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The different number of Yods on Tarotcard ‘The Tower’

On a number of Tarotcards you can find ‘Yods’. The Yod is the tenth Hebrew letter and means “the creative hand of God.” The Yod as a letter is assigned to Tarotcard IX the Hermit by occultists who follow the Golden Dawn as a system (others sometimes assign it to Tarotcard X The Wheel of Fortune).  The Yod is depicted on the Aces, the Tower, the Moon and on some decks also on the Sun. There it represents a ‘divine spark’.

In this post I would like to elaborate on the number of Yods that appear on Tarot card ‘The Tower’. This differs per deck and that is no coincidence! All occultists have had their own reasons for displaying exactly that number of Yods on the card. I’ve listed a few for decks that I own myself, but I’m sure there are many more decks that show a different number of Yods.   

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Tarot and Alchemy: a short introduction

When you think of Alchemy, you usually think of the 16th and 17th centuries. You probably see the image of (old) men brewing all kinds of concoctions from which they try to make gold. The candlelight and the old books & manuscript add an occult touch to this image. You might think it is a bit silly, but many great discoveries have been made during these experiments! And nowadays,  we are actually able to create gold out of other commodities (although this is such an expensive process that the costs do not outweigh the benefits of the gold obtained). You could, however,  argue that these alchemists were the forerunners of our “modern” sciences (physics, chemistry, medical sciences).

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The Staff of the fool and the number 37

The Tarot is full of symbolism.  To what extent some symbolism has always been in there, we do not know for sure but is not likely. The Tarot seems to have been designed primarily as a game, as an artistic gift in honor of marriages of the high nobility and perhaps to promote Renaissance thought. What we do know is that the occultists who have been working with the Tarot since the 18th century, did add a lot of hermetic and occult symbolism to the Tarot. Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite, Paul Foster Case and Aleister Crowley are some of them who have indulged themselves in particular.

When you study the Rider-Waite-Smit deck carefully, you will see that not a single penstroke was done by chance! Some Tarotists don’t find it helpful to dig through all this symbolism. Others find it too far-fetched and implausible. I personally really enjoy doing it and it really helps me interpret the cards. This way, I am able to empathize more and see the cards come to live in front of me…

In this article, I would like to share an insight about the angle in which the Fool’s staff is positioned. It is exactly 37 degrees! 37 degrees is the average ‘normal’ body temperature of man. So “human” seems like an important keyword. When we look up this number in the reference books on Gematria, we come across many interesting associations that refer to “The Fool”!

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Ace of Swords or The Game Genie of Tarot

According to the bible, Moses received the two stone tablets with 10  commandments from God on Mount Sinai.  Not only did the Tablets contain valuable information on how to behave, they were written by God’s own finger!  According to Jewish tradition, God also gave him the complete Jewish Bible + interpretation. 

Forget about the tablets, forget about the Bible.  Because according to the Talmud, Moses also received a goodie bag containing some small presents from the angels.  And those presents are many times more interesting!  Moreover, 1 of those presents leads us to Ace of Swords in the Tarot …

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Tarot and Classic Philosophy

While working on my thesis for the Tarot Masters, I had decided that I would find the origin of wisdom in the Tarot. For this I needed to go back to the time of the creation of the first real Tarot Deck: The early Renaissance (1423). An important feature of the Renaissance was that people would begin referring (again) to the classical Roman and Greek philosophers. What I had forgotten since I left Highschool, was that philosophy in ancient times was mainly practical;  It was about norms and values and finding the answer to the question: “how should I live?” This is where the word “Art of Living” derives from. Actually, this ‘practical’ Philosophy consists partly of a collection of “things my mom used to say” (also called “aphorisms”).  Joep Dohmen  – who has written a some very nice instructive philosophy books – expresses himself far better than I do; His definition of philosophy is:

A coherence of thinking and living living and thinking. Eat as a human being, drink as a human being, participate in social life, learn to deal with ridicule and defamation and tolerate other people”

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So Many Heads So Many … Correspondences

When I started out studying the Tarot somewhere in the nineties, I would diligently try to search for ‘true’ meanings and correspondences of the cards.  I wrote everything down neatly in my Tarot journal and all went well for a while.  But then I came to notice that the correspondences of the elements, the astrological correspondences or even the meanings were different everywhere!  And no one could clarify what ‘the truth’ was (alltough many claimed they could).  This was extremely frustrating! 

