Tarot 18. The Moon

18. The Moon

The symbolism of tarot card number 18 The Moon refers to the alchemical marriage of the sun and the moon; a metaphor for the spiritual process in which the inner duality merges into divine unity. What do barking dogs and a crayfish have to do with this? Read it in this article!

The Moon in the 15th century

The theme of alchemical marriage (the fusion of opposites), with a central role for the sun and the moon, is communicated in different ways by the 15th century tarot decks that have been preserved.

The woman on the Visconti-Sforza card is holding a crescent moon in her hand. She is the “Moon Goddess”, that we can find in almost all spiritual traditions, and who is a personification of the kundalini energy (Isis, Inanna, Diana, Artemis, etc.). The golden hair of the woman reaches her pelvis, the abode of the kundalini in man.

The colors of her dress – red (the masculine) and blue (the feminine) – represent the polarities that have merged. The two ends of the cord around her waist refer to the caduceus: the staff of the Greek god Hermes, that symbolizes a kundalini awakening.

The hand with which the woman holds these two ends makes the sign of the sacred (alchemical) marriage: two fingers together (2 = 1).

The two mountains in the background, left and right of the woman, reinforce the symbolism. On our retina appear the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening: the polar energy channels ida-nadi and pingala-nadi, and in the middle the sushumna-nadi, with the kundalini energy.

The crescent moon has an unnatural shape and looks more like an eclipse (coinciding of sun and moon). We may see this as a confirmation of our interpretation of the other symbolism on the card.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

Caduceus

The caduceus, the staff of the god Hermes. The two serpents represent the polar energy channels. The staff itself represents the spine with the kundalini energy.

Two fingers together is the sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1), the fusion of the polarities.

Charles VI Tarot (late 15th century)

On the card of the Charles VI, or Estensi, deck (left), the union of the opposites is expressed by the compass pointing to the moon.

Esoteric traditions, like alchemy and the freemasonry, use the two-legged compass as a symbol for the polar energy channels that merge during a kundalini awakening. See examples on the right and below.

On this card also the crescent moon resembles an eclipse.

The alchemist’s Magnum Opus in symbols (18th century engraving).

Illustration from Freemasonry.

Depicted on this alchemical emblem is ‘the Philosopher’s Stone’; a metaphor for union with God. (Atalanta Fugiens, 1617)

The hexagram (six-pointed star), like the compass and the square, represents the fusion of the polarities. (Des Hermes Trismegists alter Naturweg, 1782)

The core (roots) of the spiritual process is located in the pelvis. The planets represent the chakras. (Cabala Chemica, 1659)

A second measuring instrument, with the same esoteric meaning as the compass, is the square. We find it on The Moon of the Rothschild Tarot (below), of which only uncoloured, uncut sheets have been preserved.

The symbolic meaning of the armillary (a three-dimensional representation of our universe), in the hand of the man on the Rothshild card, becomes clearer when we place the card from the Ercole I d’Este Tarot deck (far right) next to it.

The armillary on the d’Este card is placed on an unusually long stand. It symbolizes the spine. The man is holding a compass in line with the stand: the two polar energy channels are fused and the kundalini energy flows from the pelvis (the moon on the table) to the head, giving an experience of God / oneness (the armillary => being one with the universe).

The small, eight-pointed Morning Star, at the bottom left of the table (circled), confirms this interpretation: the Morning Star is also a symbol for the kundalini energy (see tarot card The Star). The colors of the clothing the man wears – red and blue – represent the polar energies.

Rothschild Tarot (circa 1500)

Ercole I d’Este Tarot (1473)

Hermes Trismegistus with an armillary. The kundalini fire is fusing the sun and moon. (Viridarium chymicum, D. Stolcius von Stolcenbeerg, 1624)

An androgyn ‘Rebis’: the final stage of the alchemist’s Magnum Opus.

A depiction of a kundalini awakening. Symbolism pointing at a fusion of the sun and moon is also used in eastern traditions.

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseilles seems to take a completely different course with regard to the Moon theme, but this is only an illusion. The symbolism on this card also refers to a kundalini awakening and the associated fusion of the polarities. The compass and square have been replaced by two dogs and two towers. The moon goddess has been replaced by a crayfish.

The “Cary Sheet” (right) is an uncut, uncoloured printing sheet from circa 1500. This is the earliest copy of The Moon in the Tarot of Marseille style.

On the bottom half of the card we see a pond with a huge crayfish in it. Water is a universal metaphor for the divine energy in our pelvis: the kundalini. A crayfish emerging from the water refers to an awakening of this energy.

There are a number of reasons for choosing a lobster. The lower part of a lobster resembles a human spine. Red is the color of (kundalini) fire, and of the first chakra, where the kundalini resides while she is still “sleeping”.

Furthermore, in order to grow, the lobster must ‘scale’ (shed its armor), similar to the molting of a serpent, the classic symbol for the kundalini. This ‘renewal’ is also an aspect of the kundalini energy.

