21. The World: Rebirth

The Tarot teaches us a lot about cycles. From The Wheel of Fortune, forever going around and around, to Death, showing us the transitions of life and the world around us. We have come to the final card of the Major Arcana, The World. What comes next? There’s a hint inside the symbolism of the card itself:

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

We see again those depictions of the human/angel, eagle, bull, and lion that represent the four fixed zodiac signs. We saw them in The Wheel of Fortune. We see in some depictions an Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. The woman in the centre has crossed legs, reminiscent of The Hanged Man. She holds wands like The Magician.

I am reminded of the concept of Flow, being ‘in the zone’. The woman in the World card is in a state of flow with the whole world. She recognises that she is connected with everyone and everything else. The wreath resembles a seed or an egg, or the 0 that represents The Fool. 

Within the completion of the Fool’s Journey is the seed for it to begin again. Remember beginner’s mind? Look back at your journey in life as if you are The Fool again. Recognise how far you have come, and how far you have yet to go. Rebirth happens throughout life, again and again. Notice the infinity signs in the wreath around the woman.

Graduations, birthdays, celebratory events such as these represent an ending, but also a new beginning. You accomplish things not so that you can stop, but so that you can do something new. Take a moment to pause and reflect. This is a card of harmony and fulfillment. 

If you have been reading these posts in order from card 0 to card 21, I would like to say thank you and congratulations. You have completed a long and difficult journey as The Fool. If you have not read them all, I would encourage you to study each card step-by-step so that you can understand how The Fool got here. 

I will be back soon to begin writing about the Minor Arcana, which are the remaining 56 cards in a standard Tarot deck. I am also planning to write about the following topics:

  • Reversals
  • Picking your first tarot deck, misconceptions, and shop recommendations
  • Deck reviews
  • Tarot spreads and how to ask questions
  • Pamela Colman-Smith (the artist of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck)
  • Book reviews and other resources

I hope you will continue learning about tarot with me. Please let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover. You can find me on Twitter or Instagram, and there is a contact page linked at the top of this website. If you click ‘About Me’, you can find ways to support my work if you are able to. And of course you can subscribe to get email notifications every time I post in the sidebar.

Mac the cat looking at the Aces of the Minor Arcana

20: Judgement: Call to Action

It’s time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions: who are you, and what do you want?

Iroh’s words are a huge call-out. This is the part of the journey at which The Fool must take all the lessons they have learned up to this point, and put them into action. It’s a big step. Let’s recap what The Fool been through. 

The Fool began full of potential, but unaware of that. As The Magician, they learned that they can use their skills and qualities to manifest what they want from life. As The High Priestess, they learned that they must also look inward, and learn to see things from different perspectives. Next, as The Empress they learned to nurture and love themself. As The Emperor, The Fool learned about boundaries and structuring their life. They learned the difference between good and corrupt leadership. The Hierophant’s lesson was to lean on the experiences of those who have come before them, to seek wisdom from others. The Lovers gave them the power of choice, and then The Chariot taught them to use those decisions to move forward independently and rein in their thoughts. Next they learned Strength, where The Fool learned to channel their beliefs and desires into a productive and compassionate direction. 

The Hermit taught The Fool to take time to trust their authentic self, and The Wheel of Fortune taught The Fool that sometimes life is out of your control, and you have to be open to change. Justice was about being accountable, and holding others accountable too. The Hanged Man taught them that when you feel trapped and unable to make a move, sometimes you have to sit with that and let it pass. You may find a new perspective. Death was about the cycles and transitions inherent to life, and Temperance taught them balance and nuance. The Devil taught The Fool to look at their own shame and what holds them back. This was followed by The Tower, which was a huge upheaval that came about from suppressing problems. Rise and try again.

The Fool then learned from The Star that there is a calm after the storm, the strength of vulnerability. The Moon taught them to see through illusion, in particular destructive feelings and thought patterns that could hold them back. Then The Sun taught them to heal their younger self and feel true childlike joy. After this card, Judgement, there is only one more card in the Major Arcana. The journey is nearly over. What can we do with what we have learned?

