Recently, at my Austin Tarot Meetup, I heard about a new Tarot deck called the Rosetta Tarot. When I read the opening page, this line really leapt out at me:
“Tarot can be considered a hieroglyphic, symbolic, and pictorial language so flexible as to be able to contain the known universe and all combinations of manifestations both earthly and spiritual, tangible and intangible.”
I decided I wanted to look further into this intriguing deck. I obtained a copy and was so mesmerized by just the Fool card that it took me a while (like a week or more) just to open the deck.
The creator, M.M. Meleen, was kind enough to agree to do an interview. I hope you enjoy this revealing chat. Please click on each card to see a much larger version.
What card describes you as a writer or artist? If you are both, please draw a card for each one.
As a writer, I drew the Seven of Wands, Valour. While I have an ability to write, it really isn’t my natural inclination. It is a struggle as I am extremely introverted and really do not like to “hear” myself talk. I find it difficult to verbalize thoughts, and things that seem conceptually sublime in the mind often fail to live up to my expectations once written. To me words are like fairy gold – in the dream-time you hold an amulet made of gemstones and gold, and awaken to find you are clutching a handful of pebbles and straw. So it is a battle, but one I can win if I go at it with fortitude.
For a card to describe me as an artist, I got The Devil. Perfect really, as it represents the creative urge as an irrepressible impulse. Here he is seen as a satyr, a Dionysian green man or Pan surrounded by various entheogens. The word entheogen means “generating the divine within” and I see the creation of art as doing just that, a fertile process that is a kind of divine madness. Pan is seen holding a mirror in the shape of an eye, and in this context to me it speaks of the visionary process. The other thing I can say about myself as an artist that this card shows is a tendency towards craving and obsession. I am never satisfied and nothing is ever enough!
Ask your deck to describe you.
Here is my deck having a little sense of humor, as I got the Ace of Disks and this is the card that traditionally bears the signature of the creator. It actually only contains my initials, hidden as part of the design. It is the first card of the Disks, the seed of the material world. I’m amused by this because I guess it makes sense that the deck would see me as the source, the root of physical creation. The card contains the four trees of life in the center connected by a shared central Malkuth, thus holding within itself the connection between spirit and matter.
Describe your deck.
The Magus came up here, the card of Mercury juggling the symbols of the four suits, plus a torch, winged egg, pen and scroll. The deck is mercurial in how it juggles different media for each of the suits yet manages to keep them in balance. Mercury is another form of Thoth, appropriate for a Thoth-based deck, and also fitting as Thoth/Mercury is the god of wisdom. I think the Rosetta Tarot is a deck for thinkers and students of the occult, as every image is built upon an underlying structure of several complex esoteric systems. It’s more than just a set of pretty pictures and isn’t based on my own personal mythologies but rather on enduring hermetic disciplines. It is a messenger; it transmits and is transmitted. The serious student can use it as a key to unlock many mysteries.
What card describes your favorite piece of creating this deck?
The Lovers is a complicated card, so I guess this question needs a multi-layered answer. One of the meanings of the card is “choice from one’s heart”. I really enjoyed the process of choosing the imagery for each card in a way that was my own and yet remained true to the established meanings. It wasn’t always easy, as often I would have many competing ideas, each of which could work. Somehow along the way though I’d have to commit to one and make a choice. Though it was challenging, I really enjoyed it as it was a good match for my interests and abilities. The Lovers is also a very alchemical card, and making this deck was an alchemical process, a real transformation.
What card describes what this deck will be best used for (think readings, meditation etc).
The Sun card here says it wants to illuminate, it wants you to see the light and grow. The Hebrew letter associated with the Sun card is Resh, meaning “head”, and here the “head” of the solar disk has a cosmic eye. Below it, a winged heart takes flight. Both the eye and the heart in the human body are astrologically ruled by the Sun, and this says to me that the deck is best used for maintaining the link between head and heart, what you think and what you feel. Below the heart is a glowing analemma, the path of the sun, which is also the lemniscate that is the symbol for eternity. At the intersection point, a detail from the Sistine chapel shows the finger of God putting the spark of life into Adam. This deck contains knowledge that has been handed down through the centuries.
What card describes what you think are the most valuable lessons you learned while creating this deck?
The Two of Disks came up here. I definitely learned that things change, inspiration ebbs and flows. While we tend to prefer expansion, the cycle of necessity also contains contraction. This pulse of fluctuation is the engine that drives the universe; we can’t have one without the other. Things are impermanent and unstable, but there is balance in that. I had to learn to go with that flow, and that down time and dreaming were just as necessary as actively creating.
What card describes your greatest weakness? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
Appropriately enough the Five of Disks, Worry. My own mind is my greatest enemy. Look at those pegged out gauges, that smoking wreck – that is my brain on life! I waste a lot of time when stuck in negative mind states, stuck in a miasma of inertia while the gears grind.
What card describes your greatest strength? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
The Aeon which I think shows the ability to see things from a different perspective and birth them anew. It contains a portrayal of Horus, Hadit and Nuith. Horus here is shown as the flaming phoenix, for this question I’d say it is the passion I have for creativity. Nuith, the goddess of night sky arches above, and Hadit is the winged disk at the center of the card who proclaims “In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.” I think in the context of my greatest strength Hadit, the point, alludes to my attention to detail while Nuith, the circumference is the concept, the bigger picture. These, combined with the spiritual fire of Horus, are all important to my work as an artist.
