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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!

Four 15th century cards

Four Death cards from the 15th century have been preserved, containing clear symbolism of its significance in the tarot. The Visconti-Sforza card has only a skeleton – symbol of Death – with a bow and arrow in his hands

The bow is large, the same size as Death itself, and its shape is twice a spine. We can deduce from the notches on the bow, that look like ‘vertebrae’, that the spinal shape 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 Death (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 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 pierced eye refers 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 symbolizes – as we will also see when discussing the tarot card The Star – the feminine aspect of God, or the kundalini energy.

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 Egyptian goddess Isis.

The coffin of Ta-mit
(Toledo Museum of Art)

The Holy Family, Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (circa 1500)

The Baptism of Jesus, Martin Schongauer (circa 1480). John the Baptist makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2=1) that is taking place in Jesus.

The Crucifixion, Dutch School (16th century).

Pièta, Ercole de’ Roberti da Bologna (circa 1482).

In the Renaissance, the Knot of Isis was regularly used (concealed) by artists in paintings about the life story of Jesus, to make clear that in the Bible his birth, baptism, crucifixion and resurrection, on the symbolic level, represent aspects of the process of kundalini awakening. Above four examples.

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 (read: 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.

Visconti Di Modrone Tarot (15th century)

Estensi Tarot (late 15th century)

Symbol 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 unity of the divine.

Right, from: Atalanta Fugiens, emblem 50, Michael Maier (1617). The blissful facial expression of the man in the grave shows that he experiences the divine, as a result from the awakened kundalini energy (serpent), which has ascended to his head.

In the opened 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, an alchemical illustration from: Book of Alchemical Formulas, Claudio de Domenico Celentano di Valle (1606).
The two persons sitting on the wolf represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The rear person, with the two eagle heads, 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 animal drives that are used for the process of God-realization.

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, 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 alchemical illustrations.

From: Splendor Solis (1535). The alchemist shows his inner processes. His red and white clothing represents the fusion of the masculine and feminine energies (duality). A severed arm shows the sign of the sacred marriage. He has been purified (the chopped up body and the color white). He has discarded (beheaded) his ego.

From: Philosophia Hermetica, Federico Gualdi (c. 1790). This illustration shows that the kundalini energy is the active force behind the transformation process: the caduceus 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 cloak of the 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).

From: Atalanta Fugiens, emblem 44, Michael Maier (1617). In the background the alchemist is cut to pieces. He will be reassembled by the woman standing next to the body parts (Sophia / Isis / the kundalini). In the foreground we see the resurrection that follows.

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)

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.

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 (1889) 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, 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)

From: Mystère des Cathédrales, Fulcanelli (1926). 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.

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.

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. A wild rose always has five petals. 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, with the radiant sun of the divine behind them, represent the duality that must be overcome.

Het alchemistische symbool voor de zon/het goddelijke.

Petrus Bonus Series, emblem 2 (14th century): “The son stabs the father as he sits on the throne.”

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.” 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).

From: Alchymiæ Complementum et Perfectio, Samuel Norton (1630). 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.

From: Aurora Consurgens (15th century). 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.

A 15th century alchemical illustration from the Vatican Library. 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.

Conclusion

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)

From: Emblemata moralia & bellica, Jacob de Heyden (1615). The ladder represents the spine and the seven steps represent the seven chakras. Climbing up to God involves being pruned and beheaded (the scene in the background).

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

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

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.

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T13:52:15+00:00April 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|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 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)

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 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.

The Visconti-Sforza Hanged Man
(15th century)

Tummo yogi (Tibetan buddhism)

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, 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 tarot card, 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 tarot card, 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 (see below).

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

Rothschild Sheet
(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, like the two crossed pieces of wood under the flask, 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 an alchemical emblem (right) from the same time period. On this illustration, 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))

Andreas Libavius (16th century).
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) that both hands make (circled in white). 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.

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 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 that intrigues tarot researchers: 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 Norse supreme god Odin sacrifices himself by hanging himself from the (kundalini) tree Yggdrasil. 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.

The Norse god Odin hanging
on the world tree Yggdrasil.

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

The Hanged Man by Oswald Wirth (1889) 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

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

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, which in alchemy stands for the Magnum Opus. The man’s reddish hair is shaped like fire flames.

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

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

Chateaux des Avenières (1917)

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 halo 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 Estensi card, 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 is, as it were, a combination of both. Below are three examples of a pillar being used to refer 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 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.

From the manuscript Liber de arte distillandi simplicia et composita, by Hieronymus Brunschwig (1654). 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.

Conclusion

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. This is the subject of my book: John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

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

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

The Hanged Man card represents an alchemical transformation process.

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.

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-15T18:13:15+00:00March 27th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|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 the 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. The tarot card Strength shows how these primal forces are controlled by God the Mother (the kundalini energy), and are used to connect man with the Eternal.

The Visconti Tarot

The Strength card 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 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 Strength card (see below).

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. The symbol of the lemniscate stands for infinity. Esoterically, it refers to the fusion of the opposites; the duality of physical creation merges into divine oneness. Our higher and lower nature are also polarities that merge.

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Viéville (1650)

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Francois Chosson (1736)

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 up a bird.

A curious detail on some Marseille cards is the woman’s bare foot. Jacques Viéville’s card, from 1650, 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. Standing on one leg, or showing one leg / foot refers to divine oneness (the same meaning as the raised paw of the lion). This symbolism is also reflected in the three examples above of goddesses from various traditions.

That the woman and the lion form one source of power is communicated on the Jacques Veiville card by the tail of the lion that is curled around the woman’s foot. On the Francois Chosson card, the entire lower body of the lion has disappeared under the mantle of the woman.

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.

The occultists

Oswald Wirth 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 fire flame.

The mosaic of Châteaux des Avenières, 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 anonymous, 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.

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. This makes no major difference to the meaning of the card. In both cases the woman controls the animal, and they (the two power sources) are connected. Closing the mouth gives an extra dimension of calming the inner stirrings.

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 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. The RWS card shows that the animal energies have been purified and have been brought to the crown. The RWS card Cups Two (right) represents the same.

Conclusion

The Strength card 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 for power. 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 in our pelvis is the director and the working force 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 to choose the divine, again and again.

The Strength card shows how this opens the way for the merging of our higher and lower energies into one source of power, that transforms us and (re)connects us with the Eternal.

RWS Cups Two

This illustration communicates the same as the Strength card, 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).

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.

Rumi Tarot (Nigel Jackson, 2009)

A lion stands on a pillar behind the woman. A pillar is a universal symbol for the awakened spine.

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.

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T15:55:07+00:00March 12th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tarot 11. Strength

Tarot 7. The Chariot

7. The Chariot

The ceremony of a triumphal procession dates from ancient Rome. After an important victory, the army commander was publicly celebrated, riding through the streets of Rome, sitting or standing on a chariot. Card number 7 of the tarot, The Chariot, symbolizes a spiritual victory: the victory over matter and the animal drives.

The Visconti di Modrone Chariot

Even the very first tarot cards already had a spiritual meaning. The esoteric symbolism, however, is often subtle. They were different times and people had to be careful with statements that went against Christian dogmas.

