Donald Trump, Pharaohs, and the Peculiar Royalty Cards of the Tarot

\If you’ve ever studied the Tarot you know that the definitions for the royalty cards in the Minor Arcana pretty much suck.  For every suit of cards – wands, cups, swords, and pentacles – there are corresponding royal figures: the Page, Knight, Queen, and King.  The definitions for these come about as close as any of the cards to the stereotypes of Gypsy fortune tellers muttering that you’re about to meet a tall, dark stranger.

Unlike the definitions for all of the rest of the cards, these tend to be very gender and age specific.  As in, “An older, dark haired man with a hatchet face will play an important role in your life.” Or, “A troubled young person with red hair may cause mischief.”  Or, “A very strong, dark haired, materialistic woman will be difficult to defeat in legal problems.”

Perhaps the definitions are so awful because the very concept of royalty is so NOT the Tarot.  The Tarot is not about, “exceptionalism,” or people who are removed from the normal human experience by virtue of their wealth or power.  

The Minor Arcana cards describe common human experiences and states of being that we all go through.  Poverty, disappointment, broken hearts, celebrations, love, hate, passion.  The Major Arcana describe archetypes that blow through all of our lives.  Illumination, spiritual quests, death, lovers, evil, power, sudden turns of fortune.

In a word, the Tarot is, “egalitarian.”  Egalitarianism is, in its original meaning, the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.  We see that built into the Declaration of Independence:  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Of course, we know that the people who signed that document were, for the most part, rich white dudes who owned slaves and would have been horrified at the possibility of women voting.  Nonetheless, let’s look at the truth that underlies the statements that they didn’t live up to.

We are ALL of us much more alike than we are different.  If you take it right down to the core, right down to the bedrock of existence, we are ALL Souls on the earth plane trying to do our best and figure out why in the hell we’re here and what we’re supposed to do next.  Just forget for a moment all of the strange earth plane illusions of skin color, gender, countries, languages, creeds and religions, wealth, poverty, genius and stupidity. Underneath the whole, bizarre, flashy, Mardi Gras parade of colorful costumes and masks, we’re Souls on a common journey.  On the Soul level, we are all equals.

Which is why the Tarot works for everyone.  It’s about that bedrock of human experiences that every person on the planet shares in common.  It’s about what we – ALL OF US – encounter in our lives.

Being a King or a Queen, a Knight or a Page . . . except metaphorically and momentarily, those are NOT experiences which most of us will share.  And so those cards seem like rather odd appendages to the Tarot as a whole.

Karl Popper, who was one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, once wrote an essay called, “Is There Meaning in History?”  And the first sentence in his essay was, “No.”

His point was that history is mainly about the egomaniacs, killers, misfits, and psychotics who seized power, created thrones,  and caused endless misery for their fellow Souls, and NOT about the majority of people who were living during their periods of time.  The French, for instance, are fond of remembering the, “military genius,” of Napolean while ignoring the millions of deaths that the little over-compensated dictator caused.

Americans love to talk about their cowboys but not so much about the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans to make room for the cowboys.

The real story of the pyramids should be about the slaves and artisans who built them.  Instead, we remember them by the tricked out, inbred Pharaohs whose bodies they contained.

On the current scene, Donald Trump is an extremely wealthy man who has taken over control of the world’s most powerful office.  He, not us, will be remembered in the history books. But on a Soul level, he’s a rather pathetic old man who’s stuck in his first and second chakras, whose own mother didn’t like to touch him, who’s had a series of mail order wives he’s cheated on, who never had a pet and who, as near as we can tell, has never been loved by another human being. Pretty sad.

In all probability, decent definitions for the royalty cards in the Tarot won’t emerge until we give up our fascination with and admiration for royalty and the ultra-wealthy. 

At that point the definition for the King of Pentacles may be, “A totally materialistic, shallow soul who is obsessed with money to a point of crushing anyone in his path.”

And the Queen of Cups might be, “A pathologically jealous bitch who will destroy anyone she views as a potential rival.”

And the Knight of Wands might be, “An intellectual zealot who will ride right over anyone who disagrees with his elitist, fanatical point of view.”

It’s just a matter of looking at the real Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages in, “history,” and seeing how they really behaved.  What human qualities do the royalty cards really represent?  What kind of a person was Henry the Eighth?  Was the Sun King all that sunny? How horrible were most of these people?

We may have to create a special card to represent Trump, though.  Maybe the King of Putz? I’m open to suggestions . . .

