"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tarots Explained


Game Cards : Les Tarots was the name given to a French card game that was the forerunner of bridge. Its Italian equivalent was Tarocchi. This Tarocchi set is a late 19th-century design, and includes the major arcana, cards 12-21. 

The Tarot cards are in effect two packs in one: the major arcana, which consist of twenty-two trump cards, each one unique; and the minor arcana, which differ from modern playing cards only in that the court cards in each of the suits are four in number (king, queen, knight and page or princess) instead of three, and that the suits themselves are pentacles (or coins), cups, wands and swords. It seems likely that the two packs were once separate, and were brought together because they served a common purpose - of which more in a moment.

The origins of the Tarot remain a mystery. Attempts have been made to trace it back variously to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, India and China, and its introduction into Europe has been credited to both the Arabs and the Gypsies (Romanies). Another theory is that the minor arcana were based, in part at least, upon unknown sets of cards brought back by Venetian traders from the East some time prior to the 15th century, and associated with the Hindu god Vishnu. Vishnu is traditionally shown with four arms and holding the disc, lotus, club and conch which symbolize the divine powers of preservation (karma yoga), love (bhakti yoga), wisdom (jnana yoga) and inner realization (raja yoga) - See Symbol Systems and Occult Systems. These four symbols may be the origin of the four suits of the minor arcana.

If this is the case, the cards of the minor arcana were intended not as playing cards but as allegories of the soul's journey along four parallel paths toward spiritual enlightenment. In the course of this journey the individual progresses through the stages represented by each numbered card and court card to the ultimate level of kingship. The major arcana, which probably also came to Venice from the East, may have been designed to show a more esoteric and profound spiritual route in which the four paths of the minor arcana are integrated into one. How the two packs became combined into one is unclear. Recognizing their similar purpose, occultists in northern Italy may have used them as alternatives, with the result that over the years they became more and more closely identified with each other, until the distinction between them disappeared. Certainly during this period the cards went through many modifications until they attained something like their present form.

The first recorded pack to resemble modern packs was made for the Duke of Milan in 1415, though some claim that the seventeen Tarot cards held in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris are remnants of a deck known to have been made for Charles VI of France in 1392. Whichever of these is the more ancient, it is certain that from the early 15th century the cards came to be widely used in France as well as in Italy, and eventually spread throughout Europe. In the course of time their original intention became overlaid by their role as playing cards, and because the major arcana proved too complex for this purpose, they disappeared from what is now the modern playing pack.


There is a strong tradition that locates the Tarot's origins in the body of universal knowledge laid down by the Egyptian god Thoth for his disciples in magic. Inspired by this theory, a Paris wig-maker who called himself Etteilla(his real name spelled in reverse) devised his own Tarot pack for divination purposes. This was taken up in the mid 19th century by Eliphas Levi (the occult pseudonym of Alphonse Louis Constant) who extended Etteilla's ideas into a complete system, based on Egyptian images, but linked also with the Kabbalah.

The Waite Pack : The Waite pack in many ways revolutionized the Tarot in the 20th century. Designed by Arthur Edward Waite, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (see Symbol Systems and Occult Systems), and painted by Pamela Colman, the Waite (or "Rider") pack set an example followed by many later packs. The cards of the minor arcana show scenes rather than merely the number of symbols from the suit, and this extends the scope of the diviner in his or her interpretation of the images. This is one reason for the pack's popularity around the world, despite a proliferation of other Tarot packs during the last twenty-five years.

Although Levi's interpretation is based on suspect premises, the Kabbalistic echoes of the Tarot are undeniable. For example, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet correspond with the twenty-two major arcana of the Tarot; and the four suits of the minor arcana could be said to reflect the four Kabbalistic "worlds", the four steps by which God created the cosmos. Levi's theories were a significant influence on Arthur Edward Waite (see above), who devised one of the most popular packs in use today. 

The major arcana constitute one of the most intriguing of all symbol systems, combining mysteries of the past with a complex and powerful system of inner growth. To spend time with the Tarot and identify with its images is to commence a journey of self-discovery that can leave the individual profoundly changed. The twenty-two cards of the major arcana are a symbolic synopsis of our own nature. One way of expressing this is that they are an attempt to represent the factors that go to make up our personality, an attempt which predates the efforts of modern psychologists by more than five hundred years.


