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Star of Hope

by Tony Willis

There is an occult tradition that, after every catastrophe, the Star of Hope rises in the east signalling that all is not lost, and that a meaningful future can be built upon the ashes of disaster. In the tarot Trumps, The Tower destroyed by Lightning is followed by The Star. Some call it the Star of Hope; almost every book on tarot divination declares it’s primary significance to be Hope. Only those, like Etteilla, who are a law unto themselves (and oddly enough A.E. Waite in The Key to the Tarot, treading in Etteilla’s footsteps) ascribe to The Star meanings incompatible with Hope.

htmfltrump17     Arcane-Arcana-17-etoile-star

The design of the Star has altered very little from the time of the Tarot de Marseille to the publication of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot. Likewise, its divinatory significance has also remained constant.

 Arcane-Arcana-17-etoile-star          RWS_Tarot_17_Star

Continental gypsies passed down to their protégés studying the lore of the tarot this mantra for Trump 17: “It is the symbol of Hope. Tell your client not to be discouraged, however. A storm is always followed by a rainbow and fine weather.” When reversed, they took The Star to remain a fortunate omen, declaring it a sign that some piece of business or a love affair was nearing a happy conclusion.

S.L. Mathers, in his short work Fortune Telling Cards: The Tarot, its occult signification, use in fortune telling, and method of play, etc. (George Redway, 1888), assigns Trump 17 the keywords

Hope, Expectation, Bright promises; Reversed: Hopes not fulfilled, Expectations disappointed or fulfilled in a minor degree.

The British astrologer-occultist Sepharial is more pessimistic about the card’s portents when in reverse. In The Art of Card Fortune Telling, he states The Star’s meanings as

hope. Reversed: loss, theft, or privation of some sort.

The single attribution to the card when upright is what one would expect it to be. The reversed meanings appear to be an attempt to accommodate Etteilla’s interpretation of the card by shifting the significances he assigns to the upright card to its reversed position. Etteilla’s influence lingers on in some manuals on tarot reading to this day.

Crowley, as happens so often, comes closer to the pre-G.D. delineation in his Book of Thoth. There he gives it as his opinion that The Star represents:

Hope, unexpected help, clarity of vision, spiritual insight; if ill-dignified, can mean error of judgement, dreaminess, disappointment.

This is a slightly more comprehensive exposition of what Trump 17 portends than  supplied by Mathers’ in the G.D.’s tarot bible, Book T:

Hope, faith, unexpected help. But sometimes also dreaminess, deceived hope, etc.

In the 1950s, Frank Lind, having studied many of the tarot masters who had preceded him, gave the meanings for The Star as

Hope. Faith. Peace. Truth. Spiritual love. Selflessness. Promising outlook.

Sixty years on, published delineations for Trump 17 are not much different from this.

The occult titles of the card are: The Divine Powers of Nature; Nature (meaning either Nature as an impersonal force, or a personification of Nature employed as a metaphor, Mother Nature); and Fecundity. The nude figure on the card is seen by some occultists as pouring out Nature’s grace onto water and land, an act that cannot help but imbue both elements with fertility, each after its own kind.

The Latin phrases associated with The Star are Spes, Hope; Intuitio, Intuition; and Divinatio Naturalis, Natural Divination. I will start with the last of these, as it is necessary to have its meaning clear in order properly to understand the two preceding attributions. Natural divination in this context refers to astrology. The planets in their motions are a natural phenomenon. I might consult a dozen astrologers but they will all be looking at the same celestial diagram, for a horoscope is a map of the heavens set for a particular time and a particular place. Every astrologer will agree on that. But if I visit a dozen tarot readers, each will lay down a set of cards unique to the moment, the time and the place of the consultation. The same will be true of a reading made by means of geomancy or the runes. Thus astrology is designated a form of “natural divination”, which is not to suggest that the tarot or geomancy or the runes are “unnatural”. They do, however, belong to another branch of divination called sortilege, that is to say, the drawing of lots.

In Practical Occultism, Dion Fortune explains:

“In all discernment of the future three factors have to be taken into consideration and their relative influence assessed in any given case; these are, firstly, the cosmic or spiritual influences, which can be calculated astrologically because the cosmic forces correlate with the stellar rhythms; secondly, the astral conditions, which arise out of the interaction of cosmic and karmic influences; and thirdly, physical plane conditions, in which human free will and intelligence or the lack of it play a part.”

