Chapter 8


TYPICAL PERSONAL CARD MEANINGS


Note - web version:

I have stored the cards of the Major Arcana on a separate page which you can access by going back to the Contents page and then choosing the Cards page. This saves storage space on the book pages. The best way to read the following pages is to print out the cards first and have them to hand. If you can't print them, simply load them on a second browser and flip between the two web pages.


Having talked so long and so feelingly about the lack of meaning in giving out long lists of the precise qualities of the various cards, I am now going to disappoint all those of my readers who expect unwavering integrity, i.e. I am about to issue such a list. But first I shall explain why.

Firstly, as was discussed in the previous chapter, it is necessary to build up a vocabulary by reading and comparing a fair number of other people's vocabularies. As long as it is understood that the list is not an authoritative one, then reading another person's ideas may well prove to be very fruitful.

I am going to begin with the Major Arcana. This is the area with the most profound meanings, and it is also the hardest range to understand, to make one's own. In my own case, I started by memorizing the Major Arcana; it took me something like six months to get a working knowledge sufficient to be able to use the cards, but then I have a bad memory. The Minor Arcana, by way of contrast, took me only a week. A major part of the difference comes from a fact which was not being discussed in the books on the subject then at my disposal, namely that only with understanding do the cards become one's own. And the Major Arcana is much more difficult to understand.

One of the more interesting aspects of human beings is their ability to remember only after they understand. A computer or a memory-perfect idiot can take in things and repeat them word for word. You can tram a dog to salivate when a bell is rung, the classic reflex so well demonstrated by Pavlov. You can do the same thing with a human being, and this happens all the time, and not just to prisoners-of-war. But the ability to understand comes only to human beings, and then only to their higher centres of experience. Once you understand something, there is little danger of forgetting it. I may well forget the capital of Bolivia, or the date of the Diet of Worms; but once I have understood the difference in essence between the Empress and the High Priestess, I won't confuse the two ladies.

The process of understanding is individual and each person must make his or her own pilgrimage. The journey is exciting, there may be fellow travellers on the way with interesting stories, and occasionally one conies up against a sign-post or a barrier; the final goal is something each pilgrim must reach on his own. The following pages are some of the stories I can tell about my pilgrimage. They apply only to my journey, and I emphasize again, you must find your own unique path.

The twenty-two cards which follow are my Major Arcana. As I grew to understand them better and they became more personalized, each card came to have a meaning which is unique to myself. This personalized meaning I will put down in words, but in so doing I will be creating an image which will depart in some way or another from the images which other people hold of the card. In some instances my meaning will be very different, in others only the emphasis will change. In order to show the difference such a personalized vision gives, I collaborated with an artist with whom I have a very close contact in producing a series of drawings of the cards. These drawings give a visual image of my feelings towards the cards in so far as I was able to describe these to the artist. Because of our close contact, in some ways the artist was able to capture unspoken ideas from my subconscious in order to create an even more accurate image. So both the drawings and the descriptions that follow are the visualization of one person's feelings concerning the attributes of the cards. You are very welcome to use them, but in no way are they to be regarded as authentic, traditional, accurate or universal. Disregard this small print at your peril.





































THE FOOL

The Fool is the wisest idiot in Christendom. He is unable to take things seriously that other people take seriously, because he sees the petty-minded blindness in such matters. He takes seriously things that other people regard as unimportant. He is someone who does not feel that a fixed home or outlook is necessary, and who travels in hope. I see him as a person who has set off on a new path, not because he knows where it is going, but because he wants to go further than the village where he was born.

Look at him. He has a Jester's cap, and he probably earns the odd meal or night's rest by entertaining the bourgeois in their own homes. But the next day he travels on - jesting for a salary is not for him. He carries his possessions in his little bag - he still feels the need for a few reassuring beliefs and old ideas, even though he has cut off most of them. In his hand he carries a rose, the symbol of love. We cannot see anybody whom he loves, so we can guess that he just has a lot of love in his heart, enough love to care for any person or creature he meets on the way. He is strong enough to be able to love without needing to be loved in return. The rose is held, almost magically, at the tip of his fingers. Here we get another glimpse of an aspect of the Fool - his almost supernatural ability to produce what seem magical effects. The Fool doesn't work hard, or scheme, or trick people, or gamble, or any of the other things that people do in ordinary life in order to get what they want. The Fool says or does the right thing at the right moment, and not until then, to procure all the things that are necessary.

