Tarotcard The Star and Jung’s Personae

Tarotcard 17 The Star and Venetian Masks

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the Stars”

Oscar Wilde

The Star is the Tarot card that has number 17 in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. It is preceded by The Tower and followed by The Moon. The ‘mainstream’ meanings assigned to this card are generally:

  1. Hope
  2. Daring to be vulnerable
  3. Showing yourself as you really are, taking off your mask
  4. You are good just the way you are (and so is the other person)
  5. ”To be naked” (to have nothing left), to start over
  6. Afraid to show your true self, pretending to be something other than you are

The phrase “taking off your mask” and being “naked” almost always recurs in the descriptions. In this blog article I want to eloborate on these meanings; Apparently, we don’t think it’s good to wear a mask. We also like it when other people show themselves without a mask. But is that really a good thing? Of course, there is much more to it.

When you look at this tarotcard in a Jungian way and draw a comparison with the concept of Jung’s ‘Persona’, you will see that there are some nuances to be made. These nuances can make a big difference when The Star shows up in your readings.  

Jung, Personae and Masks

The word ‘Persona’ (probably) comes from the Latin Personare (literally: to resound) and it was used to indicate the masks worn by theatre actors, which often also contained a kind of megaphone. The function of the mask was to indicate the character of the role played, but also to let his voice be heard far enough away from the audience.

In marketing, ‘Persona’ is used to create target group profiles. A story is created of what the ‘typical’ customer of a company looks like. Things like gender, age, occupation, interests, work, media behaviour, owning a house, car, etc.

In his analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung adopted this word for the part of the personality that plays a “role” in relation to society. The Persona represents our social mask, the face we show to others that allows us to communicate with them and help them identify with us.

Many people consider a Persona or Mask as something negative. In our modern Western society, there is a lot of emphasis on individuality and individuality. Everyone wants to stay ‘true to themselves’, to be ‘themselves’. Making concessions in order to ‘belong to somewhere’ or ‘participate in something’ certainly has no place in popular culture and is therefore rejected from all sides.  The funny thing is that people who so vehemently reject the wearing of masks do not realize that this is also a Persona: after all, they do not want to be identified with ‘tame sheep’, ’empty-headed’, ‘mainstream people’ but rather as rebels, visionairies, or ‘authentic’ people. And so that’s – you guessed it – the mask they’re wearing. Anything you identify with – or want to identify with – is considered a persona. So it’s not just how you show yourself, but also how you feel and consider yourself. In the latter lies the answer to the question of how we see persona and masks from a Jungian perspective. According to Jung, the persona is formed by the ego at the moment the individual enters the “real world”.

So,  how does this work? In your childhood, you often identify with the social norms and values that you have inherited from your upbringing. From your parents, from school, the church and your peers who live in your neighborhood. You have idols that you identify with (or want to identify with). But when you ‘fly out’ and go to university, live on your own or work in another city, your world becomes ‘bigger’. You start to orient yourself more broadly and you come into contact with many different people. You start thinking about ‘who you want to be’ or ‘how you want others to see you’. You make a re-evaluation of everything you have been given (usually you do NOT want to be ???? like your parents). You “choose” something completely different, forming your own opinions and identifications. This does not mean that the old values are ‘gone’;  You have also built up a pattern of certain behaviors that were rewarded or punished and the ‘desired behaviour’ (‘if I act like this, everyone will like me’) can also still be part of you and thus is this also a persona.

If we look superficially, you will see that having a number of ‘masks’ is very normal and also very useful. You present yourself differently at work than in the pub, at a funeral or wedding, at your parents-in-law’s house or with your friends. You are a father or a mother, but also an accountant, a partner, a friend, an athlete, a party animal, you name it. You play a different role everywhere and you do this automatically.

The essence, according to Jung, is that you have to become aware that you have multiple masks that you can put on and take off whenever you want. The biggest pitfall is that people only have 1 mask that grows stuck, as it were. These are people who find their mask so comfortable that they always wear this mask. They themselves – and others – think that this is actually a very good thing, because such a person always seems ‘stable’ in the eyes of others. After all, he or she is always the same. Nice and easy, because then you know exactly what you can expect from someone. People who are always ‘different’ are reacted to with a bit of suspicion from those around them.

However, someone with a ‘stuck’ mask no longer knows at some point that it is a mask. That person can no longer take off his mask, not even at home with loved ones or even for himself. He/she does not find ‘new’ layers in his/her personality. These are also people who often say ‘that doesn’t suit me at all’ or about whom others say that something doesn’t suit them. However, only a very small part of your own personality is ‘conscious’; There are still many different sides, talents and ‘persona’ in the unconscious! That’s why it’s good to just give everything try, investigate it or simply ‘go for it’. Because only then can you discover if something really suits you.

