A Celtic Paradise
Perhaps what has always delighted me the most about this deck is the continuity between the cards. Not only does the Major Arcana carry recurring images which link one card to the next and later cards back to earlier cards (as discussed in the TotOP High Priestess thread) leading the reader on a journey (path), but the landscape itself appears to depict a joined up Kingdom: a real place; a Celtic/Pagan community where the inhabitants depicted in the cards live and interact with each other.
I first discussed this in the TotOP Justice thread in 2003. There I explored the possibility that the cards of the Tarot of the Old Path depicted a “Kingdom residing upon a cluster off islands off the coast of Scotland or Ireland in the late medieval period, totally independent of the mainland”. I imagined five islands: a central governing island that ruled over them (governed by the Emperor and Empress), surrounded by four islands in a circle, each with their own ruling royal families (the four courts). I imagined the inhabitants of the different islands to have different skills and for each island to have a dominant trade / industry that contributed to the subsistence and sustainability of the other islands and to keeping the whole Kingdom self sufficient. Possibilities include: Pentacles – Earth / practicality – the island of farming; Swords – Air / thought – the island of education / training (also the island to be in charge of defence against the mainland, though the royal family may also have other ambitions that could destroy the harmony of this Kingdom); Rods – Fire / imagination and skill: the island of craft: builders, designers, carpenters; Cups – water / emotion: the island of leisure: relaxation, holiday.
Tonight in 2006 I have laid the deck out, linked the landscapes and created a visual map / geography of the Tarot of the Old Path. I still imagine a Kingdom led by the Emperor and Empress governing, with a ruling elite of families responsible for various sections of the Kingdom, but I no longer see this a cluster of islands but one big island – large enough to embody varying landscapes and climates. The Wheel of Fortune card provided the clue… I now see the world of the Tarot of the Old Path as such: A mountainous region dominating the North West (beyond which we never see) with small mountain springs that lead down into a singular stream that runs through a dense area of forest in the central region, to the edge of which resides the Emperor’s castle, which gives way to a flatter region in the South East, initially marsh land but developing into lush green fields and meadows, where the weather is warmer, and the stream becomes a large dominant lake running south down into the sea.
[For the benefit of any that may actually want to lay out the cards to explore this theory I will briefly (but boringly) describe the layout I found appears to work:
• Placed above all the cards: The Magician, Ace of Rods, The Sun: depicting the mountains of the North West which contain a monument similar to Stone Henge.
• Beneath this – The Fool: depicting the lower valleys leading up to the Western mountains and east to the central forests. The weather here is rather cloudy and prone to storms and snow falls – as seen in The Wise One.
• Across from this: The High Priestess, The Empress: depicting the outskirts of the central forest. The depths of the forrest is depicted in the Temptation card. The weather in this region tends to be overcast but gives way to sunny spells.
• The Northern central region is more hilly and less forresty and is where we find The Emperor’s Castle, also viewed from different angles in the Four of Rods, Ten of Caldrons, and Justice.
• The stream leading through the High Priestess and Empress card travels South East down into the Lone Man card initially where it slows down because the land becomes flatter, hence the marsh land that develops in The Close and the region where the High Priest can be found. The weather here tends to be quite misty; it is probably in a bit of a bowl.
• The stream then gathers momentum again as it moves further South through The Guide, Illusion (also shown in close-up in the Ace of Caldrons) , Six of Swords, Seven of Cauldrons, to the edge of the coast seen in The Tower and finally down to the sea, seen in The Star.
• The Central Eastern region above the stream is flatter, verdant and very farmable. This is where The Lovers and Strength can be found. Clear skies reign and the sun beats down in this region and the vegetation looks quite different – fruit bushes grown instead of the dense forests and even palm trees can be sustained here.]
It’s amazing how well this actually works and testament to the imagination and design of this deck. The Rods community live in the North West of the Kingdom, The Pentacles in the South West, while the Emperor and Empress reside in the Central Region (with the majority of major Arcana figures dotted within and just on the outskirts of this area), The Swords in the North East and the Cauldrons in the South East.
Laid out in such a way, the deck looks stunning, beautiful and enticing. I think it’s exciting viewing a Tarot deck in such a way. All ancient communities / kingdoms carry with them a sense of mystery and mysticism; primitive yet highly developed; capable of civil war and feud, yet also capable of building great communities and living in peace and enlightenment. I think the setting and period depicted in Tarot of the Old Path hones in on this and is an extremely inspiring and oddly comforting and reassuring deck as a result.
Taken from the TotOP Justice thread:
The Old Path deck shows a Celtic Pardise - a mythical place, but drawing upon the rituals, beliefs and lifestyles that did exist throughout the middle ages - and depicts a Kingdom that the most enlightened of that age would have striven for.
Just a thought…