Like Justice, Judgement asks you to be accountable. Let’s look at the card:

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top-left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

We see an angel, possibly depicting Gabriel or Metatron, sounding a horn. That’s the call. The people below, clearly dead, are eager to face their final judgement. The Sasuraibito and This Might Hurt decks don’t rely on biblical imagery. The woman in the Sasuraibito Judgement card is cocooned, awaiting transformation. This Might Hurt depicts Anubis, the Egyptian God of the dead. He weighs their heart against the feather of truth. Again, it’s about accountability, and uncovering who you really are. 

If you have been following this journey as The Fool has, holding a mirror to yourself and allowing yourself to face each challenge step-by-step, then you may have made changes to the way you think. Coming to terms with your past and fearlessly facing your future is no small thing. Trust yourself. You are at a crossroads. Like Iroh asks Zuko:

Who are you?

What do you want?

Forget expectations, forget what anyone else has told you. You go on this journey independently, and you make the decisions. Are you on the right path, for you? Own your past, your mistakes. Take charge of now and the future. If you accept yourself as you really are, as the heart that Anubis weighs, you can find freedom and move on. 

If you pull Judgement, look at the bolded words above in the recap. Have you truly taken on the teachings of each of those cards? What do you still need to spend a little time working on? Remember that you have your whole life to be working on these qualities and skills. Compassionately look back on your life and identify what you are doing well, and what you could improve. 

Are you ready for The World?

18. The Moon: Cognitive Distortions

The Moon is such an important celestial body for all of us here on Earth. The word moon comes from the word for ‘month’, which shows how important it is for us when it comes to measuring time. The Moon’s gravity causes tides, of which there are two high, and two low in 24 hours.

The Moon has been, and in many cultures continues to be used as a way of marking time. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, today (12th August) is in fact the 22nd of June.

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We only see one side of the Moon, because it is in synchronous rotation with Earth. Occasionally we can see about 18% of the far side, but we didn’t see the rest until 1959. This can make the Moon seem very mysterious. Before the far side of the Moon was photographed, I wonder what humans used to think it was like.

The Moon is also associated with many deities such as Artemis, Selene, and Hecate. In China, they have Chang’e, who flew to the Moon after drinking an immortality elixir. In Japan, Tsukuyomi angered the sun Goddess Amaterasu so much that she created day and night so that she would not have to be near him.

Let’s look at The Moon as a tarot card:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch.

I love how strange it looks. The Star Spinner version depicts Chang’e who I mentioned above. There’s a quote in the Sasuraibito Little White Book for The Moon that I love:

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. – Pema Chodron

This card represents illusions and fears. It gives you a feeling that you’re not sure if what you’re seeing or experiencing is real. Think of the word ‘lunacy’ meaning madness, which comes from another name for the Moon: Luna.

According to A. E. Waite, who co-created the RWS deck, the wolf and the dog represent fears of the mind when there is only reflected light to guide you. Your animal self, fight, flight, or freeze. The crawfish represents universal fears.

This card has a lot to teach us if we are struggling with mental health, or if we are neurodivergent and struggle with masking a lot. I am reminded of the concept of Cognitive Distortions, which are thought patterns in which you interpret reality in a negative and damaging way. If you have ever done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you will have heard of these:

All-or-nothing thinking– Also known as ‘splitting’ or ‘black-and-white thinking’. This is when you see a situation as all good, or all bad. There is no grey area or in-between. Often perfectionists struggle with this one. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, and that you can overcome difficulties without getting everything right. Accept what you cannot change, and know that you’ll get it right next time.

Overgeneralising– This is when one bad thing happens and you think ‘this always happens to me!’ This is a distortion which I think can be improved by gratitude journaling. If you log the good things that happen to you, you can read them back when you’re feeling like nothing good ever happens.

Filtering– This happens when you only remember the bad things out of something that happened. Dwelling on the negative will hurt you. It’s important to recognise when something bad has happened, as rejecting bad feelings will hurt you just as badly. But don’t let the bad outweigh the good.

Disqualifying the positive– This is when something good happens and you dismiss it as a one-off. Alternatively it can mean that someone said something nice to you and you think they don’t mean it. Remember that people say nice things because they care about you.

