The May 1999 BATS was a fun event and a great success, where I was able to
meet for the first time many of the luminaries in the Tarot world, such as Mary
Greer, Alexandra and Ken Genetti, Amber Jayanti, Brian Williams, and Stevee
Postman. There were a total of 17 presentations, with 2 or 3 going on
simultaneously at all times, so what follows are only some of the highlights, since
(unfortunately) I could only be in one place at a time and thus couldn't get to
** The Minchiate Tarot **
The first presentation I went to was Brian Williams's preview of his new Minchiate
Tarot deck and book, estimated to be out in the Fall of this year. Brian told us
that the original Florentine deck of this name was from the Renaissance period
and had 97 cards. In addition to the 78 "traditional" cards, it had 12 for the signs
of the zodiac, 4 for the elements, and 4 to add in the "missing" virtues
(Prudence, Hope, Faith, and Charity). Brian was commissioned to create an
updated version of this interesting deck, and he closely followed the original
intent of the deck, retaining its structure and the basic form of the cards, creating
them in a Renaissance style. The backgrounds and borders for all 97 images will
be digitally added soon, but for now we were shown the artwork for all of these
cards in the "raw". And it was beautiful!
The following are a few notes about the structure of this deck:
** Some of the traditional Major cards are different. For example, there is no
Empress card. I can't remember the substituted card (Duke?), but it was male
instead of female. (Maybe they thought they had enough females with the
addition of Prudence, Hope, Faith, and Charity.)
** Most of the pips just have the suit symbols, decoratively drawn. However,
some have a little scene (some of which seem to be from Aesop's Fables)
** The pages are female for the "feminine" suits of coins and cups and male for
wand and swords.
** All of the knights are half man, half beast, with the beast being a lion for coins,
a griffin-esque fish monster for cups, and horses for wands and swords. (Too
bad it wasn't a dragon for wands and a Pegasus for swords, but I guess Brian
had to be true to the original version.)
Brian also noted that the book will address issues concerning the explanation
and justification of this variant Tarot structure, art history of the deck, divination
and meditation, symbolism in the deck, etc. It will have lots of pictures (he
showed us a few), and I think he said it will be a little over 200 pages.
** Elemental Dignities **
Elemental Dignities (ED) is one of those topics that has always made me tilt my
head and cock one ear in a mixture of ignorance and curiosity, so of course I was
anxious to hear what Mary Greer would have to say on the subject.
Mary opened her presentation by noting that ED is the technique that the Golden
Dawn used instead of reversals. She then provided a handy-dandy handout
outlining the concepts involved, which should serve as a great reference when I
start trying to use ED.
The traditional way of using ED relied on the concept that Air and Earth are
inimical to each other, as are Fire and Water. Thus, for example, if 2 Wand cards
are next to each other, they will boost each others' influence, for better or worse.
But if a Sword and a Pentacle are adjacent, they will weaken each other. Cups
and Pentacles support each other (but not as much), as do Swords and Wands.
Wands are *somewhat* hostile to Pentacles, and the same goes for Swords and
What Mary has discovered is that ED is based upon astrology. Since astrology is
not my forte, I felt my heart sink a little when I heard that. I couldn't imagine that
astrological comparisons were going to help me. Nevertheless, this did turn out to
be an informative talk.
First Mary charted the elemental signs. Picture a 12-spoked wheel with the top
spoke labeled Earth. Moving clockwise, label spokes Fire, Water, Air, and then
repeat this pattern for the remaining 8 spokes. Got it? Elements separated by
120 degrees and 180 degrees are mutually supportive. Those separated by 90
degrees are antagonistic, because they're never going to be seeing things from
the same vantage point, and those separated by 60 degrees have a similar, but
I'm sure the astrology guru's out there are now nodding their heads sagely. "Oh,
of course! How simple! Why didn't I think of that?" Meanwhile, we astrology
dummies are tilting our heads and cocking an ear. "Yeah, and ...?"
But I exaggerate; I wasn't as lost as all that. I really did understand the basic
concept that, for example, Fire and Water weaken each other, while Water and
Water strengthen each other. So let's go on from there. A couple points Mary
made that I found quite salient are:
** Inimical pairs indicate stress, but that can be used to show the querent an
opportunity for growth. Thus ED is a tool to help you spend more time with the
dynamics of the process instead of just looking at the "event" indicated.
** For inimical pairs, have the querent look for another card in the spread that
can mediate between them.
I'd have liked to see examples of these techniques, but unfortunately one of the
shortcomings of a symposium is the severe time limitation imposed on
** Spring Fever Symptom Solver **
As we sat in a circle around a Beltane alter that Melanie Oelerich prepared, she
presented her "Beltane Layout". Crescent Magazine has asked her to prepare a
layout for each of the Sabbats, but since the current issue wasn't going to make it
in time for Beltane, they asked her to make one for the Summer Solstice instead.
Since she had already created the Beltane spread, she decided to present it to
us at BATS.
According to the BATS program, "This layout reveals the active and the receptive
forces at work and the results of their interaction." The most interesting thing I got
out of it is that it provides a card for "what ritual you can do to deal with the
change." I thought that was a nice feature.
Tarot Symposium Reports -- BATS 1999
James Ricklef -- Tarot and more ...