The Star

Hand-Painted Images

The Visconti-Sforza Star shows a maiden with a star-patterned cloak over her robe, holding up an eight-pointed star.

On the Rosenthal Visconti-Sforza card she is crowned, as also on the Victoria & Albert Museum card.

The d'Este card shows two bearded men looking up toward a central eight-pointed star, pointing to it. One of them holds a chart or text.

Early Printed Card Tradition

The Rothschild uncut sheet shows three figures under the star, holding up a crown between them. One of the men seems to be a king, another a jester or fool, whilst the third figure is a woman.

The Rosenwald uncut sheet is a plain central star, between two formal devices above and below that are suggestive of wheels with pointed rays.

The Parisian printed card shows a single seated figure looking up towards a star.

The Swiss 1680 pack has a naked figure pouring two urns out onto the ground, with seven stars in the sky, one very prominent, and a tree in the background. This is the scheme adopted by the Marseilles card with, however, an extra star, and two trees, with a bird in one of them. (See Figure 19.)

Esoteric Versions

Wirth's l'Etoile follows the Marseilles card but he replaces the bird on a tree by a butterfly on a red flower. One jar is gold, the other silver.

Waite also follows the Marseilles card iconography. The Golden Dawn differs only by having both jars poured into the water instead of one onto the land. In the background is an additional eight-pointed star that appears immediately over the figure's head, who has one vase red and the other blue. Two trees are in the background, one carrying spheres in the form of a Tree of Life, the other with a white bird flying over it.


The earlier versions of this card concentrate upon the star rather than the figure below. However, this figure is important,

Gringonneur Tarot
Figure 19

and indeed on the Visconti-Sforza card the starry cloak of the maiden brings echoes of Astraea, the Virgin of the Stars, and the starry messenger, a form of Isis-Urania, who comes to Christian Rosencreutz at the commencement of the Chymical Marriage.

The maiden who pours her vases upon the land and the waters may well be regarded as the Spirit of the Stars, and the dew that is found in the morning used to be termed the sweat of ,the stars, and was considered to have profound healing and magical powers. Indeed one interpretation of the Mysteries of the Rose Cross is that the rose derives from the Latin word ros, meaning dew.

The lore of the stars is a greatly neglected field of esoteric knowledge despite the apparent popularity of astrology. Astrology as commonly practised has become closely involved with the art of mundane prediction and character analysis through the interpretation of theoretical charts. The deeper wisdom is to be gained from going out and standing under the stars and observing them as the ancient navigators, herdsmen, travellers, farmers, and indeed astrologers did. One is more likely to meet the Star Maiden under the stars than in the library.

The Moon

Hand-Painted Images

The Visconti-Sforza Moon is a maiden holding the crescent moon in her hand. Her girdle is prominently featured, and her dress has a pattern of a spiral round her body, like an orbiting celestial body.

The Gringonneur Moon shows two astrologers with chart and dividers under a crescent moon.

The d'Este card shows just one seated astrologer, working at a chart with a pair of dividers, an armillary sphere on a stand behind him, and a crescent moon in the sky.

Early Printed Card Tradition

The Rothschild sheet shows two figures, either female or classically draped, one with dividers and holding an armillary sphere, the other with what is probably a form of sextant. Their heads are wreathed and they point to the moon, which is a crescent, filled in to a full moon with a face. At each top corner appear to be suns with rays - a convention found on other cards on this sheet (the Chariot, the Star, and the Wheel of Fortune, though the latter without rays).

The Rosenwald sheet, as with the Star, shows just the moon itself, with a double crescent enclosing a full moon face, and also like the Star, between two formal devices like rayed wheels.

The Parisian moon is full face, with features, shining over a scene with what appear to be battlements and various small figures below.

The 1680 Swiss pack shows the pattern also adopted by the Marseilles Tarot; a full moon over two towers on either side of the card, and a dog baying at the moon on each side of a path that runs from a stream or pool in the foreground in which there is a craw-fish. (See Figure 20.)

Esoteric Versions

Wirth's la Lune follows the Marseilles card, but with a clearly defined path leading between the two towers. The two canine creatures are shown as a white dog and a black wolf.

