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 . . .

Eight of Wands

Eight staves appear to be flying through the air, descending toward earth.  A peaceful river valley lies in the background.

New ideas and inspirations are literally flying into the subjects life and consciousness.  Perhaps new associates, friends, or business relations which are novel and help to move the subject to greater heights and fresh horizons.  On a mundane level, there is a possibility of air travel associated with the subjects employment.

Reversed:  This is not the time to try out new or untested ideas.  Stay grounded on familiar territory and don’t take risks.  Travel plans may be canceled.

EXAMPLES:  New, cool friends who turn you on to ways of thinking and feeling that you’ve never experienced before.  

Meditating and suddenly seeing beyond what you always thought was reality.

Six of Wands

A man rides a horse through a crowd.  He is robed in purple, wears a laurel crown and carries a stave which is topped with another crown of laurel.  Five people stand aside as he rides by, each one clutching a staff of their own.

A card of victory and success.  Of the multiple people battling in the five of wands, this person has emerged victorious and holds the dominant position.  The cloak he wears signifies authority and command and he is definitely in charge. The laurel crowns tell us that he has won legitimate honors and recognition.  This card can indicate victory in a legal battle or show that the subject’s ideas and view points have launched him or her into a position of authority. Promotions may be indicated.

Reversed:  Approach any conflict with extreme caution.  The subject is not in a position of strength and will lose if he engages in a fight.  Walk away and live to fight another day.

EXAMPLES: Winner.  Think of a person who has used her wits, skill, knowledge and persuasion to emerge as the head of the pack.

Winning an election.

Five of Wands

Five men, crowded together, hold wands aloft.  At first glance this appears to be five people engaged in a fight with staves, a scene right out of the old Robin Hood movies.  Upon closer examination, however, it’s apparent that they are holding the staves one handed rather than in a two handed fighting stance and don’t even seem to be looking at each other.  Indeed, the placement of the wands suggests that they are very close to constructing a pentacle with them.

Difficult negotiations, conflict, struggle, competing ideas fighting for ascendancy.  This is a shift from the previous cards because it shows a group effort, several people working on putting ideas or projects into effect and having strong differences of opinions.  They are literally trying to construct something new by joining their separate ideas together. There will be a tough period to get through but you can still expect a positive outcome at the end.

Reversed:  Walk away from the negotiations, let passions calm down and try again later.  Emotions are getting in the way of ideas and this project isn’t going to work right now.

EXAMPLES:  A large committee or work group composed of people who have wildly different approaches to solving problems and very different ways of thinking.  

A commune where the members are working together but have very different philosophies about life.

Three of Wands

A man wearing a red and green cloak and a circlet around his head stands on a hill or cliff staring out at ships traversing a bay.  He grasps one staff in his right hand and two other staffs are planted firmly in the ground behind him. The sea is placid and emits a golden glow.

The abstract idea or intuition of the Ace of Wands has been brought into being in the material world and is bringing rewards to the subject.  He or she is sending this creativity out into the world and sharing it with others, as represented by the ships setting sail in the harbor. This individual has his back turned and this may indicate a person who is totally absorbed in his ventures to the exclusion of his social life.  On a mundane level, your job may require that you do some traveling.

Reversed: The world may not be ready to accept your new and novel ideas at this time.  Wait until another time or at least slow walk the venture you’re trying to launch.

Examples:  Someone who has worked his or her butt off and is seeing returns on the project.  Think of a person in development and research who has spent hundreds of hours meticulously assembling a product and it’s finally off of the ground and working great.

Publishing a book and seeing the sales continue to go up.

The Two of Wands

An individual draped in a purple cloak stands atop a parapet holding a staff in his left hand and a globe of the world in his right hand.  A second staff is bolted firmly to the stone wall of the castle. The vista stretching out before him appears to be a quiet village next to a bay.

On the most simplistic level, a decision is being made, perhaps about travel or a real estate deal.  The subject may be contemplating relocating. On a deeper level, this is about how to bring the idea in the Ace of Wands into being in the material world.  The royal purple of the cloak shows that this is a person who is firmly in command of the process and the wand fastened to the wall shows that he or she is well grounded emotionally and intellectually.

Reversed:  Delays and hassles in real estate deals or moving.  Perhaps a new venture that is running into unexpected difficulties.  May indicate that the subject needs to delay putting ideas or ventures into effect.

EXAMPLES:  Someone who is very rational and balanced and is carefully moving a project forward step by step.  This is the planner, the detail person who makes things happen.

Designing a complex web site to promote your business.

