“To the student of the tarot, the images represent the learning of the process of evolution. To any other person, they are pictures and nothing more. “– Ra
Symbolism in the tarot
A brief look at the symbols in the tarot cards and their historic derivatives
Symbols are a language.
Prior to the written word most cultures used images and sound to relate.
They are the primordial expressions of truth, the uninhibited language.
A language that allows the left and right brain to come together in union to experience life fully; consciousness communicating in its fundamental unadulterated essence – language of the soul.
reminds me of the Rishis
With symbols a sweet balance of the left and right hemispheres, a yin and yang communication between the two spheres is aroused;. giving us the ability to understand ourselves and the universe in a more holistic way.
The tarot (symbolism) therefore brings us back into this union, back into the pure consciousness, it is a bridge.
I’m feeling the dual in nondual here
When we begin to familiarise ourselves with these symbols we can create a harmonious balance in the mind, we can step into the archetypes (for the self development aspect) and also allow them to give us intuitive insights (the divination aspect).
Both are relative (one without the other is only a half of the truth) and available to us; interdependent and integral to our evolution as a species.
Let’s look at The Lovers tarot card for example….
If two people come together and use words to communicate the experience or desire, there will be a number of different interpretations and the two may spend hrs ruminating over the concepts and meanings – workshopping their ideals around personal references and mores.
However, if the two place themselves in an atmosphere of candlelight, rose petals and sunflowers, with Beethoven’s Symphony #5 playing in the background, and stare into each other’s eyes (as expressed in The Lovers card), with this universal language they are more likely to feel lovely and see and appreciate each other’s beauty…. Speaking from the soul… and who knows what could happen next.
We see these symbols being used in alchemy, the hermetic teaching and the kabbalah.
However, if we go back a bit in time we can see that these symbols are universal symbols and therefore have no historical source; are from the mysterious source of the universe . Also, many were used in ancient Eastern culture (perhaps in different ways); we can therefore see a connection between the East and the West.
We can see how symbols are derivative from the unknown source of all.
What exactly is the tarot – the truth
Like love, the Tarot and its origins are pervaded by mystery, both historically and by its very quintessence, or its essential nature, as it where.
I like to draw love hearts, in the mirror and the shower glass, each day as i go about my morning ritual so the symbol stays present in my psyche throughout the day’s challenges
Stick to the topic Megsie – Tarot truth
It is like a deep river of life, of which the current of many esoteric disciplines and philosophies are flowing to, through and from. The streams of astrology, numerology, the Kabbalah, alchemy, Hermetics and theosophical geometrical systems ripple through the Tarot like a fish takes to water; naturally, necessarily.
We see also Buddhist and Yogic principles circling though like wild rips in an ocean of wonder. I can hear Einstein’s famous attribution resounding right now “It’s all relative.”
It’s the ageless wisdom, undefinable and untraceable.
Somewhat Toaish in nature:
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad thing
-Tao Te Ching
The Tarot is a deck of cards containing symbols that help to guide us along the process of life. They are used for prophesying the future, understanding the past and tapping into the present energies or consciousness of a situation or person.
They are also used as a personal growth tool, as they depict the journey of the soul in the human body. They have a deep symbolic aptitude that has the capacity to transform our lives as we move along the process of evolution.
It’s often referred to as the fools Journey
In particular the Major Arcana, 22 cards (of the 78 – the Minor Arcana are 56 in total) layout the stages of our psychic (mind) development and the evolution of our soul (spiritual).
With the first 14 being the process of development from child to adult, alongside spiritual development. and the last being the deeper spiritual growth of the adept or awakened one. The first or last card The Fool (0) is the spirit, or the soul (the person) on the journey of life.
Each major arcana card can both be seen as a guide for this evolutionary process or offer divination guidance. Yet, as we deepen our relationship with the tarot we see both are one and the same, or that one may be intrinsic to the other.
Etymology of the Tarot
There is much debate about the etymology of the word Tarot, as no evidence (written documentation) has come forth . This is the nature of the Tarot.
Yet, here I will show some etymological hypothesis of the origins of the the word Tarot by taking a look at some of its possible sources – drawing from a common sense approach to history and linguistics.