Already in the 15th century The Chariot represented a spiritual triumph. On the Visconti di Modrone card we see a woman on a wagon pulled by two horses. She sits between two pillars and under a blue roof with stars on it. In her hands she holds a scepter and, barely visible, the personal coat of arms of Gian Galeazzo Visconti: a white dove with a banner and sunbeams.

The Visconti di Modrone Chariot

The personal coat of arms of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The French motto A Bon Droyt means: rightly so.

The scepter stands for mastery. Various elements on this map represent the conquered duality: the two pillars, the two horses, and the combination of a blue coat with a red hat from the man on the horses. Red and blue are the classic colors for, respectively, the masculine (fire, sun, heat) and feminine (water, moon, coolness). On the man’s clothing we also see a Y; a letter that in alchemy – as we saw with the Pope card – refers to the fusion of duality into a unity. The wheels of the car have eight spokes; this also stands for the fusion of the polarities (2 x 4 = 8). When discussing tarot card number 17, The Star, we will elaborate on the meaning of the number eight.

The animal instincts have also been conquered. The horses represent our animal drives. Their white color stands for purification. On the Visconti card, the purified animal energies are at the service of the woman: they pull the victory chariot.

The blue roof with stars represents the cosmic experience: everything is one. The coat of arms of Gian Galeazzo Visconti with white dove fits in seamlessly with this symbolism: the spiritual victory has been achieved through the workings of the Holy Spirit. Only with the help of God can man rise above matter.

The Visconti-Sforza Chariot

On a second card that has been preserved from the 15th century, the Visconti-Sforza Chariot, the two white horses have golden wings. Because of this you can no longer ignore a spiritual meaning. Wings represent the ability to ascend to the divine dimensions. The designer of this card was probably inspired by images of the god Apollo in his solar chariot (see below).

The Visconti-Sforza Chariot

Apollo on his chariot, by Pinturicchio, circa 1509.

The woman on the Visconti-Sforza card sits on a throne, between two twisted pillars. The spiral shape of the pillars is a reference to the two polar energy channels that flow on both sides of the spine and that keep us connected to duality. The platform on which the woman sits is hexagonal: the hexagram is the universal symbol for the fusion of polarities. Her dress also has a hexagonal pattern.

A globus cruciger
(circa 1879)

The woman is wearing a crown and she is holding a scepter and a globus cruciger (a globe with a cross on it). As we saw when discussing the The Emperor card, a globus cruciger stands for the victory of spirit (the cross) over matter (the globe). The wings of the horses are an additional element to express that the animal drives have been sublimated (transformed).

Remarkably, on both Visconti cards a woman is depicted, while in the centuries that follow we only see victorious men, which corresponds to a triumphal procession traditionally being for army commanders.

An explanation for this could be that the cards are a tribute to certain women from the Visconti family. Another reason could be that it is a reference to God’s (Holy) Spirit, or the kundalini energy, which is considered feminine in most spiritual traditions, and which is the active divine power in a spiritual awakening. Comparable to the tarot cards The High Priestess and The Empress .

The Tarot of Marseille

On The Chariot from the Tarot of Marseille we see a man in military clothing, with a scepter and a crown, standing in a wagon that has the shape of a cube. The roof above his head rests on four pillars. Both the cube shape and the four pillars refer to matter / the physical dimensions: in numerology four is the number of the earth (four elements, four cardinal directions, four seasons).

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Viéville (1650)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (1659)

Tarot of Marseille,
by Nicolas Conver (1760)

In symbolism, the moon, with its ever-changing shape, stands for duality and the impermanence of creation. This meaning is confirmed by the faces of the moons on the shoulders of the driver: one looks happy and the other one looks sad.

There are also differences between the various Marseille cards. The two horses on Jacques Viéville’s card have a man’s head with a crown. The meaning of this is that the human will is controlling the animal drives. The horses on the Jean Noblet card have different colors: blue and red – the colors of the feminine and masculine. The horses of Nicolas Conver are both blue in color; a reference to the “deification” of the animal drives.

On two cards (Viéville and Conver) the horses have no hind legs, but are attached to the chariot with their bodies. This symbolizes that the horses and the chariot cannot be viewed separately. The chariot represents the body of man (vehicle of the soul) and the horses represent the animal instincts, which we experience through the body – a consequence of our animal origin.

The man on the Viéville card has two suns on his chest; a reference to the divine energies that flow through him. The scepter on the card of Nicolas Conver is enriched with the symbols for the sun, the moon and (probably) the earth. The symbols are partly overlapping, to indicate a ‘fusion’: the cosmic experience, everything is one.

The scepter of Nicolas Conver

Sun symbol

The philosophies of Plato have probably served as a source of inspiration for the Chariot of the Marseille decks. In his work Phaedrus Plato uses the metaphor of a wagon with two horses, for the forces at work in man. One of the two horses is white in color, noble, obedient and immortal; the other horse is black, deformed, stubborn and mortal. Plato describes the dichotomy in humans: we all have a higher, divine nature, and also a lower, animal nature. The white horse wants to ascend to heaven. The black horse pulls the other way, towards the earth. The mind of man (the charioteer) must get these contradictory forces in the right direction.

According to Plato, two forces (horses) are active in us.

The bodies of the horses on the Marseille Chariot are in opposite directions. However, their heads look the same way: the charioteer has managed to keep a course on the divine. Oswald Wirth and Arthur E. Waite incorporated this theme into their tarot, as we will now see.

Oswald Wirth

Oswald Wirth’s Chariot stays close to the Tarot of Marseille. The two horses have become two sphinxes, in a dark and a light color, to emphasize the duality that they stand for. A sphinx – a lion’s body with a woman’s head – represents control over the animal drives. Just like the two moons on the man’s shoulders, the sphinxes also have different facial expressions.

On Wirth’s card the wheels have six spokes; a reference to the hexagram. He brings back the roof with the stars from the Visconti Tarot. The stars are all five-pointed: a pentagram stands in the tarot for the perfected human. At the top of the scepter we see a triangle on a circle; this symbolizes the victory of spirit (the triangle) over matter (the circle).

On the front of the car a winged sun disk is depicted; a symbol from Ancient Egypt that refers to deification. The figure under the winged sun disk is a self-made variant of the yoni-lingam symbol from the Tantra tradition, which stands for the fusion of male and female (energies). The yellow circular symbol on the front of the roof of the car refers to the coveted “philosopher’s stone” (the state of God-realization) of the alchemist.

Oswald Wirth (1889)

Rider-Waite-Smith (1909)

Rider-Waite-Smith

Artist Pamela Colman-Smith added a number of new elements to the Chariot. It is no longer the two sphinxes / horses that are part of the chariot, but the charioteer himself. The chariot, which also has the shape of a cube, seems to rest on the ground. The charioteer rises, as it were, from the cube. This is symbolism that traces back to Ancient Egypt (see below) and refers to victory over matter / the body (the cube).

The laurel wreath that the man wears stands for his achieved spiritual victory. The crown with the eight-pointed star has the same meaning as the eight spokes in the wheel of the Visconti-Chariot. On the belt, around his waist, are (probably) the signs of the zodiac. Below the belt, on his clothing, are geomantic symbols. These were used for magic rituals by members of the occult group The Golden Dawn, of which Arthur E. Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith were members.

