Tarot Card Cheat Sheet with Major Arcana Guide

The aim of this post is to create the ultimate Tarot card cheat sheet and make it available for free, right here in this post.

The Cheat Sheet Includes:

  • A full-length guidebook for the Major Arcana, including keywords, correspondences, and esoteric explanations. Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth explanations included
  • A cheat sheet for the Minor Arcana, including keywords and astrological correspondences
  • A guide to understanding masculinity and femininity in the Tarot
  • Tables of correspondence for finding your astrological birth cards with decans

What is the Tarot?

“THE TAROT is a pack of seventy‐eight cards. There are four suits, as in modern playing  cards, which are derived from it. But the Court cards number four instead of three. In addition, there are twenty‐two cards called “Trumps”, each of which is a symbolic picture with a title itself. At first sight one would suppose this arrangement to be arbitrary, but it is not. It is  necessitated, as will appear later, by the structure of the universe, and in particular of the Solar System, as symbolized by the Holy Qabalah. This will be explained in due course.” ~ Crowley, Book of Thoth

“The Tarot is a pictorial representation of the Forces of Nature as conceived by the Ancients according to a conventional symbolism.” ~ Aleister Crowley, on the Ordo Templi Orientis card that comes with the Thoth Tarot deck

“[The Tarot] is, in truth, a monumental and extraordinary work, strong and simple as the architecture of the pyramids, and consequently enduring like those – a book which is a summary of all sciences, which can resolve all problems by its infinite combinations, which speaks by evoking thought, it is an inspirer and moderator of all possible conceptions, and the masterpiece perhaps of the human mind.” ~ Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic, London, 1958

“[T]he Tarot, viewed philosophically, is a teaching device intended to assist in the subjective journey of consciousness from one objective center of energy to another.” ~ Robert Wang, Qabalistic Tarot

“The Tarot is in fact a complete and elaborate system for describing the hidden forces which underlie the universe.” ~ Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero, book included in Golden Dawn Magical Tarot deck

“The Tarot could be described as God’s Picture Book, or it could be likened to a celestial game of chess, the Trumps being the pieces to be moved according to the law of their own order over a checkered board of the four elements.” ~ Lady Frida Harris

Origins of Tarot

“The History of the Tarot has been obscured by writers who have not distinguished between the Tarot in its higher aspect, as the record in symbols of what man has discovered about his relation to the Universe, and the Tarot in its lowest aspect, as a pack of cards used for divination and card-play.” – Lady Frieda Harris, Essay in Thoth Tarot book

The currently extant historical evidence paints the historical origins of the Tarot as coming from sometime between 1420 and 1440 in Northern Italy, in some court or another. Mary K. Greer, Tarot Historian, wrote on her blog that it was probably “in the court of Milan or Ferrara or possibly even Florence.”

The current extant historical evidence says The Tarot evolved from playing cards, which were introduced to Europe about 70 years before the defining Trump cards of the Major Arcana were added giving Tarot cards their distinguishing characteristic that sets it up from normal playing cards. The Tarot cards were first called “carte da trionfi” (cards of the Triumphs, or Trumps). The Tarot was played as a game similar to bridge. In fact, the Tarot is still played as a game around the world. These Trumps are the 22 cards of the Major Arcana.

In the late half of 18th century, French scholar Antoine Court de Gébelin wrote a chapter on Tarot in his foundational Le Monde Primitif (“The Primitive World”) (1773)

In the chapter, he told a story of how the first time he saw a Tarot deck, he immediately recognized that it had secret origins in the Egyptian god Thoth. Court de Gébelin thereby created a Tarot history, with little if any historical evidence, that Egyptian priests had distilled the ancient Book of Thoth into the pictorial key that is the 22 Trumps of the Major Arcana. From Egypt, he said these priests brought the Tarot to Rome, where it became known to the popes, who brought then them to Avignon in the 14th century. From there, the Tarot made its way to. France. 

Moreover, Court de Gébelin‘s included an essay by the Comte de Mellet included in Le Monde Primitif that mapped Tarot’s 22 Trumps of the Major Arcana with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and thus making a connection to Jewish mysticism.

Modern scholars agree there is no extant evidence for these claims of Tarot having an ancient Egyptian origin. By all extant evidence, they start as playing cards in 15th century Italy. Any correspondence with Jewish mysticism is likely a coincidence.

Qabalah and Synchronicity

 

“The fact remains that the two systems of Qabalah and Tarot are so strikingly similar in theory that they easily compliment and describe one another. If they indeed came from different origins, it would only serve to prove how universal is the Divine Truth behind them both.” – Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero, book included in Golden Dawn Magical Tarot deck, p. xiI

Yet there is little evidence the creators of Tarot in the 15th century Italy were aware of these correspondences. Is it just a coincidence?

Or perhaps, corresponding to the great spiritual archetypes of humanity, it is what Jung called a synchronicity, a meaningful, almost magickal coincidence that has no possible causal explanation. Such things are common in the world of Tarot. And one might even say Tarot operates on the power of synchronicities.

Regardless of whether the creator of the Tarot knew about Kabbalah, the mapping is good enough to provoke thought and had extra dimensions to the hermeneutics of the Symbol. Furthermore, because the most popular Tarot Systems (Waite-Smith and Thoth) are inspired by this connection, like it not, accurate or not, the Tree of Life is now a part of the collective unconscious of the Tarot.

As Rachel Pollack says, “By creating a myth of the Tarot’s origins, Antoine Court de Gébelin and all those who came after him have liberated the Tarot from time. We can adapt whatever story or teaching or image fits to deepen our experience of the cards.” (Tarot Wisdom, my emphasis)

“Whether or not the original creators of the Tarot intended to create a pictorial system that would explain the basic principles of the Qabalah is unimportant. It is irrefutably evident that the two systems fit together so completely that one explains the other, and both point to the same Divine Truths.” – Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero, book included in Golden Dawn Magical Tarot deck, p. 1

The Structure of the Tarot

78 cards total

22 Trumps or Major Arcana (Major Secrets)

56 Minor Arcana (Lessor Secrets), which breaks down to:

Ten cards of each suit Ace through 10 (pips):

Four Suits:

Wands (Fire)

Cups (Water)

Swords (Air)

Pentacles (Earth)

Note: ultimately, these correspondences of each suit to a Classical element are arbitrary; for example, some people associate Swords with Fire and Wands with Air.

16 Court cards, four of each suit:

Pages (Princesses)

Knights

Queens

Kings (Princes)

Note: deck creators have taken many liberties with the names of the Courts.

Masculine and Feminine Energy in the Tarot

Often you hear tarot readers talk a lot about masculine and feminine energy while doing tarot readings. What does this mean? If the Queen of Cups represents feminine energy does that mean it is indicative to women or only applies to women? Not at all! There are masculine women and feminine men and everything in between and beyond and gender expression is not reducible to our actual genders.

In other words, the queens and kings of the tarot do not represent women and men but rather ways of being. Now, these ways of beings are tied down to stereotypes associated with each gender but it is not necessary to essentialize them. So while the feminine principle is “receptive” and the masculine principle is “active,” we shouldn’t be essentialists about this. Everyone has elements of both motivating them and structuring how they think/operate. This distinction broadly corresponds to the ancient dualism between yin (feminine/passive) and yang (masculine/active).

It does not imply anything about your birth sex or your gender. It is merely a way of describing your personality and general mode of expression. It’s about your energy; your personality; not necessarily your gender.

This dualism is all about reciprocity. You cannot have feminine without masculine and vice versa, just like you can’t have front without back, top without bottom. They correspond to a mutual whole. Like a wave rippling across the top of a pool of water, you can’t have the top of the wave without the bottom of the wave.

This is also true in the tarot. Most people seem to have elements of both the feminine and masculine within themselves. No one is 100% masculine or 100% feminine.

What about nonbinary people or agender people who identify outside of the gender binary? Where do they fall into this dualism?

In my opinion, the binary of gender (man vs woman) is different from the dualism of active vs passive energy (masculine vs feminine). While I do believe it is perfectly coherent to identify outside of the gender binary and negate it (I am myself nonbinary), the dualism of energy applies to everyone to some extent, although some people might realize or embody such principles in such unique ways that they exist completely outside the normative categories of societies.

Finding Your Astrological Tarot Card

The Minor Arcana and the Decans of the Zodiac

 

Pip Card Decan Planet and Sign Decan Date
2 of Wands ‎0° to 10° Aries Mars in Aries March 21 – March 30
3 of Wands 10° to 20° Aries Sol in Aries March 31 – April 10
4 of Wands 20° to 30° Aries Venus in Aries April 11 – April 20
5 of Wands 0° to 10° Leo Saturn in Leo July 22 – August 1
6 of Wands 10° to 20° Leo Jupiter in Leo August 2 – August 11
7 of Wands 20° to 30° Leo Mars in Leo August 12 – August 22
8 of Wands 0° to 10° Sagittarius Mercury in Sagittarius Nov 23 to Dec 2
9 of Wands 10° to 20° Sagittarius Moon in Sagittarius Dec 3 to Dec 12
10 of Wands 20° to 30° Sagittarius Saturn in Sagittarius Dec 13 to Dec 21
2 of Cups 0° to 10° Cancer Venus in Cancer June 21 to July 1
3 of Cups 10° to 20° Cancer Mercury in Cancer July 2 to July 11
4 of Cups 20° to 30° Cancer Moon in Cancer July 12 to July 21
5 of Cups 0° to 10° Scorpio Mars in Scorpio October 23 to Nov 1
6 of Cups 10° to 20° Scorpio Sol in Scorpio Nov 2 to Nov 12
7 of Cups 20° to 30° Scorpio Venus in Scorpio Nov 13 to Nov 22
8 of Cups 0° to 10° Pisces Saturn in Pisces February 19 to February 28
9 of Cups 10° to 20° Pisces Jupiter in Pisces March 1 to March 10
10 of Cups 20° to 30° Pisces Mars in Pisces March 11 to March 20
2 of Swords 0° to 10° Libra Moon in Libra Sep 23 to Oct 2
3 of Swords 10° to 20° Libra Saturn in Libra Oct 3 to Oct 12
4 of Swords 20° to 30° Libra Jupiter in Libra Oct 13 to Oct 22
5 of Swords 0° to 10° Aquarius Venus in Aquarius  Jan 20 to Jan 29
6 of Swords 10° to 20° Aquarius Mercury in Aquarius Jan 30 to Feb 8
7 of Swords 20° to 30° Aquarius Moon in Aquarius Feb 9 to Feb 18
8 of Swords 0° to 10° Gemini Jupiter in Gemini May 21 to May 31
9 of Swords 10° to 20° Gemini Mars in Gemini June 1 to June 10
10 of Swords 20° to 30° Gemini Sol in Gemini June 11 to June 20
2 of Disks 0° to 10° Capricorn Jupiter in Capricorn Dec 22 to Dec 30
3 of Disks 10° to 20° Capricorn Mars in Capricorn Dec 31 to Jan 9
4 of Disks 20° to 30° Capricorn Sol in Capricorn Jan 10 to Jan 19
5 of Disks 0° to 10° Taurus Mercury in Taurus April 21 to April 30
6 of Disks 10° to 20° Taurus Moon in Taurus May 1 to May 10
7 of Disks 20° to 30° Taurus Saturn in Taurus May 11 to May 20
8 of Disks 0° to 10° Virgo Sol in Virgo August 23 to Sep 1
9 of Disks 10° to 20° Virgo Venus in Virgo Sep 2 to Sep 11
10 of Disks 20° to 30° Virgo Mercury in Virgo Sep 12 to Sep 22

What determines the association of decans and planets?