Cary Sheet (circa 1500)

The lower part of the lobster resembles the human spine.

An alchemical image with a moon goddess sitting in a pool of water (the kundalini). The fire also refers to the kundalini. The god Hermes, with his staff the caduceus, is placed above the goddess, between the sun and the moon. (Seven Keys of Honoratus Marinier, late 18th century)

This mosaic, from Bulla Regia, Tunisia, depicts the birth of Aphrodite from the foam of the sea. This myth is a metaphor for the awakening of the kundalini. Aphrodite is lifted up from the sea by two centaurs, which appear to be connected. They represent the polar energy channels that merge during the kundalini awakening process. On their heads they have the legs, claws and feelers of a lobster.

On the right two beautiful illustrations from the tradition of alchemy of the process of spiritual awakening, with the lobster as a symbol for the kundalini energy.

Right: the crow and dove represent the polar energies. On the ground lie the polar sun and moon. The dog is on a leash; a reference to control over the animal/lower nature. (Rosarium Philosophorum, 1578)

Far right: both the lobster, and the ‘violin bow’ made of water, represents the kundalini energy. (Aurora Consurgens, 15th century)

Jean Noblet’s Tarot of Marseille card (below) includes some new elements. Flames have been added around the eclipse of the sun and moon. This is likely a reference to the “tongues of fire” that descended on the disciples of Jesus at Pentecost. This story is a metaphor for the awakening of the kundalini – which is called the Holy Spirit in the Bible – in the apostles.

When Pentecost arrived, they were all together. Suddenly there was a sound from heaven as if a strong wind were blowing, it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire: it divided and descended upon each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them to speak. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The tongues of the dogs confirm this interpretation. They resemble the flames / “tongues of fire” around the eclipse.

The three small hills at the bottom of the card represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The hill in the middle is the sushumna nadi, located in the spine, with the kundalini (the lobster) flowing in it.

The outer two hills represent the ida-nadi and pingala-nadi, which flow on both sides of the spine. The two dogs and two towers also symbolize the energetic polarity. This is confirmed by the colors of the dogs: red (the masculin) and blue (the feminine).

Tarot van Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (1659)

“Tongues of fire” descend on the apostles.

The dogs also represent the animal / lower nature of humans: on an energetic level our belly (the first three chakras). When the kundalini (the crayfish) awakens in the pelvis, it must first pass the lower chakras (the dogs) to get to its final destination: the crown chakra.

Probably dogs were chosen – and not, for example, lions or pigs – because the moon goddesses Diana (Romans) and Artemis (Greeks) are often depicted with dogs. Below are two examples.

Right: The king (the alchemist) is eaten by the wolf (he is ‘consumed’ by his animal instincts, located in the belly). When the wolf is burned (the animal energies are purified by the kundalini fire), the king is brought back to life. (Atalanta Fugiens, 1617)

Left: the moon goddess Diana with her dog. The two serpents represent the fusion of the polar energies. The serpents touch two strands of Diana’s hair, confirming this interpretation. (Natalis Comitis Mythologiae, 1637)

Below: the goddess Artemis as “Potnia Theron”: “Mistress of the animals”. (Boeotian amphora, circa 680 BC)

Jacques Viéville Tarot (circa 1650)

Jacques Viéville’s Moon (left) is completely different from his Tarot of Marseille colleagues. No crayfish for him, but a woman spinning yarn. This, too, is a metaphor for a kundalini awakening.

The stick with a tuft of flax at the top represents the spine and the pineal gland. The thread running from the pelvis to the woman’s head represents the kundalini.

Her red and blue dress refers to the fusion of the polarities, just like the eclipse, above her head. With her right hand the woman confirms her inner oneness. The tree next to her is a classic symbol of the awakened kundalini.

Right: The metaphor of spun yarn has also been used by artists to communicate that Jesus went through a kundalini awakening. The upper hand of Mary makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1). Her lower hand brings the thread to the pelvis of the baby Jesus. Mary’s clothing is a combination of blue (the feminine) with red (the masculine). Her blue cloak suggests the spiral movement  of the kundalini towards the head.

The symbolism of tarot card The Moon has also been used in Christian art of the same era. In this way spiritual knowledge that went against the teachings of the Church was communicated in a veiled way. For example, there are paintings of the Last Supper with crayfish on the table, in addition to the usual fish, lamb and bread (see below). A remarkable deviation from tradition, that makes one wonder how the artist managed to get permission for this from his client (the church).

The Last Supper, Antonio Baschenis, Santo Stefano Church, Carisolo, Italy, 15th century. We can deduce from the enormous number of crayfish that they have a special meaning. It is also strange that they are not lying on plates, like the lamb and the fish. The rows of round loaves resemble the vertebrae of a spinal column.

