Friday, 26 May 2017

Gemini in the Minor Arcana: The Eight of Swords

In the system I follow, the first of the Minors that’s associated with Gemini is the Eight of Swords. This is linked to Jupiter in Gemini, as well as to the first ten days of the sign – so this year, from the 20th to 30th of May.

Eight of Swords (trimmed):
©Sharman-Caselli Tarot

Gemini is the mutable Air sign – exchange of knowledge and information through networks, through language and ideas.  It’s about communication, as well as the market place.  Jupiter brings the desire to grow and expand through developing a wider range of skills, through broadening our learning.  It takes Gemini’s need to dip into a variety of interests and turns that into a way to bring greater meaning to life.  Jupiter is in detriment in Gemini, though – so the faith and optimism that we tend to associate with Jupiter can be hindered by excessive worrying, or over-analysis – and even by the constantly changing curiosity of Gemini.  And that, for me, is the clue to Jupiter in Gemini’s association with the Eight of Swords.

The Eight of Swords has come to represent the idea of being restricted by our thoughts, about not being able to see (or choosing not to see) things as they really are. Most images show a woman blindfolded, but loosely bound, surrounded by eight swords. The ties that bind her do not necessarily prevent escape, and there is space between the swords so that she could walk away. 

Eight of Swords (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
The number ‘8’ is associated with re-birth/death or regeneration, both in tarot and in astrology, through the 8th house, so we’re looking at ending old or invalid ideas and beliefs, and the beginning of something new. That ‘something new’ is symbolized by a single bird in the Sharman-Caselli deck (Beginners Guide to the Tarot), and by the new growth in the background in the DruidCraft Tarot – both hard to see if you’re blindfolded.  

That combination of blindfold, ties, and barrier of swords represents the excessive worrying, or the over-thinking of Jupiter in detriment in Gemini.  But remember that Jupiter is a gaseous planet – gas, when heated, expands – so there is a way out!  We need to take of the blindfold – develop our reasoning so that we can see the fears and worries for what they are, and allow ourselves to trust (also symbolized by the bird) in ourselves – to have faith in not only ourselves but also in life.

Eight of Arrows (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
In the Wildwood and Shadowscapes Tarot decks, the emphasis is the same, although the images are different. 

We see a figure struggling through the snow, cold and wind (Gemini being an Air sign) in the Wildwood.  The lantern represents the hope and faith of Jupiter that will help us make choices and overcome the fears and anxieties we encounter on the way.  

Eight of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
In the Shadowscapes, we see a swan surrounded by a barrier of swords.  She’s looking up at the sky, as if she’s aware that there’s an escape route – and if she wasn’t, there’s a little hummingbird above her, lighting the way. So what’s holding her back, apart from the brambles and swords around her? The thorny bramble over her head? The barbed wire at the top of the image? There’s a way out if you stop and breathe – taking a deep breath, expanding (Jupiter) the lungs (Gemini)!

Eight of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Thoth emphasizes that idea of struggling to endure that comes from thinking too much to the point that we are ‘frozen’ by anxiety, doubt, and fear; there’s no longer the clarity to be able to make a decision or choice.  Gerd Zielger (Tarot: Mirror of the Soul, published by Weiser Books) writes about Jupiter being a ‘harbinger of the unforeseen and unexpected change for the better’, and that it’s this, rather than trying to come up with an ‘analytical’ (Gemini) solution to the problem, that will show us the way out.



Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
DruidCraft 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.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington. Published by Connections.    







Saturday, 20 May 2017

Bees and butterflies!

‘Gemini’ © Alison Coals
The sun moved (astrologically speaking!) into Gemini this evening, at 21.30 BST.  Here in the UK, it’s definitely spring, with perhaps a hint of summer on its way!  I’ve been seeing butterflies all over the place, flitting from one wild flower to another.  Butterflies are often used as a symbol of Gemini, which is associated with the element of Air.  The butterfly darts from blossom to blossom, sampling different nectar, much as Gemini represents the gathering of bits of information from various sources.  In doing so, connections are made – socializing, networking...just as we do!

There are quite a few bees around, too. Bees are also symbols of Gemini; they pollinate flowers, reflecting the way in which Gemini disseminates information, collecting a bit of knowledge here and then dropping it off somewhere else.  It’s one of the mutable signs, so is interested in transforming what’s already been established.  Gemini is associated with communication (newspapers, email, telephone, etc.) as well as networks for transportation (roads, railways, vehicles) – anything that moves information or goods (Gemini is ruled by Mercury, the god of not only communication but also trade and commerce) from A to B.  Gemini rules short journeys, though – longer ones are the domain of Sagittarius. Gemini is more interested in the local environment, community, or market – so this covers trips to the shops, and travelling to work, for example.  It’s also associated with neighbours and siblings, as well as early childhood and education received while still living in the ‘home’ or local environment.

