Deck Creator Forum — The Fifth Tarot
The following is a new entry in my blog’s “Deck Creator Forum.” I occasionally do deck reviews on this blog, but in this feature I have asked various deck creators to say a few words (or paragraphs, actually) about their Tarot deck.
By the way, you too can contribute to this discussion. If you have this deck and have experience using it, please leave comments about your use of it. (Note that I will be moderating the comments.)
I met Teressena and Martien Bakens at the 2010 Readers Studio in New York, and at that time I had the pleasure of talking to these two wonderful people and getting a bit of exposure to their deck, The Fifth Tarot. The most obvious innovation in this deck is its creation of a fifth suit (which represents the element ether), and you’ll read more about that in my interview with Teressena. However, there are more signature features of this deck than just a new suit. For one thing, its earth-based design (natural objects represent the elements for each of the suits) is intended to facilitate our reconnection with Mother Earth. Another interesting feature is that Teressena and Martien have reflected our entry into the Aquarian Age of Peace by eliminating all objects of weaponry from the cards in this deck.
Here, now, is a wealth of information that Teressena Bakens has generously shared about this visionary Tarot deck.
James: I read somewhere that you were inspired to create this deck by dreams and meditations. Can you elaborate on that?
Teressena: Yes. We usually meditate every morning and every evening as part of our spiritual practice. One morning in meditation we received a message that we were being asked to create a new tarot deck. My first question was “Why? There are hundreds of decks out there; do we really need one more?” The response from the guidance was that as we are evolving in consciousness, the tools we work with need to evolve with us. And thus began our journey with the creation of the deck. Most of the images came from dreams and meditations. They were not done in sequential order, rather they were created as they revealed themselves in the visions. Often I would state my intention before dreaming or meditation for a vision of a particular card and it would present itself. There are a few images that were drawn from experiences of sacred ceremonies. In a similar way, the writing for the book came through first as guided writing, then edited for sentence structure. The beauty of this is that I wasn’t attempting to interpret my own drawings, neither was the writing dictating the imagery. Rather it became a beautiful dance of synergy between the image and the message, created in unity consciousness.
This deck definitely has its own unique take on the Tarot, and there are a couple of themes that are very distinct in it. First and foremost, there is the fact of its fifth suit called Lotus, which you associate with the element of Ether. Obviously I want to talk about that, but first let me ask you about another signature facet of this deck.
The cards in The Fifth Tarot – especially in the Minor Arcana – make extensive use of images from nature (as opposed to human activity), and the suit names reflect elements of nature as well: Fire, Stones (for Earth), Feathers (for Air), Shells (for Water), and Lotus flowers for the new suit of ether. Can you talk about your decision to use nature so extensively in the artwork for this deck? Also, how do you feel this decision enhances the messages and usability of these cards?
One of the first things that came through the guidance for the deck was to eliminate all objects of weaponry and all man-made objects. This deck is attuned to the changing energies of this grand shift that the earth and all humanity are going through. Part of this shift into the Aquarian Age is the golden age of peace. For too long mankind has separated themselves from nature. It is our return to the Earth Mother and our connection to nature that is so important for us to remember our Oneness and interconnectedness with all that is. As the suit cards represent the elements, why did we ever have the idea that man could represent the elements better than nature herself? In The Fifth Tarot the objects of nature do well to convey the elements and bring us back to our connection with the earth. We have found that people relate and respond to the nature images favorably. Nature, by its very nature, teaches, inspires, heals, transforms, cycles, and nurtures… adding a richness for the ability of the deck to assist people as a tool for transformation and growth.
Now, let’s return to that fifth suit, from which this deck derives its name. This fifth suit is called “Lotus” and it represents “Ether,” the element of life, right? Can you explain why you felt the need for this new suit? Just on the surface, it seems that this may be a bit redundant with either the intent of the cards in the Major Arcana (which are often seen as the journey of our soul) or the cards in the suit of Wands, which some see as the spark of life.
There is much support for the idea of five elements throughout the ancient mystery schools. The ancient alchemists worked with the five platonic solids (representing the five elements) as the building blocks for all life. The pentacle, found in many ancient cultures, represents the five elements: fire, water, air, earth…and ether. Ether is the prana, the chi, the life force. Without it, the alchemy is not complete.
