This post explores the intricate symbolism and occult significance behind The Dragon Tarot deck. Designed to facilitate self-transformation through a journey of spiritual initiation, the Major Arcana cards correlate with an alternative arrangement of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life meant to change the initiatory process. The Minor Arcana suits have also been reimagined as elemental realms inhabited by dragon imagery and archetypal figures lacking facial features.
The post describes various rituals, visualizations and practices that systematically guide the practitioner through awakening their creative life force, integrating their shadows, accessing cosmic wisdom and preparing for advanced magical evocations. From mental discipline to sex transmutation, the Dragon Tarot incorporates a holistic system aimed at enlightenment and self-mastery. Ultimately, this is a deck brimming with esoteric symbolism and magical promise.
PAA: The preface describes tarot decks as “exciting and unique adventure stories” that can “pierce the veil of ‘what is’ to illuminate ‘what can be.'” How does your deck aim to take the reader on an initiatic journey or adventure leading to self-transformation? What veil is being pierced?
This description is valid for all tarots that have the quality of a tarot. Let us remember the Dragon Tarot is designed by my brother Manuel Almeida e Sousa and not by me, but I was assigned the task of writing its theory and application like if I had designed it myself. The deck reveals a stage of Initiation for each card. The principle of Initiation is that we learn to merge the subconscious strata with the conscious, and our personality with the cosmos, our individuality with the larger nature, all the while we are truly knowing ourselves and unblocking hidden capacities. This tarot is no different.
PAA: You mention that your major arcana cards correlate with the 11 sephirot of the Tree of Life, arranged according to a different formula than the Kabbalistic one. Can you explain the metaphysical implications of reordering the Lightning Flash and pathways of the Tree in this way? How does it change the initiatory process?
The tree of life seen from the formula of YHVH shows a process of creation according to polarization. Fire and water combine to form air and crystallize as earth. The initiate, however, moves through a world that has been created, all that he or she needs is to attune to it in the right conditions, therefore I use an order of work more in tune with levels of subtlety, from the finest all the way to the grosser, from fire to air, air to water, water to earth. We go from ideation to formation, from formation to actual creation, and from creation to materialization.
PAA: The Atziluth initiations for the suit of Fire seem to be about awakening the creative life force and coming into awareness of the various levels of the self. How do the rituals and visualizations systematically lead the practitioner through this process of self-actualization?
By mastering the different limbs of yoga. By mastering I do not mean becoming a master, but making the practices subject to will and discipline, having them produce the corresponding effects. There are practices corresponding to the eight limbs: vows, observances, posture, breathing techniques, sense withdrawal, focused concentration, meditative absorption, and bliss. All these limbs deepen throughout the process, when working other suits, and the best chance at Samadhi is on the last card of the deck, Chaos.
PAA: The practices of invocation and evocation are often seen as dangerous or demanding advanced magical training. What precautions or preliminary steps do you recommend for the conjuror to be able to engage with these without risk?
Before starting any invocation, the initiate goes through all initiations. Before starting evocations, the conjurer goes through all invocations.
PAA: You introduce the Horse as equivalent to the Knight in this deck. What is the esoteric symbolism and significance of the horse as a spiritual messenger or psychopomp translating between planes?
The horse is not necessarily equivalent, it replaces the military knight. The horse is free and focused. It symbolizes the spermatozoon in kabbalistic sex magic, the principle of the light that goes through and to bliss and comes from bliss. It has no rider here, just as the crown of the Tree of Life has no king. It is pure. The astral light then, clear and purified, is able to take on the archetypes that stand beyond it, just as the horse here, polarized, leads to the king and queen.
PAA: The classical elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth have astrological, alchemical and spiritual correlations in hermeticism. Can you elaborate on the astrological connections you may have drawn on for the suits and courts in this deck?
Frankly speaking, I have made no particular use of astrology this time. Not in theory, or not exposed in the written theory. It is sufficient to say each suit, in the Dragon Tarot, is composed of twelve cards. Each card represents a sign of the zodiac, and the four suits represent the zodiac in its radiating, creative, formative and elementary facets. The eleven major Arcana represent the planets.
