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Tarot 4. The Emperor

4. The Emperor

In terms of its meaning, it seems to be one of the simplest cards of the major arcana, but nothing is less true. Title and image are deceiving here, because the Emperor of the tarot is not about the emperor …!

Both the Emperor and the Empress of the 15th century Visconti Tarot have an eagle on the card. As we saw in the analysis of the Empress, this royal bird, spiritually speaking, stands for a completed process of God-realization. The placement of the eagle on the Emperor’s hat (instead of on a shield, as with the Empress) confirms this interpretation. This refers to the caduceus: the staff of the god Hermes, the classical symbol for a kundalini awakening.

Caduceus

A caduceus

The two wings at the top of the caduceus represent an expansion of consciousness. The staff itself has the same meaning as the scepter in the hand of the Emperor: the spine with the divine kundalini flowing in it. The two snakes that spiral upward on the staff represent the duality that merges into a unity during the awakening process. This aspect has been subtly incorporated into his legs of the Emperor. On one Visconti card we see the Emperor pictured with crossed legs (2 = 1) and on the other card only one foot is visible. The theme of the crossed legs will be taken over by the Tarot de Marseille, and by many other decks that follow.

The Visconti di Modrone Emperor

The Visconti-Sforza Emperor
(Brera-Brambilla)

The Buddha at a young age

The god Ganesha

In Hinduism, gods and saints are depicted with just one foot on the ground to express that they are no longer connected to duality, but are rooted in divine oneness.

The so-called globus cruciger (a globe with a cross on it) in the hand of the Emperor has, just like the scepter, both a worldly and a spiritual meaning. In the hand of a ruler (a “possessor of the world”), the globus cruciger stands for spreading Christianity as a dominant doctrine of faith. Esoterically, the globe with a cross stands for spirit ruling over matter.

The Tarot of Marseille

All decks that have appeared under the collective name “Tarot of Marseille” show the Emperor in profile. With this body position he expresses the number 4, the number of the earth. This interpretation is confirmed by the extra number 4 that is placed on some decks below the Roman numeral of the card (IIII). The Emperor is the only Marseille card that has this double numbering.

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (circa 1650)

The Tarot of Marseille, by Jean Dodal, with an extra 4 (1701-1705)

The globus cruciger has been moved to the top of the scepter. The Emperor is holding his belt with his free hand. This symbolizes control over his sexual impulses (the energy of the lower abdomen): the Emperor is lord and master of his animal nature. Matter (the number 4) and the body have no hold on him.

Another new detail is the red feather on the crown of the Emperor. In combination with the other symbolism, it is likely that this feather stands for a kundalini awakening. Red is the color of the first chakra, where the kundalini resides. The feather refers to, and has the same symbolic meaning as, the eagle on the hat of the Visconti Emperor. We also see the red feather on three cards of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot: the Fool, Death and the Sun.

An alchemical illustration of the Magnum Opus: king (red) and queen (white) are merged into an androgynous figure (rebis). The tight belt around waist of the naked body, and the scepter placed in the crotch, symbolize the sublimation (bringing to the higher chakras) of the sexual energy.

Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth has placed his Emperor on a cube with an eagle. In alchemy, a cube symbolizes earth (the three dimensions). Both the eagle and the fact that the Emperor sits on the cube refer to his supremacy over matter. The lyre on the eagle is an attribute of the Greek sun god Apollo; an additional element to confirm to us that the Emperor represents the spiritual aspirant who has realized the divine.

The sun and moon on the chest of the Emperor represent the duality that he has conquered. The two energy channels that flow along his spine, and that form the energetic blueprint for our inner duality, have merged into one.

On the top of his scepter (symbol for the spine) a fleur-de-lys, or “French lily”, is placed; an esoteric symbol for the pineal gland.

Oswald Wirth Emperor (1889)

An alchemical illustration of the process of kundalini awakening. The scepter with fleur-de-lys symbolizes the spine with the pineal gland at the top.

Château des Avenières

The Emperor in the chapel of Château des Avenières is an Egyptian version of the Oswald Wirth Emperor. The 4 x 4 squares on the cube is (probably) a reference to the 4 elements. The eagle has been replaced by a phoenix: an element that emphasizes the overall symbolism of spiritual awakening (an eagle can still be seen as heraldry).

The Emperor wears a so-called Pschent: a double crown representing the union of the two sub-regions Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. According to the historiography, several pharaohs had the task of uniting the two halves of their land into one kingdom.

Anyone who delves into the details of the history of Egypt, and is familiar with spiritual processes, cannot escape the impression that the stories about Upper and Lower Egypt also contain a symbolic layer. These two realms could also represent the higher (divine) and lower (animal) nature in humans. In a kundalini awakening, it is the spiritual aspirant’s task to unite both natures within themselves. The inner struggle that accompanies this, is represented by the war between the two Egyptian sub-regions.

On the Emperor’s crown we see a so-called uraeus: a stylized, upright, Egyptian cobra; symbol of the awakened kundalini energy. At this place in the head – at the height of the sixth chakra – the fusion of the opposites takes place; which includes the union of the lower and higher nature.

The Emperor in mosaic from Château des Avenières (1917)

The Pschent (center) is composed of two crowns: on the left the goddess Wadjet with the red crown of Lower Egypt and on the right the goddess Nekhbet with the white crown of Upper Egypt.

Rider-Waite-Smith Emperor

The RWS Emperor is dressed in red. This is, as we saw during the discussion of the previous card, the Empress, a reference to the alchemical royal couple (red king and white queen) that merges during the Magnum Opus. The mountains in the background symbolize an expanded consciousness.

The ram’s heads on the throne have a double meaning. Where the RWS Empress is connected to the female energy of the planet Venus, the Emperor is connected to the male energy of the planet Mars. The zodiac sign for Mars is Aries.

The ram is also a symbol of the animal nature that the Emperor has conquered. This becomes even more apparent when we put two other Emperor cards, that were also influenced by the philosophies of the occult group The Golden Dawn, next to the RWS card (below).

On the Classic Golden Dawn card, one foot of the Emperor is on a ram. On the Builders of the Adytum card, the Emperor sits on a ram-headed cube. Both standing and sitting on something symbolizes dominion over that object.

Rider-Waite-Smith Emperor (1909)

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

Builders of the Adytum Tarot (circa 1950)

The Classic Golden Dawn-Emperor also has a scepter with a ram’s head at the top. This means that the energy from the animal drives (the lower chakras) is sublimated (brought to the higher chakras).

