Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot. Home · Seventy-Eight Degrees of Freedom Metrozone book 3 A Reinterpretation of 'Degrees of Truth' . The two volumes of 'Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom' have inspired a whole generation of students of the Tarot. Described by many as 'the Bible of Tarot. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot. Downloaded: . Downloaded: 6 times | Size: zipped PDF files | Add to wishlist | Download for @ 50 credits.
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SEVENTY EIGHT. DEGREES OF. WISDOM. A psychological approach to the Tarot, examining all aspects of the cards – their origins, symbolism and their. 78 Degrees of Wisdom - Free ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online for free. Seventy-tight Degrees of Wisdom nevertheless attempted to give people a tool to . They stiU contain seventy-eight cards divided into the four suits, Wands.
Aieph bears no sound; it is a silent carrier of vowels, and therefore symboli2es nothingness. No progress can be made in conditions of anarchy runs the argument ; bad laws need to be changed, but first the law must be obeyed at all costs. 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. A world of magicians, of people hanging upside down, and of dancers in the bright air. Pamela Smith's ten of Swords shows a man lying under a black cloud with ten swords stuck in his back and legs. Rather, black means all things being possible, Infinite energy of life before consciousness has constructed any boundaries.
My first book on tarot. Great in-depth descriptions, especially to the major arcana. Jun 02, Andrea Paterson rated it really liked it Shelves: This was a super interesting look at the Tarot from a historical, philosophical, and psychological perspective. This is not a book about fortune telling.
It's a book about the Tarot as a system of symbols that can be used to access the depths of your sub-conscious mind. It really reads the Tarot like a complex book that can be interpreted in almost infinite ways. A fantastic introduction for anyone who has any interest in the Tarot and what it really is--not magic, but a psychoanalytical tool th This was a super interesting look at the Tarot from a historical, philosophical, and psychological perspective.
A fantastic introduction for anyone who has any interest in the Tarot and what it really is--not magic, but a psychoanalytical tool that has transformed itself multiple times throughout history. Dec 28, Yannis Theodossis rated it it was amazing. A great book for beginners and intermediate in tarot reading. Well, I guess that there are two main approaches in tarot reading: New Age and Mystical.
This book is one of the new age approach, no doubt about that. And I don't really like New Age personally. But this book is not a Bible; it will not teach you the Tarot once and for all. It is an excellent introduction to its world and I firmly believe it does not tie you to a certain school of thought about it. You may begin with it and then switc A great book for beginners and intermediate in tarot reading. You may begin with it and then switch to the mystical path: If you want to learn the tarot, I 'd recommend you to read this book carefully.
Use it as a reference for your spreads. Then forget it. Any book is only an introduction. Then you have to take your own steps. Sep 14, Ami rated it did not like it Shelves: I started getting frustrated when I found myself drowning in a miasma of numerology, somewhere in the preface.
The connections seemed rather tenuous, and my doubts were raised. I also found that the interpretations of the meanings of the cards didn't speak to me as did other sources, although they did seem to be a little more helpful in the context of doing a multi-card reading, especially for another person. But that's not how I've been using tarot, so it wasn't particularly helpful in that reg I started getting frustrated when I found myself drowning in a miasma of numerology, somewhere in the preface.
But that's not how I've been using tarot, so it wasn't particularly helpful in that regard. Also, the author has a different take on reversed cards than I was familiar with, so I struggled to get comfortable with that. I guess it could be a problem of me not being ready to digest other sources, or it could be the doubts raised by all the numerology in the beginning; either way, I wasn't compelled to read all the way through or even consult the book all that much.
Mar 30, Nancy rated it really liked it. Armed with this book, I am preparing myself for my encore career: I will look into your soul and discover your deepest secrets! Or not. As Tarot books go, this is by far the best I have seen - lots of subtle nuances that are missing from standard books.
I love Tarot because I am a huge fan of the power of symbolic images; the Tarot deck is like a Bacchanalian feast to me. I won't really tell all your deepest secrets. But I will enjoy the heck out of seeing how Tarot Armed with this book, I am preparing myself for my encore career: But I will enjoy the heck out of seeing how Tarot's archetypal imagery evokes some unexpected thoughts and connections in your brain.
Don't even think about concealing your thoughts - they're written all over your face. Apr 18, Stacey Riley rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is one of the best books for tarot that I own. It's very insightful and I learn something new every time that I read it. I haven't read it all yet as there is such a lot to take in.
If you wish to purchase a tarot book alongside one for a beginner, this would be it. My only gripes are that I wish the typeface wasn't so small, and that there isn't an ebook version available yet, so I could carry the book around with me. Excellent book. I'd call this a must read for anyone who works with the Tarot. Rachel Pollack takes a very through approach to the cards, this goes beyond those books that give simple formulaic meanings.
She discusses the majors from many angles and it has given me new perspective. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this. Feb 19, Terri R rated it really liked it. I am not ready to rate this book just yet, but so far it is very insightful and well organized. This is an insightful and well organized book, which I found very helpful for the genre.
I will continue to use the book as a reference guide. Sep 28, Maggie Gordon rated it really liked it Shelves: Damn, this is a fantastic tarot book! Be warned, there's some woo if that's not your thing. But there's so much crammed into these pages that I was able just to ignore the woo bits and add so much to my understanding of the symbolism of these cards. Pollack does into such depth analysis of each card, often comparing different artistic renditions.
It's been the most careful and considered tarot book I've read so far though I would still recommend starting with the Joan Bunning, Learning the Taro Damn, this is a fantastic tarot book! It's been the most careful and considered tarot book I've read so far though I would still recommend starting with the Joan Bunning, Learning the Tarot volume.
Jan 28, Kathy McAnany rated it it was amazing. This book is definitely one of the best out there for both beginners and advanced tarot card readers. I would consider it the Bible of tarot card reading. This book offers an in depth perspective on the tarot cards and their meanings. It goes a lot further than just giving the meanings of each card.
Rachel Pollock goes into depth for each card. Each card is explored from both an esoteric perspective and a psychological perspective. Everything is included in this book. Tarot history, sample readi This book is definitely one of the best out there for both beginners and advanced tarot card readers. Tarot history, sample readings, and in depth explanations. This book will give you more clarity and a more in-depth understanding of the tarot.