Notice that she puts astrology first. D.F. goes on to explain that although the cosmic influences playing upon any event or set of circumstances can be calculated astrologically, the astral conditions have to be discerned psychically, while the mundane conditions need to be “observed and judged by ordinary human shrewdness in the light of experience”.

Astrology operates at the cosmic level, sortilege operates at the astral or psychic level, while a specific type of intuition is at work on the mundane level. No one of these methods of seeing into the future is superior to any other; everything depends on the skill of the diviner. Some of us have the ability to interpret a horoscope, others possess the gift of clairvoyance, or second-sight as it once was known. Still others are able to apprehend the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, or to gain insight into specific areas of it that have become their speciality. Those people I have known who were blessed with this talent were all, oddly enough, entrepreneurs or business persons and not occultists; they didn’t even have any interest in esoteric matters.

Those who can read the signs of the times are a rare breed. On the other hand, those who profess clairvoyant ability are legion. Which no one should wonder at since most humans are born with some degree of talent in this direction. I have lost track of the number of times I was told by someone, in the pre-mobile phone era, that when their landline rang, they “knew” who was calling them before they picked up the receiver. It appears to be a latent faculty of the species homo sapiens. Without the correct training, however, clairvoyance remains a hit and miss method of working. Even the partly trained can go astray. It is important to recognize on which level of the astral one is operating. For the astral comprises an entire world just as our planet, the Earth, does. On Earth, Alaska is a very different place to the Sahara and different again from the Amazonian jungle. Just so the lower astral is to be distinguished from the upper astral and the region of the upper astral concerned with emotion working in tandem with intellect is to be distinguished from the region concerned with archetypal imagery.

It is a relatively easy matter to access the lower astral. Anyone with a good degree of patience and sufficient instruction can do it. Raising consciousness higher than the lower astral is a more taxing feat, and even when a person is able to make the transition, they also need to recognize the moment when transition occurs, otherwise they will mistake the images of wish-fulfilment and idle desire for the accurate and reliable symbols of futurity.

I know scores of tarot readers, for whom the cards are a predictive medium, who can correctly divine the past history of a client they have never met before, and when they proceed to discussion of future possibilities they have good news for the inquirer– a kind and thoughtful lover is on the horizon, or a hoped-for promotion, or a move to a more spacious house in a desirable neighborhood. But they are often not reading the future, they are reading the client’s hopes for what the future will bring. These events may be present in the cards that make up the reading, so there is no deliberate fakery involved. The cards themselves are mirroring what is in the inquirer’s mind rather than accurately portraying the future. This peculiarity is an aspect of tarot reading not much spoken of and it constitutes an unexplored area so far as most students of tarot are concerned. That is because the rules of occult tarot reading are known to only a few, despite the fact that many of them lie hidden in plain sight.

The factors employed in astrology are not affected in this way, corresponding, as Dion Fortune tells, to cosmic forces, with those forces aligned in turn to spiritual influences, all of which occurs on a plane superior to the astral. The superiority of cosmic forces linked to the movement of the planets outranks astral and mundane conditions. It is the occult principle behind the practice of talisman making: a spiritual influence is attracted into the previously prepared talisman by a magickal operation carried out at a time when the configuration of planets in the heavens corresponds to the qualities with which the operator wishes to imbue the talisman. As the symbolism of an astrological chart is fixed, with the planets paralleling known and well-defined archetypes – deities, Qabalistic sephiroth, or whatever – the possibilities for error are much reduced. Even so, accurate prediction through astrology depends on the ability of the astrologer to pick her way through the seeming contradictions found in the horoscope. A Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, for instance, can manifest on the material plane in a variety of ways, so many possibilities exist that in the past whole books have been devoted to the effects of this one planetary configuration.

One tarot master has given a clear explanation of the inner significance of The Star. It depends upon the idea of The Lightning-Struck Tower, in its highest manifestation, representing that “disruptive agency, an immediate blazing revelation”. This aspect of Trump 16 was discussed in my previous article. The tarot master I referred to earlier suggests that the intervention depicted on the Tower card is one of the ways the Absolute, or primeval unity, propels itself into our everyday lives.