Gemini is often said to only be interested in the superficial, but that’s not really fair. Gemini represents intelligence, and a desire to get the facts right, rather like Virgo.  Gemini is interested in how things work, but whereas Virgo might approach this on a more practical basis, Gemini does this through thought, working it out in the head – and then communicating that through words.  Gemini loves language.  

This might be explained by looking at the myth behind Gemini. The constellation of Gemini is that of the twins, Castor and Pollux, who were separated at birth by Zeus. He placed one in the sky, the other on earth. The twins would swap places now and then, and were only able to meet when this exchange occurred. So there are two sides to the Gemini nature, which may be at odds with each other.  Perhaps the earthy twin is the more Virgoan approach, which needs to reach a compromise with its airy, more cerebral twin?! Duality is the key to Gemini – marrying the opposing side.  More of that soon, when we take a look at The Lovers, the Major Arcana card associated with Gemini...


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Taurus in the court cards

King of Pentacles (trimmed):
© Universal Rider-Waite Tarot
Our final foray into Taurus in the tarot – Taurus in the court cards. Again, we have the question – which court card?  Many decks follow the Golden Dawn system, where the fixed signs are assigned to the Kings.  This gives us the King of Pentacles – with the bull being represented quite clearly on the throne in the Universal Rider-Waite deck, for example. This King looks comfortable – he’s achieved what he’s set out to do and is surrounded by what he’s achieved.  Very down-to-earth, practical achievements, as befits a Taurean King – accomplished through hard work, determination, and tenacity.

Prince of Disks (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
 The Thoth deck follows this convention, although there are no Kings in this deck, just to confuse things.  In the Thoth hierarchy, the Prince is at the top of the heap, so it’s the Prince of Disks who’s linked to Taurus.  The bull pulls the chariot in this image, steady, reliable, head down – nothing will stop him in his determination to reach his destination or goal.  Perseverance and patience. The Prince’s nakedness here also represents that straightforwardness, as well as openness and honesty.Behind the chariot we see flowers, while the chariot itself is full of fruit; both represent the abundance of the Earth. Perhaps even the blossoms of spring, in the northern hemisphere at least!


Queen of Pentacles (trimmed):
  
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke, in her Beginner's Guide to the Tarot, assigns the Queens to the fixed signs, on the principle that Kings order things, Queens maintain, and Knights disseminate. So for Taurus, we have the Queen of Pentacles. Again, we see bulls’ heads on her throne.  Venus, the ruler of Taurus, is represented by the roses – symbols of love, youth and beauty. Taurus is often said to be the sign of the farmer and the gardener; well, we see plenty of evidence of nature’s abundance and the labour that’s gone into growing and nurturing it here.  The Queen of Pentacles in this deck is very connected to the earthy reality of Taurus – she’s maintaining what’s been started by the cardinal energy of Aries, and enjoying the fruits of her labour as only Taurus can!

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.
Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Taurus in the Minor Arcana: The Seven of Pentacles

The Seven of Pentacles, in the astrological correspondence system I follow, is linked to Saturn in Taurus - and to the final ten days of this sign.   

Let’s start by looking at what qualities Saturn brings to Taurus. Saturn is about establishing and preserving, as well as about having integrity.  In Taurus, that integrity could grow out of a sense of loyalty or reliability, or perhaps through building (Taurus) or establishing (Saturn) a safe and secure base – one that provides a sense of stability.  Saturn can also be about traditional values, as can Taurus (through its association with the Second House), as well as preserving the status quo, perhaps in order to maintain some sort of approval or recognition within a social context.   There can be a tendency towards conservatism in this combination, as well as that Taurean stubbornness (I like to call it tenacity!), linked to a Saturnian fear of not being in control.  Saturn wants to achieve but Taurus can slow things down, and at its worst could impede progress by not only stubbornness but also laziness.  At its best, progress is slow but sure; it’s steady, and often self-reliant.

Seven of Pentacles (trimmed):
©
 Sharman-Caselli Tarot
But how does this fit with the Seven of Pentacles? This card is often linked to the need to make a decision, depicted by the man on the edge of two fields – one with a well-established crop, one lying fallow, or less developed.  It’s about the choice between the familiar, the established, the ‘tried and tested’ – all very Saturnian – and the promise of something new.  Taurus is represented by the idea of the crops; an achievement on one hand, something that’s required hard work, and on the other, the fertility (symbolized by the rabbit) of the yet-to-be-used soil.  As Juliet Sharman-Burke says in her Beginner's Guide to the Tarot, there’s no judgement here, merely an indication that this is a good time to weigh things up – that we have choices. We can stick with what we know, or branch out.

