Here is a Taste of the Tarot Tradition Stuff
May 31, 1995 01:51 PM
by Arthur Paul Patterson
Here is a bit of the interpretive work we did in our course on
INDIVIDUAL TAROT CARD INTERPRETATIONS -
TAROT TRADITIONS (November, 1994 - February, 1995)
For those of you who would like a comprehensive summary of the
individual card meanings we discussed during our recently
completed intro course, here it is. Remember, of course, that
these are merely brief sketches of the Outer Tarot. What is even
more important is the relationship between the Outer archetypes
and the Inner Tarot imprinted on your hearts.
We learned that all traditional Tarot decks are divided into four
suits, outside of the Major Arcana cards (22 Major Arcana cards,
16 Court Cards and 40 numbered Minor Arcana cards). Simply put:
Wands or spears represents fiery creative and intuitive energy.
Cups represents deep satisfaction or love usually found in
relationships. It has a watery quality that encompasses deep
feelings and fills basic needs. Swords energy is oriented to the
mental discernment of the truth and justice of things. It has an
airy feel for clear perception that often exposes conflicts for
what they really are about. Pentacles or coins represents the
earthly body, the feminine, physical foundation of all life.
The FOOL and the MAGICIAN are bi-polar symbols of the entire
Tarot. To grow one needs to get in touch with both our bumbling,
idealistic, mistake-filled side and the ordered wise image in
ourselves that wants to transform the world. One without the
other is either stupidity or madness. But together they evoke
the ancient saying: "As above, so below." The spiritual energies
become embodied and coalesce to form a Oneness we all desire.
The first of the four related "halls" that are emblematic of the
Fool/Magician relationship is that of STRENGTH. Issues of power
are dealt with here. The Strength card depicts a woman using
gentleness to control the strength of the lion. Here mature uses
of power and strength order the immature, more animal-like forces
of aggression. The HIGH PRIESTESS embodies spiritual feminine
power. In the Arthurian Tradition she is the wise Lady of the
Lake (ex. Jessica Tandy, Marion Woodman). The EMPRESS
symbolizes Nurturing Mother. She sustains earthly life but often
doesn't know how to sustain herself.
The EMPEROR is the powerful, responsible business man or
philanthropist. He is Zeus or a real good father figure (Jean
Luc Picard). The HIEROPHANT is the more spiritual masculine
strength figure. He is Shaman, Pope or Taliesin who is wise in
the application of Eternal Laws (Robert Bly). A mentor in the
service of others.
The second "hall" is that of TEMPERANCE, the blending of energies
in the area of everyday life. The LOVERS seek to honour the
blending of energies in male and female relationships. The
CHARIOT signifies the developmental issue of moving beyond black
and white values to accepting ambiguity in all things. The
HERMIT symbolizes our need to be alone without rejecting others,
and to embrace others without forgetting the value of solitude.
The WHEEL OF FORTUNE reveals our need to relate to fate by
learning to accept the mountaintops and valleys that Life hands
The third "hall" is that of JUSTICE . It involves the
confrontation of what our "karma" has given us and what we have
done so far in resolving it. Although this could be considered a
malicious place, Justice is ultimately concerned with our healing
if only by forcing us to give up our long-cherished illusions
that are really imprisoning our true selves. This is where
saving judgement is received and worked through. The HANGED MAN
symbolizes the suffering of us living out of sorts with reality,
and of our perpetual need for transformation. The DEATH card
asks us to be stripped down to our essentials so that we may be
reborn. Perhaps the most important stripping occurs when we
remove the fear that transformation does NOT mean annihilation of
our essential selves, merely our pesky egos. The DEVIL
symbolizes accepting our many limitations without qualification,
particularly that of our bodies. If you accept them you are
freed, if you fight them your delusions will kill you
(Frankenstein). The TOWER embodies the experience of
free-falling from a supposedly secure place in your life. Job
loss, divorce, major illness, deaths of those you love will all
bring intimate knowledge of the Tower. However, while old
structures collapse striking us with heavy blows, new ones surely
beckon us from the ashes. In short, Justice will seek many
unavoidable ways to purify your soul.