In the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s member’s-only Tarot guidebook, Book T, it was explained the planets start with 2 of Wands (first decan of Cardinal Fire, Aries) and follow this sequence:

  1. Mars
  2. The Sun
  3. Venus
  4. Mercury
  5. The Moon
  6. Saturn
  7. Jupiter

This pattern is repeated five times, matching 35 decans. The remaining decan, the 36th, is filled with Mars and represented the last decan of Pisces. Book T gave a tidy story to explain this justification,

“There being only 36 Decanates and only seven Planets, it follows that one of the latter must rule over one more decanate than the others. This is the Planet Mars which is allowed the last Decan of Pisces and First of Aries, because the long cold of the winter requires a great energy to overcome it and initiate spring.”

Accordingly, when we lay out this pattern back to back we form the entire 360 degree Zodiac wheel and the basis for the assignment of different planets to the Tarot.

1st Decan of Aries 2 of Wands Mars
2nd Decan of Aries 3 of Wands The Sun
3rd Decan of Aries 4 of Wands Venus
1st Decan of Taurus 5 of Disks Mercury
2nd Decan of Taurus 6 of Disks The Moon
3rd Decan of Taurus 7 of Disks Saturn
1st Decan of Gemini 8 of Swords Jupiter
2nd Decan of Gemini 9 of Swords Mars
3rd Decan of Gemini 19 of Swords The Sun
1st Decan of Cancer 2 of Cups Venus
2nd Decan of Cancer 3 of Cups Mercury
3rd Decan of Cancer 4 of Cups The Moon
1st Decan of Leo 5 of Wands Saturn
2nd Decan of Leo 6 of Wands Jupiter
3rd Decan of Leo 7 of Wands Mars
1st Decan of Virgo 8 of Disks The Sun
2nd Decan of Virgo 9 of Disks Venus
3rd Decan of Virgo 10 of Disks Mercury
1st Decan of Libra 2 of Swords The Moon
2nd Decan of Libra 3 of Swords Saturn
3rd Decan of Libra 4 of Swords Jupiter
1st Decan of Scorpio 5 of Cups Mars
2nd Decan of Scorpio 6 of Cups The Sun
3rd Decan of Scorpio 7 of Cups Venus
1st Decan of Sagittarius 8 of Wands Mercury
2nd Decan of Sagittarius 9 of Wands The Moon
3rd Decan of Sagittarius 10 of Wands Saturn
1st Decan of Capricorn 2 of Disks Jupiter
2nd Decan of Capricorn 3 of Disks Mars
3rd Decan of Capricorn 4 of Disks The Sun
1st Decan of Aqaurius 5 of Swords Venus
2nd Decan of Aquarius 6 of Swords Mercury
3rd Decan of Aquarius 7 of Swords The Moon
1st Decan of Pisces 8 of Cups Saturn
2nd Decan of Pisces 9 of Cups Jupiter
3rd Decan of Pisces 10 of Cups Mars

A Guide to the Meanings of the Major Arcana

The Fool’s random yet deeply exact and meaningful journey through the Tarot deck is essential a kind of individuation process i.e. a process of an individual growing and develop into themselves.

There are infinite ways to carve up the Major Arcana. For example, you might see The Fool and the Magus as the main characters of the Fool’s Journey, and each line in the Major Arcana below representing a different phase of the Hero’s Journey.

The Major Arcana

The entire landscape of the Tarot deck represents a “heterogeneous smooth space,” which is “wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without “counting” it and can “be explored only by legwork.”” ~ Deleauze and Guatarri, A Thousand Plateaus

This is the essential lesson of the Tarot. The Tarot cannot be understood through memorization and study alone. Knowing a memorized list of associations for all 78 cards is not sufficient for proper understanding. One must experience the Tarot. Live with it. One must “do the legwork,” as Deleuze says.

Another popular way of breaking up the Major Arcana is The Fool is the main character and there are Three Acts in the Journey as seen in the following diagram:

The Major Arcana

Downsides of Memorizing Keywords

In my guide on how to learn Tarot, I distinguish between two approaches to learning the Tarot: phenomenological and keyword.

The keyword approach is based on memorization. You do this at your own risk.

You risk sounding like a boring robot.

If your Fool always just means “new possibilities” or “happy-go-lucky” then you risk having your readings sound stilted and lifeless. To breathe life into your readings, you need to learn how to tell mythological stories.

Instead of just saying, “The Fool means new beginnings” you might say:

The Fool is the zeroeth number of the Major Arcana. This the Fool represents nothingness. Out of nothing comes everything. So nothingness has the potential for +1 and -1 because adding +1 and -1 together cancels out to Zero. This positivity and negativity are born from the Egg of Zero. The Cosmic Egg, the pure zero-ness of the void, holds within itself the potential to spring forth the manifest forces of positive and negative sedimentation. Similarly, humans are born with the potential for activity and passivity within us. Operating under the dynamic tension between these two poles of force and matter, we express ourselves in the world as gradations along a spectrum of negativity and positivity.

This is just an example. You could tell any story you wanted. The point is to go beyond a stock set of meanings to understanding narrative, story-telling, and mythology at an archetypal, symbolic, historical, mythological, and psychoanalytic level.

You can say the The Fool represents the story of someone’s life. You can draw upon the history of the Court Jester, who was a dancing Fool, but also, socially, the only person allowed to tell the King the Truth. You can draw among fools you know from your own personal life. The Fool can be the archetype of young person tripping on acid or mushrooms, discovering the secrets of the mind. The Fool can be the wise, old hermit in the desert who has seen God. The holy fool. Dostoevsky’s Idiot. The examples are endless.

When you begin to deepen your Tarot learning you can learn to draw upon literature, mythology, history, and the entire corpus of human existence to flesh out the keywords.

Then you will understand the origins of the keywords.

You will understand how keywords change over time.

You will understand how keywords change over both a single person’s lifetime and over the centuries since it has started accumulating occult meanings.

The collective unconscious is not a static, timeless thing. While yes, The Empress as the archetype of The Mother represents certain similar motifs shared among humanity, over time and place the meaning of The Mother changes from culture to culture, time period to time period.

Furthermore, our own concepts of what mother means is influenced by our own personal experience. This is where our neuroses come from. Our complexes and complexities.

Neuroscience has taught has that the human brain is marvelously plastic and adaptable to its environment, constantly updating its software as it learns and changes from its interactions with both its body and the environment the body is embedded in.

* * *

So with every meaning or keyword I give below, just know that meanings are not set in stone and, in fact, the ultimate meaning of each card lies in our own interpretation.

 

0 – The Fool, Le Mat

Pluto

Represents Pure Element of Air

Keywords: transcendental, beginnings, naive, beginner’s mind, androgyny, journey, wandering, detachment

Rider-Waite-Smith

The fool is a young androgynous man walking along a cliff towards the edge without a care in the world, not even paying attention to where he’s going. He has a colorful tunic on and a red feather in his hair. He has a pole and knapsack. He’s holding a blooming white flower, indicating both growth and innocence. He has a white dog companion happily following him, seemingly playful and/or trying to warn him to watch where he’s going. There are snow-tipped mountains in the background and a radiant white sun is shining against a bright yellow sky.

The staff does double duty as his traveling stick and also his magickal wand.

The Fool represents the Pagan Green Man, who gives birth to the greenery of the Spring in combination with the energy of the Sun, emerging from the darkness and fertile potential of the Winter. This is why we see the combination of green and yellow in the Fool: he is the Spring personified – the latent potential of the universe to give birth to life and form.

The Fool represents the beginning of the journey of life, represented by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. He is the 0th card, meaning although he is at the beginning of the journey he can really enter the Major Arcana sequence at any point. He represents the entire journey. He has an air of tranquility. He transcends the mundane reality of stress and work and encourages us to see the world with what the Zen masters call Beginner’s Mind.

In modern playing cards, the Fool is represented by the unassuming Joker.

Is he really going to walk off the cliff? Maybe. Maybe not. Is he really foolish though? After all, Jesus said think not for the ‘morrow, meaning: live in the moment. Don’t concern yourself with planning the future.

Thoth

“The world is always looking for a savior, and the doctrine in question is philosophically more than than a doctrine; it is a plain fact. Salvation, whatever salvation may mean, is not to be obtained on any reasonable  terms. Reason is an impasse, reason is damnation; only madness, divine madness, offers an issue.” ~ Aleister Crowley, Book of Thoth

Crowley notes what he calls the “True Hermaphroditic nature of the symbol” (Book of Thoth, p. 64).

As a nonbinary person, I resonate with this. But he’s talking about the fundamentals of Orphism; the cosmic Egg contains the potential for both feminine and masculine energy.

“It is necessary to acclimatise oneself to this, at first sight strange, idea. As soon as one has made up one’s mind to consider the feminine aspect of things, the masculine element should immediately appear in the same flash of thought to counterbalance it. This identification is complete in itself, philosophically speaking; it is only that one must consider the question of the result of formulating Zero as “plus 1 plus minus 1”. The result of so doing is to formulate the idea of Tetragrammaton.” (Book of Thoth, p. 54).

The Fool represents Silence counterpoised with Manifestation of the Universe (XXI, The World). Between them lies everything and beyond them is Nothing.

This idea of 1 + -1 = 0 corresponds to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the double articulation between content and expression:

“Every stratum is a judgment of God; not only do plants and animals, orchids and wasps, sing or express themselves, but so do rocks and even rivers, every stratified thing on earth. The first articulation concerns content, the second expression. The distinction between the two articulations is not betweens and substances but between content and expression, expression having just as much substance as content and content just as much form as expression….there exist intermediate states between content and expression, expression and content: the levels, equilibriums, and exchanges through which a stratified system passes.” (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 44)

The strata are “Layers, Belts. They consist of giving form to matters of imprisoning intensities or locking singularities into systems of resonance and redundancy, of producing upon the body of the earth molecules large and small and organizing them into molar aggregates…They operate by coding and territorialization.” (Thousand Plateaus, p. 40)

In Deleuzian metaphysics the stratum here corresponds to the World, the manifested reality. Each stratum or manifestation (“judgment of God”) is composed of two articulations: that of content and that of expression.

