Two of Swords

Two of Swords

July 8th is the first International Tarot day, which is a day to celebrate the beauty of the Tarot and to recognise the Tarot as a tool of spiritual development that goes way beyond its media portrayed fortune telling image (such as in James Bond’s Live and let die, when he encounters Solitaire and her Tarot of the Witches)!

It is a day for the Tarot community to showcase what a wonderful tool the Tarot can be to empower us in our everyday lives.

To celebrate such a wonderful day, full of events and activities, many of us Tarot lovers will be participating in a fun project by writing a blog on a specific card.
I was assigned a complex card (as complex as our human psyche), the card in question is the Two of Swords 🙂

Let’s go and rock and roll and demystify the Two of Swords!
tarot-two-of-swords

Traditionally, the card depicts a woman wearing a blindfold, holding two swords crossed over her chest (the heart chakra, centre of feeling and emotions) and sitting on a stone.

The card above is from the Druidcraft Tarot and encompasses perfectly the dilemma of making a decision to go in one direction or another (being stuck between a rock and a hard place type of thing). We all have been there.

Notice that the woman is semi-naked, which means she is innocent, naïve, vulnerable and pure.  She probably feels the coldness of the metal from the swords on her heart chakra (cooling down her emotions).
Swords are a symbol of absolute truth and belong to the realm of air.

The woman tries to calm her internal storm without the chattering of the external world (hence why she has blindfolded herself).  However, her red cape indicates that her consciousness is more instinctive and emotional (passion) and requires action. She tries to keep the status quo (notice her almost perfect stillness). Here we have the eternal conflict mind versus heart!

She sits in front of a tree (perhaps an oak tree, symbol of wisdom) almost like she wants to feel the tree, to feel its wisdom. Presumably she could be asking the tree for its support and counsel.
After all, she cannot see, but she can hear the whispers of the leaves in the trees, she can feel the air around her and maybe the coldness of the swords against her skin. She can feel her connection to the land. When one of the five senses is not working, the others tend to compensate. In other words, she feels all the emotions related to her situation.

Perhaps by sensing the trees around her and by visualising each possible path available to her, together with their possibilities and pitfalls, will she know which path to choose.

However, one cannot stay forever in between. As time progresses, she will presumably grow tired and the weight of the swords will soon become too heavy for her to maintain her perfect stillness. She will need to make a move by going one way or another, in other words, by reaching a decision and sticking to it (end of procrastination…hooray).

Often in a reading, this card implies that the querent (the person receiving a reading) has to make a decision and sometimes there can be two alternatives. Which can confuse the querent even more, leading them to a standstill.

Negotiation and compromise is also another meaning of this card. Facing fear and withdrawal from life is yet another theme. The Two of Swords may depict a situation when one is caught in the middle of a dispute and one is asked to take sides, leading to emotional conflict for the mediator.
Withdrawing in order to reach a conclusion is the help this card offers. Calming the storm of conflictual thoughts by going inwards (using meditation and/or visualisation) is what can help reach a level of peace of mind and spirit.
two-of-swords-and-numerology

Numerology is an ancient system that attributes numbers to meanings and connections to the spiritual realms. Ancient civilisations used Numerology thousands of years ago and it is still in use in today.

The Tarot has 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana (22 is considered as a master number in Numerology which means it is almost a mythical number linked to the cosmos) and 56 minor arcana. All cards are numbered in the Major and Minor arcana apart from the Court cards found in the four suits of the Minor Arcana (Cups/Water, Wands/Fire, Earth/Pentacles and Swords/Air).

The High Priestess bears the number 2 in the Major Arcana.  The High Priestess influences all the twos in the Tarot (2 of Cups, 2 of Wands, 2 of Pentacles and 2 of Swords).

Number 2 is a feminine number and it is linked to the Moon. Two is the number of duality; opposite and relationship, interaction with each other and receptivity and sensibility.

