the NachtKabarett

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All Writing & Content © Nick Kushner Unless Noted Otherwise
In collaboration with Gilles R. Maurice

"Death is policeman / Death is the priest / Death is the stereo / Death is a TV
Death is the Tarot / Death is an angel and / Death is our God / killing us all"
Marilyn Manson, In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death

The Tarot is a centuries old form of divination. Often misconstrued as being used for the purpose of foreseeing the future, the Tarot can in a sense foretell the future but only inasmuch as revealing to the reader one's state of being at present and only thereby can be derived the path one is undertaking, as told by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a lifelong Tarot scholar and master. The method by which this is revealed is told by the order and formation the cards appear which the reader has divined upon.

Within this article, the symbology, significances and representations of each of the cards which Manson has reinterpreted will be discussed, both throughout their existence in the history of the Tarot as well as the significance of the additional elements which Manson has inserted within his deck, and what they are representative of, including their order and why Manson has placed them as such.


The Tarot in Holy Wood The Hierophant Antichrist Svperstar Wheel of Fortune A. Jodorowsky


It is believed that the Tarot has progressively evolved from what are today modern day playing cards, and vice versa depending on the source. The cards of the Tarot are separated into four suites just as regular playing cards but the most evident difference is that the Tarot contains 22 additional cards, the latter of which is known as the Major Arcana and the former as the Minor Arcana. The assignment of our suites of cards, instead of Clubs, Hearts, Spades and Diamonds, The Tarot consists of Swords, Pentacles, Chalices and Sceptres or Wands. Also within both sets of cards there are court cards, in The Tarot however there are Kings, Queens and Knights and Pages, one extra than ordinary playing cards just as there are 14 cards in each suite as opposed to the regular 13. Differentiatingly present in contrast are twenty-two character cards, or Trump cards, ten of which Manson has redesigned and utilized within the artwork of Holy Wood, many of which are radically reinterpreted with some being completely inverted from their historical bases for symbolic purposes outlined below. Additionally there are five ways to interpret each card, a methodology of which is applied to all variations in reading The Tarot: (hidden) graphic structure, individual symbols, distribution of colors, traditional associations and finally a distinctive feeling or resonance with each card.

There have been many dozens of various interpretations and rendering of the Tarot throughout history, the most famous and widely used of which is the Arthur Edward Waite deck but others such as Aleister Crowley with his Thoth deck and even most recently H.R. Giger have also reinterpreted the Tarot.

Still frame of the 'Holy Wood' menu from the Lest We Forget DVD.

When dealing with the symbology of the Tarot it is most notably the character Trump cards which are discussed. Each element of these Trump cards contain an underlying and subliminal symbology which range from Hebrew letters hidden and formed by the positioning of interlocking limbs and digits of the figurines to the very elements and objects depicted in the cards themselves which have far deeper significances in the occult, astrology and divination than visible on a surface level. Many of the cards which Manson has reinterpreted, again only ten out of the Major Arcana twenty-two, are symbolic and have correspondences most notably to Saturn, Mercury and Adam Kadmon; all of which are representative of rebirth and transformation.

In relation to Kabbalah, there are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each one of the Trump cards correspond to a Hebrew letter. Each of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet are denoted a numerological value. The relation follows that aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet corresponds to The Magician, numbered as I of the Trump cards and so forth as The Devil card number is XV and corresponds to the Hebrew letter ayin, which is the fifteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Additionally, it is also held by many occult scholars that the four suites of the Tarot each correspond to one of the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.

The Tarot Trump correspondences to the paths on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. For more on many of the Alchemical and
Kabbalistic elements above, refer to the comprehensive ALCHEMY & KABBALAH section on The NACHTKABARETT.

The Tarot tells a story of Man's characteristics in succession of the cards displayed revealing the path to spiritual ascendance from the lowest state to the highest in that very order of progression, cyclical in nature and thus creating a parallel just as the progression of Holy Wood and Antichrist Svperstar.

The visual aspect of 'Holy Wood' almost seems as important as the music itself...

MM: Yes, it's true, because it really forms a whole. The artwork for 'Holy Wood' was made by Paul Brown, who was already responsible for our two previous albums, not counting the live one. We work and decide together, without the intervention of external photographs or designers. Which doesn't mean I'm pretending I've suddenly become a photographer, but simply that our association in this field works well. The artwork of this new album is very symbolic to my eyes, because I started to work on it at the same time than the rest of the album. It's inspired by the tarot and alchemy which I've been studying for ten years. My interest in alchemy had besidesinfiltrated itself already in 'Mechanical Animals' through an indirect way, because when you mix the title's letters you get "Marilyn Manson is an Alchemical Man".

Interview for D-Side, November 2000
Translated from French


The placement of the cards, as outlined above is the key to divining from the Tarot, the order of which is to answer a question divined upon by the holder of the cards, be them warnings, premonitions, expectations, decisions, etc, via the symbology within the cards and their order. Within the Holy Wood artwork however, there is no question that has been asked, only the presentation of an answer via the placement of the cards which must be pieced together through their order and elements within.

Click on the thumbnails above for descriptions of each Major Arcana of the Holy Wood tarot.

The placement of cards is done so specifically and to tell a story of and by Manson. A first evidence of the intentionality of this, for example, if one views the Holy Wood laid out with the Tarot side of the artwork face up, begin folding the artwork in upon itself (leaving the Tarot side face up) by starting from the left most panel by placing the face of The Magician card atop the the face of The Devil card, the photos of the band members will align themselves side-by-side with the Tarot cards depicting them.

Layout of the ten cards of the Major Arcana reinterpreted by Manson within the artwork of Holy Wood,
with the Hanged Man acting as a prelude to the album itself.

In folding the artwork inward in this manner, rolling up the booklet, Manson's photo which wears the monkey fur and Tau cross will appear directly next to the Emperor card, fold again and Ginger Fish's band photo will be present at the right of the Hermit card, and following throughout the rest of the booklet, John 5's photo to the Fool card, M.W. Gacy to the Justice card, Twiggy Ramirez to the High Priestess and lastly the Hierophant card will correspond next to the Death card, the first and last cards within the booklet.

By folding the Holy Wood booklet inward (for example, the Magician folding face down upon the Devil card) the photos of the band will fall to the right of the Tarot Trump cards depicting each band member respectively, until lastly the Death and Hierophant cards, the first and last cards within the Holy Wood booklet are side-by-side.

This artwork correspondence is very similar to Holy Wood's counterpart, Antichrist Svperstar in which words and images are formed by folding the booklet in different positions, only in this case much more esoteric, subtle and, conversely, allegorical.

It should be noted that Holy Wood was intended to represent the first album in the Triptych of Antichrist Svperstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood and thusly the placement of cards can represent the progression of Manson / Adam Kadmon through this Triptych and the fate which would befall him, as the order of a Tarot reading is just that, the telling of a story.


Still frame from 'The Death Parade' documentary, during
the acoustic performance of 'Godeatgod' in New York City.

She tells me I'm a pretty bullet, an imitation Christ
Marilyn Manson, The Love Song

The Hanged Man, though not marked specifically as a card within the album booklet of Holy Wood itself is in fact the first card to appear within Manson's deck, being the cover of the album and the twelfth card of the Major Arcana. The Hanging Man, as it is often titled historically, as well as all cards that follow both traditionally as well as Manson reinterpretation, has many underlying elements and symbolism which play out throughout Holy Wood. It is also one of the most radically revised cards by Manson. Aurthur Edward Waite's version is also titled The Hanged Man and as is evident throughout the rest of Manson's reinterpretation many of his others are also patterned very closely from the Waite deck, as this deck has become the most mass-widely used deck. The most drastic aspect of Manson reinterpretation of the card is the inversion of the hanging itself: the traditional being upside-down and Manson's right-side-up, depicting Christ (for more on this read 'Imitation of Christ' on The NACHTKABARETT). And Manson in this depiction, as Christ, is seen hanging, thus one of the two immediate personal insertions by Manson.

The traditional representation [1] & Manson as The Hanged Man. The traditional, as opposed to Waite's in which he has omitted (like many of his interpretations of the Trumps) several crucially symbolic occult and alchemical elements, such as the parallelism of the hair hanging downward which echoes the shoots of grass on either side growing upward to illustrate transformation; the cyclical nature of life through death which appears in virtually every corner of Holy Wood.
Right; Peter Paul Rubens's Crucifixion, 1620. Note the composition and colors, and how Christ's shadow virtually obscures the cross which tends to disappear.
The ironic part about the cover is that my point has been to say that entertainment is blamed so much for violence, and the image of the crucifix is a very violent image. The actual way that was created my album cover was a combination of a photograph of Christ from a Church (it's not my body), and I incorporated my face into it and turned it into sort of a Renaissance painting, and the fact that they found it to be offensive proves my point. The symbolism of the jaw being removed says a lot about how people with opinions including Christ himself have always been destroyed for what they have to say. The other thing is that there is no cross on the photo, it's merely me hanging in space, "Cruci-fiction In Space" like the title of the song.
Marilyn Manson, interview for Dot Music, 2000
Manson as a jawless Christ rotting on his cross on the album cover, imitating the gruesome, dislocated Christ similarly deteriorated by plague stigmata
on Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece (right, 1516). Manson has quoted that his depiction was styled after a painting of Christ. Behind the numeral XII on the card is the visible INRI, the abbreviated Latin of 'Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jew' which was scrawled upon the original cross of the crucifixion.

"Man is pictured as hanging in space, his isolation reflecting his basic loneliness, and the uncomfortable posture reflecting his own inner torment. [1]" Already we have a parallel to Holy Wood and the Triptych with the recurring theme of loneliness, torment and isolation, particularly in the songs 'Dissassociative' and 'In the Shadow of the Valley of Death' (the title of the song and most significant being the subtitle of Holy Wood), but this time from a spiritual / metaphorical standpoint which is also illustrated with the artwork of Holy Wood.

The Vacuum of Infinite Space Encompassing, as found within the Holy Wood
album artwork, and the subtitle of the closing track 'Count to Six & Die'.

The Hanged Man is also often depicted as smiling or indifferent to pain, as he is not aware of his inner chaos. Manson however, in depicted as the Hanged Man, this is not quite as apparent as Manson's jaw has been removed, on both the front and back of Holy Wood, reflecting the concept of censorship imposed on many artists as well as himself as it was Manson who was in the forefront of the Columbine aftermath witch hunts because of the allegedly dangerous influence he and other forms of entertainment have had upon the youth of America. This as well as the incendiary depiction of Christ caused many retail chains to reject carrying the album altogether else only carry an alternate covered version with the otherwise reverse cover of the album as the frontpiece, of Manson behind the Sigillum Dei Æmeth.

Left; alternate/back cover of Holy Wood, showing Manson in an ecstatic pose with 'Sigillum' halo, and placing emphasis on his absent jaw. Right; still frame from Disposable Teens showing the devoured Manson's amputated tongue on the end of a hook, similarly evoking his flouted freedom of expression after Columbine.

In contrast again to traditional depictions, in the context of the above Manson is however fully aware of the torment encircling him at this time period whereas others, and as depicted in many versions of the Hanged Man where he is often smiling, are not.

