Tarot Card Meanings: A Note on Strength and Justice

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Card VIII and Card XI: Strength? Justice? Adjustment? Lust? Which one goes where??!

And so we reach Card VIII in our travels through the sequence of the Major Arcana in the TAROT CARD MEANINGS section of my website.

But wait…which card exactly is Card VIII?! Some decks offer up their version of the Strength card in this position. Others, though, hold forth their Justice card or its analogue. It can’t be both Strength AND Justice, right? So which one is correct?

Answer: Both. Or neither. There are reasons and historical precedents to support either approach. Much of this will depend on you applying some critical thought as to which one works better for you…

And fortunately, to help you along in this thought process, I just put up a new NOTE ON STRENGTH AND JUSTICE that breaks down the history of this issue for you, and hopefully makes it clear that there is no One Right Way of doing things here.

You can ponder this odd and interesting schism among Tarot practitioners and their viewpoints for a bit, and then we’ll resume our march through the Majors with some thoughts on the Strength card in the next post in the series, to follow soon…

AND NOTE: The TAROT TOOLKIT ONLINE COURSE will be discontinued at the close of this calendar year of 2016! Get your copy of this info-packed and accessible resource before the final bell tolls on its availability: 10 class sessions in MP4 format, a 120-page PDF Workbook, and a few extra freebie files to get you started on mixing some Astrology and Kabbalah principles into your Tarot game, all for the low, low price of only $33 USD!!!

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TAROT TIP: Consider Kabbalah

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Even though Tarot is a rich, deep system that’s absolutely chock-full of multilayered symbolism, this doesn’t stop Tarot fans from trying to map additional systems onto it in an effort to wring even more meaning from its sublime framework. You can find decks and books in which Tarot people have done their best to weave Astrology into Tarot, or Runes, or the I Ching. Some will even use elements from fields that don’t have any underlying structure as metaphysical systems at all – for instance, some resources will tell you that a certain type of crystal goes with each card, or a specific animal does, or a kind of plant.

And to be honest, as long as you don’t swallow any one person’s associations as “The Gospel,” and you apply some critical analysis of your own as to whether you actually see some real fitness and utility, then working with assignments like these can be extremely helpful in a brain-stretching sort of way.

But the one system that seems to lend itself the most naturally to being spliced into a new fusion with Tarot is the field of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, and in particular, the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life.

Fotothek_df_tg_0006103_Theosophie_^_Alchemie_^_Judentum_^_KabbalaSidenote: as with many words and phrases that have found their ways into the English-speaking world from languages that use completely different alphabets, you’ll find multiple spellings for “Kabbalah.” I use this spelling because it was the first one I learned, but you’ll also see things like Qabalah and Cabala, plus other subtle variants of all of these. No one spelling is “The Right One,” and they’re all more or less the same as each other in terms of their basic meanings, although they do each seem to be picking up their own somewhat varying connotations in modern metaphysics as the years go by. Still, it’s probably best not to get too hung up on this point, and definitely don’t let anyone make you feel dunderheaded because they’ve decided to dump on your chosen spelling!

But anyway, the point is that Kabbalah and Tarot do seem to dovetail pretty readily. Simple numbers play a huge factor in this.

The Tree of Life – Kabbalah’s magic mega-glyph that represents all reality – has 10 spheres (called “Sephiroth,” or if singular, each one is a “Sephira”) and 22 pathways that interconnect these spheres.

And then hey, look: Tarot has 10 numbered cards in each Suit of the Minor Arcana, and 22 Major cards! There’s one type of numbered Tarot card to go with each Tree of Life Sephira, with nothing left over and nothing unused, and the same goes for correspondences among Major Tarot cards and Tree of Life pathways! It’s neat, it’s efficient, and nothing feels forced.

In contrast, accepted mapping of Astrology onto Tarot struggles in that Astrology has an ill-fitting number of primary symbols to work with here: a variable number of Planets (depending on your astrological preferences), 12 Zodiac Signs, 12 Houses, and dozens of possible Planet-in-Sign placements. There’s no neat and obvious method for assigning these to the Tarot cards without getting a bit clunky, and also leaving many astrological symbols on the cutting room floor.

Similarly, the earliest Runic alphabet has 24 symbols. How do you map that onto the 22-card Major Arcana? The 56-card Minor Arcana? The full 78-card deck? No easy answers.

The same holds true for the I-Ching, with its 64 hexagrams. You could shoot for a one-to-one mapping of symbols of the 64 hexagrams onto the 78 cards, but you’d then have 14 cards with no hexagrams assigned to them. Do 14 cards therefore go hexagram-less? Or do you let 14 hexagrams be allocated to two cards each? And in either case, how do you choose which symbols get left out or counted double? The math doesn’t lend itself well to these types of mapping exercises in any of these cases.

