Friday 28 April 2017

Taurus in the Major Arcana – The Hierophant

Today let’s look at Taurus in the Major Arcana. That means it’s time to look at the Hierophant!

The Hierophant (trimmed):
© HaindlTarot
The word ‘hierophant’ is Greek, meaning ‘he who shows’. This referred to the role of the priest in ancient mystery rites, but could represent any priestly figure whose function is to show the objects that are to be used in any sacred ritual. The Hierophant card has come to be associated with the search for spiritual meaning (often symbolized by a key in the image), as well as with any ‘structure’ or tradition that’s been passed down through family, society, culture, and that influences our thoughts, beliefs, and values. While the High Priestess represents inner awareness, the Hierophant shows us the ‘outer’ forms – the texts, the prayers, the teachings, the rituals.  

Such teachings have held together societies and cultures for millennia – the Haindl Tarot’s Hierophant carries  the Hebrew letter ‘vav’, meaning ‘nail’, to remind us of this.  The Thoth Tarot also uses nails – nine of them – to surround the crown of the Hierophant (although these nails are said to represent the suffering that accompanies change or transformation).  

The Ancestor (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Ritual carries with it a sense of the seasons, the turning of the year.  The Hierophant card in the Haindl Tarot carries a reminder of this through the rune ‘radh’, meaning ‘wheel’.  The Wildwood’s Ancestor represents the end of hibernation and the coming of warmth and light; the return of abundance – a very Taurean word!

Which brings us to the question - why the link to Taurus? The bull was associated with many ancient religions – both patriarchal and matriarchal. In some Stone Age temples, depictions of bull’s heads were found on the walls of chambers used for giving birth; it’s been postulated that the shape of the bull’s head and horns were representative of the shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes.   That aside, Venus – the ruler of Taurus – holds a crescent moon and a sword in the Thoth’s version of the Hierophant, symbolizing the balance between emotion and wisdom.  Compassion in conjunction with knowledge – that’s another meaning ascribed to the Hierophant by Hermann Haindl.  Some might call that the uniting of the feminine and masculine, another theme of the Hierophant, although others would say the Hierophant and High Priestess, both of which sit between two pillars in many decks, represent the masculine and feminine that need to be balanced. 
The Hierophant (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot

Gerd Ziegler, in his Tarot, Mirror of the Soul (Weiser Books, 1988) talks about the Hierophant as symbolizing spirit being made flesh, the bull representing the flesh. Again, the idea of unity, of bringing things into balance.  He also writes about transformation only being able to happen when one is in a receptive state – Taurus being one of the ‘receptive’ signs (along with the other Earth and Water signs).

Remember, Taurus is the fixed Earth sign.  Social mores, religious dogma, cultural traditions passed down from one generation to the next (depicted by the grandfather-father-son in the Haindl image) – these all carry the idea of being fixed – perhaps even (talking of fixed Earth!) ‘set in stone’.  That’s not to say that such structures, or the institutions associated with them, can’t or won’t change.  But it’s not just about conformity to society’s rules, it’s also about changing or transforming. The people associated with those structures – be they teachers, priests, mentors, gurus, advisors, therapists – can help to explore our psyche, our need to find a higher purpose or inner meaning, regardless of creed or doctrine.  The Hierophant is about a journey, a search... see the new moon in the Wildwood card? A new beginning – and with Venus there too, as the morning star, offering hope.  Such a search will require strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience – all good Taurean qualities!

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

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.    

Monday 24 April 2017

Taurus in the Minor Arcana: The Five of Pentacles

Today I’m looking at the role of Taurus in the Minor Arcana.  In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Taurus is linked to the Five, Six and Seven of Pentacles – or Disks, or Coins, or Stones...depending on the deck.  Today I’m going to look at the Five of Pentacles, which corresponds to Mercury in Taurus – and the first ten days of Taurus.

Taurus is the fixed Earth sign, so we’re looking at maintaining our resources in a practical, down-to-earth way. Those resources include anything that gives us a sense of security or stability – so this covers financial matters, material concerns, issues around health and well-being...whatever it takes to make us feel safe and comfortable.

Mercury is about sharing and trading information and ideas. Normally when we think of Mercury, we might envisage the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, but in Taurus it’s much harder for him to get off the ground, let alone fly!  Instead, he finds himself having to take care with his words, having to speak more slowly and with more consideration.  Having to slow down and be more deliberate and down-to-earth is a challenge to Mercury!  Rather than communicating through words and ideas, he may express himself in a more physical way.

Five of Pentacles (trimmed):©Sharman-Caselli Tarot
So how might this play out in the Five of Pentacles?  Let start with a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction, for example, the Sharman-Caselli deck. Here we see two beggars shivering in the cold, unaware of the warmth and shelter and help on the other side of the window.   They are aware of physical sensation, in this case the cold, but they are so lost in the physicality that they can’t see beyond that.  The assumption here is that they’ve also lost all their material possessions – a source of concern to the Taurean archetype. If they were to look up at the window though, not only would they see the promise of light and warmth, but also the fruit and flowers carved in the stone around the window, reminding them of the bounty of the earth – which they haven’t lost.

Five of Pentacles ((trimmed):©Shadowscapes Tarot
Juliet Sharman-Burke talks about ‘the loss of wealth and faith’ for this card. The loss of wealth – financial or material - is perhaps easier to see.  The loss of faith comes through the loss of self-worth that can accompany loss of status in the material world.  Mercury brings the anxiety and worry, through its ‘Air-iness’ – the thoughts and beliefs that we carry in our minds – to the earthy concerns around Taurean comfort and security. But it’s not just about the money; the loss of faith or self-esteem or self-worth can also lead us into a ‘black hole’ of feeling hopeless; it may be time to address more ‘spiritual’ issues too.

The Shadowscapes deck also has this sense of being cut off or lost, but this (for me) is more to do with the pose of the figure, and with the way it’s been squeezed into a small space in the bottom right corner of the card.  The pentacles in the top left corner seem huge – so there is a sense of imbalance or destabilization. 

Five of Pentacles ((trimmed):©DruidCraft tarot
The DruidCraft, though, shows us this sense of loss in a woman, obviously in distress, leaning against a tree.  Her eyes are covered by her hands, so she can’t ‘see’ – she only feels what’s within.  On the horizon, a greyhound chases a hare – part of the story of Taliesin, who is trying to escape Ceridwen. In the first part of the chase, he takes the form of a hare, while Ceridwen assumes the shape of a greyhound. The chase – shown in the Fives of all suits in the deck – symbolizes the need to transform, to find a way forward from the crisis, the loss, that the Five of Pentacles represents.
Five of Disks ((trimmed):©Thoth Tarot

In the Thoth deck, the emphasis is similar, the focus here being ‘worry’ (Mercurical) over the state of our personal resources. It’s a reminder not to let worry and anxiety over such matters prevail to the point that we find ourselves stuck in a rut.  The pentagram in the image is upside-down, suggesting that things are out of balance.  Communication will be a key, thanks again to Mercury, in finding a way out of the ‘black hole’ or rut that we find ourselves in.

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 U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

The bull roars!

At 22.26 BST today, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Taurus. Here in the northern hemisphere, the buds that started to appear in Aries (or maybe even earlier, this year) are now bursting into blossom.  Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty (among other things), adding an appreciation of the splendour of the natural world around us.

Taurus, though Venus’ rulership, has become known as the sensual sign of the zodiac.  Through our senses, we experience the growth of the seeds planted in Aries – we see the colour, we smell the blossom, we hear the birds, the bees... the world continuing to come to life and live up to the promises and intentions set in Aries.  I have to admit to a particular attraction to this time of year, being a double Taurus! There’s so much pleasure to be had simply by going for a walk in the woods, or out on the Levels – seeing and listening to all the birds, seeing the flowers coming out. Even in my mini-garden I love watching the plants beginning to emerge.

In astrology, Taurus is one of the three Earth signs, along with Virgo and Capricorn, as well as being one of the four Fixed signs. You could say that this makes it the most enduring of the three Earth signs, although some might associate that with stubbornness!  It takes what’s been initiated in Aries and gives in form – as we see in the natural world around us at this time of year (again, apologies for the northern hemisphere bias).  

Taurus is often called ‘the builder’; it provides the stability as well as the tenacity to maintain what’s been started.  Other qualities associated with Taurus are solidity, dependability, reliability, patience, and perseverance.  Taurus is a hard worker, like the other Earth signs, willing to put in the hours in order to maintain financial and/or material security.

Taurus is also known for being indulgent!  Going back to the sensuality of Taurus, via Venus, it’s not only pleasure through sight, smell and sound, but also taste and touch.  Good food and wine... and not only the enjoyment of consuming (Easter eggs, perhaps?!) but also the growing.  Being an earth sign, Taurus loves being close to the earth – it’s the sign of the farmer and the gardener - but by extension, to any form of creativity.  

‘Taurus’ © Alison Coals
As an example, the idea for the image to the left (from my AstroArt series) was born during an exploration of Taurus during a workshop held at Chalice Well in Glastonbury and in the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac., a few years ago. The exploration of our senses in those surroundings brought ‘Taurus’ (a collage created with watercolour on paper) into being!