Traditional Tarot

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Daniel Giraud: Jean Carteret and the Architecture of the Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

In order to provide further insights into the arrangement of the Tarot proposed by Jean Carteret here and here, we present the translation of the following piece by his student, the astrologer-poet Daniel Giraud, one of whose articles on the Tarot has been published here. This piece forms the third chapter of Giraud’s monograph on Carteret and his work, Jean Carteret : Alchimiste du Verbe, Table d’Emeraude, 1990.

Most of the quotations from Carteret’s work refer back to the foregoing two articles already translated and published on this site, and the other references are taken from Le Tarot comme Langage. We have not seen fit to signal these each time, and have only included those notes which add to the text.

 

Jean Carteret in his Parisian home with the Kabbalist Adolphe Grad and Daniel Giraud. Photograph by Patrick Moulié.

The Tarot

Daniel Giraud

It would seem that the Tarot first appeared in central Europe towards the fifteenth century. It is composed of seventy-eight cards made up of twenty-two major arcana and fifty-six minor arcana. The first known Tarot set is that of Charles VI (1430) but some of its cards have not come down to us. The first complete Tarot deck is that of Visconti (1450), imbued with Christian symbolism, followed by the famous “Tarot of Marseilles” which contains many astro-alchemical symbols. Later on, we witness the decadence of this means of divination, with everyone wishing to create their own increasingly popularised Tarot.

Different authors have studied and proposed different particular structures of the twenty-two major arcana. From Gérard Van Rijnberk to Jean Carteret, I shall retain those of Jean Vassel, Aleister Crowley, and of Armand Barbault, but here, naturally, the only thing which concerns us is the vision of Jean Carteret.

For Carteret, the Tarot is a fairytale which bears witness to the arrangement of the Logos… “Every arrangement of the Word is a temple. To open the doors of the temple, to open the doors of the Tarot, is to open the doors of language.”

Jean notes this arrangement of the creation with respect to the creature thusly: “The Arcana of the Tarot form a panorama of the set of all possible formulas of the Word. It is a book of Creation.”

This revelation of the principles is a temple… The construction of a temple (value of state) is a structure, but the circulation within this qualifying space is a dialectic (dynamic value). Jean Carteret developed the values of the dialectic pairs of the cards of the Tarot of Marseilles.

The circle is the representation of the Word, the expression of the Principle. This “first figure of unity” is seen thusly: “The circle is a visible figure which is the transcendence of an invisible figure, which is to say that the circle as visible figure is the expression of a principle which itself is invisible. This is why we speak of the principle which is said to be the empty point which is transcended by the circle.” What, then is the meaning of this central point? The empty point is to the circle as that which abides is to that which changes. The empty point unfolds and expresses itself by the circle which is a perfect figure, regular and continuous.”

The circle as divided into 360 degrees by the Sumerians introduces the becoming into the beyond-time, and the 360 degrees of the circle determine the 22 arcana. The number of regular polygons (of whole degrees) which may be inscribed within a circle is 22…

“The triangle is the first polygon wherein the Word will articulate itself, it is the initiator of the series of the 21 others. The second will be the square, then the pentagon, then the hexagon, but, first rupture in the series: 360 is not divisible by 7, there is no regular polygon of seven sides… (This brings us back to a valorisation of the number 6, of the six days of creation: if there is no regular polygon of seven sides, it is because “God” rested on the seventh day… First break in the circle.) Then, we will have an 8-sided polygon, followed by 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 40, 45, 60, 72, 90, 180, and 360-sided polygons.”

These 22 polygons are articulations representing the “alphabet of the apprenticeship of all the possibilities of the Word. The twenty-second non-numbered arcana, the Mate, embodies, as the zero, all the possibilities of the 22 regular polygons, zero being the “total non-conditioning.”

In his dialectics of the name and the number, Jean Carteret stated: “Crowned with the number and supported by the name, the card plays with the image represented and the idea that it expresses. The name is existence, it corresponds to what I think (to think is to name), whereas the number, the essence, indicates what thinks me (what constitutes me).” And, he adds, “In the image itself, the name dominates the number. In the idea, the number dominates the name. In the name, the image dominates the idea. In the number, the idea dominates the image. The name is sound and heat, the number is light. The sublimation of the name and of sound will be its ascent into the idea, and the incarnation of the number and of the light will be its descent into the image.”

