Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tarot musings: Correspondences with the minor arcana

It should have been obvious - the minor arcana correspondences with archetypes are the face cards. In fact, it turns out to be almost too perfect to be true! There are eight gods that go perfectly with the 8 male face cards and, while there are only seven goddesses, it's possible that two go with one goddess... or maybe there's a goddess missing? I lean toward Athena being two goddesses, and that covers the two remaining face cards. In the next post I'll muse further on this. The funny thing is, the number cards do not feel at all as if they correspond to any archetype. They belong together, telling a complete story - they're the journey through the four different arenas of life, not descriptions of the players doing the journeying. Another post will explore these further issues.

Minor Arcana Correspondences with the Archetypes:

Hera/Queen of Swords: Strength of will exercised on others. The Greek myth of Atalanta comes to mind - she internalized the standards of patriarchy, and would only accept the man who would could defeat her in battle. The Queen of Swords woman seeks a powerful man with high status. She often has amazing perception and insight. The intuitive quality of water along the mental clarity of the swords suit are behind this potent combination, and in this case, the two elements complement each other and unite to create the keen vision allows the Queen of Swords to see straight to the heart of any situation. She sees both sides of an argument and those who try to deceive her are in for a big surprise - thieves and con artists will quickly taste her cold steel. The Queen of Swords tends not to show her emotional side, but her judgement can sometimes be swayed by her heart, and because of these conflicts she is neither a good confidante nor a fair judge. She can be extremely vocal about her opinion, and heaven help the person who disagrees. She sometimes has few friends and is often depressed and unsatisfied with herself because she can't live up to her own high standards. She uses her sharp humor to simultaneously express and hide her bitterness and her dissatisfaction. Her gift is the stoicism to survive painful experiences and learn from them. A Queen of Swords can share that painfully garnered wisdom with those who encounter her.

Persephone/Page of Cups: Deeply personal explorer of the inner self. The Page of Cups is a woman whose imagination is totally free, free to dream wonderful dreams and to create her life exactly as she chooses. But although her head is in the clouds, her feet rarely leave the ground. She's a true romantic -  gentle and compassionate, often highly imaginative and artistic - she values tranquility and peace, and as such is often out of place in the modern world because she can't always cope with conflict. Although she seems dreamy and detached, beneath her quiet calmness lies a bravery and studiousness that could rival a knight's. Her ideas may seem elusive and impossible to realize but, more often than not, their basis is solid. Although she can be moody and impractical because she's so rooted in the spiritual and the emotional, the Page of Cups is always ready to serve. Her gift is to remind us to never stop listening to our intuition and believing in our dreams. In the darkest times dreams provide a ray of hope - if we can dare to dream, all things become possible.

Artemis/Page of Swords: Defender of the weak and of Righteousness. The justice she carries out is based on the natural, primordial laws of Right and Wrong, Vengeance and the Repayment of a kindness, and predate the order giving laws of man. Sure-footed, succeeding without flash, although she has a child-like fascination with ideas she's probably the most mature and mentally developed of the pages. She knows her power and how to use it. She has a good balance between mind and heart - her emotions don't rule her but she will not over think every single decision she makes. She quickly adapts to changing circumstances and is gifted with eloquent speech. Unlike the older sword court cards, the Page usually expresses her true feelings even though she is able to camouflage them if she wants to. When she decides to throw away diplomacy and tell it like it is, though, get ready for a possibly brutal reality check. The Page of Swords uses her blade to cut straight to the heart of a matter, ridding the area of the cobwebs and red herrings that lead others astray. She can easily perceive others' weakness use it against them. Like the other swords cards she has a tendency to seek to win regardless of the damage her actions may have on those around her and she is prone to burning her bridges. Her appearance is a challenge to expand your mind and look at things in new ways. Understand the problem and, in the process of gaining understanding, you will find an answer. Seek out the truth, regardless of the consequences.

Demeter/Queen of Pentacles: Fruitful mother and giver of abundance. Sensual and earthy, she enjoys luxury but is quick to share her wealth. She is the queen of fertility and the harvest, and her talents extend to mothering and nurturing. She has an ability to sustain and care for all kinds of life. She's often wealthy, but more than material wealth is the wealth she's built through kindness and generosity. A mother or will express motherly dedication and love, even without children of her own. In touch with her feelings but with a solid grounding in material matters, her ambitions center on the simple but often difficult goals of family, which she devotes herself to. She is always rich in heart, and she shares her wealth with those in need. Her weakness is an obsession with security and protection. The Queen of Pentacles is the bridge between the mundane and the sublime, the harsh world of reality and the dappled, eternally sunlit realms of the Summerlands - on the other side of that bridge is an opulence and pure beauty that, even when you return to the mundane world, will stay in your heart and sustain you. Once you've visited the Queen's realm, you can never forget paradise.

