18. The Moon

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

The Moon in the 15th century

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)

Caduceus

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

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

Charles VI Tarot (late 15th century)

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

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

On this card also the crescent moon resembles an eclipse.

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

Illustration from Freemasonry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rothschild Tarot (circa 1500)

Ercole I d’Este Tarot (1473)

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

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

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

The Tarot of Marseille

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

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

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

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

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

Cary Sheet (circa 1500)

The lower part of the lobster resembles the human spine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarot van Marseille,
by Jean Noblet (1659)

“Tongues of fire” descend on the apostles.

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

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

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

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

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

Jacques Viéville Tarot (circa 1650)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oswald Wirth Tarot (1889)

The Oswald Wirth Tarot

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

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

Château des Avenières (1917)

The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) Tarot

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

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

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

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

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arto Tarot (Jane Estelle Trombley, 2008)

The moon goddess Diana / Artemis with her dogs.

Tarot de Mars (Quentin Faucompré, 2012)

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

Arcus Arcanum Tarot (Hansrudi Wascher, 1987)

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

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

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

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

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