Esoteric Work With the Major Trumps

by Marguerite Hafeman

I. Symbolism in the Tarot:

Wands or Rods-The elemental realm of fire.

Keywords: Drive, libido, imagination, fantasy, inspiration, heat, light, lightening, volcanos, explosions, combustion, metabolism, expansion, passion, movement, exploration, experimentation, risk, transportation, entrepreneurship.

Cups-The elemental realm of water.

Keywords: Desire, feelings and emotion, intuition, instinct, dreams, visions, artistry, music, the arts, sound, psychic ability, security needs; rain, storms, lakes, rivers, oceans.

Swords or Spears-The elemental realm of air.

Keywords: Communication and transportation; the mind and speech, therefore the conversations we have with ourselves and those we have with others. Argument, debate, research, opinion, judgment, criticism, perfectionism, guilt. The law, contracts, learning and teaching, computers, telephones, printers, servers, etc.

Discs or Pentacles-The elemental realm of earth.

Keywords: The material and tangible in earthly life; including jobs, wages, assets, physical pleasures, lovers, family, the body, nature, ground, food, clothing, pets, buildings, farms. A pentacle as a symbol of spirit in action in the material world contains the four elements of fire, water, air and earth plus the fifth component of Divine Love and Intelligence.

Two Pillars or Towers (Jakin and Bohaz); or Two Poles Supporting a Cross Beam or a Curtain : The apparent dualities of physical existence; the white pillar signifies spiritual energy, the creative urge, archetypal form springing from fertile chaos, light energy in motion moving towards growth and manifestation. The black pillar signifies spiritual energy and the creative urge made manifest in form. The destruction, breakdown and decay of spent matter back into the field of fertile chaos. Dark energy in motion moving towards transformation and transcendence. Together the two signify the ascending and descending vortex of energy and matter in an eternal exchange of state. The space between the two pillars holds the field of Higher Consciousness, which can be accessed by going within. It is also the field of Eternal Potential from which all things come and to which they return.

Black and White: (Yin and Yang) The formative and creative principles in eternal union and in dynamic relation to one another; one aspect is always in the process of turning into the other. Divine Light cannot inform and animate the complexity of forms without the Divine Dark power of physical manifestation, growth and destruction. These are two Aspects of One Divine Essence; that should not be sexualized with designations of female or male; nor is either one inherently Evil or Good. The Trinity is a permutation of Dynamic Balance, one in essence, three in aspect.

The scrolls in her hand can represent the Akashic Record, inner intuition and the wisdom that is gained through experience. In the lower sense, written word is recorded as a testimony to the intentions of divine will, commonly expressed in the form of Scriptures, Rules and Laws; which may be genuinely beneficial if representative of Natural Law, or may be repressive dictates designed to support a human power elite and the priesthood that serves them.

The Color Red and Red Roses: The flaming heart, pierced by spiritual realization, interfaced with Divine Love and the field of eternal potentials. Ancient Goddess color of the feminine, menstrual blood, nature, fertility, the maiden and the mother.

The Color White and White Lillies or Roses: The pure heart washed clean of sadness, grief, despair, anger or restless desire. The breath of God. Ancient Goddess color of the masculine, sperm, death and resurrection into new life.

The double-ended wand in this card represents the ability to ground and integrate the Dark and the Light or any other apparent polarity that a magician might face.

The Color Black: Death, decomposition, transformation, gestation. The womb and the tomb, the ultimate leveler of society. The Crone aspect of the Great Goddess, also the Underworld Ruler aspect of the Great God. The field of energetic potential from which all manifested life springs and to which it returns in an eternal cycle of experience and regeneration. Together the colors red, white and black symbolize the ancient trinity of the Old Religion.

Sun, position of Sun in Sky: Vital center of energy, focus and attention; true spiritual identity, intent, purpose, individuated state of being. The sun rising, at zenith and setting correlates with the beginning, middle or end of life; or the rising, peak and ebbing of life energy as corresponds to health. It can also be the solar principle of left-brain, logical-linear functions and the drive to hunt. Note that the horse in this card can refer to families of the Praetorian Guard that came to dominate Rome politically, during the time when pagan religion was abolished in favor of Christianity, using the agency of Mithric secret societies. However the horse was also a sacred totem of the Great Goddess in an earlier age.

