In order to spontaneously, smoothly start the discussion of such a difficult issue like Astrology—rife with hot controversies and opinions, pro and con—we preferred to “go with the flow”, instead of taking any firm position either way. We decided to first transcribe two pages from our novelMadame D.C. Book I – Three voyages.
In this scene Emily and Annie, two close friends, visit Madame Melina, a famous soothsayer with a small storefront office in Washington Avenue of Miami Beach. Here is their dialogue:
Annie and Emily were seated at the round table of the astrologer’s studio.
-“I will…But first you must calm down a bit, dear,” Melina said, turning her attention to Emily. “Who’s this nice lady that came with you?”
-“My cousin, Emily…A Wall Street financier—she needs help too.”
-“Hi, Madame…I’ve heard so many good things of you.”
-“Hello, pleased to meet you—I’ll take care of you of course.”
-“My David has a lover,” Annie said, sobbing. “What should I do?”
-“Mmm…To defeat your enemy you must know her first…Find out where she was born, the date and what’s more important…the time of the day.”
-“It’s not a woman—”
-“It’s a travesty.” Annie twirled a strand of her blond hair and smelled it.”
-“I see…We must find her, uh, his Ascendant…Know what it is?”
-”Nothing springs to mind.” Emily said.
-“Mmm…we’re familiar with the zodiac signs of the calendar but we ignore which one was ascending at the time…That variable differentiates each one of us from someone born in the same place that day…In Greek, ‘horos’ means ‘hour’ and ‘skope’ is look—to look at the hour of the Ascendant.”
-“Oh…I didn’t know,” Emily said, “but I’ve always been curious…”
-“It’s natural for a woman to feel some curiosity,” Melina said, “Astrology connects us with our mystical dimension…For centuries patriarchal figures of authority have seared guilt complexes in our minds to control us better. Astrology re-connects women with he stars that we’re coming from. We’re small pieces of the original Big bang—we project our own source of light.”
Annie stared at her in total rapture. “Have such a way with words—”
-“Let’s start with yours,” Melina said to Emily. “Write down your date of birth with time and place. I’ll check the Carta Astral website.”
Emily wrote in a post-it note. Melina read it and started hitting the keyboard.
-“Mmm…You’re Aquarius..But your Ascendant is Leo, which makes you practical, organized…Like all the great writers or politicians. Interesting.”
-“It’s funny that you mention it, but I’m toying with the idea of a writing and political careers…Are the stars aligned in my favor, Madame?”
-“Definitely, go for it—it’s your destiny…There’s a rub though.”
Emily hunched over the table. “What?”
-“Mmm…You were born in the 3.30 and 5.30 PM time frame…You got a vibrant body but you must learn how to handle your sexuality…and you’re brewing more than one existence inside you—you’re a latter-day alchemist.”
Today, December 21st, 2020, our Celtic forefathers warned us through a dream at early dawn: “Wake up, Son of Samhain, you must prepare your family for today’s celebration.” We immediately jumped out of bed, ready to follow a ritual that has been in our families for centuries, both in the Basque and Italian branches: The Winter Solstice.
In an excellent article, Elizabeth Dias, a reporter of The NY Times, said: “Humans all over the Northern Hemisphere will share nature’s winter ritual of darkness on Monday, whether they acknowledge the winter solstice or not. In the lower 48 states, this year’s longest night will last 15 hours and 50 minutes in Angle Inlet, Minn., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. In New York City it is 14 hours and 45 minutes, and in Miami 13 hours and 28 minutes.”
The end of the happy Summer season and the beginning of the harsh Winter has been celebrated by agricultural communities since Ancient Times with a special family gathering around a bonfire, sharing a hearty meal and traditional stories. The critical supply of grain was already stored in the makeshift silos, the animals were herded into the barn for protection and everybody looked up at the clearest sky. Will the deities above have mercy on human beings and allow them to survive this winter? They believed that the unstable period was used by wandering spirits to cross over. It was a time of great fear and uncertainty, and only their communal efforts could finally save them.
Note – This picture of David Rijckaert’s Barn Interior was taken from Wikimedia Commons.
We have become inured to the passional riveting of these ancient cyclical benchmarks, naively safe in the belief that just the marvelous scientific and technological prowess of the past two centuries would shield us from the dramatic consequences our ancestors suffered if they dared to ignore them. However, the terribly prolonged pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 has dramatically altered the supposedly “normal parameters” of daily life, obliging all of us to adapt quickly. Even something as simple as ordering a cappuccino at a bar, has been radically changed, maybe forever. This utterly contagious virus is an Agent of Evil that does not respect national boundaries or social standings.
The approval of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines has given us the needed glimmer of hope that, after a long wintertime, the chain of viral transmission will be radically cut. The national governments, while enforcing a draconian lockdown for festivities, are actively signing contracts for a steady supply of the vaccine for their populations. It would be wise to look at the pristine skies tonight and pray to whomever/whatever.
May God Almighty have Mercy on us and grant us the privilege of surviving Winter.
Continuing with our discussion of Tarot, we will address the spiritual power with these cards:
VIII – Strength
This card shows a young woman gently caressing a fierce lion, the representation of soft power. In ancient cultures, the lion—and the lioness of course—was the preferred symbol of raw passion and strength at both personal and societal levels. Using her spiritual strength this woman manages to convert that ferocious beast into a domesticated cat; the “invisible nature” of soft power makes that oftentimes it is disregarded and even undervalued in our usually aggressive social interactions. However, the capacity to persuade, and not to force, others is a critical asset that has more relevance now that women, using their transformational style of management (more democratic and participatory) are slowly displacing the hitherto predominant transactional style of men (more command and control in nature) Times change.
