ICARUS TAROT GUIDEBOOK
A 28-card deck featuring original illustrations by artist IHSQUARED.
The ICARUS Tarot is based off of the classic Rider-Waite deck. It includes the traditional 22 cards of the Major Arcana and 6 original cards of the artist’s own creation. The additional six cards allow for a complete reading, similar to that of a deck with both the Major and Minor Arcana.
The story of Icarus is often interpreted as a cautionary tale encouraging moderation. The allegory encourages people to stay in line, dampens creativity, drive, ego, and innovation. The artist resonates with the Icarus story differently. They encourage you to fly.
Beginnings, Innocence, Daring, Opportunity
The story of the tarot begins with the Fool, who is without experience and wisdom. The adventurous youth, the impetuous child, the naive and the innocent. As the story of the tarot progresses he receives guidance and tutelage from the other cards, and begins to build the traits necessary for growth, eventually shedding his old ways before gaining all he seeks and starting the cycle anew.
The fool represents beginnings and encourages you to maintain energy, curiosity, excitement, joy of novelty, and the sense of adventure as you soldier forward. You may not be aware of hardships ahead, or if you are, you should have the confidence that you will learn and grow as you go. You may not know WHAT lessons you need to learn, so why worry?
The fool represents opportunity, joy, and the beginning of something new. It reminds you to have fun, be playful, take the role of hero or protagonist, and to have the carefree attitude of a child. This card asks you to wonder in the world around you, push away self-doubt and be daring! Have fear, and do it anyway. Step into the unknown and see what mysteries await.
Skill, Creativity, Innovation, Manifestation of Will, Focus, Inspired Action
The Magician is a powerful energy. The magician has the power to warp reality, to see all things, to use their knowledge of the esoteric laws of the universe to manifest their will. Their specialized knowledge hidden to most of the world allows them to create miracles. Engineers, scientists, programmers, artists- anyone who, through the dedicated study and practice of laws and principles, creates things according to their vision and desired result is pulling from the power of the Magician.
The Magician encourages you to take inspired action. You have an idea, and you have a desire, and the Magician states that you also have the specific knowledge to make a plan and make it happen. To use your collected experience and skills to bring your vision into reality. You have everything necessary, and now is the time to use your accumulated guidance to put it into action.
The Magician can also mean that you may NOT have the skills necessary, but that someone who can offer their guidance may come into your life soon. Or perhaps that your skills and expertise may be called on to help someone else on their path. The Magician is a guide and mentor, a teacher of hidden technique and illuminator of true knowledge. They do not dictate, but instead offer paths and solutions. Ultimately the steps must be taken by the seekers themselves.
THE HIGH PRIESTESS
Intuition, Wisdom, Sub/Unconscious Forces, Spirituality
The High Priestess is the keeper of secrets, the wielder of the unknown, and the guardian of the inner mind- the unconscious and the intuitive. The High Priestess is the feminine archetype and the counterpoint to the Hierophant. The Hierophant teaches and directs. The High Priestess invites and encourages. To go deeper, to seek the unknown, and to be still letting the truths come to you, or rather wait for the truths you’ve already known reveal themselves in a divine spark of revelation. The intuitive nature of the High Priestess counters and complements with the conscious efforts of Hierophant. Power and Wisdom. Conscious and unconscious.
The High Priestess is the spiritual side of the feminine, partnered with the Empress. It brings up imagery of witches and the sorceress, of the mysterious and primal allure of the Divine feminine. The High Priestess is connected to the Moon and the Veil, and shifts between reality and the other worlds of the consciousness effortlessly.
The High Priestess portents times of intuition and spirituality, of growth and divine wisdom. She encourages nurturing, trusting and sensing. To listen and not talk, to feel and not to think. Empathy guides the High Priestess, and that energy must be what you focus on now, for the High Priestess to guide you.
Femininity, Abundance, Nurturing
As the Emperor embodies the divine masculine, the empress embodies the divine feminine. She is grace, beauty, firm guidance, and diplomatic poise. She is tender and nurturing, using her intuition to steer and direct. She inspires loyalty through her kindness, and punishes with her lack of favor. She is the queen, a true leader, and that is the energy of the card.
