Tarot 4. The Emperor

4. The Emperor

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

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

Caduceus

A caduceus

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

The Visconti di Modrone Emperor

The Visconti-Sforza Emperor
(Brera-Brambilla)

The Buddha at a young age

The god Ganesha

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

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

The Tarot of Marseille

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot

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

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

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

Oswald Wirth Emperor (1889)

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

Château des Avenières

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

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

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

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

The Emperor in mosaic from Château des Avenières (1917)

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

Rider-Waite-Smith Emperor

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

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

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

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

Rider-Waite-Smith Emperor (1909)

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

Builders of the Adytum Tarot (circa 1950)

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

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

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

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

Thoth Tarot

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

The Thoth Emperor (1969)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeGrande Circus & Sideshow Tarot
(US Games, 2015)

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

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

Tarot 3. The Empress

3. The Empress

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

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

Visconti Di Modrone deck

Visconti-Sforza deck

Alchemy

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

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

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

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

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

From: Rosarium Philosophorum (circa 1550)

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

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

Tarot

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

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

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

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Chateau des Avenières (1917)

Oswald Wirth

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

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

Alchemical illustration of the Magnum Opus (18th century)

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

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

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

The Rider-Waite-Smith Empress

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

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

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

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

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

The Rider-Waite-Smith Empress (1909)

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

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

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

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

The pineal gland

The RWS Emperor

From the alchemical manuscript Aureum Vellus (1598)

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

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

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

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

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

Thoth Tarot

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

From: Figuarium Aegyptiorum Secretarum (18th century)

The Thoth Empress (1969)

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarot 2. The High Priestess

2. The High Priestess

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

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

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

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot (1454)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarot of Marseille

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

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

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

The Tarot of Bologna
(17th century)

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

The keys of the Kingdom of God

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

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

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

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

The Etteilla Tarot

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

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

Etteilla I (1788)

Etteilla III, French version (circa 1870)

Etteilla III, English version

The veil of Isis

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

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

Oswald Wirth (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

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

The Rider-Waite-Smith
High Priestess (1909)

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

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

Tree of Life

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

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

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

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

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

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life

Branches of a date palm
(Phoenix dactylifera)

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

Saint Bruno, by Hieronymus Wierix, 16th century.

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

The pillars Boaz and Jachin

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

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

The temple of Solomon with the pillars Jachin and Boaz

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

Pomegranates

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

Pomegranates

The RWS Fool

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

The woman with the moon under her feet

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Classic Golden Dawn Tarot (2004)

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

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

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

The Byzantine Tarot (2015)
(© Eddison Books)

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

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

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

Sacred India Tarot (2012)
(© Yogi Impressions)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarot 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

By |2020-02-10T14:34:00+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

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

Tarot 6. The Lovers

6. The Lovers

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

The Visconti Tarot

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

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

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

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

Rosarium Philosophorum (ca. 1550)

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

The Visconti di Modrone Lovers

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

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

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

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

The Ace of Cups
Visconti-Sforza Tarot

A hexagram

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

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

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

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

The god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs

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

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

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

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

The white dog on the Visconti di Modrone card, finally, refers to the animal (sexual) energies that must be brought to the higher chakras. On this card, the animal is playing happily at the bottom of the tent pole (spine). On the The Fool card of the same deck, we see this dog with completely different behavior: he is hanging on the man’s leg and has his teeth set in his flesh.

As we learned, when discussing this card, the Fool stands for spiritual unconsciousness. The “poverty” of a life without God. A road that, according to the card, leads to the abyss, and of suffering (being tormented by animal desires).

The Fool of the Visconti di Modrone deck
(15e eeuw)

The Visconti-Sforza lovers

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

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

The Tarot of Marseille

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

Tarot of Marseille,
Jean Noblet (circa 1650)

Tarot of Marseille,
Nicolas Conver (1760)

Tarot of Bologna
(Giacomo Zoni, 1780)

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

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

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

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

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

The Rider-Waite-Smith Lovers (1909)

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

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

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

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

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

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

Michelangelo, 1508-1512, Sistine Chapel, Rome

The Thoth Tarot

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

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

The Thoth Tarot (1969)

Conclusion

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

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

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

The Magic Gate deck

(Vera Petruk, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By |2020-02-05T14:12:10+00:00February 1st, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 6. The Lovers

Tarot 9. The Hermit

9. The Hermit

God cannot be found on facebook or at a festival. To experience the divine, silence and seclusion are required. A hermit withdraws from the world and leaves his possessions behind, to find the Light. The tarot card The Hermit stands for this quest. The big question is: is the man on the card still searching or has he found?

