Friday, 12 December 2014

The major arcana of 1967

A little known work of art by Australian artist Martin Sharp (1942-2013) is the set of 22 tarot cards featured on the rear side of cover of London OZ magazine number 4, June 1967. Whilst the gold, yellow and dayglo pink foldout front cover poster by Nigel Waymouth and Michael English featuring a couple in tantric embrace is well known and has been reprinted, the tarot cards on the rear remain relatively unknown. They only ever appeared in the magazine - which is now rare - and were not included as part of the front cover when it was reprinted by Big O Posters of London. Previous to this blog, the only reference to Sharp's tarot cards located by this author was a brief mention on the Transverse Alchemy blog. Therein 21 of the 22 cards were reproduced, though without any significant discussion.

Martin Sharp was not generally known for revealing an interest in the esoteric or the occult, and apart from the related article on tarot cards which appeared in that specific issue of OZ, only the set of 22 cards is reflective of that interest. Sharp's tarot panorama was printed in black on a gold (bronze) metallic background with dayglo pink and yellow highlighting, similar to the front cover. The 22 cards represent the major arcana of the tarot. Sharp did not draw the minor set of pip cards, which are more commonly known as an ace-high standard deck and would have brought the number of images up to 78. Each of the 22 cards is illustrated and described in detail below, though it should be noted that the digital copies to not reflect the intensity of colour present in the originals, especially in relation to the pink and yellow. This edition of OZ was noted for its spectacularly beautiful front cover, and this is perhaps one of the reason why the tarot cards have been neglected. Associated with each card is descriptive text usually located outside of the border of the card and adjacent. Text in italics is as contained on the original printed artwork.

1. The Magician

Text: The Magician (or Juggler) - Will - Male inquirer, the man who changes things and has power. Will-power.

Image: This image is composed of William Blake's famous watercolour of 1794 God as the Architect, standing in a cloud and leaning down with a ruler / protractor as he works on earth below. In the lower section is an all-seeing eye. The rest of the image comprises psychedelic flourishes by Sharp including swirling lines, clouds and stars.

2. The High Priestess

Text: The High Priestess - Wisdom - Serene, wisdom, knowledge. Woman, a wise woman.

Image: Sharp has featured the fictional character of Mary Poppins in this card as the High Priestess, soaring through the sky with her umbrella, over an engraving of a nineteenth century exhibition building. The sky features a bright pink sun with radiant beams and stars marking Mary Poppin's path from the roof of the building. The words 'the High' are drawn in a manner suggestive of a marijuana cigarette.

3. Empress

Text: The Empress - Action - Action; initiative. Worldly powers which cannot be fought as they are the result of science and will.

Image: This image is of a Middle Eastern princess or empress, perhaps from the Middle Ages, seated on a throne.

4. The Emperor

Text: The Emperor - Realization - Wordly power, wealth or a man with power. Effect.

Image: This collage features a background of an ancient sculptured head, over which is placed a number of distinct and indistinct elements. The face of Timothy Leary features prominently, as does that of a bald headed baby with butterfly wings on its ears and what appears to be a mass of hair floating above it. The ever present all seeing eye appears with a radiant surround. On the bottom left is an elephant like creature.

5. The Pope

Text: The Pope (or the Hierophant) - Mercy - Mercy, beneficence, kindness, goodness, inspiration, wisdom, spiritual growth, good advice.

Image: Two elements feature in this card - the head of a South American native and a medieval religious figure. The native has had three small horns applied to his face and lines radiate out from the skull. The same image was used by Sharp in posters for OZ and a Legalise Cannabis rally.

6. Lovers

Text: The Lovers - Harmony - Love, proof or trials surmounted, wise disposition. A union, not necessarily between lovers, can be a reunion, business association, etc.

Image: This collage repeats the tantric motif which appeared on the reverse (front) side of the poster in the work by Michael English and Nigel Waymouth. Sharp has used an original ancient Indian drawing of a Buddha engaged in sexual congress with a female.

7. The Chariot

Text: The Chariot - Triumph - Triumph, victory of justice or judgement, providential protection. Conflict, two people or influences pulling in different directions.