If the Emperor is the conquerer, who looks outward beyond his borders for success, then the empress is the domestic ruler. The one who builds and focuses on the internal. She grows and maintains, deftly administrating and ruling with a soft yet firm hand. She brings abundance and prosperity to her kingdom. The Empress represents abundance, peace, industry. She is a patron of the arts, encouraging creativity, insight, and inspiration.
The Empress can represent a peaceful and productive home life, a domestic happiness and peace that comes from a true level of dedication to the important aspects of the human soul. She is a gracious host and a generous neighbor. She is also connected to nature, drawing parallel power to Mother Earth. Of course she has a tendency to be overly mothering, and in some situations can be stifling or controlling, for while she is gracious, kind, beautiful, and skillful, she is still a monarch, deserving of or perhaps demanding respect from those beneath her.
Domination, Ambition, War, Strife, Order
The Emperor is the master, the traditional divine Masculine, the Lord of all he surveys. Authority, power, strength- these are yours when the energy of the Emperor is with you. It encompasses the archetypes of authority, the cruel warlord, the just King, the indomitable iron fist, the benevolent guiding light. The emperor is a ruler, and all he holds dominion over he guides or dictates with a firm hand. Stability, structure, order, are his nature. He has knowledge and expertise and the wisdom to bring them forth with solid planning. His authority is absolute, and his rules and regulations sacrosanct. His word is law.
The emperor can symbolize a time where order and structure will play a role. Where you must put forth an air of power, strength, and authority. Where systematic, logical approaches must be made, rules, regulations, and best practices must be codified or followed. It speaks of systematic actions, of hierarchy and organization, and conformity to those rules. Of bringing order from chaos, but also oppression and tyranny when systems are already there.
The Emperor is the traditional Masculine- strong, powerful, brave, authoritative, logical. The archetypal Father figure. The partner and balance to the traditional Feminine, the energy of the Empress card. Provider, protector, decider. Kind or Cruel, the authority and power of the Emperor is unquestionable.
Tradition, Conformity, Orthodoxy, Study, Explanation
The Hierophant is the masculine counterpoint to the High Priestess. While the High Priestess invites the reader to look within and follow intuition, the Hierophant guides to look to established patterns, to study what has worked in the past or for others, and to follow an established order. It advises conformity to a group order or established set of beliefs. Like a teacher, the Hierophant directs and guides, and offers knowledge to those willing to seek him out. The energy also encourages study. While the High Priestess may encourage you to look within, the Hierophant urges you to look without- to observe the world around you and explore the beliefs or practices of others and see how they may conform to your own.
It is easy to dismiss the value of the Hierophant. Orthodoxy, conformity, tradition- it can seem stifling and rigid. However in reality the Hierophant points to important values of human existence- community, support of people with like minded values, the joining of many to create an experience greater as a whole. Whether a church group gathering for Mass, meeting up with fellow sports fans to watch the big game, joining a community of hobbyists, or going to a concert or club to dance together with strangers, every person craves that feeling of belonging.
There is much to be gained and learned through following the established and proven as well: taking a class, joining up with others to share art techniques or learn a program, following a tutorial from an export or getting advice from a mentor: these are the actions the Hierophant energy encourages. More than simply skills however, the Hierophant encourages finding those with the same set of values and beliefs, aligning with that energy. It encourages you to take things as they are: no modification, no shortcuts, no bending of the rules. It may be that you are not yet experienced enough to start your own way, or you need a baseline of information to begin a journey. The Hierophant says you must know the rules before you break them.
Love, Sex, Union, Harmony, Choices, Relationships, Values
At first glance, the lovers may seem to be a simple card. Love, sex, relationships, done. But like all relationships it is more complicated under the surface. At its core, the union of different forces coming together to form something new is a fundamental principle of the universe. As the two seemingly opposing forces come together a greater whole is achieved, a balance is struck, and harmony achieved. Yin and yang, the balancing of scales, action and reaction, conservation of mass and energy- the Lovers in its rawest form is a manifestation of this principle.
Of course, the Lovers also represent relationships- sexual, intimate, or otherwise, and it points to an examination of what is affecting it. More than simply sex or physical attraction, the lovers encourages you to examine your values for alignment. To dig a little deeper into what your personal values and beliefs are. The lovers is also a card of choice, of checking compatibility. You may be feeling a moral dilemma, or a crisis of conscience and values. The principles of the law state to form this union- to achieve pure harmony- you must give up equal to what you expect to gain, and this card demands that you examine what you are willing to give up, and what you are not.
