In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

Typhonian Tarot #1: The Tree of Life & The Fool

There are already plenty of resources – like Clive Barrett’s The Ancient Egyptian Tarot (Thorsons, 1994) – that identify the Major Arcana with the Egyptian Gods. However, I have certain problems with many of these resources, one being the idea that any particular God or Goddess is “limited” to just one card (as when Barrett suggests that Seth is limited to the Devil card; eventually, I’ll try to explain why I think He’s also linked to the Hanged Man and the Tower, among others). I don’t claim to be an expert on the Tarot (far from it!), and I don’t claim to “know” any more about it than anyone else really does; but for what it’s worth, here’s how I choose to look at it.

First, I like the idea (introduced by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) that the twenty-two Major Arcana can be used to interconnect the ten Sephiroth on the Qabalic Tree of Life. Here’s an example of how this is usually done in modern occultism today:

However, if we keep this same essential structure while replacing the Sephiroth with the nine Gods and Goddesses of the Heliopolitan Ennead (plus Horus), we get something like this:

Bear in mind, the Netjeru and the Sephiroth don’t match each other perfectly, and I’m not encouraging anyone to think otherwise. (It actually frustrates me a little whenever someone “identifies Seth with Geburah” for example, since there are ways in which He can also be identified with any of the other Sephiroth as well. The same is equally true of every other Netjer.) For my purposes here, I’m ditching the Sephiroth entirely while using the Tree of Life pattern to see how the Major Arcana look when they connect the Netjeru instead. And here we go:

A Kemetic Tree of Life?

Now I’m not claiming that this way of looking at it is perfect, but in this context, each of the Arcana represents a path where one member of the Ennead blends into another. I think this is much better than simply identifying one Netjer with one card.

Bearing this in mind, we can say that the path of the Fool represents that part of nature where Ra, the Prime Mover, begets Shu, the God of air and atmospheres. In the Heliopolitan cosmogony, this is after Ra ascends from Nun (the primordial chaos) and recognizes Himself as the first sentient being. He lays the foundation of Ma’at in His heart, and then He masturbates. As He does this, His breath becomes Shu; then He ejaculates and Tefnut (the Goddess of moisture) explodes from His loins (which I will further explain when I discuss the path of the Magician next week).

The Fool is usually depicted as a guy who’s happily walking along with his head in the clouds and a dog at his heels, and who’s completely oblivious to the fact that he’s about to walk over the edge of a cliff. In the sky above him, we see a very prominent Sun (the symbol of Ra), and the fact that he’s looking up in the air suggests that he’s looking at Shu. (Not to sound irreverent toward Shu, but you might say the Fool is literally an “airhead.”) The idea of walking over the cliff can be linked to Ra’s primal orgasm, which I identify with the Big Bang (no pun intended).

Notice also that the Fool is holding a flower and is wearing a very flowery outfit. This makes me think of how back when Ra was all by Himself and He had no children or chaos monsters to complicate His life, He was probably more like a hippie than the stern regal lawgiver He would eventually become. At the same time, all who would later come into existence through Him (including people) can be said to have His spark within them, and perhaps that’s what the Fool really is: that primal magical fire in the heart that’s completely intuitive and which has no agenda other than to seek happiness and pleasure. Assuming that our cosmos really is the result of Someone playing with Him/Her/Itself (as the Heliopolitans believed), then seeking pleasure is hardly a “sinful” thing; it is an act of innocence and purity as well as a supremely magical act.

So for me at least, the Fool – being the meeting point between Ra and Shu – represents how true Creation (on both the cosmic and personal levels) usually isn’t the result of some complicated master plan, but is more often just a matter of satisfying some primal urge. An entire family bloodline can be brought into being through one simple romantic evening, and an entire media empire can be conjured forth through an artist scribbling a cartoon mouse. When you draw the Fool card, you’re drawing the pure creative instinct for self-fulfillment, unadulterated by logic or any rational concern for results. This path is also associated with aleph, the reconstructed first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. Aleph happens to be the West Semitic word for “ox,” a horned beast of burden that wasn’t considered to be very intelligent in the ancient world, but which was nevertheless indispensable to the productivity of ancient agrarian and economic life.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what Kenneth Grant had to say about the “shadow” or qliphothic side of this path. Grant postulated that the reverse side of the Tree of Life is the Tree of Death (accessible through Daath, the shattered sephira of knowledge), and that each of the twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life corresponded with a “Tunnel of Set” on the Tree of Death. According to the esteemed Typhonian Thelemite Linda Falorio, the qliphothic version of the Fool is “Amprodias,” which is “The Irrational taken to the extreme results in perfect freedom, with the ability to perceive pure essence, and to extend consciousness into outré realities.” I have no clue what this is really supposed to mean (and reading Grant himself doesn’t help very much), but I would reckon that Amprodias is when the pure, primal creativity of the Fool is twisted to destructive and abusive ends. While the Fool’s obliviousness is a joyful and creative thing, Amprodias is nihilistic and inert; it’s the instinct in Apophis that would prevent anyone from ever doing anything.