PAA: The preface discusses ancient Iberian dragon mythology that seems to have informed the imagery of the cards. What specific legends, symbols or traditions did you incorporate and why were they meaningful to you in this context?
I am Portuguese. I work, both as a writer, musician and an occultist, with the ancient traditions of Iberia. It seems in this case Manuel and I converged.
This region was named Terrae Ophiussa, Land of the Serpent. It was said to be inhabited by serpent people led by a serpent queen. The serpent is always a symbol of initiation, it sheds its skin and manages to go around things instead of bumping into them. That is how what is occult is unveiled. We have to manage to see not what is on the other side of the glass, but what is on the other side of the mirror without closing the gate by breaking the glass.
We had many coats of arms with dragons and kings that were dragon kings. The European dragon symbolizes the pinnacle of power and mastery in each of the classic Elements: it flies the highest, swims the deepest, breathes the hottest fire and is the strongest creature on ground.
PAA: How may Shadow work, as illustrated in the suit of Fire, prepare one for the advanced practices of invocation and evocation found later in the deck? What cautions would you give about integrating and projecting these denied aspects of the self?
It’s not the integration of the Shadow work that inspires caution. Not integrating it is what is dangerous. It would eventually manifest outside of conscious control in the invocations and evocations to follow.
PAA: At the end you promise to introduce sources of “real draconic magic” that are connected to pagan animism and mysticism. What are one or two primary sources that inspired the dragon symbolism specifically? And what is their deeper occult significance?
As mentioned, I draw from the European and the Asiatic traditions. In this regard, I explore as much as I know is available. Summarizing, western dragons symbolize magical power, eastern dragons symbolize Mystical mastery. But the work of “real draconic magic” is not symbolic alone. We are approaching a tradition of paranormal contact older than all the medieval grimoires.
PAA: The preface describes how the Tarot has moved from being used as simply a game to a divinatory tool and now, through your deck, a system of spiritual initiation. What deficiencies were you seeing in Tarot practice that your deck develops or transforms?
I keep saying that although it could be said the system is mine, the deck is by Manuel Almeida e Sousa, which speaks for his part in the system itself. In popular culture tarot has become a tool of entertainment. You go to a tarologist, pay, feel the thrill, and then you forget all about it, and you better, or you will be randomly influenced by someone you do not even know. The Dragon Tarot is cast by someone who has been initiated in all cards and who has made each card into a palpable elementary. When the cards are cast, they are chosen according to wisdom and conscious intention. The tarologist in the dragon tarot turns the wheel like the captain of a ship, instead of throwing it randomly to chance and into the cliffs. The tarologist, in this sense, is called a conjurer not only because he calls on the spirits of the cards, that he has animated through magic and alchemy, but because he conjures a specific destiny at will.
PAA: Your major arcana have changed The Fool’s position to hide Da’at or the Abyss. What is the esoteric meaning behind this shift and how does it set the initiate’s journey in motion differently?
What is occult is revealing. That is the principle of occultism, to veil what is hidden so it can be perceived. There is no door to the abyss, it cannot be seen or conceived. When you place a door, and that door is the Fool (an endless lust for the infinite), you can finally enter. This is no place for the endurance of the camel. It is not endurance that crosses nonexistence, it is the madness of the leaper, the foolishness of the lover.
PAA: The Ace of Wands features a dragon biting its own tail, which you correlate with the alchemical symbol for prima materia. How are you connecting this card with the Awakening of the Fire of creativity or Will? What role does the Ouroboros play here symbolically?
As Aleister Crowley said, “Pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” That is: the essence of will is will, and if this essence is replaced by relating to any other thing it becomes limited to its object. Introducing the initiate to the principle of will any other way would be to doom his or her efforts from the start. We want to begin with an unlimited resource from which we can collect.
PAA: Why is the wand suited for representing Will and what is the deeper meaning of the straight line growing larger in size on the Two of Wands specifically? Are there other symbolic tools from ritual magic being depicted here?
There is nothing different in the wands depicted at the two of wands. The wands of the deck look always the same and they always grow larger in size. The straight line symbolizes a purpose free of distractions, one-pointed concentration. That it grows larger in size means the more it is practiced the stronger it becomes.
