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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Link: Is Tarot the Answer to Your Break With Spirituality?

Rewire.org had a good story yesterday on Cat Rocketship, an illustrator who has published the beautiful and interesting Skeleton Tarot Deck. I think it’s important to distinguish between traditional spirituality and modern spirituality to understand both this article, and the tarot. The artist states that tarot is “an invitation to explore whatever that spiritual, metaphorical, looking for patterns or listening-to-your-gut space is. It’s a tool I use to legitimize my intuition.” The article led me to consider Waite and his contemporaries. I think the late 19th century/early 20th century men and women who re-energized tarot were on the cusp of traditional spirituality and modern spirituality. Waite defined himself as a Christian mystic. He and his contemporaries were attempting to remodel the “temple” of the external religion they knew, Christianity, into two parts: external power, which they recognized as the pope, and an internal power, which was “secret,” “esoteric,” and hence something that was uniquely theirs in that they held its knowledge, too.

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The Hierophant: Waite’s Symbols

We can note that Waite assigns a much more powerful and active role to the Hierophant than the Book T, which states “He is the reflective or mystical aspect of the masculine. He is the thinker as the Emperor is the doer,” and Mathers who says “He is the symbol of Mercy and Beneficence.” As such, the keys at the bottom of the illustration provide the key to Waite’s instructions for the illustration: (The keys are) “a particular application of the more general office that he symbolizes. He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power.”

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