Tarot: Your Life in Twenty-one Steps


Most people don’t realize the Tarot  presents a map of your life, a 21-step  journey  
from novice or child to mastery and  enlightenment. It is filled with ancient stories that  have  lasted because of their truth. If you understand the journey and the wisdom  hidden in the stories, you’ll  see the big picture of your own life.  It’s like one of those trail maps that shows you  the whole forest and then points  to a spot on the map that says, “YOU ARE HERE.”

Life as the Fool’s Journey.  Everyone’s journey, whether it is their whole life or some aspect of it, such as  beginning to read the Tarot, begins as a child or novice. In the Tarot, the novice is called the Fool whose  number is  0 because he is a blank slate.

Ask a question and pull a card:   The best answers come from  learning to ask  questions that illicit insight. You could ask,  “Where am I right now on my journey?” Or, “where am I right now in my career, relationship, or anything?” Or “what is there for me to know about (insert the issue of your query)?  If you have a deck, pull out the 22 Major Arcana (cards with Roman numerals) and draw from them. If you don’t have a deck,  no worries. You can write down numbers 1 through 21 on slips of paper, then with eyes closed, choose one.  Or you can also just  scroll  up and down the cards on this page, not looking directly at them, until you feel it’s time to stop.  Now note what card has turned up. You’ll have your answer by reading below about the card that corresponds to that number.  If you read about all of the 21 steps, you will see your life in greater perspective.

The  Major Arcana of Aleister Crowley’s  Thoth Tarot

0 Fool0. The Fool.The Fool is about to take off. He”s got his bags packed hobo style, he”s got a silly grin, and he”s going to lunge forward unaware of what hazards are there. He is full of energy,  innocent, devilish, foolish, fun-loving, and utterly clueless ”“ like a five-year-old child or Freshman college boy. He is you when you eagerly begin some new endeavor, whether it is a relationship, a job, or parenthood. He might be  some guy who”s coming onto you, but is not serious beyond physical attraction. He has the freshness and clarity of a beginner mind, a naive boldness, and the potential to rule the world.  If you pull this card:  You”re at the beginning, whether it”s a new relationship or a new job or anything in which you are at that heady, early stage. Go for it! The Fool might also be  someone you”re thinking about  who is Fool-like, appears sincere  but maybe  immature.  Have fun with him, as long as you understand his Fool nature (read above). Keywords:  child, novice, beginner.


1 Magus or Magician Thoth TarotI. The  Magus or Magician
: The Fool begins his journey with two gifts. The first is the gift of communication  as  symbolized by Mercury, the messenger god. Also known as the Magician, this card represents the power of the spoken word.  Mercury is everything that language can create ”“ a healer, conjurer, trickster, a presenter, and a teacher. If you pull this card:  teaching  and/or presenting may be  one of your strengths, and it may be time  to embrace  that role in your life. Notice that Mercury is happy and uses many tools of the trade to be a messenger of spirit.  Keywords:  Gifted teacher, conjurer, presenter, joy of communication

 

2 Priestess Thoth Tarot

II. Priestess:  The second gift our Fool (and you) are  born with is  intuition, symbolized by the priestess. Ruled by the moon with the light blue colors of spirit, this card  represents the pure unadulterated intuition that is wired into every human being. If you pulled this card: You are using your intuition.  It comes from universal consciousness and you”ll find it by learning to get in touch with your body”s senses, as in mindfulness.
Keyword:  Intuition. Message: trust your intuition.

 

III. Empress. Equipped with language and intuition, the Fool now meets the first and most important “other”  in his world: his  mother
. This fourth trump corresponds to the fourth Hebrew 3 Empress Thoth Tarotletter, daleth, which means door, since the  mother is the door to all of life. Like the swan at her side, she is earthy, creative, commanding, loyal, nurturing, and fiercely
protective of her young.  She  is counterbalanced by her consort, the Emperor, who her head is turned  towards.  If you pull this  card: you will  draw  upon the strength of your inner mother to  guide you and/or a strong mother figure is operating in your life. Keywords:  mother, matriarch.