On Waite's card the path starts actually from the water and leads to distant mountains. Otherwise the Marseilles symbolism is followed, with Wirth's dog and wolf.

The Golden Dawn card is similar but with two dark wolves, one on either side of the path.


The Visconti-Sforza card follows the same simple principle with

Figure 20

this card as it did with the Star, showing a maiden holding the crescent moon. Similarly she could be regarded, not as the star maiden, but as the goddess of the moon.

Later versions of the card emphasize by implication the hidden laws of life that are studied by astronomers or astrologers - there was no distinction between the disciplines in earlier times.

The Marseilles card follows another line of interpretation with an evocative design that, in true moon fashion, hints at mysteries just beyond the range of intellectual consciousness. It has not inappropriately been named the Twilight. The falling drops may also be regarded as the dew of lunar influence, similar to the star dew mentioned in relation to the Star.

In Renaissance and earlier natural philosophy there was a profound difference between the perceived influence of the moon and of the stars. On the system of crystalline spheres that were held to surround the central Earth, the moon was the nearest and that of the fixed stars the penultimate furthest, with only the sphere of the angels, and God, beyond. This is represented schematically on the Tree of Life with the Moon on the 9th Sephirah, Yesod, and the Fixed Stars on the 2nd Sephirah, Chockmah. Between them are the spheres of the Sun and the visible planets. The powers of the sub-lunary world, which lie within the Earth's shadow, differ considerably from the starry powers of deep space.

Latter-day esoteric comment tends to see the force of evolution represented by the Marseilles card. One is at liberty to read into a card whatever one is inspired to see, but the card was designed in pre-Darwinian times, which leads to the interesting question of whether the original designers were aware of the theory of evolution centuries before it was formulated, or whether we moderns tend to read into old symbols our own assumptions as to what was intended.

The Sun

Hand-Painted Images

The Visconti-Sforza card shows a naked winged boy, a scarf loosely draped across his shoulders and loins standing on a cloud above a hilly landscape and holding a ruddy-rayed sun-head aloft.

The Rosenthal Visconti-Sforza card shows a full-face sun, adorned with features, over a castle under which is the inscription FORTEZZA. A fleur de lys and a five-pointed flamed wheel are in the sky over the side towers of the castle.

The Gringonneur Sun shows a sun blazing in the sky above a maiden with long fair hair who stands in a meadow spinning.

The d'Este card has two figures, beneath a blazing sun complete with face. One, a bearded man, sits in what can only be described as what appears to be the end of a large drain pipe, and converses with a younger man standing before him.

Early Printed Card Tradition

The Beaux Arts sheet shows the full sun-face over a maiden, with hat and long hair, who sits spinning before what seems to be a low ornate wall.

The Rosenwald sheet is a plain rayed sun, with face, shining in the sky with a few flat clouds above and below.

The Parisian card shows, under a shining solar face, a long haired maiden gazing into a looking glass held up to her by a monkey.

The 1680 Swiss Sun is full in the sky, with face, and drops emanate from it in all directions. Below are two children, naked

Figure 21

Figure 21

except for loin cloths, embracing. They are standing on a low hillock, or possibly an island, and behind them is a low wall. This schema is adopted also in the Marseilles Tarot. (See Figure 21.)

Esoteric Versions

Wirth shows the Marseilles card children in a fairy ring replete with flowers.

Waite introduces a naked boy riding a white horse and carrying a large red banner. Sunflowers grow behind the rear wall.

On the Golden Dawn card a naked boy stands on land, a naked girl in water, and they hold hands before a curved wall. Daisies grow in the grass.


There is a very great deal more behind this card than the superficies of bright enjoyment in the sunshine after the manner of a holiday poster. The Visconti-Sforza boy holding up a radiant head is an image that has resonances with the Mysteries of Orpheus and the Holy Grail, ancient Celtic Mysteries, and the esoteric Christianity associated with Salome and John the Baptist. The maiden in a meadow spinning is another deep and evocative symbol. Also the Sun's face being given features is no mere convention but an affirmation that it is the physical body of a conscious being.

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