SUBSCRIBE

Tarot Talk

May 1st, 2018

Five of Cups

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

Last month we talked about the Two of Cups. This month we will talk about another Cups card, the Five of Cups. This one, like the other Five cards, appears sad on the surface but we will look for the silver lining.

The Five of Cups 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. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

We already know that 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 5, and the suit of Cups, and just examining these two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation to a seeker. But we have even more to consider, so let’s get started.

We talked about the suit of Cups in detail last month, but let’s go over it all again. Many Tarot decks use images of cups or chalices and water on their Minor Arcana Cups cards. The traditional image on the Five of Cups shows a person facing away from the observer dressed in a long, flowing dark blue robe, head bowed downward and seeming to emanate grief. The person is looking at three toppled Cups lying on the ground before him, their contents spilled out, and sometimes the Cups are broken. Often there is a river flowing nearby and in the distance beyond the river are rocky hills. Behind the robed figure and out of his view are two other Cups also on the ground, but these two are upright and undamaged.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the cardinal direction of West, the color blue, the playing cards of Hearts, and the element of Water. In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. Water has weight; picking up a gallon of water proves that. Water tends to gather into or flow to the lowest place; it will use already-in-place channels to get there if it can, but will create its own roadways or channels if necessary. 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.

The element of Water corresponds to our feelings and emotions. Emotions flow and have currents and eddies, and 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. Our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly, as physical manifestations of those emotions.

Water also represents the Inner Voice and the mysteries of the subconscious. That calm body of water can reflect the trees and hills, and even the clouds and the sky around it, on its still surface and hide from our view the dark and cold depths inhabited by mysterious creatures. In order to explore those silent depths and discover the mysteries there, we must break the surface and enter this quiet and hidden realm.

Astrology is a tool that can offer subtle effects for us to consider as we analyze this card. The Five of Pentacles corresponds to the planet Mars (action, aggression, drive) when it is in the sign of Scorpio (“I desire,” intense, controlling, mysterious, obsessive).

Mars is known as the “Red Planet,” and this makes sense because Mars is about energy, passion, drive and determination, all fiery personality traits. Mars is commanding, confident, and powerful, asking us to stand up and be noticed without fear. Ambition and competition are also associated with this planet; Mars encourages us to face challenges and to be our best with honor. Mars rules our sexuality and sexual energy, and governs weapons, accidents and surgery. It’s important to remember that Mars’s energy can be either constructive or destructive. In the end, however, the energy of Mars can be quite useful if used properly.

Scorpio is a fixed Water sign. In Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. For Scorpios, these traits are found through achievement, and through going deep into the timeless mysteries of the imagination, dreams, and passions. Scorpios are powerful and willful in all they do; they stick with a task to the end, often achieving much more than Cardinal and Mutable Signs. On the other hand, they are also inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Scorpios are extremely loyal and will always remember a kind gesture. They love to learn about others; the curiosity of Scorpios is immeasurable.

Mars and Scorpio have a connection (Mars is said to rule Scorpio), and thus they support each other. Together they create a greater ability to work through difficult times. These energies are not about compromise but rather about finding a way to get the job done. These signs are not afraid of looking under the surface or exploring the dark corners, and together they have the endurance to bring about a major transformation. The down side of this combination is the potential for passion to slide into obsession.

When dealing with the Minor Arcana, perhaps the most important ingredient besides the suit of the card is the number of the card. In the Tarot, the number 5 is seen as adding motion to the depth and stability of the energy of the number 4 card, often toppling or destroying that depth and stability in order to prevent stagnation. If we look at the card right before the Five of Cups and follow it through to our card, we can gain some insight into the effects of the number 5.

The Four of Cups is about visualizing goals and dreaming of the future, however it also warns us that too much dreaming of the future can cause us to miss opportunities that present themselves in the present. The number 5 adds Motion to the potential for distraction from reality that is the Four of Cups, kind of like a tap on the shoulder to wake us up. All of the Tarot Fives are uncomfortable mainly because of this added Motion. In the other Minor Fives we have the need to control others (Swords), the lack of possessions and support (Pentacles), and ideas moving in random and unorganized directions (Wands). If we dream of pleasures and become addicted to those dreams, we will end up soft and weak with deadened senses, but if we find a way to counteract our tendency to indulge ourselves, we can be awakened to the possibilities in the outer world and the present moment. This awakening is the job of the Five of Pentacles.

The Tree of Life offers us further insight into this uncomfortable Motion that is causing our troubles. All of the Fives of the Tarot Minor Arcana correspond with the Sephira of Geburah (which means “Might”), the fifth Sephira on the Tree, the second on the Pillar of Form/Restriction. Geburah is also known as Judgment, and Fear, and its effects and manifestations can indeed be difficult. To some, an easy life is an ideal situation, but in the end the easy life offered through never experiencing any true tests lacks the opportunity for growth and evolution, and growth and evolution are the purposes of living.

