The Hypnotic Tarot — Part I: The Suits

I have quite an interest in the Tarot, largely from a symbolic and possibly even a Jungian perspective and certainly from an artistic standpoint. As an art collector, I have several pieces of art that are based on the Tarot, including “The Star” by Frank Kelly Freas 1 that is one of the “stars” of my entire collection.

I also know that it is common for Tarot enthusiasts to create their own Tarot deck: doing so not only personalizes it, it deepens the connection with the Tarot symbology and imagery for the individual. Therefore, its only natural to combine this interest with my interest in hypnosis to want to create the Hypnotic Tarot deck. Of course, one caveat: everything surrounding the Tarot is open (and quite fervently) to discussion and argument, from the history of the Tarot to the individual meanings of each symbol. What follows is my own interpretation which has about as much (or as little) validity as any one else’s.

This first part will discuss the basic elements of the Tarot, the suits and their accompanying symbols. The Suits order the Minor Arcana, the 52 cards that eventually became the playing cards in use today. The Suits and their symbols also appear regularly in the Major Arcana. Subsequent parts will cover the Major Arcana and the individual Suits of the Minor Arcana.

The Traditional Suits

There are four suits in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot: traditionally they are Wands, Swords, Cups and Discs. Each corresponds to one of the four Elements of Western occult tradition, Fire, Air, Water and Earth, respectively, which in turn correspond to one of the four elemental states of matter, plasma, gas, liquid and solid, and each corresponds to a mental state of being, passion, intellect, compassion and stability. For the Hypnotic Tarot, each will correspond to a stereotypical hypnotic induction device.

(The symbols, by the way, beside each Suit name are the alchemical symbols for each Element. They may not appear as such in some browsers.)

Wands 🜂

Wands are the element of Fire: the Wand is the match that sparks the fire of passion that is the most excitable mystical element and state of matter. For the Hypnotic Tarot, the most obvious and comparable image would be a lit candle but it can be expanded to include the comforting glow of a fire on a dark night and the mesmerizing spectacle of a raging fire. Fire is the primal hypnotic induction focus: the flickering, transient pattern of the flame’s unpredictable dance demands a subject’s attention

Swords 🜁

Swords are the element of Air: the Sword is the instrument of Air and the intellect that cuts away ideas to reveal the truth. For the Hypnotic Tarot, the corresponding stereotype is the swinging pendant or metronome. Now a swinging pendant can be a crystal but the stereotypical swinging object is a watch (historically, it was actually a watch fob) or coin (in animé and manga). Plus, the ticking of the metronome is part of its induction function, and sound is carried through the air, so it is more significant.

(To tell the truth, it was hard determining what stereotype to use here: there really aren’t that many physical hypnotic stereotypes and the other suits were using the most prevalent ones. I thought of mirrors, only because of the shiny surface of the steel sword, but somehow it didn’t seem quite accurate. I was considering things like mechanical objects or weapons like the hypno-gun but they didn’t seem to cover the element very well. However, upon consulting a friend, she recommended pendants or metronomes. Now I had been considering swinging or dangling crystals for water (below) but they don’t have to be swinging or dangling to have a hypnotic effect. Plus, pendants or metronomes swing through Air to have their effect, so they are appropriate.)

Cups 🜄

Cups are the element of Water: the Cup is the receptacle of Water of compassion that comforts and soothes. For the Hypnotic Tarot, the natural corresponding hypnotic stereotype would be the swinging crystal. Nominally clear as water, yet colorful: just as water reflects and refracts light to produce fascinating rainbows of color, so, too, does the crystal, fascinating the subject as they surrender to trance. Mirrors, too, would work here, reflecting the pattern of still water.

Discs 🜃

Discs are the element of Earth: the Disk (or Coin, as it is sometimes known) is the symbol of Earth and wealth and stability of solid matter. For the Hypnotic Tarot, the most obvious image would be the hypnotic spiral disk, whether it be the eye-catching mandalas of Asian religions, the quarter-sized hypno-disks that were advertised in the back of comic books and men’s magazines or the large professional sized motorized hypno-disks. Visually, spirals the most prevalent form of a hypnotic stereotype, and as such is used countless times in media, especially advertisements.

Two Additional Suits

The four traditional Suits comprise the four states of matter, yet that leaves the states of energy untouched. Because of my desire for completeness, I would include Light (the presence of energy) and Dark (the absence of energy) as the two Suits of Energy to compliment the four Suits of Matter


Light stands for any and all types of energy, not just the limited spectrum of frequencies visible to the eye, but every other forms of electromagnetic radiation. And, given some form of the Grand Unified Theory, it can be expanded to include other non-material forms of the Universe such as magnetism and gravity. The symbol for Light is the atomic symbol, three electrons orbiting the nucleus.

Dark ⚫

Dark stands for the absence of energy, either the primal state before the Big Bang or just the darkness of a closed room. As physics now tells us that the Universe is full of energy, it is used here primarily for the visual image. The symbol for Dark is the black circle: black for the darkness that is the absence of energy and the circle for the most primal and simplest of two-dimensional shapes.

For the Hypnotic Tarot, instead of assigning each to a particular hypnotic stereotype, I believe it best to combine the two into a spiral, light and dark combined, swirling to the center where both merge together. As such, it does seem to conflict with the image of the Disk, but here is the symbology of the spiral image, whereas the Disk the symbology is the mechanical or artistic representation or display of the spiral image that is the stereotype.

Whether I include these two additional Suits in the Hypnotic Tarot would depend on the amount of research and imagination I want to invest into the creation of the various cards of the Minor Arcana. Since I am blogging about each Suit individually, I won’t have to make that decision any time soon.

Putting them All Together

Therefore, the ultimate hypnotic focus would be a combination of all four elements: a spiral pendant hanging on a chain, set with a crystal that holds a flickering flame, set on to a black&white spiral pattern. That would also be the symbol for the back of each card.

1 Many years ago, prominent LA fan Bruce Pelz commissioned a number of artists to each draw a card for his “Fannish Showcase Tarot Deck”. Among the artists were Frank Kelly Freas (“The Star”), George Barr (“The High Priestess”) and VIctoria Poyser (“The World”), all of which I now own the originals, as well as Wendy Pini (“Knight of Wands”), Steve Leialoha (““Ace of Pentacles”), Alicia Austin (“Five of Swords”), Rick Sternbach (“Eight of Wands”) and Liz Danforth (“Page of Wands”).

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