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Working With Tarot


In order to make use of the major arcana as a method of self-discovery, it is necessary to spend time reflecting on what each of the twenty-two cards represents. Read the descriptions given in the following, then take one card at a time, and for several days allow your mind to return to it as often as you can. Put the card somewhere prominent and look at it as often as possible. Allow the image to become firmly fixed in your mind, so that you are able to visualize it in detail and hold it in your mind as you drift into sleep each night. Ask the central figure (or figures) in the image what it has to tell you about yourself. Don't worry whether you are talking to an image that has objective reality or simply to an aspect of your own unconscious. In all work with symbols, results come only if we cease to plague ourselves with the need for logical explanations. The image is simply there, existing in its own dimension. Let the image do the work for you.

In this way, use each of the twenty-two cards in turn. Take them in the order in which they appear in the pack, from The Fool to The World. Don't allow personal preferences for certain cards to influence you unduly. Note these preferences, and then put them to one side. Don't regard some cards as "good" and others as "bad". Each has its part to play.

You may need to stay longer with some cards than with others, but after a time each card will start to stimulate self-insights. Some of these will be very clear, as if that aspect of yourself is already well known and accepted by you. Others will be more shadowy. Note the fact: this is an important discovery in itself. When you feel that a card has revealed all it can for now, move on, but don't rush things. Stay with each card until a conviction arises that you have grasped its message. Draw or paint the card to help it speak directly to your unconscious. Once you can visualize it clearly with eyes closed, sit in a relaxed but upright position and meditate deeply upon it by holding it in your awareness and disregarding any extraneous thoughts. When you can concentrate upon it to the exclusion of all else, imagine that the frame around the image is the frame of a door, and that you are looking out onto the scene in front of you. Then step through the door and become part of the scene. Notice how at this point events may take on a life of their own, as they do in a dream. Allow the scene to unfold around you, and see what happens.

When you have worked through all twenty-two cards, you will have a deeper and richer awareness of aspects of yourself. Analyse this awareness. Are there aspects of yourself that are clearly undeveloped and need more freedom? Are there other aspects which arouse shame? Are there aspects that are obvious strengths, and can be allowed more space to flourish? You may have noticed, as you proceeded through the cards, a cumulative effect of insights from the earlier cards being carried into your work with the later ones. All the cards have their role to play, but the order in which you face them is important. You cannot proceed properly to card number one, The Magician, until you have recognized in yourself the innocence, the "don't know mind" (as Zen Buddhism puts it) of the first, unnumbered card, The Fool. And you cannot proceed properly to card number two, the High Priestess, until you have recognized The Magician within yourself, your own inner power to transform and change.


Divination 

For many people, the best-known use of the major arcana (some systems employ the minor as well) is as a means of divination. The cards are shuffled, spread face down in a certain way, and then turned up one by one in order to reveal certain things about the personality of someone present, or to provide advice about problems or insights into the future. Nevertheless, it is well to remember, when using the Tarot for divination, that occult tradition claims other, superior purposes for it. In divination each card is interpreted by the diviner, instead of revealing itself more fully through meditation and study. At the end of each of the descriptions that follow, are some of the divinatory meanings usually attached to each card, but if you wish to use the pack for this purpose you should first go through the process described above, so that each card is allowed to come properly alive for you. It hardly needs saying that divination is best done for oneself, rather than by another person. 

When using the cards for divination, you need to reverse some by turning those you hold in your hand through ninety degrees each time you cut the pack. When you lay the cards in a spread and begin the process of divination, any card which is reversed when turned face-up represents negative aspects of the qualities concerned. Within the spread, each card is also influenced by those adjacent to it. Thus a positive card may be hindered by negative (reversed) cards, while the effects of a negative card may be lessened by positive ones. However, two positive cards may cancel each other out if they are clearly carrying conflicting messages, and the same can be true of two negative cards. Remember always that when answering questions about the future the cards are giving advice, not saying what is bound to happen. Nothing seen in the cards is inevitable, and negative cards should be taken as a warning rather than as certain indicators of ill-fate.

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0.The Fool


In the medieval world the fool was not always viewed as a simpleton. As the court jester, he was seen as possessing a naive wisdom that made him wiser at times than those around him. In addition, he was allowed to break the rules of court etiquette. He was outside the system, laughed at but in a strange way privileged. The fool, like Socrates, was wise enough to know that he knew nothing. His mind was not overloaded with preconceptions and definitions. He saw things as they were. In the Tarot, The Fool is that part of ourselves that is wise enough to stand awestruck before the mystery of creation, and bold enough to set off exploring. The Fool is the only card in the major arcana that is unnumbered, and he has no set position in the order of the cards. He symbolizes the part of us that looks out upon the thoughts, feelings and dreams playing across the shadow theater of the mind. Carrying the minimum of possessions and the pilgrim's staff, egged on by a strange animal (sometimes a cat or dog) symbolizing the inner motivation that snaps at our heels once we start to question the nature of reality, The Fool steps toward the unknown - the inner self. 

