SUBSCRIBE

Tarot Talk

June 1st, 2016

This month, we will turn back to the Major Arcana, and talk about The Empress. We haven’t talked about a Major for a while, so let’s review some terms.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an archetype, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking down The Empress!

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is the number 3 of the Major Arcana cards, and represents the archetype of the Great Mother. The Empress, like the Great Mother, rules women and everything about feminine energy; she protects her own and responds to challenges with authority and leadership, but in a softer (yet quite strong) way. Often The Empress is perceived by male authors of fairy tales as prone to hysteria and drawn to dark powers or plots, and to some extent this can be true of the reversed Empress. But The Empress also can be a benevolent parent, using her authority to protect those who look to her for guidance and love, and seeing her own empowerment as being enhanced by her interactions with others.

The traditional image on The Empress is of a woman at the peak of feminine power dressed in rich robes often decorated with bees, sometimes wearing a crown of stars and often sitting on a throne, usually a full frontal view that tells us she represents all that is recognizable and understandable in the world. Sometimes she is cradling a scepter (often topped by a diamond, the symbol of love and of “as above, so below”) or an ankh and sometimes there is a shield emblazoned with a symbol of motherly nurturing or love at her feet. Often, she is pregnant. She is usually surrounded by green trees, ripe grains, fruits and vegetables, and other symbols of a bountiful and ripe harvest and the fertility to continue the cycle of growth to the next generation. The majority of the symbolism on this card tells of fertility, creativity, and the germination or nurturing of something new. The Empress has access to the transformative powers of Nature that allow her to rule life, as evidenced by her scepter, and that allow her to rule the earth, as evidenced by the grains, fruits and vegetables around her. The bee is a symbol of love within the family, domestic stability, and child rearing, and another reference to “as above, so below.”

The Empress is the number 3 of the Major Arcana; this number represents the creation of something new through a partnership of some kind, or the manifesting or making real of some concept or spark. The number 3 is about playfulness and self-expression, inspiration and imagination, communication and motivation. This number is quite fertile, and it shows us that when the initiating idea, force or thought of the number 1 joins with the germinating energy or fecundity of the number 2, there is fruitfulness and manifestation or action, and an outpouring of energy is created.

The Empress corresponds with the element of Earth, and thus the suit of Diamonds, the color green and the cardinal direction of North. The element of Earth represents the actual physical outcome of our efforts, the cake that is made by gathering ingredients and following a recipe. Earth represents everything physical, all of the processes of Nature, and the things we need to stay alive and healthy; these energies are stable and very slow to change. Earth represents wealth, which brings us not only physical shelter but also mental and emotional pleasure. Earth also offers a spiritual grounding that is very necessary in our day-to-day life. This element represents diligence and an interest in quality rather than quantity; it can also represent greed and avarice, and the lack of the ability to be aware of resources or to access resources. The Empress is also seen as an alchemic Major Arcana card, representing salt and the inactive principles of Nature that must be energized by a catalyst in order to manifest.

In astrology, The Empress corresponds with the planet Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty and physical pleasure are all associated with this Major Arcana card. Venus is a feminine planet, which means its energies are inner and receptive in nature. Venus is associated with feelings and well-being and gentleness, and an appreciation for art, social life, and beauty. In Venus we find the allure, the refinement, and the urge to join with or sympathize or nurture others, that are all found in The Empress. And yes, sex and sexual pleasure are a part of this too. Venus is often seen as being a twin planet to our Earth; it orbits the Sun in 225 days, spending about 18.75 days in each sign of the zodiac. It is the second brightest object in the night sky, the Moon being the brightest.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Empress corresponds with the Hebrew letter Daleth, the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet; this letter corresponds with the door or the womb, and is considered the archetype of physical existence.

On the Tree of Life, The Empress represents Path 14, running between Binah (female receptive energy, the origin of form and structure and the top of the Pillar of Form) and Chokmah (male in the electric sense, dynamic energy, the origin of vital force and polarity and the top of the Pillar of Force). She is the connector or conduit between the two primal forces of Form and Force, and she connects both Wisdom and Understanding, neither of which can function without the other. Path 14 is one of the Paths that merges imagination and reality, and offers us ways to transition the Abyss and pass beyond the Dark Nights of the Soul that are a necessary part of spiritual evolution in order to perceive the Machinery of the Universe.

