Pairing Tarot Cards By Using Astrology

Are these two cards secretly bonded…?

Over a century ago, there was this group of mystics in England who called themselves the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (often shorthanded by us modern types into just the “Golden Dawn” or even the “GD”). Their work still pervades almost every corner of present-day Tarot, and one of the more interesting things that they accomplished was the creation of a system of occult correspondences that mapped a semi-staggering amount of symbols onto Tarot.

Want to find the four seasons or the four primary compass point directions in Tarot? The GD paired each one with one of the four Tarot Suits. Care to work with principles drawn from Qabalah? You’ll find that the GD has Tarot and the Qabalistic Tree of Life gloriously intertwined. Do you prefer working with various plants and animals? The Golden Dawn got there ahead of you, pairing all manner of flora and fauna with different cards.

They also worked with Astrology. If you study your Astrology, you’ll come across this notion called Planetary Rulership. The idea is that each Planet “rules,” or exhibits a very powerful affinity for, one or two of the 12 different Zodiac Signs. The GD employed only the seven visible “Planets” in their system, but modern Tarot people have since woven in some of the bodies that humanity discovered after the creation of the telescope (notably Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto).

It occurred to me that we might pull some real value out of a careful inspection of the card that the GD paired with each Zodiac Sign and the card that the GD paired with the Planetary Ruler of each of those Signs. Surely there must be some enlightening connections running between each pair, right?

Here are the the GD astrological associations marrying each Planet or Sign to one of the Major Arcana cards (and I’ve added in the three “modern Planets” name-checked above):

Zodiac Sign

Major Arcana Card

Ruling Planet

Major Arcana Card

Aries The Emperor Mars The Tower
Taurus The Hierophant Venus The Empress
Gemini The Lovers Mercury The Magician
Cancer The Chariot Moon The High Priestess
Leo Strength/Lust Sun The Sun
Virgo The Hermit Mercury The Magician
Libra Justice/Adjustment Venus The Empress
Scorpio Death Pluto Judgement/The Aeon
Sagittarius Temperance/Art Jupiter Wheel of Fortune/Fortune
Capricorn The Devil Saturn The World/The Universe
Aquarius The Star Uranus The Fool
Pisces The Moon Neptune The Hanged Man

Because Astrology to this day still doesn’t have a completely neat and efficient system of Planetary Rulership such that we enjoy a one-to-one set of correspondences – i.e., we do not yet have a system in which each Planet rules one Sign, with no Planets doing double duty and no Signs having more than one Ruler – we see a couple of Planets, and therefore a couple of Major cards, being referenced more than once here.

Specifically, astrologers still credit Venus with ruling both Taurus and Libra, and Mercury is deemed to rule both Gemini and Virgo. This state of affairs then lends itself to the possibly mistaken impression that – within the context of this exercise that I’m trying to undertake here – the cards associated with Venus and Mercury (The Empress and The Magician, respectively) are somehow more important or more influential than any of the other cards in the Major Arcana.

Then again, if we were to rejigger the distribution of associations somehow, by, say, relieving Venus and Mercury of their added Rulership burdens, we’d solve one problem, but in doing so, we’d be creating another.

By way of example, let’s say we decide to usher in a couple of additional entrants into the category of what we consider valid astrological Planets. There’s some support among modern astrologers, for instance, in viewing the Planetoid called Chiron as maybe working as the modern Ruler for Virgo. Cool…

But what if we wholeheartedly endorse that assignment, and bump Mercury from Rulership of Virgo in favor of Chiron? That does eliminate the double-presence of Mercury and The Magician card in the mix here that we’d been facing…but we don’t have a card to represent Chiron at all. The Planetoid wasn’t discovered by humanity until decades after the Golden Dawn had peaked in its activity and influence and then basically subsided. So reworking the system like this would mean that for one thing, we wouldn’t be able to examine a given birth-chart’s Chiron placement through the filter of Tarot, because no card is available to serve as Chiron’s Tarot-y stand-in.

And we have another issue. Part of the appeal of working with the chart above is that we have the opportunity to study the pairs of cards created in each row of the table. It feels likely that if the astrological associations are on point, then we should be able to find some real value in the synchronicities and synergies flowing within the pairs of cards that are formed when we line up Sign-analogues with their matching Ruling Planet-analogues.

To illustrate, if Aries is ruled by Mars, then we should be able to find some fairly deep and illuminating connections when we look at the Aries card (The Emperor) and the Mars card (The Tower) together, right? And it’s not hard to make this work at least to some extent. It’s pretty arguable that a good Emperor, along the road to Empire, will be tasked with toppling a Tower or three…or conversely, that in the wake of a Tower-crash, there will be a considerable need for an Emperor-figure to step in and take command of the rubble-clearing and rebuilding efforts. Some resonance between these two cards is there if you look for it. In some of the cases, that resonance may be even stronger than this, and in others, it might demand a bit more effort on our parts to see it (or…manufacture it, even…?).