Certainly the opposites of life are clearly shown with the High Priestess (the traditional black and white pillars). The Moon is also traditionally depicted with the High Priestess for the emotions and the feminine.

As we have seen, the Two of Swords is a card for internal conflict of life and certainly the conflict of emotions (feminine) and the mind (masculine).

The essence of the number 2 is to bring opposites together and to create harmony through creativity and receptivity which is why in the Two of Swords the internal conflict has to be resolved in order to integrate opposites in life, to bring harmony and peace of mind.

The world we live in today is the world of the Two of Swords; with conflicts seen in many countries, where unity and togetherness are nowhere to be seen and division and separateness are rampant.

 

two-of-swords-and-astrology

Many cards in the Tarot are linked to Astrology, as planets and sun signs give extra information on the energies of the cards.

With the Two of Swords, the element attributed to it (and to the whole suit of swords) is the element of Air. The Celestial Tarot has assigned the Two of Swords with the constellation of Lupus. It was recognised as the constellation of Lupus, the Latin name for the wolf, around the 16th Century when the translation of Ptolemy’s work identified it with the wolf!
The myth of the wounded centaur (Chiron) offering a wolf as a sacrifice to Ara (the heavenly altar) is behind the name of the constellation.

Wolves have certainly been the subject of myths and attributes such as savagery, primitive and guttural feelings from time immemorial. The popular image of a wolf howling at the moon is part of many folklores around the world and of course, the image of a man becoming a wolf during a Full moon (lycanthropy) is an ancient myth which became popular with horror films and literature.

But wolves have also a more caring side and the myth of Romulus and Remus suckling a she-wolf became the legend behind the founding of Rome.

But what does all this have to do with the Two of Swords I hear you say?

As we know, the Two of Swords has a link with the High Priestess as we have seen with the numerological aspect of the card.

The High Priestess is ruled by the Moon (lo and behold, the Moon is heavily portrayed with the wolves in popular imagery as we have seen). The Moon has an influence on the wolf (constellation of Lupus), animal instinct/gut feeling/emotion versus logic/coldness/intellect. Anyone who knows anything about wolves will tell you that they are very intelligent creatures, with a strict social hierarchy and that they hunt together for more effectiveness for the good of all.

We have seen with the numerological connection of number 2, that togetherness and harmony is the best attribute of the number 2 and it is what needs to be achieved with the Two of Swords.
So the circle is completed, everything is intertwined, the Tarot, Numerology, myths and legends, and Astrology. 🙂

So to resume, the Two of Swords is a card of internal conflict: emotions (Moon) versus logic (Swords/Lupus Constellation), being stuck in no man’s land, immobilised with procrastination. A balance needs to be achieved.

Ta da! Balance is a powerful word in this example and it leads us to the realm of the Justice card (scales) often represented as a blindfolded woman holding a set of perfectly balanced scales.J Of course Justice is also linked to Libra in Astrology. Libra people are well known for their diplomacy, their listening skills, their sociability, and their dislike of conflicts, and sometimes their procrastination too.

Now you know where we are heading right?

We have seen that with the Two of Swords a need to resolve internal conflicts (or sometimes, external) has to be made. Justice holds an upright sword (the sword of truth) and asks us to see the truth as it is, to be strong and honest with ourselves.
Only by being truthful to ourselves (without ego in the picture) and finding the right balance, will we resolve our internal conflict/chattering and be able to move on with our lives and restore our internal harmony and peace. Phew!

But it is easier to say than to do…
However, there are a few things that we can do to help restore the balance and harmony within ourselves.

Let’s have a look at the help mother Nature can provide 🙂
Tarot-and-herbs-Bach-Flowers

The Herbal Tarot has associated the Two of Swords with Passionflower.

Passionflower is a well-known remedy that has been used for a very long time to help treat anxiety and nervous disorders amongst other ailments.
Its calming properties can soothe an over-active mind and even help with insomnia and depression, lifting spirits and rebalancing the mind, body and spirit.

