By Melanie Marquis
Teressena and Martien Bakens are quite a pair. On any given day, you might find them wandering through a Mexican jungle on a shamanic journey, leading a goddess gathering from their home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or sharing their tarot deck at events around America. Creators of The Fifth Tarot (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2009), the couple has perfectly melded their talents and creativity into a unique contribution to the world of cartomancy. The Fifth Tarot incorporates a fifth suit, the alchemist’s element, the element of ether. We were curious, so we tracked down Teressena to find out more.
Tarot Reflections: I understand you’re a visionary artist, an intuitive, and a spiritual midwife, and your husband is a counselor, an energy healer, and an aromatherapist. And you two also lead journeys into the Maya lands? What does that entail, and is it spooky?
Teressena Bakens: We actually met in the Maya lands. We studied with Don Miguel Angel Vergara, (a Mayan elder) Jesus Ortiz, (Olmec elder) as well as other day keepers and shamans. For the past ten years we have facilitated group journeys to the Olmeca and Mayan lands of Mexico and Guatemala, performing ceremonies and initiations at sacred sites, caves and waterfalls. Often times we meet in people's homes to share meals and learn about their crafts or medicines. It is always a transformational journey. We have had some profound experiences. Once during a ceremony at night in the middle of the jungle we were accompanied by bats and jaguars. One might call that "spooky," but when you understand the medicine and gift they bring you will only see it as amazing and be grateful for their presence and the experience.
TR: How did you first get the idea to create The Fifth Tarot?
TB: Five years ago, while sitting in meditation, the message came through that I was to create a new tarot deck. At the time, I was not sure of why I was being asked to do so, nor what the significance of the deck would be. Yet, new images of cards started to come in dreams and visions. And so I began to draw what was shown. As the cards progressed, it became clear that this was to be an evolutionary new deck that would be attuned to the Shift of the Ages that we are all experiencing. The next thing to occur came through my husband, Martien. He was given a message that he would be writing the book to accompany the deck. And that the deck was to have a fifth suit to represent the element, ether. And so The Fifth Tarot was conceived.
TR: You mention The Fifth Tarot incorporating a fifth suit into the Minor Arcana. Tell me more about that.
TB: Whereas traditional tarot decks have four suits that correspond to the elements of fire, water, air, and earth, The Fifth Tarot makes a significant contribution to tarot by incorporating a fifth suit to represent the element, ether. Have you ever heard the expression, “He’s not playing with a full deck?”…Well, it may be based in an element of truth. The ancient alchemists worked with all five elements using the five platonic solids that are the building blocks of all life. And one has only to look to the pentacle to see the correlation of the five elements in the five-pointed star. It would seem remiss if the element of ether were not included and have a separate suit in tarot.
TR: How does the function of the ether suit differ from the function of the Major Arcana?
TB: Some people will argue that the Major Arcana represents the element of ether. Yet this may not be so. Each of the Major Arcana already have an element assigned to them. And the Major Arcana hold a different space and significance in tarot than do the suit cards. Thus it seems appropriate for ether to have its own suit.
Ether is prana, chi, the life force. Without ether, there is no life. Whereas, fire represents the creative spirit, water, the emotional body, air, the mental body, and earth, the material plane—ether represents the soul essence. Adding, or restoring, the fifth element, ether, makes for a more complete presentation of working with and mastering the elements through tarot.
The ether suit of The Fifth Tarot is represented by the lotus. The lotus opens with the light of day and closes each night. It unfolds to reveal its inner beauty and closes to go within. Lotuses float on the surface of the water representing how we are adrift in the primordial waters of life and the sea of consciousness. Their roots go deep through the water into the earth. By accessing our subconscious, that knows our divine spark, we are able to open to our soul essence and bloom in the divine light.
The Lotus cards of the ether suit brings forth the gifts that are emerging in the collective consciousness as we move into the fifth dimension – telepathy, clairvoyance, spontaneous healing, bi-location are all aspects we possess as multi-dimensional beings. The suit of Lotuses helps one to access these higher vibrational gifts. The energy of the Lotus cards brings one to their soul essence. Through an expanded sense of awareness we are able to release our finite perception and limited understanding and embrace the infinite I Am presence as a Self-realized soul expressed.
TR: What do you like best about tarot? What do you find most amazing?
TB: I never cease to be amazed at the incredible magic of working with tarot...the amazing perfection of each reading. Martien remembers the first time he had his cards read over 20 years ago when he was still living in The Netherlands. I really can't remember my first experience with tarot. I do remember the first time someone I never met showed up on my doorstep asking for a reading, and I hadn't even told anyone I did readings. We have both been students and readers of tarot for over 16 years.
There are many ways to work with tarot in addition to divination. In our travels we have come across many healers using them in conjunction with Reiki, Crystal Healing and Life Coaching. The cards assist in bringing issues into one's awareness and that creates a great potential for healing.
TR: What's your number one tip for better tarot readings?
TB: Let go of what you think you know and follow your intuition. Coming from the heart, rather than the mind, allows us to get to the heart of the matter.