The Tree Tarot

Most tarot readers have a particular set of cards which they are intimately familiar with and which they use exclusively to do readings. However, many readers and others collect sets of tarot cards and often they are used as a meditation exercise or simply to browse through and for relaxation, much in the way that you might browse through a “coffee-table” book. I have a set based on crystals. I don’t use them to do readings – wouldn’t know where to begin – but they are pleasant simply to look through.

This set is intended as a collector’s item and they relate the cards to the druidic and other folklore of trees and to herbal remedies associated with various trees. They are intended to be used in conjunction with our articles on the myths, folklore, medicinal uses and historical associations of trees. I can’t be sure but I don’t believe such a set has been produced before.

There is also a description of the meaning of each tarot cards if you already have your own pack and would like to learn more about the tarot in general. If you would like a set of these cards a set of downloadable PDFs for each of the cards in the major and minor arcana will follow shortly. You can download these for personal use and to give to friends royalty-free, courtesy of Alison’s Straight Talk Psychic Services. We are only reserving copyright on commercially produced sets as we may publish them ourselves in the future.

Click on any of the links in the two tables below – one for the major arcana and one for the minor arcana – to view the cards. You will find links to bring you back here, to the particular tree associated with the card or to all the tree articles, or back to general topics.


The Major Arcana

To download a free PDF of the major arcana - CLICK HERE

Each of the cards in the major arcana is related to a specific tree related to the subject of the card, such as a Dule (hanging)
tree for the hangman, or else to a species of tree connected to the card through folklore, druidic lore or natural remedies. Each major arcana card also carries its Astrological or planetary sign, and the associated Hebrew letter. Each of the major arcana cards in the Crowley / Harris Thoth deck carries a Hebrew letter and I have continued this tradition in these cards.

In the Thoth deck The Fool takes Alef, the magus takes Beit, and so on. There are 22 major arcana cards and 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, or to give it its proper name, "alefbet". However, this is not as straightforward as it seems and there are several problems.

The Hebrew Alefbet - CLICK HERE

The first problem is that the Fool is the unnumbered card which can act like a joker in a conventional pack of playing cards and replace any other card including any of the cards of the major arcana. Since it is unnumbered, it hardly makes sense to give it the number one in Hebrew. At the same time, Crowley doesn't leave the Fool unnumbered but assigns the Arabic number zero but the Hebrew Alef - one, which is more confusing. The problem then gets worse when you move on to the other major arcana cards, because the Magus or Magician, number one in the major arcana, then has to take the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet (beit); the Priestess, 2 in the major arcana takes three in the Hebrew alphabet, and so on. None of this makes much sense. I'm not just being pedantic here; the letters of the alphabet are actually used to represent numbers in Hebrew. This means that complete words have a numeric value and there is an associated numerology. If you want to associate this numerology with the tarot it becomes very difficult if the Hebrew numbers don't agree with the Arabic.

Some packs avoid this problem by assigning the Fool the number 22 so that it becomes the last card in the major arcana but this seems to me to be artificial and arbitrary. In any case, the Fool is the divine, primaeval light which illuminates the tarot, not the ending of it.

Taking in all of these considerations, I have not assigned the Fool any Hebrew letter; unnumbered means unnumbered. I have then assigned Alef, the first Hebrew letter, to the Magician and not to the Fool as in the Crowley / Harris deck, and the rest follow from there. This means that the final letter of the Hebrew alefbet, Tav, is not used. I like that idea. It keeps the tarot open ended and if you are reading for someone who is having difficulties in their life, they can take heart from the fact that "its not all over until the fat lady sings". There is always something else around the corner. However, you will appreciate from all of this that my Hebrew letter assignments do not agree with the Thoth deck.

The Fool: The Green Man 0 The Fool 6 The Lovers 12 The Hanged Man 18 The Moon The Fool: The Green Man
1 The Magician 7 The Chariot 13 Death 19 The Sun
2 The High Priestess 8 Strength 14 Temperance 20 Judgement
3 The Empress 9 The Hermit 15 The Devil 21 The World
4 The Emperor 10 The Wheel of Fortune 16 The Tower
5 The Hierophant 11 Justice 17 The Star


The Minor Arcana

To download a free PDF of the suit of Disks - CLICK HERE

To download a free PDF of the suit of Cups - CLICK HERE

To download a free PDF of the suit of Swords - CLICK HERE

To download a free PDF of the suit of Wands - CLICK HERE

Click any link below to view the card and its description.