On the spiritual plane, this same author informs us, The Star represents the second way that the primeval unity which stands above everything, projects itself ray-like into physical reality. Whereas the Tower denotes a caustic, disruptive  agency, that mediated by The Star resembles a gentle beam of light projected into consciousness from above, descending through the planetary spheres (signified by the seven lesser stars on the card) to the mundane world. At the level of the soul, this author continues, The Star represents the logical functions of consciousness, in other words the methods of mental programming that, used correctly, allow one to edge a little closer to the truth. He concludes: “On the physical level it represents astrology”, meaning astrology as a “natural” form of divination – divination from patterns found in nature, if you prefer.

Note how all the links in this chain of thought hold together (see previous articles for the occult significances of the Devil and Tower cards). In Mystic Tarot terms, the Devil represents Logic; the Tower represents the Elimination of Logic; and the Star represents Logic Reborn, cleansed and strengthened by the ordeal it has been through. This progression means there is hope for us all for that journey is open to everyone.


Myths & the Tarot’s Tower

by Tony Willis       

When the tarot first came to the attention of French occultists, the title for Trump 16, The Tower, and the image that goes with it (see below) were well established. However, the Trump was not always so named and not always so represented. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it had a variety of names: Il Fuoco, fire; La Saetta, translated as lightning or thunderbolt; La Sagitta, the arrow; and La Casa del Diavolo, the devil’s house. Later it acquired a title that is the opposite of the Devil’s House; it was called The House of God, disconcerting some tarot historians, as this was a term used, at one time, on the continent for a hospital. These alternative titles and the images associated with them play little or no part in the occult development of the tarot.

Occultists of the French Occult Revival of the eighteenth century accepted the Tarot de Marseilles symbolism of the card and the name attached to it in that deck, The Lightning Struck Tower, as basically correct, even if they desired to ‘rectify’ or ‘redeem’ certain aspects of the card’s imagery. This tendency continued into the twentieth century and beyond. Paul Foster Case, when he had the Builders of the Adytum tarot drawn, instructed that the tower be shown with twenty-two courses of brickwork. (Third image below.) Case wanted to align the tower with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, also twenty-two in number. The letters of the alphabet link to speech, for letters spell out words, and that concept in turn connects to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The Bible tells us that humans attempted to construct a tower that would reach to Heaven itself. At the time, so the story goes, everyone on earth spoke the same language. In order to confound the effort to climb up to Heaven, God caused the builders to speak in different languages, so that they didn’t understand one and another, and the project had to be called off. Almost from the first, occultists assumed that Trump 16 depicted events in the biblical story and the card was named The Tower of Babel by some and assigned the meaning “the punishment of pride”.

visconti sforza 16    Arcane-Arcana-16-maison-dieu-tower    bota trump 16

Deriving their ideas from the design on the Tarot de Marseilles card, tarot masters such as Eliphas Levi, Paul Christian, Papus and Oswald Wirth interpreted the Tower as indicating “ruin, in all its various aspects”. The gypsies of the continent concur. They interpret the card as Catastrophe – a sign that danger is on its way. They said it heralded unexpected misfortune, but it could also be, more mildly, a sign of events that will surprise the inquirer, and which might be good or otherwise. S.L. Mathers, in the Golden Dawn’s tarot manual, Book T, gives the card these meanings:

Ruin, Disruption, Over-throw, Loss, Bankruptcy; Reversed: These in a more or less partial degree.

Frank Lind, writing half a century after the compilation of Book T, is in general agreement with Mathers:

Bolt out of the blue. Catastrophe. Ruin of one’s plans. Danger-signal. Disillusionment.

This is the broad consensus of opinion on the meaning of the card. A.E. Waite, outside the pages of The Key to the Tarot, gave Trump 16 the following significance, diverging hardly at all from the pronouncements of Mathers and Lind.

Destruction, confusion, judgment; also the idea of Divine Wrath.

The instruction book that comes with the Cagliostro Tarot, and which is grounded in the teachings of Levi and Papus, has:

Catastrophe, ruin, collapse, disasters, misfortunes. The punishment of pride, weakness of the soul Reversed: Pride Punished; Sudden Accident.

Basing his conclusions on the cited sources, the British astrologer-occultist Sepharial came up with a similar set of keywords for The Tower. What appears below is an amalgam of entries from his Manual of Occultism (c. 1910) and The Kabala of Numbers (1914).

Sudden calamity, the overthrow of spiritual pride. The pride of intellect and its consequence. Overthrow; reversal; ruin; fatality; sudden death; catastrophe; accidents.

