In mystery school traditions, initiates are required to make their own tools. Since one of the main goals of this game is to help you learn the paths of the Tree of Life, before you play the game you must draw or paint the Tree of Life on cardboard or wood, a process that in itself is very instructive.
Create a game board.
Once you have created the game board, you need to scavenge for game tokens. These can be anything, buttons, coins, paperclips, plastic army men, nails, sunflower seeds--as long as you end up with two distinct sets of about thirty-two items each.
You can play the game by yourself, which requires only one deck of Tarot cards, but you can also play with another person or in teams, which requires two decks. Most people that I know who are interested in Tarot have more than one deck because Tarot can be used for different purposes. You will find that owning more than one deck is invaluable if you continue to explore all the possibilities of those uncanny cards.
The Tarot deck contains two sets of cards, one known as the Major Arcana (meaning "secret" or "mystery"), which contains twenty-two trumps (numbered 0 through 21). The other, known as the Minor Arcana, resembles the modern deck of playing cards, containing ten number cards (Ace through 10) and four court cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King) in each of four suits--Pentacles, Swords, Cups, and Wands. Over the years individuals and spiritual groups have recognized the various powers embedded in the symbolic associations of the cards. For instance, each suit is associated with an element, Wands with Fire, Cups with Water, Swords with Air and Pentacles with Earth. Each element symbolically represents a plane of being, Fire representing the spiritual realm, Cups the mental realm, Air the astral realm, and Earth the physical realm. These elements also correspond to the Tetragrammaton, the four letters of the name of God that many know as Yahweh or Jehovah.
WANDS          CUPS          SWORDS          PENTACLES
Fire                  Water          Air                      Earth
Spiritual          Mental         Astral                  Physical
Yod                  Heh            Vau                     Heh
Moreover, each Major Arcana trump in relation to the Tree of Life represents either the energies of a planet, a sign of the zodiac, or an element. Perhaps because the symbols in the trumps seem more archetypal and mysterious, people often focus on the powers of the Major Arcana and ignore the Minor Arcana cards, which on the surface appear more mundane. Hidden within each Minor Arcana number card, however, are archetypal powers corresponding in various ways with the Tree of Life. These hidden correspondences are the basis for the first level of the game.
Review the location and symbolic correspondences of each path.
The Golden Dawn, an important esoteric order of the late nineteenth century, was instrumental in revealing many of the symbolic correspondences of the Tarot. In the system of Golden Dawn correspondences, each number card from the Twos to the Tens is assigned ten degrees of the zodiac, called a decan, each of which is ruled by a planet.
Each of the number cards is also associated with one of the ten sephiroth (spheres) of the Tree of Life. For instance, the Aces, described as the roots of the powers of the elements, are all assigned to Kether, the first sphere on the Tree, the Twos to Chokmah, the second sphere, the Threes to Binah, the third sphere, and so on, following the "Path of Lightning" down to the Tens in Malkuth, the tenth sphere.
The meaning of each Minor Arcana number card is derived partly from the element of its suit and from the combined planet and zodiac sign of its decan. For instance, the Nine of Pentacles, also known as the “Lord of Material Gain,” is associated with Venus in Virgo. These symbols, which represent types of cosmic energy, correspond to the Tree of Life in various ways. In other words, Venus is symbolically associated with the Major Arcana card The Empress, path III, as well as with the seventh sphere of the Tree, Netzach, and Virgo corresponds to The Hermit, path IX. If the player draws the Nine of Pentacles, the player can claim or take one of these territories: either sphere seven or path III, or path IX.
Learn more about the decan associations of the number cards.
The majority of the Major Arcana trumps picture Gods in human, angelic, or sphinx-like forms.
The Minor Arcana number cards, on the other hand, picture humans who contain god-like potentials. In the game Paths and Thrones, the number-card figures become allies with the Gods in the trumps in order to help the player complete a journey up the Tree of Life.