PAA: The three downward wands on the Three of Wands seem to reflect the supernals of the Tree of Life: Kether, Chokmah and Binah. What is their significance in relation to the upward wand of vitality between them?
There are no three downward wands plus an upward wand at the three of wands, there are only three wands: two downward, one upward. Although I have made no mention of these wands connecting to the three mentioned spheres, it is an intelligent connection. The two downward wands are pure will (unbound, potential) and true will (the second stage of pure will, where will towards itself becomes self-aware). This is Kether and chokmah. Now Binah is the Sphere of the first limitation. In this, will depends on vitality to operate. If the second kind of will becomes separate from the first and the two are not aligned, vitality runs out. If the two are aligned they generate the necessary vitality to permit an expression in the manifested world. The downward wands generate substance through force, the upward wands generates force through substance. In this case, the wand of vitality is purified by the infusions of will, generating willpower.
PAA: What do the increasingly complex geometric figures interpenetrating each other represent on the Eight of Wands? Why have you incorporated an eight-pointed star inside two circles here?
Manuel Almeida e Sousa has, not me. Although in the content I have incorporated all necessary elements to understand the symbolism I can figure out it is difficult to make sense of it without learning by heart all the icons and symbols that were built from the ace of wands to the seven of wands. Learning it by heart, however, is easy to the practitioners, because every element connects to the practices.
That being said, I will quote from the content and attempt to explain the text to someone looking from the outside.
The text reads:
“The interpenetration of the geometric figures forms an eight-pointed star inside two circles. To start with, the eight is the double of the four and its consequent polarization. This is the key to universal good as well as to universal evil. Before now, life was a natural progress sent forth by the interaction of different elements of awareness and manifestation, but now comes the power of choice, and the eight wands are as the eight branches of the tree of knowledge.
The inner circle represents the higher self, the second circle represents ego-consciousness, the ring formed by the third and fourth circles is the shadow wherein all things move in cycles. The triangle inside the circle of ego consciousness is the life force that it protects. In the hexagram, the upward triangle is true will, the downward triangle is pure will, they both dynamize the ego consciousness, the life force and the higher self. The square is the knowledge of all these things and their laws, but it cannot contain the shadow and it constantly expands against it. This is the key to the expansive quality of fire. Choice is, therefore, the additional upward wand, the wand of refinement, at the upper center.”
Each tarot card is a book, and Franz Bardon has shown that skillfully. So what would the theory in the book of this card tell us? Number four shows us the active and passive elements. Fire is active. Water is passive. Air is the passive of the active. Earth is the active of the passive. When we work with the eight, another measure of polarity adds. The good, the bad. The bad in the good. The good in the bad.
So this would be a book on the powers to be, and on the way of harnessing them via morals or ethics while addressing cause-effects in decision-making capabilities.
This book would explain how the first four spheres in the tree of life or solar system are quantitative, in the present context, and how the four spheres that follow are qualitative. Light, wisdom, understanding and knowledge are powers, the active power to exist and its passive power of grace, the passive power to understand and its active power to know. Then in this knowledge there is the good quality of harmony with the rules and the bad in this good is the destruction that can be caused by such rules. There is then the bad quality of being attracted blindly towards the forms the light reveals and the good quality in this is the intellectual quality to harmonize them.
The Inner circles explain the higher self moves beyond condition, beyond quality. Ego-consciousness moves under it. The power to make the best choices depends on the transcendence beauty offers the ego-consciousness, so that it can, in turn, access the unhindered quantities of the higher self. In this beauty we find Tipheret, or the Sphere of the Sun. The outer circle, described as a shadow, envelopes all of the above in the dynamic distortion of time (yesod/moon). This means passive and active, good and bad may change positions according to the emanations of this distortion, and now they are relative, not solely universal.
At all costs, the ego-consciousness must differentiate itself from this distortion if it is to have any sort of continuity, and so its choices take into account the preservation of its vitality, which is to say the preservation of the potential vehicle of the higher self, for depending on the quality of the choices, more and more the vehicle is refined to accommodate the causal plane.