In paintings of the crucifixion we often see an eclipse, which makes sense because in the Bible it says that a solar eclipse takes place at the moment Jesus dies:

And it was about the sixth hour, and darkness came over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the middle. And Jesus cried with a loud voice and said, Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. And when He said that, He gave up the ghost. (Luke 23: 44-46)

The detail of the eclipse in this quote is intended to tell us that the death of Jesus, on the symbolic level, represents a spiritual transformation process. A complete solar eclipse can only occur at New Moon. However, it was Full Moon (Pesach) when Jesus was crucified. The sixth hour is a reference to the sixth chakra, the place where the fusion of the polarities (sun and moon) takes place. For the deeper meaning of the symbolism in the Bible, see my book John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ.

We can deduce from the hand of Jesus who makes the sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1), that the eclipse in the paintings below has an esoteric meaning.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

Oswald Wirth’s card (left) is almost identical to the Tarot of Marseille. His dogs have the colors white and gray, which, like red and blue, refers to the polar energies: light / dark, yin / yang.

The mosaic at Château des Avenières (right), which is based on Oswald Wirth’s tarot, has double pillars on both the left and right. This reinforces the theme of the card: the fusion of duality into divine oneness.

Château des Avenières (1917)

The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) Tarot

Artist Pamela Colman-Smith has chosen a dog and a wolf (the tamed and untamed animal) to express the polarities. A choice inspired by alchemy. On the alchemy emblem below, next to the RWS card, we see a dog and a wolf fighting each other. They represent the inner duality of the alchemist. The animals, according to the accompanying text, will be “turned into one.”

The colors yellow and orange of the dogs probably refer to the abdominal chakras, the abode in man of the animal energies. The second (lower abdomen) chakra is orange and the third (navel) chakra is yellow.

Another subtle, but significant difference from all predecessors is that on the RWS card the caryfish crawls out of the water. This emphasizes the awakening of the kundalini.

Around the moon / eclipse, the RWS card has Yod’s (the Hebrew letter Y) instead of flames. The meaning is the same. As we saw with tarot card The Tower, the letter Yod – which resembles a flame – refers to the divine in mystical Judaism.

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

“A WOLF AND A DOG ARE IN ONE HOUSE, AND THEN ARE TURNED INTO ONE.” (Lambspring, 1556)

The moon goddess Hecate with two dogs. The two serpents refer to the ida and pingala nadi.

Conclusion

In most traditions, the kundalini energy in our pelvis is personified by a goddess (Shakti, Isis, Artemis, Sophia, etc.). Images from nature are also common. The yogi sees the source of divine energy as a coiled serpent, which can be awakened and then spirales up the spine. To the alchemist, the same source of energy resembles a caryfish emerging from the water. In the Bible we find the metaphor of a (whale) fish, that swallows human beings alive.

In the case of this tarot card, it is not difficult to understand the choice of the moon, with its influence on the rise and fall of the sea level, as a symbol for the kundalini.

In the tarot we also find a deer, a tree, a sword and an hourglass. The list of symbols and metaphors for the kundalini energy is almost endless; just as long as man’s imagination.

Tarot card The Moon is a beautiful example of a road map in images to the Kingdom of God.

Arthurian Tarot ( Caitlin Matthews, John Matthews, Miranda Gray, 1991)

A (pink) salmon swimming against the current, back to its native soil, is a striking, original metaphor for the kundalini energy.

The Arto Tarot (Jane Estelle Trombley, 2008)

The moon goddess Diana / Artemis with her dogs.

Tarot de Mars (Quentin Faucompré, 2012)

When the kundalini awakens, one of its tasks is to transform and merge the animal energies.

Arcus Arcanum Tarot (Hansrudi Wascher, 1987)

The woman / goddess on this card invites us to follow this road.

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

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

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

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By |2021-01-16T21:11:04+00:00October 18th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tarot 18. The Moon

Tarot 17. The Star

17. The Star

The eight-pointed star on this tarot card is a symbol of the Sumerian goddess Inanna and her Akkadian counterpart Ishtar. These goddesses were also associated with the planet Venus, which is called the Morning Star because, after the sun and moon, she is the brightest of all celestial bodies and is visible in the east shortly before sunrise. The light of Venus heralds the sun and because of this she is associated with the divine since ancient times.

We also have the word of the prophets as confirmed beyond doubt. And you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
(Bible quote 2 Peter 1:19)

In line with this, the eight-pointed Morning Star represents in various spiritual traditions the divine energy in the pelvis of man: the kundalini. Two examples on the right.

The Morning Star (Venus) is clearly visible just before sunrise.

An Old Babylonian plaque from 2000- 1600 BC. with the Star of Ishtar on the trunk of a palm tree (symbol for the spine).

Clavis Artis, a late 17th / early 18th century alchemical manuscript.

The Star in the 15th century

That the star on this tarot card already from the beginning referred to a kundalini awakening, is confirmed by the other symbolism. Both 15th century cards below include references to the fusion of the masculine and feminine energies. This fusion is part of the kundalini process.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot

Ercole I d’Este Tarot

The alchemist’s Magnum Opus (kundalini awakening): the masculine and feminine energies are fused. An eight-pointed star is depicted above the heads of the Rebis. (Compendium Alchymist, J. M. Faust, 1706)

The woman’s clothing on the Visconti-Sforza card is a combination of the colors blue and red. These are the classic colors for, respectively, the feminine and the masculine energies. To confirm this interpretation she makes the sign of the sacred marriage with her right hand (two fingers together, 2 = 1). This hand gesture is placed exactly where the colors red and blue meet.

