Book of Shadows "As Above"- The Major Arcana-General Discussion

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Book of Shadows "As Above"- The Major Arcana-General Discussion

I've decided to create this thread, as I feel it is important to look at the Major Arcana in general. The Major Arcana cards have the traditional numbering on the cards, that correlate to standard decks, and the traditional "Fool's Journey", but they are listed in a different order by Moore in the companion book. It should also be noted that the entire Major Arcana has been renamed, to fit with the pagan theme of this deck.

The Majors can also be grouped into three distinct groups according to Moore.

Group 1
XXI - The World
III - The Goddess
IV - The God
I - The Elements
0 - The Summerlands

These 5 cards represent the core beliefs and building blocks of a pagan/wiccan religion/world view. I know I haven't put them in numerical order, this is the order which Moore has documented them in the companion book. These are the essential aspects upon which the rest is built upon. I can definitely see this. Every wiccan has a reverence for the World around them and believes that the God and Goddess are present in the world. They believe in the power of the four (and sometimes 5th element, which represents spirit) elements, which created and are present in the world and influence it, and can be worked with and harnessed in spellwork. The Summerlands is a belief in an afterlife and/or reincarnation back to this world, to learn and grow spiritually.

Group 2
X - The Wheel of the Year
XVIII - Samhain
XIII - Yule
XVII - Imbolc
XIV - Ostara
VI- Beltane
XIX - Litha
XV - Lammas
XI- Mabon

These 9 cards represent the Wheel of the Year, which again is a large part of Wiccan life, honouring the turn of the Wheel and the seasons. This is the Pagan calender, and on the sabbats we celebrate, and honour the Earth and it's bounty, the Sun as well as the Goddess and God. Again these cards aren't listed numerically, as they are listed in accordance with the Wheel of the Year. The start of the Wiccan new year begins at Samhain (known as the Witches new Year). Without the basic principles you cannot worship the seasons and the wheel of the year, so it makes sense for these cards to follow on in the book from the previous five.

Group 3
IX - The Path
VIII -Spellcasting
V - Book of Shadows
VII - Transformation
XVI - Omens
XII - The Circle
XX - Initiation
II - Wisdom

The final group of cards relates to the tools and experiences that practicing pagans have. It starts with The Path, which is presumably the decision to go down the Wicca/ Pagan road, in the search for wisdom and spiritual nourishment. The next two cards talk then about your experiences as you craft rituals and spells and document your journey so far and what you have learnt in your Book of Shadows. This practicing leads to changes or a Transformation in yourself as you craft yourself as a Witch/Wiccan/Spiritual Creature. Omens refers to looking out for messages from your guides/spirit/Divinity in the world around you or maybe through divination. You may then feel ready to start working in a Circle. As you carry on, after a year and a day of practice you may wish to formally initate yourself into the Wiccan faith, now that you have experience and know this is the path for you. After years of practice and worship you may finally become a High Priestess and feel you have gained Wisdom (though I think most agree this is a lifelong thing!).

These are just my impressions of the ordering of the cards, and I look forward to discussing this with anyone who wants to add to this!
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In the As Above Major Arcana, Barbara Moore has re-named most of the traditional titles, but managed to stick with a RWS format. -That is, 22 Cards numbered 0 - 21, with her equivalents to Strength as VIII and Justice as XI.

In the LWB provided with As Above, Moore lists the Majors in the traditional format, giving the numerical value, traditional title, and her title:

0 - The Fool - The Summerlands
I - The Magician - The Elements
II - The High Priestess - Wisdom
III - The Empress - The Goddess
IV - The Emperor - The God
V - The Hierophant - The Book of Shadows
VI - The Lovers - Beltane
VII - The Chariot - Transformation
VIII - Strength - Spellcasting
IX - The Hermit - The Path
X - The Wheel - The Wheel of the Year
XI - Justice - Mabon
XII - The Hanged Man - The Circle
XIII - Death - Yule
XIV - Temperance - Ostara
XV - The Devil - Lammas
XVI - The Tower - Omens
XVII - The Stars - Imbolc
XVIII - The Moon - Samhain
XIX - The Sun - Litha
XX - Judgement - Initiation
XXI - The World - The World