In the Tarot, The Empress is one half of the Major Arcana representation of the Sacred Feminine (along with The High Priestess), the half that is about creativity, fertility of all kinds, a deep connection to Nature and the nurturing of others, and an enjoyment of the senses. The Empress, who is the mother of Form, tells of Creative Intelligence; she reveals the concepts and hidden knowledge guarded by The High Priestess, and she encourages us to immerse ourselves in the manifestations of the physical world.

The Empress is the sprouting seed, the life force that gives birth to all creation and the vessel that contains that creative process until it is ripe and ready to be born. She manifests her wisdom, power and authority by nurturing and healing both herself and others. She creates rather than destroys and she is able to let go of the need to dominate or control.

The Empress is powerful in part because she perceives her own self, her body, mind and emotions, and she perceives Nature and the world around her; she is able to access those powers by harmonizing with their natural rhythms and through this harmony, she gives birth to new ideas and a better, more healthy and balanced way to live. She encourages us all to get in touch with our physical body and all of its senses in order to perceive the world.

The Empress reversed is certainly able to smother us with her love and become too controlling, and she can nurture others to the point of neglecting herself. She can become emotionally needy, or she can close up her rich and giving heart and become emotionally barren. She can be selfish, and she can focus on being sophisticated or catering to the opinions of others rather than celebrating and embodying her own natural self. The wicked stepmother of fairytales is based on the reversed Empress!

But usually her more positive energies are triumphant. The Empress brings us aspiration and inspiration, freedom, majesty, inner strength, and a hope for a bright future. She reminds us that the healing we need is usually found within us, and communicating with our inner self is the best first step to healing outer challenges. She also reminds us quite firmly that while aspirations and inspirations are important, it is also important to enjoy the many experiences and sensations that are gifted to us through life and through the living of our lives within a physical-world body. To The Empress, this moment, this “now,” is beyond value, and we should enjoy this moment to the fullest extent without harming others and without judging ourselves.

I love comparing cards! This month we will look at the Major Arcana Strength card and then come to understand it even further by comparing it to The Chariot, the card we examined last month. If you haven’t yet read last month’s column, please do so now.

Next, a quick review.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother, The Emperor is The Father, The Hierophant is The Teacher; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have them in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. The Strength card is one of these, as Strength is the archetype of goodness and endurance. Like The Chariot of last month, Strength is about courage and self-discipline; however, Strength has an inner focus that allows us to tame and live with our instincts or animal nature.

The traditional image associated with Strength is a woman and a lion under a blue or golden sky, with the woman appearing calm, gentle and cultured, gazing peacefully at the lion; not a figure typically associated with the ability to dominate a wild beast. Often the woman is clasping the jaws of the lion or petting or combing his mane; on a few versions she is prying open the lion’s mouth. Some cards show the lion sleeping at the woman’s feet, others show the woman riding the lion. Many Strength cards contain a lemniscate, a geometric shape also found on The Magician. There are often flowers, green grass, and mountains in the distance. The lion is a symbol of our passions and instincts and desires, and it is interesting that while The Chariot offers us the Warrior, Strength presents a woman to tame the lion. Here is the first hint that Strength is not about physical strength at all. The woman tames the lion with gentleness and patience; in many images the woman’s left arm (representing mental effort) is exhibiting effort while her right arm (representing physical effort) is merely resting on the lion.

Strength is the number 8 card, which tells us that we have skill to move forward, and the time has come to move, and to follow our instincts. This number represents the concept of a Remedy or a Reaction to the degeneration of the number 7; 8 is the number of building and of destruction that asks us to present a conscious and deliberate response to what has been presented to us to date. In some decks, Strength is switched with Justice and thus is numbered 11. The number 11 reduces to 2, the number of balance, polarity, diplomacy and the energy of “distance between.” This number offers the concept of comparison.

Strength corresponds with the element of Fire. Fire corresponds with the Minor Arcana suit of Wands, playing cards suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South and the color Red. It represents creativity, ideas, ambition, and growth. This element represents seeds being planted and things being born; Fiery energy encourages us to move forward and to take action based on Divine Will rather than our ego-based Self. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. Fire is associated with our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexuality), and can represent enthusiasm and a pull towards being physical or artistic; it can also represent recklessness and apathy, a lack of energy and potential health issues.

