Category Archives: Major arcana

Lions and Kerubs and Sekhmet, Oh My!


Image by Delun

Image by Delun

The Sun is now in Leo, and of course, this biggest, most important planet of the Zodiac rules the most egotistical sign of them all. In astrological speak, the sun is at home, and not surprisingly this is the hottest part of summer in most places in the northern hemisphere. In the coastal Pacific Northwest that means that it’s usually pleasant and sunny, but here in Portland we occasionally feel Sekhmet’s scorching breath. I was sweltering at my computer last week during one of those occasions when I came upon an email from Adam reminding me (and everyone else on the Hermetic Society google group) that August 7th  was this year’s Leo Kerubic Point. That’s lovely, I thought, what in blue blazes is a Kerubic Point? Adam, never one to leave his readers in ignorance, went on to inform us that the Kerubic Points are the midpoints between the cardinal points of the zodiac, the Solstices ( 0 degrees Cancer and 0 degrees Capricorn) and the Equinoxes, (0 degrees Ares and 0 degrees Libra) which means that they are the midpoints of the fixed astrological signs—15 degrees Taurus, 15 degrees Leo, 15 degrees Scorpio, and 15 degrees Aquarius. They are symbolic of  the four elements, the four cardinal directions, the archangels, and the gospel makers. They also should be the dates of the cross quarters of the Wiccan liturgical calendar, but they aren’t—Beltane, May 1, Lughnasadh, August 1, Samhain, Oct 31, and Imbolc, Feb 2 are the dates modern Wiccans celebrate the cross quarters.


I’m not sure, but I have a feeling in my bones that this discrepancy happened along about the time Europe switched in fits and starts and country by country from the Julian to the Georgian calendar. Any way, the Kerubic Points are mid points, and when you are smack dab in the midst of something you are in either a place of power or deep doo doo. Magicians, being eternal optimists, insist that mid points are power points, perfect times to perform magical works that would benefit from an extra kick from the Multiverse. These midpoints are so important that the creator/s of the tarot saw fit to use them to tack down the quarters of two major arcana cards, The Wheel of Fortune and The World.


But I was still not content. Why do they call them Kerubic Points? A quick internet search satisfied my curiosity. Kerubs, or Cherubim* support the Mesopotamian Tree of Life which grows in the center of Paradise and supplies the world with life giving water. They are also depicted supporting the thrones of kings and deities. There are four of them and they are associated with the four fixed signs of the zodiac, the living energy of the tetragrammaton, and the four gospel makers. And they have no resemblance to what we call cherubs. All was now clear to me and my mind was temporarily at peace.


This is a Cherub. It's a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).

This is a Cherub. It’s a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).


Sekhmet with solar disc

So, we are now in the midst of the sign of Leo. Its symbol is a male lion, but when I think of lion power I always think of female lions, the hunters of the pride, and the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Almost every pagan feminist I know has a statue of Sekhmet or a piece of jewelry depicting her. She is not your sweet mother goddess. Her name comes from the Ancient Egyptian word “sekhem”, which means power, and she is called “(One) Before Whom Evil Trembles”, “Mistress of Dread”, “Lady of Slaughter” and “She Who Mauls”.  She is the evil twin of Hathor, the goddess of joy, music, dance, sexual love, pregnancy and birth. But Sekhmet is the ultimate defender of Ma’at, Justice, and is often viewed as the champion of the underdog.


Whenever I think of Sekhmet I think of one of my massage clients. Frieda (not her real name) was a successful business woman who quit and now teaches business at a local university and works for a nonprofit company, traveling all over the world and training people in third world countries to become entrepreneurs.** One day she arrived at her appointment in a state of total exhaustion. A friend of hers was dying of cancer and had asked Frieda and several other friends to be guardian angels to her husband and children. Dealing with the untimely death of a close friend is hard enough, but seeing to the physical and emotional needs of her surviving family as well is a nearly unbearable burden. As I massaged her body, I opened my mind in hopes of discovering one of Frieda’s guardian angels or power animals so that I could get them to lend her their strength. Immediately, the room sizzled with power and filled with an awesome presence I was terrified. Sekhmet appeared over my client’s body and glared down at me. The hairs on the back of my neck lifted and my heart hammered in my chest. “Fix her!” the goddess roared. “She still has work to do.”