I have been using and referring to this book for years when working with my tarot cards. Highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in tarot and who wants to learn how to work with tarot cards. Aug 04, Jasmine rated it it was amazing. Thorough and insightful work. Wish th at her explanations of reversed meanings were more fleshed out but still serves its purpose and leaves you with more than enough to draw your own confusions. Better read from cover to cover than merely used for reference.
Jan 05, Laura Hogensen rated it really liked it Shelves: A great reference source that emphasizes tarot as a means for reflection, meditation, and personal insight rather than its more commonly mistaken use: Pollack uses symbolism, psychology, and a variety of ancient religions and occult cultures to illuminate the Rider Waite deck.
Aug 07, Darius Rips rated it really liked it Shelves: Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is correctly regarded as a classic among tarot books. Having read it, I can see how it was important to the explosion of popularity of tarot decks that occurred around the time the book was originally published in But tarot is a very personal matter, and I am still searching for the perfect tarot book for me.
What is now called the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, RWS for short , became the standard by which all other tarot decks were measured, because the num Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is correctly regarded as a classic among tarot books. What is now called the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, RWS for short , became the standard by which all other tarot decks were measured, because the number cards, or pips, had fully illustrated scenes, instead of the geometric patterns of objects that almost every deck before that had had.
Pollack was the first to provide in depth interpretations of these scenes. That was in volume two of this book as originally published, but now both volumes are collected in a single book.
Pollack goes beyond simply describing the major and minor arcana cards, organizing them into themes, and discussing how context can affect the interpretation in a reading. She writes with great clarity about a subject that lends itself to a great deal of bad writing by others who have attempted it, so kudos for that. She explains the few spreads she features with sample readings that are very helpful; I don't know why more tarot books don't do this as well. There is one spread she describes that uses all seventy-eight cards in the deck, and there is simply no room to diagram it properly in the pages of a book, but here Pollack does a good job of explaining it without visual aids, a neat trick.
One of the main things I want from a tarot book is inspiration for images for a deck I am trying to create, and I have Pollack to thank for the Lovers and the four of pentacles. Where I differ with Pollack is in her use of Freudian and Jungian psychology in her interpretations of the cards. What began historically as simple playing cards have already had various strains of mysticism grafted onto them, and this just adds more baggage.
Again, that is how I feel about it, but most tarot readers probably disagree with me on this. In any case, Pollack is obviously a skilled reader, but her knowledge of psychology is less sure, leading her to become verbose at times when discussing the psychological aspects of the cards.
She also indicates that her interpretations of the cards are instinctual, which means she is inconsistent in her discussion of the mysticism of the cards. She will sometimes mention astrology, more often numerology and Kaballah, and she almost never mentions alchemy. All of these strains of mysticism are present in the cards of the RWS deck, but Pollack ignores any that don't meet her needs. I agree with this to some extent, but I would have liked to see more consistency about it. As I said, this all about my personal feelings about how tarot should work.
If the deck creator put something there, we should either try to make use of it fully, or find another deck we like better. Pollack has actually done this, with several published original decks to her name. I am headed that way myself. In the meantime, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is a book I can highly recommend to anyone who has dabbled with tarot and now feels ready to go deeper.
You do not have to agree with everything Pollack wrote to get great value from this book, and it can also serve as a helpful reference once you finish it. Mar 29, Yve rated it really liked it Shelves: While I was reading this book I was drawing pictures for a tarot deck.
I really enjoyed Pollack's treatment of the Major Arcana. Though the book is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, she also includes imagery from other decks and more general exploration of the archetypes and their history.
Before drawing each trump, I would read the chapter on it. The section on the Minor Arcana was not as interesting since, in contrast to the Major, in this section Pollack focuses exclusively on the Smith illustrations.
There is some brief discussion of this in the introduction of the section. Even here though I didn't like how Pollack repeatedly put forth Pentacles Earth as positive and Swords Air as overwhelmingly negative. This is a result of the Smith moods. After reading this introduction, I decided to take a break from the book and drew the Minor Arcana without reading her interpretations incidentally I went for geometric designs rather than scenic illustrations.
Overall I like the book and Pollack's clear, conversational style. But I enjoyed this aspect of free-flowing ideas, and besides it's not too hard to research further elsewhere on the references she drops. Mar 03, Fr. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is a revelation - a magnificent treatment of Tarot. In my opinion, Pollack provided the best Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is a revelation - a magnificent treatment of Tarot.
In my opinion, Pollack provided the best contemporary contemporary-ish — this book is almost 40 years old! Where she differed from her predecessors was in weaving a more fortune-telling type approach to Tarot in here as well. For people looking for a Tarot book that addresses the mystical, aspirational qualities of the cards i.
Tarot as part of a spiritual path of awakening , Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is a feast. I see myself returning to this book year-after-year. Aug 02, Kellyn Brooks rated it it was ok. I've heard people say that this is the best book you could possibly read to learn more about Tarot. I don't know if I'd agree with that, because, for my purposes, this book left a lot to be desired.
I can definitely recognize the author's amount of education and experience with the Tarot, but this book had way more information than I really needed to go out and do a reading for someone else or even myself. No way would I recommend this book for a beginner in the Tarot. This is strictly for som I've heard people say that this is the best book you could possibly read to learn more about Tarot. This is strictly for someone who wants a billion different interpretations bordering on rambles on each component of each card.
Oftentimes I would read her description of what a particular card means, and walk away with more questions than answers. I also don't understand why she discussed the cards in each suit from King to Ace, rather than from Ace to King. Pollack's interpretations and way of writing simply did not appeal to me or offer any valuable information. I don't feel like I could use much of her work in my own divination. Sep 05, Mary Rose rated it it was amazing Shelves: Instead Pollack prefers to study the occult symbolism and psychic significance of each card to the point where, memorably, she went on at length about horse symbolism in The Chariot.
Esteemed review-reader will note that there are no horses in the chariot card, only implied horses. This is the level we are operating on. Nothing is off the table here. Sep 04, Fernando Guerra rated it really liked it Shelves: I though of this as a very intersting way to approach life and existential issues, other than just a simple guide to tarot and divination.