Overall, I'm surprised and shocked how well Moore's themes mesh with the traditional titles and card meanings. They fit so well together, that I'm baffled no one has managed to come up with it before! Truely, this is THE Pagan/Wiccan deck for me! I can see so many uses for it besides the standard divination purposes based off just the Major Arcana alone! The Goddess and God cards could be used for meditation and contact with the divine. The Sabbats cards would make lovely alter decorations for these special times of the year!

I've decided to add some notes to @Eyebright's summaries of the Major Arcana from my personal views and, in the case of the Second Group, my Grimoire (kind of like a Book of Shadows, with the exception that it does not include my personal experiences; just information). -I've done this because I've seen some people say that a good knowledge of Paganism or Wicca may be a prerequisite for using the Book of Shadows: As Above deck. Being Pagan/Wiccan, I thought I would add a little insight to the Major Arcana's re-namings and the Pagan and Wiccan themes throughout, for those not too familiar with Paganism and Wicca. I hope that this will impart some wisdom for those wishing to work with the As Above Tarot who may not have this background.

Notes on Moore's Groupings:

Group 1 - The World is placed first, as it is a standard Pagan/Wiccan belief that everything in the World is interconnected, and has within the spark of the Divine. This card is not re-named from the standard RWS decks, and does not deviate much in meaning or symbolism.

The Goddess (The Empress) comes before The God (The Emperor), just like in the standard Tarot order, because in some Pagan/Wiccan traditions, more emphasis is put on The Goddess and/or hold the belief that The Goddess came first; creating her son and eventual lover/consort The God.

The Elements (The Magician - both contain the standard Witches/Magicians tools and the 4 Elements) are placed next, as they are sometimes believed to be created from The Goddess and The God. The 4 Elements of Earth (the Pentacle), Air (the athame/blade/sword), Fire (the wand), and Water (the chalice/cup) are the aspects of The Goddess and The God themselves. The Goddess rules over Earth and Water, The God rules over Fire and Air.

Last comes The Summerlands, where many Pagans/Wiccans believe it is that we go after we physically die and where we come from before we are born into this World. It's almost the equivalent to the Christians' Heaven. Instead of remaining here, Pagans/Wiccans hold the belief that The Summerlands are a place of rest and contemplation of our previously lived life/lives. It is from The Summerlands we all come from, and where we must all return to before being born again (as most Pagans/Wiccans believe in some form of reincarnation). The Summerlands takes the place of The Fool, which in some Esoteric beliefs link The Fool to the concept before creation.

Group 2 - The Wheel of the Year comes first to remind us that the calendar is not viewed by Pagans/Wiccans as a linear device. Many Pagans/Wiccans believe (and new sciences support the old belief) that Time is not linear, but cyclical. All of Nature (including time) is a cycle. The Wheel of the Year ties in elements from the Agricultural Year (concerning planting and harvesting) and the Astronomical Calendar which concerns the tides and seasons along with the position of Earth to The Sun (The God) and The Moon (The Goddess). The Wheel of the Year takes the place of the standard Wheel of Fortune.

Next come the Sabbats, the standard Pagan and Wiccan holidays. The word comes from the Greek word "Sabatu" which means "to rest" (McCoy). This may confuse outsiders, as the Sabbats are truly celebrations. The "rest" comes from the belief that no magick (or work) should be done on the day of the Sabbat. This is like the old Christian belief that no work should be done on Sundays; that they are reserved for worship. There are two types of Sabbats:
1. Greater or Major Sabbats, also known as Fire Festivals, that occur at the cross-quarters of the year (mid-points between the Solstices and Equinoxes) - These are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Litha.
2. Lesser Sabbats, which occur at the quarters of the year, falling on an Equinox or Solstice. These are no less important than the Greater Sabbats, but were celebrated later in time when astrology had been developed.
*Please note that any dates given are true to the Northern Hemisphere, as those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate the Sabbats on different dates to correspond with the Sun's position of the Earth (which effectively marks the passage of time and the Seasons).

