About Anne-Marie Wegh

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Anne-Marie Wegh has created 17 blog entries.

Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved

Mary Magdalene

The disciple whom Jesus loved

All the Bible says about Mary Magdalene is that she was one of the women who followed Jesus on his tour of Judea, and that she was freed from seven demons. However, a closer look at the Greek original text reveals a wealth of additional information to be found in the few words about this mysterious woman.

What appears is a very different picture from that of the penitent sinner that the church paints of her, and also a different picture from what is suggested in New Age circles, namely that she was the wife of Jesus. I have explained and substantiated my explosive findings in my book Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved. The following text is from Chapter 2 of this book.

The disciple whom Jesus loved

The identity of the author of the fourth gospel has been topic of research and debate for nearly two thousand years. According to received wisdom, it is the apostle John, but in modern times many experts doubt this. Judging from the content of the gospel, it must have been someone who was very close to Jesus. The anonymous author says to report from first hand, about what he has seen with his own eyes, and calls himself the “disciple whom Jesus loved”:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
(John 21:20,24)

Why would the author have chosen for anonymity? Several reasons can be thought of, but a very good reason would be because it was a woman!

Women were commonly not taken serious in those days, which is also made clear in a galling passage in the gospel of Luke. When Jesus, after his death, has appeared to a number of women, and they rush to tell of this to the male apostles, they are not believed:

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
(Luke 24:9-11)

Full as she was about what she had learned from Jesus, Mary decided to write her own version of the “good message”2. She chose to remain anonymous and assume a male profile in her texts. She deliberately made the audience suspect that this man was the apostle John, as we shall see shortly. However, in an ingenious way, she left a key in the text, with which the true identity of the author could be retrieved. For this, we have to turn to the Greek source text.

The hidden key

In the gospel of John, the formula “the disciple whom Jesus loved” appears five times. Four times, the author chose to use the Greek verb agapaó (from agápe), for the meaning of to love. However, in the passage that describes the discovery of the astonished disciples that the tomb is empty, the Greek verb phileó (from philos) is used:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved (phileó), and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.
(John 20:1-3)

In this passage, Mary Magdalene is together with two other disciples present at the empty tomb of Jesus. By calling one of the two men the beloved disciple, making use of another word for to love, her identity as author remains hidden, but she does not deny herself. Through this construction, she can maintain that it was she who first saw the resurrected Jesus.

Also the word “other” stands out in this quote: the other disciple whom Jesus loved. Together with the other word for to love, and Mary Magdalene’s presence in this scene, there is only one logical conclusion: she is the author of this gospel!

A literary construction that is as simple as it is brilliant, and which all this time has successfully hidden that the author of this gospel is a woman. A well-kept secret that allowed her story to be taken seriously and make it through the strict selection process of the early Christian Church fathers, because of which it now is part of the New Testament. This is an honor that did not befall many other gospels from that time. As a consequence her words are read and lavishly cited, across the world and until today.

Pietro Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter, 1482, Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy. Jesus delivers the keys to the “Kingdom of Heaven” to Peter. This event from the gospels (Matthew 16:19) caused the Catholic Church to reckon Peter as the first pope. Artist Perugino wants to let us know that this honor is actually Mary Magdalene’s. She stands behind Peter in an open posture, because of which she becomes the central figure of the right side of the scene. She is the only one of the apostles who looks at Jesus. The apostle to her left points at her. That this is Mary Magdalene we may deduce from her footwear. All apostles are barefooted. Only Jesus and she wear sandals. Hers are ornamented in such a way that it is clear that this character must be a woman. She holds a small paper scroll in her hand: the gospel she has written!

Christian art

Throughout the ages there have always been initiates, artists and mystics who knew that the Gospel of John was written by Mary Magdalene. In Christian iconography, the apostle John is usually depicted as a beardless young man with feminine features. In many paintings (and also church statues) the evangelist is so clearly a woman that the artist must have had a underlying message for us. Sometimes John is even so feminine that he can only be recognized by his attributes (a Bible with a writing pen, an eagle, and/or a drinking cup with or without poisonous snakes).

Because of the rigid attitude of the church, the truth could not be spoken aloud, but underground it found its way onto the canvas. On the walls of museums, churches and basilicas, voices from the distant past speak to us: Mary Magdalene was the ‘apostle to the apostles’. She was the disciple Jesus loved most!

Paintings and stained glass of the Evangelist John

Defendente Ferrari
(circa 1525)

Hans Baldung (1511)

(first half 17th century)

Sisto Badalocchio (1605-1625)

From: Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne (1503-1508)

John La Farge (19th century)

This article has been published in Spiegelbeeld magazine (July/August ’19)
Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019

Share this article

Anne-Marie Wegh is author of the book:
Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved

By |2022-05-31T12:25:09+00:00April 16th, 2022|Anne-Marie|Comments Off on Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved

Tarot 15. The Devil

15. The Devil

The devil is an interesting archetype that can help us with self-understanding and spiritual growth. The demonic being staring at us from tarot card number 15 is a representation of our own animal urges; an aspect that is inextricably linked to our body. Denial of your inner devil causes these forces to lead a life of their own in our subconscious, and makes us behave in ways that we do not want. Recognition and insight, on the other hand, create a expansion of consciousness in which choices arise.

The Devil in the 15th Century

Unfortunately, no 15th century hand-painted tarot cards of the Devil have been preserved. We can, however, find in museums a number of sheets from early printing that have never been finished (below). From these cards we can deduce that the devil in the tarot was depicted according to the common characteristics at the time: a fearful creature with horns, bird’s legs, a lot of hair, and often as an attribute a large fork (see the painting by Hans Memling from 1485, below right).

Rosenwald deck

Rothschild-Beaux-Arts deck

Budapest-​Metropolitan deck

Hell (detail of painting),
Hans Memling, 1485.

In our inner world a constant battle takes place between the impulses of our lower, animal nature and our higher, divine nature. Animal tendencies include aggression, greed, jealousy, lust and selfishness. Attributes that arise from our higher nature are love, forgiveness, compassion and altruism. The Devil not only represents the beast in man, but also one-sided focus on the physical dimensions (materialism). And on an even deeper level, the Devil also stands for duality.

Energetically, the Devil represents the two energy channels that flow along the spine and make us experience duality. The yoga tradition calls these energy channels the ida nadi and the pingala nadi. The divine is characterized by oneness. In the person who has realized the divine, the energy flows through one channel: the sushumna nadi, which runs through the spine.

On the card of the Budapest Metropolitan deck (above) – the only 15th century card with clear esoteric symbolism – the Devil stands between two small trees. These trees represent the ida and pingala nadi: the Devil is rooted in duality.

The three energy channels involved in a spiritual awakening.

19th century miniature of a yogi

Right: the Ancient Greeks used the beautiful metaphor of a DOUBLE FLUTE to express the energy flowing through the ida and pingala nadi. On the right are two examples of a satyr – who, like the devil, also stands for the beast in man – with such a double flute. (Pottery from circa 530 BC.)

Often the devil is depicted with a face on his belly. A 15th century example is the Rothschild-Beaux-Arts deck (above). This represents focusing on the desires of the (lower) abdomen; pursuing sensory pleasure and sexual gratification.

The Tarot of Marseille

The Devil of the Tarot of Marseille has additional elements that refer to duality. First, he has both male (genitals) and female (breasts) features. Note that this is different from androgyny, which is a characteristic of the person who has realized the divine. In that case the inner male and female energies have merged into oneness. In the Devil these polar energies are both present (as in any unenlightened person).

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (1659)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Payen-Webb (18th century)

The Devil’s staff also refers to duality. It is a bident on Jean Noblet’s card (above left) and on Payen-Webb’s card (above right) two flames are burning on the staff. The Devil’s two horns are not only a reference to the animal instincts, but also to duality. In addition, Jean Noblet uses the combination of the colors red (male) and blue (female) to express the polarities / duality.

The bat wings of the Marseille Devil symbolize spiritual unconsciousness: a bat lives at night, in the (spiritual) darkness. Jean Noblet’s card has two dots on the left wing and three dots on the right wing. This is probably another reference to duality. In Pythagoras’ teaching about the opposites, the even numbers are female and the odd numbers are male.

The two Devil-like creatures tied to the pedestal represent man “trapped” in matter and guided by his lower nature.

An important theme, visualised on several tarot decks, is dealing with the sexual energies. Lust is a primal force that can keep man imprisoned in the world of the animal urges, and thus keep him away from the divine.

The card on the right from the Swiss 1JJ tarot deck (19th century) addresses this theme with clear symbolism. The Devil’s tail is bent forward, evoking associations with a phallus. The tip of the tail touches the bident, which represents the two energy channels that make us experience duality.

