Comparing the Aces
Let’s shake things up a bit this month, and talk about the four Aces and their connections to each other. Aces are different from the other Minors, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material or manifested. They are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; for example the Ace of Pentacles is not Earth, but rather a tendency to become Earth!
The Aces are Minor Arcana cards, so we know right away that the messages offered by these cards will usually be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue.
As we have learned, the easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and we are looking at all the Minor Arcana suits. The meaning of the number 1 and the correspondences to a particular suit could actually give you enough information about a particular Ace to offer a useful interpretation.
Let’s look at the number 1 first. Basically, the number 1 represents two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is; everything else that could be connected to position is potential only. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility without the catalyst that begins growth.
The number 1 is about new beginnings, or better yet, the seeds that bring new beginnings. Every following number is made by comparing itself with or interacting with the number 1. How do you arrive at the number 2? You add 1 to the number 1. You could say that the number 1 contains all the other numbers, and thus you can also say that the Aces of the Minors contain every other card in their respective suit because each Ace contains the potential to bring that manifestation once other influences are added into the mix.
So, just by looking at the number connected to these cards, we already know that the Aces present a non-tangible concept rather than an experience or something we can hold or touch. Aces present energy just as that energy is preparing to manifest, kind of like the situation in your lungs at the completion of an exhale but before the next inhale begins.
Let’s examine the suits of the Minor Arcana. In its natural state, the element of Earth is cool and dry, and it binds or shapes or has an effect on the other elements. Earth is of the physical or physically formed or manifested world, and of nurturing, health, finances and security, and the wisdom associated with living simply and being well-grounded. Earth is the element of form and substance; it is connected to material world security (and even wealth), and to our physical bodies and physical senses and the pleasures and pains they bring. Earth represents the nurturing and serene side of Nature, and it represents the tangible end result of our labors. Earthy energies are fertile, practical, and slow to change.
The element of Water is cold and wet, and it binds or combines and readily adapts to its environment. When amassed, Water has weight, and it tends to gather or collect at the lowest place or level available to it. 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. Like emotions, a body of Water can be calm and deep, or it can be dangerously churning and filled with powerful currents. Like visions, the calm surface of Water can act like a mirror, reflecting its surroundings in a slightly altered manner, hiding what lays below.
The element of Air is hot and wet, it is a force that separates or categorizes, and it readily adapts to change. The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, our capacity to analyze or apply logic, our mental state, the beliefs we have, and actions we take in response to effects around us. Air can represent attacking or defending, logic or aggression. The element of Air also represents the intelligence that clears away the fog of ignorance and allows us to understand the effects 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.
The element of Fire is hot and dry, and it is a force that separates and shapes, using both to have an effect on the other elements. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire chemically alters physical objects, it turns Water into steam, and Fire’s passion can change our way of thinking. It represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. 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.
The traditional image of the Ace introduces the symbol being used within a deck for a particular element. The suit of Pentacles often uses a pentagram or coin to make it easier to connect to the correspondences and traits of its element. The suit of Cups uses cups, chalices or water of some kind, allowing us to visually connect to the element. The suit of Air uses a sword or dagger, representing the sharpness of the intellect, and the suit of Wands uses a wand or rod or stave, often with leaves or flowers sprouting from it, hinting at the powerful possibility of its element. The most common image for an Ace is the symbol of the suit being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it yet. Often the image contains other representations of the suit presented in a way that hints at fertility and possibility. The sky is usually clear and blue in these images, representing the clarity and purity of the potential being offered, not yet muddied by manifestations or expectations or actions. Often there is a clear view to the horizon, showing us the potential for advancing along the path offered by the particular Ace. There may be mountains, indicating challenges, but they are way in the distance and not yet affecting the energies of the card.
Each of the Aces has a seasonal or astrological attribute. The Ace of Pentacles represents the Spring, and the astrological signs of Aries (active, straightforward, courageous), Taurus (sensible, dependable, grounded) and Gemini (smart, gregarious, curious). The Ace of Cups represents the Fall, and the astrological signs of Libra (diplomatic, objective, cooperative), Scorpio (vibrant, passionate, prone to extremes) and Sagittarius (adventurous, philosophical, freedom-loving). The Ace of Swords represents the season of Winter, and the astrological signs of Capricorn (determined, ambitious, productive), Aquarius (conscientious, intellectual, humanitarian) and Pisces (compassionate, intuitive, selfless). The Ace of Wands represents the Summer, and the astrological signs of Cancer (emotional, protective, supportive), Leo (proud, dramatic charismatic) and Virgo (efficient, analytic, organized).
Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is also the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not actual manifestation itself, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. If we see the sephiroth of the Tree as “emanations,” Kether is the first emanation at the top of the Tree and thus the closest to that form of Deity that is unknowable. Moving down the Tree, Kether can be seen as the first expression of Divine Will; moving up the Tree, Kether can be seen as the destruction of thought, the place where human consciousness dissolves into infinity.
All of the Minor Arcana cards of a particular suit teach us about the attributes of that suit, and how they can manifest in our day-to-day lives. The Aces remind us of the potential connected to their Suit. The Ace of Pentacles represents the potential to achieve prosperity and abundance, security and trust, groundedness and strong foundations. The Ace of Cups is about the potential for experiencing connections, intense and passionate feelings, the pleasures of the senses, and an enjoyment of experiencing the world around us. The Ace of Swords tells of the possibility to experience intellectual potential, to experience the power to analyze that is necessary in order to make good choices, to determine personal truth, and to react correctly to events in our day. The Ace of Wands tells of the initial emanation of enthusiasm or inspiration or passion that could very well energize an entire process or project.
Often, the Aces of the Minor Arcana get lost among the large personalities of many of the cards in the Tarot deck. However, the Aces are the cards imbued with the most magick; they are filled with potential and possibility, pure and unadulterated energy. All we need to do in order to access that energy is to focus on it, and then we will bring all that power into our world.
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 Journal 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.