The fourth and last "hall" are those involving our relationship
to the macrocosm, the universe. The WORLD card suggests the
adoption of a new paradigm or new way of seeing the world. The
STAR honours our intimate relationship with the cosmos. We come
from the stars and thus we are a part of everything. It's a call
to hope within Mystery. The transforming MOON indicates that we
are fast-changing creatures, with many cycles of life and death
within the larger scheme of things. The SUN is the shadowless,
idealistic, vulnerable energy that gives us the urge to live
openly and without shame. The LAST JUDGEMENT or SLEEPING LORD
calls us to embrace ALL that has been, and find recognition in
all of all that you are. Truly, a celebration like no other.
A few symbolic features of the FOOL gleaned from the traditions
in the decks include the white rose symbolizing the purity of
desire; a white sun denoting the spiritual world of the Fool; the
gazing skyward suggesting an idealistic mind who isn't worried
about pragmatic problems. Another includes the dog or panther
symbolizing domesticity and the call of the instincts. The Fool
is a trickster who is attuned to life in the unconscious that
gives him the liberty to step off a cliff into the next life or
The Fool can be described astrologically as that of Uranus, the
eccentric and sideways rotating energy. The Fool is the God
Within, unconventional and always out of step with society. He
is Christ the Clown, the Tramp with the big heart - the one who
"foolishly" believes that truth can stop the world. On the other
hand, too much Fool energy makes us idiots, isolated from the
human race and the Life Spirit by maintaining a constant contrary
state of mind.
The traditional MAGICIAN image has a saintly male figure standing
before a table holding the tools of his craft: a wand, sword, cup
and a pentacle. His arms, one stretched upwards and the other
down, symbolizes his connective daimon energy. His purpose is to
be a channel between the spirit world and this world. He takes
the overflowing Fool's energy and makes proper use of it. The
Magician lives behind the scenes a la Merlin transfiguring
realities for the boy Arthur in us.
The motivation of this growing awareness is not to be
overidentified or underidentified with this Magician power. We
can relate to and submit to his wisdom but we are not THE
magician. "He is Thou: he is not Thou" as the saying goes.
Tread carefully here in this sacred place but also ignore at your
One of the main card energies that the Magician orders is
STRENGTH, who in turn cares for the High Priestess, Empress,
Emperor and the Hierophant. Strength is ultimately feminine in
nature who makes sure that power in all areas of life is not
misused. She harnesses masculine/feminine and secular/spiritual
powers. She has to be direct enough to tame these violent
energies but also gentle enough to be deeply relational.
Strength is the mediator in a warped world of hierarchies in
which the primary game is to force others to submit to your
Power games are instinctual creatures who need to be actively
harnessed so that they can order real change and healing. Notice
that Strength acknowledges the power of the lion but she is
relating to him, opening and closing his mouth as the situation
warrants. Bad uses of authority are defined by a lack of
relationship. In fact, most "authorities" today are by
definition out of relationship with people around them. Yet if
you get close to them you will find out that they are human too,
and that, coincidentally, we are not devoid of authority
ourselves. Withoutthe shape-shifting, gentle control of Strength
at our side, we will be tempted to insanely control everything
and anything around us.
The domain of the HIGH PRIESTESS is that of the inspirational,
feminine mentor. She rules over and helps us understand our
spiritual ideals. Peresephone-like, she rules the Spirit's
underworld. With Strength, she empowers a person spiritually.
Without Strength she abstracts wildly and is caught up in the
preservation of "secret" knowledge, depriving others of growth
The EMPRESS is motherhood, Demeter, and the nurturing Guinevere.
Embodied in both males and females, she meets our basic survival
needs. Without Strength she swallows her children whole,
desiring above all that her offspring remain infantile and weak.
She is also insanely jealous and rageful as she feels that she
has no life and therefore needs to live through others.
The Emperor is embodied masculine strength in a business suit.
He is a competent manager who takes on a fatherly role in
actively establishing justice around him at great cost to
himself. Without Strength he serves only his ego and rigidly and
judgementally tries to make other pay for his own comfort.