Duality and the animal instincts are part of God’s creation and not necessarily “bad” in this respect. However, if we want to experience the oneness of the divine, we must let go of the world of the senses. The Tarot of Marseille card by Payen-Webb (above) emphasizes this by naming the card L’Antechrist (the antichrist) instead of Le Diable: the Devil is the polar opposite of the divine (Christ) in our dual world.

1JJ deck from Switzerland
(Johann Georg Rauch, circa 1830)

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth’s version of the Devil is heavily influenced by the Baphomet figure of the occultist Eliphas Levi, and this creates confusion. Baphomet is seen by historians as an idol, of which the exact origin and meaning is unknown. The Knights Templar – a Christian knighthood from the 12th and 13th centuries – were said to have worshiped him instead of Christ, and were burned at the stake for this reason.

Eliphas Levi came to the conclusion that Baphomet represents the Gnostic principle of perfect equilibrium between the opposites, and he created an image that reflected this (on the far right). His Baphomet includes alchemical principles (“solve et coagula”), the four elements and the caduceus of the god Hermes.

Levi’s Baphomet hereby represents positive, spiritual principles, worth of pursuing. For example, the flame on the goat’s head represents the human intellect that rules over the animal instincts. Using elements of Baphomet for the Devil, as Oswald Wirth did, could mislead someone as to the meaning of the card.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Baphomet, by Eliphas Levi (1854-1856).

Château des Avenières (1917)

The designer of the mosaics at Château des Avenières (left) even took Levi’s Baphomet in its entirety for the Devil. The man and woman who are trapped in matter (the big circle, earth), could easily free themselves if they wanted to. The mosaic therefore presents their captivity as a choice.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Artist Pamela Colman-Smith has the card refer unambiguously to the opposite of the divine again. Her Devil is corpulent (gluttony) and sinister. His horns are curved towards the earth. The upside-down torch in his hands refers to the kundalini fire, which flows down instead of up. This is also the meaning of the two tails of the naked man and woman. The grapes (wine) and the fire both refer to the divine kundalini that feeds on this card the lower, rather than the higher, chakras.

The pentagram, which is shown pointing up with Levi’s Baphomet and on the mosaic of Château des Avenières, has been turned downwards on the RWS card. In occult circles, the pentagram pointed upwards refers to God-realization. The fifth point of the star represents the Spirit, which rules the other four points, which represent the four elements (matter). Pointing down, matter (the beast) rules over the Spirit (the divine).

On the upper hand of the Devil is written the sign for Jupiter: of the seven planets of classical astronomy, the planet furthest away from the sun, and (thus) in alchemy symbolizing the first / bottom chakra. The hand gesture itself refers to duality (“split in two”).

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The naked man and woman evoke associations with Adam and Eve, especially if you place the RWS card The Lovers next to it. Arthur E. Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith were connected to esoteric circles that knew that at the symbolic level the Bible story of Adam and Eve is about man choosing to use the kundalini energy (the serpent) for the lower chakras (sexual activity) and, as a result, losing paradise (connection with the divine). This esoteric knowledge has also been incorporated in countless paintings, see three examples below.

Adam holds Eve’s breast: the forbidden fruit is sexuality (Hans Baldung Grien, 1511)

God tells Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruits. What these forbidden fruits are is symbolized by the branches with leaves, in the form of a phallus, in the left hand of Adam. (Grabower Altar Panel, Bertram van Minden, 1375-1383)

The twig in Adam’s hand evokes associations with a phallus: the forbidden fruit is sexuality. (Lucas van Leyden, 1529, Rijksmuseum)


In the field of the dual forces, the devil is the polar opposite of the divine. Where the divine stands for oneness, the devil represents duality. In man, the devil represents our lower, animal nature, which is the opposite of our higher, divine nature.

In the tarot, the Devil is the counterpart of the Emperor, the Hierophant, and the Chariot. The men on these three cards have conquered matter and the animal instincts (the devil).

Right: the rider of the CHARIOT (tarot card nr. 7) has conquered his lower nature (the devil) and realized the divine (YHWH in Hebrew letters). The figure at the bottom of the screen is the FOOL (tarot card no. 0) who does not believe in God. Illustration by Oswald Wirth from La Clef de la Magie Noir (Stanislas De Guaita, 1897).

Recommended reading: Paul Solomon on our lower and higher nature
(from: “The Wisdom of Solomon“)

Golden Botticelli Tarot (Atanas Alexandrov Atanassov, 2007)

The trident represents the three energy channels involved in a spiritual awakening. The inverted trident on this card symbolizes that the energies are flowing downward, to the lower chakras, rather than up, to the higher chakras.

The Buddha Tarot (Robert M. Place, 2004)

In Buddhism, Mara is the demon who tried to prevent the Buddha from attaining enlightenment.

Ramses – Tarot of Eternity (Severino Baraldi, 2003)

The god Set represented in ancient Egypt the lower nature / animal consciousness.

Tarot of Atlantis (Bepi Vigna, Massimo Rotundo, 2004)

The Hydra from Greek mythology is the dragon-like monster that the demigod Hercules had to defeat. Every time he chopped off one head of the beast, two new ones grew. The Hydra stands for our (animal) desires, which are difficult to overcome.

This article was written by Anne-Marie Wegh. Copyright April 2020.

Anne-Marie Wegh is the author of the book
John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ

Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

Share this article


By |2022-05-31T12:21:43+00:00June 15th, 2020|Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 15. The Devil

Tarot 14. Temperance

14. Temperance

Temperance is one of the four so-called “cardinal virtues”. Two of the preceding cardinal virtues, 8. Justice and 11. Strength, represent in the tarot aspects of a kundalini awakening. Does this also apply to Temperance? Is there a hidden, esoteric meaning behind the two vases with which the woman adds water to the wine?

Traditionally, the virtue temperance stands for self-control and balance, especially with regard to physical pleasures, such as eating, drinking and sex. Allegorically (as a symbolic representation), this virtue is usually depicted by a woman pouring liquid from one jug into another. Other attributes also occur, for example a bit (“curbing” the animal drives), a clock, and other measuring instruments (“regulating” behavior).

In the case of a liquid, this is usually interpreted as adding water to wine (to prevent drunkenness). But other interpretations are also possible, for instance adding cold to hot liquid, to lower the temperature.

Temperance in the 15th century

In the tarot, the flowing liquid refers to the kundalini energy, that flows from the pelvis to the head. A first indication that this card means something more than adding water to wine is the physical impossibility of the path the liquid travels. Not only on the 15th century tarot cards, also in the centuries that follow, the liquid defies the laws of gravity.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

Ercole d’Este Tarot (15th century)

A schematic representation of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The polar energy channels are red and blue.

A second clue is that on many tarot cards the liquid flows from the woman’s head to her pelvis: the (reverse) path the kundalini energy travels. But there are more details that refer to a kundalini awakening process. The combination of the colors red and blue of the woman’s clothing, on both the Visconti-Sforza card and the Ercole d’Este card (above), refers to the sacred marriage: the fusion of the masculine (red) and the feminine (blue) energies.

The spiral pattern on the woman’s clothing on the Ercole d’Este card (above center) refers to the spiraling upward movement of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. Her crossed legs symbolize the fusion of the inner duality into (divine) oneness.

On the dress of the Visconti-Sforza woman we see a pattern of eight-pointed stars. As we will see when discussing tarot card 17. The Star, the eight-pointed star (the “Morning Star”) is an ancient and widely used symbol for the kundalini energy.

Something strange is going on with the jug on the Visconti-Sforza card. The liquid does not pour from the spout, but from the top of the jug. This incongruity has to make us aware of the deeper meaning of the spout: it’s value is not practical but symbolic. The S shape refers to the kundalini serpent.

Venus (the planet) with eight pointed star
(The Sphaera Mundi, circa 1450)

Knot of Isis

The two ends of the cord around the woman’s dress have the same S shape. They represent the two energy channels that merge in the head, during the kundalini process. The loop on the cord refers to the pineal gland, which is activated during this fusion. The cord with the loop together form ‘the Knot of Isis’, a kundalini symbol from Ancient Egypt (left).

Not only in the tarot have the allegories of the cardinal virtues been used to communicate forbidden esoteric knowledge. Hidden references to the kundalini energy can be found everywhere. Below three examples.

The bare back refers to the SPINE/ kundalini. (Hendrick Goltzius, circa 1600, Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands)

The outstretched MIDDLE FINGER (click here) is a reference to the spine / kundalini (the “center” of the body). The SCARF from head to pelvis has the same symbolic meaning as the LIQUID: the flowing kundalini energy. (Jacques de Gheyn, 1593, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, The Netherlands)

The SCARF from head to pelvis is a reference to the kundalini energy.
(Fresco Parz castle, Austria, 1580)

The tradition of alchemy also uses the metaphor of a liquid, or vapor, that travels between two flasks / pots, to express a kundalini awakening. See right en below.

