Jan 212012
 

One of the grand metaphors of Tarot – though it is a fairly recent innovation – is the that that Major Arcana is The Fool’s Journey with three levels or kinds of work for our Hero Fool to do:  Cards 1 – 7 represent the development of self and the ego; Cards 8 – 14 represent a turning inward to seek a new kind of wisdom; and Cards 15-21 represent fulfillment of the Fool’s seeking and spiritual attainment.  In 78 Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack names the levels as Consciousness, Subconsciousness, and Superconsciousness.

The Fool’s Journey has guided me for a long time but now it’s sparked a new metaphor as I’ve worked through the Journey into the Tarot.  I’ve been playing with a vision of the Major Arcana as three circles of healing with three points of transition.  This post spins out that thread of thought and continues the play.

Both the nature and the shape of the journey changed with the shift in metaphor to circles of healing rather than a progressive journey.

The first spark for this new view of the Major Arcana came from working with and re-assessing the relationships between the male and female wisdom figures of the first six cards of the Major Arcana (which I blogged about in more detail here).  I saw the obvious dance between the Emperor and the Empress, but also how the Hierophant needs the High Priestess’ inner / lunar wisdom to refresh the outer / solar traditions he upholds.  They danced between the Magician and the Lovers.


Using the circle of healing metaphor, The Magician represents the circles highest potential and what exists before a split of masculine and feminine.  He exuberantly uses the male elements of fire and air and the female elements of water and earth to make his magic.  The Lovers shows the joyful connection of masculine and feminine and is the main healing work of this circle of integration.  The connection is possible both within a person and through greater cooperation of men and women in the world.

The Charioteer moves forward from this triumph of integration led by a team of dark and light creatures into the next circle of healing.

Using the attributions of the English School, Strength opens the second circle of healing seeming to continue a theme of triumph and most commonly the image of a woman taming a lion.  But the gentleness of the woman is so different from the boldness of the Charioteer.   Some kind of transformation has taken place.

Paradox now makes its appearance as the trickster teacher because the triumph of the first line is following by the seeming contradiction of dissolution and surrender as the achievements of second line of cards.

The work of this line starts with The Hermit who leaves behind the everyday world for the lonely mountaintop.  He goes inward removing himself from the attention and praise of the world.  This allows him to come to know his inner wisdom.  Rather than being isolating, the work here connects to the Hermit to ever changing movement of the Wheel.  From his wide perspective on the mountain top, he comes to a deep understanding of change internally, in the everyday world, and even in the unseen realms and the widest cosmos.  He no longer fights change but aligns himself with its energies.

This alignment with change brings a greater understanding of the patterns of cause and effect embodied in Justice.  Reaching Justice brings us half way round this circle of healing with Strength and Justice across from each other.  The connection is apt as it takes strength to look at our lives and take responsibility for how we’ve triumphed and failed and to pluck the lessons of self knowledge from its roses and thorns.

The deep self knowledge gained from this encounter with Justice may spark a re-assessment that can be quite destabilizing.  And in this second circle of healing the destabilization needs to be embraced.  The Hanged One meets the challenge by turning every thing upside down and being with the uncertainty created by this new perspective.  Action seems impossible.  A new understanding of what is important is in process of being formed.

The old self faces Death and this is the great work of this circle of healing.  The transition into a new way of being requires releasing what is known, both the negative and the positive aspects.  We are called to let them go without knowing what will next emerge.  There is the phase of the Death process where we enter the void.  If we have prepared well enough in the work of the Hanged One, we may even welcome this place of absence.



We are called forth from the void by the rising of the sun.  The new invites us.  We emerge as stronger because of a greater connection to the whole of creation that is in a constant cycle of birth, death, and re-birth.  The boundaries between self and other have worn away.  We have the skills to commune with our lions (who represent both our fears and our power).  While we appear to have control over these beasts, those who have traveled the healing circle of dissolution know that it is through surrender and death that this deeper kind of power flows.

We’ll need that power when we face the Devil, but that’s a subject for another post.

[Notes:  Images from the Gaian Tarot are used with permission.  It's interesting to note that some people see the Gaian Magician as a man while others see the figure as a woman.  The ability to be both speaks to the Magician as an already perfect balance of male and female.]

Nov 032011
 

My Journey into the Tarot has me looking with new eyes at the relationships between the wisdom figures of the Major Arcana.  Before this journey, I would pair up the Magician and The High Priestess, but as I wrote about in last week’s post, it is actually the Hierophant and the High Priestess who offer each other necessary balance and when their cooperate a healthy wholeness.

So where is the Magician’s partner?  The Magician’s partner is within.  As the number One, the Magician represents the unity of all things and thus is neither masculine nor feminine (sorry to any Pythagoreans out there who classify this as a male number!) but a blending of both.  The prominence of the 4 elemental tools or emblems of the suits contains this hidden nugget of truth because the Magician uses with equal facility the feminine elements of water and earth and the masculine elements of fire and air.

Perhaps this is why my current favorite reading decks all have androgynous Magicians:  Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe, Tarot Roots of Asia, and Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot.  In the Gaian Tarot Circle, although it is more automatic to see the Magician as man, were certain the figure is a woman and were surprised that others even conceived of it as a man.

The High Priestess then becomes the Major Arcana to have a gendered identity as the essence of feminine being.  She brings forth the Empress, the physical, life-giving, creative force of the feminine.  The cosmos springs from the feminine receptive to all life.