Typically, the Major Arcana have elements assigned to them, so they would not then represent the element ether. The aspect of the soul is different than the aspect of the spirit. The spirit is our spark of divine light. In the wands, or fire element, this also represents one’s creativity, passion, ideals and sexuality. The lotus suit represents the soul essence, our divine blueprint, our life purpose. It is interesting to note that some of the Maya are calling this time the Age of Ether. Indigenous elders are affirming the significance of the element, ether, for the balance and alchemy of our lives and the world. This cannot be hidden within the Major Arcana, or confused with the element of fire. Ether is what connects all living things. Through the ethers, we begin to understand our multi-dimensional self and the worlds in which we live.
“Interactions in the domains of nature as well as of mind are mediated by a fundamental information field at the heart of the universe.” — Ervin Laszlo
According to the book that comes with your deck, the new suit of Lotus “addresses the higher vibrational gifts emerging with the shift of energy occurring through … our awakening as multi-dimensional beings.” Can you expand upon that explanation? And can you also explain how you feel this suit works in the context of a reading based on that?
Absolutely. Have you noticed how many people are “waking up” to a new sense of who they are and the world around them? People are experiencing enhanced psychic, telepathic, and intuitive capabilities. People are experiencing synchronicities and recognizing how we are all interconnected. Many are experiencing distortions in time and space and traveling to other realms and dimensions. This is what people are experiencing today. Traditional decks to not address these topics. The Lotus suit makes this deck extremely relevant for readers today as it helps people to understand these multi-dimensional aspects and remember who we truly are as beings of infinite spirit and powerful creators of the world around us.
Look at the attention of the scientific community on quantum entanglement, non-locality, string theory, the holographic universe, etc. It is important for people to have an easy frame of reference and a tool for understanding these principles at work in their life.
Another non-traditional element of your deck is your nomenclature for the Court Cards: Seeker, Initiate, Apprentice, and Elementor. Can you tell us how you came up with those names and what they mean to you?
Our intention for the court cards was to reflect a progression for one’s understanding and mastery of each of the elements. In the past, court cards often reference a person outside of ourselves. (ie. a king might represent a man with a particular characteristic that will come into your life, etc.) Again, what is relevant today is not to be looking outside ourselves for answers, but to look internally for greater understanding. The adage “As within, so without” lends this support. So the names for the court cards are meant to reflect that progression of understanding and create a sense or rite of passage through each position into greater wisdom. One starts out as a Seeker, on that quest for knowledge or truth. Once you make your intention known, it is like the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” There is usually some type of action that is initiated which creates a shift in one’s perception. The Initiate is forever changed and begins to integrate their newfound wisdom. To continue on the path, one must then put that new understanding into practice as the Apprentice. This brings with it a responsibility and commitment. As one practices the new gift, they approach a level of mastery. No longer the observer working with the element, they become the full embodiment of that element and the mentor for others to learn. They become the Elementor. The Elementor is past the point of ego, and mentors out of selfless service and by their very presence and essence. Because there is no ego involved, the Elementor realizes that one is always a Seeker on that path to deeper understanding. One is always all stages at the same time.
I have one more question about the Minor Arcana before I ask about the Major Arcana cards. I notice that you have keywords written on the bottom of the numbered cards. There are definitely two schools of thought about doing that, and so I wondered why you decided to do that, and how you came up with the keywords you did?
The keywords are primarily for the beginning reader. As people all receive and process information differently, the words for some people are as effective as the imagery for others. As with most aspects of the deck we tuned in to the essence of the card and listened to what was asking to come forth.
The Major Arcana cards in your deck are very creative, and they exhibit your visionary work just as much as your innovations in the Minors do. I could easily delve into all of the Majors, but I don’t want to take too much of your time. So I’m just going to ask about a few of these cards, which should give my readers a flavor for what you have done with this deck.
Your Emperor is definitely not the seated, set-in-stone Emperor we’re used to! I understand the Solar vs. Lunar associations on this card vs. the Empress, but you’ve given the Emperor a lot of Nature associations, which is traditionally the domain of the Empress. You also put children on his card… and not on the Empress. I’m curious about these choices and about how you came up with the Emperor card’s image in general.
We intended for the Emperor in this deck to be more reflective of the divine masculine principle. In many traditional images, the seated Emperor has a domineering presence that is part of the old patriarchy story. Here, the Emperor is standing with arms wide open. It is a welcoming posture. He holds the space for all creation to occur. The two children represent truth and innocence. He is the counterpart to the Empress in this way, as he is the protector for that which is created, the protector of life itself — a powerful aspect of the divine masculine. His feet are grounded in the Earth Mother, his body as the trunk of the tree. He becomes a living tree of life. The male strength and virility is seen and felt in his physicality and with the stag horns on his head. The radiant solar energy of the masculine is fully embodied and expressed.