The woman points with her right hand to her PELVIS: what can be seen to the right of her takes place INTERNALLY. The kundalini fire purifies the first five CHAKRAS, symbolized by the five FLOWERS. (Symbola aurea mensae, Michael Maier, 1617). Illustration on the right: the same inner process with different symbolism.

The DOVE of the Holy Spirit (= the kundalini) cleanses the first five CHAKRAS. (Rosarium Philosophorum, 1578)

Read more about the HOLY SPIRIT and the KUNDALINI in my book ‘John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ’.

The flask with the RED ‘ELIXIR VITAE’ (‘elixir of life’) is a metaphor for the kundalini energy. The alchemist points to his arm holding a PAIR OF PLIERS. They represents the TWO POLAR ENERGY CHANNELS that merge during a kundalini awakening. (Pyrotechnia or fire-firing science, 1687)

The FIVE FLASKS on top of each other represent the first FIVE CHAKRAS transformed by the kundalini. At the SIXTH CHAKRA the SACRED MARRIAGE (click here) takes place, represented on this emblem by the crossed flasks, the crossed “horns of plenty”, and the two pliers. (Chimischer Wegweiser, 1710)

The Alessandro Sforza Tarot

We can also deduce that the Temperance card in the 15th century represented more than just a cardinal virtue, from the Alessandro Sforza Tarot (right), which is very different from its contemporaries. It is a card that raises many questions among tarot connoisseurs and historians. What is the meaning of the deer on this card and why is the woman with the two vases sitting on top of it?

The answer we find – again – in the tradition of alchemy and the Greek myths of the gods. In both, the deer symbolizes the kundalini energy; probably because of its red-brown color (association with fire) and its antlers, which grow toward “heaven”.

One of the twelve “labors” that the Greek demigod Heracles (Hercules) has to carry out on behalf of King Eurystheus is to bring him the Hind of Keryneia with the golden antlers. When the animal is captured by Heracles, one of the antlers breaks off. The deeper meaning of this myth is the mission of a spiritual seeker to awaken the kundalini (catch the hind) and accomplish a merger of the two energy channels that represent the inner duality (the two antlers become one). See also the illustrations below.

The woman on the Alessandro Sforza card is sitting with her pelvis against the spine of the deer. This may be taken as confirmation that the deer refers to a kundalini awakening. The woman has ONE LEG RAISED (click here) to express that duality has merged into (divine) oneness (see also the painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, below right). The necklace of RED CORAL (click here) that she wears is a metaphor from alchemy. It also represents the kundalini energy. See also the red coral necklace on the Visconti-Sforza Tarot card The Sun, and the alchemical emblem below left.

Alessandro Sforza Tarot (15th century)

The alchemist fishes RED CORAL (the kundalini) out of the water (his unconscious). From: Atalanta Fugiens, 1617.

The DEER and the UNICORN on this alchemical emblem (Book of Lambspring, 16th century) both refer to the kundalini process. The unicorn’s HORN represents the kundalini energy, which has ascended to the sixth chakra (the forehead). The deer’s ANTLERS represent the two energy channels that merge at the sixth chakra.

The ANTLERS of the deer on this emblem from alchemy have SIXPOINTED STARS attached to them. They refer to the HEXAGRAM (click here), a symbol for the fusion of the polar energies (the antlers). (Viridarium Chymicum di Stolcenberg, 1624)

While capturing the Hind of Keryneia, ONE of the golden ANTLERS breaks off. (An amphora from circa 540 BC.)

Apollo and Diana, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1525. Both Diana and the deer (the kundalini), on which she sits, have stretched ONE LEG (click here): the inner duality is transformed into DIVINE ONENESS during a kundalini awakening.

The Tarot of Marseille

The most important addition to the card in the 17th century are the wings. This new element underlines that the woman represents the feminine pole of the divine. She has many names, including Isis, Hera, Diana, Venus, Iris, and Shakti (the kundalini). Other elements on the card that refer to her divine status are the DOUBLE CIRCLE (click here) on her head (Tarot of Marseille, by Jean Dodal, below center) and the five-petalled flower, the so-called ‘Rose of Venus’ (Tarot of Marseille, by Pierre Madenié, below left), also on her head. On these two Marseille cards we also see the color combination of blue and red in the clothing of the goddess: the fusion of the masculine and feminine energies.

Jean Dodal’s card accentuates the woman’s breasts. This refers to the “nourishing” character of “God the Mother”. This nourishing / giving aspect is also expressed in general iconography by depicting goddesses with a large amount of breasts. Sometimes liquid flows from the breasts. See the alchemy emblem below (on the right). This liquid is a reference to the kundalini energy, but also to the transformed brain fluid of man, which under the influence of a kundalini awakening has turned into amrita (drink of immortality), or ambrosia (the “nectar of the gods”).

Tarot of Marseille,
by Pierre Madenié (1709)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Dodal (1701-1715)

On this alchemical emblem from Das Blut der Natur (1767), the kundalini energy is personified by both the goddess with the flowing BREASTS and by the god Hermes with his staff the CADUCEUS. Below them the (inner) RESURRECTION of the (spiritually dead) alchemist takes place.

The deeper meaning of the Temperance card becomes even more clear when we look at Tarot de Marseille cards with deviating elements, such as that of Jacques Viéville, from 1650 (right). On the card of Viéville, the woman has a large staff with wings in her hand. Derived from the caduceus of Hermes, this staff represents the spine, with the pineal gland at the top, and is a wonderful addition to the symbolism of the jug with liquid in her other hand.

The enigmatic Latin text SOL FAMA is also a reference to the divine. Sol means sun and Fama means fame. The words are written in mirror image. I think this is a clue that we need to turn around not only the words, but also the flow of liquid to understand its meaning: the kundalini energy flows from bottom to top!

Tarot of Marseille by Jacques Vieville (1650)

Tarot of the Master, by Giovanni Vacchetta, a 2002 reproduction of the 1893 original

Also worth mentioning is the Temperance card of the Italian Giovanni Vacchetta (Tarot of the Master, above right), from a somewhat later period. The flying ribbons on the woman’s back and head symbolize the two fusing energy channels. The loop represents the pineal gland (KNOT OF ISIS). The two vases are decorated with a pinecone pattern; this is also a reference to the pineal gland, which is so called because it has the shape of a pinecone. The side seams of the woman’s skirt refer to the caduceus.

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth (1889, below left) has not added any new elements to the Temperance card. On the mosaic of Château des Avenières (below center), which is derived from the tarot of Wirth, the vases have different colors: gold and silver. Just like the colors red and blue in the women’s clothing, gold and silver (representing the sun and the moon) refer to the (melting) polar energies (see emblem from alchemy below right).

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

The kundalini, here personified by a woman wearing a crown with seven stars (chakras), stands on two FOUNTAINS: one with a GOLDEN and one with a SILVER liquid. From: Alchemical Notebook, Johann Grasshoff, 1620.

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

Right: Ottheinrich-Bibel, Matthias Gerung, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 1530. This illustration also includes kundalini symbolism: the color combination RED-BLUE of the angel and THE SIGN OF THE SACRED MARRIAGE (2 = 1 with the fingers).

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Pamela Colman-Smith has chosen yet another way to express the polarities: her goddess has one foot on land and one foot in the water. This symbolism is probably ispirered by a vision of the apostle John, which is described in the Book of Revelation (10: 1-2):

“I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land…”

This vision are inner images of a kundalini awakening. The angel personifies the divine kundalini energy.


The kundalini energy, which flows from one chalice to another on the RWS card, is also represented by the narrow stream (or is it a small road?) that runs between the pond in the foreground to the sun, in the distance. The circle with a dot in the middle, on the forehead of the angel, is the symbol for the sun. The triangle placed in a square, on his chest, represents fire (triangle) in earth (square), in other words: the kundalini fire in man. Above this symbol is written in Hebrew letters: YHWH (God).

The irises are an esoteric symbol for the pineal gland and the kundalini process. In Christian painting, the iris has been used extensively to (secretly) refer to the kundalini awakening that Jesus experienced. See three examples below, and my book “Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

The appearance of Christ on Lake Tiberias, Albert Bouts, early 16th century.

The Resurrection of Christ, Pietro Perugino, circa 1495, Cathedral of Sansepolcro, Italy.

The Last Judgment (detail), Ambrosius Benson, 1540, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

The Greek pantheon also has a goddess Iris: the personal messenger of Hera. Iris is the female counterpart of Hermes in terms of tasks. Like Hermes, she is often depicted with a caduceus.

