By Judy Jennings © 2015
The first three cards of the major arcana tell a story about the formation of a healthy personality. Simply put, the Magician represents conscious self-awareness merged with the desire for a connection with universal energy. The Priestess is the soul, the inner self, the unconscious mind and the true measure of a person. The Empress is the creation of the merging of consciousness and subconsciousness, resulting in an undamaged personality that looks at a world filled with love and possibility.
That’s the story of how the energies of these three cards work together. Individually, of course—as is true for all of us—once you get to know them, there’s a lot more to them than just their relationships.
This theme of three is also seen in the way all cards have the potential to take on different perspectives in a reading: Any given card can represent the seeker, another person around the seeker, or a situation that affects the seeker.
Major arcana very specifically speak in the language of three. In a reading, each has the possibility of taking a spiritual perspective, addressing the material world from the seeker’s point of view, or looking at circumstances and events that are taking place around the querant.
We’ll use Justice as an example. Spiritually, this card speaks to a personality with the values of harmony, cooperation, and social equity. On a personal level, the presence of Justice in a reading often indicates that things are going in the correct direction, and that one is on the right path. But from another perspective, Justice might suggest a legal matter affecting the seeker.
How do you know? you may ask, and perhaps you might even wish for an oracle that isn’t quite so mutable. Fair enough, it’s true that nothing’s absolute in Tarot, which changes right along with you and your situation. Tarot advises, but never bullies or cajoles. For instance, the fear you may feel at images like the Devil is your own, not of the cards.
Tarot offers a reflection of your own thoughts, and of forces that are in play around you, and speaks about these things in the language of symbolism. The way you know which position the cards are taking in a reading comes from a combination of empathy, intuition, and experience. Also, the question can be a strong indicator.
What’s so important about Tarot’s theme of three, anyway? After 100 posts, you might suspect I’m just having to dig deep for original Tarot topics, but it’s more than blog fodder. Tarot’s theme of three is important for bigger reasons.
We are a culture that is obsessed with the binary. Good vs. evil, heaven and hell, male and female, light and dark, rich and poor, reality and madness, success and failure . . . these are all ideas living in within the concept of the binary. Tarot thinks beyond binary. Tarot resides in the field of polarity, and speaks in the theme of three. This kind of thinking offers a way out of the either/or conundrum.
The trajectory of the Sun through every day may be understood as a comment on the progression of the individual human life. The story goes like this: An energy being comes into conscious form (dawn). That being might be a person, or an idea. or even a group or a project. Whatever it is, Energy Being is born.
Energy Being thrives and ascends into the prime of life (noon).
Energy begins to decline, and in doing so, creates a state of incredible beauty that would have been impossible in earlier stages. Ultimately, Energy Being leaves to take another form altogether.
This is the story of each of our lives, the story of your loves and your works and your children. This is the pattern of our moments, precious or not, profound or simple, this is the pattern of life. Life comes by the power of three.