Although I have to admit that I was looking forward to a more "detailed" or "rich" explanation and insight on divination and readings especially regarding the minor arcana and the always troublesome court cards , this book proved to be a really good starting point for someone briefly acquainted -although still a newcomer- to the system.
I really liked all th I though of this as a very intersting way to approach life and existential issues, other than just a simple guide to tarot and divination. I really liked all the historic information bits here and there, albeit most of it could be inaccurate in some way.
It really added a backbone to the system and formulae exposed, which would've been otherwise really tedious to discuss. Apr 12, Lynne Thompson rated it it was amazing Shelves: I got my hands on the new edition, which has a new cover and foreword.
Otherwise, it's the same classic book on Tarot that has been out in the world for thirty years. This was the first time I have read it and it really does deserve its classic status.
I've read a few Tarot books, and while they all have something to offer, Rachel Pollack's book is the one you will go back to, again and again. It's that good, and it's that deep. It may be overwhelming to the beginning Tarot reader, but that's not I got my hands on the new edition, which has a new cover and foreword.
It may be overwhelming to the beginning Tarot reader, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Get it, read it, and put it on the shelf where you can see it.
Eventually, you will grow into its incredible wisdom and knowledge. The book might even become your lifelong partner in all things Tarot.
I can't say enough good things about it. Mar 06, Marius rated it really liked it Shelves: I can see why this book sometimes is called the bible of RWS tarot. Rachel Pollack does a good job going through origins, meaning and spreads of the tarot. I especially like her narrative description of each major arcana, one of the best I have seen. Having said that, I also feel some things are missing, a reference list in the back would have been nice, the minor arcana especially the court cards are covered only so so, in my opinion, maybe keywords for each card would have been nice too.
As a I can see why this book sometimes is called the bible of RWS tarot. As a reference book I like Holistic Tarot by Wen more. However I do feel this book is among the top 10 books on the RWS deck out there. Nov 01, Ivonne rated it it was amazing Shelves: May 12, Liv rated it liked it Shelves: Since becoming interested in the archetypal artwork of The Tarot for a journaling project, reading this has piqued my curiosity and I sense the embarking upon of a journey deeper into comparable works.
The Rider Waite Smith deck the book is based upon is not a firm favourite of mine, but does not distract too much from learning intriguing approaches to viewing life and our place in it.
Toward the end, the author elaborated on Ignorance. None of us can ever hear this message too soon or often eno Since becoming interested in the archetypal artwork of The Tarot for a journaling project, reading this has piqued my curiosity and I sense the embarking upon of a journey deeper into comparable works.
None of us can ever hear this message too soon or often enough. Feb 28, Jeff rated it really liked it. I have been collecting tarot decks for more than 30 years, mainly for the art, though I do occasionally do a spread for myself using the LWBs.
Decided it was time to learn more about what people actually use these cards for. Some of the card interpretations remain confusing to me, but this book is certainly much clearer than Waite or Crowley. It does still have a sort of "classic" feel to it.
If I decide at some point to try to c I have been collecting tarot decks for more than 30 years, mainly for the art, though I do occasionally do a spread for myself using the LWBs. If I decide at some point to try to clear up my remaining confusion I'll probably try a more contemporary guide. Nov 18, Deluge rated it did not like it Shelves: DNF, skimmed through different parts. It felt very preachy, and sure of itself.
Some of the descriptions of the arcana were vaguely narrow, with only one general interpretation. I definitely do not recommend this to learn reading Tarot.
The possibility of discovering secrets and predicting the future attracted me, but the cards themselves, and the words that went with them, told me that I must 6nd a set for myself. It was not easy to find Tacot cards. TTw Pictorial Key to tht 7tatf, which contained allusive and complex statements on the trumps, but also pages with the individ- ual pictures and, under them, the same kind of descriptions as given by Eden Gray, lake Linda.
Some of those early 'readings' still astound me when I think of them. In particular, 1 seemed to uncover my friends' extra-marital affairs. At the end of the year, Linda asked me for a reading. She was raking a leave of absence to teach for a year in Copenhagen and wondered what the cards predicted for her I told her she would marry a Danish man and not return. She laughed, having resigned herself to the life of a spinster. The following Spring the school received her resignation.
Due to her impending marriage to a Danish teacher, she would be staying in Copenhagen. If the readings intrigued me, something else excited me more. One afternoon another teacher came by. Ignoring the concep- tual structures as well as the predictive formulas, we just looked for stories, working from the pictures but also Gray's and Waite's descriptions. I remember the moment when I realized that the Tarot opened to worlds beyond their surface scenes and "official 1 symbolism Wc were looking at the ten of Pcntaclcs.
And no one see him. I thought. The old man is Odysseus, returned to his home after 20 years and disguised as a beggar, to be recognized only by his ancient dog. When I looked at Wane's description I discovered themes similar to those in the Odysssty, in particular the need for security versus the desire for adventure and risk. I did not think that Smith and Wiitc and deliberately coded Odysseus into the ten of Pcntaclcs.
That would have been far less interesting than the other possibility, that we could discover figures from mythology and literature in these pictures, these openings to different worlds. So began my study of the cards, not from texts or symbolism or diagrams, but from the pictures themselves.
To a great extent, the material in this book docs not derive from teachers on Tarot 1 never studied with anyone or took any classes but just from working with the cards: In those days a long-time split still existed in the Tarot world.
On one side stood the grand tradition of the occultists, from Antoine Court de Gebelin down through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its descendants. On the other we found the tradition of readings, almost despised by the occultists.
To some extent, this reflected a gender split as well. It is not an accident that when most people visualize a Tarot reader, they sec a woman in a headscarf. In the s a group of writers, primarily women, began to take Tarot in a new direction. Such people as Mary Greer. Seventy-right Degrees of Wh4om. Seventy-tight Degrees of Wisdom nevertheless attempted to give people a tool to understand and ultimately transform their lives. The book and its ideas evolved over time A year after my friend Linda moved to Denmark, my partner Edith and I also moved to Europe, expecting to stay a year or two.
