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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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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The Chariot: Waite’s Symbols

We return to our series of posts regarding the symbols in the Waite Colman Smith tarot deck with the Chariot. Waite seems to be spending quite a bit of energy on distinguishing the Chariot from the High Priestess. The theme of Waite’s Chariot is mastery over this world, and most decidedly not mastery of the spriritual world. Why has he spent so much energy on this argument? My theory is that it’s a further step away from the kabbalah-leaning early interpretations of the Golden Dawn to the his Christian/Celtic re-interpretations. Exhibits “A” and “B” are the Urim and Thummim on the pauldrons (shoulder armor).

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The Emperor: Waite’s Symbols

The Waite Colman Smith deck appears to convey in the Empreror a much more masculine message than its antecedents. The Book T personifies him as “War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition,” and Mathers as “realization,” (which could be said to be a form of virility). In fact, focusing especially upon the ankh on the Emperor’s staff, it seems to me that Colman Smith illustrated the emperor with a bit more virility than Waite may have been able to face up to. In any case, I feel that Waite took a strategic move with the High Priestess/Hierophant pair and the Emperor/Empress pair to stress each of the “couples'” complementary natures.

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