But look at what happens to The Hermit if we do replace Mercury with Chiron as the Planetary Ruler of Virgo. Instead of looking for connections between The Hermit (the Virgo card) and The Magician (the Mercury card), we’re left with trying to analyze The Hermit with a Chiron-analogue card that doesn’t exist. We have no Major card that Tarot people will agree is “the Chiron card.” So The Hermit will basically be swindled out of having a card-partner to play off of in this analysis. And if we try to address this shortcoming by simply declaring one of the Majors to be that Chiron-analogue card, then we’re back where we started…because if we give each Zodiac Sign a distinct and unique Ruler, we have 24 astrological symbols to capture (12 Signs plus 12 different Planets), but only 22 Major Arcana cards to do the capturing, and we’ve already assigned astro-symbols to all of them. Admitting a Chiron or a Juno or a Black Moon Lilith onto the playing field will just create another case of a card appearing twice in our table in the same way that The Empress and The Magician are appearing twice now.

img_6031But so with that one nagging issue in mind, it might still prove to be a worthwhile exercise to run through the table above one row at a time, and see if you can squeeze some new insights out of the operation. Do The Chariot and The High Priestess actually share some previously unguessed at but informative connective tissue running between them that might help you to better understand these two cards, or to more helpfully work with them in readings? Do The Moon and The Hanged Man have some enriching observations to make about each other that you’ve never noticed before…?

Try taking a few minutes to ponder each row’s pair of cards, and see if you come away with any new understanding that had been escaping your notice until now…

RWS and Thoth: Anubis!

It’s easy to focus on all the differences that separate the RWS and Thoth decks from each other…but it also pays to celebrate the similarities once in a while, and to remember that Waite and Crowley both came up through the ranks of the Golden Dawn, and both loved a lot of the same source material.

For instance: Egyptian Mythology! It’s so interesting to see, for instance, that the great jackal-headed psychopomp and Underworld figure, Anubis, actually appears “on-screen” in both decks. Waite has him appearing in the Wheel of Fortune, while Crowley showcases him in The Moon…and as someone who has a huge amount of respect and affection for Anubis, I’m happy to see him in both of these outlets!

Astrology/Tarot Mapping: The High Priestess

The astrological symbol that you’ll most often find people holding forth as a correspondence for The High Priestess is the Moon. And that’s understandable in part because in the highly influential Rider-Waite-Smith deck, The High Priestess wears a headdress that’s evocative of the three phases of the Moon, and she also has a large crescent Moon sitting on the ground right next to her feet. She’s literally adorned with Moon imagery from top to bottom. So visually speaking, there’s plenty of basis for associating Moon –> High Priestess.

In conceptual terms, this attribution also isn’t doing too badly. In Astrology – as in many other fields of thought – the Moon is seen as a sort of symbolic representation of the Great Feminine…or better yet, how about we call it the great Yin (as compared to the Sun’s Great Yang)? The astrological Moon captures many Yin principles: receptivity, reflection, instinct, intuition, our emotional core, our reactive self, the subconscious. And on the face of it, all of these things can pretty well arguably be said for the High Priestess card, too.

So what’s the problem? Well, my only problem with this particular attribution is the fact that there’s another Major Arcana card that makes even more sense as a correspondence for the astrological Moon. And that card would be…The Moon! The Tarot community as a whole tends to map the astrological Sun onto the Sun Card in Tarot, so what madness prevails such that we wouldn’t similarly tie the Moon to the Moon card?

That of course leaves us with the question of which astrological symbol we would then link to The High Priestess if we did take the Moon elsewhere…and I have no perfect answer. One of the Water Signs, maybe? The Water Element itself (although that gets tagged to The Hanged Man, which feels like a pretty good match, actually)? The Nadir/Imum Coeli? Maybe space itself – the void between Stars and Planets? Suggestions welcome…

Tarot: Gateway Cards, Part 2

IMG_4675A few days ago, I posted about this notion of The High Priestess serving as a sort of “Gatekeeper” who can allow passage through her pomegranate curtains to worthy seekers, where they will then suddenly find themselves in the landscape of the Moon card.  We talked about this in the Tarot Toolkit course, and one of the students – Mike (@magickmike7 over on Instagram) – asked the very astute question about whether other cards might similarly serve as Gatekeepers.  We were specifically talking about the Justice card, as that’s the only other Major that also features a central character sitting in front of a curtain.  Mike theorized that maybe passage through the Gateway of Justice would lead you to the realm of the Sun card, which is a suggestion that has its merits, for sure.

