The Two of Swords – A One Page Guide

The blindfolded swordswoman of the Two of Swords can only be a metaphor, but for what? Why is she blindfolded? Why two swords? Why is the composition symmetrical except for the Moon? I believe that Waite wishes us to perceive the message of the RWS Two of Swords as that the balance of two types of justice, divine and human, manifests itself in peace and harmony, even though both types of justice can countenance cruelty. But if inside oneself and one’s circle of friends we maintain balance and harmony, such a balance can be a “beneficent force.”

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The Six of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

That one of the strengths of tarot is its strong storytelling ability may have something to do with a foundation in mankind’s oldest and most important myths and stories. In the Six of Pentacles it appears as if the rich man weighs the worthiness of the beggars before giving them charity. A century after the publication of the RWS deck, we as viewers may interpret this as an act of a very ill-natured type of charity. But the incorporation of the scales may have a different purpose. Taurus represents the Vernal equinox, the beginning of the life cycle in the agrarian age. Libra was the other end: the Autumnal equinox. This is why Venus is sometimes represented alongside both the bull and scales. The generosity of the Earth and agriculture then should be the main theme; but does our merchant portray that? We can trace the words of the divinatory meanings to their influences, but it is not certain that the message is entirely satisfactory today.

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The Eight of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Eight of Cups is one of those cards in which Waite has only slight differences in divinatory meanings versus the Golden Dawn. The differences are in the illustration. Instead of Pisces and Jupiter, the main element is instead the full Moon eclipsing the Sun. The Romans, in their panoply of gods, assigned Diana three aspects, goddess of the Moon, the huntress, and the queen of the underworld. They nicknamed her “trivia” or “three roads.” She was the goddess of forks-in-the-road! Waite and Colman Smith use this as a metaphor to portray the action of the divinatory meaning. The character deserts the cups of an enterprise or previous concern; i.e., he came to a fork in the road, and after, no longer travels the original road. The card is full of “dualities”—harvest and planting, death and rebirth, male and female, Sun and Moon, old path and new path—which seem to mimic the dual nature of the divinatory meanings. Thus, the Eight of Cups is a collection of reflected images, none exactly the same as the original. It occurs to me that if we understand the illustration correctly, the proper reading of this card is more than “the decline of a matter” in importance, as Waite put it. It is actually advice to avoid the consequences of whatever the “decline” was. The occurrence may be infrequent but not rare (as suggested by the solar eclipse). And the advice is that the best path to be on during or after that decline is “the road less traveled.”

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The Three of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Three of Wands is not just a nice card, it’s a good, understated design. It is a marvelous representation of the divinatory meanings and has just the right touch of transparency that reveals the story and influences that Waite and Colman Smith chose as a setting. As to the divinatory meanings, focusing on the question of the differences between Waite’s and the GD’s, one can ask a further question: are Colman Smith’s ships coming or going? It seems likely that on the one hand, Waite means to convey that when the Three of Wands is upright the ships are going… outbound to Colchis, adventure, and the golden fleece, or in an alternative reading, to the east to bring back exotic cargo. On the other hand, when the card is reversed, that the ship is returning, with the fleece or exotic goods.

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Meta-Stories of the Minor Arcana

We are almost at the halfway point through our analyses of the minor arcana Two through Ten cards. This may be a good time to step back and consider the most consistent finding so far. That finding is that it appears Waite and Colman Smith in many cases placed textual or visual representations of the origin stories of the particular Zodiac sign associated with the constellation for the decan to which the Golden Dawn group assigned the card. It is a serendipitous aspect of the RWS deck’s design process, that their basis in these origin stories can be “seen” in the cards still. Story-telling is indeed an excellent means to connect with the querent. It involves the querent in formulating the answer to the question, because everyone likes to participate in a good story. More than just archetypes, stories that have engaged people for literally thousands of years are likely to engage the querent as you interpret the cards and try to get to the bottom of what the cards are trying to tell both reader and querent.

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The Ten of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Ten of Cups is a great card to get in a reading… but it may not be one of Waite’s best. There are three imperfectly executed themes in the RWS Ten of Cups that I believe show Waite’s desire to infuse his mystical Christianity into the card. Firstly, there is an attempt to link the second covenant, by which belief in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth washes away the original sin of Adam and Eve. Possibly related, a second theme links the water and cups to the Holy Grail and the last supper, at which that second covenant was announced. Finally, an attempt to link the alchemical symmetry between heaven and Earth as in the saying “As above, so below.” But these three themes aren’t anchored securely to the astrological, elemental and qabalistic influences, and therefore don’t affect the divinatory meanings strongly. The result is that the Christian mysticism that Waite imbued in other cards’ divinatory meanings could not be “poured” into the Ten of Cups, and upon analysis, it just doesn’t “feel” right.

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The Two of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

The Two of Pentacles presents questions. Why are there dramatic waves in the background when the elemental influence is not water but Earth? Why did Waite go out of his way not to call the figure eight of the string game the Ourobouros, as the Golden Dawn group described it? And finally, and oddly enough, most importantly—what’s with the hat? Since we’re in Capricorn, we’d better take the Goat of Fear, some aliens called the Anunnaki, and Noah’s Flood into consideration as we try to make sense of these seeming contradictions. And contradiction is what makes the Two of Pentacles a tour de force. It communicates Waite’s Christian mysticism by pulling it out from what should be its opposite: spirit from material, Christianity from pagan; first power promising its own replacement by the ultimate power.

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