Note: Grant postulated that Seth-Typhon is the “ruler” of the qliphoth and that He is also the demon Choronzon in Daath, which guards the way to the qliphoth and the Tree of Death. I think Grant got some pretty mixed up ideas about Big Red from reading too much Gerald Massey – whose theories about Egypt were outdated even in Grant’s time – but I don’t think he was entirely wrong. Seth isn’t Choronzon, and He doesn’t “rule” the qliphoth in the sense of actually “supporting” them; but qliphoth are definitely afraid of Him and will do whatever He says (e.g., “Get away from my worshipers!”) for fear of getting blown away. And if the “Tunnels of Set” were actually made by the Big Guy, I imagine He only created them as a way of charting enemy territory.

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9 responses to “Typhonian Tarot #1: The Tree of Life & The Fool

  1. ubenmaat March 3, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve always equated Ra’s masturbation with the Big Bang, also!

    I also think you’re right in that no Netjeru can be limited to one card. They all had multiple roles in multiple areas of expertise (ex: Set controls storms, and defends the barque from Apep).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rev. Dragon's Eye March 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Very interesting take on the “Ari” Tree of Life.

    Though I also view most (if not just about all) of the spirits and deities being capable of any act or happening, their specific placements, as proposed, upon the Tree of Life was not meant as an imposed limitation upon our views of them. The various positions on the “Tree”, as well as the specific Sephirot, were to stand as particular steps and pathways from the Great Divine – to – the final manifested state of Creation. – In the reverse direction: One travels up the “Tree” to, step-by-step, attain oneness with the Divine.

    The “Tree” can be thought of as akin to “Jacob’s Ladder” to the Heavens. Each of the Sephirot also include the Four Kingdoms, each with its own particularities that apply to the idea or characteristic that is empowered by that Sephirot.

    22 – Pathways in between the Sephirot,
    10 – Sephirot – The Ten minor “pips” in each of the “4” Elemental Kingdoms (for 40 – minors)
    16 – Royals (4 Royals of each of the 4 Elemental Kingdoms)
    78 – Total Tarot Cards.

    The 22 pathways, plus the 10 Sephir, gives the 32 Pathways of Wisdom. Each pathway represents a specific idea, goal, or characteristic to be attained towards the perfection of the Divine (Kabbalah: “Oneness”).

    I have a rendition of the Tree of Life of my own, that yet differs further, but is just as applicable to what I believe in. It just like when I was reading a book that explains the “other” Tree of Life (or more like, in his words: “The Tree of Death”), as if we were talking about an opposite Tree of Life. The “Tree” is everything accounted for, and in a balance. The “Tree” takes into account the Light-and-Darkness, Masculine-and-Feminine, and other “opposite polarities” – where the Middle Pillar is that point of exact, perfect balance between opposites. I really see no “opposite” to the Tree of Life itself, because it already accounts for opposites, and establishes them and the balance between them.

    Anyway,

    Very interesting perspective on the Tree of Life, and its (varied) correspondences. Everyone has his/her view of what should be where, upon the “Tree”.

    – Rev. Dragon’s Eye

    Liked by 1 person

    • G. B. Marian March 4, 2015 at 6:53 am

      I agree that the associations I’ve criticized weren’t necessarily meant to restrict Western views of non-Abrahamic spirits (or of the Egyptian Gods in particular). But they nevertheless did this, and my aim here is to radically reinterpret the Tree in a way that I hope is more befitting to the Netjeru (or to the Ennead, at the very least). Of course, my work here isn’t meant to be definitive or dogmatic; if there are ways that other followers of the Netjeru feel this can be improved upon, I would encourage them to try doing so (even if it means completely throwing out the interpretations I share here). I also reserve the right to change my opinions on these subjects as needed.