Hourglass

On all preserved tarot cards from the 15th century we see a man with a long gray beard and hourglass. In 16th century writings, this card is called “The Old Man” or “The Humpback.” Because of the hourglass, the card is often explained as “Father Time.” This association was intended by the artist as a cover for the actual meaning: a kundalini awakening.

Because of its shape and vertically flowing sand, an hourglass lends itself perfectly as a metaphor for the kundalini energy that flows from the pelvis to the head. Alchemical emblems from the same era confirm this interpretation.

Visconti-di Modrone Tarot (15th century)

Castello Ursino Tarot
(15th century)

Illustration from ‘Zoroaster Clavis Artis’ (1738).
The alchemist, in monk clothing, is (internally) purified by the kundalini energy (woman with jug and running water). The hourglass in his hand represents the same process. The god Mercury, with caduceus, pours a red liquid over the man’s head. This is the precious “Elixer of Life” (Elixir Vitae), pursued by the alchemist. This elixir of life is a metaphor for the changes that the brain fluid undergoes during a kundalini awakening.

Other kundalini symbols on the Visconti di Modrone card are: the red coat with flame pattern; the serpent-like rim of the coat and hat; the beard that goes from two to one, and the three bars (energy channels) of the hourglass.

Few cards have survived from the relatively unknown Castello Ursino deck, made for Alessandro Sforza. The Hermit / Time is one of them. The old man on the card holds his hourglass above a pile of rocks. This means is that the kundalini has been brought “to the top of the mountain” (to the head). The white, knotted scarf around the man’s waist refers to the two energy channels that are united at the pineal gland (the loop of the knot). The six buttons on the coat are a reference to the six chakras that the kundalini energy had to pass on its way to the top.

On an Italian tarot card from the 16th century (right) we see Father Time with an hourglass on his back (spine). This confirms our interpretation of the hourglass. The arrow through the hourglass is also a symbol of the kundalini energy, as we will see with other tarot cards. With his right hand the man makes the sign of the sacred marriage (two fingers together): in him the two energy channels (crutches) are merged into one.

Tarot card The Hermit, Italy, 16th century.

Lantern

On the Tarot of Marseille Hermit, the hourglass has been replaced by a lantern, but the meaning of the card has remained the same. The man on the card holds the burning lantern high: he has brought the kundalini fire to his head. The lantern is half hidden behind his cloak: it is an inner light. An additional indication that we must translate the image to the interior of the Hermit, is that it is daytime on the card; a lantern is not needed …!

Tarot van Marseille,
Jean Dodal (1705)

Tarot van Marseille,
Nicolas Conver (1760)

The candle in the lantern is a red “stripe”, corresponding to the red staff: both represent the spine with the kundalini fire flowing in it. On Jean Dodal’s card, the man holds his staff with only three fingers, with the middle finger sticking out slightly. The three fingers represent the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening; the middle finger refers to the awakened spine (in the “center of the body”).

The card now also has a name: The Hermit – L’Ermite in French. Nicolas Conver has opted for the Old French – and at that time already unusual – spelling L’Hermite, which is probably a reference to Hermetism: a spiritual tradition related to alchemy.

The outside of the Hermit’s cloak is blue and red: his masculine (red) and feminine (blue) energies are united. The inside of his cloak is yellow / gold; a reference to the divine light that burns in him.

Illustration from Wasserstein der Weysen (Siebmacher, 1704).
God lights a candle (the spine) in the interior of the simple and modest alchemist. A very joyful event, not intended for the powerful and the rich (stumbling around in the dark, in the background).

Pilar

While in the 17th century in France the card is named The Hermit, neighboring country Italy still elaborates on the theme “Time.” On the Tarot of Bologna card we see Father Time with a pillar on his back. In the iconogaphies of spiritual traditions, the pillar is frequently used as a symbol for the awakened spine.

