1st Ten Major Arcana Wrapup

We pause for a summary overview of the first group of ten major arcana. My “read” of Waite’s reinterpretation of the symbols of tarot skews heavily towards “Christian” concepts. I think the High Priestess and the Lovers are the best examples of his divergent use of symbols. Waite also puts additional meanings in previously used symbols. He takes the very basic archetypes of the rennaissance cards, the kings, queens, marriage, pope, abbess, etc., and adds new symbolic meanings. In doing so, he shows his genius, as well as the genius of the Golden Dawn which overloaded those earlier cards with meanings drawn from, not from Christianity, but from the Qabal and numerology, which is where Waite differed from them.

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The Hermit: Waite’s Symbols

A hermit withdraws from society for a life of religious contemplation. Whereas Waite’s predecessors interpreted the Hermit as one seeking spiritual enlightenment, Waite goes to great pains to explain that his Hermit has attained it. the Hermit is in the same class as the two other spiritual members of the first ten of the major arcana, the High Priestess and the Hierophant. In order of their presence in the deck, they were formerly said to represent inner spirtuality, external spiritual authority, and the path to spiritualty. Waite now gives them to represent the spirituality of the Christian religion, the physical presence of the Christian church, and the success or failure of the individual Christion, i.e., attainment of the wisdom of life’s spiritual journey, versus whatever lies below.

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The Fool: What Symbols does Waite Mention?

We examine the symbols in the Fool illustration that Waite described in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910). We compare his descriptions to MacGregor Mathers (The Tarot, 1888),and the Book T of the Golden Dawn society. In this case we note the dog is “friendlier” as illustrated by Colemn Smith than any text description; that the precipice probably corresponds to “transcending the Earth,” as noted by The Book T; and finally, that we have no text documentation (at least not yet) for some of the key elements, such as the Fools’ wand and rose.

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