Omar’s Picture Book, Episode #2

This is the second of my episodic attempts to translate the quatrains of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into the visual language of the tarot cards, approximately one card per quatrain. I’m looking for logical transition points in the flow of the text so I can limit these posts to four or five related paragraphs each.


And David’s Lips are lock’t; but in divine
High piping Pehlevi, with «Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!»—the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of her’s to incarnadine.

3 of Cups, “Abundance” (Mercury in Cancer) – the RWS 3 of Cups is perhaps a closer visual approximation of Omar’s indulgent refrain.


Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly—and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

2 of Wands, “Dominion” (Mars in Aries) – this is the first card assigned to the Chaldean zodiac used by the Golden Dawn, which begins with the Vernal Equinox.


And look—a thousand Blossoms with the Day
Woke—and a thousand scatter’d into Clay:
And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

5 of Cups, “Disappointment” (Mars in Scorpio) – although Mars is well-placed in Scorpio, Crowley says of the natural antipathy of Fire and Water: “the anticipated pleasure is frustrated.”


But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper—heed them not.

6 of Swords, “Science” (Mercury in Aquarius) – a nod to the fact that Omar was a philosopher-scientist with a mystical flair, as later quatrains demonstrate. The RWS 6 of Swords suggests a “mental voyage of discovery.” Here Omar begins to reject traditional wisdom and departs for the desert’s edge with his jug of wine, book of verse and beloved companion.

3 thoughts on “Omar’s Picture Book, Episode #2

  1. Hello Parsifal,
    I was wondering if you had ever seen Penelope Kline’s tarot deck, The Mystic Rubaiyat?
    She spent years planning and painting illustrations of the individual quatrains and then later transformed them into the Mystic Rubaiyat deck.

    You can see an interview I did with her where she talks a bit about what is behind her work here:

    The Mystic Rubaiyat is also on our list of decks. You can see that here:

    What an amazing subject for a tarot study.

    Liked by 1 person

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