Te Opening Trumps

The Fool

Figure 1

e have already looked at the Fool in one aspect, the image of a spirit totally free. But we can look at the Fool from another side - the leap into the archetypal world of the trumps.

Imagine yourself entering a strange landscape. A world of magicians, of people hanging upside down, and of dancers in the bright air. You can enter through a leap from a height,

The Fool the flower is held, indicate the passions raised to a higher level. The Greeks saw Eros, the god of love, as a trickster, making the most proper people act ridiculous. But those who already express their folly will not be thrown by love. The Greeks also spoke of Eros, in other forms, as the animating force of the universe.

The bag behind him carries his experiences. He does not abandon them, he is not mindless, they simply do not control him in the way that our memories and traumas so often control our lives. The bag bears the head of an eagle, symbol of the soaring spirit. His high instinct fills and transforms all experience. The eagle is also the symbol of Scorpio raised to a higher level, that is, sexuality raised to spirit. This idea of the connection between sex and spirit will come up again with the card of the Devil.

Over his shoulder the Fool carries a stick, like a tramp. But this stick is actually a wand, symbol of power. The Magician and the Chariot driver also carry wands, but self-consciously, with a powerful grip. The Fool and the World Dancer hold their wands so casually we hardly notice them. What could be more foolish than to take a magic wand and use it to carry your bags? We can imagine a fairy tale in which the foolish younger brother finds a stick by the side of the road and carries it, not recognizing it as the lost wand of a wizard, and therefore not being destroyed like his two older brothers who tried to wield it for their own profit.

The Fool's wand is black; the others are white. For the unconscious Fool the spirit force remains always in potential, always ready, because he is not consciously directing it. We tend to misunderstand the colour black, seeing it as evil, or negation of life. Rather, black means all things being possible, infinite energy of life before consciousness has constructed any boundaries. When we fear blackness or darkness we fear the deep unconscious source of life itself.

Like the joker, the Fool really belongs anywhere in the deck, in combination with and between any of the other cards. He is the animating force giving life to the static images. In the Major Arcana he belongs wherever there is a difficult transition. Hence his position at the beginning, where there is the transition from the everyday world of the Minor Arcana to the world of archetypes. The Fool also helps us jump the gap from one line to the next, that is, from the Chariot to Strength, from Temperance to the Devil. To reach the Chariot or Temperance requires great effort and courage, and without the Fool's readiness to leap into new territory we would likely stop with what we have already achieved.

The Fool belongs as well with those cards of difficult passage, such as the Moon and Death (observe the winding road on each of

Judgement and the World, she describes the Fool as what the outside world sees when it looks upon someone who is truly enlightened. Because the Fool does not follow their rules or share their weaknesses, he appears to them in this ugly distorted way. Haich describes the Fool's face as a mask, put there not by himself but by the outside world. The last card, the World, presents the same enlightened person, but viewed from inside, that is, by himself.

In some early Tarot decks the Fool appeared as a giant court jester, towering over the people around him. His title was 'the Fool of God'. The term has also been used for idiots, harmless madmen, and severe epileptics, all of whom were thought to be in touch with a greater wisdom precisely because they were out of touch with the rest of us.

The archetype persists in modern popular mythology as well. By their fantastic primitive nature comic books often reflect mythological themes better than novels. In Batman the hero's strongest enemy is called the Joker, a figure who has no past and is never seen without the wild make-up of a joker in a deck of cards. The joker, of course, descends directly from the Fool of tarochhi. The rivalry of Batman and the Joker sends a clear message to their readers: do not rebel against social values. Support law and order. In recent years the magazine has described the Joker as insane rather than criminal. To society the way of the Fool, instinct rather than rules, is a dangerous insanity.

So far we have looked at the Fool as the 'other', prodding us from complacency with his jokes and disguises. As the 'self' he represents that long tradition of the foolish brother or sister, despised by the older brothers and sisters, yet finally able to win the princess or the prince through instinctive wit and kindness.

Curiously the image of the Fool as self occurs more in fairy tales than myths. We look at myths as representing forces larger than ourselves; the simpler fairy tale allows us to express our own foolishness.

Like 'Boots' or 'Gluck' in the fairy tale, always accompanied by various animal helpers, the Fool in almost every deck walks with a companion. In Waite the figure is a leaping dog, in others a cat or even a crocodile. The animal symbolizes the forces of nature and the animal self of man, all in harmony with the spirit who acts from instinct. Mythological dogs are often terrifying, for example, the Hound of Hell chasing lost souls. But it is really the same beast; only our attitude changes. Deny your inner self and it becomes ferocious. Obey it and it becomes benign.

