By Judy Jennings © Copyright 2012
Our recent discussion of the possible types of expression for the major arcana examined how the same card can represent three very different forces. (For more on this, see the article about the “Rubik’s Cube” of Oracles, Aug. 26, 2012.) Today let’s begin taking a look at another dynamic that’s found in the major arcana, that of opposing natures. Learning to work with these types of dynamics in mind when you’re doing a reading will greatly enhance your interpretations. These nuances can deepen your understanding beyond a basic knowledge of the meaning of each card and breathe life into a reading.
Maintaining a proper balance is a subject of extended discussion in the Tarot, and is shown in symbolism that repeats throughout the deck. This theme is strongly represented in the opposing natures of the triumphs, as well. It’s time to get out your cards, my friends! Visual imagery will greatly assist with this discussion. Sort out major arcana 1-21 and lay them out in order. Notice the way every one of the triumphs has a nature that is opposite from the card before it.
Consider the first pair. The Magician and The Priestess concisely represent the conscious and subconscious minds, the inner and outer lives, and the left and right hemispheres of the human brain. That’s a pretty good example of how this works. Next is the pairing of the High Priestess and the Empress, demonstrating a contrast between metaphysical and earthly realms. The Empress then pairs with the Emperor, representing unrestrained growth and the setting of healthy boundaries. You get the idea. You may find that some pairs are trickier than others to understand, but consideration of the entire sequence will be time well spent for the serious student of the Tarot.
Here are a few pointers. First of all, don’t expect to understand all of the pairs the first time you look at them, this is an exercise that is meant to be done many times. Be aware that cards 1-9 represent stages of personality development, and that beginning with the Wheel, they move into the realm of cosmic influences. Finally, keep in mind that cards 15-21 demonstrate not only events and circumstances that can surround a person, but also different stages of spiritual enlightenment. Expect to connect more readily with some pairs than others. In the end, however, the most intriguing pairs for you may very well be the ones that don’t make sense right away!