In astrology, Strength corresponds with Leo (“I am,” passionate, dramatic, egotistical). The Sun sign of Leo is connected with the Lion, the king of the jungle, and the Lion plays a huge part in the Strength card. Leo also corresponds with our Sun, the center of our solar system; it is a fixed Fire sign. In Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. This means that Leos are powerful and willful in all they do, often achieving more than expected. Of course, they can also be inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Leos are passionate and courageous; they can combine dignity and strength in order to be effective leaders who have a talent for inspiring others to also go above and beyond what is expected. They tend to plunge into a situation without a second glance, but since they thrive on risk and competitive situations, the end result is often good.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe, and they express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. Strength corresponds with the Hebrew letter Teth, the tail or the coiled serpent, the 9th letter in the alphabet which falls into the archetypical level. A coiled serpent has built up its power and is ready to strike; this is seen as a hidden spiritual awareness the release of which creates a reminder of our divine origin.

On the Tree of Life, Strength represents Path 19, running between Geburah (the place where forms and structures are challenged or affirmed) and Chesed (the place where forms and structures are stabilized and nurtured), representing Spiritual Intelligence. The 19th Path tells of the balance between strength and severity, and affection and gentleness. It encourages us to endure the tests and challenges that give us the strength and skill to wield Perfect Love and Trust. The 19th Path is one of the Paths that crosses the Tree of Life horizontally, moving in both directions between the sephiroth and spanning the Pillar of Form/Restriction and the Pillar of Force/Expansion. If you remember, The Chariot is a vertical Path, also originating in Geburah, the center of the Pillar of Form/Restriction, but moving upward into Binah and remaining on this Pillar.

The Chariot tells of having the control necessary to focus on our goals, and to avoid distractions, and it represents the ability to get to where we need to go, perhaps even the ability to get there quickly, rather than walking. Sometimes The Chariot can represent our mind and intellect and the way our feelings can affect them; both our mind and our feelings need to be controlled with a firm hand.

Strength does not tell of physical strength or the use of strong muscles. This is energy without brutality, a feminine strength, irresistible in its gentleness. The Strength card is seen as being connected to The Magician (they both contain that sideways 8, the symbol of eternity), however, The Magician must learn his skills, while the Strength card represents the ideal to be attained and strived for. The lesson The Magician must learn is that gentleness tames violence.

Like The Chariot, the Strength card also represents determination focus and power, however there are differences. The Chariot represents the Will, Strength represents Endurance. Two powerful forces, one with an outer manifestation and one with an inner manifestation. Originally, Strength was called Fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues (the other two are Temperance and Justice). Fortitude tells us that we need to moderate our expectations regarding pain and danger, for while we don’t usually want either of them, they can’t be avoided but rather endured. The Chariot has strength and focus, and is able to direct the forces around him in order to arrive at his chosen destination. Strength adds patience and composure to the mix, taming the unpredictable energies so they no longer present obstacles.

Strength has a powerful yet subtle message for those who seek to understand the energies of this card: it is not holding on that makes us strong, but it is the act of letting go.

This month, we will move back to the Major Arcana, and talk about the Justice card.  Since we haven’t talked about a Major Arcana card in a while, before we begin breaking down Justice, let’s define and describe some terms.  There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, issues that are archetypes which are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives.

 

An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, a personality, a behavior, an object, or a concept that can be copied, patterned, or imitated, and which can be identified universally without the need for a common language. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts:

 

A “stereotype”; in other words, a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative.  For instance, “girls make good cooks” is a stereotype.

 

An “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.  For example, Venus is said to be the epitome of feminine beauty.

 

So basically, archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner.  Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has personally experienced (or will at some point in the future) these archetypes in some form, at some point in our lives.

 

Besides the symbolism in the image of the card, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an archetype, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth.  Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

 

The traditional image on the Justice card is of a woman, sometimes wearing mail or armor, sometimes blindfolded, holding a sword in her right hand and a set of scales in her left hand.  A woman is imaged because a feminine image is often seen as being able to balance mercy with authority.  The armor she sometimes wears symbolizes self-imposed discipline, or the concept of restriction used as a tool of focus and awareness.  When the figure is blindfolded, we are being reminded that the Justice imposed by this card is equal for all.  When the figure is not blindfolded, we are being given an example of Divine Justice, which has full sight and awareness.  The sword held in the right hand (traditionally, the power hand) represents the authority to impose Justice, and to protect and uphold Justice and those being judged.  The scales held in the left hand (traditionally, the receptive hand) represent the weighing and measuring that are a part of the process of judging, and the creation of equilibrium that is the desired end result.

