Archive for Sun


Posted in Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by manxwytch

hyoscyamus nigerI’ve always had a strong connection to plants, particularly unusual plants – living fossils, carnivorous plants, armed and venomous plants, plants that walk or move, magickal and medicinal plants – in short, plants that have power. As a child I grew plants in my parents’ garden. In fact, I turned the entire property into garden, banishing the tedious, ordinary and useless grass and colourful annuals in favour of sacred plants. I worked my first alraun as an early teen – an heroic first year Verbascum specimen that I spent a day conversing with, digging around, loosening the sandy soil of the cliff on which it stood and teasing it away from each and every root to take up the plant entirely intact.  My parents seemed oblivious to what I was filling their yard with – dwale, jimson weed, and henbane mixed in with their petunias and tulips. So long as there was something pretty and recognizable, I got away with a startling amount of weirdness. I also grew the bright cousins of the venificii, lunar, solar and venusian plants alongside my beloved saturnian and martial specimens.

Atropa belladonna
Up until a decade ago, I always had gardens full of plants. As an adult I became semi-nomadic, moving great distances following my career, and I stopped cultivating plants. But I roved and foraged and related to wild plants wherever I travelled. I had completed academic training as an herbalist, and had begun to widen my practice beyond myself and those closest to me before embarking on my travels, and continued to practice as I went.
This past summer I committed to renew my relations with witchcraft and fairie associated plants, regardless of my location. Perhaps a little like a veneficic Johnny Appleseed, I will leave Daturas and Belladonnas in my wake as I move from place to place. But the first challenge I set myself was the cultivation of that Ultimate Diva, the one plant spirit I have never been able to coax into my life, even when I tried religiously and repeatedly in my youth; the Mandrake.

This was back in the dark times before the internet, when seed catalogues were printed on paper and virtually none of them offered mandrakes of any variety. When I found one that did, I ordered an embarrassing quantity of seed and tried every trick I had ever seen to get them to grow. For years I kept this seed company in business, or at least could have, considering the amount they charged per seed, and for years I waited in vain for any sign of life from the mandrake seed they sent to me.
This summer I had the good fortune of finding more than one online source for Mandragora seed, as well as groups of folk online who successfully grew this Holy of Holies from seed. In the end, I ordered from Harold Roth at Alchemy Works in the U.S.A., packets of white and autumn mandrake seeds, twenty seeds of each, and followed his instructions for their preparation and planting. I eagerly awaited their germination according to the timetable Harold provided…
And waited…
And waited…
Months went by. The peat pellets I planted the seeds in mouldered, so I broke them up and mixed them into the top layer of soil in a couple of large plastic pots. Still I watered them, and kept looking for signs of life. I was just about ready to admit defeat and, like the fox after the grapes, decide that mandrakes weren’t that big a deal anyway, when for a completely unrelated magical working I collected water from a Holy Well. I figured I had nothing to lose by throwing some of my holy water on those barren pots of stubbornly ungerminating and ungrateful and probably not even worthwhile mandrake seeds.
And the bloody things sprouted that night.

Mandragora officinalis
The few that sprouted, I have cared for like newborn babes, and they have waxed strong and large in my care. I swell with pride at the sight of them under my plant lights each morning, and my success with them has regenerated my enthusiasm. There was some marital strife, however, when I brought the little darlings into the house. It seems that Mandragora is aligned with Beelzebub, and they brought the flies and their Lord in with them in the form of swarms of tiny little fungus gnats. I bound them with incantations and fly paper, and their numbers gradually dwindled as millions of tiny bodies were sacrificed on the sticky strips.

I have since bought Atropa, Hyoscyamus, and more Mandragora from Harold (his incense and resins are also of the highest quality, I’ve bought and used them with great success too), and look forward to planting them in my garden this spring to surround myself with a proper witches garden once again.

I have come to think of plants as totemic, as I have ever had stronger connections with green things than with the more typical, winged and furred spirits of the contemporary neoshamanic world. I find this particularly appropriate on the Isle of Mann, where there are few ‘wild’ animals left, and the sacred land animals tend to be domesticated ones.
But more of them in another post.