The woman’s red cloak is covered with a pattern of eight-pointed stars. Red is a color that can also refer to the kundalini energy: it is the color of fire and also of the first chakra, the residence of the kundalini. The woman is standing between two mountains. These symbolize the polar energy channels ida nadi and pingala nadi, which flow on the left and right side of the spine.

The man and woman on the card of the Ercole I d’Este deck (above) also wear red and blue clothing. With their arms around each other, they point to the eight-pointed star: an obvious reference to the merging of the masculine and feminine energies.

Left: during a kundalini awakening, the polar energy channels ida nadi (blue) and pingala nadi (red) merge, at the level of the forehead (sixth chakra).

The Tarot of Marseille

The woman on the Tarot of Marseille cards stands not only between two hills, but also between two trees. The woman personifies the kundalini energy; the two trees and the two hills represent the ida nadi and pingala nadi. The nakedness of the woman communicates her divine nature.

The union of the masculine and feminine energies is symbolized on the Tarot of Marseille Star by the two vases from which water (energy) flows. One vase flows out onto the land, the other into the pool of water, as a confirmation to us that these are the polar energies.

So both the trees, the hills and the vases represent the polar energies. The woman and the eight-pointed star both represent the divine kundalini energy. We can also deduce this from the woman’s navel. On Jean Noblet’s card it is a six-pointed star (hexagram) and on Jean Dodal’s card a circle with a upward pointing triangle: the symbol of fire.

Another classic metaphor for the awakened kundalini is a tree. Jean Dodal’s card shows a bird on one of the trees. The bird refers to the completion of the kundalini process.

Tarot of Marseille
by Jean Noblet (1659)

Tarot of Marseille
by Jean Dodal (1715)

The seven smaller stars (hexagrams) on the card represent the seven chakras, which are purified and activated (‘shining’ like stars) by the kundalini energy. All elements on this card can also be found in the symbolism used in alchemy to depict a kundalini awakening, see the three examples below.

From: Compendium alchymist,
J. M. Faust, 1706.

The (kundalini) tree enables the soul to ascend to God. The Rosarium Philosophorum, 18th century.

Woodcut from Ritter-Krieg,
Johann Sternhals, 1580.

The theme of a god with two vases of water, to express the fusion of the polar energies, can also be found in Ancient Egypt. In the image on the right we see the androgynous god Hapi depicted in an identical way.

The meaning that Egyptologists give to this image is that the two vases of water represent the White and the Blue Nile, which flow together and form the, for the Egyptians, very important river Nile (see map on right). The god Hapi is a personification of the Nile.

Major rivers are often used in spiritual traditions as a metaphor for kundalini energy; for example, the Ganges in Hinduism, the Jordan in Judaism, and in Ancient Egypt it was the Nile.

The serpent around Hapi confirms us that this relief on a deeper level is also a representation of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening, similar to the meaning of tarot card The Star.

Jacques Vieville Tarot, circa 1650.

The Tarot of Paris, 17th century.

Some Tarot de Marseille decks have opted for completely different imagery to express the same thing. On the cards of Jacques Vieville and the Tarot of Paris (left) we see a man with a compass in his hand. The compass is a symbol from Freemasonry and refers to the fusion of the polarities. The same meaning as the two vases on the other Tarot de Marseille decks.

The man on Jacques Viéville’s card points with the compass to a tower. This tower is a metaphor for the spine with the awakened kundalini flowing in it (see also tarot card The Tower). Instead of a clock, we see a (kundalini) star in the top of the tower. We may take this as a confirmation of our interpretation.

The hourglass, which the man is holding in his other hand, is also a symbol for the kundalini energy (see tarot card The Hermit).

The man on the Tarot of Paris card points with the compass at his hat, which is shaped like a pyramid. A pyramid has square base (the number four represents the physical dimensions / earth), with vertical lines that run to one point, the top (symbol for the divine). This symbolic meaning of the pyramid is comparable to that of the compass: the duality of our physical reality that merges into a divine unity.

The compass on this alchemical emblem with the ‘Magnum Opus’ / Rebis represents the fusion of the masculine and feminine. From: Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae, Heinrich Nollius, 1617.

The fusion of the masculine and feminine (the sacred marriage) is symbolized on this engraving by the hand gestures (2 = 1) of the gods Mercury and Minerva, as well as the compass. Mercury’s staff, the caduceus, is the classic symbol for a kundalini awakening. (Crispijn van de Passe (I), circa 1611, Rijksmuseum)

Socrates holds up a compass with one hand and draws a Rebis with the other. Both stand for the fusion of the masculine and feminine. From: Symbolicarum Quaestionum, Achilles Bocchius, 1555.