In The Art of Card Fortune Telling (for which I don’t have a date), Sepharial says the same in other words.

Misery, adversity, disgrace, even ruin; some unforeseen or unexpected calamity. Reversed: it loses much of its malignity, though with bad cards near, it might show imprisonment.

The only meaning I would add to the list is “Enlightenment”, which topples false perceptions and calls for a fresh start as much as financial ruin does. In his book The Painted Caravan, Basil Rákóczi assigns the Trump the meanings “loss of faith” and “to see through hypocrisy, to gain freedom of body or mind at great cost”, both of which relate to the effects of enlightenment, which can be uplifting or temporarily (or so it is to be hoped) discouraging depending on how prepared for the blow a person is mentally and spiritually. There are also those who read the card, when it is appropriate to do so, as the eye-opening jolt of love at first sight. This certainly fits the symbolism of the Tower, interpreted metaphorically.

What I have called the Secret Titles of the Trumps are not really secret. It is just that, in most countries where English is the predominant language, these titles are relatively unknown, even those who have come across them affording them little regard. These titles were printed on the cards Papus used to illustrate his Tarot of Divination. Those associated with The Tower are: Destruction through Antagonism, Disruption of Material Equilibrium, and Ruin and Catastrophe. They can be seen, in French, under the picture of Lightning Struck Tower on the Papus card. (See below.) They have been interpreted as relating to the punishment of pride, the downfall of the spirit who attempts to penetrate the mysteries of God, and reversals of fortune respectively.

Arcane-Arcana-16-maison-dieu-towerAll three interpretations can be related to the story of the tower of Babel as related by the Talmud. There we are told that it was Nimrod who commanded the tower be built, with the intention of taking Heaven by arms. While the tower was still abuilding, Nimrod and his chief minister, who was the tower’s architect, climbed to the top of the unfinished structure and Nimrod, who the Bible tells us was a mighty hunter, loosed an arrow at the throne of God standing high above them. This was the last straw for the Almighty. He confounded the speech of the workmen so that they understood neither their overseers nor each other, but at the same time He smote Nimrod and his vizier with a bolt of lightning causing them to topple from the tower. There is an occult tradition that the two figures hurled from the Tower Stuck by Lightning are the hubristic king and his first minister. Nimrod was blinded by the lightning flash but lived.

There are echoes in this last detail of Greek myths where one of Zeus’s paramours asks to see him “as he really is”, in all his glory, only to be blinded when the god reluctantly accedes to the request. Those myths represent the opposite side of the coin. They convey a sense of the effect that the revelation of naked truth can have on unripe souls, while the myth – for this is surely what it is – of Nimrod and the tower of Babel illustrates the secret titles of Trump 16. Human pride is punished, those who sought to lay hands on God’s mysteries without the proper preparation meet, not with an increase of authority, but with downfall and disempowerment in a devastating reversal of fortune.

Other occult titles attributed to The Tower are the Elimination (or Expulsion or Exclusion) of Logic; Astral Constraint; and Physical Destruction. The first of these is a back-reference to The Devil card, for one of its secret titles is Logic. A good servant but a bad master, Logic must be kept in its place, and it is the function of the occult principle illustrated in the symbolism of Trump 16 to do exactly that. Whatever humans attempt to do, whether simply as an ordinary member of the genus homo sapiens, or as an initiate of the sacred mysteries, is subject to astral constraint. While the matter of which the astral plane is composed is pliable by nature and can be moulded by the human mind, there are limits to its elasticity, and restrictions concerning which images can survive on the astral once the force of the human will has been removed from them and they are left to fend for themselves in that great heaving sea of ethereal forces.

The third occult title, Physical Destruction, is easier to understand, being yet another reference to the ruin/catastrophe aspect of the Trump. Something on the material plane is destroyed – a career, a marriage, a friendship.

Like the preceding Trump, The Lightning-Struck Tower must be carefully handled in a divination. These days, when I read the tarot, I do so for others who, like myself, have been treading the esoteric path for many years. For them, Trump 16 is as likely to signify a realization of great importance to their spiritual evolution as it is to point to material ruin or the collapse of a close relationship. The diviner should always take into account the inquirer’s nature, her temperament and psychology, when constructing the narrative outlined by the keywords of the cards making up the reading. It can be as important a factor as their standing in life and their social condition – married, single, divorced, daughter, parent, and so forth. Diviners ignore this factor at their peril.

