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 . . .

The World Tarot Card

 

world

A semi-nude woman, who seems almost to be dancing, is in the center of the card.  She holds a wand in each hand and is partially draped with a blue cloth. She is surrounded by an oval laurel wreath bound with red and purple cloth.  In the corners of the card are an angel, an eagle, a bull and a lion, representing Aquarius, Scorpio, Taurus, and Leo, the four fixed signs of the zodiac.

This is a card about balance, completion, honor, and rebirth.  A project is coming to a very satisfactory ending. The questioner has worked hard, overcome many obstacles, and is now being rewarded with great success.

The woman holds a wand in each hand, indicating that she has integrated the feminine and the masculine and is in control of all of the elements in her life.  She is balanced and in harmony. Moreover, she is surrounded by the fixed signs of the zodiac indicating that she is stable and grounded.

The laurel wreath indicates that the questioner will receive honors of some kind for his or her efforts.  Perhaps a promotion or a bonus. Perhaps public recognition.

There is also the element of rebirth.  The laurel wreath is very much in the shape of the birth canal and this indicates that the questioner is emerging into a new world or about to start a new project, strengthened and reinforced by his or her past experiences.

On a mundane level, this may indicate the completion of a successful pregnancy or extended travel.

REVERSED:  The questioner is this close to finishing a project but has run off of the tracks for some reason.  Shows a lack of focus on the final goal and perhaps someone who has lost herself in the minutiae of a project and is not seeing the overall picture.

 

A Little More About The World:

There are people who believe that the Major Arcana of the Tarot contain some sort of a secret doctrine, a hidden path to wisdom that can be discerned by those who have the occult knowledge necessary to understand it.  I see very little evidence for that.

I think of the Tarot as less of a path and more of a mirror.  The Major Arcana show us the large, archetypal forces that are operating in our lives at any given moment.  All of us experience those forces at one time or another. We all feel the child-like joy of The Fool, the sense of mastery and control of The Magician, the luxuriant contentment of The Empress.  We all experience the mourning and loss of Death, the sudden reversals of luck that are signified by The Wheel of Fortune. Certainly since 911 The Tower is seared into our psyches.

These are forces that move through our lives, that shape us, help us to grow and evolve and sometimes defeat us.  To say that there is a path in the cards is somewhat simplistic, I think. Rather, the path is in ourselves, in our own individual dharma, and the events and forces that the cards portray help us to define that path.

I’m in the third act of my life now and so I have the luxury of hindsight.  Not to disparage the Wisdom of Forrest Gump, but life really isn’t like a box of chocolates.  Unless some of the chocolates are laced with arsenic.

Life is a lot more like a mountain river, sometimes wild and out of control and then spreading into a serene meadow before plunging into the next set of rapids.  As we go along we sometimes get dumped into the chilly water and have to fight our way back into the raft. And sometimes we can just sit there and float, enjoying the scenery and grooving on the serenity.

One way or another, though, we are always moving forward, from beginning to end of each incarnation.  And one way or another we learn a lot about how to navigate the river, how to get through the rough waters and how to savor the calm.

The World is the last card in the Tarot deck but it isn’t about the end of the journey.  It’s a pause in the journey, like pulling into a peaceful, quiet cove to rest and assess what we’ve been through.  It’s the full realization of all of the skills that we’ve gained in following our paths and the confidence we can feel in using those skills in the future.  We’ve been through the mill and we’ve come out the other side stronger, wiser, and more capable. We’ve integrated the lessons that The World teaches and they’re a part of us now.  No one can ever take that away.

To quote the Beatles:  “Life goes on within you and without you.”