In the observation of the “images” of the Tarot, it is also necessary to interpret the colours which are obviously not randomly chosen. Let us recall the value of colours according to traditional symbolism… White indicates the purity of the eternal, divine Light (light has no colour). Yellow expresses the revolution or the revealed Light (golden yellow: constancy; pale yellow: treachery). Red is of course the colour of love, fire, and sacrificial blood. Pink (flesh colour) indicates love (red) of the divine (white). Blue represents wisdom, nobility and truth. Green is a symbol of creation and of hope.

This is what Carteret had to say: “Yellow is the colour of tradition; pink is the colour of revolution. Red is the colour of activity, blue is the colour of passivity – but activity or passivity of the state, if it involves the trunk of the body for the state, capable of being active or passive, but activity or passivity of the action, if it involves the limbs of the body. Green is the colour of becoming, of being – what we call its first origin, or its end.”

In the astrological correspondence of the arcana of the Tarot, Jean Carteret saw Justice as being to the head of the Black Sun as the Hermit is to the tail of this Black Sun. Temperance is the head of the Dragon (ascending lunar Node) as “Death” is to the tail of this Dragon (descending lunar Node). Whereas the Devil is analogous to the set of this axis of lunar Nodes. The Mate represents the relation between the solar ecliptic and the circle of the celestial equator and corresponds astrologically to the sign of Gemini.

Before moving on to the particular symbolism of each arcanum, let us observe the arrangement of the 22 major arcana according to Carteret: “Thus, the first six arcana will express the six poles of the the state where the vertical dominates over the horizontal, the following six arcana (from VII to XII) will express the six poles of the action where the horizontal dominates over the vertical. Then, we will have a third group of six arcana (from XVI to XXI) which will express the global and simultaneous confrontation of the first two groups.”

Between the second and third senary, one must pass through “the triple threshold of Arcana XIIII, XIV, and XV, which express the double inversion the first two senaries must undergo before the establishment of the the last.” As to the 22nd arcanum, the Mate, who does not bear a number, it expresses “the degree zero of the as-yet unstructured sphere and its ultimate globality, below and beyond the weddings.”

Jean Carteret enables us to grasp that the Tarot is not a simple folkloric type of divination, but that it is “the architecture of a poem of the world” because “it was conceived of by people who were in contact with the world, and who, thus, had no need to explain it.”

One must first of all distinguish between the 56 minor arcana (from which the ordinary game of playing cards is derived) and the 22 major arcana: the principles dominate the major arcana and “the spirit dominates life”; whereas, on the contrary, it is life that dominates the spirit and the elements which prevail in the minor arcana.”

In Carteret’s metaphysical perspective, the spirit that comes from emptiness is to the immutable as life, which comes from fullness, is to the mobile. On the vertical plane, the spirit spreads in the three alchemical principles: Sulphur, Mercury and Salt, in analogy with the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, whereas life dominates in the four elements (Fire; Water; Air; Earth) on the horizontal plane.

The major arcana are thus based on the trinity: three times six arcana. “The first six arcana represent the state and analogically the radical sulphur as well as the fixed mercury; for if the radical sulphur is in essence the fixed, and the radical mercury the volatile, in life everything is overcoming and the fixed must become volatile, and the volatile fixed.” [1]

The first six arcana are the places of formation (of a state which ends in a situation) and the next six arcana are the passage from formation to transformation. The first arcana (cards I to VI) form a “senary of state” where the three principles are fixated in the four elements. The second senary (cards VII to XII) is that “of action”: the four elements are volatilised by the three principles. In the third senary, (cards XVI to XXI) is situated the “work” of the “androgyny of the action and of the state.”

The twin transcendence of the senaries of the state and of action are indicated by the two passages of cards XIII (volatilisation of the fixed of the second senary) and XIV (fixation of the volatile of the first senary) and by the double passage of arcanum XV representing “the two thresholds in simultaneity.” Jean studied the symbolism of the Mate separately. In a vision referring to the Mysteries of Eleusis, he concluded: “The first twelve cards represent the Lesser Mystery: that of being; separated by the three cards of the threshold; then come arcana XVI to XXI, which represent the Greater Mystery: that of consciousness.”

In a radio programme, Jean Carteret opened by saying: “The Tarot is utterly useless,” and he continued, quoting an ancient Taoist expression: “Everyone knows the utility of what is useful, few know the utility of what is useless.” And the Tarot is indeed the usefulness of what is useless.