 

The Justice card is numbered 11 in most decks.  The Major Arcana cards settle into a basic cycle of 10 cards (remember, in the Minor Arcana, the Pip or numbered cards also run from Ace to Ten, one cycle of evolution of the suit), with each following cycle expanding on what was learned in the first cycle.  The number 11 reduces to 2, the number of balance, polarity, and the energy of “distance between,” a good description of the meanings of the Justice card!  The number 2 card of the Major Arcana is The High Priestess.  The image on this card is a female authority figure; sound familiar?  The High Priestess represents knowledge of the cause that is behind action and reaction.  The female authority figure of the Justice card weighs both cause and effect in her judgments; she takes the knowledge of The High Priestess to the next level, and manifests it.

 

In some decks, Justice is numbered 8, which also makes sense.  In the Tarot Minor Arcana, the number 8 represents a conscious and deliberate response to the pause and assessment of the 7 card.  That pause represented by the number 7 happens because the growth represented by cards Ace through 6 has begun to slow, and degeneration is approaching.  When Justice is in the number 8 position of the Major Arcana, it tells of the presence of the peak of energy within the first cycle of 10 cards (after meeting such primal characters as The Father, The Mother, The Priest and The Lovers), and warns us that degeneration is approaching and thus, we must weigh what has been done so far in order to effectively implement our decision as to what comes next.  We are asked to present a conscious and deliberate response to what has been presented to us to date.

 

The archetype of the Justice card is the Judge.  The Judge is the authoritative figure who acts as the giver and the enforcer of laws who reminds us that true fairness takes into account both everything and nothing.  This archetype has the vision to manage the fair distribution of power in whatever form that power takes.  A Judge is a natural mediator, is committed to living within the high standards of justice and wisdom, and always strives to prevent injustice and prejudice.  The Shadow Judge is manipulative, misuses authority, criticizes in a destructive or hurtful manner, and deliberately excludes compassion and mercy from the judgment process.

 

Justice corresponds with the element of Air, and thus is connected to actions, truth and clarity, the intent to manifest potential into reality, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart.  Air is connected to the beliefs we have, and to the expressions of those beliefs.  Air is expansive and adaptive, able to base a final decision on the contributions of multiple information sources, and so can the Justice card.

 

In astrology, Justice corresponds with the sun sign of Libra.  This connection is a no-brainer because the traditional symbol of Libra is a set of scales.  Libras are usually very focused on the people around them, and how they interact with those people.  Libras are true team players, concerned with balance and cooperation, with fairness to everyone.  Libras always put their minds to good use, considering and balancing carefully before choosing a course that brings the highest good to all. Libra is a Cardinal Sign, ready to forge ahead with plans and attract effective supporters, engaging the world in a dynamic way. Because Libra is Cardinal Air, this sign initiates through new ideas, and by being a balancing force among people.

 

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected in some way to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Justice card corresponds with the twelfth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Lamed, the ox goad.  This letter tells of the process of training or teaching/learning, which can often be uncomfortable, and which usually requires a constant awareness of adjustment in order to maintain balance.  It tells of instruction through guidance (rather than through example), and it reminds us that sometimes a strong correction is in order if we veer too far to one direction or another.

 

On the Tree of Life, Justice represents Path 22 (one of the Paths exploring the qualities of higher spirituality), running between Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify) and Geburah (the place where forms and structures are challenged or affirmed).  The 22nd Path connects the Pillar of Form and the Pillar of Balance, and it infuses abstract knowledge into the manifestation of power or authority.

 

We could say that Justice presents one version of balance, a dynamic balance that exists through the process of adjustment.  It tells us that we have a balanced intellect that allows us to deal with difficult decisions and bring about fair and equitable outcomes.  We are able to make adjustments in our life in order to create harmony through the balance between our Higher Self and our daily thought processes.  Justice can also indicate the presence of or potential for interactions within the legal or justice system, the police department, or any authority figure responsible for maintaining law and order.

