Tarot Blog

So Many Heads So Many … correspondences

When begin studying the Tarot, you will diligently look for meanings and correspondences of the cards.  You write everything down neatly in your Tarot journal and it goes well.  But then you come to a point where you notice that the correspondences of the elements, the astrological correspondences or even the meanings are different everywhere!  And no one can give the answer which is now ‘true’.  This is very frustrating! 

The answer, in my opinion, is indeed that there is no truth.  As long as man has existed, he has worked with symbols and wants to give meaning to things around him.  This symbolism not only changes with time, it is also culture bound.  Take, for example, the assignment of the elements to the suits in the Tarot;  Most famous is the assignment: Pentacles =>  Earth, Swords => Air, Cups => Water, Rods => Fire.  Ancient alchemists such as Agrippa attributed all kinds of properties to the elements, such as density, purity, and speed.  The most common view is that Earth, for example, is slower than Fire.  So we associate Earth with stability and Fire with action.  Yet you can come across it differently within the Tarot.  Yet in much older traditions you see that the assignments of the elements are different.  People also ‘think’ differently in the west than in the east.  For example, it is much more natural for Chinese people to see that elements cannot be categorized but that it is fluid. When they have to assign elements to the ‘Sword’ they will easily see that it originates from the earth, is forged in Fire, cooled with Water and then be able to whiz through the Air (and end up in the earth – or a stone! – again).

In principle, this is also what Agrippa described, but we tend to put things in boxes.  The same is true of astrological correspondences.  Although in ancient times people were intensively involved in astrology, and they had an enormous amount of knowledge, some planets were not visible and were only discovered in later eras  (Uranus, Pluto).  The occultists who in the 17th and 18th century began to describe in detail the symbolism of the Tarot have made a first plan to incorporate it into the Tarot decks.  They devised a system for their Tarot decks (eg Eteilla, Papus, TdM).  Later, the Golden Dawn did an enormous amount of work to re-study all the old works and to describe them in a more modern way.  They improved (or rather adapted) the symbolism and correspondence with the knowledge they had available in their times (A.E. Waite, Dionne Fortune, S.L Macgregor Mathers). 

The Golden Dawn has largely based its Tarot symbolism on the ‘Zohar’ which is one of the hardest to interpret books of all time.  So it is logical that many discussions and different points of view arose as a result of which this system was also improved and adapted by the ‘younger’ generation (including Aleister Crowley and by Paul Foster Case after him).  The conclusion is without a doubt that there is no fixed system, symbolism or correspondence system and that nobody knows ‘what is true’.  Although working and laying with the cards is not about tables and correspondences, it is nevertheless an important part of the Tarot study.  Firstly, because there are always people who want to know the details.  Secondly, because alchemical, religious or astrological symbolism simply works well if you want to address the unconscious.  It is a way of ‘feeling’ the cards to feel the energy and thus it gives direction to your interpretation of the cards.  But how to tackle these discrepancies? 

Well, my advice is to read a lot and see for yourself what feels good or makes sense to you.  You could look at the specific deck or system you are using and then follow the theory of the ‘maker’ of the deck.  So: if you work with the Rider Waite Smit deck, you follow the correspondences of the Golden Dawn.  If you work with older decks, you follow the ‘traditional’ interpretation. 

Furthermore: go with the flow, if something ‘clicks’ at a certain moment, you have found your own system and allocation!  If it works then it works, we also have to stay practical because that is the way to use the beautiful tool Tarot for ourselves and for others!  Because I belong to the type that really wants to know everything, I have made lists and tables of all the symbolism and assignments you can think of. I like to share them with all students who are interested or curious about this kind of symbolism.  And now I am sharing it here for everyone to use the way he/she wants to.

To start simple, I begin with an overview of astrological assignments to the Major Arcana according to the Golden Dawn (Rider Waite Smith deck and Golden Dawn deck).  Just see what clicks in YOUR head (or heart) and how it ‘works’ for you.  I will be sharing many more helpful reviews in the near future so keep an eye on my Patreon Page! 

Download the overview of astrological correspondences to the Major Arcana

The Number and Nature of Those Things…

In order to really ‘feel’ Tarot cards, it is important to delve into the elements.  I’ve done that a lot and actually I still do.  I never get tired of the books and illustrations of the ancient alchemists and can often spend hours in them. Admittedly, some things go way over my head, but practice makes perfect! 

I often try to incorporate the work of the old alchemists and occultists into my study material;  I translate and interpret where I can so that students that do not have much time to delve into archaic texts can also get acquainted with the work of these pioneers of science.

In 1 of the 3 books on occult philosophy of Agrippa, I came across the following.  It is an excerpt from a poem by Publius Vergilius Maro, a famous Roman poet who lived from 70 to 19 BC.  I like to share it and hope to make you curious too!

Excerpt of the poem of Publius Vergilius

The Game Genie of Tarot

According to the bible, Moses received the two stone tablets with 10  commandments of 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. 

Do Forget those tablets, forget that Bible.  Because according to the Talmud, Moses also received a goodie bag from a number of Angels with a few presents in it.  And they are many times more interesting!  Moreover, 1 of those presents leads us to Ace of Swords in the Tarot …

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Not all girls are nice (but made of sugar AND spice)

In the Tarot you almost always immediately associate the “mother” with 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 limit. And that is of course not advantageous.

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.

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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 change insights time and time again as you acquire more knowledge. 

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