Image by Art of Sekhmet

Image by Art of Sekhmet

My jaw dropped in amazement. There was no mercy or care in those eyes, only power and ambition. This was a goddess with an agenda and suddenly, I was part of it. However, Sekhmet is not my goddess, even though she is the patron of healers, and I don’t like being ordered around in my own office. I reached out to all my power animals, guardian angels, and goddesses and glared right back at her. “That’s what I’m trying to do. If Frieda is so important to you then help me and quit roaring.”

The goddess growled and the room shook. She sat back on her haunches and watched me like I was a wounded wildebeest. Oh shit, you’re lion meat, I thought. She growled again and as she faded from the room a surge of power flowed through my hands and into my client.

I told Frieda that Sekhmet had paid us a visit. “Oh yes,” she replied, “Sekhmet and I go way back.” The gods, and especially the warrior gods, are hard on their champions, but they are usually reasonable.



But I digress. Back to the Leo Kerub Point. Lissa, another Hermetic, pointed out in response to Adam’s post that today, August 10th, is the second World Lion Day. This is totally appropriate since today is the first full moon after the Leo Kerubic Point. Coincidence? I think not.

I was aghast to learn from the above post that in the past 50 years this magnificent being’s population has dropped 95%. Our world will be a sadder, poorer place if the king of beasts no longer rules the savannah.


*Plural of Cherub. Christians will recognize them from the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Cherubim and Seraphim fall down before the one true god in verse two.

**She is now in the process of retiring.


Filed under Gifts from the Multiverse, Goddess, Major arcana

All You Really Need to Know About the Tarot Major Arcana

In her definitive book, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, a Book of Tarot, Rachel Pollack begins the first chapter with this spread:

 2 Tarot_spread,_basic

These are the four most basic tarot archetypes arranged in a perfect pattern of spiritual evolution. I call this the “everything you really need to know about the major arcana” layout.

 The vertical axis is The Fool and The World. The beginning and the end. The Aleph and the Tav. The Alpha and the Omega. Most authors describe these figures as androgynous and both figures are dancing. In fact, they are the only dancers in the major arcana. Death dances in some of the decks, but Death will always dance, and who are we to say it can’t. All of the other figures are pictured in static positions, like they’re posing for a photographer—they each represent a distinct, fixed state of existence.

 The Fool is dancing along a precipice high above the rest of the world and looks to be about to leap down into it. But there is no fear or holding back. S/he radiates innocence and total confidence.

 The World, however, dances suspended in a magical wreath of victory and radiates not only a feeling of completion and wholeness, but also a feeling of endless possibility, which in turn suggests new beginnings.  Together they represent the eternal dance of the universe from beginning to end to new beginning—the cosmic spiral. Like an electromagnetic current spiraling between the anode and cathode ends of a battery, the vertical axis spins around the static horizontal axis formed by The Magician and High Priestess.

The Magician’s planet is Mercury, which represents the psychological functions of logic and communication. He holds aloft a wand in his right hand and points down toward the earth with his left. And so the Magician clearly represents manifestation through logical, linear thought and action—functions of the conscious mind, the left brain. Occultists and many psychotherapists assign these traits to the positive, masculine principal.