The Ace of Wands

A ghostly hand reaches out of a cloud and holds a branch like wand.  The wand is living and bears green leaves, some of which are falling through the air.  A peaceful river valley lies in the background with a castle perched atop a small promontory.

A startling, perhaps even earthshaking new idea or insight.  The start of a new venture or enterprise that will take you in a totally different direction.  Perhaps an unexpected phone call or letter that opens up unexpected, positive horizons. The leaves falling from the wand signal benefits that will develop out of the original idea.

Reversed – A new beginning or idea but it may not be the right time to bring it to fruition or it may be poorly received by those around you.  Go back and examine the idea more carefully to see what flaws need to be corrected and what details need to be filled in.

EXAMPLES:  A bolt from the blue.  A flash of inspiration that is so powerful that it knocks you on your ass.  

An artist or writer who suddenly breaks into a whole new style and a higher level of creativity.

Pamela Colman Smith – The Real Genius Behind the Waite-Rider Tarot Deck

The most popular Tarot deck in the world is the Waite-Rider deck, authored by A.E. Waite and published by the Rider Company.  The illustrations in the deck were done by Pamela Colman Smith and it’s been within recent memory that people have started referring to it as the Waite-Smith deck.  The standard description of it is that the illustrations were prepared by Pamela Colman Smith, “under the directions of A.E. Waite.”

It might be more accurate to say that the illustrations were prepared by her DESPITE the instructions of A.E. Waite.

Pamela_Colman_Smith_

PAMELA COLMAN SMITH

She’s one of the more fascinating people in the history of modern occultism.  She had a wonderful smile and was so tiny that she was nicknamed, “Pixie.” As she was growing up her family shuttled between London, Jamaica, and New York and she spent several years living in Kingston and absorbed much of the Jamaican culture.  Her mother was an artist and she, too, developed artistic talents at an early age and began attending the Pratt Art Institute in New York at the age of 15.

By the age of 21 both of her parents had died and she moved by herself to London where she supported herself working as an illustrator, author, and set designer for theatrical productions.  It was there that she met the poet William Butler Yeats who introduced her A.E. Waite, one of the founding member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Shortly thereafter Waite commissioned her to illustrate his Tarot deck and the rest is history.

But that’s where it really gets interesting.

There have been many, many people who have claimed that they were channeling some sort of a higher power that guided their creativity and, “co-created,” with them.  Painters, sculptors, writers who felt the presence of a greater power than themselves literally telling them what to paint, carve, or write. Some of them talk about spirit guides, others describe the guides as angels, a few might even think that god was talking to them.

It is my strong belief that this is exactly what happened to Pamela Smith when she created the Waite deck.

Consider this:  Smith created ALL 78 cards between April and October of 1909.  That means that for that 6 month period she was pumping out an average of 13 highly complex illustrations a month.  As an artist I can tell you that’s nearly impossible.

There is also strong evidence that Waite may have had fairly precise instructions about the Major Arcana but Smith pretty much invented the illustrations for the Minor Arcana herself, even using some of her close friends as models.  With the sheer volume of illustrations she produced and her admittedly short exposure to occultism, you have to think that those pictures were almost painting themselves.

And, finally, there is the evidence of the nature of A.E. Waite himself.  He was, to put it mildly, one incredibly boring old fart. Shortly after Smith produced the cards Waite published a book called, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.”  Here’s just a bit of his definition for the card The Magician:

“With further reference to what I have called the sign of life and its’ connexion with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change, ‘unto the Ogdoad.’ “

And it gets a lot worse.  Can you imagine having a drink with that guy?

The Waite-Smith tarot deck is truly magical.  Every card is beautiful and tells its’ own unique story.  That magic definitely didn’t flow out of A.E. Waite. It flowed out of the eyes and soul of Pixie.  She was in the groove and some higher force was using her mind and her hands to bring those cards into being.  Aren’t we lucky that happened?

A Few Tips Before You Start Reading Tarot Cards

Here are a few little tips you should know about reading Tarot Cards that I cover in my book, “Just the Tarot, by Dan Adair.”  (Available on Amazon.com for less than the price of a bagel at your favorite coffee shop. Just saying.)

LOOK FOR LARGE NUMBERS OF THE SAME SUIT.  The Tarot basically divides our world into four different elements that match the suits of the Minor Arcana.  Wands equal ideas. Cups equal emotions. Swords equal personal power. Pentacles equal money and possessions.

