The Tarot Photo Project
Photographs by James Bostick
The images and symbols of the Tarot tradition have a rich and ancient history. Over the centuries artists have been inspired to create variations leading to an evolution of the Tarot represented by thousands of interpretations of the card decks. Iâ€™ve also been inspired by these images and history and recently aimed my camera toward my own photographic interpretations of the Tarot. This initial series of 13 cards is intended to represent the beginning of an ambitious study of the complete deck of 78 Tarot cards over the coming year. I hope you enjoy and find your own meaning my work.
0 â€œThe Foolâ€
Before the beginning. The fool represents the space before a decision or choice is made. A new cycle is about to begin that the seeker will enter inexperienced. New and Endless Possibilities. New Life. Pure energy. Chaos.
The Fool is influenced by Neptuneâ€™s guidance and Uranusâ€™ ever present potential to be both constructive and destructive. You may be wondering whatâ€™s in the sack? It contains the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The fool caries them always but he has long since forgotten why. All he knows is that they are his to protect.
â€œOrder is the pleasure of reason, but disorder is the delight of the imagination.â€
- Paul Claudel
1 â€œThe Magicianâ€
The â€œOneâ€ card in the Tarot deck considers singularity and the oneness of the human spirit. Will, determination, skill to organize, originality, invention, and concentration are all key aspects of the magician. He can also be a trickster. His capacity for self-realization is embodied by the alchemical principal that â€œYou must do everything yourselfâ€.
Endless possibilities represented by Infinity are darkened here by the use of the alchemical symbol for brimstone. With his blade toward the heavens where power emanates and the other hand toward the earth where power manifests the magician gains control over the elements represented on the alter as the cup (water), the rod (fire), the sword (air) and the earth (the pentacle).
â€œIt is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.â€
- Anias Nin
Justice is not as blind as you might think. She represents good instincts and keen perception. Justice brings order, balance, and harmony. Setting a confused life to order successfully. Adjustment. Strength. Protection.
The symbols represent the pillars from Solomonâ€™s temple. In some traditions these pillars represent â€œJusticeâ€ (Jachin) and â€œBenevolenceâ€ (Boaz), the two pillars of humanity. Justice is ruled byÂ Mercury in the house of Libra and Mars provides strength and power. Justice also represents theÂ equinox.
â€œI love the evil man who knows heâ€™s evil more than the righteous man who knows heâ€™s righteous.â€
â€“ Tales of the Chassidim
9 â€œThe Hermitâ€
Only alone can we find ourselves. The Hermitâ€™s lantern lights the depths of out inner being. He represents a teacher with profound insight and asks that we search the soul. Step back and reevaluate goals. Search for something more than you have. Listen to advice and keep an open mind. Meditate.
The hermit is influenced by Saturn, the slowest of our planets, and is also associated with Chronos, the guardian of time. The ideogramÂ representing â€œtwisting formationsâ€ in geology here represents contradiction and cautions to know what is true. The number 9 draws within itself. Completion of a cycle or a foundation to begin anew.
â€œSolitary Man you are going the way to yourself! And your way leads past yourselfâ€
- From Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
The Great Letting Go. Relinquish. Renew. Change is due. The present situation is outworn or unproductive. Death is a symbol of transformation. The end of a particular phase, time, or feeling is at hand.
The cycle ends at 12. If it does not begin again at 1 the cycle ends. The scythe represents the harvest hope and rebirth. The white rose is the immortality of the soul. Within the rose are concentric circles as stages of transformation. The symbols included here are the runeÂ Algiz reversed which cautions to be alert during times of change, andÂ Pluto who brings total transformation.
â€œNo witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.â€
- Rachel Carson
15 â€œThe Horned Godâ€ (the Devil)
The Horned God thrives on ritual. The god of the old religion becomes the devil of the new. He feeds the wild and uncivilized aspects of our psyche. He lives in the hidden parts of our nature. And is material in the sum of unlived possibilities. The lust here is not just for power but also the quest for power.
Fifteen is the number of the full moon and represents destructive energy. Antlers are symbolic of this godâ€™s male virility and rivalry. In his hand he offers us confusion. We are all,Â male andÂ female, lost souls enslaved by temptation.
