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 ani­me 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 âš›

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 âš«

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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