Margarete Petersen : Ten of Flames - purified to the bones


Margarete Petersen : Ten of Flames

Here is a link to the image: Zehn der Flammen

As though born of scrying in flames, the image of a dove flies towards the viewer, beating transparent wings. The dove – or phoenix, rises in snaking white flame, above a red skeleton, in which we see the symbol Ankh, and a woman dressed in black.

I actually see many more than one dove, there are possibly three - or it might be the three stages of movement of one dove/phoenix, arriving from the distance and moving to the foreground. I showed the image to my mother and she saw a figure of a woman in white embracing the dove. In addition to the symbolism of rebirth, rising from the ashes, as suggested both by the ankh and the phoenix or the dove and all that those symbolise, there is the sense of release, a freeing of the spirit from the bonds of its carcass, and of transformation, as in alchemical transformation of ashes into gold- snatching victory from the jaws of defeat type of thing.

Here is the translation of MP’s text:

  • The Ten of Flames
    The fire of cleaning and purification. The purifying fire. Hate, grudges and animosity fuel the flames. You will be purified to the bones. You have shed compulsive ideas, fixations and obsessions like old clothes. Strengthened you turn defeat to triumph and open yourself for each situation. The flames bring resolution and enlightenment.


The purified to the bones aspect of this card must be a reference to the very thing Hudson Gray explained for the Death HudsonGray wrote:
Well, the very first serious journey the new to-be shaman does is follow the guides to a deep place. They literally tear the skin, flesh & everything off him, till it's just bones, then take the bones apart & they're shuffled on the floor.


This card is so similar to the Death card, I wonder why she chose this meaning over the more traditional meaning. Isn't the 10 of wands traditionally "burden", weighted down with responsibilities, taking on more than you can handle, etc.? I'm trying to find the relation between that and this death by flame. Even the position of the cross-legged skeleton is the same position as the meditating person and his "spirit" seen in the Death card. Hmmm. I know this deck has Crowley influences... does he tend to view this card in this light too? I'll have to go look it up...

I definitely see the phoenix, or at least the top-half of a representation of one.... and I'm not sure about the woman in black, although it does look like the silhouetted profile of a woman's face looking up into the face of the phoenix, and the black is her robe?


Finally! found my Crowley tarot book!

Here is what Crowley has to say of the Ten of Wands:
The Lord of Oppression
Cruel and overbearing force and energy, but applied only to material and selfish ends. Sometimes shows failure in a matter, and the opposition too strong to be controlled; arising from the person's too great selfishness at the beginning. Ill-will, levity, lying, malice, slander, envy, obstinacy; swiftness in evil and deceit, if ill dignified. Also generosity, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice, when well dignified.

Whether by Crowley or RW definitions, Petersen seems to have taken the card past them, out of that space into the next scene.

I looked at this card and the Death card, and though I see what you mean about the skeleton... mm. They are not similar, to me. The Death card is peaceful, the most beautiful vision of death/transformation that I've seen, changing states without moving.

This is more a conventional death. It makes me think of autocombustion -- see how the skeleton's head hangs, really dead, not meditating? "The fire of hate, grudges..." FOOM! An explosion of the spirit, truly.

I see the woman, very clearly, hanging upside down out of the flames above the skeleton's head. I don't know if she is the soul, or the oppressor?


Ah yes, oppression.
The interesting thing with this card, however, being a ten, is that there is also the obligatory element of completion and renewal. While the theme of death and resurrection may be more befitting of the ten of swords, the mythical firebird itself can only belong in the suit of fire- The ten of wands in the Roots of Asia deck also shows a phoenix.

I think MP has reconciled the theme of opression to the theme of a new cycle -- in a recommendation to let go of all that innerly oppresses -- obsessions, compulsions, fixations, hate and grudges - to be purified and born anew.

The old woman is clearly drawn, and is to be seen behind above the skeleton. I would surmise that she is the counterpart to the old woman death, whom we see also in the death card.


In the Book of Thoth on line, Crowley writes about the ten of wands that
...The whole picture suggests Oppression and repression. It is a stupid and obstinate cruelty from which there is no escape. It is a Will which has not understood anything beyond its dull purpose, its "lust of result", and will devour itself in the conflagrations it has evoked.

Iif the combustible energy of hatred, etc, will devour itelf, I think MP has protrayed that moment of self-devouring combustion through which healing and resolution will come.