The Major Arcana
In the Major Arcana, I have emphasized the principle of “archetypal invariants” as I believe each “trump” card represents a universal archetype of transformation. Jungian analysts Polly Young-Eisendrath and James A. Hall (1991) have isolated four “invariant principles” which they believe are present in all psychic contents, whether (in Jungian terms) ‘complex or archetype’, or whether in the service of ego or the archetypal self. Drawing from the philosophical works of Jung, R. Harre, Piaget, and many developmental, psychoanalytic, and constructivist theorists, the authors list the following four necessary and sufficient conditions which structure every archetype (that is, trump or Major card):
Invariants of Archetypal Reality*
1. Agency: the experience of personal causation, authorship of action, intentionality. [If they could speak to us, they might say: “I am an agent of________. My intention is ________.”]
2. Coherence: the experience of unity or “core being”; the collusion of body/psyche; the location of oneself as a point of view with an immediate knowledge of psychical boundaries and discrete bodily organization. [“I am organized around_____”]
3. Continuity: the experience of “going on being” over time that provides the functional connections that eventually result in foresight and nonverbal and verbal memory as the bases of self narratives that permit us to connect to the present with past and future. [“I am in the process of______. I am becoming_______.”]
4. Emotional arousal: the instinctual patterns of arousal, expression, and motivational readiness that are relatively fixed systems of subjective relating between persons, and with organisms and things, throughout the lifespan. [“I am aroused and motivated by_______.”]
*(See Chapter VII, Universality, Tarot And Psychology , for detailed explanation)
MAJOR ARCANA PHRASES
[Note: Images describe the standard Rider Waite Tarot and descriptions are taken from Butler’s Dictionary of Tarot (1975). Meanings however are applicable to all decks. Spectrums are taken from the lexicons in TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: SPECTRUMS OF POSSIBILITY, Arthur Rosengarten, Ph.D., 2000, (Paragon)] All Rights Reserved.
O The FOOL
Phrase: "The Trickster; spirit in search of experience; total potentiality; open space; undifferentiated spirit; freedom to make mistakes, without situational karma; beginner's mind; crazy wisdom; divine child archetype; freedom; inventiveness and eccentricity; (reversed) foolishness, menace.”
Image: A young man poses on the edge of a precipice. In his left hand he carries a white rose. His dog barks with joy.
Traditional Meaning: Folly, mania, extravagance, anarchy, thoughtlessness, chaos, ether, alpha and omega, beginning and end.
Spectrum: Possibility, Openness, Discovery, Play.
I The MAGICIAN
Phrase: "The magician in the lab of life, he transforms darkness into light, difficulty into ease, chaos into form, the ideal into the material; inspired communication; right speech, skillful means; associated with Hermes or Mercury; quickness of mind; (reversed) magical (infantile) thinking, powerlessness.”
Image: A magician stands behind a table. In his upraised right hand is a wand. His left hand is extended downward pointing towards earth. Above his head is the lemniscate. On the table before him are the symbols of the four suits: pentacle, wand, cup, sword. Red roses bloom over him, red roses and lilies bloom before him.
Traditional: Communication skills, willpower or the exercise of will, self-confidence, beginning of consciousness; weakness of will, cunning and guile.
Spectrum: Will, Power, Transformation, Mastery.
II The HIGH PRIESTESS
Phrase: "Inner goddess of the psyche; keeper of the subtlest knowledge and impressions of past experience (the Akashic records of ancient Egypt); deep intuitive knowing; she equalizes opposites; (reversed) blocked psychic channels.”
Image: A priestess of Isis, the solar cross upon her breast. The waxing crescent beneath her left foot. She sits between the pillars Boaz and Jachin and before a screen decorated with pomegranates. In her lap is a rolled scroll of the Tora. On her head is a crown signifying waxing, waning and full Moon and probably The Triple Goddess as well.
Traditional: Spiritual bride and mother, destiny, path of secrecy, psychic abilities, memory, and the subconscious.
Spectrum: Insight, Penetration, Intuition, Mystery.