“The Cosmic Man” (card 12 of the Majors) is a big departure from the traditional “Hanged Man.” Can you tell us how you came up with this change?
The basic esoteric principles of the Hanged Man are yet there, but stepped up a bit vibrationally, again to attune to these times. Rather than hanging upside down from a tree on the earth, the Cosmic Man hangs upside down from the earth itself by strands of DNA. The questions of understanding one’s place in the world, becomes that of understanding one’s place in the cosmos. Talk about a change in perspective! The aspect of renewal associated with the Hanged Man is taken to a new level with the strands of DNA, referencing our evolution as human beings towards that of homo luminous. The idea of sacrifice is sometimes associated with the Hanged Man. The Cosmic Man reframes the concept of sacrifice from that of suffering to a realization of what no longer serves the highest good. In this sense, the only thing that is sacrificed in the Cosmic Man is the old self, the old paradigm. And from there, together we evolve in cosmic consciousness for the highest good of all.
I’m curious – what does the writing around the doorway on the Death card say?
There is actually quite an interesting story around these symbols. For the past twelve years we have facilitated sacred journeys to the Mayan and Olmec lands of Mexico and Guatemala. Jesus Fabian Ortiz, an Olmec elder and fire priest, is a wealth of knowledge of the sacred wisdom teachings of this culture. We have gone through several initiations with him in the area of Tres Zapotes. Jesus took us to one of the small villages to meet his teacher, the Maestro. The Maestro showed us videos of spacecraft seen in the area. He also showed us drawings by the school children of symbols they saw in the orbs of light that are also regularly seen in the area. These symbols are from those children’s drawings. They are believed to be a star language or code to awaken us. The figure in the Death card stands in a doorway, a gateway to the next life. Death is a rite of passage, where we leave one realm and enter into another. We felt the star symbols are activations to assist in that passage through the portal of Death, into an expanded sense of new life.
Card 15 in the Major Arcana is traditionally “The Devil” but here it’s called “Shadow.” Besides being a new name, you’ve provided a very interesting and innovative image. Can you talk about how you renamed this card and how you chose the symbolism for it? The butterfly (which arises out of its deathlike state in a cocoon) and snake (which sheds its skin), for example, I would have associated with the Death card instead.
The Shadow card is about facing our fears — seeing what lays hidden in the shadow. As we face our fears and work through those shadow aspects of ourselves, great transformation occurs. This is the meaning of the butterfly and the snake. The Shadow does not necessarily mean darker aspects of ourselves. Sometimes what is hidden is our light. We are both the dark and the light. It is the acceptance and integration of these aspects in our lives that truly transforms us. We are both the caterpillar and the butterfly.
Besides the examples noted already, there are a few other Major Arcana cards renamed in your deck:
V – Shaman (Hierophant)
XIV – Alchemy (Temperance)
XX – Realization (Judgment)
XXI – Universe (World)
That last one is a rather obvious change, but can you tell us a bit about your renaming of the Hierophant, Temperance, and Judgment?
Mostly the renaming was to release energies held in words that are connected to an old paradigm. As with the images, words also speak to the subconscious and evoke things in our remembrance. Hierophant is a term that most people will not relate to today. They have no context with which to frame that archetype. The word Shaman is more of a universal term. In traditional imagery the Hierophant is associated with the Pope and the church in its origin. We chose the Shaman again to connect with the natural world (the Earth) and the supernatural world (the Great Mystery). In this sense it keeps the esoteric principle of the Hierophant, just reframes it. The Shaman as archetype is responsible for the continuity of the people and aware of the decisions for the next seven generations.
Next we look at the change from Temperance to Alchemy. Temperance suggests moderation as the middle ground for balance in all things. As we are working with the five elements, it is the perfect Alchemy of all the elements that creates that balance. This creates the awareness and responsibility for the querant to give attention to all aspects…..physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and soul level….to see what must come into balance for the perfected state of well being. The word Temperance yet has an old energetic pattern of sacrifice or deprivation. Whereas, the energy of the word Alchemy is life-giving and magical. It carries a different vibration to the same concept for balance.
As for the Realization card, we are all choosing to let go of “judgement” at this time, so we chose to use a word that yet held the integrity of the esoteric meaning for the card. Realization is an awakening and re-evaluation of the journey of the soul.