Waite's Fool holds a white rose. Roses symbolize passion, while white, the traditional colour of purity, together with the delicate way

As we go further into the Tarot we will see that this concept of the proper time permeates the cards and is, in fact, the true key to their correct use. The card in the Rider pack that falls exactly in the middle of the three lines, that is, Justice, means a proper response.

Figure 2

The Magician

The Magician emerges very directly from the Fool in the image of the trickster-wizard. As mentioned above, Merlin fulfils both these roles (as well as that of teacher and wise man), and many other myths make the same connection. Earlier Tarot decks pictured trump number one as a conjurer rather than a magus, or even a juggler tossing coloured balls in the air. Charles Williams described him as a juggler tossing the stars and planets.

Most modern images of the trump follow Waite's wizard, raising a magic wand to bring into reality the spirit force - the energy of life in its most creative form. He holds the wand carefully, aware of that psychic power the Fool carried so lightly on his shoulder. Thus, the Magician, as the beginning of the Major Arcana proper, represents consciousness, action and creation. He symbolizes the idea of manifestation, that is, making something real out of the possibilities m life. Therefore, we see the four emblems of the Minor Arcana -lying on a table in front of him. He not only uses the physical world for his magical operations (the four emblems are all objects used by these two), where he urges us on despite our fears.

In the Minor Arcana the Fool relates first of all to Wands - action, eagerness, movement without thought. But it connects as well to Cups, with their emphasis on imagination and instinct. The Fool, in fact, combines these two suits. Later we will see that this combination, fire and water, represents the way of transformation.

Finally the question arises of the Fool's place in divinatory readings. I have already mentioned the importance of readings for a fuller understanding of the cards. Even more, they help us apply the wisdom of the cards to our daily lives. In readings the Fool speaks to us of courage and optimism, urging faith in ourselves and in life. At difficult times, when we come under pressure from people around us to be practical, the Fool reminds us that our own inner selves can best tell us what to do.

The Fool can often symbolize beginnings, courageously leaping off into some new phase of life, particularly when that leap is taken from some deep feeling rather than careful planning.

These belong to the Fool in its normal position. We must also consider the 'reversed' meanings, that is, when the way we have mixed the cards makes the Fool come out with the feet on the top. Reversed meanings are controversial among Tarot commentators. Those who give formulas as meanings usually just turn the formula around, a simplistic method which has led several interpreters to abandon the whole idea of reversed meanings. But we can also look at reversals as deepening the meaning of the card as a whole. In general, a reversed card indicates that the qualities of that card have become blocked, distorted or channelled in another direction.

For the Fool a reversal means first of all a failure to follow your instincts. It can mean not taking a chance at some crucial time, because of fear or depending too much on plans and the practical advice of others.

Another reversed meaning of the Fool will appear at first to contradict the one just given. Recklessness, wildness, crazy schemes all seem the opposite of over-caution. And yet, they originate from the same weakness, a failure to act from inside. The reckless person superimposes a conscious or artificial foolishness on his life both because he does not trust the unconscious to act as a guide and because is also afraid of doing nothing.

This second reversed meaning suggests another dimension to the Fool - the awareness that great chances must be taken only at the proper time. There are, after all, many times when caution is needed, and times when it is better to do nothing at all. The basic thing any oracle teaches us is that no action or attitude is right or wrong, except in its proper context.

The life force that fills the universe is not gentle or benign. It must be discharged, grounded in something real, because our bodies, our selves, are not meant to contain it, but only pass it on. Thus, the artist does not join in the physical frenzy because she or he is discharging that power into the painting. Similarly the priest passes the power into the bread and wine.

We function best as a channel for energy. Unless we follow the path of the High Priestess in withdrawing from the world, we live our lives most fully when we create or are active. 'Create' does not mean simply art, but any activity that produces something real and valuable outside of ourselves.

Many people experience feelings of being powerful so infrequently they try to hold on to them. By doing nothing they hope to preserve their magic moments. But we can really hold on to power in our lives only by constantly discharging it. By releasing creative power we open ourselves up to receive a further flow. However, by trying to hold on to it, we block the channels and the sense of power, which is really life itself, withers within us. The spectator at the football game, even the possessed church-goer, will find their excitement gone after the event that triggered it has ended. But the craftsman or scientist or teacher - or, for that matter, the Tarot reader - will find the power increase over the years the more they discharge it into physical reality.

