Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cutting Thoughts

Last week saw the launch of a new book by one of my favourite Tarot authors, James Ricklef.  Based on the spiritual wisdom posts from his blog, The Soul's Journey offers quotes from spiritual leaders and philosophers, as well as James' own insights.  What better time to explore his deck, Tarot of the Masters (self-published, currently in 3rd printing), with commentary from the new book?

The first card I drew is the Ten of Swords.  This perfectly illustrates the deck's premise.  It is based on paintings by Old Masters, which James chose for their relevance to tarot meanings, and then re-painted himself, tweaking here and there.  In this image, then, we have a picture of the Death of Caesar, which nicely blends the idea of someone stabbed in the back multiple times, while taking it further and showing some of the after-effects.  The group in the background are celebrating the dawn of a new era.  Of course, things didn't go quite as they intended, but that's a story for another card...

In The Soul's Journey, James says: "Through the deadly violence often depicted on this card, it has acquired a traditional meaning of brutality, although I generally see it more as the ideas, thoughts and beliefs involved than the actual acts themselves."  That is certainly apparent in the image he chose here, as the Roman senators acted because of their beliefs and values.  Yet, those beliefs and values are, to a degree, simply ideas, ways of understanding the world.  As Ricklef adds: "our world becomes a much smaller place when our perception of reality is limited by the illusions of naming and categorizing."  While this could easily be applied to those Roman senators, with their ideas about how Rome should be run, it can equally be looked at from our own perspective.

I think one of the reasons why I've never blogged with this deck before is because it pushes one of my self-categorising buttons.  My mother used to take me to lots of museums and art galleries as a child, and I hated it.  Even today, while I enjoy exploring art in some ways (not just through tarot cards, but also in small exhibitions) spending too long wandering around an art gallery always gives me terrible backache.  It also often leaves me feeling inadequate: both in terms of my own lack of art skills, but also in my lack of understanding of art, technique, and art history.  So, I tend to define myself as someone who doesn't know anything about art.

What a self-limiting belief!  It strikes me as bizarre, writing this, because I love art so much.  I guess I'd describe myself as not knowing much about it, but knowing what I like.  And yet, is that really true?  I analyse art in the form of tarot on an almost daily basis.  Not in terms of brush strokes or medium, but in terms of symbology, colour, and meaning.  Perhaps the new era I could allow to dawn today is one in which I acknowledge my passion for art, rather than denegrating myself for what I don't know.

I am grateful for the reminder not to limit myself through my own self-categorisation.

6 comments:

  1. Self restricting beliefs are like mosquito's, buzzing just to loud to ignore and almost untraceable. but the joy if you can catch one is so great!!

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    1. Ha, yes, that's a great way of putting it, Ellen! We're often unaware of these thoughts until we realise we've been scratching one spot til it's sore. It's interesting to get to the root of one of my childhood ones, and I'm glad if it lets me enjoy this deck all the more :)

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  2. I will be honest...I relate to this! I am an artist but I have never been a big fan of museums. I prefer a more lively and down-to-earth place to view art, like the classroom. I find museums boring and cold a lot of the time.

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    1. It's true that, when I was living in Madrid, I went to a couple of exhibition halls really regularly. It was because they were very small, just two or three rooms, and changed their displays about once a month. It was great to go and see some art, without the backache or the feeling that you had to spend all day. Nice to have the variety, too :)

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  3. Thank you for this nice introduction to my book and to my Tarot deck. Just a quick thought to add to what you’ve said here: Another application of this card’s message to the concept of art is, “What do you define as art?” Is art just what we find hanging on a wall in a frame? Truly, applying a definition to art is limiting because in reality, it surrounds us everywhere in one way or another. For example, right now I have an old picture of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner from my childhood posted as the cover picture on my personal FB page. My mother put a lot of care and attention into that meal, from preparing the food to setting the table, and it really was a work of art.

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    1. That's beautiful, James! I do think of other things as art, and have used the example of cooking myself. I guess I just still have that little voice in my head saying "Well, there's "fine art" and then there are crafty things." I shall try to reprogramme that voice :)

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