Let us examine the details of the structure of the Tarot according to carteret through various dialectic correspondences. The first card “opens all relations” and represents the articulation of the problem. The Juggler symbolises the values of the inside which exteriorises itself towards the outside with respect to the Lover (VI), which represents an engagement towards the inside. [2] “He is the passage of all which has preceded as origin to the end, and he will emphasise this end. He is indeed complementary to the Juggler, who, for his part, emphasises the origin. And while the Juggler is the passage from the private to the public, the Lover who is at the end will be the passage from the public to the private. So much so that the Juggler articulates the problem whereas the Lover engages it.

Between the cards II the Popess and V the Pope, on the one hand, and the cards III the Empress and IV the Emperor on the other, ”the dialectic is obvious.” … The Popess is an integrity in relation with the invisible, her book bears witness to sacred writing whereas the Pope speaks. Thus, the Popess symbolises the “introverted word” with respect to the Pope, “extroverted word.” The Popess is a metaphysical value without physical reality and the Pope is united to the metaphysical by his relation with the Popess, “he is, in sum, the incarnation of the metaphysical and of the physical, and he bears witness to this vertical relation through speech; whereas the Popess, who does not exist but who is, cannot speak. The Popess is thus the silence filled by writing, that is to say, a collective where the invisible contains the visible. Analogically, the Popess is the Church, whereas the speech of the Pope is the emphasis brought from becoming over being.” [3]

In the image of the third card, that of the Empress, is depicted an eagle gazing to the left, and thus introverted with respect to the arcanum of the Emperor where there is an extroverted eagle looking to the right. The eagle of the Emperor rises towards the light whereas the eagle of the Empress is kept in the heat (according to the terms used by Carteret) and his inclined sceptre corresponds to the “setting sun” with respect to the “rising sun” of the cross erected on the sceptre of the Empress.

Still in the “Lesser Mystery” of the twelve first arcana, let us develop the second senary, that of action. The seventh card, the Chariot represents the “accelerator” with respect to the Wheel of Fortune (X) which corresponds to the brake… The Chariot is providence which, by the “two horses of the principle” is situated in becoming. The Wheel of the Chariot is discontinuous whereas it is continuous in the Wheel of Fortune, inverted with respect to the Chariot.

With Justice (VIII) we see the “seated fatness” paired with the “standing thinness” of the Hermit. In Justice there is a plenitude by heat, whereas in the Hermit we find the quest by light, which is the reduction and intensification of Justice. “The true is to existence what the just is to life; now, what the Hermit seeks is the passage from life to existence. As the town is what exists and the country is what lives, the Hermit lives in the country to find the passage to the town, whereas arcanum VIII, as the Justice of the Peace, lives in the centre of the town: the Town Hall.”

We reach, at present, the “Greater Mystery” (cards XVI to XXI) of the last senary. The God-House (XVI) symbolises “the fall of heaven on earth,” it is the House of the decrowned principle, stricken by the storm (the revelation of the principle) which has just split the unity into two, whence the two falling characters.

If, in the God-House, the vertical wall of the Tower without a door (God has no need of a door) is demolished, we observe in the Sun (XIX) a rebuilt horizontal wall, and the two children fallen from the God-House find themselves standing upright and reunited. With the Sun, it is peace regained after the collapse represented by the sixteenth card.

We arrive at Arcanum XVII dear to André Breton and the Surrealists, the Star, who symbolises for Carteret “the deconditioning of the Earth and Heaven to the benefit of the natural influences” (Water element), whereas in the preceding card, there was a rupture (Fire element) in the relation between Heaven and Earth. The Star is indeed the incarnation of poetry, “the grace of the foregoing fall, or more accurately, the pleasure of the fall become Grace…”

If the God-House “was a descent towards the base, the collapse of Heaven on Earth, since Revelation is the fall, as the shattering shows, on the contrary, the Moon is the exaltation in the sense of an ascent towards the summit. Whereas the God-House is the passage from the invisible to the visible, the Moon is the passage from the visible to the invisible.

If, with Justice, “Heaven grasps the Earth,” it is with Force that the Earth grasps Heaven. Force (XI) is an “antecedent vertical” and is paired with the Hanged Man (XII), “consequential horizontal.” We do not see the hands of the Hanged Man, legs crossed, as we do not see the feet (the birth) of Force, hands crossed. “In arcanum XII, we may say that “all that falls, happens.” And the Hanged Man’s rope, which comes from Heaven, brings happiness.”

