While pondering my academic life, it occurred to me that both my lowest and my highest university degrees (an MA in Aalborg and a Dr. Phil. (Habil.) in Roskilde) were awarded by two Marxist universities. I had a short stint at the University of Odense where I was awarded a PhD degree some 12 years ago, but somehow that counts for something different.
I had a wonderful time last Friday at my public defence for the Dr. Phil. degree, even though I had to submit myself to provocations and then making some myself. It’s part of the ‘job’, they say, the job of defending your views and answering to the gods – in my case, two Oxford dons, a genius professor poet from the US, and a formal philosophy professor.
But the Marxist universities, yes, I picked them on purpose, both for studying and for working on my retirement plan – I’m currently employed by Roskilde University. What can I say, once a Marxist, always a Marxist – so help me God.
But as I’m sitting here by candle light 4 days later, admiring the Cobra candle holder by Georg Jensen, purveyor to the Court, a gift from my sister and her family on the occasion of my defence, and looking at yet another gift, a most rare and precious Tarot cards deck from Frank and Witta Jensen, it occurs to me that Marx is following me.
K. Frank Jensen, the legendary collector, is also an inveterate Marxist who has devoted his entire life to the study of Tarot, occult, and esoteric books. Frank and I share this: as Marxist occultists we don’t think that we need to believe in anything in order for us to live a magical life. So we do, and Frank has just made a magical act: he donated his famous collection of Tarot cards and ‘grimoires’ to Roskilde University. The Library is now in the process of digitalizing the material and we soon hope to launch the incredible find. I say ‘we’ because I’m privileged enough to be involved. As the president of the collection, I hope to be able to contribute to the promotion of fascinating studies within this area.
Meanwhile, I was thinking of what other degrees I might pursue and which might prompt people to begift me in such grand style. My new deck is a hand-colored remake of the Oswald Wirth tarot based upon the line art of the majors of the blueprint edition from 1889. As Frank mentions in the booklet for this deck, the color scheme follows as closely as possible the stencil colors of the very first edition from 1889. The colors are based upon an 1889 edition of Wirth’s tarot that is found in the collection of Yasuhiko Hirota. Frank’s wife Witta, an incredible artist and painter, has lent her steady hand to the production of this deck, and assisted by her granddaughter Natascha Kiessling, they produced a most vivid deck. My copy is number 6 of a limited edition of 10.
On Saturday morning after my big event, I had a quiet moment. I lit the Cobra – ‘you know what for,’ my sister said, giving me the symbolic eye – put on some Odin incense courtesy of Sarah Lawless, and dressed up in the Oxford Don’s gown. I figured that it matched to perfection the red cloth that came with my Oswald Wirth deck.
I poured coffee for myself and started shuffling the cards. Witta used a lot of real gold on the cards, so I had to be careful. I asked the Don to cut the deck. He’s a real magician. ‘What now?’ I wanted to know.
The Emperor, The Sun, and the High Priestess
One of the things that struck me was the red. I have no idea what Witta was possessed by when she applied the red to the cards. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such red. There is so much vitality in it that’s quite mesmerizing. Since Wirth was into mesmerism, I take it that Witta was under his spell quite literally.
Now the 3 cards. While it may look as if the Emperor is stuck in some past ruling and the Papesse is gazing forward disregarding the scepter, the two still meet under the Sun. ‘What now?’ ‘More of the same,’ the cards say. Stick your fingers between the pages of big books, read more, write more, shut up, but make sure to open some big doors with those big keys in your hand. I like the idea of the Sun shinning on people.
After I put the cards back together again, including the parchment paper sheets between each card, I realized that the last card I was holding in my hands was the card of the Charioteer, trump 7. Incidentally this is the number we get when we add the numerical value of the three above: 25. This number reduced to a number that doesn’t exceed the number of the trump cards, 22, gives us 7. Grand. This is aligned with what some have noticed about the new year: 2014 ads to 7, the Charioteer. I’m beginning to feel this energy. I wonder what Marx might think of it. Maybe I’ll summon him one of these nights. He knew all about being ‘in time’: he was afraid that he wouldn’t finish some of his theories before the break of the February Revolution in 1848. There’s some wisdom to be gained there, including the wisdom that tells us that controlling everything merely discloses limited power and a limited view of the world. I’ll stick with the Papesse. She doesn’t have any imperial urges.
As for Wirth’s own first message to me, here’s what he says:
Judgment, Charioteer, The Star
How very nice. There is number 7 again, followed by 17, the Star, leading the way. After a public event, doing the Danish thing as signalled by the Danish flag and standing to be Judged, where everyone also rose to the sound of the trumpet, one can relax, and perhaps remember to give off oneself in another fashion. The Star can now put off her shining armour, and enjoy a good bath.
I like it when the cards offer an insight that’s useful for the right here and right now moment. If for the previous 3-card set the leading question may have disclosed some anxiety – paper-wise there are no higher degrees I can aspire to – ‘finished, basta, go home now’ – in this second 3-card set, the one intended to summon Wirth to the table, the advice is to stop worrying. ‘Shine for yourself and strangers,’ to paraphrase the line that was discussed at my defence, coming from Gertrude Stein on the practice of her writing: ‘I write for myself and strangers.’
Perhaps we can do something for strangers if we can first do something for ourselves. That’s the art. The serious occultists know this to be one of the finest impenetrable pieces of what also stares you in the face, of what is also the most obvious. It is better to know yourself, rather than to know others, or even worse, pretend to know others, or even worse yet, judge others because you think you know them. ‘Relax,’ master Wirth says. If you shine for yourself, your friends will know what to get you, if things you must get: Here, a sublime hand-stenciled set under a Cobra’s light. Talk about OsWald, the old name for god’s protection.
Thank you all this, for being there, for celebrating with me, and making it worth the while.
Note on the deck:
Oswald Wirth Tarot after the 1889 blueprint edition, by K. Frank Jensen. Hand coloring by Witta Kiessling Jensen and Natascha Kiessling. Number 6 of a limited edition of 10. Editions Ouroboros, 2005/2012.
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