The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

My (Brief) Tarot Notes

All interpretations based on the Rider-Waite Deck.

0 -- The Fool: The "expect the unexpected" card -- a figure flamboyantly dressed, off on a journey with only a small satchel and a loyal dog, looking over the edge of a cliff on a sunny day with a blooming flower. In contemporary language "fool" suggests someone who is either simple or silly, though it can also mean madman, trickster, goof, clown, cockeyed optimist -- for better or worse it suggests fearlessness, disregard for the strictures of convention, committment to walking one's own path. In many Tarot decks The Fool appears to be a professional entertainer -- someone who dresses and behaves like a jester. In the Rider-Waite deck, The Fool is a voyager, an ordinary person about to set off on an extraordinary adventure. Because this card has no number, it suggests complete openness, a future yet to be written and a past whose meaning is not set in stone. To me it suggests spontaneity, freedom, being receptive to new ideas and events.

I -- The Magician: In a flowering garden, an androgynous-looking figure holds a wand in the air. The symbols of the Tarot (and of the elements) are arranged on an engraved table in the foreground. An infinity symbol floats just above the head of the Magician, who wears a focused expression as well as a snake belt -- perhaps an ouroboros? Though the Magician would appear to wield power, one gets the impression that careful preparations must be made beforehand -- the elements carefully balanced. The card's number is 1, which could represent unity or self-sufficiency but could also suggest incompletion for someone seeking to belong to a partnership or group. One gets the impression that The Magician's fate is in his or her own hands, but great concentration and devotion may be necessary to bring all the elements together for a desired outcome.

II -- The High Priestess: In the Rider-Waite deck, a classical image in blue robes sits on what appears to be a throne. Many symbols suggest traditional femininity -- the rippling material of the gown, the crescent moon under her feet, the fertile fruit images in the background. The blue and white of the dress give an impression of flowing water and suggest both a wedding gown and traditional paintings of the Virgin Mary. On her head rests a triple crown, which could represent the Trinity, the Papacy, or the archetypes of the Virgin, Mother and Crone -- the Morrigan, the Triple Goddess. On her chest the High Priestess wears a simple cross of uncertain origin, which makes her look a bit like a Papess but might represent perpendicular forces, the union of matter and energy. On her lap, half hidden in her cloak, she holds a scroll marked "TORA" which is probably a portion of the Torah. She sits between two pillars, one dark, one light, which are marked with the letters B and J. I have read that the letters stand for their Hebrew equivalents, bet and yod, for boaz and yochin, strength and wisdom -- I know there are many Kabbalistic associations with this card -- but with so many Renaissance Christian images, I also think of Beelzebub and Jehovah. At any rate the two pillars could represent devil and angel, yin and yang, male and female, war and peace, moon and sun, love and hate, might and mercy, heaven and hell, good and evil, or any other duality. This is a card I have often heard associated with psychic or supernatural powers, but to me it is directly spiritual -- the power of faith and whatever the querent interprets as his or her "feminine" aspect. I don't like to make generalizations about what qualifies as intrinsically "feminine" because so many of those associations are culturally determined, and the dualities can become troublingly reductive.

III -- The Empress: A beautiful, mature woman in a flowing gown decorated with flowers holds a scepter over her head. On the ground below her is a stone with the symbol of femininity or Venus carved into the shape of a heart. She lounges on comfortable cushions in a thriving wheat field with summer trees growing behind her and a stream running through the woods. Everything about the image suggests fertility, abundance, sensual pleasure, maternity, and the wisdom and power of women as they mature.

IV -- The Emperor: An older man in rich robes sits on a throne decorated with the heads of rams. In one hand he holds an ankh-headed scepter; in the other, a golden globe that might represent the world. The image suggests balance and diplomacy, stability and power, confident male sexuality, yet also patriarchal judgment, a very traditional, hierarchical mindset in which roles like servant and master, husband and wife are not flexible.

