Friday, 18 August 2017

Leo in the court cards

King of Wands (trimmed):
© Universal Waite Tarot
Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards. For instance, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn chose to assign cardinal attributes (initiating things) to the Queens, fixed (maintaining order) to the Kings, and mutable (being able to adapt and transform) to the Knights.  Each court card is also linked to the elements, with Pages with Earth, Knights being associated with Fire, Queens with Water, and Kings with Air.  Following this system, we end up with Leo being associated with the King of Wands (Fire of Fire).  It’s actually more complicated than that, though, as each court card ruling from 20° in one sign to 20° in the next.  This means that Leo is associated with the Knight of Pentacles (Fire of Earth) as well – but I stick to the card on the cusp of Leo, the King of Wands.

In this image from the Universal Waite Tarot, we can see symbols of the lion on the wall behind the King of Wands’ throne.  

King of Wands (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes’ King of Wands contains lions too, representing the fierce pride of the king. He’s the alpha male, king of his pride, and not afraid to go after whatever he wants.  Confident, strong, bold – and graceful, too.

Prince of Wands (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Thoth deck follows the Golden Dawn convention, of course.  Instead of Kings, though, he chose to have Princes, just to confuse us – but we can see the power of the Sun, as Leo’s ruler, coming through in this image, not to mention the lion pulling the chariot. The Sun King rides!  Like the child, or children, in the Sun card, this figure is naked, symbolizing freedom and openness.  He feels no need for protection.  He holds a phoenix-headed staff in one hand, the phoenix being the bird that burns and rises from the ashes – another symbol of renewal, much like the child in the Sun card. Here we have the master of creativity – nothing standing in his way.  There’s strength here too – a combination of Strength and the Sun, if you like.

Queen of Wands (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli
Beginners Guide to the Tarot
Other decks follow a different convention. They keep the Knights as carriers of mutable qualities, but have the Queens taking on the ‘fixed’ attributes and the Kings the ‘cardinal’ ones.  This gives us the Queen of Wands as the Leo card.  That combination of fire and fixed-ness suggests a mix of fiery enthusiasm and optimism, but there are some boundaries this Queen won’t cross. She’s not going to take risks – not in the way that the roving, changeable Knight or the dynamic, ‘go-getter’ King might.  But she’s quite likely to be able to look after a number of things at the same time – she can compartmentalize very successfully, and can make herself available to whoever needs her.  And given all the mythology (see my previous post, ‘Leo in the Major Arcana’) linking women with lions, it feels appropriate that it should be the Queen, rather than one of the other Wands court cards, with the link to the sign of Leo!


Queen of Wands (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
In this image from Juliet Sharman-Burke's Beginners Guide to the Tarot, we can see lions decorating her throne, as well as a lion-coloured cat at her feet! 

Even in the Druid Craft tarot, which tends to follow a more druidic wheel of the year, the Queen of Wands has a rather lion-like cat under her throne... and although the Universal Waite’s Queen’s cat is black, those lions adorn her throne too.



Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Druid Craft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.



Monday, 14 August 2017

Leo in the Minor Arcana: The Seven of Wands

7 of Wands (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/CaselliT arot
The Seven of Wands is linked to Mars in Leo, and the final ten days of the Sun’s passage through Leo (12th-22nd August).  Mars is associated with ‘masculine’ energy – drive, determination.   It’s sometimes described as war-like, Mars being the Roman god of war.  Here Mars joins forces with the strength and courage of Leo, the ‘heart’.  This is a battle that will be well-planned.  Again, like Jupiter in Leo in the Six of Wands, there’s a danger of arrogance – Leonine pride combined with Mars aggression.  But as long as that’s kept in check, Mars in Leo suggests initiative and drive, confidence and creative flair. 

The Seven of Wands is often associated with the idea of fierce or stiff competition, and with keeping the momentum gained in the Six going.  After all that glory and acclaim, we can’t just sit back!  The Seven is about being ready to take on whatever comes next. That’s where the Mars in Leo energy comes in. We can draw on the Leonine daring and strength, allowing ourselves to take risks.  I think of the phrase ‘take no prisoners’ with this card – there’s no room for compromise here.  In the Thoth deck, the Seven of Wands carries the word ‘valour’.  There’s also an awareness of our fears, something else that comes through experience – perhaps through overcoming the obstacles in the Five of Wands.  