 

The Llewellyn Welsh Justice card tells of remaining impartial and well-centered in order to bring about fair judgment.  The Legacy of the Divine Justice card reminds us that we each perceive what Justice means to us through our personal life experiences, and we must remember that those personal experiences could influence us in a non-objective manner.  The Thoth Tarot names this card “Adjustment,” because balance happens through dynamic adjustment; it also reminds us that the correction of an imbalance may require the imposition of law.  The Hermetic Tarot reminds us that good intentions must be infused with the use of strength or authority.  The Tarot of the Sephiroth recommends informed decision making, and tells us that we will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of our decisions.

 

Justice in a reversed or ill-dignified position can indicate injustice, prejudice, or the unethical imposition of authority.  Intolerance or bias, or even false accusations, could be present within a situation.  A reversed Justice card could indicate weaknesses in the personality, such as deceitfulness, superficiality, or an inability to make decisions.

Next time, we will look at the Judgement card, and compare it with Justice in order to better understand the similarities between these two cards, and the differences.

July was a Blue Moon month (in fact, the Blue Moon, the second full moon in a calendar month, was yesterday, the 31st of July), so it is only fitting that we look at the Major Arcana card known as The Moon. We will compare The Moon to last month’s card, The Sun. First, we should quickly define and describe some terms.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down.

The Moon, the eighteenth of the Major Arcana cards, represents the archetype of dreams, instincts, and the anima. Like The Sun, The Moon is a source of illumination, but The Moon presents illumination without heat. The Moon is also seen as the archetype of feelings, emotions, and the mothering principle. The Sun may be about the conscious self, warmth, vitality and ego, but The Moon is about the soul, childhood, home, and family/community/tribe.

The traditional image on The Sun is well-lit and bright, and hints at the masculine, but The Moon is usually more feminine or mysterious in nature. The traditional image usually shows two towers that at first glance appear the same, but upon more detailed consideration exhibit subtle differences. Of course, there is a Moon in the sky, often a Waning Moon, and the face on this moon is either androgynous or feminine. There are usually two canines howling at The Moon, one with short, smooth fur and one with long and more wild fur, representing the concepts of tame and wild. There is usually a body of water in the image, representing the subconscious, often with a lobster or crayfish visible, representing the unconscious mind, and the primordial and primitive (and often unexplained) impulse of life.

The Moon is numbered 18. In numerology, the number 18 tells of tolerance, humanitarianism, the ability to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal, and the ability to perceive the world without judgment. Very different from The Sun, number 19 in the majors, which encourages us to use courage in order to deal with past issues and actively manifest blessings in our lives. The number 18 is also connected to secrets, and thus, to lies.

The Sun corresponds with the element of Fire, which corresponds with the Minor Arcana suit of Wands, playing cards suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South and the color Red, and represents creativity, ideas, ambition, and growth. The Moon corresponds with the element of Water, which is not friendly to Fire at all. Water, which is connected to the suit of Cups, the Hearts of playing cards, the cardinal direction of West, and the color blue, is about emotions and inner manifestations, rather than the outer world. This element represents dreams, divine love, the heart and the subconscious. Water also represents purification and transformation, and being grounded in the heart rather than the intellect. Besides emotions and feelings, the element of Water represents our connections and bonds at many levels. This element can represent a caring and sensitive nature; it can also represent dreaminess and self-delusion, the presence of some emotional trauma, and possibly a refusal to address the hurt associated with that trauma.

The Major Arcana Moon card corresponds with the astrological sign of Pisces. Pisces is a mutable sign, the twelfth sign of the zodiac, and it is also the final sign in the zodiacal cycle. Those born under this sign are selfless, spiritual and very focused on their inner journey. Feelings and emotions define the sign of Pisces, and empathic talents are common among the Pisces-born. This is also a sign of intuition and secrets, and of people who are comfortable in an illusory world (and comfortable jumping between that illusory world and logical reality). The symbol of Pisces is a pair of fish, representing the dual, yin/yang nature of this sign. Pisces is also a sign of the suffering that brings soul growth.

