TAROT DE RA
Inspired by the two main tarot models, namely the Marseille type and the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, the Tarot de RA transposes the deep and symbolic meaning of each card into the contemporary world of Armen Ra, a theremin virtuoso and muse whose role is redefined according to the subject of each card. His extremely androgynous presence is central to the project at the heart of a colorful, often nocturnal world in which underground culture; alchemist references, glamour and esotericism are intertwined.
The aim of the booklet which accompanies this deck is not to dictate rules about reading or interpretation but rather to relate the representation choices made when designing each card. Serious studies about the different types of readings and their interpretation have been the subject of a whole range of books; consulting them can be useful. The development of the Tarot de RA deck is focused more on a psychological approach. The three main facets of the human psyche are the intellectual (or mental) branch, the instinctive branch and the emotional branch. Each will be evoked regularly in this game which, seen as a whole, represents the initiatory journey of the soul towards its ultimate level of evolution.
This page shows a global vision of the project and the creative process. This work in progress should be produced as a tarot deck made of 78 cards adhering to the Golden Ratio. This deck should also include a bilingual book which explains the story and the creative process for every card in French and in English.
In the lower segment of the card, four hands stretch out towards the vision of an angel messenger framed by a sun which illuminates the night. The scene evokes the Last Judgement and the idea of resurrection and regeneration. This representation resembles traditional imagery, but here only the hands of two characters are visible. The angel’s speech spreads in smoky swirls while he stares intensely at the spectator and points toward the other two characters. If we don’t actually see the third individual, traditionally depicted as a child seen from behind, he is still in the picture because he IS the spectator. The scene might symbolize the unification of the male and female genders into a neutral being. (This idea of unification into one being is conveyed throughout the tarot by the androgynous presence of Armen Ra). “Judgement” is defined as the result of an objective awareness of what is right and good for oneself and for the rest of the world. In this way the card heralds the ultimate stage of spiritual evolution.The three beings (among them the spectator) depicted here are another reference to the Trinity. The mental ego must control the emotional and instinctive egos in order to advance. The angel is revealing to the consultant that he has succeeded in elevating himself. Receptive to superior forces, he is the mental ego which manages the other two. His mind is suffused with knowledge and has become capable of totally objective reasoning. He has attained wisdom and full consciousness.
X. The wheel of fortune
With number X, the Wheel of Fortune, a new cycle begins. It represents a universe in motion. The word « Wheel » refers to a human invention and symbolizes his ingenuity and creative skills. The word « Fortune » refers to the notions of providence, destiny and chance: three forces which function outside the sphere of human understanding. The confrontation of these two elements links human and Divine very much like they figure in the Tower. The Wheel of Fortune of the Tarot of RA is set in the middle of an illuminated New York (a tribute to the city where Armen RA began his career). Standing like an attraction among the buildings, the Wheel holds the sun in its centre and depicts the cyclical movement of the twelve constellations of our galaxy. It represents Fate and Divine Force in motion. Armen RA embodies three beings which evolve as this wheel turns, following the course of the unalterable cycle of life in a succession of ups and downs, successes and failures.
The three beings symbolize the three different selves which compose an individual. The instinctive self, connected to the urges of the body and the emotional self connected to the turmoil of the heart, find themselves both tied to the wheel and obliged to endure the situation. One, entirely laced up in a cocoon, must endure the downward movement of an unfavourable context. The other enjoys the elevation and dances with the ties which constrain him. Only the third self, the mental self, appears to stand apart from the movement of this vicious circle. He is proudly installed on a promontory so unstable that he has to stay awake if he is to maintain a position threatened by the constant motion. This image reminds us that only the spirit can help an individual benefit from a given situation.
The mental self appears like a chimera, much like David Bowie on the cover of his legendary album « Diamond Dogs ». This reference to Bowie is justified by the fact that he is the ultimate embodiment of an artist who, by his mental power, controls his own destiny and that of his work.
XVIIII. THE SUN
Much like the Star and the Moon, the Sun belongs to the family of stars and is a central influence on our psychomotor functioning. As the axis of our planetary system, it is the vital and primordial light.
The Sun card announces the clarification of a situation and symbolizes all revealed truth. Its name soothes, evokes joy, induces happiness and restores energy. Even so, the nature of the draw’s effects depends on the ability of the consultant to face revelations. Unveiling the Truth may reassure or fill with joy. It can also destabilise. A revelation may shake deeply-rooted beliefs, shatter ideals or hopes. If The Moon symbolizes the irrational and the imagination, The Sun, as The Moon’s divine mate, complements it through contrast by referring to the intellect and to Cartesian logic. If the Star symbolizes intuition and immediate comprehension, the Sun represents understanding through reason. This card evokes the objective and subtle spirit of an individual who has attained the ultimate degree of mindfulness. It announces his fulfilment of the goal pursued in the preceding cards: he has become capable of mastering his instinctive and emotional urges. These are now channelled rather than contained or repressed.