III The EMPRESS
Phrase: "The anima or feminine principle; the divine mother principle of nature, nurture, the womb, fertility, mother earth; universal love; associated with Venus, Demeter, Ishtar, Tara; self-acceptance/healing; (reversed) smothering, infertility.”
Image: An empress, seated and wearing a gown decorated with pomegranates. On her head a crown of stars. She holds a rod raised in her right hand. A device on the symbol for Venus with a heart. Ripe wheat in the foreground.
Traditional: Fruitfulness, fertility, action, universal love, beauty, happiness, warm mother goddess.
Spectrum: Nurturance, Love, Healing, Creation.
IV The EMPEROR
Phrase: "The leader, captain, explorer, father; animus figure or 'golden man within’; the masculine principle: logos, structure, order, organization; maintainer of the status quo; four-square reality; thought control; associated with Aries, ruled by Mars; (reversed) imperious, controlling, or inner law, the dharma.”
Image: Seated on a throne embellished with rams' heads. He holds the orb, without the cross, in his left hand. In his right hand the scepter which terminates in the Crux Ansata.
Traditional: Virility, stability, power, protection, patriarchy, vigilance, temporal power and strength.
Spectrum: Order, Structure, Construction, Authority
V The HIEROPHANT
Phrase: "The spiritual teacher and teachings; particularly concerned with the worldly realms of human ethics, values, spiritual needs; guru, psychologist, spiritual authority; the capacity 'to walk the mystical path with practical feet'; a bit cloistered and dependent upon family, flock, or following; (reversed) pontifical, overbearing, self-righteous, or inner guidance and inner authority.”
Image: A seated pope, bearing the keys of Saint Peter. The pose seen wearing a stylized version of the triple crown. In the left foreground are the crossed Keys of St. Peter. In the right foreground is the Papal Cross.
Traditional: External religion, orthodox doctrine, mercy, kindness, goodness, occult knowledge, bridegemaker (Pontiflex), one who links the outer world of the flesh and substance with the inner one of spirit and transubstantiality.
Spectrum: Guidance, Ethics, Learning, Understanding.
VI The LOVERS
Phrase: "The art of relationship; integration of opposites; true context for wholeness and intimacy; union of masculine and feminine; passion and compassion; (reversed) self love or hate, apathy.”
Image: An angel blessing Adam and Eve. Eve stands before the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, on which is wrapped the smiling snake. Adam stands before a tree of flames.
Traditional: Human love, wisdom versus pleasure, attraction, love, beauty, choice, sacred vs. profane love.
Spectrum: Relationship, Harmony, Accommodation, Union.
VII The CHARIOT
Phrase: " Taking action, challenge; change and variety; victory over obstacles; master of language and communication; political power; speaks to the masses, great expanse; triumphal nature; (reversed) inner journey, or ruthlessness and aggression.”
Image: A king borne in a triumphal car. The car is drawn by sphinxes, the canopy is embellished with stars, a lingam and yoni appears on the front of the chariot. On the king's breast is a radiant square. An eight-pointed star on the crown.
Traditional: Influence, conquest, victory, overcoming obstacles, triumph over nature, speech.
Spectrum: Attainment, Action, Pursuit, Challenge.
Phrase: "Spiritual strength; the feminine taming the instinctive; beauty and the beast myth; gentle mastery; courage to take risks; vitality and wholesomeness; yogin or bodhisattva; overcoming obstacles and patience, (reversed) psychic weakness, machismo, or inner strength.”
Image: A woman with the lemniscate above her head opening the jaws of a lion. A stern knight with his dog.
Traditional: Inner strength, friendship, consolidation of energy, force, firmness, spiritual strength, vitality.
Spectrum: Confidence, Endurance, Acceptance, Self-esteem.
IX The HERMIT
Phrase: "Wisdom seeker/spiritual journey; fiercely independent and determined; archetype of The Wise Old Man; cares little for outside approval; values aloneness; 'seeks his own salvation with diligence (Buddha)’; life purpose; path of individuation; introspection and self-containment, strong sense of self; (reversed) isolation, paranoia, or antisocial.”
Image: A monk carrying a lantern.
