The Emperor in the Tarot

 

Emperor

There is a tendency among Tarot readers to associate the Emperor with the Empress.  If the Empress is the ultimate Feminine Energy then the the Emperor must be the ultimate Masculine Energy.  It makes sense, both because of the names of the cards and their proximity to each other in the deck. They seem to be two sides of the same coin, yin and yang.

It’s just not so, however.  The Empress is wild, unbridled, sensual, ready for a good roll in the hay at a moments notice.  The Emperor, on the other hand, looks like he’s had a bad case of constipation for twenty years and would probably need a double dose of viagra to even think about a roll in the hay.  And let’s face it: who wants to go to bed with someone who’s dressed in armor?

Another very common misconception is that he’s associated with the astrological sign Aries the Ram.  It makes sense on the face of it because there are ram’s heads all over the card. That’s about the only way it make sense.  Aries is associated with the number one, not the Emperor’s number four. Additionally, Aries is the child of the zodiac, fresh, impulsive, trusting, headstrong.  The Emperor is obviously a very old man and there’s nothing ram like about his demeanor or his posture. The rams, like the barren mountains in the background, are meant to suggest that the Emperor dwells in isolation high above the common folk of the world.

So, yes, the Emperor represents male energy but only a very narrow spectrum of it.  If this archetype is blowing through your life you may be about to encounter someone who is rock solid, a very strong individual who is fully capable of taking charge and does so.  He probably won’t be a barrel of laughs – if fact, he may not have any sense of humor at all – but he will be experienced and totally dependable.

If the card represents the questioner it may show that he or she is in a position to take charge and reach their goals.  They are well suited to the task at hand and there is an emphasis upon using the intellect rather than emotions. There is a warning to not come across as too authoritarian.  “My way or the highway,” is an approach that will cause some people to head for the highway.

Reversed:  This warns that someone you are relying may not be all they’re cracked up to be, that they may be pretending to be more capable than they are and that you are in for a disappointment.  If the card represents the questioner it suggests that there is a lack of focus and concentration.

A Few Extra Thoughts:

When you pull The Emperor in a reading it may be a good time to think about positions of power in general and male power in particular.

We live in a society where the dominant model for power is that it flows from the top down.  Whether you’re talking about the president in our political structure or CEOs in the corporate world there is one person – usually male – who wields the overwhelming majority of power.  He makes the decisions, he gives the orders, he expects those orders to be followed. If they aren’t he crushes anyone who was, “insubordinate.”

Basically that’s a pretty medieval structure.  It’s no mistake that we still use the phrase, “they seized power,” when we’re talking about one political party or the other winning an election.  It goes back to the era when power literally WAS seized at the point of a sword by one tyrant or the other who then got to live in luxury while the rest of the people worked to support his lifestyle.  As Mel Brookes said, “It’s good to be the king.”

Unfortunately, it’s not a very good model for the rest of us.  If you’re a boss or a supervisor and you pull this card try to imagine some different ways of using power rather than just being a my way or the highway person.  How can you share the power? How can you get your employees more involved in the decision making? How can you make your workplace more of a democracy and less of a kingdom?

And any male who gets The Emperor in a reading should take a little time to think about, “male power.”  What does it mean to you to be a powerful male? Is it located in your body? Do you think of it as being able to dominate other people physically and, “kick some ass?”  Is it in your intellect and you seek to dominate other people on that level?

Does it have to involve dominance at all?  

Can you be strong in your ability to nurture, to comfort, to care and show up day after day after day to do the things that need to be done?  I’ve known some men who did home caregiving for sick wives or children who were far, far stronger than the bullies in the workplace thumping their chests.

What does it mean to be, “a powerful male?”  The jury is still out on that one.

The Magician Tarot Card

 

 

magician

 

There are a couple of elements involved in this card because it really operates on two levels.  The first, more mystical, level involves the ability to use your powers of imagination and concentration to make whatever you want to manifest on the material plane.  This card indicates that the questioner is at a place in life where all of the elements are coming together for a successful new enterprise. The individual involved literally has the ability to visualize what he or she wants to happen and bring it into being.  It’s a very strong card and shows that a lot of magic is operating in the questioners life.

