Trans-Saturnian Planets and Tarot

One of the riddles that the Golden Dawn based Tarot poses is how the trans-Saturnians  may fit into its scheme of attributing planets to Trump cards. Originally, the system included only the seven visible planets (more accurately, five planets plus the Luminaries) that are known since time immemorial.

For those of you unfamiliar with that scheme (or who can use a refresher), this is what it looks like:

The Magician – Mercury
The High Priestess – Moon
The Empress – Venus
Fortune – Jupiter
The Tower – Mars
The Universe – Saturn

Then there are three cards that belong to three of the Aristotelian elements:

The Fool – Air
The Hanged Man – Water
Judgement (The Aeon) – Fire

There is an explanation why the element Earth is not included in this system, although it’s actually sometimes attributed to The Universe/The World together with Saturn. Likely, I will go into this topic some other time.

The twelve remaining cards belong to the twelve signs of the zodiac.

This whole system is closely connected to an ancient and fascinating Kabbalistic text called Sepher Yetzirah. I shall talk about it in the future. However, the Sepher does not address any trans-Saturnian planets.

Not surprisingly, it occurred to modern occultists that the scheme as forwarded by the Golden Dawn could be supplemented with the three trans-Saturnian planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in lieu of (or additionally to) the three elemental attributions. And again not surprisingly, there is no consensus as to which of the three planet should belong to which of the three cards. Let’s look into this a little more closely.

In the most common scheme, the three known trans-Saturnians are attributed to the Trumps in this fashion:

The Fool – Uranus
The Hanged Man – Neptune
Judgement (The Aeon) – Pluto

Some switch the attributions of Uranus and Pluto (i.e., in the Hermetic Tarot), but I prefer the above scheme, based on the following grounds:

Uranus is definitely the quirky planet both astronomically (for one thing, his polar axis lies in the plane of his orbit, so he is “rolling” around the Sun) and astrologically: His influence makes for surprises, the unexpected; he inspires revolutions against the social order overseen by Saturn, the outermost of the classical planets; and where Saturn represents orthodoxy and methodical deduction, Uranus stands for out-of-the-box thinking and sudden inspiration. All this behooves The Fool.

In Tarotology, Saturn is linked to the completed order represented by The World (The Universe), whereas Uranus and The Fool lead beyond that borderline and start up a whole new cycle.

Finally, in the traditional Golden Dawn system, The Fool belongs to the element Air. While there is no general agreement so far amongst astrologers regarding Uranus’s elemental nature, to describe him as “airy” makes good sense. Not only is he the ruler of the Air sign Aquarius in modern astrology – anything that flies, from birds to planes, is under his domain. And the Uranian type of human often has their “head in the clouds.”

Next – both in the order of the trans-Saturnian planets and the Trumps in need of them – we come to Neptune and The Hanged Man. This is again a really good match.

According to Aleister Crowley, The Hanged Man is symbolizing “the formula of the Dying God” of the Piscean Age, as exemplified by Jesus Christ (Pisces is the sign ruled by Neptune). The Hanged Man speaks to themes like being in a deadlock, sacrifice, and redemption; people born under a strong Pisces or Neptune influence are all too familiar with those, as a rule. But also meditation is generally no foreign concept for them, and some versions of The Hanged Man emphasize this side of the card. All the aforesaid also applies to the 12th house in the chart (traditionally meaning things like imprisonment, retreat, isolation), which resonates with the twelfth sign Pisces, as well as with our twelfth Trump, The Hanged Man.

The Hanged Man is linked to the element Water in the traditional Golden Dawn scheme, so there is another argument in support of the Neptune theory. In Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot, he is suspended over the sea.

Finally, there is Pluto, whose astrological influence is one of death that eventually leads to rebirth or regeneration. This is really in keeping with Judgement (The Aeon for the Thothies amongst us), for this card is about reviewing the past and setting up the future . Whatever has not been resolved up to this stage goes into the next cycle.

The element attached to Judgement and The Aeon is Fire. Well, Pluto’s exact elemental nature again is still subject to debate in modern astrology, but seeing him on the fiery side is definitely apt. Not only did he take the place of the Fire planet Mars as the main ruler of Scorpio. His influence during a transit is generally one of calcination in the terminology of alchemy, as he burns all impurities to ashes, especially in the initial stages.

So that’s three hits out of three aims for this extension of the Golden Dawn system – a pretty good record, in my book.

Best wishes,


Transpluto revisited

It is seen as an asymmetry by many a modern astrologer that four signs in the zodiac are ruled by only two planets. Even though personally I welcome the concept of double domiciles, I agree that it would be most pleasing to have a single planet ascribed to each signs as its primary ruler.

