I was thinking one day about the effects of story upon our lives. In today’s era it’s difficult to find good examples of heroism and honor, humility, and what power really is. As a young man I had some good people in my life that were examples of how people should act…but I was probing why I feel the way I do about deeper issues of faith, community, religion, education, and honor. Being over forty, I was even more curious about why things from my youth are still with me, why interests that I had and why stories I enjoyed way back when still live with me on a daily basis.
One of the ways by which I think about stories is through the lens of Tarot (Runes as well, but modern man is more easily definable via the Tarot). The Tarot path holds many lessons and the archetypes found within it arise from history and fiction, religion and humanism, esotericism and exotericism and therefore Tarot encapsulates the whole of modern western culture. Once one is familiar with the symbolism of the Tarot it can be placed like a transparent layer over any story or experience in order to pull out nuances of subtle wisdom.
This post is about me creating a Tarot deck from the Dragonlance series – Which I did, and which is a physical deck that I currently own and conduct readings with. It was born out of me wanting to personally define the importance of it’s characters in my life and why this fictional world (among others) continues to be one that I think about. It is a world of moral questions, of gods and dragons, knights and wizards…I’ll admit I don’t read much (or any) of it these days, but I believe that like any loved story in ones past it still influences me to this day.
I am refraining from posting images of the deck, simply because I wouldn’t want them to be copied, printed, and sold (I have included a snapshot from an online reading done for a client). But I thought I would share some thoughts on the cards I chose and what changes I made. Unlike my Star Wars Tarot which was constructed from already published playing card decks, the Dragonlance Tarot is a cobbled together deck from well known Dragonlance images. Creating a Tarot deck is an interesting task, it was a process of growth that forced me to examine these stories with a new eye. rather than just being entertained by these stories I was looking below the surface, probing the motivations of characters, wondering why the authors built the world the way they did, why it functions the way it does.
It is a complete set of Tarot, 78 cards. It uses only well known Dragonlance images and novel cover art, but for the Moon and Sun cards. The Minor Arcana, the pips, are not images, but like older decks are merely numbered.
The cards: Lances = Wands and the courts are represented by Heroes. Orbs = Cups and are represented by wizards and clerics; Swords = Swords and represented by knights; Pentacles = Discs and represented by Dragons.
Court Cards: Lances = King is Tanis, Queen is Laurana, Knight is Gilthas, Page is Gerard; Orbs = King is Dalamar, Queen = Crysania, Knight= Palin, Page= Elistan; Swords = King is Sturm, Queen is Kitiara, Knight is Steele, Page is Mina; Discs = King is Aurican, Queen is Malys, Knight is Skie, Page is Chaos dragon/draconian.
Major Arcana: 0 = Tas, 1= Raistlin, 2= Goldmoon, 3 = Heart/Silvara/Humas Tomb, 4= Huma, 5= Flint, 6=Caramon and Tika, 7= Citadel, 8= Kerianseray, 9=Porthios, 10= Stars of Krynn, 11= Cataclysm, 12= Kerrick, 13= soth, 14= Caramon, 15= Takhisis, 16= High Clerists tower, 17=Lost Citadel, 18=Tower of Moon/Takaluras, 19= Tower of the Sun/Qualinost, 20= Kingpriest, 21= Inn of the Last Home/Solace.
If you’ve read my Star Wars tarot posts you know that I go into some detail about why certain cards were used. Being that this deck is so unique I th0ught I’d do the same.
Highlights of the Major Arcana:
the Fool: Tasslehoff Burrfoot is the Fool. He exemplifies the idea of Wanderlust (as does the Fool), moving before thinking just for the sake of the experience and new adventure. He is also changed by his voyages and perhaps in the end the most wise of all the archetypes. Is the Fool the beginning of wisdom or the end result of life’s adventures?
the Magician: Raistlin. The Magician doesn’t necessarily have to be a good character but merely one who understands power and the elements by which power is attained/accomplished. Raistlin here is depicted in his study within the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas, ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of existence and magic.