Geburah is about courage and power and invincibility, and these things can bring us true fulfillment, or they can help to release our cruel side. But unless we are exposed to these temptations, we will never know if we have the will to set them aside when they become unbalanced. Believing that we have the power and authority to make decisions for others is often a recipe for disaster.

That is a lot of information to consider!! We are dealing with a Five card, so we know that it will present some discomfort. This is a Cups card, so we know the discomfort will be connected to our dreams, visions, feelings, emotions, and the actions and effects of the subconscious and the Inner Voice.

The Hermetic Tarot Five of Cups shows plant growth, yet no flowers. The five Cups in this image are empty, and the plant stems look a bit leggy to me, as if they had water but no sunlight. In the Hermetic Tarot, the Five of Cups represents partial loss, and the death of pleasure (indeed the card is named “Lord of Loss of Pleasure”). The key here is that while we are losing something, we can go on and perhaps have a happy ending. The reversed pentagram in the middle of this image hints at what needs to be corrected: we are focusing too much on strong feelings and physical pleasures, without allowing the mind and the feelings and the Higher Self to have a voice.

The Thoth Tarot Five of Cups, named “Disappointment,” also has flowers in its image, two lotus blossoms that appear to be drooping and losing their petals. The five Cups are in the shape of an inverted pentagram, similar to the Hermetic Tarot, symbolizing the triumph of matter over spirit. The beautiful sea of the Four of Cups (named “Luxury”) has turned stagnant. Here we can see a clear progression from Love (the Two of Cups) to Abundance (the Three of Cups), which brings Luxury (the Four of Cups); the next step is boredom, frustration, and decadence, and the Disappointment of the Five of Cups!

The Llewellyn Welsh Five of Cups has a traditional image. It tells of unfulfilled dreams and the difficulty of accepting a loss. Here is the spilled milk that we are not supposed to cry over. This card also tells of being limited by the memory of a past pain, and of being manipulated by emotional strings. “Suffering over one’s suffering” is a great description of this card.

The Gateway to the Divine Tarot Five of Cups shows a woman huddled against a wall, face filled with distress. Before her on the ground are three shattered glass Cups; she holds an unharmed Cup in each hand. She is not looking at those two intact Cups, but instead focuses on what might have been, symbolized by the broken Cups before her, rather than accepting what has happened and moving on with the two remaining Cups. Her loss is probably connected to something that was expected to bring pleasure, such as a loving relationship.

When the Five of Cups shows up in a reading, we are being told that our discomfort and dismay are valid and painful, but they are also a wake-up call telling us all is not lost. Our vision is focused narrowly on the spilled Cups and the loss and disappointment they symbolize, but if we could tear our eyes from the destruction and look around, we will find that all is not lost. There, behind the cloaked figure bowed in grief shown on the Five of Cups, are two intact Cups, filled to the brim. He has only to take his focus away from the lost potential and what could have been, and instead look around him at what he still has now and he will see that happiness is still available to him. This could very well be an opportunity to leave behind what has hurt him and turn to a different and more fulfilling direction.

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

***

About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

Click Image for Amazon Information

The Queen of Wands

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

Welcome to the year 2018! We have one more Queen to talk about, the Queen of Wands, so let’s get started. First, let’s review some information about 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, 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 Tarot cards as people, with each card having an individual personality, 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 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. 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 Queen of Wands today, we already know that our Queen will manifest her suit in an inner yet mature manner. Our Queen is not so much concerned with results as with the enjoyment of just being in the world and surrounded by her element. She expresses her suit from the inside, setting the tone without imposing it; she embodies the qualities of her suit, rather than acting them out. She is attractive, easy-going, physically fit, and enthusiastic, and because she has a deep faith in her own abilities, she can accomplish just about anything.

Our Queen’s suit is Wands, and for this discussion we will accept that the suit of Wands corresponds to the element of Fire. This is not always the case, depending on the deck being used; some see Wands as being connected to Air. Besides the element of Fire, the suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, and the cardinal direction of South. 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 it transforms everything it touches, 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 lovely Queen of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes, such as 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, 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.

The element of Fire can be seen as kinetic, or even electric. It has the power to create greatness (when we are inspired to be better than we think we can be), or destruction (when we believe we are greater than we actually are). Fire fuels innovation, but an imbalance or lack of Fire can bring austerity. Action and energy are enhanced by this element, but so are destruction and oppression.

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). All Queens represent the element of Water, as well as the element corresponding to their suit. This means that our Queen of Wands represents Fire of Water. This can be seen as a steady force, where emotions transform the will. However, Fire and Water do not share attributes or dignities, Fire is hot and dry and separates and shapes, and Water is cold and wet and binds and adapts. This can result in a sense that we are getting in our own way, but if our Queen of Wands is able to balance and reconcile these opposites, nothing will stop her.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, Court Cards have astrological correspondences. Our Queen of Wands corresponds with the cusp or joining point of the signs of Pisces and Aries.