CupsDisksWandsSwords
Cups Disks Wands Swords
Tree of Water Earth Fire Air
Life Clergy Merchants Peasantry Nobility
Sepiroth Spirituality Finance Intuition Intellect
Ain Soph Aur Ace Ace Ace Ace
Chockmah Two Two Two Two
Binah Three Three Three Three
Chesed Four Four Four Four
Geburah Five Five Five Five
Tipareth Six Six Six Six
Netzach Seven Seven Seven Seven
Hod Eight Eight Eight Eight
Yesod Nine Nine Nine Nine
Malkuth Ten Ten Ten Ten
Earth * Page Page Page Page
Fire * Knight Knight Knight Knight
Water * Queen Queen Queen Queen
Air * King King King King

There are ten Sepiroth and these correspond to the pip values of the cards ace to ten.
* The court cards are not associated with the Sepiroth but instead have the attributes of earth, air, fire and water as do the suits. This means that, for instance, the Queen of Wands is the "watery part of fire" while the Knight of Swords is the "fiery part of air".

Associations with the suits of the minor arcana can be identified at several levels. It is believed that they originally reflected the divisions of mediaeval society. Swords are associated with knights and by extension, the nobility. Wands are also known as staves, and staves are the weapon of choice of the peasantry. Disks or coins represented the merchant class while cups represented the clergy.

The suits area also associated with the four "elements" of nature: earth (disks / coins), air (swords), Fire (wands / staves), and water (cups). The aces represent these elements in their pure form while the remaining pip values represent these elements in a progresively more corrupted form by division. When working with the cards, the suits are often associated with aspects of the hunman psyche: bureaocracy, administration and financial matters (disks), the intellect and logic (swords), spirituality, the emotions and love (cups) and intuition and insight (wands).

Later, the four suits of the minor arcana became associated with what were then the suits of the old French games Piquet and Bezique: cups = hearts, clubs = wands, disks = diamonds and spades = swords (possibly because of a mis-translation of the Spanish "espada").

Acorns were the obvious choice for the suit of cups. This has resonance with antique German packs which also use acorns. Catkins visually suited wands, while for disks I chose blossom enclosed in a circle. Again, something similar occurs in the german packs. For swords I needed something thorny, which meant thorns, rose stems or holly. I chose thorns because of the association with Glastonbury and Joseph of Arimathea.

The court cards vary between different tarot packs. Pages are sometimes known as knaves but in Crowley's Thoth pack they have become princesses. Lady Frieda Harris who painted the cards, explained in an essay that the reason for this was to re-balance the masculine and feminine aspects of the pack. She was unaplogetic about modifying the the tarot in this way, explaining that the tarot has always evolved with the times just as folk songs are adapted from generation to generation. So, for instance, the Priestess card of the major arcana was at one time known as "Female Pope", a reference to Pope Joan. This was once a major issue but is now of little more than historical interest and so the name has changed, reflecting current interests.

I decided to stick to Pages in this pack, to reflect the immature or inexperienced aspect of these particular court cards, against the maturity of the knight. I've used crowns to signify the kings and queens. knights are indicated by the seal of the Knights Templar. Pages are standard-bearers so I've given them a flag carrying the cross of St. George. I hope I won't be accused of jingoism because of this (I'm English). The reason was because of the simplicity of the flag (compared with, say the Union Jack which is several flags combined to keep everyone happy), and a kind of pre-raphaelite romantic image I've got of George and the dragon, which fits well with this work.


Acknowledgements and further reading:

Tarot:

TarotJonathan Dee / Shirley BarkerParagon
Tarot DivinationAleister Crowley
The Book of ThothAleister Crowley
An Introduction to the Golden Dawn TarotRobert Wang
Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot DeckJames WassermanUS Games Systems Inc.

Kabbalah:

The Garden of PomegrenatesIsrael Regardie
The Mysical QuabalahDon Fortune
777Aleister Crowley
A Practical Guide to Quabalistic SymbolismGareth Knight

Trees:

The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern IrelandJon Stokes and Donald RodgerConstable
The Oxford Companion to English LiteratureSir Paul HarveyOUP
The Observer's Book of TreesFrederick Warne & Co. Ltd.
Tree Yoga - A WorkbookSatya Singh & Fred HagenederEarthdancer
Celtic Myths and LegendsGeddes and GrossetGeddes and Grosset
The Meaning of TreesFred HagenederChronicle Books
The Celtic Book of Seasonal MeditationsClaire HamiltonRed Wheel
A - Z of SuperstitionsCarole PotterChancellor Press
The Complete HerbalNicholas CulpeperGreenwich Editions

The Green Man:

A Little Book of MisericordsMike HardingAurum Press Ltd.

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© Ken James 2008