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Tarot Card X The Wheel of Fortune and the Sphinx

In our Western culture (but also in others), for centuries The Wheel of Fortune has been associated with the realization that everything is constantly changing and in motion. On a mundane level, in short you can call it ‘fate’. In the Tarot it’s not just about good or ill fate coming your way; It is also about whether you are able to give direction to your life and willingness to change. In terms of symbolism, a lot of attention is paid in various literature to the ‘animals’ / ‘angels’ in the corners of the card: The Taurus, the Lion, the Eagle and Man. They are connected to the zodiacal signs, the elements and the figures from the biblical vision of Ezekiel. Much has been written about it and it is a familiar symbolism to most tarotists. Much less can be found about the ‘animals’ in the middle: The Snake, the Sphinx and the ‘dog’ figure (the Egyptian God Anubis). Why did Waite mix Egyptian symbolism with Christian symbolism here? After all, Waite was of the opinion that the origin of the Tarot was NOT Egyptian; And what does the Sphinx symbolize? You can write a very thick book about this card. I will do that when I grow up, but first I want to share some thoughts about the sfynx.

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The Wineseller’s Secret

Last Night a wise knower of a mystery secretly said to me:’The Secret of the Wineseller…hidden from you cannot be’

He then said: ‘Be easy with the way that you treat yourself, it is the nature of the world to treat hard-workers heavily’.

He then gave to me the cup which radiated the sky, so that Venus danced and the lute player said: ‘Drink’, repeatedly.

‘O son, listen to advice, do not grieve for the world’s sake: I speak to you advice like a pearl, keep it in your memory’

‘With bleeding heart still show the laughing lip of the cup: if you are wounded, then crying like reed you shouldn’t be’

‘As long as you haven’t been in the veil, you haven’t a hint: where Gabriel gives news, those who’re immature can’t see’

On the carpet of the knowers of the subtle is no pride of self: Man of wisdom, either speak what you know or sit silently’

O Winebringer, give wine: Hafez’s drunken loving was known by Lord of Unity, Forgiver of faults… Concealer of stupidity

This is one of the poems from “Falnama – Divination Book of Hafiz of Shiraz” by Paul Smith. These Persian Poems – or ‘ghazals’- have been used as divination method for centuries. They are believed to have been written by Shams-ud-din (1320 – 1392), who was later named ‘Hafez’. ‘Hafez’ is a title given to someone who has memorized the entire Qur’an, something Shams-ud-din had achieved in 14 ways according to his own claim. How does this relate to Tarot? Well, maybe not in a literal sense. But there is always a way to relate to the Tarot (as well as to wine…. 🙂

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Not all girls are made of sugar and spice

In the Tarot you almost always immediately associate the “mother” with trump III The Empress. She is the caring mother who gives space to everyone and takes care of the growth and development of others. She is close to nature and her energy is limitless. It is a “positive” card whose opposite (negative point) is that the lady in question is often so concerned with taking care of others that she forgets her own needs. Providing unlimited energy to allow everything to grow and bloom can have the disadvantage that you go beyond your own limits. And that is of course not advantageous.

Tarot readers do usually not get much “darker” or “more negative” in terms of interpretation. And that’s funny, because when I had to create an exercise for one of my Tarot courses a few years ago, the Empress also reminded me of Olivia Godfrey from the “Hemlock Grove” series. This rather special mother is brilliantly portrayed by Famke Janssen. She ensures that you navigate the entire series between feelings of disgust and hatred for the bitch on the one hand and then again pity, admiration and sometimes even sympathy. You never know what her ‘true face’ or motive is, there are so many sides (often dark) to her character.

The mother archetype has many aspects; In addition to the (personal) mother and grandmother, it also includes the stepmother, mother-in-law, school teacher and other women with whom one has a relationship. According to Jung, the mother archetype appears in many more concepts and (underlying) associations: the wise woman, loving goddess, mother of god, beautiful young virgin. Places where one is “free” or “safe” have feminine or maternal connotations: paradise, heaven, earth, sea, forest, land, lake, universities, churches, cities, ships. The moon, water and matter are linked to the mother archetype as well as specific places related to fertility and birth: gardens, fields, wells, flowers (rose, lotus) and helpful animals like cows and hares.

Because everything has 2 sides – or rather: is on a scale between 2 polarities – there are also quite a few ambivalent and negative aspects associated with this archetype: Fate (domain of the 3 Fates), the false witch, the dragon ( and any other devouring or strangling animal such as snakes and sharks). The grave, death, nightmares. In the west we often tend to see the “good” side of the mother and that is what they often do in the Tarot as well. As said before, we see the Empress as a mother and a symbol for fertility and growth. But also the The high priestess – who is the ‘same’ woman as the empress but we will get to that in another article – is seen as positive; With her beauty and mystery, trusting in her intuition she is attractive to both men and women.

