Saturday, March 2, 2019

B.O.T.A. Coloring your own Tarot deck

Lately I've been painting my very own tarot deck as recommended by Paul Foster Case founder of Builders of Adytum B.O.T.A. mystery school. After reading Case's book, The Tarot A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, I was convinced that coloring your own deck was indeed a gateway to becoming intimately connected with the symbols on the cards.  I wasn't very excited about dedicating the time to it at first, but after painting for about three weeks now I can say it is actually very relaxing and fun to do.  In this post I will share my experiences here as they unfold, and post some of my finished cards for your amusement.

To start I bought the black and white tarot deck and accompanying Highlights of the Tarot booklet.  This smallish booklet provides nice overview descriptions of the 22 Major Arcana cards along with specific coloring instructions from Case himself.  These texts are highly recommend in order to do the project correctly, and aren't very expensive.  The Highlights was $5 and the Key to the Wisdom of the Ages was around $12.  I am not a member of, or affiliated with B.O.T.A.  Anyone can order the tarot deck as well as Case's books on the Builders of the Adytum website.

The BOTA deck is very similar to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck with alterations that Case believed was important enough to actually create another deck.  He talks about the adjustments in his books and why he thought they were indelible to tarot study.  The cards aren't flimsy little cards, nor are they much like regular playing cards that you can shuffle.  They are thick paper stock intended to absorb color.  That was a little bit of a bummer for me as my intention was to actually use the cards when finished.  I remind myself that the purpose of this project is painting the images, thinking about what the colors represent, and absorbing the symbols as a meditation of sorts.

Time Required

For the last three weeks I've been working on the Major Arcana spending 1-2 hours every day.  My goal was to get one card finished each day for a total of 3 weeks to complete the Trumps.  That was quite ambitious.  The reality is that I just finished the Justice card!  That is only 12 cards over three weeks, approximately one card every two days.  Realistically it should take around 3 months to complete the entire deck of 78 cards.  I will say that the Minor Arcana are far less complicated and should be much faster to paint.

Your time may vary based on experience with mixing paint and and coloring.  Painting is new for me, and my last coloring experience was about 30 years ago.  Also, my best effort is going into the project.  It would be much faster to slather translucent paint hastily across the cards, but it certainly would not be the best approach in terms of learning goes.

Coloring options

I went through a few phases of testing coloring mediums from markers to oil, acrylic and water color.  Water color seemed to work the best and provide the most flexibility.  The markers were too dark and it was difficult to hide the paint lines, as you will see in the Fool card.  Also they bled through the lines very easily.  The acrylic and oil paints were a bit thick and heavy.  For watercolor you do have to be careful not to get a bunch of water on the card or put on several coats, because the card edges will start to curl up.  Take a look at my first card below to see how water color mixed with marker looks.  I used marker on the mountains where you can see the coloring lines.

The Fool (Card 1) 

The Fool, Aleph.  This was my first card.  Both markers and watercolor were used here.  The colors are close to what was requested in Highlights of the Tarot booklet with the exception of the face, the eagle on the purse, and the rose.  For some reason I painted the rose red when it called for white so instead of purity we get desire.  Light brown was requested for the eagle instead of dark brown.  My first attempt at mixing the flesh color came out a with too much red.  The book requested equal parts of brown, black, white, yellow and red for an equal representation of all skin colors.  Everything else looks good.  The white parts are left blank as suggested by Case.  White paint really doesn't show up that well on white so what's the point?  Well thanks for looking.  I will post more cards as I get them done.  Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

The Magician 

The skin color turned out better in this card.  It took a long time to get the details correctly painted in the bottom leaves, flowers and robe section.  The yellow background was challenging because of the saturation.  I put on one coat but it was too thin.  I try not to get too much paint on my brush to paint detail more accurately, but then it's not thick enough and I end up needing two coats.  In the end I put another coat on and it over saturates it anyway.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Fool's Blog

This blog is a record of my tarot learning journey.  The intention is to post daily tarot activities, thoughts, ideas and revelations as the process unfolds.  It is important to me to keep a journal of these activities for personal development.  This work isn't easy.  Detailed records will be useful in assessment growth for me. It is also my hope is that others may find something useful here.  Time is of the essence.    

The main goal in learning tarot is for personal spiritual growth, although I'm not apposed to the divination aspect as well.  Guess we will see where it goes.  No expectations!

The writing presented here will be rudimentary at times, but please keep in mind that I am a complete neophyte.  Despite knowing very little about these subjects it is my intention to learn some deep esoteric truths.  As time goes on I'm sure things will get more interesting!

I'd really like to collaborate and learn with others so comments and advice are welcome. Please remember that I am not an authority on these subjects, just learning and sharing experiences as they unfold.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Decan Wheel

The decan wheel is extremely helpful in visualizing the houses within the zodiac and the tarot cards that lie within them. It is a great go-to that will help you identify and memorize where the tarot cards live as well as what energies are likely to manifest within them. I printed the one below and taped it into my notebook for quick access when practicing tarot.  

