Understanding the Tarot Deck’s Architecture
Subsequently, the cards’ meaning, requires basic astrological knowledge.
Before we begin our ride on the bumpy paths of technicalities, there is one crucial issue we need to address. Occultists, but especially the Golden Dawn members, developed a syncretic system – of Magick – based on sometimes divergent philosophies and practices. Central to their system is the so-called Hermetic Qabalah. Everything else has been subdued and integrated within its structure. Understanding the system also requires kabbalistic knowledge.
However, several astrological and kabbalistic concepts cannot be harmonised. While some of these discrepancies may be regarded as ‘small’, they can cause severe practical dysfunctions. For example, while the ten Numerals of the Tarot were attributed to the ten Sefirot, are only nine available spots on one quarter of the Zodiac Wheel.
The Ptolemaic system they have operated may seem outdated as Western Astrology evolved and significant changes have been adopted - only to mention the planetary system’s extension from seven to ten.
There is another generally overlooked aspect. Esotericism evolves. Our perception and understanding of the universe evolved and shifted. Today we know that the Ptolemaic perception of our solar system was fundamentally erroneous. Therefore, the ‘truth’ of nineteenth-century occultists may not have been irrefutable. They were no gods, not even super-evolved spiritual beings, but only humans exposed to make mistakes. We cannot exclude the possibility that they have been wrong in some of their findings. It is important to study and learn their system, but it is equally important to learn from their mistakes and move forward.
Finally, I encourage everyone to do their own diligence, think for themselves. Learning does not mean to memorise mechanically but to understand concepts and mechanisms. While things that have been memorised can be forgotten, those things we understood are remain embedded in our consciousness forever. The method of understanding is doubt, questioning and rational criticism.
The astrological attribution can be a specific Zodiac sign or planet, respectively, the planet’s position in a sign or house.
Most frequently, speaking about the cards astrological attribution, people refer to the so-called Golden Dawn system. However, the question is, what is commonly known as the Golden Dawn system is the original system?
For those less familiar with the Order’s history, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1887 by three Freemasons, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers, and the original order dissolved in 1903.
The first observation would be that the vast majority of the occultists were considered Tarot only the twenty-two Trumps. They disregarded the so-called Minor Arcana, which is somewhat the equivalent of a regular deck of playing cards, and considered fortune-telling trivial.
The one significant exception is Etteilla, but his system remains a mystery up to our days and predates the Golden Dawn. Still, most of the following occultists borrowed his interpretation of the cards, especially for the Minor Arcana.
Secondly, astrology itself was considered of secondary importance and subdue to kabbalistic associations.
Occultists such as Eliphas Lévi in 1854, Jean-Baptiste Pitois, aka Paul Christian, in 1870, and Oswald Wirth in 1889, dealing with the Tarot, focused on the Major Arcana cards only.
Several leading figures of the Golden Dawn published works about the Tarot.
The first scholarly work dedicated exclusively to the study of the Tarot in English was written by English linguist, orientalist, and one possible author of the “Cipher Manuscript”, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie. Entitled “The Game of Tarot, Archaeologically and Symbolically Considered”. Unfortunately, the work was never published. The “Cipher Manuscript” is the founding document of the Golden Dawn, and it was passed to William Wynn Westcott.
In 1887, William Wynn Westcott, co-founder of the Golden Dawn, published “The Isiac Tablet of Cardinal Bembo”, occasionally re-published as “The Key to the Tarot”. Following Eliphas Lévi, Westcott speculates that the Isiac Tablet is the key to “The Book of Thoth”, which is the Tarot.
In 1888, Samuel Liddell Mathers, another founding father of the Order, published ‘The Tarot: Its Occult Signification, Use in Fortune Telling, and Method of Play.’ Allegedly, he used Mackenzie’s work, but it is not clear to what extent. Mathers work is a pamphlet mocking the Tarot. Scholarly, Mathers borrows from Court de Gébelin, Etteilla, Éliphas Lévi, Paul Christian and Jean-Alexandre Vaillant.