Samhain (common pronunciations: "sow-wen" or "sah-VEEN") comes next, as @Eyebright mentions is the Witches New Year, it is also the Celtic New Year. It is celebrated from October 31st to November 1st. It is the original celebration of the muggle Halloween; also known as Hallows, All Hallows Eve, November Eve. Themes for the Sabbat include Death and Rebirth. Representing the traditional card of The Moon, as the Moon waxes and wanes. This Sabbat is the start of the Dark Half of the Year. It is also the final Harvest Festival, before Winter comes.

Yule is the Sabbat celebrated on the Winter Solstice which usually falls between December 20th and 23rd for the Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day of the year. Yule is linked to the traditional Death card, as everything has it's ends and cycles. Somethings die only for something else to be reborn. Yule is liked to the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Imbolc (pronounced "im-bolk") is usually celebrated on February 1st or 2nd. It is also known as Brigid's Eve/Day, Candlemas, or Oimelc. The theme for this celebration is rebirth of the Sun and welcoming in the Spring. This Sabbat is linked to the modern Groundhog Day and the traditional card The Star. As The Star indicates hope, Imbolc indicates the return of growth.

Ostara is the celebration of the Spring or Vernal Equinox (usually occuring March 20th - 23rd for N. Hemisphere). On this day, the length of light and night are equal. This is a celebration of balance, fertility and new beginnings. This Sabbat is linked to the Christian Easter. Ostara takes the place of the traditional card Temperance, both which deal with the concept of balance.

Beltane is celebrated from April 30th - May 1st. This celebration marks the start of the Light Half of the Year. It is also commonly known as May Eve/Day, or Walpurgis. Beltane's theme is that of all types of love and union, effectively taking the place of The Lovers card in the traditional Tarot.

Litha, also known as Midsummer, is the celebration of the Summer Solstice. Occurring between June 20th and 23rd; it is the longest day of the year. On this day the Sun remains in the sky for the longest period of time throughout the year, it is an appropriate card to take the place of the traditional card The Sun. This Sabbat is sometimes linked with the Christians' St. John's Day.

Lammas is also known as Lugnassad ("loo-nus-uh"), The Early or First Harvest, or the Feast of Bread. It is celebrated on either August 1st or 2nd (NH). This Sabbat is one of the celebrations of the bounties and abundance of the Earth and Harvest. Linked to the traditional card of The Devil, it can be seen as consumption to the point of excess.

Finally, we have Mabon which occurs on the Autumn Equinox (usually occuring between the 20th and 23rd of September for the N. Hemisphere). Mabon is also known as the Second Harvest, Harvest Home, or simply the Harvest Festival. The theme is of Thanks, as some call it the Pagan Thanksgiving. Mabon is linked to the traditional card of Justice, as justice is a theme of give and take. The Earth has given us the Harvest, and from Mabon on, She shall take the growth away, becoming barren until Spring.

Group 3 - The Path comes first, linked to The Hermit, as it is a belief of some Pagan and Wiccan groups that the spiritual journey is a very personal thing. It is common for Pagans and Wiccans to believe that each person's path to Divinity is a highly personal and individual thing. Each person should craft their own Path based on their beliefs and experiences, not taking the words or experiences of others as law, but as building blocks on the road to spirituality.

Spellcasting takes the place of the traditional Strength card, as the practice of magick requires the knowledge and direction of one's true will. A spell is not just some words/candles/stones/herbs thrown together to 'get what you want'. A spell is created by identifying a need or deep (spiritual) desire which you then find correspondences with in the objects around you (ie. poetry/verse/'spell'/colours/herbs/stones, etc.) that hold deep meaning that resonates with your desired outcome. You must know what you want, know how to 'get it' (which means doing any mundane 'leg work'), and believe that it is meant to be yours. When a person crafts a spell, they should have already considered, and be actively pursuing, anything that they can do in the 'Real World' to help manifest their spellwork (as the Christian saying goes: "God helps those who help themselves"). A person who casts a spell should have thoroughly thought through their work to make sure that what they want to achieve is truly best for them and the others around them (why many witches/magicians will not cast love spells for specific people, or work vindictive magicks). Spellcasting/Strength requires personal reflection, positive action, and deep understanding of the world around you.