 

4 Emperor Thoth TarotIV. Emperor.  After mother, the Fool then meets the father. If the Empress is the archetypal matriarch, the Emperor is the symbol of the  patriarch. Like all symbols, these two characters are multifaceted, existing on all levels ”” from strong, solid, leader, job creator, protector, and entrepreneur;  to negative, petty, controlling, and cruel. In his most exalted form he is as strong and tough as he is kind. His fiery colors indicate action, solidity,  and the sign of the ram, Aries, cardinal fire energy of the innovator.  If you pull this card:  you are dealing with patriarchy, the father figure in your life, both inside and outside of you. It could be in your partner, your boss,  your real father,  or yourself.  Your best bet is to be like the emperor in his best form -strong, creative, commanding, protective,while also kind. Also, don”t forget to have his very excellent    boundaries.  Keywords:  Father, patriarch.

 

5 Hierophant or Pope Thoth Tarot V. Hierophant or Pope.  After the father, the Fool child has come of age to meet a higher authority than his parents. In the 15th  century, this was the Pope. Today it can mean the law, government,  a schoolteacher, a spiritual teacher, or really any higher authority. He is grounded by the powerful forces of tradition as symbolized by the great land beasts”“ the bull and the elephant. He can represent wisdom in his highest form, as well as the more petty and controlling religious leaders some people follow. If you pull  this card:    you are going to be drawing from the guidance  of a higher authority. Remember to use this energy to support you, take what resonates and leave what does not feel right. Keywords:  higher authority, teacher.

 

 

VI Lovers
VI. Lovers.
 After teacher or higher authority, the Fool child  now meets his peers and may  move into  partnership, find love, and  eventually enter into marriage. The union is blessed and even ushered by angels, and is ruled by Gemini, the twins.
Keywords: marriage, lovers, siblings, family.  If you pull this card:  marriage,  family, and/or partnership is on your plate, is your lesson or your strength, and plays
a huge role in your life.  Keywords: lovers, marriage, partnership, siblings, twins.

 

 

                                       VII.  Chariot. Finally the child now strikes out on his own to find his independence, perhaps this means career, perhaps just being his own 7. Chariot Thoth Tarotperson. He wears protective armors and sits lotus style on a chariot that will take him on the next leg of his journey.  If you pull this card: independence is yours at this time or you may be dealing with someone who is behaving independently  of you.  Whether the figure is you or
someone important to you, the behavior is self sufficiency. This phase of maturity is essential to thrive, and thrive you will!  Keywords:  Independence, career.

 

Trumps VIII and above: The Fool has now grown up, passed the milestones of relationship, family, and career. Contrary to what Disney fairytales  led us to believe as children,

life does not stop at this point with happily ever after. This is the point when you want to find out who you really are beneath the expectations. This is when the journey gets interesting. It begins with the next card which a sensitivity to how karma is working in your life.

 

8 Adjustment or Justice Thoth TarotVIII.  Adjustment or Justice. The Adjustment card depicts the scales of Libra, and shows us that karma is weighing in every  moment.  Since the movement of all energy in life is as  exact as the laws of physics, each action we make creates a shift in the balance of things, both within us and outside of us. These waves of energy then travel throughout the universe and return to effect us. Like the blindfolded figure, we cannot see the  effects of our actions, unless we are acutely sensitive to how we  effect others. Like the Libra figure standing on tip toe, karma  is exact and even the slightest wave of energy will upset the equilibrium.  As Lao Tso said, we should proceed  as carefully “as if crossing an iced over stream.”  If you pull this card:  you are feeling  the effect of your actions on others and of others on you, or you might simply be waiting and listening for karma to unfold.  Keywords:  karma, balance, justice.

 

9 Hermit Thoth Tarot  IX.  Hermit. After the Fool has grown up, had his own relationship or family (Lovers), achieved independence  with a career (Chariot), he may for the first time pull away from others and turn within. Everyone needs to go through this period of introspection.  The  monk-like  figure sits in the darkness  turning  inward for inner light, grasping  the lamp of enlightenment.  Occasionally he achieves a glimpse of insight  when the grains  of life part to reveal the orphic egg ”“ symbol of light from which everything emanates. If you pull this card,  trust your need for solitude right now even if you didn”t seek it on purpose. Keyword:  solitude, turning within, meditation, loneliness.