Tarot of Bologna
(17th century)

Etteilla Tarot (1789)

Illustration of a kundalini awakening

The Etteilla Tarot Deck from 1789, designed by the occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, has its own unique numbering and interpretation of the cards. On card number 18 “Le Traitre” (The Traitor) – a name that refers to the predictive meaning of the card and not to the image – we see a monk with a high lifted burning lantern, in the style of The Hermit of the Tarot of Marseille. In front of the monk is a pillar and in the background three more pillars (the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening) to reinforce the symbolism.

In early Christianity, hermits sometimes literally lived on a pillar. Food and water were brought up to these so-called “pillar saints.” That this ultimate form of asceticism is rooted in symbolism can be deduced from the enormous serpent spiraling around the pillar on this plaque of Simeon de Stylite from the Louvre (6th century).

The Hindu god Shiva with a pillar on his head (Cambodia, 10th century)

Serpent

In the 19th century, the (kundalini) serpent makes an entrance. On the card of the Tarot of Lomdardije from 1810, three small serpents wriggle at the feet of the Hermit. Two of them are green in color, one is blue – the same color as the lantern. This is an indication that the snake and the lantern symbolize the same thing: the awakened kundalini. With the hand with which the Hermit holds the lantern, he makes the sign of the sacred marriage: in him the two green snakes (energy channels) are merged.

On the card of Oswald Wirth from 1889, we see a rising red serpent next to the staff of the Hermit. The staff has seven “rings”: a reference to the seven chakras that have been opened by the kundalini (the rising serpent).

Tarot of Lombardy (1810)

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

Château des Avenières (1917)

The Hermit of Château des Avenières also has a lantern, raised to head height. At the top of his staff (with seven colored beads) we see the Ankh-sign; a symbol from Ancient Egypt that stands for the awakened spine and pineal gland.

Instead of a red serpent, the designer of the mosaic has opted for a long red sash, two ends of which fly up in the air, and a third strip of fabric lies on the head of the Hermit. A creative finding for portraying the three energy channels. The volcano in the background confirms us that the kundalini energy in the Hermit has awakened and ascended to his crown. The dog sitting next to his staff symbolizes the sublimated (transformed) animal drives / energies.

Rider-Waite-Smith

A six-pointed star burns in the lantern of the RWS card. This hexagram represents the union of the opposites (the two energy channels). The staff of the Hermit extends to his crown and has the same yellow-gold color as the hexagram. The man’s long, slender silhouette and the color of his cloak are reminiscent of a pillar. If we compare this card with the RWS card The Tower, this seems no coincidence.

The snow suggests that the Hermit stands on the top of a high mountain; a reference to his expanded consciousness. On top of a mountain you are closer to God.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Hermit (1909)

Conclusion

Tarot card The Hermit stands for the spiritual seeker who has completed the process of God-realization. The hourglass, the lantern, the pillar, the staff and the snake, all represent the same: the divine energy in the hermit’s pelvis has awakened and flows through his spine to his crown. From a high, snowy mountain top, he looks out over the world he has conquered.

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God,
and he will go out from there no more.”
(Revelation 3:12)

This piece of art has been standing on the roof of the former Masonic headquarters in Mendocina, California since 1872. Its meaning is a secret that the Freemasons hide from the outside world. Only at the third, and highest initiation does a freemason learn what the artwork represents. We see Father Time, who braids the hair of a virgin. The braid reaches down to her pelvis. The girl holds in her hands a flask and a (broken off) branch of the acacia tree. A broken pillar stands in front of the virgin. The hourglass from Father Time is at her feet. It is not up to me to reveal in detail the secret of Freemasons. The whole artwork is a metaphor for the process of God-realization. The reader of this article should now be able to interpret all elements.

The Women of Science Tarot (Matteo Farinella, 2019)

A striking, modern version of The Hermit: scientifically measured changes in the brain as a result of a kundalini awakening.

Via Tarot (U.S. Games Systems, 2003)

A card with a lot of depth. The Hermit is standing naked (born again) on top of a pillar that is filled with (divine) light. The two serpents (energy channels) are fused. For this inner rebirth tot take place, the “old self” / ego must die; powerfully portrayed by the crucified man in the upper half of the card, after the famous painting by Salvador Dali.

