Monday 23 February 2015

Pisces in the Major Arcana

Let’s start our exploration of Pisces in the tarot with the Major Arcana. The card associated with Pisces is the eighteenth one, The Moon.  That often comes as a surprise – you might think that The Moon in the tarot would be associated with the Moon in the sky, but no, confusingly, the Moon that orbits the Earth is linked to the High Priestess.  

Sharman-Caselli Tarot
So why The Moon?  Well, let’s think back to what we know about Pisces. It’s the mutable water sign, the sign that puts no boundaries on emotions and feelings, the sign that merges conscious with unconscious, that’s linked to compassion, sensitivity, all-encompassing love and nurturing... all qualities that have become associated with the Moon.  Often referred to as a psychic sign, Pisces is interested in exploring the soul, the psyche. It opposes Virgo on the axis of ‘service’ – while Virgo wants to be of use on a practical level, Pisces wants to be involved on the spiritual level.  Pisces can feel restricted by the ‘mundanity’ of everyday life; it wants to transcend this, and does so through dreams (the daydream variety or in sleep) as well as through creative expression and the imagination.  The Moon card, too, is linked to intense dreams and the power of the imagination. 

Haindl Tarot
Pisces floats through life, flowing with the tides – another link to the Moon. The gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, combined with the effects of the rotation of the Earth, produce the rise and fall in sea level – the ebb and flow of the tides.  The Moon is also linked to cycles through its phases – new, waxing, full, waning, old. Depictions of The Moon card often show this – for example, we see in both the Sharman-Caselli and the Haindl decks the new, full and old, representing potential as unfulfilled (‘Maiden’), fulfilled (‘Mother’), and spent (‘Crone’) respectively. The Thoth’s Moon card shows us only the waning crescent moon, representing the journey into the depths of the soul, while the Shadowscapes’ Moon is a crescent suggestive of new birth.

Thoth Tarot
 The shadow side of Pisces can be a tendency to escape into a fantasy world, a world of illusion – which can also lead to addiction.  The Moon card is often associated with illusion – that things are not what they seem. Rachel Pollack, in her Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled (Llewellyn Publications, 2005) talks about ‘the passage through the unknown’, and how this can refer to actual journeys as well as inner ones. Either can be adventures, journeys of discovery – but both involve uncertainty.  Sometimes the uncertainty can make us feel a little ‘mad’ – bringing us to the link between the Moon and lunacy (‘luna’ being Latin for ‘moon’).  The dog and wolf (jackal and wolf, in the Thoth) often depicted in the Moon card represent the wildness, the animal instinct to howl at the moon, to run wild, the ‘madness’ that needs to be released, the unconscious.  Have you noticed how rarely people are depicted in this card? It’s often only animals...

Shadowscapes Tarot
...although the Shadowscapes’ Moon is an exception. Here we see a woman, a symbol of the feminine often associated with the Moon. The ‘madness’ is represented by the fairy-like creatures that dance about her – the deck’s creators write, in  the accompanying book, of “voices so lovely that they drive mortals mad with longing” and “spark and glitter to taunt and lead astray any human” (Shadowscapes Companion, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, Llewellyn, 2010).  The mushrooms in the foreground could also speak of this, or at least the illusory nature of this card – and the potential danger of becoming lost in illusion or fantasy.

We often see water in the Moon card, another link back to the water sign of Pisces.  In the Sharman-Caselli deck, the water in the image is the Pool of Forgetfulness, representing not only the unconscious mind but also the experiences we want to forget, or the things we fear (also symbolized by the crayfish/crab, which – half in water, half on land – symbolizes the feelings that are never allowed to be made conscious).  By accepting the fears, the ‘madness’, the uncertainty, we gain access to instinct, to our unconscious – the goal of Pisces!

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

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.

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