Art, or Alchemy, is the XIV Trump in the Thoth deck of Tarot cards.

Every year, on my birthday, I draw a card that symbolizes the coming year.  Last year was the year of the Fool, whence I drew the 0 of Trumps, that beginning of journeys that leads you into the unknown.

At the time, I was very excited.  Having worked for three years in corporate sales, wearing a tie to the office every day.  I was ready for an adventure.

And I got one.  A very foolish adventure, that left me unscathed, but with a healthier respect for my abilities, and an assurance that I would not go to the grave bemoaning my lack of amazing accomplishment.  My life at 32 was incredible, it shook up my whole world, it stripped me of all my comforts, and left me out on the road in the midst of a journey, wondering where I was and how to get back home.

In short, I loved being the fool.  But now I am ready to return to my Capricorn-loving stability, and I do so this year, with Alchemy.

The fourteenth trump is a bit of a scandal in Tarot circles, one of the major changes that Crowley made with the Journey of the Fool.  In other decks, it is called Temperance, and involves the suppression of the extreme in favor of moderation.  This angel positioned between Death and the Devil (trumps XIII and XV) sits on the road between the River Styx and our judgment, helping us temper our harsher qualities before we are judged.

In the Thoth deck, Art (or The Art, i.e. Alchemy) represents the successful combination of opposites.  Fire and water, male and female, black and white are not opposing extremes, they are necessary components to a greater whole.  Yin and Yang, complementing each other.

Where Temperance was a moderation of extremes, rounding out the rough edges, Art is a synergy of extremes, resulting in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

From Banzhaf and Theler’s excellent Keywords for the Crowley Tarot:

This is the year of the Great Work, which is what the alchemsits called the successful union of opposites.  Wherever you find yourself in a tormenting contradiction, feel yourself torn between extremes, or helplessly stuck in a dilemma, whenever the two souls in your breast threaten to tear you apart, during this year you can actually find the solution, the right mixture, that has been impossible up until now.  The precondition for this artistic device is the willingness to go deep enough while not clinging to superficialities, apparent self-evident truths, or social conventions.  Liberation from an intolerable field of tension is not only one of the happiest moments in life but is also a bold step in the direction of healing.  Make this year into a great work of art.

And that is my plan.  This year, my 33rd, will be a work of art.  I will take time to create every day, and measure my progress by the art and works which I bring forth into the world.