The cross, though not physically present in Manson's reinterpretation, is an omnipresent element of the Hanged Man in traditional Tarot decks represented by the posture of the man's legs which form a cross by their intersection. An element which can often and easily goes unnoticed is that in most versions of the Hanged Man the rope which he is hanging from is not actually around his foot only attached in reflection of his limbo of floating in space, just as Manson also is not nailed to the crucifix but is CRUCIFIED IN SPACE as there is no cross present (see 'Cruci-Fiction In Space'). "This is why the rope which connects him to the topmost of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), the horizontal bar is not actually tied to his feet: man is hanging from nothing. [1]"

I am a revelation / and I'm nailed / to the Holy Wood
Marilyn Manson, Cruci-Fiction In Space
Right; Manson rising from the stage and literally crucified in space during the 'Cruci-Fiction In Space' performance of the Guns, God & Government
tour in 2000-2001. Right; 'Christ of Saint John of the Cross' painted by Salvador Dalí in 1951, a possible inspiration for Manson's spectacular performance.

In traditional decks, "on this level of interpretation we may see that the card proclaims that man as an invisible life force is upside down, that human life as it is now being live is somehow unnatural. At the same time, the structure of the card reflects upon the freedom of man to remain in this uncomfortable position, for he is to a certain extent free of the four elements which bind him into the temperal experience. [1]"

Oriental drawing of a Christ-like figure included in the Holy Wood artwork
which perfectly matches the 'Cruci-Fiction In Space' concept.

One of the central themes to Holy Wood as well as the Triptych as a whole is the constantly recurring theme of revolution, evolution and resurrection as the metaphorical transformation. The Hanged Man's inclusion as the album's coverpiece is very apropos as it is representative of this very theme. "On a higher level of interpretation we may regard the Hanging Man as a sublime statement of a cosmic truth, that man must die to be reborn on a higher plane... This deep teaching is favoured with some hope, for the graphics insist on a relationship between the hair of the man, which is depicted as hanging downwards and the few shoots of grass on either side, implying that life may emerge from this 'human death'. [1]" In this sense the Holy Wood cover also perfectly illustrates the subtle Crowleyan allusion to the concept of the 'Dying God' Manson made in 'A Place In The Dirt'.

The underlying principle which the Hanged Man represents, or the path that it outlines is that man has the freedom and mobility to either stay in this uncomfortable, chaotic position else free himself. Manson's reinterpretation reflects this aptly as well, only in a new perspective in relation to Christianity, illustrating himself as the condemned crucifix, that society today can free themselves from the blindness of their own Christian persuasion which they condemn their own selves to. As Manson's version is an inverted depiction it lends to the connotation to the paradox of those who are blind in their own state do actually believe themselves to be right. And it is this theme which Holy Wood both evokes and conversely offers a freedom to the open listener from this psychological prison.


The first card which appears inside the artwork of Holy Wood is the Death card, the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana, which stays unnamed in most decks. Following in the vein with the theme of the Hanged Man in succession, the Death card does not represent actual physical death but instead is symbolic of change and transformation within oneself.

The Death card is representative of Saturn. As opposed to depicting an entire skeleton as in tradition decks, Manson instead is only half existent, his lower half eaten away, yet flesh intact with the spinal column visible, the path and base of Kundalini/Chakra energy. The skeleton is often traditionally depicted as Death in representing that "The skeleton is the part of the body which is most impervious to the assaults of experience and time. The flesh ages and decays, the bone remains. And so the card is an image of the continuity of life and nature, in which death is a part of a cycle of life, death and life renewed. [1]" Themes as depicted by Manson such as the vertebrae of the spine preserved with even after the flesh has rotted away from it. Similar to the traditional Hanged Man (which is the previous card in Holy Wood) which represents the cycle by the stagnant downward hanging hair of the Hanged Man tangential to the grass growing upwards from the base of the image; life evolving from death and regeneration. This idea of life through death is also present on Manson's depiction of you look closely at what looks like the branches of a tree in the background.

This album is filled with allusions to the flies, what do they stand for?

They represent death and decay; they feed upon dead things. But they also represent change. For the album's artwork, I've been using the Tarot's imagery a lot. Some people think that the image of death doesn't mean anything else, but death can represent transformation.

Interview for Rock Sound, November 2000
Translated from French
The Death card from an early deck [1] representing the formation of Saturn by the scythe and the intersection arms, a common mechanism
of hidden imagery in the Tarot which range from symbols such as this to the Hebrew letters which each card corresponds to respectively.

Also traditional within the depiction of the Death card is that Death is often depicted with a scythe, for the purpose of representing Saturn pruning dead matter in the cycle of rebirth and rejuvenation. The position of the scythe along with the intersection of Death's hands holding it form the symbol of Saturn. This of course would not be the first instance of Manson's parallelism to the forces of Saturn, known as the devourer, as evident in the artwork of Holy Wood as well as playing the role of Saturn in the Nobodies video. Though Manson in his reinterpretation is not represented by a skeleton, is not holding a scythe, nor the intersection of his hands aiding the formation of Saturn, it is however residually representative of Saturn as it is the planet which the Death card represents. The scythe in the traditional Tarot representation and its position however is echoed within Manson's interpretation via the subtle semi-circle made by the IV stand as it curved in and to the right on both the top and bottom of the stand.

"The skeletal frame (in Manson's represented suggestively by the IV stand) is in the form of a half circle which represent spirit in a state of tension, the idea being that a crescent on it's back will act like a saucer and hold spiritual energy safely as in the HORNED CRESCENT OF MERCURY, whilst a crescent upside-down, as in a dome, will allow spiritual energies to run away to waste. A crescent standing upright, as in this Thirteenth card (as well as Manson's), is in a state of tension for it may fall either way - it therefore has the potential of spiritual gain or total loss. The graphic structure suggests a pull between good and evil forces. [1]"

Illustration of Saturn utilized within the Holy Wood artwork. Death card from Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck.

"The traditional divinatory interpretation of the card is that Death indicates transformation, unavoidable death, and the Saturnine influence in general. It marks transition above all things, and in particular relates to the 'metaphysical death' which is associated with disillusionment in the sensible world of appearance. Tradition holds that in reverse it indicates such things as moral suicide, opposition to projects arising from external sources, and fatality in general. [1]"

Though the Death card is not of literal destruction certain symbologies within Manson's reinterpretation do in fact allude to death, both literal and as a concept as one might expect. Firstly, atop of Manson's left shoulder is a television screen which plays upon the idea of martyrdom on camera and the Celebritarian ethos which Holy Wood revolves around. This is furthered by the alternate photo of the Death card, shown on the cover of The Fight Song single, with Manson in a slightly altered pose with frame 313 of the notorious Zapruder film's kill shot in the assassination of JFK (For much more on this visit: KENNEDY & KING KILL 33° section of The NACHTKABARETT). The monitor screen in the Holy Wood artwork, differing but in similar theme, a crow is shown on the monitor, also often symbolic of death as well as a bad omen.

The Crow [2], as shown on the TV monitor on Manson's left shoulder, which in Alchemy is symbolic of the first stages of the Alchemist's
journey, withdrawing from the outer work and delving towards his inner space, the dark inner world of the soul.

Within alchemy however, "The Black Crow sometimes also the Raven is the beginning of the great work of soul alchemy. This indicates the initial stages of the alchemist's encounter with his inner space, through withdrawing from the outer world of the senses in meditation, and entering what is initially the dark inner world of the soul. Thus this stage is also described in alchemical texts as the blackening, the nigredo experience, and it is often pictured as a death process, as in the caput mortuum, the deaths head, or as some alchemical illustrations show, the alchemist dying within a flask. Thus in the symbol of the Black Crow we have the stepping out in consciousness from the world of the physical senses the restrictions that bind us to the physical body. [2]"

Thus in this vein the crow and the Death card as second in succession is representative of rebirth, transformation on the embarking of an Odyssey which the Triptych of the three albums will chronicle the parable of.


Next follows the High Priestess, also known as the Female Pope in older decks, second within the Major Arcana and second appearing within the Holy Wood artwork. "The second card, the High Priestess, is meant to represent the passive side of human beings. The first card, the Magician or the Juggler in earlier decks, is male, and in an active posture; the second card is female, and in a passive, contemplative posture. [1]"

The Magician with the High Priestess / Female Pope as reinterpreted by Manson, who are traditionally considered Adam and Eve inverses of each other.
Within this context, it is interesting to note the allegory of Adam creating Eve out of his rib, while Eve subsequently, in the progression of cards I to II
(as illustrated in the High Priestess card) creates a child out of her metaphorical vaginal chest cavity...

The High Priestess, as the inverse complement to the Magician is the Eve to his Adam and in their portrayals in Manson's deck are both represented by the open chest cavity.

Traditional High Priestess [1] card and Waite's High Priestess [4]. Manson most similarly stylized in portrayal after Waite's version through figure positioning as well as the pillars. Waite himself was a Freemason and inserted certain Masonic imagery within his deck. The B and J on the pillars behind her stand for Boaz ('strength') and Jachin ('to establish') which together represent 'Stability'. These are the symbolic representations of the foundation of Freemasonry.

Traditionally behind the High Priestess there are drapes (or wimples) to "suggest horns which represent strength because they are penetrating and receptivity because their outline is like a receptacle. [1]" Within Manson's interpretation of the High Priestess personified by Twiggy Ramirez, the androgyne who would often wear a baby-doll dress onstage, the drapery is replaced (or stylized after the Waite version) by a structure resembling The Baldacchino, a grand sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. This aspect is significant due to an aspect of lore to be discussed shortly.

Left; the Popess as an allegory of the Catholic Church on a 1628 engraving from 'Icones Symbolicae' by Christoforo Giarda, holding the crossed keys of Papacy which also appear on Waite's and Manson's Hierophant cards. Right; St. Peter's Baldacchino in Vatican, the same kind of structure which stands behind Twiggy.

She is depicted in Cardinal garb in a dichotomy of imagery as she is also referred to in cases as the Whore of Babalon.

Protestant anti-papal allegory from a 1545 edition of Luther's bible, depicting Pope Joan
with tiara as the Whore of Babylon riding the seven-headed Beast of Revelation.

The High Priestess, or Female Pope's origin is based upon the story of Pope Joan, the first and only female Pope who rose through the hierarchies of the Catholic Church in disguise and who (varying on accounts) died of childbirth on the steps of St. Peter's, where the sculpture appearing within the card resides. Other accounts claim that she was torn apart limb from limb by the people and at this point it was discovered that their Pope was a woman.

Illustrations of the Woman Pope [1]; The Whore of Babylon and that of Pope Joan, the sacrilage of a Female Pope with a child.
One of the four Apocalyptic nuns/whores in the Personal Jesus video similarly carries a new-born child, soon offered to Manson.

The story of Pope Joan, "according to one version, she was an English girl who fell in love with a monk and dressed as a man to be with him without arousing suspicion. After his death she went to Rome, still disguised as a man, and became a priest. She rose rapidly in the Church, was appointed Cardinal, and in 855 was elected Pope as John VIII. Unfortunately, she was pregnant and died embarrassingly in childbirth on the steps of St. Peter's. [3]"

Noting the elements of Twiggy in the role of the High Priestess, an open chest cavity is most apparent and she is holding a small lifeless figure in her right hand, evocative of childbirth in Cardinal clothes.