Donald Trump, The Empress, and The Emperor

I have to admit that I’m always a little puzzled when I run across one of those news columns discussing, “Donald Trump’s Toxic Brand of Masculinity.”  To me, a guy who gets daily manicures, has his dyed hair styled every morning, and bakes under a sun lamp until he turns orange isn’t masculine ANYTHING, toxic or otherwise.

But maybe I’m just being defensive on behalf of all of the sane men in the world.

Today IS the International Day of the Woman, though, so perhaps it’s a good time to talk about all of this.

The Emperor and The Empress, sharing the same exalted positions and residing side by side in the Tarot deck, are often – in fact usually – held up as examples of male and female energy in the world.  But let’s a take a step back from that. Let’s just consider them as examples of energy in the world. Different ways of being.

Ram Dass has a rap that says you can consider people on a number of different levels.  You can look at their skins and see black and white and brown. Or you can look at their signs of the zodiac and see Aries and Scorpios and Capricorns.  Or you can approach it like a psychologist and see obsessive compulsives and narcissists and dependent personalities.

Or you can take it right down to the bedrock and see Souls.  Fellow travelers on this very strange journey through this beautiful world who just happen to be incarnate as a Taurus or a Leo in black or brown or pink skin and seem to have developed a little problem with OCD.

Or to put that another way, we are all multiple patterns of energy existing in the Earth Plane.

And two of those patterns of energy are male and female.

There are, obviously, very valid and real differences between the two patterns.  The human body responds quite differently to testosterone and estrogen. Males tend to have more muscle mass and extra cones in their eyes.  Women tend to have more fat cells and to visualize more in patterns than lines.

We can take those differences and we can celebrate them as we do when we recognize both the God and the Goddess.  The problems start to arise when we view those differences as being absolute and we turn them into stereotypes. “Real,” men are always muscular and silently strong.  “Real,” women are always soft and fluttery and vulnerable.

I’ve known women who were so physically powerful that they could have bounced me down the driveway like a basketball.  And I’ve known men who were nervous nellies residing in very frail bodies. You can take any stereotype of masculinity or femininity and find examples of it in both men and women.

Likewise, we know that we all have both testosterone and estrogen in our bodies.  We all have both, “male,” and, “female,” hemispheres in our brains. Some men retain massive amounts of fluids when the moon is full.  Some women are natural born weight lifters.

So masculinity and femininity are much more of a continuum than a dichotomy.  It’s a lot more gray than it is black and white.

From that perspective it’s much easier to drop the idea of looking at The Emperor and The Empress as masculine and feminine energy and just look at them as ways that energy can exist on the Earth Plane.


The Empress is relaxed.  Comfortable. At ease in her world.  She reclines on a velvet throne, legs slightly spread, wearing an unfettered, flowing robe and she is crowned with stars.  She holds a sceptre – her symbol of power – but she holds it loosely, almost as if she’s forgotten she has it. A lovely waterfall flows out of a verdant forest behind her and wheat – the symbol of nourishment – grows in front of her.  And . . . is that a box of chocolate leaning up against her throne?

The Empress is very, very powerful.  She is the power of life and fertility but it’s a gentle, unassuming power.  Most of all, she BELONGS in her world and she blesses it and it blesses her.

And now look at The Emperor.


Kind of a nasty faced old man who looks like he’s suffering from a severe case of hemorrhoids.  He sits on a hard, stone throne (ouch) and tightly grasps a vaguely Egyptian looking sceptre. His garments are tight, as well, and reveal that he is fully armored beneath them.  Mountains rise behind him, barren of any vegetation, and far, far below him a river flows at the base of the cliffs.

The Emperor is also very powerful, but he’s very different from the energy of The Empress.  It’s tempting to view him as the alpha-dog but he’s so obviously, painfully alone that you know he doesn’t even have a pack to run with.  The Empress exists IN her world, as a part of her world. The Emperor has, “conquered,” his world, destroying anyone and anything that got in his way.  He’s at the top of the heap but his heap is a pile of ashes.

Sadly, there are still many people in the world (and, yes, they’re mostly men) who choose to adopt the energy patterns of The Emperor rather than The Empress.  And we all pay a price for their choice.

Temperance in the Tarot

 

temperance

 

An angel stands on the edge of a placid body of water, one foot on the ground and one foot in the water.  She holds a chalice in each hand and is pouring water from one into the other. A shining solar disk is on her forehead and a triangle is emblazoned upon her chest.  A road runs off into the distance where a crown glows like the sun just beyond a range of mountains.