The Mary-el Tarot

Posted in Art with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by manxwytch

By Marie White
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
ISBN: 9780764340611

I remember when I first saw an image of the Mary-el tarot cards; I was searching for an image of The Moon.  That particular evening I was blithely surfing along the web for something that would capture the essence of a feeling that I had associated with the iconic image.  At the same time I was completely, head bangingly bored of the usual twin pillars, dogs, woman’s profile, crayfish, road, drops of rain and blood of the Waite/Marceille variety.  Then, I saw the Mary-el Moon image and I was struck with that kind of joy found similarly when someone has a butterfly land to rest on their person.  A moment of awe and grace fluttered to my consciousness, having been touched by a transformative beauty.  To me, the image transcended stereotypes of tarot iconography and yet completely remained pure to the essence of the nature of the card.  My respect for Marie White’s artistry was deepened as I discovered that The Sun card was like a brother to the The Moon in imagery*.  One reflective of the other.

It was from then on, that I was enamoured of the Mary-El Tarot.

Time and life continued.  My encounter was easily 7 or more years ago.  After a while, I honestly forgot about it.  I carried on with my own work and art and life story when recently, a friend mentioned that the Mary-El Tarot was about to be published.  The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t pin it down so I did what we all do… I found her on the web and was reawakened to her tarot splendour after so many years. Very excited to see her complete deck, I pre-ordered one of her first decks for my collection.

Holding the long rectangular box itself was a delight.  Schiffer Publishing Ltd. has certainly proved that it cares about an exquisite presentation for such a monumental work of art.  And this is a work of art.  Marie White’s magnum opus.  Her spiritual journey through the Tree of Life.  The tarot archetypes, captured in the manner by which a soul can be captured… in art.

White’s images have taken over 15 long years to develop and process and the results are staggering.  The originals are 7” x 11. 5” and  executed in oils in a style called grisaille, which is where an under-painting is done in contrasting tones of black, greys and white.  Then one or more tones are added as a wash, and finally colours are applied in many thin and translucent layers.  This style adds to build the impression of depth in her work.

White’s own journey through the process of creating the deck is detailed in her personal blog which has been followed by countless tarot fans and friends over the years.  It is great reading for anyone interested in the process of art, the mind of the artist/mystic, and in the power of the Muse herself.

Accompanying the deck is White’s poetic book ‘Landscapes of the Abyss’.  It provides the reader with insight into White’s tremendous, experiential and historical knowledge of the cards.  She joins the ranks of many tarot historians who draw attention to the link between the tarot trumps and the medieval Dance Macabre, the Dance of Death who is the great equalizer of both beggar and king.  As well, she highlights the work of Etillia, the French master cartomancer and magician who first proposed the association of the cards to Egyptian mysteries and universal cosmologies.  She gives her impression of the categorization of the deck and then leads the reader to her “Perfect Ambiguity”, where she praises the synthesis of Three Pillars of Tarot (Waite/Marceilles/Crowley) for her inspiration and clearly states that the images are able to be understood in a multitude of dimensions.  This diversity of spiritual wisdom is reflective in the various artistic influences found in the Mary-el’s symbolic pictography; all of which are completly compatable within the deck and don’t appear to be in conflict from other images.  A clearly Japanese style, integrates well with a North American indigenous style and then a European faery tale…  It’s all within the psyche of the Mary-el deck and more.

14 Temperance

White’s deck heralds a new dawn in tarot art.  She has risen above the interjected rule that tarot art must contain an image of the numbered suit (wands, swords, cups, disks).  She has gone beyond this to touch the essence that the card itself conveys thereby giving the viewer another perspective into her insight of the “Perfect Ambiguity” and symmetry.  Like the name Mary-el, it is a conjunction of both the mortal and divine.  A walk through her deck is a microcosmic spiritual dance of the cosmos, where we are all the Fools in the comedy and tragedy of life.

For some people, the absence of Suits in the Minor Arcana may seem a struggle however; White has written a comprehensive guide to each card’s meaning, symbolism and interpretation therefore giving anyone, even the most insecure reader, an opportunity for understanding and reflection.  Beyond this, White concludes with what has always been the best advice for any tarot interpretation.

“There is no knowledge that can be found outside yourself that is better than what is inside yourself.  You have access to it all (as does every person) alone; you are enough.”

As far as I am concerned, Marie White joins the ranks of the historical visionary feminine artists who have profoundly influenced tarot deck art such as Pamela Coleman Smith and Lady Freida Harris.   I realize this is mighty praise and I feel that it is well deserved.  White’s process was not that of a graphic artist but as she says, an alchemist and her transformation of lead into gold can be found in walking the Landscape of the Abyss.

For those who are interested in discovering more of her tarot art, it can be found on her website at

Marie White is also offering signed prints of her originals and signed copies of her deck from her website

*Note:  All images are copyright Marie White and were used on this review with her kind permission.

This review was written by the artist Jane Estelle Trombley of the Arto Tarot deck and JETArts.