I returned to the United States 19 years later Edith remained in Europe, where she teaches Tarot and reads professionally. She is. We took our cards with us. They looked with astonishment at our Rider pack, just as we were amazed to discover the game of Tarot that they played with a set of cards showing elaborate courtly figures but little symbobsm. The first evening, Marilyn, a therapist, asked me if 1 would teach her about the cards. Over the next few days we spent hours on the beach, going over the symbolism and philosophy, examining the structure, comparing the messages in the cards to ideas in psy- chology.
At the end of that time we each had k Marilyn felt comfortable enough with the cards to begin them for her clients, and I discovered that I had something to teach. A year and a half later, 1 needed a job 1 had been working part- time while continuing to write, but the work 1 was doing had ended, and after considering teaching English at a Berlitz school 1 decided to do something more radical.
The programme committee listed to my ideas, and then asked if 1 would do a sample reading. Usually 1 hate doing public especially as a challenge, but there was obviously no choice. The only woman on the committee volunteered. When we laid out the cards 1 saw such heartbreak that 1 knew the only thing 1 could do was read the cards as if no one else existed in that room but her and me.
The reading described the situation in depth, including ways for her to go on with her life. When wc finished there was silence for a moment, than the head of the com- mittee asked me 'When would you like to begin your class?
The class ran for two years. Out of it came a small but dedicat- ed community of Tarotbts, several of whom moved deeply into studies of Kabbalah, To organize the class I needed to develop and codify my understanding of the cards. Along the way 1 decided to transform my class notes into a book.
When I had enough materi- al to show a publisher. I went to speak to Warren, an American who was managing Amsterdam's finest esoteric bookstore. Nick Schors. Severny-eight Degrees of Wisdom began as a discussion on a beach in New York and came to bfe first in a Dutch translation. I am indebted always to Nick for taking a chance on an unknown writer, and for the various international editions he and his son David have arranged for this book - including the English edition by the Aquarian Press, For various reasons, earlier editions of this work were published in two volumes.
Part II, The Minor Arcana, opened up the study of the cards even more than Part 1 on the Major Arcana , for at that time and even today very few Tarot books gave serious atten- tion to the suit cards. And yet. I had thought for a long time that a single volume would be a good idea.
For one thing it would make the book easier to use. This new edition has also given me the chance to make some changes. In the 18 years since Part I was published. I have continued to work with Tarot and to learn its history. While the book remains substantially the same - I would not radically alter something so many people have found helpful - I have gone through both parts carefully, revising whatever stood out in the light of new knowledge. One thing I might have done differently if I were writing the book convinced now that such secret groups actually existed.
The Grail may have been a wholly literary invention though based on earlier Celtic mythology. Nevertheless 1 have let these passages stand, for the idea of Grail Mysteries and initiations forms a valuable Tarot myth.
While 1 focused on the Rider pack, 1 cried to use other cards for contrast and to illuminate symbols. Since writing the book I have created my own deck, Shinmg Wbman Tarot 1 decided not to bring it in here or any other decks created since so that the book would retain its original character.
Aster a name that means Star. Aster had suffered neurological damage in an airplane so that reading often produced incense headaches. Refusing to give up her plans she had enrolled in medical school, persuading the school to allow her to take all her exams orally, and persuading her friends to take turns reading her her study material so she could memorize it.
But Aster only spent half the year in school The rest of the time she lived on the Greek island of Myfconos, where she supported herself reading Tarot cards - on the beach. Shottly after I met Aster, 1 went to a pany at her apartment. Her shelves held very few books, for after aU she could hardly read.
But among the few books, two volumes stood out by their tattered look, worn from constant use. They were, of course, her copies of Sevtmj-eighi Degrees cf Wisdom. In honour of their different ways of showing faith in this Book of Tarot, I dedicate this new comprehensive edition to Nick Schors and Aster Schelp. Some represent virtues, like Temperance' or 'Fortitude 1.
Others show religious -mythological scenes, such as the dead rising from the grave at the trumpet call for 'the Last judgement'.
There is even a card depicting a popular heresy, the image of a female pope, which we can describe as a joke on the Church with rather deeper signif- icance than most ecclesiastical humour. Still, we can view this heretical picture as deeply rooted in popular culture, and therefore obvious to someone representing medieval 'types'.
One figure, however, stands out as rather strange. It shows a young man hanging upside down by his left leg from a simple wooden frame. The young man appears beautiful, and at peace. Apparently the reversal of the body produces some sort of psychological benefit, in the way that starvation and extreme cold will induce radiant visions.
The alchemists - who, with the witches, were possibly the survivors of the shamanist tradition in Europe - also hung themselves upside down, believing that elements in the sperm vital to immortality would thus flow down to the psychic centres at the top of the head.
And even before the wfcst began to take Yoga seriously everyone knew the image of the yogi standing on his head. Did Bcmbo simply wish to represent an alchemist? Then why not use the more common image, that of a bearded man stirring a cauldron or mixing chemicals? The picture, tided 'the Hanged Man' in subsequent decks and later made famous by T. Eliot in TV Wasteland, appears not so much as an alchemist as a young initiate in some secret tradition.
Was Bembo himself an initiate? The special crossing of the legs would suggest so. And if he includ- ed one reference to esoteric practices, might not other images, superficially a social commentary, in reality represent an entire body of occult knowledge? Why, for instance, did the original deck con- Din twenty-two cards, not say, twenty or twenty-one or twenty- five, all of which are more commonly given!
Was it chance, or did Bcmbo or perhaps others whe Bcmbo simply copied wish to slyly represent the esoteric meanings connected to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet? And yet, if any evidence exists anywhere connecting Bcmbo or the Vtsconti family to any occult group no one has produced it for public scrutiny.
A brief look at the stunning correspondences between the Tarot and the body of Jewish mysticism and occult knowledge, called col- lectively the Kabbalah, will demonstrate the way in which Bcmbo's cards seem almost to demand an esoteric interpretation, despite the lack of hard evidence. The Kabbalah dwells very deeply on the symbolism of the Hebrew alphabet.
The letters are connected to the paths of the Tree of Life and they are each given their own symbolic meanings.