Contrary to what the ‘popular new-age culture’ would have us believe, it is precisely the people with “a lot of masks in the closet” who are ‘aware’ and the people who ‘always stay true to themselves’ are actually the ones who are the ‘superficial’ or unconscious.

Be carfeul to distinguish between these ‘masks’ and actual ‘split personalities’ or ‘multiple personalities’; The latter, of course, is not ‘normal’ and often stems from severe trauma. A psychologically healthy and conscious person realizes that his ‘persona’ is not his whole identity but only a part of it or that a certain mask is put on to meet (social) expectations. AND… Nothing is wrong with meeting up to (social) expectations! It is normal, it is social and it is polite. It does not need to result in being ‘weak’ or ‘meek’.

As one does more shadow work, the Ego becomes stronger. And when the Ego is stronger, it knows that it is in control of the masks and becomes a flexible human being.

What happens before the Star appears?

When you always conform to the demands, norms and expectations of society (The Collective Conscious) and you actually identify with that role, then your talents and dreams will be more hidden away in your unconscious.

Tarotcard 15 The Devil from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck

Jung called people who ALWAYS choose ‘wisely’ and ‘rationally’ (read: in the eyes of society) ”mass people”. Mass people feel that ‘they are being lived’ or ‘stuck’ to always wearing the same mask. It is not easy to maintain the ‘middle’ between ‘yourself’ and the ‘outside world’: Society or your environment often forces you to choose an extreme side (e.g. religion, political views, etc.) You could say that this is reflected in the card of The Devil.

According to Jung, the moment you realize that you are not really the person you have always identified with (your ‘stuck’ mask), your Ego can get a big shock and your world can collapse.

Tarotcard 16 The Tower from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck

Jung describes it as feeling like the world is collapsing, that everything is returning to a state of Chaos, and that you are at the mercy of the elements. Your life has been destroyed and your ideals are completely shattered. Jung says that these kinds of major setbacks can occur at any point in the course of life, but that they can strengthen your personality if you handle them well. In the text, Jung calls it an ‘inner venture’. But actually, it’s just the cliché: ‘anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger‘. Of course we see The Tower here!

Jung says that after such a devastating event, people have different methods or choices to deal with it. He calls this “regressive restoration of the Persona.” By regressive recovery, Jung means going back to the time ‘before you had built up a certain life’. At that point, you are without hope, without expectation. You have become more “humble” and “realistic” and you realize that you only have yourself. You’re going to live a “simpler” life.

BUT, here again the difficulty is that you get stuck in this thought or that you are going to use it to hide from reality. The notion ‘I am simple and have no need for great things’ becomes a mask too!

Jung says that it only works if you are forced by necessity to go back to your base. The examples he mentions are of a businessman who has lost his material possessions, but it can also be a different situation. You are going to start over, as it were, with the realization that you are more than your mask and that there is much that you can still discover and live out. You have a completely different view of yourself and the world around you and you are ready to come out again, but also you have acquired the skills to look into your own personal unconscious. With the hope and belief that there is something unique and divine there.

After the devastating event, you have reached the lowest point and the choice is to stay in this situation, use it as an escape, or to hope that the gutter will not be your permanent home.

Tarotcards The Devil, The Tower and The Star from the Rider-Waite- Smith deck

The Star in a reading

If you want to explain the Star in a Jungian way during a reading, you can add nuances to the meaning(s) by asking the following questions:

  1. Are you aware of the different ‘roles’ you play in daily life? Do you easily switch between those roles?
  2. Are there roles that you feel you would like to play but that this is not ‘possible’? Why not?
  3. Which ‘mask’ is most comfortable for you? Can you easily take it off?
  4. What role or mask will others see most of you? Would they regard this as positive? Do you care about that judgment ?
  5. Suppose your masks get damaged and become useless, and you are forced to go back to ‘basics’, how do you proceed? What do you think is your basis?
  6. Can you balance the feeling of ‘being who you are’ (being good the way you are) and the insight that you can grow and become better in some areas? How could you improve yourself?
  7. Can you balance between roles that you think you SHOULD play and the roles you WANT to play? In other words, is it doable to adapt to your environment but also to see your own individuality?

There’s a lot more to tell about The Star, so subscribe to this blog in order to learn more about this card!

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