The scepter of the RWS Emperor communicates the same thing, with different symbolism. The RWS scepter is a derivative of the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol that stands for eternal life. An Ankh is a stylized representation of the spine with the pineal gland at the top, similar to the caduceus. The Ankh scepter of the RWS Emperor is placed on top of one of the ram heads. This means that the Emperor has led the energies from the lower abdomen, through the spine, to the pineal gland.

The Egyptian god Ptah with an Ankh on a Djed pillar (4th-3rd century BC)

Jesus as the “King of the Universe”, with the devil, in the form of a dragon, under his feet. The deeper meaning of this is comparable to the “spiritual emperorship” of tarot card number 4. In the words of Jesus: “My kingdom is not of this world …” (John 18:36).

Thoth Tarot

The Thoth Emperor looks to the left, to the Thoth Empress, with whom he forms a pair. Both cards have a shield with a double-headed eagle: the alchemical symbol for the fusion of the opposites (emperor and empress). Next to the Thoth card (below), we see a extraordinary alchemical illustration on which Jesus, instead of being crucified, is depicted as a double-headed eagle …!

The Thoth Emperor (1969)

Illustration from: Buch der Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit (15th century)

Aleister Crowley has not incorporated many elements from christianity into his deck. At the bottom right of his Emperor card we see one of the exceptions: the victorious Lamb from the Book of Revelation, with the visions of John. From the following quote we may deduct that the Biblical Lamb on this card is the counterpart of the sexual energy that the ram stands for:

1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
(Revelation 14:1 en 4)

“…having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads” are those who have completed the sacred marriage at the height of the sixth chakra. “They have kept themselves chaste …” . It can hardly be stated any clearer!

The number 144,000 is also meaningful. The sum of the “petals” of the first six chakras is 144 (4 + 6 + 10 + 12 + 16 + 96). The number of petals of the seventh chakra is a symbolically large number: 1000. One hundred and forty-four thousand refers to the opening of all chakras after a completed kundalini awakening.

According to Aleister Crowley, his Emperor expresses the alchemical symbol for sulfur (a triangle with a cross underneath) with his body posture. Sulfur is one of the three primary elements involved in the Magnum Opus.

A colored engraving by Giovanni Lacinio, from 1714, of the Magnum Opus, with many elements that we also see on the various Emperor cards through the ages. The symbols on the tree trunk (spine) are the three primary alchemical elements: salt, sulfur and mercury. The two lions represent the animal drives that, sublimated (the wings), provide the force necesary to complete the process of God-realization. The symbols above the lions are the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. The globe (orb) with cross, on top of the tree trunk, stands for spirit ruling over matter (four elements). The sun and the moon, at the top of the illustration, represent duality. A small sun and moon are also depicted in the globe: the duality has merged into a unity. The white eagle symbolizes the completed process

Conclusion

Together with card number three, the Empress, the Emperor forms the alchemical couple that merges during the Magnum Opus. The Tarot Emperor also represents the person in whom this sacred marriage took place: for the spiritual aspirant who is master over matter and his animal drives.

His crown and scepter came at a price. He had to go through a lengthy and painful process of cleansing and detachment. On the engraving of Sabine Stuart de Chevalie, from 1781, we see this arduous path from the alchemist to “spiritual emperorship” in beautiful symbolism.

Colored engraving by Sabine Stuart de Chevalier from Discours Philosophique (1781).
The monk’s habit of the alchemist represents his way of life. On the left we see him sad because all his efforts do not seem to be successful. His enormous bookcase stands for the knowledge and wisdom he has acquired. In the background we see a maze as a symbol for his quest in the dark.
But then he is surprised with a divine visit. The woman stands for “God the Mother” (Sophia, the kundalini, the Shekinah, etc.). He impulsively refuses the crown and scepter she offers him; an indication of his humility and modesty. The tree bearing fruit is a metaphor for a completed kundalini awakening. On the organ pipes behind him are the symbols of the seven classical planets. These represent the seven chakras of the alchemist that are fully opened. In the glass flask (symbol for the alchemist himself), on the left in the foreground, the red king and white queen (the inner polarities) are united. On the rim of the fireplace, above his head, are the symbols for the four elements: he has conquered matter.

Tarot of the New Vision
(© Lo Scarabeo, 2003)

This deck pictures what can be seen if you turn the Rider-Waite cards 180 degrees. The turtle behind the Emperor’s throne represents the patience and perseverance needed to attain spiritual emperorship. A turtle that pulls in its head and legs, is also a well-known metaphor for meditation (the withdrawal of the five senses from the outside world). Lo Scarabeo adds to this: “a turtle carries the burden of its own house. This entails a responsibility.”

The Alice Tarot
(Baba Studios, 2014, eu.baba-store.com)

This mythical animal – a griffin – with the lower body of a lion and the upper body of an eagle, symbolizes the sublimation of the animal energies (transformation from lion to eagle). The tail with two points refers to the merging of duality into a unity.

LeGrande Circus & Sideshow Tarot
(US Games, 2015)

A circus director is lord and master of “the show” (the illusion, Maya, of material life). He lets the animals do what he wants with his whip. The lemniscate form of the whip refers to the fusion of duality and the divine. In alchemy, red and white represent duality (the red king merges with the white queen).

The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot
(Llewellyn, 2015, maggiestiefvater.com)

The sword in the stone is a kundalini metaphor from the King Arthur legends. Whoever manages to pull the sword from the stone (the awakening of the kundalini in the pelvis) is the true (spiritual) king / emperor.

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (June ’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

By |2020-02-22T17:52:10+00:00February 20th, 2020|Anne-Marie|Comments Off on Tarot 4. The Emperor

Tarot 3. The Empress

3. The Empress

The card of the Empress has multiple layers. It represents, among other things, the feminine in man (the anima in Jungian psychology) and the feminine aspect of God. As an anima she is the other half of the Emperor – the animus. Their fusion – the sacred marriage – leads to a union with God.

Two cards of the Empress have been preserved from the 15th century Visconti decks. At first glance they do not seem to contain any special symbolism. On both cards the empress holds a shield with an eagle on it. This eagle can also be found on the family crest of the noble Viscontis, so is an explainable element. The fact that the eagle on this card does indeed have a spiritual meaning is only clear when we study the entire Visconti-Sforza deck, and when we compare Empress cards from later centuries.

Visconti Di Modrone deck

Visconti-Sforza deck

Alchemy

In the tradition of alchemy, which had its heyday in the 15th century, an eagle – the king of birds – represents the completion of the process of God-realization.