The Fool has an old patched pair of trousers and shoes?which are coming apart. He doesn't care enough to be particularly unhappy; if he needs another pair of shoes or trousers, they will turn up in good time. People worry too much about appearances, comfort and security - these things are not for the Fool. So perhaps one day he gets caught out and freezes to death in a snow storm, but until that day he has a carefree existence. He doesn't have to look after his clothes, or send them to the dry-cleaners.

The Fool is walking, he is going somewhere. I don't know where, and neither does he; but he isn't standing still, his Soul is aware that we don't reach perfection by standing still. Lastly, there is no background to the drawing. The Fool just exists in a space all of his own, being his own self without any visible means of support. He is accompanied by a cat, one of the most independent creatures that ever shared this world with Man. The cat likes the company of the Fool as long as the cat is not on a lead, and as long as the Fool doesn't become trapped. As soon as the Fool 'settles down* then the cat is off into the wilderness to lead an exciting existence in the present.

I feel the Fool stands for magical abilities in people, for the part of them that is not trapped by responsibility, taxes and life insurance. It is the part which is in touch with their own potential or with God, if you like. Call it Soul, or a Sense of Humour; it is the bit which makes jokes in a concentration camp, it is the innocence of a small child who wants to be a bus conductor. Picasso is said to have wished to be able to draw like a small child. The Fool stands for people who have cast off the conventions of their peer-group (and that applies just as much to 'Flower-People' as to stockbrokers in the City); they don't know where they are going, but they don't want to stay where they were.

THE MAGICIAN

Here is the medicine man, with his snake-oil, his veritable Elixir, infallible against measles, gout, old age and pregnancy. He comes and gathers a crowd with his arresting clothes and travelling dispensary; he bamboozles them with jokes and fast talking, and eventually, despite their innate common sense, members of the crowd buy his medicine. We all love to be fooled.

The Magician brings excitement into our lives, a touch of the exotic. There's an element of the circus in his performance, and small boys are tempted to run away and become cowboys and Indian fighters. The Magician wants us to believe that he's seen more, done more and come into contact with more 'special' people than you or me. His language is strange and wonderful, he tells stories of people he's met and things he's done; we listen with open mouths. He makes us laugh while telling us how he cures Kings and Crowned Heads; we cry as he tells us of cures to angelic little girls. As someone once said, why spoil a good story with facts.

The Magician stands for fast talk and little action; it stands for manipulation, i.e. making people act the way you want them to, using psychology. The Magician also stands for people who have gifts but use them for mundane purposes. This is symbolized by the objects lying on the table in front of the Magician. If you look carefully, you will see a small knife, a cup, a leafy twig and some coins - these are the symbols of the four suits of the Minor Arcana. The point is that the Magician uses them for making money for food, whereas he could use the symbols as a means of reaching understanding of himself and others.

The Magician cheats people, and lies to them. He also plays tricks on people, fools them and generally can be regarded as a small-time crook or confidence trickster. But at the same time he can cheer people up, cure them of illnesses that 'straight', professional doctors cannot cope with, and teach them things about themselves. The lesson may cost them some money, and they may object that they didn't want that particular lesson just then; nonetheless they may well have needed that piece of insight. It may teach them to stay clear of much greater mistakes.

I think the tag-line about the Emperor's new clothes is known to most people, but I suspect far fewer people know the whole story. Very briefly, a confidence trickster talks the Emperor into ordering some very expensive clothes, which are special in that only people with pure, noble blood can see them; if you can't see them then your blood is impure. Nobody is going to admit to such an inability, so everyone has to pretend they admire the clothes. Finally, the Court Fool protests he really can't see them, and eventually the confidence trick is exposed. Well now, in terms of the Tarot, the Magician is the confidence trickster who profits by people's little inadequacies; the Fool is the Court Jester who is willing to look silly, and in the process 'innocently' rubs the lesson home. So finally we realize that we can only be taken in by the Magician if we want to be taken in.

THE HIGH PRIESTESS

Robert Graves in his book,77ie White Goddess, and Sir Hugh Fraser in The Golden Bough both described early matriarchal civilizations where the spiritual power lay with a woman; men came and went but the Queen ruled both in Heaven and upon Earth. With the advent of war-like tribes from the North, these early Mediterranean civilizations were overrun, and patriarchy became the standard way of organizing the tribe. The Empress represents the Queen who rules the destiny of men in her own right; the High Priestess is the Queen because she is the wife of the King. The High Priestess cannot rule directly, so she guides indirectly to achieve the results which she deems necessary.