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

The golden hair of the woman on Oswald Wirth’s card covers her whole back. This, too, is a classic metaphor for the kundalini energy, which flows from the pelvis to the crown.

Instead of a tree with a bird as a transformation symbol, Wirth has opted for a flower with a butterfly. The flower has five petals, which is probably a reference to the “Rose of Venus”. The orbit of Venus around the earth, during an eight-year cycle, has the pattern of a five-petaled flower (see illustration on right). This pattern is called the Rose (or Pentagram) of Venus. The five-petaled rose has been used as a symbol for the divine since ancient times. The butterfly on the flower is a classic symbol of transformation.

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

The ‘Rose of Venus’

Château des Avenières (1917)

On this wooden panel (British Museum) we see a goddess in a (kundalini) tree who gives nourishment (energy) to a woman and her Ba (the bird).

The mosaic at Château des Avenières (above) is derived from the Oswald Wirth Tarot. An Egyptian Ba bird sits on the tree next to the goddess. In Ancient Egypt, the Ba bird represented the essence / soul of man. The two vases on the mosaic have different colors: gold and silver. These are colors associated with the sun and the moon and refer to polarity / duality.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

The RWS Star is rather similar to the Tarot of Marseille and the Oswald Wirth Tarot. Artist Pamela Colman Smith has placed the goddess even more explicitly in the center of the two vases with outflowing water, which gives us even more clearly the image of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening: the kundalini energy is located between the polar energy channels ida nadi and pingala nadi.

One leg of the goddess rests on water and one leg on land: a reinforcement of the symbolism of the two vases. The goddess represents the unity of the divine.

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The eight-pointed star has also been used in Christian art to communicate “heretical” spiritual knowledge. Here we see Saint Dominic with an eight-pointed star above his head. With his left hand he makes the (secret) sign of the sacred marriage (2 = 1) and with the other hand he points to his head, the place where this sacred marriage takes place. (Fra Angelico, circa 1440)

Wonder Woman with the eight-pointed Morning star on her forehead.

Conclusion

The eight-pointed star on this tarot card has been a symbol of the kundalini energy since ancient times. The woman on the card is a personification of this divine energy in the human pelvis. She is a goddess with many names and faces, including Ishtar, Inanna, Sophia, Isis, Hera and Shakti.

In the Bible, Jesus promises us the Morning Star – as the eight-pointed star is also called – if we overcome our ego and animal instincts:

And to the one who overcomes and continues in My work until the end … I will give him the morning star.
(Revelation 2:26,28)

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

An oyster, with a pearl, and a lighthouse are apt symbols for the kundalini energy.

The Tarot of the Golden Serpent (Sebastian Haines, 2009)

The rose, the grail and the phoenix are wonderful additions to the other kundalini symbolism of this card.

D’Morte-Disney Tarot

Snow White is a personification of the kundalini energy. See my article on the deeper meaning of this fairy tale.

The Buddha Tarot (Robert M. Place, 2004)

The Buddha attained enlightenment (nirvana) after a kundalini awakening. Read more about this on this webpage.

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

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

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

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By |2021-01-06T12:22:38+00:00August 30th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tarot 17. The Star

Tarot 15. The Devil

15. The Devil

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

The Devil in the 15th Century

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

Rosenwald deck

Rothschild-Beaux-Arts deck

Budapest-​Metropolitan deck

Hell (detail),
Hans Memling, 1485.

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

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

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

The three energy channels involved in a spiritual awakening.

19th century miniature of a yogi

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

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

The Tarot of Marseille

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

Tarot of Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (1659)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

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

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Baphomet, by Eliphas Levi (1854-1856).

Château des Avenières (1917)

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

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

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

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

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

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Golden Botticelli Tarot (Atanas Alexandrov Atanassov, 2007)

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

The Buddha Tarot (Robert M. Place, 2004)

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

Ramses – Tarot of Eternity (Severino Baraldi, 2003)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By |2021-01-06T12:21:05+00:00June 15th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tarot 15. The Devil

Kundalini Awakening

Kundalini Awakening

In our pelvis, at the level of the sacrum, lies a power source of divine origin that allows us to take the next step in evolution. In spiritual traditions the knowledge of this amazing growth potential was shared only with a small group of initiates. The masses have received only veiled clues, through the symbolism in myths, fairy tales, legends and other folklore. Also in the sacred writings of religions this subject is spoken about with great caution and usually only in metaphors.

Only in the yoga world explicitly is spoken about this mysterious divine energy: the kundalini-shakti. Western practitioners are usually unaware of it, but the entire eightfold path of Yoga aims to awaken this latent source of power.

However, special exercises are not necessary and direct stimulation is not wise. The kundalini-energy awakens when the spiritual aspirant is ready. When there is a genuine interest in growing towards God, and a willingness to give up the personal self. And if some degree of purity has already been achieved at the level of body, thinking and doing.