Finally, one of the last but most famous Golden Dawn leaders, Arthur Edward Waite, published his “Pictorial Key to the Tarot” in 1910.
None of these works contains astrological attributions for the individual cards or a coherent astrological system to connect the Tarot deck with Astrology.
Fortunately, there is a reliable alternative source with academical credentials and well-embedded into the world of Western occult societies. Gérard Encausse, better known as Papus, was a Spanish-born French physician and occultist, involved in several Hermetic orders, briefly including the Golden Dawn, and author of several esoteric works. His insight into the hermetic systems of these Orders is virtually invaluable. Among his works, the most significant is “The Qabalah” and “Absolute Key to The Occult Science: Tarot of Bohemians”, published in 1889. This last-mentioned work was translated into English in 1910 by A. P. Morton and edited by A. E. Waite.
The first transcending aspect is represented by the four Elements, a common feature of Astrology, Alchemy and Kabbalah, embedded into the deck’s central structure. Fire is represented by Wands, Water by Cups, Air by Swords and Earth by Disks (Pentacles, Coins).
Using the formula of Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God, Yod-He-Vau-He, the four Suits are attributed as follow: Wands represents Yod, Cups represents the first He, Swords represents Vau and Disks represents the second He.
We own the planetary attribution of the Zodiac’s thirty-six decans to Jean-Baptiste Pitois, aka Paul Christian. Published in 1870, “The History and Practice of Magic” reveals the distribution of the classical seven planets to the thirty-six decans as a reference to the Egyptian Astrology. The system is simple but not flawless. Three, six, nine or twelve planets could have been distributed perfectly to the thirty-six decans, but not seven. The seven planets, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter, are distributed in five repeated sequences. As a result, Mars is ruling over two consecutive decans, the last of the Pisces and the first of Aries.
However, Paul Christian does not make any explicit connection to the Numerals of the Tarot. The dots were connected by Papus, or at least he was the whistleblower, the first scholar who published the attributions.
The Zodiac is divided into twelve signs and subdivided into thirty-six so-called decans. However, if we also consider the Aces as representing the ones, there are forty Numerals.
Also, the Zodiac can be divided into four quarters corresponding to the four seasons. Each quarter consists of three Zodiac signs, respectively, nine decans. The first quarter, representing Spring, incorporates Aries, Taurus and Gemini. The second quarter, corresponding to Summer, comprises Cancer, Leo and Virgo. The third quarter, Autumn, contains Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. The fourth quarter, Winter, includes Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The distribution of the cards is identical in each quarter.
Papus attributed the Aces to the first Sefirot, Kether and to the first decan of the first sign.
Ace of Wands (Fire) – Kether and the first decan of Aries (Fire).
Two of Wands (Fire) – Chokhmah and the second decan of Aries (Fire).
Three of Wands (Fire) – Binah and the third decan of Aries (Fire).
Four of Wands (Fire) – Chesed and the first decan of Taurus (Earth).
Five of Disks (Earth) – Gevurah and the second decan of Taurus (Earth).
Six of Disks (Earth) – Tiferet and the third decan of Taurus (Earth).
Seven of Disks (Earth) – Netzach and the first decan of Geminin (Air).
Eight of Swords (Air) – Hod and the second decan of Geminin (Air).
Nine of Swords (Air) – Yesod and the third decan of Gemini (Air).
Ten of Swords (Air) – Malkuth, providing the transition to the next quarter.
The first and most obvious issue is the difference between the nine decades and the ten Sefirot. Although including the Aces as 1s, we have ten Numerals, which match the number of Sefirot, there are only have nine decans. It left us with one unassigned card. It can be the last card, the Ten, or the first card, the Ace. According to Papus, the Ten is left astrologically unassigned, but the kabbalistic set-up is maintained unaffected.