The Tarot’s Devil

by Tony Willis   

Although there are many unwilling to accept the fact, the evidence suggests that the tarot first saw the light of day, in the form we understand today as constituting a tarot deck, in fifteenth century Italy. The imagery of these early tarots reflected the ambient culture. It contained the representation of a Pope, the Day of Judgment, and of the Christian virtues, Justice, Strength and Temperance. The Female Pope, nowadays more commonly called The High Priestess, references a Christian legend about a woman who, having disguised herself as a man, was later elected pope – the infamous, and almost certainly unhistorical, Pope Joan. Another part of this stream of Christian symbolism is The Devil, Trump 15.

devil old 3f01  devil old f30d80  early15

Divinatory meanings associated with the card in the early years when the tarot came to the attention of occultists, and when Christianity was still the main religious force in Europe, take up aspects of the devil’s supposed attributes. There is a record of the tarot being used for divination in eighteenth-century Bologna. The meaning assigned The Devil in that text is ‘anger’. In our more secular culture, the designation may raise eyebrows, but biblically speaking the quality most often attached to the devil is anger.

The occultists who took up the tarot in 1800s adopted other characteristics attributed to the devil, echoes of which can be discerned in tarot delineations published today. One such modern meaning is: “Temptation to evil, irresistible if the card is reversed.” We will meet this significance again and again as we review the significances offered by a range of authors from various countries and a variety of backgrounds over the course of two centuries. Other recurring meanings are ‘the deliberate working of evil’ and ‘lack of principle’, as well as ‘deception, loss of virtue, lying, and sedition’, all devilish attributes.

Meanings assigned the Trump that are outside the ambit of Christian symbolism for the devil are Fate (sometimes rendered as Destiny), Materialism, Serious Illness, and the Instincts. In French texts, the term Force Majure is applied to The Devil card, and it appears in a few English texts, too, since the phrase cannot be succinctly translated into English. The occultist Sepharial defines Force Majure thus in relation to Trump 15:

some powerful influence working in our lives in spite of ourselves

Usually this ‘powerful influence’ is an outside force, but it can as easily be an internal one, and that is why the instincts are filed under the heading of The Devil. So, also, we find J.E. Cirlot (A Dictionary of Symbols, 1770) summing up this aspect of the card’s power as:

The instincts, desire in all its passionate forms, . . . perversion.

Sometimes – more often than is helpful – Force Majure is translated literally as Great Force, which fails to catch the flavor of the concept. At other times, instead of Great Force, we find Blind Force, possibly meaning a force applied unintelligently, and hence carrying the danger of being applied inhumanely.

Arcane-Arcana-15-diable-devilArcane-Arcana-15-diable-devil15 II

Another term frequently used by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century occultists about the Devil that occasionally trickles down to the twentieth century, is Fatality. Nowadays we reserve the word almost exclusively for a death. In earlier times, it referred to the workings of Fate. When S.L. Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, writing, in 1888, without his G.D. hat, on assigns to The Devil the meanings

Fatality for Good. Reversed, Fatality for Evil.

he wants his readers to understand ‘Fate working, ultimately, for the inquirer’s good’, and when the card is reversed, ‘workings of Fate that will discomfort or inconvenience the inquirer in some way’.

When The Book of Occult and Fortune-Telling (c. 1925) reveals its predictive keyword for The Devil, it appends a brief explanation to clarify the matter.

Fatalism – your deeds are going to have their result (good or bad).

This is a cause-and-effect view of Fate – ‘as you sow so shall you reap’, or in the context of the Great Tempter, ‘be sure your sins will find you out’.

One dictionary definition of Fatality is

helplessness in the face of fate.

mmTarot 1515gd th15T_c46

Authors tend to favor one facet of The Devil’s power over the others, and who shall blame them, for Trump 15 is one of the most complex cards in the deck.

In the Golden Dawn’s tarot manual, S.L. Mathers emphasizes the Matter aspect of the Trump, not surprisingly, as he associates it with the Earth sign Capricorn.

Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession, especially if associated with the Lovers.

In The Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite offers a collection of meanings for the cards gleaned from a wide selection of writers, some having more authority in tarot matters than others. When he reveals what he really believes The Devil to mean (in a book written under the pseudonym Grand Orient) he says it represents:

Fatality, evil, the false spirit; can indicate also the good working through evil.