The Book of Shadows takes the place of the traditional card The Hierophant. A Book of Shadows is a book/journal that many Pagans and Wiccans create which holds their beliefs, practices, and any information that may help them along their paths. The Hierophant of the traditional decks is the spiritual leader who holds the keys to wisdom, and encourages those on their spiritual journeys, providing blessings and insights. As Paganism and Wicca are not Book Religions, and sometimes lack a traditional hierarchy; the Book of Shadows serves as a Pagan/Wiccan's personal spiritual leader on their very individualistic path.

Transformation is linked to The Chariot of traditional decks. The traditional Chariot is very driven; it knows what it wants and is willing to take the necessary action to get it. The Transformation is the acknowledgement and acceptance of the Pagan/Wiccan spirituality, which encourages each person to take control of their life and to act in accordance with their will. Overcoming obstacles and taking charge is all a part of the Transformation.

Omens is the title for the traditional card of The Tower. Omens can be considered as "signs". As The Tower is a card of deep and sudden change; the Omen card is what actively points out and brings to light that change.

The Circle takes the place of the traditional card The Hanged Man. In Paganism and Wicca, the Circle is a place of protection and power. It is commonly referred to as a place that is beyond the standards of "space and time". It is within the Circle that invocations are said, prayers are made, magicks are worked. Like The Hanged Man, The Circle represents a different perspective, a higher knowledge.

Initiation is the re-naming of the standard Judgement. I find this re-naming very exciting, as it links the Esoteric belief that Tarot is a 'Path of Initiation' that one must take to be enlightened directly to Tarot! An Initiation is what a person must undergo in order to be either accepted into a formal ranking Coven/Group/Circle or the point and/or ritual where a person dedicates themselves to the path of Paganism/Wicca. Like the card of Judgement, the Initiation is all about answering to your inner (spiritual) calling.

Finally, we have Wisdom which is the re-naming for The High Priestess card. This is not a hard stretch to make, as one of the many definitions of the High Priestess card is Wisdom. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; knowledge is pure fact, while wisdom is what occurs when one knows how to handle knowledge and act accordingly. The High Priestess card holds the knowledge upon a scroll, but she's not telling. You must have the wisdom to uncover the knowledge for yourself, linking the Pagan/Wiccan concept of walking your own spiritual path to a deeper understanding of life, gathering your own Wisdom.

Yes, this is a lot. There is so much here to explore! I tried to limit myself to basic concepts and facts here... as there is a lot of ground to cover here!
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Eyebright  Eyebright is offline
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You've provided some excellent info there Eevie! It's 11.30pm here, as I've just got home from SIL's birthday, so I haven't done more than skim read it, nor have I had time to post about any of the cards. I'll do that tomorrow!

I have to agree that I like how well Moore's system overlaps and links in with the traditional ordering of the major arcana. The Fool is unnumbered in traditional decks, so it can be placed anywhere, most often at the beginning or the end, and this is very fitting with The Summerland card in this deck, as The Summerland's is the beginning and end of a Wiccan's life/current incarnation.

I find it especially interesting to see the High Priestess aka Wisdom at the end of the deck. There is a commonly held belief that you have a purpose or lesson to learn over the course of your life, and that when it is acheived we die and move on The Summerlands to rest before setting a new goal and reincarnating. It can also be argued that Wisdom takes a lifetime to acheive, so it is apt to see it at the end of the arcana, it is the sum of all the other cards that leads to Wisdom. Wisdom to me, is knowledge that has been tempered through life experiences, and it takes a lifetime to accrue.

Really pleased with this deck so far!
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What a wonderful explanation and reference tool for those just starting out on the Pagan path. (I may print it all out to keep with my book .)