Seven of Pentacles (trimmed):
©
 Shadowscapes Tarot

The Shadowscapes’ version of this card gives that sense too. I like the phrase given in the LWB: “a calm moment of consideration of alternative and different approaches”.  It’s all about choice – the Devil (Saturn rules Capricorn, the sign associated with The Devil card) you know or the Devil you don’t?! The emphasis is on the fact that the fruit on the trees are things that the figure has planted and nurtured – that this is all of her own making.  She can appreciate what’s she’s achieved through hard work (Saturn in Taurus), and choose what to do with it. 


Seven of Disks (trimmed):
©
 Thoth Tarot
Whereas many other decks show a more Taurean image, in terms of the earthy colours and the rural or agricultural scene, the illustrator of the Thoth deck, Lady Frieda Harris, has chosen much darker colours, drawing on the feelings of restriction perhaps that have been associated with Saturn.  The word that Crowley chose for the card is ‘failure’, which can sound very harsh and depressing.   I feel, however (as with many of the cards in this deck) that it’s coming from the other direction but still bringing us to the same point.   Here we have fear of failing – if we stick to what we know, we’re safe.  Very Saturn in Taurus!  But notice the peacock-feather effect of the background – this reminds us that fear, doubt, anxiety, and worry are all in the mind (birds and feathers being symbols of Air, and hence to mental processes).  We may run the risk of limiting ourselves to old, tried-and-tested ways of doing things (Saturn again), fearing to take a chance and exposing ourselves to something new.  But what if we do some very Saturn-in-Taurus hard work and find a way to accept and let go of those negative thoughts? By doing so, we free ourselves from any restrictions and can choose which direction to go.

Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

The 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 US Games Systems Inc.



Saturday, 6 May 2017

Taurus in the Minor Arcana: The Six of Pentacles

Today we move on to the Six of Pentacles, which - in the system I use - is linked to the Moon in Taurus, and to the middle ten days of this sign. 

Six of Pentacles (trimmed):
© Sharman-Caselli Tarot
Taurus is the fixed Earth sign, so Taurus will want to maintain personal resources in a practical, down-to-earth way. Those resources include anything that gives us a sense of security or stability – so this covers financial matters, material concerns, issues around health and well-being...whatever it takes to make us feel safe and comfortable.

And to help with that, we have the Moon in Taurus. Now, in astrology, the Moon is said to be exalted in Taurus – it feels very comfortable here, even though this isn’t the sign it rules.  The Moon rules Cancer, and is associated with intuition, instinct, feelings (Cancer being a Water sign), as well as protecting and nurturing.  The Moon is about what we need, as opposed to what we want – and it represents our automatic or instinctive responses to things on an emotional level.  In Taurus, that automatic response may not be as speedy as it would be in Aries, for instance, but it’s there – it’s grounded, connected to the earth and nature. It’s patient, willing to wait, to be still.  And of course, the physical sensations that accompany feelings – the ‘gut’ instinct, for example, or the need to be in physical contact (touch) – is very much a part of this.

Six of Pentacles (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
In the Six of Pentacles, we can see the Moon in Taurus in the generosity and sharing of our personal resources with others in need.  The sharing is unconditional, almost unthinking – the instinct to help and care and share comes naturally.  There’s plenty of symbolism in the images used for this card, regardless of deck, to illustrate the attributes of Taurus: the stone arch representing stability, the vine leaves – earth’s bounty, the distant castle – good fortune and wealth. 

The Moon’s contribution is perhaps more subtle, but I see it in the scales – weighing up what’s needed and sharing that, as well as weighing up what we have and can afford to give.  

Six of Pentacles (trimmed):
  
© Shadowscapes Tarot
No scales in the Shadowscapes’ or the Druid Craft’s version, but there is a sense of harmony and potential for growth through the giving and receiving - in the Shadowscapes, as the coins or pentacles – the treasure – falls to the ground, where it can start to grow into something new (as depicted by the new shoot emerging from the ground).  It may not necessarily be money or material help that we can give and receive – it could also be emotional or spiritual assistance.  And of course, the Moon also reminds us that what we want isn’t necessarily what we need!








DruidCraft 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
The Beginner's Guide to the  Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections


Monday, 1 May 2017

Fertility and abundance - The Empress

Fertility and abundance - perfect Beltane topics!

The Empress has an astrological link to Taurus through its ruler, Venus.  Venus is probably best known to us as one of the great lovers in Roman mythology, along with Mars (Aphrodite and Ares in the Greek pantheon). In astrology, the planet has become associated with love and relationships.  It also, by extension, reflects our tastes – what we find beautiful or attractive, or pleasurable. Venus rules Libra, the Airy sign seeking peaceful and harmonious partnership.

The Lady (trimmed):
© Druid Craft Tarot
Our relationship to the more material side comes through Taurus, the Earthy, sensuous sign.  Here our relationship to money and ownership, for instance, comes through. It also reflects our relationship to the Earth itself.