On the engraving of Jacob de Heyden (right) from 1615 we see an eagle balancing on two pillars. These pillars represent the inner duality, which must be merged into a (divine) unity. They are connected by a rope with a wedding ring; a reference to the sacred marriage.

Emblem from: The Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon (author unknown, 1752)

Engraving from: Emblemata moralia & bellica (Jacob de Heyden, 1615)

To express the transcendance of duality, alchemy often uses the image of a king and queen uniting. The illustration from Rosarium Philosophorum (below) is an example of this. We see a royal couple lying in the water, which means that this process takes place in our subconscious. The wings symbolize the completion of the process of unification. One hand of the king lies on his genitals: the sexual energy must be preserved in order to experience the divine.

From: Rosarium Philosophorum (circa 1550)

This powerful primal energy in our lower abdomen must be lifted to the higher chakras. In many spiritual traditions the challenge of gaining mastery over the sexual impulses is symbolized by a powerful dragon that must be conquered.

The Magnum Opus of the alchemist (illustration from around 1400). The king and queen are fused into one figure, also called rebis or hermaphrodite. The conquered dragon lies at their feet. The three snakes in the cup represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The wings, and the ouroboros in the king’s hand, refer to the accomplishment of the inner unity.

Tarot

With the ages it becomes clearer that the cards number 3 and 4 of the tarot – the Empress and the Emperor – represent the alchemical royal couple, that merges during the process of God-realization. The Empress of the Tarot of Marseille (17th and 18th century) sits on a throne with a backrest that suggests two wings; the symbol for spiritual completion. This reinforces the symbolism of the eagle on the card.

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Vieville (circa 1650)

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

The Empress of the Italian Carlo Della Rocca (below) makes the sign of the sacred marriage (two fingers together) with both hands. In addition, she points with the two fingers of her right hand at the eagle.

Reproduction (Classic Tarot) of an Italian tarot card from the early 19th century (designer Carlo Della Rocca).

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Chateau des Avenières (1917)

Oswald Wirth

The Empress of the occultist Oswald Wirth (1889) has real wings. Wirth enriches the card with elements that refer to a vision of the apostle John, from the Bible book of Revelation: a crown of stars and a crescent moon under her foot.

The woman, the Child and the dragon
1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.
4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
(Revelation 12:1-5)

Alchemical illustration of the Magnum Opus (18th century)

This is a vision of a kundalini awakening that John is going through. The woman represents his soul who is about to “give birth” to the divine. John has undergone a purification process of many years for this to happen. The crown with twelve stars stands for spiritual completion. The divine light flows through him unhindered (his soul is “clothed with the sun”). He has conquered duality / matter (the moon).
The divine birth is threatened by a big red dragon. Here also, a dragon stands for the animal instincts. The color red refers to the first chakra, the energy of our most basic (read: animal) needs. The iron staff with which the Child will rule, represents John’s spine with the kundalini energy flowing in it.

The birth of this divine child is the result of the sacred marriage. Alchemy also uses the image of the birth of a child, as part of the Magnum Opus (left).

The Empress in the chapel of Château des Avenières largely resembles the Empress of Oswald Wirth. On the shield in her hand we see a phoenix instead of an eagle. This mythical bird, rising from its ashes, represents the process of spiritual rebirth.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Empress

Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith have added elements to the Empress that also give her a macrocosmic meaning. The RWS Empress is God the Mother: the feminine aspect of God, who can be found not only in man (the kundalini in our pelvis), but also outside man. It is the supporting, nourishing energy that makes up the universe.

The placement of the Empress in nature refers to her macrocosmic meaning. The grain in the foreground is an attribute of Demeter, the Greek goddess of agricultural crops and the harvest.

On the dress of the Empress are pomegranates are depicted. As we saw on the card of the High Priestess, pomegranates, because of their red color and many seeds, are a symbol of the kundalini: the ‘divine seed’ in our pelvis, at the height of the first chakra (color red).

The pomegranate plays an important role in the well-known Greek myth about the abduction of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, by Hades, the god of the underworld. A story that is seen as an explanation for the changing seasons, but that stands at a deeper level for a kundalini awakening.

Persephone (the kundalini) is taken against her will by the god Hades to the underworld (the kundalini is “locked up” in the pelvis). Demeter is inconsolable and goes into mourning, as a result of which all the greenery on earth stops growing (spiritual aridity, no longer experiencing a connection with God). Zeus, the father of Persephone, orders Hades to bring her back. Hades, however, tempts Persephone to eat six seeds (at the sixth chakra the sacred wedding takes place) of a pomegranate. As a result she has to return to the underworld for a few months every year. Persephone is freed from the underworld (the pelvis) by the god Hermes, the god with the caduceus, that stands for a kundalini awakening.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Empress (1909)

“The return of Persephone”,
Frederic Leighton (1891)

Artist Frederic Leighton has incorporated the deeper meaning of this myth in his painting from 1891. We see Hermes with one hand holding the caduceus and his other arm is around Persephone. This depicts the merging of the inner masculine and the feminine. This interpretation is confirmed by both hands of Persephone, that make the sign of the sacred marriage.

The RWS Empress sits on an orange-red cloth and leans against an orange cushion. These colors refer to the dwelling place of the Empress (the kundalini) in humans: in the pelvis, at the level of the first and second chakra (red and orange respectively)..

On the right-hand side of the card we see a stream of water flowing from a tree, that is shaped like a pine cone, to the feet of the Empress. This water symbolizes the kundalini energy that flows from the pelvis to the pineal gland.

The pineal gland

The RWS Emperor

From the alchemical manuscript Aureum Vellus (1598)

The color white of the dress the Empress wears represents the feminine. In alchemy, the colors white and red represent the opposites of duality that must be brought to a unity. Often the metaphor is used of a marriage between a queen dressed in white and a king dressed in red.

The heart shape of the shield on the RWS card, and the symbol of the planet Venus (on the shield, on the black pillow, and the pomegranates), are elements that refer to duality, of which the Empress represents one half:
Empress – emperor
Female – male
Venus – Mars
Heart (feeling) – head (thinking)

The RWS Empress also represents a complete spiritual awakening: the scepter, the crown with twelve stars, and the laurel wreath on her head, express this. A scepter stands for authority / mastery. The scepter on this card has a globe at the top, which refers to dominion over matter. The stars on the head of the empress have the shape of a hexagram (six-pointed star); the symbol that expresses the merger of the polarities.