Divinatory meaning: unplanned incident or endeavor; unexpected new beginning of some kind. Can turn out well if flanked by fortunate cards, otherwise can indicate an unwise move. Reversed: impetuous foolishness. 


I.The Magician


Magic is essentially the process of transformation. Without some inner magic, our real self is doomed to lie forever hidden under the confused world of emotions, physical needs and social conditioning. The Magician (also called The Juggler) is the part of ourselves that inaugurates this transformation. On the table in front of The Magician is a collection of implements: some packs show the pentacle, the chalice, the wand and the sword, symbolizing respectively existence, love, wisdom and inner realization, and also the four elements that make up not only the world but our own bodies. The pentacle and the cup also represent the female, inner, receptive side of existence, while the wand and the sword symbolize the male, outer, penetrative side. Without the union of female and male there is no creation. 

Divinatory meaning: planned or foreseen new beginning. Self-confidence, strength of will, readiness to take risks. Reversed: weakness of will, inability to take new opportunities.


II.The High Priestess


Every symbol system of any value reminds us that male and female are equal, complementary aspects of a universal whole. Only through an understanding of this can we progress to a proper balance within both society and the individual self. The High Priestess embodies the hidden, mystic, receptive feminine principle that awaits the energy of the overt, active, male principle. For the ancients the priest-king, the ruler of the visible world, was balanced by the high priestess, the ruler of the invisible world. We can only undertake the developmental journey of the major arcana by acknowledging what the high priestess symbolizes within ourselves. She sits, enigmatic and beautiful, and holds the book of wisdom on her knee. She is the oracle and knows the answers to all questions. 

Divinatory meaning: intuitive insight, creative abilities, revelation of hidden things. Reversed: emotional instability, enslavement to a woman, lack of insight.


III.The Empress


The High Priestess shows one aspect of female power. Another is shown by The Empress, the bringer of maternal fertility, the earth-mother presiding over the creation and destiny of sons and daughters. On her head is a diadem representing the gifts we receive at birth, and on her shield is an eagle, a symbol of heaven and the sun, and a host of positive attributes including courage and clear vision. The Empress is not mysterious but open, and addresses those who seek the truth. She represents the conscious mind and unites matter and spirit. Her sceptre shows that she rules heaven, earth and the world in between, but it is merely a symbol: only through actual union with the male can the secret of The Empress's power be revealed in its completeness, at both the mystical and the earth-mother level. 

Divinatory meaning: fertility, abundance, growth, strength from nature and the natural world, comfort and security. Reversed: impoverishment, stagnation, domestic upheaval.


IV.The Emperor


The next pair of cards represents the masculine sides of our nature. The Emperor is the archetype of male power - of strength, leadership and achievement. In his hands he holds the phallic symbols of male energy, the orb and the sceptre, which also denote his power to guide the world. Within the material world over which The Emperor rules there is the hidden spiritual world, which is attainable only when the male is united with the female, symbolized by the circle crowning the sceptre's shaft. The Empress and Emperor combine complementary aspects of a divine unity. Unlike The Empress, The Emperor in some packs wears armour, the armor of the male which protects him in worldly battles but at the same time prevents him from revealing his vulnerability, his feelings, his weaker self. Without such a revelation the male principle remains always defensive, unable to self-disclose. 

Divinatory meaning: vigor, self-control, ambition, leadership, strength. Reversed: failure of ambition, weakness, subservience, loss of influence.


V.The Hierophant


The Hierophant, or priest, sometimes called the Pope, is male energy expressed as spiritual power, the feminine in the male. He is enthroned, like The Emperor, but his power over his fellows, as represented by the priests at his feet, conies from obedience not force. The masculine side still represents the external, exoteric type of spirituality, in contrast to the feminine side representing the internal and esoteric type. The Hierophant wears the red robe of external power: however, a blue robe (symbolizing internal power) shows under the red one. On his head The Hierophant wears a triple-tiered crown, for he rules on three planes - physical, intellectual and divine. The symbolism of three is repeated in the triple cross in his left hand, indicating the mysteries of the godhead as revealed through the Trinity. 