Ten degrees of separation

The zodiac houses span thirty degree sections of the wheel going counterclockwise. Aries is the first house and Pisces is the twelfth. Each of the house is further subdivided into ten degree segments called decans or decanates. The Minor Arcana tarot cards (two through ten) are assigned to each decan. The two, three and four of Wands span the entire house Aries for example.

From there you can see the suits are not arranged in order. They are assigned to houses with the same element. For example all Wands correspond to fire signs. So the next order of wands can be found in Leo, then in Sagittarius.
Decan Wheel

Each card/decan has a co-ruling planet. Starting with the two card in Aries we have the rulerships of Mars, the Sun and then Mercury. These are considered co-rulers because Mars is the ruling planet of the entire Aries house. The wheel also indicates the elemental triangle of Fire (triplicity), and the Cardinal aspect (quadruplicity) of Aries.    

Court Cards 

The Aces and Court Cards live on the outside rim of the wheel. In the THOTH deck the Knights, Queens, and Princesses rule entire thirty degree segments. Notice they are not evenly placed over the houses. This is on purpose. It reflects the constant interaction and balance seeking between the elements.  For example the Queen of Wands is the watery part of fire and she rules the last decan of Pisces and the first two decan of Aries. That is one third of a water sign and two thirds of a fire sign. One might think that the highest order of fire, the Knight of Wands, would rule the most pure fire sign of Aries.  However such a configuration would be unbalanced, emphasizing too much fire in one place.  Therefore the knight's rulership is assigned to Sagittarius-the least pure fire sign.  I will do a segment soon on the breakdown of the card ranks and their element classifications.     

Decan Wheel with Court Cards

How the Wheel relates to Tarot 

Decan wheels vary in design in terms of what data they contain. The more advanced wheel below adds some nice features. It includes all the previous information plus house planetary rulerships and exaltation.  It is worthwhile considering these attributes when practicing tarot, they add rich detail that might not otherwise be so easily seen in a card.  Similar to the planetary aspects in astrology, we can view the cards through the lens of the ruling planets, elements and images. 

Deluxe Decan Wheel

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Most of the writing presented here will be of my own creation. The content will be original but very rudimentary at times. Please keep in mind this is someone who knows very little about these subjects. As time goes on I'm sure things will get more interesting...I will do my best to also post any books, videos or other resources that I find useful in my study of the tarot.

All that stated, I am already 2 months into the studies.  You may notice that a bunch of entries are out of order and all posted within a short time frame.  This is because I'm taking some time to write and publish everything that has happened in order to catch up to the present.  My goal is to take a much needed break from daily tarot study to catch up the blog.  Lastly, I will do my best to organize the posts as this gets easier.  Blogging is also very new for me, surprise! P

Friday, November 23, 2018

How I Got Started with Tarot

My tarot path began with a seed planted in my brain whilst reading the book, The Lost Teachings of Atlantis by Jon Peniel.  This is an excellent book by the way, highly recommended.  In this book, the author mentions the Thoth Tarot in the context of understanding the deeper meanings behind Thoth's teachings as written in the Emerald Tablets.  "What!?"  I was completely intrigued.  I had literally just read the Emerald tablets before reading Peniel's book, so their mysteries were still fresh and swirling about in my blown mind.  What a synchronicity!

The next day I grabbed my computer and searched, "Thoth Tarot deck".  To my surprise Alister Crowley's pretty face came up in the search, along with many of his amazing books, and of course the THOTH Tarot cards.  At the time my knowledge of Crowley's work was mainly in the form of his books like Magick, The Book of the Law, Book of Lies, etc.  These are all fascinating writings, to say the least.  However, my interest at the time was getting my hands on one of those tarot decks.


Printed in Belgium in 1978

There I was on my computer looking at a deck of THOTH tarot cards.  There were several options actually.  There was a standard THOTH deck for around $23, or various used decks from over the years.  They all looked to have different backs or boarders.  Nothing game changing, but piqued my interest once again.  As it turned out there were many publications of the THOTH deck over the years, starting in the early 1960s up to now.  Somehow I was drawn to the older used decks with prices of $75-200.  "Hmm," I thought.  "You always did have an affinity for collectable things that happen to be expensive".

Since I really could not afford those older decks I set up a search watch to alert me whenever one was listed for sale.  About 2 weeks later a used THOTH deck printed in 1978 was listed for only $40, including shipping.  "This is a steal!" I thought.  The cards were in fine shape, the box in tact (see below).  The only drawback was that it shipped from Canada, so I'd have to wait a couple of weeks.  Also, it  did not have the original instruction manual and essays by Frieda Harris.  "I can deal with that" I thought, pulled out the wallet and became a proud friend of a gorgeous set of tarot cards.

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