Illumination showing the Popess suddenly giving birth to a child
from a 15th century translation of Boccaccio's 'De mulieribus claris'.
Interior back cover of Holy Wood depicting a fetal skeleton upside-down
within its mother. A morbid illustration of life emerging from death.

In decks throughout the centuries the Female Pope's open cloak has symbolically represented the vagina. In the progression of Manson's interpretation, the above parallels and still-born theories coincide with the open-cloak as his variation features an open chest in place of the traditional metaphor.

"Very often this 'spiritual' side is given a real material expression in a reading for a male querent, as it frequently symbolizes a woman with whom he is interested in establishing a relationship, or with whom a relationship is ending : the keynote is disengagement, for it does not relate to a woman with whom he is contemporaneously linked. In a certain sense, the card relates to the 'ideal' or to the 'dream woman', and on this level it is clearly linked with the anima, the female soul mate, for the entire card emphasizes this lunar, feminine side of human duality... The tradition divinatory interpretation of the card is that the Popess indicates intuition, hidden things, and the influence of the moon and Saturn, though the latter is extremely dubious. It indicates silence, the need for silence, a stranger, and 'religious feeling'."

With that said, and with one of the major precepts within both Holy Wood and the Triptych is that of Coma White, the unobtainable entity, the perfection that Manson / Adam pines to grasp. As The High Priestess is the third card and early in the progression it outlines this theme and its precedence throughout the Triptych.


Before the bullets / before the flies
before authorities take out my eyes
Marilyn Manson, Godeatgod

The next card in Manson's progression of the Tarot is the Justice card, numbered 11 within the Tarot Trump order which is also the number of martyrdom in Christian numerology and "'a new beginning' because it is the first of a higher series of numbers, above 10. The card marks the conception of the true self, shown in the impregnation of female, the woman, by male, the sword / gun and scales (as symbolic of the phallus testicles. [3]" This follows in suite with the above theme as the High Priestess, the previous card within Manson's deck depicts birth. If however one reads the cards backwards within Holy Wood, the last card on the page, The Magician (Adam), will flow into Justice (impregnation) and immediately after follows The High Priestess (Eve and birth):


Symbolic of the phallus and testicles
Vagina / Birth / Child / Transformation

As the Justice follows, in Manson's line of interpretation, directly after the High Priestess this follows in suite with a graphical continuation of the traditional interpretation of the High Priestess. As discussed, previously the drapes or wimples which are commonly pictured behind the High Priestess are symbolic of horns, penetration and thereby receptivity. The Justice card, in representing impregnation and the card marking the conception of the true self. Manson's representation of Justice behind a draped, upside-down American flag illustrates the continuation of this precept thus representing a stage in Manson's growth, or annunciation to a higher realm in the transformation allegory told by the order of the cards.

The progression of cards in Manson's reading of the High Priestess (an older Italian rendering [1]) with Justice who follows.
The parallelism of the wimples / draperies behind the cards in this order is symbolic of receptivity and growth.
As the Justice card represents the theme of impregnation, the concept of receptivity follows suite.

In Manson's interpretation, depicting M.W. Gacy as the role of Justice, aside from the the traditional symbolism depicted we see many powerful elements which are representative of Holy Wood and the time period in which it was recorded. Most obviously is the American flag upside-down. Generally this could be taken as shock as in the war Manson waged upon the America which falsely demonized him but in context of the other symbols present it's Justice turned on its head, it's opposite. Holy Wood / Celebritarianism is in part a diatribe and reaction against the persecution which Manson suffered after being scapegoated for the Columbine school shooting, which threatened to destroy his career (and falsely so as the shooters were not even fans) while others threatened to destroy Manson altogether; physically.

Traditional Justice Tarot Card [1] and A.E. Waite's interpretation [4], one of his less altered variations.

Justice is traditionally depicted with a scale, which represents the scales of justice, weighing both worth and guilt. We see on Justice's scales here the weighing balance between the Bible and the brain, as it was Christian America who unjustly blamed Manson for the death's in Colorado. We see Justice as the judge yet we see that the Bible is tilting the scales in its favour; denoting irrationality above logic. However this is done unfairly so as the brain is resting atop Justice's table, preventing it from holding sway with logic unable to prevail in this time of reactionary bloodlust by those who wished retribution for murder regardless of who was truly the culprit. This symbol of Lady Justice is one which adorned the American courtroom, blindfolded to represent unbias and impartiality. In Manson's reinterpretation, a step beyond blindfolded objective eyes, Justice is depicted with her/Pogo's eyes removed. She is unable to see truth from lies, holding a gun as opposed to the traditional sword as representative of the Guns, God & Government which Manson has very aptly described the highest ideals of Our Nation. And lastly representing truth, due process and innocence until proven guilt being outweighed by popular opinion and archaic tradition.

Several representations of Lady Justice/Themis, wearing blindfold and holding the sword and scales.

Following in illustrating a conceptual story within Manson's order of the cards, "besides the rather obvious connotation of Justice with the scales as a symbol of the equilibrium between good and evil, and the retributive nature of the sword, the card points to the serious need for consideration. The matters revealed in the first septenary have shown ordinary man as he is, and then as he might be - man in control of himself and his faculties - and yet this marks only the first stage in his inner development. Man must stop and consider very seriously if he wishes to continue on this path... The presence of this card in a formal pattern for a male querent usually indicates a woman to whom he will be attracted [1]." Again following this parallel themes from the High Priestess to Justice we have in succession another allusion to a woman "to whom he will be attracted," "a woman with whom he is interested in establishing a relationship" is the second allusion in Manson's order in the Holy Wood Tarot to Coma White.

"What the traditional figure of Justice immediately suggests is the principle of 'as a man sows, so shall he reap.' [3]"


Next in is the Fool card, numbered zero as he is a reflection of the self, appearing fifth within Holy Wood. Manson's reinterpretation of the Fool virtually overlaps with the Waite deck, the difference however existing in Manson's version is context; depicting John 5 as the lackadaisical Secret Service agent who, by folly of his own ignorance, allowed Kennedy to be assassinated on the Twenty-Second of November, 1963. Though Waite himself has drastically reinterpreted the Fool card from the traditional versions it is however the basis from which Manson's reinterpretation is a reinterpretation of. Coincidingly central to Holy Wood, "The Fool is sometimes called the Gypsy Vagabound, Adam Kadmon," which several of the Trumps Manson chose to reinterpret are representative of.

The Fool, the A.E. Waite interpretation [4] which Manson's is most similarly styled after.

"When the Fool is placed at the head of the Trumps and they are interpreted as successive stages of human life and progress, he represents the child in the womb, about to fall over the cliff into earthly life in being born. He is simple, pure and innocent, ignorant of the trials and pitfalls that await him... The Fool is humanity, wandering ceaselessly along the primrose path in pursuit of the butterfly of ephemeral values, at the mercy of gnawing animal drives and heedless of the yawning gulf into which he is about to tumble. His multi-colored clothes are the muddled impulses which tug him this way and that, his poverty is spiritual, and the bundle over his shoulders contains gimcrack notions, fads and fancies, the whole range of useless and dangerous gadgetry with which man is obsessed. Or the stick and bundle are phallic and represent the burden of fleshy desire which weighs him down, and the gnawing dog perhaps standing for remorse. [3]"

Traditional representation of The Fool card [1]. Waite's interpretation (which Manson used as the basis of his) differs as
historical depictions shows The Fool wandering but not necessarily in as quite a dire manner or about the walk off a cliff.

Waite's Fool card "is of youthful and epicene appearance. His stick and bundle are masculine but instead of a staff he holds a rose, a female symbol... Seen in this light, the Fool is bisexual or neuter, to show that the ultimate unity combines and transcends male and female, active and passive, and all opposites. [3]"

This is a theme which is very evident within Manson's reinterpretation, though novel in its execution as all themes are present but split and interchanged with Waite's. That is to say, as opposed to Waite's use of one bisexual figure, in Manson's there are two figures, man and woman representing two halves of one whole, though each split from the other and out of reach. The masculine stick, as recurring throughout Manson's deck, is replaced with a rifle. The feminine symbol, the flower, is also present yet unheld by the Fool himself as he only has one true arm. Instead the flowers (roses) are held behind him in the arms of Jackie O. Following in the theme of the female love and attachment which the previous two cards in the series represent in part, this can be interpreted as the Fool (which is representational of the self, and therefore Manson) is not complete without this Love, who will reciprocate and balance what is unbalanced within him. Thus creating a third in succession allusion to Coma White if we interpret the representation of two halves creating a balanced singular together, which is a precept of Alchemy.

This is at least one interpretations which can be concluded in viewing the differences between Waite's and Manson's versions but at base the Fool card is one illustration of one of the central elements of Holy Wood, that being JFK, his assassination and Celebritarianism.

"On his right shoulder the Fool carries a bag which we must assume contains the elementary forms of the Pentacle, Sword, Chalice and Sceptre." This is converse to the following numbered card in the Tarot deck, The Magician, as The Fool carries a bag of treasures the traditional representation of the Magician depicts him standing at a table presenting in view all of the treasures within his bag. "To the Fool these treasures are merely a burden, and their true value is unrecognized. [1]"

The Secret Service agent John 5, wearing sunglasses and carrying a poster of Kennedy hung on his rifle;
obliviously walking toward the abyss and unaware of the importance he plays to the man he must protect.

This representation holds true in Manson's version as well, that instead of the Fool carrying a bag of treasure he is ignorant to, John 5 as the secret service agent carries a rifle from which a campaign poster of JFK hangs from. In many traditional versions The Fool is also shown with either his eyes averted from what is immediately in front of him and in some cases even shielding his eyes with his hands. Instead, John is wearing sunglasses and is oblivious to the poster he is carrying which is representation of the man whom he must protect, but fails because of his lack of vigilance.

The Fool card is undoubtedly the card which contains the most of the elements and themes of Holy Wood illustrated within it. The last operative piece of imagery within it is that of the monkey / chimp, which of course is symbolic of another of the most prevalent themes recurring through Holy Wood, that of evolution / and revolution. "The ape also has an evil connotation, for in Christian imagery it is linked with Satan, who is 'the ape of God', [3]" just as Manson lyricized in 'Disposable Teens'. The ape represents elemental man, his primordial animalistic nature and because nature is inherently violent the ape represents the darker side of man. It is this aspect of evolution which Manson employs throughout Holy Wood, that man is violent by nature, that early man did not need obscene poetry or heavy metal music to incite violence; that it is natural and that the Old Testament itself, where many of these brutal acts of violence took place without the inspiration for entertainment, contains in frequency even more so than today.

Evolution itself is also illustrated and contained within The Fool card, literally, 'The monkey, the man, and then the gun', all present and presiding over one of the most notorious acts of violence ever committed; John F. Kennedy's assassination.

"The unnumbered card of the Major Arcana consists of yet another statement of the condition in which man finds himself on this earth...When this card appears in a formal pattern it usually indicates two possibilities - that the querent should consider what he has (symbolically , look into the bag he carries) and that he should be prepared to set out in a new direction.(1)" Thus the order of this card within Holy Wood marks the stage at which Adam / Manson is incited and inspired to action, but is still at this point unsure of which direction to take in enacting it.