The two sphinxes – not visibly attached to the cube – hold the tips of their tails between their front legs. This is a reference to the ouroboros, the serpent that bites its own tail: a symbol from alchemy that refers to the oneness of everything.

Amun priest Hor (Ancient Egypt)

From: The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer (Francis Barrett, 1801)
Source: www.fromoldbooks.org

From an alchemical manuscript:
“The Crowning of Nature”

Château des Avenières

The charioteer on the mosaic of Château des Avenières wears the atef crown of Osiris; the Egyptian god who stands for resurrection and renewal. A uraeus cobra is placed at the front of the crown; the Egyptian symbol of the kundalini energy. The two red feathers on the side of the crown symbolize, just like the wings of the caduceus, the completion of a kundalini process.

The shepherd’s staff (heka) in the hand of Osiris symbolizes the spine with the kundalini energy in it, and stands for “herding” the inner animal. The flail (nekhakha) refers to the suffering that accompanies a kundalini awakening. Dismantling and discarding the ego (the old man) is rarely painless. The three ribbons on the flail represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening.

Château des Avenières (1917)

Château des Avenières (1917), detail

The Egyptian god Ptah with was-scepter (Hermitage Museum)

On the roof of the car we see gold- and silver-colored pentagrams: the colors that are connected to the polar energies (sun and moon). The chariot rests on a globe: the charioteer has gained mastery over matter.

The corners of the chariot refer to the was-scepter with which rulers (gods, kings, priests) in Ancient Egypt were depicted. It is not exactly clear which animal it is on a was-scepter (and on the chariot), and this ambiguity is intended. This so-called “Seth-beast” represents the animal in man. The was-scepter stands for power over the animal drives. The bottom of the scepter is often forked (two-pointed); this referes to duality that, together with the animal drives, has been mastered.

Conclusion

The Chariot stands for victory: the spiritual aspirant has mastered the temptations of the world (money, status, power, fame, etc.) and the animal impulses of the body. The image of a chariot indicates that a battle had to be fought.

This is the subject of the Bhagavad Gita, the holy book of the yogis. The Gita is a dialogue between prince Arjuna and Krishna, who are sitting in a chariot together. Arjuna is about to fight against his own family (read: himself), with his army, to get his rightful place on the king’s throne (the Kingdom of God). The Gita is about the fight in man between his higher and lower nature. Arjuna is advised by Krishna (God), who also controls the horses of the chariot. In the ultimate battle with our demons and animal drives we are helped by God.

Arjuna and Krishna go to battle (Bhagavad Gita)

Though thousand times a thousand
in battle one may conquer,
yet should one conquer just oneself
one is the greatest conqueror.

– The Buddha (Dhammapada, verse 103) –

Starchild Tarot
(Danielle Noel, 2014)
 www.starchildtarot.com

A unicorn represents sublimated (transformed) animal energies. Its white color stands for purification. His spiral horn, at the height of the third eye, symbolizes the awakened and ascended kundalini energy.

Olympus Tarot

(©Lo Scarabeo, 2002)

This card beautifully depicts the mystical experience: flying through the air, free from the earth, without clothes (free from the ego), and with the purity / wholeness of a child. The myth that the card refers to is also applicable: this is the Greek god Hermes – the god with the caduceus –  who personifies the kundalini energy. He is pulled by the (stolen) cows of the god Apollo.

Retro Tarot Deck

(Anthony Testani)

This hilarious version of The Fool is the exact opposite of The Chariot.

Dragons Tarot

(©Lo Scarabeo, 2004)

In Eastern iconography, gods and saints (in this case the Jade Emperor, the supreme god in Taoism) are often depicted sitting or riding a dragon. The deeper meaning of this is that the inner dragon (the animal) has been conquered and is used as a means of transport to the divine dimensions.

Harmonious Tarot

(©Lo Scarabeo, 2005)

The (sacred) marriage has taken place: the male and female energies have merged. The chariot is heading for the Kingdom of God. Cupid is sitting on one of the horses: the primal forces of love are a catalyst in the process of spiritual awakening.

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (August ’19). Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T15:50:27+00:00March 1st, 2020|Anne-Marie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 7. The Chariot

Tarot 10. The Wheel of Fortune

10. The Wheel of Fortune

The major arcana of the tarot is a series of miniatures that refer to spiritual awakening. Each card illustrates
an aspect of the process of God-realization, driven by the kundalini energy in our pelvis.

Surprisingly enough, The Wheel of Fortune also.

Traditional meaning

Traditionally, the wheel of fortune stands for the instability of prosperity and social success; everything you have achieved in life you can lose again. The oldest images of a wheel of fortune date from the early Middle Ages. In most cases we see the Roman goddess Fortuna (Tyche with the Ancient Greeks) who turns a large wheel (Rota Fortunae), with several people clinging unto it. Because of the rotation there is a constant dynamic of changing positions: some are on their way up, others are on their way down. At the top of the wheel is – temporarily! – the lucky person: the king or another ruler. Sometimes Fortuna is blindfolded. This is a reference to her arbitrariness: she seems to be distributing prosperity and setbacks without personal regards.

A Wheel of Fortune from:
Troy Book by John Lydgate (15th century)

The Visconti Tarot (15th century)

The Visconti Tarot

On the very first Wheel of Fortune card, that of the 15th century Visconti tarot, both the person moving up on the wheel, and the one at the top, have a pair of large donkey ears. The designers of this card want to make it clear to us that those who are concerned with status, power and money, are donkeys. These worldly things are fleeting, and you are at the mercy of Lady Fortuna, as the image of the wheel of fortune shows. Of lasting value is inner wealth, obtained through a God-centered life.

The Tarot of Marsseille and family

From the 16th century on, the rotating wheel on tarot card The Wheel of Fortune, represents the spiral movement of the kundalini energy. The upward movement represents spiritual ascension: growing in consciousness from the material / animal to the divine. The downward movement stands for spiritual descend: the way back to an unconscious, “animal-like” life.

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

Tarot of Bologna (Giacomo Zoni, 1780)

Liguria-Piedmont Tarot (1860)

The designer of the Marseille Payen-Webb card has placed the wheel on a body of water (the “kundalini well” in the pelvis). On the right side we see a dog, wearing a collar and a skirt, on the way to the top of the wheel. This dog in human clothing symbolizes the spiritually unconscious person living an animal-like life. The collar refers to controlling the animal drives, a prerequisite for the process of God-realization. The choice of a dog has to do with the tamed nature of this animal. It is a pet that no longer lives fully according to its instincts, but has learned to obey man.

On top of the wheel of the Tarot de Marseille card is a sphinx-like creature – a human head on an animal body – that symbolizes the person who has mastered his animal nature. We can deduce this from the crown on the head of the sphinx and from the wings (symbol of sublimation) on the animal body. The red sword represents the driving force behind this spiritual process: the kundalini energy.

On the way down, back to a spiritually unconscious life, there is a figure with a tail of fire. The awakened kundalini energy in this person has not ascended to the crown, but is dwelling in the abdomen and feeds the lower chakras (sensory pleasure and ego aspects).