 


10 Fortune Thoth Tarot

 X.  Fortune or Wheel. This represents the halfway point of the Fool”s journey and shows how all life pivots       on chance. Life is a game of chutes and ladders, and we know how easy it is to be boosted up or knocked down.  The lesson is that it matters less whether our fortunes are up or down, but how we ride the wheel. Like all the great Trumps, this card is neither good nor bad, but the way it feels in a reading depends on
how you feel when you see it come up. It simply refers to the choppy waves of life rocking your boat. If you want to know how you”re faring, ask yourself how the  riders look to you on that wheel? Are you drawn to the one who is  hanging off the sides for dear life, or are you noticing the sphinx sitting confidently on top?     If you pull thiscard:  You are operating in themidst of upheaval. Notice how you ride the wheel. Keywords:  luck (good and bad), chance, hazard.

 

11 Lust Thoth Tarot  XI.  Lust or Strength.   This is about the time on your journey that you may find your passion or feel the power of desire.  We need the strength that comes from having a passion, and the desire to move it forward in life. The woman on the back of the lion is fire energy personified; she is passion, creativity, that eat-your-heart-out power of going for what she loves. The world is at your command when you are passionate and have a message to share. If you pull this card,  you”ve got a message to share that flows through you like fire,  and you will influence the world. Keywords: strength, will, passion, charisma.

 

 

12 Hanged Man Thoth TarotXII. Hanged Man. Having experienced the heady power of passion (Lust or Strength card),  the Fool now hits the limit of his abilities to control his situation.  He feels like he is hanging upside down by his toes, with no way out.    He has lost all control over his situation and can only turn it over to the Universe,  otherwise he will become exhausted.
The  wisdom  is to relax, and know that this too shall pass. The background shows a promise land awaiting him if he can just breathe and be patient. This card comes up when you can”t do anything to change a situation. This is the card of our age”“ watching world violence, suffering of so many, and a planet heating up with no way to get the polluters to  stop.If you pull this card,  you  are powerless to effect your situation. You can, however, surrender to it, relax into it, and turn it over to the universe.  When you”ve learned surrender, you can handle anything. Keyword: Surrender.

13 Death Thoth Tarot  XIII.  Death.  Once the Fool surrenders, he can  fully let go.  This card does not usually mean death of a person”s body, although it can. Usually it refers to a letting go,  with all the lessons and insights that accompany that situation. Death is not only a painful ending, a cutting of all ties by the grim reaper who wields his scythe, but it is transformation, as shown by  the spirits rising up as the threads are cut.    If you pull this card,  you’re letting go  of something. The sooner you allow this ending, the sooner will be your transformation to new beginnings.  Keywords:  death, letting go, transformation.

 

 XIV.  Art or Temperance.  It is around this time of your journey that you need the wisdom of this card to get you through.  We see a woman divided into opposite  parts working together as she performs a task.  XIV ArtWhen we are  in balance,  our many parts fit together into one congruent  whole person. But often  we tuck away our shadow selves, only to have them operating at cross  purposes under the surface, draining our energy and our health. The Art card, called Temperance in other decks, shows us the importance balancing all our many parts.  If you pull this card,  there is  inner  conflict. You try to show a happy face, but deep within you are holding something untenable.  It’s time to get in touch with all your parts and allow  even the most painful to be felt and processed. Eventually you achieve  a lovely integration when all the parts are in balance. In this event, you have a work of art, where ordinary parts come together to form something divine. Watch where your eye takes you and how you feel when you see it, and you”ll get the message.  Keywords:  balance, integration.

 

XV. D15 Devil Thoth Tarotevil. Before Christianity, the pagans saw the horned goat god Pan as the god of nature. He was sardonic, matter-of-fact, sexual like the goat, and he does not kowtow to humans because Nature always has the last word. Christians didn”t like the unrepressed sexuality of paganism and they rebranded Pan as evil. If you look closely, you may see his wry smile. You may also see life force or libido. Or you may see someone confrontational, nasty, and domineering. It”s your call whether you choose a pagan or Judeo-Christian interpretation.  Either way, he”s in your face, telling you that nature is in charge, whether it”s sexual desire, someone”s ego, or the climate, so get used to it. If you pull this card:  You are facing opposition. Try to step out of the way, don”t engage. Keywords:  Dominance, sexual power, unyielding confrontation.