Tarot comes from the Italian word trionfi, used in the fifteenth century to describe the twenty-two trump cards according to historians. Many esoteric scholars however have profited that it comes from Tah Ro – ‘road to evolution’ from Egyptian studied.
From latin: “tota” meaning “total” and “rota” meaning “revolving wheel.”
from “Tah Ro” meaning the royal road to evolution Egyptian.
Tar Rosh Egyptian – Science of Mercury (hermetic)
Tarot” descends from “Torah”, Hebrew law.
from Taraha (Arabic), which means “he rejected, put aside”
Tara – Goddess – generative force of the universe (of creation)
meaning secret Major – great. Meaning great secret. It seems rather mysterious (there’s that word again) that a mere card game of the fifteenth century would enter royalty
In relation to Tarot refers to a combination of Gnosticism, Alchemy, Astrology and Christian Cabala that came together in the Renaissance, then percolated through the esoteric lodges of 18th century France.
What is its purpose
The Tarot or the book of truth, is a depiction (however mysterious) of the laws of nature or the generative process of creation and life. It uses symbols often from the ancient traditions to express the journey of life.
The Tarot is a system for raising consciousness or self mastery.
The scholars verses the secret societies
There is much debate about its original esoteric purpose with some scholars believing it was first used for divination and others as a guide for the development (in particular spiritual) of the human experience – or the development of the human consciousness within secret societies. And also for ritual purposes. And all are true and all are equally important and connected.
Most Western historians protest that the cards were used as playing cards only, arriving in Italy from Eastern (specifically Persian) countries and have nothing to do with the occult and/or were not used as divination at all.
beyond all else, what must be considered here is the symbolism used in the cards. It is understood that the symbolism itself is the most important relatable element (of focus) – for both the divination purposes and for the individual’s developmental objective – that are venerably attributed to the cards. It cannot be overseen when we consider the history of the tarot.
Another interesting aspect to keep in mind is the particularly European and sometimes Neoplatonic atmosphere of the iconography used in the cards, which often leads historians to the belief that they are specific to European culture.
I mean, although I will not go into the herstory of this, we must faction in here the influences of the East on the, Hermetic, Platonian, Socratean and other typically European dialogues that are associated with the tarot and allow some common sense to come forward.
In our modern era it is used mostly for divination but is also understood to be a guide for self development.
Carl Jung has had a major influence on bringing the tarot into the field of psycho-development as he understood it’s symbolism in relation to the psyche and our potentiality; therefore, bringing it back into the mainstream.
Hence, it has become a household name and often a household guide.
However, usually one that is not taken too seriously, not understood and is more commonly used as a light-hearted oracle for prosperity and love guidance.
As a side issue, I suggest it be noted that many of the male figures in the current tarot depiction were originally of female gender – symbolic of course – that is, pointing to certain archetypal attributes.
This could indicate an Egyptian context in alignment with the Isis Teachings.
Where did the Tarot Come from
The most common thread in the academic, as well as the mainstream of the internet, seems to have a strong leaning towards the Tarot originating out of the blue by artists and aristocrats in Italy for pleasure – to play cards.
This comes from books and essays written by modern Western historians most recently, the Italian scholar Andrea Vitali in his study in the mid 1980’s.
However, It is suggested by some tarot scholars (mostly informed by the works of Eliphas Levi – French occultist of the 19th century, who studied the links between the Kabbalah and the tarot) that the Tarot is derived from the Kabbalah. I do see strong correlations and truths in this theorem.
It is sometimes said that the correlation between the word Torah (the Jewish texts used in the Kabbalah) has an undeniable relationship with the word Tarot. Note: Kabbalah (from Hebrew, literally meaning “parallel/corresponding,” or “received tradition) is an ancient esoteric discipline of mystical Judaism.
Another insight was given by Jean Baptiste Pitois (occultist and author of the late 1800’s), which accounts that the Tarot is a derivative of the the Sages of ancient Egypt under the tutelage of Hermes Trismegistus (Greek) or Thoth (Egyptian) – which nobody seems able to evidence as human or deity.
Regardless there are the sacred texts ([Hermetic Corpus] of which I have studied and continue to do so) that (apparently) have come from Thoth or Hermes that outline the basis of Hermeticism. Let it be noted that the majority of the symbols on the cards are of hermetic origin.
