Completed 9 of Disks



9 of Disks – a Garden of Sensual Delights

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.  ~Mark Twain

If you are student of the occult you might be familiar with the image of Baphomet by Eliphas Levi, which this is a revisioning of.

I had been working on the sketch for a while and only needed to refine it when I ran across the image of Baphomet (which I often do) and realized that it had all of the elements of my drawing, the hermaphrodite/twins merging, caduceus, black and white moons, winged being with yellow light emerging from it’s head. 

I instantly knew I wanted to shift gears a bit and do my own version of this image.  It had something mine did not, which is the appearance of a devil.  I was brought back to a statement by Joseph Campbell, one of my hero’s, that if you cross the threshold but are not ready, gods will appear as devils.  I believe that to be true.  The great power of a person, be it your self or another, can be a very scary thing.  It is also scary to face our animal nature which wants all kinds things like sex and food and all manner of unseemly behavior.  And so potent symbols can resemble devils.

This card is the 9 of Disks.  That is, the culmination of the suit of Disks, the highest original number before we get to 10.  It relates to IX The Hermit and XVIII The Moon in the Major Arcana.  The element is Earth in the suit of Disks. 

How can I possibly portray this set of ideas?  How do I culminate the suit of Disks?  With every number I think, how can I possibly go higher than this? 

Disks, I believe, strive to integrate all of the elements.  In the 8 we passed through a gate, through a threshold into the unknown where we had to, more than anything else, know our self.  In the 9 we DO know our self.  We know every element of our being, the fire, the water, the air and the earth, and it all comes together in a beautiful, natural order, this is all natural after all; the chakras are clear and align, the power runs up the spine and emerges from the head as we connect the earth to the heavens, a serpentine Kundalini with 9 heads grows out of our own.

We bring together the many layers of consciousness, the subconscious, conscious, super conscious, unconscious, or any of the fine ways men have come to describe and delineate it.  We integrate the selves into one powerful, intentional, person.  We don’t discriminate between what is dark and what is light, what is eternal or incredibly fleeting and we know that we are on the living crest of an evolutionary wave which connects us to something ancient beyond words.

I fashioned the heads from the Egyptian Ram headed god Khnum.  He is an ancient god, even for Egyptians, as the source of the Nile and later, as the potter who made children out of the fertile clay on his wheel. 

I find it endlessly fascinating that people both demonize farm animals and hold them in such high esteem as to compare them to gods and goddesses, not to mention as a sacrifice that is an equal trade for a human life.  We certainly owe them much in our evolution but I think more than that these symbols are deeply embedded in us as archetypes and we don’t easily consciously comprehend what they mean but know they are powerful when we see them.

This ram is both god and devil, our own self, exalted man and animal, able to reach heaven, ruler of the pit of hell, guardian of the temple.  A symbol of the natural order and greatness of all things on earth and beyond, good or bad, together or separate, civilized or wild.

Also, the lamb is one of the mildest of creatures but the grown ram is fiery, warlike and virile, a theme that runs through the entire suit of Disks.

It was very important to me that this card be a hermaphrodite.  A male and female in one body. Hermes and Aphrodite.  My original drawing was much more graphic but Levi’s Baphomet used the Caduceus as a phallus and so it is here too.  This was to be a perfect blending of the male and female energies in a person, regardless of your physical sex.  In doing so you were to become a great alchemist creating spiritual gold, the child of your male and female aspects.  This is the great alchemist, Hermes Trismagistus.

The caduceus itself is colored like the Queen scale of the Hermetic Tree of Life.  I have noticed over the years that my personal ideas about what colors appear where on the tree shift and change but it was these original colors that are the most well known, that first inspired me and inspires many people to have their own ideas in the first place.  I consider them perfection in ambiguity.  Just like the order and images of tarot cards they are such that they become an armature onto which you can hang your own universe.  I could put my own personal colors onto this tree but it would rob you of being inspired.  There are many things like that in this image, old, old symbols which inspire powerfully, perfectly ambiguously.

At the bottom of the caduceus you will see a wheel.  The wheel is colored like the Queen scale of Malkuth, a representation of the 4 elements on the manifested earth.  They are a combination of the colors of the sephiroth above them.  More than this, though, I have considered this wheel the wheel of Dharma.  It is nothing new, in fact it is quite ancient, to portray the earth and life and the laws of nature as a wheel.  Everything is a wheel.  Tarot, Torah, YHVH, etc. forever.  Dharma can mean many things and the foremost on my mind as I did this was that it was the law of the natural order of things and our progression to reaching our potential, individual or as a society or in many different ways.