As of late, there is in fact some some strong astronomical evidence provided by the discoverer of the dwarf planet Eris Mike Brown for the existence of one or more still undiscovered major planets in the solar system, which I talked about in my last post.

I found this proposal by a leading astronomer rather encouraging.

There has been some substantial research into this topic before. For those of you who wish to know more about it, this video series summarizes it well:

But despite all the evidence, astronomers got quite negative regarding unknown major objects in the outer solar system when, in 2014, the analysis of the extensive data gathered by the WISE spacecraft data yielded no results. At the time, I sent Mike Brown an email, asking him if, in his opinion, this completely rules out the possibility of there being such bodies. I didn’t receive any reply though.

It was good to hear then that not all astronomers had given up the hope, when in January 2015 a professor of Madrid university stated to have evidence for the existence of two trans-Plutonian planets – which obviously suggested a perfect match with astrology’s extended domicile scheme.

As many astrologers seem to lack the patience to wait for astronomy to make its further discoveries, there have been a number of alternative suggestions for the missing sign rulers, especially Chiron and certain asteroids. But in order to truly be in accordance with the principles of the domicile scheme, the additional sign rulers should be further out and moving slower than Pluto.

One of the more interesting suggestions for an actual additional planet is Transpluto as calculated by the French astronomer F. M. E. Sevin in 1946. Even though Sevin’s planet could never be  observationally confirmed, an ephemeris became available in the mid 60s, and a number of astrologers started exploring this elusive celestial body. They seemingly gathered evidence for its astrological significance, and some books and articles were published. Today, Transpluto has a following especially among craftsmen in Germany and Switzerland.

However, various authors differ in the way they look at and call this “planet”. Depending on their particular outlook, it goes by the name of Persephone, Bacchus, Isis, or Chaos-Apeiron. Its domicile is said to be either Taurus, Libra, Virgo, or even (commonly Neptune-ruled) Pisces.

Now since I have always been a rather curious bunny regarding any information that  potentially helps me round out my universal scheme, I started experimenting with Transpluto in the 1990s. First I was exploring the Isis-Virgo conception suggested by Lynn Koiner, later the Bacchus-Taurus theory represented by John Hawkins. I found the latter much more convincing.

In the anthology Astrology’s Special Measurements, Lynn Koiner presents observations on Transpluto’s role in the charts of lottery winners. I actually find this supportive of  Transpluto’s connection to Taurus with its well known “wealth consciousness” rather than to thrifty Virgo, even though Koiner doesn’t reach this conclusion.

Another intriguing observation is to be found in John Hawkin’s book Transpluto or Should We Call Him Bacchus the Ruler of Taurus? According to the author, Bacchus plays a significant role in the charts calculated for the times and places of earthquakes, definitely reflecting the mythology around his name-giving deity. This trait supposedly becomes particularly evident in the combination of Bacchus with Mars. With this in mind, I studied Bacchus’s position in a number of earthquake charts. The ones I looked at are mentioned here; they all show Bacchus in a significant place, and my results are quite in accordance with Hawkin’s conclusions.

Kobe Jan 17 1995: Transpluto (23°47′ Leo) in wide conjunction to Mars, quincunx to the Sun, semi-sextile to the Moon, quincunx to Uranus, exact quincunx to Neptune, and exact sextile/trine to the MC-IC axis.

Haiti January 12 2010: Transpluto (29°14′ Leo) is in exact opposition to Jupiter and in opposition to Neptune. He forms a platic conjunction with Mars – which again is noteworthy regarding Hawkins’ postulate. He is furthermore trine the Moon and trine Pluto.

(Now, the next two charts are for occurrences not much later, so some of these same aspects are still active. They can be regarded an ongoing influence that triggered a series of earthquakes.)

Chile Feb 27 2010: Transpluto (28°50′ Leo) still in platic conjunction (or partile semi-sextile) to Mars, and also to the Moon. Moreover, there is still the opposition to Neptune, plus an opposition to Mercury.

Yushu April 14 2010: Here we have Transpluto (28°28′ Leo) in an angular house (4th), still in platic conjunction to Mars and exact opposition to Neptune, moreover in exact quincunx to Uranus. Also, we see him exactly trine the Sun, plus semi-sextile Saturn.

Fukushima March 11 2011 – Transpluto (29°4′ Leo) in the 1st house (actually reaching the ASC a little later at the time of the ensuing tsunami impact on the nuclear power plant), in exact quincunx to Uranus, and exact opposition to Neptune.

