The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 368, titled:
With Chris Brennan and tarot reader Joy Vernon
Episode originally released on September 13, 2022
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released September 14, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with astrologer and tarot reader Joy Vernon who’s joining me here in the studio in Denver today. Thanks for joining me.
JOY VERNON: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for inviting me over, Chris. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. So you came out to Denver, you live in Washington, but you came out to Denver to visit for the ISAR conference that happened this past week. And we go way back because you used to live here in Denver until a couple of years ago when you moved away, and you actually ran the biggest tarot meetup in Denver for many years.
JV: Yeah, that’s right. The Denver Tarot Meetup, and I also ran the Denver Tarot Geeks.
CB: Okay. And those groups, or at least one of those groups is still going, right?
JV: They both are. Yeah.
CB: Okay, nice. Yeah, cuz Denver seemed like it was one of the more– largely due to your influence– one of the more happening places for tarot for a number of years.
JV: Yeah, I like to think so. [laughs] Yeah, we had a very large active group with a lot; the Denver Tarot Meetup meetup had maybe nine events a month at one point or even more. So yeah, it was a very active group.
CB: Yeah. So you have come back to Denver and you’re catching up with old friends and stuff like that, and we were just at the coffee shop talking about a few topics and I was like, this would be great for the podcast. So I thought we’d do- I’ve been doing this sort of casual series where I have a casual Astro chat with different people over the past month, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to do one of those.
CB: All right. So first things first, one of the things I was catching you up on is I actually started learning tarot earlier this year starting around my birthday actually, the solar return year. I’ve been in a Pisces profection year with that Jupiter-Neptune conjunction and there was something about that, but when I first got into astrology I started studying astrology and tarot at the same time. But I felt early on that if I was going to specialize or truly master one of them, I needed to pick one. So I went with astrology because that was the one I was just more interested in at the time. So it’s been interesting things coming full circle and learning about tarot in retrospect now, at this point where I’m at my career almost 20 years later.
JV: Oh, that’s awesome.
CB: Yeah. So, astrology and tarot. First things first, I’m really struck by with tarot how as a form of divination, sometimes when I had an important or pressing question or topic on my mind, I would do a simple three-card spread– because that’s usually what I’m focused on at this point to keep things simple– I was struck by how much it would actually reflect or describe the situation that I found myself in and just that in and of itself kept striking me as not shocking, because I understand astrology and divination, all those things work intellectually or abstractly, but actually seeing it happen is another thing.
JV: Right. Yeah, and that’s one of the cool things about tarot. It strikes people immediately. Also, my teacher taught me to start doing readings for other people very early on, and I encourage people that study with me also to do that because not only do they have that immediate resonance with the cards that they get for their own readings, but when they then take it to that level of reading for even just friends or family let alone strangers, it’s even more shocking to realize that the cards can be so precisely aligned with what somebody else is going through, perhaps somebody you don’t even know. So yeah, I’m not surprised and I think it’s one of the really cool things about the medium.
CB: Right. So the purpose of that is to show you that it’s not just of reading for somebody else that’s really in your studies, that it’s not just you fooling yourself or convincing yourself through confirmation bias or something like that that the cards are actually speaking to you or reflecting what you’re thinking or focused on at the moment. But when you start doing that with other people, you realize it’s still working, even when you’re doing a reading for another individual.
JV: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
CB: Nice. Why does that work?
JV: Why does it work? [laughs]
CB: Yeah. Why do the tarot cards have to do with ideas of chance and fortune and fate and all of these things that you shuffle? Like most forms of divination, you shuffle the cards and then you pull out a few. And that that random chance like distribution of cards, even though it should be completely random and meaningless and purposelessness, for some reason through that random chance it actually should be or should speak meaningfully to you at the moment.
JV: Yeah. And how it works… I mean, I don’t know and I’ve never found the need to truly try to come up with a theory, I’m more interested in the fact that it does work. And the other problem with that being is I can easily come up with a psychological theory that, you know, “Oh, I see in it what’s relevant to me.” You know? I could come up with a magical theory that I’ve infused these cards with energy vibration or something that is lifting up the right cards, like, magnetically attracting the right cards to me or some such thing. I could come up with more of a spiritual thing that my guides are speaking through the cards to me. I can come up with a lot of different theories, but it’s more-
CB: Is there a time travel one where you actually time travel or you went back in time and like stepped on a dinosaur, or it’s like the butterfly effect where you change the sequence of events in your past in order to make the cards fall exactly in that way? Has anyone ever proposed that?
JV: No, you’re the first. You’re the first, but it’s going down in history because that’s now my new favorite theory. [laughs]
CB: Okay. Yeah, I’m gonna call that the Terminator theory, the Time Travel theory.
JV: Like my future self went back and rearranged the cards so that I’d get the right ones. I love it. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, exactly. You feel like you became a tarot card deck creator in the 1800s and then like, there we go.
JV: Yes. Yeah. I love it.
CB: All right. I’m taking copyright on that theory and I swear to God if I see anybody on Tik Tok repeating that theory without attribution, I’ll be very displeased.
JV: [laughs] All right. It’s brilliant.
CB: All right. Well, I like how there’s many different- One of the things we are talking about is there’s many different theories. Just like with astrology, there’s many different theories about how it could work. And different people tend to gravitate to the one that makes the most sense to them intellectually or abstractly or philosophically or religiously, but ultimately we are people that use this technology and we know that it works, even if we don’t have all of the answers to the secrets of the universe and know exactly how it works, just in the same way that I know how to drive a car even if I don’t fully know the mechanics of exactly how the car works. Or I know how to use a microwave even if I don’t exactly know how the microwave works or how to construct one if I had to build one from scratch.
JV: Yeah, exactly. Tarot likely is easier than a microwave, but it would be worth knowing. [laughs]
CB: Okay. We’ll see if there’s any microwave inventors in the audience. Maybe they can let us know in the YouTube comments.
JV: Yes, yeah.
CB: All right. So Tarot… So it works. It does this weird thing where sometimes it’s like the universe and it’s speaking to you, it’s the observation that I had earlier this year. And that wasn’t hugely surprising to me because I’m already familiar not just with natal astrology but also with Horary astrology, where if somebody has a single important pressing question on their mind and they pose it to an astrologer and the astrologer casts a chart for when they receive the question, the chart often will actually reflect not just the nature of the question but also the likely outcome or the answer to the question ‘Now comes the situation,’ which is similar to how tarot works from a practical standpoint.
JV: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, very similar. And when you do that and you’re looking at what comes up, it’s just immediately relevant. You can just immediately see your question in that chart. So yeah, it’s the same type of thing.
CB: If you understand the symbolism, if you know the basics of the planets and what the different parts of the chart mean or if you know the cards ahead of time whereas if you don’t know anything about it, it doesn’t mean anything to you because it’s just like another language or like a foreign language.
JV: One of the ways I teach tarot (and I have on my website the Quick Start Tarot Guide and kit, there’s a couple of different ways that I’ve packaged it) but when I’m teaching tarot, I focus a lot on the images and to me that’s one of the obvious differences between tarot and astrology, but at the same time I want to really emphasize it. And that with astrology, you’re working abstractly with very sparse symbols. Now there’s a tonne of information behind those symbols, but a lot of that does need to be learned. It’s a little bit less… I mean, I approached astrology very intuitively having been self-taught and not done it the right way at all, but I already had quite a background in symbolism. And then tarot is a little bit more accessible, in that it speaks with images. And there’s different types of decks, you can get decks that are going to speak more with symbols; Esoteric decks, Golden Dawn decks, and so on and so forth. But I promote any kind of an illustrated deck with scenes on all the cards for my beginning students so that they can dive right into the images themselves. Like, they would look at a storybook or storyboard for a movie or something like that and it comes alive very quickly even if you haven’t studied anything, even if you don’t have any sense of a meaning for the card– I say the cards have no meaning except in relationship to a question, a querent or person asking the question, and a context of the other cards laying in the spread.
CB: Okay. That’s a good point. That’s an interesting point. So you recommend starting certainly with the more illustrated decks if the symbolism is more clear and you have more to go off of, versus some decks they’re much more sparsely illustrated or the symbolism is harder to get get to.
JV: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, you know, astrologers would actually do fine with the more… If they want to just read tarot right away, they would be fine working with those Esoteric decks because the Esoteric decks usually have the symbols printed on the card. And so you would immediately be able to see, you know, that the two of cups is Venus in Cancer and boom, you would have a feeling for that. Whereas a non-astrologer starting with tarot, that may or may not mean anything to them. And so having a picture of two people together looking lovingly at each other, that kind of thing would bring out that energy and that symbolism of the card.
CB: Okay. And so it’s important, and what’s a crossover between astrology and tarot that’s so important is that you’re looking at things symbolically and you’re interpreting the symbolism that’s inherent in whatever the symbol is, and you’re supposed to reflect on that and think deeply on that. But the symbolism in it of itself contains some information that’s relevant to the person that’s thinking or asking the question at that time?
JV: Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, you kind of said a mouthful there [laughs] so I could kind of go off in a few different tangents, but yeah.
CB: Go off, please. Symbolism. Dealing with symbolism.
JV: There’s different ways of looking at symbolism, and I’ve written quite– maybe not quite a lot, but I’ve written certainly several posts on it on my blog. There’s different forms of symbolism. There is the type of symbols that we’re used to working with as astrologers like planetarium glyphs and zodiacal glyphs. There’s cabbalistic symbolism, there is… But there’s also… I’ll give an example. A student had asked me in a class one time about the full card and he has a stick over his shoulder– sometimes this shoulder, sometimes this shoulder– in an odd configuration, and the stick has a bag on it. And they said, “Well, what’s in the bag?” And I said, “I don’t know.” [laughs] That none of the decks have it open, how would I know? And they’re like, “Oh, well, the fool carries his memories in the bag.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, you probably read that from somebody really smart that wrote a book and that’s awesome.” And I think I didn’t follow through with that anymore and I said, “Yeah, that sounds totally right to me. I can see that the fool has memories, that that works.” But a day or two later, and this was when I was living in Denver, I had walked down to get some cat food. Okay? It’s about a mile and I was going to take the bus back, but something was going on and the bus schedule was super messed up. And so I kept walking to the next bus stop thinking that I’d catch the bus and I ended up missing two buses doing that, and finally just decided to walk home. And I started thinking about this question this student had. I’m carrying a bag with cat food in it, and I’m like, “You know, the fool has cat food in his bag.” Because the fool often has mountains in the background and I had just passed an intersection where I looked down the road towards the mountains. And I was just like, “I’m the fool. I’m walking home, I missed my bus because of my foolish choices about how to catch this bus on this weird schedule. And now I’ve got cat food in my bag, and I’m the fool walking at home and he’s got his little companion with him nipping at his heels. And it’s like that companion’s very happy that he’s about to get fed.”