I'm also extremely pleased with this deck and how seamlessly everything correlates to merge Pagan beliefs with the "traditional" or "standard" Tarot meanings. The more I study this deck, the more I love it. I guess I've said that too much, but it's true. Finally! Finally! A deck I can work with and look forward to working with every step of the way.
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I agree with you Disa, it could well be *my* deck! And as you say it could be of great help to someone starting out on their own path. Especially when paired with our Eeviee's brilliant and in-depth posts!
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Thank you, Eyebright & Disa... You are both so kind! *blushes*
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I just wanted to add in some selections from the companion book that I feel are important:

The Major Arcana cards in this deck follow the archetypal ideas expressed in traditional tarot decks but express them from a pagan point of view. In this way, the deck becomes an educational tool that a beginner can use to form a foundation for further studies. It is also an excellent reading deck that will resonate with the pagan soul.
(p. 16)
There we go again with using the deck as a spiritual tool! =]
I find that it reads extremely well from my Pagan/Wiccan perspective...

What is interesting is that Barbara states in her book about how she does not believe them to be used with reversed meanings:
Because these cards, the Major Arcana, represent archetypal energies and basic teachings of paganism, when reversed or surrounded by unfavorable cards their meanings are not changed. Instead, their energy should be read as blocked or stagnant. Generally, if these (or any cards) are reversed, the querent can improve the situation by taking steps to release or unbind the repressed energy.
(p. 17)
-The book gives list of keywords for the "divinitory meaning" at the end of each discussion on the Majors and leaves the reversed/shadow meaning out.

In the stand-alone deck that I have, however, makes no mention of leaving out the reversals and includes them after every Major's upright meanings in italics.
From the included LWB (p. 5):
If a card (much depends on the method used to shuffle the deck) is reversed in a spread, the interpretation is traditionally changed. In the list that follows, the reversed meanings are found in cursive.
I do not know how I feel about disregarding the reversals of the Majors in this deck... I see where Barbara is coming from (why she chose to see them as repressed/blocked), but it strikes me as rather odd that she includes reversed meanings for the Minors, but wishes to ignore them for the Majors.
...This will not be a dilemma for those who do not read with reversals, but as I sometimes do, it is food for thought. Regardless, the reader can choose to incorporate them as they will.
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Reading List

Barabara's Suggested Reading List for the Major Arcana:

Wicca for Beginners by Thea Sabin
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

I was so amused when I read this because I own and have read all of the above!

I do not have access to Sabin's book, ATM, but I remember it was a pretty decent book on Wicca. -Apparently nothing remarkable nor terrible, as I do not remember anything specifically other than I liked it.

Cunningham's book is a notorious classic for the study of Wicca. It has a lot of good info in the short book, but I find a lot of it dated.

Penczak's Temple Series is TO DIE FOR! I've read A LOT of Pagan and Wiccan books, especially those geared towards the beginner, but the Temple Series I LOVE. The way Penczack writes makes me melt, and these books REALLY kick started the engines of my spiritual practice.
Inner Temple may not really excite you or hold your interest (at first), but it lays a GREAT foundation for the path of magickal practice; teaching meditation, grounding, and energy work. MANY books on Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism cut short or even fail to mention the basics presented here.
Outer Temple teaches you more about the practice of Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism. It delves into tools, Sabbats, and other standard Wicca 101 fare.

If you are interested in learning about Wicca/Paganism I would recommend Thea Sabin's book for a brief overview (which is, by all means, not complete). If you are looking to start practicing or expand your practice, I cannot recommend enough Penczack's Temple Series. These are the first two, but there are currently 6. In order: Inner, Outer, Shamantic, High, Living I & Living II. Each book coincides with an Element: Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Spirit of The Goddess & Spirit of the God. They are hearty books with a lot of meat in them. They are presented in a workbook format, complete with exercises, homework assignments, and at the end provide a quiz to test your knowledge and rituals for an solitary eclectic who wishes to initiate themselves at these levels.
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