The astrological sign of Aries, a cardinal Fire sign that is a catalyst, represents a person that inspires others by being totally committed to his or her own vision. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the leader of the pack, and those born under this sign prefer to initiate; they won’t shy away from anything new. Aries people are action oriented, assertive, and competitive. Aries is ruled by Mars, the God of War, bold and aggressive, and able to tap into the focus needed to take on any challenge. The symbol of Aries is the Ram, blunt and to the point, and a sheer force of nature. The great strength of those born under this sign is found in their initiative, courage and determination.

The image for Pisces is fish, and we all know where fish live, in the Water. Pisces is a sign of feelings of all kinds, of the suffering that brings soul growth, and of duality (the reflective surface of a lake can hide the depths below). Pisces is the twelfth sign of the zodiac, and it is also the final sign in the zodiacal cycle and thus, brings together many characteristics of the other eleven signs. Pisces people are selfless, spiritual and very focused on their inner journey and their feelings. Many people associate Pisces with dreams and secrets, which makes sense because their intuition is highly evolved. Pisces are fluid and easy-going, in keeping with the Mutable Quality assigned to this sign. The fact that two fish (as opposed to one) represent the members of this sign also speaks to the duality of Pisces, their yin and yang sensibility. 

The Pisces/Aries cusp (which joins the 12th and last sign with the 1st sign) is known as the cusp of rebirth; it joins the intuitive and compassionate with the independent and courageous. Those born in this cusp seem to have a natural ability to push limits, and to encourage others to follow them toward success. However, they do need to remember to include their empathic side along with that assertive side, and they will balance the ability to manifest dreams and prevent impulsive behavior.

Because they are Minor Arcana cards, Court Cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Queens correspond with the sephira of Binah, along with the Threes of the Minor Arcana and the element of Water. The Queens sit at the top of the Pillar of Form; Binah, representing the Sacred Feminine and the Womb of Life, offers shadow and contrast, which in turn gives us shape and form. Binah restricts in order to provide a springboard, and that restriction can also be its downfall if it becomes greed. The energies of this sephira are the purest of receptive energies.

Our Queen represents people who are capable and generous and self-disciplined, people who never do things halfway and who want to do things on their own terms. Unlike the King of Wands, who tends to dominate his environment and focus on the individual, the Queen of Wands focuses on relationships, on encouraging those around her, and on bringing everyone forward along with her; she is all about her people skills and her knack for steering matters and opinions in her favor. She could be a capable businessperson, someone in a management position, or in a research, engineering or technical position, or any position involving independent research or planning. She could be a journalist, a marketer, or a performance artist or TV show host. She is resourceful and works well on her own, but she is also very good at networking, personal development, and inspiring others to reach for the stars.

The Queen of Wands is a hotly burning flame as well as a slow and persistent course of action. Her totem animal is the leopard, and she is often shown with a cat of some kind beside her. The leopard is a totem of rebirth after a period of suffering and challenge; this cat heals deep wounds by reclaiming the power that was lost when the wound was inflicted. The leopard also reminds us to accept our spots and use them as our strength. We have what we need to succeed, we just need to be persistent and believe.

In the Witches Tarot, the suit of Wands represents the element of Air, and the Queen of Wands tells of the evolution of an urge into a thought and then a concept, on its way to formation. When reversed, this Queen tells of the creation of a concept that is not practical or even possible to manifest.

The Llewellyn Welsh Queen of Wands is an intelligent woman with a warm heart who is admired because she earned her standing in the world through her own hard work and carefully honed talents. Because she had to make her own way up the ladder of success, she is sensitive to the struggles of others. She can be sharp-tongued, judgmental and suspicious, or she can be courageous, intelligent and influential, or she can be both.

The Shadowscapes Tarot Queen of Wands is dedicated, cheerful, attractive and upbeat. She knows the role of Queen and is used to being the center of attention. Her presence exudes confidence and capability; she is not arrogant but rather is able to objectively assess her own skills and abilities.

The Thoth Tarot Queen of Wands could very well be what the world needs: a strong, intelligent and caring woman. But we need to remember that while she is just, she is also ruthless, and she takes offense easily. In his book, “Understanding Crowley’s Thoth Tarot,” DuQuette describes the Queen of Wands as personifying Queen Ayesha of H. Rider Haggard’s science fiction story “She.” Queen Ayesha is known by her people as “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” which pretty much sums up Crowley’s thoughts about this Queen.