V -- The Hierophant: Flanked by monks or acolytes, a pope sits on a throne wearing an ornate headdress and holding a golden scepter. Like the High Priestess, pillars surround him, yet unlike the High Priestess there are no arcane markings carved into them. A pair of keys cross beneath his feet. The image suggests formal religion rather than spirituality, with all the trappings of orthodoxy. The figure's power is absolute, but that is because of the prestige accorded him by those who revere his position.

VI -- The Lovers: A couple -- most likely Adam and Eve -- stand naked and unashamed in a garden under a cloud with an angel above it. Behind Eve, apples hang heavy on the Tree of Knowledge and the snake winds around it. Behind Adam, fruit like flames burst from the Tree of Life. This is love before the fall, with no shame affixed to sexuality and a sense of higher purpose in the union; the lovers do not look at one another but together regard the heavens. The sun shines brightly, but the presence of the snake suggests that this happy, innocent state will not last and the suffering of exile and childbirth, as well as the annoying mundane aspects of everyday relationships, will soon intrude. The card also serves as a reminder of how many outside forces exert influences on relationships, for Adam and Eve are never truly alone to explore their feelings.

VII -- The Chariot: An attractive young prince stands in a carriage drawn by black-and-white sphinxes. A star adorns his crown and crescent moons emphasize his shoulders. Exuding confidence and determination, he could be either leaving for or returning from battle or a trading voyage. The card suggests both assertiveness and pride, with undertones of aggression and hubris. The charioteer may have the world at his feet right now, but he has no way of knowing what may happen to his home in his absence.

VIII -- Strength: A young woman dressed in white with garlands around her head and waist puts her hands on the mane of a roaring lion. Obviously she has courage and power, though it may be her innocence that makes her so brave. The infinity symbol over her head suggests that she is connected with forces beyond her own will. The card suggests bravery that borders on foolhardiness, and strength that comes from being generous and gentle rather than overtly forceful.

IX -- The Hermit: Against a dark, forbidding background, a hooded old man carrying a staff holds a light before him yet regards the icy ground. The image suggests isolation, secrecy, privacy, disguise, and perhaps loneliness.

X -- Wheel of Fortune: Surrounded by symbols of power including a sword-wielding sphinx, a serpent, and various winged animals reading books, a great wheel hangs in the sky. Its markings include Alpha and Omega, the Hebrew initials of God's name, and staffs bearing astrological symbols. The implication is that what goes around comes around, that destiny and fortune are to some extent dependent on luck, and that there is little point in trying to fight the elements. But since the snake appears to be moving downwards on its own power, one might interpret that to mean that people sometimes choose when they fall, and that the universe is basically a benevolent place filled with guardian spirits.

XI -- Justice: An androgynous figure wearing a crown and rich robes holds an upright double-edged sword in one hand and the scales of justice balanced in the other. A curtain behind him veils what lies beyond. The figure's expression is stern but not unkind, and the colors suggest royalty and wealth; the pillars, which might represent extremes in one's life, also echo those on the High Priestess and Hierophant cards, linking the concept of justice to spirituality and formal religious authority (i.e. God's judgment). The card could indicate either the positive traits of equity and fairness or a negative, rigid insistence on legality. Truth can bring harmony and balance to one's life, but an insistence on the letter of the law for oneself or for others can bring needless suffering.

XII -- The Hanged Man: A figure clothed in blue hangs upside down, tied by one foot to a pair of crossed tree branches. The legs are crossed as well. He appears relaxed, pensive, not at all terrified or in pain. It's hard to look at the image and not think of traditional portrayals of Christ on the cross, particularly since the man has a halo. The card suggests a trial, sacrifice, or perhaps a self-chosen period of struggle to gain altered perspectives and new insights. Because of the religious associations, it also suggests being scapegoated, taking an unpopular position, being isolated. In either case the approach seems to be calm, rational meditation.

