The Language of the Tarot Images in Pattern and Sequence

A conceptual structure that will serve as a starting point for us to appreciate the magical dynamics of the Tarot can be found in the design of the Marseilles Trump of the World. That is, a dancing figure within a wreath, with one of the four kerubic emblems at each corner of the card.

These kerubic emblems represent the Elemental powers that are unfolded in the suit cards. The attributions run as follows:

Man (or Angel) Air Swords East

Lion Fire Wands South

Eagle Water Cups West

Ox (or Bull) Earth Coins North

The Trumps are represented by the central figure.

Thus we can take a first step in practical magic by sorting the pack into five stacks, face up, running in sequence from the Aces at the top to the Kings at the bottom of each pile. The Trumps similarly are arranged face up in the centre, with the Fool on the top, running down in numbered sequence to the World. (See Figure 24.)

This in itself is an evocative meditation symbol, for from it the rest of the powers represented by the Tarot can unfold.

One method of unfolding these powers visually is to lay the cards out after the fashion of the mysterious table of Tarot images that is described in Charles Williams' novel The Greater Trumps.

This circular table, kept in a curtained room behind locked doors, had upon it twenty-two sculpted figures of the Tarot Trumps that danced of their own volition. In the centre was the Fool, about which the other Trump figures moved, generating a humming sound and a golden light. The lesser cards were

Tarot and Magic represented by the structure of the underpart of the table itself, a single central support opening into four foot pieces each with fourteen claws. We, however, can represent these cards by placing them in a circle outlining the circumference of the table top. It is also quite evocative to arrange the central dancing figures in a roughly spiral way. The full arrangement will be something after the style of Figure 25.



Figure 25

It will save space and also help to create greater realism if we fashion little stands for each of the Trump cards, so that they stand upright. This is most simply done by cutting and folding a slip of thin card to form a V-shaped base, with vertical slots to hold the Tarot card. (See Figure 26.)

In the first instance it will serve to lay out the suit cards in straight sequence in clockwise direction from Ace through to King. From this straightforward spread, where all the cards are visible in logical sequence, the a-logical sequences and


Figure 26

arrangements will have the chance to make themselves apparent to the intuitive and meditative eye.

The four suits represent the four modes of expression of created existence. These four modes have their objective expression at all levels, from die most spiritual to the most material; and also their subjective experience at all levels, from the most interior and mystical to the physical and organic.

There is considerable written material available for the student to gain acquaintance with the dynamics of this fourfold structure. In The Rose Cross and the Goddess we have built up the same structure starting from the basic principles of nature, and also using musical symbolism. They are familiar, in their subjective aspect, to students of Jungian psychology in the four functions of intuition, intellect, feeling and sensation. W. G. Gray has used the system as the basis for his magical textbooks and indeed did much to pioneer the modern use of it. I have formulated it in elementary terms in The Practice of Ritual Magic. And in terms relating to the Tarot specifically they are imaginatively described in Charles Williams' The Greater Trumps, though Williams prefers, as do some other authorities and practitioners, to equate Swords with Fire and Wands with Air. This, however, does not affect the general principles of the fourfold magical structure.

An encyclopaedia could be compiled without exhausting the detailed ramifications of the structure that we have laid out. It represents all created existence in all its potential. It is a model of the universe, and thus also a model of the soul of man, which reflects it.

We will pursue one or two possible developments of structure to indicate how insights can be gained in this way.

One of the symbolic functions of this circle is that of time. The turning of the Earth causes the apparent movement of the

Sun in the sky, at its zenith in the South, its rising and setting over the horizon in East and West, and its unseen nadir, below the horizon, in the North. Applying this to our arrangement the Swords take on associations related to Dawn and beginnings of things; the Wands to Noon and the full power of the noon-day brightness; the Cups to Dusk and the receptive twilight time; the Coins to Midnight and the hidden wisdom of the starlit, moonlit hours of the Midnight Sun.

Similarly, by reference to the path of the Earth around the Sun as a function of our time circle, the Dawn of the Year, or the Spring, and all that is associated with it in terms of new life, may be associated with the Sword cards. In like manner the Wands relate to the powers of Summer; the Cups to the powers of Autumn, and the Coins to those of Winter.

These simple allocations of the hours of the day and the seasons of the year to the circle of cards of the suits gives the basis for a deep appreciation of the Elemental forces that go to make up the natural world, and their application to the individual cards themselves.