7 of Flames (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In Margarete Petersen’s Seven of Flames, we see the feline (looks more like a tiger than a lion!) energy emerging from the shoulder of a human figure, surrounded by all the fire of both Mars and Leo. According to the accompanying LWB, the tiger symbolizes releasing anger, with a focus on the shoulder and pelvis – the joints from which action springs, perhaps? In more general terms, I can see the idea of ‘focused growth’, being willing to take risks for what we want to achieve.



7 of Wands (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot shows this through the vixen taking a stand, defending what she believes in – the thing that’s most important to her (her family). She’s ready to do what’s necessary to protect them, the key word being ‘necessary’. The Seven of Wands is about doing what’s needed; it’s more than simply courage  - although I know that people sometimes see the word ‘courage’ being made up of ‘cour’ (heart), and ‘rage’ (as in fiery determination to take action), and courage is certainly part of this.

7 of Bows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood’s Seven of Bows focuses on the idea of clearance. After celebrating the abundance of the Six of Bows – what we’ve achieved – it’s time to decide what’s still useful, and what we can clear away.  So yes, we’re still keeping the momentum of the Six going, but this brings in some discernment, perhaps.  Not necessarily what you’d think of with Mars in Leo, perhaps...but it might take strength and courage to let go of some things, rather than cling to them.  Mars gives us the drive and determination to make those choices, to cut away what’s no longer of service.  “Change is a natural part of the process of renewal”, to quote Mark Ryan and John Matthews in their accompanying book to the deck; sometimes that change is easy, but at other times it’s challenging.  Mars in Leo helps us to deal with that.


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Here comes the Sun!

XIX The Sun (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
The Sun, the astrological ruler of Leo, is also represented in the tarot’s Major Arcana by, of course, the Sun card! 

Our sun is the source of all warmth and light; it’s the centre of our solar system. It’s a star. Margarete Petersen has truly captured this in her image of The Sun!

Warmth and light, and being the centre of the solar system are certainly Leonine themes – Leos want to be the star, in the spot-light, on centre stage.  So, how does this show up in the Sun in the tarot?  We associate happiness, joy, child-like pleasure, love of life with this card, all of which fit the image of Leo!

XIX The Sun (trimmed):
© Universal Waite Tarot
In the traditional Rider-Waite-based decks, we have a white horse, representing life.  The child obviously symbolizes child-like joy in the simple pleasures of life, as well as being an image of renewal.   Interesting to think that neither the child nor the horse (we assume!) is concerned about what might happen next – both are very much ‘in the moment’, living for now, taking pleasure in the present.  One could say, well, isn’t that the same as The Fool?  In a sense, perhaps, but there’s a difference.  Astrologically, the sun rules the day, while the other luminary, the moon, rules the night.  The sun shines; we see things in the ‘clear light of day’, so you might say that the sun is linked to the conscious self, or rational thought. The moon, on the other hand, doesn’t shine – we see it thanks to the light of the sun, which is reflected off the surface of the moon.   No wonder, then, that the moon/Moon is linked to what’s not seen clearly, to illusion, to the imagination, the unconscious.  Remember - we looked at The Moon in the tarot earlier in the year, when we were in the sign of Pisces.

XIX The Sun (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Sun follows The Moon in the tarot – with the break of day comes clarity.  The sun can often carry a sense of optimism. How many people do you know who find their spirits lifting on a beautiful sunny day?  What might have seemed impossible in the dark of the night now seems possible.  Yet we need the dark of the night, the Moon time, to rest – otherwise we might burn ourselves out in all that solar energy!

In some decks we see sunflowers or other gold and orange flowers, as well as oranges – called, by some, ‘solar fruit’.  We might also see signs of laurel, symbolizing success.

In the Thoth, the horse disappears and we see two children dancing instead. They dance for the sheer joy and fun of it, celebrating the freedom of the moment.  