The Legacy of the Divine Queen of Wands nurtures independence and self-expression. Her advice is to not hold back, but rather to allow creativity and passion to flower. She has a commanding presence and not only has she found a way to feel empowered herself, but she has also found a way to empower others. The image on this card shows a confident Queen whose face is painted with elaborate red flames, with hair elaborately braided and adorned with gold, dangling golden earrings, a red dress ornamented with gold, and wearing a golden crown, who looks at us straight in the eyes, with nothing to fear and nothing to hide, proud of who she is.

The Queen of Wands is an inspiring person, passionate, intelligent and creative, who is a natural leader with a warm and compassionate heart. In a reading, she is usually a positive omen that tells of getting lots accomplished, of creativity of all kinds (including the conception of a child), of good health, vitality and energy, and of success that comes from hard work – the most satisfactory kind of success.

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

***

About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

 

For Amazon Information Click Image Below

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

 

We just passed Valentine’s Day, so this might be a good time to examine the Major Arcana card known as The Lovers. Before we begin, let’s 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.

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 get to work breaking this one down.

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother and The Emperor is The Father; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have these people in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. Temperance represents balance, The Wheel represents fate and Justice represents fairness, all three offering archetypes of ideas rather than people. Our card this month, The Lovers, has several archetypes: the Two Paths, the Union of Mature Opposites, and of course, Romantic Love. With The Lovers we learn how to discern and understand the interactions of duality, of the connections and interactions between pairs with strong connections, and with pairs of opposites (after all, we can’t understand light until we understand the darkness).

In keeping with the idea of duality, there are two traditional images of The Lovers. One shows a man and woman standing before an official or religious leader, with Cupid flying above the pair and shooting an arrow toward them. There is often a brightly colored sun behind the Cupid. A few versions of this image are a bit more sinister, showing a couple holding hands and another woman alongside them, sometimes seen as “the other woman.” Other times, one woman is seen as representing virtue and the other, sensuality. The other traditional image shows an angel with wings spread wide; standing before the angel are a naked man and woman. Behind them all are a blue sky, a blazing sun, and in the distance is a mountain. Often there is a tree behind the man and woman; the tree behind the man is usually heavy with fruit and the tree behind the woman contains a large serpent, reminding us of the Garden of Eden. Many Lovers cards offer other versions of embracing lovers, usually surrounded by flowers and green growing things.

The Lovers is the number six card of the Major Arcana. The number 6 represents victory over the obstacles of 4 (stability that could turn into stagnation) and 5 (movement that upsets stability), and is considered a perfect number because 6 equals the sum of its dividers (the numbers 1, 2 and 3 add up to 6). Perfect numbers are rare; the ancient Greeks only recognized four: 8,128, 496, 28 and 6. This number is also the smallest number above 0 that isn’t a prime or a square number. Snowflakes have 6 points, as does the Star of David, and honeycombs have 6 sides. Because 12 is seen as a number of cosmic order (there are 12 months in a year, and time is measured in units of 12 hours) and is used in other measurements (we use the dozen and the gross as units of measurement), 6 can be seen as representing the concept of “half.” It is also the highest number of the dice and is seen as lucky. The “sixth sense” represents ESP as well as hunches. And finally and quite appropriately for our purpose today, the number 6 is the symbol of Venus, the Goddess of love and beauty.

The Lovers corresponds with the element of Air, and thus the Minor Arcana suit of Swords, the playing cards suit of Spades, the direction of East, and the colors Yellow or Gold. Air is connected to the intellect, and to action, challenges, and a struggle that brings an outcome. This element represents the focused intent to bring forth manifestation, and many times it indicates a struggle as we bring an idea into reality. The element of Air can encourage a focus on truth and clarity, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and encourage a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart.

In astrology, The Lovers corresponds with the astrological sign of Gemini, the Twins. Gemini is about communication of all kinds, and about collecting information and stimulating the mind. Geminis are a mix of yin and yang, and they can easily see both sides of an issue. Gemini is all about the intellect, the mind, and the thinking process. They think clearly and make use of logic, and at the same time make use of their fertile imagination. Gemini is a mutable sign, and thus they can sometimes change their mind on a whim or not follow through to the end of a project, but this mutability makes them adaptable and flexible, too.

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 Lovers corresponds with the Hebrew letter Zain (or Zayin), the seventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet and a member of the archetypal group; this letter represents the spear, sword or weapon, and it is also connected to food and to sustenance.

On the Tree of Life, The Lovers represents Path 17, running between Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify) and Binah (female receptive energy and the origin of form and structure), connecting the Pillar of Balance to the Pillar of Form and the Sacred Feminine of Binah. A keyword for Tiphareth is “Beauty” and a keyword for Binah is “Understanding” so we could say that the 17th Path shows us the Beauty of Understanding as well as an Understanding of Beauty. The 17th Path is one of the paths that crosses Da’at, The Abyss, which tells us that The Lovers is not as simple as it appears on its surface.