This application extends also to human life itself, to the dawn and springtime of childhood and youth; to the summer and high noon of young adulthood; to the autumn and dusk of advancing middle years; and to the winter and night-time of old age.

You may tread the circle of cards in the mind's eye, allowing the associations of each time and season to come into consciousness at the appropriate quarter and suit. This can be taken to a greater degree of participation by imagining yourself, like Alice in Wonderland, as very small, or alternatively the cards as very large, and processing about their circle. This indeed is a form of 'path working' (see Chapter 4).

You may then become aware of the dancing spiral of the archetypes of the Trumps whirling about the centre, inviting you into the central dance of the inner forces of life, in their infinite complexities and interlocked experiences. And through this whirling dance of the archetypal forces you may discern at the centre the stable zero point, the pole about which all the dance revolves, and about which also the outer circle of Elemental cards is structured, the central Fool. Ultimately you may dance, and merge your being, with the Fool. This is the attainment of a universal consciousness that may be approached and experienced in many ways - just as there are many ways of approaching the centre through the ever changing labyrinthine dance of the archetypal forces that make up the framework of existence.

To return however to our considerations of the circumference of the Elemental cards, we may attain to further realizations by slightly changing their arrangement at each quarter.

There is a certain polar complement between the Swords and Wands on the one hand, and the Cups and Coins on the other. The Swords and Wands with their associations of Dawn and Noon, Spring and Summer, pertain to growth or outer life expression; whilst the Cups and Coins with their associations of Dusk and Midnight, Autumn and Winter, pertain to fruiting and seeding and the inward turning of life expression.

It is interesting to note, in this respect, a traditional Tarot scoring practice that has fallen from modern card game usage. That is that the Aces to Tens rank one way in the Swords and Wands, which have Ten high and Ace low; and the other way in the Cups and Coins, which have Ace high and Ten low. We could express this diagrammatically in Figure 27.

Figure 27

Figure 27


It will be realized that esoterically the numbers 1 to 10 imply an outward turning and conversely 10 to 1 an inward turning of the life forces. On the Tree of Life of the Qabalah, Kether is the 1st Sephirah and Malkuth the 10th; the inner and outer poles of creation respectively.

We should note that the Court Cards do not figure in this peculiar method of scoring. They in fact may be seen to occupy a different function esoterically, each one being a mode of operation at different levels of Elemental force.

This is perhaps best expressed by reference to a particular numerical arrangement that was the keystone of Pythagorean number mysticism - the tetractis. This is an arrangement of the numbers 1 to 10 in triangular pattern of four ranks, thus:

Each of these four ranks of numbers can be epitomized by one of the four Court Cards. The King is the fount of all number at unity; the Queen is the principle of duality, and the odd and even principles; the Knight is the threefold expression and the Page the fourfold manifestation of the appropriate Elemental power.

Those familiar with the Qabalistic Tree of Life may also observe a special relationship with the Sephiroth, the King pertaining to the 1st Sephirah, Kether; the Queen to the 3rd Sephirah, Binah; the Knight to the 6th Sephirah, Tiphereth; and the Page to the 10th Sephirah, Malkuth.

Sufficient has been said to provide the discerning Qabalistic student with several avenues of fruitful meditation, and in Figure 28 the layout of the cards on the Tree of Life is shown. It will be observed that the Queen may be placed in the Daath position, mediating between the purely spiritual and the more formative aspects of life expression. In this role she partakes of both the 2nd and 3rd Sephiroth, as Mother of Form in Binah, and Astraea the Star Maiden in Chockmah.

However, one does not have to be a student of the Qabalah or of Pythagorean mathematics to understand the Tarot, even though there are parallels of interpretation, in that the systems, each in their way, describe the same inner reality.

The Tarot is quite capable of demonstrating its own wisdom

King Queen Knight Page

Tarot Pattern

without recourse to other systems. It is simply a question of actively working with the images, intellectually, intuitively, imaginatively and physically. It is amazing what can be learned simply by persistendy laying out the cards and pondering over them. And this is particularly noticeable if one uses packs of different design. Each will prove to have its own ambience of meaning and 'atmosphere'.

