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Tarot Talk

July 1st, 2017

The Page of Cups

(The Page of Cups Card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**

Back to the Court Cards! This time, we will revisit the Tarot “Royals” by examining the Page of Cups. We haven’t talked about Court Cards in a little while, so first we will review some basic information.

A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards dealing 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. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements dealing with day-to-day issues.

The Court Cards are a part of the Minor Arcana that can act as a representation of the family unit. Individually, the members of the Tarot Court represent particular personality traits, traits of people, places and events in our lives. These cards can also tell us about our own personality, and how it is perceived by others. I think of my Tarot cards as people, with each card having an individual personality. This is particularly appropriate for the Court Cards, as they are the most human of all the cards in a Tarot deck. Even the illustrations for the Court Cards usually show humans in the majority of Tarot decks.

Generally speaking, there are three different ways that Court Cards can speak to us in a spread: they can indicate personality traits of our Seeker or someone affecting the Seeker; they can refer to actual individuals in the Seeker’s life, including the Seeker; and they can refer to the general aura or atmosphere of a place or situation. Court cards offer us these descriptions of personality traits and of different ways of being or acting, so we can make use of these styles or avoid them, whichever is appropriate. Of course, the trick is to know which message is being given in a particular spread!

Instead of numbers, Court Cards have rank. The early creators and users of the Tarot lived within a culture that was layered according to rank, so it makes sense that the Tarot Court shows a progression from low to high. We don’t live in a feudal culture any more, however our culture has its own set of rules and ranks and roles. The Tarot Court can help us to understand the roles of parent, teacher, manager, laborer, scientist, priest, and many others.

The lowest ranking Court Card is the Page, usually seen as the messenger or intern or apprentice (sometimes male and sometimes female, depending on the deck) who is still learning of life and living, but who is also good at dealing with the unexpected. Being the lowest in rank does not necessarily mean being the least important; something we should remember when thinking about our Page of Cups. Next comes the Knight, the representation of strong, focused and even excessive manifestations of his suit.

Both the Queen and the King usually represent mature adults. The Queen manifests her suit in a feminine or yin or inner way, and the King manifests his suit in a masculine or yang or outer way. This manifestation does not necessarily correspond to gender; a man can be represented by a Tarot Queen if he has a strong inner focus, and a woman can be represented by a Tarot King if she projects a strong sense of authority.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water. In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. When amassed, it has weight, and it tends to gather or pool at the lowest place. Because of this tendency, Water creates its own roadways or channels, and it prefers to use those already-in-place channels if it can. Water is used for cleaning and purifying, and Water can be a carrier for other substances. For instance, we can dissolve salt or sugar into warm Water, and use that concoction for other things. A body of Water can be calm and deep, or it can be dangerously churning and filled with powerful currents.

Feelings and emotions are the main correspondences of the element of Water, and the suit of Cups. Emotions flow and have currents, a powerful wave of emotions can be cleansing, emotions can be hot and expanding or they can be bubbling upward, like steam, or cold and contracting and heavy, like ice, and our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly through sadness or joy or anger, as physical manifestations of those emotions. Water also represents the Inner Voice and the subconscious, the dark and unknown depths hidden below the smooth reflective surface.

Water is not the only element that corresponds to our Page. In the Tarot Court, the suit of the card has an elemental correspondence, and the rank of the card has an elemental correspondence. Pages correspond with Earth, Knights correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck), Queens correspond with Water, and Kings correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck). Since we are talking about a Page today, we are also talking about the element of Earth.

In its natural state, the element of Earth is cool and dry. When amassed Earth has weight; it is able to bind together or shape the other elements. For example, Water and Earth bind together to make mud, and a lake is shaped by the Earth that supports it. Earth energies are tangible, stable, and practical, and they are slow to change.

Earth is about the physical, earthly world, our physical bodies, and everything we need in order to maintain those physical bodies, including health and exercise. The element of Earth represents fertility, prosperity, and the wealth that can bring both physical shelter and mental and emotional pleasure. The element of Earth can show a possible outcome or end result of our efforts, the product of our labors; it can give information about material manifestations of all kinds.

