HEXEN 2.0 Tarot
Author: Suzanne Treister
Artist: Suzanne Treister
Black Dog Publishing
The HEXEN 2.0 Tarot is part of a project that began in 1995, when Treister created the fictional alter ego Rosalind Brodsky, a delusional time traveler that thought she was working for who thinks she is working at the Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality (IMATI) in the 21st century. IMATI is an independent research institute, based in South London, with both government and corporate clients. Brodsky is also in charge of a research program concerning military-occult technologies for psychological warfare. The story of this part of Treister’s project was told in HEXEN2039.
HEXEN 2.0 is the continuation of HEXEN2039, with the foundation being the Macy Conferences (1946-1953). The HEXEN 2.0 Tarot functions as a part of the HEXEN 2.0 project, reflecting through the framework of a traditional Tarot deck the inter-connected histories of the computer and the Internet, cybernetics and the counter-culture, science-fiction and scientific projections of the future, government and military research programs, social engineering and ideas of the control society, along with diverse philosophical, literary and political responses to the advance of technology.
Tarot reflects the journey of individuation that we all take to become a whole person. Through the framework of the archetypes we can look at the past, present, and possible future … in this deck specifically at how we can work as individual readers, or a group of readers working together, to use the cards to reconfigure history and map out hypothetical futures.
Traditional names are used for the Major arcana, with Justice at VIII and Strength at XI. The suits are Wands, Chalices, Swords, and Pentacles. The Court Cards are entitled King, Queen, Knight and Knave. There is no LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies the deck, nor is there any text that accompanies the full page illustration of each of the 78 cards in the HEXEN 2.0 book. Taking the card titles, we are left to use our own imagination as to meaning. There is some form of occult imagery on every card, mixed in with a plethora of other images. The images are non-traditional, and definitely “busy”, with, in most cases, the colors being fairly muted.
The cards are large – 3 ¾” by 5 7/8”. The backs are black, with a fine white border approximately ¼” in from the sides. In the center of the deck we see a mirror image of the explosion of data through what Treister terms the “Intercloud” – the backs are reversible.
The card faces show a ¼” white border, followed by a thin black border. For the Major Arcana, the card number, in Roman numerals, is at the top of the card, with the card title across the bottom. For the Minor Arcana, the Pips (numbered cards) show the card number and the suit name, in text, at the bottom of the card. For the Court Cards, the card title and suit are at the bottom of the card.
The imagery has a distinct esoteric content, with recurrent themes of the Tree of Life, the Third Eye, the Ouroborus, and Geometric forms, amongst others. What at first glance appears to be chaos within a card takes on more of the look of mind mapping upon closer inspection.
Following are the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, and their associations in this deck:
The Fool – Aldous Huxley
The Magician – Timothy Leary
The High Priestess – Macy Conferences
The Empress – Intelligence Agencies
The Emperor – Diogenes of Sinope
The Hierophant – Jim Channon
The Lovers – Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson
The Chariot – Norbert Wiener
Justice – One World Government
The Hermit – Theodore Kaczynski (Unabomber)
Wheel of Fortune – Cybernetics
Strength – Networked Revolution
The Hanged Man – Stewart Brand
Death – John von Neumann
Temperance – ARPANET
The Devil – The Control Society
The Tower – NSA TIA
The Star – Quantum Computing
The Moon – Transhumanism
The Sun – Anarcho-Primitivism
Judgement – Ethics
The World – WW1WW2WWW
Two cards in the deck draw attention in their simplicity – The World, which shows the initials WWI, WWII, and WWW lined up above each other – which is very telling! – and Judgement, which simply shows the word “ETHICS” in gray, against a yellow background.
Several of the cards show documents, including Justice, which shows an extract from an article by Bertrand Russell in “The Scientific Outlook”, the High Priestess, which shows information on the Macy Conference, the Six of Chalices , which talks about Dream Sharing, and the Knight of Wands, which talks about the industrial society of the future.
The Ace of Chalices is represented by Henry David Thoreau, and shows his thoughts. The Two of Pentacles show the Intercloud, and the explosion of global data. The Five of Wands is represented by William Blake, and shows his thoughts as an artist and a writer.
The King of Swords is represented by Timothy Leary’s 8 Circuit Model. The Fool is represented by Aldous Huxley, and is perhaps one of the most chaotic cards in the deck. The Lovers is represented by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and shows the Third Eye and the Ouroborus.
Treister presents this deck as a “new Tarot”, one that allows a reader, or a group of readers, to use the cards to reconfigure history and/or map out hypothetical future narratives. For me, this would be the only way that this deck could be used. It is not Tarot in the sense of use of traditional imagery, or continuity of images within a given suit. At best, it falls into the category of a thematic deck. The basic structure of the Tarot has been used to frame Treister’s work, and in that sense the presentation is good. However, the only “reading” that could be done with this deck lies solely in the area of the work that it represents. This deck is a representation of incredible insight, and this is the way in which it should be appreciated.
© May 2012 Bonnie Cehovet