We now arrive at the three cards of the Threshold: “the work of Thrice-Greatest Hermes… The thirteenth card without a name which depicts a skeleton bearing a scythe is called “Death,” it is the door through which one leaves.” The severed right foot of the skeleton hinders the action of this passage from action to reaction. Thus, this arcanum symbolises “the action which tends towards the state by the brake” whereas the following card, Temperance, is “the passage of the state towards action by the accelerator.” If “Death” sees the past depart, Temperance is turned towards the future; it is also “the door through one enters.” On the alchemical plane, there is “fixation” with Death, and “volatilisation” with Temperance, where the fluidic waters, the impalpable wave, volatilises the fixed.

Finally, the third card of the Threshold, the Devil (XV), represents the synthesis of cards XIII and XIV: it is at the same time the door through which one enters as well as that through which one leaves, the door with two batwing doors, “the simultaneity of two movements.” The androgynous Devil is the “Dragon of Virtue,” guardian of the Threshold, “the capital value which allows the awakening of consciousness in existence.”

This lunar illumination sees the drops rise (the downwards-pointing tips of the droplets symbolise the Water element) towards a Capricornian summit (with respect to the crayfish of that card indicating the zodiacal sign of Cancer, opposite Capricorn). On the other hand, in the arcanum of the Sun, the tips of the droplets are turned upwards, thus symbolising the Fire element. [4]

The Judgment (XX) [5] represents the conclusion of the four preceding arcana. In this confrontation, “the movement occurs from the top to the bottom, and from the bottom to the top, so much so that the top judges the bottom, as the bottom judges the top.” The Judgment is analogous to the engagement, but not to the wedding represented by the World (XXI) for there is yet separation between the Top and the Bottom. We see in the arcanum the World “the belt of the life of the world,” laurel garland, and the poetry that surrounds the androgyne while the four evangelists correspond to the four “fixed” zodiacal signs (the middle of the seasons). [6]

There remains the Mate, card without number… [7] Carteret found that the exact position of this “nomad” was situated between the Judgment (XX) and the World (XXI). [8] He always discoursed at length on this “simple in spirit” who passes everywhere and whom “no rules stop.” Analogous to the Monkey-Pilgrim, he is also “at the same time permanent Revolution and the Golden Fleece.” It is liberty to the extent that this last, like Nirvana, is “the extinction of differences.” As “zero, the Mate is all passages, whereas as 22, he is the passage to the impossible.”

Jean ended his radio programme by observing that: “The Tarot is the coat of arms of the essences of creation within the creature, that is to say, within man.”

Let us conclude with another of his remarks: “All that is crossed must represent a potentiality.” [9]* Speaking of the Emperor, he used to say that only kings had the right to cross their legs. [10] Crossed legs represented “the power of the action” brought back to “the power of the state.” To have one’s legs crossed is to pass from the virtue of the action to the virtue of the state.

At the end of his life, Jean crossed and uncrossed his legs constantly…

Notes:

1. In the alchemical Tradition, the “green Lion” volatilises the Fixed, and the “red Lion” fixates the Volatile. Note, moreover, that the third principle, the Salt, is a later notion developed following Paracelsus.

2. The Juggler and the Lover “are the two crossroads of the senary of state.”

3. Raymond Abellio notes that the Popess represents “the invisible Church of which the Pope is but the worldly emergence. In kabbalistic terms: the emanated light and the created light.”

4. Jean paired the God-House and the Sun, on the one hand, and the Star and the Moon on the other. These latter relations between cards XVII and XVIII seem less obvious and less developed to me. Raymond Abellio proposed a different and relevant pairing: horizontally, the Sun and the Moon, on the one hand, and the Star and the World on the other. Vertically, the God-House and the Judgment correspond to the dark face and the light face of the apocalypses.

5. “Judgment – in itself – is just and true. To judge is eventually to convert. Arcanum XX is alchemical. Arcanum XXI is the reinsertion into the original state of being and of non-being, but with the absolute consciousness of the relative consciousness and the global being.”

6. Saint Mark: the Lion [Leo]; Saint John: the Scorpion [Scorpio]; Saint Matthew: the Water-Bearer [Aquarius]; and Saint Luke: the Bull [Taurus].

7. The name (in relation with life) is to the number (in relation with the spirit) what the idea is to the image.

8. Personally, it would seem to me to be more appropriate to place the Mate before the Juggler (I) and after the World (XXI) since Jean used to say that he is at the same time the zero (the source) below the difference, and the twenty-two (the mouth) which goes beyond all differences. This position is it not obvious in a circular representation of the Tarot, where the Mate, between the first and the last cards, connects the initiatory circle?