All Pages represent the element of Earth, as well as the element corresponding to their suit; this means that our Page of Cups presents an Earthy version of Water. Earth and Water share the quality of coldness and the tendency to be binding (and that can be positive or negative, depending on the situation and the other cards in the spread). They are each fertile, they compliment each other, and they encourage inspiration.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, Court Cards have astrological correspondences. Our Page of Cups corresponds with the season of Fall and the signs of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. Libras are true team players concerned with creating balance, harmony, cooperation and partnerships, with fairness to everyone. Because Libra is Cardinal Air, this sign initiates through new ideas, and by being a balancing force among people.

Scorpio is a fixed Water sign, associated with a focus on achievement and on striving to understand the mysteries of the imagination, dreams, and passions. Scorpios are inflexible, stubborn, opinionated, loyal, intense and passionate, even if they appear quiet on the surface. Still waters run deep, and Scorpios love hard, and love forever.

Sagittarius 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, and who desires to understand the meaning of life. This is a mutable Fire sign, and thus while exploration and adventure are a necessary part of life, procrastination is also a danger.

Our Page of Cups brings cooperation through emotions, and sees the world through rose-colored glasses at times. The Page of Cups reminds us of the pleasures of youth, and tells us that it is okay to have fun, to not take things quite so seriously.

Because they are Minor Arcana cards, Court Cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Pages correspond with the sephira of Malkuth, along with the Tens of the Minor Arcana and the element of Earth. Malkuth is the bottom sephira on the Tree, corresponding with our physical world, and opposite of Kether at the top of the Tree, corresponding with the purest form of Deity, mostly unknowable by physical world beings. Malkuth is located at the bottom of the Pillar of Balance and is receptive in nature; it receives emanations from all the other sephiroth on the Tree.

Pages are often associated with the Ace of their suit; the Ace of Cups is the root of the powers of Water (not the manifested powers, but the beginnings of them), and the potential for those powers to manifest. The Ace of Cups tells us that we could be dealing with intangible feelings and experiences such as love, friendship, attunement and spirituality. Pages are also seen as representing a more immature version of the Queen of their suit; the Queen of Cups represents someone who is in touch with their intuition, sensitive to the emotions of those around them, finds joy in their connections to others, and can be both nurturing and practical. The Page of Cups offers us this potential and asks us to embrace it.

The Thoth Tarot Princess of Cups is surrounded by the ocean’s depths; she is dancing, with an expression of pleasure on her face and a scalloped Cup containing a turtle in her hands. Her dress is also decorated with scallops (the same motif found on the Ace of Cups of this deck). Her character is sweet, gentle, kind, tender, and voluptuous. She is about dreams and romance and rapture; she is able to manifest dreams and romantic ideas into reality and ideas flourish in her waters.

The Llewellyn Welsh Page of Cups is card whose image is filled with Water; unlike The Moon and its deep and silent lake, the Page of Cups stands precariously on a rock, surrounded by the spray and foam of crashing waves. Our Page stands steadily, holding up a Cup with a fish jumping above it. This Page feels safe here, trusting that the rock will hold steady and understanding the waves and the tides (and applying that understanding), and their push and pull. This is a card of cheerfulness and innocent optimism, of romance and playfulness and imagination and beautiful creativity.

The Hermetic Tarot Princess of Cups stands within a churning sea with white-capped waves, surrounded by creatures who live in or on the water: two swans, a dolphin and a turtle, and framed by what look like fronds of seaweed. The Hermetic Tarot sees this Princess in an upright position as representing sweetness and dreaminess, kindness and imagination.

The Legacy of the Divine Page of Cups is wearing gold silks with teal shells on his shirt, and wears a downward pointing triangle at his throat (representing the element of Water). He looks at us with an open and innocent expression and steady and kind eyes, and offers us with reverence his Cup, a container for emotions and intuition. He reminds us that relationships of all kinds are important, and he asks us to pay attention to dreams and the messages of our inner voice.