The Hermit is a very important aspect of Manson's deck and particularly where it appears, following the Fool. It is a significant card in it of itself, to Manson then and present as well as the occult, as "other authors have connected him with legendary wise men, including Hermes Trismegistus. [3]" In traditional depictions of the Hermit, he is shown walking toward the left, symbolic of going towards the past. Conversely Ginger, as The Hermit, is shown walking towards the right. Subtle differences in elements such as this are very significant in reading the Tarot as it falls within the subjective nature of each card with the symbolism and graphic structure of each individual card bearing influence on its meaning. In this case most notably, The Hermit is walking towards the right and in contrast to historical depictions this is representative of Manson's journey being undertaken in Holy Wood and the Triptych, being the marking point of Manson moving towards the future, the right, as opposed to the past, the left. This is significant and ties into directly what The Fool is representative of in that The Fool symbolizes within Holy Wood (as noted previously) the stage at "which Adam / Manson is incited and inspired to action, but is still at this point unsure of which direction to take in enacting it." The Hermit as following the Fool illustrates the point in the story in which Manson has begun his Odyssey in a clear, directed manner (be it starting the band, being reborn as Marilyn Manson, etc, is left up to interpretation but it is however representative of the beginning of a new journey or search).

As Manson himself is a contemplative, a necessity of artists and philosophers, the Hermit card can have personal significance in that "a hermit is an obvious symbol of withdrawal, isolation, austerity, purity, and concentration on spiritual things, [3]" which was exactly what Holy Wood (as well as it's counterpart which also the Hermit appears in; Antichrist Svperstar) was intended to reflect.

The Hermit, A.E. Waite's [4] as compared to Manson's. In historical depictions he is shown obsessed with the past and moving backward. Manson's
Hermit reinterpretation is moving forward toward the future; the beginning of a journey which he undertakes in Holy Wood and the Triptych.
Note that both Waite's and Manson's interpretations alternately appear in the Flashcard preview of the song 'Godeatgod'.

As will be discussed later in this article, the Hermit along with the Hierophant are the only two cards of the Tarot which are both represented and alluded to in Holy Wood as well as Antichrist Svperstar (ie - the beginning and the end of the Triptych). It is number nine of the Trump cards and is important as "nine is the number of initiation and is also a number of completeness because it is the last of the basic numbers from one to nine, of which all higher numbers are composed. [3]" Thus this aspect of The Hermit and in its order of appearance in Holy Wood, along with the above paragraph, marks a stage of growth and transformation, being the first of many.

"Emphasis on the past is what concerns the Hermit: perhaps the suggestion is that being an old man, he has little hope for the future, but this thoroughly materialistic view of life is not in accord with the spirit of occultism which sees hope in death. The preoccupation with the past must be what is symbolized by this card: it points to the fact that the past may be a weight which pulls down even the blithest of spirits. In the Italian pack the Hermit actually carries a sack, which emphasizes this sense of the weight of the past. [1]"

Marilyn Manson donning similar attributes in 'The Nobodies' video,
which strangely reminds of Ovid's Metamorphosis.

This holds true, yes, but "the thing for which the Hermit is searching may be determined only from the relationship it holds within the formal pattern. [1]" We also must take into consideration the significance of the alteration of depiction and symbolism within as personalized by Manson. For as the traditional Hermit places his emphasis on the past walking backwards, Manson's reinterpretation is walking forwards. This type of alteration is something which is prevalent in many versions of the deck where when an object or aspect is changed it does not necessarily lose its value but rather reflects the opposite or converse of its traditional meaning.

"(Eliphas) Levi, identifying him as the missing cardinal virtue of prudence, said that his lantern is the light of reason and knowledge, his cloak is the protective mantle of self- possession, and his phallic staff shows that he has the help of the secret and everlasting forces of nature... The Hermit is complete in himself, self possessed and self sufficient. [3]"

The Hermit, as following the Fool within Holy Wood, reflecting the directed furtherance and with motive of that liberation of thought which The Fool symbolizes. The Hermit as shown burning his possessions weighting him down within the previous card; burning the staff which the traditional Hermit using to guide himself pastward, and using it to light his way in moving to the future. "The presence of the card in a formal pattern always points to the need for liberation from some memory, in order that the new, the future, may be embraced. [1]"

We also see that Manson's Hermit also appears to have his left leg either burned off or missing. As will be discussed in the next, Emperor card, the progression of The Fool, The Hermit and to the Emperor are progressively missing limbs. The Fool has a prosthetic left are; The Hermit is burning his false arm to light his way and following in this sequence The Emperor is missing three limbs.

At base and most significantly of The Hermit's representation is that as the six card shown in Holy Wood, thereby the first of the second half of cards, so marks the beginning of the Journey/Odyssey/Revolution of Adam/Manson.


One of the most signature of Manson's Tarot reinterpretations is that of The Emperor. He "represents man as he might be... In a formal pattern the card indicates strong authority, or perhaps a need to consult it. [1]" "The Emperor and Empress represent the adult male and female, the Juggler and the Female Pope who have now grown up to become parents. [3]" At base, The Emperor's appearance in Holy Wood can be taken to represent the first prophetic step in Manson's ascendancy and Will to Power. "The traditional divinatory interpretation of the card is that the Emperor indicates the will, executive strength, material wealth, and the influence of Saturn and Mars, in spite of the Jupiterian force. [1]" Yet unlike many of the other Trumps, The Emperor is unconcerned with spiritual growth but temporal earthly gain. He is seated, concerned with the world and as such indicates a limited mobility.

Most radically altered is the fact that not only is Manson's Emperor seated but he only possesses one limb, thus marking the third card in a row depicting a one-armed reflection of the self with this representation having the addition of two hollow prosthetic legs (following from The Hermit who appears to have a burned and missing leg in additional to his arm), and is confined to a wheelchair. In that sole limb he is holding a rifle which suggests a complete earthly preoccupation, if not obsession. In addition, the wheelchair only allows a two-dimensional movement across the earth plane while his only arm with which he can propel himself is clutching a gun (not to mention evoking both the first and the latter element of 'Guns, God and Government' in this card).

The Emperor holding a rifle with his only limb, with the danger of stagnation by his only extremity clutching a device of low earthly, human nature. He is unable to propel himself because of this and only gives him power of a materialistic nature. The eagle, here emblazoned on his German World War I admiral's helmet (also an element of traditional depiction though in a different manner which subtly implement Manson's numerous evocations of the German military and Nazi imagery) is typically representative of spiritual ascension. In traditional decks the eagle is either depicted on a shield or sitting next to him, with wings pointed downward to suggest spiritual stagnation. We can interpret the eagle with spread, uplifted wings either one of two ways; either it can suggest a spiritualism still present but subdued, symbolic of the need for further spiritual ascendancy; else we can interpret it as the invoking of spiritualism done so for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, ie - 'Taking up arms in the name of God' / 'Guns, God & Government'.


Many versions of The Emperor card depict him bearing a shield engraved with an eagle emblem, else an actual seated eagle, wings pointed downward. "The eagle is 'grounded' - it has been placed on the ground next to the cross of materiality (the Emperor's crossed legs in traditional cards) in order to indicate that spiritual flights are not required at this stage of development. One must concentrate on the conditions around one, with the conditions which life itself offers, if one is to develop inwardly. [1]" Manson's interpretation also contains an eagle, however it is emblazoned on the German World War I admiral's helmet atop his head as opposed to shield.

Also differing from traditional versions is that Manson is holding the rifle with his left hand (a sword or sceptre, as the phallic symbol or fertilization of the spirit, in traditional decks). This type of liberty, as noted earlier, is one which Manson has utilized throughout his Tarot deck and, as also noted earlier, this type of conceptual editorializing is one which many Tarot reinterpretations have done in the past. This type of employ isn't an alteration of meaning necessarily but instead generally the inverse or extrapolation of a symbol's meaning. Manson has reversed several elements throughout his Tarot and the use of the left hand, the path of evil, is one particularly notable, for example within the Devil card and the inside cover of Antichrist Svperstar of Manson in the inverted pose of the Baphomet. Notably in this respect is that The Devil card follows The Emperor, being consistent with many symbols following throughout Manson's chronology.

Variations of the Emperor; early English deck [1] and A.E. Waite's [4].

Much moreso explicit in traditional representations, is that the backside silhouette of the seated Emperor creates the purposeful shape of a crescent." The crescent is half of the circle, which is in itself a symbol for the sun and this besides receptivity suggests the idea of a force requiring completion. The Platonic tradition teaches that no spirit is complete in itself whilst on Earth, and before it may achieve completion must find a corresponding soul which to unite. [1]" So again, the Emperor card (minding that all of these cards were purposefully chose by Manson as well as their order) is yet another card which inherently reflects the concept of the longing for a lost love, the need for one's other half; Coma White.

Following both visually and thematically with Holy Wood and particularly The Love Song, "the Emperor is God as father and maker. [3]" Manson described The Love Song, being the first non-introductory track of Holy Wood, as illustrating the metaphor growing up where the Father is the Gun, the Mother is the Trigger and the Child is the Bullet; shot where his parents aim and into where they inducted him, refraining as 'Do you love your Guns? God? And Government?'. "The Emperor's number is four, which stands for solidity, system, the earth and the form and construction of things. He suggests temporal power, patriarchal authority, government, administration, the imposition of order on chaos, the rule of law in nature and society. He also suggests war, conquest, discipline, and the suppression of hostility and rebellion... The Emperor stands for the dynamic principle, or 'the great energizing forces' which penetrate and organize everything passive and potential. [3]"

The crescent also discussed earlier created by the silhouette of The Emperor's back and legs, similar to the saturnine scythe and arm intersection of the Death card, also creates the symbol of Jupiter; King of the Planet's, another symbol of patriarchal authority. "The force of the Jupiter symbol is to convey the idea of spiritual ascendancy over the cross of materiality. [1]" He is absolute power but immobile, thus illusionary as his power is temporal and does not extend beyond this limited plane of existence which he is currently is resigned to which he must progress beyond.


Next in Holy Wood and fifteenth in the Major Arcana is the Devil card. Importantly it is also under the Zodiac sign of Capricorn, Manson's sign, meaning that the Devil card is Manson's card. The Devil also marks the first card in which we see Manson's body in its true form, without the loss of any limbs or cavities, but with the replacement of a ram's head as a self-portrayal of the Baphomet. Numerology has been an important esoteric inclusion of Manson's since Antichrist Svperstar. The number 15 being most significant, particularly in Mechanical Animals where Manson went so far as the spell his name as 'MAR1LYN MAN5ON' but also within Holy Wood as Manson announced it would be underlyingly so before the release of the album. And as such it can be no small coincidence that we see Manson in full form and in the pose which opened Antichrist Svperstar on card 15 of the Tarot.

Following suite of the Emperor's rifle in his left hand as inversion of traditional representation, two more of Manson's most striking utilizations of inverting elements for the converse meaning in his Devil Tarot card and the inside cover of Antichrist Svperstar. "In certain popular teachings, as indeed in occultism, the right hand suggests activity, the left passivity [1]" and as discussed in our Baphomet page, throughout religious and occult allegorical artwork the right path denotes the virtuous, good whereas the left hand is the darker and fallen path. Thus the raising of the left hand can suggest a dark power prevailing. Right; Eliphas Lévi's "Sabbatic Goat", 1854.