This is one of those cards that’s always sweet to find in your reading.  It basically means nothing’s wrong and everything’s right. You’re in the flow and life is good.

This card often appears after the questioner has gone through a difficult phase in life and has earned a period of peace through his or her hard work.  It may indicate tranquility in life in general or in specific areas of life such as relationships, work, or home. Look at the surrounding cards for clues.

Above all else, this card talks about balance and peace.  Psychologists interpret water as representing emotions in dreams.  The angel has one foot in the water and one foot on land, indicating that she can fully indulge in emotions while staying well grounded.

This is not a card of gain, per se.  The water being poured from one cup to the other is not increasing, it stays the same.  The message is that the questioner has enough just as it is.

REVERSED – This may indicate a period of intemperance of some sort.  It could be drinking too much, partying too much, working too much, even worrying too much.  The key here is to carve out a little time for peaceful reflection and rest. Do some yoga or tai chi.  Curl up with a book. Take a bubble bath. Chill.

A Few Extra Thoughts About Temperance

Temperance is one of the most under-defined cards in the Major Arcana, so it can be kind of fun to look at.  The standard quickie definition is that it stands for moderation which is probably true on a certain level since the card was, indeed, originally named, “Moderation.”

So, if a questioner draws the Temperance card you can just say, “Well, it looks like this is a period of moderation and balance in your life.”  If it’s reversed you can just say, “You’re really drinking like a swine, you sot.”

Just kidding.  

“You may be overdoing your recreational libations a tiny bit.”  There, that’s better.

Aleister Crowley named this card, “Art,” in his Thoth Tarot deck.  A trifle puzzling until you realize that he was referring to the art of alchemy.  And there is strong symbolism in the card showing the mixing of two different elements in the two chalices just as the alchemists did in their rituals and experiments.

Arthur E. Waite flipped off into some weird place with his definition, stating:  “All of the conventional symbols are renounced herein . . . So also are the conventional meanings.”

Okay . . .  I’m guessing they didn’t know that the hell to make of it, either.

This particular image – a woman pouring water from one jug to another – was actually all over Europe prior to the first recorded publication of the Tarot.

temperance2

 

That might be expected since Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues of the catholic church.  The usual take on it is that the woman is mixing water with wine, thus diluting the effects of alcohol and showing temperance.

But then the Tarot – as usual – does something a little weird with the image.  The woman is converted into an angel, even in the very early decks. Why?

temperance3

My theory – and it’s only a theory – is that the card may refer to another meaning of the word, “temperance.”  As in, “to temper.”

If you want to make a metal harder or more flexible you add other metals to it when it’s in a molten state to change the composition of the material.  You take it’s basic nature and you add something that changes it but builds on that basic nature without destroying it.

This card might very well refer to the adding of a, “divine element,” to basic human nature.

We’ve all seen the, “ancient aliens,” shows where they expound on the fact that something radical happened at one point in our species history.  We share so many of the characteristics of our simian cousins that the link between us and the apes is undeniable. Yet, somehow, sometime, somewhere, something happened that caused us to be entirely different is so many ways.  We developed agriculture, art, philosophy, science, religions, etc., etc., etc.

The ancient aliens take on it is that some higher species flew down in their space gizmos and fiddled around with our basic DNA to manipulate us into a more advanced  species. Just exactly WHY they did that isn’t quite clear. Maybe they were on a picnic and they were bored.

An equally unprovable theory (which I happen to like better) is that human souls began incarnating in simian bodies and that the DNA changed over time to match the souls.  Thus the angel mixing up a fresh brew of whatever is in those two chalices, literally adding a, “divine spark,” to the body of an ape.

Dr. Candace Perk demonstrated that our brains manufacture neuropeptides that match our emotional states and that these bond with receptor cells throughout the body.  Without going into too many boring details our emotions literally manufacture our bodies cells and that recurs about every 2 months.

So why couldn’t a Higher Soul in a simian body literally remanufacture it?

It’s an intriguing question.  I’d always looked at the road in the background of this card as leading AWAY from the angel and the distant crown as a goal to be achieved through the practice of moderation.  But maybe that’s the road that the angel just walked down, from the divine . . . to us.

Sound too weird to be true?  Hey . . . Donald Trump is the President of the United States.  All weirdness is now on the table.