This does tie in nicely with the rigid scholarly persistence that the cards are from the nobility of Italy of the 15th Century (used merely for playing). As we see in early Renaissance Italy the art, fashion and philosophy was being deeply influenced and enriched by the astrology, iconology and aesthetics coming over from the middle East.
In effect what was to become the tarot was the ‘fashion’ of the time. And specifically non local to Italian culture.
Do you see a pattern arising here? Nobody seems to know. The Tarot are by nature mysterious.
It seems to have a similar embodied mysticism that the scientists of the modern era are coming up against with consciousness (what some call God or source or universe). The hard problem of Consciousness is also
The hard problem of Tarot.
We must consider that the symbols of the Tarot come from esoteric systems which were largely secret orders and have infamously kept most of the sacred teachings underground. Usually for reasons of safety, discretion and in some cases control.
What we do know
What we do know is the Earliest known writing of the Major Arcana comes from The Syrian philosopher Lamblicus (c. 300-330 CE) in his discourse on “The Egyptian Mysteries.” – Lambilicus was an initiated Magi (magic practitioner/priest of the Persian religion founded around 600 BC).
There is evidence of cards of a similar nature being used in Buddhist sects before the common era, i.e, B.C, for ritualistic purposes. But, as i said we can simply use common sense if we want to consider these implications.
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 331 BCE, and founded the city of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile delta.
After his death Egypt was ruled for 300 years by the descendants of Ptolemy, one of his generals. Egypt then became a Roman province. There was a lot of mingling with the East over the years prior and after.
The European culture was increasingly influenced by the literacy and religiosity emanating from Alexandria and Egypt which had an intrinsic effect on Western culture.
In particular the culture and text of Hermetica named after the Egyptian God Thoth, becoming in Greek Hermes.
A recent (1984) extensive research essay Tarot: Art and Magic, by Professor Andrea Vitali (Italy) imparts that there was indeed a strong hermetic and in some cases christian mystical influence on some cards that were illustrated and printed in Italy.
It is considered that evidence of Italian renaissance documents illustrate the use of tarot by the aristocrats as a form of guidance. For example they would play a ‘game’ asking the cards a question to receive an answer.
Doing this with an understanding that the symbols on the cards were indicative of celestial guidance or deep universal principles. Here semantics “a game’ are relative. Calling it a game does not take away from the purpose “to seek answers”
We also know, thanks to Vitali’s research, that the Mantegna Tarot called Mantegna Tarocchi (Italian word for Tarot), depicting esoteric iconography were used as visual aids in education for upper class children. In the image attached we see Sol (sun) 44 which we might consider a strange image for a card game and/or education material in our common age.
The hermetic influence on the Italian culture of the time 14th 15th and 16th centuries gave rise to the study and deep consideration and interpretation of the hermetic text. Vitali points out that these in part influenced the illustrations and use of the cards. Suggesting they were used as guidance and specifically ethical or universal guidance to life’s affairs.
on the other hand
The Tarot is an ancient Egyptian book, whose pages contain the secret of a universal medicine, the creation of the world, and the future of the human race. It was conceived in the year 2170 BC, during a conference of 17 magicians presided over by Hermes Trismegistus. It was then engraved on gold sheets which were placed around the central fire of the Temple of Memphis. Then, after various vicissitudes, it was reproduced by common medieval engravers in such imprecise fashion that the meaning was completely distorted”.
-Juan Baptiste Alliette
BUT I don’t believe in History so lets move on to the truth
The Fool – Arcanum 0
Understanding the Fool
As noted previously, the Major Arcana is the journey of the human consciousness or the soul.
The Fool card represents this human consciousness or the spirit. It is neither female or male, it is considered to be an hermaphrodite and is often referred to as ‘the holy androgyne’ because of it’s androgynous nature – neither gender; of spirit.
The fool is the spiritual self on the journey of life. That which we know as Jiva (Atman, awareness of self as body).
The fool represents the spirit and in particular, the union of the male and female or the lack of gender speaks to the idea that the journey of evolution is not limited to anyone, that it is available to all and possible for all.
