Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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).  


Today I'm looking at 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. 



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.  


Sharman-Caselli Tarot
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.  


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.

Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes Tarot gives us another image to work with. The figure is caught up in the chase, but has to stay the course – 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!
 


Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Sharman-Caselli 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, 26 July 2014

Leo in the Tarot: the Major Arcana


Sharman-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 Gilmagesh. 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.


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. 

Shadowscapes Tarot
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!

Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood’s Woodward, which sits on the Wheel of the Year at Lammas (1st August – look out for the Lammas Tarot Blog Hop in a few days!), 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.



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

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