Sunday, November 20, 2011


© Copyright 2011  Pauline Haydon
I have long been riveted by the Tarot.  Although I do not and will probably never understand it well, my interest in symbols brought me to it some years ago.   Indeed, it is a kind of Western Book of the Dead, and arguably can also teach us how to free awareness from the body, as I will show here.        
Many times I have laid out the simple spread Judy taught me.  Cards 1 through 21, in simple groups of seven, placed in three rows, one above the other.  One through Seven is laid directly above 8 through 14, with cards 15 through 21 directly below that. 
Each of these rows makes up a different stage of the path, Judy explained to us. 
The first row represents “the qualities of [our] higher nature”, the second row represents the physical plane, and how best “to bring…those enlightened qualities [of the first row] into our everyday lives”, and the third row of cards “dwells in the realm of enlightenment and circumstance” (Jennings, p 3). 
And it is interesting to meditate on one’s strengths and weaknesses; to realize through Tarot how to best balance your life.
But fascinates me most of all is the relationships between the vertical rows.
I am a storyteller; I have always loved finding the relationships between things.  So I have written some of these Tarot stories down.  They are not right, whatever that is, but maybe they are also not wrong.  With great thanks to Judy Jennings, here I go.
Row 1, 8, 15
The Magician is a position of great power and control; when harnessed with strength and humility, this power becomes nearly limitless.  And this is too great for most mortal men.  Power is a drug, and we easily become slaves to material goods, or to approval from our peers.  For any great spirit to come to fruition, he or she will have to meet and then overcome the seduction of the earthly senses.  Throw off your artificial chains and return to the path.
Your happiness is a choice.  Realizing this is the first stage of your enlightenment.
Row 2, 9, 16
The High Priestess is the mysterious goddess of all things yin and beautiful.  Her unflinching introspection, coupled with that of the Hermit, who brings also selflessness to the table, carries both into the abyss.  And as Nietzsche said, “if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”  This unsettles even the stillest mind. Eventually all your cherished beliefs break down, and the tower of understanding you have painstakingly built crumbles. 
Your second stage of enlightenment comes when you emerge on the other side of this pain.  You will receive insight.
Row 3, 10, 17
The Empress is fertility, plentitude, and waiting: The Wheel is cause, consequence, and great good luck.  This path is one of good things, and leads to The Star, representing a search for truth and inspiration.  
This search for truth marks your third stage of enlightenment.
Row 4, 11, 18
The Emperor does his best to rule with strength and fairness; Justice rules impartially.  These positions lead a seeker on a lonely, unmarked path lit only by The Moon. Beware of deception—listen carefully to your subconscious mind, and trust your intuition, or you could be lost.  
This fourth stage of enlightenment incorporates newfound self-knowledge into your personality.
Row 5, 12, 19
The discipline and instruction found in the Hierophant, whether self-imposed or brought down by a mentor, should be coupled with acceptance, as represented by the Hanged Man.  This 12th card not only personifies the Way of the Tao to me, it also calls to mind a favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita-“You have no right to the fruit of your actions, only their actions themselves.”  This rigorous self-discipline leads us to the Sun: grace, happiness, and liberation.
In this fifth stage of enlightenment, you will experience a vivid connection with a power greater than yourself, or with the world around you.
Row 6, 13, 20
The intensity of the Lovers makes life move more quickly around them; great things comes to a head, and then must pass, or be reborn through Death.  No love affair can last forever.  Even the great ones end in death.  Yet this makes a kind of perfect completeness, taking us to Judgement.  We come from nothing, and return to it.
This sixth stage of enlightenment marks the place where ordinary perceptions are inverted.
Row 7, 14, 21
Complete mastery of our personality allows us to make ourselves vehicles for greater influences; this victory over the self is The Chariot, and coupled with Temperance, moderation in all things, The World is at our fingertips. 

 This final stage of enlightenment is Nirvana itself.  The shell of our personality splits apart: we transcend “our awareness”, and are no longer separate from the natural and supernatural world around us.  All in one, as the soap bottle says.  
If you are still with me, I hope you found this interesting.  Thank you for reading.
Works Cited
Jennings, Judy.  Introduction to the Tarot: Map to a Meaningful Life.  2011.  Pamphlet. 

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