So, if you’re doing a reading and you see that the majority of the cards are pentacles, you can assume that money and possessions are a very dominant part of the questioners life right now.  A majority of wands might indicate someone who is an intellectual or is exploring a lot of new ideas. Cups would show that this is a very emotional time in the questioners life. Swords would show that a quest for power and position or power struggles are very present in the questioners life.


COMBINING THE SUITS – You can also find some clues in combinations of the suits.  Suppose the reading has a majority of swords and cups: you might reasonably assume that there are some power struggles going on in the person’s romantic or emotional life.
A combination of wands and cups might indicate a person who takes a sort of
intellectual approach to romance.  Pentacles and cups could show a person who pairs romance and materialism, like a trophy wife or husband.  Pentacles and swords can show power struggles in the workplace, and so on.

REVERSED VERSUS UPRIGHT CARDS – If a majority of the cards are reversed you can assume that there is a lot going on in the questioners life that she isn’t dealing with on a conscious level.  Look for denial, repression or factors that are hidden from the questioner. If the majority of the cards are upright you can assume that the questioner is fairly aware of what’s going on in his or her life and is dealing with it on a conscious level.

NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS – There are schools of thought on the Tarot that assign meaning to the cards based on their numerological ranking.  I’m not personally a big fan of numerology so I’m not going to mess with it here. If you’re curious or numerology floats your boat you can look it up on the internet.

MAJOR VERSUS MINOR – As I’ve said in previous posts, ALWAYS pay close attention to any cards from the Major Arcana.  The Minor Arcana tend to show the little crap that we all put up with every day. The Major Arcana show life changing forces in the questioners reading.

The Minor Arcana Tarot Cards

 

So if you followed up on the suggestions in my first post – Can You Learn to Read Tarot Cards?  – then you’ve looked at the various Tarot decks, picked a deck that resonates with you, and you’re looking through the cards thinking profound thoughts like, “What in the hell does THAT card mean?”

We’ll get to that.

In the meantime, when you look at the Tarot deck you’ll find that it’s divided into 5 different parts:  the 4 suits of cards, known as the Minor Arcana, and the 22  very, very, very symbolic cards known as the Major Arcana.

For today let’s just talk about the Minor Arcana.  You’ll see that the 4 suits are designated Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.  That’s the way that the Tarot divides up and analyzes the things in our world.

Wands represent ideas, intellect, the thought process, what we like to conceive as the thinking mind.

Cups represent emotions, feelings, and relationships with emotional content like friendships, lovers, family.  And that means ALL of the emotions from love to hate and everything in between.

Swords represent aggression, physical force, and mental force like dominance issues and power struggles in the family or the workplace.

Pentacles represent physical possessions, money, our various toys, and both the material world and materialism.

They have other aspects, as I discuss in my ebook, “Just the Tarot.”  Wands are often associated with travel.  Swords, by way of their cutting edges, may be associated with needing surgery.  But for now let’s concentrate on the four basic characteristics of the Minor Arcana:  ideas, emotions,force,and possessions.

Of course, we know by now that the human world is far more holistic than a simple 4 point division.  Every idea has some sort of emotion tied to it and physical or mental force often hides fear or phobias.  And the spiritual flows into the physical world and the physical world often blossoms with great spirituality.  Still, it’s a useful way of looking at the world and the human predicament.

And that’s what the Minor Arcana are all about:  the human predicament. The Major Arcana are all about MAJOR forces in your life:  birth, death, transitions, good, evil. The Minor Arcana are about all of the crappy little things (and good little things) that we deal with in day to day life.  

Each card represents a particular human situation that we experience as we journey through life.  And each reading represents a snapshot of all of the things that the questioner is going through at that moment in time.

Think of it this way:  if you could step outside of yourself (your SELF) and sort of hover around the ceiling for a while and REALLY look at your life objectively, what would you see?  You might see your work-self who is dealing with a crappy, overbearing boss. Then there might be your home-self who loves to paint or write or knit or listen to music and pet the cat.  Then there might be your relationship-self who is deeply in love or maybe has been hurt in the past and is afraid of love or maybe is a hopeless romantic who is in love with love. And how about your physical-self who might be a weight lifter or might be chronically ill or might be a long distance runner or might be in a wheel chair?

All of those separate, “selves,” make up the greater self which is you.  When you look at the Minor Arcana in a reading you’re looking at what’s going on with all of those different selves at that moment.  Home, work, romance, physical state of being, ideas,emotions,power,and possessions. And the magic happens when you see the reading come together as a story of the questioners life.  Yep, even day to day life is HIGHLY magical!