Within the Major Arcana, The Lovers can be seen as connected to The Hierophant (which is about the group), and The Devil (which is about bondage, dependencies and addictions). Often, the traditional images of The Hierophant, The Lovers and The Devil have similarities; in many decks each often show s two people standing before some figure of authority or power. The Lovers is also connected to the Minor Arcana Two of Cups, another card that tells of duality, connections and love, and the Queen of Cups, the personification of love and compassion.

The Lovers of the Thoth Tarot has it all: a majestic priest (The Hermit of the Major Arcana), a blindfolded Cupid with bow drawn, a royal bride (who holds a cup) and bridegroom (who holds a lance). Before them are two children; on either side of the children are a white eagle (representing The Empress) and a red lion (representing The Emperor). At the very front of the card is the Orphic egg (the source of all manifestation), and around the egg is coiled the serpent Ophion (the fertilizer and protector of the egg). Above it all is an arch made of Swords. Crowley saw The Lovers as representing the alchemical process of Solution (the process that mixes a solid, gas or another liquid with a liquid, so that one substance seems to disappear into the other).

The Tarot of Bones (the awesome deck by Lupa that I reviewed last month month) Lovers card shows an image of a pair of Galapagos albatross skulls. These birds (who can live up to 50 years and who mate for life) are apart from their mates for most of the year, but in the spring when they reunite to make babies, they perform an elaborate mating dance as they greet and become reacquainted with their partners. The Tarot of Bones Companion Book sums up The Lovers nicely as “The pinnacle of romance and compatibility, bound together through mutual attraction and care.”

The Haindl Tarot Lovers card is chock full of symbolism: a red rose (love) superimposed with the Star of David (as above, so below and the four elements), with each point of the star adorned with a leaf (element of Earth, fertility, Nature); a spear (Wands, element of Fire) pointed down (ownership), and a unicorn (purity, innocence and enchantment). There is a tree on either side of the couple, reminding us of the Garden of Eden and the Trees of Life and Knowledge found there. An important symbol is the fact that the two Lovers hold each other’s hands behind a golden Cup, telling us that while we have many important personal choices in our lives, choices that can affect our physical environment as well as our emotional and mental selves, love is in front of it all.

The Shadowscapes Tarot Lovers card shows a couple who are kissing; they look into each other’s eyes and do not see the sun blazing overhead, the gold and gem-encrusted crown being offered to them. They only experience the oneness of passion and love that brings true union. This card tells of love and a union that can be based on romance, but also can be about the melding of both the heart and the mind, about communion and sharing, and it can even represent the transformative power of love.. The Shadowscapes Lovers card reminds us that this is about choice (and choosing can sometimes be a struggle) and about determining our own values.

The Lovers of the Gateway to the Divine Tarot are not quite touching. The image shows them at that moment just before a kiss that will be life-changing. Between them, Cupid’s arrow flies into the apple of desire that is growing on the Tree of Knowledge, and before them is the uncoiling serpent of awakening desire. Around them are four pillars decorated with lovers’ knots. This card represents relationships, intimacy, communication, unity, and choice, and the motivational power of love. The Lovers also can represent a choice between vice and virtue.

The Lovers presents the two halves that when united with balance are greater than the sum of their parts. This card is about love, but it is also about thinking! Remember, The Lovers corresponds with the element of Air and with the intellect and the workings of the mind. This card is about our personal values, and how they affect our choices and the promises we make to others.

The Lovers is about a one-to-one connection that we choose to allow, or not allow. We’ve all experienced both the pleasures and the pains associated with loving someone else. Trusting in the power of love, even though our minds may be giving other advice, is a very brave personal choice.

And for anyone who believes in the existence of Deity, any love that we humans may feel or experience is an echo or a reflection of the purest and most powerful love offered to us by Deity. The Lovers can be seen to bring us a true understanding of the beauty of love, an emotion which can cure us or kill us, and to show us the Divine nature of the choice to open ourselves to love.

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

***

About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

For Amazon Information Click Image Below

Last month we talked about the Five of Wands; since we are in a “Wands” state of mind, let’s look at another Wands card, the Two of Wands. The typical image on this card shows a man, or sometimes a woman, holding a wand or staff with another wand or staff on the other side of the image, and holding a globe or crystal ball in the palm of his/her other hand. The person is usually standing in profile, or facing mostly away from the viewer, looking to the beautiful landscape in the background. There are usually mountains in the distance, and often there is some kind of water in the scene as well. Often there is a wall separating the person from the landscape, or the person is standing in a chamber and looking out a large window to the landscape beyond; sometimes there is a road at the person’s feet, leading onward. The sky is usually calm and clear, and sometimes the sun is visible in the sky.

The Two 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. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature, and while the image on the Two of Wands seems placid, it is filled with unmanifested potential.

We already know that 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 2, and the suit of Wands. We have other things to consider, so let’s get started.

