November Card-a-Month: Age of Aquarian


Sorry about the slight delay with the post this month. I could blame Mercury vibes, but I won't.

I've been waiting a while to get to the Aquarian deck, even before it came up back in September, mostly because I'm a fan of David Palladini's art, with gorgeous line work and mix of watercolors and design markers. This deck has a reputation for being an oldie but a goodie. In a way, it really is the first of its kind: back when it first appeared in 1970 there weren't really any other options besides the Rider-Waite (on which this deck is based) or older decks like the Marseilles. Not so much with all the loose redesigns you can find today.

Maybe I was looking forward to this deck since I have some nostalgic feelings about it. It's one that I used quite regularly for a while. I'm not sure exactly why I put it aside, but there was generally a disconnect. I think, as I moved away from Rider-based systems, this deck mattered less to me, since it is basically a re-imagined Rider deck. And its larger size never quite felt comfortable in my hands. The card backs you can see in the top image are asymmetrical, so they will tip off reversals. All those feelings persisted in this drawing, which to me initally felt disappointing. I'm not sure what I was looking for, I don't think this was it:

Ace of Rods.

Back when I worked at the Strand, I found a book that uses this deck, The Windows of Tarot by F.D. Graves. While it's mostly bland it did have an interesting point. Palladini uses two design elements throughout the deck: the hard edge, angular designs are symbols of rigidity and the past while the rounded cloud images represent uncertainty and the future. You can see the latter here along the bottom of the card. Like all aces, this card is a base; here it's the seed of sexual, creative force. Everything is potential here, and the future is all that is on the horizon. Even the buds on the branch blossom larger on the future-facing right side of the card (though the bud towards the left shows that this growth will also affect our understanding of the past). A new beginning, more or less. Why this didn't feel especially welcoming to me on first read, I'm not sure. Maybe because I'd rather get something more of a conclusion as we head towards the end of the year, and following up on last month's judgement. But that would be a misread. The next step is beginning.

Another note about this card: The rods are one area where the Aquarian takes a turn from the Rider. Besides the name, here the staff is less a phallic tree branch than a flowering shoot of a plant, creating a symbol that is much less binary. It is opening out to disperse seed while at the same time allowing access in. We take and we give from what we've got.

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