Divinatory meaning: knowledge, wisdom, inspirational help, wise counsel. Reversed: misinformation, slander, bad advice.


VI.The Lovers


In many Tarot packs this card shows a man flanked by two women, one pure and respectable, the other beautiful and wanton. The figure above their heads is Cupid, his arrow pointing variously at one of the three people below him. The symbolism is clear: having recognized the need for male to unite with female at the level of the inner self, the choice is now between the two versions of femininity: on the one hand the virginal and sacred (The Priestess), and on the other the fertile and material (The Empress). The Waite pack shows a naked man and woman, with an androgynous winged figure above their heads - representing the coming together of the fully integrated male with the fully integrated female. The winged figure is that part of the inner self which is beyond male and female, and which both brings about, and is born from, the union of polar opposites. 

Divinatory meaning: attraction, love, partnership, impending choice. Reversed: indecision, problems in a relationship, aversion.


VII.The Chariot


In the figure of the charioteer (often shown as female in early packs) there is something of the androgyne. The breastplate is the armor of maleness, but on the shoulders are the feminine lunar symbols. The charioteer is bound for the stars, the macrocosm, as emphasized in some packs by stars above and around his head and wings adorning the front of the chariot. The Waite pack shows a walled and turreted city in the background, but the charioteer faces away from it, turning his back on the material world and temporal power. The Chariot is drawn by two horses in some packs, and by two sphinxes in others. One is male and one female, symbols respectively of all-knowledge and all-wisdom. 

Divinatory meaning: deserved success, good progress, well-earned reward. Reversed: egocentricity, insensitivity, ruthlessness, progress at the expense of others.


VIII.Justice 


MacGregor Mathers, creator of the Golden Dawn system of magic, exchanged the position of this card (originally card XI) with that of Strength (see below). There is a clear relationship between Justice, shown as a woman in all packs, and Strength. Strength shows the conquest of outer forces (symbolized by the lion), while Justice shows their assimilation by the conqueror. Justice wears the red robe of worldly power, and holds a sword and some scales. In the Tarot the sword symbolizes spiritual realization, not vengeance. Justice uses her power only to cut through those things that impede this realization. The scales allow her to weigh the value of all things and to maintain a balance between outer and inner, exoteric and esoteric. 

Divinatory meaning: arbitration, negotiation, agreement, sound judgment. Reversed: injustice, prejudice, discord.


IX.The Hermit 


At one level the Hermit represents the loneliness of the spiritual quest. The figure is elderly, because youth - or, rather, the pursuits of youth - have been sacrificed. But age is also a symbol of wisdom, of the realization that comes from experience, suffering and self-denial. At another level, The Hermit symbolizes perseverance, and the fact that each person must find enlightenment, the real self, the inner truth, by his or her unaided efforts. In his right hand The Hermit holds a lantern, and the light inside can take the form of a star, a guide to help us through the darkness. In the left hand is the staff of the pilgrim, which is also the wand, the rod that drives out ignorance. 

Divinatory meaning: discretion, silence, need for personal space or solitude, self-sufficiency in solving problems, self-reliance. Reversed: rejection of others or of advice, isolationism, obstinacy. 


X.Wheel of Fortune


The wheel represents movement, and although we usually think of this movement as taking us forward, in fact each point on the wheel always returns to the same place. However, each time we return to a particular point we are potentially richer for having experienced the wheel's revolution. One day our experience will be such that we can step off the wheel, into the greater reality of which it is only a limited part. In many Tarot packs, The Wheel of Fortune carries three mythical beings. At the left is a creature (often part monkey) ruled by instincts, and descending; at the right the animal (sometimes part hare) is intelligent, and climbs heavenward; at the top, the creature (often part sphinx) symbolizes spiritual knowledge. Waite, in his pack, adds in the corners of the card the four creatures of Ezekiel's vision mentioned in Revelations. 


Divinatory meaning: good fortune, major events, big change in life circumstances. Reversed: end of a cycle of good fortune, turn for the worst. 





XI.Strength





In some packs Strength is shown as male rather than female, but the struggle with the open-mouthed lion is almost invariable. The message of the card is that although strength may be symbolized by the raw energy of the lion, there is a higher strength which manifests itself through means other than the physical. The higher strength is spiritual strength, the awareness of the immortal, indestructible power inside us which transcends materialism and is not affected by its disintegration. In the Waite pack the woman wears garlands of flowers, echoing the symbolism of The Magician, and reminding us of the blossoming of the creative mind; and the symbol of life hovers over her head, as over the Magician's. In other packs both figures wear a hat in the shape of a "lazy eight", a symbol of infinity and boundless understanding. 