XIX The Sun (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
In the Shadowscapes, we see the King of the Birds in all his solar glory...not flying too close to the Sun, though, as Icarus did.
19 The Sun(trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot




In the Wildwood, we have a single figure against the backdrop of a blazing sun, with flowers bursting into bloom in the light and warmth of the sun’s rays. Joy, strength, good health... the warmth enters our bodies and ‘lights our fire’, enthusing and exhilarating us!  Go on – go and do something for the sheer fun of it!



Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Friday, 4 August 2017

Leo in the Minor Arcana: The Six of Wands

Following on from the Five of Wands, we have the Six of Wands, linked to Jupiter in Leo, and the middle ten days of Leo (approximately the 1st to 10th August).  We’re still looking at the Leonine ideals here, so it’s Jupiter that gives the Six a different ‘flavour’ from the Five.  Jupiter is about expansion, optimism, faith.  Jupiter, or Jove, was the king of the Roman gods, as well as being the god of the sky - and thunder.  The planet Jupiter is a giant ball of gas – think of a lot of hot air!  What do hot-air balloons do? They rise, they expand...

Jupiter in Leo gives us a sense of optimism, of being able to grow and expand, through creativity and a ‘joie de vivre’.  It's expansion personified! We’re free to express ourselves vibrantly and with exuberance, with courage and conviction.  We’re supported and encouraged, and can support and encourage others, especially when it comes to creativity.  We may find we want to impress and be recognized by others, which gives us self-confidence.  We do need to be wary of allowing our faith in our own importance to become over-blown, though!

Six of Wands (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
In the Six of Wands, we can feel this feeling of strength and achievement, of a victory – the keyword that’s associated with the Thoth’s version of this card. Victory that’s been gained fairly, though – not at the expense of others.  There’s no place for egotism or arrogance here – that’s the shadow side of Jupiter in Leo.  Leo gives us a place on centre-stage, where the spotlight is on us and our achievement.  Jupiter brings the luck or good fortune - the ability to expand our fortune, perhaps - while Leo maintains the creative fire, as well as the public acclaim for the results of that creativity, and allows us to take pride on our accomplishment.

Six of Wands (trimmed):
©Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
The image in the Six of Wands in Juliet Sharman-Burke’s Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot shows the public celebration of a victory, or achievement, the figures basking in the glow of those warm, fiery colours.  Here's the courage and confident Fire of Leo combined with the good fortune (Jupiter) of the victors. They return to public acclaim, and will enjoy being in the spot-light.

Six of Wands (trimmed):
©Shadowscapes Tarot

The Shadowscapes’ Six also gives us that sense of victory, of good fortune – but I sense a bit of the shadow side of Jupiter in Leo here...a bit of ‘pride before a fall’, perhaps. What happens when that sleeping stone lion decides to wake up and uncurl himself?! Beware of over-confidence, I’d say...

Six of Wands (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot

In Haindl’s Six of Wands, the wands all upright, in line, in harmony. That reflects the idea of victory coming not through aggression (lesson learned from the Five) but from openness and willingness to engage with others, free of ego.  The wands seem to be more Fixed, yet the Fire still burns from their tips. Unity, shared purpose – no single wand stands out from the others.  There’s confidence in that pattern too – standing together. The ivy leaves in the background stay green year-round, a reminder of the value of long-term solidarity, perhaps – as well as the use of ivy in victory wreaths.


Six of Bows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In the Wildwood’s Six of Bows, the image focuses on celebrating the abundance that comes through achievement.  This card always feels to me to fit well with the period associated with the Six of Wands - the first ten days of August, just following Lammas and the celebration of the first harvest (apologies for the northern hemisphere bias!). 


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


Monday, 31 July 2017

Leo in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Wands

Now it’s time to turn our attention to the Minor Arcana.  The three minor cards linked to Leo come from, not surprisingly, the fiery suit of Wands.  Because Leo is a fixed sign, we look to the middle three cards of the minors – the 5, 6 and 7 - to find the planetary correspondences.  (For more information on this system of Planetary and Zodiacal dignities, I recommend Elizabeth Hazel’s Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004). 

Saturn
Let’s start with the Five of Wands, which in this system is associated with Saturn in Leo – and with the first ten days of Leo (approximately 22nd-31st July).

