|Name :||Golden Wirth Tarot|
|Author :||Oswald Wirth|
|Publisher :||Lo scarabeo|
|Tradition :||Tarot de Marseille|
|Packaging :||Rigid bell box / 15 x 10.5 x 2 cm|
|Deck :||22 cards / Plastic-coated, gold-plated, coated with glitter / 14.5 cm x 8 cm|
|Handbook :||Booklet of 34 pages in B&W|
|Reverse side :||Yes, the backs of the cards are reversible.|
|Switch of 8/11 :||No|
|Universe :||Medieval / Renaissance|
|Use :||Prediction , Personal development|
The game is not delivered in a box, it is contained in a bell-shaped box made of very thick cardboard. A small booklet fits inside the box. The booklet is in 6 languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French, German and Russian. Each language has a 5-page translation of a brief description of the 22 blades of the Major Arcanum.
The cards are really thin, as we are often used to from the publisher Lo Scarabeo, which does not shine by the quality of its products (with a few exceptions). With more than 14 centimeters in height, the cards are very large, we can only shuffle the cards in our hands vertically. Or shuffle them flat on a table, as I tend to recommend when the furniture allows it.
Oswald Wirth was born in 1860 and is known for his occult and esoteric work on the Tarot de Marseille. He will produce his own version of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, of which Lo Scarabeo has here reproduced a customized version (by the pailette effect) but very close to the original cards. He is the contemporary of Gérard Encausse, known as Papus, who also studied the Tarot for occult and esoteric purposes and of Arthur Edward Waite who will also produce his own tarot with the popular success that we know.
There is not much to say about the booklet because there are only 5 translated pages per language. A brief summary of Oswald Wirth's life precedes the presentation of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Each card has an explanation in 3 or 4 sentences. The publisher guarantees that the meanings are as faithful as possible to Wirth's vision.
I like Wirth's pragmatism in his approach to LE BATELEUR. He has purified the list of objects on the table, to limit it to a penny (pentacle), a sword, a cup, and except for a wand which is rather in the hand of the character. The novice practitioner thus quickly understands that these 4 objects are a reminder of the 4 signs of the Tarot appearing in the Minor Arcana. It is true that in LE BATELEUR of the Tarot de Marseille, the association of the objects placed on the table with the 4 signs is less obvious.
Oswald Wirth is still being pragmatic with this card. The closed eyes and folded hands on the man's chest indicate a form of withdrawal and inner questioning that he is experiencing. I particularly like the fact that the man has each of his feet placed on a different path from the other. This shows the inner dilemma of the man who has to decide between two possible paths. The distinction between the two women is also much clearer than in the Tarot de Marseille. One wife wears a royal crown and noble garments while the other wears a crown of flowers and rather country clothes. These details contribute to a better understanding of the card's values.
I appreciate in this card the terrible aspect of the lion. In modern tarot cards published today, the card is often sanitized into a soft, tender image of a lion as cute and touching as a kitten. Certainly LA FORCE speaks to us of a true inner appeasement, where everything is under control and the violence has disappeared. But to show the lion as gentle as a lamb is to totally underestimate the power of our impulses. It is to deny the ease with which we give in to our destructive forces. There is real work to be done on oneself to develop self-control. This work is consequent and a real effort must be made. Wirth's roaring lion with its enormous fangs rightly reminds us of the strength of our impulses, their danger, and implies that it is not easy to control them.
I just appreciate that LE SOLEIL card brings together a man and a woman rather than two children. Other Marseilles tarot cards such as Noblet's also shows us a couple, although the Marseilles standard retains the image of two children. LE SOLEIL is the joy and lightness, and even the innocence and freshness found in children. Also to symbolize this candor with children is perfectly valid and justified. However, LE SOLEIL is also about exposing ourselves to others, showing ourselves as we are, including our wounds, our scars, our wrongs. And this is for this reason that children are naked, because we show ourselves as we are, naked as on the day of our birth. But the purpose of this nudity is to accept the other as he is and even more, to love him as he is. This is the ultimate goal of solarity : stand (naked) as we are and love each other as we are. The figure of the naked couple is therefore just as accurate and valid as that of the two children. Let's say that the two children emphasize the innocence of nudity and the couple puts more emphasis on the acceptance of nudity.
It is already difficult for me to admit the presence of Hebrew letters on this tarot.The system of thought of the Cabala and that of the Tarot de Marseille are different and incompatible, and it is impossible to establish a complete and precise correspondence between them. At most we can discuss some common aspects, since both systems have the same goal: to describe the path of self-realization. But the comparison and above all the connection must stop there, because these two traditions come from different backgrounds and cultures.
As for the presence of the Yin Yang symbol on the book of LA PAPESSE, we can speak here of a clever mix between cultures located at the opposite side of the planet. Is this mixture so skillful ? The text of interpretation does not evoke at all "harmony, balance, reconciliation of extremes, the masculine and feminine". In short, what could be close to the symbolism of Yin or Yang. At best, we hear about "meditation". Certainly the source of the explanation is not the original source provided by Oswald Wirth's book "Le Tarot des imagiers du Moyen Âge", a book I have not read. Also for the moment, the appearance of this Yin Yang symbol remains a mystery to me, even if naturally behind the symbolism of the number 2, we can find concepts such as harmony, opposition, complementarity. But there again, nothing justifies the incorporation of this symbol from Asia in the image of LA PAPESSE, because by dint of disguising a tradition, it ends up losing its quintessence.