But not only does the Tree of Life sidestep these logistical tar-pits, but it also adds an attractive new layer of interpretive possibility, in that each Hebrew letter – of which there are a convenient 22! – carries its own occult meaning. Take a look:

#

Tarot Card

Hebrew Letter

Meaning

Tree of Life Path #

0

The Fool

א Aleph

Ox

11

1

The Magician

בBet

House

12

2

The High Priestess

גGimel

Camel

13

3

The Empress

ד Daled

Door

14

4

The Emperor

ה Heh

Window

15

5

The Hierophant

ו Vau

Nail

16

6

The Lovers

ז Zayin

Sword

17

7

The Chariot

חCheth

Fence

18

8

Strength

טTeth

Serpent

19

9

The Hermit

יYod

Hand

20

10

The Wheel of Fortune

כKaph

Palm

21

11

Justice

לLamed

Ox-goad

22

12

The Hanged Man

מMem

Water

23

13

Death

נ Nun

Fish

24

14

Temperance

סSamekh

Tent-peg, Prop

25

15

The Devil

עAyin

Eye

26

16

The Tower

פPeh

Mouth

27

17

The Star

צTsaddi

Fish-hook

28

18

The Moon

קQoph

Back of head

29

19

The Sun

ר Resh

Head

30

20

Judgement

שShin

Tooth

31

21

The World

תTau

Cross, Mark

32

The Tower_thothIn fact, once you’re aware of these meanings, you can play spot-the-Kabbalah-reference with your decks. Many deck creators take pains to include visual representations of these Hebrew letter meanings in their Tarot cards. For example, in the famous Thoth deck, Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris clearly knew that the Tower card is associated with the Hebrew letter Peh, and Peh means “mouth.” Take a look at the card image – it will take you little more than a millisecond or two to locate the giant, gaping, flame-spewing mouth in the visuals.

And once you get familiar with these meanings, you can add them to your Tarot card interpretations when you perform readings. Consider how The Hierophant is associated with the concept of a nail. The former is a symbol of structure, and the latter is a device used to build things. But then, a nail left lying around can also be a threat to the integrity of one’s feet, as nails can puncture and penetrate, and if rusty, they can even infect. This little added slice of nail-meaning can then reflect back onto The Hierophant: if the teachings of this card’s central character are used carefully, then much like nails, they can help us to create immense structures that greatly benefit humanity…but if employed recklessly, they can cause grievous injury by stabbing us in our most tender and vulnerable spots…

So if you’re on the prowl for new add-ons that you can incorporate into your Tarot practice, you could do far worse than exploring Kabbalah and the Tree of Life…

Learn Tarot with me! I offer PRIVATE LESSONS, and you can also score your own copy of the TAROT TOOLKIT ONLINE COURSE, a 10-session series of classes with its own 120-page PDF Workbook:

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TAROT TIP: The Magic Circle

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Try arranging the Major cards from one of your decks like this, in a big circle. Line them up carefully, and you’ll see that you get 11 opposing pairs. Then study them to see what kinds of thematic links you can spot between each of the cards that form a given axis.

For example, The Magician can be about reaching out into the world to work your magic on it…while the card across the Circle, The Hanged Man, can be about skillfully allowing the world to reach in and work its magic on you.

The Hierophant is often about the building up of structures…and the card that sits opposite this one on the Circle is The Tower, which is often about those moments when structures come crumbling down.

The Hermit can speak of the quest to find hidden truths…while on the other side of the Circle, Judgement can indicate that hidden truths are on a quest to find you.

You can find an interesting conceptual relationship for pretty much every one of these pairs, and working your way around the Magic Circle can really help you to feel more connected to the cards overall. Recommended!

Learn to read Tarot with me! I offer both PRIVATE LESSONS and the 10-session TAROT TOOLKIT ONLINE COURSE:

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TAROT TIP: The Aces

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I feel like the Aces in Tarot are special in their own way, somewhat like the Court Cards are, but maybe even more so, because they’re like a sub-subset hiding within the larger subset of “Numbered Cards.” They’re essentially the 1’s of the deck, but they have a special name, and even in the otherwise scenic RWS deck, there are no people running around their little landscapes.

I feel that this is because the Aces are all about potential. They’re like the seeds from which the rest of their Suits will grow. They’re fully-charged batteries, waiting to power the journey through the layer of reality that they each represent. There are often no humanoid types populating the Ace cards because nothing has had the chance to happen in the Aces yet. Each one is like an unmined vein of ore or an untapped reservoir. Everything has been laid out and readied for operation, but it’s up to the querent to now step in and start the voyage.

The Aces signify beginnings, tremendous amounts of raw energy, and again, mad potential. They tell the querent that it’s time to take up the icon of the Suit in question, be it Sword or Cup, Wand or Pentacle/Disk…and work it.