Saturn was a Roman deity, similar to Kronos (or Cronos) in Greek mythology. That’s where the word ‘chronology’ comes from, and we are probably familiar with the idea of Saturn or Kronos representing ‘old Father Time’.  Saturn has come to be associated with time management, in effect - putting boundaries in place, recognizing limitations and restrictions, but also the idea of self-discipline and control. Sometimes this works to our advantage – where would we be without some boundaries in place? But sometimes it feels as though it’s working against us. 

Five of Wands (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
But in Leo?  Well, we could think of Saturn applying the brakes on that fiery Leonine energy.  It can make it more difficult for us to express ourselves, and can affect our self-confidence.  On the other hand, it can push us into finding ways to establish ourselves through creative projects, or through loyalty and disciplined affection.   Leo is about individuality, so Saturn could help to focus that into some sort of achievement that would help to attain some sense of security. Alternatively, looking at the ‘shadow’ of this combination, Saturn in Leo could reflect a fear or inability to trust in our own self-worth, which could in turn act as an obstacle or restriction when it comes to being able to express ourselves confidently. 

Can we see this in the Five of Wands?  In the Thoth deck, the keyword associated with this card is ‘Strife’, which fits in with the traditional meanings – battle, aggression, frustration, irritation.  ‘Creative frustration’ is a phrase which comes to mind, rather than a full-on battle where people get hurt. 

Five of Flames (trimmed):
© Margarete Petersen Tarot
In other decks, we see images of men clashing sticks together but no harm is being done.  The crossed wands represent difficulties – things that stand in the way; writer’s or artist’s ‘block’ is a good example of this kind of creative frustration.  Saturn in Leo suggests a period of time when things might seem to be conspiring against us, and we feel we’re striving in vain.  By taking things one step at a time (Saturn at work again), we are less likely to feel overwhelmed. Instead, we’ll be able to recognize what’s blocking us and be able to use our creativity to do something about it.


Five of Wands (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot gives us another image to work with. The figure is caught up in the chase (Fire), but has to stay the course (Fixed) – has to exercise self-discipline and control (as well as his individuality) in order to overcome the obstacles created by the melĂ©e of foxes!




Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA/Deep Books, 2004.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Leo in the Major Arcana:Strength

Strength (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Let’s start our exploration of Leo in the tarot with the Major Arcana.  The card associated with Leo is, unsurprisingly, Strength.  I say unsurprisingly, as many (but by no means all) tarot decks include the image of a lion in that card.  Struggles involving lions crop up frequently in literature, mythology and folklore – Gilgamesh’s encounter with the lions on his epic journey, Hercules’ labour with the Nemean lion, Androcles and the lion ... While Gilgamesh and Hercules end up killing their lions, Androcles (and St Jerome) helps the lion by removing a thorn from its paw.  Either way, the lion symbolizes inner strength, strength of character, inner struggles.

In traditional imagery, the woman appears to be opening or closing the lion’s mouth but not with the brute force of a Hercules or a Gilgamesh. Instead, she’s being gentle, using love rather than force.  Lions rely on instinct – that’s a strength, not a weakness.  We can rely on our inner strength, our instinct, just like the lion – and act from a place of love.

XI Lust (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
In the Thoth deck, Strength has been renamed as ‘Lust’. Crowley felt that ‘lust’ was more expressive – it covered not only strength but also the enjoyment of that strength, and passion.  Here both the lion, and the woman on his back, are enflamed, lost in the enjoyment, the ecstasy, of that lust for life. Strength, in this version, comes through surrendering, and overcoming fear and conditioning.

And why a woman? Well, some might say it’s the lioness who does all the work, and that the male is lazy! But if we look at mythology, why not a woman?  The Sumerian goddess Innana (Ishtar in Akkadian mythology) was associated with lions. In Egyptian mythology, we have Bast, depicted both as a lioness and a lion-headed woman. Bast was a protector goddess and defender of Ra, the sun god (images of Bast as a lion were created in a local stone, now known as alaBASTer).  Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of war, as well as healing, is also often depicted as a lioness.  Her breath was said to have created the desert – how’s that for powerful?! . She’s a solar deity, the daughter of Ra... which leads us to another Major card associated with Leo.... the Sun! But that’s the subject of a future post, so stay tuned!