A secondary meaning can be gleaned from the name of this card in the older Tarot decks:  The Juggler. He isn’t simply The Magician in the mystical sense, he’s also The Magician in the sense of a magician’s stage show.  He has the ability to juggle a half dozen balls in the air and dazzle you with illusions. In this sense it shows that the questioner not only has the ability to make a new project manifest, he also has the ability to promote it successfully and sell it to the people who can back him financially or emotionally

If this card shows up when you’re wondering if a new or different idea might work, there’s a very simple answer:  GO FOR IT!

REVERSED:  This is still a very powerful card but it comes with several warnings.  Be very sure that any new project is in alignment with your Higher Self and you aren’t simply acting out of ego or greed.

If you’re dealing with someone else’s new project take a very careful look at it before you commit to backing it.  Be sure that the magician you’re dealing with isn’t a con artist who’s shilling you for support but will never complete the project.

There is also a strong warning to stay alert and not miss new opportunities that are right under your nose.

A couple of additional thoughts about the Magician:

One of the issues that you need to think about when you’re dealing with this card is, “What is magic?”

We all know the magic of nature.  Any kind of newborn is magical, from a baby to a kitten.  The magic of love. The beautifully transient magic of a rainbow or a shooting star.  A hidden waterfall in a silent forest.

But how does personal magic work?  Aleister Crowley defined magic as, “”the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”, including both “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic.

In other words it’s using your will power to make something manifest in your life.  You can view it as something as simple as lying in bed in the morning and contemplating how you’re going to make coffee manifest in your life.  “I’m going to get out of bed. I’ll put water in the carafe, I’ll put the filter basket in the coffee maker, I’ll put the coffee in the basket, and I’ll press the on switch.”

Of course, we don’t go through that sequence of thinking.  We just DO it because we already know how to do it.

Magic involves making something manifest in your life when you don’t know HOW to do it.  But there is a basic pattern, a framework that you can use even if you don’t know exactly how to make it come about.  You start by visualizing it. Try to get as clear a picture in your mind as you possibly can of what you want.

Then pour energy into it.  You actually have to take some time – even a little time each day – to visualize what you want and imagine it coming into being.  If you belong to a particular tradition such a Wicca or Neo-Paganism you may have rituals you’ll want to do at this point such as burning particular herbs or incense and gathering minerals and crystals for extra energy

Feel it.  Visualizations don’t work if all they are is an idea.  They need feelings, the deeper and stronger the better.  While you’re visualizing what you want to come into being try to summon as much joy and happiness as you can.  If you’re a more physical person you may want to dance or chant to enhance the emotional depth.

Wait and watch.  Remember: this is something that you want but you DON’T KNOW how to make it happen.  You’ve started at point A with, “This is what I want.” You’ve gone to point C with the visualization of it.  All the intermediate steps to your goal that you might call Point B will be provided as you go along but you have to watch for the signs and omens for what you should do next.  And that’s the magic of it: knock and the door will open and a pathway will appear.

One more quick thought before we move on from the Magician and that’s about the Magician reversed.  In most of the New Agey Tarot definitions you’ll find that it’s defined along the lines of being out of harmony with the universe or a failure to concentrate on the task at hand or perhaps a caution that someone you’re dealing with is a con artist.

There’s also another meaning which isn’t much discussed anymore and that’s plain old Black Magic.  Just as you can heal someone by intently pouring loving energy into them, so you can sicken someone by intently pouring hatred into them.  It’s very real.

We think of Black Magic in terms of what see in the movies.  An old woman sticking needles into a voodoo doll or a black robed man chanting incantations.  Oddly, a much more common version of it is everyday prayer or mental obsession. I knew a woman who claimed to be a very devout Catholic who would regularly sit down, say her rosary, and pray for terrible things to happen to people who had offended her.  She didn’t get that what she was doing was Black Magic. She was sending concentrated hate energy at the people she was, “praying about,” and her rosary was her ritual tool.