The is the double-claw of the Lobster when they say “God is a Lobster, or a double pincer, a double-bind…The first articulation chooses or reducts, from unstable particle-flows, metastable molecular or quasi-molecular units (substances) upon which it imposes a statistical order of connections and successions (forms). The second articulation establishes functional, compact, stable structures (forms), and constructs the molar compounds in which these structures are simultaneously actualized (substances).  (Thousand Plateaus, p. 40-41)

In terms of the Tarot, the nonbinary or androgynous Fool represents a variable content that gets expressed or “manifested” into various inceptions of reality. From the fertile potential in a feminine-masculine hybrid, variable itself, is born the entire Universe. From the Fool (0) is born the rest of Trumps, culminating in the end of the Fool’s Journey, the Universe itself, ready to derritorialize back into the potentiality of the Fool (0). This radiates in both directions, negative and positive, ending in the Thoth Egg, the 0 that equals -1 plus 1.

This Egg is what Deleuze and Guattari call the Body Without Organs.

“Content and expression are two variables of a function of stratification.” (Thousand Plateaus, p. 44)

“The [Universe] she is represented as a dancing figure. In her hands the manipulates the radiant spiral force, the active and passive, each possessing its dual polarity.”(Book of Thoth, p. 118)

Here we can see the pattern:

The Fool (0) : active/passive :: Lobster-God : double-articulation

The Fool (0) : 1-20 : The Universe (21) : :  Lobster-God : territorialization/deterritorialization : Strata

In Tarot terms, the Lobster-God is what Crowley called “hermaphroditic” – or what we would probably call in modern terms nonbinary or agender.

The shuffling of the Tarot deck itself and the Customary Cut of the Deck offer a ready metaphor for understanding the double-articulation of the Fool. From the molecular possibilities of the 78 cards an intuitive decision is made, with full intention and receptivity, to split the deck in two parts and thus necessitate the exactness of molar stratification as the cards spiral into the pattern laid out. From this shuffling process of articulation, occasional cards usually jump out, what Deleuze and Guattari would call “lines of flight,” which can themselves lead to their own sequence of territorialization/deterritorialization.

But from a spiritual perspective, the Fool represents the Divine Significance of the possibility within the phase-space. As Dion Fortune says,

“[Kether]…teaches us clearly that the innermost spiritual essence of anything, whether man or world, is never an actual manifestation, but is always the underlying, behind-standing basis or root whence all springs, belonging in fact to a different dimension, a different order of being.” (The Mystical Kabbalah).

“In some early Tarot decks the Fool appeared as a giant court jester, towering over the people around him. His title was ‘the Fool of God.’ The term has also been used for idiots, harmless madman, 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.” ~ Rachel Pollack, 78 Degrees of Wisdom

I – The Magician, Le Bateleur

The Magus, Hermes, The Messenger of the Gods, the Word

Represents Mercury

Keywords: manifestation, will, determination, transmission through action, creation, ideation, conduit

Number 1 represents Kether, The Crown, ruled by Pluto, the card which is spirit territorializing matter.

The Magician is the one who makes things happen through sheer force of will. He has control of all elements and is able to harness these energies to manifest his will. He embodies Crowley’s definition of magick as the “Science and art of causing change in conformity with the Will.”

In the Waite-Smith he is seen holding a double-sided wand, or baton, to the Heavens with his right hand with his left hand pointing towards the ground. He is literally acting as a conduit for Heavenly Consciousness, manifesting the Mind of God into his personal reality by means of the four Magician’s tools he has on the table:

Wand (tool of Desire)

Cup (tool of Feeling)

Sword (tool of Reason)

Disc (tool of Sensation)

According to Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous, “The first Arcanum —the principle underlying all the other twenty-one Major Arcana of the Tarot — is that of the rapport of personal effort and of spiritual reality.”

“In fact, the first and fundamental principle of esotericism (i.e. of the way of experience of the reality of the spirit) can be rendered by the formula:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!”   (Meditations on the Tarot)

Anonymous comments on how the Magician is light and free  “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew xi, 30).

In the Rider-Waite-Smith we see the symbols of:

-Infinity Symbol Over His head

-Robes of Red and White (Western ideal of Jesus as seen in Catholic symbolism)

The red and white symbolism is also meaningful in light of the symbolism of the rose and lilies at the bottom of the card. In The Pictorial Key, Waite says “Beneath are roses and lilies, the flos campi and lilium convallium, changed into garden flowers, to shew the culture of aspiration.”

The Rose and the Lily is a reference to the Biblical book The Song of Solomon, a love poem between two lovers, perhaps an allegory between Christ the Husband and the Church, His Bride.

In the Song of Solomon Chapter 2, we hear the bride of Christ describe herself as follows:

I am a rose of Sharon,

a lily of the valleys.

2

As a lily among brambles,

so is my love among maidens.

Thus, in the Tarot, the Rose and the Lily, and the Rosy Cross in general, are references to our relationship to Christ, the figure who has taught us about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, which in the context of occult history, concerns the process of the Great Work, the alignment of the microcosm (our soul) with the macrocosm (God), in the process of gnosis.

Regardless of your opinions on Christianity, the Tarot was undoubtedly created in a Christian culture and therefore includes many Christian symbols e.g. The Pope (the Hierophant).

Thoth

The Fool or The Juggler, who is juggling: wand, cup, sword, and disc allow with style, papyrus, winged egg, and torch.

The winged egg represents the concept of +1 + -1 = 0 concept, which represents the cancellation of masculine and feminine into a nonbinary potential out of which is birthed the Great Adventure of the Hero.

“This card is the second emanation from the Crown, and therefore, in a sense, the adult form of the first emanation, the Fool, whose letter is Aleph, the Unity.” (The Book of Thoth, p. 70)

As the adult form of the Fool, since the Fool is nonbinary, it follows that the Magician is also nonbinary.

Qabalistically, The Magician is the “Malkuth of the Unmanifest,” or, the lowest form of being beyond human comprehension, in some sense so low on the totem pole of Divinity that it becomes possible to imagine it in the context of the Tree of Life itself. The Magician thus represents the process by which the Unknowable becomes Knowable, the unmanifest made manifest. In using his tools of Magick, the Magician thus acts out and retells the story of something being created out of nothing, the Light being created out of the great potential of nothingness (the winged egg of the Magician).

As John 1 says,

  1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it..

Here we have the Logos, the Holy Spirit, represented by the 5th element of Aether, acting as the nonbinary Cosmic Egg that births Chokmah (Father) and Binah (Mother), and from these two is birthed the rest of the Universe (21). 2 + 1 = 3, or, the Supernal Triad. The Holy Spirit, the Mother, and the Father add up to 3 and are thus responsible for creation everything below the Abyss, the Seven Sephiroths that make up 4-7. Seven is a natural spiritual Cycle.

The Principle of Nothingness (Zero) is the potential out of which we have the birth of the rest of the universe. Contained with the concept of Zero is -1 (negative) and +1 (positive) – which combine (“light shining in the darkness”) to make the light of humanity (feminine, masculine, nonbinary).

The negativity of the feminine is not negative in the pejorative space but is positive, just like the negative space inside a vessel is positive for it can be used to store something, like water. And when we pour that energy into the vessel, the vessel takes the formless energy and gives it form and the energy takes the shape of the vessel, not vice versa. In it is this sense that the softness of the ocean can eventually overtake any city of rock.

Thus, feminine, negative energy, the “restriction” of Binah (ruled by Saturn), is like the vessel: it “restricts” the form the energy can take, giving it shape, pooling it together to make it more powerful, and then pouring it out into the world, like the Star, Aquarius, the Water-bearer, who takes her overflowing cup and pours its energies into the reticulated structure of the world.

But the Tree of Life is just a model, a representation, it re-Presents what is beyond the phenomenal in terms of the phenomenal, such that we can never get out what Kant called the noumena, the thing-in-itself, living beyond the minds of human.

In some sense then, perception itself, the way in which our understanding of the world is representational, becomes a metaphor for how we perceive God, or Kether. Because we think in analogies, we must always relate to God is if they are a person, and thus we use familiar figures such as our Father and Mother. It is only through the known that we can know the unknown. This is the central structure of analogic teaching.

The Tree of Life is then an analogy, it takes something known, something we can solidly Imagine in our Mind’s Eye and even draw out on paper, and use it as a conceptual tool to grasp the unknown: the Mind of God.

Furthermore, we take something even more known that the Tree of Life, the archetypes of the Tarot, to understand the Tree of Life, which we use to understand God.

The order of analogic flow thus operates like this:

Human Experience [Known best] → Human Archetypes [Known less] → the Tarot [Known less] → the Tree of Life [Known less] → the Mind of God [The Great Unknown]

 

II – The High Priestess, La Papesse

Represents the Moon

Keywords: initiation, divination, lunar, manifestation, actualization, feminine, divine, witchcraft, mystic,

Associated with: Persephone, Demeter, Isis, Artemis, The Virgin Mary

Rider-Waite-Smith

In the Waite-Smith, the High Priestess sits between the two columns of the Temple of Solomon,  Boaz and Jachin, which stood at the entrance to the temple. They correspond to the two Columns on the side of the Tree of Life, one under feminine Binah on the Left (Boaz, Severity) and the other under the masculine Chokmah on the Right (Jachin, Mercy).

In The Pictorial Key, Waite calls her the “Secret Tradition and the higher sense of the instituted Mysteries.”

In the Tree of Life, the high priestess represents the Path between the Middle column (Mildness) going from Kether in the Supernal Triad to the center, Tiphareth, representing beauty and perfection. Tiphareth is sometimes called the “Christ-center” in Christian Qabalah and we see this represented in the Wait-Smith with the cross in the middle of the High Priestess.

In the Waite-Smith we can also see the structure of the Tree of Life in the fruits behind the High Priestess, with the Supernal Triad behind her head.

For me, I’ve always seen the High Priestess as the embodiment of goddesses of magick such as Isis and Freyje. She is the archetypal witch. She is your own personal spirit guide who will empower your magickal practice if only you call upon her and listen for her wisdom.

In the Wait-Smith Tarot the wrinkles of the High Priestess’ blue robes turn into ripples that become a river, in which we see a reflection of the feminine moon. This Motherly form of manifestation is arguably the rivers and waters we see in the background of many Tarot cards.

Thoth

Key symbol: Bow of artemis, lunar fluctuations

Associated with: Artemis: The Virgin, the Huntress, the Goddess of forest and hills, followed by a deer

Ruled by the Moon.

In the Tree of Life the High Priestess represents the Path along the Middle Pillar from Kether to the center, the Sun, Tiphareth.

“The High Priestess is the first card which connects the Supernal Triad with the Hexad; and her path, as shown in diagram, makes a direct connection between the Father in his highest aspect, and the Son in his most perfect manifestation.” (Book of Thoth, p. 72)

We see this process of manifestation in the geometry of the card as the geometrical lattice pattern radiates from her Crown down into the reticulated structure of the everyday world. In this sense she is the feminine complement to the Magician, making manifest the Will of God with her magickal instrument.