Three major elements appear on the card: the sun, a man and a woman. These are soul mates or twins and evoke the zodiacal sign of Gemini, the ultimate solar sign, associated with the longest days of the year. The couple seems united, harmonious. One could be seen to represent the instinctive self, the other the emotional self. Both are enhanced by the light of the sun. It is the mental self responsible for that union. Number 18 in the Tarot, the Sun's nuclear number is 1 and conveys the concept of indivisible unity. Number 1 is attributed to the God who created the world in his image. It evokes a self-sufficient Universe as well as the thinking produced by an objective and subtle mind. The twins complement each other both in their resemblance and in the details which tell them apart. The Sun is the only card in which hYrtis appears, as signature, with her face entirely visible above that of Armen RA. This portrayal highlights the origin of the Tarot of RA itself: an encounter of two artists who realize they look alike.
XVI. THE TOWER
The most terrible card in the deck, The Tower (or House of God) symbolises sudden change, destruction, ruin and rebuilding through hardship.
Whether a sign of crisis preceding a phase of renewal or a warning against a painful event, an ordeal is inevitable.
Traditional imagery depicts two men at the foot of a burning tower with flames billowing towards the sun. One figure is lying on the ground, ready to get up. The other seems to be just ending his fall. The top of the tower has been raised by pressure from the flames and is breaking up. In the Tarot de RA the Tower card is presented as a comic in which Armen RA is shown as a young god experimenting with his powers. His eye, the third omniscient eye, strikes down the crowned tower with the magnifying glass he also uses to observe all the hustle and bustle of tiny humans. The providential flash of lightening cast by that eye burns the building down. The two puppets, in the image of this god, are thrown down as well. This scene is summarized by a quote from Elie Faure: “God is child at play”.
The puppets refer as much to the powerless men facing their fate as to Armen RA himself and his past occupation as a puppeteer. The last segment of the image focuses on the position of the two puppets. One is lying unconscious in the background on a floor covered with dollars, specks of glitter and confetti, while the other has gotten up. Awareness, hope and determination can be seen on his face, gaunt from the ordeal he has just endured. The devastated landscape which follows a stock market crash, remains of the decadent opulence of an empire, symbolizes the collapse of former certainties and is a reminder that vanity and pride are often undermined in the necessary process of personal evolution towards spiritual elevation.
XI. THE STRENGTH
Eleventh card in the tarot, Strength refers to the determination to act and to the development one’s strength through self-control. In the traditional image, a woman holds open the mouth of a sharp-toothed lion. The woman, embodying the Spirit, masters a dangerous brute while the Lion, instinctive, represents the animal urges common to us all. In the Tarot de RA, the scene takes place aboard a ship and shows an arm-wrestling match between the spirit, embodied by Armen RA, and instinct, depicted as a giant, muscular, green, masked drag queen. The chimneys seen through the porthole evoke the Arabic number eleven and represent the score in the struggle Armen Ra brilliantly wages against the green lion. The difference in the size and strength of the two adversaries indicates how tough the combat can be. Nevertheless, spirit emerges victorious. Strength follows The Wheel of Fortune. At this point, the being has become fully conscious of the nature and power of his personality. He employs them to attain perfect self-control while maintaining respect for the balance between spirit and instinct. But mastering this subtle equilibrium between the various aspects of the personality comes at a price. It requires a lengthy period of introspection for which the alchemistic metaphor is vitriol (called the “green lion”). V.I.T.R.I.O.L. stands for the alchemistic phrase “Visita interiora terrae rectificando occultum lapidem” which translates as: “Go to the centre of the Earth. Once you have rectified yourself, you will find the hidden stone” Transferred to a psychic context, the phrase says: “Look deep into yourself and find the indestructible core on which you will be able to build a new personality”. The subject is the transformative process and the being’s reconnection with his essential self.
La Reine de Coupes. Planche inspirée du shooting de Josef Jasso
XV. THE DEVIL
The mythical embodiment of Evil, the Devil rules as master of the dark empire, of night and Mystery. His name evokes dread, though no tarot card is fundamentally bad. This card expresses the way we are connected to the world, to things and to beings. Vivid, seductive colours contribute to an atmosphere in which sexual pleasure, greed, opulence and play are evoked from the perspective of excess and addiction. The two beings chained on each side of the Devil they worship are wearing animal masks with wide-open mouths. Their attitude suggests they take pleasure in submission. On the throne is inscribed the motto: “Money, Success, Fame, Glamour”. This refers directly to a song of the same name used in the movie Party Monster by F. Bailey and R. Barbato. (This film depicts the nocturnal world of the Club Kids movement founded by Micahel Alig. It describes the consequences of the protagonists’ excesses, alternating phases of exhilarating arrogance with periods of malaise betraying extreme frailty.) Both lipstick, an object linked to sensuality, as well as the symbols of social networks which drive users to ever-greater narcissism are here diverted to mimic the attributes of high religious figures.
It must never be forgotten that the Devil always encourages the individual to yield to his basic drives and addictions. If the consultant knows how to take advantage of the Devil’s message without letting himself be alienated by the temptations of which he's fully aware, this card will prove surprisingly beneficial and will transform destructive energy into creative force. The Devil is endowed with invaluable power. He embodies the breath of passion and his magnetic aura confers sexual appeal and professional success. Linked to the concept of transgression, the Devil invites the individual to go beyond his limits in order to develop and affirm his uniqueness. As it is the fifteenth card in the tarot, the Devil’s nuclear number is 6, referring back to the Lover and the decisive choices the individual had to make. The Devil, a superior spirit, is associated with knowledge of the occult. The number XV itself signals a spirit guided by consciousness. His choices are made in total lucidity.