Also on the Tarot of Bologna card a dog in human clothing is on the way up, and there is a sphinx-like figure, with crown, scepter and wing, on top of the wheel. That the rotating wheel represents the spiral movement of the kundalini, is made clear by the pillar with the large flame attached to the wheel.

On the Liguria-Piedmont card it is even clearer that the body of water, under the wheel, represents the kundalini in the pelvis: water also flows around the wheel – poorly colored, yet clearly visible.

The “kundalini goddess” Shakti as a female figure in a bowl (the pelvis, the Holy Grail) with divine fire, and as a coiled serpent (gouache from Rajasthan, India, 19th century).

Illustration from: The Chronicle of Nuremberg (Hartmann Schedel, 1493). Man as a hybrid being: partly human and partly dog ​​/ wolf. These two halves want to go in opposite directions, which gives us continuously inner struggles.

On the left a drawing of “the serpent pillar” from Delphi, on the right the current state of the pillar, erected in 447 BC.

Oswald Wirth Tarot

Both the tarot deck of Oswald Wirth and the Rider-Waite-Smith deck are influenced by the ideas of the French occultist Éliphas Lévi. Lévi has never designed a complete tarot deck himself, but in his book “La Clef des Grands Mystères” (The Key to the Great Mysteries, 1861) a number of cards are depicted, including The Wheel of Fortune (see below).

Wheel of Fortune: illustration off
“La Clef des Grands Mystères”
from Eliphas Levi

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Hermanubis
(Vatican Museum)

The sphinx at the top of the wheel of Lévi wears an Egyptian nemis: a striped headscarf that only Pharaohs were allowed to wear and which underlined their divine status. The nemis gave the head of the pharaoh the contours of a standing cobra with a spreaded hood: the serpent that is a symbol of the kundalini energy in several spiritual traditions. The false beard that Pharaohs wore represented the body of the snake. The sphinx’s raised tail, on Lévi’s card, stands for the same as the sword: the ascended kundalini.

The death mask of
Tutankhamun

A standing cobra

Instead of a dog in human clothing, Lévi chose Hermanubis: the god who is a combination of the Egyptian god Anubis and the Greek god Hermes. The human body with a head of a jackal / dog and a nemis is derived from Anubis, the god of mummification and guide of the deceased. The staff in the hands of Hermanubis is the caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, that stands for a kundalini awakening.

On the way down, at the wheel of Lévi, there is a devilish figure, called Typhon by Lévi himself: the serpentine monster from Greek mythology who is defeated by the supreme god Zeus after a major battle. Typhon rerpesents everything that stands between us and the divine, in particular our animal instincts. The trident symbolizes the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. In the hands of Typhon this energy flows down to the lower chakras.

Tomb of Sennedjem, Deir el-Medina, Egypt.
Living on after death was associated in ancient Egypt with a kundalini awakening. On this image we see the god Anubis with the mummy of Pharaoh Seti I. The bench on which the mummy is lying is decorated with a lion’s head and tail. The curled tail touches Anubis at the height of his pelvis area, the dwelling place of the kundalini.

Lévi placed the words Azoth, Archée, and Hyle next to the three figures on the wheel. Azoth is a term from alchemy for the kundalini, or God’s (Holy) Spirit. Hyle is Greek for matter. Archée refers to the soul. In alchemy, the element sulfur stands for the soul. On the Oswald Wirth tarot card we see the symbol for sulfur – a triangle with a cross underneath – above the head of the sphinx, instead of Lévi’s Archée.

The double wheel, according to Wirth, stands for the dual energies in humans, which constantly move in opposite directions (“the good and the bad”, Hermanubis and Typhon). The two serpents under the wheel also represent these dual energies. The yoga tradition speaks of the ida and pingala nadi. According to Wirth, the seven spokes on the wheel represent the seven (classical) planets. These planets, in turn, correspond to the seven chakras.

On the mosaic of Château des Avenières (1917), Typhon has been replaced by a crocodile: the animal that represented in Ancient Egypt our most primitive (animal) urges. The six spokes of the wheel form a hexagram; just like the double wheel of Wirth, a reference to the (fusion of the) dual energies in humans.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

On the RWS card we also see the influences of a second diagram from the books of Éliphas Lévi: his interpretation of the Wheel of Ezekiel (see below). In the Old Testament we read about the vision that the prophet Ezekiel has of four living beings with four faces (a man, an eagle, a lion and an ox), and four wheels on the ground next to it (Ezekiel 1:5-15).

These four faces represent the four aspects of man: the mind (eagle), feelings / emotions (lion), the body with the animal instincts (ox) and the soul (face of man / angel). Pamela Colman-Smith, the designer of the RWS deck, has placed these four aspects in the four corners of this card. We will also see the same four images on the last card of the major arcana: The World. It is these four aspects of man that are transformed during the process of spiritual awakening.

Instead of Typhon, Colman-Smith opted for more straight forward symbolism: a (kundalini) serpent, on its way down. Hermanubis has a more stylized appearance on this card and is red in color: the color of the (first) chakra where the kundalini resides when she is still ‘sleeping’. Unlike the cards of Lévi and Wirth, Hermanubis on the RWS map covers both the position at the bottom of the wheel and the rising position. This confirms our interpretation of the red Hermanubis: the kundalini leaves from the bottom of the spine, from the first chakra, rising up to the crown (top of the wheel).

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The Wheel of Ezekiël from: Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, by Éliphas Lévi (1854)

The RWS Wheel contains the symbols of the three primary building blocks of the alchemist: salt (left), mercury (top) and sulfur (right). The esoteric meaning of these chemical elements is: the body with the animal drives (salt), the Spirit / kundalini (mercury) and the soul (sulfur). Just like Lévi, Colman-Smith added a fourth element at the bottom of the wheel: the symbol for water. How this fourth sign relates to the other three elements, and to the Wheel, is not clear. Different interpretations are possible. Written on the outer edge of the RWS Wheel is the name YHWH in Hebrew, and the letters TARO, which can also be read as ROTA (Latin for wheel), TAROT, and TORA(H).

Conclusion

Traditionally, the Wheel of Fortune stands for the volatility of wealth and power. The image of a blindfolded goddess spinning a wheel, with people clinging to it, stems from a pessimistic and fatalistic philosophy: prosperity in life depends to a large extent on being lucky, and you may lose it any time.

The Wheel of Fortune has a completely different meaning in the tarot. A better name for this card would be: the Wheel of Spiritual Evolution. The evolution from ‘ape-man’ to ‘god-man’.
The goddess that spins the wheel is not Lady Fortuna, but the kundalini shakti. She is the driving force behind the process of spiritual awakening. The way up on the wheel represents the rising of the kundalini energy. The position at the top of the wheel represents God-realization: the inner animal has been conquered and integrated. The way down is a “fall into matter” (the “fall of man” of Adam and Eve).

We often see the wheel as an esoteric symbol, referring to a kundalini awakening, in spiritual traditions. Officially, the wheel in Buddhism stands for the dharma (the teachings of the Buddha). However, if you dig deeper into the writings and iconography of Buddhism, you will come to the conclusion that this official reading is not the only meaning of the wheel. The flame on the Buddha’s head is one of the pointers.
(photo: M. Lang via Pixabay)

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

The meaning of card number 10 of the tarot has been reduced to its essence: the evolution from ape-man to god-man through a kundalini awakening.