Having assigned the Ace to the first decan creates several discrepancies further down the line. The Four of Wands is ‘pushed’ to the first decan of Taurus, respectively, a card associated with Fire is assigned to a decan of Earth. The same issue emerges with the Seven of Disk (Earth) in the first decan of Geminin (Air).
However, occultists were primarily concerned about the kabbalistic correspondence and less interested in having an astrologically viable and functional system.
According to the Tetragrammaton formula, the Numerals are distributed as follow: Yod to 1, 4 and 7; the first He to 2, 5 and 8; Vau to 3, 6 and 9, and the second He to 10.
Moving to the Court Cards, according to Papus, the Kings are attributed to the Cardinal signs, the Queens to Fixed, and the Knights to Mutable. The Pages are unassigned, representing the transition from one quarter of the Zodiac to another.
From the kabbalistic perspective, the Tetragrammaton formula is also manifested in the Court Cards. The Kings are attributed to Yod, the Queens to the first He, the Knights to Vau and the Pages to the second He. Subsequently, the Kings are ruling over the 1, 4 and 7s, the Queens over the 2, 5 and 8s, the Knights over 3, 6 and 9s and the Pages over the 10s.
The key to understanding the astrological attributes assigned to the Tarot cards lies within the Major Arcana cards.
Instead of having a scientifically sustainable system of astrological attributions of the cards, Western occultist opted for an arbitrary, subjective attribution based on cabbalistic texts. The primary source is the book called Sefer Yetzirah, which allegedly is the earliest extant book on Jewish mysticism.
The “Book of Creation” presents how God created the world through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, respectively reveals the various qualities of these letters, including their astrological attributes. However, early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory, and the accuracy of its esoteric content is debatable. At a closer look, the various attributions assigned to the letters do not correspond with each other. It can be a trick to confuse and mislead the uninitiated or proof of the authors’ ignorance. Neither of these possibilities can be excluded.
The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are attributed to the Major Arcana cards based on the cards Roman numbering. According to the card’s order, Éliphas Lévi attributed the Magician numbered I – one – to Aleph, The High Priestess numbered II – two – to Beth, The Empress numbered III – three – to Gimel, and so on. The Fool, numbered with the Arab zero or unmarked, has been attributed to Shin due to its position between The Last Judgement and The World. This was The Fool’s standard position in the pattern of the Tarot of Marseille.
The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are divided into three categories. The first is the so-called Mother Letters, which are only three: Aleph, Mem and Shin, associated with three Elements, Air, Water and Fire. The second group of seven letters, called Doubles, are associated with the seven classical planets. The third group, called Simples or Elements, consists of twelve letters associated with the twelve Zodiac signs. The apple of discord lies within the seven Double Letters and their attribution. To begin with, the original Hebrew text of the Sefer Yetzirah provides two alternatives.
Aleph – Air
Bet – Saturn or Moon
Gimel – Jupiter or Mars
Dalet – Mars or Sun
He – Aries
Wav – Taurus
Zayin – Gemini
Heth – Cancer
Teth – Leo
Yod – Virgo
Kaph – Sun or Venus
Lamed – Libra
Mem – Water
Nun – Scorpio
Samekh – Sagittarius
Ayin – Capricorn
Pe – Venus or Mercury
Tsade – Aquarius
Qoph – Pisces
Resh – Mercury or Saturn
Shin – Fire
Taw – Moon or Jupiter
When William Wynn Westcott, co-founder of the Golden Dawn, translated the Sepher Yetzirah, ‘for a better match’, altered the attributions of the Seven Doubles. According to W.W. Westcott, the correct attributions are as follow:
Bet – Sun – The (High) Priestess
Gimel – Venus – The Empress
Dalet – Mercury – The Emperor
Kaph – Moon – Justice
Pe – Saturn – The Star
Resh – Jupiter – Last Judgement
Taw – Mars – The World
Other occultists opted for alternative attributions. One possibility is the Ptolemaic system in which the Seven Classical planets in order, closest to Earth to farthest, respectively Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, are distributed accordingly. Interestingly, this is the reversed order of the planets according to one of the versions presented by the original Sepher Yetzirah.
