Tarot: Last Six Cards of Major Arcana

In this final posting on the last six cards of the 22 Major Arcana (including Card # 0, the Fool’s) we’ll look at the remaining portrayals of the classic stages of spiritual growth. Remember, the first of those seven cards was The Devil reviewed at the end of my last blog entry. The Devil represented the Fool’s realization that something is deeply wrong within himself and in the world.

16. The Tower: With that realization, the Fool’s inner world comes crashing down. Discouraged and devastated, s/he sees that structural change and rebuilding (both inner and outer) is required, because his or her “tower” though apparently founded on rock is crumbling nonetheless. S/he looks to the stars for help. [This is a highly symbol-rich card. To begin with, its number, 16 = 1+6= 7; and that connects with#7 of the Major Arcana, viz., the Chariot card which is all about movement and finding control and mastery over opposing forces. Here the movement is downward and deconstructive as symbolized by the card’s black background and prominent gray clouds. Also centralized in the card is the couple we’ve already met in card #6 (the lovers) and in card #15 (the devil). We’re evidently watching the downfall of the basically masculine (phallic symbolled) ivory tower which has been struck by a bolt of lightning and is on fire. There are two crowns in this image, one at the top of the tower signifying the dissolution of some imperious order and the other on the head of the female figure who is falling upside down (i.e., in the hanged man position) on the card’s right. Her crown remains fixed firmly on her royal head. However, her spiritual viewpoint (designated by the color blue) is in complete transition. The same is true for the male figure whose accompanying passions are signified by the color red. This card suggests radical change.]

17. Star: The priestess’ star reappears when the Fool needs it most. The new, healthier ideas the stars represent guide the Fool into the future. “Follow your star” is the message here. [As opposed to the previous card, # 17 is calm and encouraging. This card is about cosmic order, hope, peace, ease, relaxation, persevering, and hanging on. The unclothed female figure has dropped all the pretense of royal robes, crowns, and symbols of power. She is concerned only with heavenly order, purifying water, connecting with the collective unconscious (symbolized by the pool) and with the earth itself (shown by her left-side intuitional knee kneeling on the earth’s surface). There are seven prominent but minor stars in the card’s image referring to the body’s seven chakras — as well as a large and bright golden central star that connects with the golden hair of the card’s central figure. The card’s protagonist is enlightened and following her star. Though her weight is on her forward foot, that foot is not submerged. The figure can walk on water. In some sense, she is the card’s star. In the background perched in something like the Tree of Life, a scarlet Ibis bird is about to take flight. In Egyptian mythology, the scarlet Ibis was considered the earthly manifestation of Thoth, the god of wisdom.]

18. Moon: The mystic moon provides relief from darkness. But it is mysterious and uncontrollable. The sleep suggested by the moon generates insights and clarity, but also nightmares, anxieties, and fears. [The moon card represents the 4th stage of spiritual unfolding (after the Devil, the Tower, and the Star). It evokes reflection on sleep and the insights that occur during that inevitable process. Sleep provides time for personal repair and reorganization at physical, psychological, and spiritual levels. In fact, this card means “Sleep Brings Counsel.” Its background mountains remind the querent not to be deceived by the highs and lows of any day or by the past itself. Instead, s/he’s called to advance steadily towards the uplifting mountainous horizons towards which a moon-illuminated golden path wends its way. The card is also about evolution. A dog and its evolutionary predecessor, a wolf, join together to bay at the moon. The dog, of course, has evolved from wolves to become the “best friend” nature has provided human beings. Similarly, the crayfish-like creature arising from the pool of the collective unconscious recalls our mind’s origins from that pool where both imagination and confusion reside. The twin towers that frame the card invite the querent to pursue wisdom beyond the boundaries of the known. The moon itself profiled in this 18th card reminds the attentive reader of the ninth (Hermit) card in the Major Arcana (1+8=9). Like the profiled hermit with his lamp, the profiled moon comes each night to teach us (through dreams and our especially precious thoughts just before sleep arrives) what we have learned during the day as well as during our entire lives.]

19. Sun: But the night doesn’t last forever. The sun shines brightly with a promise of homecoming and return. The Fool can now answer his child’s questions with joy, love, and positivity. At last s/he is at peace enjoying the good, the true, and the beautiful. [This card is about rebirth, happiness, and illumination. The haloed, reborn, and unclothed child finds her/his place bathing in the sun’s illuminating rays and seated on a white horse amid sunflowers. This is a triumphant card evoking joy and new beginnings.]

20. Judgment: The Fool has now returned to his interior ancestral castle. S/he is ready to share with others all that has been learned during a life of wandering, trial, and triumph. The Fool’s inner work has been completed. S/he is at peace with the past. [This card is about a journey completed. Its message is “Forgive yourself; lay your past to rest; let go of all past selves.” It is about resurrection and release. Note that the familiar man and woman from the Lovers’, Devil, and Tower cards have changed sides. The man now stands on the left, the woman on the right. This suggests that they have successfully appropriated their complementary animus or anima. The flag pictured below the angel’s right elbow is that of St. George noted for the bravery and chivalry it has taken to complete the Fool’s journey.]

21. The World: As a final step, the Fool embraces the world while knowing that the whole cycle is about to begin once again in life’s endless circle. However, this time his/her journey will not be foolish, but that of an evolved Page, Knight or Female Warrior — all to be centralized in Tarot’s Minor Arcana [Here notable symbols include those for the four Christian Gospels which we already saw on the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card (#10). Matthew is portrayed as an angel, Mark as a lion, Luke as an ox, and John as an eagle. Their appearance here indicates that the gospels’ overriding concern is Life here below not principally life al di la in the heavens. The same goes for the unclothed woman at the card’s center. We met her most recently as the Star in card #17. Here her presence and the card’s number 21 (2+1=3) suggests the High Priestess (the real 3rd card of the Tarot deck — when including the Fool’s “number,” 0) and the Empress card actually numbered as 3. The reference suggests that women, their mysteries, intuition, and closeness to nature are at the center of Life’s circle portrayed in this last card of the Major Arcana. Note that the circle is actually a green astrological ellipse tied together above and below with red ribbons. Their color symbolizes passion, energy, and fire. That same symbolism is conveyed by the Magician’s wands the card’s central figure grasps in her hands. In this last card the previously unconscious Magician and High Priestess are at last consciously integrated. It is interesting to see which figure attains most prominence at the end.]