On the right we see Iris pouring a libation: a ritual in which a liquid is poured as a sacrifice for, or by, the gods. In the iconography of the Ancient Greeks, libations were used to refer, in a disguised way, to the kundalini energy. This vase from the 5th century BC is an example.

The vase beautifully combines the various kundalini metaphors that have also been incorporated in the Temperance card. Iris pours liquid into a bowl held by the god Apollo. They represent the male and female energies (polarities). Just below the jug and the bowl is a deer (the kundalini). Iris holds a caduceus in her hand.

The gods Iris and Apollo


Since the first decks in the 15th century, the tarot card of the cardinal virtue temperance has been used to communicate forbidden knowledge about the kundalini energy. Numerous examples show that not only the tarot, and not just the cardinal virtues, were used for this “heresy.” Wherever you look in museums and churches, everywhere you see creative attempts by artists to refer to the source of divine energy in our pelvis. Even on illustrations in old Bibles!

This powerful energy source awakens when we live a “virtuous” life, in which self-control (temperance) with regard to the sensory pleasures is an important factor. If you want to experience the divine, you have to let go of the physical dimensions.

Right: the goddess Venus makes her son Aeneas immortal. We can deduce that this refers to a kundalini awakening from their hands that make the SIGN OF THE SACRED MARRIAGE (2 = 1), click here.

Left: the grave of Pope Clement II (Bamberger Dom, circa 1240) depicts, along with the FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES, a FIFTH WOMAN, seen from her BACK, pouring out a large VASE OF LIQUID. The meaning of this is unknown. It is called “Paradiesfluss” (RIVER OF PARADISE). The reader of this article will have no trouble interpreting this enigmatic fifth woman…!

Silvia Ritter’s Tarot Deck(Work in progress)

Legacy of the Divine Tarot (Ciro Marchetti, 2008)

Animal Totem Tarot (Eugene Smith, Leeza Robertson, 2016)

The flamingo, with wings spread and standing on one leg, is a beautiful metaphor for a kundalini awakening. Red is the color of the first chakra, where the kundalini resides, and the flamingo’s neck is shaped like an ascending serpent. Also beautiful is the rainbow that coincides with the waterfall.

The Gill Tarot (Elizabeth Gill, US Games, 1991)

Medieval Scapini Tarot ( Luigi Scapini, 2005)

The artist connects the Temperance card with the descent of the Holy Spirit during the baptism of Jesus (an event that is a metaphor for a kundalini awakening). Read more in my book John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

Ansata Tarot (Paul Struck, 1981)

This article was written by Anne-Marie Wegh. Copyright April 2020.

Anne-Marie Wegh is the author of the book
John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ

Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

Share this article


By |2022-05-31T12:23:06+00:00June 15th, 2020|Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 14. Temperance

Tarot 13. Death

13. Death

Death is a positive card in the tarot. It stands for transformation; for leaving the old behind and making a new beginning. On a spiritual level, Death is about dying and being born again. A process that, according to this card with number 13, has everything to do with our spine!

15th century

All Death cards from the 15th century that have been preserved contain clear esoteric symbolism.
The Visconti-Sforza card (below center) displays only a skeleton (‘Death’) with in his hands a bow and (barely visible anymore) an arrow.

The bow is large, the same size as Death itself, and its shape is twice a spine, seen from the side. The little notches on the arch – making it appear to be made up of ‘vertebrae’ – confirm to us that the association with a spinal column is no coincidence. The card refers to the “mystical death” (dying of the ego), that is the result of a kundalini awakening.

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

Sola Busca Tarot (circa 1491)

The esoteric meaning of the arrow, which is barely visible on the Visconti card, becomes clear when we put the card of the Sola Busca Tarot (above right) next to it. The arrow is a symbol of the kundalini energy. On the Sola Busca card, the arrow – which has the same length as the man holding it – has pierced the left eye of the severed head on the floor. A gruesome image, but with a beautiful message!

Decapitation is a universal metaphor for the death of the ego. The head now only has one eye, which is a reference to the opening of the “third eye” as a result of the kundalini process. The man on this card has a laurel wreath on his head; this represents a spiritual victory. His armor is on the floor; a reference to the inner battle he had to fight. The eight-pointed star, in the upper right corner of the card, is discussed on the page of tarot card The Star. This “Morning Star” symbolizes the feminine aspect of God, or the kundalini energy.

Below three examples of paintings, from the time of the first tarot decks, in which the artist has used a bow and arrow to refer to (the forbidden knowledge of) the kundalini energy.

Cupid holds his BOW, which resembles a (kundalini) SERPENT, at the level of the SPINE of Venus. Venus points UPWARD: an exhortation to let the the kundalini rise to the crown chakra. (Guercino, 17th century)

Amor points at his SPINE. The BOW in his hand resembles a (kundalini) SERPENT. He makes the SIGN OF THE SACRED MARRIAGE with two fingers: 2=1 (click here). (Giuseppe Maria Crespi, circa 1700)

The ARROW of Saint Ursula points at her PELVIS, the abode of the kundalini. With her FINGERS Ursula makes the sign of the SACRED MARRIAGE: 2=1. (Joan de Borgonya, c. 1525)

The Knot of Isis

A cloth is tied around the head of the Visconti-Death. The two ends fly in the air and one of them touches the bow. This is no coincidence either. The two ribbons represent the two polar energy channels that flow along the spine, and merge at the sixth chakra (in the head) during a kundalini awakening. On two other 15th century Death cards (below) we also see these flying ribbons, including a knot. Their symbolism is rooted in the so-called ‘Knot of Isis’, from Ancient Egypt, which represents the two polar energy channels and the pineal gland, which is activated during the merger.

The Knot of Isis was regularly incorporated by artists in paintings about the life story of Jesus, to communicate that in the Bible his birth, baptism, crucifixion and resurrection, on the symbolic level, represent aspects of the process of kundalini awakening. Right en below some examples. Read more in my book “John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ”.

Cornelis Engebrechts, Metmuseum, NY.

Marriotto Albertinelli, 14th century. Mary makes the SIGN OF SACRED MARRIAGE with her fingers: 2=1 (click here).

Lucas Cranach de Jongere

The cards of the Visconti Di Modrone Tarot and the Estensi Tarot (below) also illustrate the fusion of the polar energy channels in another way. On both cards we see people being trampled under the hooves of the horse on which Death is sitting. The combination of the colors red and blue is subtly incorporated in their clothing. These colors represent, respectively, the masculine and the feminine (the polar energies) in man. On both cards, a hand makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1) with two fingers: the fusion of the opposites (right).

The sign of the sacred marriage

Visconti Di Modrone Tarot (15th century)

Estensi Tarot (late 15th century)

Illustration of the Rosicrucians. DYING to yourself, and being BORN again, is a process that takes place in the HEAD, during a kundalini awakening. The two serpents represent the two polar energy channels that merge. The wings symbolize an expansion of consciousness.

The persons affected by Death on both of the above cards do not seem to experience this as an unpleasant event. We see a peaceful smile on almost all faces. This confirms to us that this card does not represent physical death, but a mystical experience. Man is freed from his ego and experiences the oneness of the divine.

On the Estensi card (above center) the ‘dead’ are high ranking clerics and a king. In the light of the other symbolism, we may also interpret the king as a spiritually accomplished person: in alchemy the king represents the person who has completed the Magnum Opus (see also the alchemical illustrations below).

Right: the BLISSFUL facial expression of the man (alchemist) in the grave shows that he experiences the divine, as a result of the awakened kundalini energy (SERPENT), which has ascended to his head. The color red of his clothing refers to a completed Magnum Opus. (Atalanta Fugiens, emblem 50, Michael Maier, 1617)

In the open abdomen of the Visconti Di Modrone Death (above) the viscera are visible. They make a spiral movement that refers to the ascending kundalini.

The scythe is the instrument of Death with which he chops away everything that stands between man and God. This purifying effect will be emphasized more in the centuries that follow, in the Tarot of Marseille.

Right: the Magnum Opus (God-realization) of the alchemist in symbols. The person with the two eagle heads, sitting on the wolf, represents the fused POLAR ENERGY CHANNELS (sun and moon). The front person, with the SCYTHE, represents the purifying kundalini energy. The LADDER symbolizes the ascent of the kundalini through the SPINE. The WOLF represents the energies of the lower (animal) nature that are used for the process of God-realization. (Book of Alchemical Formulas, Claudio de Domenico Celentano di Valle, 1606)

Of the very first printed tarot decks, only uncolored, uncut printed sheets have survived. On the right is the Death card of the Rosenwald deck.

The bodies of the two individuals under the horse are superimposed. This is a reference to the Rebis, or Hermaphrodite, from alchemy: a symbol for the inner fusion of the polar energies (see illustration on the far right).