We were talking about the Cabala and Chinese philosophy, with LE CHARIOT we add a reference to the ancient Egyptian civilization, by replacing the two horses by two sphynxes. The reader should be aware of the amalgam that has been made here by Wirth between the Sphynx of Greek mythology representing a female monster with the figure of a woman, a lion's body, bird wings and the Sphynx of Egyptian mythology which is a fantastic creature symbolizing the union of the solar god Ra (lion's body) and the pharaoh (human head). The white and black mounts symbolize the opposition of good and evil that must be arbitrated and mastered. The reference to the civilization of the pharaohs comes from Antoine Court de Gébelin, who was the first to be interested in the initiatory dimension of the Tarot de Marseille and, through his images, saw references to Egyptian civilization.
What I appreciate in the Tarot de Marseille is the neutrality of the mounts, neither man nor woman. And especially that LE CHARIOT speaks to us of more or less controlled engagement, of an effort more or less directed to good purpose. This is why the horses have a tumultuous look. The tarot of Marseille talks to us in no way of a good or an evil between which it would be necessary to choose. In this, the sphynxes of Wirth lying on the ground, almost peaceful, do not seem to me to be in their place.
I pass the Egyptian references of LA ROUE DE FORTUNE with the presence of a Sphynx enthroned on the wheel and that of a deity rising on the wheel. It is rather here the caduceus that catches my attention. It is a reference to Greek mythology. Originally it is a stick, an attribute of the god Hermes, which can heal from snake bites. Beyond the primary function of the stick, the two intertwined snakes symbolize the union of earth and sky. At the feet of the snakes is added a lunar symbol. Naturally Wirth certainly thought long and hard about the arrangement of his image and the use of all these symbols. But it has to be said, more than a century later, these choices seem obscure to me. No doubt they would be clearer to a modern-day alchemist or freemason, but I am neither.
But all the same, the caduceus talks about the union of opposites, of the material and the spiritual, of the rise of an energy. LA ROUE DE FORTUNE speaks of an endless movement, of the ephemerality of all things, of opportunities to be seized and not to be missed. As rich as Wirth's approach is, it is very personal to him, and very out of step with the primary meanings of the card.
On the body of LE DIABLE of Wirth is tattooed the terms "Solve" and "Coagula" which refer to alchemical teachings. Both terms can be translated as "dissolution" and "coagulation". Both words evoke a process of transformation, where in a first step it is a matter of dissolving the "materia prima", i.e. abandoning individual thought and consciousness, and in a second step, recombining a new and refined product, i.e. being reborn to a clearer and more luminous mind. From this point of view, it seems to me a pity that the two attached characters are animal creatures. If Wirth wished to symbolize this process of transformation, it would have been interesting if the two characters were half-human, half-animal (as in the Marseille tradition) or if one was animal and the other human, for example. Moreover, how would the Devil allow the dissolution and rebirth of the individual? It seems to me here that Wirth linked this entire alchemical process and its rituals to the iconography of the Devil, which in collective memories is undoubtedly associated with satanic rites. For this reason, LE DIABLE carries a candle and not a flaming blade as tradition dictates. In short, Wirth speaks to us of transformation while LE DIABLE speaks to us of alienation. For before we know that we must dissolve and then be reborn, we must realize that we are no longer ourselves and that we are somehow "corrupt", or let us say "alienated" to be less negative. Dissolution will take place with LA MAISON-DIEU and rebirth will take place with LE JUGMENT (in the middle L'ETOILE, LA LUNE, LE SOLEIL proceed to recombination). Wirth had not understood that LE DIABLE is only "awareness", not the whole process.
The tarot of Oswald Wirth may be magnified by the work of the publisher Lo Scarabeo, but it is nevertheless a deck from another era. Wirth integrated in his tarot references to Egyptian civilization, Greek mythology, the Cabala, Alchemy, Chinese philosophy. He thus complexified the original message of the Tarot de Marseille by associating it with other cultures and traditions, no doubt reserving it for an elite capable of understanding all these symbols. Wirth's work has made the initial symbolism richer, but the Tarot has also lost part of its message because Wirth has removed certain details such as : the nonchalant left hand of the prince of the CHARIOT, the rope around the neck of the JUSTICE, the bandaged ears of the animal rising on the WHEEL OF FORTUNE, the visible foot of the FORCE, the half-human, half-animal creatures of the DEVIL, the sex jar of THE STAR, the necklaces of the children in THE SUN. Wirth removed these details making the images simpler but added esoteric details from other traditions at the same time. I'm not sure that we gain from this. Between an animal with bandaged ears and an animal with an Egyptian mask, I personally know where my preference lies.
The novice reader may be confused by the multitude of external references to the Marseilles tradition. The line and aesthetics of Wirth's images are much more modern than the medieval imagery of the Tarot de Marseille, it is true. But it seems obvious that any beginner will prefer the modernity of our current tarot cards designed on a graphic tablet.
The experienced practitioner will be able to obtain this customized version, or an original version, of Oswald Wirth's tarot to further his study of the Tarot de Marseille. Understanding Wirth's vision (and all the occultists of his time: Papus, Levi, Waite), comparing it card by card with the canonical version of the Tarot de Marseille; it means to understand the reason for the details of Marseille that can go unnoticed when compared with modern RWS tarot cards. In short, to better understand the wisdom of the Tarot de Marseille, we must compare it to others. And in this, the tarot of Oswald Wirth is a very relevant element of comparison.
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