The Page of Cups is a dreamer, a messenger, a friend, and a student; our Page is concerned with connections, warmth and affection and offers us messages of love and connection. Some decks present the Page of Cups as being child-like and passive, but in other decks the Page of Cups offers feminine potential and the ability to look within ourselves without being misled or distracted by the prejudices that life experiences sometimes bring. The Page of Cups is Earth of Water, and thus all about feelings and sensations, particularly pleasant feelings and sensations. This is a card of soft and tender energies and of getting fulfillment through connections to others, and through innocent and simple joys The Page of Cups tells us to be open to our feelings, to say yes to the opportunity to connect with others, and to listen for our inner voice and value its message.

*** **This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/ as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his work and Decks at http://www.ciromarchetti.com/.

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 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.

kingofswords

(King of Swords Tarot Card from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**

 

For this last essay of the year 2016, let’s go back to the Court Cards of the Tarot by examining a Tarot “royal,” the King of Swords. A good start would be to review some information regarding the royal family of the Tarot.

A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, 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. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements (sometimes called “Pips” or “Pip Cards”), with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.

The Court Cards are actually a part of the Minor Arcana, acting as a representation of the family unit. Individually, the members of the Tarot Court represent particular personality traits, traits of people, places and events in our lives. These cards can also tell us about our own personality, and how it is perceived by others. Thinking of my Tarot cards as people, with each card having an individual personality, is one method I have used with success in order to connect with my cards. This is particularly appropriate for the Court Cards, as they are the most human of all the cards in a Tarot deck. Even the illustrations for the Court Cards show humans in the majority of Tarot decks. Generally speaking, there are three different ways that Court Cards can speak to us in a spread: they can indicate personality traits of our Seeker or someone affecting the Seeker; they can refer to actual individuals in the Seeker’s life, including the Seeker; and they can refer to the or atmosphere or personality traits of a place or situation.

Court cards offer us these descriptions of personality traits, of different ways of being or acting, so we can make use of these styles or avoid them, whichever is appropriate. Of course, the trick is to know which message is being given in a particular spread! One way to become more confident in determining this is to learn about the Court Cards themselves, and how the personality of each Court Card interacts with its particular suit. Many times if you break a particular Court Card down to its rank and correspondences, you will understand its message. Let’s get started.

Instead of numbers, Court Cards have rank. The lowest ranking Court Card is the Page, the messenger or intern or apprentice who is still learning of life and living, but who is also good at dealing with the unexpected. Next comes the Knight, the representation of strong, focused and even excessive manifestations of his suit.

Both the Queen and the King represent mature adults. The Queen manifests her suit in a feminine or yin or inner way, and the King manifests his suit in a masculine or yang or outer way. This manifestation does not necessarily correspond to gender; a man can be represented by a Tarot Queen if he has a strong inner focus, and a woman can be represented by a Tarot King if she projects a strong sense of authority. Since we are talking about the King of Swords today, we already know that our King will manifest his suit in an outer yet mature manner. Our King is concerned with results; he exhibits outer, public expertise in his field, and he is an authority figure. In many ways, the Kings of the Tarot Court can be seen as four facets of The Emperor of the Major Arcana.

Let’s talk about suit first. Our King’s suit this month is Swords. The suit of Swords, which corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, the direction of East and the color of yellow, often has some discomfort associated with it. Maybe the tendency for discomfort has to do with the fact that Swords usually tell of some focused intent to bring forth a manifestation of some kind, or they tell of a struggle and then an outcome. Swords cards are about purposeful actions and the thoughts, intentions or beliefs behind them; these actions are different from the other Minor Arcana cards because they are deliberate, rather than as a response to random effects presented to us by the elements around us. Simply put, the effects of the Swords cards are sourced from within us; we are the main catalyst that creates the manifestation of a Swords card. In many ways the Swords cards represent our attempt to manifest our chosen reality, and they tell us that we might be causing the very challenges we are trying to prevent.