The Moon is an interesting celestial body unto itself, and its traits deserve consideration when contemplating The Moon of the Tarot Majors. The Sun card corresponds with our sun, the star at the center of our solar system around which the planets revolve and which star is necessary for our very existence. The Moon revolves around the Earth rather than the Sun, and is our Earth’s only natural satellite. The Moon is thought to have formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, not long after Earth, most likely formed from the debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized body called Theia. The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth, always showing the same face. It is the second-brightest regularly visible celestial object in Earth’s sky after the Sun, and although it can appear a very bright white, its surface is actually dark. It is prominent in the night sky, and its regular cycle of phases causes it to appear to change shape. The Moon’s gravitational influence produces the ocean tides and the slight lengthening of the day. The Moon’s current orbital distance from the Earth causes it to appear to be the same size as our Sun (which allows the Moon to cover the Sun in a solar eclipse).

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Moon corresponds with the Hebrew letter Quoph, the nineteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, a member of the cosmic group; this letter corresponds with the back of the head, which holds the primitive brain (which keeps the body running even during sleep), or with the eye (or hole) of a sewing needle. Either way, we are talking about darkness, or the Shadow Self, as opposed to The Sun, which represents the front of the head, where the eyes are located, and the ability to see where we are going.

On the Tree of Life, The Moon represents Path 29, running between Malkuth (the physical world of action and physical, outer reality) and Netzach (the stimulating factors of emotion and inspiration). This Path connects the bottom of the Pillar of Force with the root of the Tree of Life, and tells of an energetic connection to all cycles and a perception of just what those cycles are. It allows us to see past the veneer of civilization to the eternal, primordial cycles that support it. The interesting thing here is that on the Tree of Life, the Path of The Sun, the next card in the Majors, represents the scientific discovery that validates the experiential knowledge of The Moon. Here we see another hint of soul growth that occurs during the Dark Night of the Soul, one of the possible meanings for The Moon, and then the illumination and sense of rightness that comes with the survival of that Dark Night found in The Sun.

Imagination can be a creative catalyst, or it can be our downfall; what we believe to be true will most likely manifest itself in the end. The Moon tells of perceptions, and it tells of the falseness of many of those perceptions. Knowledge can either be false or true, and “truth” in the end is really “truth until proven to be false.” Fear is also connected to this card, and fear can easily overcome us. Or, it can make us stronger; after all, we don’t know if we are really courageous unless we experience real fear.

Whether upright or reversed, The Moon maintains its correspondences. It is only our chosen response to the dreams and visions of The Moon that flavors the result as good or bad. Thus, a reversed Moon card can tell us that those dreams and visions won’t blind us to the truth, while an upright Moon card could be telling us that those dreams and visions will distract us.

The Moon and its connection to dreams and the imagination can challenge our customary way of seeing our world, which can be daunting. The light of our Moon creates shadows that are different than those created by the Sun; Moonlight changes the colors we see in our world from the way they appear in the light of day. “Cold hearted orb that rules the night, Removes the colors from our sight. Red is grey and yellow white, But we decide which is right. And which is an illusion.”

Since we are kind of on a Major Arcana roll, let’s look at the card known as Temperance. First, we should quickly define and describe some terms.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother, The Emperor is The Father, The Hierophant is The Teacher; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have them in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. Temperance is one of these cards; it is the archetype of balance, the kind of balance which demonstrates that moderation can be the path to wholeness.

The traditional image on Temperance shows a winged angel, usually with the symbol for the element of Fire (an upright triangle) or a sun on its chest. The angel is standing at the edge of a body of water, with one foot on dry land and the other foot either on the surface of or in the water. The angel holds two cups and is pouring water from one cup to the other, as if mixing the contents. The background usually consists of a sunny sky, sometimes with a few white, fluffy fair weather clouds, a green landscape, sometimes with mountains in the background or flowers at the shore of the lake. Often there is a path running from the shore of the lake toward the distant sun. Variations usually draw on these more traditional images; for instance, sometimes the angel is seated at the shore, body facing away from the viewpoint of the seeker yet looking over one shoulder at the seeker. I’ve even seen a Temperance card that only shows the two cups, with liquid flowing from the higher cup to the lower cup. No matter what the image, the balance of extremes is its message. The image of the cups and the fluid being poured from one to the other also tells us of the immortality of the life essence. The angel of Temperance transfers that essence from one receptacle to another without spilling a single drop. So, too, does our own life essence continue, even after it is transferred from one receptacle to another.