Image: This two-part image features a copy of a famous 1902 Cook's Tours poster in the upper part, and a psychedelic image entitled The Chariot in the lower.

8. Justice

Text: Justice - Justice - Equilibrium and justice. Balance - it all works out in the end (slightly in the seeker's favour is implied).

Image: A complex, esoteric image, featuring crystals, a glass U-tube with liquid and electrical wires, candles, plus the figure of a seated seer, representing the judge who dispenses justice.

9. The Hermit

Text: The Hermit - Prudence - A withdrawal, going away.

Image: This loose pen drawing by Sharp of a face with a third eye is similar to the Treebeard-like portrait which appeared within and on the cover of OZ magazine number 13. The face comprises a mass of wavy lines.

10. The Wheel of Fortune

Text: The Wheel of Fortune - Fortune - Fortune (good or bad). Destiny. The situation or question is not very important. What goes up comes down; it will even out in the end.

Image: A complex collage reminiscent of the later artwork of Terry Gilliam which featured in the television comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus. A precariously balanced collection of wheels and wires is littered with disembodied heads and an odd assortment of items including an arm, a dog and a medical drill.

11. Strength

Text: Force - Strength - The strongest card in the pack, means that the person has the necessary strength to do the things that he wants to do, that influences are favourable, also implies that he has right on his side.

Image: The collage comprises a background of a semi-naked muscle man indicative of strength overlain with the heads of Andre Breton, and American Indian chief, Oscar Wilde  and Sigmund Freud. Below is the severed head of an ancient demon. An inscription outside the border of this card states: By the one who wears Jacob's coloured coat.

12. The Hanging Man

Text: The Hanged Man - Sacrifice - A threat hanging over the situation or person.

Image: A relatively simple image of a body hanging upside down from a plank of wood between two trees. The body is wrapped in a cloth and at the top, near the head, is a wooden case and beneath is a pool of water. Beneath the hanging is a series of pulleyed wheels which form some sort of contraption.

13. Death

Text: Death - Change - Transformation or change, death. A abrupt and complete ending, not necessarily a death.

Image: This image was later reproduced as a near half-page 2-coloured illustration in the 39th issue of London OZ magazine, published in December 1971.

14. Temperance

Text: Temperance - Combination - Patience, and waiting are necessary and right - if next to a person it may mean by that person or may be general.

Image: .

15. - The Devil

Text: The Devil - Fate - Fate or Fatalists (good or evil). Immense force or illness. Temptation to cause trouble or be destructive. This is a strong card and is a warning that great self control will be needed.

Image: .

16. The Tower of Destruction

Text: The Tower of Destruction - Ruin - Ruin, disruption, deception. End of a dream, destruction of a creative enterprise.

Image: .

17. - The Star

Text: The Star - Hope - A great ambition, an unrealistic dream, wish or enterprise.

Image: .

18. The Moon

Text: The Moon - Danger - Hidden enemies. Danger, twilight, deception, error. A slow but sure growing endeavour.

Image: .

19. - The Sun

Text: The Sun - Material Happiness - Earthly happiness, marriage. Very beneficial influences, the time is right and the thing is right.

Image: .

20. The Judgement

Text: Judgement - Result - Result, renewal, change of position. A wrong will be righted, this implies that someone had been hardly treated, not necessarily the enquirer and the judgement may well not be in their favour.

Image: .

21. - The Fool

Text: The Fool - Folly - Folly, expiation, inconsiderate actions. The unexpected newcomer, the creative person, the changeable.

Image: .

22. The World

Text: The World - Completion - Success, reward. A representation of what you really are and what life is really all about.

Image:A pink Saturn with internal rings, below which is an image of the moon with a Chinese man in front smoking a pipe and standing on top of a mushroom, below which is the head of a horned bull and two other roundish mushrooms.

Comment: The signature of Martin Sharp is included in the border of this card, on the bottom edge.


Charlie, More from OZ: the Martin Sharp tarot, Transverse Alchemy [blog], 15 March 2014, available URL: Accessed 25 August 2015.

Tarot, Wikipedia, available URL: Accessed 13 December 2014.

Michael Organ
16 March 2016