In her lap is a Bow and she is thus the symbol of Artemis the Hunter, who is also Isis, Diana, and the Virgin Mary. The High Priestess is thus the great symbol of the Virgin Mother-Goddess.

As Crowley says, “The card represents the most spiritual form of Isis the Eternal Virgin; the Artemis of the Greeks.” (Book of Thoth, p. 73)

The High Priestess is the purest representation of the Moon.

She is clothed in Pure Light, which shields us from the Divine Brilliance.

This Veil of Light is a Negative Veil of Nothing, the infinite beyond Oneness that contains all potential.

In Crowley’s system, she is Nuith, the infinite lattice out of which emerges points of manifestation. She is the fertile soil for any concrete idea.

In the card, we can literally see concrete objects coming to actualize out of this geometrical potential.

III – The Empress, L’Imperatrice

Venus

Keywords: The Empress represents the great Mother Goddess, the Earth Goddess, Gaia, the Great Feminine Divine who is receptive to the energy of the Sun. She represents fecundity and beauty, Maternal instincts. When you get this card it’s like a hug from Mother Earth herself. But also, irrespective of Motherhood, she is the mother of ideas, creativity, projects, she is the fountain of youth, the well from which we receive the energy of Life itself.

Thoth

For Crowley, the Empress is a complement of the Emperor, the next Trump, but her energy is more “universal.”

In Crowley’s system, the Empress, living in the Path between the Father and Mother in the Supernal Realm, implies that “the fundamental formula of the Universe is Love.”

Although many Tarot readers tend to reduce the Empress to simple stereotypes surrounding womanhood, Crowley says, “ It is impossible to summarize the meanings of the symbol of the Woman, for this very reason, that she continually recurs in infinitely varied form.”

For me as a trans feminine nonbinary person, it is important to recognize that this “infinitely varied form of womanhood” does emphatically include trans women. It reminds me of a verse in the Gnostic Scripture in the Nag Hammadi,  Thunder, Perfect Mind

I am the mother and the daughter.

I am the limbs of my mother.

I am a barren woman

Who has many children.

This idea that a barren woman might be emblematic of the essential qualities of divine femininity is an important point if we are to make a trans liberatory theology. In her infinitely varied form, we do not want to define womanhood just in terms of her reproductive capacities. There is more to womanhood than just biology. This is a central lesson from trans feminism.

Sitting on her throne, the blue flames around her represent her femininity in terms of the fluid dynamics of water.

In her right hand, she holds the lotus of Isis, representing feminine power.

On the dress of the Empress, we see images of bees. In ancient Greece, the priestesses of Artemis and Demeter were called bees. The symbology is clear: bees are a symbol of fecund femininity.

Crowley was raised studying the Bible closely, so I’m sure he was familiar with the metaphor of “the land of milk and honey” to described the Promised Land. The Hebrew phrase for this evokes the idea of flowing or gushing, bringing to mind sexual metaphors, another metaphor of femininity and the life-giving properties of traditional womanhood.

The Empress’s belt, or girdle, is the Zodiac itself.

Beneath the Empress is a tapestry filled with images of fleurs-de-lys and fish. The fish is a symbol of Christ and the fleur-de-lis was used as a symbol for French royalty for centuries. Since France is historically a Catholic nation, the roots of the symbol can be traced back to associations with the Virgin Mary, another potent symbol for the Empress herself.

Revolving around the Empress are two Moons. Crowley says this is a symbol for how opposition creates balance, which is the central lesson of the Tree of Life, just how the Empress and Emperor create a balance of masculinity and femininity in their opposition.

The pelican in the bottom left corner represents “The Great Mother and her offspring, with the Daughter in the formula of Tetragrammaton.” (Book of Thoth, p. 76). The Pelican is feeding its young with the blood from its own heart. On the other side of the pelican is the White Eagle of the Alchemist, which is a lunar symbol counterpoised against the opposite symbology in the Emperor,

Quite curiously, Crowley says of the Pelican that in virtue of the “inheritance of blood” and continuity from Mother to daughter, from light to darkness, when fully understood, it would “become possible to reconcile the Quantum Theory with the Electro-magnetic equations.” (p. 76)

I can only imagine he is imagining that the continuity between mother and daughter represented here, between light and dark, is equivalent to crossing the chasm between the discreteness of quantum theory and the continuous equations of electro-magnetic theory. While there is clearly a continuity between mother and daughter, there is also a discrete jump between the two symbols in their operation.

In the back of the card is an arched doorway, what Crowley calls “the Gate of Heaven.”

Crowley makes a point to emphasize that the Empress is unique in the Tarot because more than any other card she must be considered as a whole and not just a sum of parts.

IV – The Emperor, L’Empereur

Aries, ruled by the planet Mars

Keywords: authority, reason, logic, masculinity, foundation, stability, leadership

The emperor represents the authority of the Father figure, the masculine ruler, the rational principle. Where the Empress is connected to the Earth, the Emperor is connected to the civilized world of humankind. If the Empress is the Great Goddess, the Emperor is the Horned God, the masculine principle of divinity. The Emperor is the archetype of the Older Male, who has a lifetime to experience through which to execute his authority. He is the CEO, the President, that Patriarch. Because of his age, the Emperor wise, like the All-father Odin.

Ruled by the planet mars, he also represents the aggressive principle and can be dictatorial in his style of leadership.

In his right hand he holds the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, which is the Egyptian symbol of life.

Thoth Tarot

Ruled by Aries, which is ruled by Mars, exalted in the Sun.

On the Tree of Life the Emperor lives on the path between Chokmah on the upper-left, the Wisdom of the Father, and the Sun in the middle, Tiphareth, the Sphere of Equilibrium, ruled by the Sun. We see the Light of the Heavenly Father above and to the right of the Emperor, shining upon him, powering his Solar energy.

We see he holds a Cross in his hand and his legs are crossed as well. This represents the Christ symbolism in Tiphareth.

In the shield we see the Solar equivalent of the Lunar shield in the Empress, his complement.

V – The Hierophant, Le Pape

Taurus

Keywords: tradition, organized religion, spirituality

The Hierophant is a great religious teacher. He represents tradition and ancient wisdom. He is the opposite of a rebellious spirit. He wants to preserve the order of society. He is the archetype of orthodoxy. He encourages you to obey the orders of the elders, to listen to the wisdom of tradition.

In the Waite-Smith version he sits on his throne between the pillars of Severity and Mercy just as in the High Priestess. The keys at his feet are the keys to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Thoth

Ruled by Taurus, which is ruled by Venus.

In the Hebrew alphabet the Hierophant refers to the letter Vau, which means a Nail. We thus see 9 nails at the top of the card which form the architectural support of the card.

The Hierophant is seated on a throne of a Bull and is surrounded by Elephants, which serve as symbols of the groundedness and heaviness of Taurus.

For Crowley, this Hierophant is definitely not the traditional Pope figure of other decks.

In each corner are four Cherubs, inhuman beasts of heaven, representing the “principle business…of all magical work,” which is uniting the microcosm (human consciousness) with the macrocosm (Divine consciousness). Accordingly, the Cherubs correspond to the classic four beasts of the Zodiac (seen in the Rider-Waite-Smith World card): Lion, Bull, Eagle, Man/Angel.

Before the Hierophant, who Crowley calls “The Manifestor of the Mystery,” is a diaphonus six-pointed star or hexagram, which represents the macrocosm. Within it, in the center of the card, is a pentagram with a dancing child, representing Crowley’s new Aeon of Horus, the Child of Osiris who has supplanted the Dying Gods of ancient times and who has ushered in a new spiritual epoch.

The woman holding the sword in the front represents the Scarlet Woman, the same woman we see in XI, Lust, who is the feminine complement to the masculine energy of the Sun. As a “Manifestor,” Crowley’s Hierophant functions to Initiate Seekers into mystery traditions like Thelema.

Behind the Heirophant’s head is the symbolism of the snake and the dove, which is the same symbolism we see in Crowley’s Trump XVI, The Tower. It refers to the dualism between the positive and negative dimensions of the Divine (presumably).

The Bull of the Taurus is the strongest form of Earth. The ruler of Taurus, Venus, is represented by the woman in front of the Hierophant.

In Taurus the Moon is exalted and the Moon’s influence is seen in both the woman and the nine nails, which correspond to the Ninth Sphere in the Tree of Life, Yesod, ruled by the Moon.

Strangely, Crowley says that there is something “sinister” to this card, referencing the legend of Pasiphaë, who was cursed to lust after a bull.

The three circles of the Wand represent for Crowley the three Aeons of our history, the Aeons of Isis, Osiris, and now Horus. The color symbolizes Saturn, the Lord of Time. Finally, Crowley points out that the Hierophant’s rhythms operate on a scale of 2,000 years.

VI – The Lovers, La Movrevx

Gemini

Keywords: Primordial choice, relationships, unity, love (including self-love), guidance

Rider-Waite-Smith

The Lovers card represents the Garden of Eden before the fall, with Adam and Eve both naked underneath the watchful eyes of an angel, with wings outstretched. Besides Eve we see the Serpent wrapped around a tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam is looking directly at Eve while Eve looks upwards towards the Angel, suggesting that she is not consciously trying to tempt him. In the background is a singular mountain peak and a radiant sun. Their lack of self-awareness about being naked implies an innocence.

The angel is sending down his influence and thus suggests that the querent should be open to external guidance. It suggests harmony and duality between the two figures of the card. The Lovers doesn’t necessarily have to be about romantic love – it could represent the love between siblings or friends, for example. The clouds in the card suggest change is afoot in a relationship.

Thoth

In the Thoth Lovers, if you hold it upside down, you can see the structure of the Tree of Life.

I don’t read this card in terms of romantic love but rather in terms of the Internal Balance of my Soul in terms of the dualism between yin and yang, feminine and masculine.

In the Tree of Life the Lovers represents the balance between the feminine Brinah and Equilibrium of Tiphareth, the Christ-center, the balance between the feminine and masculine Pillars of the Tree.

The Lovers thus represents a state of consciousness, an idealized mode of the Soul wherein our passivity is balanced with activity, the negative space of a vessel realizing its potential in shaping the material poured into it.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith we see the feminine Pillar of the Tree of Life on the left and the macsuline Pillar on the right, with a mountainous peak in the background pointing upwards up the Divine Realm, with the Crown of Kether, Oneness represented by the Sun, which is also the ruler of Tiphareth, the Supernal balance incarnate in our world.

 

VII – The Chariot, Le Chariot

Cancer

Water

Planet: moon

Keywords: victory, control, willpower, manifestation, mystery, courage, creation, balance, drive, grit, determination

Rider-Waite-Smith

In the chariot we see the charioteer beginning his journey from the city behind him out into the world beyond, starting a journey in his vehicle, the chariot. He is in full control of the two sphinxes who pull him forward on his conquest. Above him is a canopy of stars, indicating he is guided by the heavens, as above, so below. He is holding the wand of the magician, suggesting he is capable of manifesting his destiny through the sheer determination of his willpower.