When we look at the Magician those of us who feel a lack or a flatness in our lives will be drawn to the wand raised towards heaven. But the real magic rests in that finger pointing to the earth. That ability to create gives him his title. His image stems not only from the trickster-conjurer, but also from the archetypal hero. In our culture this would be Prometheus, who brought the heavenly fire down to weak and cold humanity.

In the West we tend to see wizards as manipulators. They learn secret techniques or make deals with Satan in order to gain personal power. This somewhat decadent image comes partly from the magicians themselves, since they make charms to find buried treasure, but also from the Church, which sees magicians, who deal directly with the spirit instead of going through the official priesthood, as competitors. The Tarot and all occult sciences are in a sense revoltionary, because they teach direct salvation, in this life, through your own efforts.

We can get a different concept of the Magician through the image of the shaman, or medicine man. Because no hierarchical Church has arisen to banish the shamans they have not become isolated from the community. They serve as healers, teachers, and directors of the soi I after death. Like the wizards, the shamans study and wizards in their rituals), but he also creates the world, in the sense of giving life a meaning and direction.

The Magician stands surrounded by flowers to remind us that the emotional and creative power we feel in our lives needs to be grounded in physical reality for us to get any value from it. Unless we make something of our potentials they do not really exist.

'In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.' The Bible begins at the moment the spirit descends into physical reality. For us, in the physical world, we can talk of nothing before this moment. In the linking of the Tarot with the Hebrew alphabet the Fool often receives the first letter Aleph. (Aleph bears no sound; it is a silent carrier of vowels, and therefore symbolizes nothingness. It is the first letter of the Ten Commandments.) This would assign the second Hebrew letter, Beth, the first letter with an actual sound, to the Magician. Beth is the first letter of Genesis.

Look at Waite's picture of the Magician. He is not casting spells, or conjuring up demons. He simply stands with one hand raised to heaven and the other pointed to the green earth. He is a lightning rod. By opening himself up to the spirit he draws it down into himself, and then that downward hand, like a lightning rod buried in the ground, runs the energy into the earth. Into reality.

We see many accounts of the 'descent of the spirit' in the Bible, in other religious texts and in contemporary religious experience. People 'speak in tongues' in Pentecostal churches, they scream and shout and roll on the floor at Gospel meetings. The priest giving communion sees himself as a 'vessel' or channel for the Holy Ghost. But we can see this experience in much simpler, non-religious, terms as well. People tremble with excitement at sporting events. 'I'm so excited I could burst!' In a new love affair or at the start of a new career, we feel a power filling us. You can sometimes see people at the opening of some important phase of their lives, tapping their legs up and down, half bouncing in their seats, filled with some energy they cannot seem to discharge. And writers and artists, when their work is going well, will experience themselves as almost passive channels for a spirit-like force. The word 'inspiration' originally meant 'filled with a holy breath', and derives from the same root as 'spirit'.

Notice that of all these examples all but the priest and the artist are seized with a frenzy. The possessed church-goer and the teenager about to burst at a football game share the feeling that their bodies are overwhelmed by a power too great for it. Far from being gentle the surge of energy can be almost painful. The person in religious fervour shouts and leaps about in order to release an unbearable energy.

The power is there, but we cannot touch it. The card reversed can mean the lethargic apathy that characterizes depression.

The reversed trump can also mean power abused, a person who uses his or her very strong character to exert a destructive influence on others. The most direct example of this would of course be the psychic aggression of'black magic'.

Finally, the Magician reversed indicates mental disquiet, hallucinations, fear and particularly fear of madness. This problem arises when the energy or spirit fire enters a person who does not know how to direct it into an outer reality. If we do not ground the lightning it can become trapped in the body and force itself on our awareness as anxiety or hallucinations. Anyone who has ever gone through a moment of total panic will know that acute mental anxiety is a very physical experience, a feeling of the body running wild, like a fire out of control. The word 'panic' means 'possessed by the god Pan', himself a symbol of magical forces.

Think again of the lightning rod. It not only attracts the bolt but runs it into the dirt. Without that connection to the earth the lightning would burn down the house.

Several writers have commented on the relationship between shamanism and what the West calls 'schizophrenia'. Shamans are often not so much chosen as found. If, in our culture, a young person experiences visions, fearful hallucinations, we do not know what to do with such experiences other than to try and stop them, by drugs and self-control. But in other cultures, such people receive training. This is not to say that madness does not exist or is not recognized in archaic cultures. Rather, the training is meant to prevent madness by channelling the experiences into a productive direction.

