Aleph-4

Every now and then I get asked about a few of the stranger cards in my Tarot deck. This morning I got asked about one that I would swear I have written a lengthy email about before, but couldn’t find in my archives. So I’m gonna write about it again here, and be able to point future inquiries to this.

Aleph-4 is the fifth end of this deck. The other four ends are the Fool (first card sketched, though that rough as abandoned), the Sun (first card finished), the High Priest (the last of the traditional 78), the 99 of Swords (the last of the cards I actually planned to add when doing the additional cards while getting it ready for publication). Aleph-4 is the last card I drew for the whole thing.

And yet it also predates the deck, in more ways than one.

So: March, 2005. I was living in a friend’s living room in Sunnyvale, after my dreams of the animation world had collapsed. One day we took a trip to one of the neighboring towns and I doodled out something that just came to me with no real conscious thought; I soon brought it through Illustrator to become this:

I really had no idea what the hell my subconscious brain was getting at with this image. It certainly felt fraught, like there was Meaning behind it, but it arrived pretty much all at once.

Two years later, I found myself revisiting it.

I was living in Boston with my boyfriends; things were going mostly better than they were in Sunnyvale.

I still didn’t know what the hell my subconscious was getting at with this. Six months later, I found myself working on the Tarot deck that would end up being called “The Silicon Dawn”.

My first sketch of Fortune quite consciously drew from this imagery, and felt good enough that it went into the finished deck.

By August of 2008, I was about halfway through with the deck. The 0 of (VOID) and the 99 of Cups appeared – the former in the same sort of “here’s a thing your subconscious wants you to draw, now draw it” process as the first two iterations of this image, the latter as a joke.

And my subconscious also presented me with the flip side of Fortune:

For what it’s worth, there were a few other titles I played with, preserved off the side of the artboard in the original file: The Story, Narrative, The Querent, Self-Awareness, Timebinding, and Definition.

I still didn’t understand what the hell this image was supposed to be about. Something about defining the universe by telling stories. Maybe.

 

Somewhere in the beginning of 2008, I took a break to draw this. It wasn’t intended to be part of the deck, but it was definitely intended to be part of this same series. I can’t pin the exact date down as the file creation date has been lost over migrating my data through three or five different computers since then. A post on the livejournal I kept for the deck says “The third, unfinished version was done after contemplating some writing around the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis that (in short) “language shapes thoughts”; any other details of what I was driving at then are gone. I was too lazy to render the ribbon from the mouth turning into wings, much less the archways crashing down around her.

I finished the core 78 cards, and had a gallery exhibition of the whole thing (plus the 0 of (Void), the 99 of Pentacles, and History), then put it away for a while. Until Lo Scarabo decided they were interested in printing it, and would I like to expand it with these extra cards I’d thought about, and maybe use this cool process they’d just gotten where they used spot gloss to accentuate the cards? Ultimately I decided ‘yes’ on both of those, and spent about half of 2011 on the book, enhancing the cards with gloss, and figuring out how the hell to make the dark counterparts to the goofy 99s.

A few extra images popped up during this process and demanded to be part of the deck. Some of them were secret significator cards for friends. And the card at hand? Well.

Because of the way the deck was going to be printed and cut, there were going to be some extra cards that would end up blank. I could put stuff on them if I wanted to. And when I was done with the whole thing, I decided to take this image and finish it up as a personal Secret Personal Significator. Its title was to be rendered only in spot gloss – seen here as a bright blue – and was a sigil I’d designed last year as the Majgickqghal Name of a somewhat insane sex goddess dragon I’d been playing on Tapestries for a while. Her name was “November-4”, which referred to the group of “Impersons” she started out as part of – anonymous perverts chad in full-body latex, all with names of the form [letter from the military phonetic alphabet]-[number]. The card wasn’t originally going to be a fourth-order Cantorian transfinite, but the fact that ‘aleph’ looks a lot like ‘N’ made the private joke irresistable.

Said sex goddess dragon may or may not be my Higher Self/Holy Guardian Angel. My own magical practice is pretty half-assed and jokey. So that’s what this card’s about: transcendence, trying to contact/become that theoretical hyperdimensional being outside of time of which you are just a fragment. Finishing a magical process and starting the next one, because there’s always another thing to do until you’re dead. Phoenix imagery and everything that symbolically represents,

So that’s the story behind this card, and its private dirty joke finally revealed. Mostly it’s just my signature. But it’s also part of this personal narrative of, I dunno, maybe transcending the bounds of reality and becoming a Real Majgicxghian, maybe just wishing I was willing to put in the long boring work to do just that instead of slouching in front of the projection screen playing video games. I mean, I do some of that – I spent four years drawing Decrypting Rita, and you can find the same sigil printed in spot gloss at its climax. And maybe a few other places as well.