PAA: The preface mentions a fluid condenser that will be created from the second, negative deck. Can you explain what the alchemical fluid condenser is and its relationship to this black and white mirroring?
That is not exactly the case. First, the so-called negative cards do not represent the reversed cards so to speak. They are negatives just as the astral plane can be seen both as a negative of the mental plane and of the physical plane, the so-called umbral. However, these cards are more or less superfluous. Why? Because the fluid condenser is not created from this deck. It is made in equal parts of: angelica, sage, lime-tree flowers, cucumber skin, melon seed, acacia blossoms or leaves, chamomile flowers, lily flowers, leaves or roots, cinnamon flowers or bark, leaves of nettle, leaves of peppermint, poplar leaves, leaves or flowers of sweet violet, osier leaves or bark, and green or dry tobacco. To this, the conjuror must add his semen or her monthly blood. The conjuror then dips the white cards in the fluid condenser and lets them dry.
These white cards are the negative of the black cards, the black cards are the original cards. This has no relation with good and bad, or Bardon’s white and black soul mirrors, or the tree of life and the tree of death. One can dispose of the negative of the cards altogether and use any material capable of absorbing the fluid condenser and it will still work. As a matter of fact, one can even dispose of all the herbs and use blood or semen alone, prepared alchemically and mixed with glue, for instance.
What is of the outmost importance is that the cards have copper or tin as their back, and that an elementary (servitor in chaos Magick) corresponding to the living structure of the card is deposited in it and fed from time to time. I tell the reader to trim thin laminate of copper or tin, but one can simply insert a coin inside what constitutes the card.
Get things done. It may take one or three years just building the physical deck with magic, but after the whole deck is fully alive its power will be hard to believe even to other magicians who have never tried it.
PAA: The Major Arcana card depicting the Temple actually aligns with Kether, the first Sephirah. How are you connecting the readers’ completed initiations from the suit of Fire with their readiness to enter the spirit realm through the Temple?
The suit of fire is the suit of will and the temple is the conjuror’s will. It is in the realm of light, in the realm of will without opposition, in the realm of victory over the murky waters of condition, that the archetypal world is witnessed directly. Once the temple is built, the spirit arrives. The intelligence of this spirit is portrayed by the Asian dragon, indicating supernatural powers, qualities, might, and virtues. This means the initiate is ready to become a magician, because he or she shines like a God ready to fall, like thunder.
PAA: Death features prominently on the Magician card and you identify this Major Arcana with accessing Cosmic Wisdom. What role does the archangel Gabriel play in this imagery through the symbol of the crow?
In medieval imagery and in some magical traditions today, the crow, being the most intelligent talking bird we have not only in Europe but probably in the world, symbolized the mental body. This comes first from Celtic and Norse magic. The head of the magician leaves him in the form of a crow, and that is how leaving the material body in the mental body was practiced.
Crows were always, in European traditions, connected to death as well, and in great part for the same reason. They announce the spirit world tearing the veil that separates the mental plane from the material plane.
The crow is called the bird of the word because the mind is the carrier of ideas, and particularly ideas/forms as seen in Plato and later adopted by Christian Theology as the Word, with capital W.
I do not speak of the Archangel Gabriel, there is no mention of Gabriel in any part of the book. I suspect your cunning made the connection. Gabriel is the announcer, the carrier of the messages of God, but how he operates is by causing understanding. He creates the emotion and astral environment for the Word to inhabit. When he blows the horn, he causes a certain vibration, more than a particular idea, and this vibration becomes the gateway for a certain idea. The same analogy applies to Gabriel’s presidency over birth.
PAA: How are you linking the fixed fire, represented by the Ace of Wands, with the mutable water in the Cups? Does the fluidity connect on an elemental level and what is the transfer of initiatory knowledge?
Shortly but succinctly, between the suit of fire (wands) and the suit of water (cups), there is the suit of swords (air). The mutable emotions and the fixed will find common ground in the intellect, in the mind that is both still and volatile.
PAA: The early Iberian dragon mythology seems to associate the dragon with the serpent, relating it to awakening powers in the land. What symbolic role does dragon imagery play in magical/spiritual awakening for you?