This free approach is demonstrated in the account by the Golden Dawn initiate Brodie Innes of his meeting with an Epping Forest gypsy. (This appeared as an article in The Occult Review Vol. xxix, No. 2, February 1919, reprinted in The Sorcerer and his Apprentice, edited by R. A. Gilbert, Aquarian Press, 1983). Mrs Lee told him, in confidence, the principles she used for interpreting the cards in divination. Brodie Innes respected this confidence but stated that '. . . it was a thoroughly logical and complete system, the four suits representing the four elements, and the four temperaments, and being judged according to their position. The Wands representing fire and the sanguine temperament, a wand card occurring in a bad position would indicate danger from rash and hasty action, anger or quarrelling; the same card in a good position would show noble and generous action, courage, energy and the like.'

He goes on to say, 'Curiously enough the numbers of the pips were interpreted on a system very much akin to the Pythagorean sytem of numbers, especially in regard to the occult meaning of odd and even numbers. Mrs Lee laid particular stress on the arrangement of the pips on the cards, pointing out its similarity to the arrangement of spots on dice and dominoes.'

However, if we examine a number of Tarot packs we shall find that there is no uniform way of laying out the numbered suit emblems. It seems apparent therefore that Mrs Lee used her own intuition to a great extent in arriving at the meanings, although they were probably based on a relatively rough and ready oral tradition. This is borne out by observation of the card reading technique of one of the older members of my own family who was taught how to read the cards, as a child, by a gypsy. Although individual cards did have a general ambience of meaning, this could be considerably altered according to place in the layout and the effect of surrounding cards. In fact, in practice cards tended to be read in terms of association and combination in pairs or groups rather than as set individual meanings. This of course is much like life itself, which is ever an infinity of combinations and permutations of similar elements of relatively limited range in themselves.

The imaginative and intuitive approach has certainly been freely indulged by both the cartomancers and the esoteric savants of the nineteenth century, even though the latter might have been loth to admit it. And whilst there are differences in quality between the wilder flights of fancy of some of the Society cartomancers and the deeper philosophic musings of the occult fraternity initiates, each in their way is formulating a workable language. And whilst there may be a difference in aesthetic quality between say fashionable society idioms and the stately forms of a sacred language, they may be equally effective as means of communication in the appropriate context.

We are dealing with the language of symbols. And if one seeks a language for the elucidation of daily problems of worldly folk then the meanings to be found in any cartomancy book may serve very well, however arbitrary they may seem. If one seeks higher wisdom then one may do better to go to the classical systems of Pythagorean numerology or Qabalah for a language that can do justice to the concepts involved. The strength of the Tarot is that it can cater for either approach equally well.

As an example, we might cite the traditional titles of the small cards of the Tarot as they have been enshrined in Western occult tradition via the Golden Dawn and their meanings as described in a typical fortune telling book. For instance, a popular fortune telling compendium cites the Five of Cups as a card that 'foreshadows marriage, a happy and triumphant conclusion to a love affair', whilst a respected occult text accords to the same card 'Loss in pleasure. Partial loss. Vain regret'. From the same sources the Seven of Swords is either 'Business success and bright prospects' or 'Unstable effort, uncertainty, partial success.'

It should be plain that different background criteria are being referred to as the rationale for the meanings. In fact the most obvious divergence is whether one regards Swords as symbols of misfortune per se, as was probably the case in Renaissance times, or of the Element Air, which is a later esoteric preference.

We should not, from this, jump to the conclusion that the whole thing is subjective and arbitrary nonsense. The fact is that despite these anomalies good practitioners can make the thing work. This is because the inner planes are what might be called ideoplastic - they will conform to many of our preconceptions.

So the lesson is that each student should formulate personal interpretations from personal meditation and experience.

This extends even to the numbers, titles, and sequence of the Tarot Trumps. We have seen earlier that the iconography could change over the years. On the original hand-painted Trionphi there were no names or numbers. Therefore there is no documentary evidence as to what their original sequence was, or indeed even if they had a numbered order.

Certainly as soon as they became part of a game of play they would have needed a scoring order and this they had, we know, from the anti-gaming sermon of the Steele manuscript.

However, the numbered order given in that manuscript differs from that of the familiar Marseilles Tarot, and when we look more closely at the historical record we find that there are regional differences in the order.

At the greatest possible count it could be said that there are ten or eleven different orders for the Trumps. However, this can be reduced to three when minor deviations are ignored. Similarly, we may disregard blatant interference with the game for social or political reasons, as when, for instance, in the Papal States, the Emperor, Empress, Pope and Female Pope cards were replaced by four equal ranking Moors.

Following Professor Dummett's analysis we can identify the three basic systems as follows:

Variant A is typified by the Sicilian packs,

Variant B is found in the Steele manuscript,

Variant C is that of the Marseilles Tarot.

