Margaret Letzkus’s Sacred Places in the Tarot is a timely reminder to find space and time for the soul’s contemplation in the midst of everyday life. I chose to read it on a rare Spring morning in our garden, on a balcony that has become a place of serenity, renewal and freedom from the work of the day; attributes that Margaret assigns respectively to the High Priestess, Star and the World. This is an example of a subtle teaching of Tarot that is diffused through the text, hardly noticeable until second reading.
The book outlines a consideration of the images of Tarot where they relate to space; illustrated by a variety of decks, Margaret offers chapters on the Sacred Cave, Mountain, Earth, Tree, Stone and Water, and chapters on more cosmic spaces such as Labyrinths and Mandalas, Sacred Light, Sound and Internal Space. She concludes by providing a chapter on altars and creating one’s own sacred place, with a final brief two-page chapter on Spreads, such as the Man in the Maze spread.
An example of how Margaret treats such relationships is where she discusses (p. 20) the mountain symbolism in various cards. She reminds us in the Wheel of Change tarot how the “peaceful volcano” in the Seven of Cups has contributed in the past to the enrichment of the soil and the formation of the natural reservoirs from which the sacred water can be collected – perfect analogies which can be used in the interpretation of the card. She goes on to note that both the Two and Three of Wands in the Waite-Smith deck show men on high places, one man-made, one natural, and both look out to mountains – perhaps which call them to new heights and discoveries. It is this re-reading of the images in the context of sacred space (for as Margaret points out, mountain tops form pinnacles of energy) that so delights in this book and calls us outside through our cards.
The choice of cards to illustrate the appearance of these spaces in Tarot is fascinating, ranging from the Cosmic Tribe Tarot to the urban Tarot of the Boroughs. It paints these cards in fresh light, by contextualising them from the artistic perspective; how a card image relates to metaphor, space, symbol and colour to draw us into a sacred space. As a result, we are drawn to make correspondences between the cards and the spaces we inhabit from day-to-day; tarot to engage life, not escape it. Here Margaret does not encourage us to go into the cards but through them, and through them, back out into the environment, wholly reframed.
In reading Margaret’s book, I found it a wonderful tarot-bridge to a fascinating book currently on my bedside table (another sacred space), David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous (Vintage, 1997). In this book, Abrams elegantly portrays our disconnection from the natural world, and provokes a new reading of the language of the “living others”, through a wide-ranging discussion of language and meaning. Margaret invokes the same considerations through tarot.
I particularly loved the correspondence of ley-lines to linear tarot spreads, and the book is worth the purchase for this piece alone, deftly suggesting how we can read energies pulsing through a reading much like ley-lines. I will be using this idea with my favourite contemplation oracle deck, the De Es, whose stone faces, walls and constructs produce such rocky representations and rhythms.
This book is a perfect companion for any outdoor reading, and would be ideally suited for holiday and travel reading. It is bound to call forth your own correspondences of Tarot to the places you are visiting, and deepen your appreciation of both. Whilst keeping brief, it opens up wider realms of exploration, and I imagine mine will be full of scrawled notes within a month.
Sacred Places in the Tarot, Margaret Letzkus (Createspace, 2011)
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