Alaska June 23 2014: Transpluto (29°55′ Leo) is in close conjunction (2°) to the ASC. Besides, he is semi-sextile the Sun, sextile Mercury, square Venus.

San Francisco Aug 24 2014: The outstanding aspect here is Transpluto (0°30′ Virgo) being in exact conjunction to the Sun.

However, it should be noted that the recent proposal of a still unknown major planet in the outer solar systems does NOT suggest something like Sevin’s Transpluto which is supposed to be on an orbit much closer to the Sun and moving much faster, accordingly. Maybe it  eventually possible to correlate it to one of the TNOs that astronomers keep finding in the area in the last couple of decades. Or maybe what Sevin unwittingly found is an “energy body” which he thought of as a physical planet.

It’s actually not unusual for us astrologers to work with factors that don’t tangibly exist, such as house cusps, midpoints, planetary nodes etc. Already in the first half of the last century, the Hamburg school of astrology around Alfred Witte proposed eight “Trans-Neptunians” based on chart analysis of historical events. They do not seem to have any astronomical foundation either, yet my limited experimentation with them seems to confirm the effects they are said to have in so-called Uranian astrology.

While worthy of our attention, none of these influences in any way lessen the immense significance that the localization of further huge planetary bodies in the solar system will have for astrology.

Best wishes,


Astrology one step closer to its completion as a new planet is being predicted

Some of you might know that I have been insisting for years that, to recover astrology’s one-time neatness, it will be necessary to introduce further, still unknown planets of the solar system. So it might be understandable that I am quite excited that very recently such a planet has been predicted by the famous astronomer Mike Brown who already discovered Eris and many other trans-Neptunian objects.

Although the new planet hasn’t been observed yet, the probability of its existence has been determined as 15’000:1 based on observed gravitational disturbances in the outer solar system. Mike Brown said that there might actually be more than one planet still hidden on the outskirts of the solar system.

To complete the domicile scheme in modern astrology, Taurus should be next in line to receive a “lord” of its own, followed eventually by Virgo. (Surely there are alternative views on this.)

This will not invalidate the traditional scheme in which five planets and two luminaries rule all the signs of the zodiac, it will just add another dimension to it.

Best wishes,

How do the Courts Cards of various decks REALLY relate to one another?

Golden Dawn Magical Tarot - Prince of WandsRWS - King of WandsThoth - Prince of Wands

There is a never ending debate in the Tarot world about the correspondences between the Court Cards in different decks, especially between their Rider Waite Smith and their Thoth equivalents. While it is unambigous that Waite’s Pages equal Crowley’s Princesses, we often hear that the RWS Knights are akin to the Thoth Princes, and the RWS Kings to the Thoth Knights. Both assumptions are wrong. They seem to be the result of a confusion between different systems; to understand this, we need to consider that both decks are based on the Tarot system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Although Waite and Crowley were both members of that lofty society, neither man completely adopted the Golden Dawn’s take on the Court Cards for his own Tarot deck: Waite, always at pains to obscure the GD wisdom he had vowed to keep out of reach of the mundane, depicted the Courts the traditional way found in old decks like the Tarot de Marseilles and the Sola Busca. Crowley mostly followed the GD scheme, however, he replaced their King by the Knight (whose destiny it was to become King one day anyway, at least in Crowley’s view as explained in The Book of Thoth).

This table shows the proper correspondences, we hope once and for all:

Golden Dawn Rider Waite Smith Thoth













The Golden Dawn’s “Holy Book” of Tarot, Book T, says: “The Knight of Wands is ‘The Lord of the Flame and Lighting: the King of the Spirits of Fire’.” Mind you, “the Knight of Wands” here refers to this figure’s name in the traditional system of the Court Cards (as was used by Waite); he becomes a King in the reformed system of the Golden Dawn and Book T, respectively. Golden Dawn members were instructed to “correct” their Continental decks accordingly. Only much, much later were Tarot decks published that show the cards (Courts and others) “exactly” as described in Book T, such as the Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn (a sample card of the latter can be seen above on the left).

Nevertheless, Book T gives elaborate symbolism for the Court Cards which overall was implemented by Crowley much more thoroughly than by Waite – something to ponder for folks who still believe that it was Waite who was more faithful to the GD conceptions! But even its use by Waite leaves no room for doubt as to how the three systems relate to each other.