What card is your most favorite? Why? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
I guess rather than drawing a card here I’m supposed to decide and pick one, right? That is a tough one! It would be easier just to draw any old one from the deck than actually choosing as I have several favorites. I’ll say that one of them is the Star, because not only do I love the image of the star goddess but also because it almost always is a welcome card in a reading. I always hear the words from the Crowley’s Book of the Law when I see this card: “I am the blue lidded daughter of Sunset; I am the naked brilliance of the night sky.” I also love the poetic sound of her Golden Dawn title “The Daughter of the Firmament, Dweller between the Waters.”
What card is your least favorite? Why? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
Another tough choice, there are several that I hate equally! Again here rather than draw them I’ll just say, the two that I most hate to see when they come up in a spread are the Seven of Disks, Failure and the Five of Cups, Disappointment. They are both cards of stagnation, and come up when I am veering towards a bad place. The Five of Cups usually means I need to reconnect with my creativity, the energy of the divine feminine principle. The Seven is more problematic, as this card to me represents the maze of catatonic depression. It shows the Minotaur trapped in a labyrinth of blasted and cracked earth. It’s a trap, a prison, a dead end and a very dark place from which it is hard to find my way out of.
Which card do you think needs to be studied the most? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
The Moon, although potentially at your peril! The path between Scylla and Charybdis is fraught with dangers, but it is the path of inspiration as well as madness. It is the card of the subconscious, of sleep and dreams, and there is a lot there to be discovered if you can resist its siren song.
What card describes your personal creativity? (Your is the creator here and not the deck)
The Hermit came up here and is a pretty accurate fit in the sense that in order to be creative, I need lots of time alone. When creating the Rosetta tarot, I spent all of my free time (after the day job) alone in my basement art studio, often working twelve hour days on the weekend or when I could take a day off of work. It got so that sometimes when I emerged, everything felt surreal, and going out to the store was like visiting another planet. The Hermit is associated with the Moon, and as such shines the solar lantern on the lunar path, the Moon being the source of all inspiration. The path he walks is a labyrinth in the colors of fertile blood and twilight isolation. I need to go within to tap into the riches of the subconscious mind and be open to higher guidance.
Who or what inspired you to create a deck and why?
The Knight of Wands is the card that I drew here, and the answer has two meanings. This is the court card that contains the decan of my Sun sign, so in a way, I inspired myself. It almost feels like I was meant to do this, as I started learning about various occult systems at a very oddly young age – I read my first occult text at the age of five. The attraction to it was so strong, so early, it almost seems like a past life was involved.
The other meaning of this card here is that the inspiration came from Carl Jung and his Red Book. Right around the time I started this, there was an article in a magazine about Jung and the Red Book which was soon to be published. Something about it fired me up; lightning struck and put a fierce blaze of desire into my heart to create something similar, something of value, a legacy deep and meaningful. I read about his imagined dialogue with an entity called “the Red Knight” too, and remember thinking how tarot-like his visions were, so it is interesting that this card came up here. Right around the same time of reading that article, I started the tarot deck in earnest.
What upcoming projects can you tell us about?
I drew the Eight of Wands, Swiftness. It wants me to hurry up and finish my next deck! This card is about those flashes of inspiration that come when one is in tune with a higher frequency. I have started my second deck already, and it is on the next octave from this one. It is tentatively called Tarot M, for now at least. I’ve got the Fool through the Emperor done, and the Hierophant is in progress. Still a long way to go! You can see some of the cards of Tarot M here at http://www.rosettatarot.com/Tarot_M_-_in_progress.html. I’m working with India ink as the medium, in a size much bigger than when I did the Rosetta Tarot, which was done actual card size. So I can get a finer level of detail in the work this way.
The new deck will have a companion Book M like the lost book of the Rosicrucian order. I have ambitious plans for that book; it is to be much more than a companion text. That is if I can manifest it.
I also intend to start a deck of oil paintings, but that is a project that will probably take many years. In addition, I have an idea for an oracle deck. So many projects, so little time!
Draw one card. Tell us what secret habit this card reveals about you. 😉
The Six of Disks is called Success. What I saw immediately is the honeycomb, and the Moon in Taurus. I’m a beekeeper, but that isn’t my secret habit. I also make mead (honey wine) and I guess my semi-secret habit is occasionally consuming unladylike quantities of it, sometimes while also taking a bath. I wrote the entire Book of Seshet while drinking mead in my bathtub at night, after I could no longer paint another stroke. I guess they don’t call it “the mead of inspiration” for nothing!
What is the one thing the deck most wants us to know about it?
The Queen of Disks which is determined, hard working, practical, and powerful. She is Water of Earth, a fertile oasis in the desert. She’s an agent of the Great Work and intends to endure. This deck is a work horse; every bit of it was designed to be used, from the card size, to the back design, to the content, structure and images. This Queen is associated with Capricorn, whose motto states “I use.” This is a working deck, and it wants you to get a lot of use of it.
You can see the Queen on M.M. Meleen’s site.