Review: Watcher Angel Tarot and Guidebook – Michelle Belanger and Jackie Williams

2012/01/09

Watcher Angel Tarot Guidebook: Myth, Meaning, and Creation – Michelle Belanger and Jackie Williams
Emerald Tablet Press. 2011. 312pp. 9780983816911.

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” Genesis 6:1-2

Such a little innocuous line, often overlooked and forgotten, yet containing the seeds of a beautifully deep myth expounded upon in the Book of Enoch. Watcher Angels, the sons of God(s), fell to the Earth and took up human mates, and taught the secrets of heaven. That is the theme of this deck. I’ve talked about this deck before but it is time for a proper review.

In the introduction Michelle says “I didn’t want simply to design another Tarot built on the bones of the Rider-Waite-Smith. I wanted to revision the Tarot entirely, allowing the symbols to speak through me and to find expression in some vital and personal myth.” (12) And that is what you find with this deck. It isn’t a Rider-Waite-Smith clone with angel wings drawn on it, it isn’t a clone with some of the images and settings shifted around, it is a fairly different beast altogether.

The deck was designed from the ground up. Looking at the overarching traits of the Major Arcana a parallel from the Enochic myth was chosen, for the most part one of the Watcher Angels themselves represents the Majors, each assigned according to what they did, and what they taught. For instance you have Kasdeya who taught “all the wicked smitings of spirits and demons, and the smitings of the embryo in the womb” as Death, and Shemyaza the leader of the Angels in the Fall as The Fool.

Seven of Pentacles. RWS: A man leaning on his hoe. Watcher Angel: A man leaning on his...

The Minor Arcana form an entire story of their own; from Ace to Ten, Pentacles, to Cups, to Wands, to Swords, they lay out the entire tale. Pentacles are just after the Fall, the struggle to learn and build a world. In Cups they have established themselves and enjoy the world. With Wands they show their children the mysteries of heaven and magick. Finally with Swords their children turn upon each other. Since each suit contains its own story arch it is a remarkably easy deck to learn, though initially I was wary of the differences, because even if you have a moment of uncertainty when you place the card in the story it becomes clear what it represents. The meanings, the keywords of the cards are standard, but they way they play out in the Enochic myth is quite different.My only complaint with this system is it falls into an earlier interpretation of the Tarot, since the Swords are about the war among the children, the majority of the Swords are negative and challenging cards. Something many decks do but I dislike.

The artwork in this deck is phenomenal. The images are deep and complex, without being cluttered, in a lifelike and detailed painting style you’re not likely to see in a Tarot deck. Colours are rich and vibrant, and thematically carry between the suits. Jackie has a wonderful talent and her skill really brings the images to life. For me it is the settings, wings, and faces that really get me. The backgrounds are evocative, be they a shifting patch of colour or an elegant city vista. The wings just look better than most angel depictions –it’s a personal gripe of mine. Lastly the faces are very engaging, haunting, and real. The entire deck is viewable here on Jackie’s site and will show far better than I can describe.

The companion book was refreshingly honest. “I won’t lie and say that this deck was merely the product of detached academic research. There is a great deal of vision and inspiration, myth, dream, and magick woven into this work.” (19) Or as Jackie says it is “a deck designed by two psychics with input from the universe.” (29) All things considered it’s something I’ve found odd that so many deck creators shy away from discussing. In fact the companion book is remarkably complete, perhaps too much for some cases, but as it says you can skip the sections that don’t interest you. The book contains Jackie and Michelle’s stories for making the Tarot, the years of planning and research for Michelle, the years of painting and living the cards for Jackie. Michelle leads you into the research and struggles, Jackie even gives interesting advice on paper and paint types. Their stories are followed by the myth of the Watchers, how it relates to Campbell’s Monomyth as well as to the Book of Enoch and related texts. It moves into tarot history, where it came from, how it became part of the Western Mystery Tradition, beliefs about the tarot, and then finally the interpretations of the cards. If you’ve never dealt with the tarot before this book covers pretty much all the basics you’ll need, and if you’re familiar with the tarot and don’t care about personal stories you can skip to the back where you can learn about the cards and understand why Michelle and Jackie made the choices they did in illustrating the deck.

I will fully own up to a triple bias with this deck, Michelle and Jackie are friends, and personally I love the Enochic mythology. That being said, I don’t believe it is my bias speaking when I say this has quickly become one of my favourite decks; the beautiful art, the compelling myth, it just makes this a wonderful and unique deck.


Webshare Wait-It’s-Monday: Enochic and Enochian Galore

2011/06/20

Baraquiel- The Hanged Man

Baraquiel- The Hanged Man

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, I decided to run for an unplanned holiday on the family farm. I was going to share these links/stories later, but as one of them is time sensitive I’ll do so a little early and with that said it might as well be the link I start with.