A fool is often looked down upon in contemporary society, however the Fool here is a very important message, to be light-hearted, to maintain a sense of joyfulness and gaiety as we go through the journey of life.
This ties in beautifully with the teachings of Buddha who is pointing to the joy that is underneath all our suffering, the joy that is inherent within us. Our true nature.
The fool fundamentally refers to spirit. The spirit of the self. The zero, the white rose, the sun and the colour yellow all point to this in the card.
In the earlier versions (pre Thoth and Rider Waite decks) the fool represented a fallen human, often a decrepit or raggedly looking character who had over identified with the material plane, had lost their way and was beginning the way to self-realising through wisdom and knowledge.
So from this we can see a new beginning or an awakening. The beginning stages.
If you meditate on the fool, it’s qualities will rise towards you.
If you allow it to do so, it will create a feeling of effervescent illumination, joy and lightness within you; innocence. This innocence will allow you to move through the tarot major arcanas (the fool’s journey) with an openness and therefore with a greater capacity to grow on this journey.
This is the power of the Fool, as it is the innocence, the pure spirit of us.
Focus now upon the fool card, Take a slow long deep breath in.. and breathe out..continue this for a minute or two. When you have established a full connection to your breath and a quiet mind, move your attention into your heart area (at the centre of your chest) and look upon the Fool card.
Do not analyse just be with it for a minute or two.
Repeat 3 times
“ I open my heart to the journey of life before me – I am one with all that is. I open to the innocence of my higher self. My heart is opening.”. Feel the sensations in your heart.
Feel the sensations in your heart.
Uranus – Freedom, change, youth, rebellion, health, healing, breath
Air – The male and the female contained in one – The silence – The intellect or thought. The thought comes from the silence
In the Kabalion it is said there is one universal mind referred to as the ALL. It has seven principles which align with the first seven major arcana.
“The Principles of Truth are Seven; he who knows these, understandingly, possesses the Magic Key before whose touch all the Doors of the Temple fly open.”
The hermetic tradition is based on the idea that all is made of the five elements Earth, air fire water an ether (space or spirit). In the tarot the fool is the spirit of the the five elements
The fool in Buddhism represents our Buddha Nature.
The Buddha taught that all beings had the potential for realising our true self (buddha nature) by discovering that we are our illuminated mind or consciousness itself. The Buddha works from the premise that we are not a soul or Self (as in Hindu teaching) but that we are ever changing consciousness or the seed of enlightenment itself.
This is our Buddha Nature and this is what is to be realised or that we are to awaken to through the journey of life.
The fool is therefore the consciousness itself, yet so far unrealised, awake but not knowing it is so. Ready to leap into life as unrealsied consciousness.
Here is passage from the ‘Five Treatises of Maitreya’ a Buddhist text written in the 4th Century that points to this idea clearly.
Because the perfect buddhas’s kaya is all-pervading, Because reality is undifferentiated,
And because they possess the potential,
Beings always have the buddha nature.
Maitreya, Sublime Continuum, I, 27
Kaya here means embodiment or body – the embodiment of compassion and wisdom – which is the fundamental teaching of the Buddha. That we overcome suffering through compassion and wisdom.
It is suggested here to contemplate these words expressed by the Dalai Lamas Buddha Nature
My body is the Holy Mandala itself,
Wherein reside the Buddhas of all Times. . . . All sentient beings in Samsara
Have “Thatness,” but realize it not.
— Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)
In the Yogas, the Vedic texts and in particular the Upanishads (most commonly known in the Western world) you will find the fundamental principle of all metaphysical consideration is Brahman ब्रह्मा. Brahman in Hindu refers to the single essential oneness from which comes the diversity of all that exists in the universe, or the creative principle that comes before all manifestation.
So from Brahman comes Atman – the individual soul. It is not the body but Brahman itself. It is consciousness in individual form. Then Jiva – The Atman or Brahman as the indiviual self.
The Fool represents this part of us in the human body, The Atman or soul or awareness of self as Brahman. The purpose of understanding this principle in Yoga is to raise our consciousness – for us as human beings to become aware of ourselves – our true nature – Brahman. This is considered our reason for existence.
Infinite. Eternally present. . . .
It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.
— Lao Tse
The universe and I came into being together; and I, and everything therein, are One.
— Chuang Tzu