In 2017 and 2018 I am hosting Tarot workshops around the world, starting in Melbourne and ending in Dublin. This accompanies my new ebook, Pamela’s Tarot – about the card deck created by Pamela Colman-Smith in 1909. We’ll be using 21st century techniques, based on the latest discoveries in the quantum world, to reshape our past, present and potential to get what we want from our lives. It’s new. And it works. You’ll see proof at the events but also by using this occasional online series to try your own Tarot experiments. First things first, though. You need Pamela’s deck!
THE $100 MILLION TAROT CARD DECK
Pamela’s cards, created with some instructions from Arthur Waite (both were in the secret magical society, The Golden Dawn) are the the most successful Tarot cards in history. Sales, according to U.S. Games Systems, have topped $100 million. There’s a very good reason for this. They work.
WHAT THE QUEEN OF SWORDS TELLS US ABOUT PAMELA’S TAROT
In this occasional series, I will look at a range of Tarot cards and show how they tell us more about Pamela and how she designed images which not only accurately reflect past, present or future – they can be stage-directed, scripted and rehearsed. Pamela came from the theatre world of early 20th century Britain and America. This is one reason why her cards lend themselves to this kind of active Tarot. The Queen of Swords is the Queen of Swords, fixed, rigid, in position – until you shift her around on the stage set of your life! In my recent Melbourne workshops I showed 100 people how to do just that, using The After Tarot. When is the Queen of Swords most open to new possibilities? When a butterfly lands and a bird flies past. When she changes her options and her outlook. You can see this first-hand below, in the ingenious After Tarot deck from Italy.
WHAT THE QUEEN OF SWORDS SHOWS US ABOUT QUANTUM
How do you interpret the Queen of Swords in the Tarot? The world’s best-loved deck, designed by Pamela Colman-Smith (the Smith-Waite deck) shows her as a strong woman equipped with an equally strong sword. She is beckoning us forward with one hand, but has the sword in the other, ready to cut, chop, axe, trim, prune, slice, pare, sever or pierce. She can hurt us. She can also help us, if she is cutting out the dead wood from our lives or destroying who/what harms us. Like all the Tarot cards, the Queen of Swords is there to be worked with. But how and why? How did Tarot go from being a ‘fixed fate’ outcome, much beloved by James Bond scriptwriters, to the exciting tool for transformation we have today?
THE MULTIVERSE, SCHRODINGER’S CAT AND W.B. YEATS
The answer rests with discoveries made about the Cold Spot, among other things, which prove to us that we probably live in a Multiverse, composed of parallel universes, which we actively select from. Stephen Hawking is just one scientist who supports the Multiverse theory of reality. It’s all a very long way from Pamela (below) and her pots of ink, but it’s a tribute to her genius that so many of her Tarot cards uncannily show just that – a Multiverse waiting to be organised.
In Dublin in 1952, Erwin Schrödinger gave a lecture in which he warned that what he was about to say might “seem lunatic”. He said that, when his famous equations (which I saw chalked on a wall behind his Dublin office) seemed to describe several different histories, these were “not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously”.
This is one fascinating way to work with the Tarot. Given that the card you choose has a history – it’s a scene from an act in your life, which has evolved through a previous selection of scenes and stories – play with the idea that there were several different (parallel) histories taking you to this point. And there will be just as many parallel potential outcomes in the next act, of your drama. Pamela (below) understood stagecraft, props, costumes and performance better than most, because of her paid day job.
NOTHING IS REAL
At the level of the very small, everything is in two states at once. One of the most fascinating discoveries I made in Dublin in February 2017, where Pamela Colman-Smith had so many connections, was that Erwin Schrodinger, creator of Wave Mechanics – and the father of the famous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment – worked a few doors down from W.B. Yeats, who inducted Pamela into the Golden Dawn and – some say – was the mysterious third person who helped create the famous Smith-Waite Tarot.
SHOCKING BUT TRUE – DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR UNIVERSE WHEN YOU CHOOSE A TAROT CARD?
Quantum theory (so shocking that Einstein could not face it) was under development in 1909 when Pamela’s cards went on sale to Christmas shoppers in London. It’s been called a truth stranger than fiction. As John Lennon once noted, ‘Nothing is real.’
John Gribbin, whose credits include working as a physics consultant for New Scientist, wrote this about the famous 1982 quantum experiments by Alain Aspect at the University of Paris-South – “The experiments prove that there is no underlying reality to the world. “Reality” in the everyday sense, is not a good way to think about the behaviour of the fundamental particles that make up the universe…”
Gribbin wrote these words in his classic book In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat (Black Swan) which honours the man who has a plaque in Dublin on Merrion Square, just a few doors away from the plaque remembering W.B. Yeats.
HOW THE SEVEN OF CUPS SHOWS US THE MULTIVERSE
We have no evidence surviving that Pamela even speculated on what would come to be known as Many Worlds or Multiverse theory – but her cards show it in quite uncanny ways. Look at the Seven of Cups. Nothing is real until you choose. Use the Queen of Swords to help you pop a few bubbles and clouds. Banish quantum uncertainty in your life and select what/who you need to bring down to earth, to deal with it – perhaps to gain from it. Scientists talk a lot about ‘ghost’ cats when they consider Schrodinger’s Cat and its problems. Well, there’s a ghost right there, in Pamela’s Seven of Cups.