If we find ourselves in the Two of Swords situation, the best would be to take some Passionflower Flower Essence to help rebalance our energies and achieve a peace of mind by removing tension (in the body as well).

Another great Flower Essence to take is Scleranthus, part of the 38 Bach Flower Remedies, widely available worldwide.

Scleranthus is a brilliant remedy that helps to restore the quality of balance and decisiveness that can be lacking when we are faced with the Two of Swords situation.

Sometimes faced with crippling indecision and emotionally going from one extreme to another whilst in the middle of an internal battle is not something we want to be stuck in. Scleranthus will help to restore our inner point of balance, helping us to connect to our soul and our own direction.

NB: please note that all flower essences are usually made without any chemicals, using natural methods and with no additives, colouring and other nasties.

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Now that you are a little more acquainted with the Two of Swords, perhaps you would like to know more about the Ace of Sword and the Two of Swords and many of the other cards?

Have a look at the blog hop beside the Two of Swords, namely the Ace of Swords by Spirit Art and the 3 of Swords by the Everyday Medium.

Enjoy and Happy International Tarot Day J

Oephebia and the kitty monsters

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Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune

July 8th is the first International Tarot day, which is a day to celebrate the beauty of the Tarot and to recognise the Tarot as a tool of spiritual development that goes way beyond its media portrayed fortune telling image!

It is a day for the Tarot community to showcase what a wonderful tool the Tarot can be to empower us in our everyday lives.

To celebrate such a wonderful day, full of events and activities, many of us Tarot lovers will be participating in a fun project by writing a blog on a specific card.
I was assigned a great card the Wheel of Fortune 🙂
I thought it would be interesting to compare the symbolism of the Wheel of Fortune in two different decks: the Radiant Rider Waite and the Druidcraft Tarot !

 

Wheel-of-Fortune-RRW

Radiant Rider Waite Tarot© US Games Systems Inc

This is another version of the original Rider Waite pack. The colours are brighter and the drawing is more defined.

When we look at this card, we can see:

A bright orange wheel adorned with four letters on each of the cardinal points, four Hebrew letters and four strange symbols, stands in the middle of a blue sky with clouds.

The Wheel is made of three circles and from the smallest circle in the centre eight lines are connected to the Roman and Hebrew letters. An orange coloured creature with a human body and the head of a jackal is supporting the wheel on his back. A snake is following the wheel down, whilst a blue sphinx sits on the top of the wheel holds a sword upright. Four winged golden creatures each holding books are depicted on each corner of the card.

Here we have the setting of the essence of the card: rapid changes and the beginning of a new cycle, transformation, fate, fortune and destiny.

The Wheel can be seen as the Sun and its influence on the changing of the seasons, which may explain why the wheel is in the sky. We cannot control the changes of the seasons: only embrace them and adjust to them. We have to do the same when the Wheel is turning, we should accept the changes as part of a natural cycle or perhaps as our destiny. Resisting changes will only make things more difficult for us and will lead us to the Death card where everything will be removed anyway before rebirth.

Also, the blue sky can be seen as Heaven and the higher spheres of spirituality. The fact that the wheel is a fiery orange may be connected to divine love. Interestingly, in the Tarot the clouds often represent God in its ethereal form (particularly with all the Aces of the minor Arcana and the Lovers).

Another subtle hint of the divine is the name of the card itself: Wheel of Fortune. The word Fortune derives from Fortuna, the name of the Roman Goddess of fate, chance and luck.

Wheel of Fortune close upRadiant Rider Waite Tarot© US Games Systems Inc

Now when we look at the four Hebrew letters called the Tetragrammaton, we are presented with the name of God (Y-H-V-H).

The letters arranged clockwise form T A R O, the name Taro(t). The letters, when formed anticlockwise give the name Tora, the Jewish sacred book of Divine Law (also seen in the High Priestess).