The false spirit is Satan.

Frank Lind, writing forty years later, has taken on board part of Grand Orient’s delineation. He has he card indicate:

Blind force. Deliberate working of evil. Hatred. Lack of principle . . . Persuasive talker.

but adds

One may easily misinterpret the meaning of this card. Black magic is only one of its significations, and it has a far wider implication. Out of what at first appears to be evil may come good, and vice versa.

Ideas of evil and temptation – the weasel words of the lying spirit – are to be found in Richard Huson’s 1936 interpretation of the card.

This card is eloquent of temptation – not necessarily itself an evil omen, but evil if the fatal enticement is not resisted. Illness, weakness, and an unprotected condition are also implied. If the card is reversed, the temptation comes with a vast and malign power, and he will be a strong man morally who succeeds in repulsing it.

The theme of ‘illness’ and ‘unprotected condition’ was highlighted by Sepharial in The Art of Card Fortune Telling (undated):

some powerful influence working in our lives in spite of ourselves, or in some cases our own physical inability to help ourselves, perhaps owing to serious illness. It need not be an evil influence, but it is one that we cannot resist. In its normal position this fateful card can be either good or evil, but reversed, it is invariably a bad sign.

Huson’s delineation is basically Sepharial’s interpretation reworded.

The society cartomancer Minetta gave the card the meanings

Deception, trouble, loss of virtue, lying, sedition, and temptation. This card represents a warning.

These are significances worth taking note of. Minetta was a professional card reader who was expected to make concrete predictions for her clients. Her methods resembled those of Lenormand card readers today, though her preferred medium was ordinary playing cards. Her role was fortune-teller; she could divine that a child would be laid up with a minor aliment, or that her client would soon be moving house, or attending an important ball. The meanings she adopted, either for playing cards or the tarot, needed to be event-oriented; and the meaning she suggests for The Devil should be viewed in that light. Minetta also adds that the card is a warning. That was her experience, and it is mine, also. Trump 15 often appears prominent in a spread when an inquirer is contemplating doing something underhand or unethical. The Devil warns them not to succumb to temptation, otherwise, in a phrase I have already used, their sins will find them out.

J.E. Cirlot, in The Dictionary of Symbols, following the lead of the French occultist Oswald Wirth, assigns the Trump these meanings:

The instincts, desire in all its passionate forms, the magick arts, disorder, perversion.

The wise, but now little-regarded British witch, Arnold Crowther assembled a fine collection of significances for Trump 15 ranging from ‘the instincts’ and ‘the sexual drive’ to ‘something other people consider evil but which isn’t really’, and touching along the way upon ‘a fated happening, but not necessarily an unfortunate or unpleasant one’.

As already mentioned, the card encompasses a wide assortment of meanings. All, however, are linked together by the idea of The Devil, and it matters not whether the tarot reader or the inquirer believe in Satan: the card’s significances derive from that concept and all these years later remain anchored to it. It has been said that no religion apart from Christianity believes in the Devil, but other religions have deities that block or hinder the works of the gods and goddesses of their pantheon, and who disrupt the efforts of humans, too. In her book on the Cartouche cards (The Way of Cartouche, St. Martin’s Press, 1985), Murry Hope explains the meaning of Card No. 10, Set, saying that it

represents the negative force or anti-ray and all forms of opposition, delays, hindrances and unforeseen problems. Set can also indicate one’s personal opposition to an idea, to change or to a proposed project.

and pointing out the up-side of the card by saying

[Set] may, like Saturn in astrology, teach us through delays, difficulties and problems, [and] ultimately it helps us to correct our faults and mistakes and gives us a better understanding of the principles of cosmic law.

Exactly the same could be said of the function of The Devil card in the tarot.

Because this Trump carries so many disparate connotations, great care is to be taken in interpreting it when attempting predictions. It is important to take into account the cards that surround The Devil in the spread, the inquirer’s station in life, her character, and even, sometimes, the nature of the question posed. I once had a request for a reading from a mini-cab driver who frequently drove me home on nights when I had been working the late shift. I was aware, because he had told me himself, that he had been to prison. I had also picked up, sitting next to him in the cab, that he was by nature a chancer, a jack-the-lad, and that his stay in jail had done nothing to chasten him. I was not too astonished, therefore, to find The Devil in his reading, though I was saddened to see it placed between a reversed Coin/Pentacles card and a Sword card indicating confinement, loss of liberty.