The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, and our capacity to analyze or apply logic. Thus, the Swords cards indicate the workings of our mind and our mental state – the beliefs we have, and actions we take in response to effects around us. A Sword has two edges, a perfect metaphor for this suit, which can represent attacking or defending, logic or aggression.

The suit of Swords is not all bad; after all the element of Air also represents the intelligence that clears away the fog of ignorance and allows us to understand what we are dealing with. Air is the medium of our voices, and it supports communications and sounds of all kinds; Air allows both expression (out from within us) and hearing (in from outside of us) to happen. Of course, words and communications are double-edged swords, too, and they can also heal or hurt. The Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered; think of how you feel when you solve a problem by thinking your way through it.

The suit of our King is not the only ingredient to offer an elemental correspondence. In the Tarot Court, the suit of the card has an elemental correspondence, and the rank of the card has an elemental correspondence. Pages correspond with Earth, Knights correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck), Queens correspond with Water, and Kings correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck). Since we are talking about a King today, we are also talking about the element of Air, or the element of Fire, depending on the deck. For our purposes today, we will see the King of Swords as Air of Air. In its natural state, the element of Air is hot and wet, and it tends to either separate or adapt. This means our King is the epitome of logic, idealism, and discernment. He is good at analyzing and cataloguing information, and he is expert at adapting his world to fit the structures he has created and his personal ethical and moral code.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, Court Cards have astrological correspondences. Our King of Swords corresponds with the cusp or joining point of the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius. Capricorn people are stable, prudent, hard-working, practical, methodical, and ambitious, never losing sight of goals regardless of how many obstacles or distractions are in the way. They can be are a bit stoic and rigid, and they will stick to their beliefs despite convincing evidence to the contrary. More than anything else they enjoy power, respect, and authority, and they are willing to toe the line for as long as it takes to achieve those goals.

Aquarius is connected with those who have humanitarian and philanthropic tendencies, and are interested in making the world a better place. Aquarians are intelligent and inventive and they work well with others, although they can be impatient, even temperamental, with those who disagree with their ideas. Aquarians are also into technology of all kinds, and they use modern communication apparatus and social networking with ease. Aquarius is a sign of connections of all kinds from friendships to love, and it focuses on the group rather than the individual, and on the higher good of that group.

A Capricorn-Aquarius combination can offer lots of excitement. They work hard and have high standards, so they often are very successful. And yet, they can have difficulty with personal relationships, more so than the other three Kings (who all tend to be focused on the outer world rather than one-to-one interactions). Our King of Swords is good at maintaining his kingdom. He is methodical and exacting, yet he enjoys spending time entertaining groups of people. This King is good at balancing opposites, after all he is both the practical and hard-working Capricorn and the inspired Aquarius who enjoys playing with technology.

Because they are Minor Arcana cards, Court Cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Kings correspond with the sephira of Chokmah, along with all of the Twos of the Minor Arcana and the element of Fire. The Kings sit at the top of the Pillar of Force in the sephira of Chokmah, representing the Sacred Masculine and the Catalyst of Life. Chokmah is seen as dynamic thrust, the Ultimate Positive, the Great Stimulator and the Great Fertilizer (one of the symbols of Chokmah is the penis), and thus is connected to the Wheel of the Year. The energies of this sephira represent dynamic male energy and Chokmah is the origin of vital force and polarity.

The King of Swords is the father/boss/judge/leader of the Swords cards. He is commanding and authoritative; he values truth and honesty, and he is the champion of moral and ethical standards. He uses logic and analysis to solve problems and is the master of abstract thought. He can be rigid, unimaginative, overly critical, or cold, however he can use knowledge and personal experiences to make wise decisions. The King of Swords is a good judge of people and situations. He uses his intellect to analyze, so he may not be compassionate but he is trustworthy, and he can be trusted to fiercely stand by his decisions.

The Shadowscapes King of Swords is seated on his throne, his mighty Sword held in his hands, point up, one boot resting on a skull. On the sword sits Owl, symbolizing the wisdom to be found on the tip of the intellect that is his weapon; beside him are two ravens, dark as shadow (and shadow can only be present when there is illumination!). This King is a perfect blend of art, science and balance, and he is a wonderful example of a pillar of strength and morality.