Starting from the South cardinal point and clockwise, the name Rota also appears which means “wheel” in Latin. Another name can be made starting from the East cardinal point and anticlockwise: Ator (Hathor), Egyptian Goddess of the sky, often represented as a divine cow with a solar disc (the Wheel?) on her head.

The strange symbols found underneath each letter are alchemical.

Starting just below the letter T is the symbol of Mercury, God of communication, trade and thieves. This symbol is used today in Astrology to represent Mercury.

Beside the letter A stands the symbol for sulphur and beside the letter O is the symbol for salt. Mercury, Sulphur and Salt are the three components or principles of the philosopher’s stone. Mercury represents the spirit, whilst Salt is the body and Sulphur is the soul.

A fourth symbol can be seen above the letter R which represents water. This symbol has been in used by alchemists since the 17th Century. It is also used in Astrology to represent Aquarius (which incidentally is an air sign).

The Western and Hebrew letters together with the Alchemical symbols are connected by eight lines from the smallest circle to the middle circle. These two circles can be seen as the Mind and Body: the beginning of life, the transformation of the fertilised egg into a human being (which will explain the Alchemical symbols for transformation) and the realisation that the Mind and Body are linked together and they will undertake several transformations (from innocence to wisdom and babyhood to old age,) before death and rebirth (the third circle with the name of God).

The eight lines can be seen as two sets of four as they each connect four letters (Western or Hebrew). Number four represents the four elements, the four seasons and the four evangelists. Four is the number for solid foundation (Mind and Body). However number eight is made of two circles, one representing the material and the other, spiritual; unifying these two principles. Number eight is also considered as a symbol of spiritual rebirth, which will be attained when the spirit will be with God. The third circle with the Western and Hebrew letters can be seen as the spirit joining God before rebirth and transformation.

The blue Sphinx sitting on the top of the Wheel, above the letter T and the alchemical symbol for Mercury is thought to represent Horus, the Egyptian sky God whose name means “He Who is Above” (very appropriate here). Interestingly, he was worshipped together with his consort Hathor whose name appeared on the wheel itself. He can be seen as the mystery of life and the guardian of truth as he holds a sword. Blue is also the colour of heaven and healing, one can expect that changes brought by the Wheel will transform oneself. Additionally, the Sphinx can be seen as the mind.

The orange snake is thought to be Set or Seth, God of chaos, destruction and decay. Set could be linked to the body.

The orange creature with the head of a jackal is Anubis, the God of the dead, embalmment and cemeteries. He accompanied the souls of the dead (the same role was given to Mercury in Greek Mythology) to be judged by Maa’t, Goddess of truth (found in the Justice card). Anubis can be connected to spirit.

Alternatively, it always strikes me that Anubis with the Wheel on his back looks a bit like a snail (and it is not because I am French). Snails are a lunar symbol and stand for the cycle of death and rebirth, their spiral forming shell represents the eternal evolution of life and possibly fertility (the snail is found in the IX of Pentacles), rebirth after death. Another hint to the eternal movement of the Wheel of destiny.

The three Gods (mind, body and spirit) form an upward triangle which in turn represents fire. Fire in this case can be seen as one’s conscious, one’s will and the mental attitude one applies faced with situations (Horus on the top of the Wheel). If the card is reversed, the triangle will be inverted representing water and one’s unconscious.

These three Gods battle all the time to control the wheel. When Set for example has the upper hand, one experiences setbacks, loss or sudden “bad” luck or stagnation as the wheel has become “stuck”.

When Anubis has the upper hand big changes are on their way and one will have to adapt to the changes. The same applies with Horus on the top of the Wheel, transformation will happen because of rapid changes and one will have to apply his/her will to make the most of the changes.

Wheel-of-Fortune-4-beastsRadiant Rider Waite Tarot© US Games Systems Inc

The four winged golden creatures are thought to be the four beasts of the book of revelation 4:7 “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle”

Christians attributed the four creatures to the Evangelists: Matthew with the Angel, John with the eagle, Mark with the Lion and Luke with the bull. Perhaps the books the creatures are holding are the Gospels?