In the same sense, if we become obsessed with someone having hurt or offended us and we go through the day wishing them nothing but ill, we’re sending hate.  It’s Black Magic, albeit on a very amateur, informal scale. So if you get the Magician reversed in a reading you’re doing don’t automatically assume that it’s about ego trips or missed opportunities.  It may point to something more sinister going on.

The Fool in Tarot Readings

 

The Fool is numbered, “Zero,” and you can either consider it the beginning or the end of the Tarot deck.  In my book, “Just the Tarot,” I wrote this about The Fool:

“This is a card of pure, undifferentiated energy.  It is Spirit before it enters into the material world.  Christianity tends to refer to it as, “the Holy Spirit,” whereas Eastern religions may refer to it as, “Prana.”    It is the underlying force that energizes the universe and some would go so far as to say that it is Love.”

And that’s really the essence of The Fool.  It represents energy. Really, really good energy.  And it’s also freshness and innocence.

Have you ever stepped outside on one of the first days of Spring and it’s all so beautiful that you just feel high?  Like the world – and you – have been reborn and everything is fresh and shiny and full of possibilities. That’s the energy of The Fool.

fool

We are now beginning to evolve a philosophy (and religions) that hold that the Earth herself is sacred and holy.  For most of history, however, this wasn’t the case. The Earth plane was viewed as evil and dark or, at the least, neutral.  Light, inspiration, spirituality came from outside the Earth into the Earth.

Many of the definitions you’ll find on The Fool are based upon that model.  Spiritual energy is pouring into the Earth Plane from an outside source but it hasn’t really taken form yet.  It’s just that sheer joyous ZAP flowing through your life and your spirit and your body. Whether you think it’s flowing down from the astral plane or up from Mother Earth, it’s there.

The Fool is also about endless possibilities.  When The Fool appears in your reading you have all of power that you need to do anything that you want, but you may not have the slightest idea what it is that you want to do.  Pick a card. Any card. You’ve got the juice to make it happen.

The Fool is also irreverent and doesn’t care even a little bit about being socially proper.  To really get that you have to go back to medieval times and remember what The Fool was back then.  The Fool was the court jester, the only one who was allowed to make fun of the King and Queen and even point out that the Emperor had no clothes.  People with The Fool manifesting in their lives tend to laugh at conventions and norms and act silly when everyone else is being solemn and correct.

And people may laugh at The Fool, just as he laughs at them.  The village idiot was often chosen as the court jester. To some, The Fool may appear simple minded in his boundless optimism and joy.  Cynics and pessimists are very uncomfortable around The Fool’s energy.

When The Fool is reversed he shows another side of his nature which is fool-hardiness.  He’s so high on what he’s feeling that he may be sloppy about details and make mistakes.  “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and The Fool is definitely no angel.

My best advice when you get The Fool in your reading is . . . enjoy!  You’ve got a wonderful force blowing through your life. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Doing Your First Tarot Reading – Start Small

One of the things that I’d really recommend for your first reading is to start small.  If you look through the sites on the internet you’ll find some monstrous huge patterns for laying out the cards.  Lots and lots of details and sometimes dozens of cards. A beginner using one of those is sort of like deciding you’re going to write a computer program right after you figured out how to put a ringtone on your smartphone.  Start off with some smaller layouts and get a feel for the cards before you get too complex.

I actually prefer smaller reading layouts and I do at least one a week just to check in and get a little perspective on where I’m at and where I’m going.  Here’s a simple layout that takes just a little time to do but touches most of the important bases.

1 2 3 4

1 – Current conditions

2 – What needs to be done

3 – Factors working against the questioner

4 – The probable outcome

Now here’s an actual reading using this layout.  This was done for a woman who was in her fifties, professed to be deeply religious, but was not a very happy camper.

ace 7wands queenofcups 4cups

1 – Current conditions – Ace of Cups Reversed

2 – What needs to be done – 7 of Wands Reversed

3 – Factors working against the questioner – Queen of Cups Reversed

4 – The probable outcome – 4 of Cups Reversed

Now, if you read my previous post – A Few Tips Before You Start Reading Tarot Cards – you’ll recognize a couple of factors immediately.  First, all of the cards are reversed. This means that the questioner is in a very subjective state of mind and is probably not dealing realistically with what’s going on.  Second, 3 out of 4 of the cards are cups, meaning that this reading is primarily about emotions.

