Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Insights on Tarot Symbolism by Lynda Stevens 2013

 The Wheel of Fortune - 10


In traditional packs, the word "Tora" often appears on the wheel itself, which reversed means "rota" or"wheel", which in one way the Tarot actually is, another reason why the Fool has no number. The Fool may simultaneously be at the beginning or the end of his eternal round through the wheels of fate. Perhaps this is why the Wheel occurs exactly halfway through the sequence of the Major Arcana.

The biggest Wheel of Fortune of all actually consists of the zodiac with the planets moving against this backdrop. In this card, the four points of the Wheel are represented by the four fixed signs, the Scorpion or Serpent, the Lion, the Bull and the Man (or water bearer). These signs (which also appear in the biblical Revelation, in what has been described by some to depict the portentous passing of a Great Age - from Pisces to Aquarius - into another) describe a good combination of animal and bestial energies. In some packs, the whole Wheel is shown to be being set in motion by a monkey. There may well be certain good reasons for all of this, and this commentator will now attempt to pick out what seems to be the more relevant ones.

As a Great Circle, the zodiac is infinite, as once one cycle is completed, a new one begins. Yet, everything is still subject to change. The wheel may actually be derived from eastern philosophy, where the endless cycle of incarnation is called the illusory chain of being, Samsara. Progress and entropy, therefore, are equally part of the same cycle, reminding as that what goes up must come down, that a rich man may become a beggar, a fine civilisation give way to decadence and the seeds of its own downfall, and so on. The design for this card is partly inspired by a series of street posters that appeared in the late eighties depicting a large wheel. The street poster was there to encourage new members to join meditation classes to learn how to be more at the centre of the wheel rather than at its periphery, where it is easier to be enmeshed in trivial external events. The Buddhist aim, of course, may ultimately be to gain some sense of liberation from the entire wheel altogether, with its endless chain of progress and entropy.

The lust to discover the thread behind this never-ending chain of events, however, has impelled many a diviner to seek the foolproof key to lottery winning, that elusive congruence of cosmic factors, which may lead to the ultimate jackpot. The fact that no diviner has yet found a foolproof way to predict such things is perhaps an indication that this is simply not meant to be! The thrill of the gamble, however, certainly seems to draw certain individuals in a way which suggests that its pull must be almost numinous by nature: the desire, perhaps, to wrest away the secrets of Fate itself.

This is why the design for this card depicts a pinball image where  wheels really do exist within wheels: no-one's fate can ever be said to exist outside that of his or her associates, workplace or country.

The catastrophic cusp, further hints at the sheer unpredictability of fate, in which an initial triggering event - the straw that breaks the camel's back - may precipitate into motion ripples of cause and effect that may bring new variables into areas of life that lie far beyond their initial source.

Wherever it turns up in a spread, the card may well be counselling the querent to "go with the flow" as it were, to try and see which way the cat is going to jump. The Wheel of Fortune always augurs change, and requires a willingness to take risks. While an element of potluck is undeniably present, so are new opportunities that may promise a shift in fortunes generally. From what has been said all through the comments made on this card, however, an ability to stand back may be counselled, so that the querent is not unduly swayed by trivial and superficially upsetting events, like a cork in the ocean. The point is to become a skilled negotiator through the vicissitudes of fortune, rather than a blind victim.

This card was updated recently and is different from the version published by Adam Mc Clean in 2006.

The Devil - 15

The Devil card in the Chalice pack has attempted to be the backlash from Temperance's Promethean guilt or angst - everything a devil should be. Here, he is virtually a caricature with the eyes of Beelzebub, the horns of a beast, bat's wings, and a large, erect phallus.
Neither the chains nor the enslaved couple has been forgotten: these appear in the top left panel. The pentagram points downwards, symbolising the dominion of matter over spirit. The Devil corresponds to Saturn-ruled Capricorn - many commentators have suggested that it is no accident that "Saturn" and "Satan" have such a similar spelling. Saturn in astrology is frequently the bête noir for most people, the area of life where the individual is most likely to hold himself or herself back.

In the Old Testament the word "satan" originally meant "adversary". In the book, Satan's role is to challenge both God and Job, literally playing the Devil's Advocate by ruthlessly challenging the integrity of the most cherished beliefs they possess. When the chips are down, Satan demands - are you really the nice, good person you think you are?

Satan, rather like a moral tax collector, is hardly likely to gain brownie points for popularity in this incarnation. Yet without this testing, real self-knowledge may never be reached. The Devil may well appear in a spread where the querent is likely to face a similar challenge. Much like the board game Scruples, the Devil allows us to find out whether or not we really would read our boyfriend's diary, cheat at cards, or sleep with our best friend's lover. Naturally, many people balk at this self-knowledge. It can be more comfortable to find a scapegoat for all these nastier, personal qualities instead. This is what Jung called the problem of the "shadow", where the socially-conditioned ego disowns those qualities not in keeping with its own self-image.

This is what is meant by what some anthropologists call a "folk devil" and the rabid hatred engendered by them is unmistakable. Folk devils may include Jews, blacks, Communists, the unemployed; the list is endless. For this commentator, at least, another strong clue that this form of scapegoating is taking place is that the folk devil is said to be dirty, or to smell bad, perhaps possessing a rampant sexuality. The Chalice pack wished to draw attention to the Devil's more instinctual qualities. As shadow, he is also Master of the id.

The image of the Devil himself is said to be derived from the hornèd god Pan, himself a scapegoat of Christian totalitarianism. Those of a pagan persuasion may see in the Hornèd One a rehabilitated image of a sensitised male sexuality.

Before the process of rehabilitation is complete, however, it is worth remembering that the Devil is still capable of being the Prince of Lies. There are many individuals who rationalise life decisions made out of fear and bad faith rather than through authentic choice. These are the people who hold onto jobs or partners they dislike because on some level they have sold their souls to a less worthy goal, such as security. The Devil may then remind the querents that they themselves are their own worst gaolers, not the situation itself. "Better the devil you know", these individuals may cry.

In traditional packs, the word "Tora" often appears on the wheel itself, which reversed means "rota" or"wheel", which in one way the Tarot actually is, another reason why the Fool has no number. The Fool may simultaneously be at the beginning or the end of his eternal round through the wheels of fate. Perhaps this is why the Wheel occurs exactly halfway through the sequence of the Major Arcana.

The biggest Wheel of Fortune of all actually consists of the zodiac with the planets moving against this backdrop. In this card, the four points of the Wheel are represented by the four fixed signs, the Scorpion or Serpent, the Lion, the Bull and the Man (or water bearer). These signs (which also appear in the biblical Revelation, in what has been described by some to depict the portentous passing of a Great Age - from Pisces to Aquarius - into another) describe a good combination of animal and bestial energies. In some packs, the whole Wheel is shown to be being set in motion by a monkey. There may well be certain good reasons for all of this, and this commentator will now attempt to pick out what seems to be the more relevant ones.

 by Lynda Stevens 2013

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