Rosenwald sheet, circa 1500.


The Tarot of Marseille

The Death of the Tarot of Marseille works like a gardener. With a large scythe he mows the field in which he stands. Body parts are lying scattered around him: hands, feet, bones and heads. We can deduce that the scythe represents the effect of the kundalini energy from the coloring of the card. The scythe has the same color as the spine of Death.

Tarot of Marseille,
 by Pierre Madeniè (1709)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Nicolas Conver (1760)

Liguria-Piedmont Tarot (1860)

On the cards of Pierre Madeniè and Nicolas Conver (above), the scythe also has the colors red and blue of the polar energies. This interpretation is confirmed by one of the severed hands on the card of Pierre of Madeniè, that makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2=1).

Death rarely cuts limbs outside of the tarot. This is an image that comes from alchemy and refers to the spiritual phase of disintegration: the old man is cut into pieces, after which the new man is born. The severed limbs symbolize the “stripping” of the ego. Everything that stands between man and God is removed. Below three illustrations from alchemy of this purification process.

The alchemist shows his inner processes. His RED AND WHITE (click here) clothing represents the fusion of the masculine and feminine energies (duality). A severed arm shows the sign of this SACRED MARRIAGE. He has been purified (the chopped off body parts and the color white). He has discarded his ego (DECAPITATION). (Splendor Solis, 1535)

This illustration shows that the KUNDALINI energy is the active force behind the transformation process: the CADUCEUS (serpent staff) is the classic symbol of kundalini awakening. We can deduce that this is a spiritual growth process from the CROWN on the severed head, and the RED GARMENT of the completed Magnum Opus that is lying ready, for when the alchemist is whole again (reborn). But first his body parts have to be purified (the pot with the caduceus above it). (Philosophia Hermetica, Federico Gualdi, circa 1790)

In the background the OLD KING (alchemist) is cut to pieces. He will be reassembled by the woman standing next to the body parts. She is the feminine aspect of God: Sophia / Isis / the kundalini. In the foreground we see the RESURRECTION of the new king that follows. (Atalanta Fugiens, emblem 44, Michael Maier, 1617)

The following quote from the Bible Book of Revelation probably served as an inspiration for the Death card of the Marseille Tarot: God sending his sickle (the kundalini energy) to harvest man when he is ready.

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. (Revelation 14:14-16)

The two heads in the foreground, on all three of the above cards, do not appear chopped off and dead, but they are standing upright and looking happy. They resemble new crop emerging from the ground. Significant in this regard is that the coloring suggests that the heads are outside the mowing area of ​​the scythe. The crown they wear is a reference to spiritual completion.

A Bible quote that fits this image of dying and rebirth is the familiar parable of the grain of wheat, from the Gospel of John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. (John 12: 24-25)

Read more about the SYMBOLISM IN THE BIBLE in my book: “John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ”

In Hinduism, the gods use a variety of weapons to express the activity of the kundalini.

Left: the god Vishnu with a so-called Sudarshana Chakra. This rotating, razor-sharp wheel refers to the spiral movement of the ascending kundalini. The seven heads of the (kundalini) serpent represent the seven chakras that are purified.

Right: the goddess Kali; a personification of the purifying kundalini energy. The standing cobra around the neck of Shiva reinforces the symbolism. With her tongue sticking out, Kali searches for impurities in man; a reference to the (kundalini) cobra that ‘smells’ prey with its tongue (below right).

Left: Krishna – an incarnation of the god Vishnu – decapitates an opponent with his Sudarshana Chakra. This opponent is Narakasura, the ruler of all kingdoms on earth. The trident in Narakasura’s right hand represents the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening.

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth (below left) has not added any new elements to the card. The esoteric symbolism has even partly disappeared, compared to the Tarot of Marseille. The Châteaux des Avenières mosaic (below center), that is based on Wirth’s tarot, does contain new elements. Death is standing in a great pool of fire, instead of in a field. This is divine fire: the purifying fire of the kundalini.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Chateaux des Avenières (1917)

Right: Tarot of the Master, Vacchetta, 1893. At the bottom left corner of the card lies the HELMET OF HERMES, the god with the serpent staff the CADUCEUS.

In the background we see a sphinx: a human head on a lion’s body. A sphinx represents the spiritual aspirant who has conquered his animal drives and is rooted in the divine. In the lower left corner we see the head of a man with an uraeus cobra on his headgear. This is an unambiguous reference to a kundalini awakening. Behind Death, a winding road leads up into the mountains. This is a metaphor for an expansion of consciousness.

Right: on this alchemical illustration we see a RETORT in the foreground, with liquid in it, the top of which is placed against the SKULL next to it. The meaning of this is: the ELIXIR OF LIFE coveted by the alchemists is a metaphor for the changes in the cerebrospinal fluid, under the influence of a kundalini awakening. In the background is a large SPHINX: a symbol for God-realization. (Mystère des Cathédrales, Fulcanelli, 1926)

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

In the hands of Pamela Colman-Smith, the card has undergone a true metamorphosis. Her Death does not swing a large scythe, but carries a banner with a white rose on it. The deeper meaning of this, however, is the same as the scythe: the divine transforming man. In the esoteric traditions, the rose represents the mystical experience, and it has traditionally been associated with goddesses from many traditions, including Isis, Ishtar and Venus. In a general sense, the rose represents the feminine aspect of God, or the kundalini energy.

The specific shape of the RWS rose comes from the alchemy and the tradition of the Rosicrucians (below). A wild rose always has five petals (below right). When duality merges during the Magnum Opus, a rose with ten petals is formed: the RWS rose.

The flag on the RWS card is perfectly square. In alchemy, both a square (the four elements) and the color black represent matter. Combined with the white rose, the RWS flag stands for the transformation / purification of matter (the black square), through the activity of the divine (the white rose). The heart of the rose is full of seeds: the new life that this Death brings.

Cruce Rosea, symbol of the Rosicrucians.

Detail of the Ripley Scroll (ca. 1490)

Rugosa Alba, historical rose.

The three figures on the right of the card, who await Death with their eyes closed, all have flowers in their hair (the girl and the child) or on their clothing (the bishop). Their closed eyes refer to an inner experience. On the bishop’s hands and sleeves there are the same crosses as on the horse’s reins. An equal-armed cross refers to the fusion of the polarities. There is also a (half) cross on the chest of Death. On the back of the bishop’s cloak is the alchemical symbol for the sun / divine: a circle with a cross in it.

These three figures have made themselves worthy of the grace of mystical death through diligent spiritual practice. The bishop refers to the card of the Hierophant: in him duality has merged into the oneness of the divine. He has conquered matter. The woman with the wreath of flowers on her head can be found on the Strength card: she has mastered and sublimated her emotions and animal instincts. The child is a symbol of wholeness and can also be found on the Sun card. All three of them radiate surrender. They are willing to let go of their ego; an inner attitude that takes courage.

The two pillars in the background return on another card from the major arcana: the Moon. These pillars represent the ida-nadi and the pingala-nadi; the energy channels, on the left and de right of the spine, that make us experience duality. The dawning sun, between the two pilllars, is the kundalini rising through the sushumna-nadi, in the spine.

The alchemical symbol for the sun / the divine

Petrus Bonus Series, emblem 2 (14th century): “The son stabs the father as he sits on the throne.” The king makes the SIGN OF THE SACRED MARRIAGE (2=1) with his left hand.

A red feather hangs on the helmet of Death. We also find this element on the cards The Fool and The Sun. The red feather represents the kundalini energy, which has been brought up from the first chakra (color red) to the crown. The white rose is also an element on The Fool card.

A dead king lies under the horse. This is probably a reference to a well-known esoteric theme: “the death of the old king” (see left). The archetype of the old king represents the ego, that rules in the spiritually unconscious man. He must die first to make way for a new king, who is connected to the divine. The king’s blue cloak and red shoes on the RWS card represent the feminine and masculine in him, that have become one (the energetic impulse to his death). His gray hair indicates old age (old king).

Right: this illustration depicts three aspects of the alchemical process in visual language: purification, union of the polarities, and discarding the ego. The blue serpent-tailed woman is Sophia / the kundalini. She has united the polarities (red man and white woman, and the six-pointed star around her head), after which a BEHEADING (discarding of the ego) has taken place. The fire under the flask also represents Sophia / the kundalini. In the flask we see four ROSES, with FIVE PETALS. The three black roses represent the heart, head and body of the alchemist, which are being purified. The golden rose represents his soul. (Aurora Consurgens, 15e eeuw)

An illustration of the Magnum Opus. The tree trunk represents the spine. Hermes and his staff the caduceus refer to a kundalini awakening. The RED AND WHITE ROSE represent the two polar energy channels. (Alchymiæ Complementum et Perfectio, Samuel Norton, 1630)

The alchemist has completed the Magnum Opus. His body is covered with FIVE-PETALLED RED ROSES. The staff in his hand represents his spine, with the pineal gland at the top. His breasts refer to androgyny. (15th century, from the Vatican Library)


Our spine contains a great Mystery, which in 15th century Catholic Italy could not be talked about openly. The secret knowledge of the divine in man found its way underground, ironically, to a card game for the nobility that would be called the Tarot a few centuries later.