Vulnerability, rejection, hurt, loss… The closer you get to a person the more able they are to hurt you, the more pain you may experience. This goes both ways, and if you value a relationship you must be aware you have the power to shatter a person as they leave themselves open to you. True harmony occurs when the core is strong- when those values and beliefs align. The choices put before are questions you must answer or adjust. However, once aligned, a sum greater than the whole of its parts is achieved, the rewards finally worth the risk, and whether reading for relationships or anything else, once a balance and harmony there is nothing greater: it is worth holding to.
Hard Control, Willpower, Assertion, Determination
Driving a chariot is hard work. You are at the reins, holding an animal many times your own size, and directing it through your will to go where you want it to. Add a second animal as most chariots did, and the problem compounds itself, even if the horses are used to working together there will be different instincts and directions they wish to go. Add on top of the din of battle, the smell of blood, and all manner of dangers of the battlefield, and it takes an iron resolve and strong hand to control the situation. This is the power and situation of the Chariot.
The chariot represents resolute determinations, strong will, perseverance, and a warrior’s spirit. It represents victory and power, but through the course of struggle and discipline. While the Strength card represents a quiet confidence cultivated over years of experience, that experience is bought out of the struggles on the Chariot. You must maintain focus, discipline, and concentration. You must test your strength and your conviction, and sheer survival may be the only measure of success. It demands you put all your focus into the task at hand, and to charge bravely with all the power of a charging war horse, or a pair of them. It demands you be assertive, and be active. This is not a time for rest, it is a time for action! You may feel yourself pulled in different directions and feel a million challenges, but in this case with the Chariot, it is to find your center, determine what your goal is and to GET it. No pivots, no turns, barrel ahead with resolve and push through the stubborn resistance with an iron will of your own.
Inner Reserve, Power, Confidence, Fortitude, Courage
On the outside, Strength may seem an outward force, a physical manifestation of raw power or stubborn will. The Strength card, however, points to an inner source, the true source of Strength. Like the current of a river, calm on the surface yet seething with the power to break down mountains. It is stamina, endurance, and unyielding patience. It is calm determination and unstoppable persistence. It is the strength of the human spirit to survive, and to wear down any obstacle.
Observe the Lion in his kingdom. He lazes, and yawns, and surveys. Outward there is no conflict. He is confident in his place at the top of the food chain. Yet every subtle movement shows evidence of the rippling muscles and vast power beneath. Likewise the powerful and confident person has no need for the showboating or posturing of the insecure; no need for the manipulation or coercion of the hungry power-seeker. He or she simply IS, and that is enough.
Strength calls in the channeling of powerful emotions, and of the taming of animal urges. Every fiber of the being is in complete control, guided by the subtle but firm hand of an implacable spirit. There is no presence of rage or hatred, for these are symptoms of fear. Unstoppable confidence instead yields compassion and understanding, love and forgiveness, and in situations where great wrong is done, this is a sign of powerful strength indeed.
Introspection, Seeking, Isolation, Inner Guidance, Solitude
The Hermit is the archetypal wise man on the mountain. The man who has put himself outside of worldly and materialistic things to seek a spiritual knowledge. Someone who has put aside the typical trappings of society in order to seek some greater wisdom. The hermit card invites you to find this energy in yourself, to look inward for your answers and to focus intently on listening to your inner intuition to find your outer wisdom.
The hermit is a lonely card, or rather, it is an isolated one. The answers cannot come from others, so you must instead probe your own inner world. You are on an introspective journey, and though your feet may take you many different places the real journey is happening in your head. The Hermit is looking for answers in unconventional places, or in the deep recesses of their own mind, not following the path trodden by others. So you must listen intently to the quiet, deep parts of your own mind. This rarely involves the help of others- in fact, it may be advising you to isolate yourself to better focus. After you have found your wisdom you can return to the company of others but for now you must seek answers alone.