The High Priestess sits calmly between a black pillar and a white pillar. A veil hangs between them, the thin veil of conscious awareness, which is all that separates us from our inner selves. The Moon, the planet of imagination, illusions and the unseen, is assigned to her. And so the HPS is the keeper of the infinite and powerful, yet static wisdom of the not-conscious, the right brain. These traits are assigned to the negative, feminine principal. Water is a symbol of the not-conscious and tarot readers are fond of saying that the piece of the High Priestess’s blue robe that trails off the card becomes all the rivers and pools and oceans that appear in the rest of the tarot.

The numbers of these cards are also significant.

  • The Fool’s number is 0, which isn’t a real number, in fact, it’s a not-number. It’s egg shaped, and like an egg, it represents infinite yet unmanifested possibility.
  • The Magician’s number is 1. The first real number. One means wholeness, ego.
  • The HPS’s number is 2. With the number 2 we have a duality: odd/even, positive/negative, black/white, yin/yang, masculine/feminine.
  • The World’s number is 21. It contains both 1 and 2, The Magician and the HPS. In other words, The World represents the reunion of The Magician and The High Priestess, the yin and the yang. 2+1=3, the magic number, the number of creativity, the child of the union of 1 and 2. In fact, the digits of both the horizontal and vertical axes add up to 3. The High Priestess key even foretells the resulting three. She is the third figure between the two pillars of Boaz and Joachim, mercy and severity, the pillars of the Temple of Solomon. Waite has even labeled one B and one J to be sure you don’t miss the symbolism.


This is the guide to inner wisdom that Cabalists call The Tree of Life. It’s made up of the ten Sephiroth or Sephirot connected by twenty two paths. Each path is assigned a major arcana card. The sephroth on the right form the pillar of mercy and the ones on the left form the pillar of severity. The High Priestess forms the third or middle pillar of the Tree. In fact, the path on the middle pillar from Kether to Tifareth is the path of the High Priestess, whose Hebrew letter is Gimel. The other two paths that make up this pillar are Temperance (Samech) and The World (Tav). So if we read downward from Kether, the first Sephirah, we get the following advice. “To reach Malkuth, The World, we must first establish communication with the not conscious (HPS, Gimel) then we must establish communication between the conscious and not conscious (Temperance, Samech).  Once this communication has been established, direct communication with the divine becomes a state of being (The World) and we reach our goal, Malkuth. Of course one can get there by taking either the right or left pillar, but most cabalists consider the middle pillar to be the preferred path to Malkuth. 

 The_FoolWith this information, the meaning of the spread becomes obvious. In order to learn the lessons necessary to become a more complete, enlightened being The Fool must separate into masculine and feminine. The one must become two.


We see this in so many creation myths. God formed Eve from Adam’s rib so he would have a partner, someoneThe_World,_artist_unknown different from himself to exchange ideas with. In many pagan mythologies, the goddess was the first and only being. She gave birth to a son who became her consort/partner—again someone opposite, someone with a different point of view. The journey of the major arcana cards is about how these two, which are really the conscious and unconscious minds of the seeker, become aware of each other and establish an intimate and fluent dialogue. When this is accomplished, the seeker has attained Nirvana, or Heaven on Earth, or the fulfillment of all desires. In other words, he has attained The World.


Filed under Major arcana, Tarot, The Hero's Journey

Home Alone

2012 (9)Well, not really. Leo, our cat and true master of the house is still here, curled up beside me. But he is quiet, undemanding company.

At least until he gets hungry.

My husband, son, and a few friends are off for a2013-12-27_Dead_Bird_trip weekend of camping on an island in the middle of the Columbia River. Unlike the island, the house is warm and silent and filled with joyous holiday energy. I have the entire weekend and Monday to catch up on my writing. There are several things I need to work on, all of which are emotionally charged for me in one way or another.

I could do part two of The World. This is the last major arcana card and will be the end of the series that I have been working on for the past three or so years. I’ve enjoyed the work and feel sad that it’s coming to a close.

I could work on a blog that continues the story of my Grandfather Mellinger.

I could begin pulling together a talk I will be giving in February to the local Theosophical Society on “The Tarot and the Synthesis of the Conscious and Not-conscious minds.”