And so to me, the symbolism is much more… There’s much more of an immediacy to it. And there can be this abstract, “Oh, he carries memories in his bag,” but I prefer more of a really tangible, practical, you know, like, “What’s currently in your bag? What currently are you carrying? What’s your current most important need that you’re carrying with you on this particular journey?” And it can be an everyday thing like cat food, or it can be something really big and powerful depending on the type of question you ask and all kinds of other things. So I really love all forms of symbolism, but I think that type of super-practical immediate type of symbolism ultimately works the best.
CB: Okay, so it’s contextually specific to the question the symbolism is, and also there’s an elasticity to it as well?
JV: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. And it seems like there’s a lot of different overlapping symbolisms that you can take and I’ve seen different books that just go through the tarot cards. And then there’s many different attempts to overlay different types of symbol systems onto them. Like, this is the number of the card. This is the Deccan associated with it. This is the Hebrew letter associated with a card or what have you. And some of that honestly would seem kind of overwhelming and seeming like going pretty far, and so one of the things I tried to focus on early on was just the images themselves and the symbolism of the images and focusing on learning that initially before going too far and integrating other overlapping symbolism in order to try to squeeze more out of the card.
JV: Absolutely. And that’s totally the way I teach it. My approach to tarot and to teaching tarot is to start people off, not like almost… I don’t think this is totally true anymore but you’ll still see an abundance of tarot teachers that say, “The very first thing we’ll do is memorize the meanings of the cards,” or some such thing as that. Or, “I’m going to teach you the Major Arcana in class one and then…” And it’s like, there’s no possible way to learn the Major Arcana in one class unless you’re teaching some more… Yeah, I won’t go into that. But if I just sit down and tell you 22 meanings for the cards, you’re not going to know a thing about the Major Arcana. Let me just summarise it that way.
CB: It’s too much information, too overwhelming.
JV: And it’s too limited. It’s both.
CB: Okay. In what way is it limited?
JV: If I just tell you, “Oh, here’s 22 meanings for 22 cards,” you’re not really going to understand the full complexity of those cards. Some ways that the Major Arcana can be taught simply are to look at what we call the tableau, which are certain arrangements of the cards. And I’ve got a blog post on this as well and a YouTube video.
CB: Is that like the card layout that you pick?
JV: No, that would be a spread, I think is probably what you’re referring to. A Tableau is a certain arrangement of all 22 of the Major Arcana. And then by laying them out– like, the most popular one is a trestle board pattern that has the full at the top and then three rows of seven cards. There are some other variations even on that. There’s several different ways of laying out figure eight patterns. I have what I teach, which is a 3-7-12 pattern. Well, it’s actually 12-7-3 but yeah. And starting to see relationships more than just a series of meanings helps immensely.
CB: So kind of like with the zodiac, I’ve been doing this series on the signs of the zodiac over the past six months and it’s been interesting how when you have one sign, there’s almost this corrective quality that the sign that follows after it has. Like, you know, Aries is very fast but then Taurus is very slow, or Leo is very like showy but then Virgo gets very humble all of a sudden. And some of that has to do with what is the natural sequence of the zodiac. But here you’re saying that there’s something like that here, where there’s different sequences that you could arrange things, and depending on the sequence, that’s gonna tell you different things about how the cards relate to and play off of each other?
JV: Precisely. And if you can become familiar with maybe two or three different… Start with one, but eventually work towards two or three different tableaus in just experimenting. I don’t want to say study and I don’t want to say meditate, but just experimenting with what does this mean if these two cards now become related? You’ll uncover huge amounts of information that way. And it just takes a sense of curiosity to do that.
CB: Okay. All right, that’s cool. There’s so much there. One of the things that was interesting to me that I started getting into before I did take a little bit of a break was when there were certain cards- I was using inverted cards, I don’t know if you use inversions.
JV: I do, but I don’t quite do it the way some people do. And I don’t emphasize it for students that are just beginning.
CB: For beginners, yeah. One of the things that was interesting in some of the interpretations or when I got some interpretations or some advice from different tarot readers on Instagram of certain layouts was certain figures and certain cards when they’re looking back in a certain direction, other cards or other figures and different things like that started getting really interesting with the depth and complexity of the symbolism depending on what the specific card pool that you have.
JV: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really good way of working with those identifying the direction. One of the main client decks I use, actually slightly sadly, has almost everybody facing straight out. [laughs] And so it’s a little bit lean on that particular technique. But yeah, looking at that, looking at who’s facing each other, who’s not, who has their backs to each other, if somebody seems to be entering into the situation… Yeah, all that kind of stuff is really nice.
CB: Okay, nice. So like that layer of symbolism. And I started with this deck that I really liked on my birthday, which I think is called The Fountain Tarot.
JV: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s an amazing deck.
CB: Yeah, the illustrations are just so beautiful. I was really drawn to that and I think that’s why I started because I saw it at the local apothecary, at Apothecary Tinctura, and picked it up there and then started using it on my birthday last year. But then I realized, even though it’s also very beautiful that I wanted to go back and learn the original symbolism of some of the cards, so I started gravitating towards the Rider–Waite tarot deck in order to understand since it seemed like so many of the later tarot decks have been derived from that at this point as the foundational one. Well, not entirely foundational, but foundational for our era maybe in some sense about a century ago.
JV: You’re right. Right, right. And the Fountain tarot, you probably know was made by Denver people.
CB: I did not. I don’t know if I knew that.
JV: Yeah. Well, I’m not 100% sure if they’re currently in Denver, but it was a group of three people; Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, and Andi Todaro. Jonathan was an artist and he painted it, I believe, in Mexico. But they were living in Denver. I mean, they were not living in Denver, they were living in Mexico, but you know what I mean. [laughs]
CB: Okay. And I do remember that because you hosted a Tarot conference in, what was it? 2015?
JV: 2015, yeah.
CB: You know what’s funny about that is you organized that Tarot and you brought Austin into town in order to speak at it. And he was one of my best friends so he came over and stayed with us, him and his partner Kaitlin came and stayed with me and Leisa for that conference. And the previous month I had just gotten back from a Northwest Astrology Conference that was in May and I hung out a bunch with Kelly, Kelly Surtees, and then her and I came up with the idea of starting to do some forecast episodes together like a monthly forecast in the podcast. And we did one of them after NORWAC and then the very next month when it was about time to do the next, Austin was in town for that conference and he was staying with us. And Kelly and I were about to record and I just happened to, on a lark, I was like, “Hey, Austin, do you want to join me and Kelly for this forecast?” And he was like, “Yeah, sure.” And so he joined us and we did our very first forecast then. What month that was? That was like June or July.
JV: It was the end of June of 2015. Yeah.
CB: Yeah, it was during a Venus retrograde.
JV: Well, there was the Venus-Jupiter conjunction too that month.
CB: Yeah, it was a Venus retrograde and Venus-Jupiter conjunction. Because I always remember and associate that Venus retrograde and that Venus-Jupiter conjunction because right around that time the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage right at the same time. But also the other thing that happened was me and Austin and Kelly did the first forecast episode together as a team, but it was due to you having Austin in town. So basically you can take credit for the entirety of all subsequent forecast episodes and all the success of the podcast since then.
JV: [laughs] Oh, my God. I really am enjoying being back in Denver, because so many people that I have met up with have given me some kind of credit for some amazing development in their life and I’m just like, “I don’t do anything, I swear.” And it’s just been funny so far and now one of my heroes is telling me that I’ve influenced him, and so this is cracking me up and I’m super embarrassed at the same time. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, it’s like the astrology or tarot version of Forrest Gump and he goes around just changing world events accidentally during the course of the 20th century, but he doesn’t really know that he’s done that and…
JV: [laughs] That is perfect. I’m totally Forrest Gump, I will take that. I will take that and except that. I totally love it.
CB: Yeah, with your knapsack full of cat food. I love that. So yeah, that was a big deal. Oh, yeah, I want to clarify. I remember the Fountain Tarot actually had a display and I got a poster actually of theirs at that conference. But I think actually to clarify something because even though I was like that deck, the one I actually got from the apothecary and started with on my birthday was the Field Tarot. Have you seen that one?
JV: I think I have. I don’t have it, though.
CB: Okay if you have’nt. But I just wanted to clarify that. So the Field Tarot was the one I started working with but then I realized I needed to learn the Rider–Waite deck so I’ve been working with the Rider–Waite since that time.
JV: Well, and I’m glad you said that because it helps me circle back to some of the other, the one I said, “Oh, this could take me in a lot of different directions.” One of the other directions is I actually– a few years ago, maybe I don’t know, as many as 10 years ago but probably seven or eight years ago, I actually started forbidding the Rider–Waite-Smith deck in my classes. And it was because of several reasons. One of the primary ones that led to that was just the fact that it was starting to be everybody was showing up with that deck. And… Oh, those are beautiful images. And that’s a little more pip-ish. And oh, yeah, with that three of disks, that’s definitely got a Thoth influence as well.
CB: Oh, I like that. You’re like a history historian where you can see the influences of the symbolism and artistry in images.