Aleister Crowley repositioned the Fool to the beginning of the Major Arcana, respectively ahead of the Magician. While this move fixed some of the arguable astrological attributions, it doesn’t solve them all.
Aleister Crowley is by far one of the most famous but also eccentric and controversial occultists. Crowley was a prolific author, but his Book of Thoth Tarot deck and its accompanying book can be considered his most significant legacy. Allegedly built upon the Golden Dawn tradition, Crowley most likely rewrote and adjusted according to his own vision of the Order’s teachings. To which extent, it remains debatable. As it has been already shown, except for the detailed work of Papus, the known official papers of the Order, respectively, the published works of the Order’s leading figures consist of very few references to Tarot and the astrological attributes of cards. What is commonly known as the ‘Golden Dawn system’ originates from Crowley and his direct or indirect pupils. When Crowley’s Book of Thoth was first published on the vernal equinox of 1944, all original Order leaders died. Westcott died in 1925, Mathers in 1918, William Robert Woodman in 1891, William Butler Yeats in 1939, Robert William Felkin in 1926, John William Brodie-Innes in 1923, and A.E. Waite in 1942. Therefore, they cannot confirm Crowley’s version’s authenticity, respectively, how much he deviated from the original curriculum.
Israel Regardie, the author of “The Complete Golden Dawn”, was Crowley’s personal secretary for about four years. Regardie spent much time studying Crowley’s published and unpublished materials.
However, Crowley’s own experience with the Golden Dawn was brief. Crowley was initiated into the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn on November 18, 1898, by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and was excluded the following year before being admitted into the Second Order.
For those less familiar with the hierarchical structure of the Golden Dawn, it was organised in ten grades and three Orders. The architecture is similar to other Freemason organisation, including Rosicrucians. The ten grades are associated with the ten Sefirot. The Outer Order had four grades with two additional intermediate grades, one introduction grade called Neophyte, and another Intermediate, Portal Grade before joining the Second Order. Crowley obtained the fourth-grade Philosophus but was never accepted as Adeptus Minor, the fifth grade and the first in Second Order. Practically he managed to finish four classes out of ten. Therefore, his level of expertise regarding the Order’s teaching is at best of entry-level as he only finished the primary education level. Sure, Crowley may have studied on his own and eventually auto-proclaimed himself Ipsissimus, the tenth and highest grade of Argenteum Astrum, his own Order, respectively his version of the Golden Dawn.
Crowley introduced an artifice regarding the placement of the Court Cards on the Zodiac Wheel. This innovation was called quite inspiredly “mixing-up” by Lon Milo DuQuette.
Crowley noticed that it would make no sense having two cards with identical or similar astrological attributions because of the limited number of the cards. For example, suppose the Emperor of the Major Arcana is attributed to Aries. In that case, the King of Wands should not be placed in the same position bearing identical astrological attribution. Therefore, Crowley shifted all the cards clockwise with four signs. The King of Wands from Aries was moved to Sagittarius; the Queen of Disks from Taurus to Capricorn; the Knight of Swords from Gemini to Aquarius, and so on. However, it was not enough because due to this permutation, the King of Wands would have matched the card called Art (Temperance), the card attributed to Sagittarius. Therefore, Crowley set each card ten degrees off. As a result, the King of Wands rules from the twenty-first degree of Sagittarius to Scorpio’s twentieth-degree.
King of Wands – 21 degrees Scorpio to 20 degrees Sagittarius, respectively November 13 to December 12.
Queen of Wands – 21 degrees Pisces to 20 degrees Aries, respectively March 11 to April 10.
Knight of Wands – 21 degrees Cancer to 20 degrees Leo, respectively July 12 to August 11.
King of Cups – 21 degrees Aquarius to 20 degrees Pisces, respectively February 9 to March.