Book T gives specific symbolism for its Kings which is found only on the Knights of both RWS and Thoth:

  • A white horse for the King of Cups, which we find on the RWS Knight of Cups and on the Thoth Knight of Cups.
  • Stratus clouds for the King of Swords, found on the RWS Knight of Swords and on the Thoth Knight of Swords.
  • Grain fields for the King of Pentacles, found on the RWS Knight of Pentacles and on the Thoth Knight of Disks.

And Book T gives specific symbolism for its Princes which is found only on the Kings in the case of the RWS, and on the Princes in the case of the Thoth.

  • A lion for the Prince of Wands, found on the RWS King of Wands and on the Thoth Prince of Wands. (See the cards shown above.)
  • A lotus for the Prince of Cups, found on the RWS King of Cups and Thoth Prince of Cups.
  • Butterfly-winged fairies and sickles for the Prince of Swords, found on the RWS King of Swords and on Thoth Prince of Swords.
  • A bull for the Prince of Pentacles, found on the RWS King of Pentacles and on the Thoth Prince of Disks.

And Book T mentions more generally:

  • The GD Kings are “mounted on steeds”, and wearing helmets. Well, so are the Knights in both the RWS and the Thoth decks.
  • The GD Princes are “seated in chariots”. And so are the Thoth Princes; however, Waite omits this feature altogether.

It also becomes clear now what the astrological correspondences of the Courts in each system are (referring to their prevalent influences here, while neglecting that they in fact each straddle two signs, as a card covers two thirds of a signs, plus the last third of the preceding one – but more on this peculiarity later):

  • GD Kings, RWS Knights and Thoth Knights correspond to the mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces).
  • Queens in all three systems correspond to the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn).
  • GD Princes, RWS Kings and Thoth Princes correspond to the fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius).
  • GD Princesses, RWS Pages and Thoth Princesses correspond to no signs at all but to whole quadrants of the zodiac and seasons of the year, respectively.

So, I hope that now we are all on the same page. 😉



Book T:
Crowley, A.: The Book of Thoth: Accessed on August 23 2015.

Professional Direction – A Reading with the Liber T Tarot

Yesterday, Mihira in India asked me to do a Tarot reading for her. She is an aspiring young lawyer, not quite sure right now which direction to take in her career.

Instead of my “default”, the Crowley Thoth deck, this time I opted to use the Liber T Tarot of Stars Eternal, which is a variation of the Thoth and was given me by an associate some time ago (thanks again, DreamBliss!). Mihira kindly allowed me to post her reading on my blog, and promised to give detailed comments here. So stay tuned, folks!

Mihira, here follows your reading:


As you told me, you changed your mind about going back to further education and decided to apply for a job as an attorney. A quick reading I subsequently did suggested that things would develop quite satisfactorily. So I was happy to hear your confirmation soon afterwards, when you had received three (!) offers for employment from corporate law firms. Your query now is which one best to choose. For reasons of discretion, we will simply call them offer 1, offer 2 and offer 3, just like you referred to them briefly in your message to me.

I did a so called “decision spread”, however, I modified it to include three rather than, as usual, only two options. I drew three cards for each option plus a significator representing you in your present situation.

Significator: 9 of Spheres (Collection)

This card is showing a woman (doesn’t she somehow look Indian?) carrying a treasure chest. Three people are making offerings to her! I do think this card speaks for itself…

Liber T - 9 of Spheres

For offer 1, we first have the Queen of Sceptres. She is dynamic and authoritative, yet far-sighted and adaptable. She could definitely stand for a brilliant female attorney. She is attributed with Aries and Pisces. Which is particularly interesting in light of your Sun in a fire sign and your Moon in Pisces. This suggests that you would gain a lot of respect in that firm, quite likely even find yourself in a leading position sooner or later.

Liber T Queen of Sceptres

The 3 of Disks (Construction) (sorry, I couldn’t find any picture of it) talks of true achievements, the realization of projects. In light of the previous card, it may not be amiss to assume that your engagement might substantially help advance that firm forward. Mars in Capricorn is linked to persisting effort which surely pays off well here.

The Hierophant could be that very seasoned attorney in charge that you have mentioned to me. I figure he might become a close mentor for you. There is little doubt in my mind that you would learn much in that establishment.

Liber T Hierophant

Talking about offer 2, we have the Art card. Employment in that firm would be relaxed and peaceful. You wouldn’t be experiencing that much stress. Your work, overall, would presumably be rather that of a mediator.

Liber T - Art

We further have the Ace of Cups. Your activity would be accompanied by joy and deep emotional satisfaction. Nice!

Liber T - Ace of Cups

However, we have also got 5 of Swords (Fear of Defeat) for offer 2. It looks like there would be insecurity and fear of the future. Could it be that the firm is economically somewhat unstable?

