Wednesday 27 August 2014

Virgo in the Major Arcana

Secret Tarot

Let’s start our exploration of Virgo in the tarot with the Major Arcana.  In the system I follow (which uses some but not all of the attributions of the Golden Dawn), the Hermit is associated with Virgo.  Not the most obvious association, perhaps, given what we know about Virgoan qualities.   

Of all the images of the Hermit that I’ve come across, the one that gives me clues on the Virgo connection is the one from the Thoth – specifically, in the sheaves of grain in the background. The sheaves have ripened; we can see the Hermit’s harvest. It’s become visible to the world - it’s seen ‘the light of day’.  This begins to sound like the Hermit now – casting a light so that we can find our way.  More traditional images of the Hermit often include a lantern as the sole source of illumination.  

Thoth Tarot
Virgo is the sixth sign in the zodiac.  All the signs up to this point have focused on the individual and our inner world.  Virgo is the last of these; after her, the emphasis turns to the outer, public domain.  The word ‘completion’ is sometimes used as a meaning for the Hermit; we can see this in the harvest, but also in the ‘completion’ of the first half of the zodiac – the part of the journey around the wheel dealing with ‘self’ is complete, opening the way to a bigger arena to nurture and eventually harvest.

Virgo can be introspective, with much of its analytical and/or critical nature directed at the self, not others.  There’s a taste of the Hermit here, particularly in terms of introspection – one of the traditional meanings associated with the card.   The journey is taken alone, requiring courage and trust in oneself.  In the Thoth deck, we see aspects of the ‘shadow’ side of the card in the three-headed hellhound, Cerebus.  See how one head looks back? For me, that’s a Virgo trait – looking back to make sure everything’s been dealt with, all the details tidied up, before moving further along that contemplative path. The Hermit keeps his eyes down, watching the path for potential difficulties that might lie ahead.

Haindl Tarot
The Hermit is also associated with meditation - withdrawing, even if only for a short time, from the outer world and turning our attention inwards.  It's not a selfish desire, but a genuine need for solitude so that we can look at where we are and what we've learned.  The female equivalent of the male hermit, historically, was the crone - the wise, older woman, who draws on what she's learned from her experiences.

When we think of the archetypal hermit, we often associate such withdrawal from society with self-denial. Hermann Haindl's Hermit focuses more on the joy that can come through closer contact with ourselves and the natural world. 
Shadowscapes Tarot

The Shadowscapes’ Hermit also depicts withdrawal from the world; here we see a figure poised on a rocky pinnacle (representing Earth), “clear of the smog of humanity...the air attains...a purity he does not know he has missed until he breathes it for the first time” (Shadowscapes Companion, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, Llewellyn, 2010). As we complete our harvest and begin the introspective part of the year, our eyes will become accustomed to the darkness and we will be able to continue our journey.

Haindl Tarot created by Hermann Haindl, published by US Games Systems, Inc.
Secret Tarot created by Marco Nizzoli, published by Lo Scarabeo.
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 US Games Systems, Inc. 


Tuesday 19 August 2014

Leo in the court cards

Universal Waite Tarot

Different traditions have different astrological correspondences when it comes to the Court Cards. For instance, the Book-Tsystem attributes the cardinal attributes (initiating things) to the Queens, fixed (maintaining order) to the Kings, and mutable (being able to adapt and transform; disseminate) to the Knights.  Each court card is also linked to the elements, with Pages with Earth, Knights being associated with Fire, Queens with Water, and Kings with Air.  Following this system, we end up with Leo being associated with the King of Wands (Fire of Fire).  It’s actually more complicated than that, though, as each court card ruling from 20° in one sign to 20° in the next.  This means that Leo is associated with the Knight of Pentacles (Fire of Earth) as well – but I stick to the card on the cusp of Leo, the King of Wands.

Shadowscapes Tarot
In this image from the Universal Rider Waite, we can see symbols of the lion on the wall behind the King of Wands’ throne.  The Shadowscapes’ King of Wands contains lions too, representing the fierce pride of the king. He’s the alpha male, king of his pride, and not afraid to go after whatever he wants.  Confident, strong, bold – and graceful, too.

Thoth Tarot
Crowley followed this tradition too, in his Thoth deck.  Although he chose to have Princes rather than Kings we can see the power of the Sun, as Leo’s ruler, coming through in this image, not to mention the lion pulling the chariot. The Sun King rides!  Like the child, or children, often seen in the Sun card this figure is naked, symbolizing freedom and openness.  He feels no need for protection.  He holds a phoenix-headed staff in one hand, the phoenix being the bird that burns and rises from the ashes – another symbol of renewal, much like the child in the Sun card. Here we have the master of creativity – nothing standing in his way.  There’s strength here too – a combination of Strength and the Sun, if you like.

Sharman-Caselli Tarot
Other decks follow a different convention. They keep the Knights as carriers of mutable qualities, but have the Queens taking on the ‘fixed’ attributes and the Kings the ‘cardinal’ ones.  This gives us the Queen of Wands as the Leo card.  That combination of fire and fixed-ness suggests a mix of fiery enthusiasm and optimism, but there are some boundaries this Queen won’t cross. She’s not going to take risks – not in the way that the roving, changeable Knight or the dynamic, ‘go-getter’ (cardinal) King might.  But she’s quite likely to be able to look after a number of things at the same time – she can compartmentalize very successfully, and can make herself available to whoever needs her.  And given all the mythology (see my previous post, ‘Leo in the Major Arcana’) linking women with lions, it feels appropriate that it should be the Queen, rather than one of the other Wands court cards, with the link to the sign of Leo!

Druidcraft Tarot
In this image from the Sharman-Caselli tarot, we can see lions decorating her throne, as well as a lion-coloured cat at her feet! Even in the Druidcraft tarot, which tends to follow a more druidic wheel of the year, the Queen of Wands has a rather lion-like cat under her throne... and although the Universal Waite’s Queen’s cat is black, those lions adorn her throne too.

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