Another alternative is to see the four golden beasts as the four elements. The Angel being air and the sign of Aquarius, the Eagle represents water and the sign of Scorpio, the Lion is fire and the sign of Leo and finally, the Bull is earth and the sign of Taurus; all of them being fixed signs in Astrology.

We need the four elements to survive on earth and we experience the seasons which bring us back to the Wheel: the never ending cycle of life which brings transformation in all levels (mind, body and spirit) after death and resurrection.

So we cannot deny that fate is at work with this card, and we will have to embrace our “destiny” with whatever change coming onto our path and play an active role in doing so.

WOF-Druidcarft

The Druidcraft Tarot© Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm

This is a beautiful pack inspired by Druids and Wicca. When we look at this card, we see a young woman by a cave, wearing a blue dress and a purple shawl. She draws a circle in the sand using a wand and holds a pendant in her left hand. The sea can be seen in the background and the whole scenery is peaceful.

As with the Radiant Rider Waite, here we have the setting of the essence of the card: the beginning of a new cycle (the circle drawn in the sand), transformation (the cave), fate, fortune and destiny (the woman).

Arianrhod1Bronze

Arianrhod statue

The woman represents the Welsh Goddess Arianrhod meaning “Silver Wheel that descends to the sea”. She was the symbol of cosmic time and ruled over the tides. She was also a Moon Goddess and was seen as the Mother aspect of the Moon, connecting the womb (which is also represented by the cave) to death and rebirth (the essence of the Wheel of Fortune). Another aspect of this Goddess is that she was connected to reincarnation and Karma as she carried the dead to Emania (the land of death) which was under her rulership. She was responsible for the souls to be reborn from the otherworld to Earth. Arianhrod was sometimes also seen as the Celestial Weaver, spinning the wheel of life and destiny of humankind.

The colours of Arianrhod’s dress and shawl seems to reflect her divine origins as blue is the colour of heaven and purple is the colour of secrecy and the mystery of reincarnation or transformation. In the Radiant Rider Waite, the colour orange encompasses the divine.

With this pack, Anubis, Horus and Seth, the three Gods found in the Radiant Rider Waite, have been replaced by a single deity who symbolises the principles of the carrier of souls (Anubis) and the mystery of life (Horus). The destructive aspect of Set may be found with her flail and to a certain extent the sea.
druid-craft-wheel

The Druidcraft Tarot© Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm

The flail is an ambiguous symbol here as it can be seen as a tool for punishment and flagellation; as seen in some extreme forms of religion where people “punish” themselves with a flail, self-inflicting wounds to their body to expiate their sins. If so, perhaps the flail plays the same role as Seth in the Radiant Rider Waite, bringing destruction and pain to people?

On the other hand, the flail and the crook were the symbol of Osiris in Ancient Egypt. He was the God of the Afterlife as well as rebirth. He was the father of Horus (the sphinx on the wheel in the Radiant Rider Waite) and was Isis’ husband, (interestingly enough Isis is thought to be part of the High Priestess card as she is represented by the veil behind the young maiden in the card. The High Priestess has a scroll on her lap with the name Tora. The name Tora is also found in the wheel of the Radiant Rider Waite). Most importantly, Osiris was Seth’s brother (our link to the Radiant Rider Waite) and was butchered by Seth and resuscitated by Isis (rebirth). So the flail may be an indirect link to Egyptian mythology which is part of the Radiant Rider Waite as well.

Osiris was often represented with a flail and a crook in each hand together with his arms crossed on his chest, forming the letter X. This letter is also the roman numerical symbol for 10. Now, ten is the number attributed to the Wheel of Fortune which in the Tarot represents the end of a cycle before a new beginning can take place or a zenith or nadir experience (good or bad). It seems that even the number has a resonance with the principle of the Wheel, changes, fate and fortune, new beginnings etc.