Queen of Cups – 21 degrees Gemini to 20 degrees Cancer, respectively June 11 to July 11.
Knight of Cups - 21 degrees Libra to 20 degrees Scorpio, respectively October 13 to November 12.
King of Swords - 21 degrees Taurus to 20 degrees Gemini, respectively May 11 to June 10.
Queen of Swords – 21 degrees Virgo to 20 degrees Libra, respectively September 12 to October 12.
Knight of Swords – 21 degrees Capricorn to 20 degrees Aquarius, respectively January 10 to February 8.
King of Disks – 21 degrees of Leo to 20 degrees of Virgo, respectively August 12 to September 11.
The Queen of Disks – 21 degrees Sagittarius to 20 degrees Capricorn, respectively December 13 to January 9.
Knight of Disks – 21 degrees Aries to 20 degrees Taurus, respectively April 11 to May 10.
While this arrangement may seem innovative, astrologically is one leg-broken. Crowley proposes an ‘odd’ positioning of these cards spread across two signs. Still, he does not mention any planetary attribution, which makes the whole distress meaningless. However, even if he would have specified the planetary attribution for these cards, planets behave differently in different decans and signs. While the idea of Court Cards in motion, transcending Zodiac signs, in theory, may sound exciting, cannot be attributed practically. It happens that recently I studied two astrology manuals that propose 360-degree Astrology. The authors propose a different interpretation for each degree of the Zodiac. Imagine instead of twelve signs, three-hundred sixty signs. I only mentioned this to underlain the absurdity of attributing ten degrees from one sign and twenty from another to one card. Moreover, Crowley only gave a location that, without its planetary attribution, is worthless.
Although Crowley does not mention it, there is a ‘traditional’ method of unknown origins which states that Kings are ruled by the Sun, Queens by the Moon, Knights by Mars and Pages by Venus. According to the Ptolemaic method of considering the central sign of the three consisting a season the most defining, we should consider the middle decan representative. Therefore, the astrological attribution of the King of Wands is Sun in Sagittarius. The Queen of Wands is Moon in Aries, and the Knight of Wands is Mars in Leo. Applying the same method, the King of Cups is Sun in Pisces; the Queen of Cups is Moon in Cancer; the Knight of Cups is Venus in Scorpio. The King of Swords is Sun in Gemini; the Queen of Swords is Moon in Libra, and the Knight of Swords is Venus in Aquarius. Similarly, the King of Disks is Sun in Virgo; the Queen of Disks is Moon in Capricorn, and the Knight of Disks is Venus in Taurus. However, we may go back to square one and face the same issue Crowley aimed to fix: have two or more cards with identical astrological attribution.
One of the most innovative modern alternatives to the traditional kabbalistic method was introduced by Robert Wang. Wang is the author of the Qabalistic Tarot, the Jungian Tarot and illustrator of the Golden Dawn Tarot created under Israel Regardie’s supervision.
While traditionally, the planets are attributed to the Paths of the Tree of Life, Wang also attributes the planets to the Sefirot. He argued that they “are, at one level, the bodily Chakras or Metals of the Alchemists.”
According to Wang, each Sefirot is associated with one specific planet. These are:
Kether – Aces – Pluto.
Chokhmah – Twos – Uranus.
Binah – Threes – Neptune.
Chesed – Fours – Jupiter.
Gevurah – Fives – Mars.
Tiferet – Sixes – Sun.
Netzach – Sevens – Venus
Hod – Eights – Mercury.
Yesod – Nine of Swords – Moon.
Malkuth – Tens – Saturn.
While this set-up seems charmingly straightforward, it is purely arbitrary, disregarding any astrological consideration.
Another arguable innovation by Wang is the attribution of the Suits to specific Zodiac signs. Although Wang is familiar with the Numerals’ traditional attribution to the Zodiac’s thirty-six decans , he chooses to assign the Suits exclusively to the Cardinal signs. Therefore, according to Wang, Wands are solely manifestations in Aries; Cups in Cancer; Swords in Libra; and Disks in Capricorn.