Plato and the Charioteer

Plato famously modeled the Soul with an analogy of the Charioteer, Logos (Reason), struggling to control two horses of opposite natures, Eros (animalistic desire) and Thumos (spiritedness).

The fourth component of the Soul was the faculty of Nous, that which allows us to participate in the knowledge of the divine, eternal world (the world of, e.g., mathematical Truth).

Could this be the original inspiration for the Chariot in the Tariot. Is the wand the charioteer is holding a symbol of Nous, our connection to divine reality? Like the Magician perhaps he is using it to channel divine inspiration.

It seems unlikely to me that the scholars of the Early Italian Renaissance, the birthplace of the Tarot, would have been unfamiliar with such a famous Platonic allegory.

Thoth

Ruled by Cancer, which is ruled by the Moon. Cancer season starts on the Summer Solstice.

Cancer represents Cardinal Water and is the first movement of the element.

In the Tree of Life, The Chariot is the Path between the Great Mother Binah and Geburah, ruled by Mars. In this sense the Chariot brings down the Water from the Supernal realm in the same way the Hierophant brings down Fire from Chokmah on the other side of the Tree of Life.

The blue canopy of the Chariot represents the watery depths of Binah. The four pillars represent the Tetragrammatron, the pillars of the Universe.

The Wheels of the Chariot represent the energy of Mars in Geburah.

The four cherubs or sphinxes represent the 16 different ways the elements can be combined.

The Charioteer does not control the Chariot but merely sits on its throne, bearing the Holy Grail, presumably the same Holy Grail we see in XI, Lust. Let’s remind ourselves the Holy Grail was said to have been drunk by Christ at the Last Supper and used to catch his blood upon being pierced on the cross by a spear. The Grail is thus the Blood of Christ and the Divine energy of God.

He wears armor like the Crab.

Jupiter is exalted in Cancer and thus the rays in the center disk represent Jupiter’s influence. The center disk suggests in its shape the full Moon and the waters of Binah. In the center we also see the radiant Blood of the Holy Grail.

Representing the Moon the card shares similarities with the High Priestess.

In the canopy we see the words ABRAHADABRA, the word that represents the magickal operation of marriage in the Tarot, which is the creative joining together of masculine and feminine energy.

The Chariot thus represents the magickal operation of transformation from the watery embrace of the Great Mother to the powerful energies of Mars in Geburah.

VIII – Strength, La Force

Leo

Sun

Fire

Keywords: courage, strength, fortitude, compassion, love, spirituality

Rider-Waite-Smith

A woman robed in white and adorned with red roses stands besides a lion, closing his mouth. She tames the lion, the great beast, not through brute force, but through calm resolve, pacifying his brutish tendencies with through the force of her character.. The lemniscate of infinity hovers over her head, symbolizing her connection with the eternal, indicating life ever renewing itself, her power endlessly flowing in balance with itself. She is a powerful figure and like the Magician, her clothing is of red and white.

The card indicates that you must use love to conquer hate, and you must appeal to your higher self to overcome any temptation of the material world.

 

Thoth

Strength is what Crowley calls Lust. Represents Leo. Number 11 in the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot. The reasons for the switch of Strength and Justice are Qabalistic and Zodiaical.

Crowley calls it “Lust” instead of Strength because Strength only means you are strong whereas Lust implies there is a “joy of strength.” Qabalistically, Lust lies in the horizontal path between Chesed and Geburah, or, between the Wise King and the Warrior-King, between mercy and righteous anger, between Jupiter and Mars.

Lust is ruled by Leo and Leo is ruled by the Sun and this is “the most powerful of the twelve Zodiacical cards,” according to Crowley.

This card is the raw, primal form of the magickal operation of the Lovers in card Six, the co-mingling of the feminine and the masculine principles.

The woman in the card is a form of the Moon along the Path starting from the Crown of God, Kether, and down through the Sun and into the Moon. The Lion-Serpant is an incarnation of God in the form of a many-headed Lion.

The energy of the card is “of the primitive, creative order.”

The Woman is holding the Holy Grail, which has absorbed all the Life force of the Saints buried in the background.

Behind the Lion-Serpent and the Woman are ten illuminated spheres, representing the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life.

In her left hand she holds the reins of the Beast.

IX – The Hermit, L’Hermite

Represents Virgo

Mercury rules and is exhalted

Earth

Keywords: wisdom, scholarship, teaching, solitude, enlightenment, spirituality, introspection

Rider-Waite-Smith

An old man in grey robes stands on a snowy mountain top, holding a staff in one hand, and a lantern in his other hand. The lantern is lit by a shining six-pointed star inside of it. The man looks like he is deep in contemplation, or weary from a long, spiritual journey. He is like Gandalf the Grey or Merlin, the old wizard, a man who knows many deep secrets and is a man of power and magick. He is a prophet. Waite calls him a Sage.

Although the Hermit has spent many years in solitude learning deep truths, he is willing to teach and guide those eager to learn. He also represents those of an introspective disposition, turning inwards to reflect on the self and higher truths. The lantern is both a light to illuminate his path and also a beacon for others to follow. However, the lantern is lighting his own path – he is not following the tradition of others, but using his long-studied knowledge to navigate through the snowy mountains.

If the querent sees the Hermit, they should look to accept the advice of a wiser person. Or they should know they need to begin a path of introspection and contemplation to find Divine Wisdom.

As Mercury in Virgo it represents the Mind pouring itself into the Earth and being exalted in the process of individuation.

 

X – The Wheel of Fortune, L’a Rove De Fortvne

Jupiter

Element: Fire

Keywords: fate, destiny, change, cycles of life & death, turning point, serendipity, possibility

Symbolism: Dharmic Wheel of Buddhism

Rider-Waite-Smith

In the Waite-Smith Wheel of Fortune we see a karmic wheel rotating, upon which we see the creatures of the sphinx, Typhon (as a snake), and Hermanubis (the combination of Hermes and Anubis). The Wheel is taken from the Biblical vision of Ezekial. Inscribed upon the wheel are the letters TARO and the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton aka the name of the Israel God YHWH.

In the corners we see four creatures: an Angel holding a book (representing Matthew the Apostle), an Eagle holding a book (John the Evangelist), a Winged Lion (Mark the Evangelist), and a Winged Bull (Luke the Evangelist).

The Wheel of Fortune represents change based on what has happened in the past (karma). Built into the card is the idea of a divine plan, of providence. It is important to read this card through the lens of past, present, and future.

Thoth

The Wheel of Fortune is associated with Jupiter, “the Greater Fortune.” It is important to realize that Fortune is not always positive. The Wheel itself is represented by ten spokes, corresponding to the ten Sephiroths of the Tree of LIfe. The turning of the Wheel therefore represents the metaphysical flow of energy from the firmament of heavens down into the material realm.

This flow of energy is represented as lightning, corresponding to the Lightning Path of the Sephiroths.

Upon the wheel, situated at the top, is the Sworded Sphinx, representing the element sulpher. The Sphinx is exalted at the top of the wheel’s turn but as we know, like a water wheel, it gives spinning due to the inevitable forces of the Universe. On the left side of the wheel is Hermanubus, who represents the element of Mercury and is a composite of the Greek God Hermes and the Egyptian God Anubis, Hermes being the messenger of the Gods, traveling between the divine and mortal worlds, and Anubis being the God of Death and the underworld. On the right hand side, moving downwards as the wheel spins, is Typhon, representing salt, the monstrous figure from Greek mythology, who represents the destructive power of typhoons, volcanos, and other energetic natural forces.

Taken together, the continuous turn of the Wheel of Fortune represents the natural Life Cycle of creatures, lives, Ideas, worlds, beings, and entities in general.

Furthermore, Crowley sees the Wheel as being like the Eye of Shiva, which represents the Third Eye capable of perceiving into the spiritual plane of existence, whose opening burnt up the passions of physical desire from within Shiva’s own mind.

XI – Justice, La Justice – Adjustment

Libra, exalted in Saturn

Ruled by Venus

Cardinal Air

Keywords: fairness, balance, justice, righteousness, equity, legality, equilibrium, karma, grace, seeing both sides, harmony

The Justice card is about balance. Justice is one of the four virtues (Justice, Temperance, Fortitude (Strength/lust[for life]), and Prudence (Hermit).

Thoth – Adjustment

In the Thoth tarot, Justice is known as “Adjustment” and is switched place with VIII (Strength/Lust). The significance and justification of this switch is explained here.

In regard to the name change from the Rider-Waite-Smith, Crowley says,

“This card in the old pack was called Justice. This word has none but a purely human and therefore relative sense; so it is not to be considered as one of the facts of Nature. Nature is not just, according to any theological or ethical idea; the Nature is exact.”

However, although Nature is exact, “Nature is not the grocer weighing out a pound of sugar; it is the compensation of complicated rhythms.” (Crowley to Harris, December 19, 1939, quoted in Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, p. 118).

The Figure of Balance, adorned with the ostrich plumes of Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of Justice,  stands between a scale with Alpha on the left and Omega on the right. In the Egyptian story, Ma’at guardes the gates into the Afterlife and requires you to place your heart on a scale balanced against a feather, ensuring the purity of your soul and guaranteeing cosmic Justice. As a Name of the Christian God, Alpha and Omega represents the idea of balance between the beginning and end of the Fool’s Journey, starting from 0 (The Fool) and ending at 21 (The Omega).

The woman in Adjustment is holding a Magic Sword, which she uses as an “operation of manifestation.”

As the representation of Libra, Cardinal Air, exalted in Saltan, ruled by Venus, Libra represent a process between the loving, beautiful, and harmonious qualities of Venus and the restrictive properties of Saturn. The emotional energy of Venus is balanced perfectly against the intellectual energy of Cardinal Air.

Crowley calls her “The Woman Satisfied” i.e. the female complement of active male energy finds its completion. In this sense, Crowley is keeping step with the traditional heteronormativity of the Tarot.

Adjustment represents the process of equilibrium. Like a thermometer set to 75 degrees, if it gets too cold, it kicks on the heat and vice versa if it gets too hot. In a physical sense, this card represents the Newtonian principle of “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Crowley says, “It is impossible to drop a pin without exciting a corresponding reaction in every Star.”

In this balance of actions and reactions, Crowley says, “All things are harmony and beauty; all things are Truth: because they cancel out.”

In The Book of Thoth, Crowley claims Adjustment is the feminine component of the Fool, since the corresponding Hebrew letter of the Fool and Adjustment (ʼAlef and Lamed) constitute the “secret key of the Book of the Law” (Crowley’s Inspired text). Unfortunately, Crowley states “The details of this system have not yet been revealed” (Book of Thoth, p. 86).

Lon Milo DuQuette attempts to give a formulation:

“The combined Hebrew letters these cards represent, Aleph and Lamed, spell AL and enumerate to 31. AL is the root of the Hebrew word for “God”; LA is the Hebrew word for “not.” In the Western Zen of Thelema, “God-Not-God” is a very important concept.