11 Woodward (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood’s Woodward, which sits on the Wheel of the Year at Lammas (1st August, so falling in Leo), gives us a different picture of strength. Here we see a man, a hunter wearing a mountain lion mask. The Woodward is an ancient guardian of the Wildwood, representing the power that comes from within us - the strength that comes from having to face our fears, and from being forced to come to terms with whatever the ‘dark’ or the ‘shadow’ means to each of us. 


In one hand, he carries a blood-stained spear; in the other, a cup. The latter symbolizes the idea of the cup of giving and compassion. It takes strength to offer compassion in the face of the things that scare us most, and we may have to dig deep within ourselves to find it.


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections


Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Lion Roars - Sun enters Leo

Today, at 4.16pm BST, we enter the sign of Leo, astrologically speaking.  This sign is associated with the heart – and gold, the metal associated with the sun (which rules Leo), is used in homeopathic remedies for the heart.  It’s also associated with royalty – with kings, in particular. The brightest star in the constellation of Leo (‘Leo’ being Latin for lion), Regulus (Alpha Leonis) was called ‘qalb al-Asad’ by the early Arab astronomers – which translates as ‘heart of the lion’.  Allegedly, it was Saladin who called Richard I the ‘lion-hearted king’.  The lion has been called the king of the forest, or jungle – long before Disney came along with ‘The Lion King’ – and has come to symbolize natural leadership, as well as royalty. 

The Sun (trimmed):©Mystic Spiral Tarot
Leo’s ruler, the Sun, is the star at the centre of our solar system. The sun gives us life – without the light and heat that it provides, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.  Psychologically, the Sun is said to be the core of our being or centre of our personality. It’s the fiery, creative spirit - our essential vitality - that drives us to seek out our individuality.  In medieval astrology, the Sun is called ‘the Great Light’. No surprise then that we think of Leo as a sunny, warm-hearted, larger-than-life sign – a sign that loves to be centre-stage, in the spot-light. 

Leo is one of the three Fire signs, along with Aries and Sagittarius – all signs concerned with the discovery and fulfilment of future possibilities and passions. In Leo, the focus is more on the self – in terms of mythology, you could say it’s about seeking an answer to the question ‘Who am I?’.  The myth of Parzival (Sir Percival in the Grail legends) is a wonderful example of the hero on a quest for self. Hero and protector of the ‘weak’, Leo is associated with generosity, loyalty and steadfastness, but as a ‘yang’ sign is also outgoing and sociable. 

Another quality associated with Leo is pride – and what do we call a group of lions?!  Leo is the ‘I want’ part of the zodiac, and the lion symbolises this self-interested drive, which we all have – it’s what we use to survive. 

As well as being one of the Fire signs, it’s also one of the four Fixed signs.  Leo represents the fire that’s burning in the hearth, the fire that Aries may have ignited – Leo tends that fire, keeps the passion alive. As the fire heats the house, keeping its inhabitants warm and dry, Leo encourages and supports others.  

‘Alchemical Leo’ ©Alison Coals
Being Fixed, Leo likes to be in control of the environment, though – disruption is NOT encouraged.  We can see this in Leo’s tendency for extravagance too – yes, Leo loves beauty and maintains a distinctive, individual style but that disregard for the cost comes from a ‘fixed’ trait (one more often associated with Taurus!) – that of laziness. Leo can’t be bothered to find out if there’s enough in the coffers – and would not be happy about the idea of having to make adjustments to expenditure. Leave that to a mutable sign – practical, earthy Virgo, perhaps... the next sign we encounter in our journey around the wheel of the zodiac!


The fixity of Leo also takes us back to the idea of being in the spot-light, of being centre stage – and the ‘shadow’ side of that.  Leo may expect the world to revolve around his ideas; taking other people’s views or dreams into account, or even acknowledging them, may be one of the challenges that Leo has to deal with. 

'Alchemical Leo' comes from my AstroArt series. It's a collage: watercolour on paper, and origami paper.  

