Tarot: the Fool’s Journey & Relationship with God, Humans, Intellect, & Employment

It may surprise readers of this blog to find out that I’m currently studying Tarot. Yes, I am. My busker friend, Simon, here in Andalusia got me interested by introducing me to the work of Ruth Rodriguez Sotomayor, the great Ecuadorian scholar of “The Precursors of Printing.”

Sotomayor’s work calls us to value “texts” that preserve the wisdom, philosophies and worldvisions of humans before the invention of the printing press — and of those after its invention who had not yet learned to read.

Tarot cards (which first appeared in the 15th century) fall into the latter category. They form a kind of book expressing a profound spirituality of preliterate people in the various cultures which produced them. In Joseph Campbell’s terms, the book in question describes a hero’s journey from ignorance to complete self-consciousness.

And that’s a story we all need in this post-religious age. Please take time to view the video at the top of this posting. Then read the comments that follow. They reveal the absolute hunger that our American contemporaries experience for deep spirituality and how sincerely those who have rejected organized religion respond to the message of the Tarot book.

What I’m claiming is that Tarot cards remain an invaluable tool for navigating the mysteries of one’s life. The 21 “Major Arcana” (Magician, Priestess, Empress, Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Charioteer, Justice, Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Strength, Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, Devil, Tower, Stars, Moon, Sun, Judgment, and World) represent that life in general as stages in “The Fool’s Journey.”

Here, the Fool represents every man and woman. We are all fools, the cards disclose, in the process of discovering our deepest Self as a blend of divine characteristics embodied in the Magician and Priestess. That’s what the Fool discovers in his/her paradigmatic trek. At the end, s/he stops being a fool and assumes a more evolved identity as a Knight or Female Warrior continuing an evolutionary journey beginning with his/her cyclical return to the castle of the King-Father and Queen-Mother.

The 58 “Minor Arcana” depict that subsequent evolution as the Female Warrior and/or Knight secure deeper understandings of their relationships to Source, other human beings, to ideas and to work. In the end, they employ their inherent Divine Energy to establish dominion in those more specific realms while appropriating their unconscious identity as royal kings and queens.

Let’s review the entire process card by card. Here are the first six. I’ll survey the rest in subsequent postings.

Fool’s Journey

According to Tarot’s numerology, the Fool has no number. He is a zero, a clean slate. He is naïve, over-confident, daring, and bordering on stupid. He starts out confidently on his life’s path completely unaware of his True Identity as a blended Magician and Priestess. Notice how confidently he is about to step off a cliff’s edge despite the warnings of his dog:

  1. His/Her Unconscious Magician: This second card represents the Fool’s true (but unconscious) masculine identity – dynamic, muscular, gifted, capable, and commanding. The Magician understands and creatively harmonizes himself with Life’s four elements of fire, water, air, and earth, along with its fifth element (its quintessence) of God’s Enabling Energy (or “grace”).

2. Her/His Unconscious Priestess: This third card expresses the Fool’s true (also unconscious) female identity – pure feminine energy seated at the gates of Solomon’s Temple guarding the secrets of divine power. She is receptive and listening. Like the Magician, she is the Fool’s mentor and teacher. She gives the Fool ancient scrolls to explain how to use the Magician’s gifts of fire, water, air, and earth. Above all, she teaches the Fool how to use his or her intuition

3. The Empress (the external expression of the Fool’s inner Priestess): She embodies the Fool’s experience of earthly mother (or mother figure). She is nurturing, unconditionally loving, generous, and giving.

4. The Emperor (the external expression of the Fool’s inner Magician): He depicts the Fool’s experience of earthly father (or father figure). He guides, directs, and sets boundaries.

5. The Hierophant (Pope): The Fool eventually leaves home and encounters the Hierophant from whom s/he seeks guidance in a first encounter with formal education and organized religion. Under this influence, the Fool learns what it’s like to be part of a collective.

As I said, subsequent postings will review the remaining Tarot cards.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “Tarot: the Fool’s Journey & Relationship with God, Humans, Intellect, & Employment”

    1. Thanks, Ha. At this point “mastering” Tarot cards seems a long way off. But I’m interested. We’ll talk about this when you visit us in Westport (CT). Peggy and I will be in FLA for March. Then we’ll return to Spain till the end of June. After that, we plan on joining Brendan and his family in Rome for who knows how long? I’ll keep you posted. Great to hear from you. I’m so happy about your plans to work in the States.

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