JV: Yeah. Well, it’s really relevant for understanding how a deck works is what its lineage is. So, yeah. But with this Rider–Waite-Smith thing, more and more people are showing up to class. And I like having a variety of decks. And if Rider–Waite-Smith is one out of a variety, it doesn’t bother me. But the other thing that happened was when students were showing up with a Rider–Waite-Smith deck, they were feeling much more tied to some innate meaning in the card. And much more a sense of “Well, Rachel Pollack says. Well, Mary Greer says. Well, in the accompanying booklet, Arthur Waite says…” And much less able to experiment and play with the deck and just let the deck be what it wants to be. And so I started saying you can’t use this deck. And I have nothing whatsoever against the deck, I love it. I do think that every tarot reader needs to have all of those images firmly emblazoned in their memory, but yeah, I don’t want people to begin… I don’t want my students to begin with that due to this over-dependence on there is a right answer for this deck because this deck is the ultimate end-all-be-all of tarot. And I bumped into somebody at a Cherry Creek Arts Festival right before I left Denver and we got to talking, I really liked his art quite a bit. We got to talking and he obviously had some tarot background. And he said, “Oh, I’m thinking about doing a deck. I would use the right symbolism, the correct symbolism,” and I kept my mouth shut. But I was just kind of laughing. I was like, “What’s the right symbolism? Is it a TdM symbolism? Is it a Visconti symbolism? Is it a Rider-Waite-Smith? Is it the Thoth? I suspected from his artwork that he meant the Thoth symbolism. Is it straight Golden Dawn symbolism? I don’t know what the right symbolism is.” So yeah, there isn’t that kind of right symbolism to me, there’s just different lineages.
CB: Okay. Yeah. So it’s kind of like with astrology where astrologers in modern times commonly use the analogy of astrology as a language, and there’s many different approaches to astrology that are kind of speaking different languages. And then Rob Hand famously said something like, you know, on the question of which astrology is the correct one, he says that’s like asking which language is correct, French or German or English? And that it’s kind of a nonsensical question when you understand that they’re just different approaches to conveying information or to listening to how the universe speaks.
JV: Yeah, exactly. And different people will resonate with different styles. With my beginning, one of my approaches is starting people on illustrated decks that aren’t the Rider-Waite-Smith and getting them to really engage with the images, tell the stories– but I have really structured approaches to how to do that– and working with those images to tease out a sequence of events or a sequence of actions, a plot of a story. And what happens is as people become more familiar with doing that and not getting bogged down in meanings of the cards, it opens up their creativity and that really tends to access the intuition. That’s another thing about Tarot versus astrology, is that Tarot is very imagistic, and imagery is read in the back of the head in the occipital lobe. That’s the same part of the brain that deals with visions and with dreams, and by focusing on imagery, we activate that part that is older that’s more intuitive and less logical. And that’s what you really want in your tarot reading practice. And ultimately in your divination practice of any form including astrology is to be able to connect with that part that is going to allow this kind of a deeper language, since we’ve been using that word that’s a good one, a deeper more eternal type of language to come up and come out as you speak the images. And so when I can have people start working that way, when we get out of tarot and start to learn astrology and then learn some Kabbalah. And then when we conclude, I do (I used to, I don’t anymore, someday I’ll do it again) a year-long program that starts with beginning tarot and ends with Esoteric Tarot. By the time then you get to Esoteric Tarot where you are reading just simple glyphs and symbols as you would in astrology, you’ve developed this ability to speak those images and to speak the symbolism as a story. And if you just start with memorizing meanings and go on to… And I do make people memorize all the different glyphs and correspondences for the full deck. [laughs] There are tests every week in my Esoteric Tarot class, some tests with dozens or even a hundred questions on them. But really quite easy and fast to do once you’ve memorized everything. But by the time they get to that, they’re not just seeing it as these abstract blank symbols that are silent. They’re coming at it from these are kind of markers to the story that just opens up. And so yeah, living images. So yeah, it’s a process but it has to start at the beginning with not worrying about the logical approach, the frontal lobe approach to learning tarot, but activating that intuitive visual from the beginning. When I started doing astrology after having, at that time maybe having 20 years of Tarot experience, I immediately was seeing… And I have an astrology talk on this topic. [laughs] I was immediately seeing stories and mythology in the actual… Not just like, “Oh, I happen to know that Venus is Aphrodite,” I was seeing in the actual arrangement and the way the aspects laid out and stuff like that. I was seeing stories almost immediately, which is why I went off on a weird tangent being self-taught, and eventually did have to go back and learn a few things. [laughs]
CB: Yeah. Something that’s funny, I just mentioned that because I was trying to find the right word for your thought of the way you were describing the cards and I said living images. But I just realized that’s exactly what the original Greek word for the signs of the zodiac meant, which was Zōidion. And one of my teachers, Robert Schmidt, struggled with how to translate that word for many years and he left it untranslated in many of his translations of Hellenistic texts like Valens and Ptolemy because he couldn’t come up with a word that conveyed both of the meanings. Because on the one hand it meant a living animal or a living being, something that was alive, but on the other hand it meant an image or a representation of something. And I just realized that that’s actually exactly what that word Zōidion meant, originally. It meant a living image just like you’re describing. A Tarot image is a living image that even though we put it representationally as it’s this 2D image on a flat piece of paper or card stock, it’s meant to actually be alive and to convey something that has depth and meaning and movement. And it’s not just fixed or static, necessarily.
JV: Absolutely. And you’ll see that word all over astrological magic text to create an image. Create an image, is always how it’s phrased. And sometimes they mean [crosstalk]. Well, yes. And that is definitely what it means. But I can’t help but notice that when they say create the image they’re also describing the chart.
CB: Create a chart?
JV: Yeah, because the chart is the image.
CB: Like an election?
JV: Yeah. Well, astrological magic being mostly about that. But that part’s not too surprising. But the very fact that at least the way I read it, which I have no any experience whatsoever or knowledge, but yeah, I’m always coming across ‘create an image that contains these things,’ which is how to elect the chart for the operation. But one other component, and even when you’re looking at the Picatrix and the Decanic images, you know, my first thought when I first came across the Decanic images, which I came across on Ben Dykes’ website which he doesn’t have up there anymore, I don’t think, or at least it was gone for a while when he went to new website. You know, I’m like, “Well, I want to see the images. Where are the images? Who drew the images?”
CB: Of the 36 decans?
JV: Yeah. And of course, obviously, there’s the [unintelligible 00:10:29] images, and there’s some other ones. But it finally occurred to me after a lot of work with it and contemplation, it’s like, “Oh, you’re not supposed to see images, you’re supposed to visualize the images. And that’s why they’re written in words.” You know, certainly people have the ability to draw things going way, way, way back and so these are all written in words. And so it’s the process of imagining it, again, which is activating this. You’re taking the words, which is from the frontal lobe, and you’re moving it back into the back of the head where you’re connecting with what you’re describing as the living image. And you’re supposed to be visualizing and imagining. And that is what really activates the subconscious and brings up… Well, and I won’t- [laughs] You’re reaching for a book and I don’t want to go too far off.
CB: No, keep going. I’m reaching for Austin’s book because it’ll illustrate your point, but keep going.
JV: Okay. Okay. You have a really fancy copy of it. I just bought the paperback when it came out.
CB: Even the paperback is really hard to find at this point. They did a limited print run with his original publisher years ago, and that’s part of the deal, but when they ran out, they ran out. So that book is selling for a lot on eBay. People are like scalping Austin’s book or selling their firstborn children or something to get a copy of Austin’s 36 Faces. [Joy laughs] But he did do some early talismanic versions. He did a super special limited edition.
JV: That’s gorgeous.
CB: And he set aside one of them for me, I call it The Golden Book, but it’s a super special slipcase version with a golden cover. He did 36 of these and he saved one for each of the decans. And he saved, I believe it’s Scorpio one, the first decan of Scorpio for me because that’s my Sun sign.
JV: Of course, yes. Nice.
CB: Yeah, it’s one of those super rare or super cool things of being a friend with a famous astrologer. So make your astrology friends early, because then once they come out with really cool books, then you might get one.
JV: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s very good. Yeah. The first decan of Scorpio is the Five of Cups. The Five of Cups reversed, which I actually did pull this week, my teacher taught me he taught me some fortune telling meanings, and the Five of Cups reversed is a return of an old friend. [laughs]
CB: Nice, I like that. That’s perfect. I’m just pulling out one of Austin’s descriptions of one of the decans like that first decan. I don’t know… And how he describes, the very first paragraph he says, “In the first face of Scorpio, hunger awakens. Needs stir and then open a hundred eyes. For this decan, Ibn Ezra pictures a beautiful red-bodied woman eating. Her very flesh the color of passion, she satiates her hunger. Ibn Ezra’s image is perhaps the most direct of the images given to this decan for it shows the satisfaction of hunger in the most literal of terms. A grip in his three books of occult philosophy (skipping forward a paragraph) offers an image of two men striking a dignified woman through the violence of this scene is undeniable. The men’s motivations are unclear…” Blah, blah, blah. Anyways, he’s trying to describe because he takes like, I think four or five different sources or different images that are handed down through the tradition both in the Western, Mediaeval, and sometimes Hellenistic tradition. And also he draws on I think at least one from the Indian tradition of different ways that they describe what at some point were probably visual images which are actually written out, but they described them in these striking metaphorical terms.
JV: Yeah. And it’s Mars in Scorpio, Mars really in the first decan of Scorpio, and so the red flesh the men striking, that all aligns pretty well with that placement.
CB: Yeah. I was just trying to find an example to describe what you’re talking about in terms of the way the decans are described as images in the same way that if you had a tarot card in front of you and then you had to write out a description of that, you would try to describe the image that you’re seeing.
JV: Right. Yeah, yeah.
CB: So there’s a parallel there between astrology and tarot in terms of the use of images and image being an important thing. But one of your points was it’s not just the visual image itself, it’s the description of the symbolism that it contains. And that’s one of the things Austin was trying to get to the heart of in his book in unpacking the symbolism underlying the actual images.
