Friday, February 5, 2010

Gerald Schueler: Tarot Symbolism 2

12. Strength or Lust. Most decks use the symbol of the lion in this card. The lion, as the "king of beasts," is a traditional symbol for strength. Some cards also show a man, while others show a woman, who is controlling the lion in some way. The theme here is controlled strength, or inner resolve that is directed toward a goal. The Thoth deck shows a naked young woman riding on the back of a seven-headed lion. She is overcome with ecstasy. She holds the reins in her left hand and the Holy Grail in her right hand. In the background are the bloodless images of all of the saints. Along the top are shown ten serpents. This card represents courage and inner strength. The imagery suggests the archetypes of goodness and endurance.

13. The Hanged Man. The Hanged Man is just that, a man hanging upside down from a wooden scaffold of some kind, usually in the form of a cross. Most cards show the man with his left leg bent to form a cross with his legs. The cross is the traditional symbol for sacrifice. The theme here is the deliberate undergoing of a selfless sacrifice, usually for the purpose of helping others. The Thoth deck shows a naked man hanging upside down with his right leg crossed over his left to form a cross. His arms are outstretched to form an equilateral triangle. A green Disk is at each of his five extremities. He is suspended from an Egyptian ankh (symbol of life) and a serpent is wrapped around his left foot. The background is green air over green water shot with white rays from Kether. Beneath the man sleeps a coils snake. The imagery of this card portrays the archetypes of sacrifice and initiation. It also suggests the archetype of the dying gods such as Christ.

14. Death. This card symbolizes death by a human skeleton. Sometimes the skeleton is shown holding a sickle to suggest that death levels all living beings. The theme is the process of death, which is an ending or completion of something that we have known. Death also implies change of some kind, a transformation. The Thoth deck shows death as a dancing skeleton bearing a scythe. He wears the Crown of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead and is shown in the waters of Amenti, an Egyptian after-death state. The sweep of his scythe creates bubbles which contain the seeds of new life. Shown is a snake, a fish, a scorpion, a lily, and an onion. This card represents death and sudden change. The imagery suggests Jung's archetype of rebirth.

15. Temperance or Art. This card is usually depicted by an angel who is pouring water from one vase into another. The water is the "water of life" and its being poured suggests that a necessary change of some kind is taking place. The imagery of this card not only imply the skill or ability that is required to 'get through' unwanted experiences, but those needed to turn such experiences to your advantage in some way. The Thoth deck shows Diana the Huntress, the Great Mother of Fertility, and the Many-Breasted. She wears a golden crown with a silver band and is shown split into two halves. Her left hand pours white gluten from a cup while her right hand holds a lance/torch dripping blood. The alchemical symbols of blood and gluten mix in a cauldron. At her feet are a white lion and a red eagle. This card portrays the archetype of the union of opposites as defined in Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis (1963/1989).

16. The Devil. The main symbol here is a devil. The Marseilles deck shows a stereotyped, middle-age Christian concept of Satan complete with horns and a forked tail. The Waite deck is much more refined, showing the stereotyped version of a devilish black magician. Most cards also show a naked man and woman chained to a block. The theme is Black Magic and the card represents slavery or confinement. The imagery of this card suggests the wrongness of an overinflated ego. The Thoth deck shows a goat with large spiral horns and a third eye in his forehead who is the god Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter. Behind him is the trunk of a tree. Before him is a staff topped with a winged Horus. Below him are two globes each containing dancing human figures. The globes and tree together form a large phallus. This imagery here also represents bondage, and suggests the archetype of the libido or psychic energy, including sexual energy in the Freudian sense.

17. The Lightening Struck Tower. Almost all decks agree on the basic theme of this card. A stone tower is shown being struck by a bolt of lightening with two people falling from the destruction. The card suggests bad luck of all kinds, but especially destruction and ruination. In at least one sense, the card represents the Fall of Man, because the lightening bolt is a symbol of an "act of God" that forces man to fall from his protective tower, itself a symbol of a spiritual environment, into mortality. The Thoth deck shows the destruction of a tower by fire. Broken figures fall from the tower. At the bottom of the card is the destruction of the old by lightning and fire. In the bottom right corner are the jaws of a fire-breathing dragon. At the top is the Eye of Horus/Shiva. Also shown are a dove with olive branch, and the lion-headed Gnostic god, Abrasax. This card represents catastrophe. The imagery of this card suggests the archetype of chaos.

