The Key of It All: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Sacred Languages and Magickal Systems of the World
Book Two: the Western Mysteries

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This is not a Tarot book. It is an encyclopedia of Esoteric and Magickal systems issued in two large volumes. I mention it on my page because it has an excellent chapter on the Tarot. Do not be fooled by the word "chapter". This "chapter" is 198 pages long and these are large (7" X 10") pages. The author describes the Tarot as "the most important esoteric alphabet in the Western Magickal Tradition". Hulce purports to analyze:

Hulce discusses each of these subjects, if not in detail, at least well enough to open the door for further study and exploration. He provides a section for beginners which has concise suggestion for learning the art of divination. he recommends that beginners acquire decks: one based on the Marseilles, One based on the Golden Dawn, and two which the student must make for himself; one blank deck marked only with an abbreviation for each card and one drawn with images by student. The blank deck is used rather like flash cards. Once the interpretations have been memorized, the student uses this deck to test his/her knowledge. Hey, it works for learning multiplication!. Interpretations are provided for each of the cards from The Golden Dawn, Waite and Crowley. The best part is Hulce's discussion of the symbolism of the Waite-Smiuth deck. He discusses each card in turn and provides some interesting insights into the esoteric symbolism. Few details escape his notice. He also discusses the similarities between Pamela Coleman-Smith's work and the Mantegna Tarot. Hulce's style is lively for the most part, and he does not hesitate to chastise or criticize other Tarot commentators, most notably Waite. I find I refer to this book first when researching symbolism. I recommend this book to anyone starting a serious study of the Tarot. Hulce's tables, listings and discussions are a valuable resource.

The Key of It All
Author: David Allan Hulce
ISBN: 0-87542-379-5
Publisher: Llewellyn
Price: $24.95
 
Excerpt:

10 of Swords (Sun in Gemini)

The Golden dawn title for this card is "Lord of Ruin". Waite's own divinatory meanings for this card come from Mathers' pamphlet rather than from Book T. However, in picture image Waite is again faithful to the secret Golden Dawn title, portraying ruin as a body pierced by ten swords, as the yellow sky behind darkens into blackness (symbolizes a loss of consciousness, a backing out). Six of the 10 swords pierce the body at the six lower chakras: brow (head), throat, heart, navel, genitals, and perineum, while the spirit a red stream escapes from the seventh, or crown chakra.

It is a card which contains the Masonic ritualistic view that the body is a temporary abode for the spirit and must be respected and treated as such. This is also the slain body of Hiram Abiff, Master Mason of King Solomon's temple, who every third degree mason experiences on a personal ritualistic level. This is also the heart of Buddhism, the impermanence of this world and the inevitability of death, which only deep work on oneself can conquer.

The ten swords are symbolic of the tenth Sephirah Malkuth on the Tree of Life. Malkuth, which means kingdom or royalty is spelt in Hebrew as MLKVTH. These five letters can be rearranged to for the phrase KL MVTh which means "everything is subject to death"(literally "all die"). Waite shows this concept admirably as ten swords slaying the physical body (but not the spirit).

As to the astrological nature of this card, this is the third and last decan of Gemini, as the Sun in Gemini. There is no direct correlation to this design, however, Gemini rules the hands and the one hand shown I this design is in the mundra of the Hierophant's blessing hand, which means "as above, so below". This is a benediction that blesses heaven over earth and points to spirit conquering the travails of the body.

The Key of It All: Book Two, pg. 434 and 435

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Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson