Let’s continue our exploration of Aquarius in the tarot with the Major Arcana. We already know that it combines the element of air with fixed energy, making it a very ‘in your head’ sign. It’s associated with ideology and reform, humanitarianism and working with community and groups. In Greek mythology, Ganymede was the cup-bearer to the gods, serving them with the nectar or ambrosia which gave them immortality – and was placed in the heavens as the constellation Aquarius as his reward. The contents of that cup were life-sustaining – and what is it that sustains us, more often than not? Hope. And what card in the Major Arcana could we connect with hope? The Star!
Traditional depictions of The Star show us a young, naked woman with two pitchers of water – a water carrier. Her youth is said to symbolize renewal, while her nakedness represents truth for all to see. In the Sharman-Caselli version, she has one foot on land (past) and the other in water (the future), linking the two - and perhaps also linking the conscious and unconscious. The foot in water also links us to the Pool of Memory, allowing us to remember events that give us hope, that sustain us. Her two water jugs sustain both the land and the pool. See too how the water on the land separates into five streams, symbolizing our five senses, before returning to the pool. Aquarius may be detached, but it can certainly feed us, providing us with hope and optimism – the promise of a new day (dawn). The card carries the number 17, 1 + 7: there is one large star in the dawn sky, surrounded by seven smaller ones, adding up to eight, the number of re-birth and regeneration – more promise of hope.
The Shadowscapes Tarot gives us a more ethereal figure. She's not a water carrier in the strictest sense of the word, although both water and air (remember we're talking about Aquarius here) are present in the image - her feet dance in water while the rest of her dances in the air against a backdrop of the Milky Way, representing perhaps the fixedness of this sign (yes, there are some stars that are referred to as 'fixed'!). According to the creator, in the accompanying Shadowscapes Companion (see details below), "she dances the dance that the stars have choreographed...their silent homage to the burning spirit they have witnessed." So although in reality stars shine with their own light, you could say these ones are reflecting the hope that each person carries!
Sailors used to, perhaps still do, navigate by the stars at night. The Pole Star is one of the (apparently) ‘fixed’ star in the sky, making it particularly useful in celestial navigation – and therefore a symbol of hope in its own right. In the Wildwood Tarot, the Pole Star is referred to as a symbol of “universal law, spiritual knowledge and power”. What brings it back to the traditional meaning of the Star, for me, is the idea of universal knowledge being a web – a very Aquarian concept!
The Thoth uses the Egyptian sky goddess Nuit (also known as Nu, Nut, and Nuith) to depict the water carrier. Here we get more of a sense of the ideological aspects of Aquarius – Nuit receives inspiration from the universe and allows it to flow through her, passing it on to humanity, or the greater good. The card represents clarity of vision, which we could associate with the ‘airiness’ of Aquarius, while Nuit appears to be grounded, representing the ‘fixedness’ of the sign.
No surprise that Imbolc occurs during our sojourn in Aquarius – first signs of spring bringing forth hope.The Imbolc Tarot Blog Hop takes place on 2nd February – watch this space!
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