Divinatory meaning: well-won triumph over others or over self, reconciliation, grasped opportunity. Reversed: defeat, surrender to baser instincts or to others, missed opportunity.


XII.The Hanged Man


The Hanged Man is suspended upside down in the traditional punishment meted out to debtors, yet his face is untroubled. He hangs on a gibbet, yet in some packs the gibbet bears the leaves of life. The crosspiece and uprights of the gibbet represent three, the number of creation; yet The Hanged Man's legs are crossed in a number four, the number of completion. The Hanged Man symbolizes alignment with the laws of the universe and rebellion against the laws of mankind. The seeker after enlightenment must go his or her own way on the journey between creation and completion, whatever the cost. But since death on the tree was the Christian sacrifice, The Hanged Man also symbolizes selfless love. 

Divinatory meaning: flexibility, self-sacrifice in a good cause, responsiveness to inner intuition, discarding of undesirable aspects of behavior or of the ego. Reversed: unsuccessful inner struggle, refusal to respond to intuition or to abandon undesirable qualities.


XIII.Death



Death is not a final annihilation to be feared, but a necessary part of the cycle of existence: without death there would be no life. Thus, Death is not the last card but, with The Hanged Man, marks the transition from the first half of the pack to the second. The sacrifice of the ego, symbolized by The Hanged Man, frees us to cross the dark river Styx that divides the material from the spiritual world. The image of Death, a skeleton carrying a scythe which symbolizes the severance and liberation of the self from the body, also carries the number thirteen, forbidding in itself. But death is part of the initiation into the spiritual world. In all mystery religions and shamanic traditions, the initiate had to undergo a secret ceremony in which he or she "died" and journeyed across the dark river to whatever lay beyond. Death brings us face to face with this transforming experience. 

Divinatory meaning: blessing in disguise, end of prevailing negative situation, profound inner changes. Reversed: inertia, lethargy, stagnation.


XIV. Temperance


After the trauma of The Hanged Man and Death, we come to a symbol of peace and tranquility. Temperance is shown filling with the waters of new life the empty vessel left by the death of the ego. Losing the ego means stripping ourselves of misconceptions, pride, and the attachments and aversions we habitually show toward the transient experiences of material life. But once the ego is lost, something must be allowed to take its place. We cannot become hollow men and women, vulnerable to being invaded by a new ego of spiritual pride. The true reality inside ourselves has not yet had time to fill our whole being. Temperance therefore provides us with the sustenance we need in order to go further. 

Divinatory meaning: skilful combination of circumstances achieved or necessary, circumspection, moderation. Reversed: inept combination of circumstances, competing interests, excess.


XV.The Devil


There are pitfalls even after achieving the death of the ego and receiving the sustenance of temperance. Crossing the Styx takes us into the world beyond the ego, but it does not take us into "heaven". Once outside the "safety" of the solid but illusory material world we are faced by the underworld as well as the higher world. The Devil symbolizes the underworld, but the message is not one of evil but of trial. The Devil is, as it were, the quality controller. He raises his hand to halt progress, challenging us to look still deeper into ourselves. Unless we have been purged of the self and had our pride tempered, we may be in danger of taking the path of personal power. 

Divinatory meaning: challenge, redirection or transmutation of physical energy into more mental or spiritual pursuits. Reversed: repression of inner self, lust for material power and gain. 


XVI.The Tower


The Tower If we fail the test set by The Devil, we are cast down to destruction. The crown of our achievement is placed on an edifice that crumbles under a bolt of lightning (divine justice). The lightning is not frightening, however, but beneficial and purifying. Neither is The Tower (or House of God) negative: it symbolizes a casting out of those remaining aspects of the self which are capable of fragmenting our essential unity of being. Many packs show drops falling from the sky, which symbolize the positive energy that can come from destruction. It is no accident that this card is number sixteen in the series. One and six together give seven, and The Tower links back to card VII, The Chariot, and thus can be a card of progress and positive action.
  
Divinatory meaning: unexpected challenge, abrupt change in inner life, emotional release, purging of repressed feelings. Reversed: avoidable calamity, knocking off balance by events, severe emotional repression.