Steampunk Tarot(Publisher Llewellyn, 2012)

A beautiful combination of an hourglass and a lantern, with a high voltage effect. A church tower (pillar) with clockwork (Father Time) in the background.

The Wild Unknown Tarot(Kim Krans, 2012)

A beautiful picture with (vague) a lamppost above the monk’s head. The sign next to him says “informazioni portineria” (information concierge): the Hermit can show the spiritual seeker the way.

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

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

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

By |2020-02-05T14:14:09+00:00January 24th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 9. The Hermit

Tarot 8. Justice

8. Justice

It is a familiar image in court buildings: Lady Justice, the personification of the law; a stern looking woman with a sword and scales. Her Greek origin is the goddess Themis, whose task it was to guard the divine order and laws. This divine order made it possible for the gods and people to live together. Themis’ scales stood for inner balance. The tarot card Justice is also about inner balance; an important prerequisite for spiritual awakening.

The John Adams Courthouse, built in 1893, Boston, Massachusetts.

Justice is one of the four so-called cardinal virtues. She owes her place in the tarot to this. The four virtues of prudentia (prudence, wisdom), justitia (justice), fortitudo (courage, strength) and temperantia (moderation, self-control) are considered extra important in Christianity, because other virtues rely on it (cardinal means “pivotal”, based on the Latin cardo: hinge).

Noteworthy, is that the cardinal virtues, both in and outside the tarot, are almost always personified by women. The reason for this can be found in the book of Wisdom from the Old Testament. In this book these four virtues are mentioned as the result of the divine “Wisdom” (Greek: Sophia), which underlies creation:

…her [Wisdom] labours have great virtues: for she teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life.
(Wisdom 8:7)

Sophia (Wisdom) is one of the names of God the Mother; the feminine aspect of God, which is found in the human pelvis as well as in all of creation. The yogi calls her the kundalini-shakti. This is – of course – not how the church explains Sophia, but this meaning can be inferred from the Bible texts if they are read with esoteric glasses. Another quote from the Book of Wisdom:

For wisdom [Sophia] is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets…
(Wisdom 7: 24-27)

We find Sophia – disguised – on many tarot cards. Not only as a personification of the cardinal virtues, but also as the High Priestess, and on cards that follow.

The Visconti di Modrone Tarot

The Justice card from the 15th century Visconti di Modrone deck seems straightforward in meaning. We see a woman in a dress with a floral pattern, a sword and a pair of scales. A cheerfull version of Lady Justice. But this is misleading; the card contains beautiful esoteric symbolism.

The Justice card of the Visconti
di Modrone deck (15th century)

A schematic representation of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The first five chakras are depicted as flowers.

The Damsel of Swords card of the Visconti di Modrone deck. With her left hand the woman makes the sign of the sacred marriage. A pomegranate pattern is printed on her dress. Both the sword and the pomegranate are a symbol of the kundalini energy.

Before the sacred marriage can take place at the sixth chakra, the first five chakras must be purified, and the two energy channels that flow along the spine – and that form the energetic blueprint of duality in man – must be balanced. This is what the Justice card stands for. The sword symbolizes the purifying effect of the kundalini (Sophia) and the scales represent the energetic balance.

The flowers on the woman’s dress all have five petals. Chakras are often depicted as flowers. The flower pattern on the dress refers to the purification of the first five chakras. The alchemical image below uses the same symbolism: the entire naked body of the alchemist is covered with red five-leaf flowers. Red is the color of the final phase in alchemy of the process of God-realization (Magnum Opus).

The symbolic meaning of a sword, with regard to spiritual awakening, is confirmed by a number of other cards from the same deck, including the Damsel of Swords card (see illustration). The woman makes the sign of the sacred marriage with her left hand: the inner polarity has merged to unity as a result of the action of the sword / kundalini.

An example outside the tarot is the photograph at the top of this page, of the Boston courthouse. Lady Justice holds a sword with two spiraling serpents: a reference to the caduceus, the classic symbol of a kundalini awakening.