 

XII – The Hanged Man, Le Pendu

Neptune

Water

Keywords: tranquility, transcendence, divinity, waiting, patience, self-sacrifice, suspension

The Hanged Man represents a shift in consciousness, a turning point. It is brought about by sacrifice. Surrender yourself and your life will change just as Odin hung from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nights, so that he could receive his gift of prophecy and wisdom. It is about flexibility and letting go while seeing things from a new light.

The man is at peace with hanging upside down.

Jesus

I also see this card in divine terms, in terms of a transcendental consciousness, like Jesus hanging from the cross. In the Hanged Man, you can see his right leg is bent behind his knee, a configuration that looks suspiciously like a cross. He sacrificed everything for what he believed in. It’s about achieving enlightenment.

Christians believe St Peter was crucified upside down, apparently, upon his request, as to not copy Jesus Christ.

If you see the Hanged Man, you might be stuck in your current situation. But the card indicates that if you can let go of your current perceptions, you can make progress in your life. But you have to trust yourself and be willing to take the unconventional approach.

There is also an element of suspension, of hanging in the balance, waiting things out before difficult decisions have to be made.

XIII – Death

Scorpio

Keywords: ending, transformation, change, rebirth, starting over, cycles of life

Rider-Waite-Smith

In the Wait-Smith version, we see death, in black, riding a horse, carrying a flag embroidered with a harvest crown. The Reaper has come to harvest.

The basic meaning is that of rebirth. Just because you die, doesn’t mean you’re dead. For behind the Reaper lies the gates of heaven, and the shining sun. After death, there is a rise of consciousness.

Thoth

Ruled by Scorpio, which is ruled by Mars, a planet of material impulses.

According to Crowley, this card is associated with the Alchemical concept of “putrefication,” which he describes as the process whereby the Cosmic Egg, which is nonbinary or intersex, gives birth to all the gendered gods who then give birth to the Universe.

Crowley says Scorpio is in line with Leo in terms of being one of the most powerful Zodiac signs in the Tarot.

The figure of the Scorpion represents the myth of a creature sacrificing its life when in a desperate situation.

We also see in the card the sign for the Serpent, who is the sacred Lord of Life and Death. The Serpent’s undulations represent the rhythmic balance of Life and Death, creation and dissolution, beginning and end, and ultimately, the process of transformation itself.

In the top of the card we see an Eagle, who represents “exaltation above solid matter.” The Eagle is thus similar to the Phoenix, rising from the dead, echoing the theme of Death in the Scorpion and the Serpent.

The Eagle, Serpent, and Scorpion represent three different levels of involution from the Highest State of the Cosmic Egg down into the Universe.

The card represents the “dance of death,” and with each swipe Death creates bubbles which turn into new forms of Life, another insulation of the dance between Life and Death.

One might see the fish of this card as similar to the Christian Jesus fish, for it represents the doctrines of sacrificial resurrection, the Scorpion killing itself and coming back to Life. Similarly, the Disciples were fishers of men and Jesus performed miracles regarding fish. The Hebrew letter associated with 13 and Death is Nun, meaning “fish.”

The stink of the fish, or the smell of the unfolding Cosmic Egg, is really the smell of Life being created.

For Crowley Death represents the masculine energy of Saturn and his scythe sweeping through the gaseous field of spiritual potential to create the reticular structure of organized matter.

XIV – Temperance

Sagittarius

Keywords: Balance, emotion vs rationality, moderation, virtue, liminality, transition from material to spiritual and vice versa, journeying, intentionality, alchemy

Tree of Life – Path of the Arrow – in the Middle Pillar

Thoth – Art

Crowley calls the Rider-Waite-Smith’s Temperance card “Art.”

Sagittarius is often associated with the Greek Goddess Diana (Artemis) the Huntress. In ancient statues of Artemis she is depicted with many breasts, and in the center of Crowley’s Thoth card we see six breasts (perhaps representing 6, Tiphareth, who is the balance of all?). Diana is a lunar goddess and we see on her heads the crescent moon, also a symbol of her bow.

Crowley says this card is the logical fulfillment of The Lovers (gemini) and the bride and the groom becoming unified.. Whereas in the Lovers there are Two, masculine and feminine, in Art we see the Two becoming joined via magickal operations in the cauldron into One androgyne being. It is the process the reticular nature of ourselves reaches the state of gnosis and experiences some kind of cosmic or divine union.

In the center of Artememis we see an arrow.

The Arrow of Artemis represents an attempt to cross from the material world to the divine world, that is, from 10, Malkuth, to 1, Kether. The bottom triangle of the tree of life corresponds to a rainbow and Artemis’ arrow is what pierces it, forming the pathway between Yesod (the Moon) to Tiphareth, the highest state of illumination.

The Arrow is a shot in the dark, for Kether is the Unknowable. Yet the Kether is still visualized as 1, at the top of the Tree of Life, and thus can come under the logic of the analogy where we we come to know the unknown through the known.

In this sense, Kether is the lowest form of Unknowability, for it represents the Arrow of Artemis guiding our Minds as we ascend up the Tree, striving to understand the Mind of God by using the Tree of Life, using the Tarot, both of which are maps of human consciousness. We then use what we know best (Our Own Minds) in order to know the mind of God (the Mind of God).

The Arc of the Arrow shooting from Malkuth to Kether leaves behind it the multi-colored rainbow, God’s Promise. Path up the Middle of the Tree of Life, which is the way of the mystic as opposed to the way of the student of occult science.

 

XV – The Devil, Le Diable

Capricorn

Keywords: addiction, vice, self-destructive, temptation, human will, self-imposed limitations

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn. Saturn is limiting, like an anchor around your feet, holding you down as you strive to swim to the surface where you can breathe.

Capricorn is Earth. So the Devil is Earth held back, representing our material life as held back. Despite out material efforts and hardwork, we are getting nowhere. The Devil is thus similar to the Seven of Pentacles, which is Taurus (also Earth) held back by Saturn.

This explains why in the Waite-Smith Tarot the Devil is seen as holding the chains weighted around the neck of two human beings. But careful attention attests these chains are easy to slip, so the restriction of Saturn is merely self-improsed. If Material Forms can escape from temptation and vice, they can be self-actualized, that is to say, fully realized as human individuals.

In the tradition of Romantic Satanism, The Devil represents the Eternal Rebel, the Fierce Advocate for individuality, freethinking, and fearless pursuit of Truth. Satan represents rebellion against authority, especially corrupt authority. Satan represents individuality, subversiveness, and anti-normativity.

Thoth

This card represents Baphomet, or, Pan, “creative energy in its most material form,” as Crowley says (Book of Thoth). The goat of Capricorn ascends to the tops of the barren mountains, where the cults and worship of the Witches too place. Ruled by Saturn, it refers to the Witches’ Sabbath, “Saturn’s day.”

 

XVI – The Tower, La Maison Diev

Ruled by Mars

Keywords: change, disruption, failure, something new in your life, suddenly seeing the truth, radical transformation

Key symbolism: Tower of Babel

Refers to the planet Mars.

Thoth

For Crowley, The Tower “refers to the manifestation of cosmic energy in its grossest form.”

Showing the destruction of material by Fire, the card represents the coming of the new Aeon, where Fire burns up the old and ushers in a new spiritual epoch, in this case, representing Horus, the new Lord of the Aeon.

In the card, we see the destruction of the previous Aeon by flames and lightning and war.

In the bottom right we see the Roman Lord of the Underworld, Dis, spitting the flames of hell from his mouth. The Hebrew letter for this card means “Mouth.” Falling from the Tower are humans who have lost their form and devolved into geometric expression, which represents the Divine Will transforming organized matter back into the Pure Perfection of Nothingness.

As Crowley says, “To obtain perfection, all existing things must be annihilated.”

This interpretation speaks to a double meaning shown in the card with the symbol of the Dove and the Snake. The Lord of the New Aeon brings both illumination and destruction. The flames burn away the old, making room for new spiritual growth but at the same time, the destruction itself serves a spiritual purpose.

The Dove and the Serpent refer to the dualism of feminine and masculine impulses, the Will to Live and the Will to Die, which to my ears sounds like Freud’s concept of the Death Drive. However, these are not competing impulses but rather complementary and necessary for the manifestation of energy, as seen in the Death Card.

The central symbol of the card is the Eye of Horus or the Eye of Shiva. According to legend, the opening of this eye destroys the whole Universe.

In the Tree of Life, the Tower represents a horizontal Path between the masculine node Netzach and the feminine node Hod. It is thus a transmutation of energy – before the construction of the final Aeon in 20 it is necessary for there to be purifying flames.

XVII – The Star, Le Toille

Aquarius

The Star of the Magi

Keywords: hope, love, spirituality, health, insight, transcending thought, spiritual reflection, articulation,

Rider-Waite-Smith

In the Waite-Smith version, we see a woman pouring urns of water out onto the ground and into a body of water. This is fitting since The Star is associated with Aquarius, the water-bearer.

The Water-bearer

In both the Thoth and the RWS we see a naked woman pouring out two jugs of water. Both cards depict the woman pouring out onto both water and land, which represents the dichotomy between form and force. She is the Water-bearer of Aquarius.

Symbolically, the Star is supposed to be a representation of feminine Binah in the Tree of Life. The Great Mother and Antecedent to her feminine manifestation on Earth, the Empress.

In the background of the Thoth-based deck we see pyramids which evokes the same mythology as the Ibis, Thoth’s bird, who is the Scribe and Messenger of the Gods. We see this Ibis sitting in the background of the RWS as well.

In both cards we see an image of the magickal principle: as above, so below. In the Thoth we see the spirals of the Star reflect the spirals of the water and the land.

The key point is reticulation. Which is about patterns and whorls being embedded in structure, isomorphic to the structure of the heavens. This is the interplay between force and form, masculine and feminine.

In both cards, we see flowery growth from the life-giving energy of water. This represents the essential hope of the Star and the promise of the feminine.

XVIII – The Moon, La Lune

Pisces

Keywords: insight, intuition, femininity, spirituality, power, womanhood, psychic powers, creativity, occult

Pisces represents the “last stage of winter.” Crowley calls it the “Gateway of Resurrection.”

Crowley calls it the “Poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light.”

“This is the threshold of life; this is the threshold of death. All is doubtful, all is mysterious, all is intoxicating.”

On the card we see Khepri, the Egyptian scarab-faced God, the sacred Beetle that represents the rising Sun, rising in both the morning and at the end of Winter. It is he who carries the Sun through the darkness of night and winter.

Crowley suggests the path is guarded by Tabu, which could be taken to represent the Forbidden or taboo.

Thoth

Crowley called the Moon the “Gateway of Resurrection.”

The sacred Beetle holds the Sun in his mandible during the dark silence of the night and winter.

In this card, Pisces represents the end of Winter and in its association with the Moon the end of the Night. The resurrection of the Sun is on the other side of the mysterious gates, beyond the blood-soaked pathway under the nine bloody drops of Yesod.

But as we go into a Full Moon, we can remember why, under its reflective light, “All is doubtful, all is mysterious, all is intoxicating.”

