Tarot of the Holy Light: A Continental Esoteric Tarot
Tarot of the Holy Light: A Continental Esoteric Tarot is the first of two companion volumes for Christine Payne-Towler's Tarot of the Holy Light. This volume lays out the foundations for historical European tarot traditions.
By Christine Payne-Towler & Michael Dowers
Book - 496 pages - Published by Noreah Press
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
“Tarot of the Holy Light and its companion volume Foundations of the Esoteric Tradition supply the key to unlock Tarot’s significance as the premier magical calculator of the Renaissance. The correspondences demonstrated in Tarot of the Holy Light apply to any historical Tarot that conforms to the Marseilles order and numeration. These timeless fundamentals reveal the inner architecture that has been carried forward in the Tarots of Etteilla, the so-called Egyptian Tarots (Belline, Falconnier, Zain), the literary works of Christian, Levi and Papus, right up to classic 20th century Continental esoteric packs like the Tarots of Oswald Wirth and Manly P. Hall. This Volume 1 of the set is dedicated to the creators of Continental Tarots in the past, present, and future in honor of the magical philosophy that inhabits the historical Tarot’s outline and inherent meanings.” ~ From the back cover.
Christine came to my attention way back in the hay day of the Tarot-L Internet group. I am a night person, and there were many discussions in the middle of the night between Christine and those who disagreed with her. Fascinating discussions that I could only sit back and watch, because I didn’t have the knowledge to contribute anything. Kudos to Christine for hanging in there!
I was very pleased to see Christine publish her deck (Tarot of the Holy Light), and I am even more pleased and excited to see the text to accompany the deck seeing the light of day in print. A great deal of thought and research has gone into this book, a book that reflects a lifetime of work in the field of Tarot.
Tarot of the Holy Light is softcover, 5” by 7”, and 492 pages. The cover art, by Patrick Dowers (brother to Michael Dowers) is the same as the cover of the box for the deck. The book contains 100 images and original graphs that help to make it quite unique! There is an introduction to the Minor Arcana, a separate chapter on each of the suits, and a separate chapter on the Trumps.
In her preface Christine talks about the Tarot of today being the same as the Tarot of yesterday. She posits that the visual format of the graph, or information grid, penetrated into Europe from their Arabic neighbors to the east and south during the pre-Renaissance of the 12th and 13th centuries. This allowed westerners to understand the related values that make up the layers of the Tarot. This book includes the influences on the Tarot of the Holy Light cards that are not expressly detailed on the faces of the cards.
In the very first pages of the book Christine has shared her Tarot of the Holy Light icon – a detailed graphic that includes the planets, their associated Major Arcana card, and the Major Arcana and planetary associations for Primal Air, Primal Water, and Primal Fire. Well worth the price of admission!
In her introduction, Christine indicates that the title of this book “states her case boldly” – that her deck represents the summation of her studies in the field of esoteric Continental Tarot. She notes that she is referencing Europe proper, and not Great Britain, or the Iberian Peninsula.
Her stance is that the very first pack of cards with enumerated Trumps, showing numerals on the faces of the Major Arcana, demonstrate the coherency with its implied body of correspondences that would allow it to become an esoteric computer for the Renaissance and all that followed.
In her introduction to the Minor Arcana, Christine makes some interesting statements, including that the Tree is the Fallen Tree, and specific to the pips (numbered cards), that each suit circles the grand trine of its element, and that the three cards representing each sign occupy the triangular centers of the Tree in a very deliberate manner. She also talks about Essential Dignities as Alchemical Catalysts. She regards reversals as an opportunity for the practitioner to stretch their intuition and open hidden layers of influence. Included in this chapter are graphs of the planets on the Unfallen Tree, and the Signs on the Unfallen Tree, Upper & Lower Countenance, the Fallen Human, the Lightning Struck Tree (The Fall), the Sexagesimal Grid of the Mysteries, the Ladder of Light with Lullian Triangles, the Tarot of the Holy Light Mandala, the Boehme Star of Restitution, and the Maze (by Patrick Dowers).
Each pip (numbered card) is presented with the following associations: Astrological, Sephira, Essential Dignity (upright and reversed), and Angelic Dignity (upright and reversed). Each Court Card is presented with the associated planet. Each Major Arcana card is presented as part of the Septenary scheme, with the Hebrew Letter, the Path on the Tree of Life, and the Quality. Each card is accompanied by a black and white image, and an in-depth write-up of what the cards esoteric qualities are, a bit of its history, and how its energy works.
In the appendix we find the Horoscope Spread, the Celtic Cross Spread, Tarot deck citations, a Graph of Minor Arcana Values, a graph of Major Arcana Values, a graph of the Shem Angels, and a Bibliography.
What is laid out in this book is the foundation of the Continental esoteric Tarot. Through text and graphs, we maneuver our way through the myriad layers of information and come out with our own idea of what brings the Tarot to life, and how we can use it in our own life. Our task is to learn this information well, and incorporate it into our lives. Remember, there is a Volume 2 coming that will take us into the foundations of the esoteric system!
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.