Tarot card correspondences
Amazon suggested for me a book called "Tarot correspondences". I checked it out, and it seems to be essentially a book of tables with all sorts of things that have symbolic correspondences to Tarot cards: astrology, Kabbalah, you name it. I don't think I'll buy it, I like books that have stories in them rather than just a bunch of tables. But other people here may be interested in that sort of thing.
I find the whole subject of correspondences very interesting, though. For example, Tarot suits are supposed to have a correspondence with the classical elements of water, fire, air and earth. If I remember correctly, the way it's supposed to go, at least according to the Golden Dawn tradition, is that cups are water, staffs are fire, swords are air and pentacles are earth. But I keep wondering if that's the best way. Intuitively, staffs feel a lot more like earth, especially in a deck like mine (Morgan-Greer) where they often have little leaves on them. And pentacles feel a lot more like fire, because they are golden, like the sun. But if I look at a Spanish deck of playing cards, the cups have a definite wine cup feel to them (they're red), and that feels more like fire than like water. And maybe coins (pentacles) would then go with water, because you drop coins into wells and fountains for luck, don't you? On the other hand, if you think that pentacles are earth because metals come from the earth and that's that, then maybe water goes with staffs, because they definitely would need water to grow those leaves.
I guess where I'm going here is that there are probably good arguments for a lot of different correspondences between the Tarot suits and the elements. But maybe some of them work better than others. Any thoughts on that?
On a different line, but also in connection with correspondences, the other Sunday, with the Armistice celebrations, I thought of checking which of the major arcana was 11. It's Justice. And then I remembered reading somewhere that Justice has a different number on the Thoth Tarot, and I checked it up on the Internet, and I was right: in the Thoth Tarot Justice and Strength are swapped, and the card isn't called Strength but Lust. I looked for a picture of the card, and it made me think immediately of the scarlet woman of Revelations, riding on the beast. And I thought that maybe it represents the horrors of war, including soldiers raping women. And then, when I looked at Justice in my Morgan-Greer Tarot, I noticed she's wearing red clothes. So maybe she has a little bit of the scarlet woman, too, but one that has been controlled and justice has won in the end. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?
Maria, thanks for your thoughtful and provocative post.
Regarding the four elements of earth, air, fire and water in the Tarot. The Tarot was handed down and like all things that are handed down by millions of people across time, it changes with those who use it. One thing that is consistent though are the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.
The four elements are integral to the Tarot because the four elements have been woven in our civilization for thousands of years. The names of the various suits of the Minor Arcana, as well as the regular playing cards, fit the four elements. The Tarot also evolved in a culture steeped in Western astrology, so the meanings of the four elements fit those of astrology. Diamonds, Coins, Pentacles, and Disks are the various names given to the suit of Earth. If you know astrology then you have some understanding of the meaning of the suit called Diamonds/Pentacles/Coins/or Disks. Diamonds are things of value that come from the earth. Disks, Pentacles, and Coins are references to money.
Although Tarot itself evolved over hundreds of years, specific Tarot decks are like freeze-frames of single points in time and they are the work of individuals. I don't know much about the designers of the Morgan Greer or the Ryder Waite, but I do know something about Crowley and Harris who created the Thoth deck. Crowley was an astrologer (and mountaineer, and Egyptologist, and a self taught cross cultural anthropologist) so he wove his knowledge of various spiritual traditions in to the deck.
He looked for correspondences among the religions of the ancient Hindus, Christians, Tibetans, Celts, and Egyptians and Harris listened to his stories and masterfully rendered them in the cards. I love Nuith, the Egyptian sky goddess who appears in the 17 Trump (Star Card) and the the 20 Trump (Judgement or Aeon). She is the Universe itself, caring for us.
If you look at the Thoth deck the four elements in the deck become clear. The artist Frieda Harris masterfully rendered the four elements throughout the deck.
The elements fit astrology
Cups are water. They represent the divine feminine principle that Jung wrote about. Water energy is receptive spiritual energy. In dreams people often see water is emotion. Cups hold water.
Frieda Harris designed The Thoth deck with the four elements in mind, so many of the cups have the colors of water or images of water in its various forms. Water also signifies the endocrine system which regulates the emotions.
Wands are fire energy. Think of a magic wand that has a light or bit of fire at the end. Fire represents the active principle, so it represents creativity, action, the divine masculine. In the Thoth deck, wands often have the color of fire and even images of fire.m
Disks are earth energy, the same as coins and pentacles, resembling money and thus things of material value. But earth energy, as we know from astrology, also represents our earth, so Harris painting images of trees and roots and bounty. The princess of disks stands in a woodlands meditating on her own pregnant body and on the roots of the sacred earth. She is Diana the Huntress and Goddess of the Woodlands.
Swords are a little more ambiguous but do represent the Mind or Air energy and all that signifies if you think of air energy in astrology. The images are airy, clouds, and often troubled, like the mind. Crowley studded Buddhism with all its distinction between the mind and the heart. The mind becomes conflicted, troubled, embattled, and so swords cards are often negative, even torturous. All readings are subjective, so these negative cards represent the negative direction the subjective mind can so easily go.
The switch between the 8 and the 11 Trumps: Crowley made that switch because of something he didn't like about the older order. I don't have an opinion about it one way or the other. Crowley was a genius, but he also may have made some changes that might better have been left alone. It doesn't affect how I read the cards, so it doesn't bother me whether the Eight Trump card is Justice or Strength.
Maria, you mention the Book of Revelations and the Scarlet woman of Babylon in the Strength card. You got it exactly! Crowley knew the Bible like the back of his hand. He deliberately depicted the Strength card as the Whore of Babylon coming from the book of Revelations and the 16 Trump card the Tower as the end of the world. These stories are symbolic stories of human experience and can apply to today. But the Lust card, as he called it, was so named because he saw that strength comes from desire. Great strength comes from a great fervent will. He believed that self determination came from strong will. The Scarlet Woman is confident, strong, does what she wants. She rides a lion, also the symbol of strength, she is naked, a symbol of invulnerability, she is totally unafraid and, like a. great courtesan, she can wrap rest of the world around her fingers. A mother can lift a car off her child because of her super human will to save her child. It's about the will and that's why he called it lust which means intense desire.