Note – This image of Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne was taken from Wikimedia Commons.
In 1990, Joseph Nye, professor at Harvard University, publishedBound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power where he said: “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.” For this author, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want; a country can do it with brute force or using its soft power. According to Nye, it is based on its culture, political values, and foreign policies.
In 2001, Robert GreenepublishedThe Art of Seduction, his second book, where he described 24 seduction techniques. In The 48 Laws of Power he wrote: “ seduction is about power and manipulation as it is about romance, about how to make someone fall under your spell.”
Upright strength – When this card appears, it means that you are strongly motivated by your inner spiritual strength and you have the stamina to undertake great tasks. You do not try to coerce or force others to accept your will but rather you gently try to persuade them “to see things your way.” The invisible nature of that great gift makes some foolish contender to underestimate you and try to take advantage of a situation. You will manage to turn the tables around and show who really rules. By controlling your animal instincts, you are able to re-direct that precious energy.
Reversed Strength – When this card appears, it means that you are either depleted of your inner strength or you are perilously overflowing with it, leading to mistakes. Contrary to the Upright Strength, you have lost your connection with your source of energy. The equilibrium must be recovered by calmly assessing what is missing or what is excessive in your present situation. After a major setback, both at the personal and social levels, we feel weaker and more vulnerable to outside influences. You must pause and calmly re-consider what brought you to that situation. Only by tapping again your spiritual source of strength, will you be able to recover from it.
IX – The Hermit
This card shows an old man standing atop a mountain, a sign of spiritual mastery; he is someone that has chosen a hard path of self-awareness and sacrifices. In his right hand he is holding a lantern with a six-pointed star—the Seal of Solomon. As he takes another step, he sheds light on the pathway immediately ahead, not far away. His left hand, whose sensations are transported to our Right Hemisphere (the seat of our Emotionality) is holding a long stick, an ancient symbol of authority in tribes. This card epitomizes the need for self-introspection, separated form the maddening noise of the world, to reach an understanding of who we are and where we are going.
Ignazio Loiolakoa—also known as Ignatius de Loyola and Ignacio de Loyola—was a Spanish Basque priest that “revolutionized” the staid Catholic Church by emphasizing the need to carry long, deep introspections in order “to know who we are” and by establishing, together with his comrades, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1539. After being gravely injured in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he had a along recovery period for his lesion of the left leg, which eventually lead him to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. He did deep introspection and confessed all his past sins before giving up all his material possessions, his clothes included. He walked up to the neighboring town of Manresa where he begged in the street for his keep and spent long hours in a cave, praying to God Almighty and repenting. After a short pilgrimage to the Holy Land (where he had some “differences” the Franciscans who were in charge) he returned to Spain and studied Theology and Latin in the Universidad de Alcalá from 1524 to 1534. He travelled to Paris to study at the Collège Saint-Barbe where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in 1535. His meditation techniques were fully explained in his book Spiritual Exercises, which triggered a brief process by the Roman Inquisition until he got a papal pardon. It was the first friction between the Jesuit Order and the Roman Curia, which still persists today with the nomination of Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit priest, to Saint Peter’s seat.
A few years ago we did several Ignatian retreats (no talking of any kind) in a Juan XXIIIhouse of Miami, under the guidance of the late Jesuit priest Padre Llorente. It did us a lot of spiritual good and we are re-considering going back for another round. In this age where all our spaces are invaded by obnoxious pings, we need Silence.
Upright Hermit—This image is a clear call to engage in a period of deep reflection. Stop being distracted by the cacophony of torrential sounds of our consumerist society and take the necessary time to reflect on where you are and what is missing. Do you feel that you are achieving your professional or labor objectives? How is your relationship with your fellow co-workers, superiors, and subordinates? Do you have outstanding issues at home that you must address with your family members? Perhaps there are some personality flaws that make other people take a distance. Perhaps you should do a bigger effort to reach out to your children, spouse, parents.
Downright Hermit—This image means that you are either coming out of a period of introspection or that you should start to do it, trapped with too much self-isolation. Perhaps you went through a period of professional or labor re-engineering but now you are ready to jump again into the daily fray of our competitive society. At the strictly personal level, it might mean that your voluntary or casual withdrawal into your own cocoon is already hurting the feelings of someone close to you—a partner. Stop wallowing in your own concerns, fears, plans, and have a good look at him/her. Most likely you will find new ideas, new plans, new feelings that must be shared right away.
In his bookPsychology and Alchemy, Dr. Carl Jung, a pioneer in the study of the symbology of dreams, introduced Alchemy’s representations into the study of Psychology. He claimed that the ancient alchemists, working without the cultural and socialconstraints of a strong super-state or church hierarchy, observed and recorded their findings without any pre-established judgements or dressed-up conclusions. They had more natural empirical experiences.
Dr. Jung believed that many of the raw sentiments and beliefs in the Unconscious occasionally filter into the Conscious realm, but they have to be “dressed up” to soften their sharpest edges and most shocking shades to pass the “border customs.” For that deceitful camouflaging to succeed, the Unconscious often uses alchemist’s symbols that are not in the “no entry list” of the gate’s guardians checking arrivals.
In her book, Marie Louise Franz stated: “For example, a woman patient dreamt that an eagle was at first flying up to the sky, and then suddenly turning around its head, began to eat its own wing and dropped back onto the earth…This dream invokes of enantiodromia, the reversal of a psychic symbol.” The eagle was the alchemist’s symbol of Human Reason and Carl Jung patient’s dream implied that her actions might be running counter against her beliefs.