The principle of life, death and rebirth is represented by the Goddess herself but also by the cave. Caves have a double meaning in term of symbolism. A cave represents protection, the womb and the mystery of life. It is the passage way which connect Earth to Heaven. From immemorial time, caves have been the centre of initiation, the sacred and a protective place. However, caves are also the symbol of death and represent the tomb and the gate to the underworld, where the soul will dwell for a while before rebirth. The cave in this card has the same role as the alchemical symbol found in the Radiant Rider Waite, they both stand for transformation.

The sand on the beach is a subtle hint of eternity and the passing of time. Sand is also used in hourglass to measure time. Sand therefore can be seen as a symbol of infinite and multitude. Sand moves all the time, because of the tides, wind, creatures etc, so in a way the sand is in perpetual movement like the wheel itself in the Radiant Rider Waite.

The sea in the background is another symbol of the dynamism of life. The tides represent transition, when the sand is half immerse and half exposed, so it can be seen as the transition between life, death and rebirth. Conversely, in Welsh tradition, Arianrhod had two sons; one of them was called Dylan “the Son of the Wave” because according to the myth, as soon as he was born he went to the sea and swam like a fish and disappeared into the waves. When he was killed by his uncle, the myth goes on that all the waves of the British Isles wept for him. Dylan is sometimes referred as the Sea God.

The sea plays the same role as the Wheel with the Hebrew and Western letters in the Radiant Rider Waite; the divine, the changes and fortune, as the sea can easily kill (here the sea is linked to Set the Egyptian God of decay and chaos in the Radiant Rider Waite) and crossing a ocean can be perilous with an uncertain outcome, like the Wheel.

Sterling_Silver_Wheel_of_the_Year_Pendant__68298.1429819887.1280.1280

Sterling silver wheel of the year pendant

The pendant in Arianrhod’s hand represents the Wiccan wheel of the year. Wiccan people are close to Mother Nature and observe the rhythm of the seasons. They have eight festivals corresponding to the various progressions of the Moon and the Sun (seen as the Goddess and the God), and the seasons for the year. The pendant has the same role as the eight spokes seen in the Radiant Rider Waite’s wheel, the change of seasons, the eternal movement of time (life and death and rebirth) and the divine.

Arianrhod is casting a circle (no beginning and no end) on the sand. In Wicca tradition, a circle is a potent symbol of protection and security. During some magical rituals, usually a person can call upon the four Archangels or the four elements, (which we have encountered in the Radiant Rider Waite in the form of the four creatures at the corners of the card) to assist and help the magician standing in the middle of the circle.

Another hint of the magical purpose of the circle is the fact that Arianhrod held a wand in her right hand. This is another important tool in the Wiccan tradition. Wands are usually made of wood, and trees in ancient Celtic wisdom were seen as the messengers of the Gods, because of their deep roots buried in the earth and the top of the trees reaching high up into the sky, the connection between heaven and earth. Interestingly enough, the Magician (who is thought to represent Mercury/Hermes) in the Radiant Waite Tarot holds a wand towards the sky and points with his finger down to earth, meaning that he knows how to transform the divine spark into something concrete or material. Arianrhod is effectively transferring her divine powers into the physical realm and she is in fact spinning the wheel of life.

In conclusion, although both cards look dramatically different on an aesthetic point of view, on a closer look it seems that some of the symbolism are interwoven and are common in both ancient Egypt and Celtic culture. The principles of birth, reincarnation, rebirth, fate, luck and changes are universal themes in cultures around the world.

We as human beings have to ride our “fate” with faith and understand that changes are a necessity in life to avoid stagnation and bring new beginnings. A very hard lesson sometimes!

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Now that you are a little more acquainted with the Wheel of Fortune, perhaps you would like to know more about the Hermit (card number 9) and Justice (card number 11) and many of the other cards? Here you can find the master list of the blogs regarding the Major and Minor Arcana.