Temperance is numbered 14. This number has a karmic influence, encouraging balance, harmony, temperance and prudence (often through the presentation of challenges or extreme situations to be dealt with or overcome). In the cycles of the moon, there are 14 waxing days and 14 waning days, thus the time of growth is balanced with the time of ebbing effort. Even the Tarot itself is connected to the number 14, for there are 14 Minor Arcana cards for each suit of the Pips. 14 reduces even further to the number 5, which brings the concept of movement to stability; the combination of opposites presented by this number can sometimes be disconcerting or uncomfortable, but the natural next step is balance and harmony.

Temperance corresponds with the element of Fire. Fire corresponds with the Minor Arcana suit of Wands, playing cards suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South and the color Red. It represents creativity, ideas, ambition, and growth. This element represents seeds being planted and things being born; Fiery energy encourages us to move forward and to take action based on Divine Will rather than our ego-based Self. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. Fire is associated with our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexuality), and can represent enthusiasm and a pull towards being physical or artistic; it can also represent recklessness and apathy, a lack of energy and potential health issues.

In astrology, Temperance corresponds with Sagittarius, my own sun sign. Sagittarius, the 9th sign of the zodiac, is often seen as the wanderer, but remember, not all those who wander are lost! Sagittarius is the truth-seeker, the enthusiastic consumer of information who loves knowledge achieved by traveling the world and talking to everyone. Sitting for hours talking of philosophy or religion is heaven to those born under this sun sign. The life quest of a Sagittarian is to understand the meaning of life, using both spiritual and philosophical disciplines to digest what they learn. This is a mutable Fire sign, and thus while exploration and adventure are a necessary part of life, procrastination is also a danger. Sagittarius corresponds with Jupiter, and is expansive in all things, is an effective healer, and can be a bridge between humans and animals.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. Temperance corresponds with the Hebrew letter Samekh, the fifteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and a member of the manifestation group; this letter represents the tent post, or the concept of supporting (the tent post needs to be strong enough to hold up the tent, or everything will collapse). In a way, the letter Samekh can be seen as the bridge between the lower world and the upper world, both holding those two worlds away from each other and connecting them to each other at the same time.

On the Tree of Life, Temperance represents Path 25, running between Yesod (the place where patterns and images emerge that may manifest into the physical world of action and outer reality) and Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify), representing Tentative Intelligence. Yesod can be seen as the trunk of the Tree of Life, the place where our personalities form and our Self abides, and the place where we first experience the non-physical. Tiphareth is the center of the entire Tree; all Paths connect either directly or indirectly to Tiphareth. The 25th Path tells of balance achieved through experiencing extremes, and of the balancing of personal energy with sacred energy. This Path also tends to bring us face to face with the Beast that dwells within each of us. We need to accept that in order to be a whole person, we need to also accept that Beast.

There are some themes here, laced through all this information. Balance has many faces, and Temperance offers the idea of achieving balance through experiencing extremes. Temperance is about holding things apart and drawing them together, at the same time; a kind of push me-pull me energy, like sitting balanced on a seesaw.

We are reminded through working with the Temperance card that equilibrium is attained by equal and opposing forces acting against each other in moderation and in concert. The verb “to temper” tells us that if we adjust our ingredients, we can find the right recipe, and if we make it through a test or hardship, we will come out the other end stronger and more confident. Temperance is grace under pressure, something we all need, and Temperance encourages us to compromise so neither side loses and both sides win.

Temperance is also known as the art card; indeed, Crowley named his card Art in the Thoth Tarot. Uncle Al sees the Art card as representing the alchemic stage of Coagulation, wherein an adept can easily move between the worlds of matter and spirit, can join spirit and soul with the body, and can unite with themselves on all levels. Coagulation is often seen as the phoenix rising from the ashes, manifesting resurrection. The Temperance card reminds us that nature and the cycles of nature are themselves a healing agent; death in the end is a chance for the life essence to liberate itself from a worn out vessel so that essence can rest and prepare to be poured into a new vessel, similar to the image of the angel pouring the liquid from one cup to another, while standing between the worlds of Earth and Water.

The saying, “if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger” seems to be written just for the Temperance card of the Tarot Major Arcana!

