Here is the second installment reflecting my recent initiation into the wonders of Tarot cards.
Under the influence of Ruth Rodriguez Sotomayor, the author of The Precursors of Printing, and of the great Chilean filmmaker and tarotista, Alejandro Jodorowsky, I’ve come to see tarot cards as a living, dynamic, interactive book. It has 78 pages that are absolutely fascinating because their subject is YOU and I, the overall direction of our lives, and the most intimate details of our personal relationships and worldly endeavors.
Tarot originated in various parts of Europe during the 15th century when most people were illiterate. No matter. Under the guidance of a master reader, the cards can yield pages and pages of engrossing information of the most practical kind.
Lately, I’ve taken to beginning my day with a tarot reading. After shuffling the cards and offering a prayer for light, I select three of them. One represents the energy of the day. A second card reminds me of what I’m grateful for. The third selection suggests who or what I’m asked to incarnate during the coming hours.
Recall, that in dealing with Tarot’s “Major Arcana,” (major secrets) we’ve been tracing the Fool’s Journey.” It’s the pilgrimage each of us must make from a child’s ignorance to the degree of enlightenment we finally achieve in this lifetime.
In the first five cards we met the image of the fool (ourselves); we were introduced to her (i.e. our) innermost self — a combination of (1) an all powerful Magician and (2) a beautiful, mysterious, and intuitive Priestess; we met the fool’s earthly embodiment of the Magician in the traveler’s (3) Emperor (his father figure) and (4) Empress (her mother figure); and finally we encountered his/her initial teacher and moral guide in (5) the Hierophant.
In reviewing today’s five cards, we’ll see the Fool beginning to transcend the guidance he received from those sources.
6. Lovers: Within the collective, the Fool meets his or her lover and has life’s first meaningful sexual experience connecting him or her with a gender opposite. (This card is very rich. Notice its references to the Biblical myth of the first man and the first woman. That’s a snake wrapped around an apple tree with four (the number of fullness and stability) apples. For his part, the card’s male figure is backed by a tree with 12 flame-like leaves. Fire is the symbol of passion; 12 is the number of enlightenment. A huge, beautiful, and passionate (red-winged) angel oversees and blesses the whole interaction whose trajectory is suggested by the reddish background mountain.)
7. The Chariot: After a honeymoon period, the Fool experiences some form of conflict and separation. It teaches belief in oneself and to be assertive in pursuing one’s goals. [Whereas the traditional reference in the Lovers’ card was to the Bible, the allusion here is to the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita teaches that our bodies are like chariots pulled by horses representing the senses, and controlled by the “reins” of the mind. Note here that the Chariot card has replaced the horses with sphinxes (a reference to Egyptian wisdom and to Sophocles‘ “Riddle of the Sphinx). The white and black colors of the sphinxes remind the reader of the “yes” and the “no” connected with choosing the direction one’s life will take at its various crossroads. Note too that the chariot’s driver has no reins in his hands; he has surrendered guidance to his Inner Self — his true identity. Finally, the chariot is leaving the city; it has crossed the river where the charioteer seeks quiet and repose.]
8. Strength: Reflection offered by leaving the city makes the Fool stronger. S/he learns the lesson of mind over matter and that true strength comes not from brute force, but from kindness, warmth, and inner quiet. (The female embodiment of true strength speaks volumes here as does the infinity symbol serving as a halo for the virtue’s embodiment.)
9. The Hermit: With such lessons learned, the Fool now retreats into the Hermit’s introspective world, removed from externals to answer all remaining questions. S/he searches for Self in a cave-like darkness with knapsack replaced by a lantern shedding light in that obscurity.
10. Wheel of Fortune: The Fool eventually realizes the nature of life as determined by a combination of fate and free will. Life has its ups and downs. It is all a cycle with consequences tied to every decision. Faced with his past mistakes, the Fool manages to forgive himself or herself. [Here the source of inspiration are the four canonical gospels, Matthew (the angel), Mark (the lion), Luke (the ox) and John (the eagle). All are connected with the Egyptian wisdom again (as in card 7) signified by the sphinx whose color this time is blue, the hue of heavenly spirituality. The sphinx is holding a sword (symbolizing new ideas) pointing towards the mystical gospel of John. The salamander underlying the wheel is the traditional symbol of fire and life’s energy.
Stay tuned for the next five cards of the Major Arcana. Coming soon.