 

16 Tower Thoth TarotXVI The Tower. Everyone is afraid of the Tower, the scariest card in the deck.  It is the point in our lives when major structures to which we have clung  are now collapsing.    It”s the shedding of a skin that happens when someone loses a job or a marriage, fails at something, or experiences a breakdown of their world order. Watch where your eye goes when you are reading this card.  Your eye will fixate  on the part of the card that fits the situation.    Perhaps it”s the large third eye that sees what is happening and understands it”s a rite of passage. Perhaps it”s the dove that  escapes  from the burning building like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Your eye  will provide the insight you need. No matter how cruel the Tower may feel, as long as you face the loss and allow old structures  to fall away, you will move onto the Star ”“ the card of hope and redemption. If you pull this card  you are looking at your worst fears. Remember that your pain comes from  holding tightly to old structures you have outgrown. Time to remember the lessons of surrender (Hanged Man), disengaging from opposition (Devil), letting go (Death), and turning inward (Hermit). Allow the waves of emotion to crash over you, and they will recede. Transformation and hope are next. Keywords:  collapse of structures, deep fears.

TRUMPS 17 THROUGH 21

 Having endured the descent into the dark night of the soul, last nine steps (Adjustment/Justice through Tower), you have hit bottom and are now rising to the light. In the next few steps, you are connecting to heavenly bodies ”“ the stars, moon, and sun – – for it is in raising your own consciousness to the vastness of the whole universe that you will find enlightenment and grace.

 17 Star Thoth TarotXVII. Star. The Star is hope, redemption, new beginnings after loss, a fresh new morning after a devastating storm. You have passed through the worst, and now energy from the heavens is sending  you into a state of grace. The figure is Nuith, the sky goddess of the heavens, who nurtures us all. Ruled  by Aquarius, the consciousness  of higher mind, this card is about the idea  of hope, the  understanding  of redemption that comes when we see life from the perspective of the whole universe, that there is a plan, a cyclical path that nurtures us all. If you pull this card, you have new hope and an understanding that there is a star out there working in your favor.  You  have emerged from the dark night of the soul and are now ascending towards the light. Keywords:  Hope, redemption, grace, trust.

 

18 Moon Thoth TarotXVIII. Moon.    Everyone knows the moon, that mysterious heavenly body that we gaze at with wonder as it never ceases to change. It refers to  the unconscious, the ultimate mysteries, the unknown, the female principle, moods, cycles, and our own inner journey into the unseen. We pass through the mystery of the moon on our way to the light because now have inner light to carry us through the darkness. We see mystery as beautiful, and when the moon disappears every month, we know it will reemerge whole, just as we will. If you pulled this card,  you are dealing with the unknown, with unsolvable mysteries.  You simply cannot know what will happen. You are,  however, equipped to venture into this situation without knowing. You will then emerge from  the other side into the light. Keywords: mystery, unconscious, unknown.

 

19 Sun Thoth TarotXIX. Sun. Having accepted  our fears and the darkness, we can finally step out into the sun and  dance in the  light. The 19th  Trump card finds us free and invulnerable as  naked children playing in the sun. The sun is everyone”s deity, the god of gods. If you pull this card,  expect to  experience a child”s exuberance.     If this card appears when you ask about a relationship, you are sensing someone with whom you can laugh and play.  Nearing the end of our final ascent, we  are close to achieving  mastery.    We have experienced life”s woes and uncertainties, understood and surrendered to things we cannot change, and suffered  heartbreaking loss. Through all this, we have learned to  hope, to live comfortably with the unknown, to brave  the darkness, let go of the past,  and play like children. Keywords:  joy, light, gratitude.

 

Aeon Judgement336  XX.  Aeon or Judgment. This card represents the step before mastery or final decision, the moment in which we ask  that last ditch question before making a final plunge.  It shows our inner  child wondering what to make of the  world or some part or person in  it.    It”s about a final evaluation  of ourselves at the end of life; about questioning the project we”re doing just as we approach mastery, or  the career we”ve worked so hard to master, the marriage we”ve made, the people we”ve invested in. It”s a final evaluation that questions our underlying motives, or the motives of someone we thought we knew. If you pull this card,  you are trying to evaluate a decision, person, or group. Keywords:  evaluation, new beginning, open minded wondering.