JV: Yeah, I would say actually kind of the opposite, that I think the words of the image are designed to be imagined, to be visualized. And so it’s taking words and translating words into images, as opposed to finding the words. And obviously as a tarot reader, that’s what I have to do all day, [laughs] is put words around images so that it certainly goes both ways. But to get into the magic of it and the transformational qualities of it, it’s really taking and enlivening and ensouling those images, and visualizing them, seeing them as living, seeing them as interacting and all of that. I don’t know, it gets complicated [laughs] I’m not sure where to go with it.
CB: Yeah. So living images, creating an image, that was an interesting thing you brought up from the magical tradition that they’ll say create an image or they’ll say draw something. And sometimes it’s almost like a visualization of something if it’s something that you want to see, like if two people are supposed to get together or something like that, let’s say hypothetically you’re supposed to draw two figures in an embrace or something like that.
JV: Right. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. So there’s this whole historical tradition that crosses over between astrology and tarot that has to do with the importance of images, but there being other things surrounding that, tying it into the notions of language and symbolism and other things like that?
CB: I was surprised. So the tarot… I was trying to do a little historical research because that was another thing I was interested in. The Rider-Waite deck was constructed in the early 1900s and there’s an interesting story there that’s only been recovered in recent years in terms of the woman that illustrated the cards, right? What’s the short version of that story?
JV: Well, I guess I would want you to be more specific. I know certainly many stories about that so I guess I’m curious which one you’re referencing.
CB: It’s called the Rider-Waite deck, usually, and so Arthur Edward Waite who was an occultist in the early 20th century is often given the main credit for it, and he was the one that…
JV: Okay. Yeah, yeah. So Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith were both members of the Golden Dawn, both of them were. And so he-
CB: That’s like occult society in the early 1900s?
JV: Yeah, exactly. He certainly was a bit of a know-it-all, she was just a very much more artistic, kind of intuitive, very personable type so they were basically opposites. [laughs] And I think what you might be referencing, because I do believe that I mentioned this recently, is the idea that Arthur Waite has been given credit for developing that deck, but a lot of people had started wondering like, “Is that true? To what degree did he really influence this? And to what degree did… What did she bring to the equation?” And Robert Place wrote an excellent book, his book on… Oh, I’m really bad with book titles. I want to say it might be called Tarot History. But it’s by Robert Place, he’s got a number of amazing books and this one I really loved a lot of what he was talking about. But he made a very simple observation that I think was very profound that when Arthur Waite described the images of the Minor Arcana cards, he frequently got it wrong. He frequently described something that wasn’t actually in the image. And that led to the conclusion that probably Pamela Colman Smith had just done these on her own, or you know, with a little bit of guidance. Clearly you can see in the cards a clear sense of the astrological correspondences, he probably just gave her a list of astrological correspondences and let her loose with it. I love Kabbalah, I don’t find often the Minor Arcana to match as well with the Kabbalah as they do with the astrology. The Thoth deck matches the Kabbalah a lot better. And sometimes you totally see the Kabbalistic correspondences in those Rider-Waite-Smith pip cards, but a lot of times I think the astrology is really where she’s pulling the most of her meaning from. So, yeah.
CB: You think she was mainly influenced by the astrology and some of the symbolism that she chose?
JV: Yeah, that’s how I experience it. Yeah.
CB: There’s a good Wikipedia page that goes into her and draws on some sources but one of the interesting stories I was seeing come up as I was trying to research on her history is that there’s been a movement to give her more credit or give her rightful credit for that over the past decade or two, including I think there was a commemorative deck that was released for her or something like that.
JV: Yeah, on the 100-year anniversary. It was published in 1909, so I guess 2009 is probably about when that came out.
CB: Right, it was just a couple of years ago, right?
JV: Well, a little bit more now. [laughs] [crosstalk] I could be wrong, because the other thing that’s happened recently is I think that deck finally came out. There’s arguments about this so I don’t want to say anything definitively, but there’s been a lot of ongoing arguments about whether or not it’s under copyright anymore. And I think that the people that are saying it’s not under copyright are currently winning that argument. And so there’s a lot more decks that are using that imagery before US games really had it locked up.
CB: Yeah, what I saw when I tried looking into this was that the original deck is no longer in copyright because it was created in 1909. But there’s been some of the later variations of it when they did revised editions in later decades in the ’70s or ’80s or whatever where they updated or tweaked the coloring or something, that they argue that those are still under copyright and so people can draw on or repurpose the original deck if you have access to the original images or what have you. But some of the later ones that are more common are still under copyright or something like that.
JV: Yeah, it’s pretty complicated. I mean, I learned that deck is the Rider-Waite deck, and it wasn’t honestly until I joined the Denver Tarot Meetup that I even heard people calling it the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. And of course I jumped on that bandwagon right away because I do think that the artist is very important because I focus on images. So, yeah.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, that’s a cool little bit of history that at some point I’d like to dial into or dive into more just because she seems like an interesting character, and it’s interesting having that history fleshed out more or rediscovered in retrospect.
JV: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Yeah, so that’s interesting. Consultations in person, you and I were talking a little bit earlier at the coffee shop how– and we actually did, just before you move from Denver, you and I and Lisa recorded a discussion here in the studio about doing consultations in person that I released on the Casual Astrology podcast for patrons. That was a really great discussion that I remember having and that’s something you’ve been sort of encountering again, which I think is so unique whereas you built your practice up locally as a local tarot reader and astrologer seeing people in person face-to-face, and then over the past few years you’ve had to do more online stuff due to the pandemic and everything else like everyone else is doing using Zoom and things like that. But you said you noticed that some people really prefer or seem to prefer for whatever reason in-person tarot readings rather than doing it online.
JV: Yeah, and it’s been a little frustrating because most of the astrologers I know have a practice that’s exclusively online and has been for years. And I had an in-person practice in a few online ones, but not very… I mean, I remember trying to learn Zoom and Leisa just going, “Joy, it’s not that hard.” [laughs] So I’ve been gone from Denver for more than two and a half years and came back and had some in-person slots available. I was at ISAR’s books for a couple of days. And there were two clients specifically that had not seen me or had a reading with me since before I left, and both of them were just like, “Oh, I can’t find anybody to get a reading from. You’re the only one.” [laughs] And I’m like, “Why haven’t you booked online?” And they’re just like, “No, I can’t. The energy is not the same, it’s not going to be as good.” I’m like, “Well, just try it. Just book a short reading and just give it a try and see what happens,” even though they’re telling me that nobody else can read for them. Also when I was strictly online, and then I opened up some in-person things– I rented a co-working space, which was not ideal but I’ve been having trouble finding office space– as soon as I opened up in-person readings, my reading shot up. And then I had to close it because the co-working space was being closed down, and then boom, my readings fell off again. I can’t explain it, people think there’s a certain energy. Certainly I think my online readings are just as good as my in-person, I feel the same energetic connection. What finally occurred to me and I’ve been talking to a number of my friends about this, I think what happens is that the other person, my client, does not feel the energetic connection. I’m trained to feel that and so I feel it very easily. It never really occurred to me that just because I’m feeling it, they’re not. Whereas if they were in person, they’d be much more in tune with what’s going on. So I think that’s probably a lot of it. Um, there there can be some other things such as a person getting a reading from home or… Man, people that call in from their cars. I don’t know why they do that. You know, there’s a lot more distractions for them. They’re much less likely to be able to have a focused experience. And if they booked an in-person, they would be forced to get the babysitter or to arrange their day such that they could arrive at the location prior to the start of the reading, and so on and so forth. And when they’re doing an online thing, they’re like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, I can still watch my kid and get a reading. I can still drive to pick up my kid at school and get a reading.” I’ve had people trying to get readings while they’re on break from work [laughs] and being like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to get back.” And it’s like, okay, they’re distracted.
CB: There’s something really interesting about that, just the idea that there might be more of a culture surrounding tarot where people expect to do readings in person more, or that they have more of that just because maybe it’s more common that at any metaphysical shop around the country or the world you can walk in and there will likely be a tarot reader that you can get a reading from in person and have that immediate but also personal exchange between them. It’s interesting to me the idea that maybe people are more used to that or more expecting of that versus doing it online, perhaps.
JV: Yeah, I think that is definitely part of it. Also, the very fact that it’s a visual medium, they’re also used to seeing the images. And of course, I have experimented with a card cam. And having that on the cards, it’s kind of a lot to be honest. You have this amazing studio here and I have like a multipurpose room that has to serve as my office and as my sewing studio and my jewelleries-making studio and my home office. Well, the couch is mostly my home office these days. But yeah, it’s multipurpose. And so having a permanent setup is not really practical for me. And setting up a special card cam every single time I do a reading, I find to be intrusive to just being ready and present to do the reading. I simply hold up each card as I’m talking about it. I just hold it up to the camera so people can see the image. When I’m doing the opening of the key, which is a very big spread with a lot of cards, then I set up the card cam because it’s really fascinating to watch the entire thing unfold. That’s more interesting and I don’t get as many people signing up for that one so it’s easy enough to just set up the card cam on those days. But yeah, there’s a lot of factors I think. And I still don’t have the total solution other than just to keep looking for a really good office space. But it also limits my clients to what’s local.
CB: Yeah. Well, it was just interesting to me the idea that there might be more of a culture or an expectation for in-person tarot readings as opposed to astrology, which while that used to be obviously more common doing astrological consultations in person, that even those there’s less of an expectation of that at this point, and maybe it has to do with the visual nature of things or even just some of the distraction stuff you were talking about. I mean, with tarot, it’s much more explicitly taken for granted that it’s a form of divination or that it’s something oracular, and going to an oracle is supposed to be a whole experience somehow in and of itself. And maybe there’s something surrounding that in tarot where that expectation is more obvious, versus astrology sometimes is treated as something that’s more abstract and intellectual and numbers-based or what have you.
JV: Yeah. I need a new office that is over a chasm in the Earth and get my three-legged stool and bring people in to pass out from the fumes. [laughs] Then they’d get their money’s worth.
CB: Like the oracle at Delphi?