Liber T - 5 of Swords

Now to offer 3. We start with the Knight of Spheres (again, I have no digital version available, however, the Thoth equivalent shown below is almost identical). He is one hard labourer! The card shows him looking out on what has been achieved after a day of tough work.

Thoth - Knight of Disks

The next card – quite in keeping with the previous one – is the 7 of Spheres (Restriction). So it must be assumed that you would be undergoing a fair amount of hardship and limitation there. Especially as a newbie in the firm, I would imagine. Sorry to say, that must be you lying there in the mud. And, oh my goodness – is the giant boar in the background supposed to be your boss?!

Liber T - 7 of Spheres

Lest we jump to premature conclusions, the Magus shows us that you would indeed be able to supremely master those challenges – and might come out of them honed to an excellent practitioner!

Liber T Magus

Well, dear Mihira, as you certainly know, Tarot and I cannot and don’t wish to take the decision away from you. All we can do is to try to foresee what you could expect on each of the possible paths – as far as we can tell!

Personally, I would like best to see you in option 1. Where indeed the Queen of Sceptres (“you”) is standing! That path does look challenging, yet really rewarding, both internally and externally.

Option 2 seems to be the most comfortable one. You could surely draw much gratification from an employment in that firm. However, your position would not appear to be very fortified.

With option 3, better get ready for a tough ride! The underlying theme here seems to be: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! With results of reputable quality, we can assume.

It is your task now to go deep inside yourself to discern the path that is most in tune with your true self – just like the Hermit does, the numerical summary card of this whole spread.

Liber T - Hermit

Very best wishes!


Added: A photo of the whole spread.


The roots of modern Tarot

After having gained some initial experience with the Thoth Tarot, or another of the innumerable decks founded on the system created by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, some wish to expand their knowledge. Often they are unsure how to go about doing this.

In the study of any science (and I consider Tarology to be one), nothing helps understanding more than surveying its history, most of all the milestones in its development. Besides using a good “hitchhiker’s guide” (such as Ronald Decker: A History of the Occult Tarot), I regard the following texts as the most important ones for tracing Golden Dawn based Tarot back to its roots.

Cipher MS
The earliest outline of the GD system in general and its Tarot in particular.

Sepher Yetzirah
The source for the attributions of zodiacal signs and Hebrew letters in Cipher MS.

Book T
This is the original GD Tarot manual.
Book Theta
In brief, an important extension of Book T, definitely worth reading.

The Book of Thoth
Although written by Aleister Crowley, this is by no means a book only about the Thoth deck but a brilliant treatise on esoteric Tarot and its structure in general, for the most part in keeping with the GD system.

Exploring the Thoth Tarot

2c thoth t

When I made my happy first acquaintance with Tarot back in 1988, it was via the well known Thoth deck created by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris in the 1940s. I was taken by the radiance and beauty of the cards. I felt the occult depth in their symbols asking to be uncovered. I studied Crowley’s The Book of Thoth as well as Sallie Nichol’s Jung and Psychology. Because I had decided that Tarot fascinated me in general. Hitherto, I had been involved with certain spiritual traditions of South-East Asia, but now Tarot served as my intro into the rich metaphysical heritage of the West.

The Thoth Tarot is particularly suitable for this as it combines symbols from so many systems, including Astrology, Kabbalah, Alchemy, Magic(k), Numerology, Sacred Geometry, Geomancy, the Metaphysics and Mythologies of many cultures, and not least modern science. It is a true Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! No wonder that the next decades saw me continuously treading all these roads to one degree or another…


Hello Universe!

My name is Michael Sternbach. I live in Switzerland. I devoted most of my life to the study of the esoteric and therapeutic arts that I talk about on this Blog. I applied all these arts in the environment of a psychiatric practice during most of the 1990s. Thus, I will share some of my experiences and insights into Tarot, Astrology, as well as various kinds of Vibrational Remedies (Bach Flower Therapy, Spagyrics, Homeopathy and Pegasus Elixirs) here.

Another interest of mine lies in the reconciliation of the metaphysical and the scientific perspectives. It is my belief that a scientific mysticism, or a mystical science, should be our aim. This would mean the reunion of two opposites in human consciousness and take us directly to the next level of our evolution. I will talk about such things in the category Metaphysical Musings.

Some of you will already know me, especially from the forums Skyscript, The Dao Bums, Aeclectic Tarot, and Alchemy Forums. To all of you a hearty Hello!

I am also offering Tarot and Astrology readings by email.

Thank you for your interest!