Monday 14 April 2014

Aries in the Minor Arcana: The Four of Wands

The last of the three minors associated with Aries, the Four of Wands is linked to Venus in Aries, and to the final ten days of Aries (10th-19th/20th April).   

First of all, what qualities does Venus bring to the cardinal Fire of Aries? Well, Venus is associated with the appreciation of beauty, the forces of attraction and sensuality, as well as creativity and fertility.  In Aries, it will express affection in a very direct way, often impulsively and with enthusiasm.  It will enjoy new experiences, and the early stages of relationships.  As Mars rules Aries, the Venus-Mars interplay can make it difficult for relationships to run smoothly – Venus’ need for closeness and Mars’ assertiveness can find themselves locking horns!  Venus in Aries is very giving, very demonstrative, and responds well to others.

Universal Waite Tarot
It may be hard to see how this works in the Four of Wands. For me, the key - in traditional Pamela Coleman-Smith-based depictions of the card – is the flowers, the garlands that festoon the marquee or wands.  Flowers and blossoms are very Venusian (through Venus’ rule of Taurus) – the ‘blossoming of pleasure’ fits with the theme of celebration that’s become associated with this card.  The wreath too, representing success, is also Venusian – both in its rule of Taurus and Libra.  In some versions of this card, we see oranges in the garlands – a solar (Fire) fruit.

The castle in the background represents what’s been accomplished – it’s not so far in the distance that it’s out of reach, but there’s still a distance to go.  The marquee, or tent, or area around the fire – depending on what deck you’re using – is marked out by four wands or staves or bows... four being the number of stability and security (four corners, a square – a solid geometric figure that’s hard to shift).  It’s safe to stop and celebrate, to enjoy a break in the journey, to receive the well –earned praise that the Sun in Aries in the previous card, the Three, wants. Venus is happy to give it.

Wildwood Tarot
No sign of the four-square-ness in the Wildwood’s Four of Bows, but I love this card so much – the joy of the dance, the celebration... there seems to me to be a sense of safety and security as these figures dance in wild abandon, enjoying their well-earned break through the wood.

There’s a sense of that joy and jubilation in the Shadowscapes’ Four of Wands as well – unicorns dancing in the bright sun...although I can’t find any connection between Venus and unicorns, other than these unicorns clearly demonstrating their happiness!

Thoth Tarot
Not all decks work with this image, however. Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, uses a spoked wheel to symbolize completion of the first stage.  The spokes of the wheel have a dove (Venus) at one end, and a ram’s head (Mars) at the other, reflecting the need to balance the two in order to maintain Venusian harmony and the continuation of the journey, so newly begun.  In order to move on to the next stage, we have to ensure that the initial stage is completed, that there are no loose ends, that there’s no unfinished business or conflicts to be resolved.  Venusian love and respect of the others involved eases any tension with Martian energy, and provides support – the four-cornered solidity of the square.

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

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

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

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.

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 the accompanying book to the Sharman-Caselli 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.

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. 

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 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

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.