â€œGod comes down to earth to found a religion and the devil comes right after him and organizes it.â€
- Swami Vivekananda
10 â€œTen of Rodsâ€
The flames of self-determination. Struggle to see a very demanding effort through. The burden is borne, but in the end may prove to be too great. The Ten of Rods teaches the importance of learning your limits. Stop to examine what you can and cannot handle. The burden is self-imposed. Lighten your load.
Ten offers positive or negative force, ego may become oppressive. The hindering spirit of Saturn weighs down.Â Saturn is the personification of the old ego that has been worn down by the weight of this burden. This is at odds with the fiery energy and strength of will ofÂ Mars striving to complete the work at hand.
â€œThe will is a beast of burden. If God mounts it, it wishes and goes as God wills; if Satan mounts it, it wishes and goes as Satan wills; Nor can it choose its rider... the riders contend for its possession.â€
- Martin Luther
3 â€œThree of Cupsâ€
One of the most joyous cards in the Tarot. Abundance, great happiness, friendship, celebration and Fulfillment are key attributes of this card. The shadow of this card however holds lust, hedonism, and raw sensuality.
Spiritual, emotional, and physical healing and maternal instinct is also called for, as this card is often the representation of conception. Development of theÂ seed (one) in union with theÂ earth (two) produces aÂ plant (three). Three of Cups is completion.
â€œBelieve me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!â€
- Friedrich Nietzsche
5 â€œFive of Cupsâ€
The water of stagnation. This is not good. The Five of Cups illustrates the effect if we allowÂ matter to triumph overÂ spirit. With ourÂ emotions fixed on misfortune the good in life is overlooked. All is not lost, there is something left to build on.
The need to let go brings with it some regret. While wondering where we belong in the world we are called to rediscover. Five of Cups beckons us to appreciate the perception of chaos around us.
â€œCome up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matterâ€
- Swami Vivekananda
7 â€œSeven of Cupsâ€
The water of delusion. The Seven of Cups offers fantasy & dream, power & greed, and indecision. On one level the card represents the need to be realistic about theÂ choices we make. But this is also a warning against illusion andÂ confusion. We must understand reality and not get caught up in daydreaming.
An abundance of imaginative gifts are available in life. We need to find a way to channel our creativity in to worthwhile activities. Focus on one goal to achieve success. Seven of Cups calls for a focus on the actual development of the soul as well.
â€œIt is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.â€
- Dr. Carl Sagan
2 â€œTwo of Swordsâ€
The spirit of Balance. Weighing the consequences of a situation that is not clear. Nothing can move forward or change until right action is taken. Are you hiding from the truth? Do you fear change or upsetting the status quo? Two of Swords calls for reconciliation of differences and recognition of reality vs. emotion.
Polarities. Duality. Opposing forces are creating deadlock. The spirit of balance may be found within theÂ spiral of life. Think carefully in this quiet moment but understand that this may be the calm before the storm.
â€œLife is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep movingâ€
- Albert Einstein
8 â€œEight of Swordsâ€
The spirit of restlessness. You are a temporary prisoner of the self. Lack of confidence and motivation to initiate a necessary change is blocking progress. Eight of Swords reveals a temporary loss of sight of the circumstances around you.
There is an awareness of time and space but development is arrested. The fact that her legs are still free indicates that only fear is preventing progress. The circle is incomplete and open behind her. She is able to move if she chooses.
Eight of Swords calls for discarding old ideas for new ones. TheÂ spirit of Jupiter asks for growth of mind and soul, a higher objective not to be distracted from trying to achieve. The labyrinth is a self made prison.
â€œIf there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work. If man feels small, let man make himself bigger.â€
- Hubert H. Humphrey
The power of the overall view. The Eight of Pentacles is often viewed as the â€œTalentâ€ card. It represents great enthusiasm for learning and discovery and the peace and contentment of fulfilling a promise to ones self. In bringing concepts to reality we continuously satisfy a desire to express ourselves in life and learn new skills.
Financial gain from using your talents wisely is a key message too. We are warned, however not to neglect or misuse our abilities. Worst of all would be to not recognize our possibilities. The positive relationship of theÂ Earth to the Sun feeds our energy to imagine and invent. Often self-transformation is discovered in the effort.
â€œGreat talents are the most lovely and often the most dangerous fruits on the tree of humanity. They hang upon the most slender twigs that are easily snapped off.â€
- Carl Jung
James Bostick lives in Salem and has been working as a photographer and designer for over 25 years. Bostickâ€™s fine art work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide and has been included in notable private and public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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