Variant A could well be considered a late version. It suffered a certain amount of change during its passage from a probable Florentine origin down through Bologna and Rome to relatively late arrival in Sicily.

Variant B has an early provenance - before 1500 - but of a literary and therefore indirect nature.

Variant C can only be traced with certainty back to the mid-sixteenth century but in the course of time, through the popularity of the Marseilles pack and the industry of the Marseilles manufacturers, has become a standard.

When we place the orders side by side we see, however, that there is a firm general structure that is common to all three. The variations occur mostly as a result of switching the positions of the Cardinal Virtue cards of Strength, Temperance and Justice.

Let us list them, standardizing the titles according to our own chosen convention. It will be noted that in none of these lists does the Fool appear, for as the scusi, it is not part of the order of Trumps, it has no scoring capacity but simply changes the rules by its presence.

1 Magician



2 Empress


High Priestess

3 Emperor



4 High Priestess

High Priestess


5 Hierophant



6 Temperance



7 Strength



8 Justice



9 Lovers



10 Chariot



11 Wheel



12 Hanged Man

Hanged Man

Hanged Man

13 I Icrmit



14 Death



15 Devil



16 Tower



17 Star



18 Moon



19 Sun

Last Judgement


20 World


Last Judgement

21 Last Judgement



In these principal Variants the following deviations occur:

Variant A: Hanged Man and Hermit may interchange.

Wheel and Chariot may interchange.

Lovers may be placed above Temperance and Temperance, Strength and Justice displaced by one.

Both Lovers and Chariot may be placed above Temperance, and Temperance, Strength and Justice similarly displaced but the latter two also interchanging.

In some cases the Emperor, Empress, High Priestess and Hierophant have been altered for religious reasons, or the Devil replaced by a Ship.

Variant B: Emperor and High Priestess may interchange. Lovers and Chariot may interchange.

Variant C: High Priestess and Empress may interchange. Empress and Emperor may interchange. Chariot and Justice may interchange. Hermit and Strength may interchange.

And when we compare the three Variants one with another the differences between Variants B and C may be summarized as follows:

High Priestess may come before or after Empress and Emperor. Temperance may appear either between Hierophant and Lovers or between Death and Devil.

Strength and the Hermit may interchange. Justice may appear either between Chariot and Hermit or between Last Judgement and the World.

The general characteristics of Variant A in comparison with B and C are that:

World and Last Judgement are interchanged; and the Cardinal Virtues, Temperance, Strength and Justice remain close together.

All this seems very complicated but we have itemized it at some length in view of the latter day esoteric preoccupation with formulating a one true order. The above should show that this is none too easy and, if one exists, unlikely to be achieved by minor alterations of the Marseilles order. This has been the general esoteric tendency, interchanging Justice and Strength, and possibly the Emperor and the Star, and variously attempting to fit in the Fool at the beginning, the end, or between the Last Judgement and the World.

However, if we examine the general outline of the three principal Variants, as Professor Dummett points out, we see that they fall into three discrete segments if we ignore the Cardinal Virtues. All minor interchanges occur only within the bounds of these segments. They are:

Segment 1: Magician, Empress, Emperor, High Priestess, Hierophant.

Segment 2:1 .overs, Chariot, Wheel, Hermit, Hanged Man. Segment 3: Death, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Last Judgement, World.

This accounts for eighteen cards, the rest being made up by the three Virtues - Temperance, Strength and Justice - plus, as an outsider, the Fool.

So if we wish to conjecture what the possible original sequence may have been, we would do well to confine ourselves within these parameters. We should also bear in mind the change in meaning that has occurred with some of the Trumps, for instance:

the Hermit having originally been Time;

the Lovers having originally been Love;

the Chariot having originally been Victory;

the Hanged Man having originally been a Traitor.

We will then find ourselves presented with four sets of four cards each:

a) 'Powers' : Emperor, Empress, Hierophant,

High Priestess.

b) 'Conditions' : Love, Victory, Time, Fortune.

c) 'Maleiics' : Traitor, Death, Devil, Tower (of

Babel or Hell's Gate).

d) 'Celestial Spheres' : Stars, Moon, Sun, Angelic World or


Against each of these sets we can place one of the remaining cards, to represent each set as a whole:

a) Strength - against the Powers.

b) Temperance - against the Conditions.

c) Justice - against the Malefics.

d) World - against the Celestial Spheres.