The Death card stands for an inner death and rebirth. The “second death” (physical death) has no power over those who participate in this “resurrection”, according to the Bible book of Revelation:

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
(Revelation 20:6)

The ladder on this emblem represents the spine and the seven chakras. Climbing up to God involves being PRUNED and BEHEADED (the scene in the background). (Emblemata moralia & bellica, Jacob de Heyden, 1615)

Golden Dawn Magical Tarot (Sandra Tabatha Cicero and Chic Cicero, 2001)

Clear symbolism: the spine of Death is connected to a serpent.

Silver Witchcraft Tarot (Barbara Moore, 2015)

Sun and Moon Tarot (Vanessa Decort, 2010)

In alchemy, the phoenix represents the reborn man, rising from the ashes of his old self, that is burned by the kundalini fire.

www.tarotcardstories.com (Jiří Berta, 2019)

Dreams of Gaia Tarot (Ravynne Phelan, 2017)

The Raziel Tarot (Robert M. Place, 2016)

Moses dies on the threshold of the Promised Land. This is a Biblical metaphor for the ego (Moses) who must die to enter the Kingdom of God. I write about this in my book John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

This article was written by Anne-Marie Wegh. Copyright April 2020.

Anne-Marie Wegh is the author of the book
John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ

Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

Share this article


By |2022-02-23T09:04:05+00:00April 13th, 2020|Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 13. Death

Tarot 12. The Hanged Man

12. The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is a mysterious card, that has hardly changed over the centuries. We see a man hanging upside-down by one leg, who seems to be at peace with his fate. He has an indifferent look on his face, and on some cards even smiles. This confusing picture raises questions. How did he end up in this dire situation; did he do something wrong? And how is it that his facial expression is so serene in these hopeless circumstances?

The Visconti-Sforza Hanged Man

This oldest surviving card of the Hanged Man, from the 15th century, immediately gives an important clue of how to interpret its symbolism. This is remarkable, because on most Visconti cards, the esoteric meaning is hidden in subtle details, which can only be understood when tarot cards from later centuries are placed next to them.

You must first enlarge this card on your screen, because this time the deeper meaning is not hidden by the artist’s hand, but by the influence of time. Up close you can see fire emanating from the upper body of the Hanged Man. This is the kundalini fire that has awakened, and which now purifies his body, head (thinking) and heart (feeling). The color white of his blouse refers to this purification. The long row of buttons on the blouse refer to his spine that is on fire.

With this interpretation, the puzzle pieces of the other symbolism also fall into place. Standing on one leg means being rooted in the oneness of the divine (see examples of other tarot cards below). Because the man hangs upside down, one leg is also directed towards heaven, which reinforces the symbolism.

Standing on one leg refers to God-realization.

Left: The Emperor from the Tarot of Marseille (Jacques Vieville, 1650)

Right: The World from the Tarot of Marseille (anonymous, 17th century)

Also in Christian painting, showing/standing on only one leg has been used to communicate that Jesus had experienced a kundalini awakening. Two examples below.

The head of the Visconti Hanged Man touches the blue-colored mountains in the background. A mountain is a universal symbol for an expansion of consciousness (on a mountain you are closer to God), and blue refers to heaven / the divine. The wooden frame on which the man hangs evokes associations with a door; a symbol for a transition / transformation to something new.

The Hanged Man is in a process of God-realization. His blonde (golden) hair also fits this explanation. This transformation process requires stillness. The life energy no longer flows to the outside world, but is directed inwards. The man’s facial expression indicates a state of detachment and surrender.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

A Tummo yogi (Tibetan buddhism). The KUNDALINI FIRE is flowing from his pelvis to, and out of, his crown chakra.

The loincloth of Jesus refers to the symbol the KNOT OF ISIS (click here), that stands for the fusion of the polar energy channels. The FLAGELLATION (click here) is a metaphor for the purifying effect of the kundalini. (Hans Holbein, 1501)

Bonifacio de Pitati, 16th century.

Read about Jesus’ kundalini awakening in my book
‘John the Baptist Who Became Jesus the Christ’.

The hanged man has his hands behind his back. They lie on his sacrum, the abode of the kundalini energy. We also find references to the sacrum in Christian painting. For example, by forming a triangle – the shape of the sacrum – with the hands, at the level of the pelvis. Below are two examples.

Right: the SACRUM has the shape of a TRIANGLE

The white SHAWL from head to PELVIS is also a reference to a kundalini awakening. (Nicolas Frances, attr. to, 15th century)

The yellow IRIS (click here) next to Jesus is a symbol for the PINEAL GALND, which is activated during a kundalini awakening. (Gerard David, circa 1508)

Read about BAPTISM and the KUNDALINI in my book
‘John the Baptist Who Became Jesus the Christ’.

Estensi Tarot (end 15th century)

The Estensi (Charles VI) Tarot

A second hand-painted card from the 15th century, that has been preserved, comes from the Estensi Tarot (links), also called the Charles VI Tarot (after Emperor Charles VI). This Hanged Man has two filled bags in his hands. Its content is not entirely clear; is it gold as most tarot researchers assume? What these bags stand for is indicated by two other cards from the same time period, that we only know from uncut printing sheets: the so-called Rothshield Sheet and the Rosenwald Sheet (below). Unfortunately, no colored originals of these very first printed tarot cards have been preserved.

A kundalini awakening involves three energy channels that flow along, and through, the spine (see the illustration of the Tummo yogi above). The outer two energy channels form the energetic blueprint of duality in our inner world. These energy channels are balanced during the process of spiritual awakening, after which they merge at the level of the sixth chakra (the pineal gland).

On the Rosenwald card (below left), the Hanged Man holds the two bags exactly in front of the two vertical wooden posts, left and right of the man. This expresses the balance of the two energy channels that flow along his spine.

On the Rothshield card (below center), these energy channels are also symbolized by the two flying ends of the cord with which his leg is tied. Similar symbolism can also be found on illustrations from alchemy (below right).

Rosenwald deck
(uncut, uncolored
printing sheet, ca. 1500)

Rothschild deck
(uncut, uncolored printing sheet, ca. 1500)

An illustration from the alchemical manuscript Splendor Solis (16th century). The FLASK represents the alchemist himself. His seven CHAKRAS are purified by the seven-headed KUNDALINI SERPENT. The two flapping RIBBONS refer to the KNOT OF ISIS (click here). Like the two CROSSED pieces of WOOD under the flask, they represent the two energy channels that merge at the level of the pineal gland (the knot).

The hair of the man on the Estensi card is red-brown in color and shaped like a flame. This is a reference to the kundalini fire that burns within him. The red-yellow bottom of his tunic also resembles fire.

The body posture of the Estensi Hanged Man can be found in alchemical emblems (right and below) from the same time period. On the illustration on the right, the phase of distillation/evaporation is expressed in visual language. At the bottom of the flask we see the alchemist in prayer (focused on God). His efforts are bearing fruit: the ascending figure symbolizes his spiritual ascension.

The position of his arms represents the balance achieved between the inner polarities (duality). One leg up represents the fusion of these polarities. This interpretation is confirmed by the peacock next to it, which stands on one leg. In alchemy, a peacock represents a phase in the Magnum Opus (process of God-realization).

Alchemical illustration
(Wellcome Institute Library, London (ms. 29, Fol. 40))

Left: The alchemist who completed the Magnum Opus. The BALANCE symbolism of the ARM position is reinforced by the SIGN OF THE SACRED MARRIAGE: 2=1 (click here), with both hands. The symbols of the six planets, on the circle, represent the SIX CHAKRAS that have been purified and activated by the kundalini fire. The man’s HAIR refers to this FIRE. A circle with a dot in the middle represents in alchemy the sun / gold / God-realization. (Andreas Libavius, 16th century)

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseille also gives us various indications that the Hanged Man is not just an image of a martyr or traitor who has to undergo a punishment, but that the card represents a phase in the spiritual process of awakening.

The numbers on the cards below of Jacques Viéville (circa 1650), Jean Dodal (circa 1700) and Francois Chosson (1736) are mirrored. This could be a mistake, but it could also be an indication that we need to turn the cards over to understand its symbolism. Turned upside-down, the man on the card becomes someone who is ascending (spiritual ascension). On Nicolas Bodet’s card (1739) both the number and the name are mirrored. This makes intent even more likely.