Or I could begin rewriting the two books I sent in to my editor, Jessica Morrell. My main character needs to be totally reworked, and I have spent the past five months researching and agonizing over just how I’m going to do this.

I think I will begin rewriting my books.


Filed under Major arcana, Writing

The World: The Hero’s Journey and the Major Arcana, Part I


She dances freely in mid-air, unconstrained by the laws of gravity and perhaps any of the other laws of this world. She looks totally feminine to me, but all my sources say she’s an androgynous being, which is probably why Pamela Coleman Smith and many of the other tarot artists discretely drape her private parts. Each of her hands holds a wand, suggesting positive and negative poles of energy. The symbolism here is thick and obvious. When we are able to integrate our masculine and feminine natures, our positive and negative sides, our conscious and not conscious minds, we enter into a state of being in which we can accomplish wonders (see my previous posts on The Sun and Judgement).

“What can we say of an understanding, a freedom and rapture beyond words? The unconscious known consciously, the outer self unified with the forces of life, knowledge that is not knowledge at all but a constant ecstatic dance of being….”* A quick troll through the Internet yielded the following quotes from people who’d been there and made a valiant effort to describe the undiscribable:


…I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there…
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who suffered a brain hemorrhage and was trapped in her right brain.


The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.
Meister Eckhart, Sermons of Meister Eckhart



A laurel wreath surrounds the dancer. Laurel wreaths were given to victorious Greek athletes, notable poets (it’s where we get the laureate in poet laureate), and scholars. And so the wreath implies that the dancer has accomplished a great victory; and, indeed, she has. She is The Fool who has at last reached the end of his hero’s journey. A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith go to great lengths to make sure we understand this. The Fool and androgyne on The World card are the only figures in the major arcana that are dancing.The_Fool_001 We dance to bring ourselves into alignment with the multiverse, which, as quantum physicists are quick to tell us, is simply a dance of particles. The cosmic dancer began her journey toward enlightenment as The Fool and struggled through all the trials and dangers of the major arcana. She hung on the Tree of Life and overcame Death itself. Through her adventures she has achieved the goal of The Great Work—“Know thyself”. Her conscious and not conscious minds are in communion and the multiverse is open to her. A supreme victory indeed.

Marseilles deck

Marseilles deck

The Fool’s number is zero, the cosmic egg. The laurel wreath in The World, instead of being round like most laurel wreaths, is also shaped like a zero—another clue that these two are the same being. The wreath in the Marseilles decks actually comes to a point at both ends and looks remarkably like a Vesica piscis. This is the space formed when two circles intersect, and has come to symbolize liminal space . Gods and Goddesses and Saints are often pictured inside a Vesica piscis. Our dancer has transcended reality as we know it and is looking at things from the viewpoint of a god.

The wreath, come to think of it, is also shaped like an eye. Perhaps this is the eye Meister Ekhart was talking about?

The Lion of St Mark I think it is appropriate that the artist positioned him so he’s glaring directly into the Doges’s Palace.

The Lion of St Mark
I think it is appropriate that the artist positioned him so he’s glaring directly into the Doges’s Palace.

The symbols of the elements, the four cardinal directions, the fixed signs of the zodiac, the archangels, and the gospel makers nail down the four corners of The World.

  • The Bull: Earth, North, Taurus, Uriel
  • The Lion: Fire, South, Leo, Michael, St Mark
  • The Eagle: Water, West, Scorpio, Gabriel
  • The Angel: Air, East, Aquarius, Raphael

Nobody agrees on which gospel maker goes with which animal. But I do know that in Venice the statue of a winged lion stands atop a pillar in St. Mark’s square near St. Mark’s Basilica because it is a symbol of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.