Enantiodromia derives from the Greek words enantios (opposite) and dromos (running course) In his book Psychological Types, Carl Jung defined it as: “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful contraposition is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks thorough the conscious control.” It can be considered as the sheep’s skin used by the wolf. As a psychological tool, it acts as “two operational twins” that nonetheless have opposite characters and demeanor.
The philosophical concept behind this term dates back to thousands of years ago, In the traditional Chinese beliefs, the Yin and Yang are inextricably related as shown by their symbol. When one of the components reaches its extreme position, it starts to become its opposite. The natural balance of Life is maintained by this correction. Dr. Jung read the writings of Heraclitus who said: “cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things and parched things get wet.” He credited him for discovering what he considered a major psychological law: the regulatory function of the opposites.
In this article we will discuss the two cards associated with the healing power of Love and the human willpower.
VI – The Lovers
This card shows a naked woman and a man standing before the Angel Raphael who is the representation of the healing power of God Almighty in Abrahamic tradition. Surrounded by the lush vegetation of the Garden of Eden, they are threatened by the sibylline enticement of the Devil in the form of a serpent attached to an apple tree. The twelve flames of the burning tree represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. The man—the Conscious mind—is watching the woman—the Subconscious mind—who is in turn watching the Angel—the Super Conscious. It resumes the progression from purely physical needs through the emotional concerns towards the spirituality. Women are the pulleys transmitting our physical energies towards the attainment of our spiritual goals, surpassing our limitations.
Note – This image depicting The Archangel Israfil was made in Egypt or Syria in the late 14th-early 15th century.
In most Abrahamic religions, (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) Saint Raphael is associated with healing in various forms. In the Gospel of John, he is the angel that is stirring the waters at the pool of Bethesda. In the Babylonian Talmud, he is one of the three angels that appeared to Abraham in the oak grove at Hebron, charged with healing him after his circumcision. In Islam, he is depicted with a trumpet because he will be responsible for blowing it atop the mosque in Jerusalem to announce the Resurrection. He heals our spirits from the manifold frustrations of Life.
Upright Lovers – This scene conveys the unique serenity and safety that a genuinely loving relationship, based on mutual affection and respect, confers to the partners. It is usually ascribed to sexual companions, but it can also refer to other members of our family and close friends. Being totally naked, they are not afraid to expose their innermost feelings and concerns to the other partner, eschewing hypocritical shame. In a labor or professional context, it might mean that you have to “come clean” with your deeply held beliefs in challenging situations that put your honesty to the test. Your circumstantial choices must be aligned with your moral and ethical upbringing.
Reverse Lovers – This scene gives us the idea that something is wrong in your life. It could be that you are not being completely honest and sincere with your partner. In that case, you must sit down for an extensive discussion of possible remedies. If it refers to a labor or professional situation, it might mean that you must mend your ways by following the precepts of your teachers and avoiding the “easy way out.” The apparition of this card means that you must eventually make the rightful choice. Moreover, the coupling of two individuals will create a higher form of association.
VII – The Chariot
This card shows a courageous warrior of Antiquity riding his chariot into battle, which he does by the sheer power of his will and not by holding any reins. His attire shows several alchemical symbols like the crescent moon (the future) and a square (the willpower) In the front of his chariot, there is a representation of an eagle, which embodies human reason in the symbology of alchemy. Above his head there is a constellation of stars connecting him to The Divine and in front of him lie two sphinxes pulling in opposite directions. However, exercising strong voluntarism, he manages to steady the course right in the middle. Behind him, stands the natural flow of Life, represented by a tumultuous river that never stops and cannot be controlled by men.
Note – This image of an alchemist working in his laboratory besides a big vase with a painting of both an eagle (symbol of human reason) and the Ouroboros (a serpent or dragon eating its own tail) appears in the 15th century Swiss alchemical treatise called the Aurora Consurgens.
Alchemy is an extremely ancient branch of natural philosophy that dates back to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world; the name derives from the Latin term alchymia. Alchemists tried to transform the physical and spiritual realities with esoteric techniques that were wrapped with Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology and religion. For example one of their methods was the chrysopoeia, i.e. the transformation of “base metals” like lead into “noble metals” like gold. After the translation of Medieval Islamic treaties on science in the 12th century, the European alchemy started to play an important role in the development of modern laboratorytechniques and the experimental method, which are still being used in our times.
The blossoming of the basic scientific methodology in the 17the century eclipsed the Alchemy, which was considered as a charlatan’s endeavor tainted with magic. But the seminal studies of Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, of our collective unconscious brought the symbology of Alchemy back to the fore. Jung dared to tackle its complex, dark significance in his book Psychology and Alchemy. Marie-Louise Franz was a Swiss disciple of Jung and in her bookAn Introduction to the Symbolism of Alchemy and Psychology, she said: “in (his book) Dr. Jung has, as it were, introduced alchemy into psychology , first by publishing a series of the dreams of a natural scientist which contain a great amount of alchemical symbolism, and then by quoting from old texts, whereby he hoped to show how important and modern this material is, and how much it has to say to modern man. He himself discovered alchemy absolutely empirically. He once told me that he frequently came across certain motifs in his patients’ dreams and then one day he started to look at old books on alchemy and noticed a connection.”
Jung believed that our Unconscious is not an ethereal fabrication of our personal and collective minds but rather a physical entity that has a powerful characteristic:
The Unconscious is Matter that knows itself
Marie-Louise Franz said: “the alchemists, in observing and experiencing their symbols and in their written description, worked without any conscious religious or scientific program, so that their conclusions are spontaneous, uncorrected impressions of the unconscious with very little conscious interference, in contrast to other symbolic material which had always been revised.”