This is because the Moon serves a dual function. In the High Priestess, it connects us to the highest levels of the Divine. But it is also the closest planet to Earth and is thus connected to Malkuth, the lowest form of matter. This duality leads to the possibility of magick.

This is the Moon of Witchcraft. Here, “The fiery sense is balked.” Our mind must rely on the lower senses.

To pass back into the light of Day we must appeal to the God Anubis, the “watcher in the twilight,” guarding the Gates of Resurrection with the jackals of the night.

However, Crowley says that whatever terrors afflict the Soul in the dark of the night under the influence of the Moon, the answer is always the same: “How splendid is the Adventure!”

The Moon represents astral consciousness, our psychic connection with the Moon, infused with Solar energy that is reflected in the soft, silver flow of moonlight.

If you see this card in a reading, reflect on what you can do to tap into this Lunar energy.

And remember, the goal is not to be intuitive for its own sake. Rather, the goal is to use the power of the Moon to get back to the daylight of inner illumination and equilibrium, divine Beauty, the highest state of consciousness we can achieve while in our Early bodies (Tiphareth, the state of enlightenment, the mind of Christ, redemption, heaven on Earth).

 

XIX – The Sun, Le Soleil

Sun

Keywords: achievement, success, positive energy, happiness, innocence, childlike wonder

Rider-Waite-Smith

A.E. Waite’s version shows a single child riding on a white horse out of the garden but apparently the original version was two children playing in a garden (Rachel Pollack, 78 degrees of Wisdom, p. 7). Why did he make these changes? It’s unclear.

The symbolism of the white Horse is possibly related to Revelations chapter 6.

Thoth

For Crowley, the image of this Card is “the complete emancipation of the human race.”

This is fitting because the Sun is a symbol of Tiphareth, the Christ-center, the Redeemer, the Equilibrium between all opposing dualities.

The rose petals in the middle of the card represent the fertility of Life given by the Sun. Similarly, the green mound represents the fertility of the Earth receiving the energy of the Sun. It thrusts upwards towards the heavens.

Around the card is a symbol of the Zodiac, a representation of the infinite space of Divinity manifested into difference and repetition.

The Twin children are from the Lovers, representing the feminine and masculine aspects of the Self. For Crowley their Eternal dance represents freedom.

The 12 rays of the Sun are the twelve Zodiac signs.

The Sun represents the idea of the Rose and the Cross, where the cross is the human body and the rose the unfolding and evolving layers of the human consciousness.

The wall around the green mound represents the idea of the Rosy Cross still being in effect in the terrestrial realm, albeit transformed into something “rich and strange.”

On the whole, the card represents the omnipresent quest of the human soul to evolve into higher dimensions of spirituality.

 

XX – Judgment, Le Jugement, Aeon

Spirit of Fire

Elemental Trump of Fire and Spirit

Keywords: judgment, rebirth, transformation, waking up, new epochs in both history and our own lives

Rider-Waite-Smith

The traditional name is Judgment, referring to the Last Judgement of the Bible, Revelation, the end of the world. The card shows the Archangel Israfel blowing a trump proclaiming the Last Days, the end of the World, which comes in the next Trump.

Thoth – The Aeon

The Thoth tarot is unique because it is based on Crowley’s personal religious experiences, with the seminal, sacred text of his philosophy/religion Thelema being The Book of the Law.

In The Book of the Law, he is made aware of three gods: Nuit, the Goddess of infinite space, which is Nothingness; Hadit, the God of the singularity, the point; and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (Horus), their child.

In Egyptian mythology, Horus is usually said to be the child of Isis and Osiris. On its face, Crowley’s religious experiences are just a different framework for thinking about the ancient archetypes of Isis and Osiris, the Mother and the Father, the Goddess and the God, corresponding to the principle of femininity and masculinity, respectively.

Crowley’s version of the classic alchemical duality between masculine and feminine is framed in obvious Qabalistic language.

Nuit, Goddess of infinite space, which is a vacuum, which is nothingness, stands in for the principle that when it comes to 1, Kether, the Aces, there is always an implicit reference to that which is beyond the 1 but is incomprehensible to the human mind.

We call it Nothing, but it is really the aspects of God that are so beyond us that we have no positive idea of those aspects and have to rely on emptying our minds of ideas of what they are not.

This is what philosophers call knowing God via negativa, that is, knowing God via what God is not.

Hadit, on the other hand, the contracted point, is the point of contact between the Nothing and the Something. It is the starting point of the process of emanation, from which emerge all aspects of the universe, both mental and physical.

Why did Crowley change the name of the Trump from “Judgement”?

Crowley thought it was necessary to change the name of the Judgement Trump because he believed this event had already happened. The Aeon represents the event when the Era of the Last Judgement ended and the New Era begins. Crowley calls this new Era The Aeon of Horus.

Crowley says this Aeon started on March 20, 1904, in an apartment in Cairo, where he and his then “Scarlett Woman” had a religious experience that became the Book of the Law. The event signals the death of the Osiris, an Old God, and the Rule of Horus, the Younger.

Where I differ

I find Crowley’s system of Thelema inspiring but I do not share its belief system in totality. Unlike Crowley, I do not think the Old Gods like Osiris or Jesus, truly died. I think they are still very much a part of our current era. This is evidenced by the undeniable fact that millions of people tell us sincerely they have a spiritual relationship with Jesus.

If we are to trust Crowley’s account of his own religious experiences, we must thereby also accept the accounts of other people’s sincerely held religious beliefs. From the perspective of religious epistemology, there is no discernible difference in evidential weight for Crowley’s Thelema than the testimony from any other sincere person who has had religious visions.

Moreover, I am very skeptical of anyone who claims the whole world’s spiritual structure changes due to their own religious experience. It is nothing but sheer hubris. The spiritual world does not revolve around the spiritual experiences of just one person no matter how big their ego is.

Thus, I understand the Thoth Tarot system to be inevitably tied up with Crowley’s own unique religious beliefs as expressed through Lady Frieda Harris’ artistic interpretation.

However, if you squint at the Thoth Tarot just right you can see Crowley’s Aeon of Horus, the New Spiritual Era, as simply a metaphor for how you prefer to carve up the epochs of the world. One might argue that the new Age of Information we live in is substantially different enough from the Industrial Age to constitute a new human-spiritual epoch. The existential questions that confront us are archetypically similar to our primordial past but are also at the same time evolving and changing as we adapt to new environments. Right now we are adapting to the age of computation and it has revolutionized our entire lives. What does spirituality look like in the age of social media?

 

XXI – The World, Le Monde, The Universe

Elemental Trump of Saturn

Elemental Trump of Earth

Keywords: completion, attainment, success, enlightenment, spiritual journey at its end, infinity, wholeness, oneness, divinity,

Complement of The Fool (0)

Thoth Tarot – The Universe

Celebration of the Great Work accomplished

For Crowley, the “first and most obvious characteristic of this card is that it comes at the end of all, and is therefore the complement of the Fool.”

Coming in between the Fool and The Universe, “The twenty cards that tie between these two exhibit the Great Work and its agents in various stages. The image of the Universe in this sense is accordingly that of a maiden, the final letter of Tetragrammaton.” (Book of Thoth, p. 118)

In this sense then, the Universe represents the Great Work completely. As a reminder, the Great Work is the process of the microcosm (human consciousness) coming to Know the macrocosm (the Supernal Realm of God).

For Crowley, “The Fool is the negative issuing into manifestation; The Universe is that manifestation, its purpose accomplished, ready to return.” (Book of Thoth, p. 118)

Once the Great Work has been accomplished, the Fool can then reenter his portal to the otherworldly realm of Nothing.

“This beginning [the Fool] was Nothing; the end [The Universe] must therefore be also Nothing, but Nothing in its complete expansion.”

In the center background of the Universe is an image of green “loops and whorls.” This represents the dynamic dance of all the symbols of the Tree of Life hidden within the Card, “not visible except to those of wholly pure heart.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

The Minor Arcana

“Insofar as the numbered and Court Cards of the Sephiroth are called the Minor Arcana (Arcana means secret), they may appear to be of less importance than the Major Arcana or Trump cards. They are, however, of the greatest significance in that they symbolize the real potencies in ourselves and in the universe, with which we strive to come into conscious contact.” (Qabalistic Tarot, p. 46)

The Minor Arcana (Lesser Secrets) are broken down into:

16 court cards, 4 of each suit

40 pips, Ace through 10, 4 different suits

The Court Cards

The four suits of the minor arcana are wands, cups, swords, and pentacles, corresponding to a deck of playing cards as clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds, respectively.

Rider-Waite-Smith

When you arrange the Knights of the RWS deck in their proper order (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles) you can see some of the brilliance of Pamela Coleman Smith:

Wands: leaping outwards, in motion

Cups: looking inwards, away from Wands, guided by emotion

Swords: facing away from Pentacles, attacking Cups with the sword

Pentacles: looking outward, opposite of Wands, planted firm. Grounded

Court Cards in the Thoth Tarot

Thoth Name Element Court Relation
Princess Earth Daughter of Knight and Queen
Knight Fire Father of Princess and Prince, bride of Queen
Queen Water Mother of Princess and Prince
Prince Air Son of Queen and Knight

 

Tarot Court Card Naming Conventions

 

Book T RWS Tarot Thoth Tarot Hermetic Tarot Element Suit Family Qabalah
Knight/Lord Knight Knight Knight Fire Wands Father Chokmah
Queen Queen Queen Queen Water Cups Mother Binah
King/Prince King Prince King Air Swords Son Tiphareth
Knave/Princess Page Princess Princess Earth Coins Daughter Malkuth

 

Astrology and Minor Arcana

From this we can deduce a general pattern in the Minor Arcana:

 

2,3,4 Cardinal
5,6,7 Fixed
8,9,10 Mutable

 

Which therefore leads to the following pattern:

 

2,3,4 Wands Cardinal Fire Aries
5,6,7 Wands Fixed Fire Leo
8,9,10 Wands Mutable Fire Sagitarius
2,3,4 Cups Cardinal Water Cancer
5,6,7 Cups Fixed Water Scorpio
8,9,10 Cups Mutable Water Pisces
2,3,4 Swords Cardinal Air Libra
5,6,7 Swords Fixed Air Aquarius
8,9,10 Swords Mutable Air Gemini
2,3,4 Discs Cardinal Earth Capricorn
5,6,7 Discs Fixed Earth Taurus
8,9,10 Discs Mutable Earth Virgo

 

Wands

Ace of Wands

Fire

Keywords: passion, good tidings, energy from God, creation, beginnings, career, projects,

 

Two of Wands – Dominion

Cardinal Fire

Mars in Aries

Decan: 0° to 10° of Aries

Dates: March 21 – March 30

Keywords: preparing for a new journey, desire, hopes, dreams, aspiration, ambition,

Three of Wands – Virtue

Cardinal Fire

Sun in Aries – Sun is exalted in Aries

Decan: 10° to 20° of Aries

Date: March 31 – April 10

Keywords: strategy, business, discovery, planning, commerce, working, career, project planning

