Dawn, noon, and dusk...We live through the three phases of the Sun every day, intrinsic as breathing. Threefold power is expressed in many world religions: Christians have the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Hindus find their trinity in Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva, while Pagans in the Dianic tradition worship the Mother, Daughter and Crone. According to astrologer Alan Oken, the ancient Babylonians and Persians also had their trinities, all relating back fundamentally to the three phases of the Sun. Sunrise, zenith, and twilight...Every natural process that is allowed to reach conclusion goes through these three phases. But what does this have to do with Tarot?
Birth, life, and death. This cycle is expressed in Tarot by groups of three cards working together. This principle is nowhere as active as in the four suits. Interpretation of Tarot, which is steeped in metaphor, is based on a combination of intuition and an understanding of the symbolic themes contained in the cards. The natural progression of the three phases of the Sun is a repeating message. We are born, we live, and we die. This ever-present dynamic applies not only to personalities, but to ideas, projects and groups. It’s the background beat to the Traveler’s dance, the rhythm to the Fool’s passage along the path towards a meaningful life.
It’s fair to say that the idea of trinity is somewhat more elusive than the matter of duality, which is also strongly emphasized in the cards. The pairing of The Magician and The High Priestess leads immediately to a discussion of polarity and balance throughout the major arcana. It’s easy for the western mind to get comfortable with this ida of duality, with its alternating cycles and pairings of two. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that despite the attention paid to the principles of polarity, the idea of good and evil isn’t even acknowledged in Tarot. It’s impossible to overemphasize that, so I’ll say it again. The concept of Good and Evil does not exist in Tarot.
Tarot illustrates that life is filled not with ultimatum, but with variable energies defined by a matter of degree. True, the dark side is no stranger to the cards. Spitefulness and even depravity are shown, for example, but as a part of the whole, not as combatants in the war between Heaven and Hell. Less immediately obvious is the power of three.
Cards 1-9 of the four suits resoundingly deliver the message of the three-fold aspect, however, if you only know to look for it. Each suit tells a different story about the human experience; tales of spirit, emotion, mind and body. Each of these progressions may be divided into groups of three cards. 1-3 represent a stage of creation, cards 4-6 represent a process at its height, and 7-9 suggest conclusion.
Inception. Conception. Formation. This is the story told in cards 1, 2, and 3 of all four suits. Seeds are planted in the Aces, and start coming to life in the 2’s. In the 3’s, this newly conceived energy bursts out into the world. The themes of the stories vary, of course: The story of Wands is that of an idea finding its way into the world, for instance, while Cups discuss matters more of the heart. Mental and psychological issues are addressed in Swords. All matters relating to material well-being are the province of Pentacles.
The stories continue, each suit offering its own rough draft of the human experience. All of the 4’s have to do in some way with evaluation, assessment, and the manner in which we deal with the world. Without exception, the 5’s indicate a troubled mid-point where progress breaks down. Likewise, all the 6’s show strong positive action and movement past those blocked energies.
As these stories move towards conclusion, the 7’s demonstrate another stumble of sorts, but in a different way than was shown in the 5’s, which have to do with challenges faced in dealing with the world. By contrast, the 7’s speak to inner conflicts. 8’s are a display of momentum, while the 9’s address the culmination of the story.
Cards of the four suits bear similarities by virtue of their number. At the same time, each is distinct because of the differing natures of the suits. It can be helpful to take all four cards of any number and make a list of the ways in which they’re alike. Next, list the qualities that are unique to each card. The comparison can be quite illuminating.
The Sun, in all of its three-fold glory, represents deity and a state of direct connection with Higher Power in Tarot. That energy speaks through the suits in a cadence of threes. Cards 1 through 9 come alive in that context, channeling the ability to speak to the daily twists and turns of the mortal life. The theme of the story changes with the advent of the 10, which does not represent completion, but rather, transition. After that, the court cards begin to discuss mastery.
Taking the three phases of the Sun into consideration will add appreciable insight into the suits, and depth to your interpretations. Think of it as a way to stay connected with the highest form of energy, even while reading about everyday concerns. Sunrise, noon and dusk...A thread of power that links all of the paths, and all of the Travelers!