It has always intrigued that when so called religious people talk about the dangers of the occult, they always say that its dangerous to dabble. Perhaps they are right, after all Capricorn Research’s first contact with anything strange came with a school project on the Tarot.
The tarot is a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play card games. From the late 18th century until the present time the tarot has also found use by mystics and occultists in efforts at divination or as a map of mental and spiritual pathways.
Used in this way it has always had a kind of 8th house feel to it, perhaps not surprising when we considered the chart of the first person to make the mystical connections.
Antoine Court De Gebelin had 4 planets in the 8th including the Sun and Moon and a very close conjunction between the Moon and Pluto.
The 8th house is a difficult one to interpret precisely because of its depths, but its likely that anyone with this kind of emphasis would be making contact with a source from the collective unconscious of humanity. It seems to point to an insight that comes from somewhere hidden and unknown.
The first time De Gebelin saw the Tarot deck, he immediately sensed that it held the secrets of the Egyptians.
De Gebelin’s essay, ” The Primeval World, Analyzed and Compared to the Modern World” was even read by Louis XVI. In a chapter published in series from 1773, de Gébelin developed a reconstruction of Tarot history, which was that Egyptian priests had distilled the ancient ‘ Book of Thoth ‘ into these images. These they brought to Rome, where they were secretly known to the popes, who brought them to Avignon in the 14th century, whence they were introduced into France. An essay by the Comte de Mellet included in Court de Gebelin’s work is responsible for the mystical connection of the Tarot’s 21 trumps and the Fool with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
De Gebelin’s Sun is square to Neptune an aspect that is frequently found in the charts of people who are strongly drawn to a mystical view of life.
He also has a T Square with a Mercury / Saturn opposition which focuses onto an apex Uranus, a sure sign of someone who is thinking somewhat outside the conventional box.
1773 was the major turning point in De Gebelin’s life as evidenced by the fact that Pluto was conjunct his Ascendant and both Saturn and Neptune were conjunct his Sun.
An essay appended to his work gave suggestions for cartomancy and in 1785, the fortune-teller known as “Etteilla” published a technique for reading the tarot, and the practice of tarot reading was born.
Etteilla published his ideas of the correspondences between the tarot, astrology, and the four classical elements and four humors, and was the first to issue a revised tarot deck specifically designed for occult purposes.
No birthdate for Etteilla is available but his work seemed entirely appropriate for the time as the year 1785 saw Neptune exactly square Uranus and exactly trine Pluto.
Interestingly the woman considered by many to be the greatest cartomancer of all time, also had the Sun square Neptune. Not only that, her Neptune was on the exact same degree as de Gebelin’s Sun.
Marie Lenormand was a professional fortune-teller of considerable fame during the Napoleonic era.
Another thing she shared with de Gebelin was a T Square. Both had their Mercury at 26 Leo in aspect with Saturn and with Uranus as the apex of the pattern.
This T Square was certainly in evidence when Lenormand became involved with a plot to free Marie Anoinette and got put in prison for her trouble. Everything pointed to the guillotine, but Lenormand was not dismayed by this turn in her affairs, her astrological calculations had assured her that her life was safe, and that her imprisonment would not be of long duration.
This turned out to be correct and during her imprisonment she met Josephine de Beauharnais, the future Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte. Lenormand convinced Josephine that she would survive the ordeal and go on to marry a soldier who would rise to great power.
Lenormand went on to advise many powerful people, including Marat, Robespierre, St Just and Tsar Alexander I. Apparently Napoleon was suspicious of her because she predicted his success but also his downfall and exile.
The discovery of Neptune in 1846 led to a great fascination with all aspects of spiritualism and the occult.
One man who had a great impact was the magician Eliphas Levi.
Levi certainly had a strong chart, with the unconventional and original Sun in Aquarius square Uranus. The Moon in Aries conjunct Jupiter together with Mars conjunction with Pluto in Pisces, gave him a great sense of the potential power in human beings.
He identified three fundamental principles of magic :
The material universe is only a small part of total reality, which includes many other planes and modes of consciousness. Full knowledge and full power in the universe are only attainable through awareness of these other aspects of reality. One of the most important of these levels or aspects of reality is the “astral light”, a cosmic fluid which may be molded by will into physical forms.
That human willpower is a real force, capable of achieving absolutely anything.
That the human being is a microcosm, a miniature of the macrocosmic universe, and the two are fundamentally linked. Causes set in motion on one level may equally have effects on another.
Lévi’s version of magic became a great success. He incorporated Tarot into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important tool for Western magicians.
A number of famous occultists who used Tarot extensively had their Moon in Pisces, in conjunction with Levi’s Mars.
Arthur Edward Waite was a poet and mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.
Fittingly his Moon in Pisces was conjunct Neptune.
Waite’s tarot pack published in 1909, when Pluto was square to his Moon
Gerard Encausse who went by the name Papus, was a student of Levi who did much to popularise occultism.
Encausse also had the Moon in late Pisces conjunct Levi’s Mars.
But probably the most infamous follower of Levi was Aleister Crowley. Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, not least for his use of drugs and he was denounced in the popular press as “the wickedest man in the world” and sometimes labelled a Satanist. Crowley has remained a highly influential figure over western esotericism and the counter-culture generally.
Crowley also had the Moon at 22 Pisces, conjunct Levi’s Mars. His chart has considerable intensity coming from an exact Saturn / Uranus opposition which forms a Grand Cross with Mercury and Pluto.
Crowley was a sworn enemy of Waite which is surprising given they had the Sun and Moon in the same signs with their Moons in conjunction, but perhaps not so given Crowley had form in turning anyone considered to be an accomplished occultist into a rival.
Crowley’s Book of Thoth tarot pack was an important staging post in the history of the subject. His cards were first published in 1969 when Pluto was opposite his Moon and they helped to bring magic and occultism to a new generation. Surely Capricorn Research was not the only one to have created an altar with Crowley’s cards and Wilhelm’s I Ching both wrapped in black silk.
These things have to be taken seriously. After 40 years of listening to people spouting nonsense in the name of astrology, Capricorn Research has reluctantly found himself in agreement with the conventional Christian view that its dangerous to dabble with the occult. You’re either in it up to your neck or not all.