XIII -- Death: A skeletal figure in black armor rides a white horse over the fallen body of a king, whose crown lies on the ground beside him. A religious figure robed in gold stands with his hands clasped, praying, as a suffering woman and small child kneel. The sun is setting behind the castle in the background; crosses, presumably tombstones, dot the land between the figures and the sea. The card symbolizes an irrevocable ending, a conclusion, the inevitability of decay, the fact that kings, popes and commoners are all equals in the dust. Yet the flower on the flag shows layers of petals unfolding layer upon layer, which makes me think of the old adage about how every time a door closes, a window opens; the possibility of a newer, better tomorrow can only exist if today comes to an end.

XIV -- Temperance: An angelic figure with a halo, wearing white robes, stands in a stream pouring water from one chalice into another without losing any drops. In the background, flowers bloom as the sun rises over the mountains. The image suggests completion, self-containment or self-sufficiency, moderation, skilled management of resources; it also suggests these things as inner qualities, balance, self-love, satisfaction with one's assets.

XV -- The Devil: A bearded male figure with horns, pointed ears, bat-wings and talons sits on a pedestal holding an inverted torch; an inverted pentacle rests over his forehead, his fingers are spread in the Hebrew priestly blessing. A horned man and woman, each of whom has a tail, are chained to the pedestal. Visually the card appears to be the inverse of The Lovers, with a demonic rather than angelic figure dominating the dark background; the man holds a hand toward the woman and appears to be looking at her rather than at the heavens. This is love after the fall, invested in carnality. The flames on the torch and the man's tail suggest painful passions, while the woman's fruit-filled tail suggests both fertility and decadence. This card could denote uncontrolled desire, being imprisoned by lust or greed, marriage or some other relationship as a prison, the dangers of following the wrong path. Yet there is nothing overtly violent in the image, though it is animalistic and dark; it is a reminder that passion, force and vehemence can be very powerful tools, though dangerous.

XVI -- The Tower: Against a black sky, a tall structure has been struck by lightning. Flames shoot from the roof as fire consumes the windows. A king and a robed man fall toward the rocks below as a giant crown topples from the roof. The image suggests sudden calamity, abrupt and irrevocable change, a violent shift for which no one could be prepared and which no amount of bolstering could prevent. Psychologically it would seem to indicate a painful change of perspective, the toppling of old hopes and expectations, and a need to rebuild from the ashes.

XVII -- The Star: A naked woman kneels beside a pool, pouring water onto the ground and into the water. Above her head, a large eight-pointed star dominates the bright sky, with seven smaller stars surrounding it. Flowers bloom beneath her feet; a bird spreads its wings in a nearby tree. The card would seem to suggest bright prospects, self-sufficiency, a benevolent and safe locale. On the other hand, such a bright star in broad daylight might seem to some to be a disturbing omen, and the woman may be wasting her bounty; only the star knows what might lurk behind the nearby dark mountain.

XVIII -- The Moon: Between two towers, a dog and a wolf howl at a bright moon lighting the sky as if it were daytime. A scorpion crawls from the water. This moon looks neither feminine nor benevolent, though the moon is often associated with the Goddess, women's rites, the dark sacred night of renewal and regeneration. The emotional moon lights the path, revealing what is hidden -- the good and the bad.

XIX -- The Sun: A crowned child holding a red flag rides a pony before a wall lined with sunflowers; a brilliant sun lights the sky above. Because of the crown, the child might be the Son as well as the sun; his nudity suggests the reversal of the fall and the shame and separation from joy that followed. But the sun looks stern, suggesting that this sort of happiness is contingent upon remaining within the wall, obeying the rules.

XX -- Judgement: An angel blows a horn as the dead rise from coffins floating on the sea. The figures are gray, and the mountains in the background icy-white; though they have been reborn, the promised renewal has not yet occurred. This is a moment of clarity and hope, but also deliberation and sentencing; it is time to take stock of one's life and make choices as if this were the moment for measuring one's contributions.

XXI -- The World: A naked woman wrapped in a purple cloth holds wands of power at the center of a green wreath. Floating between clouds, she is surrounded by the heads of a man, an eagle, a bull and a lion. The symbols could represent many things: heart, mind, body, soul; carnality, intellect, emotion and spirit; wit, determination, stubbornness and strength; perhaps the conflict between higher mind and lower physical urges. If the central figure can possess and integrate all these qualities, she will be powerful yet balanced, successful, secure no matter how her circumstances change.


