For the Minor Arcana, I chose the Nine of Wands which depicts order and chaos as a unified whole. This card shows an African chieftain solving a problem with the help of an African dragon. This dragon has ignited a controlled fire for the chieftain to use in divining for an answer. Toraldo writes, “The warrior discovers the truth in the fire supplied by the dragon”. (One of the traditional Tarot meanings for the Nine of Wands is “developing strength through self-awareness.”)
Toraldo describes his version of African dragons as “descending into black Africa, we have representations of large lizards that embody the great force of nature.” The Nine of Wands demonstrates how that great force of nature can work in harmony with humankind. The Nine of Wands presents order and chaos at rest with each other, which fits more with my view of dragons.
These two cards, Justice (XI) and Nine of Wands, present the many facets of dragons, both as destructive forces and as benevolent forces. These cards demonstrate that dragons are not to be trifled with, and must be approached with caution. As Toraldo indicates, they are a force of nature.
As I have already indicated, much of the artwork of this deck was disturbing to me. I do not know whether it was because of the conflict between my sensibilities and the authors’ European sensibilities. I did not appreciate the depictions of many naked women but few naked men. Perhaps, I am too politically correct in my thinking, but I also noticed the lack of clothing in the illustrations for Africans and Native Americans also. I think that my feeling of distaste stems from Toraldo’s reference to “black Africa” instead of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Native Americans as “red-skinned populations.” Since he regards dragons to represent the conflict between the male and female principles, I do understand that the naked females are representing the “yin” ideals. However, it is jarring to me to see naked Queens of the Court Cards cavort with dragons, whilst the fully clothed and enthroned Kings sit sedately with their dragon allies.
Furthermore, I am sensitive to the violence that is depicted in some form on many of the cards. For example, The Lovers (VI) of the Major Arcana depicts the Norse legend of Sigurd and the Dragon Fafnir of the Volsunga Saga. Sigurd is bathing in the dead dragon’s blood. Meanwhile, the Eight of Chalices shows two dragons in deadly combat, and Seven of Chalices depicts an attempted rape. I found the illustrations of this deck to be too extreme to gain much meaning in any of my readings.