The laurel wreath (a wreath of laurel branches) refers to mastery over sexual urges. This meaning is derived from the Greek myth of Apollo and Daphne. The god Apollo pursues the river nymph Daphne (a name that means Laurel), driven by lust. She desperately calls on the help of her father, the river god Penues. He turns his daughter into a laurel tree, through which she escapes Apollo’s persistent advances. Apollo turns the branches of the laurel tree into a wreath, which then becomes a symbol of chastity.

The moral of this myth is that the kundalini energy can only awaken and grow into a “tree of life” that reaches to the crown of man, if the sexual energy is preserved. A laurel tree is green all year round. This symbolizes the immortality of man after a completed kundalini awakening..

Thoth Tarot

The Thoth Empress is also full of symbolism. According to Aleister Crowley, the Empress stands for both the lowest level of creation (matter) and the highest, spiritual level. Her throne of water spirals represents her birth from water; a reference to the goddess Venus. Water is a feminine element, just like the moon. At a deeper level, birth from water refers to a kundalini awakening.

From: Figuarium Aegyptiorum Secretarum (18th century)

The Thoth Empress (1969)

The lotus flower in the right hand of the Empress is a classical symbol for spiritual perfection. The blue lotus was seen as the holiest of all flowers in Ancient Egypt. In his Book of Thoth, Crowley calls her “the blue Lotus of Isis, a symbol of the feminine.”

On the shield at the feet of the Empress we see a double-headed eagle. The two heads reinforce the alchemical meaning of the eagle: God-realization, as a result of transcending (fusing) duality. Usually the heads are shown turned outwards (see illustration above from Figuarium Aegyptiorum Secretarum). Crowley has chosen to turn them towards each other, and to put a fusion of sun and moon between them, thereby reinforcing the symbolism of unification.

The pelican who feeds her young with her own blood, on the bottom of the card, is also a classic metaphor, from alchemy and Christianity, among others. Crowley herself explains this as Mother Nature who feeds her children (us). In Christianity, the self-wounding pelican stands for Christ’s self-sacrifice for the salvation of humanity. In alchemy, the pelican stands for the self-sacrifice of the spiritual aspirant: the sacrifice of the ego – and the suffering that comes with it – to realize the divine.

Conclusion

As a feminine aspect of God, the Empress resides in our pelvis (the kundalini energy) as well as in creation. When we look around us, everything that we can see, and everything that grows and flourishes, is “the Empress.”

The Empress also stands for the “completion of nature”. The tradition of alchemy views nature / man as not “finished”. A process of sublimation (deification) is still needed (the Magnum Opus). The crown and scepter of the Empress represent a completed process of transformation, and mastership over matter and the animal instincts.

Reaching the Empress is not easy, as this old alchemical illustration shows beautifully in visual language: a steep mountain with thorn bushes must be climbed.

The Tarot of the Golden Serpent
(Sebastian Haines, 2009, www.thegamecrafter.com/games/tarot-of-the-golden-serpent)

A card full of symbols that express both the material and the spiritual side of the Empress, including a scepter with Cupid; symbol for the (divine) love, which forms the basis of all creation.

The Fairytale Tarot
(Yoshi Yoshitani, 2019, www.yoshiyoshitani.com)

Mary is depicted here as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”, one of her Catholic titles. In the symbolic layer of the Bible, Mary personifies both the feminine in man and the feminine aspect of God (the kundalini), just like the Empress of the Tarot. An example is her presence at the Wedding in Cana (a metaphor for the sacred marriage), where Jesus turns water into wine (a metaphor for God-realization).

Mythical Tarot
(Kayti Welsh-Stewart, Ravynne Phelan, 2016,
www.ravynnephelan.com, www.animantras.com)

The Empress is surrounded by the five elements of Chinese philosophy: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. On her dress are symbols that refer to her spiritual meaning: a tree (of life), the sun and the moon, and a stream of water. She holds an egg in her hands: a symbol of fertility and (re)birth.

Rich Black Tarot
(Rich Black, 2019, www.rblack.org)

Nature’s beauty and fertility are concisely expressed by the image of a flower with a butterfly and the sun. A butterfly is also a classic symbol for transformation.

Tarot of the Wild Unknown
(Kim Krans, 2012, www.thewildunknown.com)

A card with beautiful, powerful symbolism. The tree stands for (the growing power of) nature, but can also be interpreted as a “tree of life”: the “kundalini tree” that grows in man from the pelvis to the crown. The color red suggests (kundalini) fire. The moon is a symbol for the feminine and for duality.

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

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

Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

By |2020-02-20T18:53:13+00:00February 17th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 3. The Empress

Tarot 2. The High Priestess

2. The High Priestess

The High Priestess is a mysterious, intriguing card, in many ways. Her original name – The Papess – already indicates that this card represents something special. Papess is in fact a non-existent position in the Roman Catholic hierarchy and also touches a sensitive chord; the priesthood is not accessible to women.

The cards of the very first tarot game, the Visconti-Sforza, have no titles, but the image is clear enough: we see a woman with a pontifical tiara (crown) and a staff with a cross. The Pope himself is depicted on his own card with exactly the same attributes. This feels like a conscious provocation and raises questions. The church was not known at the time for her sense of humor. For heresy, in the worst case, you could end up at the stake. The noble Visconti family, who commissioned the cards, apparently felt unassailable enough, but why take risks for a game that is only intended for recreational purposes?

Because, as we will see when discussing the other cards of the major arcana, the tarot was designed as a game form, but it was also used as a vehicle for esoteric knowledge, even then. They had to be careful with this. Spiritual theories and beliefs that were inconsistent with the dogmas of the church could not simply be communicated in public. The esoteric symbolism in the very first tarot cards is in many cases subtle and, up to now, recognized as such by few.

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot (1454)

Both the Pope and the Papess of the Visconti-Sforza tarot represent the spiritually perfected person. The official reading of the church is that the pope is Christ’s representative on earth. A person in this position is implicitly expected to have a great spiritual maturity. Ideally, the person with the highest degree of spiritual perfection becomes the leader of the rest. The fact that it does not always work this way, unfortunately, does not interfer with the suitability of the pope to serve as an archetype for spiritual completion. His attributes underline this.

A tiara, a triple crown, stands for the spiritual perfection of body, thinking and feeling. In the Bible we also find this division. For example in the parable of the leaven:

Another parable he spoke to them; The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
(Matthew 13:33)

The leaven is the kundalini energy or Holy Spirit. It permeates body, feeling and thinking – the three measures of flour – causing the bread to rise (metaphor for an expansion of consciousness). We will further explore the meaning of a tiara when discussing the Pope card.