Even more damning, Tarot commentators themselves do not mcnoon the Kabbalah until the nineteenth century. And of course, the names and numbers sequence, so vital to their interprc- taoons.
And yet, such exact and complete correspondences as the twenty -two trumps, the four court cards and ten pip cards m the four suits, or the position and ecstatic face of the Hanged Man, would seem to strain even such a potent force as the Collective Unconscious. For years Tarrochi was seen primarily as a game for gambling, and to a much lesser extent as a device for fortune-telling. Then, in the eighteenth century, an occultist named Antoinc Court dc Gebetin declared the Tarot as the French called the game to be the remnant of the Book of Thoth, created by the Egyptian god of magic to convey all knowledge to his disciples.
To some the Toot's origin remains a vital question: For Bembo and whoever his predecessors might have been did create an archetype, whether consciously or from deep instinct. Beyond any system or detailed explanations, the images themselves, changed and elaborated over the years by different artists, fascinate and entrance us.
In this way they draw us into their mysterious world which ultimately can never be explained, but only experienced. True, some of the pictures have changed considerably, but each version usually keeps the same basic concept. For example, there arc several widely varying versions of the Emperor, but they all represent some idea of an Emperor.
In general, the changes have tended towards the more symbolic and the more mystical This book uses as its primary source the Tarot of Arthur Edward Wane, whose very popular Rider pack named after its British pub- lisher appeared in Waite was criticized for changing some of the trump cards from their accepted version. For instance, the com- mon picture of the Sun shows two children holding hands in a gar- den. Wane changed it to one child on a horse riding out of a garden.
The critics claimed Waite was altering the card's meaning to his personal vision. This was probably the case, since Waite believed more strongly in his own ideas than those of anyone else. But few people stopped to consider that the earliest version of the Sun. Indeed, it seems closer to Waite'si the picture shows a sin- gle miraculous child flying through the air.
For example, the ten of Swords will show ten swords arranged in a pattern, much tike its descendant, the ten of spades. The Rider pack is different. Pamela Smith's ten of Swords shows a man lying under a black cloud with ten swords stuck in his back and legs. We do not really know who actually designed these cards. Did Waite himself conceive them as he undoubtedly did the Major Arcana , or did he simply tell Smith the qualities and ideas he want- ed and allow her to invent the scenes?
Waitc's own book on the Tarot. In some cases, such as the six of Swords, the picture suggests far more than Waite's stated meaning, while in others, particularly the two of Swords, the picture almost contradicts the meaning.
Whether it was Waite or Smith who designed the pictures, they had a powerful effect on later Tarot designers. Almost all decks with scenes on every card rely very heavdy on the pictures in the Rider pack. I do not mean to suggest that Waite's cards arc simply an intel- lectual construction, like a scholar rearranging some speech of Hamlet's in a way which makes more sense to him.
Waite was a mystic, an occultist, and a student of magic and esoteric practices. He based his Tarot on deep personal experience of enlightenment. He believed his Tarot to be nght and the others wrong because it represented that experience. The Waite-Smith version of the Fool strikes me as more meaningful than any of the earlier ones. Secondly, the revolutionary change in the Minor Arcana seems to me to free us from the formulas that dominated the suit cards for so long. Previously, once you read and memorized the given meanings of a Minor card you could not really add to it; the picture suggested very little.
In the Rider pack we can allow the picture to work on the subconscious; we can also apply our own experience to it. In short, Pamela Smith has given us some- thing to interpret. This self-limitation perhaps stems from a desire to the 'true 1 Tarot. By choosing one deck and not another we arc real- ly declaring that one is correct and the other is false. Such a decla- ration matters most to those writers, like Akister Crowley or Paul Foster Case, who consider the Tarot a symbolic system of objective knowledge.
This book, however, looks upon the cards more as an archetype of experience. Seen that way no deck is right or wrong, but is simply a furthering of the archetype. In the cases where a version other than Waitc's will deepen the meaning of a specific card we will look at both images. Strangely, we know less historically about this aspect of the cards than any other.
Or individuals developed the concept the earliest written references are individual interpretations, though they might have derived from some earlier system, not written down but in general use and the Romany took it from them.
Peo- ple used to believe that the Romany themselves brought the cards from Egypt The fact is, the Romany probably came from India, and they arrived in Spain a good hundred years after Tarot cards were introduced m Italy and France, In the section on readings we wiD consider just what divination does, and how such an outrageous practice could possibly work.
Here we can simply observe that people can and have told fortunes with anything - the smoky innards of slaughtered beasts, bird pat- terns across the sky, coloured stones, tossed coins, anything. The practice stems from the simple desire to know, in advance, what is going to happen, and more subtly, from the inner conviction that everything b connected, everything has meaning and that nothing occurs at random.
Events without this logical joining are ran- dom, that is, meaningless. Events or patterns in one area of exis- tence corresponded to patterns in other areas.
The pattern of the 2odiac corresponds to the pattern of a person's life. The pattern of tea leaves in the bottom of a cup corresponds to the outcome of a battle.
Everything is connected. The idea has always claimed its adherents, and recently even some scientists, impressed by the way events wiB occur in series like a Vun of bad luck' , have begun to look seriously at it If we can use anything for fortune-telling why use the Taiot? The answer is that any system will tell us something; the value of that something depends on the inherent wisdom of the system. Because the Tarot pictures carry deep significance all by themselves, the patterns they form in readings can teach us a great deal about ourselves, and life in general.
Unfortunately, most diviners over the years have ignored these deeper meanings, preferring simple for- mulas Ca dark man, one disposed to help the querent' , easily inter- preted and quickly digested by the client The formula meanings are often contradictory as well as blunt, with no indications of how to choose between them.
This situation holds true especially for the Minor Arcana which b the bulk of the deck. Almost no works on the Tarot have treated this subject fully.
Most serious studies, those which deal with the deep meanings of the Major Arcana, either do not mention the Minor cards at all, or simply throw in another set of formulas at the back, as a grudging addition for those readers who will insist on using the deck for fortune-telling.