Time to return to the Aces, those unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minor Arcana cards, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material, and there is no measurable manifestation of their effects until they become the Two. Aces are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; thus the Ace of Wands, our card for this month, is not Fire, but a tendency to become Fire! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.

The Ace of Wands is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility before it is affected by the catalyst that begins growth.

So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Wands is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the time in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale. This is especially true of our Wands Ace, because the element of Fire has so many different non-physical associations.

The number 1 is about new beginnings, or better yet, the seeds that bring new beginnings. Every following number is made by comparing itself with or interacting with the number 1. How do you arrive at the number 2? You add 1 to the number 1. You could say that the number 1 contains all the other numbers.

The suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South, and the element of Fire. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our Ace of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes: creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. The suit of Wands represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and the Wands cards can represent our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. Fire often represents Spirit or the Divine Will (one of those non-physical associations I mentioned above), and Wands cards also can present the possibility of some interaction with Spirit or the Divine, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will.

We know now that the Ace of Wands tells of a potential for experiencing spontaneous change, passion, and complete transformation. The change or transformation has not happened yet; all that exists is the possibility for change or transformation to happen.

The traditional image of the Ace of Wands shows a Wand or Rod or Stave being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it or be affected by it yet. Often the Wand has leaves and small branches or blossoming flowers sprouting from it, indicating the fertility of this Ace. Sometimes there are flames around or near the Wand; an alternative to flames can be a glistening crystal. I’ve seen Ace of Wands cards decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and sunflowers, all correspondences to Fire.

Like all Tarot Cards, the Ace of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Wands represents three sun signs: Cancer (a cardinal Water sign), Leo (a fixed Fire sign), and Virgo (a mutable or mobile Earth sign), or the season of Summer.

Cancer, the Crab, can be moody or sensitive, and is often affected by the environment and people nearby. Those born under the sign of Cancer, the 4th sign of the zodiac, have strong feelings and emotions, and they are very protective of those feelings and emotions. Cancer people tend to be very attuned to the past, and they like to have mementos of the times and people of their childhood. Cancer people place a high importance on family, both family of the blood and family of the heart. They nurture and protect those they love. Cancer people are hard workers, and that paycheck is important not only for what it will buy, but also for the security it provides.

Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac, located in the middle of Summer. The symbol of Leo is the Lion, regal and strong, magnetic and forceful. Leos are determined, ambitious, and highly motivated; add in their charm and they are natural leaders who attract many friends. They make good organizers and motivators, and the best use of a Leo is as the leader of a large group. Leo is the most expressive sign in the zodiac, and those born under this sign are showmen who are exuberant and passionate, but they are also susceptible to flattery. Watch that ego!

Virgo, the Virgin, is the 6th sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.

This means the Ace of Wands is about the potential for experiencing ambition, a focus on nurturing and protecting the family group, or the possibility of leadership within a group of intelligent and motivated creators.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.

That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!

So the Ace of Wands tells of the initial emanation of enthusiasm or inspiration or passion that could very well energize an entire process or project. Indeed, this card can be seen as a talisman of power; all we need to do in order to access its potential is to take hold of it! The Aces can be seen as containing the other numbered cards of their suits, and that means our Ace of Wands contains the potential to become every other Wands card. In the Tarot, the Aces often are seen as “gift cards,” as they represent the gift of the element associated with the card being offered to the Seeker. The Ace of Wands gifts us with courage, enthusiasm and confidence, and it will push us out of the box in order to connect to our creative potential. Fire can be a truly transformative element, burning away everything and sterilizing the ashy remnants. But of course, the phoenix rises from the ashes to begin anew, and thus the potential associated with the Ace of Wands is amazing.

The sudden and impulsive nature of the energies of the Ace of Wands can be motivating, but they can also be a wee bit uncomfortable. After all, impulsive behavior can initiate calamities of all kinds, and strength and ambition can easily degenerate into cruelty, persecution, and violence. These are all things to consider when choosing to work with the energies of the Ace of Wands.

Aleister Crowley’s deck, the Thoth Tarot, presents a Fiery Wand covered with flames; the Ace of Wands in this deck is seen as associated with the Sun and as representing the Lingam. Placed beside the Ace of Cups, associated with the Moon and representing the Yoni, we have the potential for gathering the energies of the Great Rite and the creation of life. A talisman of power, indeed!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply