Portable Magic: Tarot is the Only Tool You Need
Portable Magic: Tarot is the Only Tool You Need teaches how to work ritual magic with only a tarot deck. Tyson's system is based on ceremonial magic and the Golden Dawn tradition.
By Donald Tyson
Book - 230 pages - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
"Portable Magic" does indeed carry a great deal of magic within its pages. Based on the esoteric associations and rituals of the "Golden Dawn", Tyson has developed a system of ritual (ceremonial) magic where the only tools needed are a deck of Tarot cards and the intent (focused will) of the person performing the ritual. This is all that you need to perform effective ritual magic. All of the bits and pieces connected with ritual are contained within a Tarot deck - working with geometric forms, building an altar, casting a circle - it is all there, and all explained in this book.
When you are done with your ritual, the cards are picked up, folded together, shuffled, and ready to go back to work another day. Your temple, your altar, your circle, your triangle ... everything goes into your pocket or purse, neat and tidy.
Even the work space does not need to be of great consideration. The cards, while they can be placed in a large circle around the magician, can also be placed on a table or other surface in front of him, while he projects himself into the cards. (Tyson notes that he sometimes uses mini (miniature) decks for such work, as they take up less space. Projecting intent, or the magicians point of view, outside of the physical body is something that, with practice, everyone is capable of doing.
It is recommended that the deck that you choose for ritual work not be used for readings, or for any other work, and that it not be touched by other people. Ideally, it should be wrapped in linen or some other natural cloth when it is not in use. This will also preserve the quality of a sustained astral charge in the deck.
The focus of this book is very basic - and very powerful: to cause active and potent change in conformity with the will of the magician.
There is a well researched history of the Tarot that dispels some of the more prevalent myths - such as the origins of the Tarot, its supposed Egyptian connection, the alleged involvement of Gypsies etc. Certainly there is enough information in this chapter to serve as a solid foundation for individual research on the Tarot. What the cards were originally used for (game playing), the influence of the French occultists and the influence of the Golden Dawn make for very interesting reading.
The function of "Portable Magic" is not to define the cards, it is to show their use in the manifestation of goals. The section on the structure of the Tarot is just that - a section that breaks the Tarot into ten separate categories: (1) Greater Arcana, (2) Lesser Arcana, (3) The Fool, (4) Other Trumps, (5) Suit of Wands, (6) Suit of Cups, (7) Suit of Swords, (8) Suit of Pentacles, (9) Number Cards, (10) Court Cards.
The background for the Golden Dawn is presented, so that a clear picture of the organization is presented, from its founders, to the influence of S. L. Mac Gregor Mathers and his wife Moina, to the Secret Chiefs.
In the correspondences for the Trumps, Tyson follows the Golden Dawn Kabbalistic and astrological associations. There is a unique, and very useful, graphic of a Heptagram showing the planetary sequence. Tyson points out that it is through this aspect of the cards that their archetypal nature is expressed. Here we start to look at the cosmological structure of the Tarot, with the four elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth at its center.
In the correspondences of the suits, Tyson touches on their individual elemental qualities (dignities), and how they relate to each other. Also given is a twofold meaning for each suit: Wands (will-rule), Cups (emotion-love), Swords (thought-strife), Pentacles (sensation-toil). Here is also where Tyson first mentions summoning and working with the elementals that are associated with each element: Fire - Salamanders, Water - Undines, Air - Sylphs, and Earth - Gnomes.
Court cards are presented as a bridge between the Major Arcana and the numbered cards. Tyson interprets them in a reading as primarily representing people that relate to the question or issue at hand. The court cards carry two elements - foreground and background, that mirror the title of the cards. In the Golden Dawn Tarot, the Pages are unique in that they are defined as the Thrones of the Aces. This reflects the distinction between the higher active elements (Fire, Water, and Air) and the inert Earth element. The court cards are also connected to the letters of the tetragramaton: Yod = King of Wands (Fire of Fire), Heh = Queen of Cups (Water of Water), Vau = Knight of Swords (Air of Air), and Heh = Page of Pentacles (Earth of Earth). Here the court cards also form a family unit.
The Court Cards also serve as significators, for the magician and for the Seeker, or for someone that the magician wishes to connect with. For this purpose, the traditional hair color, eye color, skin color are not taken into consideration. Instead, the personality types of the court cards is matched to the personality of the person they represent. In general, Kings are older men, Queens are older or married females, Knights are younger men or youths, and Pages are younger females or children of either sex. Each Court Card is defined in the book by its elemental qualities, its astrological association, and its positive and negative qualities. There is a chart presented that helps the student to remember the zodiacal correspondences for the court cards.
There is a brief discussion of the ten Sephiroth and the numbered cards, with definitions for the Sephiroth and a schematic that shows where the numbered cards are associated on the Tree of Life.
What follows is a detailed discussion, over several chapters, of symbolic ritual tools, including the Point (using single tarot cards as a point of focus), the Ray (a straight line that symbolizes the shift of awareness from one point to another), the Circle (the creation of a separate universe to perform ritual in, and formed from the twelve trumps of the Zodiac, the circle can be charged with energy conducive to a particular ritual), the Triangle (made up of the Fool, the Hanged Man, and Judgment, through which traditional evocation is done, and which is placed outside of the circle), and the Cross (formed by the interlacing of the bases of the four Aces). Exercises are given so that the student can practice using each of the tools individually before working with them together.
A general method for Tarot ritual is discussed, with a schematic shown for the full placement of the cards. Planetary modifiers, the meaning of the card numbers, and the use of realizers and modifiers is also presented.
Five specific rituals are presented: the Ritual of Union (to psychically unite with another person); the Banishing Ritual (which Tyson advocates performing daily as a way of becoming familiar with the symbolic structures of Tarot magic); the Business Ritual (for success in business or career); and the creation of Tarot card charms to be carried on the magician's person (to be used for a defined, limited amount of time); and evoking and working with elementals.
At the end of the book there is a glossary and an appendix with Tyson's modified system of Tarot correspondences.
"Portable Magic" is a well thought out, well written book. Tyson creates enough depth in his foundation for working magic with the Tarot that the practitioner could experience a significant amount of success. He takes his subjects (Tarot and Ceremonial Magic) seriously, and does his best to instruct the student practitioner in the highest manner possible. This book could certainly be used to good effect by someone familiar with the Tarot, but not familiar with ceremonial magic. It serves as an excellent reference book, and would make a wonderful addition to any Tarot library. My hope is that this book goes into the hands of those who honor it and do their best to respect themselves and the systems they are using.
© Bonnie Cehovet
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.