The hermit is also a sign of seeking knowledge. The hermit is often there by choice- he is searching for answers, not left alone to find them. It is inviting you to take the steps to leave the comfortable and pleasurable and instead go on your own journey, to give it up and search for answers. THe hermit is not concerned for material wants, for he seeks a greater knowledge and a greater wisdom. He trusts the universe will provide, and is willing to go without for greater spiritual knowledge. Like the aesthetic or the faster, he puts aside the want of bodily hunger in favor of the discipline and sacrifice for spiritual lessons. This is the energy the Hermit invites
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Change of Fortune, Coming and Going, Change and Impermanence, Karma, What Goes Around Comes Around
Nothing stays still. Everything is always moving, changing, cycling and oscillating from one state to another. This is a literal law of the universe. The Wheel of Fortune is a reminder of this change. Nothing stays static, things go up and down, and you either grow or stagnate. The wheel of fortune is a reminder of that change, and a beckoner of a coming point where things will begin to turn.
The wheel of fortune is usually a good sign. Your luck is going to pay out, your hard work will soon pay off. It is a sign to put your faith in the universe and allow yourself to be carried upward. On the other hand, it can also be a beckoner that the good times are coming to an end, and that soon life will begin to normalize after a period of living high. This is not to be a bad sign; the wheel constantly turns, and soon you will find yourself on the rise again.
The wheel of fortune is a call to accept the chaos of the world, that the lows and highs are a part of life, and in a way inexorable. You cannot change, control, or reign in the change of fate, just as you cannot stop the flow of time. Instead, accept the inevitability of change and enjoy the ride. The highs can only be truly understood by the context of the lows, and just as mighty can be brought low by the whims of fate, the lowly and poor can find themselves pulled up by a whirlwind of good fortune. Be open to your own intuition, be adaptable, and be up for anything for the wheel of fortune favors the bold.
Responsibility, Decision, Understanding Cause & Effect, Respecting Law, Seeking Fairness
At some point, everyone is faced with something that is not ‘right’, whether or not the rest of the world respects it or not. Justice is the invitation to take a stand, to do the right thing, and to make the hard decision. Justice is logical and fair, but tempered with mercy. Justice is the application of power, but for those without power. It is a noble virtue, necessary for a functioning society but often still overlooked. There is a reason that justice is shown as scales for justice is always balanced by definition. Too forceful and justice becomes tyranny. Too free and it becomes anarchy. Justice is the usable medium, the functioning and wise compromise.
Justice is a mature energy. It expects you to be responsible, to make decisive action, to weigh options carefully and from multiple angles. It is diplomatic and fair, but resolute and uncompromising. When justice appears in your reading it is useful to think logically and without emotion, to be calculating and shrewd in your decision making. It invites you to find common ground with what is and what should be, what you know to be right and fair with what is realistic and achievable.
In order for justice to be properly applied it must be tempered with wisdom and truth. Seek out the true nature of what problem is in front of you. Be willing to accept if you are wrong. Be willing to make amends if you have faulted someone. Seek to bring harmonious balance once again.
In addition, sometimes justice is a card of inaction or moderation. It is easy to be swept away in emotion or anger when you have been wronged, easy to play the victim or oppressed. Justice is a reminder that what you may think is “unfair” may be the logical effect of your own actions. It may be a reminder that if true justice is to be served YOU may need to be the penitent one. Justice is truth, and it does not play favorites. Instead, to have justice on your side you must have the wisdom, foresight, humility, and action to be on its side.
THE HANGED MAN
Sacrifice, Surrender, Suspension of Action, Acceptance
A hanging man has little he can do. He is stuck, hanging there, with nothing to do but reflect on his actions until someone can come and help him down. That is the energy of this card. Right now, there is not much you can do, or rather… there is plenty you can do, but it involves self-reflection, sacrifice, and acceptance to the circumstances you find yourself in. It is a time of reflection and patience, and rather than rant and rail at the circumstances you must reflect upon the circumstances that found you in the situation.
Sometimes in life there are things you cannot change. Or rather, things that aren’t worth changing for they are passing. It is the wisdom to know the difference between what you can do and can’t do, and the surrender of the stress for things you can do little about. Often flexibility and being able to adapt is the true test of resiliency, not your stubbornness. Accept that you cannot change what you’d like to, at least not now, and see what you CAN do and reflect on how you can still use the situation to your advantage.
