Our souls go through a journey of learning and growth while we are here. Many of us, my self included feel that we chose lessons before we were born to learn in this lifetime, working through our karma, ever reaching for, searching for wholeness.
The Major Arcana of the Tarot shows us images that reminds us of where we are on this journey. These are of course the universals that we all go through in this life, as our souls grow. Steps we all take. Just as we grow physically-learning to walk and run, or intellectually as we learn to move through our education, our soul grows and we share these steps across the board.
When studying the history of tarot there is some discussions, I find, as to where The Fool goes. He is number 0. But my first teacher explained it like this: The fool is our young soul, our soul that has nothing but choice in front of him, he is carefree, about to take a leap-his little faithful pup confident and supportive, his bag full of all he needs-all the tools he will need on this life’s journey-to me the pup also represents unconditional love too. Think of times when we felt this invincibility? Heading off on new journeys-confident, maybe even a little arrogant, fearless!
As our soul grows, we step into the role, the understanding and archetype of The Magician.
When that is mastered we step into the role of High Priestess-having found an understanding of the world we step into learning about the subconscious, our emotions, our knowledge. and we find a balance-this is card #2-2 always deals with balance in the Tarot, here it is balance of spirit and matter.
As we grow and learn about these aspects or what we can do, we learn we are able to create on the physical plane too-thus comes The Empress #3. She is also at peace with herself and her power to create.
Then comes The Emperor. He is the ultimate father, the balancing active force. Eden Gray’s book A Complete Guide to the Tarot describes him as stability and a foundation.
Next the #5 card, The Hierophant is the balance to the high priestess just as the emperor is the partner to the empress. He is the guardian of knowledge and religion and traditions, orthodoxy, the thinking of the masses.
We see this union even more clearly in the next card, The Lovers-balance of male and female. It has always struck me that in many faiths/spiritual paths we see a duality of the gods-male and female represented. The loves show us a deep soulful love, a karmic connection of two souls-as my first teacher pointed out tho, this does not necessarily mean this is an easy love, but a deep and important one. A sacred rather than purely physical love. It also traditionally speaks of choices in life, and how we approach them.
#7 is The Chariot shows us that the fool has learned control over his physical environment, but he must also maintain that control. The figure is also maintaining that control with calm will-look closely.
This theme of control is carried over into the next card as well, #8, the soul ever advancing it’s skills to the the next step which shows up here as Strength. The image is a woman with a lion, she is beautifully dressed with a robe and flowers, and is engaging with a lion (there is some question as to whether she is opening or closing his mouth), showing her strength of spirit over nature. Representing again this balance of duality the physical and the spiritual.
The Hermit comes next, those times in our lives when we need solitude, a space with yin energy, a space to learn. A space to assimilate and digest all we are learning. It can also signal that we are ready to find that teacher we need.
The Wheel of Fortune is next on our journey. This card shows us the turning of our lives, the ever changing, ever turning of our destinies-up and down. Our lives are not stagnant. We know this, and this can show us a change of luck, a change in our lives, and illustrates the ups and downs we all know our lives to be. Think Karma.
Justice . The figure is sitting on a thrown that echoes the backdrop of the High Priestess, the Emperor, the Hierophant. This card shows us that we can cut through to the truth, cut through the BS. We will revisit the action of the sword when we discuss the swords as a suit.
The Hanged Man reminds me of Odin in the Norse myths - god of wisdom among other things, who sacrificed his eye and hung upside down for 9 days to gain knowledge. This is the part in our journey when we learn the meaning of sacrifice, and surrender.
The card that probably scares people away is the Death card. This card follows the Hanged Man though in the fact that this is about death of self, death of old ways, and shows self initiated growth and change. Truly a positive card, but the image and the word scares people away.
Temperance card speaks to us about moderation and balance, the fool has learned to look deep within, made the changes, done the work and now is managing all things. The figure is at home balanced between land and sea, the 2 cups are representative of the balance between conscious and subconscious.
The Devil, this card is the card for Capricorns, my hubby is a cap, so it always makes me smile, but my first teacher told me this is sort of the anti-thesis to the lovers card, this card represents that union that is addictive, they are in chains instead of freely holding each other, this can also represent addiction, unhealthy things we are attached to. The Devil card to me says we have lost traction after the preceding card, sort of like when we join the gym and then stop going, only to re sign up and have to make our way back!
If we continue down the path of not learning, and not doing the work to grow, we hit on the energy of The Tower. This card even looks scary! This is the card of the universe making us pay attention! A wake up call so to speak, we have to pay attention now.
As we approach these last few cards we see that all the work is coming together. The Star is a card of meditation, balance, the waters represent the unconscious mind.
In our dreams we also find inspiration under The Moon, furthering our learning and deepening our connection to spirit and the subconscious.
The Sun card shows us a similar feel to the Chariot card, only now there are no reins, the fool has learned that he has control and is happy, free and naked. Nothing to hide, and has done most of his journey. Again these higher numbered cards in the major arcana seem to show us our soul’s growth as we have learned and flowed through the ups and downs of the lessons, done the work and are reaching the payoff.
Judgement shows us a life well lived, a calling home of sorts, a realization that we are spirit here to have a human experience to fulfill our destiny of lessons.
We have completion with The World card. The figure is in the same shape as the hanged man although this time right side up. She/he has attained the knowledge they were hoping for. I use these pronouns because there is speculation that this figure is dual gendered, complete, no more duality.
I hope this helps to explain part of tarot, the cards can be so useful to us, and our development. As the friend who inspired me to think of this said-it sounds almost like therapy with ink blots, what do we need to see? The cards can help us with this. If you want to dive further please click on the link below for my 23 day email series on this. After your welcome letter you will receive daily discussions on the cards of the Major Arcana and daily thought prompts for “homework”.
*Please note that the descriptions I use when speaking of the images are from the Rider Waite deck.
**I would like to also add that these cards and images are not linear in their gender. We can all exhibit the qualities of any and all of them -as a woman I have the energy of the emperor when needed or the magician, and men can have the caring creative nature of the empress-nothing is static, not even gender.