JV: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, that’s so funny. And there’s those research papers where they say that there were fumes that came out of the Earth and that that may have contributed to the oracular trans-like state that the oracles got into or what have you. Yeah, that would be good. Well, if you do that, let me know because I will definitely come out for one of those readings.
JV: You’d pay for that.
CB: Yeah, for sure.
JV: I’ll keep that in mind.
CB: The fumes part is going to be an extra $20 or something like that.
JV: Right, exactly. There’s a surcharge for that. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, that’s definitely an add-on. Okay, so let’s see other things. We’re talking about publishing. I talked to a few astrologers this week who were wanting to write books who are professional astrologers. And they were having that tension that I went through because of this weird transitional state that we’re in with the publishing industry about whether to go with a big major established publisher to publish an astrology book, whether to go with a smaller-sized publisher, medium-sized publisher or whether to self-publish because so many astrologers are moving to self-publishing at this point and all of the different pros and cons that go along with each of those. And that’s something you’ve been thinking about a little bit because you want to write some books, right?
JV: Yeah. I looked it up recently. I have 450,000 words published on my blog, which is the equivalent of five to six… Not hefty the way your book is hefty, but still respectable size books.
CB: Right. So not bludgeoning-size books like mine.
JV: Not something that could come up in a murder mystery as- [laughs]
CB: Right, as a murder weapon?
JV: Yes, exactly.
CB: If it was Clue or something like that, the board game. It was like, “It was in the attic with the large Hellenistic astrology tome, and it was the groundskeeper and he murdered him with the book.”
JV: Yeah, exactly, precisely. But, unfortunately, I have trouble staying on a single topic, so all of those blog posts everybody’s like, “Oh, just throw some blog posts together in a book,” I’m like, “That would not be a coherent thing to do.” But, no, that kind of stuff is a big consideration, the freedom to just write the craziest thing that I really want to talk about and know that it might not appeal to a wide audience versus somebody I know in publishing suggested write your best thing. Well, my best thing is going to be pretty crazy and not necessarily accessible.
CB: And you mean detailed or high-level type stuff?
JV: Yeah, that wouldn’t need a lot of explanation just to even get into. It wouldn’t be the kind of thing that you could just pick up and flip through to the middle of the book and read a chapter, read a page and say, “Oh, I totally am on board with this.” You might have to… I don’t know, maybe you could, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. It just seems like there’s a lot of kind of stepping people into the processes that I do and work with and teach and use with clients and with students and all of that. I think where I’m coming down on the whole idea is I feel like one of the main things is if you have a big audience of your own self-publishing, and this is the perfect example of you, you have a huge following, but even at the time you published your book, you already had a huge following. And so self-publishing made tons of sense for you. I don’t have a huge following, and so going with a bigger publisher might mean less money for me, but it might mean better distribution.
CB: Yeah, because then that in and of itself would then create your audience for you and create a reputation nationally or worldwide because you would be the person that published that book that lots of people read.
JV: Yeah. So that’s kind of where I’m coming down on the divide, although it’s still hard and complicated to process, and ultimately maybe there’ll be some things that I self-publish and then some things that I go through a publisher. It’s a big question, and there’s a lot of moving parts.
CB: Yeah, and it’s tough because the trade-off is if you go through a publisher, then you don’t make anything basically, you hardly make anything, but it gets better distribution. Whereas if you self-publish, then you make all of the proceeds, but then there’s a lot more startup costs because you’ve got to fund the entire production of the book which includes editing, diagrams, cover illustration, layout, which is a huge thing, indexing, which is a huge thing, and then getting into print. And then you’ve got to be the one that does the leg work to promote it and get it out there. So it’s kind of a trade-off. Self-publishing sometimes is the better long-term strategy because you also get full creative control over the book to meet whatever your ideal vision is for the book. So self-publishing is almost the better option in the long-term in some sense financially as a business person, but then in the short-term going with a major publisher is probably easier in terms of startup costs and in terms of having somebody that knows how to publish a book and all the things you need to do, and you can just focus on the creative process of writing the book. So it’s tricky though because also the number of publishers is kind of shrinking in terms of that, and even bookstores are kind of disappearing in some ways. So it’s not like even bookstores are carrying as many astrology or sometimes tarot books because those shelves have been sort of shrinking for years. So it’s not even guaranteed even if you go with a major publisher that you’re necessarily going to see the book on bookshelves or something like that.
JV: Yeah, it’s complicated. And I know even of some of the primary publishers for esoterica and some things like that, I know some of my friends that are authors still have to do their own indexing and still have to make sure somebody else is reading it to proofread and some things like that. Other friends that are published did end up with a publisher that provided a lot more services. And no publisher offers any kind of marketing anymore, and so no matter what, you’re stuck with doing the marketing.
CB: Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well. So even if you get a publishing deal with a larger or a major publisher at this point, they don’t even offer as much as they used to in terms of the reasons that you normally would want to go with a major publisher that you assume that they would offer.
JV: Yeah. And so I think it really just does come down to distribution as far as… I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of friends published in various forms, and it’s always just fascinating to talk to them about that.
CB: Yeah, lots of pros and cons. I think I will do an episode of that at some point. I was talking to an astrologer at the conference, Jenn Zahrt, that runs a small medium-sized publishing company of herself and is trying to publish different books. And that was something we talked about doing a whole episode talking about at some point.
JV: Oh, that’d be fascinating.
CB: Yeah, all right. Other things, I’ve been shocked, this is a longer term thing that’s been happening definitely over the past five years, but maybe even longer than that, seeing on YouTube the rise of Tarotology or the sort of blend between astrology and tarot, this unique blend that’s kind of emerged over the past decade.
JV: Yeah, it has definitely taken off, along with tarot’s taken off, and astrology’s taken off, and all of these things are going great guns right now.
CB: Yeah, it’s been crazy. It’s blown me away how much astrology’s taken off in the popular culture over the past three or four years since about 2018 or so. It’s been the same for tarot?
JV: Yeah, it really has. And the blend of those things is really appealing to people because they like both. And so I guess I don’t have a specific thing to say.
CB: Yeah. Well, and it sort of caters to the perception that the two are interlinked or are interchangeable or are one and the same, which I think is interesting. Because that was an assumption I had going into astrology 20 years ago. When I started learning in 1999 or 2000, I assumed they were somehow interlinked, and I assumed there were other things that were interlinked with astrology like astrology in past lives. That you could look at a birth chart and it would tell you about a past life for sure or that that was an obvious connection to make. But in reality, some of these are separate things or do not necessarily… Me, for example, in doing The Astrology Podcast, I decided for the most part, for most of the past 20 years I’ve just been a straight astrologer or just doing astrology. It’s possible to practice astrology and not know anything about tarot or I assume it’s also possible to practice tarot and not really know that much about astrology. But oftentimes the public that are not specialists in either of those things assume that they’re interlinked or interchangeable. And I get the sense on YouTube and some of those social media platforms that this almost caters more to the public perception that they’re interchangeable more so than they were up until relatively recently in some ways. What do you think? How does that strike you? Maybe that’s not your perception, because I know you have focused a lot and you’ve given talks for the Denver Astrology Group a few years ago on the relationship between astrology and tarot.
JV: Yeah, and the relationship between them develops through the Kabbalah, which is what’s really interesting. And what happened for me when I first learned, and I first started studying tarot in 1991, and I had basically started working with a spiritual teacher, and we were learning sacred geometry and we were learning a little bit of Kabbalah and just a variety of things like that, and tarot just was on the agenda of things to learn. I had never had a tarot reading, I don’t think I’d ever seen a tarot deck. I think if I had seen one, I would’ve immediately been really interested in it because I love images. But when I started studying it, it was through this spiritual background. And I always thought that tarot was related to neo-paganism because that was the background I was coming into it to discover or to learn it.
CB: Like Wicca and stuff like that? Is that what you mean by neo-paganism?
JV: Yeah. And the first time I did a psychic fair, I assumed that everybody at the psychic fair, I don’t know, I had never been to a psychic fair either, and here I was reading at one. And I just assumed everybody would be pagan because that to me was the thing, and my very first client was Christian and kind of made a comment about that. And I’m like, “And you’re getting a tarot reading?” And so I always feel, particularly early on, but even sometimes more recently, doing psychic fairs in particular, the very first client I get of the day almost always is there to teach me something. And that was the first thing I learned at my very first psychic fair is, no, these are not all pagan people. Paganism is not a one-to-one correspondence with tarot. And so it sounds like for you you thought that maybe the correspondence was astrology and tarot, I came into that a lot later. When I joined the Denver tarot meetup, I had not learned astrology yet. And the guy that ran it, the guy that started it, Scott Womack, and who ran it until he passed it off to me in 2011, well, he might have had a couple other people helping him out, but at any rate, he was an astrologer and did love that part of it. And so there was this weird question, why does some of the Minor Arcana cards have these astrological correspondences but not everything seems to be represented? Which you would need too many cards to do that. And so we’d try to lay out the cards on our chart, but we’d try to say like, “Well, the four of cups is Moon in Cancer.” And so if you had the Moon in Cancer, you’d put down the four of cups, but some other thing wouldn’t work. Well, I don’t know. Saturn in Cancer doesn’t show up in the tarot deck. And so there was a curiosity and a question, I guess, that’s where I’m going with this. So there was a curiosity and question, how does this work? Why are these the way they are? And then getting into and discovering that all the answers lay in Kabbalah actually.
CB: Okay. And that’s part of the interrelationship between that and the way that, especially with the Rider-Waite deck, because it had some background in Kabbalah, that and some of the astrological symbolism was then infused or informed some of Rider-Waite deck, which then that deck influenced most others over the past century.
JV: Yeah. To kind of try to nutshell it, there’s 22 Major Arcana, there’s 22 Hebrew letters, there’s a Kabbalistic text called the Sefer Yetzirah that was probably developed around the 2nd Century Common Era. And then it was refined somewhere, and I’m really bad with dates, so forgive me please if I get them wrong. It was refined around the 10th century, and then again more recently. And again, I’m so bad with dates.
CB: Oh, that sounds correct in what little I know about it, so roughly.