Upright Chariot – When this card appears, it is a clear signal that you must use all your willpower to steady the course of action and avoid being swayed sideways by obstacles and persons that would stand in your way to success in any kind of realm. On a personal or public level, you must move forward with focused determination. This is not a time for the meek or the doubtful. You must make that valiant first step. If it refers to an event in you recent past, it might mean that your spiritual strength has helped you surmount all those seemingly impossible obstacles with panache.
Downright Chariot – When this card appears, it is an unequivocal sign that you must stop and stand down in whatever major project or task that you might have started. Perhaps you must re-evaluate your course of action by studying all the parameters that had prodded you to take it in the first place. Even though you might successfully achieve your goals, they might turn out to be a “bad choice” for you and other persons. At the personal level, it might mean that you must sit down with your friend or romantic partner to discuss some past events or decisions that affected you greatly. While the Upright Chariot is a road sign that says: “Full speed ahead”, the Reverse version is another sign that says: “Stop”, in big bold red letters with a white background.
In our previous article, we discussed the powerful feminine figures that so strongly influence our lives from beginning to end. Today we will discuss the manly ones that influence our pathways.
V – The Emperor
If the Empress is the archetype of the “mother figure”, then The Emperor is the counterpart representing the “father figure.” This figure of ultimate power wears a red robe that signifies unbridled energy to perform his tasks and/or reach his ends, indicating that his decisive power is flowing permanently, wherever he might be. His bushy white beard signifies that he has acquired critical wisdom over the years. In his right hand he is holding an ankh—the hieroglyphic symbol that represented Life in Ancient Egypt—and in his left hand he is holding the globus—together with the cross, it has been part of the Christian symbol of authority since the Middle ages. The mountain range in the background gives an idea of a “rock-solid” determination that will not be indented by other people’s opinions and feelings about his decisions; however, the little stream at the bottom indicates that a softer approach might work.
The pater familias was the head of a traditional household in Roman times. The Latin term “familia” derived from the famuli, which identified the group of slaves owned by the nobles and that toiled in their estates. In Ancient Rome, the family was considered an economic and a judicial unit, where the oldest male in the house had the ultimate say in all matters, big and small, that concerned their members. The term Patria Potestas implies that the head of the Roman family had legal and civil power over the other members of the households, the servants, the slaves, and certain clients of his enterprises. He had the responsibility of providing for shelter, food, and other amenities for all those under his aegis; if he forfeited his responsibilities, he could face the courts that had the effective power to take them away from him. It was a paternalistic conception of the basic societal unit that survived that Empire.
Upright Emperor – This scene represents the bonding with the Divine Masculine and encourages us to take charge of our situations and controversies in a firm way. You are encouraged to act decisively so you can bring stability and order to the family, labor, and institutional affairs. At the personal level, it might indicate that you have to control and channel your best impulses to make a relationship work.
Reverse Emperor – This scene implies that there is an extremely strong obstacle for the attainment of your personal or societal objectives. In a couple relationship, it might mean that your insensitivity to your partner’s feeling and desires is husting it. It is already time to sit down with your partner to discuss together certain issues. In a labor, business, or professional settings, it might mean that there are paternalistic figures—your boss, your colleagues, or superiors—that are sabotaging your career. You must seize the opportunity to face this obstacle instead of trying to dodge it. In an authoritarian realm, this random inversion could be interpreted as a “call to arms” for professionally and emotionally frustrated women to rebel against their yoke from the reactionary patriarchal institutions.
VI – The Hierophant
This card, the counterpart of the feminine High Priestess, represents a distinguished Man of Wisdom, not necessarily of religious origin, that is calmly siting between two pillars in a sacred temple, wearing a three colors-robe—alluding to the Holy Trinity—and sporting a three-tiered crown—representing the Conscious, Sub-Conscious and Super-Conscious minds. Foremost of all, he is a teacher, a mentor. In his left hand he is holding the papal ferula—in this case the rod is surmounted by a triple sceptre—and with his right hand he is pointing two fingers upwards to the Heavens and two downward to Earth. Right in front of him, two disciples kneel down to receive the wisdom of the two keys: The Conscious and the Unconscious minds.
In 1990, Sigmund Freud published what might have been the most overlooked and yet the most significant book of his prolific writing career: Die Traumdeutung (the Interpretation of Dreams) Freud revised the book at least eight times and in its third edition added a section about the symbolism of dreams, based on the pioneering work of Wilhelm Stekel, an Austrian physician and psychologist who had a special gift for spotting “repressed material” in his patients’ clinical descriptions. They both founded the first psycho-analytic society but had an unfortunate falling-out in 1912.
The Psychoanalytic School claimed that what we consider as “our mind” is just the tip of the iceberg of our mental structure: The Conscious Mind. On the other hand, our Unconscious Mind is filled with desires, expectations and fears that are often too traumatic and must be kept repressed. The only way for us to safely explore the depths of our Unconscious is to engage in dreaming, which has special parameters. Freud believed that every dream has a manifest content (what we actually remember when we wake up) and a latent content that must be camouflaged for safety reasons. He considered dreaming as a fulfillment of repressed wishes, which relieved our deep psychological tensions by finding a socially acceptable escape valve for them. In fact Freud was a vivid dreamer and he took frequent naps.