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Vieville (1650)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Dodal (1701-1715)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Francois Chosson (1736)

Nicolas Bodet Tarot
(Belgium, 1739)

From each vertical tree trunk, on the three French cards, exactly six branches are cut off. The stumps, which have a different color from the trunks, to make them more noticeable, represent the six chakras of the Hanged Man, which have been purified (“pruned”) by the kundalini energy.

On three of the above four cards, the man’s arms are on his back, his fingertips showing above his shoulders. A curious, unnatural position: how should this be interpreted? I think these fingers are a flaw in the design: they are on the exact same place where we see flames of fire on the Visconti card. The fingers should have been flames.

Dodal and Chosson have left the Hanged Man’s pants white at the crotch area. This is a reference to the purification and sublimation (transformation) of the sexual energies. On all cards, the man’s legs form a cross: a symbol for the fusion of the opposites.

The Hanged Man on Dodal’s card looks cross-eyed. This can be the result of sloppy drawing, but it could also refer to the opening of the “third eye” (the sixth chakra) during a kundalini awakening. Similar symbolism is found in Norse myths.

To obtain Wisdom (Sophia’/the kundalini), the Norse supreme god Odin sacrifices himself by hanging himself from the (kundalini) tree Yggdrasil (left). This symbolizes the death of the ego, or the old man, as a result of a kundalini awakening. For the same purpose, he also sacrifices one of his eyes, leaving him with only one eye. This refers to the opening of his third eye.

Left: the Norse god Odin hanging
on the world tree Yggdrasil.

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

The Hanged Man by Oswald Wirth (below left) has two bags of money clamped under his arms: one with gold and one with silver coins. This is a new element on the card to express the balance between the polarities. Just like gold and silver, the colors red and white also represent the opposites in alchemy. These two colors are united (oneness) in the tunic that the man wears.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

The alchemical
symbol for SULFUR

The Magnum Opus (a kundalini awakening) in alchemical symbols, including the symbol for SULFUR. (From: The Hermetic Triumph, 1740)

The tunic also has a crescent and a waning moon. This too symbolizes the duality that has merged in the Hanged Man. As we saw earlier, the two vertical tree trunks represent the two polar energy channels that flow along the spine. The crossbar, which is on top of the vertical trunks, represents the sacred marriage (the union of the opposites), which takes place at the sixth chakra. The Hanged Man hangs from this crossbar: he experiences the oneness of the divine.

Oswald Wirth has placed the arms of his Hanged man more emphatically in the shape of a triangle. Together with the cross that the legs make, this creates the symbol for sulfur (above center), which in alchemy stands for the Magnum Opus. The man’s reddish hair is shaped like flames.

Chateaux des Avenières (1917)

On the mosaic of Châteaux des Avenières (left), which is based on Wirth’s tarot, we see a bird with a human head flying away from the Hanged Man. This is the so-called Ba bird that represented in ancient Egypt someone’s spirit; the part of man that lives on after his death (see below). The mosaic thus wants to express that the Hanged Man, while still alive, has been liberated from matter.

Papyrus of Ani with BA BIRD,
New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, Collection of The British Museum.

A small path runs between the two tree trunks. This path symbolizes the kundalini energy flowing from the pelvis to the head. The path begins at the Hanged Man’s left elbow, and is connected to his sacrum – the abode of the kundalini – through his forearm and hand.

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Pamela Colman-Smith has chosen clothing in the colors red (the masculine) and blue (the feminine) to express the fusion of the opposites. The aureola around the head of the Hanged Man gives even more clarity about his inner world: his crown chakra is fully opened; his consciousness is “enlightened.” The man’s hair is light in color (he is purified) and, like on the 15th century Estensi card (above), has the shape of a flame.

A notable change is the T-cross on which the man hangs. The letter T is called Tav in Hebrew. The Tav‘s original pictograph was a cross with equal arms. The Tav is surrounded with a lot of mysticism. As the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it stands for completion, and the ancient pictograph of a cross connects the Tav with the crucifixion of Jesus.

In addition, the vertical tree trunk behind the Hanged Man symbolically refers to his awakened spine. In many traditions, both a tree and a pillar are used as metafors for the spine with the kundalini energy flowing in it. The T-cross on this card is, as it were, a combination of both.

Below are four illustrations on which the pillar refers to a kundalini awakening. The leaves hanging on the RWS T-cross communicate that this is ‘living’ wood. An additional indication that the vertical trunk represents the awakened spine.

The kundalini SERPENT and a PILLAR with pine cone, as a symbol for the spine and pineal gland. (Asclepius relief from the Roman era)

The Hindu god Shiva

A depiction of the CATHAR sacrament the CONSOLAMENTUM (second half of the 13th century, Bibliothèque Nationale de France): baptism with the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. The PILLAR right behind the naked BACK of the baptized man, and the HAND pointing up, are telling us that this ritual involves an awakening of the kundalini energy. On the right, two Franciscan brothers watch the ‘pagan’ ritual in horror.

The kundalini process (obtaining the LIFE ELIXIR) expressed in alchemical images. Recognizable are the THREE PILLARS (energy channels) and their interrelationship. The MAN AND WOMAN represent duality. (From the manuscript Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita, by Hieronymus Brunschwig, 1654)


The Hanged Man is rooted in the oneness of the divine. The kundalini fire has purified his head, heart and body. In his inner world, the polarities have been balanced and merged. He may be bound on the physical level, but his soul is free. He experiences life from a state of detachment and serenity.

Moon Dawn of Crystal Tarot (Masanori Miyamoto, 2000)

In the Bible, the crucifixion of Jesus represents, on the symbolic level, the transformation process of the Hanged Man. Read more in my book: John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

Lo Scarabeo Tarot (Mark McElroy, Anna Lazzarini, 2007)

The card of the Hanged man, reduced to its essence. Blue is the color of heaven / the divine.

Le Tarot de l’Ange Liberté (Myrrha, 2016)

The Hanged Man card represents an alchemical transformation process.

Nature Spirit Tarot (2015)
(© Jean Herzel www.naturespirittarot.com)

In the tradition of alchemy, the salamander represents the kundalini energy.

Silver Witchcraft Tarot (Barbara Moore, Franco Rivolli, 2014)

This article was written by Anne-Marie Wegh. Copyright March 2020.

Anne-Marie Wegh is the author of the book
John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ

Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

Share this article


By |2022-02-15T10:57:59+00:00March 27th, 2020|Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 12. The Hanged Man

Tarot 11. Strength

11. Strength

An important aspect in the process of spiritual awakening is to acquire mastery over our animal drives. Mastery is an important and carefully chosen word here. The tendency to want to suppress or deny our animal impulses is tempting, but it backfires in the spiritual process. When the primal animal energies have been purified and sublimated (transformed), they will help us to achieve the divine. This is the deeper meaning of tarot card Strength.

Our dual nature is a central theme in many spiritual traditions. We are partly motivated by animal instincts, called our lower nature, a logical consequence of our animal origin. And we all are born with a divine potential also. This dichotomy creates a continuous, internal struggle, whether we realize it or not. The impulses of our animal instincts, which are rooted in our body, are often opposed to the desires of our soul, which is connected to the divine.

Our animal drives are the breeding ground for emotions such as anger, fear, greed and jealousy. They keep us trapped in the ego and matter. The lion is a universal metaphor for the energies of our emotional life. Tarot card Strength shows how these primal forces are controlled by God the Mother/Sophia (the kundalini energy), and are used to connect man with the Eternal.

The Visconti Tarot

The card Strength is usually explained as an allegory of the cardinal virtue Fortitudo. Important thinkers like Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas have come up with four important virtues that man should pursue:

  1. Prudentia (caution – sensibility – wisdom)
  2. Iustitia (justice – righteousness)
  3. Fortitudo (courage – strength)
  4. Temperantia (moderation – temperance – self-control)

That the Visconti Di Modrone card, from the 15th century (right), also represents a spiritual proces, becomes clear when we study the details. The woman’s mantle has a curly pattern, similar to the lion’s hair. This mantle is lined with white (= purified) fur. The woman’s hair has the same color as the lion’s hair. These are three indications that the energies of the lion (the lower nature) and the woman (the divine) have merged.

We can deduce the sublimation (deification) of the animal drives from the following details: the crown, the golden color of the lion, and the dark blue color of the mantle of the woman. Dark blue (indigo) is the color of the sixth chakra, where the SACRED MARRIAGE (click here) takes place. The lion holds one paw up; a reference to the ‘oneness’ of the divine.

The woman’s golden hair strangely floats in the air, not hindered by gravity. This symbolizes the kundalini energy that flows from the pelvis to the head. The woman holds the lion’s mouth open and sits on him: she has control over him.