When magicians and witches cast a circle for magical workings they draw the circle and invoke the above four quarters. They don’t invoke all the symbols for each quarter, of course, but choose the one or ones most appropriate for their work. Usually the directions and the elements are called, sometimes the archangels. A magic circle is an entity that exists in liminal space, between the worlds, and effects all of them. Those within the circle are, by definition, in all places at all times, at one with everything. Alchemists call this state of being “squaring the circle”, a concept which implies that with the grace of the divine all things are possible, that the mysterious can be “squared” with physical reality.
“As with other alchemical images, this etching was believed to possess all that is needed to transform lead into gold. A caption above the picture proclaims, ‘Here followeth the Figure conteyning all the secrets of the Treatise both great & small.’ The image echoes a recipe from the Rosarium, ‘Make a circle out of a man and woman, derive from it a square, and from the square a triangle: make a circle and you will have the philosopher’s stone.’ The circle containing the male and female figures is the microcosm and the larger outer circle represents the macrocosm. Note how the alchemist connects the concentric circles with a sexton. Circles are considered feminine in nature because they act to contain matter, much in the same way a womb acts to hold within itself the embryo. The square represents a masculine aspect and signifies earth with each of the four elements.

“Finally, the triangle symbolizes fire and acts to connect and integrate the above with the below. In the same way it signifies body, soul and spirit. Male and female energies are fused into a complementary wholeness that forms the basis for effective functioning in reality (the square). Extending outward from this inner psychic structure, human consciousness is brought into a divine relationship with the cosmos (the large, outer circle). Thus, there is inner and outer harmony within oneself, with the opposite sex and with the universe.” Thom F. Cavalli, Ph.D.

The_Wheel_of_FortuneThe Wheel of Fortune key also squares the circle, but in this case, the circle is a physical wheel, and the viewpoint of The Wheel of Fortune is from its rim. We, and by extension, our fates, go up and down as it turns. But the viewpoint of The World is from the center of the card—the center of the circle and the center of the square. The dancer understands that there is no single center or axis to the multiverse. In the dance of the cosmos, each of us dances at the center, a still-point around which everything moves. Nothing and everything all at once.


William Butler Yeats  might have been describing The World when he wrote:
“O chestnut tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom, or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
“Among School Children” from The Tower 1928

To be continued…

*Rachael Pollack on The World card, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom.


Filed under Major arcana, Tarot, The Hero's Journey

Judgement, Part III: The Major Arcana and The Hero’s Journey



Continued from previous posts…

ShinThe letter Shin corresponds to the Judgement key.  It means tooth and the sharpness that tears apart the limitations of the physical world and our sense of separateness. It represents Divine power as it is the initial letter of two of the Names of God. Qabalists call Shin the “Holy Letter.”

Shin, along with Aleph (The Fool, air) and Mem (The Hanged Man, water) is one of the three mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Its element is fire, a perfect metaphor for the passion of spiritual awakening.

In my experience, Judgement seldom appears in readings, and when it does I sit up and reassess the querent. Its appearance means that he is, was, or will be at a significant crossroads in his life—note the cross on the banner. He has arrived at that point as a result of some great catastrophe, or because all his options have gone and he is faced with only these paths, or because of some huge revelation. Whatever it was caused or will cause a spiritual awakening of some sort. His life is probably in turmoil because his view of reality has totally changed. He knows the way he must go, it cries out to him like the blast of the angel’s trumpet.  But the way is so difficult, or so dangerous, or so impractical, or so totally bizarre and unbelievable that perhaps he is reluctant to follow it—especially if the card is reversed. If the card is upright, I always advise him to follow it. If the card is reversed there is a possibility that the calling is false, and I check out the other cards in the spread very carefully. If they are favorable I tell him to quit stalling and get on with it.

Image by ChibiTotoro222

Image by ChibiTotoro222

Unlike Justice, this card is not about personal karma, the things that happen because you’ve earned them; it’s about reassessing one’s life and purpose based on a transformative experience that blasts away all previous beliefs, and reveals a crystal clear truth. This is the card initiate, the resurrected one.