Jumping to conclusions– It can be frustrating when someone says what they think you mean before you even get to say anything right? So when you’re communicating with others, let them tell you what they mean, and don’t assume. This can also be associated with self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think you can’t achieve something, you probably won’t try as hard and you’ll end up being right. Try to keep an open mind.

Catastrophising– This is where you think the absolute worst case scenario will happen. I recommend letting your mind go down that path and make a quick plan for if the worst does happen. That way, you’ll see that no matter what happens, you can cope. And it probably won’t be that bad anyway.

Please remember that this is just one view, and that CBT does not work for everyone. If you find learning about Cognitive Distortions useful, then great. If not, then feel free to throw that idea out and find something else that resonates with you. My other recommendation when thinking about The Moon is the book The Gift of Fear. This is a book about using your intuition or gut instinct to empower yourself.

When you pull The Moon, take a moment to meditate or journal about fears and illusions, and ways that you can use your own intuition to see through them. The Moon doesn’t ask us to solve anything just yet, only to begin letting your mind work through things.

If you are struggling with your mental or neurological health, please contact your GP. I find tarot to be useful as a self-help tool, but it cannot replace therapy.

17. The Star: The Calm After A Storm

The Fool has just experienced a huge upheaval when they encountered The Tower. They are feeling totally lost, not sure where to go from here. That’s when they meet The Star, one of my favourite cards in the whole deck.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

The Star gives you this feeling of healing; it feels like coming indoors from the cold, someone gives you a cup of tea and you relax on the sofa with the fire on.

The figure in the card looks so confident in her own skin, she looks at peace and relaxed. Nakedness is vulnerable, but allowing that vulnerability gives you strength. Similarly to Temperance, The Star is pouring water and is part on land and part in the water. She is in tune with all parts of herself. The grounded and realistic parts, the flowy, emotional parts, all in harmony.

As you see the water flow on the land, you begin to understand how everything on earth is connected. The Star knows this, and relishes in it. The water nourishes the plants in the earth, or is heated by fire and rises into the air. All four elements united.

Above the woman in the image is one big guiding star, surrounded by seven smaller stars. These seven are said to represent the chakras. The stars have eight points, so they represent The Star of Ishtar. Ishtar, or Inanna, is an ancient Mesopotamian Goddess. She is associated with many things, such as love, beauty, war, and justice. She is often associated with Venus. Inanna-Ishtar is important to many feminists because of how powerful she is compared with the male Gods of her pantheon.

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Goddess Ishtar on an Akkadian Empire seal, 2350-2150 BC

What is your guiding star? Stripped back to your most important values, what truly matters to you most? If you pull this card, find your home inside yourself. No matter what you have been through, you can heal and you have the potential to do many wonderful things. Journal or meditate on what is important to you, and what makes you feel like you are home. How can you find healing?

As we go through the remaining few cards of the Major Arcana, we will begin to consider, what is our calling? The Star is asking us to begin thinking about these big questions so that we can find inner peace.

The Star is associated with my Zodiac sign, Aquarius. If you would like to know which tarot card is associated with your sign, have a look at the list below. Do you think that card represents you well? See if you can remember what some of these cards mean, as we have covered all but one of them by now.

Aries – The Emperor

Taurus– The Hierophant

Gemini– The Lovers

Cancer– The Chariot

Leo– Strength

Virgo– The Hermit

Libra– Justice

Scorpio– Death

Sagittarius– Temperance

Capricorn– The Devil

Aquarius– The Star

Pisces– The Moon

Sometimes when we begin to heal, when we begin to ask ourselves the big questions, we can encounter confusion and uncertainty. That’s what we will be exploring next time, with card number 18: The Moon.

 

 

15. The Devil: Shadow Work

When The Fool meets The Devil, they learn what can happen if the teachings of Temperance are not heeded. This is an important lesson, one that many people learn the hard way.

The Devil is all about self-destructive behaviours, ways that you are holding yourself back. These things can be negative thought patterns, addictions, or habits you want to change. Basically everything that is really hard to change. It’s important to be kind to yourself while going through this process. Self-blame can bring you back into a cycle of pain and anxiety.