Hestia/Page of Pentacles: Deeply impersonal explorer of the realms beyond. Student of the inner mysteries, old soul, she's down-to-earth and the most responsible of the Pages, a trait that comes to her from her suit. She's a diligent worker and an efficient manager who uses common sense more than intuition and goes by the book rather than taking risks, but she's also open to new ideas and isn't rigidly dogmatic. She sees the opportunities inherent in every situation and finds ways to exploit them based on the resources at hand. She takes great pleasure in the world and strives to preserve it's beauty, as she strives to preserve the old ways of thinking and doing, which she also finds beautiful. Her gifts are to call on the good energy to handle a big responsibility, to gather resources and use them wisely, to develop a passion for learning and new ideas. Apply knowledge with enthusiasm, thinking practically in all situations, and you cannot fail.

Aphrodite/Queen of Cups: One who loves and brings love, focused almost solely on romantic/sexual relationships. She personifies the virtue of love and, although patriarchal society misunderstands her passion and sensuality, she is pure of heart. Her intuition is powerful thanks to her connection with the subconscious. She's like a mirror, reflecting the hidden depths of others back to them so they can see their own mysteries, even though her own secrets remain invisible, sometimes even to herself. She possesses extraordinary insight into the behavior and motivations of others and she's often a gifted counselor and healer. Her beauty is the purity of her spirit, and such magnificence has a universal allure and attracts others to her. She's a dreamer, with wondrous fantasies and a vivid imagination. She can lose herself in her fantasies and daydreams and, though completely confident in her instincts, she's often unable to apply those instincts to the real world. At music, poetry, mothering and art she has no equal but at every thing else she's mediocre at best. She may place great importance on her relationships because she thinks she's incapable of standing alone. In the same way that she can see and reflect back to others their inner wonders, the Queen of Cups needs to lift the lid off her cup and see her own inner mystery. She can teach us to use our intuition as a guide - she encourages a moderate approach to intuition and wonder... The heart may see further but sometimes you have to look at things with your eyes.

Athena Parthenos/Queen of Wands: Athena of the Parthenon, patron goddess of the city of Athens. Wisdom, the arts and civilization. Maternal figure stable in her security and poise. Patron of cities and towns, and of the civilized arts. Her throne has no top, indicating endless possibilities and she's the only figure in the wand court with no animals portrayed on her clothing, alluding to her human realms of reason and civilization. Charming but elusive, she can use her power for great good or terrible destruction. She knows what she wants in life and will go after it whenever she's gets the opportunity. She can't be swayed from her goals, no matter how strong the forces opposing her. She's independent but has many friends and is almost always the center of attention of a large group. Her charisma and enthusiasm tend to attract others to her, and she tends to be a sexy and sensual woman for all her "masculine" (so-called) traits. Her stubbornness can often lead to her detriment and if she pursues her ambition for too long she can burn herself out. Although she appears to be invincible she's not... even though she herself is convinced she is. She always has to be on the move and won't tolerate anything that makes her stay somewhere longer than she wants. She often takes others' problems into her own hands to see if she can solve them more quickly. In fragile situations this can create more problems than it solves. She makes a great friend, and a dangerous enemy. Her gifts are her constancy and dedication, which can aid in carrying out creative visions. Engage the tough issues with all your might and don't relent until the day is won.

Athena Promochos/Page of Wands: "She Who Fights In Front." Wisdom, law and defense; defender of cities and civilization, her laws are the laws of human reason. The horse represents a natural instinctive drive and she tends to act without knowing why. She looks upwards, representing optimism, joy and drive. Her energy and courage are boundless and she has no fear. While this sometimes gets her in trouble, it's also how she manages extricates herself from difficult situations. She has a spontaneous, kinetic outlook on life and, although she may seem gruff or even violent, underneath she has a warm and generous heart. She's highly supportive of friends, and has a lot of them. She typifies the "knight in shining armor" prototype because she's always sweeping in to save the day, then moving on to the next adventure. She has a deep sense of morality and honor and is always ready to defend the helpless. Her gifts are to show us the energy within ourselves that we need to bring to the surface, but doing so shouldn't be too difficult. In fact, keeping her down may be harder than letting her out. Confidence will increase and with it the ability to tackle any and all challenges. Step into the light of your own strength.