The HIEROPHANT helps others in developing their relationship to
authority. He is the Shaman who is never contained by groups.
Because of his detachment he can act wisely and compassionately.
Rather than imposing a spirituality on another, he will draw out
what is already there in a person. Without Strength he is
unapproachable and dogmatic, using spirituality for his own
TEMPERANCE redirects energies that are off center in the
pragmatic world. She rules over time management as "the ultimate
daytimer". She cares for economics or the usage of things. Paul
said that he used to think the worst of "balance". By nature he
is a passionate extremist, not a number cruncher or bottom liner.
Temperance appears to embody withholding, restraint, fear and
caution. To intentionally aim for balance seems passionless.
Trying to be careful above everything else kills the soul.
However, the real Temperance is quite different from this
Temperance passionately oversees the alchemical blending of
opposites to fit the context at hand. When in a discussion
someone genuinely raises an opposing viewpoint a sense of unity
and wholeness is fostered. Temperance encourages creative
disagreements so that a deeper and more healing synthesis can be
sought. Temperance, however, is not about ensuring equal amounts
of energies. She is also not honored when we frantically swing
from being cheap to being extravagant, for instance. Temperance
tells us when we should be modest or extreme based not on a
principle but an internal rhythm. She tells us to see the value
of money as a means of exchange for relationship. Temperance can
be involved in even the smallest transactions. She offers us
skills in prioritizing our time and energies free of static
formulas. The result is a form of wisdom and a feeling of
solidity to our lives.
Temperance is the essence that makes sure we adapt to suit our
changing environment. Although we sometimes doubt its presence,
something automatically unifying is happening behind the scenes
of our lives. There is a self-correcting principle that seeks to
balance us. Paul suggested that although how we make choices is
important, making a choice one way or another at a certain level
really doesn't matter. The experience that you will receive
walking down one path will eventually show you the elements
you've neglected and will need to reintegrate. Jung calls this
the principle of individuation. The so-called blind choices we
make are there for our own growth as we learn from them.
The card image of the Temperance is pouring an elixir of life
symbolizing the Creative Unconscious. She is a grounded healer
that challenges our many fears of change and adaptation. Paul
said that during big changes in our lives our fear is that our
essence will disappear if we make a pivotal choice. Our fear is
unfounded. We stay the same essential person. Moreover, these
unavoidable choices often will correct an already bad situation
that we couldn't tolerate anyways!
As one of the images that Temperance cares for, the LOVERS order
our intimate relationships. The euphoria we experience as new
lovers is based on psychic fusion. In the heat of romance we
don't realize the tough road ahead in becoming related to another
historically. It means moving from the wonder of seeing
neglected parts of ourselves in another to standing alone but
together. Temperance's job is to push us from I-I relationships
to I-Thou relationships. Without this rebalancing of energies we
will become highly resentful of the other or too individualistic
to allow room for anybody else in our lives.
The CHARIOT is about preventing us from being torn apart by
conflicting passions. It concerns the exercise of the will to
stick through things with a sense of underlying trust.
Temperance supplies that trust so we don't have to hang onto the
reins in desperation. Without the Chariot's energy, we will move
towards dominating situations and become crushed by the duelling
The HERMIT allows us to be to be alone with ourselves with
integrity. True hermits have learned that in humility you are
never isolated but can carry the world in your heart. Living
with the Hermit as your friend is to dig into the meaning of
responsibility and to choose higher roads than are instincts
dictate. We can't blame anybody else anymore. With Temperance
there is an invisible presence that stays with us. However, if
we become isolationists, demons will haunt us from our dark side
and drive us literally mad.
The energy of the WHEEL OF FORTUNE deals with having hope when
our lives are in turmoil. It is about seeing the effects of Love
in our lives after we experience loss. Whether moving towards
success or failure one clear message is that we are not to take
fate too personally. It's more of a universal predicament that
keeps us humble. Without Temperance we fear failure and success.
But what difference does it make? We really don't succeed by
effort alone. It's really more about being in the right place at
the right time that determines our supposed winners and losers.
What is in our power is how we choose to respond. With
Temperance we feel accompanied and can restraint our desire to
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