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The Magical Tarot – The Empress

August 6, 2013

The Eternal Language

by Madeline Montalban

Now that the possibility of using an international language which can be understood by all is much in the news, it is interesting to remember that Occultism has always had an international language – that of symbolism. Symbols are ideas expressed in picture form, so it is best understood by “What goes together links together”.

Symbolism is the eternal language that links together history, legend, religion and the occult arts. Like any language, its particular mode of expression depends on the learning of the person using it. The wider one’s studies, the greater will be the range of symbols at your command.

love 3Illustrating this article is one of my own symbol cards that concerns matters of love. It has a connexion with both Two of Cups and the Empress of the Tarot. I wrote about the Empress and her copper talisman some years ago, and explained then that it was a magical talismanic device held in great esteem by the ancients for bringing together the man and woman destined for each other. Yet its symbols were quite unlike those in the illustration, as they corresponded to the higher occult vibration of Invocation.

In this printed Talisman for Love the symbolism is much simpler, because the idea it was to convey was simple, too. It was based on the association of ideas between the legends of Greece and Rome, Astrology and the Tarot. This is the kind of symbolism a beginner first learns to use. In relationship to deeper and more arcane symbol-language it stands in the ratio that a child’s picture-book has to those studied later to obtain a degree in Arts.

If I explain the symbols on this card it may help readers who have asked me for a simple method. The looped cross in the centre is both the Crux Ansata, or Egyptian Symbol of Life, and also the astrological sign for Venus, planet of love. In Occultism it is known as the Mirror of Aphrodite (the Greek name for Venus). A red rose is a simple love symbol, but the arcana of the Two Chalices (mistakenly called Two of Cups in the Tarot) is less well known. They are the twin chalices of Venus. They represent earthly love (Venus in Taurus) and divine love (Venus in Libra), which was a theme used in Wagner’s Tannhauser. In Ceremonies of Union, the chalices also represent male and female, and were used in various ways according to the nature of the “union” the magician wanted to cement; so they were part of love magic.

The symbol between the two chalices has two meanings, being the Chinese symbol for fecundity through union (it represents male and female bound together) and, at the same time, the astrological sign of Cancer. Venus in Cancer signifies receptivity, sympathy, charm and emotionalism. Venus was the Roman name of the Goddess of Love, and was “born of the sea”.

Shells were held to be sacred to her, especially the scallop shell, which you see behind the looped cross. Her “sea-birth” is represented by the stylized curling waves at the foot of the card. In Astrology, an art closely tied to ancient religions, the planet Venus is exalted in Pisces, sign of the fishes, whose native element is the sea. In that sign she signifies a powerful emotional nature that can be too easily swayed. As a counter-balance (since there are two chalices), in that sea-sign Venus also signifies self-sacrifice and devotion to the object of the affections.

Such is symbolism in its simplest form – the connexion of ideas, but though my card is called the talisman for love, it is not a talisman, but rather an expressive device of amulet nature. An amulet is a protective symbolical device, while a talisman is one that is designed to draw to you the particular thing you desire. Amulet symbolism is simpler than talismanic.

The copper Empress talisman for love bears different symbols, being expressed in metal, which has its own symbol-language, and is more stylized. Occult symbols, like mathematical ones, mean what the user intends them to mean. They are shorthand forms of forces and correspondence of ideas.

Symbols are an eternal language, because they have changed very little with the passing of time. To this day chemistry still uses symbols known and used by magician and alchemist. Students of the occult get used to writing and thinking in symbols. Magical scripts are “simplified symbols”, while magic circles are either protective or invocative devices. A circle encloses (protection). It also represents perpetual motion without end (planets spin in space). As “movement”, a circle is evocative, but what you want to evoke by it is up to you.

Man is encompassed by symbols from cradle to the grave. His christening cup is a symbol of a cup of plenty and was, in the olden days, one of the chalices of Venus.

Mankind fears unfamiliar symbols, they make him uneasy. Those he has been instructed about (like road signs, for instance) he accepts. A car driver thinks in symbols, yet, when faced with an unfamiliar symbol in Occultism, he is uneasy! This has led to the nonsense literature that harms true occult knowledge and progress.

There is nothing wrong in symbolism. Like everything else, it depends on the use to which it is put.
[Prediction, December 1962]

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