Humoural theory and the Tarot, a 4 part lecture series by Dr. Al Cummins
Tuesdays 11/29, 12/6, 12/13, 12/20. $15 per lecture. All 4 for $50.
The body of ideas concerned with understanding human behaviour, experience, and well-being through the four classical Elements - is a significant part of the historical practice of medicine, divination, and sorcery. Amongst other things, the humours partly define the particular characteristics and meanings of the four Suits of the Tarot. In this series of talks the historian, poet, and diviner Dr Alexander Cummins will present and help explore some of these deeper contexts and significances of the Tarot’s symbolism - from zodiacal attribution and astrological sorcery to personality types and dietary regimes.
11/29: The Fiery Choleric Humours of the Suit of Wands
The fiery humour of choler (or yellow bile as it is sometimes less attractively known) is typically associated with willpower, strength of determination, mastery, and the righteous pursuit of freedom. Conversely, the shadow side of the choleric humour is angry, tempestuous, and suffers no fools. It is the humour of Aries, Leos, and Sagittarius, and of Mars and the Sun. �Harnessing the manifest qualities of fire both to burn and warm, the cards of the Suit of Wands deal with agitation, hot tempers, and friction, but also help us comprehend the fires of passion, commitment to our goals and decision-making, as well as aiding us in sweeping away or even setting ablaze the obstacles in our paths.
12/6: The Watery Phlegmatic Humours of the Suit of Cups
The watery humour of phlegm is typically associated with dreaminess, imagination, and self-reflection. Conversely, the shadow side of the phlegmatic humour provokes anxiety, a lack of motivation, and even becoming ashamed of oneself. It is the humour of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, and of Venus and the Moon. The Suit of Cups concerns how we apprehend our emotions, and thus the passions of others, offering the insights we gain from gazing into the glimmering magic mirrors of our imaginations. In leading us along a river towards better comprehending how we feel about ourselves and each other, the phlegmatism of Cups warns of the dangers of becoming stranded by crashing waves of overwhelming emotion, yet it also holds out the prospect of washing away our doubts, and sanctifying our capacities to love and be loved.
12/13: The Airy Sanguine Humours of the Suit of Swords
The airy humour of sanguinity is typically associated with geniality, agreeableness, and talkative analysis. Conversely, the shadow side of the sanguine humour is libidinous, seedy, and even greasy in its overfamiliarity or callow in its desire to please everyone. It is the humour of Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra, and of Jupiter and Mercury. In understanding this certain lasciviousness - a lust for both knowledge and good times - the suit of Swords beautifully illustrates in a number of ways in which fantasy and reality can diverge and the various results of this separation. In understanding both the powerful analytical faculties of the mind and our capacity for overthinking, the sanguinity of the Swords has much to teach us about ourselves and how we think about the world and each other.
12/20: The Earthy Melancholy Humours of the Suit of Pentacles
The earthy humour of melancholy, or black bile, is typically characterised in humoral theory by deep cogitation, pragmatism, a propensity for organisation, and the occult secrets of nature. Conversely, melancholia is perhaps far better known as a condition leading one to sorrow, solitude, and even potentially a descent into insanity. It is the humour of Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo, and of the planet of Saturn. The Suit of Pentacles or Coins deals with the austerely tangible promises, mysteries, and dangers of the world. It is both morbid and honest, both unflinching and creative. Melancholy presides over a central alchemical experiment of life: the transformation of awareness of the world’s heavy leaden suffering into the realisation of a golden universal medicine.
Alexander Cummins, PhD is an historian, poet, and diviner whose research centres on religion, philosophy, medicine, and magic. In particular, his work focuses on folk magic, necromancy, and divination.
His doctoral thesis from the University of Bristol explored the history of magical approaches to the emotions: from mapping personality with astrology, to managing emotionality with herbs and amulets, to the manipulations of aphrodisiacs and the evil eye.
He writes for both academic and esoteric publishers, facilitates a range of workshops, teaches in both universities and and virtual classrooms, consults privately with clients and organisations, and speaks at a wide variety of events. He is a proud member of the Grasping Kairos research network. His favourite animal is the octopus.
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