If Judgement appears with the High Priestess and/or The Moon the querent’s awakening is a deeply spiritual one and may involve the quick and possibly disturbing development of psychic powers. If it appears with The Emperor or The Chariot or Kings, it may indicate the awakening of the charisma that is so necessary in a leader.

As the Housewives’ Tarot points out, it may be about the revelation of more mundane, but still important truths–especially if there are no other major arcana in the reading.

The time has come to weigh the facts–and yourself! Judgement is about abandoning bad habits and accepting yourself for who you really are. Don’t be modest; take credit for all your good deeds and valuable traits. Shed the negative thoughts that weigh you down with their high-calorie burdens. True happiness is more about eliminating low self-esteem than losing those pesky five pounds. The Housewives Tarot

The time has come to weigh the facts–and yourself! Judgement is about abandoning bad habits and accepting yourself for who you really are. Don’t be modest; take credit for all your good deeds and valuable traits. Shed the negative thoughts that weigh you down with their high-calorie burdens. True happiness is more about eliminating low self-esteem than losing those pesky five pounds. The Housewives Tarot

Judgement is the penultimate card in the hero’s journey. It is the revelation of the whole point of the exercise, the hallelujah-come-to-Jesus time, the gottcha moment, the hero’s take home lesson. Often we are left to infer what this lesson is and how deeply it affected the hero.
In the movie Avatar, the Judgement moment came when the planet Pandora mobilized itself to fight back. I have no doubt that this mind-blowing demonstration of the interconnectedness of life transformed Jake Sully’s view of reality, but we are left to judge whether or not he really got it  from his actions.

Other stories make sure you know the hero got the point.
The movie The Wizard of Oz ends with Dorothy waking up at home and telling her family and friends that “If you can’t find it in your own back yard it’s not worth looking for.” This, simply stated, is the spiritual lesson every guru tries to teach—joy and contentment in the moment.
Star_Wars, Empire at War, developer Petroglyph, publisher LucasArts
At the end of Star Wars we are actually shown Luke Skywalker’s spiritual awakening as he heeds the words of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and uses “The Force” to pilot his space craft into the depths of the Death Star and drop the bomb that will destroy it.

The Judgement moment in a story is the spiritual or philosophical reason for the hero’s journey. It’s what brings the sigh of satisfaction or gasp of wonder at the story’s conclusion. Without it, the journey is meaningless.


Filed under Major arcana, Tarot, The Hero's Journey

My Stroke of Insight—Synchronicity Strikes Again

My_Stroke_of_InsightSeveral days ago I found Ellis Nelson’s latest post in my in-box. She doesn’t post very often, but when she does, it’s definitely worth reading. This one is no exception. It’s a review of My Stroke of Insight, a book by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor. When she was thirty-seven she suffered a stroke to her left brain which crippled her ability to think in logical sequences, move, and perceive what we call reality. It left her suspended in nirvana, state of being one with everything (her words, not mine). I watched in awe as this amazing woman told her story in a recent TED lecture.


The right and left hemispheres of the brain look at the world differently. The left hemisphere uses linear logic. It reasons, explains, and acts. It’s what gets us from point A to point B by 3pm. The right hemisphere uses intuition, and it “thinks” in images and music. It doesn’t do words. It looks at the total picture while the left looks at its parts.

Take this simple test to find out if you’re a left brain thinker or a right brain thinker.

I am a definite right brain thinker, but my Gemini, geotechnical engineer husband could make the dancer twirl both ways.

I’m guessing that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a measure of this dichotomy. Introvert (I), Intuitive (N), Feeling (F), and Perceptive (P) would be the right brain functions and Extrovert (E), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), and Judgement (J) would be the left brain functions. So if you are an INFP you would be a strong right brain thinker and if you are an ESTJ you would be a strong left brain thinker.