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 it transforms everything it touches, 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 lovely Two of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes, such as 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, 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. Again, the potential for this last concept is evident within the symbolism of the traditional image for this card.

The element of Fire can be seen as kinetic, or even electric. It has the power to create greatness (when we are inspired to be better than we think we can be), or destruction (when we believe we are greater than we actually are). Fire fuels innovation, but an imbalance or lack of Fire can bring austerity. Action and energy are enhanced by this element, but so are destruction and oppression.

When dealing with the Minor Arcana, perhaps the most important ingredient besides the suit of the card is the number of the card. In the Tarot, the number 2 usually represents balance, polarity, and the energy of “distance between.” The Ace of the Tarot Minors represents the Point and the concept of Position; the 2 represents the Line (the “distance between” two points) and it brings us the concept of comparison. The number 2 offers creative partnerships, duality, tension, cooperation, diplomacy, and decisions; it offers both direction and connection, and can be considered a gateway. In the Tarot, this number represents the first time the element appears as itself, manifested. Within the suit of Wands, we have 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 (the Ace of Wands), and we have the personal power needed to manifest the possibilities of the Ace (the Two of Wands).

The Two of Wands tells us that if we can find a balance or interaction between the ideas that blossom with brilliant colors within our mind and the reality of the world around us and the resources at our disposal, openings or possible situations to our advantage may appear. The number 2 brings balance and a good foundation, and the suit of Wands offers expansion that can take advantage of the balance offered by the number 2. The manifestations that happen here are mostly pure, unaffected by the energies of the cards to follow. All of the Tarot Twos are balanced because of this interaction between the number 2 and the energies of the suit, and because the Two cards are the first evidence of manifestation within the physical world and not yet affected by other energies. In the other Minor Twos we have the ability to balance the mind by shutting out the world (Swords), the ability to open ourselves to some kind of partnership or relationship (Cups), and the ability to keep our physical world responsibilities in balance and at the same time keep a smile on our face (Pentacles).

On the Tree of Life, the Tarot Twos correspond with the sephira of Chokmah, the first actual manifestation after the pureness of Kether (Kether represents the cause of manifestation). Chokmah is found at the top of the Pillar of Force/Expansion. It is seen as dynamic thrust, and as the Ultimate Positive, the Great Stimulator and the Great Fertilizer (one of the symbols of Chokmah is the penis), and thus this sephira is connected to the Wheel of the Year. It represents dynamic male energy and is the origin of vital force and polarity. In Chokmah, pure being becomes pure force (and thus, pure formlessness), and independence is possible. Thus, the Twos of the Minor Arcana show the full power of their element and correspondence, in the purest expression that is not yet influenced by anything else. For the Two of Wands, this purest expression is manifested as personal power, daring, and originality, without influence from the outside world.

Astrology is a tool that can offer subtle effects for us to consider as we analyze this card. The Two of Wands corresponds to the planet Mars, associated with action, spontaneity, aggression, and drive, in Aries, whose energies are action oriented, pioneering, assertive, and enthusiastic.

In astrology, Mars is the Roman god of war and bloodshed whose traditional symbols are the spear (or Wand) and the shield. Mars was second in importance only to Jupiter, and was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions. Mars orbits the Sun in 687 days, spending about 57.25 days in each sign of the zodiac. It is also the first planet that orbits outside of Earth’s orbit, making it the first planet that does not set along with the Sun. Astrologically, Mars is associated with confidence and self-assertion, aggression, sexuality, energy, strength, ambition and impulsiveness. Mars governs sports, competitions and physical activities in general. In medicine, Mars presides over the genitals, the muscular system, the gonads and adrenal glands, and was associated with fever, accidents, trauma, pain and surgery.

The astrological sign of Aries is a cardinal Fire sign that presents a catalyst, a person that inspires others by being totally committed to his or her own vision. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the leader of the pack, first in line to get things going. Those born under this sign prefer to initiate, and they won’t shy away from anything new. Aries people are action oriented, assertive, and competitive. Aries is ruled by Mars, the God of War, bold and aggressive, and able to tap into the focus needed to take on any challenge. The symbol of Aries is the Ram, blunt and to the point, and a sheer force of nature. The great strength of those born under this sign is found in their initiative, courage and determination.

The energies of Mars when in the constellation of Aries are impulsive and spontaneous, sometimes to the point of lacking discipline and patience. This combination is about leadership, the ability to do great things, to be fearless and brave. New ideas and challenges are true joys and because courage is in the mix, going where others fear to go is a natural reaction. Anger may appear, but once the fire dies down, there is no resentment, and holding a grudge is not an option. Because Mars in Aries is not real good at taking the time to prepare, things may not go as planned, but these energies keep burning till the job is done.