Please excuse the pun, but don’t demonise The Devil. This card helps us to see those things that hold us down so that we can begin to heal.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

The Devil is usually represented by Baphomet, who is adapted from the Greek God Pan. You may know this figure from when The Satanic Temple attempted to erect a Baphomet statue outside the Oklahoma State Capitol. Baphomet is a mix of human and animal, male and female. Their power is an illusion in the Rider-Waite-Smith depiction- look how loose those chains are- the people could escape. Change is in your hands.

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Compare The Devil to The Lovers. It’s almost like The Devil is mocking the other card. Baphomet is pretending to be the angel, but is also taking on a Magician pose. We are reminded of the choice that The Lovers taught us about. Are there any choices you have been making that are holding you back in some way?

I really like this point Little Red Tarot makes about The Devil:

In that same vein, there’s a more mundane message here about materialism. Addiction to ‘things’ is a sad issue of our time – it leads to huge amounts of waste, a throwaway culture, and a sense of not having enough (which ultimately means: not being enough). Think of the way beauty products are marketed, for example: by creating insecurity. We buy to fill the need, to fix ourselves. Our inner demons tell us that we need ‘things’ to make ourselves more beautiful, successful, popular, good. The Devil can represent becoming bogged down in this stuff, forgetting about the bigger picture and what is truly important in life.

I’d like to introduce a way that you can begin to shine a light on those parts of yourself that you may try to hide, that you feel shame about, that need some love. It’s called Shadow Work, and it’s a concept that was introduced by Carl Jung.

I think Tarot is a great way to do Shadow Work, because it can bring to the surface thoughts and feelings that aren’t in your conscious mind. Jung said that everyone has a shadow, and the less that you are aware of it, the darker it is. It’s that painful part of yourself that you try to pretend isn’t there.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t go into too much detail here- you can research shadow work and find plenty of resources. But here are some questions you could journal or ask your Tarot deck if you’re interested in trying it:

  • What am I hiding from myself?
  • What holds me down?
  • How do my thoughts/behaviours hold me back?
  • What is the root cause of my pain/anxiety/addiction?
  • What is blocking me from resolving this issue?
  • What do I need to forgive myself for?
  • What can I learn from my shadow self?
  • How do I move forward?

Make sure to be in a safe, comfortable place, and be in a relaxed state of mind when you approach questions like the above. See if you can designate a safe person you can go to if you become overwhelmed, and afterwards make yourself a cup of tea or run a bath. It’s hard work and deserves a relaxing reward.

Be kind to yourself.

12. The Hanged Man: Limbo vs Liminality

Something that I’ve thought a lot this year (2020) is that it feels a lot like we’re in limbo.

Limbo is a word I’m sure you’ve used before, but have you thought about where it comes from? It’s from Catholic theology and refers to having died but not entering Heaven or Hell. The reason for this can be that you committed sins and need the redemption of Jesus to enter Heaven. Alternatively, it refers to infants who died before being baptised and therefore have not been freed of original sin.

I think a better word is liminal, which comes from Latin and means threshold. Liminality is a concept which refers to being in a transitional space. Twilight is liminal, as it is neither light nor dark. Flying in a plane is a liminal experience, as you are usually crossing time zones and borders. What time is it on a plane going from London to New York?

The reason I prefer the word liminal is that limbo has this implication that you’re trapped, maybe forever. Liminality is more about going through an uncertain period and being able to come out the other side. I really hope we do recover from the pandemic soon.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

This card depicts a person hanging from a tree, but not by their neck. They have one foot tied up, and they look surprisingly comfortable. The Hanged Man has a halo around their head which makes them seem enlightened in some way.

The Hanged Man tells us that there is nothing we can do just now. Be patient and wait for what comes next. It asks us not to be hasty, which can be really difficult. Many of us want results fast, we want to be moving forward and making progress. Sometimes it’s not the time for that.

