wb15.jpg (20975 bytes)The William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination
by Ed Buryn

A Review by C.J. Rose

pub HarperSanFrancisco, 1995
non-traditional card titles
eight: Justice; eleven: Strength
suits are Painting, Science, Music and Poetry
courts are angel, child, woman and man
illustrated pips, captions
backs non-symmetrical
purpose: Error: Key 15

This deck/book set inspires much.  Certainly, it inspires this reviewer to blow the
dust off her tomes by and about the painter/poet.  As it takes one to know one, Ed
Buryn describes his mentor, “For all that, Will Blake was a ‘regular guy who enjoyed
a pint of ale, a countryside walk and a song to sing while he worked.  He recognized
and accepted his own genius without succumbing to egotism or the desire to have power
over others: ’I should be sorry if I had an earthly fame, for whatever natural glory
a man has is so much taken from his spiritual glory.’”

As The Alchemical Tarot joins two vast esoteric symbol systems, The William Blake
Tarot relates the mystic poet’s mythology of divided Albion and the four Zoas as a
spiritual parallel to the unbound Book of books.  Albion is Blake’s name for the
human soul, who falls to earth in unconsciousness and is broken as the four ways of
processing experience get out of balance.  Buryn associates these Zoas with Tarot’s
Lesser Secrets, noting that they’re far from arcane today.

Blake relates Tharmas to sensation, Urizen (Your Reason) to intellect, Luvah (Lover)
to emotional knowing, and Urthona (Earth Owner) to intuition.  Buryn matches painting
with pentacles, science with swords, music with cups, and poetry with wands, swapping
the traditional elemental assignations of earth, water and fire.  According to the
author, “The entire key to Blake’s system, and part of its revolutionary appeal, is
that elemental Earth unequivocally represents Imagination and Spirit, thus asserting
the firm and solid belief that these are the only permanent forces in the universe,
literally the ground of reality.  The illusion of Matter becomes symbolized by Water,
and the emotions or passions become Fire.”  And, “Possibly the most exciting thing
about The William Blake Tarot is that it harnesses Blake’s visions in a format that
can actually be used to help people make decisions… to stimulate creative
imagination, and as objects of meditation that help illuminate principles of the
divine life.”

The Fool’s journey from Eternity names the triumphs: Innocence, Magic, Mystery,
Nature, Reason, Religion, Knowledge, Experience, Assessment, Imagination, Whirlwind,
Energy, Reversal, Transformation, Forgiveness, Error, Lightning, Stars, Moon, Sun,
Liberty, and Union.

May as well surrender to Buryn’s generous tour through Blake’s iconography.   This
opus creates a world of its own.  If someone offers you the deck without the book,
keep bartering.  Though the author has done a brilliant job of matching The Cards we
know to his awesome collages, he’s done so much more!

In its own behalf, the deck describes its intention with Key 15.  The books
elucidates, “Error  corresponds to the Devil  in conventional Tarot.   It introduces
what is traditionally called the ‘dark night of the soul’, where Satan (‘the prince
of this world’) appears within oneself as selfhood (‘reasoning and doubting’), which
Blake equated with spiritual fear.  The soul sinks into Ulro, Blake’s term for the
lowest point in material existence, a state of ‘deepest night [and] dread sleep
[filed with] unreal forms… productive of the most dreadful consequences… even of
torments, despair, eternal death.’  It is at this point in the journey, just when the
soul is finally releasing itself from its own beliefs….” that this deck “asserts
itself in primal ferocity.”

See more cards from the William Blake Tarot Deck

Review Copyright (c) 1998 C.J. Rose Rosehips Productions

Images Copyright (c) 1995 Harper Collins

This page is Copyright 1998 by Michele Jackson