The Empress symbolizes natural, earthy creativity. The earthiness of Taurus brings fertility into the mix, so in The Empress we have the heat and passion of Venus and the nurturing of creativity.  She’s often depicted as a pregnant woman, basking in nature and in the element of Earth, reflecting the idea of fertility and motherhood.  Sometimes a waterfall flowing into a river is present in the image, represents the union of female and male in procreation. Creating life is not the only possibility, of course, but it’s such a wonderful metaphor for the birth of any new creative process.
The Hierophant (trimmed):
©Beginner's Guide to the Tarot

Venus, representing the principle of attraction, brings passion and love to the process, be it a new relationship or a new creative project.  That unconditional love, particularly of a mother, is seen in the Thoth’s version of the card – a pelican feeding its young with its own blood. The Empress not only gives birth but also nurtures its creation through to maturity.


Sometimes we see a Horn of Plenty, or cornucopia, representing abundance – a very Venusian-Taurean concept. Venus’ rulership of Taurus reflects the sense of stability and contentment through being comfortable physically – and through bringing something to fruition.  

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
The Beginner's Guide to Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections


Friday, 28 April 2017

Taurus in the Major Arcana – The Hierophant

Today let’s look at Taurus in the Major Arcana. That means it’s time to look at the Hierophant!

The Hierophant (trimmed):
© HaindlTarot
The word ‘hierophant’ is Greek, meaning ‘he who shows’. This referred to the role of the priest in ancient mystery rites, but could represent any priestly figure whose function is to show the objects that are to be used in any sacred ritual. The Hierophant card has come to be associated with the search for spiritual meaning (often symbolized by a key in the image), as well as with any ‘structure’ or tradition that’s been passed down through family, society, culture, and that influences our thoughts, beliefs, and values. While the High Priestess represents inner awareness, the Hierophant shows us the ‘outer’ forms – the texts, the prayers, the teachings, the rituals.  

Such teachings have held together societies and cultures for millennia – the Haindl Tarot’s Hierophant carries  the Hebrew letter ‘vav’, meaning ‘nail’, to remind us of this.  The Thoth Tarot also uses nails – nine of them – to surround the crown of the Hierophant (although these nails are said to represent the suffering that accompanies change or transformation).  

The Ancestor (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Ritual carries with it a sense of the seasons, the turning of the year.  The Hierophant card in the Haindl Tarot carries a reminder of this through the rune ‘radh’, meaning ‘wheel’.  The Wildwood’s Ancestor represents the end of hibernation and the coming of warmth and light; the return of abundance – a very Taurean word!

Which brings us to the question - why the link to Taurus? The bull was associated with many ancient religions – both patriarchal and matriarchal. In some Stone Age temples, depictions of bull’s heads were found on the walls of chambers used for giving birth; it’s been postulated that the shape of the bull’s head and horns were representative of the shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes.   That aside, Venus – the ruler of Taurus – holds a crescent moon and a sword in the Thoth’s version of the Hierophant, symbolizing the balance between emotion and wisdom.  Compassion in conjunction with knowledge – that’s another meaning ascribed to the Hierophant by Hermann Haindl.  Some might call that the uniting of the feminine and masculine, another theme of the Hierophant, although others would say the Hierophant and High Priestess, both of which sit between two pillars in many decks, represent the masculine and feminine that need to be balanced. 
The Hierophant (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot

Gerd Ziegler, in his Tarot, Mirror of the Soul (Weiser Books, 1988) talks about the Hierophant as symbolizing spirit being made flesh, the bull representing the flesh. Again, the idea of unity, of bringing things into balance.  He also writes about transformation only being able to happen when one is in a receptive state – Taurus being one of the ‘receptive’ signs (along with the other Earth and Water signs).

Remember, Taurus is the fixed Earth sign.  Social mores, religious dogma, cultural traditions passed down from one generation to the next (depicted by the grandfather-father-son in the Haindl image) – these all carry the idea of being fixed – perhaps even (talking of fixed Earth!) ‘set in stone’.  That’s not to say that such structures, or the institutions associated with them, can’t or won’t change.  But it’s not just about conformity to society’s rules, it’s also about changing or transforming. The people associated with those structures – be they teachers, priests, mentors, gurus, advisors, therapists – can help to explore our psyche, our need to find a higher purpose or inner meaning, regardless of creed or doctrine.  The Hierophant is about a journey, a search... see the new moon in the Wildwood card? A new beginning – and with Venus there too, as the morning star, offering hope.  Such a search will require strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience – all good Taurean qualities!

Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl. Published by US Games Systems Inc.

Thoth Tarot, created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. Published by US Games Systems Inc.

Wildwood Tarot, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington. Published by Connections.