Upright Hierophant – This card represents the traditional teachings, religious or not, that must guide our communal lives. We must follow the advice of our mentors in order to develop our greatest potential in harmony with other people. Based on our education, the priest/mentor prods us to innovate in our lives with courage.
Reverse Hierophant – This scene might represent a subversion of everything that we had previously considered as “right” or “proper” in our lives, prodding us to rebel against the traditional norms and institutions that have shaped our intellects so far. It might encourage you to be more original and try other methods, opinions, feelings. However, if you find yourself in dire straits, this card might mean that you are paying a “high price” from reneging from your faith or acquired wisdom; you should go back to “your origins” and try to find practical solutions to your present problems in that most basic yet always nurturing medium.
We will continue to patiently analyze the trump cards of Tarot’s Major Arcana. We will discuss two cards that symbolize the decisive influence of the Divine Feminine in our daily lives and its significance for Mankind.
III – The High Priestess
This card shows a woman of great authority majestically sitting in front of a thin veil that is decorated with pomegranates, discreetly separating the Conscious and the Unconscious parts of our minds. It marks the boundary between what is evident in our daily lives from what is hidden in the same; in order to cross that threshold, we must acquire wisdom and knowledge. The pomegranate is an old symbol of fertility and thus epitomizes the Divine Feminine that assures the survival of our species. The access to the temple of wisdom has two pillars—one black with the letter B and one white with the letter J. The first one represents Boaz, i.e. “in his strength”, and the second one represents Jachin, i.e. “he will establish.” The juxtaposition of colors implies that both “the feminine” and “the masculine” halves are essential for Life. On her lap she has a partially concealed scroll dubbed as Tora, which represents the divine knowledge that will only be totally revealed to the truly capable for that task.
Note – This picture shows the sculpture called The Rape of Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
One of the oldest myths from the beginning of Human Civilization in the stretch of land spanning between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (located in what is known today as Iraq) is the Sumerian narration of an abduction. Samuel Noah Kramer, one of the foremost experts in Ancient Mythology, stated that the fair maiden Ereshkigal was abducted by Kur, the fierce demon that ruled the Underworld, and forced her to become his queen, ruling together their dark realm. Almost all the old civilizations had a version of this tale but the most famous one has been the Myth of Persephone.
In Greek mythology, Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, was madly in love with the beautiful Persephone but Demeter, her mother, was adamantly opposed to the bond. One day when Persephone was innocently gathering flowers in the field with Artemis and Pallas, Hades burst through a cleft in the terrain and abducted her. Demeter searched for her missing daughter everywhere until Hellios, the Sun, that could see everything told her what had happened. The grieving mother pleaded with Zeus, who received the pleas of other deities, and he forced Hades to release her. However, before he complied with his superior’s order, Hades tricked Persephone into tasting the pomegranate; hooked on that fruit’s unique taste, she was obliged to return to the Underworld a fourth of the calendar year, in Wintertime, and to go back to the surface when Spring came. The arrival of Persephone heralded soil’s fertility.
Upright High Priestess – This scene announces a period of unusual growth and fertile creativity in the life of an individual. For the eventual accomplishment of that goal., he/she/ihr must take some distance from the material and pedestrian world in order to healthily re-connect with the inner spirituality that we all carry, in different forms and levels, inside us. Only after we perform that “inner cleansing” will the truth be revealed to us and, therefore, pave the way for our open success in society.
Reversed High Priestess – This scene indicates that there might be some seriousstumbling blocks in our path to creative expansiveness and personal happiness. If it appears in the context of a sentimental relationship, it means that there are some hidden or camouflaged issues that are damaging our relationship with other persons. It is our duty to pause and make an introspective analysis to find and remedy them.
IV – The Empress
This card shows a gorgeous blonde with a crown of twelve stars on her head—the symbol of her connection to the twelve months of the year and the twelve planets. With a robe adorned with the ancient symbol of fertility—the pomegranate, the fruit of Persephone—she is sitting on a comfortable cushion that has the symbol of Venus. In the background there is a glimpse of a thick forest that would most likely be teeming with animals, plants, etc. This scene epitomizes the growth and fertility potential of the Feminine Divine. In ancient civilizations, which were mostly agrarian in nature, women were enthroned as the symbol of human presence in their environment; only when marauding bands of hunting men started to conquer these settlements, did the idea of Patriarchy rise. The concept of Mother Nature, or Mother Earth, is the embodiment of the life-giving and nurturing capabilities of Nature by representing it as a woman and a mother.
Note – This well preserved mosaic from a Roman villa in the Marche region depicts Aion, the God of Eternity, standing inside a celestial sphere decorated with the twelve zodiac signs, between a green tree (representing the Summertime) and a bare one (representing the Wintertime) In front of him, Tellus (the Roman counterpart of Gaia, the Greek goddess of Mother Earth) is lounging with her four children, each representing a season of the year. Glyptothek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Johann Jakob Bachofen was a Swiss antiquarian, jurist philologist, anthropologist, and professor of Roman Law at the University of Basel, that proposed the still controversial concept that in the beginning of human civilization, the matriarchate was the predominant form of social order in most communities. His seminal book Das Mutterrecht—”Mother Right: an investigation of the religious and juridical character of matriarchy in the Ancient world”—was published in 1861and even though it was largely ignored in his own times, it became one of the philosophical foundations of Modern Feminism in the 1970s. Bachofen proposed that by shunning the raw promiscuity of our prehistoric times, women started to efficiently organize their communities around the concept of family and parental obligations for the kin.