Moon, phase of the Moon: The ebb and flow of emotions and feelings. The passage of time and the monthly cycle of menstruation. Inheritance of the ancestors, moods and ingrained behavior patterns. The lunar principle of right brain, visual, special, intuitive and visionary. The phase of the Moon would refer to degree of consciousness, versus the hidden power of the unconscious to influence conscious decisions. When the Moon is waxing, awareness and becoming are favored; full moon represents a peak of both conscious and emotional involvement. The waning moon relates to tying up loose ends, winding down and descent into the underworld; a very old moon refers to introspection and rest, while a very new moon refers to gestation and birth of new ideas which translate into a new cycle of action.

Star: Dreams and ideals. Also the influence of stars, planets and other heavenly bodies as correlated with living out collective myths and archetypes. Evolving consciousness and emotional maturity through interactions between fate, destiny and free will.

Clouds: Thinking and speaking. Intellectual prowess; shifting moods and the deployment of ideas.

Cube or Throne: Mastery Over the material world. Also the Philosopher’s Stone which is formed through alchemic processes of experience, union, breakdown, death, burning away, breakthrough, regeneration. The ram's head depicted in the Emperor card correlates with the Age of Aries, a time when conquest and the establishment of centralized authority through warfare rose to prominence. A more esoteric meaning would refer to the "Horned One" who has achieved enlightenment and self-mastery through integration of left and right brain, conscious and unconscious.

Sphinx: The animal, mental and spiritual aspects of man integrated into one holistic and balanced expression of being.

Infinity Loop: The function of magical operation, which works in harmony with the eternal, dynamic exchange between Light and Dark, Yin and Yang, matter and energy. Being able to move at will between Upperworld, Midworld and Underworld.

Hexagram: The sixth Arcanum; forging unity and integration between that which is Above and that which is Below, head and heart, male and female, the evolutionary and involutionary aspects of One Eternal Divine Intelligence. Hexagrams composed of interlocking Red and White triangles, the primal powers of spiritual Fire and Water, are quite expressive of this dynamic. Commonly known as the Star of David, this symbol does not originate in the Jewish tradition but is much more ancient in origin.

One Leg Crossed at an Angle to the Other: Mastery over circumstances through discipline, endurance and a willingness to look within. The ability to suspend customary opinions and judgments based on sensate data and conditioned habits of perspective. To process a situation using depth perception and alternative points of view; to embark on a shamanic journey to the underworld.

Lion, Ox, Phoenix, Man: Also Leo, Taurus, Scorpio and Aquarius. The four anchors of material existence, the four Archangels that rule the elements. The axis of survival, life and death (Taurus-Scorpio) must balance with the axis of leadership and humanity at large (Leo and Aquarius).

Cross: The cross of matter upon which we are crucified on the journey towards realization, redemption, regeneration and rebirth. Also the Cross of the Goddess, visible in the star constellation Cygnus the Swan; the four directions in space as used by ancient astronomers to mark the phases of the Moon, solstices and equinoxes and movements of the planets and stars. The crossroads, where the souls of the living and the dead meet and mingle; where a new direction, a new path in life must be chosen.

Cup Containing a Sword, or Crown Penetrated by a Sword: The Cup or Crown is the Holy Grail, which is sovereignty, fertility and healthy vitality of land, water, air and body. The Sword is the principle of cosmic creativity which penetrates nature and seeks union in order to conceive new life, or in the psychological sense, bring union and balance between right and left brain, active and passive, creative and formative functions. The expansive drive of the Sword must allow itself to be suspended within the nurturing waters and gentle grace of the Cup. If the Grail is upended, violated, defiled and pillaged through aggression and greed, then famine, barrenness, violence and sorrow will result. An ancient caution suggesting that if too much is taken from the land and the rights of all people are not respected (often through a judicious application of false reasoning), then all will be laid to waste and ruin.

Mountains: A quest, spiritual, mental or physical, a journey of discovery and learning. Where the spirits dwell; where we go to do a vision quest and undergo a test of endurance, to find the eternal flame of spiritual strength within, to make contact with the other worlds and to learn our true name.

One Foot in Water, One on Dry Land: Balance and awareness between unconscious and consciousness; inner awareness and outer life; heart and head. The action of pouring liquid from one cup to another has to do with establishing equilibrium in nurturance of body and heart, also in equitable exchange of energy and love between yourself and another.

Gold Key and Silver Key, Crossed: Authority, law and social order of the Outer World, in communion and integration with inner knowledge, wisdom, integrity, intelligence, intuition. Union and integration of solar and lunar principles, once again left brain-right brain, etc. This symbolism has also been used by royalty for long ages, to describe the cooperative union between aristocracy and clergy, military and civil servants.