Goddesses standing or riding on a lion is an existing theme in iconography, that has the same deeper meaning as the card Strength (below). With all the goddesses below we also see the theme of (the visibility of/raising) one leg: they are rooted in the oneness of the divine.

Visconti Di Modrone Tarot (15th century)

The Roman mother goddess Cybele

The hindu goddess Durga. Her attributes refer to her purifying effect in man.

The Akkadian goddess Ishtar. The seven layers of her dress refer to the seven chakras.

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseille (a collective name for tarot decks of different designers, over a certain period of time, in a specific geographical area) emphasizes the mystical experience of oneness even more. The hat on the woman’s head is now a combination of a crown and a lemniscate (below).

The symbol of the lemniscate stands for infinity. Esoterically, it refers to the fusion of the opposites: the sacred marriage. The duality of physical creation merges into divine oneness. Our higher and lower nature are also polarities that merge. The hat of the Magician (tarot card no. 1) also has the shape of a lemniscate.

That the woman and the lion form one source of power is communicated on the Jacques Veiville card (below left) by the tail of the lion that is curled around the woman’s foot. On the card by Francois Chosson (below center), the entire lower body of the lion has disappeared under the mantle of the woman. Chosson has also added feathers to the woman’s hat. This is a reference to the kundalini symbol the caduceus.

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Viéville (1650)

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Francois Chosson (1736)



A curious detail on some Marseille cards is the woman’s bare foot. Jacques Viéville’s card even shows a completely bare lower leg. Because the woman is otherwise fully dressed, including a hat, you feel that this must have a specific meaning. Like the raised front leg of the Visconti lion, this refers to the (inner) merging of the polar energies; to divine oneness.

On this woodcut from the alchemical manuscript Azoth by Basil Valentinus (1613), the LEMNISCATE is associated with the fusion of the polarities sun and moon, as well as the sublimation of the animal drives: a LION swallowing a bird.

An illustration of the Magnum Opus (completed process of God-Realization) of the alchemist, the symbolism of which has the same meaning as tarot card Strength. The POLAR ENERGIES (king and queen) are fused. This is also the meaning of the two SERPENTS that have become one (in the foreground). Mastery over animal nature (the LION). The tree with suns symbolizes the seven CHAKRAS that have been purified and activated by the kundalini energy. (Johann Daniel Mylius, Philosophia reformata, 1622)

Also in Christian painting, showing only one leg has been used to communicate veiledly that Jesus had experienced a kundalini awakening. Below are three examples.

Read about Jesus’ kundalini awakening in my book ‘John the Baptist Who Became Jesus the Christ’.

The six-pointed star (HEXAGRAM, click here) refers to the sacred marriage (2=1). Jacopino di Francesco (pseudo), 14th century.

Francisco de Zurbaran, 1661.

Francesco Squarcione, 15th century,
National Museum of Art of Romania.

In later tarot decks, such as the Italian Liguria-Piedmont from 1840 (right), the lion is even more one with the woman. The placement of the lion’s head at the height of her belly makes it even clearer what the animal stands for: the energies of the emotions and the libido. These forces are controlled by the woman (with her hands).

Liguria-Piedmont Tarot (1840)

The Hindu god Vishnu (here in his manifestation of the LION-headed god Narasimha) kills the demon Hiranyakashipu. From the staging it becomes clear what this demon stands for: the energies of the (lower) ABDOMEN. The SERPENT heads above the lion’s head represent the sublimation of these animal drives by the kundalini energy. Narashima’s WEAPONS are also kundalini symbols.

The occultists

Oswald Wirth (below left) has not changed the card much. The manes of this lion are fiery red, a reference to the ‘burning’ desires and emotions that the lion represents. The long tongue of the animal also resembles a large flame.

The mosaic of Châteaux des Avenières (below right), that is based on Wirth’s tarot, contains three additional elements to clarify the other symbolism: an active volcano, a pool of water, and a tree with a serpent. These are all classic metaphors for a kundalini awakening. They are interconnected on the mosaic (the volcano is reflected in the pool of water); a confirmation that they represent the same thing.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Above: An illustration from the alchemical manuscript Clavis Artis (early 18th century). A LION eating a (kundalini) SERPENT is a metaphor for the SUBLIMATION of the animal drives. The raised TAIL of the lion reinforces this symbolism.

Right: From the alchemical manuscript Atalanta Fugiens, by Michael Maier (1617). The LION wears a laurel WREATH, a symbol of victory. In the background is an erupting (kundalini) VOLCANO. Also the pool of WATER from which vapor rises refers to the awakened kundalini.

Chateaux des Avenières (1917)

A subtle change is that on the mosaic of Châteaux des Avenières the woman seems to close the lion’s mouth with gentle hands, while on all cards from previous centuries an opposite action takes place: the lion’s mouth is kept open. Closing the mouth symbolizes calming the inner stirrings. This makes no major difference to the meaning of the card. In both cases the woman controls the animal, and they (the higher and lower nature) are connected.

We also see this calming of the lion on the card of Rider-Waite-Smith (right). Arthur Waite has swapped the Strength and Justice card, making Strength number 8 in his deck.

The woman is wearing a white dress, a reference to the purity of the divine. She is connected to the lion by a long wreath of flowers, which is wrapped around her waist and around the animal’s neck. This connection tell us that together they form one power source. The choice of a floral wreath – and not, for example, a rope – means that the woman exerts her power with meekness and love (the red roses). The placement of the wreath around her waist refers to the control of the emotions and the libido (which the lion represents).

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The wreath of flowers symbolizes an open crown chakra.

The orange color of the lion could be a reference to the second chakra, which is connected to the sexual urges. The floral wreath around the woman’s head is a universal symbol of an open crown chakra. We also see this in, for example, Christian saint iconography (above right). The RWS card shows that the animal energies have been purified and have been brought to the crown. The RWS card Cups Two (right) uses different symbols to convey the same.


Tarot card Strength gives a glimpse into the inner world of the spiritually awakened person. We are born in a body with animal instincts, but in us also burns a divine flame. Throughout our lives, our higher and lower nature compete with each other. Sometimes we are selfish (the animal in us), and other times we are more altruistic (divine).

Our spiritual mission is to overcome our animal impulses (symbolized by the lion on this tarot card) and realize our divine potential. We cannot achieve the required purification and sublimation alone. The kundalini energy is the CEO in this process. She is personified by the woman on the card. Our task is to support her work with the right way of living: purity in thinking and doing, and using our WILLPOWER (the STRENGTH of our will: the theme of this card) to choose the divine, again and again.

This tarot card shows how this opens the way for the merging of the energies of our higher and lower nature, and their combined power transforms us and (re)connects us with the divine.

RWS Cups Two

Right: this illustration communicates the same as tarot card Strength, with different symbolism. The yogi has conquered his animal instincts (he is sitting on a TIGER skin) and has transported these energies from the lower to the higher chakras (the color ORANGE of the tiger can also be seen on his forehead). His inner world is quiet and peaceful (he is in meditation). His BLUE color refers to deification. The ascend of the awakened KUNDALINI energy, through the chakras, is shown schematically. The yogi’s CROWN CHAKRA is fully opened. His heart is awakened (the heart chakra behind him).

Left: an alchemical illustration. The raised tail and crown refer to a successful SUBLIMATION of the animal energies. The polar energies (sun and moon, the eyes of the lion) are fused (HEXAGRAM) in the forehead.

Wonderland Tarot (Morgana Abbey, 1989)

The unicorn, with its white color and spiraled horn at the level of the sixth chakra, is a universal symbol for the purified and sublimated animal drives (the lion).

Ancient Egyptian Tarot (Clive Barrett, 1994)

The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet is an embodiment of God the Mother. The primal forces of the lion have been brought to the head. Her staff with the “Seth beast” at the top represents the spine, through which the purified animal energies flow upwards. Click here for the STAFF as a symbol for a kundalini awakening. 

The Light Seer’s Tarot (Chris-Anne Donnelly, 2019)

The lamb is a Christian symbol for the divine. The combination lion-lamb is a reference to the (inner) Kingdom of God, in which ‘the lion lies peacefully with the lamb’ (Book of Revelation).

Rumi Tarot (Nigel Jackson, 2009)

A lion stands on a pillar behind the woman. A pillar is a universal symbol for the awakened spine. Click here for the PILLAR as a symbol for a kundalini awakening. 

The Bonestone and Earthflesh Tarot (Avalon Cameron, 2017)

Beautifully visualized is the inner focus and willpower needed to overcome the animal impulses. Behind the girl we see an elephant with a raised trunk. This symbolizes the sublimation of the animal drives. The standing cobra in the foreground is a symbol of the kundalini energy.