Upright Empress – This scene represents the personal period of renewed growth that will eventually spawn the emergence of new projects and new accomplishments. Following the guidance of our natural instincts, we should open our hearts and minds to new possibilities in the labor, professional, study, financial and romantic realms. For women, this card calls for a renewed bonding with their femininity—sensuality, eroticism, creative energies, and generous nurturing—in order to bring much more harmony to their environment and family relationships. The creation of Beauty. It represents an ancient allegory to the “birthing phenomenon”, personal or social.
Reversed Empress – This scene represents the actual blocking of our inner creative energies and deepest emotions by certain phenomena or persons standing in our way. The apparition of this card for a lady may mean that it is time for her to stop caring somuch for the feelings and needs of her close ones and to dedicate a little bit moretime to herself for a change. What to do? She should try to re-connect with her old girlfriends, make new friends, go back to school or the arts, change jobs, etc. If this card appears for a gentleman, it might be an indication that he “should open up more” in his couple ,without waiting for others to explicitly demand for a change. Do not procrastinate.
A few days ago we were watching an American news program (we will withhold the name of the cable outfit) when the lady host, accompanied by a gentleman, said that a Canadian woman had publicly returned the few stones and pieces of brick that she had clandestinely taken form the archeological site of Pompeii many decades ago because she felt they had brought great tragedies to her life, including cancer. She prudently announced the news without making any additional commentary. But the man (what’s new pussycat?) decided to wisely interject a supposedly funny joke. –“Oh, we didn’t know that we had been having bad luck due to the coals,” he said.
We have observed the same derogatory attitude against issues or events that, without having a solid scientific explanation at present, might have some valid elements. When we were 12 years old, we spent a long summer in the apartment belonging to Marta Salguero, a.k.a. Memé, my paternal grandmother, and Ricardo Laplume, my paternal grandfather. They lived in La Ciudad Vieja, the old section of Montevideo that dates way back to the time of the Spanish colonization in the seventeen and eighteenth centuries; at the time it was circled by an enclosing stone and brick wall. Near the ancient Catholic Cathedral in the Plaza Matriz (opposite what was the seat of the colonial authorities across the central square) a street named Sarandí, had, and still has, several lovely quaint little shops and cozy cafes, favored by the European and American tourists visiting my great city of birth.
One day, coming back from a leisurely stroll in the square, I passed by a little shop full of antiques on display at the big street window; prodded by my youthful desire to have new experiences, I decidedly stepped inside it. After making just a few steps inside, I was abruptly accosted by a cacophony of various voices that spoke at the same time in different tones and languages.
Vaguely we remember that when we looked at an old fashioned rocking horse, a boyish voice emerged saying in Spanish: “It’s my turn now…Get off it.” When we abruptly turned our gaze to a delicately painted Bavarian set of dinnerware, we heard the authoritarian summons of a man in Sicilian dialect saying: “This soup is cold…Fix it.” We remember that we paused with the melancholic look of a Victorian doll that whispered in English: “I miss you…”
The old man that tended the shop noticed my big distress and escorted me back to the front door. He told me the following: “Take a deep breath and calm down…I know what you are going through now…Stay here.” He went back inside and came back a few seconds later with a glass of fresh water. I was feeling very dizzy. I gulped it.
He told me that it took him some time to get used to “those voices” but that the process had been gradual as he had inherited the business from his late father’ he used to take him to the shop on a regular basis, for little periods of time until he got used to it. He had been slowly inoculated against the anguished voices of the past that speak through the objects they had cherished and collected during their past lifetimes. Thanking him for his help, we skedaddled and never returned to that little shop. We even crossed to the other side of the street when we unavoidably had to pass by it on our way to the Avenida 18 de Julio.
Always reluctant to visit shopping venues, we nonetheless like to wander in modern places like one of the outlets from the Swedish Ikea, checking all their practical objects, buy something we might need, and if possible, have lunch with their delicious meatballs. We like to smell the fresh wood from the furniture and enjoy their fabulous lighting.
But visiting an antique store or auction, no matter how prestigious they might be? Fuggedaboutit!
After the necessary Introduction to Tarot, we will slowly, very slowly, proceed to discuss the significance of all the trump cards of the Major Arcana. Considering that each of these 22 cards represent a major scene in the lives of humans, we will try to decipher the philosophical and psychological substratum that justify their inclusion there. We would like to thank the great web resources offered by Brigit in her page Biddy Tarot, which has been a fecund source of awakenings in our studies. We strongly recommend that you visit her page for that precious mentoring.
First of all, let us warn you that the interpretation of each card, besides relying on the opinion of experts of this esoteric discipline, will be unavoidably “tainted” by our own opinions, experiences and, pour quoi pas?, a little bit of prejudicing. After intensively sharing feelings and actions with our loved ones, friends, colleagues (friends and foes) and strangers galore, we know a thing or two about Life itself. Moreover, we are especially interested in exploring the cultural, sociological andpsychological substratum behind each major card, for which we will make some “more or less” educated guesses about their importance for the whole deck, This will constitute our personal opinion and you are welcome to dissent and critique it.
Ladies and gentlemen, shall we make that scary first move and step into the Tarot realm? Hold our hand and let’s go.
This card is traditionally numbered as O because it can be both the first and the last card in the sequence of the Major Arcana. It represents our journey through Life. The idea that a man (or a woman bien sur) is a naïve operator manipulated by hidden forces or individuals, that stay largely in the coulisses without expressing their aim, has been a constant concept in Philosophy since the times of Ancient Greece. The only three major plays of Sophocles that, sadly, have been successfully transmitted to us—Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone—are good examples of that disquieting premise: humans are influenced by decisive factors that often escape our volition.