Learn Tarot with me! I offer PRIVATE LESSONS, and you can also purchase the 10-session TAROT TOOLKIT ONLINE COURSE:

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TAROT TIP: Dealing with Court Cards

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Court Cards: infamous among Tarot practitioners for their slippery refusal to be interpreted with ease. Four Court “ranks” across four Suits yields up 16 distinct personalities to understand and keep track of. That’s a pretty large cast of characters, and without handy “cosmic job descriptions” such as “The Empress” or “The Hermit” to help us along, they can start to feel pretty inaccessible.

The new Epic Tarot deck offers one possible approach to getting a better handle on the Court Cards, though. It’s a fantasy-themed deck, and instead of depicting people as the Court Card characters, it employs mythical creatures. In some of the message board conversations that followed its release, multiple users bemoaned the fact that they couldn’t tell one Dragon from another…each Phoenix looked the same…the Unicorns, the Griffins, they were indistinguishable from each other…

A representative of the deck’s publisher responded, saying that this wasn’t surprising…because we aren’t meant to be able to distinguish them. Because they’re not different. The Page/Princess level doesn’t showcase four different Unicorns – rather, it offers the same Unicorn experiencing four different environments. There’s really only one Page/Princess, is the idea…and it’s the context of the Suit that determines how the Page/Princess gets to manifest her energies. The same holds true for the other Court ranks.

Taken on the whole, this approach asks us to think not of 16 different Court Card characters, but of only 4…four Ranks that can each be expressed in four distinct manners. Your Queen, say, is always a Queen, exhibiting Queenly attributes. She can do this, though, in the context of Wands/Fire, or Cups/Water, or Swords/Air, or Pentacles/Disks/Earth. Think about how your best friend is always who she is, but she manifests a bit differently at a weekend party than she does at the office. The constant inherent traits are what make your friend, your friend…while the context she’s in during a given moment determines which parts of her come to the forefront. The Epic Tarot suggests viewing Court Cards in this fashion…

You can learn Tarot!  Contact me to set up PRIVATE LESSONS, or you can work through the TAROT TOOLKIT ONLINE COURSE:

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Tarot Toolkit Holiday Special!

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Here in the US, we celebrate our independence every 4th of July (or 7/4, as we like to shorthand it). So in order to spread some of that independent feeling around, the Tarot Toolkit Online Course that I co-taught with Vickie Wilson of Eternal Athena Tarot earlier this year – which will enable you to be much more independent as a reader of Tarot (sweet segue, right??) – will be selling for the next four days at the low, low price of $74 USD.  This course usually goes for $119 USD, so we’re talking large savings here!

The entry fee includes:

 

  • MP4 recordings of 10 separate classes, each loaded with at least 90 minutes of material
  • A 120-page PDF Workbook, packed with info and exercises designed to keep you stimulated and engaged
  • Bonus freebie files to help you with bringing in topics from other disciplines such as Astrology and Kabbalah
  • Membership in the private Tarot Toolkit Facebook group, where you’ll have a safe and friendly place to ask your questions, share your thoughts, and meet up with other Tarot enthusiasts

 

You get all of that for $74 USD at 7/4!

Click HERE or on the graphic below to get your copy of the course now!

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Tarot Tips: Free eBook!

TAROT TIPS book cover

FREE eBook!

Tarot Tips is the first eBook that I’ll be publishing under the Arrow In Flight Metaphysics imprint. I ask you to pay special attention to that qualifying word “first,” because there should be plenty more such offerings following this one in the days ahead…

Meanwhile, this inaugural work is a short but helpful volume that collects up ten easy-to-implement techniques that can really deepen your connection with Tarot. These ideas have all been selected for being just a bit off-center from the usual Tarot teachings, and they should all strengthen your overall Tarot chops, and enable you to see the cards in new and intriguing ways.  If you’re looking to go beyond simply memorizing and reciting Tarot card meanings when you perform your readings, then this slim volume may be exactly what you need.

And best of all, the book is absolutely free!  Also, anyone interested in the Tarot Toolkit Online Course that I taught earlier this year with Vickie Wilson of Eternal Athena Tarot may find a bit of added incentive to take a good look through the pages!

Please give it a try, and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think of it. I hope that some of the techniques found inside will yield some real progress for you in your own Tarot practice.

If you’re ready to try out Tarot Tips, please do the following:

  1. Take a moment to sign up for the Arrow In Flight Mailing List.
  2. In the final “Subscription Confirmed” email that you’ll receive as part of the sign up process, you’ll find a link that will allow you to download your free copy of the Tarot Tips eBook.

And it’s as easy as that – thanks for reading!

Please note: this free eBook is being released as a tie-in to the Tarot Toolkit Online Course, which also may be of interest to you (look inside the eBook for a special Toolkit-related offer!):

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