Zeus/King of Swords: The mature king who's already won his throne, he has nothing to prove. He's strong-hearted, decisive and sound of judgement. At his worst he can be ruthless and judgemental but when he's healthy he can be the best of judges, able to look at a situation with total impartiality and render a decision that's both fair and insightful. He has powerful emotions, more so than any other member of the sword suit, but he keeps them under control and uses them for his own purposes. He's a man of high ethical standards and incorruptible, giving sound advice to others. Like the King of Wands he's a leader, but his style of command is more like a general than a governor. He doesn't inspire people, he commands them, and they obey because they trust him. His decisions are almost always right because he sees the big picture and doesn't let his emotions sway his judgment. When he takes it on himself to turn his keen mind to "his" people's problems, he may be stern but his decisions are in their interest. He isn't a passive leader who sits back and gives orders while doing nothing. He's very active and, when necessary, will be the first to draw his sword. This is especially true when someone commits an act that violates his code of ethics - he's totally intolerant of those who break the law (or, more accurately, his law) and his retribution is swift and severe. He can lack empathy for others, not caring about their well being, leading them not because he wants to but because he can. His gifts are his cool impartiality and judgement that helps solve problems. When your head is clear you can see things in a different light. Judge fairly, speak the truth, and never waver from your standards.

Hephaestus/Knight of Pentacles: His power is the ability to manipulate the physical world to manifest things in the material plane. Though his visions may not be earth shattering nor his methods particularly original, the Knight of Pentacles sees that everything he undertakes will be met with nothing less than complete success. He's probably the least active of the knights, and the least ambitious, though he carries the burden of responsibility that the other knights often abandon in their haste to find glory. Where another man will charge into a situation and end up doing little more than hurting himself, the Knight of Pentacles carefully assesses the situation. And then, when he strikes, it will be with the force of a hurricane: decisive and implacable. He's a dedicated and loyal worker - when he says something will get done, it gets done. His persistence is virtually inexhaustible and he'll keep at a task until it's complete. His word is as strong as his arm, and he takes his promises seriously. He likes doing things the old fashioned way and, if he has any weakness, it's his lack of imagination. The old ways work for him and he dislikes it when others can't keep their heads out of the clouds. His gifts are loyalty, honoring promises and valuing responsibility. Others will respect you if you give them reason to, and once they're your friends, never let them down and they'll stay at your side through anything. Be realistic in your goals and hard work will produce the results you desire. Leave nothing to chance - make plans and outline your objectives. You have great potential for success if you stay grounded.

Hermes/Knight of Wands: Plays with ideas, and is good at it, but doesn't want to settle down. He has a passion for life despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that he's never really grown up. He's a free spirit, not weighed down by the burdens of the world. He has a vivid imagination, though he may neither realize it's there nor know how to develop it for creative purposes. His ambitions are high but not unattainable; he challenges himself but doesn't overstep his limits unless pushed to do so. Ethics are important to him and he accepts change because he is the agent of change; catalyst and creative visionary. He's a faithful lover with an almost unlimited passion and enthusiasm. We can learn from him to have fearlessness and a passion for life. His greatest gift is the power to deal with fears by facing them and seeing them for what they are. His inner light can expose what's in the darkness that you've been afraid of and show you what you've been running from. Once you see that the things you fear are nothing more than parts of your own self you can integrate them and grow stronger. Leave your fear behind and you'll be amazed at how much freedom you'll win.

Dionysus/Knight of Cups: Explorer of the depths, the dark hero of the midnight journey to the upside down realms of the bizarre. The Knight of Cups doesn't dash around the country like the other knights but moves slowly and calmly through the landscape, giving an impression of peace. He's the most feminine of the knights - he's in touch with his intuition and emotions and makes good use of them in his quests of romance and seduction. He's a dreamer, prone to wild ideas and flights of fancy. His wild imagination adds spark to any relationship... and he always seems to be involved in a relationship because he's a born romantic and a hopeless flirt. Beneath his calm exterior he's a man of intense passion, though he generally diverts that passion to making his dreams come true. He has an idealistic view of life that's often scorned by those who tend to be more active, and despised by those who consider themselves realists, and by the same token he has no tolerance for those who cannot believe in their dreams. He can get too wrapped up in his dreams, and his idealism can blind him if he's not careful. His gifts are to show us the glory of our bright dreams when we become stuck in being realists. Follow your dreams but don't let them become an obsession. Develop your imagination and let it guide you, but don't let it rule you or lead you to ruin... show love but don't go overboard and become committed to something you can't handle. Make sure you're in control of your life and your dreams.