El Gran Tarot Esoterico (Luis Pena Longa, 1978)

Beautiful images that make clear what this card stands for. The rotating wheel makes a (kundalini) tree grow. Arriving at the head, the polarities merge (the two heads under one crown). The animal drives are purified (the white bear) and sublimated (the monkey with a royal mantle and crown). These primal forces are needed to make the tree grow to the crown chakra (the bear holds the wheel and the tree).

Mansions of the Moon tarot (Dennis Hogue, self published, 1999)

The wheel is in us.

Le Tarot des Alchimistes (Jean Beauchard, 2006)

A kundalini awakening in alchemical images. The bottom half of the card represents the fusion of the polarities. The tarot wheel represents a divine fire: the red triangle with the point up, the angels, and the multiple eyes. The stars and the signs of the zodiac refer to the cosmic experience of a spiritual awakening.

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (Dec ’19). Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T15:54:23+00:00February 25th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 10. The Wheel of Fortune

Tarot 1. The Magician

1. The Magician

Nowadays a magician has a certain prestige. Whether it is a quick-fingered entertainer, or a talented “energy worker”, his or her showmanship evokes awe and admiration. In the 15th century, however, when the first tarot cards were born, a magician did not have much more status than the Fool; the wanderer on the first card of the major arcana. A magician was a street artist and he was associated with deception and scamming.

The Visconti-Sforza deck is the oldest known tarot deck. It depicts the Magician with the four symbols of the minor arcana: a staff, a knife (sword), a cup and coins. In the centuries that follow we sometimes see other objects on the Magician’s table. Oswald Wirth (1890) re-esthablishes the Magician as the keeper of the four minor arcana symbols. This will remain the standard for almost all decks after Wirth’s.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot (circa 1463)

Stefano Vergnano Tarot (1830)

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

On the table of the Visconti card also lies an enigmatic white cloth with something underneath. Some tarot researchers have opted this is a so-called velum that covers the consecrated hosts in the Catholic Church. During the height of Catholic mass, ordinary bread (the host) changes to “the Body of Christ” (called the transubstantiation). The transubstantiation is indeed a beautiful metaphor for the process of spiritual transformation that the entire major arcana stands for.

Aaron’s staff

The Magician of the Etteilla Tarot (1890) is dressed as a Jewish priest, a reference to the high priest Aaron, the brother of the prophet Moses, from the Old Testament. Moses and Aaron both had a special staff that could turn into a serpent; a biblical metaphor for a kundalini awakening.

When a priest is to be chosen from twelve tribal chiefs, God instructs all candidates to give a stick to Moses. And the staff of the man whom I choose will blossom,” says God (Numbers 17: 5).

The next day Moses entered the tent of the testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds! (Numbers 17: 8)

The blossoming and bearing fruit of the staff is a apt metaphor for a spine in which the awakened kundalini energy is flowing. This “sprouting” of Aaron’s staff is a theme that has found its way into the tarot. In many decks we find staffs with buts and leaves attached to them, something that is not common for a staff that is used for walking or sheep herding.

Grand Etteilla tarot (1890)

“Moses and Aaron before the Pharaoh”
(16th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Aäron’s staff blossoms

The ten coins, or tokens, on the table of the Magician of the Etteilla deck, are organised in the pattern 1-2-3-4, a reference to the tetraktys of Pythagoras. The philosopher Pythagoras, who lived around 500 BC, saw the tetraktys as the foundation of the cosmos and as an expression of the divine. Ten, the sum of the numbers one, two, three, and four, is a sacred number for the Pythagoreans; symbol for harmony and perfection.

The title Maladie (illness) does not refer to the Magician, but to the meaning that, according to Etteilla, the card has in a tarot reading.

The symbols of the minor arcana

With his tarot deck, in 1909, Arthur E. Waite is the first to also illustrate all the cards of the minor arcana. The cards of pentacles (or coins), cups, rods and swords, were already associated with the four elements – earth, water, fire and air – before this time. Now this connection is made visible in the illustrations of the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck.

The symbolism, however, does not stop with the classical four elements. The four symbols of the minor arcana, on the table in front of the magician, also refer to the divine and various aspects of a kundalini awakening. The four aces of the deck, with the Hand of God holding the symbols, are an example of this. Colman-Smith was inspired by the Tarot of Marseille for these illustrations.

The Magician of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

The aces of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

The sword, the staff, and the cup are ancient symbols that are used in many traditions to refer to a kundalini awakening. Surprisingly enough, even in the 17th century Tarot of Marseille. We see a divine hand and divine (kundalini) fire on the Aces of Swords and Rods.

The aces of the Tarot of Marseille (17th century)

The castle-like top of the chalice on the Ace of Cups refers to the Kingdom of God. The mysterious liquid that flows over the rim of the chalice in three small waves represents the divine energy that flows to body, heart (feeling) and head (thinking); a classical tripartite division of man, which we also see in Biblical symbolism.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:4-5)

Cups Seven from the RWS deck is also very interesting in terms of symbolism. Each cup on this card shows a characteristic of the kundalini energy:

  • A serpent => a classic symbol of the kundalini energy
  • A dragon => if the kundalini energy is used to feed the animal instincts, it is a dragon that must be conquered
  • The head of an angel => an angel is a metaphor for the (divine) kundalini energy
  • A castle on a mountain => the Kingdom of God
  • Jewels => the inner wealth / abundance that the divine brings
  • Someone under a cloth => the purifying effect of the kundalini energy makes one invisible (ego-less)
  • A laurel wreath with a skull (on the chalice itself) => victory over death

Like the staff, the sword is also a metaphor for the spine with the kundalini energy flowing in it. The image of a sword refers to the inner battle and the cleansing – the “cutting away” of everything that prevents a connection with God – that are part of the process of awakening.

Cups Seven (RWS)

Cups Two (RWS) with kundalini symbolism

From: Aurora consurgens, 15th century

On this illustration from alchemy we see the kundalini energy personified by a winged woman (angel / Sophia), standing on the moon (symbol for the feminine), with a sword in her opened belly. Her black skin color refers to the hidden / locked up (in the pelvis) character of the kundalini (the theme of the “Black Madonna”).

The pentagram

The pentagram is a symbol that is almost as old as humanity itself. In many traditions it is a highly valued esoteric sign. Among other things because of its special mathematical properties, the five-pointed star stands for the perfect human being; for the person who has realized the divine.

Over time, the inverted pentagram, pointing downwards, acquired the meaning of satanism. Nowadays, with one point up, the star stands for the divine dominating over matter (the four elements). With two points up it is the lower, animal drives (satan) that rule.

From: ‘The Alchemy of the Freemason’, by François-Nicolas Noël, early 19th century.

From: “Le Barbier Medecin ou les Fleurs d’Hyppocrate”, by Jean Michault, 1672.

The Greek goddess Hygieia with pentagram, staff and serpent.

