Tarot as Sacred Text
One of the reasons that tarot fascinates so many people for so long (often for the whole of their lives) is that there are so many ways to look at and use the cards. Divination is one way and perhaps the most common, and certainly valuable. I also like to see the cards, individually and in groups, as a sacred text that teaches me about the mysteries of the world and of myself.
Sometimes these insights deviate from the way one may interpret a card in a reading. Sometimes they can add a new facet or understanding of a card that can be used while interpreting a divination. Sometimes they really shake up a long held belief or understanding of a card.
The cards are called keys for a reason: they open doors to entire worlds of wisdom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I spend so much time in one particular part of a world that I get comfortable and begin to think that I’ve explored the whole place.
For example, the other day tarot showed me an interesting way to look at a series of cards: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, and The Hierophant.
1. The Magician is the expression of our will via our ego. By ego I mean our sense that we are unique and separate individual beings.
2. The High Priestess is the expression of our intuition via our soul. By soul I mean our sense that we are connected to all things.
The Magician and High Priestess together describe the state of being human, that strange dichotomy that drives us: the desire to express our individuality in the world and the yearning to reunite with all that is.
3. The Empress is our ability to create via our actions.
4. The Emperor is the direction of creativity via our intellect.
Together these four cards are like the four pillars of our identity: what drives us, what we do, and how we do it.
5. The Hierophant is the movement of our identities toward our ideals via change.
Many people miss the value and inherent energy of the Hierophant due to wounds caused by the imperfect expression of the Hierophant energy by others (both individuals and organizations) in the past. Because it is easy to dislike “organized religion,” which admittedly fails so many of us, we can easily dismiss the true value of the Hierophant. This is just as dangerous as disregarding the value and positive aspects of the Empress because our mother wasn’t a great mom.
When we allow our wounds to denigrate the true wisdom and gift of an archetype, we put it in shadow. Things in our shadows (individually and collectively) always find a way out and when they do it isn’t pretty because anything left in shadow for too long will grow twisted and punchy.
While we easily understand the numerological connections of the Magician, High Priestess, Empress, and Emperor, the association of the Hierophant with the number 5 baffles many people. Fives, after all, are about change and, for better or worse, most of us see the Hierophant as rigidity rather than innovation. That is too bad because we miss out on the gift of the Hierophant, and it is such an important gift for those of us on the path to becoming our best selves and living our true soul’s purpose in the world.
The Hierophant is about change.
Taken together, these five cards illustrate how we, as spiritual beings having a human experience, can move forward toward continued spiritual, mental, and emotional growth.
May your mind and heart always be open to the wonders in the cards.
May the cards reveal their expansive wisdom to you.
May you use these gifts to make yourself and the world better.
Edited to add: days later and it suddenly occurs to me that in some numerology systems, 5 is the number of man, that is to say, humans. In Christian Biblical numerology, it is also the number of grace.
Images: The Four of Swords and Ace of Wands from the Everyday Witch Tarot by Deborah Blake and Elizabeth Alba
A friend and I always start our workweek off by getting together for coffee each Monday morning. We call it our office hour, even though we talk about both personal and work-related items. This Monday, which happened to be the first day of spring, found us both full of energy, ideas spilling from us, revelations and creativity flowing all around until we felt like children playing in a fountain.
The awakening of spring always takes me by surprise. By now you’d think I’d be prepared, knowing how my soul follows the cycle of the year. But then, maybe that’s part of the magic, that shocking and pleasant jolt of waking up.
As our long Minnesota winters progress and linger, I grow increasingly restive. It is as if, metaphorically and sometimes literally, a heavy quilt covers me, movement hampered by the weight of the season. The lethargy is hard to bear and harder to fight. But fight it, I do, at least some of the time. “Do something,” I tell myself. Aside from the mundane work that needs doing, though, not a lot happens. That’s the way it feels, anyhow.
The truth is that a lot is happening, but I just can’t see it. The soul work of winter takes place below the surface. Like many people with pagan leanings, the Wheel of the Year shapes how I view the world, how I trace the rhythms of my soul. In the fall, the fruits of our soul labors are harvested and the soul garden is put to bed. Putting a garden to bed means harvesting, cutting down or pulling out the remains of the season’s spent plants, and covering the ground with mulch. During the winter, under the mulch, the remains of garden decompose and the soil is nourished. It is really very magical and yet because it is unseen and mostly unfelt, we easily mistake this period for stagnation. At least I do.
During my winter Monday office hours with my friend, I felt like each week I had nothing interesting to say, no life-changing revelations, no spectacular creativity. Especially as winter drags on, I become more and more impatient with myself, accusing myself of laziness, cursing my lack of energy, mourning my lost ambition.
And then, like magic, this Monday my soul showed signs of new life, like the crocuses bravely blossoming in the still cold soil, and I felt alive, awake, excited. Although a little ashamed and embarrassed by forgetting the hard, important, invisible work of winter, I was grateful to be reminded of it by the evidence of new life.
Perhaps next winter I will remember that even though things feel stagnant, they are not, and I will honor this valuable time and be gentler with myself. It is such a surprising miracle to wake up feeling transformed when all the while I thought nothing was happening.
May you recognize the gifts of your soul’s winter’s work.
May you be rich and ripe and ready to receive new seeds and nourish new life.
May you honor all times and seasons, accepting their gifts with gratitude.
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