HOGD Cross

Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

A New Look at an Ancient Land

Over four thousand years ago, the Sumerians built the world's first cities near the floodplains of ancient Mesopotamia, sometimes called  Babylonia. Their sophisticated civilization was so influential that elements of Sumerian culture, including mythology and the system of writing, would survive for millennia. The "Land between the Rivers" was a land that lived and breathed magic, where celestial gods and capricious spirits watched over human activity. According to the author and tarot artist Sandra Tabatha Cicero, the powerful deities and mysterious incantations of ancient Babylonia can be seen as the very root of the Western Magical Tradition. 

The Babylonian Tarot is the only deck ever published on the deities, legends, and magical symbolism of ancient Mesopotamia, the oldest civilization on Earth. Beautifully original in concept and design, this deck remains faithful to tarot tradition. The Babylonian Tarot includes five extra cards—one Trump and four court cards—yet retains the traditional zodiacal, elemental, and planetary associations of modern decks. The companion book included, A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot, gives detailed descriptions of each card, including the deity or spirit depicted and its mythological significance, as well as divinatory interpretations for both upright and reversed positions. This guidebook also contains two new spreads designed specifically for The Babylonian Tarot, and a table of elemental, astrological, and qabalistic correspondences.

Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero


An Excerpt from A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot

8. Strength: Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest pieces of world literature. There are four cuneiform versions of the epic, with the most recent version written on twelve clay tablets in the first millennium b.c.e. The epic centers around Gilgamesh, a mighty Sumerian king of the city of Uruk—who may have been a real person who was deified after his death.



Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

Gilgamesh was the son of the warrior-king Lugalbanda and the wise cow goddess Ninsun. He is said to have built the walls of the city Uruk, and the Eanna (“house of Anu”) temple compound there, dedicated to the goddess Ishtar.  As a demigod who is one-third human and two-thirds divine, Gilgamesh is an unrivaled warrior:


“Supreme over other kings, lordly in appearance,
 he is the hero, born of Uruk, the goring wild bull.
 He walks our in front, the leader,
 and walks at the rear, trusted by his companions.
 Mighty net, protector of his people,
 raging flood-wave who destroys even walls of stone!
 Offspring of Lugalbanda, Gilgamesh is strong to perfection…” [1]


In the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh is a mighty ruler, but one who has a penchant for acting in an arrogant fashion—he harasses young men and sleeps with their brides before marriage. When the people of Uruk pray for help, the goddess Aruru creates a champion for them—Enkidu the wild man—to battle Gilgamesh. After fighting it out, however, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends. They went off on many adventures together, including the killing of the monster Humbaba, guardian of the Cedar Forrest. They also fought and killed the rampaging Bull of Heaven who was sent to destroy the city of Uruk. However, the gods are unhappy with the killing of Humbaba and the Celestial Bull and decide that there is a price to be paid for such actions. They decree that Enkidu must die.


Enkidu dreams of his own death, as the dream predicted, he sickens and dies. Gilgamesh is devastated. He mourns the loss of his friend and becomes obsessed with the nature of life and death. He fears for his own mortality and embarks on a quest to learn the secret of eternal life. Eventually his wanderings lead him to find Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Great Flood, the only human who was ever granted immortality by the gods.  Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh where to find a plant that restores youth. Gilgamesh obtains the plant but then loses it—squandering his only chance to gain eternal youth. At the end of Gilgamesh’s journey, he returns to his city of Uruk. For the first time, he really appreciates the city and its people. He finally accepts his own human mortality, and is at finally at peace with himself, becoming a responsible leader of his people—his legacy will live on through them and through the civilization he created. In his youth the arrogant Gilgamesh was a mighty warrior who fought and vanquished many creatures. But his true strength lay in his ability to grow and learn.


Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero


The last version of the Epic of Gilgamesh added a twelfth and final tablet to the previous eleven. In this tablet, the ghost of Enkidu visits Gilgamesh and describes the Underworld and its inhabitants in detail. This story clearly insinuates that Gilgamesh will die, but he will soon become a god—a judge in the Underworld. In this way he will gain immortality, but only as a god, not as a human being.


Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero


The figure of Gilgamesh occurs more often than any other figure in this deck. Here he is the archetypal hero who goes on a journey of transformation, endurance, and seeking after knowledge. He experiences both victory and sorrow, finds a friend and loses him, rebuffs one deity and prays in fear to another, loses himself and finds himself, and evolves from a selfish thug to a noble and compassionate ruler. In his pursuit of an illusive immortality, he comes to appreciate what he already has, and in the end he becomes immortal by becoming an underworld god. Gilgamesh’s quest to find immortality is analogous to the journey of all spiritual seekers who desire to find the true spark of immortality with exists within us all.  Like Gilgamesh, we are changed for the better by the experiences of the journey within.

[1] Kovacs, M.G. (trans.) The Epic of Gilgamesh, 4.

Babylonian Tarot by Sandra Tabatha Cicero

In the Beginning …
The Creation of the Babylonian Tarot

By: Sandra Tabatha Cicero
First published in Llewellyn's New Worlds of Mind and Spirit (Jan/Feb 2006 issue)

It was back in the summer of 1984 as we were driving though the streets of Savannah, Georgia, when out of the blue, Chic turned to me and said, “You know, you are more Ishtar than Isis.” This got my attention and started me thinking. He was right.

Although my magical interests at that time centered on the powerful gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt — the wise Thoth, the immortal Osiris, the great lady Isis — I had always been fascinated by the legends of Mesopotamia which is Greek for “the land between the rivers.” It was then that I realized that since childhood I clearly remembered dreaming of the votive statues found in ancient Sumerian temples, their hands clasped in devotional poses and their huge eyes opened wide with awe in the presence of their patron deity. It was evident that a connection existed for me there, and I just had to follow it and see where it led.

I knew that Ishtar was the most important goddess in the Babylonian pantheon. A complex goddess of many roles, Ishtar, whose Sumerian name of Inanna meant “lady of heaven,” was the celestial goddess of Venus, the morning and evening star and the goddess of the dualities of love and war. She was predominantly a goddess of brilliance, light and wisdom. This much I already knew, but I wanted to know more. So it was then that I began to study the legends of Mesopotamia, or Babylonia as it is often called. I incorporated the name of the goddess Ishtar into my own magical name, seeking to use her dual aspects of love and war as a symbolic gateway to a Middle Path of balance and equilibrium between these two opposing forces.

Even older than mighty Egypt, Mesopotamia was the original “cradle of civilization” located in the Fertile Crescent valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — an area now occupied by modern-day Iraq and parts of Syria and Turkey. It was in Mesopotamia that the ancient Sumerians built the world’s first cities and composed humanity’s earliest writings. Their culture eventually outlasted them and became the basis for all later Babylonian civilization. The Sumerian way of life, style of writing and religious customs were preserved throughout ancient times by the kingdoms that followed — the Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires. The Sumerian gods and goddesses were also adopted by successive civilizations in the region, and although the names of these deities were often altered, their basic characteristics, personalities and symbolism changed little.

I was captivated by the many elements of Babylonian spiritual belief, religious practice and cosmology that found their way into the Hebrew Scriptures in such legends as the Creation Story and the Great Flood. Many Biblical passages of the “Old Testament” can be traced directly to the more ancient beliefs of the Babylonians, the inheritors of the geographic remnants of Eden. The characteristics of the Hebrew god Yahweh were directly shaped by those of earlier Babylonian sky gods such as Ellil and Marduk, as well as their Canaanite cousin, Baal. Thus the Babylonians had an important influence on the Judeo-Christian traditions that form the foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition.

The Babylonians were an agricultural people who worshipped the natural forces of the universe that ruled the skies and governed the fertility of the earth. It was considered the duty of every person to carry out the gods’ will on earth, implementing a divine order that would secure the prosperity of the land and its people. There were cosmic gods, underworld gods, city gods and gods of nature. It is these most ancient deities and spirits of “the Land between the Rivers” that are the subject of The Babylonian Tarot.

In the spring of 2002, I began work on the cards. As I immersed myself in the literature of ancient Mesopotamia and texts written by a wide array of Assyrian-Babylonian scholars from the 19th and 20th centuries, I grew more and more fascinated with the Babylonian divinities and the men and women who worshipped them ages ago. Unlike the Egyptian gods and goddesses whose stories were preserved on papyrus, the narratives of the Babylonian deities were written on fragile clay tablets in an alien-looking form of writing known as cuneiform. Many of these old tablets have been lost, damaged or destroyed — often making it difficult for scholars to coax the secrets of the earliest-known gods out from the crumbling archives of history into the light of day. Applying these elusive deities to the framework of the tarot became an inspiring quest in its own right.

One of the ways I sought to pay homage to the sheer antiquity of the Babylonian mythos was to add an extra Trump card. Most tarot decks start with Key 0: The Fool — but I needed a card that could portray the very essence of the “Beginning” — as written in world’s oldest recorded Creation Story. The result was the card of Genesis, which represents the birth of the universe — an event lost in the primordial mists of time.

The Babylonian Tarot is the outcome of my personal journey of exploration into ancient Mesopotamian culture, literature and spiritual belief. It is a journey I am happy to be able to share.

Babylonian Tarot
By Sandra Tabatha Cicero

ISBN 0-7387-0716-3

Includes 83-card deck and book

Available from Llewellyn Publications

Sandra Tabatha Cicero- Babylonian Tarot and resources

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