The staff of high-ranking clergy – an outward sign of authority – is at a deeper-level a symbol of the spine with the awakened kundalini energy flowing in it. We often find decorations on the staff that refer to the process of spiritual awakening: a serpent or pine cone (the pineal gland), for example. In this case we see at the top the staff of the Pope a Greek cross; a cross with equal arms. In the esoteric traditions, this cross is a symbol for the merging of the opposites. For fusing duality into a unity; the end result of a kundalini awakening.

What stands out, when studying the Visconti-Sforza card, is that the woman has the attributes of a pope, but not the matching clothing. She is dressed like a simple nun. Her clothing expresses that she has renounced all her possessions and leads a life dedicated to God. This emphasizes that her crown and staff do not stand for a dominant position within the church, but for her spiritual level.

The Tarot of Marseille, by Jean Noblet
(circa 1650)

Tarot of Marseille

On the Tarot of Marseille, about two centuries later, the clothing of the Papess is adapted. She too is now dressed as a high-ranking official, just like the Pope. However, the deeper meaning of the card has not changed. The Papess still stands for spiritual perfection; for transcending duality and realizing the divine “oneness.” The staff with Maltese cross of the Visconti-Sforza card has been replaced in the Jean Noblet Tarot by two crossed bands on the chest of the Papess, which in turn are decorated with crosses, to emphasize the symbolic meaning of the bands. (The same meaning as the two raised fingers of the Pope: I made the two into one)

With this interpretation we also find the answer to the pressing question that has left many tarot connoisseurs puzzled. Why did Jean Dodal (also belonging to the Tarot of Marseille) not call his Papess card La Papesse, like his colleagues, but La Pances? Nobody knows. It is an unknown word that resembles – and sounds very similar to – the French word for belly: panse. I think that Dodal with the title La Pances refers to the kundalini energy in the belly of the Papess!

The Tarot of Marseille, by Jean Dodal (1700-1715)

The Tarot of Bologna
(17th century)

“Allegory of the church”, chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

The keys of the Kingdom of God

The two keys with which the Papess is depicted on some decks are the two keys of the pope that give him authority on earth and in heaven. The church derives this meaning from the Bible passage in which Jesus says to the apostle Peter (who is therefore seen as the first pope):

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:19)

Traditionally, one key is silver and the other is gold. Esoterically, silver and gold stand for, respectively, the female (moon) energy and the male (solar) energy. On the card the keys are always held crossed. This too is a reference to the fusion of duality. Some explain the Papess as an allegory of the Roman Catholic Church, because the church (“ecclesia“) is sometimes allegorically depicted as a woman with a tiara and two keys (see photo, above, from the chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome). But this is not the meaning of the Visconti-Sforza card, because the church is never depicted in a habit.

The real meaning of a card – and of the symbols used in it – only comes to light when it is seen in conjunction with its developmental history and with the other cards of the major arcana. The esoteric meaning of the cards had to remain hidden from the general public. The designers have certainly succeeded in this!

The Etteilla Tarot

In a time frame of about a century, three Etteilla decks have appeared, with striking differences between them. Etteilla decks do not have a Papess card, but Etteilla III is the first tarot deck with a card called The High Priestess. That this card represents a kundalini awakening can also be deduced from her predecessor in deck I. Etteilla I has a card “La Prudence” (Caution) on which is depicted a woman who almost stands on a serpent (below). At first glance “La Prudence” seems to refer to looking out for danger in the outside world. The caduceus (symbol for a kundalini awakening) in her hand, however, gives the card a completely different meaning: make sure (caution) that you lift the (kundalini) serpent (up to the crown), instead of allowing him to bite you (use the kundalini for the satisfaction of the lower chakras) …!

The La Prudence card of Etteilla III also shows clear kundalini symbolism. A woman is holding a mirror with a serpent. The mirror stands for self-reflection / self-knowledge (the “Know thyself” on the temple of Delphi). The path of the kundalini serpent from the pelvis up to the pineal gland is shown twice on this card. The pine cone pattern on the woman’s dress also refers to this. An English version of this card is suddenly called The High Priestess. A surprising adaptation that had a major effect: The Papess was replaced by The High Priestess in almost all tarot decks that followed.

Etteilla I (1788)

Etteilla III, French version (circa 1870)

Etteilla III, English version

The veil of Isis

The Tarot from Oswald Wirth appears at almost the same time as the Etteilla III Tarot. Wirth’s card is still called Papess, but he does introduce a number of new elements that will prove to be permanent. A moon symbol is added to the tiara, making the meaning of this crown more universal (less Christian). Behind the Papess are now two large pillars with a cloth between them. The pillars represent duality, just like the two keys. We may deduce from the moon symbol that the cloth refers to the ‘veil of Isis’, behind which the Greater Reality is hidden.

The meaning of the card shifts to the energetic dimensions. The Papess no longer represents the perfected human being, but rather the divine energy that brings about this perfection. She is known by many names. The Eastern traditions call her the kundalini-shakti. Mystical Judaism speaks about the Shekinah. In Ancient Egypt she was a powerful goddess with multiple faces and associated names, including Isis and Hathor.

Oswald Wirth (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

The High Priestess in the chapel of Château des Avenières wears the crown of Isis. Her face is partially hidden behind a veil. This has the same meaning as the cloth behind her. The kundalini can be found both inside, and in the outside world; she is also the divine energy from which the physical reality, as we perceive with our senses, is built. However, what we perceive is an illusion, according to many spiritual traditions. The Eastern traditions call this Maya. Through Maya, or the veil of Isis, we can not see the Greater Reality. During a spiritual awakening, this veil is “lifted”.

The Rider-Waite-Smith
High Priestess (1909)

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Arthur E. Waite continues with his deck on the themes introduced by his predecessors. The pillars are now marked with the letters B and J; a reference to the pillars Boaz and Jachin of the temple of King Solomon. On the canvas behind the High Priestess we see date palms and pomegranates. The tiara has been replaced by a crown consisting of two crescent moons and a full moon; a reference to the lunar cycle, which in turn stands for a spiritual resurrection or rebirth. Pamela Colman-Smith, the designing artist, has placed an extra crescent moon under the feet of the High Priestess. With two fingers the High Priestess makes the “sign of the sacred marriage”, which means the same as the Greek cross on her chest: the union of the opposites (the pillars B and J). The Bible has been replaced with a scroll with “TORA” on it, which she partially hides behind her robe. In the background we see a calm sea. All these new elements point in the same direction: a kundalini awakening!

Tree of Life

Almost every spiritual tradition has, in one form or another, a “tree of life”: a mythical tree that forms a bridge between our world and the world of the gods. The type of tree can differ, just like the legends attached to it, but in all cases it is an inner tree. An energetic tree with its roots in the pelvic area, and the branches with (often special) fruits are located in the head.