Mystic Spiral Tarotcreated by Giuseppe Palumbo & Giovanni Pelosini, published by Lo Scarabeo.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Cancer in the tarot... ruled by the Moon: the High Priestess

The ruler of Cancer is the Moon, so I thought it might be fun to have a quick look at the card in the tarot that’s associated with it. It’s not the Moon card, as you might imagine - that corresponds to Pisces - but the High Priestess. 

When we think of the High Priestess, we think of mystery, the unconscious, wisdom, intuition, inner guides – all of which come under the auspices of the Moon.  In many depictions of the Priestess, we see a crescent Moon – something new starting to grow deep in the unconscious, that we may not be fully aware of at a conscious level, the New Moon representing unrealized potential.  That depth of feeling feeds into all of the cards associated with the sign of Cancer.

The High Priestess (trimmed):
© Universal Waite Tarot
Traditional depictions of the High Priestess show her sitting between two pillars, often – but not always – black and white, symbolizing her role as bringing together opposites. She carries the number ‘2’ in the Major Arcana, reminding us not only of the early stages, the newness of the Fool’s Journey, but also that duality.  She acts as a conduit between the conscious and unconscious – the creativity and intuition that can link the two realms.

She sits in front of a curtain or veil, behind which can sometimes be seen water, symbolizing the unknown – the mystery.  The High Priestess represents our intuition, something long linked with the Moon – the need to trust our instincts, to look inwards for answers, rather than to the outer world.  The Moon has come to symbolize the feminine, as well as psychic energy.  Through the Moon’s rulership of Cancer, a water sign, we see the links between the formlessness of water and the shapeless unconscious.

The Priestess (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The High Priestess often holds a scroll, which in some decks carries the letters ‘TORA’.  Unlike the Jewish Torah, which is unrolled every Sabbath in order to read its wisdom, the High Priestess’ scroll remains rolled up, keeping its secrets.  To uncover them, we have to reach within; we have to learn to listen to our intuition in order to unearth the truth.

In both the Thoth and the Haindl decks, we see the Hebrew letter ‘gimel’, meaning camel – in fact, at the bottom of the Thoth’s High Priestess, a camel appears. This represents the idea of emotional self-sufficiency, the Moon being all about our emotional needs.  Like the camel, which can go long distances without additional water, we contain the resources – the ‘fertile oases’ depicted at the bottom of the card - within us that are needed to sustain us on an emotional level.


The High Priestess (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
The Haindl’s version of the High Priestess also shows us the rune ‘Ur’, meaning ‘aurochs’ as well as ‘rain’.  The aurochs, an extinct European bison, reminds us that both the buffalo and the cow have been symbols for the goddess in many cultures – the feminine...bringing us back to the Moon again.  The crescent Moon is often seen reflected in the shape of the horns.


‘Ur’ is also known as the rune of secret passage – the flow of intuition between those two pillars seen in the more traditional images of the High Priestess – and can also mean ancient, primal. Again, the High Priestess takes us deeper, to an instinctive level, leaving the conditioning of the conscious world on the other side of the veil.

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cancer in the Minor Arcana: the Four of Cups

In the system of astrological correspondences that I use, the Four of Cups is linked to the Moon in Cancer, and to the final ten days in the sign (approximately 11th-21st). If we combine the qualities associated with the luminary and zodiac sign, the Moon in Cancer could be said to represent the potential for a wealth of love and care.

Four of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Yet the Four of Cups is often associated with concepts such as boredom, discontent, apathy, confusion, depression, and even rejection.  Those needs haven’t been met; we feel fed up with our lot. Perhaps we feel unloved, or that our offer of love has been spurned.  The number ‘four’ makes me think of squares – four-sided stable figures that are hard to shift. Once we hit this ‘slough of despond’ (thanks, John Bunyan) we are at the mercy of our emotions, which ebb and flow – like the tides at the mercy of the Moon.  Like high and low tides, our emotions can carry us to extremes - to the point where we lose sight of reality, and we can’t see the love that’s being offered to us. 


Four of Cups (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Thoth’s Four of Cups approaches this from the opposite direction, showing the abundance of love available to us. It reminds us that this is not only a gift, but also a responsibility – we have to ‘measure’ our awareness of it so that we don’t squander it, or allow it to rule us completely, to the point where it could become oppressive or lead to discontent.


Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections




Sunday, 9 July 2017

Cancer in the court cards: The King of Cups

King of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards, but I follow the tradition of linking the cardinal signs with the Kings. That gives the King of Cups for Cancer, the cardinal Water sign.

Cardinality suggests taking the initiative - being self-motivated, as well as outgoing. The cardinal signs – Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn – are all symbolic of being good at starting new things but the element of each helps to define the focus of that energy. In the element of water, Cancer initiates contact on an emotional level; it has the ability to take the first steps in campaigning, for instance. Because the Sun is at a standstill at the point in which it enters Cancer, on the solstice, the outgoing, active nature may have more of a reflective quality.

So why Cancer - why the crab - for the King of Cups? I often think that the King of Cups represents a bit of a contradiction between suit and position – we tend to think of the Kings as being responsible and making decisions, while the Cups are about emotions, dreams, fantasy, romance... Remembering that the Sun’s just been ‘standing still’ gives me a clue to a possibly more reflective, inward-focus for this King. He can symbolize wanting to be emotionally involved but at the same time feeling cautious about going too deep – a bit too Scorpionic, perhaps?! The King is often said to carry masculine energy, while the watery realm of the Cups are thought to carry feminine energy. So we have a King of Cups who might come across as quite ambivalent. What better creature to represent this ambivalence than the crab? At home in water, at home on land... but not belonging completely to one or the other. A foot in both camps, as it were...
King of Cups (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
The King of Cups in the Shadowscapes appears to be growing out of a strand of kelp or some other type of seaweed. Turtles swim around him, while he faces a sea-horse in a ball of light. The turtles represent the ability to guide the way calmly through the ever-changing watery realm of emotions, while the sea-horse symbolizes Poseidon’s power. The exoskeleton of the sea-horse is spiny as well as delicate – the male protects its young, symbolizing the King’s role as protector. Patient, tolerant, compassionate.
Father of Cups (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot

The Haindl Tarot gives us Odin to represent the Father, or King, of Cups. Hermann Haindl chose figures to represent a variety of ‘sacred expression’, to borrow Rachel Pollack’s phrase (Haindl Tarot: A Reader’s Handbook, US Games Systems Inc, 1999), from the Stone Age through to Christianity, symbolizing the beliefs of various cultures – the roots, the family, the community. The things that people believed would protect them, as the shell protects the crab. 

Odin is shown hanging upside-down in the card’s image, representing the myth in which he hung himself from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine nights in order to gain the wisdom of the Runes. It’s the same story that’s often depicted in, or used as a basis for, The Hanged Man – but that’s another post in the making!

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn



Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Cancer in the cards: The Three of Cups

Three of Cups (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
The Three of Cups is linked to Mercury in Cancer – and to the middle ten days of Cancer (approximately the 1st-11th July).  We’re still looking at the Cancerian ideals here, so it’s Mercury that gives the Three a different ‘flavour’ from the Two.  We’ve moved from the duality of the Two, the giving and receiving of love in the relationship to the communicating of our emotions.  Mercury relates to communication, the mind, and language, as well as learning and acquiring the basic information we need in order to survive.  It is associated with siblings, young relatives, neighbours – and friends! 

Three of Vessels (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
The Three of Cups often symbolizes the sharing of good times with friends.  A common image shows three dancing figures, all communicating and sharing that joy, celebrating the moment.  

‘The moment of culmination and the period of transition from euphoria to the resumption of ordinary life’, as Juliet Sharman-Burke puts it, in her Beginner’s Guide to Tarot. ‘The moment’ – that’s another Mercurical link; Mercury is another name for quicksilver, so the planetary associations also include quickness, a fleeting moment in time... 

Don’t you just love those dancing cranes of the Wildwood?! It's such a joyful image - in fact, that's the word (Joy) that the deck's creators chose for this card.


Three of Cups (trimmed):
© Haindl Tarot
In  the Haindl Tarot, we see that overflowing of love in the natural flow of water, filling up the cups and overflowing, symbolizing the love and joy - the outpouring of emotions - to be shared (or in more Mercurical terms – communicated) with the important people in our lives. True joy...and definitely something to be celebrated!


Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections