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 5. The Hierophant

5. The Hierophant

A hierophant is a high priest who leads religious celebrations. The ancient Greek word hierophantes is contraction of hieros (holy) and phainein (show, reveal). A hierophant is able to initiate others into experiencing the divine. This is, of course, only possible if he is connected to the divine himself, and this leads us to the meaning of the tarot card The Hierophant. It represents the person in whom the sacred marriage (Greek: hieros gamos ) has taken place. The (energetic) duality in him has merged. The Hierophant is rooted in the divine.

The title Hierophant was originally linked to the mysteries of Eleusis: an ancient Greek mystery tradition whose initiation rites were secret and still are a great mystery. Much later, this title was also applied to people in other situations and capacities. The Hierophant ended up in the tarot through the occult society The Golden Dawn.

The Pope

Card number 5 of the tarot was originally called The Pope. Arthur Waite replaced The Pope for The Hierophant in his Rider-Waite-Smith deck in 1909 and almost all of the tarot decks that followed hereafter took over. However, the deeper meaning of the card has always remained the same. Even when the card was still called The Pope, it represented the person in whom the sacred marriage had taken place.

On the Pope card of the 15th century Visconti-Sforza Tarot we see three references to the holy marriage: the two raised fingers of the Pope; the Greek cross (a cross with equal arms) at the top of its staff; and the hexagonal pattern on its garment, a derivative of the hexagram – the universal symbol for the union of opposites.

The Pope, like the Papess (card number 2), wears a pontifical (papal) tiara: a triple crown. Officially, the three crowns represent the triple power of the pope: priest, teacher, and king. Esoterically, a tiara stands for mastery over body, feeling and thinking.

The Pope of the Visconti-Sforza tarot (1454)

A hexagram

An illustration of the sacred marriage from the alchemical Book of the Holy Trinity (15th century). Man and woman are fused into an androgynous figure. The three crowns around the belly, chest and head represent mastery over the body (the animal instincts, the lower abdomen), feelings (heart) and the mind.

An illustration from the alchemical manuscript Speculum Veritatis, which is located in the library of the Vatican. The alchemist (left) has acquired a triple (the three crowns) kingship (mastership) over earthly matters. The triangle with the point up (the symbol for fire), with the fire in it, stands for the kundalini fire, which has purified the alchemist’s body, feeling and thinking (the three arrows), through which he has achieved this kingship. On the right we see an alchemical oven; symbol for the alchemist’s pelvis and spine, with the fire of the kundalini flowing in it. The three rings on the pipe and the three arrows on the flag represent body, feeling and thinking that are purified in the”oven”.

Charles VI tarot

The Charles VI, or Gringonneur, deck is also from the 15th century; designed for King Charles VI of France. The Pope card of this deck contains symbolism that refers to a kundalini awakening.

Two energy channels run along the left and right side of the spine. They are called ida and pingala nadi in the yoga tradition. During a kundalini awakening, these energy channels fuse at the height of the forehead. During this process the pineal gland – in the middle of our head – is activated. The two cardinals next to the Pope symbolize these two energy channels. Their crossed hands represent the fusion, just like the two keys (of the Kingdom of Heaven), which the Pope holds upright against each other.

Charles VI deck (15th century)

Pope Leo VII
(pope from 936 to 939, image from 1842)

     The pineal gland

The designer of this card did not opt ​​for the papal tiara with three crowns that was common at the time, but for one of the very first variants, which was worn until the 12th century, with only one crown. I think because this crown – even more than the tiara – emphasizes its pineal gland shape. It has also given the artist the opportunity to add a pine cone pattern to the crown.

Probably not coincidentally also, is the color of the clothing: red (clothing cardinals) and blue (clothing pope). These two colors are traditionally associated with, respectively, the male energies (heat, fire, the sun) and the female energies (coolness, water, the moon) in humans.

Left: the two ribbons on the back of the papal crown (the so-called infulae) represent the two energy channels that activate the pineal gland during their fusion.

France 17th century

From the 17th century onwards, to reinforce the symbolism of the union of opposites, two pillars were added in the background to the Pope card, and two lower-ranking clergymen in the foreground. The left figure on the Pope card of Jacques Viéville makes, just like the Pope himself, the sign of the sacred marriage.

The so-called “Tarot anonyme de Paris” has, for that time, the most exciting version of the Pope. An enormous key is placed on his lap and reaches to the tip of his tiara. This symbolizes the awakened kundalini energy in his spine: the “key” to the Kingdom of God. Two fingers – the sign of the sacred marriage – rest on his staff. This also represents his spine. The Pope looks at a sphinx and a small pyramid next to him. A sphinx – a lion’s body with a woman’s head – symbolizes mastery over the animal instincts. The pope is wearing clothes in the colors red (male) and blue (female).

Tarot de Paris, Jacques Viéville (1650)

Tarot de Marseille, Pierre Madenié (1709)

Tarot anonyme de Paris (17th century)

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth lowers the two pillars behind the Pope, giving the composition of the card – Pope, two pillars, and two figures in the foreground – the shape of a pentagram; the symbol for the “completed person”. On this card also, the figure on the left makes the sign of the sacred marriage with his hand.

Oswald Wirth (1889)

From H. C. Agrippa’s Libri tres
de occulta philosophia

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

Arthur Waite changes the name of tarot card number 5 to The Hierophant, but the image remains largely the same: a pope with tiara, two pillars and two lower-ranking clergymen. New are the elements from alchemy that refer to the sacred marriage – the union of the red king and the white queen: the color red and white of the pope’s canopy, and the roses (red) and lilies (white) on the clothing of the figures in the foreground.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Hierophant (1909)

Pope Gregory I (540-604)

A 17th century etching with alchemists who are working diligently in their (inner) garden. The six flowerbeds represent the first six chakras (at the sixth chakra the sacred marriage takes place). In the back stands a (kundalini) tree from which water (energy) flows to the rest of the garden. A garland of red and white roses is spiraling around the tree (the upward movement of the “kundalini serpent”). Red and white are the colors of the alchemical marriage.

Left: a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, entitled: Mary Nazarene (1857). Mary is visited by the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove (left). Because of this, according to the Bible, she will become pregnant with Jesus. Dante Gabriel Rossetti wants us to know that this story is a metaphor for a kundalini awakening. Maria is portrayed in an unusual way: working in the garden, caring for red roses and white lilies, like an alchemist. The watering can standing next to her is decorated with a sun (symbol of the divine), and an upward stream of water: the kundalini energy. Her long red hair (the color of fire) hangs down to her pelvis, the place where the kundalini energy is located.

The RWS Hierophant wears a blue robe under the chasuble, so that the card also contains the meaningful color combination of red-blue (male-female). The Y on the back of the two men in the foreground stands for the merger of the opposites. In the illustration from Symbola Aureae Mensae (below) we see an androgynous figure, or rebis, who holds a letter Y in one hand and makes the sign of the sacred marriage with the other hand. The RWS Hierophant is also rather androgynous: it is not immediately clear whether this is a man or a woman. Other elements that refer to the fused duality are the black and white checkered strips on the floor, and the crossed keys in the foreground.

The staff of the RWS Hierophant is much shorter than usual (see painting of Pope Gregory, above) and rests on his / her knee. This confirms our interpretation that the staff of the Pope / Hierophant represents the spine. The triple cross at the top of the staff has the same meaning, esoterically, as the three rings on the pipe of the alchemical furnace (see above): body, feeling and thinking are purified by the kundalini fire in the spine. The three crossbars are getting shorter towards the top, so that they form a triangle with the point upwards: the symbol for the element of fire.