The initiates learn, through study with an established shaman, and through physical techniques such as fasting, how to understand, structure and finally direct these visionary experiences towards the service of the community. The Magician reversed should not be banished or confined; instead, we must find the way to turn it right side up.

learn complicated techniques. Their magical vocabulary is often much larger than the everyday vocabulary of the people around them. None of this training, however, is used to manipulate the spirit or for personal gain. Rather, the shaman only seeks to become a proper channel, both for himself so he will not be overwhelmed, and for the community so he can serve them better. He knows the great power that will enter him at moments of ecstasy and he wants to make sure it does not destroy him and make him of no use to the people around him.

Like the wizard the shaman has developed his will to the point where he can direct the fire that fills him. At the same time he remains open, allowing his ego to dissolve under the direct onslaught of the spirit. It says something about our culture that our wizards stand inside magic circles to make sure the demons cannot touch them.

We can apply the shaman attitude to our use of the whole Tarot deck. We study the cards, learn the symbolic language, even specific formulas, in order to give a direction to the feelings they arouse in us. But we must not forget that the true magic lies in the images themselves and not the explanations.

The divinatory meanings of the Magician derive from both hands, the one which receives the power and the one which directs. The card means first of all an awareness of power in your life, of spirit or simple excitement possessing you. It can also mean, depending on its position and your reaction to it, someone else's power affecting you. Like the Fool, the card refers to beginnings, but here the first actual steps. It can mean both the inspiration to begin some new project or phase of life, and the excitement that sustains you through the hard work to reach your goal. For many people the Magician can become a strong personal symbol for the creative force throughout their lives.

Secondly, the Magician means will-power; the will unified and directed towards goals. It means having great strength because all your energy is channelled in a specific direction. People who seem always to get what they want in life are often people who simply know what they want and can direct their energy. The Magician teaches us that both will-power and success derive from being conscious of the power available to everyone. Most people rarely act; instead they react, being knocked from one experience to the next. To act is to direct your strength, through the will, to the places where you want it to go.

The Magician reversed signifies that in some way the proper flow of energy has become disrupted or blocked. It can mean a weakness, a lack of will or a confusion of purpose that leads to doing nothing.

card derives directly from the Isis priestess's symbolic clothing, particularly the crown representing the three phases of the moon.

The Pope Joan legend and Manfreda Visconti are not simply historical curiosities. They illustrate a major social development in the Middle Ages, the reintroduction of the female and feminine principles into religion and cosmology. The images and the concepts8' associated with the masculine role had dominated both the Church and Jewish religion for centuries. As a result ordinary people experienced the religions of the priests and rabbis as remote, harsh, and unapproachable, with their emphasis on sin, judgement, and punishment. They wanted qualities of mercy and love. And they identified these with women. Like a mother shelters her child from the somewhat distant strictness of the father, a female diety supposedly would intrude for the pathetic sinners against the unremitting judgement of the Father.

It is interesting to realize that in many ways the Church saw Christ, as the Son, in exactly that role of introducing love and compassion. Yet, the people demanded a female. Even the idea of the Church as 'Mother Church' did not go far enough. Finally, the Church capitulated by raising the Virgin Mary almost to the level of Christ himself.

Many writers and scholars believe that the elevation of Mary - as well as the priests' costume of long skirts - originated in the Church's desire to assimilate a persistent goddess religion from the days before Christianity. If this is true it would indicate not so much a cultural conservatism as the power of the female archetype to maintain a hold and partially triumph against suppression.

In Judaism the official religion of the rabbis managed to resist any insurgent feminism. The people's need, however, took hold in another area: the long tradition of the Qabalah. The Qabalists took a term from the Talmud, 'Shekinah', which meant God's glory manifest in the physical world, and revised it to make it God's anima, or female side. The Qabalists also revised the idea of Adam, making him originally hermaphroditic. The separation of Eve from Adam, even the separation of the Shekinah from God, became results of the Fall; the absence of the female from the official religion became almost a matter of sin rather than purity.

So far we have looked at the benign motherly qualities of female mythological figures. Historically, however, female deities have always shown a dark, hidden side as well. To introduce the female at all is to introduce the whole archetype. The Tarot splits up the feminine archetype into two trumps and actually assigns the benign qualities to the second one (trump 3), the Empress. The High Priestess herself represents a deeper, more subtle aspect of the

Figure 3
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