The Tarot Queens are all – as “more mature” adult women – dealing with the elements in a nurturing way. Only the queen of the swords is often portrayed negatively, at least in the Rider Waite and the Toth Tarot (both the intellect and – albeit to a lesser extent – the “will” have been regarded as a negative trait in women for the past centuries. But of course the “dark” sides always take part, it is a different side of the same coin. In western culture, occasionally an evil stepmother or a bad fairy pops up, mainly in fairy tales. They are usually portrayed as somewhat pathetic, jealous and lonely women who we either dislike or take pity on…

But in Eastern myths and religions of older times, people knew goddesses that make Snow White’s witchy stepmother look like an angel. For example, the Hindus have Kali (black earth mother) who looks terrifying with four arms with a sword in one of her hands. This reminds you of the Queen of Swords in the Tarot .. in terms of image she comes close to Aleister Crowley’s Sword Queen. Kali is a protective mother who kills demons, drinks their blood and thus keeps the world safe. But her strength and energy can also be completely destructive!

The Greeks have Hecate, goddess of protection AND destruction. She is the goddess of both fertility and death. She rules witchcraft and magic. The ancient Egyptians saw Hathor as the ultimate mother goddess. She was the “mother of mothers” and symbolized fertility and security (hence her name literally means “home”). But the Egyptians also recognized her “terrible” side that everyone feared: she could change into a ferocious lady! For example, she once committed a massacre among the gods: she killed them, drank their blood and could still not be stopped! Because of this “incident” she often got the head of a lion in pictures. As she could get into this kind of ‘mood’  more often (and then threatened to destroy the whole world) she was also depicted as a snake. Later she was identified with the goddess Isis, who was seen as the goddess of motherhood. However, in Isis mainly the positive sides are emphasized, which is why she became the most popular goddess in Egypt.

There are many more examples, but I think the point is clear; The “dark” side of the mother is underexposed in contemporary culture, but also in the Tarot. If you were to list all Tarot cards that represent this mother archetype, you would make a positive personal description for all of them (alltough to many of the tarot readers the Queen of Swords is still the exception). The downsides that are assigned to these Queens are small things, they cannot even be called character flaws. And in general they are mainly detrimental to the person themselves and to a lesser extent to their environment. Let’s look at some examples on how the ‘yin’ cards are interpreted:

The “dark” side of the High Priestess is that she “hides” something, or has knowledge of something that she does not yet share. The Empress is lots of growth and development, the downside to her is that she sometimes has no boundaries, of which she mainly suffers from herself: she forgets that she also needs space and time so that things cannot grow over her head.

Tarot Cards Queen of pentacles, Queen of Cups and Queen of Wands from the Rider Waite Smit Deck

The Queen of Pentacles is a nurturing mother, a sensible woman who loves nature and is good with money.She loves beautiful things and a house with a garden.

She is a good hostess, a traditional “mother mother” who often says “That’s the way the cookie crumbles my dear”. The Queen of Cups is sensitive and gentle. She can get into that a little bit and then plays the helpless women card. This then acts like a magnet on men, who fall over each other to “save” her. The Queen of Wands is the most popular given today’s standards: not only is she a nice mother who emphasizes her femininity, but also a smart and spunky aunt, businesswoman and a fun creative “witch” who can express herself well.

The Queen of Swords does not receive a “sugarly” description from many people. Arthur Edgar Waite also seemed not to know what to do with her; He emphasized the “negative” side and it is often the first to be addressed. She is a bitter, single or divorced woman. She’s also bitchy so no man wants her (or no man wants her and that’s why she’s bitchy that’s a bit unclear.). The positive side sometimes comes at the end of the list: that she is not guided by convention, that she is independent and does not accept bullshit. But this is not very valuable (it is for herself, but not for others.). She can look at her feelings objectively, she fights against injustice and stands up for the weak. But just like with Kali, that’s a small detail. Apparently the Queen of Swords is more or less the only one to survive the current of the ‘loving mother’ – trend that started by the ancient Egyptians from 2700 BC.

Carl Jung, however, was someone who found it interesting to look at dark sides. He has elaborated on the mother archetype extensively. The “negative” feminine aspect is sometimes emphasized so strongly in his work that you wonder what is behind it (something in his personal unconscious probably LOL). Yet you also in his descriptions that of the four “main types” there are three types that are slightly more positive (and one that comes off a bit more badly).

I have plotted the Queens of the Tarot to the feminine personality types and mother complexes of Carl Jung and I will happily share that with you in an upcoming article!

A short thought on Philosophy, Spritituality, Tarot and Christianity

The Tarot is so ingeniously put together that you can plot any spiritual, philosophical, occult, psychological or even scientific trend on it.  It just depends on what you focus on.  What you want to see, you can see in the Tarot.  This ensures that you never stop learning and that you can stretch your mind considerably.  You will receive different insights over time as you acquire more knowledge. 

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