Oddly, we find that each of these has a correspondence with one of the suits:

Strength to Wands (one version has a man wielding a club). Temperance to Cups (the figure holds two cups). Justice to Swords (the figure holds a sword). World to Coins (the medallion-like appearance of the World on the earlier cards).

This leaves the Magician with his table of implements as controller, in turn, of these four cards. Thus there is a neat and meaningful symmetry in the arrangement. (See Figure 29) The Fool, again, is outside of this arrangement. If one likes, he can be thought to represent the interior, unmanifest side, of the Magician.

We do not claim that this is in fact the original conception. We lay it out simply as an example of the way the cards will arrange themselves if one is willing to adopt a flexible approach and go back to first principles.

This arrangement, if true, reflects a different conception of the suits or four-fold powers of the Tarot than the Elemental or nature based one that we have already outlined.

Instead of Air for Swords we have Evil;

instead of Fire for Wands we have Spiritual and Executive Power;

instead of Water for Cups we have Existential Conditions of life;

instead of Earth for Coins we have Celestial Spheres and their influence.

This, we feel, may well represent a Renaissance view of the universe, magically expressed, and it also accords with the cartomantic fortune tellers' general conception of the cards, which tends to view

Swords as malefic or sorrow bearing;

Wands as organizational;

Cups as emotional;

Coins as financial or matters of material well being.

In this respect Alliette and his like, so despised by Eliphas Levi and the more philosophical esoteric commentators, may well be closer to the original conception of the Tarot than the savants of the esoteric brotherhoods.

This is not necessarily a condemnation of the latter. Ideas and modes of consciousness move on. And to remain relevant to current needs an ancient wisdom has to grow and develop into a modern wisdom. Hence the changing meanings of some of the cards.

In this context it will be seen that the fortune telling stream of interpretation of the meaning of the cards is a conservative tendency rather than a wildly innovative one, despite appear-

Figure 29

ances to the contrary. And the progress in thinking about the meaning of the cards comes in fact from the esoteric theorists who tend to be thought of, not least of all by themselves, as conservative guardians of ancient secrets.

It is a mistake to consider one generation right and another wrong. Each formulates their own needs and expression of life qualitites, and these will be reflected in the Tarot. With changes in the mode of consciousness over a five hundred year period we should expect to find changes and modifications of interpretation. The great strength of the Tarot is its organic vitality, its ability to adapt to the needs of those who go to it. We should, in general terms, seek for expansion of meanings for each card, rather than limitations.

It is similarly limiting to accept later conventions or the assumptions of various esoteric authorities as rigid and inviolable rules. To this end it can be helpful to use, as we have done throughout the illustrations of this book, a set with the names and numbers blanked off. This, combined with the artless crudity of the Marseilles designs, gives a greater freedom for the images to speak.

There are many arrangements that can be made that will afford interesting intuitive insights.

For instance, we could take the Trumps in the conventional Marseilles order and read them off as a treatise of spiritual alchemy. In this lay-out one has three vortices of four cards, interlinked by pairs. By reference to the lay-out in Figure 30 the following seed ideas may be used as a fruitful meditation sequence.

0: Let the imagination flow freely.

1: It will form or discover its own structures,

2/3/4/5: constellating in a four fold manner, Male and

Female, Within and Without. 6: From this dual polarity the flying miraculous creature (Cupid) will be brought forth, 7: and go forth like a conquering hero in the moving four fold structure, pulled by the steed of wisdom on the wheels of cyclic change.

8/9/10/11: This produces a further field of archetypal expression:

Astraea, the Virgin of the Worlds, the holder of the balance and of polarities;

the Hermit, the light bearer and guardian guide;

the Turner of the Spheres of expressed creation;

the Control of driving creative power; which brings about: 12: the principle of sacrifice of the creative spirit into the laws of form expression; and 13: the principles of time and growth and decay and death.

14/15/16/17: The mixing and tempering of the active principles, leads first to their occlusion, then to the striking down of spiritual force, and the Star is born within the retort that transforms all. The waters are poured out and released into: 18: the Silver of the Philosophers and

19: the Gold of the Philosophers, which leads to:

20: the Regeneration of Matter

21: and its Transformation or Triumphant Ex pression in balanced four-fold manner.