On the illustration from Jean Michault’s book the letters YGEIA are added to the pentram. This refers to the Greek hugieia which means wholeness / health, and to Hygieia , the goddess of health and purity (hygiene). As an attribute, Hygieia, like her father Asclepius, the god of medicine, has a staff with a serpent. The deeper meaning of this is that a kundalini awakening leads to (spiritual) wholeness and purity.

We also see a dragon depicted on Michault’s illustration. This represents the animal drives that pose a threat to God-realization (‘hugieia‘).

The staff of Hermes

Tarot decks that originate from, or are inspired by, the 19th century occult grouping The Golden Dawn often relate the Magician to the Greek god Hermes (Mercury to the Romans). By touching them with his serpent staff, the caduceus, Hermes could put people to sleep and wake them up. In other words: he could awaken spiritually unconscious people.

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

Knapp-Hall Tarot by Manley Hall (1929)

Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson (1980)

Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley (1969)

On the Classic Golden Dawn card , the Magician has a caduceus on his chest. With his hands he makes the figure of a triangle with one point upwards – the symbol for the element fire – at the height of his pelvis. This is a reference to the “kundalini fire” at the sacrum. This card is without color. Traditionally, members of the Golden Dawn were supposed to color their own tarot cards. On the table are not the four symbols of the minor arcana, but objects that refer to the Grail legend: the Holy Lance of Longinus, with which Jesus was pierced on the cross; Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur; and the Holy Grail itself, in which, supposedly, the blood of Jesus was collected. The cube represents the divine. The four objects are placed in the form of a pentagram.

On the Knapp-Hall Tarot card, the Magician’s staff is a caduceus. Geoffrey Dowson (Hermetic Tarot) has chosen to depict the entire figure of Hermes / Mercury. The Magus of the Thoth Tarot is, as it were, a caduceus himself. Behind him a long staff is placed and at the height of his head spiral two serpents. The wings of the god Hermes are connected to his feet. At the top of the card we see a small, descending dove.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Magician

The RWS Tarot makes a link between the Magician and an alchemist. Red and white – the Magician’s clothing – are the colors that represent in alchemy the two poles of duality, which must be fused into a (divine) unity. On an energetic level, these colors refer to the two energy channels, running along the spine, which in the yoga tradition are called ida-nadi (the feminine, white) and pingala-nadi (the masculine, red). They are also the two serpents that spiral upwards on the staff of the god Hermes.

Alchemy often uses images from nature, such as flowers. On the illustration from the manuscript of Basilius Valentinus we see a king – symbol for the alchemist who has realized the divine – standing wide-legged between a rose (red) and a lily (white). These are the same flowers that we also see on the RWS card of the Magician.

He is holding a sun and a moon in his hands. These are also symbols that express duality. The alchemical emblem with the mythical figure Hermes Trismegistus illustrates that the fusion of these poles takes place through the action of (the kundalini) fire.

From an alchemical manuscript by Basilius Valentinus, 1613.

Hermes Trismegistus, from: Viridarium Chymicum, of D. Stolz von Stolzenberg, 1624

The lemniscate, above the head of the RWS Magician, is a universal symbol that expresses this fusion. Around the Magician’s waist we see a so-called ouroboros; a serpent that eats its own tail. The ouroboros is an ancient symbol, also from alchemy, that with its circular shape stands for the cyclical nature of creation, and its underlying divine unity. This ouroboros as a belt symbolizes that the animal drives (the lower abdomen) must be mastered in order to experience the divine.

With his arms, one pointing up and one pointing down, the Magician expresses the connection of heaven and earth. The raised staff must tell us how this connection is established: by raising the kundalini. The staff has two small buttons, a subtle reference to the fusion of the polarities that must be achieved.

Colman-Smith has added an additional clue for tarot researchers to clarify the deeper meaning of this card. On the rim of the table, on the right, we see a rising bird. This is the dove of the Holy Spirit, which is also depicted on the Ace of Cups. However, we read in the Bible that the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends on Jesus:

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, (Luke 3:21-22)

Blood of the Redeemer, by Bartolomeo Passarotti, 16th century, Museum of Fine Art, Boston

In Christianity the kundalini energy is called The Holy Spirit. The Bible is written in the language of symbolism. Inner processes are explained by using images that the masses could understand. A dove that descends represents the kundalini energy that rises. Colman-Smith knew this and hid this esoteric knowledge in the card of the Magician.

This is also explains the inverted M on the Ace of Cups (see above); a mysterious detail that has kept tarot analysts wondering and guessing for over a century. What does it mean? The M stands for the god Mercury and refers to the water that flows from the cup. In alchemy, the kundalini energy is called Mercurial Water.

The inverted M indicates that we have to turn over the card, to understand its meaning. The water that flows from the cup and the dove both represent the rising kundalini energy. The five streams of water refer to the pentagram (the perfected man).

We can also find this deeper meaning of Bible stories in paintings. Always subtle, because esoteric knowledge could not be dispayed, or spoken about, openly. The painting of Bartolomeo Passarotti, from the 16th century, creativily connects the dove of the Holy Spirit, the rising kundalini serpent, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Holy Grail. An in-depth analysis of this subject can be found in my book: John the baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

The staff of Moses

The Magician in mosaic of the French castle Château des Avenières contains a number of new elements, in comparison to the decks discussed above. On the table is a dish with a hexagram on it. This six-pointed star, also a classical symbol, represents the fusion of the opposites (the merging of two triangles). The handle of the sword is decorated with appropriate lunar symbolism, a reference to the ‘goddess energy’ that the sword stands for. The kundalini energy is seen in many traditions as a feminine aspect of God.

An intriguing detail is the small stream of water that meanders between the feet of the Magician. This, also, is a metaphor for the kundalini-energy, derived from the Old Testament. As the people of Moses roam the wilderness looking for the Promised Land, they get thirsty and start to complain. Moses then hits a rock with his staff – the one that can also turn into a serpent – and water starts pouring out (Exodus 17: 6). Jesus calls this “living water” in the New Testament. Water that will quench your (spiritual) thirst forever:

But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14)

The Magician of Château des Avenières

Moses hits a rock with his staff and water pours out.

Conclusion

Tarot card The Magician stands for connecting heaven and earth. For transformation and self-realization. The Magician is an alchemist. His Magnum Opus is creating the inner (spiritual) gold. His staff, with which he works magic, is the staff of Hermes / Mercury: his spine with flowing in it the Holy Spirit of God.

Dragons Tarot
(Lo Scarabeo 2004)

The inner work of the Magician is revealed in beautiful symbolism. The burning candle on the table has the shape of the pineal gland. When the kundalini fire (the burning staff) has arrived at the pineal gland, in the middle of the head, hormones and opiate-like substances are produced, giving a mystic experience. For this to happen, the the inner polarities (the statue of a man and a woman) must be unified. The chessboard represents the inner battle between the higher nature (the white angels) and the lower, animal nature (the red devils). The menacing dragon represents the animal instincts of the Magician, that will extinguish the divine light if he does not pay attention!

Tarot of Mermaids
(Lo Scarabeo 2003)

The trident on this card – an attribute of the sea god Poseidon (Neptune) – has the same symbolic meaning as the caduceus. The three “teeth” of the trident represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening.