Have you ever been going through a hard time, maybe trying to deal with an illness, and felt like time is slipping away, like everyone else is moving ahead and you’re stuck in the past? The Hanged Man reminds us that if we don’t give ourselves that time and space to recover, we can’t move on. It’s okay to allow yourself to stop.

Another interesting interpretation is that The Hanged Man has a different perspective from being upside down. Maybe you’re a little stuck in your ways and need to look at things differently.

There’s a place in Japan called Amanohashidate, which roughly means ‘bridge to heaven’. if you bend down and look at the view between your legs, the ‘bridge’ looks like a dragon soaring into the sky. By changing your perspective, you get a whole new view.

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Some have suggested that this card represents Odin. According to legend, Odin hanged himself from the world tree, Yggdrasil in order to obtain knowledge. He had to surrender and sacrifice himself in order to get what he wanted. Here’s a poem attributed to Odin about his experience:

I know that I hung on a wind-rocked tree,
nine whole nights,
with a spear wounded, and to Odin offered,
myself to myself;
on that tree, of which no one knows
from what root it springs.
Bread no one gave me, nor a horn of drink,
downward I peered,
to runes applied myself, wailing learnt them,
then fell down thence.

When we have to make decisions, often to choose one option means to sacrifice the other. Have you ever had to sacrifice something to make the right choice for you?

Next time you pull The Hanged Man, consider, is it a time to wait and contemplate rather than take immediate action? Do you need to look at your situation from another perspective? And maybe you have to consider what you’ll have to sacrifice. It can be a good idea to journal these thoughts, and use that time as your liminal space to figure out what is best for you.

11. Justice: Holding Yourself Accountable

In my last post, which was about the Wheel of Fortune, we started thinking about the idea of cause and effect, and that what you put out into the world matters. We begin to see the result of this concept play out with Justice. We’re finally halfway through the Major Arcana, and The Fool is really starting to come across challenging obstacles. What do you think they will encounter in the second half of the journey?

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom left: Modern Witch

Justice is personified as this badass woman holding a sword and a set of scales. We have all seen the scales used as a symbol for justice in places like courthouses. It represents the importance of making a balanced decision. Tarot comes back to this idea of balance again and again.

Often when we see the figure of Justice, she is blindfolded, but in the Tarot imagery she stares at us unyieldingly. As much as we might hope that justice is blind, in reality, it is sadly not. When humans enact justice, they are imperfect, have bias, and sometimes want retribution rather than rehabilitation.

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Justitia, Maarten van Heemskerk, 1556

The sword is representative of the element of air, which rules intelligence and rationality. These are essential qualities for true justice, and it is often thought you should use no emotion when it comes to justice. What do you think? The sword also hints at the idea that sometimes justice can be violent. Whether that is moral or right, when you think about how ‘justice’ has been enacted across the world, the sword is often used. What is called justice, often is not just.

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Thinking about your own life, where have you seen justice, and where has it been missing? Think about the difference between the concept of justice, which is fair and balanced, and the ways that humans use the word ‘justice’, which is sometimes anything but.

What can you do to fight injustice?

It is important to be accountable for your actions and decisions. If you wrong someone, own up to it and do the work to improve yourself. Sometimes when we make a mistake, we try to hide away and pretend it did not happen. This is because of pride, and pride abused leads to shame. What can you improve in your life to live responsibly and ethically?

I don’t want to sound like I’m giving you a lecture, because I have a very long way to go with these ideas just like anyone else. Admitting, rather than denying that, is the first step.

If you have been wronged and are waiting for justice, I truly hope it comes to you. If you pull this card, look for ways to fight for what is right, and look for ways to have integrity and responsibility.

I hope that when I inevitably mess up, I am held accountable and able to acknowledge my errors. What do you think?

10. Wheel of Fortune: Letting Go

After having had time to introspect as The Hermit, it is time now for the Fool to face another potentially difficult challenge. The Wheel of Fortune. For me, this card is all about learning to let go.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

There is a lot of esoteric symbolism in this card. Before we talk about what the card itself means I think it helps to know what the symbolism means. From the centre of the wheel are the alchemical symbols for sulphur, salt, mercury and water. These represent the classical four elements, the sulphur representing fire, the salt earth, and the mercury air.