Most applicable to Manson is that "in astrology Capricorn's ruler is Saturn, which has an old reputation as an evil power, linked with the color black and with death, time and fate. [3]" Though Mercury has been the principle power evoked by Manson throughout Holy Wood, as discussed previously, there is also a distinct yet subtle Saturnine theme revolving throughout the album. Saturn being the Devourer in mythology and often associated with Satan, it is an insidious and dark influence which appears within Holy Wood, The Nobodies video, Manson's own personal birth sign, and others. "Capricorn is associated with the knees, and kneeling is a sign of obedience and subjection, suggesting human beings in an inert bondage to circumstances...The card's Hebrew letter ayin, 'eye' implied what is seen with it, the surface appearance of things, and so stands for the error of materialism - mistaking appearances for reality and supposing that nothing exists beyond what is plain to the sense." [3]

Besides implementing the allusions to the sacrificial Lamb Of God during the Holy Wood era, the Devil's wings on Manson's interpretation are an obvious reference to Francis Bacon's "Figure with Meat" (left, 1954), in which the artist transposes the tradition of animal carcasses representations from slaughter houses which dates back to Rembrandt, and integrates in his morbid composition. The symetric halves of a butchered beef are likened to threatening wings raised behind the ecclesiastic figure, himself an expressive rendition of Velasquez' Pope Innocent X. Right; "Bacon with Meat", 1960, photograph by John Deakin.

"The figure of the devil in this card has been identified variously with Pan, Baphomet of the Knights Templars, and Lucifer himself, though it is evident from a study of the images that is meant to represent the lower force, inertia and slavery in everyman. [1]" This is discussed further, as well as the permeating symbolism of The Baphomet throughout history and art in The OCCULT section of The NACHTKABARETT being it a representation of (benign) Occult principles but later demonized by Christianity and its necessity to stamp out other religions not in accord with their highly regimented and contrived ideology. In terms of the Devil card's representation however and probably partially under the historical influence of its insidious connotations, "the image is meant to convey all the lower characteristics and qualities of man, his animal desires, his passivity and his preoccupation with sex, [1]" "he is the power which keeps man imprisoned in materialism and in ignorance of his spiritual potential." [3] Antichrist Svperstar also marks the period of Anton LaVey's heavy philosophical influence in Manson work and which, if one actually reads LaVey's writings, this very lower nature is what is perpetually catered to, never rising beyond the lowest carnal, animalistic instincts and certainly not spiritual. With time context of Manson's first employ of The Devil card as well as the symbolism behind this card, it can in this sense be viewed as representative of this point in Manson's life and his prevailing influences during this period if it is looked at in this manner. Following, "the fifteenth card is meant to symbolize the idea of stagnation which often manifests in material life as a sense of complete frustration, as a total barrier to spiritual freedom, moral development and even physical liberty.... The card represents a period of stagnation, complete frustration and a sense of an insuperable spiritual barrier. [1]"

XV - The Devil Card from the A.E. Waite Tarot deck and Manson's Devil Card. "The strong sexual connotation ...which suggests that man's spirit is off-balance because it pivots on sex- is emphasized by the three distinctive half circles which dominate the card. The curve of the wings contains the breasts and represent the spiritual urge , the wish to fly. The curve of the lower part, marked out by the binding rope or chains, represent the forces which keep man earthbound: this curve contains the iron ring which holds man to the lowest part within himself...and yet remains the dead centre of the card, indicating that the uncontrolled force of sexuality ties man to the devil and prevents him flying. [1]"

Differing from traditional representations is that the two figures which are consistently seen standing on either side of The Devil are two little girls (black and white; opposites) as opposed to a man and a women in the conventional standing in diminutive devil form. "The two figures standing below this image of the Devil... are therefore a further reference to emotions and energies which have either not been developed or are not capable of development. [1]" With this said, Manson's portrayal of children is apropos and quite literally descriptive of their representation of undevelopment. Along with The Love Song, as well as whole of the Triptych (as well as entirely throughout Manson's body of work), a theme explored is that of innocence and impressionability, the negative influences which our society imposes upon them and, in the case of Holy Wood, that negative influence scapegoated as Marilyn Manson, who many have demonized as the Devil himself.

Manson as the Angel of Death in the 'Disposable Teen' video, donning lamb skins in both an evocation of the Lamb Of God and the "sheep clothing" of the biblical false prophets, the exonerating Tau cross on his forehead, and a similar pair of wings, actually a meticulous juxtaposition of meat slices. Note that the Temperance tarot card, which Manson didn't choose to portray in the Holy Wood artwork, traditionally depicts an androgynous red-winged angel.

A major theme in Holy Wood deals with the Fall of Adam, The Fall of Man from Eden, etc. "Several ancient traditions maintain that developed and perfected man - that is man before the fall- had horns and a tail, but it is difficult to link this idea itself, unless we see it as symbolizing the tyranny of the Devil of selfhood over the real, pre-fall and perfect man, who was in perfect four-fold elemental harmony within himself. [1]"

The figure is also wearing a Masonic apron directly borrowed from a poster promoting Léo Taxil's 1886 anti-Masonic hoax.

What may be also seen as fitting of Manson as a representation of The Devil card is that "as a reverse of the Juggler (the early title of The Magician, which should be noted is the next card in Holy Wood), the Devil stands for the application of creative power and intelligence to selfish and wicked ends, [3]" which may be what one might expect of The Antichrist Svperstar but which is also the blame which is continually thrust upon Manson.

"'The formula of this card is then the complete appreciation of all existing things. He rejoices in the rugged and the barren no less than in the smooth and the fertile. All things equally exalt him. He represents the finding of ecstasy in every phenomenon, however naturally repugnant.' Aleister Crowley. [3]"


Finally, within the main layout and one of the most significant to Manson is The Magician card, and very appropriately so given its connotations. After overcoming the growth and stagnation as illustrated within previous cards comes the most drastic transformation thusfar. In old and traditional packs he is known as The Juggler who, being the next card numbered chronologically after The Fool, in older packs is shown standing in front of a table of items lain out. He is "numbered one for God as the One and for the single-mindedness of the human being who in ascent of the Tree has reached this inscrutable height. [3]" This is to represent the converse, or next stage, of The Fool where the valuable items which The Fool is carrying behind him, which he is ignorant of, are now in displayed in full presented view.

"The card is linked with Mercury, Hermes and Thoth, gods of intelligence and magic. Generally seen as a symbol of the creative power, will and intelligence of God and man, of dominance, individuality and action, it is taken to demonstrate the magical principle of 'as above, so below', that as God is in heaven, so man is on earth... Man is a replica of the Almighty in miniature and the ruler of things here below...The conclusion can be drawn that man, made in the image of God, potentially is God: that God is man raised to his highest power... He is the gigantic active and creative potential of God and man."[3]

Early depictions of the Juggler, later renamed The Magician [1].

The opposite of the Fool, the Magician has his items lain out in front of him but is still distracted from looking at them and seeing their significance. Unlike The Fool who is least of all considering or has the realization of his potential, keeping it metaphorically in the darkness of his bag, The Magician has his potential directly in front of him where he has the possibility of either realizing it or not. This, as opposed to not even knowing it exists as is The Fool's fate. In another sense he is also distracted by his occupation because his occupation as The Magician / Juggler is to entertain others. Similarly this is oft Manson's role as also an entertainer, the parallel symbolizing that The Magician, just as Manson, is distracted from spiritual ascension. "It presents mankind as a strangely garbed individual acting to an invisible audience. The card is essentially a commentary on man as an actor of different roles, with little or no identity of his own... The implications are that the Juggler is unaware of the great potential of these things, which he is using merely for his own distraction or to entertain others- just as average man is unaware of the mystery which surrounds him, and which he takes so much for granted. [1]" Subsequently as the entertainer, The Magician is also distracting his audience from their own potentials.

A.E. Waite's interpretation of the Magician [4]: his hands in the Baphometic pose of 'As Above, So Below' with his items which were contained within the previous numbered card, The Fool, laid out in front of him, yet he is still distracted from the items and his own potential. The items presented in this depiction of The Magician are the four suites of the Tarot; pentacles / discs, chalices, swords and wands / staff. His hands are in the formation of the Hebrew aleph (left) evoking the pose of the Baphomet which Manson has employed so frequently. [1]

The Magician is the initiator card, the letter of his card is the Hebrew letter aleph, the first of the Hebrew alphabet, in which traditional depictions of The Magician his hands are in the form of: one hand is pointed upwards whilst the other is pointed downwards. Again we see a presence of opposites both used together. "The circle is both a symbol of eternity and a symbol of the spiritual world - in this card it is being held downwards. The straight line... is a symbol of the material world- but in this picture it is being held up, in the place proper to spiritual forces. [1]" Having the symbols being used in the manner that they are, this suggests "The heavenly forces contain within them a quality of the earth, whilst the material qualities contain always an element of heaven, so that nothing is entirely separated from anything else."[1]

Left; The Young Magician, photography of Aleister Crowley ca. 1900, with a configuration that emulates the Magician tarot card. The setting behind Manson could very well be the purportedly haunted mansion of another Magician, Harry Houdini, in which the album was actually recorded. Right; reappropriation of Waite's Magician card, with the character's face replaced by a Christic portrait of Charles Manson, as a detail from a 1991 Spooky Kids newsletter.
"Fail to see the tragic, turn it into magic..."

"Man with one hand seeks for God in heaven, with the other he plunges below, to call up the demon to himself, and thus unites the divine and the diabolic in humanity... Because the Juggler unites the divine and diabolical, and is shown in the old packs as a trickster, there are sinister possibilities in the card... He can be egotistical, brutal and ruthless, abusing his powers for his own selfish ends. [3]"

"It indicated the idea of reconciling opposites, ...the attempt to bring into harmony the conscious and unconscious - is the purpose behind magic and alchemy. [1]" Within traditional representations, another important symbol being used in the card is the shape of the Juggler's hat; the symbol of eternity, the lemniscate, is displayed (see the above early versions of The Juggler / Magician). Manson as can be seen is playing the idea of a magician by wearing the hat of one. Though the conceptual significance of the traditional Magician's hat brim is in the shape of the number 8 lying on its side originating from the idea of the sun and moon being linked together. Furthermore, "the card suggests a need to pull things together, to organize either himself or his situation and to assess his position in a new way. [1]"

Manson as a Magician holding the bronze serpent coiled around the silver crucifix. "This is also a reference to the story of Moses fastening a bronze serpent to a pole as a cure for snake-bite when the Israelites were crossing the desert towards the Promised Land. According to tradition, the pole was a T-cross, foreshadowing the Crucifixion. 'And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life'. [3]" In Roman iconography the caduceus was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.

Discussion of Manson's Magician card cannot end however without mention of the crucifix he is holding with a snake coiled around it. At face value, this inclusion can be thought of in the sense of the priests being magicians; that is that the people's place their undying faith in them because it is believed that they, and the priests alone, have direct communication with God on their behalf. Yet he is hollow; putting on a front as magicians are generally seen as putting on tricks and illusions, and as such it can be taken as Manson's satire on these "venerated" individuals who have so frequently throughout history abused their powers and have defrauded themselves by their own actions.

"She was the color of TV / her mouth curled under like a metal snake"
Marilyn Manson, Valentine's Day
The New Testament & Church as "Papesse" explaining the Faith to the Old Testament & Synagogue, holding the tablets of the Law,
on an engraving from "Bullarum privilegiorum ac diplomatum Romanorum pontificum" by C. Cocquelines, 1743.
The Crucifixion is portrayed behind the Church, and the Brazen Serpent behind the Synagogue.