Even Waitc, as mentioned, simply gives his own formulas to the remarkable pictures drawn by Pamela Smith, While this book will deal extensively with the concepts embod- ied in the cards and their symbolism it will also look carefully at the application of these concepts to Tarot readings. Many writers, notably Waitc. But the proper use of readings can greatly increase our aware- ness of the cards 1 meanings k is coe thing to study the symbolism of a particular card, it is something else to see that card in combina- Don with others.
Many times I have seen specific readings open up important meanings that would not have emerged in any other way. Readings teach us a general lesson as well and a very import- ant one. Finally, giving readings gives each person a chance to renew his or her instinctive feeling for the pictures themselves. Today, we tend to look upon the trumps as a psychological process, one that shows us passing through different stages of existence to reach a state of fall development: Joyful figures, the Magician and the High Priestess are stationary and un moving in their positions.
If you glance through the rest of the Major Arcana you will notice that all the trumps but 0 and 21 are drawn as if staged for a still photograph, SE0 12 m But there tt a difference between the two dancers.
The Fool rushes forward richly clothed; the figure in the World is naked The Fool looks about to leap into the lower world from some high dis- tant country; the World paradoxically appears outside the material universe, the Dancer suspended in a magical wreath of victory. Note also the numbers of the four cards.
It symbolises infinite potentiality. AU things remain possible because ia ffi? But 21 combines these two numbers in one figure. Look at their postures. The Magician raises a magic wand to heaven. Besides the ideas of spirit and unity, the phallic wand sym- bolizes ma lentil The High Priestess sits between two pillars, a vaginal symbol as well as a symbol of duality.
These two pillars appear again and again in the Major Arcana, in such obvious places as the temple in the Hierophant. The dancer, a female figure though some decks represent her as a hermaphrodite carries two magic wands, one m each hand The male and female are unified, and more, their separate qualities arc subordinated to the higher freedom and joy shone in the light way the dancer holds these powerful symbols.
The Tarot, like many systems of thought, indeed like many mythologies, symbolizes duality as the separation of male and female. The Kabha lists believed that Adam was originally hermaph- roditic, and that Eve only became separate from him so that they mighE regard each other as independent beings. In most cultures, to a greater or lesser degree, men and women see each other as very distinct, almost separate societies.
Today, many people think of each person as having both masculine and feminine qualities, but previously such an idea was found only in esoteric doctrines of unification. If we picture duality dramatically as male and female, or black and white, we also experience more subtle splits in our ordinary lives, especially between our hopes, what we imagine as possible, and the reality of what we achieve.
The marriage gives less than the total happiness expected, the job or career brings more frustration than fiilfdment. Many artists have said that the paintings can express what they really wanted to say Somehow the reality of life is always less than the potential Acutely aware of this, many people agonize over every decision, no matter how small or great, because they cannot accept that once they take an action in one direction they have lost the chance to go in all the other directions previously open to them.
They cannot accept the limitations of acting in the real world The split between potentiality and reality is sometimes seen as the separation between mind and body. Attempting to resolve this separation people have gone to philosophical extremes. Behaviourists have claimed that 'mind' docs not exist; only the body and the habits it develops are real.
At the other end many mystics have experi- enced the body as an illusion created by our limited understanding. Christian tradition defines the "soul 1 as the immortal 'true 1 self, existing before and after the body that contains it. And many reli- gions and sects, such as the Gnostics and some Kabbaltsts, have considered the body a prison, created by the sins or mistakes of our fallen ancestors. At the source of all these dualities we feel we do not know our- selves.
We sense that deep down our true nature is something stronger, freer, with great wisdom and power; or else a thing of violent passions and furious animal desire.
Either way, we knew that this true self hides, or perhaps lies buried deep inside our normal, socially restricted personalities. But how do we reach it? Assuming the essential self to be a thing of beauty and power, how do we liberate it? The disciplines we call the 'occult sciences' begin with a strong awareness of all these spirts and limitations. People often contuse the purposes of spiritual disciplines. Many think the Tarot is for fortune-telling, that alchemists want to become rich by changing lead to gold, that Kabbalists work spells by saying secret words, and so on.
In reality, these disciplines aim at a psychological unification. The 'base metal' that the alchemist wishes to change to gold is himself. Accepting the doctrine that we have fallen from a perfect state to a limited one the occultist does not believe we must simply wait passively for some future redemption by an outside agent On the contrary, he or she believes it our responsibility to bring about that redemption by finding the key to unity.
It represents a process, and one of the things it teaches us is that we make a mistake when we assume that unification comes through any simple key or formula. Rather, it comes through growth and increased awareness as we travel step by step through the twenty -one stages of the Major Arcana. Perhaps such a radiant self never really existed. Somehow we experience our intuition of it as something lost. Virtually every culture has developed a myth of a Fall from a primeval paradise.
It does not mean 'without guilt 1 but rather a freedom and a total openness to life, a complete lack of fear that comes through a total faith in Irving and in your own instinctive self. Innocence does not mean 'asexual 1 as some people think It is sexuality expressed without fear, without guilt, without connivance and dishonesty. It is sexuality expressed spontaneously and freely, as the expression of love and the ecstasy of life.
The Fool bears the number 0 because all things are possible to the person who is always ready to go in any direction. He does not belong in any specific place; he is not fixed like the other cards. His innocence makes him a person with no past, and therefore an infi- nite future. Every moment b a new starting point. Those Tarot commentators who argue whether the Fool belongs before, after, or somewhere between the other cards seem to be missing the point The Fool is movement, change, the constant leap through life.
For the Fool no difference exists between possibility and reality 0 means a total emptiness of hopes and fears, and the Fool expects nothing, plans nothing.
He responds instantly to the immediate situation. Other people will receive his complete spontaneity. Nothing cal- culated, nothing held back. He does not do this deliberately, like someone consciously deciding to be wholly honest with a friend or a lover. The Fool gives his honesty and love naturally, to everyone, without ever thinking about it We speak of the Fool as W and the World Dancer as 'she 1 because of their appearance in the pictures, but both can be a woman or a man with really no change.
Just as the Fool does not experience a separateness from the physical world so he or she does not experience any isolation from the "opposite sex 1. The Fool and the Dancer are psychic hermaphrodites, expressing their complete humanity at all times, by their very natures.
