This album is an idea that has been with me for almost the whole 30 years I have been composing. I did make an album based around the Tree Of Life back in 2000 but it never felt like the right time to do the cards. Until it did. After Isabel, the Tarot album seemed just right.
Tarot is an interesting thing. A lot of what people say about it is mistaken or misguided. I guess that makes it like any other great work that cannot be seen head-on. You need to come at it sideways. I know the Tarot system quite well as I made my own deck in 1995. Many of my card names & images are adjusted to minimize Catholic dogma that can tend to obscure many of the archetypes.
Much of what people claim to be the history of Tarot Cards: being rooted in Ancient Egyptian religion, passed into the world by Gypsies (based on their name supposedly being a bastardization of the word Egyptians) is totally bunkum. The Tarot in the form we have it as a relative of playing cards is quite modern by comparison. Like Witchcraft, it was all made up far more recently. The thing is though that it was made up by compiling common wisdom that can be found in any of the traditions old or new.
Tarot is a form of psychology + philosophy. Not unlike the messages that underlie the original Fairy Tales like Rapunzel, Beauty & The Beast, The Princess & The Pea, Hansel & Gretel (later Disney versions with dancing candle sticks not so much).
The Tarot is designed to be a book that explains how life works. But unlike say The Bible which has become solidified by being published in a bound form, Tarot was deliberately left unbound so every time you come to it, it can tell a different story based on the needs (synchronicity) of the moment. Just as people look for advice by opening The Bible at random.
Musically I had to work out how to handle the material. There is a lot to it: 78 cards, each a world in itself. The obvious place to start is the Major Arcana – the “big” cards that are a story-cycle in themselves. I was tempted to try to approach the pieces with minor cards too but this time it didn’t seem right. This is why the album is titled Tarot I.
Most of the tracks represent 3 cards and how the story flows from one to another. Each card generally is assigned 2 minutes of direct “screen time”. The video helps you to get the associations if you rather be shown them.
Stylistically, I wanted this be be very much my own thing: a Prog Rock of Benedict. You will find moments with leanings to Metal, Goth and Film Soundtrack but overall it is just Benedict.
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This is the only way I make a living.
The Fool’s Journey
The Fool’s Journey is a common term applied to the Tarot cards when laid in order. While it is tempting to see the characters and events that we meet in each “window” to be external, some say “we meet The Magician”, in each case the people and events are very much The Fool as he progresses on his journey.
The Idea in Formlessness – before there is anything there is nothing, yet within that nothing there is everything. All possibilities exist equally. It is when an idea is ready to become a probability that is crosses over into the world.
The Fool – Power – Truth : paths on the Tree of Life above 11, 12, 13
The Fool heads out with his pack to see the world. He knows everything yet nothing at the same time. To get to the outer world, he has to lose everything he knows, to fall off a cliff. He finds earthly Power and becomes enamored of that and his abilities. He must then realize that in spite of everything he thinks he knows, there is far more to everything. That can be frightening when you realize that maybe you can’t know everything or even see the “real” truth.
Fertility – Creativity – Wisdom : paths 14, 15, 16
Our Fool realizes that he is part of life and that it has cycles of growth & decay. He understands the ideas of life being one, the Bodhisattva nature. Creativity is the point where he realizes that while Power was exciting, it didn’t necessarily build anything. Building is the purpose of the universe. Everything has rules that make it work. We can do things without knowing those rules but not really be in control of anything if we don’t understand them.
The Outward Step – Direction – Karma : paths 17, 18 ,19
While our Fool thought he had gone into the wide world before, he really hadn’t. He was playing it safe. Now it is time to leave home for real. Marriage is often the time that happens. He must then work out how to manage all the elements around him. Tricky as often the forces seem not to be connected. All actions eventually come to be understood as related and therefore having reactions, even if the connections are not immediately obvious.
The Search – The Wheel – Strength : paths 20, 21, 22
Our Fool realizes that everything that happens, happens within and no matter how much he looks outside, the answer is always from him – his light comes from within. The many layers and constant evolution/cycles of life are better understood from a wider perspective. Nothing is permanent, everything is always changing so no sense in fighting what is not understood. Our Fool comes to know that it is only from truly knowing himself and learning not to fight himself (other people are himself after all) that he finds his true power & control.
Leap Of Faith – Destructor – The Re-Pouring : paths 23, 24, 25
Everything learned so far is to be tested (many times probably). Our Fool takes an even greater leap based on knowing that while everything may change, he does not. Death is the thing we think we fear greatest but in actual fact it is losing our identity. We have to know that change dissolves every part of us yet life is eternal so nothing is lost, even if its form is chopped up. Life exists in and of itself so what is chopped up can be re-assembled in a new and better form independent of any trivial details (not that they are necessarily seen that way).
Lucifer – The Shattering – The Stars : paths 26, 27, 28
Life holds us until we are ready; but seeing our Fool is not quite ready, he sees the Teacher as being an evil old jailer and fights against him until he sees that he is only holding himself. That comes after a great explosion in his life where all the things that he built into his ivory tower (that let him lock true life away) are tossed back onto the ground (or into the world). Eventually he’s able to see that by being part of the world that he can constantly grow and change, evolve into better forms.
The Moon – The Sun – The Un-Weaving : paths 29, 30, 31
Our Fool has started to accept that he can take any form and it doesn’t matter. Still, it feels hard to navigate the same world which now seems so open yet potentially frightening/wondrous. Dreams can be great windows in to hopes & fears alike. The unconscious mind is almost a universe in itself. The fears have been mastered enough that our Fool is now just life, the expression of the idea. This allows him to wind & unwind life as it appears from moment to moment.
All That Is – The Fool as Master : paths 32, 11
Ultimately life is seen as the thing in itself. We are all made of stardust. There is nothing that we needed that we did not have as we set out. Where one moment we felt trapped in all the strings, another we were the puppet-master of all reality. We are back where we started. It all starts again.