However, Manson as The Magician holding a silver crucifix with a snake entwined presents an allusion to very old Biblical and Occult imagery, for there is an allegory of Moses and a serpent which was sent from God as a curse upon the unfaithful Israelites. According to J.S. Downard in King Kill 33, "in alchemy the Killing of the King was symbolized by a crucified snake on a tau cross, a variant of the crucifixion of Jesus," thus the symbol also serves as another subtle reference to Kennedy. This particular symbol is also believed to be the origin of the Dollar sign, which Manson would later adopt as his logo in 2009 as detailed in our article 'Arma...Geddon & Pretty as a ($)'.

From The Secret Symbols of the Dollar Bill by David Ovason:
"The word dollar came to America from Germany. The word dollar is derived from the German taler. The name taler was first given to silver coins made in 1519. This metal was mined in Joachimsthal (Joachim's valley, or thaler), in what was then Bohemia. The obverse of one thaler showed the crucified Christ. On the reverse was the image of a serpent, hanging from a cross.Near the serpent's head are the two letters NU and on the other side of the cross, the number 21. This is a reference to the numbers, Chapter 21, of the bible. In this Chapter, we will learn of the people of Israel who began to speak against God because of their tribulations and because they feared that they would die in the wilderness. As punishment, God sent against them fiery serpents. These bit many of the Israelites, as a result of which a number died. The people of Israel recognized their sin and begged for forgiveness. God instructed Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole. Thereafter, anyone who looked upon that image would be cursed. Moses did as he was ordered and raised a brazen serpent on a pole; all those who gazed upon it lived. It is this healing metal serpent that is shown on the reverse of the thaler. In this image, the pole has become a cross, as the artist wished to draw a parallel between the magical healing power of this brass serpent and the healing power of Christ, who hung upon the cross. It is this origin that has led some historians to claim that the thaler image of the serpent-cross is the origin of the dollar sign." [5]

The Hierophant; known as The Pope in older decks. The last card within the Holy Wood booklet, and conversely the title of the first cycle of Antichrist Svperstar, this acting as yet another representation of transformation of the end flowing into the beginning which is illustrated in innumerable ways throughout both albums including the last songs of both flowing back into the first. "On a deep level the card relates to the morality of instruction, the right and wrong of instruction, as well as the paradox facing all those who wish higher instruction: those who seek inner knowledge (wish, so to speak) to bask in the enlightened Sun) must also carry with them the wish for lower things.. Specifically, the card suggests that we all find the teacher, system, and level of instruction that we deserve. [1]"

"He is generally treated as the twin counterpart of The Emperor... Where The Emperor wields temporal power, the Pope has spiritual authority... He is the 'father' of his people as their guide and confessor. [3]"

Left; A.E. Waite's version of The Hierophant [4] "The Pope's number is five and in modern Tarots he is arranged to form a pentagram or five pointed star, which is a symbol of spirit united with and dominating matter. [3]" Right; alternate version of the card with single-barred candelabra in a Flashcard preview.

The Hierophant means the revealer of sacred things, derived from the original Greek word for such, and as he is the last within Holy Wood we can take this to represent the final stage of transformation; The Antichrist Svperstar. Illustrating this, Manson is here depicted wearing his Antichrist Svperstar serpent eye makeup. "In terms of alchemy the card corresponds to the process called 'projection' in which the Philosopher's Stone, the perfect substance, was mixed with a base metal to turn to gold. [3]" The aims of alchemy, though physical and pseudo-scientific in nature are however completely and underlyingly metaphorical in their utilization. They represent the purification of the physical as microcosm for the ascension of the spiritual. For more of this concept and the facets of alchemy, read further in the ALCHEMY & KABBALAH section of The NACHTKABARETT, specifically my writing on IT IS FINISHED WHEN SEVEN ARE ONE, which this concept coincides with in the meaning of the symbol of the same title within the Holy Wood artwork.

Left; traditional Pope card from the Tarot of Marseilles (note the Templar-like cross on the figure's glove, possibly to reaffirm his religious vocation, and which is enlarged on Manson's garment). Right; Manson performing Antichrist Superstar during the Guns, God and Goverment tour, wearing a similar glove.
A more obvious incarnation as the Pope in the Disposable Teens video, and on the Guns, God and Government tour in the context of his multiple evocations and chantings of Psalm 23. The vision also echoes Manson's inclusion of Pope John Paul II among the Celebritarian figures projected behind him during the same tour, as well as the allusion to Pope Pius in a 2000 interview for Alternative Press which you can read on the Triptych section of The NACHTKABARETT.

In layman's terms, however, and to reiterate, the Hierophant is a representation of a final transformation and fittingly so with the last card of Holy Wood overlapping with the first in Antichrist Svperstar. This making yet another allusion to the constant theme of revolution/evolution and the cyclical existence of being throughout the Triptych; a beginning evolving out of an end.

"The Pope as the card of established religion usually implies that the seeker after truth must look much deeper... In modern packs the Pope's right hand is raised in the blessing called 'the sign of esotericism'.[3]" Manson's blessing is that of right hand raised bearing an eye within his palm we can take to be representative of inner vision, inner knowledge; seeing hidden truth. Traditional Popes are also shown wearing a glove as a sign of his cleanliness,
which Manson is plainly seen to be wearing as well.

We also see a cross of the Knights Templar on his robe, replacing the traditional crosses which Waite's Pope wears (and echoing the symbol present on the Pope's glove in the Tarot of Marseilles), which given history and the Templar's polar opposite renunciation of the Papacy, could suggest a hidden agenda on Manson's part, in plain view yet indecipherable in its esotericism. Else this inclusion can simultaneously be viewed as the, again, alchemical merging of two opposing forces. "On a deep level, of course, the card relates to the morality of instruction, the right and wrong of instruction, as well as the paradox facing all those who wish for higher instruction: those who seek inner knowledge (wish, so to speak, to bask in the enlightening Sun) must also carry with them the wish for lower things (the wish, so to speak, to live in the hypnotic sublunar world of hell). [1]"

As stated, in Traditional decks The Hierophant is known as The Pope. Symbolism illustrating this are the keys which are the seal of the Papacy (left, to compare with Waite) and the candelabra with the extending, three armed Papal cross (right). "The Pope's tiara is phallic and the triple-barred papal cross in his left hand, which can be interpreted as an emblem of the Trinity or of the Supernals, is also regarded as a symbol of the resurrected Osiris. The key of heaven and hell at the foot of his throne stand for the knowledge of good and evil, or for the superconscious and the unconscious. [3]"

Holy Wood closes with The Hierophant, Antichrist Svperstar begins it's first cycle as The Heirophant, with its now infamous altered spelling thereof. In traditional versions of The Hierophant there are two figures seated on either side of The Pope / Hierophant. "The enclosing of two human beings in a square of materiality echoes very clearly the ideas of - conscious and subconscious are now together... The Pope is at once the sun and the moon, casting an influence for good or bad depending upon the altitude of the two people (who are in fact different sides or potentials of one person) kneeling before him. According to the way this dual figure receives the influence of the teacher, the higher potentials will be exploited, or the lower potentials. [1]"

"The Pope is at once the sun and the moon, casting an influence for good or bad depending upon the attitude of the two people (who are in fact, different sides or potentials of one person) kneeling before him. According to the way this dual figure receives the influences of the teacher, the higher (solar) potentials will be exploited, or lower (lunar) potentials. Thus the Pope, seen in sequence is a commentary on the use and abuse of occult or esoteric knowledge. [1]"

Antichrist Svperstar: Manson as the Heirophant, The Pope and the Whore of Babylon.

As discussed in the GROTESK BURLESK article of The NACHTKABARETT for this image's allusion to a pornographic 1930's Weimar Berlin era drawing, this image of Manson dually makes an allusion to The Hierophant card, being it the first cycle of Antichrist Svperstar. Here we see Manson as The Pope, the Whore of Babalon, the obverse opening of Antichrist Svperstar.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
An 1800s Russian engraving depicting the Whore of Babylon holding a golden cup "full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" and riding the seven-headed Beast. In the Personal Jesus video the four "Whores" chasing Manson are seen riding the Horses of Apocalypse instead.

...Hence Twiggy and Pogo's, inebriated state of submission. "Pope's of course are celibate, and there is possibly a Crowleyan pun here on 'infallibility'... The Pope also has some sinister undertones. Gnostics maintained that the evil Demiurge invented conventional religion and morality the keep men enslaved to him by inducing them to worship him and obey his laws. Eliphas Levi pointed out that when the hand is raised in the Pope's 'sign of esotericism' it casts a shadow shaped like the head and horns of the Devil. Without going as far as this, writers interpreting the Pope as the card of established religion usually imply that the seeker after truth must look much deeper. [3]"



Antichrist Svperstar; The Devil and The Heirophant on its front and back inside covers, respectively.

Throughout the recording of Antichrist Svperstar, Manson had revealed his study of such esoteric pursuits such as Kabbalah, numerology and, for purposes here, The Tarot. Though the relations of the following herein are to be prerequisitely taken as interpretative, by viewing the numerals on the obverse cover of the album as representative of The Tarot does follow suite from the card progression in Holy Wood (minding that Holy Wood is the "prequel" to Antichrist Svperstar). Altogether, continuing the representation and album cycle title of The Heirophant, as well as The Devil card / Baphomet on the front inside front cover, six cards are present within Antichrist Svperstar.

With The Heirophant acting as a continuation from Holy Wood, which overlaps to Antichrist Svperstar, the as well paralleled in the artwork, and The Hermit being present in both, all six cards present within the album deal with the omnipresent theme of transformation and, within certain cards here, the presentation of a choice arising, the concept of choosing one's fate, the outcome of which will determine whether the reader (in this case Manson) will either ascend or Fall by his actions.

Following in the continual evocation of subtle imageries:




The first card which corresponds to the numerals is The Hermit, discussed at great length previously, which when it appears in Holy Wood is representative of the beginning of a journey; Manson's Odyssey in a directed manner. The Hermit, A.E. Waite's [4] as compared to Manson's. In historical depictions he is shown obsessed with the past and moving backward. Manson's Hermit reinterpretation is moving forward toward the future; the beginning of a journey which he undertakes in Holy Wood / Antichrist Svperstar and The Triptych. Like Holy Wood, it can again be taken as representative of Manson's contemplative seclusion in recording Antichrist Svperstar, the composition of which begins his Journey.


The Lovers card acts as a continuation of the earlier Hierophant card as the choice which stands before the two aspirants who are kneeling at the feet of The Pope, that being the choice between two opposing forces. The Lovers card when viewed as deeper than a surface level denotes the battle between vice and virtue. Waite's version, depicted above is radically altered from historical versions and shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden directing before The Fall, illustrating the allegory of eating the Forbidden Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge which he is tempted to eat by Eve and The Serpent, or to obey God's command and remain unchallenged by an earthly vice.