Alan Alda conducted a fascinating interview with a man who had his corpus callosum* surgically severed and the Dartmouth researcher who is studying his condition. It was obvious that even though the connection between Joe’s hemispheres was missing he could still function normally; but in laboratory testing it became quite clear which side of his brain controlled which functions.

So what does synchronicity have to do with all this?

Just a few days before reading Ellis Nelson’s blog I had posted my latest Judgement entry. The gist of the post is that the Judgement key should be read as spiritual awakening and this can only be accomplished by establishing a dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious. After listening to Jill Bolte Taylor’s powerful story I had my own stroke of insight. Actually, it was more of a “Well, duh!” moment.

I realized that we have a metaphor for this concept of dialogue between the conscious and unconscious hard-wired into our physical anatomy in the form of our bicameral brain. Our left brain corresponds to consciousness–the chatter of everyday life, problem solving, making a living, and stayin’ alive. The right brain is the realm of the unconscious–the awareness of beauty, emotion, universal connectedness, creative inspiration, and inner wisdom. I’m betting that this is the part of our brain that sees/perceives ghosts and fairies and angels and hears things that go bump in the night.

We exist in the material world and so we see our left brain functions as being more useful, trustworthy, and comfortable. Our society also tends to value these functions more. Jobs requiring strong left brain functions such as engineers, medical doctors, accountants, and lawyers pay quite well. But strong right brain users, such as writers, musicians, artists, social workers, and psychics, usually make very little money and frequently have a left brain day job to make ends meet.

Any esoteric study, including the tarot, is essentially a series of lessons in how to step out of the left brain and explore the right brain. Meditation, ritual design and performance, prayer, Tai chi, and magic all do this. In time, the seeker becomes comfortable and familiar enough with the right brain to be able to understand its cryptic messages and trust them enough to use them in tandem with the blatantly obvious left brain messages. Hunches are no longer hunches, and vague impressions of people and things that “shouldn’t” be there are no longer vague. They become vivid messages and images that help us navigate our complex lives with more skill and assurance than if we were only using our left brain. They expand our awareness out into realms that nourish our hearts and souls and add layers of richness and meaning to our physical existence. They make us better human beings.

As Jill Bolte Taylor says, the world would be a better place if we could all learn to cross over into the nirvana of our right minds. But wouldn’t it be even better to be able to listen to the stereophonic symphony of both sides of our brain singing to each other?

* The thick band of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain



Filed under Book Review, Major arcana, Tarot

Judgement, Part II

Need I say more?

The Judgement key is an obvious depiction of Judgement Day. The Hierophant and perhaps The Devil are the other blatantly Catholic major arcana, although most of the keys have a Catholic feel to them. If you lived in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries when tarot decks were becoming popular you were either Catholic or you were in trouble. The Church had zero tolerance for heretics, and Jews and Muslims were treated like dirt. This was also the time of the infamous European Witch Hunts. So it is not surprising that, even though their message is universal, the designers of the early tarot decks used a Christian theme to make their work more widely accessible. (See previous post on tarot origins)

The death, redemption, and rebirth into a blessed afterlife concept lies at the heart of nearly every religion. It reminds the faithful that there is more to this world than what meets the untrained eye and challenges us to let go of our strangle hold on the material realm. To do this we must release the belief that the more money we make the happier we will be, that the job that is sucking us dry is our only lifeline to a better existence, that everything would be fine if we had just been born into a happy nuclear family, that it makes even one iota of difference what our neighbors think of us, or that we are somehow fatally flawed and unlovable. Each of these convictions clips our wings and traps us in that tiny fragment of the Multiverse called “the material world”. See my previous post on The Devil.

Those are lovely sentiments, you say, but I like this world and I like my creature comforts. And I need to support myself or I’ll be out on a street corner clutching a give-me-money sign and looking pitiful. And even if I do give up all my stuff, how the hell do I escape the material? I’m not ready to die yet.