For my part, though, I landed on the notion that maybe Justice leads through into…Judgement.  I have three main reasons.

1) Both cards feature titles and concepts that have found their ways into our society’s legal arena.  Justice and Judgement are both terms and ideas that populate our judicial system.

2) Justice in Tarot is often about balance…and a balanced approach is arguably necessary in dealing successfully with the kinds of upheaval that can beset a person undergoing the processes symbolized by the Judgement card.  Just as The High Priestess might bar the gate and force people to take the long way to The Moon if she’s not satisfied that they can bear up under its energies yet, maybe Lady Justice similarly forces pilgrims to travel by the long path to Judgement if they don’t yet show a solid enough grasp on balance.

3) In Egyptian Mythology, when you die, you’re greeted at the entrance to the Underworld by the great God, Anubis.  He holds a set of scales – just like those of Lady Justice – and tests your heart to see if you qualify for either eternal afterlife or total deletion from reality.  In other words, if you get past his application of a very Justice-style evaluation, you’re ready to deal with a new phase of your existence, post-“death”…much like the figures emerging from coffins in the Judgement card might be poised to do.

Just some musings aloud, inspired by Mike’s great question.  Answering thoughts are most welcome!  #tarot #tarotcards #tarotcommunity #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarottoolkit #tarottip #divination #cartomancy #justice #judgement #Anubis #highpriestess #moon #ladyjustice #indigokyanite #crystal #metaphysics #metaphysical #esoteric #occult

Tarot: High Priestess as Gateway to The Moon

IMG_4643Some very interesting notions spun out of an email from Mike, one of our students, in the wake of our final Tarot Toolkit class. We’d been talking about the theory that The High Priestess can be seen as a “gateway” card — that is, if she grants you leave to step through the gateway represented by her pomegranate curtains, you may find yourself in the landscape of the Moon card. Mike put forth the very keen question of whether other Major cards might act similarly as “gateway cards,” and if so, which ones, and to which other cards…? I feel a series of related posts brewing now…

Cobra Jasper

IMG_4381The Jasper Journal, cont.  Today’s entry: on sleeping with Cobra Jasper under my pillow…

The other day, when I dug out all of my Jasper stones from storage, I wanted to pull a card for each variety, to explain a bit about what each one would represent for me.  While I was shuffling, the Moon card fell out.  For me, The Moon stands for things like the subconscious, dreams, and mysticism.  The booklet for this deck, which has a lot of its own meanings that deviate from the traditional, says this particular Moon is about “Magic, Spirituality, Surprises, and a Positive Female Figure.”  I assumed the card popped out in order to tell me that this would apply to Jasper for me in general, regardless of variety.  Cool enough.

I replaced the card, and kept shuffling, then drew a card for each individual type of Jasper.  When I got to Cobra Jasper…The Moon appeared again.  I figured this would suggest some especially intense and mind-bend-y experiences with it!  Maybe dreams about Snakes the size of the Anaconda that I got to drape over myself like the world’s largest necklace when I was in Peru last year.

But I didn’t dream about Snakes this time, or about animals of any kind, really.  It was a fairly simple dream.  In it, I was being ushered someplace by one of those dream-people that don’t exist in the waking world, but who I know in the dreams.  This person was excited to be explaining to me how the locals were doing this kind of ceremony to honor and celebrate a couple of the trees that lived on the grounds of their campus or estate or whatever it was.

We went through some kind of archway structure, and the two trees in question were then rising up above us, enormous, maybe a couple of stories high.  Their trunks were this rich brown color, and you could almost feel all the texture just by looking at it.  Higher up, they were bursting with green leaves, and even though the trees grew up out of the ground one to either side of the rather wide pathway we were on, up top, their branches had grown toward each other, and intertwined…sort of like the tree version of holding hands.  There were people around us kind of chanting and just beaming love and appreciation at these two grand old trees (Ash trees, I think?), and I could actually feel joy radiating from the trees, who were happy that the quick little humans were forcing themselves to slow down enough to do this for them.

So, no animals, but the trees were really sweet.

Astrology and Romance…

IMG_4186The other day, I taught an Astrology workshop focusing on what birthcharts can say about a person’s romantic potential (you know: Valentine’s Day and all…). We leaned mainly on the personal Planets and the Ascendant, and off to one side, I tallied up all of the Sign placements in the attendees’ charts, because I’m nerdy like that, and because I thought it might be illuminating to see which Sign-energies might be most likely to propel people out into the cold to try to improve things in their romantic spheres…

Q: Care to guess which Signs were the most represented?

A: By a very wide margin, it was the Signs of Virgo (first place) and Leo (very close second) that topped the polls here. Not a gargantuan sample size, and only one event in one geographic locale studied here, but still interesting (he says, with his Mars in Virgo…).