The drawing shows a young lady; she could be a virgin, and she certainly has had no children. In fact, I described her to the artist by saying she should smile as if she has just found out she is pregnant but doesn't want to tell anyone as yet. She does smile mysteriously; there is an inner joy. Her dark hair is an indication of her mystic powers, as is the crux ansata which hangs round her neck. She carries a tray on which rests a book, a glass of wine and a small cake. She is offering hospitality, refreshment and knowledge. She sits in a posture which indicates that she is used to meditating, and might well have finished some five minutes ago. To each side, and slightly behind, are two plants which reach for the heavens; these might stand for balanced aspiration.

I feel that the High Priestess stands for the woman who intuitively sees what you need to grow and develop. She provides knowledge, support and food or comfort when you need it, not when you ask for it. Her silence is golden, and her speech is silver. She is the type of woman who will bear children for her husband because she feels he needs the security of having a son to continue his name and to become what he himself failed to be. She will deny herself in order that her man and her children can grow and develop to their full extent.

The crux ansata round her neck is a key to knowledge, the knowledge that also exists in the book she has ready. You need the key to read the book, the food and wine to strengthen you while you learn. She represents the part of a woman that connects directly to the Fool just as the Hierophant represents the same part in a man. You may call it the Anima, the ideal of womanhood. In a woman it is the spiritually developed human (as against animal) parts of herself; in a man it is his ability to find and understand the magic in a woman.

The High Priestess pays for all this by having to deny herself. Often she doesn't get enough attention, sleep, food, money or whatever for herself; she can get bitter or sour because of it. She also doesn't always resolve the conflict between giving and receiving -she knows how to give, but not always how to receive.

THE EMPRESS

The Empress, as I mentioned in the previous card, is the ruler of men. She needs men to father her children because she wants children; the men are only tolerated because they amuse and are useful. If they do not amuse, or become useless, they are discarded. There is a no-nonsense toughness about the Empress.

She is firmly seated on a bench with Lion's feet on the legs (the Lion is the symbol of the Male part of humanity); she has broad thighs and hips, big breasts. She looks luscious and fertile; her body invites lascivious thoughts. The animal passion for propagating the human race shines out. She holds a Horn of Plenty in one hand (or is it the most enormous phallus?) from which she pours thoughtlessly all the goodies of our wants. In the other hand she holds a bunch of keys; she keeps a tight control over her domain, and leaves no doors casually unlocked in her house of goodies.

At her feet plays a small baby; I think it is a little boy. He is faced with more fruit than he could possibly eat, and yet he stretches out his hand for more. The Empress isn't watching him, but continues to pour out more. I like to think she has masses of blonde hair and a skin of peaches and cream. Altogether a tasty bit of alright.

I think the Empress stands for the ability to enjoy life and the good things in it. She stands for fertility, abundance and the mindless production of ever-increasing amounts of consumer goods. The Empress is an empty-headed dolly who knows what she wants, and is going to ge t it too. Whether it is what she needs is another matter.

The Empress is pragmatic, practical, determined. She often stands for something that is too big to tackle, like a mountain or a bureaucrat determined to go by the form. She is like Mother Nature - 'I ain't asking you, I's telling you.' You have to go round her, or give up, or simply ignore her and let her have her way - the original immovable object.

The Empress isn't interested in what people around her need. She gives or takes away according to what she decides is right. In the old matriarchal societies she married the King for a year, and decreed his death after one year so that his body could symbolically (and actually) fertilize the soil. It was for the good of the tribe - the good of the man chosen to be King for the year simply didn't enter into it. The Empress simply doesn't care about individuals, though she may be concerned about the tribe, or the family. That is, if she is intelligent. If she isn't, she'll simply be in it for what she can get out of it, the archetypal gold-digger.

THE EMPEROR

He sits, four-square and solid. He is the owner and manager of a very large hotel, which he runs as efficiently as possible. He is head of a staff of many servants, cooks, bottlewashers, ostlers, butlers and boot-boys. He has 2,000 table cloths, twice as many sheets, 110 rooms and a banqueting hall. And he manages them all with a firm hand.