 

Universe335  XXI.  Universe or World.   Finally it all comes together for our Fool. We all want to achieve mastery, and when we do, this card shows how it feels and what it means. Like the dancing figure in the center, you can groove with  the complex swirling forces of the whole universe. You now live your life in a state of flow, fed by a powerful intuition (see the eye of Horus), relaxed, and fully integrated in body, mind, and spirit.  The world is your oyster! If you pull this card,  you are fully equipped for  whatever endeavor you undertake. You are a master. Keywords:  mastery, enlightenment.  

The Journey Continues.  Although we are never back where we started, the journey starts again with the Fool, only we are more evolved. That”s because the trajectory is a spiral, not a circle, so we seem to come full circle, but we are further along in our path.

Further reading: For a brilliantly written  analysis of the  Tarot as a life journey,  read  Theodore Roszak’s pamphlet  Fool’s Cycle/Full Cycle:  Reflections on the Great Trumps of the Tarot  (listed here)  where the late Stanford scholar analyzed the cards as a life cycle in the tradition of Western thought from Dante to Freud.  

 

About the Author:

Jeanne Mayell is a professional intuitive and author who gives private life readings and offers tools to help people develop their psychic abilities. In 2015, Mayell was named by Coast to Coast AM radio as one of America’s most gifted Tarot readers. Holding Master Degrees from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an MA in Counseling Psychology from Framingham State University, and published in The Atlantic and other national journals, she is not only a gifted intuitive, but brings an academic and intellectual perspective to the world of psychic readings and intuition training. Sensing that an era of profound and accelerated change is upon us, Mayell has been teaching people to expand the intuitive gifts we are all born with. In this way, we will be able to navigate the coming changes for ourselves, our families and others. She teaches classes in Tarot, Prophecy, Positive Psychology, and mindfulness — all ways to find inner guidance. Mayell has also worked as a health writer (Atlantic Monthly, American Health Magazine, and EastWest Journal), and was the Massachusetts Medicaid Director, a policy analyst for the City of New York’s health and welfare programs, and a research consultant on national health and welfare programs. She has co-authored two books on health and welfare and is currently writing a book on intuition and the Tarot.

One Comment

  1. Pamela Carella 11/25/2016 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Jeanne,
    Pam Carella here. I recently took one of your classes at Newton North high school. I was calculating a friend’s soul card and couldn’t remember what the highest number was that you could achieve….was it 10?
    There’s totalled 12 and I wasn’t sure if I needed to break it down further…ie…1+2=3?
    Thank you for your help. I’ll be in touch soon for a reading.

    REPLY: When you are calculating your soul and life time cards from your birthday, you add the month and day of birth to a two-digit number, then you add up the numbers in the year of birth to a two digit number. Then you add the two sums until you have a number under 23. If your number is 12, as yours was, then you are going to have two results. You add the 1+2 for a 3, which is the Empress. So the person’s should card (all their lifetimes) is the Empress. And their card for THIS lifetime is 12 or the Hanged Man. Thanks for asking. -?JM

  2. jeanne mayell 05/09/2016 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Received this wonderful comment from a reader today who experienced for the first time the magic of reading cards for herself: ” While I was reading, the Hermit card (9) resonated deeply with me, I felt a sense of peace just looking at him; I thought, that’s me, turning away from the light to instead seek it inside myself. I took note of my observation and kept reading all 21 descriptions. I then cut 21 small pieces of paper and numbered each one, turned them face down and mixed them up, then I asked with intent where am I on my life’s journey. I’m not kidding you when I tell you I drew #9. I scrolled back up the page to see which card #9 was, and I about fell out of my seat when I saw it was the hermit. When I first I read about the hermit I did not make a mental note that it was #9, so it was a total surprise. What a way to begin my experience with tarot!”

    She then added: “I was initially scared of tarot and really unsure of going near it!! Now, that fear has morphed into a new fear of its power and the power of my own intuition, what I might see and doubts of my own ability to heed what I see. I may not like what I see.”

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