Now look again at the tour card pattern. Sec how the Fool splits into the Magician and the High Priestess, who must be brought back together again to form the World The two cards represent the splitting up of the Fool's innocence into the illusion of opposites. The World shows us a restored unity, but a higher and deeper unity achieved through the growth outlined in the other eighteen cards. The fool is innocence, but the World is wisdom. But most of us cannot maintain even brief moments of such spontaneity and freedom.
Once we lose that innocence, however, wc cannot simply climb back to the level of the FooL Instead, we must snuggle and learn, through maturity, sekf-drscovery. The Magician represents action, the High Priestess passivity the Magician malcness. This descrip- tion does not mean to denigrate or belitde the Magician's creative force. What greater creativity is there than giving shape to the chaos of experience? It is the Magician who gives life its meaning and purpose.
Healers, artists, and occultrsrs have all focused on the Magician as their patron card. Nevertheless, hrs power represents an isolation from the freedom of the Fool or the understanding of the World. In the same way. The High Priestess represents the archetype of inner truth, but because this truth rs unconscious, inexpressible, she can maintain it only through total passivity.
This situation shows itself in life in numerous ways. We all carry within us a dim sense of who we are. But the women and men who throw themselves into com- petition, careers, responsibilities, without working at the same time to increase self-knowledge, often discover at some point that they have lost the sense of who they are.
Now, directly opposite to these people, the Buddhist monk or nun withdraws from the world because the slightest involvement will distract them from die centre of their meditations.
Both the Magician and the High Pnestess bear an archetypal purity. Yet those who have gone deepest in both traditions will combine these elements. The High Priestess sits between the piUars of light and dark Though she herself symbolizes the dark passive side, her intuition can find a balance between the twa This is less paradoxical than it sounds. If we sense our lives as filled with opposites which we can- not resolve, we can react in cither of two ways.
We can rush back and forth, going from one extreme to the other, or we can do absolutely nothing. Sit in the middle, not seduced in cither direc- tion, but passive, allowing the opposites to go on around yoa Except, of course, that this too is a choice, and eventually wc lose that balance and that inner knowledge simply because life contin- ues on around us.
In Kabbalist imagery the High Priestess represents the Pillar of Harmony, a force which reconciles the opposing Pillars of Mercy and Judgement Therefore she sits between the two pillars of the temple. But without the ability to blend in the active force of the Magician, the High Priestess's sense of harmony becomes swept away. As archetypes, the Magician and the High Priestess cannot exist in our lives any more than the Pool can.
Inevitably, we mix up these elements rather than blend them and thereby experience their lesser forms, as contused action, or else insecure and guilt rid- den passivity.
The purpose of the Major Arcana b twofold. First of all. Secondly, it helps us to truly resolve these different elements, to take us step by step through the different stages of life until it brings us to unity. In reality, perhaps the innocence symbolized by the Fool never existed. Somehow we experience as something lost. The Major Arcana tells us how to get it back. The first approach looks at each card as repre- senting different qualities or situations of importance to a person's spiritual development The Empress represents the soul glorified in nature, the Emperor mastery of self, etc.
This system considers the numbers on the cards as part of their symbolic language. The number 1 belongs to the Magician not because he comes 6nt but because that number sonifies ideas - unity, will power - appropri- ate to the concept of the Magkiin. The second approach looks upon the trumps as a progression. The Magician is 1 because hts qualities form the starting point of the growth pattern figured in the other cards.
Card number 13, say, belongs at just that point, between the Hanged Man and Temper- ance, and no other. Each new trump builds upon the previous one and leads the way to the next. In general, 1 have fdlowed the second method. But what kind of victory? Looking at the card's position can answer these questions. The interpreters who have taken this approach have usually looked for some place 10 divide the trumps for easier comprehen- sion. The most common choice is the Wheel of Fortune.
As the number ten, it symbolizes a completion of one cycle and a begin- ning of another. Also, if you place the Fool at the beginning this divides the cards neatly into two groups of eleven. Setting the Fool apart as really a separate category all by itself and setting it apart allows us to see that it belongs everywhere and anywhere gives us twenty-one cards - three groups of seven.
The number seven has a long history in symbolism: Most of the meanings of seven derive from the fact that before the telescope people could see seven 'planets 1 in the sky, that is, seven moving objects: Though the idea of the seven-day week comes from ancient Israel, which may have got it from Babylon, the European names for the days come from the planets as personified in the Roman and Norse godi One particular aspect of seven relates it directly to the Tarot The Greek letter pi stands for a ratio that exists in all circles between the circumference and the diameter.
And the Major Arcana with the Fool comes to twenty-two, just as with- out the Fool it reduces to seven. Also, twenty-two times seven equals one hundred and fifty-four adds up to ten, linking it to the Wheel , and one hundred and fifty-four divided by two, for the two Arcana, comes to seventy-seven, the entire Tarot with the Fool m 21 Like the Kabbalistic conception of God the point is nothing, yet the entire circle radiates from it And the Fool's number.
The best reasons for the division into three groups lie within the Major Arcana itself. Look at the first card in each line. The Magician and Strength are both obviously cards of power, but so is the Devil The Magician and Strength are linked by the infinity sign above their heads, while the Devil bears a reversed pentack. If you look at the Devil's posture, one arm up, one arm down, you will see the picture is in some ways a parody of the Magician, with the torch pointing down instead of the wand pointing up.
In some decks card IS carries the tide of 'Black Magician 1. In many decks Justice, not Strength is number 8. If you look at the posture of the figure injustice you will see an even closer resemblance to the Magician and the Devil The same kind of vertical correspondences apply all the way through the three lines.
Briefly, we can call these: The three levels arc not forced cate- gories.
They derive from the cards themselves. The first line, with its concentration on such matters as love, social authority, and education, describes the main concerns of society. In many ways the world we see mirrored in our novels, films, and schools is summed up by the first seven cards of the Major Arcana, A person can bve and die and be judged a success by everyone around him or her without ever going beyond the level of the Chariot Many people, in tact, do not reach that level at all.