HOW TO READ PAMELA’S MIND – THE INFLUENCE OF 1909
A useful way into the deck is to put ourselves in Pamela’s place, around a century ago, and imagine what influences or ideas might have been in her mind. I will begin with the Queen of Swords, because as an archetype she is such a good example of Pamela’s world in 1909 when the Suffragette movement was taking over Britain and sweeping her along with it. The Queen of Swords is a strong woman. A powerful player. She is an archetype which comes to us from Suffragette City – London in 1909.
JOAN OF ARC AND THE QUEEN OF SWORDS
Pamela was a Bohemian, a Christian, a supporter of both the Red Cross and Suffragette cause (she designed posters for both the latter). In 1909 when the cards commissioned by Waite went on sale, Joan of Arc was made a Roman Catholic saint. We have no proof that Pamela had the newly canonised Joan of Arc in mind when she created her Queen of Swords card, the imagery is uncanny. Joan of Arc is the French heroine who threw herself into the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, supporting the French King Charles VII. Joan of Arc was given a coat of arms with a sword pictured alongside a crown. Pamela became a Roman Catholic after creating her Tarot and so Joan of Arc must have been in her mind, at the turn of last century. Understanding her world helps us understand her cards.
USING THE QUEEN OF SWORDS IN MODERN LIFE
The Queen of Swords is the card that comes up when you have just been hired by a female boss with the power to fire, as well as hire. It is also the card which appears if a man is enquiring about a woman in the Army he has just fallen in love with. If you are asking about yourself, it is that aspect of you which is most Mars/Aries in nature. Mars is the God of War, and when Pamela was creating her deck, knives and swords were still very much in use in the military. Aries is ruled by Mars. So, in your own personality and horoscope, this card can turn up if you are on the warpath, or in a position to declare war on something or someone. Like all Pamela’s cards, it can be ‘stage-directed’ or moved, rather like a scene from Shakespeare. If you dislike the potential aggression and danger in the card, perhaps you need to visualise the Queen putting her sword to one side.
Should the Queen of Swords appear with one of the reality-creating, bubble-bursting, cloud-popping quantum reality cards in the deck then perhaps you are being asked to eliminate potential universes in your life in favour of one that you do want!
THE LADY IN THE LAKE – KING ARTHUR – AND THE QUEEN OF SWORDS
Everyone knows the story of King Arthur, the Sword of Excalibur and The Lady in the Lake. When Pamela was creating her deck, Wyeth was illustrating his version of the legend of the Holy Grail. This is a beautiful illustration of his from 1908. It expands our understanding of the Tarot card, showing how powerful women can help men become powerful too.
PAMELA’S WORLD IN 1909 – SUFFRAGETTES AND SCHOOLGIRLS
Other influences on Colman-Smith from this period include the rise of the courageous Suffragettes in London, some of whom were prepared to die for their cause – votes for women – and some who actually did. This was a cause close to Pamela’s heart and she worked on freelance material for the battle. Was this also in her mind when she drew – or even channelled – her vision of the Queen of Swords for her deck? Mabel Capper (centre, holding Suffragette pamphlets) was a contemporary of Pamela’s from around this time. In fact, as the Rider publishing company put the first decks on sale to the public, in August 1909, Mabel was in Birmingham Police Court charged with assaulting police and breaking windows. She was sent to prison. The Queen of Swords can be heroic. Brave and principled, prepared to ‘fight the good fight’ and shatter ideas about passive femininity. That sword can be used to cut the ties that bind. It can be used to secure freedom. All this was in the air in 1909, a year when people realised that the Suffragettes were prepared to break the law, even violently, to fight the patriarchy. It is interesting that Pamela’s Tarot was revived in the 1970’s for a new audience, when Women’s Liberation swept the world. Another useful image from around 1909 is the work of ‘jolly hockeysticks’ author Angela Brazil. Her stories for schoolgirls about dashing heroines and feisty school captains have been sent up mercilessly, but at the time they were considered dangerously subversive. Some headmistresses in British schools burned the books. The Queen of Swords, even at school as a young girl, can be threatening to some people. She commonly provokes a fight. As with Joan of Arc, the heroines of Brazil’s work could sometimes be fierce patriots. This last point brings me to an important note about Pamela’s deck – it was pre-war.
THE TAROT DECK BUILT FOR WAR
Pamela’s Tarot had a hard job to do. It had to get people through two world wars, and also the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, where her great friend W.B. Yeats was swept into the conflict – he wrote ‘A terrible beauty’ was born that year. As I say in my workshops, it’s not for everyone. The deck she created at the request of Arthur Waite shows crisis, death, resurrection and healing all in one reading.
When you are working with the Queen of Swords today, no matter if she represents a part of your personality, or a woman in your world, it can help to keep the sword sheathed, or make it plastic, or freeze the hand that holds it – and so on. Yet, there is no point in neutering Pamela’s cards. They were built to take on the 20th century, two world wars and escalating conflict in Ireland – and they did. They were built to take on the fight for equality between men and women – and they did.
Story Copyright Jessica Adams/Media Goddess Ltd 2017. Extracted from the forthcoming ebook Pamela’s Tarot.