In this context of course is directly applicable to Manson and The Triptych as it is a theme which occurs throughout and with the last section of Holy Wood itself being titled The Fall. In traditional depictions however what is shown is a man with two women on either side of him competing for his favour. The woman on the right is young, beautiful (the right being the path of the good), while the woman on the left is older and ugly (the left, as discussed many times, is the path of The Fallen and the evil). The man in the middle is taken to be the querant who must make a decision between these two opposing forces, with the necessity to apply the knowledge he has learned through The Hierophant in the previously numbered Trump card. Hovering above, hidden amongst the clouds is a cupid, often blindfolded, with a drawn bow and arrow. The arrow within a drawn bow ready to be shot is symbolic of sexual union. Though so many different variations of the Tarot Trumps exist is is generally pointed towards the younger and more beautiful of the two women. As can be inferred already, the ugly woman represents vice, the beautiful represents virtue. The dichotomy between the right and left hand path. The arrow pointed in the direction of the beautiful suggests that the man will choose her (the allusion to sexual union of the drawn bow represent the metaphorical marriage and choice of the virtuous path) as directed from divine inspiration above.

The Lovers marks "the attempt to find a unity in plurality which is within himself [1]" as all cards are metaphorically representative of the self.

What is poignant to note however about the concept of The Fall is that there is a dual-sided aspect which presents itself where in the Gnostic tradition the Serpent is viewed as the benevolent servant who enlightens mankind by coaxing him to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, becoming one with God. In this scenario it is "God" who is the malevolence who imprisons man in ignorance. And in this scenario, this "Fall" is in actuality mankind liberating himself from bondage and spiritual confinement.

"When the card appears in a formal pattern it indicates, at an ordinary level, a need for responsible decisions and choice, benign sympathy and desire, the choice usually involved with matters of relationship. On a deeper level the card in linked with the inner struggle of the initiate to find a center balance from which he may make a right decision concerning his future spiritual and physical well being. The traditional divinatory interpretation of the card is that The Lovers indicates a choice and sensitivity as well as the predicament of the human condition, and it is sometimes connected with the battle between sacred and profane love. [1]"

In terms of Antichrist Svperstar and the Triptych this also holds an application, being that it one of Manson's choices which will arise. And in the event of such a proposition whether it will be vice or virtue that he will choose. That is to say, and in relation to the story told within The Triptych, is will determine whether Manson will be true to himself, his following, his mission and revolution or whether he will sell out, taking the easy path of temporal gain and solely earthly desires. And as such the role of this choice is played out and shown through the progression of The Triptych, along with, of course on a surface level, the desire for Coma White.


The Empress' occurrence in The Tarot is the progression of the previous cards, The Magician and The High Priestess, representing the evolutionary outcome thereof. She also acts as a prelude in certain respects to her succeeding card, The Emperor, which both bare certain visual parallels to each other in traditional representations. One of the most significant to note is the traditional depiction of the spread-winged eagle on her shield which as with The Emperor denotes the spiritual power of the aspirant to be ascending.

She is depicted in a garden which is often equated to Paradise or Eden. She is the earth mother and also identified with Isis, Venus and The Virgin Mary who all have given birth after impregnation by immaculate conception, "because in the conception and birth of Christ the divine became finite in being incarnated in a human body. [3]". One aspect befittingly compared to Manson is that The Empress on one level represents the androgyne, "linking the active and passive, or male and female principles in the divine, [3]" the combination of the two sexes which Manson has most readily employed since the beginning.

Traditional variation of The Empress. Manson as a baphometic Mary with crown of stars
in 'The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell' video.

And as she is depicted in Paradise / Eden this is inherently infers the Pre-Fall existence of man and hints at this foreboding descent; as noted many times previous, another theme explored throughout The Triptych.

Following in the same vein as The Lovers and the significance of the number three, The Empress' "number is three, standing for the reconciliation of opposites that produces a new unity. The obvious example in human terms is the union of man and woman which creates a child. In terms of the divine the Empress' pregnancy represent the evolution of the godhead from the infinite to the finite in the creation of the universe. Just as in a child a spark of life is mysteriously contained in flesh, so in the universe at large divine life is mysteriously infused into matter. [3]"

Her starry crown on Waite's depiction is also a reference to "the woman clothed with the sun" of the twelfth chapter of Revelation (which was directly printed on the booklet page above to introduce the song Antichrist Svperstar lyrics), "with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish of delivery. [3]" In the context of alchemy the concept of birth, just as well as the concept of union and marriage, is a metaphorical illustration. Thus being, birth can be equated to transformation (being "born again") or the conceptualizing of Antichrist Svperstar in this context. The Empress, in this respect, can act as the progenesis, actualization or materialism of Manson's Triptych "suggesting the idea of spiritual achievements being the outcome of his chosen course. [1]"


Lastly within this set is VII, the card of The Chariot, which has many principles which are applicable to Antichrist Svperstar. "In the ascent of the Tree, the path of The Chariot is the first which crosses the abyss and the card is always treated as a symbol of triumph, the victory of the soul which has conquered on one plane and now rises higher, [3]" and as victory often implies a preceding war The Chariot is associated with Mars. There are also three figures in most depictions of The Chariot, with which it is associated with the number three (as do the previously two cards; The Empress and Lovers). Three is an important number and one which Manson himself had spoken the significance of during this era. Antichrist Svperstar itself debuted on the Billboard charts on #3 the week it was released. The number three in numerology is associated with perfection and completion, the much more philosophical traditional viewing of it denotes three representing man and woman joined in harmony which creates a child by their union.

Conversely, when taken in a reading of its opposite meaning "The Chariot is also an emblem of death and punishment. Its path lies on the left-hand pillar of the Tree, the punishing side... of the fierce destructive force corresponding to Mars. [3]"

Left; Two traditional depictions of The Chariot. The right depicting The Chariot as a representation of Mars, The God of War.
Right; An engraving illustrating the Age of Horus in a similar configuration, from 'A Garden of Pomegranates' by Israel Regardie.

Also applicable to the concept of fate and transformation is that The Chariot is the card which represents this, that the Charioteer must reign the horses (sphinxes in Waite's depiction) which are in opposing directions and lead them in the direction of his Will. He must remain constantly vigilant because if his mind wanders and the metaphorical forces pulling him are not directed he will be lead into chaos, turmoil and into a disjointed direction, unable to accomplish that which he is riding towards. This meaning any type of goal, in the context of Antichrist Svperstar it can be interpreted that if Manson does not remain in control of his faculties, emotions and the forces surrounding him, he will never be able to rise above where he currently is and transform himself into the Antichrist Svperstar.

Manson's 2001 stage entrance as Nero Caesar on board of a roman chariot pulled by two naked women wearing the heads or horses, from the Guns, God & Government DVD, which perfectly implements the Holy Wood deck though Manson didn't chose to represent this arcana in it.

"The card marks the release from earthly bondage of the adept's true and higher self, in an emotional and spiritual rapture which sets him free to soar beyond the normal limits of human consciousness into a communion with the divine. [3]" It is representative of directing one's Will while remaining resolute and vigilance of that direction which will determine the aspirant's (ie - Manson's) ascent or Fall.



The inside artwork of Antichrist Svperstar also depicting the Tarot numerals as discussed above and the parallelism
of Manson, Twiggy and Pogo as they appear in the Tarot layout in the Holy Wood artwork.

Though this can be taken as highly interpretative, there is something of a synchronicity between the interlocking folding artwork which both Holy Wood and Antichrist Svperstar are compromised of. The formal layout of the cards within Holy Wood begins with Manson as Death, Twiggy Ramirez as The High Priestess and M.W. Gacy as Justice, all respectively in that order. The only band member photos within Antichrist Svperstar and in the main layout are Manson, Twiggy Ramirez and M.W. Gacy, in that order. They being the "core of the band" as Manson described them in the recording of Antichrist Svperstar in his autobiography. These three photos of the band in the album artwork each have a similar visual correspondence to the first three Tarot cards in Holy Wood. Manson as Death for example: in traditional depictions of Death we see him holding scythe in a a downwards cutting manner, while Manson himself is holding what resembles to be a hookah pipe which in motion is reminiscent of the saturnine a scythe of The Death care, Twiggy's resemblance baring a similarity to his hat worn depiction as the High Priestess and Pogo likewise with darkened eyes and dressed in what can be viewed as a Judge's / Justice's suit, in the same order as they appear in the Holy Wood Tarot in similar portrayals:


"When one world ends / something else begins / but without a scream
Just a whisper because we / just start it over again..."
Marilyn Manson, The Fall of Adam
There's a real arc on the record of trying very hard to change the world and realizing you can only change yourself, in the end of the album. And it poses that question with 'Count to Six and Die', which is the sound of what you might see as the end of the world, or the end of yourself. Alike the arcana of the Wheel Of Fortune, because I reinterpreted the tarot and the symbolism in it so often, and the Wheel Of Fortune in this case was a revolver Russian roulette. In the end of the album you hear that, and you never hear the final shot, because it's really about the question of breaking that cycle, you know, making a change. It has a few optimism despite how nihilistic it comes off at times.
Marilyn Manson, interview for Dot Music, 2000
Left; the Pentacle of Mercury, a similar depiction in shape which was to be found in Manson's hidden site during the Holy Wood era.

Though it wasn't represented by Manson, The Wheel of Fortune plays a key role in Holy Wood. This symbol of fate, or end of a cycle, which also bears the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton on Waite's depiction above, materializes under the form of a revolver's cylinder noise introducing 'Count To Six And Die', the last song of the album, which itself echoes the barrel clicks in the beginning of the first track, 'Godeatgod'. In turn, 'Count To Six And Die' introduces the 'Guns, God and Government' tour performances with the same Russian roulette noise, making the cycle or revolution complete, while Manson is later to be seen with a giant rifle pointed at his head :

Left; Manson performing during the Guns, God and Government tour, in a spectacular setting made of assembled Gun Crucifixes, the culmination of Manson's prominent theme of firearms in the Holy Wood artwork and Tarot. Right; "Godeatgod"... An engraving of Ouroboros which introduced during the Holy Wood era, another illustration of the cyclical aspect in Holy Wood and the Triptych. Also visit The Age of Horus on The NACHTKABARETT.


Seeing Manson's numerous allusions to Alejandro Jodorowsky throughout the Triptych and beyond, one cannot evoke the Tarot without mentioning this master, whose lifelong obsession with the tarot and alchemy are made explicit in his film 'The Holy Mountain' :

Still frames from the famous Tarot scene in 'Holy Mountain', 1973.

Alongside with several books, conferences and lessons on the subject, Jodorowsky spent over fifteen years reconstructing the original form of the Tarot de Marseille with Philippe Camoin. The mutual admiration both artists are sustaining resulted in several meetings, punctuated with divinatory readings Manson reported as having an impact on his reflection and creative choices, as witnessed in the following selection of interviews. I understand that you may be working on additional film projects with surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky. How did your relationship form with this cinematic alchemist?

MM: Well, I think it was probably when I was making Antichrist Superstar that I saw Santa Sangre. Shortly after I saw The Holy Mountain. And when I was working on the album Holy Wood, it started initially with a script that I had written that I wanted him to direct in the tradition of holy blood, holy mountain, holy wood. And I picked up a magazine about him one day and there was an interview with him and it said, "I don't ever want to make films in Hollywood again unless it's with Marilyn Manson."

So I contacted him, and we met up. And this was right before Columbine, and there was a lot of forward momentum in regards to Holy Wood, and he and I working together. And Columbine happened, and that really shut down the concept for good for the most part, or at least for the fact that I was far too angry and bitter to ever revisit it. And he and I became very close friends. He's read my tarot often. I've ignored some of the obvious warnings, and I've learned not to regret that.