Traditional: Attainment, pilgrimage, loneliness, inner wisdom, hidden cosmic mind, the inner life.
Spectrum: Wisdom, Retreat, Introspection, Soul.
X The WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Phrase: "The secret of right timing; The Wheel of Life, knowing when to make your move, when to stay pat; knowledge of the laws of change, cycles, seasons, and all circular patterns; the wheel of dharma; unexpected opportunities; destiny; occult powers (siddhis); (reversed) stagnation, grasping, hesitation or inner certainty.”
Image: A wheel surmounted by a smiling sphinx (holding a drawn sword over her left shoulder. On the wheel are the letters T-A-R-O; interspersed between these letters are the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vau-Heh, or Jahweh, Jehovah (the tetragrammaton or unmentionable name of God). Additionally the symbols for mercury, sulfur, salt and water. At the four corners of the card are the four Apocalyptic Beasts, the Cherubs of the Four Elements. On the right, Anubis rising. On the left Typhon descending the form of a snake.
Traditional: Fluidity of human life, fortune (good or bad), evolution, change, benefits, money, destiny.
Spectrum: Change, Timing, Flow, Opportunity.
Phrase: "Balance, alignment, adjustment, equality, discriminating mind; poetic justice; taking control of karma; simplifying; sword of discrimination (Prajna); scales of balance; divine retribution; (reversed) inner balance or one-sidedness.”
Image: Justice seated, scales in left hand, upraised sword in her right; a square device ornaments her crown and further square, enclosing a circle is used to fasten her cloak.
Traditional: Equity, rightness, karma, law, balance, equilibrium, fairness, cosmic law, dharma.
Spectrum: Equanimity, Balance, Adjustment, Equality.
XII The HANGED MAN
Phrase: "Suspended mind; breaking patterns, 'turning it over'; detachment; turning the world upside down, and temporarily stepping off; stopping the world; witness consciousness, visualization, meditation; other ways of knowing; seeking options; (reversed) aloofness or dissociation.”
Image: The hanged man dangles from a Tau Cross of living trees, his head surrounded by a beatific penumbra. In either case it is important to note that the man is not suffering but seems to be having some beatific vision; also that his legs form the number four when the card is reversed.
Traditional: Wisdom, circumspection, intuition, voluntary sacrifice, punishment, occult wisdom, prophetic power.
Spectrum: Awareness, Suspension, Surrender, Transcendence.
Phrase: “ Universal principle of detachment and release; Thanatos, transformation; death/rebirth; completion; reincarnation; extinction, the end of the line; (reversed) ego death; lethargy, petrifaction, sleep.”
Image: Death in black armor riding a white horse. He carries in his left hand a flag on which is a white rose on a black field. In the field through which he rides are a dead king, a curious child, a despairing woman and a praying bishop. The sun is rising.
Traditional: Change, transformation, passage from lower to higher, ending, destruction, literal death, disaster, death and resurrection, rebirth, dark night of the soul.
Spectrum: Metamorphosis, Dissolution, Dying, Life.
Phrase: "The Middle Path; tempering the fires; patience; artistic pursuit; alchemy; blending and matching energy; synthesis and synergy; one foot on land, one foot on water; working with paradox; preparing, pacing, (reversed) incubation or intemperance.”
Image: An angel stands beside a pool, one foot in the water. From the pool a path leads to the mountains and the sunrise. Beside the pool are yellow irises. On her breast a triangle within a square. On her head is a solar symbol.
Traditional: Economy, moderation, accommodation, combination, reconciliation, modification, mixing of opposite ingredients in proper proportions.
Spectrum: Transmutation, Integration, Blending, Refinement.
XV The DEVIL
Phrase: "Bondage and duality, deception and delusion; humor and mirth; the shadow side: chaos and demons; not the Christian devil but associated with Pan (Greek God of Merriment and Sensuality); "living it up"; sensuality; intoxication; consciously courting the senses (Tantra); (reversed) shadow projections, the power shadow, evil.”