9. He used to say this of certain figures of the Tarot.

10. Does “Carte-ret” not mean “the king of the cards”, as Arnold Waldstein remarked?

* The word puissance in French means both ‘potential’ as well as ‘power’. – Translator
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Pierre Piobb: Correspondences between Tarot, Kabbalah & Astrology

Translator’s Introduction

After providing a translation of Pierre Piobb’s structuration of the Tarot and his views on its divinatory application, we present the table of correspondences found in Piobb’s Formulaire de Haute Magie. As noted previously, although Piobb indicates his source for these correspondences to be the work of Paul Christian, only the titles coined by the latter have been retained (with some minor modifications), the astrological correspondences being those of Charles Nicoullaud, from his Manuel d’Astrologie Sphérique et Judiciaire (1897, pp. 320-321). For Paul Christian’s table of correspondences, see here.

This set of correspondences went on to provide the basis for that of Salvador Dalí’s Tarot deck, likely via the medium of Pierre Mabille, another Surrealist and himself a student of Piobb’s, and also that of the Basque Tarot of Maritxu de Güler, the Tarot de Euskalherria, through its inclusion in the Encyclopédie des sciences occultes edited by Charles Mafféo Poinsot, translated into English as The Encyclopedia Of Occult Sciences.

As Stephen Mangan has noted: “The astrological associations are not related to any traditional correspondence of such with the Hebrew letters. Frequently they appear to be matched with the imagery of the cards, e.g., Temperance is Aquarius the water bearer because of the two cups; the Sun is Gemini because of the two youths; the Moon is Cancer because of the crustacean and being the traditional sign of the Moon; extending on the logic of the Golden Dawn in that Strength must be Leo because of the lion; Justice is Libra because of the scales.”

* * *

Excerpted from

Formulaire de Haute Magie

(Formulary of High Magic)

Pierre Piobb (1874-1942)

Adaptation of the Hebrew Alphabet to the Tarot
(sequence of so-called Major Arcana)

Number

Grammatical Designation

Signification of the Tarot

Astrological Attribution

1

aleph

The Magus

Sun
2

beth

The Door of the Temple

Moon
3

ghimel

Isis-Urania

Earth
4

daleth

The Cubic Stone

Jupiter

5

The Master of the Arcana

Mercury

6

vau

The Two Paths

Virgo

7

zain

The Chariot of Osiris

Sagittarius

8

heth

Themis

Libra

9

teth

The Veiled Lamp

Neptune

10

iod

The Sphinx

Capricorn

11

caph

The Lion

Leo

12

lamed

The Sacrifice

Uranus

13

mem

The Scythe

Saturn

14

noun

Human Genius

Aquarius

15

samech

Typhon

Mars

16

han

The Tower Struck By Lightning

Aries

17

The Star of the Magi

Venus

18

tsadé

Twilight

Cancer

19

coph

The Light

Gemini

20

reste

The Resurrection of the Dead

Pisces

21

shin

The Crown

Taurus

22

tau

The Crocodile

Scorpio

* * *

For more on Piobb and his work (in French) see this dedicated website .

 

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On the Divide Between Astrology and the Divinatory Arts

On the Divide Between Astrology and the Divinatory Arts

Jean-Marc Lepers
Excerpt from the preface to Le Livre Blanc de l’Astrologie by J. Halbronn.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

I know the Tarot fairly well – 22 cards and that is all. […] But even if the Tarot is an esoteric system, we may still hope, by means of patience, of trial and error, of rearrangements, to obtain an idea of the way in which this system is arranged. This is what was stressed by Robert Jaulin, in his work on the geomantic system*, a system of divination is a “complete system” – that is to say that, by its very structure, no possible event is supposed to escape its description. […]

Knowing the Tarot fairly well, I have been interested, of course, in its correspondences with Astrology. It is true that they have apparently common symbols. But absolutely nothing proves that this correspondence is not due to the effect of a relative chance: in what we may call the general library of symbols, which is a relatively limited set, it is not very surprising that some have been used just as well in Astrology as in the Tarot. Nonetheless, they are never exactly the same. Is it, individually, the symbol and its declensions that matter, or the place within which it is situated in a structure? For the structures of the Tarot and of Astrology are highly different, and are not superimposable. Astrology operates on a base of 12, that is, three times four elements. The Tarot, on a base of 7, three times seven cards – plus one card denoted zero, of which there is no equivalent in Astrology, nor in any other divinatory system, to the best of my knowledge. If it is the set of the structure that has significance, that is, the relative positions of the various elements, the two systems have practically nothing comparable, apart from the fact that they both use a mathematical-geometric system.

* Robert Jaulin, La géomancie, analyse formelle, Mouton, 1966.

Read the original piece here.

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The Line and the Circle: An Astrological Arrangement of the Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

Since its first publication in 1969, the dictionary of symbols edited by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, published as Dictionnaire des symboles in French and The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols in English, has become the chief reference on the Tarot in the literary and academic worlds. Although historical research has brought new insights into the origins and evolution of the Tarot since its initial publication, the Dictionary of Symbols remains a standard as far as the symbolism of the Tarot is concerned, on account of its relative thoroughness, and the wealth of detail it provides on related subjects.

In sum, it is a work that will largely repay reading, providing, as it does, individual entries on each of the 22 trump cards, or major arcana, as well as a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview of the Tarot as a whole. (Indeed, the same can be said of that other standard reference work, A Dictionary of Symbols, edited by J. E. Cirlot, published shortly afterwards in 1971, and in English in 2002.)

The editors of the Dictionary of Symbols make the cogent observation that: “All keys of interpretation open up different aspects of the same card and none possesses fixed and absolute meaning. It is a perpetually mobile system of relationships demanding the greatest subtlety of interpretation.” (p. 971) And: “Whatever validity these different points of view may possess, we should never forget that the Tarot never submits to any one attempt to systematise it and it always retains something which escapes our grasp.” (p. 975)

Dictionnaire des symboles

Rather than reproduce the entire passage (s.v. Tarot, and in passing, we invite interested readers to consult the Dictionary directly), we have translated the following text, excerpted and slightly adapted from a Tarological exegesis of a set of poems by the Surrealist writer Robert Desnos, Les Ténèbres. Leaving aside the literary interpretation, this excerpt is largely a condensed synopsis of the structure proposed in the Dictionary, one which provides a very succinct overview of two different presentations of the same arrangement of the Tarot.

The first is an arrangement based on the astrological wheel, the horizontal axis being the Ac-Dc axis, the vertical axis, the Mc-Ic one; the second presentation clearly showing the twofold undecimal (base-11) arrangement, the sum of whose opposing pairs is 23.

These two different presentations of the same arrangement will yield interesting insights into the way in which the cards might be paired, and the underlying rationale for such an arrangement overall. Contrast the parallel linear arrangement with that of A. Jodorowsky, who, in his Way of Tarot, proposes a similar but slightly different arrangement, the sum of whose pairs is 21. This type of comparative exercise will not only provide unexpected or hitherto unseen connections between cards, but will also serve to train one’s gaze and thinking. As Jodorowsky says: the “organizational outline of the Major Arcana permits us to understand that the Tarot is constructed as an organic and harmonious whole. By using its structural elements, we can construct patterns that allow us to better understand it.”

This text was first published as “Robert Desnos, Poète de la Tradition,” by Anne-Marie Amiot, in Mélusine n° XVI, Cultures, contre-cultures, 1997.

* * *

The 22 cards of the deck represent the evolution of man, the path he must tread in order to reach a fusional equilibrium between matter and spirit, “body and soul,” based on knowledge and by recourse to the great principles of universal harmony. In fact, the Tarot lends itself to multiple interpretations. (1) But, based on the principal of the primacy of the Spirit, according to which Mens agitat Molem, the ideology of the Tarot remains above all anthropocentric, the figures which compose it offering a double signification, psychological and cosmic.

Attached to the particular meaning of each card, the symbolism of the Tarot also depends on their arrangement.

Either as a wheel, built around two axes:

Or in two parallel rows:

In both cases, it is clearly apparent that the vertical axis of the Tarot joins Arcana VI and XVII, the Lover and the Star, the one representing affectivity, the other, hope, two values/pivots around which gravitate all the others.

Another divide also appears from I to XI, and from XII to 0 (XXII) (2), which indicates the two ways of progression towards Wisdom – or Revelation – : the first, active (solar), advocates individual initiative, based on reason and will; the second, passive (lunar), consists of receiving and internalising. Thus Force and the Hanged Man are two aspects of the same symbol: external force and internalised force. (3)

Notes:

  1. Alchemical, magical or masonic interpretations, which take into account varying arrangements effected on groups of cards.
  2. The Fool, an unnumbered card, a free agent, so to say, is generally – but not always – considered as being the last, whence its informal classification as the 22nd card.
  3.  The first path of initiation thus ends at Force (XI), the prerogative of the Juggler who has accomplished his designs, whereas the second starts from the Hanged Man to end at the Fool, “whose passivity takes on a sublime character.”

* * *

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