The Yoga philosophy, with all its precepts and emphasis on meditation, is focused on this preparatory phase. Patanjali, the first one in the 2nd century BC. to put the ideas of the Yoga tradition in writing in 196 sutras, does not mention the kundalini. Undoubtedly from the standpoint that this knowledge can have disastrous consequences in the wrong hands.

The Caduceus (kundalini), a sculpture by James Muir

Once active, the kundalini initiates an intensive purification process. Those who are not prepared may have to deal with various physical and / or psychological problems. However, the kundalini energy is not the cause of any inconveniences, it only magnifies an existing imbalance. The kundalini process is fundamentally a healing process.

Psychologically, the ego is stripped of all its “impurities,” injuries and unnecessary ballast, built up from childhood. While some traditions promote destruction of the ego to realize the divine, it would be better to speak of pursuing a transparent ego. A personal self that has been purified to the extent that, like a clean window, it allows all (divine) light to pass through unhindered.

This is a process of years that results in a state of detachment, accompanied by great inner peace and joy. This process of purification and emptying out is a necessary condition for the next step: reunification with God.

A lot can be said about the Kundalini. And many things to put right, because the intangible, transcendent nature of the phenomenon has also caused many misunderstandings. In this article I would like to show you that kundalini is not just something for yogis, monks and ascetics, but that we are all called to pursue this path, sooner or later, and that almost all world religions are founded on a kundalini awakening of their prophets.

The energetic process

The ida nadi and pingala nadi are two important energy channels, at the left and right side of our spine. They are, as it were, the energetic blueprint of the duality in our body. They represent the polarities, similar to yin and yang from Taoism.

Where ida nadi is connected to the feminine, dark, cold, passivity, the moon, and feeling, pingala nadi is connected to the masculine, light, heat, activity, the sun, and thinking. Note: these are archetypal contrasts that are not related to the sex of an individual! Every person has an ida and pingala nadi, and therefore a masculine and feminine side.

When the kundalini awakens and ascends through the sushumna – the energy channel that runs through the spine – to the crown chakra, all other chakras along the spine are purified and activated.

At the sixth chakra, the ida and pingala nadi merge, and the so-called “third eye” on the forehead of the spiritual aspirant, is opened. This union of the inner masculine and feminine also leads to the opening of the crown chakra: the mystical marriage of man and his Creator takes place.

A schematic representation of the kundalini process

Universal symbolism

The serpent is a universal metaphor for this divine energy. The Sanskrit word kundalini comes from the Yoga tradition and means ‘curled up’, referring to a serpent lying curled up when sleeping. The image of a serpent, with its ability to renew itself by shedding its skin, also reflects the transformative and healing aspect of the kundalini.

The symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice is derived from the caduceus, the staff of the Greek god Hermes. The caduceus is also the universal symbol of a kundalini awakening. The staff itself represents the spine, the two serpents are the polar energy channels that merge during an awakening, and the wings symbolise an expanded consiousness. Few doctors will realize that their logo expresses the healing effect of the kundalini energy.

Other symbols for the kundalini include fire, a river, a fountain and a white dove.

Symbols used for the spine through which the awakened energy flows include a tree, a bush, a stick, a scepter, a wand and a ladder.

Buddhism

The official teachings of the Buddha do not refer to the kundalini. But also not to chakras, nadis or any other energetic principle. The original Buddhism is mainly a philosophy with doctrines about a correct mindset.

The Buddha lived in the religious environment of Hinduism and its worship of gods. He saw that man was not happy and has formulated a doctrine with which to overcome suffering. The core of its message is that the ego is an illusion that must be seen through to be delivered from suffering and to realize nirvana.

He thereby placed nirvana as a possibility in the here and now and not after death somewhere in another dimension. To achieve this it is necessary that man let go of his attachment to all kinds of rituals, (energy) systems and gods, which tend to maintain the ego.

The Buddha has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a God or gods. He brought learning principles that were necessary for man at that time and in that culture to transcend the personal, and experience the underlying oneness of creation. However, we may assume that he himself experienced a kundalini awakening. Indications for this can be found in buddhist myth and iconography.

The legend about the serpent Mucalinda for example. After his enlightenment, meditating under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha is said to have been protected from a violent storm by the cobra Mucalinda, who rose from the roots of the tree behind him and spread his hood above him.

It is not difficult to filter out kundalini symbolism from this story. The tree represents the spine of the Buddha himself, and the cobra is the “serpent energy” that flows up through the sushumna channel.

On some images we see a seven-headed cobra rising behind the Buddha. These seven serpent heads represent the seven main chakras that are located along the spine. In the Yoga tradition, the number of serpent heads refers to the spiritual level of a yogi: the number of purified and opened chakras. Seven represents a completed process.

This story also makes clear what the result is of a kundalini purification process. The violent storm that arises is a metaphor for overwhelming emotions. According to this legend the Buddha still has emotions, but he is no longer affected by them. While the storm rages around him, he sits dry and out of the wind under the hood of the cobra. From an inner place of silence and detachment he perceives these emotions and leaves them for what they are.