A similar type of linear arrangement is based on the order of the Trumps given in the Steele manuscript. When I first received a facsimile set of the Visconti-Sforza cards I laid them out in this early order and found the result quite startling. According to this way of looking at them the Trumps came over as a Christian document. (Refer to Variant B above.) Thus, after the Hanged Man (the Crucifixion), comes Death, the Descent into Hell (the Tower), and the portents in the heavens, the eclipse of the sun by the moon so that the stars could be seen by day. (Star, Moon, Sun.) Then the Resurrection (Last Judgement) to be followed in the last days by the universal Judgement (Justice) and the coming of the New Jerusalem (World) ruled by the Redeemer (Fool).

Going back to the beginning of the sequence one can see God the Fabricator or Creator in the figure of the Magician. The next four cards are the dual polarities of archetypal creation. These primal forces are mixed and brought down to a more concrete, complex mode of manifestation by Temperance, with her star spangled robe suggesting Sophia, the Divine Wisdom. From this follows their conjunction in love, forms expressed

Figure 31

Figure 31


from impacted polarities, resulting in creation going forth like a maiden in a chariot, from which we derive the intermediate archetypal principles of the life force (Strength), the cycle of events (Wheel), and the principle, or illusion, of time (Hermit).

Another arrangement that can give fruitful results to meditation is based on the triangular formation of the cards suggested by Manly Palmer Hall on the illustration facing page CXXIX of The Secret Teachings of All Ages. This has been modified by Daniel Bloxsom to form a lay-out of secular, sacred and universal paths, between which are axes of balance, activity and inertia. (See Figure 31.)

Hebrew letters are also incorporated in his complete system that present an alternative to the Golden Dawn or Eliphas Levi attributions, and is just as valid for those who can move with its current of intuitional flow. It is high time we abandoned the idea of a one and only true rigid system of correspondences. The magician of the future has to recognize that we live in a universe based on relative realities. That is, within the limitations of basic building blocks, we structure our own cognitive worlds.

For this reason there seems no harm at all in the various attempts to produce specific Tarot adaptions using Celtic symbols, Tibetan symbols, Egyptian symbols or any other. The Tarot is quite capable of being dressed in a variety of clothes. Just as long as one does not regard any one particular version too seriously. It is one thing to have a favourite; another thing to claim that it is the one and only true version for everybody.

Which brings us to our next arrangement, which is an adaptation again by Daniel Bloxsom, of Peter Balin's arrangement of his Mayan styled cards in The Flight of the Feathered Serpent. (See Figure 32.)

We give no commentary upon these spreads because individual meditation and speculation will prove far more profitable. In these lay-outs you may find the urge to change about certain of the cards, to disagree with the person who laid them out. This is all to the good. It shows that the images are working for you, that you are finding your own vocabulary, using the language of the cards to formulate the image of your own awareness of inner reality. Your awareness is not necessarily a straight duplication of somebody else's. We are not simply totting up a grocery bill to come up with a simple universal answer. The use of symbolic language is an art not a science.

It is interesting to note how even the most arbitrary changes to

Ornamental Iron Design Software

the images can be put to use. For instance, the alteration of Pope and Popess to Hierophant and High Priestess by modern esoteric students obviously carries considerable changes of overtone to the images without radically changing them. Yet when, in some packs, Jupiter and Juno were substituted, it would still be possible to apply esoteric interpretation to the images .chosen. The figure of Jupiter has an eagle, Juno a peacock. The eagle, via the associations of St John maintains a clear link to the spiritual implications of both Pope and Hierophant. The peacock similarly, with its alchemical associations, {cauda pavonis) and eyes of Argus in its tail, accords with the more recondite associations of the High Priestess and Female Pope.

When, in the Counter-Reformation, four Moors were substituted for Emperor, Empress, Pope and Popess, this four-fold substitution could well be incorporated into a workable system. After all, much esoteric wisdom came back to Europe through the influence of the Moors.

Even quite whimsical changes such as that of the Devil to a ship can retain associations with the original archetype. The ship may be regarded as Cheiron's ferry across the Styx, or the ship of the Flying Dutchman who consigned himself to hell in his pride and folly, or indeed that of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner.

The Spanish Captain and Bacchus need more ingenuity perhaps, as versions of the Popess and the Pope respectively. But they are indeed almost polar opposites of the original images, and this can tell us something of the function and constitution of the archetypal forces that the Tarot images represent. The actual Tarot cards are like façades, each the façade of a complex multi-dimensional building containing many storeys and many people living within it. The secret of successsful work with the Tarot, therefore, is to learn how to get behind the façade to the deep archetypal structure behind.


Continue reading here: Tarot Pathworking

Was this article helpful?

0 0