The scales on the Visconti di Modrone card have different colors: gold and silver. This is a reference to the polar energies of sun (gold) and moon (silver), that have been balanced. The colors of the cloak that the woman wears symbolizes the same: red represents the masculine and blue represents the feminine energies.

From left to right:
1. An alchemical image with Sophia, standing on the moon (16th century, National Museum of Prague). In her opened abdomen we see a sword with a (kundalini) serpent. With her left hand she makes the sign of the sacred marriage.
2. An alchemical image of the Magnum Opus.
3. On the card Cups Six of the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck we see white (= purified) flowers with five leaves, combined with references to the sacred marriage (the two figures connecting, the cross on the stone, and the clothing in red and blue of the figure on the left), that takes place at the sixth chakra (cup).

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot

The woman on the lower half of the Visconti-Sforza Justice card, also from the 15th century, is wearing a dress with a hexagonal pattern. This is a reference to the hexagram (six-pointed star); the universal symbol for the merger of the polarities. The scales are also gold and a silver on this card. With the hand with which the woman holds the scales, she is making the sign of the sacred marriage.

On the upper half of the card we see the same woman in armor, riding a white horse, and holding a raised sword. This is a metaphor for the purifying effect of Sophia / the kundalini-shakti. The horse is covered with a cloth that has the same five-petal flowers as the woman on the Visconti di Modrone card: the animal drives / energies in humans, connected with the first five chakras, are purified by Sophia. A white horse stands for purified animal drives. Both the woman’s armor and the metal plate on the horse’s head are in two colors: one half is gold and the other half is silver.

Undoubtedly, this image of a combative woman on a horse was inspired by the French Jeanne ‘d Arc, who was executed some twenty years before the appearance of this tarot deck.

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

The ‘Sigillum Sapientum’ (Seal of the Wise) of the alchemist. The inner union (hexagram and ouroboros) takes place as a result of the inner working of the divine Sophia (woman with sword and scales). Source: JM Faust, Philalethes Illustratus, 1706.

The archangel Michael also has a sword and a pair of scales as his attributes. In Christian iconography he conquers the dragon (satan) with these attributes. This battle is mentioned in the Bible Book of Revelation (verse 12: 7): “Michael and his angels fought the dragon.” The symbolic meaning of this battle is the same as what the tarot card Justice wants to convey. The angel Michael represents the divine (kundalini) energy in our pelvis that, once awakened, goes to war against our inner dragon (the animal), and balances our polar energies.

The Tarot of Marseille

The Tarot of Marseille is a collective name for tarot decks that have been designed and produced by different people, in a specific period, in a specific geographical area. The various versions are similar in style and are easily recognizable as ‘Marseille decks’. For the tarot researcher, the differences between the decks are particularly interesting.

That the woman on the card is Sophia / the kundalini-shakti can be deduced from her multicolored dress. At the time, printing was still in its infancy. With the limited color spectrum that the designers had available, they tried to incorporate all chakra colors into the dress.

The braided necklace refers to the two polar energy channels that merge during a kundalini awakening. The woman’s curly hair strands represent the same. On both cards one lock of hair touches the necklace, to indicate that they have the same meaning.

Tarot of Marseille,
Pierre Madenié (1709)

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

We also see this symbolic hairstyle in Orthodox (Hasidic) Judaism. The men wear curled strands of hair on both sides of the head. These so-called peies grow at the height of the temples, the place where the two energy channels merge during the sacred marriage.

The jewel on the front of the crown refers to the pineal gland, which is activated during a kundalini awakening. On the Payen Webb card, the woman has wings to emphasize her divinity. On the card of Pierre Madenié she sits between two pillars. These represent the two polar energy channels.

In esoteric traditions, the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening are often represented by pillars.

Remarkably, the designer of the Payen-Webb deck has given the card a different name: La Balance (Balance). This confirms the esoteric meaning of inner balance.

The Tarot of Paris (17th century)

The Tarot of Paris takes a slightly different approach, making the symbolic meaning of the Justice card even clearer. The figure has a head with a masculine and feminine face.