Decks I Have:

Rider Waite (Colman Smith-Waite)
Universal Waite (Colman Smith/Waite/Hanson-Roberts)
Quick and Easy (Universal Waite with readings)
Tarot Affirmations (Universal Waite with poems)
Epicurean (Universal Waite with recipes)
Tiny Tarot (Universal Waite)
Swiss IJJ
Visconti
Thoth (Crowley-Harris)
El Gran Tarot Esoterico
Mythic (Burke-Greene)
Sacred Circle (Franklin-Mason)
Greenwood (Ryan-Potter)
Robin Wood
Connolly
Nigel Jackson
Art Nouveau (Castelli)
Art Nouveau (Myers)
Cloisters (Leavitt)
Crystal (Trevison)
Golden (Black)
Gilded (Marchetti)
Medieval Scapini
Quest (Martin)
World Spirit (Lauren O'Leary)
Revelations (Wong)
Merlin (Stewart and Gray)
Arthurian (Matthews)
Avalon (Viglioglia)
Glastonbury (Tenzin-Dolma)
Legend Arthurian (Ferguson-Garrison)
Llewellyn (Ferguson)
Faery Wicca (Stepanich-Yates)
Druidcraft (Carr-Gomm and Worthington)
Forest Folklore (Beverley-Smith)
Norse (Barrett)
Runic (Smith/Astrop)
William Blake (Buryn)
Shakespearean (Ashcroft-Nowicki)
Jane Austen (Wilkes & Airaghi)
Wonderland (Christopher and Morgana Abbey)
Baseball (Lerner)
Baseball (Kasher-Ransom)
Zerner-Farber (Zerner)
Enchanted (Zerner)
True Love (Zerber)
Tarot de Paris (Martin)
Wonderland (Christopher and Morgana Abbey)
Shapeshifter (Conway)
Celestial (Conway)
Cosmic (Loesche-Huets)
Moon Garden (Sweikhardt)
Halloween (Lee-West)
Tarot For Cats (Dennis-West)
Gatti (Menegazzi)
Tarot of the Cat People (Kuykendall)
Baroque Bohemian Cats (Mahony)
The Fairytale Tarot (Mahony)
Dragon (Pracownik)
Manga (Selena Lin)
Osho Zen (Osho-Padma)
Chinese (Jui Guoliang)
Santa Fe
Klimt
Ancient Minchiate Etruria
Minchiate Tarot of the Renaissance (Williams)
The Da Vinci Tarot (McElroy)
Erotic (Manara)
Casanova (Raimondo)
Kamasutra (Lo Scarabeo)
Tarot Erotica (Walls)
Lovers (Lyle)
The Lover's Path (Waldherr)
Goddess (Waldherr)
Animals Divine (Hunt)
Celtic Dragon (Hunt)
Celtic (Gaudenzi-Tenuta)
Gendron
Motherpeace (Vogel-Noble)
Daughters of the Moon
Barbara Walker
Housewives
Victoria Regina
Lord of the Rings (Donaldson)
Oz (Sexton)
Lord of the Rings (Movie photos, Chinese text)
Tarot Nova
My Tarot (Burke-Caselli)
Star Trek (Personal-Anderson/Green)
Voyager (Personal-Rush/Green)
Barbie (Personal-Green)
Minimalist (Personal-Green)


Decks I Covet:

Tarocco delle Vetrate (Scapini)
Tarocchi di Giulietta e Romeo (Scapini)
Victorian Romantic (Mahony)
Fantastic Menagerie (Grandville, Mahony)
Prague (Mahony)
Witches (Cannon Reed)
Holy Grail (Matthews)
Miracle (Shimuzi)
Voyager (Wanless)
Marseille Mini
Dali (Dali)
Gill (Gill)
Fenestra (Chatriya)
78 Doors (Platano)
Renaissance (Williams)
Cosmic Tribe (Postman)
Whimsical (Morrison)
Universal Goddess (Lo Scarabeo)
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