Dark Exact deck
(Coleman Stevenson 2016, self published)
http://colemanstevenson.wixsite.com/projects

An original perspective: the work of the Magician made clear in the language of alchemy. The flask is the alchemist himself, in which the Magnum Opus takes place. The plant is a saffron crocus (crocus sativus). Saffron is a very expensive spice, with a medicinal effect. Each flower has three pistils that must be picked and treated with care to obtain saffron. A beautiful metaphor for the budding of the inner “kundalini flower”, which involves three energy channels.
On the right the symbol for the ultimate goal of the alchemist: the “Philosophers ‘s Stone” – the inner gold. On the left the symbol for platinum, which stands for persistence, determination and completion.

Tarot of the Angels
(Lo Scarabeo 2008)
© of images belong to Lo Scarabeo

The magician / alchemist is helped by an angel. Everyone who chooses this path receives guidance and support from the divine dimensions!

Arcus Arcanum Tarot
(AGM Müller 1987)

The big white bow on this card, designed by the German cartoonist Hansrudi Wascher, concisely summarizes the inner work of the Magician: the merging of the duality of creation – the Alpha and Omega, in Biblical terms – into divine unity (the lemniscate).

Mona Lisa Tarot
(Lo Scarabeo 2008)
© of images belong to Lo Scarabeo

A magician / alchemist working in his laboratory. On his table we see what really has to be “transformed” in alchemy: the heart and the head (brain).

Golden Tarot of the Tsar
(Lo Scarabeo 2003)

The choice of Jesus as the Magician is spot on. The story of Lazarus who is raised from the dead, is a metaphor for an inner “resurrection,” or spiritual awakening. The sign that Jesus makes with his right hand is what I have named “the sign of the sacred marriage”: the union of the masculine and the feminine energies, followed by a union with God. This subject is discussed in my book John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (march ’19). Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019

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

© of images belong to Lo Scarabeo.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T15:42:35+00:00February 10th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 1. The Magician

Tarot 6. The Lovers

6. The Lovers

Love … we endlessly sing, write poetry, and philosophize about it. Anyone who is struck by Cupid’s arrows has only one thought, only one desire: the other. Cupid’s blindfold represents what love does to us: when the heart is on fire, our reasoning faculties disappear through the back door.
Or not? Do you have a choice? This is the theme of card number 6 of the tarot: The Lovers!

The Visconti Tarot

Already in the 15th century, this card had a deeper layer that is seen by only a few: the primal forces of love as a catalyst for the process of God-realization.

The two hand-painted cards of The Lovers from the Visconti Tarot (it was not called tarot at the time), which have been preserved, seem to be about a union between a man and a woman, with a role for Cupido. However, the entire staging of both cards is about inner processes: about the sacred marriage and the sublimation (transformation) of the sexual energies that is required for this inner union.

What first of all stands out with both cards is that Cupid is not depicted with his usual bow and arrow, but with two sticks, which he holds to left and right of his body. This represents the three energy channels that are involved in a kundalini awakening. Cupido himself stands for the energy – the divine kundalini – that flows through the spine. The two sticks represent the feminine and masculine energies (the inner polarity), which flow on the left and right side of the spine. The yoga tradition calls these two energy channels, respectively, the ida-nadi and the pingala-nadi.

The Lovers from the Visconti di Modrone deck (15th century)

Rosarium Philosophorum (ca. 1550)

On the image from the alchemical manuscript Rosarium Philosophorum (above), the kundalini energy is personified by a naked woman with golden hair, and a crown that is topped by a tree (another metaphor for the kundalini). She also holds two sticks (with a flame on it). The sun and moon next to the sticks confirm that they represent polarity.

The Visconti di Modrone Lovers

The man and woman on the Visconti di Modrone card are standing in a tent. This too is an indication that the scene is about an inner process. A tent – a temporary housing – is a common metaphor for the body.

The tent pole with a woman and a man on either side is a second metaphor on the card for the three energy channels. The woman and man shake hands; this stands for a unification of the polar energies. The man’s clothing shows – barely visible – a hexagonally shaped fountain. The same fountain can also be found on the Ace of Cups card of the Visconti-Sforza deck.

A fountain is a universal metaphor for a kundalini awakening. A hexagram is the symbol for the unification of the opposites (male and female energies). The man’s tights – one leg white and one leg red – fit beautifully with the fountain on his clothing: red and white are the colors of the polarity in alchemy.

A symbolic representation of the three energy channels, with a fountain as a metaphor for the awakened kundalini. The healing and trans- forming, divine energies flow in three streams to body, heart (feeling) and head (thinking).
Rosarium philosophorum (1550)

The Ace of Cups
Visconti-Sforza Tarot

A hexagram

On the roof of the tent is painted – barely visible anymore – in gold letters AMOR, as the god Cupido is also called. The Latin cupid means ‘desire’. When two people are attracted to each other, this stirs up primal forces in the lower abdomen, the area where the kundalini energy is also located.
This energetic turmoil can be used to awaken the kundalini. In order for the divine energy to rise to the sixth and seventh chakra, it is important that it is not ‘spilled’ by the lower chakras through sexual activity. The energy of Amor must be brought to ‘the roof of the tent’!

On the rim of the tent is painted the coat of arms of the Visconti family: the red / white cross of the House of Savoy, with whom there was an alliance, and the so-called ‘Biscione Viscontio‘: a blue dragon-like creature spitting out a red man. Interestingly, no one seems to know the meaning of this biscione on the weapon. What exactly does it represent and what is the connection with the Vicontis? Is it a snake or a dragon? Is it a child or an adult in the mouth of the biscione ? Is it eaten or spewed out? These uncertainties are – as with alchemical images – often an indication that there is a deeper meaning behind it that people could not, or did not want to, communicate in public.

The coat of arms of the Visconti family (Bibliothèque Nationale de France,
16th century)

Valentina Visconti depicted with the coat of arms (Miniature from ‘De Natura Deorum’ by Cicero, circa 1400)

The god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs

Biscione comes from the Italian biscia, which means ‘non-toxic snake’. The Visconti-biscione has all the characteristics of a metaphor that refers to a kundalini awakening. A serpent is the universal symbol for the kundalini energy. The biscione is blue in color; a reference to heaven / the divine.

On many images, the Visconti biscione has feathers or a crown. Both are a reference to a full awakening. When the kundalini process has been successfully completed, the serpent is often depicted with wings or feathers. A well-known example is the god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, whose name means feathered serpent. Coatl means serpent and the quetzal was a beautiful native bird.

On the illustration (above) we see how Quetzalcoatl devours a man. Being eaten by the kundalini snake symbolises a transformation process. The Visconti biscione spits the man out: the process is complete. The color red of the man (he is not skinned, as some suggest) is an element from alchemy and refers to the final phase of the Magnum Opus: rubido (red).

The well-known Italian car brand Alfa Romeo has adopted the Visconti’s coat of arms for their logo.

The Visconti-Sforza lovers

The card The Lovers of the Visconti-Sforza deck has the same esoteric message, wrapped in slightly different images. Amor now stands on a pillar, between the man and the woman, at the height of their head: this is where he must be brought – inwardly -, this means. It is a spiraling pillar, referring to the movement of the ascending kundalini serpent. A hexagonal pattern is applied to the clothing of both the man and the woman: a reference to the hexagram. The top of the pillar is also hexagonal.