XVII.The Star


Having negotiated The Devil and The Tower, we now reach calmer pastures. The Star in many packs shows the clear links between this stage of the journey and Temperance. This time, however, the female figure has no need for wings, for she does not come from a higher realm to meet the traveler. Instead, the traveller has reached her level. Like Temperance, The Star carries two pitchers, but instead of pouring from one into the other she empties one into a pool of water (the unconscious mind) and the other onto the ground (the conscious mind). The clear sky carries a single gold star surrounded by seven smaller stars. The overriding symbolism is that of rebirth. Having been purged of remnants of the ego by The Devil and in The Tower, we now experience rebirth in the higher realms of being. 

Divinatory meaning: sudden widening of horizons, new life and vigor, deep insight. Reversed: reluctance to take broader view, lack of trust and openness, self-doubt. 


XVIII.The Moon


The moon is a feminine symbol par excellence, and it reveals the mystical inner side of each of us in its full power. The final reconciliation is now poised to take place between the opposite poles that go to make up our own being, the male and the female, the conscious and the unconscious, the outer and the inner. The dogs pictured on the card are baying at the moon through ignorance of her true nature; they symbolize a psychic barrier to this inner reconciliation. The crayfish, the lower female element, emerges from the depths of the unconscious and through ignorance seeks to emasculate the male. But the light falling from the moon shows us that all may ultimately be well. The towers are a barrier only to those who, so near the end of their journey, draw back from full understanding.
  
Divinatory meaning: need to rely on intuition and imagination rather than reason; time for self-reliance. Reversed: fear of over-stepping safe boundaries, failure of nerve, fear of the unknown. 


XIX.The Sun


Just as the moon is the root symbol of the feminine, so the sun is the root symbol of the male. Here in card nineteen we see The Sun in full splendor, and in many early Tarot packs its radiance falls upon a man and a woman (or Gemini, the Twins) in each other's arms. Full union has taken place, and the two have become one. The sense of alienation, separation and fragmentation which lies at the heart of human unease has disappeared at last. However, the quester's journey is never-ending. The sun rises each morning. The cycle of life is eternal. Beyond the level reached in The Sun there are other levels to be traversed, high above human comprehension. For the moment, though, this is a pause. We can savor the triumph of the spirit. There is a wall behind the figures which does not appear in all packs, but which provides some shade from the sun. The figures are facing away from the sun, as we are not yet ready to look fully into the face of ultimate reality. We are still, even at this stage, separate from it, and its full majesty would overpower us. 

Divinatory meaning: success, achievement, triumph over odds, safety after peril, a just reward. Reversed: misjudgment, illusory success, exposure of success obtained by dubious means.


XX.The Judgement


Having come so far, is all that awaits us a judgment, which could send us back to the beginning again? The Judgment shows an angelic figure sounding a trumpet, and a grave apparently opening to release the dead. Is this card a representation of the Last Trump, when the human race itself is to be called to account? Or is it a symbol of resurrection, with everyone saved? If so, how does it relate to the cards that have gone before? Does it suggest that the attainment of enlightenment by one individual saves the whole race, just as Christians believe that Christ died to atone for our sins? It is this last explanation that carries most symbolic force, and fits best with the teachings of many of the great spiritual traditions and with the other cards of the Tarot. The angelic figure thus represents the next stage in the spiritual journey. Having reached enlightenment, our need now is to turn back and rouse our fellows. This is the task of the bodhisattva in Buddhism, who having reached Nirvana, refuses to enter until the whole of the human race can enter as well. 

Divinatory meaning: return to health, justified pride in achievement, a new lease of life. Reversed: punishment for failure, regret for lost opportunities.



XXI.The World


Here we see the supreme symbol of wholeness. Surrounded by the laurel wreath of victory, a naked woman holds a taper or a magician's wand. Above and below, the macrocosm and the microcosm, even right and left, have now become one. The figure is no longer confined by land or water, but stands in the supreme freedom of pure being. Around the laurel wreath, the four creatures of Ezekiel occupy the corners of the card. The Tarot journey has reached completion. Whether teaching others or moving on to levels beyond comprehension, the aspirant is now free, and will never again return to the prison of ignorance. The naked figure is no longer completely naked. A veil drapes itself across the body, hiding the genitals, the symbol of creativity. The veil reminds us again that there are more mysteries to come. And the number 21, though the occult number of completion (being 3 times 7, two numbers of magical significance), is not the number of absolute unity, infinity, unlimited potential. That number is zero, the number of The Fool, the card we met at the outset, which has accompanied us throughout our journey. The Fool is zero, the one who abandons concepts about reality in favor of direct experience.


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