If we take the first flaring forth as an example, here is a wonderful description of its beginnings from Thomas Berry’s and Brian Swimme’s The Universe Story:

In the beginning was a flaring forth of evanescent beings.  In every instant the universe was fresh, just as a flickering flame’s shape is fresh, nearly created.  In the beginning, the universe was a sparkling.  Nothing endured the beginning except the flickering creativity bringing forth each new billowing.  The intensity, the concentration, the shimmering of the beginning was so extreme that no single being in the entire universe endured it, but each thing disappeared almost as suddenly as it entered into existence.  (p. 20)

But to endure this great creativity needed form, the first photons and neutrons partnered and a foundation for a stable on-going creation of matter is made.  We have entered the realm of the Emperor who brings structure to creation.  At its best his structuring supports on-going creativity and his leadership leads to harmonious relations.  This is possible when the Emperor and Empress partner just as the first proton and neutrons.

The High Priestess and Hierophant show this partnership within institutions and especially within the institutions that transmit religion and tradition.  Their partnership, too, needs a dynamic dance of the feminine and masculine energies and inclinations.

The dance of these two couples played out in our society has been imperfect.  We are emerging from a time when the masculine has led to too much and partnered too little, but in our times the Goddess and earth/green movements have been bringing the feminine back to center from the margins.  We need to reclaim her wisdom.

And we need to make a leap.

We need to leap into The Lovers as an expression of the masculine and feminine integrated within us as individuals and within our societies and institutions.  They need to embrace each others as equals.

The first six cards of the Major Arcana now show me a journey of healing.  From the original unity of the Magician, we have passed through a perhaps necessary separation of the masculine and feminine, but in our times we have been damaged by the false belief that one is superior to the other.  The Lovers invites us back to a dance of equality and joy.

May it be so!

Oct 152011
 

The Tarot’s Emperor loves stability.  His number is 4, suggesting the four corners of a building or four legs of a chair that provide a grounded support.  The Hebrew letter that corresponds to the Emperor is Heh, which means window, a square through which we can look out from a building of human construction into the natural world.   The Emperor has a firm foundation and clear boundaries. Nothing appears to shake him.

This stability is a great source of the Emperor’s authority.  It allows him to be a leader seemingly without his own needs who can concentrate on leading and serving others.  (This stability can also lead to rigidity and that is why he needs the flowing Empress to shake him up periodically, but that is for another post.)

The majority of Emperor images emphasize these qualities by showing him seated on a throne and cards that skip the throne often position connected to a tree.  Here is the RWS version and the Gaian Tarot version


The throne or chair became the symbol central to last Wednesday’s Journey into the Tarot with the Emperor as we explored the positive qualities of this wisdom figure and were invited by the Emperor to sit in a our own chair of authority.  There was a fascinating range from the Arthurian-inspired to the meditation-inspired.  Authority and leadership today is still necessary, but clearly is taking a wider variety of forms that in the past.

Inspired by the Rider-Waite-Smith image with its rams’ heads decorating the throne – yes, the traditional can still serve an inspiration for finding new realities! – our Emperor guide also invited participants to see an emblem on their chair that represented the source of their authority for being and leading in the world.  My own emblem at first was a Spiral (an image of Divinity for me) and as I looked longer the center started to swim and I was looking through a portal into swirling, star-birthing galaxies.  Truly, the imagination can take us to exciting places.

These meditations will continue just about every Wednesday at 8:30pmET by telephone until we have journeyed with each Major Arcana card.  Send me an e-mail (carolyn – at – artofchangetarot – dot – com) if you would like to participate and I’ll send you the details.

You can also turn to your Tarot deck for inspiration in identifying the seat and emblem of your authority for being and leading in the world.  Here is a suggested process for your use and modification.

  • Shuffle and cut a deck as you normal would.
  • Pull a card in response to the question:  What is the source of my authority for being and leading in the world? Explore its meaning with intuitive responses and traditional Tarot meaning.  What does it suggest about your authority?  What kind of chair would be suggested by this kind of authority?
  • Next pull a card that will somewhere on it contain the inspiration for the emblem of your authority.  When you turn the card over see where your eye is first drawn.  This most likely is or will spark understanding of your emblem.  Even if it at first seems odd stick with it for a while.  If it seems completely off, you can spend more time exploring the card.
  • Make it real. Did you identify a kind of chair?  Go sit in it!  Are you finding your emblem?  Draw it or carve it or sculpt it and put it on your chair.
[Note:  Images used with permission.  Rider Waite Smith Emperor ® US Games Systems, Used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.]
Apr 072011
 

I find inspirations for Tarot spreads everywhere and change models often spark such musings. The model put forth in Switch by Chip and Dan Heath provides a particularly concise model that lends itself to a favorite way to use Tarot: the 3 card spread. The model then expands to support further exploration of what is discovered in your 3 card spread.

Weaving together info from many sources, the Heaths show how each of us has a conflict built into our brains between the rational mind and the emotional mind. The rationale mind knows it would be better to put on the running shoes and go for a jog, but the emotional mind wants to sit in front of the TV with ice cream. Chip and Dan use evocative metaphors to identify these two parts of ourselves. The Rider is the rational mind who sits top The Elephant of the emotional mind. In the book they detail how these two have to find ways to cooperate rather than have one dominate as they go down The Path of creating change. (They are great storytellers and have perfect examples. Sometimes it is all a little too perfect in regard to the largest societal changes, but still their presentation of this work offers much food for thought.)

Are you seeing the 3 card spread emerging? Rider, Elephant, Path. I was just playing with the cards and tried a reading out for myself. I was surprised that laser precise insight and the deeper process that it inspired.

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