The cards in the Major Arcana have an esoteric symbol in each of the four corners. The top left symbol is obviously the associated Astrological symbol, but can you tell us what the other three are?
Yes, the top left is the Planetary/Astrological symbol.
The top right are the star symbols of the 11:11 teachings, which represent the Universal and Spiritual Laws of the Universe. These two symbols at the top of the card connect to the celestial energies.
The bottom left corner is a Mayan Glyph ( + 0 for the fool and Universe for ….Universe because of course there are 20 day glyphs ! ) and the symbol in the lower right is a symbol from Mu, or Lemuria.
As the Maya are believed to come from Atlantis, the two symbols at the bottom of the card connect us to the ancient wisdom of the Earth.
Thus each of the Major Arcana cards has both celestial and earth symbols. “As Above, So Below.” As we embody the archetypes of each card, we are the bridge between heaven and earth.
How did you create the artwork for your deck? What would you like to say about that process?
I used color pencil for the original drawings. All of the Major Arcana and Court Cards were drawn as a single image, 11 x 15 in size.
The suit cards were created as a composite. I drew the backgrounds and one image of the feather, shell, etc. that was to be represented. We scanned these into the computer, then multiplied and placed the appropriate number of feathers, stones, lotuses, etc. and made a composite.
If anyone is interested, the original artwork is for sale and we do offer giclee prints as well.
The process of creating a deck is an incredible experience. You become each of the cards as you are working on them. It is quite profound and life-changing.
What is the most interesting discovery you made about your deck after it was done, either through your use of it for doing readings or from comments by other people, etc.?
After the deck was completed and at the printer, we were again in mediation and we felt an energetic presence come in. She told us she was the overlighting deva of The Fifth Tarot and she goes by the name of “The Presence.” So anyone working with this deck can call upon The Presence and she will lend her energy, insight and wisdom for the reading.
Is there anything else you want to say about your deck?
In all the readings that we do we are simply blown away by the numerology that shows up. We have worked with many other decks and for some reason The Fifth Tarot seems to work profoundly with the frequencies of the numbers.
Another thing that may be of interest is that the cards were created in a shamanic way. Whatever stone, feather, shell, etc. was depicted in the suit cards, was physically on the drawing table. The energies of these sacred beings of nature were infused into the artwork, so each image carries the specific medicine and vibration depicted. In a similar way, the Moon card was drawn under a full moon; The Sun card was drawn on an autumn equinox with a solar eclipse to have that solar energy imbued in it. There are many other stories that came from the creation of each card, too numerous to recount here.
How interesting; I had no idea! Do you have one particularly interesting story about the creation of a card?
Yes, this is a fun one. As I mentioned I worked with each feather, shell, stone, etc. for the drawings, to draw the energy and medicine of that being into the card. The only feather I did not have available to me for the drawing was that of the hummingbird for the 5 of Feathers. So I created the drawing without being able to connect on that level with the hummingbird energy. When I finished the drawing, Martien sat down to do the writing for that card. At just that moment, a hummingbird flew into our patio door and died. Martien, who is an avid bird enthusiast, was distraught. Yet I saw at that moment the great gift of the Hummingbird. I said to Martien, “How else could the Hummingbird have shared its medicine with you? By giving its life, it fulfilled its life purpose…to allow you to hold it and really connect with its medicine to add to the writing of the card.” He replied, “I know what you say is true, yet you are talking to my head, my heart is just not there yet.” It took him a few weeks to get past his grief for the little bird and really understand its message. It was the greatest joy for the hummingbird to be able to share its very essence with us. We hold so tightly to our physical body, yet we are eternal spirits that live on. The hummingbird understood this. The subscript for the 5 of Feathers is Joy….how appropriate! It was through the understanding of the Hummingbird that this was integrated into the energy of this card.
Where can people go to buy this deck?
Our deck is available through Amazon and bookstores across the country. It is also available through our website at: http://www.thefifthtarot.com
James, we appreciate the opportunity to share this information about The Fifth Tarot through your blog. We hope it has been informative and inspiring. May The Presence of The Fifth Tarot enlighten and brighten your path.
— Martien and Teressena Bakens
Publisher: Blue Dolphin Publishing
Publication date: 2009
Your Website: http://www.thefifthtarot.com/
All images from The Fifth Tarot deck are © Teressena and Martien Bakens
NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.