Image: A claw-footed devil perched on a black pedestal. His right hand raised, the first and second fingers together as are the third and fourth. The sign of Saturn is his palm. Goat's horn, between which is an inverted pentagram. His left hand holds a torch, inverted, which has fired the tail of his male captive. On the right of the Devil is the woman, whose tail incorporates the pomegranate as part of its design. Both captives are loosely chained and horned. Waite has intended an obvious connection between this card and VI, the Lovers.
Traditional: Evil, fear, fate, misery, adultery, Pan, instinctive behavior, Siva, limitation, bondage to material things.
Spectrum's of Possibility: Separation, Opposition, Deception, Domination.
XVI The TOWER
Phrase: "Need for radical and immediate change; sudden awakening (satori); attack from outside, crumbling within; time to abandon ship; ‘ivory tower’; restructuring as former position no longer tenable; laser intensity; (reversed) shake-up of core values or self-imprisonment.”
Image: A tower struck by lightning. It is aflame from the upper windows and standing beside the sea.
Traditional: Unpleasant transitional condition, ruin, disruption, punishment of pride, downfall, mental obstruction, fall due to misuse of the intellect.
Spectrum: Destruction, Resistance, Evacuation, Liberation.
XVII The STAR
Phrase: "Emergence, coming out, self-esteem, becoming a star; phoenix rising out of the ash; the guiding light; alchemy between the light above reflected off the pool of emotions (below) producing beautiful winged creature; purification, healing; (reversed) stagefright, or ceremonial magick.”
Image: A naked woman kneeling on the shore. She pours one vase into water, one on to land. Behind her are eight stars, each having eight points. Seven are white and the eighth and central is yellow.
Traditional: Hope, immortality, inner light, possibilities.
Spectrum: Luminosity, Inspiration, Emergence, Hope.
XVIII The MOON
Phrase: "The unconscious, the non-rational, magic; the universal feminine principle (the yin); nighttime and moonlight, the dream world; fantasy, romance, emotion and intuition; pulls inward, irritability; (reversed) ‘lunacy’, the muse, or emotional flooding.”
Image: An equatorial crescent. Below it are two dogs, one of them howling. A lobster emerging from a pool at the bottom.
Traditional: Darkness, deception, error, illusion, intuition, feelings and sentiments, mystery, romance, water and the female element in general, soul.
Spectrum: Psyche, Imagination, Fluctuation, Emotion.
XIX The SUN
Phrase: "Consciousness; the light of day, the rational and visible; vitality and life force; the yang; teamwork and partnership; daytime activity, vibrancy, creativity, play; radiant light, healing, energy; masculinity, heroism, the ego; (reversed) egotism, burnout, or agni yoga.”
Image: A naked child smiling from the back of a white horse. He carries in his left hand a long banner on a pole. Behind him is a walled garden with sunflowers visible above it. Above, the sun in glory.
Traditional: Consciousness, super-rational, willpower, joy, universal radiance, splendor of the material world, enlightenment, happiness.
Spectrum: Consciousness, Energy, Activity, Awareness.
Phrase: "Finality; proclamation, coming to completion; the actualization of deep discrimination; ability to give birth to new forms; sounding your horn, taking a stand; choice and responsibility; outcome and resolution; (reversed) judgmentalness, self criticism, inner certainty.”
Image: Angel seen blowing the last trumpet. The dead rise from the grave. The Angel only, blowing a trumpet.
Traditional: Judgment, choice, resurrection, outcome, completion, the last judgment, accomplishment.
Spectrum: Resolution, Completion, Awakening, Accountability.
XXI The WORLD
Phrase: The Universe, integration of the whole, the great mandala; the dance of life, bringing spirit into the material world; the principle of wholeness and individuation; the final trump, completion; perfection and the absolute; (reversed) the inner world, self-realization, sufi dancing.”
Image: A woman holding a piece of cloth strategically. She is surrounded by a wreath of leaves and berries. At the top of the wreath is an eagle, below left is a bull, below right is a lion.
Traditional: Completion, perfection of man, travel, cosmic consciousness, the reward, uroborus, Brahma, assured success.
Spectrum: Wholeness, Universality, Participation, Celebration.
Dr. Art Rosengarten