'Marilyn Manson: Divorcing the Symbol', interview for
August 2, 2007

MNT: You designed a set of tarot cards?

MM: It was never an entire set, unfortunately. I would have liked it to be, but it was more designed to represent the art work for the Holy Wood album. There was such an element that I was fascinated about as a subject matter. But strangely enough, this new record that I’ve made genuinely represents the tarot deck without even really talking about it. There is so much symbolism…. That has become my inner makeup, and way of thinking after years of reading stuff about the tarot and alchemy. I didn’t really have to talk about it. With this new record, I was really just writing stuff down as you would in a diary. When I look back I can see that there is more symbolism related to that than I had intended. It is not something that I do every day; it is something that I learn from. The way that I see signs and coincidences.

MNT: I had a tarot card reading once. It was kind of startling.

MM: That’s the way that it should be. If it is real it is always right. I’ve refused to listen to some warnings in the past and they’ve come back to haunt me. You know, you’re blinded by relationships and you’re warned that it isn’t right. You think that you can outrace destiny or fate. I recently had my tarot cards read by a friend of mine, he told me that this moment … this record was the first time that I have truly defined myself as a person.

'Not-So-Spooky Kid', interview with Miami New Times
July 18, 2007

J: We’ll start with your album which will soon be released and then move on to more personal matters, OK?

M: OK.

J: The title of your album is ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’. Straight away, I think of the symbology of Christ. What happens every day at church? Catholics eat and drink their God. I believe that makes them vampire cannibals...

M: I knew that you’d like that...

J: You, Manson, you are a symbol. You always wear make-up, no-one knows who you are... Christ is a man who became a symbol, you are the opposite. You are a symbol who is in the process of becoming human. When you say ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’, you prove your love for the world. You offer yourself... you are food for the vampire cannibals. That’s what I feel. Talking about you personally: you are a mythology, but back to front. Each new era needs new mythologies...

M: I completely agree. You understood that so much better than anyone... yes.

J: To express ourselves as artists in the world, we can no longer destroy it. It is ourselves that we have to destroy.

M: Why do you say that?

J: At every era, the genii, I’m thinking of people like Arthaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Topor, gave themselves, offered, self-destruction. But this is not a Christ-like destruction. People eat their symbol at church. Your case is different. You offer your flesh and your soul. Are you suffering?

M: Not at the moment, no.

J: However, your album expresses a suffering...

M: Exactly. I was in the process of losing a love, that of my marriage, but I was also in the process of re-finding love with another girl...

J: It’s I who married you, you remember, in the name of the four elements: wind, water, fire and earth. Intelligence, emotion, sex and day-to-day life. I realize that your wife was in love with the symbol of Manson, not with who you really are...

M: It’s exactly what my father told me: she was in love with an idea of me, not with me. For a year, I didn’t know who I was any more. I couldn’t create, or write, nothing, emptiness. I tried to make music, nothing happened. I was alone. She wasn’t there, she was working, building her career. After only 6 months, I had to really search for myself, and that didn’t really happen at the beginning. I didn’t really know who I was.

J: In our subconscious we go away from the vacuum towards form. Thanks to you, this woman took form and you, during this time, went towards the vacuum.

M: That's exactly what happened.

J: What is the definition of alchemy? It's the spiritualization of matter and a materialization of the spirit. What is at the bottom is like what is at the top. A demon is an angel fallen to Earth, an angel is a demon raised to Heaven.

M: enthusiastically See why I like this guy! You really are the only person to understand these things...

A few years ago, every time a kid did something terrible in America, it was Marilyn Manson's fault. Has this changed?

M: It's became like in my personal life. As a human being, I was blamed for everything. Everything was my fault. I became a magnet for bad things in real life as well. A series of only catastrophes happened to me. Nothing good. Certainly during this time, Americans forgot about me a little, but I feel that with this record they will get back on my case. This new project is totally human. People will have to take it seriously. It's even darker this time around.

J: There is a verse in the Kabbala which says "make a rise out of your fall". I listened to your record. You take a dramatic situation and out of it make an alchemy, you record a philosophical album which will give you, behind the image of destruction, one of construction. What state is the world in? It is destroyed. We can no longer attack it, it's impossible. It is ourselves whom we have to attack, not the world.

M: I totally agree.

J: Everyone is a victim at the moment. We, the artists, have nothing more to destroy.

M: I wanted to say one thing with this record and I will say it to you: the Moon is rising.

J: It's very interesting that you say that... because for thousands of years, we have forgotten the Mother deity. We only respect the old male gods. What is happening now, this general state of disaster, is the end result of the Father's domination. With this record, you talk to us about femininity, the Great Goddess who is in you. When I saw you for the first time on TV, I watched you with passion. I said to myself: "What a magnificent freak" laughs. When I see you facing me, I think that you are the only actor I want to direct, as a director.

M: We have a film project together, I want to do it.

J: We still have time, if this unfathomable being which we call God gives me life...

M: I'll be there.

In the 60s, Jodorowsky and the group 'Panic' organized events. It was all about blood, nudity, madness and it was a shocking spectacle. Manson, your shows are done in the same spirit, aren't they?

M: Absolutely, it's what I always wanted. And even more now. All of the show business industry has become normalized, it's mundane, you buy a ticket for a show... myself, however, I believe that you don't know where the show starts, and it will never end. That causes more fear.

OK... Imagine now that you can change one thing about the human body. What would it be?

J: Change the brain. I would create a brain in 4 parts, starting with the 3: reptilian coldness, the emotional white matter and the intellectual cortex which is so enormous that, to fit inside the skull, it has to fold up like an accordion labyrinth. You would have to stop fighting against things of the brain. And I would create a fourth brain of pure telepathic energy.

M: Fantastic! Me, I think it would be good to have two mouths. I don't have time to eat and talk. Two mouths would be useful.

J: Fantastic! (taps the back of his neck) You'd put it there, right?

M: Exactly. You need more mouths to kiss better.

J: When you are alone... what happens? Because you are two people. There is Manson the symbol and a human being as well. There is a famous Manson and a private Manson. How does the private Manson live?

M: When I made this record, I realized a lot of things. Apart from a very close circle of friends, few people know my true self, and it's normal, I never put it into my music... this record is me. Listen to the first songs, it starts with these words: "6am, Christmas morning", and effectively I wrote it on the Christmas morning and sang it that day. I decided that the private Manson would be at the centre of this record.

J: And that is why this album is a lot richer than the ones before! This one, you did with your twin. Your inner twin is starting to express itself...

M: Thank you!

Jodorowsky, Manson, you talk a lot about the Devil, but have you already met him?

M: He is in me, and that could perhaps be my twin. In any case, that's why I wrote 'You, Me And The Devil Makes 3'. If you listen to this song, it's really me talking about myself.

J: The Devil is the Ego. The ego is a box which contains your essential being, infinite and eternal. This box can be open or closed. Take the example of a politician... the true self of the politician stays in the box. Limited. Very quickly, you can suffer because of these limits. Manson does things differently: he opens the box and allows his true self to exit. He allows it to have a voice. This is why my friend Manson pushes the limits. But with this record, Manson breaks these emotional limits. Am I right?

M: You are right. For my new video, I asked for a decor where I found myself literally right inside the heart. I combined that with 'Lolita' and 'Bonnie and Clyde', and it talks of a new love, with a dangerous girl. The girl holds out a dagger to me, she brings me back to life. We go over the edge in a racing car surrounded by a mountain of fire....

J: One day, you will have to take your Manson costume and bury it. Afterwards, you can lock yourself in for a night and a day without make-up, or costume, to find yourself. But is this possible commercially?

M: In the video, I'm not even wearing make-up. I filmed a sex scene in a bed which interests me a lot because it's raining blood on the girl and me. You find yourself truly at the centre of the heart.

J: I think that there'll have to be a Manson video where rats devour your testicles!

M: No, thanks, no rat will devour my testicles laughs.

J: For me, the rat is a vampyric animal, stronger and more intelligent than man. The rat who eats your balls eats your sperm, it's a sacred substance and the rats become chalices. I can envision quite well a video culminating in a pope brandishing with ecstasy a rat filled with Mansonien sperm... that's the video I'm going to make...

M: Wow! I internalize everything. I created my own world.

J: And that's what you have to do. There isn't time to behave like normal people. You have to have the attitude of the old wise man who says "Make construction from destruction". Animals have ways of defending themselves. You can choose to change things, you can choose to save yourself, you can choose to attack. But there is a way of winning against the world, and it's to go into yourself very deeply. I would say that that's exactly what you've done with this record.

Manson, what is your favorite Jodorowsky film?

M: 'The Holy Mountain'.

J: I'm pleased to hear that, I really suffered to make that film! No-one understood anything that I wanted to do. It was a great happiness for me when it finally came out... if my films come out, it's also thanks to you, Manson. You talked about me in your journal and since then, everywhere I go around the world to give conferences or present my films, there is a huge group of gothic kids who come to see me...

M: And it's expected, you are really the only person to say incredible things to us.

J: Very well... goodbye. I will go to your concerts, it's been a good day, I've just interviewed my first rock star!

M: Thanks a lot.

Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marilyn Manson in Rock & Folk, May 2007
Interview under the form of a tarot reading (translated from French)

I met with Jodorowsky in Paris and he read my tarot again. He also identifies with cannibal symbolism and he said to me this record was me trying to be human. It was the opposite of the Christ metaphor where a man became a symbol that people devoured symbolically. I am a symbol that has no human definition that decided to become human by getting married and had no way to define myself. This record became my ascension instead of my fall. He said angels and devils are the same essentially. He told me that this record was the philosopher's stone, which I believe to be true. This is the result of the alchemy that I didn't realize I had to accomplish. This isn't choosing it as a theme; it's living it. You probably need to be blind to these concepts to really accomplish them.

'The Red Carpet Grave', interview for
May 12, 2007

SG: You talk about Twiggy being like a brother. You often hurt the people closest to you. That's what families do, they argue and then they come back together.

MM: Well, you're right about that. The other part of it is, and this was advice that I got from one of my idols, Alejandro Jodorowsky, a director who had great influence on me. He said to me, because he's always read my tarot, and I mistook what he said...I even quoted it a lot of times in interviews, because he read my tarot and he said, "This year you will come together with your twin." I mistook that for the wrong relationship because at the end of the year there was Twiggy. That was what he meant. He even told me that when I saw him again after that. It was my foolishness and my projection, what I wanted to see, and Twiggy is that.

'I've Got Nothing To Lose Now', interview for
December 6, 2009


Sources & references of interest within The TAROT & HOLY WOOD section of The NACHTKABARETT:


S e e   a l s o   o n   T h e   N A C H T K A B A R E T T :

TAROT FLASHCARDS & MASTERBOARD | Along with the song preview websites, from 1999 to 2003 Manson released six flashcard previews from The Last Tour On Earth, Holy Wood & The Golden Age Of Grotesque. Many of these flashcards contain hidden images & symbols which relate to the imagery of each era they are a part of.

Additionally to all Marilyn Manson flashcards offered for download is the Tarot Masterboard which one uses to unlock the codes contained within the cards. History, downloads and further details within.

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