Deck Interview: Tabula Mundi

I’ve had M. M. Meleen’s Tabula Mundi (Colores Arcus edition) for about a month now, but I hadn’t gotten around to doing a deck interview with it until now. I was a little surprised by the reading that popped out, but given how strongly I feel about the intellectual concept while often disliking minor details of the art, it wasn’t too hard to come to terms with what the cards were saying. Part of that was, “Lay off the creator. The intellectual concepts are part of her art.” (There’s also a bit of personal-guilt subtext that I have yet to do any art for my own imagined deck.) 

The Tabula Mundi is based on the Thoth system, but it brings the imagery of the majors to almost every other card, depending on how they’re related in the Thoth system. For example, the minor arcana explicitly reference the ancient decan system (see the Thoth Tarot interview for an explanation of decans), so the 2 of Swords (Moon in Libra) brings in imagery from the Priestess (Moon) and Adjustment (Libra). The court cards bring in references from their minors using their decan system, although the court members themselves generally follow the Book T descriptions laid out by the Golden Dawn. To add the artist’s esoteric adherence, the majors also use the colors of the various scales tied to each of those cards.

As an aside, there were several cards that pop up here that also popped up in the Thoth Tarot deck interview.

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INTERVIEWING THE TABULA MUNDI

Tell me about yourself. The Tower.

What are your strengths? The Lovers.

And your limitations? 5 of Swords.

What can I learn from you? 2 of Swords.

How can I work with you most effectively? The Empress.

Where is our partnership headed? 10 of Wands.

As we can see in the Tower, the Tabula Mundi is an intense deck. It’s a fitting card for the first prompt used to describe or introduce the deck. Neither the card nor the deck shies away from the strange, the esoteric, the phallic, and even the slightly disturbing. While Meleen veers away from some of the phallic obsession of Crowley and Harris’s deck, that aspect continues where appropriate, such as the Tower, which is described as a card of orgasm as well as catastrophe. 

The deck’s strengths and limitations are less obvious but equally powerful. The Lovers is one of the only major arcana to explicitly combine imagery from other majors, much like in the Thoth deck actually. We see the Empress and the Emperor coming together as presided over by the Hermit who, here, is wrapped in the world serpent’s coils, like the Orphic Egg. In this card, I see the deck’s strength of dividing and recombining in new forms, quite literally in the case of the minor arcana that cut out pieces of the majors. It’s a precise system, and that precision can work for it and against it, as seen in other cards in this reading.

As for its limitations, we have the Five of Swords, also called Defeat. It’s a card I draw often, although not from this deck. It’s a surprising bummer of a card considering that its decan (Venus in Aquarius) draws on the gorgeous pair of Empress and Star (much like the Seven of Swords, which is Moon in Aquarius or Priestess and Star). It shows the eagle of the Empress killing the dove of Venus (also an Empress symbol), a sign of internal conflict fitting for a turbulent 5 when placed in the suit of the mind. I read in this card the expectation that this deck may not be a great choice for some of the less precise readings I enjoy doing, such as readings for creative projects. This is in distinct contrast to the powerful but final(ish) decision-making of the Lovers.

What I can learn from this deck is Peace, the 2 of Swords, another card of balanced thinking and clear decision-making. I feel as though the cards in this reading overall point back to the precision of the deck’s design concept, which is why I was drawn to it. And finding comfort in the precision of the cards may be a powerful lesson for me to take into my readings overall, regardless of deck design. Although Peace offers a calm serenity, I actually get the impression of quick decision-making from this card, and the Peace comes from knowing that the decision was made with knowledge of all the appropriate factors. My chart has a lot of Libra in it, so I see this card as cutting through the equivocating that the sign can bring. And as the third card associated with an air sign (each card a different one), I get the impression of full thinking here, which balances nicely with the major arcanum of Mars (Tower) on one end and the major arcanum of Venus (Empress) at the other.

In order to work best with this deck I need to recognize the complexity and creative brilliance of the artist’s interpretations, even if I don’t see this deck helping me with my own creative wanderings. As I said at the outset, the intellectual concepts are part of the creative art. And even if I don’t love, say, the angle of the Empress’s face, the enormous amount of symbolism in the card more than makes up for the occasional problem of perspective. In the card, we have the typical fields of fertility and the feminine power of cycles seen in the waxing and waning moon, but we also have the wings of the white eagle of alchemy as part of the Empress herself, a subtle bracelet with the symbol for Salt (the feminine component of alchemy), and the lotus wand. The bees of female-led community and work emerge in the spiral of the Goddess (or Nature’s precision). They emerge from the honeycomb of a heart rather than the pomegranate heart of the solitary death–life myth of the Priestess. And the opening of the gate or doorway as drawn from the Hebrew letter and its associated path as the Gate of Heaven. There’s probably more, but this seems like as good a place as any to stop. 

Of course, all of this symbolism and precision could end in Oppression. It’s not an ideal place to end, but after learning the intellectual balance that Peace can teach, I may be ready to move onto something less precise. Either that or I may have used the Saturn in Sagittarius (Temperance) energy to temper my own work into something more precise and, you know, finished. Even if my relationship with this deck becomes oppressive, there are a lot of useful things to learn in the meantime.

The cards pictured here are from the Tabula Mundi by M. M. Meleen, published by Atu House. See the Tabula Mundi website for more complete of information on the creator, her decks, and how to purchase this deck.