The Two of Wands presents an opportunity to look to the future with optimism, and with confidence that we have what it takes to get to where we want to go. The Llwewllyn Welsh Two of Wands tells of the planning and foresight necessary to search out new possibilities and hidden options. This card tells of using intuition and imagination as we brainstorm for solutions and ideas. The Thoth Tarot Two of Wands is titled “Dominion,” and Crowley calls this card “Fire in its best and highest form” and “Will in its most exalted form . . . ideal Will, independent of any given object.” The Shadowscapes Companion Two of Wands tells of viewing our domain in order to see a vision of what might be accomplished in the future if we act with courage and strength (but not to the point that we become intoxicated by our own power).

The Two of Staffs of the Alchemical Tarot tells of the union of differing powers, with one flaming staff grounded in the earth and the other flaming staff being joined to the first, held by a hand emerging from a cloud. This card warns that the two sides are unequal, with the grounded staff being seen as better-situated. The Dreams of Gaia Two of Fire tells of power sharing and partnerships between like-minded individuals, and similar to the Two of Staffs, it tells of the relationship between mentor and mentee.

All in all, this is a good card to see in a spread.

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.”

Death

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

This month, since we are heading toward Samhain and Halloween, we will return to the Major Arcana, and talk about Death. The Tarot Major Arcana card Death, that is. Once we take a closer look at this card, you will come to understand that the Death card rarely foretells death of the physical body, and it really is something to be celebrated, not feared. Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves of some terms. If you know them, go ahead and skip down to where we talk about the traditional image of the card.

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 Death is of a skeleton in black knight’s armor, sometimes also wearing a black robe, riding a white horse whose bridle is decorated with skulls and crossbones, and carrying within his bony hand a flag or banner featuring a white rose. Standing before the horse is a priest, his hands together in prayer. At the feet of the horse are people who are dead or in the process of dying, one of which is often a child. Also at the feet of the horse is a discarded crown. Where the horse walks, the ground is brown, yet in the background are green trees, mountains, and a river on which a boat moves, its white sail filled with air. On the horizon are two white castles, and what could be either the rising or setting sun. In some decks, the horse being ridden by Death is also a skeleton. Other Death cards show the traditional version of Death himself, a Grim Reaper skeleton in a black or a blood-red robe, carrying a scythe, with skulls and bones and body parts littering the ground around him; often he is standing beside a stream or body of water, and sometimes the sky is filled with dark clouds.

Most of the symbolism within the traditional images of the Death card tells of endings and beginnings, transitions of some kind, and often, a return to balance. Death is a frightening figure, and yet his banner is emblazoned with a rose, the symbol of promise, hope, love, and new beginnings. The rose is also often found on The Magician, Strength, and The Fool, all three of which could offer us advice for dealing with the Death card. The sun on the horizon could represent the ending of a day or the beginning of a day. Water tells of emotions, visions, and dreams, all ways to communicate across the Veil between those who are alive and those who have passed. Water also tells of birth and death. The scythe represents the harvest, which happens at the end of the growth season when the harvest is leveled, and the discarded crown tells us that no one, even a king, is immune to death.

The Death card is numbered XIII. The number 13 has a lot of baggage attached to it, not all pleasant. We can break this number down several ways. We can add the digits, 1 + 3, and get the number 4. The number 4 is about balance, stability and depth, not concepts we would connect to Death. However, cycles of being born, living, and then dying and resting only to be born again are a part of our natural world, and death is a key part of the renewal that comes with birth, a part of the balancing of those cycles. We can break the number down as a combination of the numbers 10 and 3. The number 10 tells of the completion of a cycle or effect, and the number 3 tells of broadening our ability to perceive, or the physical manifestation of an idea, or a new creation out of the union of opposites. Or, we can take the number on its own. 13 is seen by many as representing bad luck, rooted from that Friday the 13th in 1307 when the Knights Templar were mostly assassinated. However, the number 13 can represent the “enlightened guest”; Christ had 12 disciples, which means there were 13 people at the Last Supper: 12 disciples and the “enlightened guest,” thus offering keywords such as ascension and resurrection to the Death card. In ancient Greece, Zeus was considered the 13th god of the pantheon, and the most powerful. This offers keywords such as completion, attainment and realization to our card. The number 13 is also a prime number, which tells of purity and an incorruptible nature.

The Death card represents the archetypes of The Reaper and Rebirth. The Reaper clears the growth from the fields and brings in the last harvest. Again, we are shown the cycle of life, and the importance of endings and completions. Only then, once the harvest is gathered and the fields are cleared and allowed to rest, can Rebirth begin. For even during the darkest winter night when the fields are covered with snow, the seeds of the last harvest begin to germinate. These archetypes tell of letting go of the old to make way of the new, of moving from the known into the unknown (which can be frightening), and that new beginnings will follow a period of grieving for what has gone.

Death 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. 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.