My friends Michelle and Jackie have been working on a tarot deck. Michelle’s been scheming it for about a decade and if I remember my timelines right Jackie’s been painting for about five years. The Watcher Angel Tarot is a reinterpretation of the themes of the tarot through the legend of the Watcher Angels as told in the Book of Enoch. The deck is finally done and presales start this Tuesday (June 21st). Currently you can pre-order the deck as collector and supporter decks on Jackie’s art site to help foot the start-up cost, and the deck will be released October 21st, just in time for the end of the world, and that’s not a coincidence. On Monday and Tuesday at 1830 (EST) Michelle and Jackie will be doing a twitter to youtube question answer session about the deck, so if you’re interesting and/or want to learn more go to Jackie’s site or participate in the chat to hear about the deck from the people driving it.

Damon Albarn (Gorillaz) has written an opera ‘Doctor Dee’ on the life of the historic occultist John Dee, founder of Enochian magick. I’m actually really amused and intrigued with the idea. He says he will focus on the occult practices of the good doctor, as he feels that part of his life has been hidden from history. No mention if wife-swapping for YHWH will be in the opera as of yet.

While totally different, this just couldn’t help but remind me of The Enochian Keys Opera by Valentin Dubovskoy from several years back, which I had interesting results with.

Next month sees the release of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, a video game loosely based on the Book of Enoch (I’m seeing a theme in my links, this wasn’t planned). The game has you taking the role of Enoch the Prophet trying to stop seven fallen angels and the flood that will destroy mankind if they are not stopped. I have neither of the platforms it is on (PS3 or 360) but I’ve been debating a PS3 for a while (I don’t really play video games) and I think this might be a good inspiration. A PS3 for my spiritual research, that’s reasonable, right?

Edit: I just found a video trailer of the game. It looks good to me, and has an interesting artistic style.

An Orthodox Jewish Court has condemned a dog to death by stoning. The belief is the dog that invaded the court room was the reincarnation of a secular lawyer the judges had previously cursed to be reborn as a dog for insulting them. What I found most interesting is that it is a public admission of the belief in reincarnation (which while it has some historical basis in Judaism is a fringe belief currently) but also the belief that the judges have the capacity to use a curse to direct someone’s next incarnation and that it could include animals such a dogs. I was under the impression that Jewish beliefs in reincarnation was limited to humans, but animals and cursing incarnations, both are new tricks to me.

Lastly, and really really not least is Rob’s Basic Laws, Rules, and Rights of Magic an absolutely brilliant article on…well just that, the laws, rules, and rights of magick. It’s a long read, and you definitely need to take some time to work through it but it is worth it. I probably only disagreed with one or two points, and not in horribly strong ways, I really recommend you give it a read if you haven’t seen it yet. It matched up with some of my own conceptions on the laws/rules and made me question and debate others.

That being said I leave these links with you, and hopefully return to blogging proper soon.


Sex, Angels, Bones, and Books

2011/04/25

Easter Monday, time for a Judeo-Christian post I think. This is mainly more links and connecting data, but I have a few relevant articles off on the wings I thought I’d bring together.

Over at Remnant of Giants a post just went live “How Do You Know When You’re Having Sex with a Fallen Angel: Some Handy Hints from a Biblical Scholar“. The site is a mix of funny responses to relevant events and scholarly study related to the Biblical and extra-Biblical giants, and occasionally more generic Biblical/extra-Biblical study. As a fan of the Enochic literature (meaning related to the Book of Enoch, not Enochian in the Dee-Kelly sense) I find it is both an entertaining and informative site.

Of course there are a few mistakes. With number one, the Angels you could sleep with, humanoid ones, didn’t have wings Biblically it was the non-humanoid Angels that had wings. I’m actually writing a personal article on that now which may or may not make it up here in the future. Number two, should have stuck with naming fallen angels, Metatron (either one of them) is an odd choice of name for a fallen angel to assume. Other than that, it is a handy (silly) guide, of course I’d rather use guides not to avoid but to pursue, but to each their own.

The University of Wyoming shared the news that the trial/investigation of the James Ossuary box may finally be wrapping up. It’s only been about a decade. In fact since then the box has dropped off most people’s radar. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is an ossuary box that is about 2000 years old (that part isn’t questioned) which reads “Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua.” For those without their Aramaic 101, that translates as “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Joshua.” Or when rendered out of Aramaic into Biblical English “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” So apparently we have the bone box of James, Jesus’s younger brother. But so far most of the evidence points to it being a fraud. “Ya’akov bar-Yosef” is generally believed to be authentic, but the bit about Jesus looks like it may be a modern addition, the trial is trying to figure out how modern, as some experts say it is more recent than the box, but still from the first millennium.

Speaking of Biblical forgeries it looks like Indiana Jones’s David Elkington’s codices are not standing up will to investigation. Rather than link to any individual story I want to link to this great resource here which is both a collection of relevant links and articles and a pretty solid analysis of the flaws of the codices. Included at the bottom of the article, the very last link is a collection of all the images of the codices that have been released, for those of us who like to take a look for ourselves. Just a sidenote since I brought it up the first time I posted about it, this man actually has degrees, a BA in Near Eastern Studies and a Masters in Jewish studies, and is working on more. Credentials aren’t the end-all be-all, but by Baal they’re useful.

Now in the spirit of Easter Monday, I’m off to buy discount chocolate.


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