On the veil, behind the RWS High Priestess, we see references to two of these “kundalini trees”. The pomegranates are placed according to the sefirots of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, which are a schematic representation of the inner world of man. The upward movement through the Tree of Life – the way back from matter to the divine – is called “the path of the serpent” in the kabbalah.

The date palm, also on the veil behind the High Priestess, was already regarded a sacred tree in Ancient Egypt. And later, in Judaism and Christianity, this tree kept its special status. This can be traced back to a number of specific properties of the date palm, which make it very suitable as a metaphor for a kundalini awakening. First of all, like most trees of life, it is green all year round, a reference to “eternal life”. Her long bare trunk, with only leaves at the top, is a beautiful representation of the spine. In addition, palm branches have a special feature: the lower leaves deform into spines, so that the lower part of the palm branch resembles a spine.

Furthermore, dates – the fruits of the female palm tree – resemble the pineal gland in terms of shape. Pamela Colman-Smith has emphasized this symbolic value of the date by adding a yellow date to the center of the crown of the palm trees, in addition to a few hanging red dates. The Latin name of the date palm is also significant: Phoenix dactylifera. “Phoenix” confirms that in ancient cultures the date palm was associated with the process of spiritual rebirth.

Both the figure of the High Priestess herself, and the tree of life, represent the kundalini energy. Water is another universal kundalini metaphor. The lower part of the dress of the RWS High Priestess looks like flowing water, and a calm sea extends in the background of the card.
On the wall painting from an Egyptian tomb (below) we see the deceased man drinking from a water source near a date palm.

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life

Branches of a date palm
(Phoenix dactylifera)

Mural painting in the tomb of Irynefer (TT 290), Luxor, Egypt.

Saint Bruno, by Hieronymus Wierix, 16th century.

To attain eternal life with God, the ego must first die. On the engraving with Saint Bruno (left) we see an unusual crucifixion scene: Jesus hanging in a palm tree …! The artist Hieronymus Wierix knew, and wanted to communicate, that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, on a deeper level, stand for the death of the ego and a spiritual rebirth. By placing the palm tree with Jesus on a skull, Wierix also indicates where this process takes place: in the head. With the middle fingers of his right hand he makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1) that took place in Jesus.

The pillars Boaz and Jachin

In the Bible book 1 Kings we read about the legendary temple that King Solomon built for God. This story is not about a real building, but about making yourself into a “temple” for God to live in. One of the indications that we should not take the story literally is the curious fact that no sounds were heard during the construction of the temple:

The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built … and they would go up by winding stairs to the middle story, and from the middle to the third.
(1 Kon. 6:7-8)

The temple of Solomon with the pillars Jachin and Boaz

The side rooms are accessible by a spiral staircase; a beautiful metaphor for the spiral movement of the rising kundalini. It takes Solomon seven years to construct the temple, referring to the opening / activation of the seven chakras. He has two huge copper columns placed against the entrance hall of the temple and gives them names: Jachin and Boaz. The two pillars represent the two energy channels (named ida-nadi and pingala-nadi in the yoga tradition), that connect us to duality, and that flow on the left and the right side of the spine. It is these two pillars that must be unified (the sacred marriage) by the spiritual aspirant to complete the kundalini process

Pomegranates

In ancient cultures the pomegranate represented fertility, abundance, rebirth and eternal life. It is a fruit full of seeds, so associations with fertility and abundance are easy to understand. The pomegranate also stands for the “divine seed” dormant in our sacrum. Partly, she owes this to her red color, which corresponds to the color of the first chakra, where the kundalini is located. This explains her symbolic meaning of rebirth and eternal life.

Pomegranates

The RWS Fool

Pomegranates are also depicted on the clothing of the RWS-Fool. An additional element – in addition to the discussed red feather, the symbol for ether, and the eagle – that refers to the spiritual potential of the first card of the major arcana.

The woman with the moon under her feet

The crescent moon under the feet of the High Priestess refers to a quote from the book of Revelation, which contains the visions of the apostle John:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.
(Revelation 12:1-2)

The woman is clothed with the sun, the text says. The sun stands for the divine, for immortality. The ever-changing moon represents physical reality, duality, mortality, the illusion of matter. The woman has the moon under her feet: she has gained mastery over matter / duality. Her crown with stars stands for an opened crown chakra and the number twelve symbolizes spiritual fullness. Colman-Smith used this twelve-star crown on the following card of the major arcana: the Empress.

John’s vision are images of the kundalini awakening that he is experiences. The child who is about to be born is the divine child who is born in his soul. With the addition of the crescent moon under the feet of the High Priestess – a new element – Colman-Smit wants to emphasize what this card stands for: a kundalini awakening!

Conclusion

The High Priestess represents the divine mystery in our pelvis. The knowledge regarding the kundalini energy has always been hidden anxiously from the general public, to prevent abuse. This is the meaning of the only partially visible Torah role on the RWS High Priestess. Both in the Bible (in which the Torah is included) and in art, this knowledge is covered by symbolism.

Only for those who sincerely long for God and live a pure life, will the High Priestess lift her veil.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree…
(Psalm 92:12)

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

The High Priestess holds a chalice: the Holy Grail. She herself is this mythical chalice, in which the blood of Jesus is said to have been collected. A chalice coveted by many, and sought in vain in the outside world.

Tarot of the Saints (2001)
(© Robert Place robertmplacetarot.com)

In the symbolic layer of the Bible, Mary Magdalene personifies the kundalini energy. For example, in the story of the anointing of Jesus, and at his resurrection (depicted on this card). This is clarified in my book John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

The Byzantine Tarot (2015)
(© Eddison Books)

The gnostics call the kundalini Wisdom (Sophia). This is also her name in the Old and New Testament. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Byzantine Church, Sophia is worshiped as an aspect of God.

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

In alchemy and mythology, the owl – an animal associated with wisdom – refers to the kundalini energy / Sophia / Wisdom. The pine cone is a classic symbol of the pineal gland. The symbol of the “Flower of Life” stands for the energetic blueprint of our creation, which is also an aspect of the kundalini.

Sacred India Tarot (2012)
(© Yogi Impressions)

The Hindu goddess Saraswati, depicted here, personifies the kundalini energy. She is the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, music and art. Saraswati is seen as a “water goddess”. Her musical instrument, the veena, represents the pelvis and spinal column. The strings are the chakras that she “plays”.