18. The Star. The main symbol here is a star. One or more stars is shown over the head of a goddess who is pouring water from two vases into a pool. The goddess is usually shown naked, although the Marseilles deck shows her partially clothed. She is Isis, the goddess of nature, and the waters are the Waters of Life. She is shown returning individual water into a collective pool, thus indicating that nothing in life is ever lost. The theme here is one of hope. The Thoth deck shows the naked Egyptian goddess Nut. Her right hand is held high, and she pours water from a gold cup onto her head. Her left hand is held low, and she pours the immortal liquor of life from a silver cup onto the junction of land and water. Behind her is a celestial globe on which is a seven-pointed Star of Venus. In the left-hand corner is a seven-pointed Star of Babalon. This card represents hope and promise. The imagery suggests Jung's archetype of the star. According to von Franz (Boa, 1992) Jung taught that the star symbolizes that part of the personality that survives death; the spiritual part of the psyche.

19. The Moon. The main symbol here is the moon, and the cards of all decks amplify the lunar theme with various symbols usually associated with the moon. Most cards show two towers with a stream running between them to illustrate the idea of relationships. A scorpion, lobster, crayfish, or scarab, is often included to represent the forces of regeneration. One or two dogs or jackals are often shown to suggest the idea of the subconscious and the underworld. The theme here is the astral world of the Kabbalists, the realm of illusions and dreams. The Thoth deck shows a Gateway of Resurrection. The bottom of the card shows the beetle-headed Khepera pushing the sun upward through the waters. Above stands dual Anubis-gods who guard the path that is a stream of serum tinged with blood. They stand before black towers at the threshold of life and death. At the path's end are nine drops of impure blood each in the shape of the Hebrew letter Yod. This card represents the instincts. The imagery suggests the archetypes of dreams and the irrational as well as Jung's archetype of the moon. According to von Franz, the moon is an archetypal symbol for the anima (Boa, 1992).

20. The Sun. The main symbol of this card is the sun which is almost always shown with extending rays, and sometimes with a face to suggest solar intelligence. The Marseilles deck shows a young couple together under a sun. The Waite deck shows a naked child riding a horse under a sun. The Golden Dawn deck shows two naked children holding hands under a sun. The sun, as the generator of light and heat, is the symbol for life and the forces of conscious creativity. The Thoth deck shows a green mound beneath a flaming 12-rayed yellow sun. Two winged children dance together on the mound, but a wall prevents them from the summit. At the feet of each child is a rose and cross. Around the card are the signs of the Zodiac. The imagery of this card suggests the archetypes of growth, success, and abundance as well as Jung's archetype of the sun.

21. Judgement. Most decks represent Judgement with an angel blowing a horn above a group of people. The heralding of a trumpet call, as an act of divine judgement, is suggested here. The Waite deck shows people standing in coffin-like boxes which suggest that an after-death judgement is implied. The Golden Dawn card shows people chest-deep in water implying a renewal or regeneration. In the Thoth deck, around the top of the card is the body of the goddess Nut, the star goddess. The child-god Harpocrates stands beneath her in outline, and Horus is shown sitting on a throne. A winged globe is shown below him. At the bottom of the card is the Hebrew letter Shin containing three human figures. The imagery of this card suggests the archetypes of evaluation, reward, and completion.

22. The Universe. The last card of the major arcana includes the symbolism of the four animals of the Apocalypse and of the vision of Ezekiel. These are the bull, the lion, the eagle, and man. A naked woman stands within a circular wreath. In the Marseilles deck, this woman is the fourth animal, but in most decks she stands apart as a central figure. Her symbolism as the mother of the universe is clearly suggested in the Golden Dawn deck where the wreath is a ring of twelve globes which are obviously the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. In the Thoth deck, the universe is symbolized by a naked dancing maiden at the center of the card. Her hands manipulate a spiral active/passive force. In each corner is one of the four Kerubim. About the maiden is an ellipse of 72 circles. In the lower center is the House of Matter. Her right foot stands on the head of a snake. The card suggests a wheel of light within a yoni (a Hindu feminine symbol). The imagery of this card suggests the archetypes of wholeness, synthesis, and perfection.

Chaos and the Psychological Symbolism of the Tarot web page
Schueler's Online home page


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