Modern depth psychology concerns itself with the second line of trumps, with their symbols of a hermrt-like withdrawal into self- awareness followed by a symbolic Death and rebirth The angel of 22 Temperance at the end represents that pan of ourselves which wc discover to be essentially real after the illusions of ego, defensive- ness. Finally, what of the last line? What can go beyond finding our true serves?
To put it simply, these seven cards depict a confronta- tion and finally a unity with the great forces of life itselt The other cards, formerly seen as so important, become merely the prepara- tion for the great descent into darkness, the liberation of light, and the return of that light to the sunlit world of consciousness.
To most readers the last line will seem too vague and fanciful. The vagueness in our minds perhaps speaks more about ourselves and our time than about the subject. Any society automatically teaches its people, just by the language it uses, to make certain assumpaons about the world Examples in our culture would include the value and uniqueness of individuals, the reality and overwhelming importance of love, the necessity of freedom and social justice, and, more complex, but just as strong, the basic separatencss of each person.
When we deal with the last line of the Major Arcana, then, we deal with an area uncomfortable to many of us. It will make the task of understanding these cards harder - and perhaps more rewarding. Working with these ancient pictures can bring us knowledge neglected in our education. 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. You can enter through a leap from a height, through a dark cave, a labyrinth, or even by climbing down a rabbit hole chasing a Victorian rabbit with a pocket watch.
Whichever way you choose, you are a fool to do it. Why look mto the deep world of the mind when you can stay safely in the ordinary landscape of job, home and family? Herman Melville, in Mobf Dick, warned his readers not to take even a step outside the ordinary path laid out for you by society. You might not get back again. And yet, for those willing to take the chance, the leap can bring joy, adventure, and finally, for those with the courage to keep gong when the wonderland becomes more fearsome than joyous, the leap can bring knowledge, peace, and liberation.
Interestingly, the Fool archetype appears more m mythology than m structured religion. An institutionalized Church can hardly urge people beyond the lim- its of institutions.
Instead, the churches offer us a safe haven from the fears oflife. Mythology leads directly into the heart of those fears, and in every culture the mythological landscape contains the image of the Trickster - pushing, goading, jabbing the kings and heroes whenever they turn away from the inner world of truth.
In the King Arthur legends Merlin appears not only as a sorcer- er and wise man but as a trickster Constantly he appears before Arthur in disguise, as a child, a beggar, an old peasant. The young king, already seduced into pompousness by his high social position, never recognizes Merlin until his companions point out that he has been tricked again.
More important than laws or military strategy is the ability to see through illusions. The Taoist masters were famous for playing tricks on their disciples. The Fool archetype has even found social expression, as the real court jester.
Today, our comedians and satirists enjoy something of the same privilege. In many countries a yearly carnival releases all the wildness repressed through the rest of the year. Sex is freer, various laws are suspended, people go in disguises and the King of Fools b chosen to preside over the festival. An older tradition than that of Waitc, it pictures the archetype as a grotesque wanderer.
The last card, the World, pre- sents 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 tide 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 mytholog- ical themes better than novels. In Batman the hero's strongest enemy is called the Joker, a figure who has no past and ts never seen with- out the wild make-up of a joker in a deck of cards.
The joker is not descended from the Fool as I, and other Tarottsts. It does, however, call forth the same archetype as the Fool, being based on the court jester. The rivalry of Batman and the Joker sends a clear message to their readers: Support law and order. In recent years the magazine has described the Joker as insane rather than criminal. Curiously the image of the Pool as self occurs more in fairy tales than myths We look at myths as representing forces larger than ourselves; the simpler fairy talc allows us to express our own fool- Like 'Boots' or 'Gluck' in the fairy talc, always accompanied by various animal helpers, the Fool in almost every deck walks with a companion.
In Waitc 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. But it n really the same beast; only our attitude changes. Waitc's Fool holds a white rose. Roses symbolize passion, while white, the traditional colour of purity, together with the delicate way 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 aban- don 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 b 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 power- ful grip The Fool and the World Dancer hold their wands so casu- ally we hardly notice them.
What could be more foolish than to take a magic wand and use it to carry your bags? For the uncon- scious Fool the spirit force remains always in potential, always ready, because he is not consciously directing it.
We tend to mis- understand 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 lite 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 hrs posi- tion at the beginning, where there rs the transition from the every- day 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 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 the combination, fire and water, represents the way of transformation Finally the question arises of the Fool's place in divinatory read- ings.
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 m " bb off into some new phase oi life, particularly when thai leap is from some deep feeling rather than careful planning. These belong to the Fool in its normal position.
We must also consider the 'reversed 1 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 formu- la around, a simplistic method which has led several interpreters to abandon the whole idea of reversed meanings.
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 con- tradict 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 dong 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 need- ed, and times when it is better to do nothng at all. The basic thing any oracle teaches us is that no action or attitude is right or wrong, except in its proper context. 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. 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 Waitc's wizard, raising a magic wand to bnng 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 earned 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 in 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 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 IB 30 m the emotional and creative power we fed in our lives needs to be grounded in physical reality for us co get any value from it. Unless wc make something of our potentials they do not really exist. In the linking of the Tarot with the Hebrew alphabet the Fool often receives the first letter Akph. Aieph bears no sound; it is a silent carrier of vowels, and therefore symboli2es nothingness.
It is the first letter of the Ten Commandments.
This would assign the second Hebrew letter, Btth, 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. 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. Tm so excited 1 could burst! 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, tilled with some energy they cannot seem to discharge. The word 'inspiration 1 originally meant 'filled with a holy breath', and derives from the same root as "spirit 1. Notice that of all these examples all but the pnest and the artist arc seized with a frenzy.
The person in religious fervour shouts and leaps about in order to release an unbearable energy. It must be discharged, grounded in something real, because our bod- ies, our selves, are not meant to contain it.
Thus, the artist does not Join in the physical frenzy because she or he is discharging that power into the painting. Unless we follow the path of the High Priestess in withdrawing from the world, we live our hves most fully when we create or arc active.
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 How. However, by trying to hold on to it, wc 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 wc look at the Magician those o: But the real magic rests in that frnger 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.