In astrology, Death corresponds with the astrological sign of Scorpio. Scorpio is a fixed Water sign; in Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. For Scorpios, these traits are found through achievement, and through going deep into the timeless mysteries of the imagination, dreams, and passions. Scorpios are powerful and willful in all they do; they stick with a task to the end, often achieving much more than Cardinal and Mutable Signs. On the other hand, they are also inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Scorpios will ruthlessly fight on behalf of their beliefs, regardless of any contrary evidence, but they are most at home when immersed in a sustained, worthwhile situation. Scorpios love to learn about others; the curiosity of Scorpios is immeasurable. Scorpio is about beginnings and endings, and about understanding the deep, dark secrets of the self. Scorpios stick to the plan (Scorpio is a Fixed Sign, after all); they are intense and passionate, even if they appear quiet on the surface.

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. Death of the Major Arcana corresponds with the Hebrew letter Nun, the fourteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet which falls into the level of manifestation, representing the fish. In Aramaic, the fish is a symbol of activity and life. Nun is said to represent both faithfulness and the reward for faithfulness. The origin of the pictograph representing the letter Nun is said to be a seed sprouting, representing perpetuation, offspring and the verb “to continue.”

On the Tree of Life, Death represents Path 24, running between Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify) and Netzach (the stimulating factors of emotion and inspiration). The 24th Path explores the differences between materialism and spirituality; it connects Netzach, the bottom of the Pillar of Force, with Tiphareth, the center of the Tree. The 24th Path helps us to face our fear of change; it shows us that death is a natural part of the evolutionary process, and of living. Through working with this Path, and with the Death card, we learn that death is actually a beginning, and we learn that change and transition are healthy.

The alchemic process of Putrefaction can be seen as a form of death. In biological death, putrefaction is one of the stages of decomposition in which the cohesion between tissues is broken down and the organs are liquefied. Within the alchemic Great Work, Putrefaction destroys the old nature and form. “Everything that has lived, dies; everything that is dead putrefies and finds a new life.” Dom Pernety.

In the Tarot of the Magicians, Oswald Wirth shows us a skeleton with a scythe, surrounded by body parts and the head of a woman with long hair and a man wearing a crown. In this deck, many of the cards are named: the Magician, the Priestess, the Empress; however Death is not named, only numbered. Wirth tells us that death is not to be feared for it is liberation, rather, Death “extinguishes nothing, but sets free the energies overwhelmed by the weight of Matter’s increasing inertia.”

The Dreams of Gaia Major Arcana Death/Rebirth card is **the** change card of this beautiful deck; the keywords for this card are endings, beginnings, cycles, transformation, transmutation, change and growth. Death/Rebirth tells of the death of the things that no longer serve and the birth of the new and exciting things that will replace the things that died. The process is not reversible (which is one reason we fear death); once we pass through Death and into Rebirth, there is no re-do. The LWB offers pointed advice: “. . . it is time to take a long, hard look at your life, and understand that it is time to let go.”

The image of the Death card in Thoth deck is what attracted me to this deck initially. The Death card shows death as a dancing skeleton bearing a scythe. He wears the Crown of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead and is shown in the waters of Amenti, an Egyptian after-death state. The sweep of his scythe creates bubbles which contain the seeds of new life. This version of Death does not show the usual version of the Grim Reaper; instead this being dances!

I adore the image on the Wild Unknown Death card; it absolutely captures the idea of transformation without bringing in the fear. Here is the duckling of The Fool and the swan of the Cups Court Cards of this deck, or at least what is left of them after their life forces have departed and their bodies have mostly decayed and gone back to where they began so new life can spring from their ingredients. There are still some feathers left, and a beak on the skull, like the fading memories left in our minds of someone who was once alive. Most of what was here once has gone on to another plane of existence, the life force back to the Divine and the body back to the Earth. We don’t know what it is like to die, but there is a rightness to this image that reassures. Life may not be forever, but neither is Death.

The Legacy of the Divine Death card has everything you would expect: a skull, spiders and scorpions, a grim reaper on a rearing steed, wearing armor and carrying a tattered banner, a dead bird and winter-bare branches along with a beautiful, perfect white rose blossom. This card tells us that we have indeed died, maybe not physically but we have been irrevocably transformed. We are not existing in the same form. The keywords are letting go, death, rebirth, regeneration, and metamorphosis, among others.

Endings are as necessary in life as beginnings, and the Death card reminds us that the cycles of life, no matter how pleasant or feared they may be, have a beauty about them. Our life cycles have an elegant simplicity about them. Nothing is wasted, and everything has value. As we move through the changes and transformations of life, we need to remember to not dwell too much on the events of the past, or the possibilities of the future. Instead, we should embrace this moment in time and look for the possibilities hidden within it. Those possibilities have so much to offer, and they are right here, in our hands.

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

Comments are closed.

Trackback URI |