Scared by a prophecy that their son would eventually kill his father and marry his mother, Laius and Jocasta entrusted a servant to take their infant away to get rid of him. Feeling pity for the boy, he passed him to a childless couple who raises him, without knowing his history. When he grew up, Oedipus became aware of that prophecy and runs away from his home, trying to put distance with his stepparents. At a crossroads, he encountered a noble man with an entourage of servants; they get into a fight and he killed him. It was Laius, his father, but he did not know it then. After solving the riddle of the Sphynx, he became the ruler of Thebes and married Jocasta, the widowed queen. When they learn the truth, Jocasta committed suicide and Oedipus blinded himself, before banishing himself from Thebes. At the end of the play, the chorus sings: “Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.” Can you possibly imagine a more depressing message to a very shocked public?
As we said in our previous article, The Fool is “a young man that, holding a walking stick with a small knapsack in his right hand and a white rose symbolizing innocence in his left one, is perilously standing at the edge of the precipice, with the company of a loyal little dog. Is it warning him of great danger if he makes another move forward? Or is it perhaps pushing him to quickly grab the big opportunity he has been waiting for? The answer is that both interpretations can be valid at some time.
The Upright Wisdom interprets the appearance of this card as a signal of a new start, in the labor, professional, financial, family or love realms; it also implies that the individual must take a leap of faith if he/she/ihr wants to have a radical change.
The Wisdom in Reverse interprets it as warning to pause in a specific endeavor or relationship. Danger lies eerily ahead, and the individual must re-evaluate options. If the individual stubbornly insists on moving forward, dire consequences come.
Strongly propelled by the vitality and enthusiasm of youth, Oedipus leaves his home to discover the world and make a name for himself. He resolutely pushes forward, without any misgivings, earning the ultimate prize in Ancient Greece: a kingdom. However, in hindsight he should have been wiser if he had paused for a brief moment to reflect on the succession of experiences that seemingly were all so successful. A word of caution for our readers: no durable victory comes so easily for mortals. The “easier it looks”, the more vigilant you must be. Don’t be a fool!
II – THE MAGICIAN
This is one of the more challenging cards to add to any scene because it always speaks of a new beginning (either under course or being sabotaged) that can change the whole life of an individual. It shows a man of wisdom raising his right hand to the Heavens above to receive Divine inspiration and re-transmitting it through his body to the left one pointing at the ground so it can be shared with other mortals. On top of his head we can clearly notice the sign of Infinity: infinite possibilities at work, studies, community activities, political affiliations, leisure, sports, and even love. We know form our Physics classes in High School that the Energy of the Universe is never lost, just channeled through different venues all the time, every time. He is signaling that we are at a critical junction of our lives and he is prodding us to act. Thoroughly empowered by the Divine inspiration, we must make a decisive move.
The Upright Wisdom for its interpretation when it is pulled in a reading is that the concerned individual must take advantage of the Divine inspiration to finally engage in doing what he/she/ihr has been quietly, discreetly ruminating for a very long time. No more procrastination. No more self-doubting. No more vagaries. Time to act.
The Wisdom in Reverse interprets the pulling of this card as a sign that the concerned individual should evaluate attitudes, beliefs, behavior, feelings, or fears that might be blocking the expression of that Divine inspiration ready to discharge. The stored energy must be quickly reclaimed for use in the family, labor, financial, community realms, etc., to achieve all the proposed objectives so intensively desired.
Let us go back to those somber, damp, eerie dwellings of our ancestors in the caves, gathering around a crackling fire and holding hands to fend off the Unknown outside. Facing some terrifying elements in their close environment, they clung to the hope that there would be “someone” or “something” that will rescue them as a last resort. Then and there we started to engage into magical thinking to change our Reality. For centuries, explorers and travelers have lit a camp fire when they decided to stop their journey for a night. It would “scare” beasts and bad spirits away.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Magical Thinking is “the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, actions, words, or use of symbols can influence the course of events in the material world. Magical thinking presumes a casual link between one’s inner, personal experience and the external physical world.”
The advent of Sociology and Anthropology as sciences in the beginning of the 19th century consolidated the triumph of Rational-Cartesian thinking in the evaluation of human activities, including the practice of religions. Reasonably reacting against the asphyxiating religiosity of the previous centuries and the unabashed encroachment of the religious institutions in the civic space of the citizenry, the latter started to question their foundations as superstitious exercises in unbridled magical thinking. Moreover the Industrial Revolution of the mid-nineteenth century and the strides in scientific knowledge that improved the living standards of millions worldwide, had the effect of ascribing the “magical thinking” to a list of relics from our distant past.
Sigmund Freud argued that there are two basic processes of Human Thought:
Primary processes: they are ruled by the Id, our pleasure principle, which frees them from the physical constraints of Reality, enabling magical thinking.
Secondary processes: they are a more sophisticated development controlled by the Ego, which constantly monitors them for their rational bearings.
Freud considered that the intellectual development of human beings, from the early world of impulses and magical thoughts to the rationality of science-based evidence, mirrors the evolution of human societies from the magical-religious to modernity. Studying the evolution of children, Jean Piaget affirmed that children aged 7-8 years old believe that their individual actions have effects in the physical world; recent research questions it, coming up with data of a less pronounced egocentrism.
In spite of all our rational scaffolding, the result of years, even decades, of sustained studies and work experiences, we, the adults, might also engage in magical thinking. For example, after our mother Gladys passed away, my brother Gustavo told me:
-“You know that sometimes I speak with Mom in silence…”
-“Of course, I do that all the time. And with Dad too…After having the privilege of two outstanding parents, we must continue the ongoing conversation with them.”