If you’re using the definitions from my book, “Just the Tarot, by Dan Adair” (available on Amazon.com as an ebook for less than the cost of a can of beer – just saying)  here’s what you find:

1 – Current conditions – Ace of Cups Reversed – It’s possible that the questioner thinks he or she is love but the other person views it as just a friendship.  Another possibility is that there has been true love but it’s fading away.

2 – What needs to be done – 7 of Wands Reversed – There are just too many opponents or problems for the time being.  Disengage from conflict and deal with what you can or you must.

3 – Factors working against the questioner – Queen of Cups Reversed – This may be a person who has a sour attitude toward love and affection.  Perhaps a very materialistic person who prizes possessions over true affection.

4 – The probable outcome – 4 of Cups Reversed – The individual is letting go of old relationships and is starting over.  Perhaps a new love interest or romance.

It doesn’t take long to conclude that this reading is about a romantic relationship and that something is rotten in a Scandinavian country.  The Ace of Cups upright shows that love is blossoming but when it’s reversed it shows that love is dying. The Queen of Cups reversed in the position of opposing factors shows us that one of the people in the relationship – perhaps the questioner or perhaps her partner – has got a pretty bad attitude happening about love and romance.  The 7 of Wands in the position of what needs to be done shows us that there are just too many problems in this relationship for it to have a good outcome. And the 4 of Cups reversed shows us that the questioner or her partner will probably come to that conclusion and just walk away and start over.

See how easy that was?  You lay out the cards, you look for a pattern, and you put the story together.  Now you try it . . .

 

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 Major Arcana of the Tarot

 

The Major Arcana are composed of 22 cards and are the original heart of the Tarot deck.  They can be dated back to the 15th century where they emerged in Europe as the basis for card games.  The symbolism of the cards is so complex that it’s difficult to believe that they were conceived merely as a game but any further clues as to their origin have been lost in time.

Theories about the Major Arcana abound and the occultists of the late Victorian era, such as A.E. Waite and Aleister Crowley, spun some whoppers.  Based upon who you listen to the cards may have originated in ancient Egypt or perhaps Atlantis and Plato himself may or may not have been familiar with them.  

There are also those who claim that the Major Arcana conceal a secret doctrine, a path to higher realms and knowledge that only a few can decipher.  My personal experience with the cards is that those claims are nonsense. If there’s a path hidden in the Major Arcana it’s so overgrown that it would take a bulldozer to find it.  Emphasis on the, “bull.”

So what are the cards of the Major Arcana?  Modern psychologists, particularly Jungians, like to compare them to archetypal images, primordial representations buried in the unconscious of all humans.  And they may be right but that leaves unanswered the questions of who composed them and for what purpose.

There are a few things about them that we can say with certainty.  The Major Arcana represent . . . well, MAJOR forces in our lives. When we encounter the Major Arcana in a reading we know that some significant, life changing events are happening to the questioner.  We’re talking about births, deaths, disasters, major karma coming home to roost, and profound spiritual renewal.

In some cases the questioner herself may be causing the appearance of the major force.  In the card The Devil, for instance, we have a willful embrace of ignorance, cruelty, and mindless sexuality.  The Hanged Man may show up when we choose to take a break from life and reassess our spirituality.

In other cases, the cards may appear because of events which are external to the questioner and over which he has no control.  The Death card may appear frequently after the loss of a loved one. The Tower may pop up after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood.

The best way that I can conceptualize the presence of a card from the Major Arcana in a reading is as a  powerful wind blowing through your life. You can’t stop the wind. You can fight against it, you can give into it and let it blow you where it will, or you can hunker down and wait for it to pass.  The one thing you can’t do is ignore it.  When you see a card from the Major Arcana PAY ATTENTION!

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!