Have a look at the blog hop beside the Wheel of Fortune (card number 10), namely the Hermit by Fables Den  and Justice by Celestial Recognitions
Enjoy and Happy International Tarot Day 🙂

Oephebia and the kitty monsters

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Easter revisited with the Tarot

Easter revisited with the Tarot
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

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.

Easter-the-last-supper

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.

Judas2

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).
Cruxifiction
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.
Ressurection
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.
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Happy Easter, Eostre, Pesach or whatever you are celebrating this week end 🙂
Oephebia
All cards are from the Radiant Waite Tarot, US Games

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The Empress and Spring

The Empress and Spring

First day of Spring in the Northern hemisphere and we are greeted with grey skies, wind and cold temperatures. Still the magic of Spring and the awakening of Gaia is palpable, the trees are adorned with buds and flowers, I saw some bees awakening from their winter slumber. Nature is slowly emerging from the darkness of Winter 🙂

Talking about awakening, Spring always reminds me of the Empress card, nature in its glory, abundance and plentiful, new lives coming to the world in the animal kingdom, warmer temperatures and a sense of renewal, a sense of creativity and inspiration.

I have analysed and compared the symbols found in the Empress card from three different packs (Original Rider Waite, Herbal Tarot, Sharman Caselli Tarot)

This analysis reflects my own understanding of symbolism and should not be taken for a widely accepted truth. It is a personal reflection which gives food for thought regarding the wonderful tool that the Tarot can be.

rider-waite-empressRider Waite Copyright US Games

This pack is one of the most well known in use today.

When we look at this card, we can see a young woman sits on a throne surrounding by nature. Trees and wheat are portrayed prospering and a gentle cascade from a river adds to the serene environment.

Here we have the setting of the essence of the card: Mother Nature in all its glory, as growth and abundance are very present in the card, in the form of trees and wheat.

The Empress card is linked to the myth of Demeter in the Greek mythology. She is the goddess of fertility and of cultivated soil and when her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades (God of the underworld); she searched the world to find her. To shorten a long story, while her daughter was with Hades, the earth went barren, the crops withered, no plants or fruits blossomed as Demeter was grieving the lost of her unique child. After negotiation with Hades and Zeus, Persephone was allowed to spend eight months with her mum and four months in the underworld (as she had eaten four grains of pomegranate, the sacred fruit of Hades), thus creating the cycle of the seasons. Nature was in its full glory during the time Persephone stayed with her mother, with abundance of crops, flowers, trees and fruits. When she had to leave her mother, nature has to die or “sleep”, as everything withered during her absence therefore creating winter.

The young woman looks peaceful and content. She seems very comfortable in her surroundings. Notice the crown with twelve stars representing the twelve astrological signs. The twelve signs are divided in four categories: the four elements (fire, water, earth and air). The four elements are part of Mother Nature and the young woman understands that they need to be in balance and complement each other to preserve harmony and peace of the natural world. She wears the crown on her head (the crown chakra which represents spirituality). The water flowing behind the Empress represents the source of intuition and creativity.

Look closer at the young woman and notice an orange cushion behind her back. She wears a flowing dress and a necklace made of seven pearls. A shield with the symbol of Venus stands by the throne.

Another aspect of the card is revealed: the fact that the Empress is probably pregnant. The dress is comfortable and not restricting in anyway. The orange cushion adds extra comfort to support her back gently as she needs extra tender loving care in her condition.

Orange is also the colour of creativity (a mix of red (passion) and yellow (intellect)), which tell us that the Empress is a card for creative ideas from conception to birth (a life or a project). This concept is reinforced by the shield of Venus. Venus is the goddess of love, beauty but also the arts and ultimately creativity.

The necklace with seven pearls represents the seven chakras in the body. When they are all in harmony with each other, the body is well balanced and healthy. As the Empress is balanced and in harmony with her surroundings, one can assume that she is attuned with her unborn child and with her own body.