An engraving from Michael Maier’s Symbola Aureae Mensae (1617)

The spiritual aspirant (warrior) receives three laurel wreaths for his victory over his animal drives (the three-headed monster), that controlled his body, feeling and thinking. An engraving from Discours Philosophique, S. Stuart de Chevalier, 1781.

The Tarot of Château des Avenières

The Hierophant of Château des Avenières wears the crown of the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. This crown consists of a red sun disk and two raised, stylized feathers. These feathers are a variant on the universal theme of two wings: a symbol for expanded consciousness (like, for example, the caduceus).

The two kneeling women next to the Hierophant, like the pillars, stand for duality, which is emphasized by their different skin color. The pillars and clothing of the Hierophant are in red and blue.

The woman on the right points to the Hierophant’s staff. It is a special staff, to which a chain is attached with decorations, including Ankhs.  This chain defies gravity. This symbolizes the ability of the Hierophant to initiate others, with the awakened kundalini energy in his spine (the staff). On the mural from the temple of Seti I (above) we see such an initiation, with a similar staff.

Château des Avenières (1917)

Wall painting from the temple of Seti I
in Abydos, Egypt
.

Conclusion

The name of the fifth card of the tarot changed a century ago from Pope to Hierophant, but the deeper meaning has always remained the same: spiritual completion.

The pentagram is a symbol that – also in the tarot – is used for the realized person. That this card has been given number 5 will therefore not be a coincidence.

Staff and triple crown – fixed attributes on this card – represent mastery over body, emotions (heart) and thinking (head).

The Hierophant is androgynous: the sacred marriage has taken place. The inner duality (the male and female energies) has melted into a unity. The outer duality (matter) has lost its grip. This is symbolized by the two humble and obliging clergymen on the card.

Parallel Worlds Tarot

(Astrid Amadori, 2014) 
www.parallelworldstarot.com

This card refers to the inner Hierophant. Moses heard the voice of God coming from a burning bush, and had a staff that could turn into a serpent: both are kundalini metaphors. The divine energy can be both counselor and initiator!

New Millennium Tarot
(Lee Varis)
 www.newmillenniumtarot.com

The Boddhi tree, under which the Buddha was illuminated according to legends, is integrated into the Buddha himself on this card: it was an inner “kundalini tree”. Also incorporated in the card are the four elements, and a Greek cross: the fusion of duality in the heart of the Buddha.

De Alma Ajo Tarot

(Alma Ajo, Spanje, 2010)

Beautiful, concise symbolism!

Night Vale Tarot

(Hannah Holloway, 2015)

The inner experience of the sacred marriage (male hand and female hand) translated into striking and contemporary visual language!

Botanica Tarot Deck
(Kevin Jay Stanton, 2018)
 https://kevinjaystanton.bigcartel.com

A red rose, a white rose, and a triple crown: brilliant!

This article was published in Paravisie Magazine (juni ’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 |2020-06-20T06:43:49+00:00February 23rd, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 5. The Hierophant

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 (Brera-Brambilla) Emperor

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)

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.

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 from: Philosophia Hermetica, Federico Gualdi (ca. 1790). The alchemist, clothed as a warrior, is standing in the transforming fire of the kundalini. The six trees represent his six chakras that are being purified. Next to him stands the god Hermes with his staff the caduceus, the classic symbol of a kundalini awakening. Hermes raises the globus cruciger in his hand: a reference to the sublimation (deification) of the lower (material) energies.

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

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 |2020-06-20T06:44:01+00:00February 20th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|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 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

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 |2020-06-20T06:44:15+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 Popess – already indicates that this card represents something special. Popess 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, but it was also used as a vehicle for esoteric knowledge, even then. One 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 Popess 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 Popess 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 Popess 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 Popess, 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 Popess 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 Popess!

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 Popess 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 Popess 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 Popess 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 Popess 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 Popess, 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 Popess 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 Popess 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

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 |2020-06-20T06:44:36+00:00February 10th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 2. The High Priestess

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 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

0. The Fool
1. The Magician
2. The High Priestess