Pagan Paths

The morning sun rising in the east calls to the Bright Youth in me, and the Bright Youth responds. The full moon calls to the Muse, and the waning and dark moon to the Dark Maiden who is a part of me. The earth I touch with my fingers calls to the Mother, in both her guises, Nurturing and Devouring. The bright green shoots rising from the earth and the green leaves on the trees on my street in the spring, these call to the Stag King, while the red leaves fallen to the earth in the autumn call to the Dying God. The spring storm that rises up suddenly in the west calls to the Storm King. The night sky, the dark space between the stars, calls to Mother Night, my death come to make peace. The gods-without call and the gods-within respond.

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My Own Tarot (Part 2)


I previously shared my favorite tarot decks.  In the last post and this one, I want to share my own personal tarot deck that I created from some of my favorite artists.

11  Fortune (art by John Byam Liston Shaw, "Now is Pilgrim Fair Autumn's Charge")


I love this painting. Though it departs from the traditional imagery of the Wheel of Fortune, but the traditional elements remain.  Youth and maturity are represented, as is death.  The painting symbolizes for me the changing of the seasons, the Wheel of the Year.  There are the figures of the sun child, the ripe mother goddess, the siren, the psychopomp, and death, all present. 

With my reordering of the deck, the Fortune card falls right in the middle (if you count the Fool card).  This seems appropriate since traditionally Fortune was invoked when the scales of fate could be tipped one way or the other.

12  Hermit (art by Alan Lee, "Merlin")


The Hermit card represents for me both the virtue of Wisdom and old age which precedes death (the next card).  What better character from myth than Merlin to represent that virtue.

13  Death (art by Anat Vaughan-Lee, "The Unknown She")


I have vacillated about the death card.  The card above adopts the traditional imagery of the death figure, but feminizes it somewhat.  While a lovely death image, I think I prefer the imagery of an earlier Death card I made. 

The Death card traditionally represented the “gateway” to hell (symbolized by the Devil card).  The painting below by Robh Ruppel depicts a heroine at the gates of hell, preparing for her descent.  For me, the Death card represents the end of one thing and the beginning of another.  The gate is an appropriate symbol for this.


14  Angel (art by Evelyn de Morgan, "The Field of the Slain")


I've created a new card for the deck here.  In most decks, the Temperance card was placed after Death and before the Devil, thus symbolizing for me divine intercession, standing between humankind and hell.  I returned the Temperance card to its place in the succession of virtues and vices, but I felt the place occupied by the Temperance card was meaningful, so I created an Angel card to fill this place.  I love this painting in which the angelic figure appears to be collecting the souls of the dead.

15  Devil (art by Boris Vallejo, "Touches")


This painting depicts an incubus (male demon) seducing a woman in her sleep.  In the Middle Ages, this demonology was the Christian church’s answer to why virtuous women had lustful dreams.  (There was a female version of the incubus, called a succubus, that visited men.)  The Devil card represents for me the dark side of sexuality.  The actual darkness of this painting, along with its subject matter, symbolizes this well.

16  Hanged Man (art by Boris Vallejo, "The Tree")


The Hanged Man (or Traitor) is probably the most mysterious card of the Tarot.  For me, the Hanged Man represents a reversal of traditional values, patriarchal power, and corrupted religiosity.  Accordingly, I removed this card from of the historical ordering (before the Death card) and placed it at the penultimate point in the downward spiral that begins with the Temperance-Lovers pair.  As Christ reputedly descended below all things to rise above it all, so the Hanged Man represents the darkest card of the major arcana, while simultaneously promising hope; the lowest point is the step before the ascent begins.  (Now I'm wondering if I should place the Hanged Man card after the Tower.)

The painting I selected shows the binding and quasi-crucifixion of a man (nude to emphasize his maleness).  As with traditional depictions of the Hanged Man, it is not clear whether the man is suffering.  The embrace by the tree (a symbol of the cross) seems almost sensual.  Note that the tree is alive and monstrous.  The image calls to mind the story of Prometheus, who was chained to a rock by the gods for bringing light/fire to men, as well as Odin, who hung himself on the Tree of Life to gain wisdom.  Both of these mythological figures have been associated with Christ.  The  theme of binding is reminiscent of the previous card, the Devil, which traditionally represented slavery. 

17  Tower (art by Ziv Qual, "Rage over Babylon")


The Tower of Babel is common motif for the Tower card, which represents for me hubris, male power, and the destruction of the same.  Usually the card shows the tower being destroyed.  The gathering storm in this painting suggests that the destruction (usually by fire from the heavens) is imminent.

18  Star (art by Michael Whelan, "Trantorian Dream")


This is one of my favorite paintings.  The figure stands on the edge of a ruined world and stares off bravely into the cold constellations of the night.  This painting was used as the cover for Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novel “Foundation’s Edge.”  Indeed, the figure seems to be standing on the edge of a ruined foundation.  I chose this painting for the Star card because of beautiful constellation of stars depicted, but also because it suggests that the figure (the hero) is standing on top of the ruins of the tower which was destroyed in the previous card.  The card represents for me the hope of a new day.

19  Moon (art by Mollie Kellogg, "Moon Goddess")


This is fairly straightforward moon imagery, which I associate with the Goddess.

In a previous deck, I used another painting by Boris Vallejo, "Moonlight Wolves", which depicts a wolf-man and wolf standing on a lunar-looking surface with a huge moon in the background, but I found certain elements of the painting to be distracting from the theme.


20  Sun (art by William Bouguereau, "Virgin and Child")


Another one of my favorite paintings by my favorite artist.  The Sun card traditionally depicts an infant male, possibly playing off of the Son-Sun homonym.  For me represents innocence and new life.  I could think of no better representation for this than the Madonna and Child, and for that I chose one of my favorite paintings by Bouguereau. 

21  Resurrection (art by Howard David Johnson, "Vision of the Woman Clothed in the Sun")


Traditionally, the Judgement card depicted the Resurrection described in the Christian New Testament.  Therefore, I renamed the card "Resurrection" and selected a phoenix motif to represent it.  I became fascinated by the symbolism of the Phoenix in my pre-teens reading the X-men comic book series.  The phoenix represents a power which is both creative and destructive.  This painting by Howard David Johnson combines the phoenix and caduceus motifs.

22  World (art by unknown)


This was another card that was difficult for me to represent.  After all, how does one represent totality?  I chose one of my favorite depictions of the panentheistic Goddess.  Unfortunately, I have not identified the artist.  I would be happy if anyone would let me know who to credit this to.

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John Halstead also writes at (Patheos),,,,, and The Huffington Post. He was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (, and the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. John is also a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community ( To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


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