Holly Sierra and I, the co-creators of Chrysalis Tarot, were thrilled when Tarosophy announced Chrysalis as recipient of its prestigious Deck of the Year award for 2014. Tarosophy places great emphasis on the spiritual dignity of tarot, so for us this recognition was both humbling and gratifying. We had set out specifically to make a spiritual contribution to tarot’s great body of work.
When we first placed Chrysalis on our drawing boards, neither of us had ever heard the phrase spiritual dignity of tarot. We simply had hoped to accomplish our spiritual goals for Chrysalis within the context of the age-old mythology and spiritual teaching called The Hero’s Journey.
Analogous to the Hero’s Journey is the Quest for the Holy Grail, a western legend that symbolizes self-transformation, the personal metamorphosis that inspired the name Chrysalis. Mythologist Joseph Campbell called the grail legends foundational myths of Western civilization. The grail quest is the quest to discover authentic Self. The Hero’s Journey allegorizes this struggle for self-discovery that occurs between the authentic (spiritual) Self and ego.
We also sought to create a deck well suited to the emerging worldview or paradigm shift that’s been unfolding for some 25 years. This shift traces its shallow roots to the Neo-Pagan and New Age Movements; its deep roots to the turbulent social upheavals of the ’60s that advanced civil rights, women’s rights and deep ecology, epitomized in Chrysalis by the Green Man and Gaia.
Although not New Age, per se, the secularity of Chrysalis dovetails with several New Age Philosophy tenets, most notably holism and humanism. Creating a definitively secular deck was another of our goals; we dared not burden Chrysalis with dogmatic religious framework, iconography or arcane symbolism. Neither did we want a deck that bowed to archaic institutional hierarchies representing absolute civil and spiritual authority; in Chrysalis all spiritual paths are valid and respected and personal responsibility is paramount. Chrysalis is not about conformity with dogma or “correct beliefs,” but rather about questioning all beliefs and using innate critical thinking skills.
Chrysalis abhors patriarchy. We strove for overall balance between our deck’s yin-yang energies. We pushed the envelope to accomplish masculine-feminine balance and promote personal spiritual empowerment. For example, when we refer to “the divine” in Chrysalis we usually refer either to the divine feminine, or the androgynous divine child within. The Divine Child (pictured) is both an Otherworld archetype and a Chrysalis major arcana card.
In Chrysalis, the Otherworld is the name we gave to the abode of archetypes, ancestors, faeries and myriad other benevolent spirits, including shamanic spirit animals.
We engage the Otherworld via the 22 major archetypes and other archetypes unique to Chrysalis. This extended family includes our replacements for tarot’s traditional court cards, an ensemble of medieval troubadours we call The Troupe. Members of The Troupe, who are also archetypes, variously represent spirit guides, the ancestors, and the querent’s personal attributes and personality traits. They also symbolize helpful individuals, often strangers on their own journey, who the querent might meet along the way. All Troupe members have personal spirit animals known also as familiars pictured on their cards. Totem or spirit animals also can be found on other Chrysalis cards too.
Otherworld engagement with archetypes, the aspect of tarot renowned psychologist C.G. Jung found fascinating, is accomplished through shamanic-style communication between the Collective Unconscious (the Otherworld) and the personal unconscious mind. Information from the Otherworld resonates during a tarot reading and is interpreted intuitively. Chrysalis regards all 78 tarot cards as multivalent potentialities that mean different things to different people at different times in their lives.
Archetypes in the collective and personal unconscious have resonating frequencies and are quantumly entangled; the stronger the querent’s personal bond with a particular archetype, the stronger this resonance. As Nicolai Tesla wrote (we should), “Think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Everything in nature vibrates with a specific frequency, including archetypes.
In adapting Chrysalis to the new connected-universe worldview, we needed to identify this worldview’s salient characteristics. First and foremost, it’s characterized by belief in a living, interconnected and interdependent universe. In this living universe, we become co-creators and are like biological circuits connected to a vast Web of Life, as Fritjof Capra termed it. Capra’s Web of Life includes everything in the cosmos; everything is energy, including matter and information.
Secondly, the new worldview is both spiritual and material. It also is scientific and provides groundwork for a new rational spirituality. Although this notion places Chrysalis somewhat at odds with classical Newtonian mechanics, it is complementary with quantum mechanics and the New Science of unified physics. The New Science of unified physics is holistic and holographic. It views contemporary ideas of dead-universe separation as a dangerous illusion, a fact sadly borne out by human history.
Thirdly, Chrysalis emphasizes the importance of healing through selfless compassion. Having compassion and empathy for others, as well as for ourselves, provides a powerful instrument for healing. Moreover, compassion and empathy unite rather than separate us. Tarot cannot assist with personal transformation unless it also helps heal a broken psyche. To that end, many Chrysalis cards evoke healing.
Among the many changes Chrysalis makes to traditional tarot, a schema that’s well over 100 years old, is the elimination of limiting belief structures and strictures that produce fear, anxiety or negativity. All pose significant stumbling blocks to self-transformation and healing.
Any self-transformation modality is, by definition, a dynamic spiritual enterprise. To claim spiritual dignity, it must therefore afford spiritual efficacy. It cannot lay legitimate claim to spiritual efficacy unless it’s friendly to beginners and readily accessible. That is a tall order for tarot, which, at least today, remains an esoteric system tethered to the existing worldview. Tarot, however, is constantly evolving and gaining greater awareness and popularity among an increasingly enlightened public starved for rational spirituality.
Tarosophy aims to make tarot a widely accessible wisdom tool for personal empowerment and personal growth, a goal Chrysalis Tarot wholeheartedly supports and emulates.
About the Author
Metaphysician and former broadcast executive Toney Brooks was born and raised in Alabama and currently resides in the U.S. Heartland. He’s also lived in Cornwall, UK, where he published a West Country tourism book about King Arthur, as well as in Italy and the former Yugoslavia.
His academic interests include spirituality, mysticism, consciousness studies, cosmology, unified physics and Jungian psychology, particularly as it relates to the interplay between tarot and collective unconscious archetypes. He holds a PhD in Metaphysical Cultural Anthropology and certification as a Spiritual Counselor (CSC).
He and artist Holly Sierra are currently hard at work on a Chrysalis Tarot companion book, which will be published by U.S. Games in 2015.
© 2015 by Toney Brooks. All rights reserved.by