords refuses to look at the city behind her, usually for no very good reason.
9. In addition to forming the backdrop to the action in the cards, the buildings can also indicate actions. Pillars often form barriers to be traversed, in addition to the more esoteric meaning above.I particularly love that Pam has put gateways and bridges in several cards. One of them is here and I'd be prepared to bet that the figure won't turn round and look at the potential exit from his situation!
Image source
10. Significantly, given the time the deck was designed, the architecture of Pam's imagined world reminds me mostly of Arts and Crafts style houses of the time, and specifically Voysey.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication