Found in Translation: The Dark Side of the Sun

I had always been taught that the reversed Sun card is still 100% positive, just less so. A reading brought to my attention a negative meaning for the Sun card, reversed, purely by accident. A word tranlated from English (giddy) to a Spanish word with a slightly different connotation (dizzy) hinted at a lost divinatory meaning. The meaning points back to Waite’s (and his predecessors’) writings. Elsewhere in these posts I have shown the flexibility of Waite and Colman Smith’s symbols to adapt to newer, more modern meanings. Waite’s Christian and (nationalistic) Celtic embellishments skewed his approach to the Tarot and may have “crowded out” the negative context noted by his predecessors’ in this particular case. Instead, the rediscovered meaning led us to other well known symbols, most particularly, the lemniscate, or sign of infinity. Perhaps it even means that if the Sun is reversed, and your journey is away from it, you may become giddy, dizzy, and disoriented such that your journey takes you to the “bass ackwards” end of infinity… away from the Holy Ghost and towards the Devil. But that is the genius of Tarot… it didn’t go away completely, and was there to be found when appropriate… though thoroughly by accident!

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The Moon: Waite’s Symbols

For the modern reader, it is usually the “deception” side of the Moon’s meaning that is given. Often, it’s a suggestion that one has to look again, preferably with better light; to recognize something that isn’t what it appears to be as it really is. To look beyond the mystery. But in Waite’s Moon, the mangy looking yellow wolf, quite singular looking, is yellow for a reason. Notice it is the same yellow as that of the moon. Waite has already told us that the intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is mystery; it illuminates our animal nature. Therefore the message may be that when we reflect upon the thought of our animal natures using the reflected light of intellect… we see the wild nature of the wolf. I would add “reflection” to the standard “deception” meaning of this card. Thus, for example, in a questions concerning love and faithfulness, a reader might do well to ask the querent to use their intellect to answer the question as to whether the object of their affection’s domestic or wild side rules them. In doing so, the Moon card helps them find the answer to question inside themself.

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The Devil: Waite’s Symbols and Beyond

We return to our series on the symbols of the RWS tarot deck with the Devil. Waite appears to hold an old-fashioned view of the Devil as a force that acts of its own volition, tempting and coercing the actions of man. We turn to the Devil as illustrated in the Tarot of Dreams, a beautiful card. The deck’s Fool character is pictured in a gilded cage, with door open, beneath a human looking devil. The message of the illustration is that the Fool is responsible for his own punishment, and can free himself at any time. It is a reflexive approach. In olden times, when someone sinned, they might say “the devil made me do it.” But nowadays, of course, hell is empty and the devils are here… in ourselves, in some cases, or in the powerful positions of our society.

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Adjusting for the Evolution of the Tarot Symbols When Reading

What is the practical effect of analyzing and tracking the choices of symbols within a deck as far as helping a reader interpret the cards presented to him as he or she sits at the table with the querent? We compare five illustrations of The Lovers—Eteilla, Marseille, RWS, Tarot of Dreams and Deviant Moon. We find that the older decks have a component of societal approval of the marriage contract that the newer decks do not. We conclude that the key takeaway of The Lovers is something more complicated than just a single word description of “choice.” I conclude that the key is “commitment to a choice made.” Perhaps more importantly, I find that the Lovers may be kind of a touchstone card. When doing a reading having anything to do with family or intimacy, perhaps it is wise to gauge the querent’s connection to family. If their idea of family is everybody getting together as frequently as possible and loving and fighting each other, than RWS or even an older deck might be best. If the querent has a more modern view, such as family being something inconvenient and best kept at a distance… then perhaps one of the more modern decks would be better for that reading.

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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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Stength: Waite’s Symbols

For a card relatively light on symbolism, Waite goes overboard to “Christianize” the context of the Strength card, adding symbols and changing the ones previously depicted. Connecting fortitude with the mysterious aspects of the divine union required significant changes to this card. This is especially ironic given that the four cardinal virtues predate Christianity. Another change, to its very order within the tarot deck, affected the numerological interpretation of the Strength card.

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