When we awake, we come from being in the dark to sight of what surrounds us, which we call the land. The awakening of the spirit is visionary. But it does not see the land. When the land awakes, it sees the same as the spirit upon awakening. We call it the liminal. There is no magic or spirituality without this space between spaces, this state between states.
That being said, when our visionary imagination starts to awake we often have waking dreams of dragons, in the East and in the West. In the West, when, in the so-called age of freedom fantasy was again encouraged in the seventies and boomed in the eighties, we saw a great rise of visionary artists painting dragons, writers writing about dragons, movies, etc. In Asia, where animism was well kept, that has always been the way. I, personally, was often visited by a dragon when I meditated under the sun and was fourteen years old. It spoke so intimately that it probably was an earlier manifestation of my holy guardian angel, since such an intimate communication would only reappear under the holy guardian. The visits and their content would lead to my first book, which is kept at the shelf.
PAA: The Major Arcana show figures without visible facial features. Why is the effacement of identity important at the level of accessing cosmic awareness or acting as Magician/Priestess?
Figures without visual facial features are not a common element of Manuel’s designs in the Dragon Tarot. I personally applaud the idea, and have applied it in a romance. The idea of the effacement of identity is still crucial, though, in the Arcana called Magician (Mago) and to act as a magician/priestess or to access cosmic wisdom. The concept is to, again as Aleister Crowley suggested, “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.” And “Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.”
What is being said is that the magician’s acts are the acts of the divine, ideally, not his own. The effacement represents vacancy of mind. We are used to think of vacancy of mind as “I am not thinking nor disturbed by thoughts.” This is enough and more or less what Franz Bardon requires. However, Aleister Crowley goes a bit further in this regard and in his pursuit of Samadhi. Here, vacancy of mind means there is no self and no object, or rather no difference between self and any object as no difference between any two objects. There is not the observer not the observed. There is no silence and silent one. No vacancy and no mind to have vacancy. It all has transcended. For this reason, the magician in his or her circle finds no opposition: there is nothing to be opposed, only self, only awareness, everywhere and in everything. This is what we may call cosmic awareness. Being in the circle is being faceless. Hearing the discourse of cosmic wisdom begins by knowing that death has already solved all problems.
PAA: The spiritualization of passion and use of sex transmutation practices connect this deck strongly to Eastern tantric philosophy. Can you explain more about bringing these energetic practices into Tarot?
There is nothing particularly complex about this. A system that is not holistic and integrative of all aspects is not in my interest. We are the prime matter of our work. How can we become, without passion? How can we work wholly if sex is left out like a bad, hungry dog? What surprises me is when such things are set aside. And in Tarot, even more.
The Tarot is constituted by the play of different polarities that move the gears of the wheel. The movement of that wheel is fate and fortune, it is the result of passion. Whether it is spiritualized or not depends on you. But, what it means to be spiritualized is another question. We must suppose it has something to do with effacement.
PAA: The Mind’s ability to manifest reality features heavily – how can mental discipline leading to vacancy of Mind on the Five of Wands open one to higher contact or creativity beyond mental constraints?
This mental discipline learns to create its own space and time, and to detach from space and time entirely. I think these two possibilities open up pretty interesting scenarios for creativity and higher contacts.
PAA: Can you explain the difference in the rituals of invocation and evocation? Why do you recommend mastering invocation fully across the four worlds before engaging with evocations from the deck?
One should not evoke what one cannot invoke. If we can’t handle the power inside, we can’t handle it inside and outside simultaneously. We tend to think of evocation as something that happens out there, but that is only the case if no contact at all is achieved.
That being said, we are to invoke all cards before evoking any one of the cards because by then, the Tarot itself is the one who evokes its aspects.
PAA: How do you recommend grounding or earthing oneself again after intensely visualization-based practices that seem to shift consciousness dramatically into the astral or spirit planes?
If we are still talking about the cards in the way of working them out, we dissipate the visualizations into the feeling of certain wishes being fulfilled and similar resolutions.
If we are talking of direct work with the spirit planes of the dragons outside the tarot, I recommend being in the wild. It will ground you faster and recharge you.
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