Strength: This is Kerianseray a Kagonesti elf (wild elf) and rebel. Her nickname is the Lioness. She is a servant when we first meet her in the series, behind the scenes she however is a warrior fighting for her people. Strength is the card that holds the wisdom of subtle power, a power that comes from gentleness rather than physical force, a strength of intellect that is like a yoke for physical prowess – brute force tempered with knowledge and patience.
the Hangman: This card depicts Kerrick, a dark elf (outcast) of Silvanesti. The image shows him floating on a bit of ice following his exile and on his way to Icewall. Along with the unsteady nature of the ice and water, Kerrick much like the Hangman is unsure of where he will start or end his journey.
Temperance: Caramon. Caramon is a man of heart and action. His greatest asset is compassion and the love he has for his friends and brother. Like the lessons of Temperance Caramon tries to balance many things in his life that sometimes cannot be reconciled. In the end he realizes that some things must be left behind in order to find happiness.
the Tower: Probably one of the heaviest scenes in all of Dragonlance. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read Dragons of Winter Nights. The tower here is the High Clerists Tower and it’s being tested by the armies of Takhisis. Sometimes destruction and obstacles make us stronger and force us to rebuild or reconfigure our lives.
the Moon: This is the Tower of the Moon found in Dargonesti (I believe), it is the residence of the Speaker of the Moon. These elves are water elves and their cities are undersea. The moon card has a deep relationship with water and its illusory nature.
Judgmenet: The Kingpriest is depicted here. Judgement is not justice and it doesn’t mean a balanced or wise indivisual is dispensing it. Judgement merely tells us that it’s time to choose something- good, indifferent, or bad.
the World: This shows Solace, more specifically the Inn of the Last Home. The home, or at least the base for the heroes. Solace is the example by which right and justice are evaluated in Dragonlance. It’s a place of beauty and ‘home’, the place where the adventure begins, and what the heroes are fighting to maintain as the example of social order.
This deck being based off of Rider-Waite symbolism I thought some direct comparisons would be interesting:
The pic I used for the High Priestess depicting Goldmoon in this role is from the cover of Dragons of Autumn Twilight:
Goldmoon mirrors the original RW example very well. She is the holder of ancient wisdom and the medium between which the old worlds and the new communicate, the gateway through which the old gods return to a world that has forgotten them, the balance between opposites. Both cards depict the HP holding the important occult vessels, important artifacts of hidden lore. Some quotes from Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot illustrate how closely these versions relate to one another:
“The scroll in her hands is inscribed with the word Tora, signifying the Greater Law, the Secret Law and the second sense of the Word.”(1)…According to Kabalism, there is a Shekinah both above and below. In the superior world it is called Binah, the Supernal Understanding which reflects to the emanations that are beneath. In the lower world it is MaIkuth–that world being, for this purpose, understood as a blessed Kingdom that with which it is made blessed being the Indwelling Glory.”(2)
This passage directly discusses the power of the HP to unit heaven and earth which can be seen signified by the Blue Crystal Staff held by Goldmoon in the picture touching the earth and the sky. Further…
“Mystically speaking, the Shekinah is the Spiritual Bride of the just man, and when he reads the Law she gives the Divine meaning.”(3)
Elistan (portrayed as the Page of Orbs in the DL Tarot) who is healed by Goldmoon via the Staff and the power of the old gods, eventually is able to read the Discs of Mishakal which relate the laws of the old gods.
The previous example is exactly how a seeker after the mystery of the Tarot delves into symbolism. It begins with a concrete image and begins to flower into a mosaic of pieces that fit together in odd correspondences.
Perhaps I will post a second DL Tarot article that compares other cards shortly.
1,2,3.Arthur Edward Waite (2014-06-15). The Pictorial Key To The Tarot (Illustrated) (p. 39). . Kindle Edition.
Dragonlance Lexicon found at: http://dragonlancenexus.com/lexicon/index.php?title=Main_Page