His secret is being organized. There is a firm structure of people giving orders and taking orders. Nothing is left to individual initiative unless a deliberate point is made of allowing room for such liberty. Lights are switched off, cutlery is washed and polished carefully, and staff are selected carefully and used so as to make maximum use of their talents in furthering the organization. At the top of the organization sits the Emperor; someone has to be at the top.

He is, of course, very paternalistic, even authoritarian. Individuals, with their tender consciences and weaknesses, are ruthlessly cut out if they do not fit into the organization. Perhaps you don't like him, but remember the alternative, where each does as the mood takes him, can be just as bad. There are some things which can be handled much better by the Emperor. 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's' cuts both ways; in order to feed the five thousand on three loaves and five fishes, someone had to sort out the distribution.

So when you see the Emperor, think about order, regularity, structure, organization, paternalism and authoritarianism. It is the stilling of initiative and spontaneity, but it also allows a framework within which new ideas can grow without being swamped in a morass of verbiage.

THE HIEROPHANT

The Hierophant is either a brother of the High Priestess, or else they have a very platonic relationship. He also carries the Crux Ansata of eternal life and a book of knowledge. He is in the act of blessing two young people who are perhaps kneeling in front of him.

The Hierophant also rules people, like the Emperor. But he tries to rule them through their heart; his advice or counsel can be disregarded without bringing his wrath on to the sinner. Advance of a spiritual nature is what he offers; this cannot be measured or proven, it depends purely on trust.

Eventually, all people who desire to advance will meet the Hierophant, and must then choose whether to accept and make use of his advice, or whether to reject it and travel at random. The Hierophant loves people, all people, including the sinners and the scoffers, but he cannot help them unless they allow themselves to be helped.

Essentially, he is a lonely man. There are too few people on the same level as himself; the rest of the world either admires him or ignores him. In order to stay stable, the Hierophant must have very large inner resources.

His reward comes from the growth in people who have made use of his advice. Sometimes this may mean that he has to wait a long time for such a reward, and that he has to be patient meanwhile. It can also mean that much of his work will be unrewarded. So an element of selflessness, of altruism, has to be present.

When I see this card, I look for feelings of selflessness, patience, long-term investment, considered advice; higher ideals rather than immediate rewards. It may also be a reference to a woman's ideal lover, or to a man's ideal hero.

THE LOVERS

A young man stands between two ladies, holding an apple behind his back. The lady to his left (nearest to his heart) is pretty, wears simple clothing and smiles sweetly at the young man. The lady to his right (nearest to the place most men wear their wallet) is richly dressed, not as pretty, and is watching her competitor. The young man has to choose to which young lady he will give the apple; overhead flies a little Cupid waiting impatiently to shoot his arrow.  The whole scene reminds me of an observation I have frequently made when walking along the street in the company of any member of the opposite sex (not just wife, girl-friend or fiancée). If, as we walked along, we met another couple going along the opposite way, the man would look at my partner, being attracted to the opposite sex and being interested in all manifestations of the divine form. The woman, on the other hand, would almost invariably look at the other woman; my guess was that she was interested in the competition, since she had already found her man. It seemed almost as if only unaccompanied females ever look at the male half of a couple, much to the annoyance of the female half. But I digress.

The man has to choose between his heart and his wallet, between his feelings and the practical needs of the world. Obviously, we see him at a very dramatic moment, but in fact such a choice has to be made at all times, even in such matters as to whether to go on putting up with things as they are, or whether to throw it all away, and take to the path of the Fool.

When I see this card, I think of choice, and the need to choose; of morals, ethics, life-styles and our decisions based on these philosophies. Perhaps,if you have the time,you may read a book by Oliver Wendell Holmes called The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table', somewhere in the middle is a whole discussion of this choice between 'absolute' truth and the conveniences of the world. It is a little too long to put down here, but after all, I have written this book in the hope of stimulating you to look around. Verb, sap, as they used to say.

THE CHARIOT

See the conquering hero ride in triumph; his mighty chariot drawn by two noble steeds, his armour glittering in the sun. We all have dreams of a triumph in Roman style as we ride through the streets celebrating the end of a successful campaign.

Many Eastern philosophies liken Man to a traveller who must travel from one inn across the desert to another inn before it gets dark. The traveller rides in a coach-and-four, driven by a coachman. The analogy represents Man living from birth to death; the coach represents his body, the horses his emotions, and the driver his intellect. The traveller is the Soul, and can only reach his destination if coach, horses and driver (body, emotions and intellect) all work properly.

The general can only come home from a successful campaign if he plans his strategy and tactics intelligently, has adequate materials and seasoned troops, and doesn't let his blood-thirsty emotions run riot. If any one of these is deficient in quantity or quality, then he stands a good chance of being defeated.

Similarly, if the traveller's body is badly diseased or crippled, then extraordinary efforts from the horses and the driver are required to get the traveller home. How many bitter cripples and dwarfs have we not met, people with only average emotional and intellectual talents which could only barely cope with all the problems in this world of able-bodied people. Similarly, people of limited intellect will have difficulty in understanding the complexities of this world and the subtle possibilities of the next. They are not excluded, it is just that much more difficult.

Another way of looking at the picture is to think of people who attach too much importance to intellect or to the body. Mindless athletes and overweight high-brows both represent people who limit themselves.

But both body and intellect represent parts of us which are given at birth. We can bury our talents, or make use of them, but the absolute limit is laid down for us. It is different with emotions. Here we are dealing with behaviour. As an analogy, think of a tin of blue paint. We use the word 'blue' to describe the colour - that is an intellectual decision. Someone with more intelligence might describe it as grey-blue, or blue toned down with orange, or as B.8.1972:4800 18D43 (an architectural standard colour) or even specify it in terms of Angstrom units (the wave-length of the colour measured in one-hundred-millionths of a millimeter). How the paint is made, using plastics, oil, pigments, chemical additives etc. so as to reach paint which will not run, fade, drip, or smell, and which will dry, resist chipping and last the lifetime of your house; those are the body. But its blueness, the feeling we get when we see it, is like emotion. The impact that blue has on our senses is emotional; it is not measurable and is inherent in every blue object.

The only decision we can make vis~à-vis our emotions is whether we enjoy them, make use of them, let them enhance our lives, or whether we let them rule us.

If we look again at the picture, we see the two goats, very capricious (the word comes from the Latin word for goat) animals, each of which is tending to go its own way. Should the young driver lose control over these goats, his emotions will decide where his war-cart will end up. Perhaps the goats will behave so crazily that the cart will turn upside down.

When I see this card, I feel the emotions are controlling the life of the Querent or that the issue is one of conflicting emotions. Sometimes the emotions are suppressed too heavily, and are rarin' to get out, or are threatening to blow up. But whatever is the external 'mask' the Querent puts on, check to see if there is a balance between body, intellect and emotions. Only when they all put together can the traveller pass on successfully to his goal.


JUSTICE

Justice is traditionally depicted as a young lady with a sword in one hand, scales in the other, and her eyes are blindfolded. On Tarot cards, the blindfold is left off. I think that is because Justice has to see the effect of her pure acts. It is all well and good sending a young man to prison because he has robbed an old lady of her money; but does it help the old lady, the young man or society in general? Only by seeing the effects can justice actually serve the community, and after all, that is what justice is all about. Justice is only a mechanism to find a happy medium between the boundless desires of the individual and the general good of society. If you suppress the desires of the individual entirely you get unhappy people unable to contribute to the good of the society; if you allow free rein to the desires of the individual, you get a society totally devoted to power, and the consequent reign of sadism and violence prevents the powerless individual from contributing to the good of society. The Comte de Sade (from whom we get our word 'sadism') spent much of his life writing books describing the effects of organizing a society without limits; it was his way of protesting at the society he lived in which seemed to him to be well on the way to becoming a society where justice ignored the effects of the law.

If Justice is not blindfolded, then Justice must see the consequences of her actions. This is what I feel the card is trying to tell me. So when I see Justice, I think of responsibility, accepting the consequences of our own actions. I also think of guilt, the guilt we feel, or are made to feel by other people, that is caused by feeling that we are responsible for the actions which resulted in these wrong results, results for which we take the blame. Responsibility and guilt are two sides of the same coin, a good instance of the pointlessness of giving different meanings to a card depending on whether it is turned the right way up or upside down. When things go well, we take pride in our ability to take on responsibility; when things go badly, we wallow in our guilt. Many people like feeling guilty, and many other people like being made to feel guilty; after all, it is better than being ignored, isn't it?

Justice wears a sword, to symbolize her need to make decisions, to fight for what is right. She doesn't take scales with her for her long journey, since the 'right-ness' of any decision cannot be judged by weighing the goodness and the badness. But next to her she holds a small trusting child, to remind her of her responsibilities and also of the consequences her decisions will have later on, when the child is grown-up.
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