The Legacy of the Divine King of Swords upholds the law and order of his kingdom, the kingdom of the mind and of theories and science. His Queen understands people, but this King understands things; “knowledge is power” is his motto. He cares for his people carefully and always puts their needs before his own. However, he expects recognition for his accomplishments and for the personal sacrifices he makes in order to provide for his subjects.

In the Thoth Tarot, the Kings are known as Knights (the Knights are called Princes in this deck), and Crowley describes the King of Swords as focusing on “activity and skill, subtlety and cleverness”; Crowley also states that this King is “fierce, delicate and courageous but altogether the prey of his ideas.”

The King of Swords is the creator and the destroyer. He harnesses and directs ideas so they can benefit everyone, and he uses his communication skills to defend the truth. He would make a dangerous enemy if thwarted, but having the King of Swords on your side would allow you to sleep peacefully at night!

 

**This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/ as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his Artwork and Decks at http://www.ciromarchetti.com/.

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(The Tower Tarot Card from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**

This month, we will stay with the Major Arcana, and talk about The Hierophant, one of the three Major Arcana cards that refer to traits of the Sacred Masculine. Before we begin breaking down The Hierophant, let’s remind ourselves of 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. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, a personality, or a behavior. In the analysis of personality, 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; for instance, “girls make good cooks” is a stereotype), or an “epitome” (the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; for example, Venus is said to be the epitome of feminine beauty). 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 experience) these archetypes.

Besides the symbolism in its traditional image, 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.

The traditional image on The Hierophant is of a priest or religious scholar; indeed in some decks this card is named The Pope. He is often shown seated on a throne between two pillars, similar to The High Priestess card except there is no veil or curtain behind him, as The Hierophant represents revealed knowledge rather than hidden knowledge. He is often holding a staff in his left hand and is gesturing with his right hand, using the Christian gesture of benediction with two fingers pointing up and two fingers pointing down (telling us he is the bridge between the spiritual and the earthly). Traditionally, the right hand is seen as pure (with the left hand having dark baggage); this is why our Hierophant offers benediction with his right hand, and holds his staff of office (a phallic symbol), usually the triple cross or papal cross, in his left, telling us he chooses spirituality over earthly pleasures. Other images show him holding a book or scroll, also similar to The High Priestess card except the book or scroll is held facing the viewer, again reminding us that he offers revealed knowledge. Often there are two keys in front of him, and sometimes there are two supplicants; both the keys and the supplicants look similar at first glance, but they are different (similar to the two dogs and the two towers traditionally found on The Moon card), reminding us that what we see on the surface or at a quick glance is not all there is to know, and telling us that there is more than one way to understand the teachings of The Hierophant.

The Hierophant card is numbered 5. The number 5 is about hard lessons; its energies erupt beyond the order imposed by the number 4, toppling over the stability inherent in the number 4. This number offers the concept of Motion to prevent stability from becoming stagnation. The number 5 tells us to take time to mourn and then move on, to find a silver lining, to defend our position. These energies can be versatile and resourceful, lively and exciting, as well as boastful, irritable, too strict, or indicating a Jack of all trades but master of none.

The Hierophant represents the archetype of the Religious Teacher. Teaching is the art of communicating knowledge, experience, skill, and wisdom to others. Offering instruction of any kind can manifest through parental guidance, business apprenticeship, or by instruction in spirituality, ethics or kindness. Teachers do more than just teach; they pass on wisdom and refine their students’ character. Traditionally The Hierophant works with a group and is responsible for teaching spiritual and ethical culture and traditions to that group, but he can also mentor individuals.

The Hierophant 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 an ability to be aware of resources or to access resources.