It is fundamental to have a complete and compact understanding of the Tarot’s connection with the other branches of esoteric science, especially with Astrology. It is not about finding a suitable match for individual cards but to find an integrated system in which all the seventy-eight cards are equally important pieces of a complex, clockwork-like machinery.
While the traditional attribution of the thirty-six numerals is based on the so-called Chaldean method, in modern times, the assignment of decans was replaced by another method called Triplicity.
As we know, there are Four Elements and three Zodiac signs attributed to each one of them. The Fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius; the Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces; the Air signs are Libra, Aquarius and Gemini, while the Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. Generally operating with ten planets, these are also considered having these elementary characteristics with two planets, Venus and Mercury, having two aspects, one earthly and another airy.
Accordingly, the firey planets are Sun, Mars and Jupiter. The watery planets are Moon, Pluto and Neptune. The airy planets are Mercury, Venus and Uranus. The earthly planets are Saturn, Venus and Mercury.
The Triplicity system may seem complicated at first, but it is quite logical and straightforward. The first decan of the sing is ruled by the sing’s ruling planet. The second decan is governed by the next same elementary attribution zodiac sign’s ruling planet. The third decan is ruled by the governing planet of the third similar elementary attribution sing.
Therefore, the first decan of Aries is ruled by Mars, the second by Sun, which is the ruling planet of Leo, and the third by Jupiter, the ruling planet of Sagittarius. The first decan of Tauris is ruled by Venus, the second by Mercury, and Saturn rules the third. The first decan of Gemini is governed by Mercury, the second by Venus and the third by Uranus. The first decan of Cancer is ruled by the Moon, the second by Pluto, and Neptune governs the third. Leo’s first decan is governed by the Sun, the second by Jupiter, while the third by Mars. The first decan of Virgo is ruled by Mercury, the second by Saturn and the third by Venus. Libra’s first decan is governed by Venus, the second by Uranus and the third by Mercury. The first decan of Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, the second by Neptune and the Moon is governs the third. Jupiter governs the first decan of Sagittarius, while Mars the second and the Sun rules the third. The first decan of Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, the second by Venus and Mercury governs the third. Uranus governs the first decan of Aquarius, while the second decan is ruled by Mercury and the third by Venus. Finally, the first decan of Pisces is ruled by Neptune, the second by the Moon and Pluto governs the third.
As a result, the complete astrological attribution of the thirty-six numerals is as follow:
Two of Wands – Mars in Aries.
Three of Wands – Sun in Aries.
Four of Wands – Jupiter in Aries.
Five of Disks – Venus in Taurus.
Six of Disks – Mercury in Taurus.
Seven of Disks – Saturn in Taurus.
Eight of Swords – Mercury in Geminin.
Nine of Swords – Venus in Geminin.
Ten of Swords – Uranus in Gemini.
Two of Cups – Moon in Cancer.
Three of Cups – Pluto in Cancer.
Four of Cups – Neptune in Cancer.
Five of Wands – Sun in Leo.
Six of Wands – Jupiter in Leo.
Seven of Wands – Mars in Leo.
Eight of Disks – Mercury in Virgo.
Nine of Disks – Saturn in Virgo.
Ten of Disks – Venus in Virgo.
Two of Swords – Venus in Libra.
Three of Swords – Uranus in Libra.
Four of Swords – Mercury in Libra.
Five of Cups – Pluto in Scorpio.
Six of Cups – Neptune in Scorpio.
Seven of Cups – Moon in Scorpio.
Eight of Wands – Jupiter in Sagittarius.
Nine of Wands – Mars in Sagittarius.
Ten of Wands – Sun in Sagittarius.
Two of Disks – Saturn in Capricorn.
Three of Disks – Venus in Capricorn.
Four of Disks – Mercury in Capricorn.