The Empress is the archetypal mother, the gentle force that nurtures, protects, encourages growth and abundance in our life. She is the energy of Venus giving us love for our fellow human beings and as importantly, love of life and the understanding of our place in nature and to preserve the harmony and balance of our natural environment.

herbal-empressHerbal Tarot © US Games Systems

As its name suggests, this Tarot pack links each of its card with a plant and its spiritual and medicinal properties.

When we look at the Empress, we can see: a young woman resting on some rocks, she wears a yellow dress with a blue collar and she is pregnant. She holds a sceptre in her left hand. Pine trees and a river are seen in the background. A tall Dong Quai plant stands before the Empress.

Here the myth of Demeter has not been emphasised. The Empress seated on rocks , illustrating the natural seats of nature. Her yellow dress, with a blue collar suggests that this Empress uses her warmth, joyful energies and mind (yellow) to heal and nurture people and nature (blue). The sceptre in her hand (like in the Rider Waite) reminds us of her absolute status, the Queen of nature. The gentle river (as in the Rider Waite, Shaman Caselli ), shows that our creative energies can gently flow and be developed. The Dong Quai plant is the epitome of creative energies, fertility and bringing to fruition projects or life. This herb is used as a tonic to regulate women’s cycles, help fertility and treat the symptoms of the menopause which is part of the theme of the Empress card.

The young woman looks serene. She wears a crown of twelve stars and no necklace. The shield of Venus stands beside the Empress. She has four buttons on the collar of her dress.

Like with the Rider Waite, this Empress still rules the natural world as the crown shows. The energies of the seven chakras (Rider Waite) have been replaced by four buttons on the Empress’ collar. The four buttons can be seen as the four elements which are under her ruling. The balance of the four elements is absolutely essential to preserve the balance of the natural world and the cycle of the seasons. The creative energies embodied by the shield of Venus (Rider Waite) are emphasised with this Empress.

Overall the Empress in the Herbal tarot still symbolises life rich, full of ideas, creativity and growth. The symbolism remains the same as the Rider Waite with the addition of a Dong Quai plant. A beautiful card showing us the gentle help we can benefit from in the natural world.

shaman-caselli-empressSharman Caselli Tarot © Giovanni Caselli 2001

This pack is part of the Beginner’s guide to Tarot (Juliet Sharman-Burke).

When we look at this card, we see: a young woman sitting on cushions in the middle of a wheat field. She wears a pink dress with embroidered red roses and leaves. At her feet lays a cornucopia (horn of plenty) filled with fruits and pomegranates. In the background, a cascade of water falls into a river. Verdant trees, poppies and gentle hills complete the tranquil scene.

Here the myth of Demeter remains significant with this Empress, the pomegranates and the poppies. The cornucopia shows an abundance of fruits. The sea of wheat with its gold colour is another hint of plentiful and joy. The pink dress worn by the Empress shows us her gentle side, as pink is the colour representing feminine principle and procreation (this Empress is pregnant), whilst the red roses and accompanying leaves on the dress talk of passion (red) and the natural world (green). The cushions have the same meaning as the Rider Waite; they give extra comfort to the Empress.

The young woman looks serene. She wears a crown fashioned from twelve stars and a necklace made of ten pearls. No shield of Venus is represented.

Like with the Rider Waite, this Empress still rules the natural world as the crown of stars show. However the necklace has now ten pearls instead of seven (Rider Waite). This could mean that each pearl represents a planet (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto). The ten planets stand for the principles (Sun equals the character of ego for example), which need to be balanced in order to lead a fulfilling life. Notice the absence of Venus’ symbol (shield in the Rider Waite), with this Empress. However, the energies of Venus are embodied with the red roses on the Empress’ dress, as roses are the sacred flowers of this Goddess.

With the Sharman Caselli Tarot, the Empress still symbolises the plentiful, the beautiful and creativity. The symbolism remains the same as the Rider Waite with a few variations. A beautiful card showing us the abundance of Mother Earth.

Oephebia

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