This stability and imperturbability can partly be achieved through meditation, but the kundalini process also contributes to this. Sadness, anger and fears that were still present in the subconscious have been “cleared up”. There is no old pain left that can be touched by events in the present. Worn thought patterns and beliefs have been “erased”. Shadow aspects have been brought to light and integrated; there is no material to project onto others. The tendency to judge has disappeared.

The ego has become feather light and transparent. It is therefore easy to step out of the ego and perceive the emotions that remain from a witness position. Letting them rise and ebb, just like the thoughts. So enlightenment does not mean that one no  longer has emotions. The above story is clear on this: Mucalinda does not temper the storm, he protects the Buddha from the storm!

The proverbial stability and imperturbability of the Buddha can therefore be seen as partly the result of diligent spiritual work, but also partly God-given.

In addition to the classic metaphor of the serpent, we also see kundalini fire on the head of the Buddha in the iconography.

So far as we can now ascertain, the Buddha has not explicitly taught about the kundalini, but he has – most likely drawing from his own experience – left behind a doctrine that provides the basic purity and mindset necessary to awaken the divine cobra in our pelvis from her sleep.

The Eightfold Path of Buddhism contains clear and effective guidelines to dismantle and transcend the ego. Whoever follows this path sincerely and steadily will one day also receive this divine gift.

Judaism

The heart of Judaism is the Torah. In the broadest sense it encompasses all of Jewish laws and teachings. In a more limited sense, it refers to the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In Christianity, these books are included in the Old Testament, a name that the Jews – of course – do not use.

In the books of Moses the term kundalini is not explicitly mentioned, but many stories are metaphors for aspects of the process of kundalini awakening. Skeptics point out that you can project anything you want on symbolism. In a way, this is true. It is above all the repetition of certain themes, the recurring metaphors, and the correspondence with sacred writings of other religions that convince.

There are several passages in the book of Exodus that indicate that Moses, the most important prophet of Judaism, experienced a kundalini awakening. For example, the moment when Moses receives the command from God to take the Hebrews (Jews) out of Egypt and to bring them to the promised land:

The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:2-4)

This burning bush from which the voice of God echoes is not outside Moses, but in him. Mentioning the word in the middle of this short text twice is one of the hints that there is a deeper meaning in it. This is the center of Moses: his spine “on fire” with the non-digesting kundalini fire. His awareness that has been expanded through this allows him to receive messages from God.

The interpretation that the bush is really the spine and the sushumna channel of Moses is confirmed by what follows in Exodus 4. Moses first contradicts. He does not feel suitable for the assignment he is given by God. And the Egyptians will never let the Hebrews go, he objects:

Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, “Put your hand into your bosom again.” So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign.
(Ex 4:1-8)

The rod of Moses turning into a serpent is an obvious reference to an kundalini awakening. The hand in the bosom also. It sees snow-white with leprosy when it is taken out. The bosom is the heart area. The color white refers to purification. This quote wants to communicate the the heart of Moses is purified. The fact that the – incurable – leprosy disappears again, refers to the healing effect of kundalini.

Islam

Legend has it that Muhammad’s father, Abdulah, had a dream about his then unborn son. He saw how a tree grew out of the child’s back toward the sky. This tree spread a light all over the world. Most Muslims interpret this tree as Islam, the religion founded by the Prophet Mohammed. The light is his teaching and his wisdom that have spread all over the world.

However, the argument for interpreting the tree as kundalini symbolism is reinforced by the description of the heavenly journey (Isra and Meraj) that Mohammed made in adulthood. Several stories of this famous ascension can be found in the Hadith and  Sirah (biographies of the prophet Mohammed), the details of which may differ. The main points boil down to this:

Al-Buraq

In a vision, while he is sleeping, Mohammed is taken by the archangel Gabriel. Seated on Buraq, a white horse-like creature with wings, Muhammad flies through the seven heavens into paradise where he comes face to face with Allah Most High. He gets his revelations and here also sees the beautiful sidratil-muntaha: the lotus tree of the final destination.

The winged white horse on which Mohammed makes his heavenly journey is more often repeated in myths as mounts of gods and prophets. The underlying symbolism is that the rider has purified (white) and sublimated (the wings) his animal powers (the horse). These forces are now at his service and enable him to realize the divine (in himself).

If God wants to communicate with Mohammed, He does not require such a long-winded vision. These images also have to make something clear to us. They contain a message for the serious spiritual seeker, who is able to understand the symbolism.

Translated to Eastern terminology, the story tells us that with the help of the awakened kundalini energy Mohammed travels through the seven chakras (the seven heavens) to the crown chakra (paradise). The completed kundalini process (the lotus tree) allows him to communicate with God.

Islam forbids depicting the prophet. In the sparse paintings that exist, he is often depicted with fire flames around his head or body.

Christianity

The New Testament contains numerous veiled references to aspects of the kundalini process. You could even say that almost all the stories in the Gospels are related to it, sideways or directly. The central message of Jesus of Nazareth was how we can realize the Kingdom of God. According to him, it is not outside us (‘here or there’, Luke 17: 20,21) but in us.