      The associations I’ve criticized go back to the Golden Dawn, which was notorious for not really understanding non-Western entities and/or oversimplifying Them as mere “archetypes.” Of course, their lack of accuracy wasn’t entirely their fault (due to Egyptology still being in its infancy at the time, as well as its strong European colonialist bias). The argument can also be made that they opened the door for later occultists and polytheists to improve upon our understandings of the Gods. I’m not arguing that the Golden Dawn is entirely wrong or irrelevant; but I do feel that works like the Barrett book mentioned above (which is much more recent) have much less excuse for oversimplifying the Gods.

      I admit I am also probably oversensitive about this issue due to the fact that Seth is so often conflated with Satan in modern popular culture to begin with, so it really burns my butter when people like Barrett simply throw Him together with “satanic” things on a very superficial basis. (When the time comes for me to discuss the Devil card, I’ll go into this a bit more deeply.)

      A huge part of this issue for me is that the Qabalic Tree of Life originated from Hebrew mysticism and was originally intended to jive only with Jewish mythology and symbolism. The Sephiroth in this context are merely different aspects of the same God, whose angels are little more than spiritual automatons. When the Golden Dawn developed its own Hermetic version of this system, they seem to have treated the Egyptian Gods as if They were just Hebrew angels (a common monotheistic misinterpretation, as seen in the works of E. A. Wallis Budge). However, their idea of combining the Tree with the Tarot has also stuck and continues to be used today, even by some people who walk with the Netjeru. So basically I am trying to re-interpret the Tree and the Tarot in a way that is more faithful to the Egyptian side of this equation than to the Hebrew side. (It isn’t lost on me that some people might see this as being an act of cultural appropriation that’s just as bad as what the Golden Dawn did with the Netjeru. But really, all I’m using here that’s specifically Jewish is the model of the Tree itself, with ten spheres arranged into three pillars. I am not actually equating the Netjeru with the Sephiroth, and I am interpreting the 22 Paths in terms of the former, not the latter.)

      Hopefully I’ve made my position clear, but please let me know if you find anything I’ve said confusing; I will do my best to elaborate. And as I mentioned above, I encourage anyone who wants to do so to improve upon my interpretations here if they can. Thank you for your insightful comment!

      Like

      • Rev. Dragon's Eye March 4, 2015 at 2:32 pm

        I am still trying to find some info on the Egyptian-origination of the Tree of Life and what became the basic practices of the Kabbalah. A friend of mine is very much into workings from the Egyptian magic system. He told me that much of Egyptian magical practices was “borrowed” by the early “Isrealites”, to which eventually became known as “Kabbalah”. Many of the names of Deities and Netjeru were change over to ones that we may commonly see in the Bible, and other early Semitic texts. – If I can find these resources that say so, this would be enough for me to conclude that “Kabbalah” was NOT originally of Jewsih origin, but borrowed from early Egypt.

        So, there was plenty of “cultural appropriation” going on all the way around.

        Liked by 1 person

      • G. B. Marian March 4, 2015 at 5:49 pm

        There does seem to be some evidence for medieval Jewish Kabbalah being influenced by Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism and Pythagorism, which gives greater weight to the idea of Hermetic Qabalah trying to reunite Kabbalah with these ideas. Hermeticism is very clearly influenced by Egyptian polytheism, and there is some evidence that Gnosticism and Pythagorism were as well (though probably not as much). I’m not sure about Neoplatonism, but I would be very interested to see some clear Egyptian mystical influence on the ancient Israelites. There does seem to be some argument for this based on Pharaoh Akhenaten and the prophet Moses, but I haven’t seen any definitive proof as of yet. It seems more likely to me that Kabbalah was only indirectly influenced by Kemetic religion through its more Hellenized forms, which didn’t come along until well after the Pharaohs were replaced by the Ptolemies. Either way, this is a very fascinating discussion, and I wish you and your friend all the best in tracking down the resources you seek. Let me know if you find something, and Gods bless you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. satanicpuritan March 5, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Very interesting diagrams! Oh my goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

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