Inside you will see a flame.  That represents the male aspect of ourselves while the black void it is in is the female, the basic elements of creativity and they form the base of the wheel and the caduceus.  At the top of the caduceus, the two snakes and the staff merge into one shining orb which itself sprouts golden wings.  This is where all of the elements are combined and transmuted into gold, something which repeats in the lantern in the top of the baphomet’s head.

This whole image is a contrast and reconciliation of opposites.  The black and white moons, the black and white columns Jachin and Boaz, the Earth and the heavens, the male and female, human and animal which are themselves black and white, god and devil, solve et coagula – to dissolve and coagulate.  Perfection and exaltation in the natural order of things of which we are a part. 

All in all the world has started to look to me like hell.  Our souls descend into a dark prison of our bodies and subjected to all sorts of tortures and suffering.  But,if you do not seek to deny the suffering and sadness and embrace the dark and light parts of life and realize that the struggle between them is good and necessary, then you will find yourself in a garden of sensual delights.  The 9 of Disks.


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7 Responses to Completed 9 of Disks

  1. Ian says:

    *blink. several times*

    *and then some*

    Wow… that must have been one of the most profound texts about the world we live in and our place on it.

    Also, the card is (to me) a depiction of the results and fruits of said wisdom: being at the top of everything (we are), understanding that (and how) things come together and fall apart, seeing past, future and present at the same time… As Within As Without.

    This is all we can be, what we strive to be, what we’ve always been yet have to discover.

    We’ve always been butterflies, the tiny disturbances they create in the air and the great storms we spawn.

    We are “evil”. We are “good”. We are Whole.


    • Tarotsmith says:

      Thank you Ian:)

      You asked me what the difference was between this and the baphomet that occurs in some Devil cards. This morning I realized that in, the Rider Waite for example, the Devil holds the twins in chains. This is not an aspect of Levi’s drawing! To me this Devil is forcing separation of the twins where the Baphomet above is united.
      So the Devil is not necessarily the Beast, but the separation, almost like a magnetic force.
      I have to admit that I almost reversed the Solve and Coagula in my painting. But then I thought, why? Just so I can be contrary? The Beast can move his arms as he likes – we have free will after all, so it could go either way. But it all begins with unity.

      Who else holds a pair of twins? The Hierophant. In mine, is she forcibly separating them at birth?

      I wonder if that is why some of us with a mystical bent can develop negative feelings for organized religion, because religion strives to separate us while we feel the irresistible desire to unify ourselves.


      • Ian says:

        Would you believe me I realized the same thing (the difference about The Devil and your Baphomet) this morning? And yes, your card (straight – it might be read differently if reversed) has nothing to do with ego.

        The magnetism The Devil creates (so we can grow up a bit) is resolved by Love only (as explained by Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving). In the 9 of Disks both poles are almost interchangeable but their relationship as well (that is, you can be equally self-centered or loving, because the dichotomy is no longer valid).

        I wanted to ask you: are the words Solve and Coagula meant to be snakes (which would be the reason why “Solve” has a reversed ‘S’)? They remind me of the black snake seen on the Ace of Cups (and maybe other card that I can’t recall?) Nice touch if they are, still nice if they aren’t =Þ .

        And the Hierophant is giving them what they need and can’t get by themselves. When our twins meet the Devil, they are lacking their other half but drawing power from themSelves. At the World, those twin sides have been fully integrated, working together, not needing some external doctrine/force feeding them.


        [errata] of course I meant “as Within so Without” in my previous post.

        • Tarotsmith says:

          Yes I totally agree! And you really have to look at it in a non judgmental way. Solve and Coagula were supposed to resemble snakes.
          The day after I finished the painting I went to check on a bird house I hung on a tree that had baby bluebirds in it, and when we lifted the cover instead of baby birds there was a big black snake! He ate all the babies:(
          When I started this painting I found a poisonous copperhead in the backyard. I’m thinking this card draws snakes though it doesn’t take much around here.
          I see what you are saying about the Hierophant and agree. Even though I painted these images I continue to learn from them.


  2. I love this card! I am going to have to look at it a bunch more to absorb it. I am struck buy the feeling of it. It is so dynamic and yet so calm and peaceful. I am reminded of the phrase runing to stand still but without the stress or tension that usually implies.

    We come divided for love’s sake. For the chance of union.

    I think the separation is inherent and important. It is all what you do with it. Do we work on it or get all angsty against it?

    Wow I am inpsired by this and the post to this morning.


    • Tarotsmith says:

      Thanks Andrew!

      “We come divided for love’s sake. For the chance of union”

      This is key! Uniting and seperating are natural and desireable rythms of life.

      I enjoy your insights:)


  3. Have been following your progress through the cards with high respect, your art and communication is wonderful. A few years back I myself worked on the 9 of discs and interpreted the card 3 times, and thought you’d might think it interesting to see how completely different somebody else’s distillation of the idea turns out:

    I :
    II :
    III :

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