First off, the goal is not to “escape the material”. We are attached to physical reality just as someone suffering from agoraphobia is attached to his house.

AgoraphobiaThe goal is not to get him to escape his house, but to be comfortable with navigating the outside world and returning home safely. As long as we are “alive” this world is our home, but to be able to live that life more fully we must travel in the other worlds, bring back their wisdom, and apply it. Most of us don’t make it farther than the sidewalk, but I’ve met some amazing people on the sidewalk in front of my house.

The makers of the tarot adopted the Judgement Day myth as a metaphor for spiritual awakening, for getting to the sidewalk. The tarot isn’t a guide to the afterlife; it’s a guide to this life.

Notice that Judgement is the second to last card of the major arcana. All the cards before it are mini-lessons about how to get there. If there is a single theme to the tarot it is the lack of communication between the conscious mind, which perceives and comments on the material world and the unconscious mind, which perceives and comments on the outer planes. Our formidable task as human beings is to bring these two parts of ourselves that don’t even speak the same language, let alone view reality in the same way, into useful dialogue.

In this key the man(conscious) looks to the woman (unconscious) who looks to the divine or super-conscious.

We see this clearly first in The Lovers (key6), where the man (conscious) is barely looking at the woman (unconscious), who is ignoring him and looking up to the angel, a being on another plane.

The Devil, perched between and separating a man (conscious mind) and a woman (unconscious mind)

When we arrive at The Devil (key 15), despite all the lessons in between, things have deteriorated. Both the man and the woman are now chained to the material world. The woman is staring bleakly ahead and the man looks like he is trying to reason with her—a very poor tactic when dealing with the unconscious. These two have put all their faith in earthly power and money and carefully built themselves a sturdy tower to protect it all. They probably have two fat 401ks and stocks and bonds out the yin yang.

But the divine gives them one last chance. It strikes down that tower with a bolt of lightning and they tumble to earth. (The Tower, key 16)


This is the dark night of the soul and we all must face it at least once in our lives in one form or another. It may be a serious illness or a dream that either scares the shit out of us or dazzles us with its powerful beauty. It may be an initiation, or the loss of a loved one, a limb, our house, our savings, etc. It shatters our psyche and changes our lives to the point where nothing makes sense anymore and we are forced to reexamine all of our previous convictions. Things seem hopeless and we may even wish we were dead.

But if we are strong, we keep on until we see a tiny glimmer of hope (The Star, key 17).


And if we have the courage to follow that star, we arrive in the realm of the unconscious, the vast “Twilight Zone” of The Moon (key 18)

The Moon shining on two dogs, the conscious and unconscious mind, and two towers, stand ins for those two ubiquitous pillars.

and we learn up close and personal that “There are more things in heaven and earth…Than are dreamt of in (our philosophies).”* With this experience and revelation, the conscious mind can no longer ignore the murmurings of the unconscious, which are becoming louder and clearer. Once we manage to establish a tenuous dialogue between the part of us that is in constant communion with the outer realms and the part of us that understands and operates in this world, things which seemed impossible become possible and the chains that bound us fall away.

Builders of the Adytum deck

Builders of the Adytum deck

The Sun (key 19) pictures the man and woman transformed into innocent children, holding hands and dancing together. They are now in communication. With this insight comes spiritual awakening (Judgement).

Marseilles Deck, late 15th century

Marseilles Deck, late 15th century

The two children are now integrated into one child, who stands between the man and woman, the conscious and the unconscious, which gave him/her birth. And most importantly, he/she is now facing the angel and completely aware of the clarion call of the divine.

We are all heroes struggling through a life that often seems unreasonably cruel and inscrutable. The tarot was designed to be a guide through the chaos toward enlightenment.

To be continued…..
*The Bard says it all yet again. Hamlet, Act I. Scene V



Filed under Major arcana, Tarot, The Hero's Journey