Thursday 22 February 2018

Pisces in the Major Arcana

As usual, 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. 

XVIII The Moon  (trimmed):
© Druid CraftTarot
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.

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.  

XVIII The Moon  (trimmed):
© Shadowscapes Tarot
Depictions of The Moon card often show this – for example, we see in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli, the Druid Craft, 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 - although there are two much larger, fuller moon-shapes behind it, which could represent the three phases. 

XVIII The Moon (trimmed):
© 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 shown in this card, only animals?

The Moon (trimmed):
© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Those animals can also symbolize irrational fears of 'creatures of the night' and of things unseen or hidden, lost or buried in memory.

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!

18 The Moon (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Water is also prevalent in the Wildwood Tarot's Moon on the Water. Here we have a Full Moon over a marshy landscape - this image makes me think of the Arthurian summerlands (perhaps because I live in that very landscape!).  The 'passage through the unknown', perhaps?  Again, more animal symbolism. The heron, a water bird, represents psychic ability as well as reflection - and there's plenty of reflection in the imagery! The heron also stands at the gateway between life and death, acting as mediator on the soul's journey to the  underworld. Or between conscious and unconscious? That makes me think of the jackals (or dogs, or wolves) in other images.   The horns of the aurochs represent the waxing and waning moon, as well as fertility - and there's the egg, waiting to be fertilized as we head towards Aries, the start of the astrological new 'year'.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Druid Craft 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

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