One of the critical steps in managing the great grief of a family loss is the following:
Before you were here…Now you are there… But our loving bond stays
As we have already discussed in our previous article titled Introduction to Tarot, the traditional deck is divided into two types of cards, which are basically different:
Major Arcana: these special cards represent the major milestones and critical junctions of our life cycle: birth, education, work, love, death, etc.
Minor Arcana: these cards represent the multiple vicissitudes in our lives.
In this article, before we address the significance of the combinations, we would like to discuss some basic concepts, which are of critical importance for novices like us. Let us first recommend the excellent book Truly Easy Tarot by Mantis, which has clarified many concepts and turned out to be a springboard in our Mystical Quest. The Major Arcana are the trump cards of a tarot pack and they were initially used in the 17th century as a special deck for gambling. There are 22 of these in a traditional 78-card pack; they are numbered with Roman numerals from 0 to 21. Each one depicts a scene with one or more individuals, with a clearly defined symbology.
According to the experts, each trump card has a divine interpretation, which appears to the sensitive individual when it is laid on the table in a straightforward manner. However, when the cards show up inverted, it means that the particular feature alluded by the symbology is, at the present time, “blocked” or “restrained” in that life. Some experts never read in the reverse mode, but others consider that reading to be highly complementary in our lives, similar to the Ying and Yang of the I Ching. The concept of matching of the opposites is fundamental to our understanding of it.
The flourishing of esoteric endeavors and secret societies in 19th century Europe did propel Tarot to a greater diffusion in the popular classes and its use as a divination tool. But there was a pioneer in Psychology that valued it as a good tool to explore the tenebrous depths of our Subconscious and Collective Memory. According to Mary K. Greer, Karl Jung said in a 1933 lecture that the Tarot deck was “really the origin of our pack of cards, in which the red and black symbolize the opposites, and the division of the four—clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts—also belongs to the individual symbolism.” He believed that the different combinations of scenes are in fact archetypal ideas related to “the playful development of mankind.” He daringly claimed that if we understand how we evolved from our past (collective and personal) into our present coordinates, we might be able to “grasp the flow of life” and, hopefully, predict part of our future. He instructed his pupils to study esoteric disciplines but warned them to approach them, not with the arrogance of the Cartesian discourse, but with the raw intuition that our ancestors used to great advantage in those dangerous times in dark caves.
We would like to humbly recommend two tactics that have eased our learning process of Tarot. They are:
The importance of Movement in the interpretation of the combinations.
We should tap into our Subconscious and Collective Memory.
For many, many years we have cavalierly disdained Tarot in general because, as a physician long trained in scientific certainty and aversion to quackery, we suspected that, besides any intrinsic values, it had been used by charlatans to reap easy money. Indeed it has, and still is, manipulated by callous individuals that prey on innocents. However, the preparation of this blogging series—the necessary scaffolding for a book—prodded us to seriously tackle all these esoteric activities with an open mind.
The various combinations of the deck can be considered as a snapshot of an ongoing motion in the life of an individual (or a group of them) that started in the past,arrives at our present and will project into the future. The Major Arcana cards depict a scene where someone is doing something or being the subject of somebody else’s actions. Let’s look at the example of Card Number 0 The Fool. What is he doing? Find the meaning of movement.
He is a young man that, holding a walking stick with a small knapsack in his right hand and a white rose symbolizing innocence in his left one, is perilously standing at the edge of the precipice, with the company of a loyal little dog. Is it warning him of great danger if he makes another move forward? Or is it perhaps pushing him to quickly grab the big opportunity he has been waiting for? The answer is that both interpretations can be valid at some time.
The Upright Wisdom interprets the appearance of this card as a signal of a new start, in the labor, professional, financial, family or love realms; it also implies that the individual must take a leap of faith if he/she/ihr wants to have a radical change.
The Wisdom in Reverse interprets it as warning to pause in a specific endeavor or relationship. Danger lies eerily ahead, and the individual must re-evaluate options. If the individual stubbornly insists on moving forward, dire consequences will come.
Are you slowly getting the drift of what we are, perhaps rather clumsily, trying to convey in our words?
Subconscious and Collective Memory
Since we sought refuge in those dark caves in the beginning of Mankind’s presence on Planet Earth, we have cozied up to our loved ones besides a crackling fire and fallen asleep to give a necessary pause to our Conscious minds. That is precisely when the Subconscious takes over center stage in the theater of our lives to act upon. Slowly, we play past experiences, our present fears, our hidden traumas, our hopes. The Subconscious is the reservoir of all the experiences that are deemed to be part of the hiddenhuman experience— good ones, bad ones, and the ones in between. Moreover, ever since we start our life in the depths of our dear mothers’ wombs, we are already receiving their filtrations. Every minute of our lives, we are hoarding many souvenirs and interpretations that we will readily re-transmit to our kindred, for better or worse. It is never a choice. We get them, like it or not…Can’t escape it.
In order to shut off the tremendous bombardment of noise and unsolicited messages that our excessively digitalized society throws at our senses, we must take a pause. After carefully looking at the cards laid on the table, we should close our eyes for a few seconds and seek the help of our Subconscious mind. Toc. Toc. Toc. Need help.
Take the necessary time to sit down at the majestic library of our accumulated Human Knowledge and calmly pore over the dusty manuscripts and manuals of the ones that preceded us. They are still talking to us through them. Then you may find some critical clues of what is happening today and, hopefully, what will happen tomorrow.
In the next installment of this series, we will start to analyze those scenes together. Do not panic. We can do this.