In astrology, The Hierophant represents the astrological sign of Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, which is all about reward. Physical pleasures, material goods, and soothing surroundings are all important to a Taurus. The good life in all its guises is heaven on Earth to those born under this sign. Taurus is a fixed sign, and it represents steady persistence sometimes seen as stubbornness. Taurus is symbolized by the Bull, and Bulls are among the most practical and reliable members of the zodiac, happy to plod along slowly but surely toward a goal. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty are a huge part of this sign’s personality. Taurus is a true-blue, loyal sign as well, and slow to anger; like the element of Earth, Taurus is about strength of body as well as strength of heart.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. These creative forces 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 Hierophant corresponds with the Hebrew letter Vav or Vau, the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, representing the nail, the instrument which secures something or the hook that holds something. In Hebrew, the letter Vav is used as a connector, and thus it is also translated as “and.” Besides holding a tradition in place (the way a nail holds a picture to a wall), The Hierophant is also a bridge or connector; it is through The Hierophant that knowledge is transferred from one place to another.

On the Tree of Life, The Hierophant represents Path 16, running between Chesed (the place where forms and structures are stabilized and nurtured), and Chokmah (dynamic male energy, the origin of vital force and polarity). The 16th Path runs vertically up the Pillar of Force, and is entirely about the energies of the Sacred Masculine. It teaches us about using authority with humility, and using knowledge and wisdom to guide ourself and others to the Mysteries. There is a noble intention connected to the 16th Path, but there are responsibilities connected to it. The 16th Path assists us to uplift our soul by knowing what we believe and what we don’t believe. Interestingly enough, the 16th Path is one of the Paths that crosses the great Abyss, and it is known as the Gate of Royalty.

The Hierophant is an archetype of Spirit (with The Emperor as archetype of the Sacred Masculine, The Empress as archetype of the Sacred Feminine, and all three representing the supernal triad) that reminds us of the value of tradition, ritual and ceremony, and conforming to the rules and traditions with the aim of presenting the highest good of the group. There is duty to be found in this card, as well as morality, and a suggestion that tradition should not be accepted blindly, for there is a level of attainment unique to the individual to be had from within a spiritual practice.

Like all positions of authority, this one contains danger. The Hierophant gone amok manifests as filled with a desire to manipulate or abuse his students. A reversed Hierophant can end up more concerned with recognition than with imparting knowledge, or he can take on an overbearing attitude that is more about imposing control than imparting wisdom. A reversed Hierophant can manifest an inability to allow his students to move on or to become Teachers themselves, choosing to maintain control over each student’s development of mind, body, and skills at all costs. Any religious or political fundamentalist in our world who imposes his own version of law and order on his or her people is manifesting the reversed Hierophant.

Faith is the Legacy Tarot version of The Hierophant. The image on this card is a representation of four of the most mainstream religions in the world, each of them in an attitude of prayer, with a column of golden light connecting them all. This connection is the focus of the Legacy Faith card. We do need to remember that this very connection can be hugely beneficial, or it can be judgmental, terrorizing and murderous.

The Llewellyn Welsh Hierophant is Taleisin, the powerful bard of myth, and the card represents authority and orthodox behavior. The Llewellyn Welsh Hierophant is an advocate of tradition and instruction, initiation and spiritual systems or culture. Reversed, he is warning me of fanaticism and of the danger of conforming for the wrong reasons.

Like The Emperor (who leads by imposing order, balance, form and structure onto his world in order to create stability for those looking to him for protection) and The Hermit (who provides visionary guidance achieved through an acceptance of situations that enable us to abandon the ego and teaches us that through our own struggles and suffering, we can learn to have compassion for others and find the spiritual within the world), The Hierophant also leads. He is our conscience, our mentor, our counselor; he brings us advice and guidance through a deep understanding of tradition and culture, “tried-and-true” methods for coping with life. He is the keeper of those traditions, tasked with keeping them intact and yet assisting each of us to personalize those traditions in a way that resonates for us.

More importantly, The Hierophant not only encourages us to learn about our beliefs, cultures and traditions, but he also encourages us to practice them, to live them. The practice of spiritual traditions itself is indeed one of the nails that hold that tradition in place!

 

**This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/ as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his work and Decks at http://www.ciromarchetti.com/.

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.”

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