JV: And basically a bunch of texts were compiled, and that’s when the Sefer Yetzirah as a kind of finalized text was created. And I want to say the 1500s, but like I said, I’m wretched with dates. And so the Sefer Yetzirah outlines the 22 Hebrew letters with planetary and zodiacal and elemental symbolism. And so then the question became, so how do we take the 22 tarot Major Arcana and apply them to these 22 Hebrew letters because that would be the key to getting the cards matched up with astrology? And in 1780s, one or two or something like that, there was Le Monde Primitif by Court de Gebelin, and he wrote on the tarot in the sixth or seventh volume or some such thing of this nine-something volume thing. And his friend appended an essay, and that was by the Comte de M, which they believe is the Comte de Mellet. And in that essay, he made these equations that the final card of the Major Arcana, The World card, was associated with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, and then the preceding card, the Judgment card, went with Bet, and then so backwards through the Major Arcana following the 22 letters. So there are some interpretations of the Court de Gebelin’s essay and Comte de… And these things are finally being translated out of French, and so I think they’re available now which I haven’t picked them up. I tried getting through some of the French myself, but Donald Tyson does have a translation, an older translation up, but there’s some newer translations that I understand are better, I just haven’t picked them up yet. And there was one interpretation I read that said that Court de Gebelin and Comte de Mellet had enough in common in their two approaches and at the same time without necessarily referencing each other, that it’s likely that they were getting their information from a common source.
CB: Right, because this is back in the period where there’s all these secret societies running around, and there’s these speculations about these guys belonging to the same secret society. And so what we see in retrospect that has some historical documentation is just the reflection of the output of some of these secret societies that we don’t have documentation of.
JV: Yeah, exactly. And so then the next big thing was Eliphas Levi, and that was, again, I apologize, 1850s I believe that Eliphas Levi published his book Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, which Arthur Edward Waite did a translation of, but there’s a more recent translation by John Michael Greer and somebody else whose name I can’t remember right now. And he did The Magician, which is trump one is Aleph, the first letter, and The High Priestess, trump two is Bet, the second letter, and so on. And then he put The Fool in as the penultimate thing in between The Judgment card and The World card. So the fool ended up being Shin and then The World was Tav. And then that held on for quite a number of years. And the Golden Dawn, Mathers, his first book on the tarot actually used those correspondences. And then it was during the time, that first book was published in I believe 1888, which is the same year the Golden Dawn started. And then later during the work of the Golden Dawn, they published lectures and things that were just for members. And somewhere in there is when they changed it for the third time basically, and said, “Okay, let’s put The Fool back at the beginning. And so now zero, The Fool, equals Aleph, the first letter, and then The Magician, the trump one, equals Bet, the second letter, High Priestess is Gimmel and so on and so forth in order. And that’s the one that’s really stuck.
CB: Because that was the one then that the Rider-Waite deck was based on?
JV: The Rider-Waite deck was following that, and then the Thoth deck was following it.
CB: Which is Aleister Crowley’s deck, right?
JV: Yeah. And those correspondences were not published immediately, but Crowley ended up publishing them in his magazine, The Equinox. Again, man, I wish I was better at dates, but I think it was 1912 that he published those finally. And even Waite in his book, the deck was published in 1909, but I think his book might have been a year or two later, Pictorial Key to the Tarot. He said all the correspondences are wrong save one, being The World as Tav in both the Eliphas Levi system and in the Golden Dawn system.
CB: So he endorsed the latest iteration which is the one the Golden Dawn came up with as well.
JV: Yeah. But you can read, there’s still a number of well-known, respected writers, not just… The continental system is usually following, or the French system sometimes they call it is usually following Levi, and then there’s the Golden Dawn system which is the English system, but you’ll still find other writers, respected writers, not just people that are just making things up because it sounds good to them, that are using different systems. And I think Fred Gettings is one that has some really good explanations for how he does a different system, but it’s really well explained. I like following a tradition, and I love the fact that it’s not logical, that it is based on a sequence.
CB: I mean, which is a type of logic, isn’t it?
JV: It is a type of logic, but what happens is a lot of people say, “Well, it doesn’t make sense. This correspondence to this card is not a logical obvious correspondence.” And so then they want to start tweaking the system. And this is a different type of logic, but that’s what I really like, is the fact that it might not be apparent why a certain card matches a certain letter, but by just saying, “Okay, I want to work with this, I want to understand this, I want to receive insight and teachings on why this is,” and then you can really uncover some amazing things that way. And if you try to logic it yourself, I think you miss out on the esoteric inner teachings that you can get from the system. I don’t know if I explained that very well.
CB: Yeah, it sounds a little bit like how in astrology you have different systems of interpretation sometimes with technical things and where you begin the sequence and that they have their own internal logic. I’m thinking of like the domicile rulership scheme which is very much dependent on assigning the Sun and Moon to the two signs that follow the summer solstice, which is the hottest and brightest part of the year in the northern hemisphere where the system was created, and then assigning the rest of the planets in zodiacal order based on the relative speed and distance flanking out from there. So you have a sort of internal logic that’s consistent into itself, but is very much dependent on where you can establish the starting point of that sequence. And once you establish it, the rest of the sequence flows from there.
JV: Yeah, exactly, precisely like that. And I love that too. That’s something that when I first learned that is like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.”
CB: Right, with Thema Mundi and stuff like that.
CB: But then with that, it’s interesting because then you do get later attempts to sort of change that system or reconfigure things once they start finding the outer planets. And it’s interesting how some of the astrologers in the 1800s and 1900s must have been aware of that original sequence, but then they tried to extend it by adding Uranus to Aquarius, the next open sign after Capricorn, or adding Neptune to Pisces or what have you, which we can see as logical extensions of that earlier original system in sequence. But now astrologers these days have this question about which of those two sequences to adopt, the older traditional astrology rulerships or the newer modern astrology rulerships or what have you.
JV: Yeah, and that’s a really good example of both work. You can use whichever one resonates for you, and you can still get obviously very good readings using either system. And I personally like the more structured, symmetrical approach. And just from the ISAR conference, I mean, Rick Levine has some really good stuff on that, and I liked his interpretation, and he’s like, “And then Jupiter got pushed aside,” and some things like that, but yeah.
CB: Yeah, but it’s a good example of what you’re talking about as an analogy in astrology, because that’s an instance where depending on what sequence you use like, let’s say, the traditional rulership scheme and those assignments to the signs where it’s like Saturn to Aquarius and Jupiter to Pisces and Mars to Scorpio, you’re going to interpret the symbolism and you’re going to understand the meaning of those signs in a way that’s different than if you use the modern rulership scheme and you use that sequence, that’s going to alter or give you a somewhat different interpretation or understanding of the symbolism of those signs with Uranus ruling Aquarius, or Neptune ruling Pisces, or Pluto ruling Scorpio.
JV: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: So you have a similar thing with tarot in terms of how you set up some of those correspondences and different schools of correspondence with the Hebrew letters, and then subsequently different astrological assignments because that’s going to change some of your interpretations of the correspondences in the tarot deck itself.
JV: Right. Right. And again, anything works. Anything works. And if you pick a system and stick to it or make up your own system and stick to it, if you are internally coherent with what you’re doing and consistent with that, you will get good results. And I think-
CB: I mean, does anything work? That’s one of the open questions in these forms of divination. Is, does anything go ultimately? And are people just using it as a vehicle for intuition or something else? Or does there need to be some kind of systematization or some sort of internal logic that’s coherent in order for divination systems to make sense?
JV: Well, that’s a question… [laughs]
CB: That’s the million-dollar question. Solve that question right now, I just put you on the spot. [Joy laughs]
JV: One thing that I noticed is that I try not to spend too much time on Facebook to my own detriment. However, once in a while I’ll pop on there and some tarot group that I’m part, you know, people are constantly posting their readings and other people are commenting, right? And so somebody posts their reading and there’s 250 responses to it. And I read 10 or 20 of that, sometimes 50 or 100 because I can really get sucked into this stuff. Then everybody’s got something different to say. And there might be a theme that starts to build up, but all these people have different things to say. And the truth of the matter is if that person had come to person A for a reading, they would have gotten a certain set of cards that is that language that person A speaks when they’re doing a reading. If that same querent went to person B for a reading, a different set of cards might have come out, and that would have been the language that person B would use to arrive at the same thing. They would say the same thing, but it would have been different cards produced a similar interpretation. So when person A through double Z are all looking at the same set of cards, none of them pulled. They’re all going to have different interpretations.
CB: Yeah. There’s an idea sometimes in astrology, especially in Horary that the client approaches the astrologer, that exchange in itself and the chart that is cast for that moment, the astrologer is able to speak using their own approach or their own system. And in some instances, that the thing that the client needed to hear in that moment and was supposed to hear is the thing that will arise in that moment between the astrologer and the client. And that sometimes, for example like different astrologers will use different house systems for example in Horary. Some astrologers might use quadrant houses and other astrologers might use whole sign houses or equal houses or what have you. And that the system that the astrologer used in that moment was the one that was right for them, because that’s what they’re used to and they can apply consistently. And it was the one that the client was supposed to have at that moment. And then if you take the chart outside of that context and post it on a public forum where there’s a hundred different astrologers that would use different systems and interpret it in different ways, that that kind of removes it from the relevance– not the relevance, but the context of what was important, which was the organic way that the chart arose in that moment and what was supposed to be said between the two parties that exchanged the question and the answer in some way. I’m having trouble articulating that but something like that.
JV: No, you’ve perfectly articulated it. Yeah, that’s exactly how it works and exactly why… Yeah, you can use these different systems and as long as you’re coherent within yourself and, you know, the word integrity is something that holds it shape. You know, you’ve got integrity with the way that you work. And you’ll get the answers that the person needs regardless of the system that you use. So that’s the argument I like to argue both sides. That’s the argument for why it works no matter who’s doing it. I think the other argument for following a particular tradition, or being unified or coherent within one tradition and not being too much buffet style with it, is that as you layer– and you even mentioned you were finding so many associations and correspondences, you were like, “I’m gonna go back to just the images with Tarot and then work on those other layers later. And that’s what happens, is that if you start that process exactly like you’re doing with working with the images and then come back and add those other things on, that’s where the tradition in the coherence of the tradition becomes really powerful. Because you can go deeper and deeper and deeper and add on more and more layers, and they not only cohere and align, but they also have the benefit of generations or sometimes hundreds of years of well in with astrology, possibly thousands of years, not with Tarot though. [laughs] But, you know, years and years of tradition, and many people thinking about it the same way. Many people working within the system. And they might come to different conclusions about how it works, but the– in magic we call that the egregore or I hear sometimes people say egregore. It’s that energy that builds up around many people working consistently with a specific symbol system.
CB: Hmm. So there’s almost like a sedimentation or something that builds up over time like different layers of sediment. Also you’re saying like learning some initial thing, and then later… Like learning the images of the tarot first, and then later if you learn other systems of symbolism that can be applied to that, that you’re kind of digging it up in stages. And it sort of deepens your understanding, versus I know in astrology and one of the reasons I decided to approach Tarot like that is because I know in astrology that sometimes if a student doesn’t start out with the basics and keep it somewhat simple at first learning the basic framework, if you try to go and learn everything at once, there’s diminishing returns and you can just get overwhelmed if you try to learn the signs and the planets and the all the different house systems. And if you try to add asteroids and fixed stars and Arabic parts and all that stuff at once, it just becomes a jumbled mess. And even though your initial impulse might be, “I’m gonna learn everything and that’s going to be the best way to do it,” that actually counterintuitively works against you in some ways.
JV: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Letting it build up slowly. And that’s how I did it. I mean, I didn’t learn astrology until, I don’t know, 2009 is when I did my first chart delineation in my weird little way that I was doing it at the time. [laughs]
CB: So you’d been studying Tarot at that point since 1981, sort of like 15 almost 20 years?
JV: Yeah. Yeah. And a few years before that– because I came across Kabbalah prior to coming across astrology, basically. So yeah, I had already started working with cabbalistic correspondences and starting to experiment with that and layering that on to tarot, and then coming across histology and adding that other layer. And these were years apart for me. And so if you’re trying to learn it all at once– I don’t know, and some people might be able to, I’m not saying they can’t. Some people just have the capacity for that. [laughs]
CB: And there’s certainly something to be said in astrology, at least for getting an overview of the field and getting some awareness of all the different traditions that exist and then picking one to sort of specialize in. I kind of lucked out that I went to Kepler College about four years into my study because they forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and step outside of the default form of modern psychological Western astrology that I had learned that I kind of fell into and assumed was the best or the only form of astrology, and they forced me to start studying Hellenistic astrology and Indian astrology and all these other traditions which I initially had an aversion to, but then because they kind of forced me to study it, I ended up realizing that there was something of value there which I then decided to pursue and eventually became my thing. So it’s like there is something to getting an overview of the field and having enough exposure to find a system that speaks to you. Yeah, so I guess that’s a tension there both in learning astrology and learning tarot.
JV: Yeah, and I don’t know if this is a good example or not but I started teaching tarot in 1994, and my teacher actually trained me to develop my first class. So I had his guidance at that time. I had been teaching tarot since 1994 and then it was much later about 2006-ish that I started learning Kabbalah, and 2009 that I started learning astrology. And then that became my thing, Esoteric Tarot, which is the symbol systems laid over the Tarot images. And so now it’s like, well, my thing is Esoteric Tarot which is very advanced, but I’ve been teaching Beginning Tarot for so long. And the way I teach Beginning Tarot highly informs the way I read Esoteric Tarot. Even people are like, “So what’s your specialty?” And it’s like, “Well, it’s not that I only want to teach Advanced Tarot, it’s that you can’t learn my Advanced Tarot unless you learn my Beginning Tarot. It just will fall apart. So yeah it does, and I think the same is true for you, it’s like the first stuff that you learned still, I believe, informs a lot of what you do even after you started layering the Hellenistic techniques over top of it, would you say?
CB: Yeah, for sure. I think my approach and what I demonstrate on the Astrology Podcast is a blend of ancient and modern astrology. And yeah, I still take a lot of insights like the use of the outer planets, for example, even if the foundation of my approach at this point as a technical structure is largely Hellenistic in terms of using traditional rulers and whole sign houses and bringing some of those original concepts back into contemporary practice. I also add on some of the modern astrology and the good things from modern astrology that I picked up early in my studies that I still think are very important. And I think everybody does that. Basically everybody’s approach eventually ends up being a synthesis of what their primary teacher’s approaches were, which sometimes can be two different people or it can be two or three or four or what have you, but it’s like whatever your primary influences are, you take those in as a student. And you kind of breathe those in and then you make them your own, and then eventually you synthesize them and then you exhale and teach that to whatever the next generation is through your own students.
JV: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
CB: That was my analogy that I used last weekend when I accepted the award for Best Podcast at the ISAR Conference, this idea. Because I kept thinking of how astrology used to be associated with Mercury and how we’re always learning and then speaking, and yeah, that the flow of knowledge is like the flow of breathing where you breathe in, you hold it, and then you you breathe out eventually. And that flow of information is learning and taking things in, but also something that Demetra told me very early on when I first met her at Kepler and I was about to start teaching classes at my high school on astrology– I taught a class on astrology at high school when I was finishing up and I was getting into Kepler and she said that was a really good idea because sometimes you learn, you can finalize your knowledge- Oh, not finalized, but you can come to a much better understanding of what you know by trying to teach it to somebody else. And in some instances, it’s only through attempting to teach it to somebody else that you can fully make your thoughts on what you think you know more concrete.
JV: Yeah, absolutely. I love teaching because I learn so much from it. Yeah.
CB: Yeah, just like in doing a consultation. It’s like, even though you know something and that’s valuable and that’s why somebody’s coming to you as an astrologer and as a reader, when you sit down and read a chart from a stranger, you’re learning some stuff because each person is going to represent a unique manifestation of those placements in their birth chart and whatever those archetypes are. And that’s going to be interesting and insightful because while it’ll probably be consistent with what you already know of either the archetype abstractly from that placement or from past empirical evidence that you have of seeing how those placements have worked out for other people, the unique manifestation in this instance in that person’s life is going to be something new in some ways, and you’ll learn a new unique way that that symbolism can manifest in each instance.
JV: Yeah. Yeah, a really good example. Yeah, completely.
CB: Yeah. Okay, last thing. You mentioned the Kabbalah and I just want to mention it in passing because you were one of the people that were mentioned to me because of your background in Kabbalah when I was doing some work years ago when I was working on my book about the Saturn as possibly feminine in some astrological traditions like in possibly Dorotheus, but I wasn’t sure if it was a typo or if it was a genuine tradition. And then later in Theophilus of Edessa, he drew on Dorotheus and he also seemed to treat Saturn as feminine. Although I wasn’t sure if that was due to some genuine variant tradition in the Hellenistic tradition that treated Saturn as feminine instead of masculine, or if it was just due to a typo or an error in the transmission. But you were one of the people that pointed out that in the Kabbalah and some of the kabbalic assignments of the planets to the tree of life, that Saturn was treated as feminine.
JV: Yeah. And the tree of life glyph in Kabbalah, which is the 10 circles, that follows the Ptolemaic cosmos with the Earth at the center, and then the sphere of the Moon, and then Mercury and Venus and the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond that the fixed stars, and beyond that the Primum Mobile. And so when you’re looking at that cater at the top, that’s the Primum Mobile. That is the first whirlings, it’s the energy that starts all of the other… And these are visualised as crystalline spheres that are nested. And that is the energy that starts them turning.
CB: This sphere at the very top of the diagram?
JV: And so then you go down to Chokmâh, which is to the right and down. That’s number two, and that one is the fixed stars. And that’s going to be your zodiac, the fixed stars background against which the planets move. Keter is considered beyond gender, it is a combination of either both genders or no gender or all genders, however you want to say that. Chokmâh is considered masculine and is Ab, the Father. Or Abba. And then Binah, the third one, which goes over on the left-hand side there. Binah is the mother, Ama or Aima. Ama is the dark, sterile mother and Aima is the bright, fertile mother. From there, that particular diagram you’ve got up has a dot in the center there. That is a Quasi-Sephira, and I’m not going to address it right now, but then going down to the fourth one we have Chesed, and that’s Jupiter. And then from there, Binah is Saturn. And that’s the mother energy. And then we go to Chesed, which is Jupiter, and then back to Mars.
CB: Hold on a second. So Saturn is assigned to the third sphere and it’s the sphere that’s in the top left corner of the diagram. And that’s because Saturn’s the furthest planet out in the traditional system, it’s the furthest visible planet. So it’s like they’re partially starting by assigning the planets in descending orders starting with the furthest and so Saturn is in the top left. And then we’re jumping to the bottom right– and people can’t see my cursor so I’m trying to figure out how to describe it.
JV: The middle one on the right-hand side.
CB: Because there’s three columns essentially. There’s a far-left column, there’s a middle column, and there’s a far-right column. And Saturn’s on the top of the far left column. And then we crisscross basically across and we jump to the second sphere down in the right column, and that’s Jupiter.
JV: Yeah, and then it goes straight across to the left-hand side again, and that’s Mars. And so one of the things that you’ll notice right away is that Binah, at the top of that column is feminine. And below it is Mars, which is masculine. Also, you’ll notice that both Saturn and Mars are on the same side, which is the feminine side of the tree.
CB: So the two malefics are assigned to the left side of the tree, and the left side is considered feminine. And then the two benefics end up getting assigned to the right side of the tree, which is generally speaking said to be masculine.
JV: Right. And the Jewish tradition and the Hermetic tradition vary in just a number of ways of looking at it. In the Hermetic tradition, we actually back ourself up to the tree. So the left hand side gets Chokmâh and Chesed and Netzach, and the right-hand side gets Binah at the eye and then Chesed is that the shoulder. Oh, I mean Gevurah is at the shoulder, and then Hod is at the hip. So even saying left and right changes according to the tradition that you’re following. Not to be too complicated, but I do want to point that out in case somebody’s like, “What? That’s not what I learned.”