The Complete Arthurian Tarot
(Caitlín and John Matthews, art by Miranda Gray, Eddison Books)

The Lady of the Lake who gives King Arthur his magic sword Excalibur, is a metaphor for a kundalini awakening. Excalibur is the divine energy flowing in his spine.

Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn (2008)
(© Lo Scarabeo)

On this card the spiraling movement of the rising kundalini is visualized. The Holy Grail is lifted from the pelvis to the brain. The winding rope around the woman’s body reinforces this image. Instead of two pillars, the lemniscate is used here for the fusion of duality. A beautiful modern version of the High Priestess / kundalini!

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

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

Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres

By |2020-02-19T20:25:29+00:00February 10th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 2. The High Priestess

Tarot 0. The Fool

0. The Fool

The major arcana of the tarot traditionally consists of 22 cards. Arcana comes from the Latin arcanum, which means secret; a reference to the esoteric (secret) knowledge that is hidden in the cards.

The specific meaning of the archetypes and symbols used in the contemporary versions of the major arcana cannot be viewed separately from the developmental history of the cards. In the first centuries, the Fool was depicted as a ragged wanderer, without pants on. He lives in his own world and apparently does not care about the children around him who bully him.

Visconti Sforza deck (1454)

Charles VI deck (± 1465)

D’Este deck (± 1473)

Feathers have been inserted into the hair of the Fool on the Visconti-Sforza deck; a reference to the lightness / emptiness of his mind. This interpretation is confirmed by the empty gaze with which he stares into the distance.

The explicit nudity of the Fool on the d’Este deck, in combination with the children pulling down his pants, would definitely not be acceptable nowadays. And apparently even in the 17th century it was thought that innocence and madness should be portrayed in a different way, because on the Tarot of Marseille, the tarot deck that laid the foundation for all contemporary decks, we see that the children have been replaced for a cat (or is it a dog?) that jumps to the genitals of the Fool.

Tarot of Marseille, Jean Noblet
(± 1650)

Etteilla Thoth Tarot (early 19th century)

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

The Etteilla Thoth Tarot by Jean-Baptiste Alliette (early 19th century) is the first deck that visibly incorporates esoteric symbolism. The Fool’s card shows a jester holding his hands to his eyes. From now on the card will portray, increasingly clear, ignorance, “not wanting to see.” The other cards of the major arcana will be representing aspects of the spiritual path.

From now on, the Fool, with or without bare buttocks, is in the tarot “the fool” who does not follow the road to the Kingdom of God. The basis for this interpretation is Bible quotes such as:

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
(Revelation 3:17)

The fool says in his heart: “There is no God.” (Psalm 53:1)

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God … (1 Cor. 3:19)

Oswald Wirth adds a crocodile and a fallen obelisk to the Fool’s card in his tarot deck (1889). Two themes that will be incorporated by many other decks to come. Both the crocodile and the fallen obelisk refer to spiritual unconsciousness.

Crocodile

In many spiritual traditions, a crocodile represents our most primitive drives; the instinctive impulses from our “reptile brain” (that part of our brain that is also active with reptiles). Symbolically, being eaten by a crocodile means being spirtually unconscious; being driven by animal instincts instead of by the heart or soul. Living a materialistic and indulgent lifestyle.

An important demon in Ancient Egypt was Ammit, or Ammut, the “Devourer of the Dead.” Ammit was depicted as a composition of the three most dangerous animals in Egypt at the time: a crocodile, a lioness or leopard, and a hippopotamus. Ammit devoured the hearts of those who had led a bad / sinful life.

In Hinduism, defeating a crocodile is a mythical theme. Gods are depicted riding a crocodile, which symbolizes mastery over the animal instincts.

Another example is the legend Gajendra and Moksha (the Enlightenment of Gajendra) from the sacred writings of Hinduism.

The Egyptian demon Ammit, “Devourer of the Dead”

The elephant Gajendra is liberated by the god Vishnu

The river goddess Ganga sitting on her crocodile

The sea god Varuna on his Makara, a crocodile-like creature.

While bathing in a lake, the elephant Gajendra is painfully bitten in his leg by a crocodile and is not able to free himself. At the end of his powers (according to legend after more than a thousand years) he begs the god Vishnu for help. As a sacrifice he keeps a lotus in the air. Vishnu frees Gajendra by decapitating the crocodile with his Sudharshana Chakra (a spinning sharp discus).

The story is a metaphor for spiritual awakening. The crocodile represents the animal instincts in our subconscious (the lake). The lotus held up by Gajendra symbolizes his opened crown chakra. The moral of this myth is that Moksha (the state of enlightenment) can only be achieved if the animal instincts have been conquered. However, humans can not achieve this on their own. You need Gods (Vishnu’s) help.

An Egyptian obelisk

Fallen obelisk

A pillar is a universal symbol for the spine, awakened by the kundalini-energy. This is also what the obelisk from Ancient Egypt stands for. These tall stone columns, shaped as sun rays, symbolized the sun god Ra. They were associated with resurrection and immortality. It was also believed that the spirit of Ra lived in the obelisks. These are all attributes that refer to the divine (solar) energy in the spine of an awakened (‘risen’) human being

If we extend this meaning of an upright obelisk to one broken / lying down, then this represents a spinal column that is not (yet) awakened: the spinal column of the spiritually unconscious fool.

The addition of a crocodile to the broken obelisk symbolically depicts the kundalini energy used to satisfy the animal drives (the lower chakras), rather than the realization of the higher nature.

Château des Avenières

The tarot, executed in mosaic, from Château des Avenières has many similarities with the Oswald Wirth Tarot. The Fool wears the clothes of a jester. His pants are hanging down (spiritual “nudity”). His consciousness is narrowed: he is wearing only one shoe and does not seem to care about the dog that bites his leg. Neither does he seem to be aware of the crocodile and the abyss ahead of him. His eyes are on the moon, a newly introduced element.

The continuously waning and waxing moon is a universal symbol for the non-permanent nature of physical reality. Everything on earth is subject to cycles of birth and death, decay and renewal. The moon also represents duality; the polarities that are at the basis of physical reality. The always-shining sun symbolizes the divine, which is eternal, one, and unchangeable. Being focused on the moon refers to spiritual unconsciousness, to being trapped in duality.

The Fool of Chateaux des Avenières

The Greek god Hermes with caduceus

The abyss in the picture represents the subconscious, in which the Fool will fall if he keeps looking at the moon. Unique for the Fool of Chateau des Avenières is that his hat has wings. This is a reference to the Greek god Hermes (Mercury with the Romans), who has a helmet with two wings. Hermes with his serpent staff, the caduceus, represents the divine kundalini-energy.