Five of Swords – Uranus in Aquarius.
Six of Swords – Mercury in Aquarius.
Seven of Swords – Venus in Aquarius.
Eight of Cups – Neptune in Pisces.
Nine of Cups – Moon in Pisces.
Ten of Cups – Pluto in Pisces.
This system is more satisfactory, however, I think it still requires some adjustments and corrections. For example, according to the Chaldean system, Mars is ruling over two consecutive decans, the last decan of Pisces and the first of Aries. A similar ‘glitch’ can be identified here, with Venus ruling over the last decan of Virgo and the first of Libra.
There has been, and there will be, arguments regarding the Court Cards’ role, respectively which of the four Courts of the Tarot correspond to the three Courts of the regular decks, respectively, which is the additional card. There are many divergent opinions and viable argumentations. Some advocates an original all-male line-up of warriors represented by King, Knight and Page with the addition of a female card, the Queen; others favour the King, Queen and Knight formula with the introduction of the Page as a possible second female card for balancing the Courts.
In my opinion, Knights represent the Cardinal, Queens the Fixed and Pages the Mutable qualities. The Qualities are also representing genders, the Cardinal being masculine, the Fixed feminine while Pages are androgynous, respectively they can be male or female accordingly.
While the Qualities may indicate the cards’ position, we still have to establish their planetary attributions. I always perceived the Court Cards as unsettled vibrations representing difficult situations or personal challenges. From the perspective of spiritual development, moving one step higher on the ladder of evolution is not an easy task. Certainly, it requires an extra effort or ‘super effort as Gurdjieff would have formulated. Therefore, these cards’ ruling planet should not be the planets in their domicile – where they feel most comfortable – but exactly the opposite, planets in distress, respectively in opposition. Instead of moving the cards around as Crowley proposed, I think we should re-ordinate their planetary attribution. For instance, the Knight of Wands in Aries should be governed by Venus, the ruling planet of Libra, the sing opposed to Aries. The Queen of Disks in Taurus is ruled by the ruling planet of Scorpio, and so on. As I mentioned, these are all tensioned relationships where planets of one nature are experiencing challenges in signs of different nature. Aries is a firey sign, while Venus is an airly planet. Taurus is an earthly sign, while the ruling planet of Scorpio is watery.
The Kings, on the other hand, represent the fulfilment of the potential forecasted by the Aces. Although the Aces are usually attributed to the seasons, practically, they only represent ‘sparks’, and they can be identified with the Equinoxes and Solstices. The Ace of Wands promises the Spring that just begun, but the King embodied the fully developed Spring. In the Aces, the Sun is only cracking the dawn; in the Kings, it fully shines in the middle of the sky.
Generally, the twenty-two Major Arcana cards are divided into the twelve Zodiac signs and seven planets plus the three Elementals, or according to the modern astrological developments, to ten planets. Most frequently, Air has been replaced by Uranus, Water by Neptune, and Fire somewhat inappropriately by Pluto, which is naturally a watery planet as governor of Scorpio.
Identifying the position of the twelve Zodiac signs is easy. Finding the perfect match for the twelve Zodiac signs within the Major Arcana cards is less facile. One should forget about both the Sepher Yetzirah and the Roman numbering of the cards and start with a clean sheet. Synthesising each card’s central feature and comparing it with each Zodiac sign’s dominant trait can be the winning formula.
These twelve cards’ astrological attribution can be chosen between the Sun or the governing planets of these signs. The decision depends on how one handles the cards with planetary attributions. The ten cards associated with the planets can be kept in their domicile, in case the cards attributed to the Zodiac sings should be ruled by the Sun, or these cards can be dispatched to alternative positions. One may identify unallocated astrological attributions or angular positions.
No one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. For one more time, it is essential to ask questions and try to find our own answers. It is not a matter of right or wrong but of making an effort to learn and understand. Tarot, of all the esoteric systems and divinatory instruments, is the most complex tool for learning and self-development.