The Hanged Man invites you to be vulnerable. To admit mistakes. To take responsibility for your actions. It is also self-sacrifice and putting yourself forward as the martyr for a time. AS often as we think that being the hero of a situation is glamorous the truth is often much more humiliating, painful, and embarrassing. However, it does not mean it is any less heroic or indeed that the rewards for doing so won’t come. Instead of accolades you will learn from your self-reflection and failures, and you will gain experience from your personal sacrifices. The Hanged Man may be in a foolish, embarrassing, hopeless, or stuck situation- but the lessons may yet be the most valuable.
Endings, Change, Rebirth, Shedding the Unnecessary, Starting a New Cycle
Death lurks beneath our consciousness at a primal level. The fear of physical death overwhelmingly influences our psyche, our emotions and thought processes. Like Leviathan beneath the surface of the water, inexorable, inescapable, forever casting a shadow on all we experience in life. All things will end, and that is the energy of the card of Death.
Death represents an ending, but not THE ending. In truth, no things die, only transition, and the cycle begins again. Death and life are forever connected and feeding into each other, and the ending of one cycle is the necessity for the second to begin. Death is representative of a time of changes, the end of one time and the beginning of another. The long-awaited transition from an outlived state to a better place- a better job, a new opportunity, the cutting of dead weight, or the tying up of loose ends. Of closure. Finishing the unfinished business.
Death is inescapable, inexorable, and this energy can also be reflected. Death may represent experiencing something that cannot be changed, or that must be. An experience that like Death itself, is unavoidable or unstoppable. All that can be done is to finish what you can, and face it head on.
In the tarot, Death is not the end, however. As the soul must necessarily shed its mortal coil to greater adventures in the afterlife, so must we occasionally trim the excess, and get down to the bare bones before saying goodbye and continue onward to new and greater things. Though Death is inevitable, final, inescapable- it is not the end of the cycle, simply a new beginning.
*Fun Fact: This card is often well loved by fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, but the inspiration came from sea monsters in ancient mythology that represented death, darkness, and uncertainty.
Moderation, Balance, Patience, Peace and Calm
The extremes are stressful. Painful. They test your limits, and cause you to stretch. However, too much time at the extremes and something will always crack. It is good to know your limits, or at least, to balance your times of stress with times of peace, to bring things back into balance for the ultimate goal of progression.
Temperance is the invitation to stabilize. To be composed, to think calmly and with a sense of harmoniousness and cooperation. Now is not a time of fire and brimstone, or to float with wild abandon any which direction, nor a time of stubbornness and rigidity, or of wishy-washy liquidity. It is balance, it is all those forces in harmony, whatever that means to you. Temperance and balance is always contextual and personal, and you very often KNOW what that means for your situation, though even the moderate route may difficult to do. Indeed, it is the sign of a wise mind that knows balance, for they know their limits and have the discipline to follow through.
Patience is a necessary component of temperance. Too often we expect immediate results, instant gratification, the pleasure of the now instead of the true happiness later. Temperance knows the importance of being patient and having the long vision. Listen to your inner voice because it is likely you already know what you need to be doing and have been putting it off or ignoring the problem. Temperance is the sign that now, it is time to bring things back, pull things in, center yourself and go forward with careful and thoughtful steps.
Desire, Wanting, Temptation, Bondage, Slavery, Shadow Self
The Devil is your shadow self, your dark instincts, your secret desires. It is your passionate and destructive impulses, and your selfish, unbridled ego. The Devil can make you a slave, it represents bondage and addiction, of being pulled this way and that by your darker impulses, or it can stifle and imprison you in a state of hopelessness and fear.
The Devil and your shadow self are your constant companion. Indeed, you can never rid yourself of it, for it is you, but neither is it an absolute evil. Your shadow self is still yourself. What you fear or what you resist is often a sign of what you lack, and the Devil is very in tune with what it, and therefore YOU, want, whether or not that desire should be acted upon, is socially acceptable, or conflicts with what your greater goals are. Ultimately, the Devil WANTS. It has no power other than what you give it, but the pull is undeniable and must eventually be addressed.
No part of growth is attainable without the Devil. Any progress forward must be met by an equal force of resisting and overcoming the laziness, the temptation, or the false-freedom of undisciplined impulse. Likewise, refusing to acknowledge your darker side is tantamount to burying a part of yourself, locking yourself in and keeping yourself caged to your true potential, and keeping you blind to your own needs and wants. In the end, the Devil always takes his due, and it’s up to you to decide what your balance is.