Not only in the tarot, but also in other art forms, as Christian paintings en sculptures, artists attempted to communicate knowledge on the spiritual process of awakening, that went against the teachings of the church. These are three examples of kundalini symbolism on engravings of the cardinal virtue Justice.
From left to right:
1. The woman holds her sword in the middle of the scales, creating the symbolism of three energy channels (1593).
2. The woman sticks out the middle finger of her left hand. The middle finger represents the awakened spine, in esoteric symbolism (Jacob Matham, 17th century).
3. The woman holds the scales in front of a pillar, creating the symbolism of three energy channels (Lucas van Leyden, 1530, Rijksmuseum)

Oswald Wirth and Rider-Waite-Smith

The occultists of the Golden Dawn have not added many new elements to the card. On the Oswald Wirth card, the braided necklace of the woman is larger, and thus more emphasized.

Arthur Waite has swapped the cards Justice and Strenght: Justice has number 11 on his deck. The crown at both Wirth and Waite has three points; a reference to the three energy channels. The two ribbons on the mantle on the RWS card have the same meaning as the two pillars. There is a letter Y pattern on these ribbons. This letter symbolizes the fusion of the opposites. The androgynous appearance of the woman, as well as the visibility of only one shoe, also refers to this. She holds the sword and the scales right in front of the two pillars: she purifies and balances these two pillars / energy channels.

Oswald Wirth Tarot, 1930

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

The handle of her sword displays the symbol for gold (a circle with a dot in the middle): a reference to the divine energy that this sword represents. Like the card of the High Priestess, the curtain between the pillars is the veil of Isis: the veil behind which Isis / Sophia hides the greater reality.

Château des Avenières

On the mosaic in the chapel of Château des Avenières the two pillars are marked with the letters B and J. An element we know from the High Priestess card of the RWS deck. The letters stand for Boaz and Jachin: the names of the bronze columns at the entrance of King Solomon’s temple. According to the Old Testament, this entrance leads to the Arc of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, where man can communicate with God.

The temple represents man himself, the pillars are the polar energy channels on both sides of the spine, and the entrance is located on the bottom the spine, in the pelvis. The Arc of the Covenant is in the head of man: the pineal gland and pituitary gland are activated by the risen kundalini (Sophia).

A uraeus-cobra is placed on the woman’s small crown: the serpent that represented the kundalini in ancient Egypt, and with which pharaohs were often depicted.

The mosaic of Château des Avenières (1917)

A model of the temple of Solomon

Conclusion

The tarot uses well-known archetypes to translate these into aspects of spiritual awakening. The Justice card shows Sophia in her role of divine Mother. Everything that stands between us and her husband, God the Father, she removes with her sword. Not always painless, but with good intentions and love, like a real mother. Our interior is purified and balanced by her.

These spiritual tasks are similar to the role of Lady Justice (the Judiciary) in the outside world: “cleansing” society of what disrupts harmony, and imposing punishments proportional to the offenses committed, to restore balance.

A statue of the cardinal virtue of Justice on the roof of the Palace on the Dam in Amsterdam (sculptor Artus Quellinus, 17th century). This statue also displays esoteric symbolism: instead of a sword, the woman holds a scepter (symbol of the spine) with a sun at the top, and the all-seeing Eye of God. The scepter is placed on her pelvis, at the height of the sacrum, the resting place of the kundalini, and the Eye of God is at the height of the pineal gland.

78 Tarot Astral
(2017) 
www.78tarot.cards

A beautiful card with the kundalini serpent holding the scales. The tip of the sword is placed between the eyes, aimed at the pineal gland.

Cosmic Tarot
(Norbert Lösche, 1988)

Lady Justice as ‘the middle pillar’.

The Star Tarot
(Cathy McClelland, 2017) www.cathymcclelland.com

Many relevant kundalini symbols that have been combined in a creative way: three trees, running water, the eclipse (union of sun and moon), peacock feathers, and the the forehead as the spot where the polarities merge.

The Raziel Tarot
(Robert M. Place, 2016)
 
www.robertmplacetarot.com

In mystical Judaism, the Shekinah (the woman between the pillars) is the indwelling divine, or Sophia / the kundalini-shakti.

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

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

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

By |2020-02-06T09:19:16+00:00January 24th, 2020|Anne-Marie, Paravisie, Tarot|Comments Off on Tarot 8. Justice