The Lovers from the Visconti-Sforza
deck (15th century)

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseille presents the theme of this card as a choice. A young man is standing between two women. Both are asking for his attention. Cupid hangs above them with a drawn bow and arrow. The details of this card are important in determining its meaning. In the versions of Jean Noblet and Nicolas Conver, the young man’s left hand stretches out to the crotch of the woman with the flowers in her hair. With his other hand he holds the belt around his waist. This combination stands for controlling the sexual drive.

Tarot of Marseille,
Jean Noblet (circa 1650)

Tarot of Marseille,
Nicolas Conver (1760)

Tarot of Bologna
(Giacomo Zoni, 1780)

In the centuries that follow, we see that the woman with the flowers looks increasingly sensual, representing seduction and sexual attraction. The other woman is wearing a laurel wreath. She stands for chastity; for overcoming the animal urges. This woman will look increasingly spiritual on decks that follow.

On The Lovers of the Tarot of Bologna, the woman wears a crown instead of a laurel wreath. The esoteric meaning of a crown is spiritual mastery. The young man is standing on a road junction. He has to make a choice. We also see this element on The Lovers of the Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889) and on the mosaic of Château des Avenières (1917).

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

The spiritual aspect of this card is very important and can easily be overlooked by the apparent morality. It is not simply a call to chastity. The card shows that a choice must be made between either sensory pleasure or God. Not for moral reasons, but for the energetic consequences. To experience God the primal forces of our animal drives are needed. These must be saved and purified. In itself there is nothing wrong with sex and sensory pleasure, but if you long for God, then you have to choose what you will use your energies for. As the English say: you can’t have your cake and eat it too ...

If you choose God, it is certainly not required that you shy away from love. On the alchemical emblems of Johann Theodor de Bry and Basilius Valentinus (below) we see that Cupid has an important role in the process of god realization. The illustrations tell us that the energies of love must be stimulated. After distillation (transformation) they produce the ‘elixir of life’ (drink of immortality) that is coveted by the alchemist.

Emblem from ‘Proscenium vitæ humanæ sive Emblematum Secularium’ (Johann Theodor de Bry, 1627).
The long tunnel represents the spine.

Engraving of ‘The fifth key’, from the alchemical manuscript ‘The twelve keys of Basilius Valentinus’ (circa 1600). The alchemist fuels (man with bellows) the fire of love (Cupid). The sexual energy that is released during this process is sublimated (lion with crown). This makes the heart and the chakras fully bloom (the heart with the seven flowers). The inner duality merges into unity (one leg of the woman comes out under her skirt). The top of the huge distillation flask is attached to the head of the woman: stimulated by the rising energies, the pineal gland and pituitary gland produce hormones and endogenous opiates (the ‘elixir of life’).

The Rider-Waite-Smith Lovers (1909)

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

The RWS-Tarot uses the Bible story about Adam and Eve to make clear exactly the same as all previous decks. Because the first people ate the forbidden fruits, they were driven out of paradise. This age-old story, which everyone knows, is about the choice that man has between short-lived earthly pleasures (the fruits) or the eternal divine (paradise).

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from God, is in us, just like the Tree of Life, which stood in the middle of paradise. If we choose sensory pleasure, our life energy flows through the ida– and pingala-nadi . This is the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” If we choose God, the kundalini awakens and flows up through our spine to the crown. This is the “Tree of Life.”

On the RWS card Eve stands in front of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the tree we see the serpent trying to seduce her to eat the forbidden fruits. When the kundalini energy is used for sexual activity, it is the serpent that seduces and incites ‘evil’ (i.e. the animal). The Tree of Life, which Adam stands in front of, is full of flames; a reference to the kundalini fire. The angel gestures with his arms that Adam and Eve have a free choice between the two trees.

There has always been a group of people who knew that most Bible stories are about inner, spiritual processes. We see proof of this in countless paintings in churches and museums. In the painting by Lambert Hopfer (below), Adam puts his hand on Eva’s breast, when she offers him a fruit. With this Hopfer wants to make clear to us in images what the deeper meaning is of the ‘forbidden fruits’. Michelangelo dared to go one step further. On his fresco in the Sistine Chapel, in the heart of Rome, the body posture of Adam and Eve suggests oral sex.

Lambert Hopfer, 16th century,
Detroit Institute of Arts, VS

Michelangelo, 1508-1512, Sistine Chapel, Rome

The Thoth Tarot

This card of the Thoth Tarot is also full of symbolism. Some elements refer to the sacred marriage: the inner union of the polarities (king and queen). The necessary sublimation of the animal instincts is symbolized by the red lion and the white eagle in the foreground.

In alchemy, a red lion stands for transformed animal forces. His tail, standing straight up, refers to the risen kundalini. An eagle symbolizes completion of the process of god realization. The color white stands for purification. Aleister Crowley himself explains these elements somewhat differently. If you are interested in his view, I recommend his book The Book of Thoth.

The Thoth Tarot (1969)

Conclusion

With many modern tarot decks, the deeper meaning of The Lovers card has disappeared. Perhaps the original meaning is best summarized with the words of God himself in the New Testament. When Jesus wants to visit Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, he instructs his disciples to go and get him a donkey. Then We read: And they went and found the colt tied by the door, outside at a crossroad, and they untied it (Mark 11: 4). Jesus takes a seat on the animal and enters Jerusalem with loud cheers from the crowd.

The meaning of this Bible quote is: our donkey (animal / sexual energies) is at a crossroad (we have a choice). If we release the animal (not suppress the energy, but let it flow) and bring it to Jesus / God (bring it to the higher chakras), He can use it to enter Jerusalem (our heart).

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey (unknown artist, 15th century, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).
The pattern on the cloth that is laid before Jesus symbolizes the rising of the kundalini to the pineal gland. Jesus makes the sign of the sacred marriage with his right hand.

The Magic Gate deck

(Vera Petruk, 2018)

The cobra, with its ability to rise itself and spread its hood, is used in many traditions as a metaphor for a kundalini awakening. On the card, Adam and Eve stretch out their arms to the falling blossom of the tree of life, behind the cobra. Between the roots of the tree, at the bottom of the card, lies the ‘forbidden fruit’: if the cobra / kundalini does not rise, man will be driven out of paradise.

Tarot of the Spirit,
(US Games, 1992)
 www.tarotofthespirit.com

The sacred marriage combined with the alchemical symbol for Mercury: the god who personifies the kundalini energy.

Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
(Uusi © 2016)
 www.uusi.us

With its powerful symbolism, this card hits the nail on the head!

Pearls of Wisdom Tarot
(Caeli Fullbrite, Roxi Sim, 2007)
 
www.roxiartwork.ca

A striking metaphor for the sacred marriage: two trees merge into one (kundalini) tree.

This article has been published in Paravisie Magazine (July ’19). Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019

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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess
3. The Empress
4. The Emperor
5. The Hierophant
6. The Lovers
7. The Chariot
8. Justice
9. The Hermit
10. The Wheel of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Death

By |2020-04-13T15:48:37+00:00February 1st, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 6. The Lovers