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In the outer ring of the wheel, we see the letters T A R O. Considering that a wheel represents going around and around we can see that this is probably the word TAROT repeatedly infinitely. The Hebrew letters spell YHWH, the unpronounceable name of God. It might help to know that the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is extremely influenced by the Qabalah, which is why we often see Hebrew letters, angels, and other esoteric imagery in the cards.

On top of the wheel is a sphinx, along the side is an amphisbaena, which is a two headed snake, and on the bottom, Anubis. Sphinxes (or sphinges) can represent power, knowledge, and protection. The amphisbaena is Greek for ‘goes both ways’. Anubis is the God of the underworld.

In the corners of the card are an angel, an eagle, a bull, and a lion. These are the zodiac signs Aquarius, Scorpio, Taurus, and Leo. Again, these represent the four classical elements, as they are the fixed air, water, earth and fire signs.

If you imagine that being on top of the wheel means things are going well for you, and being on the bottom means that things are bad, you can start to see what all these characters are telling us. You might be all high and mighty at the top, but as soon as the Goddess Fortuna spins the wheel again, whoever was on bottom gets a chance in the limelight, and whoever was on top is squashed into the ground. As the four elements are balanced, so too is the fate of the characters on and around the wheel.

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Fortuna

You cannot control the world around you. All you can control is the way you deal with what happens. It is important to remember that when times are bad, that is only temporary, and when times are good, cherish it, because it also doesn’t last forever.

I really like this quote from Bob Ross:

Gotta have opposites, light and dark, and dark and light in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in awhile so you know when the good times come. I’m waiting on the good times now.

If you had never experienced anything bad, how could you enjoy good things? You would have nothing to compare it to.

If you try to control how the wheel turns, you will only be disappointed. It’s time for The Fool to realise that there are things in this world that they cannot control. And if they still try to control them, they will be hurt. Are there things in your life that you try to control to give yourself a sense of security? Have you realised that when those things inevitably change, you feel cast out like you’re lost at sea?

Some people theorise that this card represents karma. The idea that what you give out to the world comes back, like cause and effect. Be kind to others when you’re on top, and maybe they can help you when you are struggling.

You can control how you react and respond to difficult situations. That is what gives you real strength in life. You can’t control other people. You can’t control how they see you. You can’t make them understand things the way you want them to.

If you pull The Wheel of Fortune, consider if there are changes you are being too resistant to. This is really hard. But you have to let go. When things are tough, trust that things will improve. A turning point is coming.

If you are true to yourself and your convictions, eventually others will see that without you forcing them to. I think we begin to see that in our next card, the halfway point. Next time, we’ll explore 11: Justice.

6. The Lovers: Choice

There’s a great interview with the creator of the Star Spinner Tarot, Trung Le Nguyen, known as Trungles. He decided to include four different versions of The Lovers in his deck. I really admire this decision, because the reader gets to pick which card speaks to them most, or which one is most representative of the person they’re reading for. There are so many ways to see each of these cards, someone even interpreting the bottom left one as representing platonic, or asexual love. That kind of representation is sadly still rare in Tarot decks, as in the wider world.

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Star Spinner Tarot by Trungles. Image from interview linked above.

I mentioned when talking about The Hierophant that we are following the Fool on a personal journey. Where The Hierophant was about accepting guidance from someone experienced and wise, The Lovers represents a choice that The Fool has to make by themself. In fact, some versions of this card are called The Choice.

The two figures in the card represent the duality of making decisions. Heads or tails, left or right, true or false. This card can represent the first choice The Fool makes without his parents’ input. A first love, which job to train for, what university to attend. The number 2 is also one of balance, or symmetry. It’s important to make decisions that bring balance to your life where possible.

Let’s look at The Lovers:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

Immediately, in some of these depictions we are reminded of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There’s an angel above the pair, and an apple tree and snake on one side, a burning tree on the other. The angel is Raphael, whose name means ‘God, please heal’. When we think about how this card can represent a choice, and often your first independent choice, it’s clear how the story of Eve eating the forbidden fruit is very analogous to that feeling. Many choices that teens make are risky and they try to hide a lot from their parents. You can’t become a fully individual person without breaking away from your parents.