In one of his more famous statements, he compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed that becomes a tree:

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33)

The alchemists knew that Jesus had gone through a process of kundalini awakening. They translated this into alchemical metaphors. (Ars Magna lucis et umbrae, Athanasius Kircher, 1646)

A mustard seed grows into a plant, not a tree. It is a large plant, but certainly not with branches in which birds can make nests. However, Jesus is not mistaken here, he uses the word tree on purpose. The hidden symbolism is that of a little divine seed (the dormant kundalini energy) that contains a tremendous vital force; it can become the Tree of Life (symbol of a completed kundalini process) if it is sown in the field (in man).

In this context, the birds symbolize our thoughts. Birds that nest, calm down. Jesus thus creates an image of the inner silence and peace that man experiences after a kundalini awakening.

The parable of the sourdough, that follows immediately afterwards, also refers to the activity of the kundalini. In order to enter the Kingdom of God, the whole person must be purified. The sourdough is the kundalini. The three measures of flour represent the body, the heart (emotions) and the head (thoughts), which are completely imbued with the divine powers. This initiates a transformation process from dough to bread; a rebirth of man in God.

The sacred fire of the kundalini burned in Jesus in its full intensity and he had the mastery to initiate others in it. John the Baptist says of him:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
(Matthew 3:11-12)

In the Gospel of John, the following statement is found of Jesus:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

A promise that has been interpreted in many ways by exegetes. Where we usually have to take statements of Jesus figuratively, we may now take it literally, if we replace living water with kundalini energy. The Greek word koilias, here translated as innermost being, means belly.

The evangelist himself makes a connection with the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is invariably described in the Bible as the divine descending upon man, there are many arguments for interpreting it as the ascending kundalini.

There are many more references in the Gospels to the divine in us, “for those who have ears and want to hear.” One last beautiful and telling quote from the Gospel of John in which Jesus says to a Samaritan woman sitting by a well:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)

An alchemical illustration with Mary as Sophia (personification of the divine kundalini energy), under the cross of her son. A reference to the kundalini process of Jesus. (Buch der saints Dreifaltigkeit, 15th century)

Conclusion

We all have the potential to realise the divine, with the help of a very powerful energy source in our pelvis. The Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and Jesus of Nazareth experienced a kundalini awakening, but have chosen not to speak directly about it. Their doctrine of purity, love and mercy does lay the foundation to awaken the holy serpent.

This article was published in Mantra magazine (March ’15)
Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2015

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

By |2020-05-03T10:17:25+00:00April 17th, 2020|Mantra, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tarot 11. Strength

11. Strength

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

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

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

The Visconti Tarot

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

  1. Prudentia (Caution – sensibility – wisdom)
  2. Iustitia (Justice – righteousness)
  3. Fortitudo (Courage – strength)
  4. Temperantia (Moderation – temperance – self-control)

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

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

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

Goddesses standing or riding on a lion is an existing theme in iconography, that has the same deeper meaning as the Strength card (see below).

Visconti Di Modrone Tarot (15th century)

The Roman mother goddess Cybele

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

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

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseille (a collective name for tarot decks of different designers, over a certain period of time, in a specific geographical area) emphasizes the mystical experience of oneness even more. The hat on the woman’s head is now a combination of a crown and a lemniscate. The symbol of the lemniscate stands for infinity. Esoterically, it refers to the fusion of the opposites; the duality of physical creation merges into divine oneness. Our higher and lower nature are also polarities that merge.

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Jacques Viéville (1650)

The Tarot of Marseille,
by Francois Chosson (1736)

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

A curious detail on some Marseille cards is the woman’s bare foot. Jacques Viéville’s card, from 1650, even shows a completely bare lower leg. Because the woman is otherwise fully dressed, including a hat, you feel that this must have a specific meaning. Standing on one leg, or showing one leg / foot refers to divine oneness (the same meaning as the raised paw of the lion). This symbolism is also reflected in the three examples above of goddesses from various traditions.

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

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

Liguria-Piedmont Tarot (1840)

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

The occultists

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Above: An illustration from the anonymous, alchemical manuscript Clavis Artis (early 18th century). A lion eating a (kundalini) serpent is a metaphor for the sublimation of the animal drives. The raised tail of the lion reinforces this symbolism.

Right: From the alchemical manuscript Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier (1617). The lion wears a laurel wreath, a symbol of victory. In the background is an erupting (kundalini) volcano.

Chateaux des Avenières (1917)

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

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

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

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

RWS Cups Two

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

Wonderland Tarot (Morgana Abbey, 1989)

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

Ancient Egyptian Tarot (Clive Barrett, 1994)

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

Rumi Tarot (Nigel Jackson, 2009)

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

The Bonestone and Earthflesh Tarot (Avalon Cameron, 2017)

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

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

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

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

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By |2021-01-06T12:17:37+00:00March 12th, 2020|Tarot, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tarot 11. Strength
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