A jester’s hat, instead of a helmet, with wings symbolizes, just like the fallen obelisk, that the spiritual potential of the Fool is not developed..

All elements on this card match and reinforce each other, in terms of symbolic meaning. The Fool does not follow the road that leads to God (this makes him a jester and ‘naked’). He is focused on matter (the moon) and is about to die spiritually (falling into the abyss or being eaten by the crocodile).

The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) Tarot

With his deck, which is released in 1909, Arthur E. Waite breaks with a number of the, at that moment, unwritten rules and customs in terms of the design and sequence of the tarot cards. His Fool is not a shabby jester with a narrow consciousness, but a happy, lively young man, clothed as a prince. Designing artist Pamela Colman-Smith has added many new symbolic elements.

Waite and Colman-Smith have chosen to emphasize the spiritual potential of this first card (according to some the last card) of the major arcana. We see a young man who walks around, carefree, in a dangerous environment (abyss). This can be explained as innocence and optimism, fueled by a trust in God. This attitude is supported by Bible quotes.

If any of you think he is wise in this world, let him become a fool so that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:18)

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27)

Verily, I say to you: whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child will certainly not enter it. (Mark 10:15)

Colman-Smith has incorporated various elements that give the Fool a potential of a spiritual awakening. No fallen obelisk in this case, but references to the caduceus, the staff of the god Hermes, that represents a kundalini awakening.

The red feather, that flows in an S-shape along the staff of the Fool, represents the divine energy that rises from the first chakra (color red) to the crown; comparable to the spiraling serpents on the caduceus. On card number 19, the Sun, this red feather reappears. Now it is standing upright on the child’s head: the awakening process is complete.
The arms of the Fool follow the form of the red feather, reinforcing the symbolism of flowing kundalini-energy.

The bag on the end of his staff has the head on it of (probably) an eagle. The eagle, the king of birds, is a universal symbol for expanded consciousness and the divine. A clever alternative, conceived by Colman-Smith, for the two wings at the top a caduceus. The staff of the Fool points at the sun, a symbol of the divine.

A prince also refers to spiritual potential, namely the prospect of a spiritual kingship. A prince represents the promise of the Kingdom of God. In fairy tales and myths this is an archetypal theme: the prince who has to overcome all kinds of (spiritual) difficulties before he can marry the princess (the sacred marriage), and can take his place on the throne of his father (read: Father). As an illustrator of children’s books, Colman-Smith undoubtedly was familiar with this theme and its deeper meaning. Card 4 of the major arcana, the Emperor, represents this accomplished spiritual kingship.

The wheel with eight spokes, on the Prince’s / Fool’s clothing, is the symbol for Ether. Ether, or energy, is the fifth element. Spiritually it represents (the working of the) Spirit.

The white rose in the Fool’s hand is a classic symbol for innocence, purity and chastity. In the RWS deck, the white rose returns on card number 13, Death. It has the meaning of spiritual cleansing on both cards. On the helmet of Death we, again, see a red feather: this tells us that the kundalini energy is the active force in the purification process.

The Thoth Tarot

The Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley, first released in 1969, 22 years after Crowley’s death, is in no way like his predecessors. Uniquely designed and full of symbolism, this deck has inspired countless artists in their version of the tarot.

The Fool of the Thoth Tarot

The Hindu goddess Durga

Crowley’s version of the Fool also emphasizes his spiritual potential. This is expressed by symbols such as the caduceus , the butterfly, the white dove (the Holy Spirit), a bag of coins with signs of the zodiac and planets, the vulture (Ancient Egypt), and the grapes (divine ecstasy). The green clothing refers to the mythical ‘Green Man’ and spring, and with this to fertility. With both legs the Fool enthusiasticly makes a leap into the unknown.

The sun at the height of his crotch is an unmistakable reference to the kundalini energy. The pine cone on top of the caduceus stands for the pineal gland, which is activated by the kundalini, as it rises to the crown. The tiger symbolizes the danger that the Fool faces during his spiritual journey. This animal represents the energy of the second chakra (color orange). If the kundalini-energy is not raised after awakening, but remains ‘stuck’ in the abdomen, and is used for sexual activities (second chakra), this leads to spiritual death (being eaten by the tiger).

Where the crocodile (at the bottom of the card) stands for our animal drives in general, the tiger stands more specifically for sexual energy. In Hinduism, the tiger – like the crocodile – is used as a mount for the gods. The message is: whoever wants to experience the divine must gain mastery over the animal instincts.

Conclusion

The tarot is a set of 78 cards, containing profound spiritual wisdom. In the 14th century the Fool was depicted as a vagebond, a wanderer; nowadays he more clearly represents spiritual potential. Some decks emphasize his spiritual unconsciousness – the poverty of a life without God – others approach it more positively and focus on his childlike innocence and future possibilities, which are presented by the other cards of the major arcana. Arthur E. Waite (RWS deck) wrote about the Fool: He is the spirit in search of experience.

In biblical terms, the Fool is “the prodigal son” who returns home, to his father (read: God), after he got completely stuck in life (on earth).

Knapp-Hall Tarot (1929) by the writer Manly P. Hall

The blindfold refers to spiritual blindness.

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

The Fool on this card is pure and innocent “like a child” (Bible), with mastery over his animal drives (the wolf). The tree symbolizes the awakened kundalini energy. The six roses represent six fully opened chakras; at the sixth chakra the sacred marriage has taken place. The five petals are a reference to the pentagram. In essence, this card represents the end of a spiritual journey.

The Sun and Moon Tarot (2010) by the Belgian artist Vanessa Decort

Both the spiritual dangers and the growth potential are made clear, in easy to interpret symbols.

The Haindl Tarot (1990) by the German artist Hermann Haindl

According to Haindl: “The wounded swan represents the fall, the departure of mankind from the garden of Eden.”
This symbolism is derived from the Grail romance / poem Parzifal, ‘the pure fool’, who kills an innocent bird (a swan in Wagner’s opera of the same name) with his bow and arrow. Haindl is thus linking the Fool of the tarot, and the search for the Holy Grail.

D’Morte-Disney deck

Pinocchio as the Fool is spot on!
Carlo Lorenzini, the spiritual father of Pinocchio was a freemason. The story of the wooden puppet (symbol for spiritual unconsciousness) who goes on a journey and wants to become a man of flesh and blood, is a metaphor for the journey of spiritual awakening

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (febr ’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/index.htm

By |2020-02-11T08:07:36+00:00February 5th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 0. The Fool