The allies of the Minor Arcana cards have astrological correspondences that link them with the trumps. The basic premise of the game resembles the esoteric practice of "Taking on the God-form": Symbolically, when a player links a number card “ally” with a God represented by a trump, the number card ally and the God join forces. When the God of the trump combines with the human ally of the number card due to the correspondences, the ally grows stronger and can rule a sphere or path. The ally in the number card, in other words, becomes God-like, and the player can now either claim territory on the Tree of Life or take territory from an opponent. The goal of the game is to be the first to create a continuous route of territories, consisting of paths and spheres, starting with the bottom sphere and progressing to the top sphere.
PLAYING THE GAME
The two players or teams each work with a separate deck. The players first take each deck and divide the twenty-two trumps from the number cards and court cards and shuffle both sets of cards, placing them side by side. When it is a player’s turn, he or she lays out the trumps on the top five spheres, forming a star, or pentagram. Then the player lays out the shuffled number cards and court cards below the pentagram, starting with a card in the center sphere (Tiphareth) and continuing down to the bottom sphere (Malkuth).
If the player finds a correspondence between a number card’s decan astrological associations and a trump’s astrological association, the player symbolically “invokes” the God represented by the trump. The ally in the number card and the God in the trump join forces, and since the ally in the number card becomes god-like, together the trump and the number card can rule a territory, either a path or a sphere. In other words, players can either claim territory or take territory from an opponent.
The players claim territories with their game tokens, keeping the trumps and number cards used to claim territory in a separate pile. Players do not need to establish territories in consecutive order.
When a player or team can no longer find correspondences between the trumps and the number cards, the player removes the remaining cards from the game board and places them in the “reuse” pile. Then the other player or team can play, following the same process.
When a player takes another turn, the player draws from the top of the deck of unused cards, from the remaining Major Arcana trump "deck" to build a new pentagram, and from the Minor Arcana deck to finish laying out cards on the bottom half of the Tree. If the player runs out of cards at any point, the player can shuffle the cards in the “reuse” pile and continue from there. However, a player cannot play again any card that has been used to claim territory.
See an example from a game.
The Kings and Queens of the court cards are already God-like--literally treated as “superhuman,” which has been true of royalty throughout most of history. Their thrones and crowns suggest not only their power but their significance as representatives of God on earth and their magnificence as spiritual beings. This spiritual magnificence rarely existed within real kings and queens, of course; the Tarot, however, is suggesting that each person has the potential for personal dominion and spiritual magnificence. In fact, on the Tree of Life the Kings are assigned to the second sphere known as Chokmah, and the Queens are assigned to the third sphere known as Binah. These two spheres are positioned just below the top sphere known as Kether, the Crown. The Knights (sometimes known as Princes) are positioned in the sixth sphere, and the Pages (sometimes known as Princesses) are positioned in the tenth sphere.
In the game, the Kings can take the second sphere, Chokmah; the Queens can take the third sphere, Binah; the Knights can take the sixth sphere, Tiphareth; and the Pages can take the tenth sphere, Malkuth. The Kings, Queens and Knights can also take paths represented by cards with an elemental association, in other words Judgement (representing Fire), The Hanged Man (representing Water), and The Fool (representing Air). Kings represent Fire, so only Kings can take the path represented by the card Judgement. Queens represent Water, so only Queens can take the path represented by the card The Hanged Man. Knights represent Air, so only Knights can take the path represented by The Fool. Since the element of Earth is represented by the tenth sphere, Malkuth, not by any connecting path, the Pages can only take the tenth sphere.
The first player to establish a continuous path from the bottom of the Tree to the top is the winner. Since archetypal elements of the hero’s journey exist in each game, the players can examine which elements surfaced during the game after it is over. It is possible that the cards have personal signicance for each player.
Take a journey through the Experimental Range of the Tarot.
The Basics of the Pentagram Spread.
Meanings of the cards.
The Hero's Journey.
Begin a journey up the Tree of Life.