Four of Wands – Completion

Cardinal Fire

Venus in Aries

Decan: 20° to 30° of Aries

Date: April 11 – April 20

Keywords: celebration, foundation, home, new relationship, strong ground, haven, marriage, domestic life, harmony,

Five of Wands – Strife

Fixed Fire

Saturn in Leo

Decan: 0° to 10° of Leo

Date: July 22 – August 1

Keywords: competition, struggling, practice, fighting, obstacles, social battles

Six of Wands – Victory

Fixed Fire

Jupiter in Leo

Decan: 10° to 20° of Leo

Date: August 2 – August 11

Keywords: success, victory, rewards, resting on your laurels, accomplishment, puffed up, public praise, expansion

Seven of Wands – Valour

Fixed Fire

Mars in Leo

Decan: 20° to 30° of Leo

Date: August 12 – August 22

Keywords: defensiveness, brave, protective, combative, competitive, strong, fighter, disadvantage

Eight of Wands – Swiftness

Mutable fire

Mercury in Sagittarius

Decan: 0° to 10° of Sagittarius

Date: Nov 23 to Dec 2

Keywords: change, swiftness, action, velocity, passion,

Nine of Wands – Strength

Mutable fire

Moon in Sagittarius

Decan: 10° to 20° of Sagittarius

Date: Dec 3 to Dec 12

Keywords: courage, health, survival, defenses up, ready, determinated, strong, standing your ground

Ten of Wands – Oppression

Mutable fire

Saturn in Sagittarius

Decan: 20° to 30° of Sagittarius

Date: Dec 13 to Dec 21

Keywords: oppressed, overburdened, needing supporting, struggling

Page (Princess) of Wands

Fire

Keywords: New ideas, creativity, new passions, but lacking maturity, following whims, no follow-through

Knight of Wands

Fire

Keywords: Boldness, all-consuming passion and action, reckless focus, narrow-mindedness, risk, but with the possibility of great reward, pursue your dreams, burning fire, being “on fire”

Queen of Wands

Fire

Keywords: Powerful, confidence, has achieved her dreams and goals, her passions have been realize, she is filled with fire energy, good luck, good vibes,

 

King of Wands

Fire

Keywords: Authoritarian, demanding, master of passions, career success, honor, nobility,Leader, confident, someone who commands respect

 

Cups

Ace of Cups

Water

Keywords: joy, abundance, overflowing, love, positivity, emotion, beauty, pleasure, fertility

 

Two of Cups – Love

Cardinal Water

Venus in Cancer

Decan: 0° to 10°  of Cancer

Date: June 21 to July 1

Keywords: love, relationship, bond, happiness, sociality, joy, balance,

Three of Cups – Abundance

Cardinal water

Mercury in Cancer

Decan: 10° to 20° of Cancer

Date: July 2 to July 11

Keywords: friendship, celebration, joy, happiness, good social life, uplifting, party

Four of Cups – Luxury

Cardinal water

Moon in Cancer

Decan: 20° to 30° of Cancer

Date: July 12 to July 21

Keywords: apathy, contemplation, ingratitude, introspection, boredom, restlessness, discontent

 

Five of Cups – Disappointment

Fixed Water

Mars in Scorpio

Decan: 0° to 10° of Scorpio

Date: October 23 to Nov 1

Keywords: despair, longing, sadness, grief, desolation,

 

Six of Cups – Pleasure

Fixed Water

Sun in Scorpio

Decan: 10° to 20° of Scorpio

Date: Nov 2 to Nov 12

Keywords: nostalgia, childhood, happy memories, the past, newness, child’s mind

Seven of Cups – Debauch

Fixed Water

Venus in Scorpio

Decan: 20° to 30° of Scorpio

Date: Nov 13 to Nov 22

Keywords: imagination, fantasy, possibility, creativity, dreams, illusions

Eight of Cups – Indolence

Mutable Water

Saturn in Pisces

Decan: 0° to 10° of Pisces

Date: February 19 to February 28

Keywords: Spiritual journey, abandoning material main

Nine of Cups – Happiness

Mutable Water

Jupiter in Pisces

Decan: 10° to 20° of Pisces

Date: March 1 to March 10

Keywords: material success, well being, achievement, contentedness, fulfillment

Ten of Cups – Satiety

Mutable Water

Mars in Pisces

Decan: 20° to 30° of Pisces

Date: March 11 to March 20

Keywords: happiness, family, joy, beauty, love, peace, achievement

Page (Princess) of Cups

Water

Keywords: artististic, creative, youthful, new ideas, inspiration, passion, immaturity, idealistic

 

Knight of Cups

Water

Keywords: Adolescence, youth, journey, action, charming, affable, romantic, dreamer, people skills,

 

Queen of Cups

Water

Keywords: intuitive, psychic, in tune with emotional, willing to help, giver of good advice, confident in herself, in tune with unconscious, introspective, comforting

King of Cups

Water

Keywords: kind, artistic, calm, loving, in tune with emotions, responsible

Swords

Ace of Swords

Air

Keywords: triumph, good tiding, good beginnings, divine blessing,

Two of Swords – Peace

Cardinal Air

Moon in Libra

Decan: 0° to 10° of Libra

Date: Sep 23 to Oct 2

Keywords: tension, balance, on the verge of change, needing to make a decision, dilemma, stalemate, difficulty

Three of Swords – Sorrow

Cardinal Air

Saturn in Libra

Decan: 10° to 20° of Libra

Date: Oct 3 to Oct 12

Keywords: grief, division, strife, heartbreak, betrayal

Four of Swords – Truce

Cardinal Air

Jupiter in Libra

Decan: 20° to 30° of Libra

Date: Oct 13 to Oct 22

Keywords: rest, meditation, relaxation, introspection, recharging

 

Five of Swords – Defeat

Fixed Air

Venus in Aquarius

Decan: 0° to 10° Aquarius

Date: Jan 20 to Jan 29

Keywords: defeat, victory, conquest, winning, unforeseen consequences, unfairness, preparedness, power tripping, cowardliness

 

Six of Swords – Science

Fixed Air

Mercury in Aquarius

Decan: 10° to 20° Aquarius

Date: Jan 30 to Feb 8

Keywords: journey, pilgrimage, refugee, immigration, border crossing, inner journey, moving towards calmness

 

Seven of Swords – Futility

Fixed Air

Moon in Aquarius

Decan: 20° to 30° of Aquarius

Date: Feb 9 to Feb 18

Keywords: deceit, deception, stealing, lying, spying, sneaky

Alternative reading: stealing for just cause, revolutionary, quick and fox-like,

Eight of Swords – Interference

Mutable Air

Jupiter in Gemini

Decan: 0° to 10° of Gemini

Date: May 21 to May 31

Keywords: restriction, bondage, trapped, blind, self-imposed limitations, getting yourself out of a situation

Nine of Swords – Cruelty

Mutable Air

Mars in Gemini

Decan: 10° to 20° of Gemini

Date: June 1 to June 10

Keywords: Bad dreams, negativity, overthinking, haunted, troubled

Ten of Swords – Ruin

Mutable Air

Sun in Gemini

Decan: 20° to 30° of Gemini

Date: June 11 to June 20

Keywords: ending, death, despair, desolation

Page (Princess) of Swords

Element: Earth suit of Air

Keywords: ambitious, young, intellectual, articulate, rational, bright, secretive,

 

Knight of Swords

Air

The airy part of air

Keywords: intellect, confidence, courage, fervour, passion, movement,

Queen of Swords

Water of Air

Keywords: intelligent, possibly a widow, sharp perception, quick qit, blunt, cutting through bullshit, clarity, honesty

 

King of Swords

Air

Keywords: authority, wisdom, power, law, ethics, intelligence, role-model, righteous, leadership

Pentacles

Keywords: Earthiness, grounded, growing, material well being, family, relationships, career, domestic life, planting seeds

Ace of Pentacles

Earth

Keywords: positive news, home, family, career, physical beauty, financial gain

Two of Pentacles – Change

Cardinal Earth

Jupiter in Capricorn

Associated with New Year’s

Decan: 0° to 10° of Capricorn

Date: Dec 22 to Dec 30

Keywords: juggling multiple things, balance, harmony, mood swings, rhythms and changes, ups and downs

Three of Pentacles – Work

Cardinal Earth

Mars in Capricorn

Decan: 10° to 20° of Capricorn

Date: Dec 31 to Jan 9

Keywords: craftsmanship, working together, improving skills, dedication to a craft

Four of Pentacles – Power

Cardinal Earth

Sun in Capricorn

Decan: 20° to 30° of Capricorn

Date: Jan 10 to Jan 19

Keywords: material gain, miserly, gift giving, safety, uptight, fear

Five of Pentacles – Worry

Mercury in Taurus

Fixed Earth

Decan: 0° to 10° of Taurus

Date: April 21 to April 30

Keywords: poverty, destitution, down and out, loss, vulnerability, homeless, unemployed

Six of Pentacles – Success

Fixed Earth

Moon in Taurus

Decan: 10° to 20° of Taurus

Date: May 1 to May 10

Keywords: charity, generosity, giving and receiving help, material gain, balance,

 

Seven of Pentacles – Failure

Fixed Earth

Saturn in Taurus

Decan: 20° to 30° of Taurus

Date: May 11 to May 20

Keywords: deciding to harvest a bounty, anxiety, decision, failure, rhizome

 

Eight of Pentacles – Prudence

Mutable Earth

Sun in Virgo

Decan: 0° to 10° of Virgo

Date: August 23 to Sep 1

Keywords: apprentice, craftsman, hard work, skill, artistry, career, strategic withdrawal,

Nine of Pentacles – Gain

Mutable Earth

Venus in Virgo

Decan: 10° to 20° of Virgo

Date: Sep 2 to Sep 11

Keywords: enjoyment, solitude, accomplishment, material flourishing, home, self-sufficient, discipline

 

Ten of Pentacles – Wealth

Mutable Earth

Mercury in Virgo

Decan: 20° to 30° of Virgo

Date: Sep 12 to Sep 22

Keywords: success, achievement, fulfillment, peace, family contentedness

Page (Princess) of Pentacles

Earthy part of Earth

Keywords: youth, ambition, progress, adventure, new beginnings,  resourcefulness, good fortune/news about business/pragmatics, attention to details/focus,

 

Knight of Pentacles

Earth

Keywords: integrity, work ethic, responsible, good with money, hard work, putting the time in

 

Queen of Pentacles

Earth

Keywords: success, attunement with nature, practical success, abundance, fulfilment, noble, opulence,

 

King (Prince) of Pentacles

Earth

Keywords: success, industrious, generous, achieved material gain, success, hard work paid off, reliable, power

 

Related Links

Turbo-Charge Your Tarot Readings By Creating Your Own Tarot Card Meaning Cheatsheet

Tarot Meaning Cheat Sheets: Infographics Plus Free Printable Resource

 

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