(There’s another card in the deck that’s a self-portrait, and if I ever did a second edition of the deck, I’d probably replace it with something else. This one’s much better as a Personal Significator than the 9 of Cups.)

Also notable: there are four Fool cards in this deck, numbered 0-1 to 03, and maybe this one fits into that sequence too. I make absolutely no claims to be a Great Ascended Master Of Magic. I personally don’t consider it a Fool but then again of course I wouldn’t, would I?

Tarot: further reading.

In an IM conversation today, I got reminded that the ‘further reading’ section of the Silicon Dawn’s book got cut for space reasons. Looking in my notes, it also feels kinda lacking. So here is a revised ‘for further reading’ for that deck:

Mathers, Book T. 1888? My primary source for the Majors.

Aleister Crowley, The Book Of Thoth. My primary source for the number cards and the Courts. (Which would totally be public domain now if not for Disney’s attempts to ensure that ‘Steamboat Willie’ never goes out of copyright, decide for yourself if you want to flaunt the law.)

Michael Hurst, Michael’s Tarot Notebook. A lovely little web site on the history and evolution of the Major Arcana. Geocities is now shut down, but the site lives on in archive.org’s Wayback Machine. He has a blog now that is also probably pretty interesting if you care about the history of Tarot decks.

Tim Powers, Last Call. Powers’ descriptions of the various Tarot cards that show up in this book were lurking somewhere in the back of my head for much of this project. I didn’t use any of his images but I hope I got some of the power to shock and surprise that he describes them having.

Robert Anton Wilson? Wasn’t he in this appendix? Wasn’t this document in Markdown anyway? When did I accidentally convert it to HTML? Anyway. The appendices of the Illuminatus! trilogy, and ‘Cosmic Trigger’, were quite interesting. And of course there is Prometheus Rising which may have done something interesting to my head when I read it. I can’t be arsed to link all of these, also the Illuminatus! trilogy is quite frankly kind of totally sexist and possibly terribly written, but I definitely had my head turned inside out when I devoured it as a teenage boy in the 80s – there’s a manual on magic and philosophy lurking under the surface of its absurd story of Every Conspiracy Theory, Ever being true. Hail Eris; all hail Discordia.

Philip K Dick’s VALIS and the history thereof – ask Google, or try to make your way through the copious notes he left behind.

Advanced Magick for Beginners is one of my favorite post-Chaos magical texts. Seriously it is short and sweet and, well, there’s a reason there’s a hand grenade on the cover okay? Read it, think about it, try some of its experiments with great care.

Also just google ‘chaos magic’ and read what looks interesting, t. Make some sigils or whatnot and see what happens. Have I mentioned that the Silicon Dawn deck is arguably a sigil to attempt to create a certain sort of future? Because it totally is.

 

happily empty shelves

I’m putting stuff from the con away. I went out there with, um, 24 copies of the deck, and 20 copies of the Rita book. I shipped home nine decks and seven books.

I left six copies of the deck at home. I’ve got fifteen of ’em left now.

I just ordered about eighty more from Llewellyn at the artist price, so I’ll have some at ECCC, as well as at AC and probably Rainfurrest. Llewellyn tells me they’re down to about 250 decks in the warehouse, including what I’ve ordered, so if you’ve been wanting one and haven’t gotten one yet, you might want to order one as I think it’ll be out of print soon. I should poke Lo Scarabeo to see what kind of stock they have on their end, and if they’re thinking of doing a second printing.

Had I mentioned Further Confusion was really good? Because Further Confusion was really good.

Foolscap is next week; I’ll probably be spending some time there but I’m not planning to be dealing or putting stuff in the art show.

fanmail from some flounder?

I woke up to e-mail from a dude who saw my Tarot deck last night when his girlfriend and her husband were showing it to him. He’s a maker, and wanted a print of the Six of Swords to hang in his office, and in the space at home where he passes his love of making stuff to his daughter Eleanor.

I hopped out of bed, woke up my computer, rendered out a big bitmap of the image in question and uploaded it to DA so I could reply with a purchase link. How could I not? My full name is Margaret Eleanor Trauth.

There’s a part of me that’s continually amazed whenever I get an enthusiastic response. I guess it turns out that there are a lot more cartoon-loving polyamorous nerds who grew up with their heads full of SF out there than anyone really thought there would be. And I have made a Tarot deck that speaks to them like no other can.

(Also I really need to put something about general print prices on my site. Honestly I could probably do fulfillment by using DA or some other internet printing service (any suggestions, folks?) and having it shipped to the buyer’s address.)