This week-end it is a celebration:
Easter in the Christian World
Eostre which predates the Christian celebration
Pesah or Passover in the Jewish faith
Regardless of religion and belief, Easter is also a bank holiday in many countries in the Western world.
The story of Jesus, the last supper and the resurrection is the root of Easter for many Christians.
As with all stories, from fairy tales, mythologies to religious texts, there are many archetypes that appeal to the collective unconscious and transcend languages.
The language of images is universal and very powerful. The tarot is an ancient language of symbols and imagery that has adapted quite well to the modern world.
Let’s look at the story of Easter linked with the Tarot.
As per any story, we have the protagonists: Jesus himself, his disciples, the villain (Judas), the conqueror (Pontius Pilate), then the central theme of the story: the last supper, the betrayal, the trial and crucifixion, death and resurrection, and finally the moral of the story with the ascension.
Jesus can be seen as the positive aspect of the Hierophant, the guy who founded a new faith that has had a lasting legacy on the world. King of Cups is another card that could define Jesus, a healer, a compassionate being, and of course the King of the Jews.
The fish around the neck of the King of Cups is also an early Christian symbol, although its origins predate Christianity and was used by the Romans, Greeks and Pagans.
6 of Pentacles is a card that can also define Jesus, giving to the poor, compassion for people who are destitute or sick.
Jesus was celebrating Passover (4 of Wands – celebration) with his disciples (here the Hierophant comes to mind, not because of the church, but because of a group of people sharing the same ideas etc. Conversely the 6 of Wands could apply here too), and they shared a final meal together (10 of Pentacles for the tradition of Passover and 10 of Cups for celebration). Of course the cup that Jesus drank from, the Holy Grail is the Ace of Cups.
Amidst the disciples was the villain Judas, who betrayed Jesus for money.
The betrayal is the 7 of Swords and Knight of Swords, when Judas went to negotiate with Pontius Pilate (Emperor/King of Swords Rev). Judas can be seen as the Devil card, disguising himself as a friend to Jesus. His sole motivation was greed. The kissing of Jesus by Judas to help the Romans recognise him is the 5 of Swords and the Moon rev (deception).
The trial of Jesus was the Justice card reversed and the Tower (as Rome thought that Christianity, the new religion, would be crushed. So the Tower here can be seen from the perspective of Rome crushing its enemies, stopping their expansion which is also the Wheel of Fortune reversed).
Jesus was condemned to die on the cross. His agony is depicted by the Hanged Man (remember the halo around the head of the Hanged man, he choose to sacrifice himself to gain insight into spirituality which is also the case with Jesus, who knew that he needed to go through such a horrifying ordeal in order to save humanity). The physical pain is depicted by the 3 of Swords and 10 of Swords.
The spear of destiny can be seen as the Ace of Swords.
Although Strength is another card that could apply here as Jesus’ faith and trust never failed even when suffering unspeakable pain and horror.
Death is another obvious card as the final result, but in the death card, hope for renewal is present with the sun rising between the towers. Death was not the end of Christ.
After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea (the Hermit par excellence) asked Pontius Pilate his permission to collect Jesus’ body to be interred. The 5 of Cups oddly, can apply to this situation, as Jesus was wrapped in a burial shroud (like the figure in the card) and appeared to be dead (the 3 cups in front of the figure in the 5 of cups), but Christ’s resurrection can be seen as 2 cups which are still upright.
Jesus was interred but rose from the dead (Judgement card). Jesus after the resurrection can be seen as the Magician (see the Magician card as the direct link between heaven and earth, Christ himself), the Ace of Pentacles (the resurrection of the body as pentacles stand for physicality/body) and the World (Jesus sacrificed himself for humanity).
The first person to see him after his resurrection was Mary Magdalene, his companion which could be seen as the High Priestess as she was probably one of Christ’s disciples. The Queen of Cups can apply to her also as she is supposed to have washed Christ’s feet on the cross, giving him comfort and love during his agony.
The ascension can be seen as Judgement again, for obvious reasons but also the Star, giving hope to humanity that one day, Christ will come again on earth (the World).
Of course all the above is a simplified version of the story of Christ and Easter and other tarot cards could be used to illustrate the story.
It is just an exercise to think and feel the tarot outside its box (literally), to apply archetypes from one system to another and to see that there is an ancient and universal set of images and symbolism that resonate with all humans, regardless of race, creed, religion or language; the Tarot. The cards are full of wisdom and are a depository of mankind’s psyche.
Happy Easter, Eostre, Pesach or whatever you are celebrating this week end 🙂
All cards are from the Radiant Waite Tarot, US Games