CB: So going back to… Because I tried to trace this assignment back and I have a little footnote about it in my book, and it seemed like this assignment that we’re describing here is the one that goes back to the medieval period at some point, I think, if I’m understanding correctly in terms of assigning certain planets in descending order to the tree of life.
JV: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Okay. So Mars is this second sphere on the left side, then we go crosswise again, right?
JV: Yeah. And then it goes down to number six Tiferet, which is really the very center of the tree. And then down to the– as you’re looking at it, the right-hand side. The bottom one, which is Netzach, that’s Venus. Sorry, Tiferet is the Sun. And they say that the Sun is in the middle of the heavens like the heart is in the middle of the body and the king is in the middle of the kingdom.
CB: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Because I can see that line in the middle is connecting all the other lines.
JV: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that’s the Sun. You can see that even pre-Galileo and whoever’s the one that was like, “Oh, wait.” [laughs] I’m so bad at history I’m embarrassing myself. But anyway, whoever it was that was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Sun’s at the center,” that was already a philosophical idea that was around. It was just not about the solar system, it was philosophical.
CB: Yeah. The idea of the Sun and being this symbol of centrality.
JV: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Like the king and the thing that everything else goes around. And then ironically, that ended up being even more true than the ancients even realized.
JV: Yeah. And again my lack of history is gonna hold me back but that Wikipedia article that you had up there was another diagram that was definitely an older one, that one there. It’s certainly an older one and you can see that there… And this is part of the Kabbalistic tradition is that because they’re even older ones yet that show all of the Sephira kind of more in a direct line. That’s actually one of the principles of Kabbalah, is that the first time the Sephira were arranged, they are arranged in a direct line. And when the energy of the Divine– they were considered to be like glass spheres or glass containers of some kind– when the energy of the Divine went through them, they shattered because the entirety of the Divine energy, and to direct it into a single container, shattered that. And then again the entirety of the energy went to the next container and that one shattered. And so then they were spread out in arrays, and that allowed the energy to step down so that it could go from the level of the Divine down to the level of creation without breaking anything. I teach all of this stuff and I combine these cabbalistic ideas with my astrology and with the Tarot and all of this, and this idea of working in arrays is the idea of nothing can hold on its own, it always has to be in relationship to something else. That has to do with, you know, you can’t effectively interpret a planet, even in a certain position in a sign in house by itself. It really will not give you a true essence of that planet for an individual unless you see it as it relates to the other planets in the chart. Same thing with Tarot, I never read a single card. Rarely, rarely. I will, sometimes, but I rarely read a single card and I always do at the very least two cards. Because it’s always about how things interact.
CB: Sort of like the way that you can’t remove the intertwining between past, present, and future. They’re all interconnected in a way that you can’t really remove one from the other.
JV: Yeah, that’s a really good way of looking at it. [laughs]
CB: [crosstalk] We’re going to go into a whole other two-hour digression if we get on that route by bringing it back. Yeah, I was running into an issue and I never finished this research that I wasn’t sure if some of the planetary assignments that I was seeing were actually much later even like Renaissance or how far back I can trace them. I’m actually a little ambiguous right now if I ever was able to get them back to the Middle Ages or how far I got them, but that’s still some open questions, a lot of stuff. But just to finish up the tree that we’re looking at, so Venus ends up being the bottom right and then where’s Mercury? It’s on the left bottom.
JV: Yeah, that’s Mercury. And then the Moon is the one in the center, one up from the bottom. That’s the Moon. And then the Earth is down at the bottom.
CB: The Earth is at the very bottom of the tree. Okay, got it.
JV: Yeah. And the main thing to focus on is the idea that Chokmâh as a father, that entire column is a pillar.
CB: The left side.
JV: The right side as you’re looking at it. Yeah, that pillar is a pillar of mercy, it’s the pillar of force, and it’s considered masculine. And on the other side, on the left-hand side as you’re looking at it, the one that’s headed up with Binah is a pillar of form or the pillar of severity, and that is the one that is feminine. It’s got Saturn on it, but it’s got Mars too, which is kind of fascinating.
CB: Yeah, that grouping of the benefics on the right side and the pillar of mercy, and the two malefics on the left side with the pillar of, I think you said severity is really fascinating to me. And also, it’s fascinating for another reason because it puts Mercury with the two malefics on the left side, which I thought was interesting and may explain something that was a mystery to me and to a lot of people in the seven Hermetic lots from Paulus Alexandrinus in the fourth century, where he has an Arabic part or a lot for each of the planets. There’s the two benefic lots for Venus and Jupiter and there’s the two malefic lots for Mars and Saturn and they have appropriately positive significations largely for the benefics and negative significations for the malefics. But then when you get to Mercury, Mercury is called the lot of necessity and it’s like this strangely malefic lot for some reason. It is kind of bizarre from a Hellenistic standpoint, because Mercury in the Hellenistic astrological tradition is usually treated as neutral and in the system it’s capable of going either way. And it’s said to be benefic when it’s with the benefics, or malefic when it’s with the malefics. Or it’s said to be a diurnal planet or a daytime planet with when it’s within diurnal planets, or it’s said to be nocturnal when it’s nocturnal. It can go either way, but for some reason in the Hermetic lots, Mercury is treated as oddly malefic. And this is, again, one of the only other areas where I’ve seen a parallel that could maybe explain some of the background behind that where maybe it was coming from something like this. And that’s the reason why in that tradition from the fourth century attributed to Hermes, interestingly, maybe it was getting influenced by something like this or something. That’s as far as I’ve gotten with that.
JV: Yeah, that would be really interesting to follow through with. And again my lack of history is astonishing and embarrassing, but I do know that the glyph of the tree of life did develop later than the Kabbalistic texts, and I don’t have the date on that. And so I’d be really curious to find what you what you uncover exploring that.
CB: Yeah. I’m sure maybe some people that are watching this or listening to this can put in the comments some research or if they know some of the historical stuff that we don’t that might be interesting observations that kind of go along with or maybe help us with what we’re starting to observe or what we’re thinking on this.
JV: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
CB: Cool. Well, thank you for that. And that’s another one of those areas where you’ve sort of influenced me in your astrologer-Forrest-Gumpy type style, something that’s in the Hellenistic astrology book where you were one of the people that mentioned that to me when I was doing that research. So thank you.
JV: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I love this stuff and it’s super fascinating.
CB: Yes, this has been a really brilliant astrology chat. We were shooting to go for 5:00 and it’s now 5:40. I didn’t realize we way overshot our time and I know you have a train to catch tonight. Is that possible or have we blown your travel time?
JV: No, I think it’s possible still. [laughs]
CB: All right. Well, in that case, we should wrap up. But where can people find out more information about you, what do you have coming up in the future, and what’s your website?
JV: They can find me at joyvernon.com. I have a blog, Completely Joyous, which of course you can find at my website or at completelyjoyous.com. I do have a YouTube channel, Joy Vernon Astrology * Tarot * Reiki. And what I’m doing recently is I have my weird little thing where I combine astrology and Kabbalah and Tarot and mythology and meditative practices and ritual practices and energetic practices. And I’m working with creativity right now and understanding each person’s individual creative process through their chart, and then doing work around that using all of these other modalities to open that up. It’s a year-long program, and I have a new cohort starting in September-ish. I’m trying to line it up right now. So yeah, that’s what I’m working on.
CB: Cool. And your website, you said is joyvernon.com?
CB: Brilliant. That’s better than mine. I had to do chrisbrennanastrologer.com because of the MMA guy that has my domain name. So I’m jealous of people that just have their straight first and last name dot com. Cool. Yeah, people should definitely check out your website, I’ll put a link to it in the description either below this video on YouTube or on the Astrology Podcast website where people can go to click that for this episode just to find out more information about you. And thank you so much for joining me, this was a lot of fun. This is one of the most wide-ranging astrology Tarot chats that I’ve ever had, but I’m glad that we took this opportunity while you were in town to do this. So it was good to hang out with you again.
JV: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much.
CB: Yeah. All right. Well, thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.
Special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on patreon.com. In particular, shoutout to the patrons on our producers’ tier including Thomas Miller, Catherine Conroy, Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issah Sabah, Jake Otero, and Mimi Stargazer. If you like the work that I’m doing here on the podcast and you would like to find a way to support it then please consider becoming a patron through my page on patreon.com and in exchange you’ll get access to bonus content such as early access to new episodes, the ability to attend the live recording of the month ahead forecast each month, access to a private monthly auspicious elections report that we put out each month, access to exclusive episodes that are only available for patrons, or you can also get your name listed in the credits at the end of each episode. For more information, go to patreon.com/astrologypodcast.
The main software we use here on the podcast to look at astrological charts is called Solar Fire for Windows which is available at alabe.com, and you can use the promo code AP15 to get a 15% discount. For Mac users, we use a similar set of software by the same programming team called Astro Gold for Mac OS which is available from astrogold.io, and you can use the promo code ASTROPODCAST15 to get a 15% discount on that as well.
If you’d like to learn more about the approach to astrology that I outline on the podcast, then you should check out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I traced the origins of Western astrology and reconstructed the original system that was developed about 2000 years ago. In this book, I outline basic concepts but also take you into intermediate and advanced techniques for reading a birth chart, including some timing techniques. You can find out more about the book at hellenisticastrology.com/book. The book pairs very well with my online course on ancient astrology called the Hellenistic Astrology Course, which has over 100 hours of video lectures where I go into detail about teaching you how to read a birth chart, and showing hundreds of example charts in order to really demonstrate how the techniques work in practice. Find out more information about that at theastrologyschool.com.
And finally, special thanks to our sponsors including The Mountain Astrologer magazine which is available at mountainastrologer.com, the Honeycomb Collective Personal Astrological Almanacs available at honeycomb.co, and the Astro Gold Astrology App which is available for iPhone and Android. You can find out more information about that at astrogold.io.