That freedom and independence is an important part of the Fool’s Journey. How do you know who you are if you don’t make your own choices and form your own opinions? Are there any parts of your life where you could benefit from having more independence?

Have you heard of the double human myth from Plato’s Symposium? Humans used to have four legs, four arms, and two faces. Zeus feared their power and split everyone in half, so that humans are now desperately running around trying to find their other half. It’s a fun story and I think a lot of people feel that way when they get into their first relationship.

There’s another idea about The Lovers, which is that it’s specifically having to make a choice between what is dull but safe, versus something exciting but dangerous. Have you ever had to make a decision like that? We all have difficult decisions to make in life, and The Lovers teaches us to use kindness and love wherever possible. Note that The Lovers are naked, they have nothing to hide. Honest and compassionate communication is necessary here.

The Hierophant helped to guide us before, but now we have to decide what is best for ourselves. If you pull this card, use your values to make loving decisions, with good intentions. Value yourself, and others who may be affected by your decision. Stay true, and you can handle any dilemma.

Next time, The Fool heads off on the next stage of their journey as The Chariot.

4. The Emperor: Leaders and Tyrants

I, like many people, find The Emperor a little difficult to relate to. With his stern face and cold stone throne, he’s a little intimidating. But if you have ever been in a leadership position, such as a manager, or if you have had to deal with someone in a position of authority, The Emperor has some useful advice for you.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

 

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Ankh

That cross he is holding in most of the depictions is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that represents the concept of life. It’s like our lives are at his mercy. He clearly has a lot of power. In some of these images, he even holds the whole world in his hand. And the ram imagery makes us think of the Aries zodiac sign. Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the Roman God of War. His Greek counterpart is Ares and there’s an interesting difference between the two: where Mars was loved and admired by the Romans, the Greeks kind of… hated Ares.

Let’s start with Mars. Mars tried to use his power to promote peace, associated with the period of Pax Romana. Let’s not sugarcoat his story though, he wasn’t exactly a good guy. The story of Romulus and Remus, and Rhea Silvia is brutal and violent. But when we compare him to Ares, his Greek equivalent, Mars was celebrated, and we did name a planet and a month after him.

In comparison, Ares is told once by his father Zeus that he is ‘the god most hateful to him’. He constantly causes destruction, and has children named ‘fear’, ‘terror’, and ‘discord’. Where Mars is more of a leader figure, Ares is a complete tyrant.

 

So, The Emperor is a leader, an authority. He prefers structure, rules, and order. if you are Autistic, you’ll know how important structure can be. But if you’ve ever had a boss on a power trip, you know how limiting rules can be. We have all seen these ideals used for good, and for bad. Right now is a perfect time to be thinking about this.

This year, 2020 is the year of The Emperor. You can figure the current year’s card out by adding up the numbers in the year: 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4. The Emperor is card number 4. Think about how we can use structure and rules to help us this year. Wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, these are ways The Emperor asks us to promote peace and wellbeing at this time.

How can the qualities of The Emperor be used negatively? Poor leadership from politicians, police brutality and oppression. Wielding power over others, rather than using your power for the good of all. Like the Emperor with his ankh, there are people in this world who hold others’ lives in their hands. Whether enacting oppressive welfare policies, or literally being able to control if someone lives or dies, the power of The Emperor is often abused.

The Emperor also asks us to have good boundaries. The number 4 represents stability and foundations. Don’t let other people walk all over you. Whether they’re an authority figure or not, we are Emperors of our own lives, and we have the right to make decisions under our own initiative. If you see a misuse of power and it’s safe for you to do so, speak up. If you pull The Emperor card, consider where you can make positive changes in your community, or in your life to celebrate good Emperors, and bring down tyrannical ones. Remember to defend your boundaries against toxic people.

If you’re a manager and you’d like to learn how to be a great leader like the ideal Emperor, I really recommend the blog Ask A Manager. You can also go there to get advice if you’re dealing with bad management, so I hope it helps someone out there.