Poseidon/King of Cups: Lord of the deep, the very personification of our powerful emotions. He's a powerful man in a feminine element... and he's powerful precisely because he's so in touch with the feminine in him, but he can seem contradictory to the uninitiated. Calm on the surface and yet passionate and volatile underneath, he can hide ulterior motives. The King of Cups is a wise advisor and a noble healer. He listens to the suggestions of others even when they're in conflict with his own carefully formed opinions. He never judges or blames others for their faults, and is a sympathetic supporter. In return others always gather around to hear what he has to say because his wisdom speaks directly to the heart. He's a natural diplomat, romantic to the core, and a stimulating partner, whether in conversation, friendship or in a sexual relationship. He rarely lacks confidence and, in those rare cases when he does, nobody ever realizes it. He's almost always hiding something. He enjoys the quiet power he holds over others and his personal agenda is as well crafted as his speeches. He's a seducer who thrives on the company of woman, and he can be selfish and unfaithful. Though he has a air of innocence to him, his character isn't deep enough to reach it. This comes as a result of the conflict between his fiery soul and his watery heart - the two opposing forces pull him in opposite directions and he often doesn't know which to follow. As a result he can be insecure and indecisive, allowing others to act for him. His gifts to us are a reliance on peace and tolerance to solve problems - Use diplomacy rather than force, and accept different points of view. Don't blame others for their failure but help them to see how they can succeed.

Hades/King of Pentacles: Lord of the Earth and it's still, dark heart. Everything the King of Pentacles touches turns to gold. He's a pillar of financial stability and shares his wealth and experience with others. He's spiritually as well as materially wealthy and encourages others to live their lives as he would. He has a strong character and his word is as good as gold, and just as valuable. What he says he'll do will get done but where the knight takes on responsibility for the sake of responsibility, the king is in it for profit. He's a businessman to the core and master of the material world. He can let it get out of hand if he's not careful but this rarely happens; he has too much experience and intelligence to be swept away by the allure of money... he prefers security and the peace of mind it brings him. Others may see him as dull and unimaginative because he prefers the old ways of thinking and acting. Although he likes learning and has a wide variety of skills to call upon he's found that the old methods usually work best and so he sticks with them. Others rely on him because of his devotion to duty and his trustworthiness. It's rare to see him get angry because he has a steady temperment and a long fuse but he's unforgiving to those who violate his trust, and for them he has no mercy. His gifts are the skills to manage material affairs competently and efficiently. Take up the vast challenges of the material world and know you can conquer them if you work hard. Give generously of your time and resources - by giving you will receive even more.  Let the King inspire you to succeed and you, in turn, can inspire others.

Ares/Knight of Swords: Personification of the quest for power, protagonist of the daylight side of the hero's journey as the Knight of Cups is protagonist of the night side. The Knight of Swords' way is the way of violence. Violence here doesn't necessarily refer to physical violence but to a suddenness and hostility that threatens others, or at least makes them wary. He's almost completely removed from the realm of emotion - he will act with total emotionlessness. It's not that he doesn't have emotions, just that he suppresses them as he doesn't see the value in having them. The heart is the center of compassion, but it's also the center of fear, and with his heart firmly under his heel the Knight of Swords is fearless and never anticipates defeat. He thinks of himself as invincible and, although this is a fault, it can also give him the confidence to succeed where others fail. Since he never doubts himself or his ability, he's the perfect person to implement the new ideas others shy away from. Although his gift carries dangers, sometimes it's necessary to accept them. His fearlessness can give the courage to act in difficult circumstances and his impartiality is valuable when making hard choices, just be sure not to act too hastily. His refusal to back down from fear makes him a pillar of strength.

Apollo/King of Wands: Defender of order, the King of Wands has the least of all the face cards to do with actual creation and creativity - his forte is not in dreaming up ideas but in taking an idea and changing the world to match it. He's a natural leader and commander of all kinds of people - they flock to hear what he has to say, and leave just as eagerly to carry out the tasks he gives them. He's the ultimate leader who looks forward to challenges because he enjoys the rush of adrenaline that solving a difficult problem can induce. He not only dispels his own fear but that of others, assuring them that they will succeed. He's not all talk, though; when the going gets tough no one hangs in there longer than he does. The King of Wands has an deep, innate respect for others, and his compassion extends further than most people would expect. He has an excellent relationship with the common people and is empowering of others, helping them to find their own inner King of Wands. He can have difficulty showing the restraint to know when assistance isn't needed or wanted, and can make things worse by doing what he thinks is the right thing... and he always thinks that what he's doing is the right thing. Most of the time his sense of ethics proves him right but when he's on the wrong side of an argument he can do great harm, but no one can accuse him of walking away from problems. He'll defend another man as diligently, if not more so, than he would himself. His gifts are to invite us to act as he would, and his vision is one of an ideal reality, that humanity might be better than it is. He's a warrior of light who stands up for what matters and his appearance is an invitation for you to do so as well. When there is a cause you feel moved to support, jump in and proceed with the knowledge that your base of power is strong. Take your responsibilities seriously, think of new ways to do things, and never stop believing in yourself... or others.

Once again, I am deeply indebted to James Rioux of the American Tarot Association for his brilliant insights into the Tarot and the human psyche. I've probably learned more about my friends, relatives and co-workers in the writing of this one post than I have the all the years I've known them! The man's a GENIUS!

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