I explained that his financial situation (Pence card) might tempt him to take what was not rightfully his (Devil) and that if he did so he would undoubtedly be found out (Sword card). I was as clear as I could be. Nevertheless, I had no confidence that my message had stuck home, and was dismayed but not surprised when, three weeks later, I learnt he had left the mini-cab company under a cloud. What became of him after that I have no way of knowing. Judging from the lay of the cards in his reading, it is probably that went back to prison. I hope not, while recognizing that he did not seem the type to heed the warning in the card. He was a man who trusting in his own luck, believing that he would not get caught, or if he were caught that he could talk his way out of trouble.

How do the Mystical, the so-called Secret Titles of the Trump relate to the foregoing? The first Secret Title is Logic, and it is applied to the Devil in the spirit of the occult tenet that defines the devil as analysis without synthesis. Reliance on logic alone leads to some decidedly off-kilter perceptions. The best example I have come across was encapsulated in a newspaper headline: Man Kills Mother To Preserve Parking Space. In the body of the accompanying article, the murderer explained to the court that residential parking spaces in his area were extremely scarce whereas human beings were ten a penny.

When the application of pure logic leads someone to take a life, we have clearly entered the realm of evil. Thankfully, the process of spiritual evolution embodied in the sequence of tarot Trumps does not end with The Devil and, one of the mystical titles of the next card, The Tower, is the Exclusion of Logic, allowing rational thought to proceed so far but no further before the necessary corrective is applied.

The Devil’s second secret title is the Serpent Nahash, this being, we are told, the name of the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Eve to taste the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The link is, of course, to The Devil card’s meaning of Temptation. The association has a deeper significance in that the way into a labyrinth is also the way out of it: if Nahash, by his actions, brought about the Fall, then, so the thinking goes, he must hold the key, or one of the keys, that can release humanity from its fallen condition. The theory arising out of this proposition is beyond the scope of this series of articles, and the practice even more so.

The third secret title is Fate. As this is also given as one of the card’s divinatory significances, no further elucidation is required.

At the spiritual level, the card signifies Predestination. Only a few things in life are predestined: usually a challenge is an opportunity. But from time to time we encounter an obstacle that is truly insurmountable, and when we do, it is just as well that we recognize it as such, and reschedule our life-goals accordingly. At the intellectual level, the significance of the Devil is Mystery, referencing the occult mysteries, the secret knowledge of the laws of cause and effect, which, while they remain hidden from the majority, can be found, studied and put to use by those able to recognize them for what they are. These laws are present in the world for all to see, but are rejected as of no account by those in thrall to logic; and thus are the great secrets of magick shielded from the profane. At the material level, the card relates to unforeseen fatalities of a mundane nature – to natural calamities and convulsions of nature such as earthquakes and tsunamis – and to the same kinds of events but on a minor scale in the lives of individuals.

A Reversible Process

by Tony Willis   

Trump 14 bears the name Temperance, one of the cardinal virtues according to Christian theology. There are in all four cardinal virtues: Strength, Justice, Prudence and Temperance. Although taken up by the Christians, the cardinal virtues have a history that stretches back in time beyond Christianity; they can be found in the Platonic dialogues and other similar works penned by the Greek philosophers and their later counterparts of the Roman empire. Strength and Justice are represented in the tarot by Trumps 8 and 11. The only virtue missing from the tarot is Prudence. This is not the place to go into why one virtue is apparently absent from the tarot deck. Our subject for this article is the card Temperance, which the modern mind will never comprehend if it does not know what that word meant to Christians of the Middle Ages, the time when the Trumps came into existence.

TDMFLtrump14  major14  14 II

The emblematic figure of Temperance in the Tarot de Marseilles is a winged female dressed in a long robe, standing out of doors, pouring liquid from one vase into another. The conventional reading of the picture is that the lady is mixing wine with water, thus halving its strength, tempering its ability to intoxicate by reducing its alcoholic potency. This tableau encapsulates the significance of Temperance, Trump 14, for it indicates both moderation and restraint. An alternative image for Temperance was of a woman holding in her hands a bridal and reins, used to control and direct a horse, thus representing restraint of an individual’s animal nature. At times, rather than restraint, the term good management is employed. It is worth noting, in this respect, that the word economy was first applied to the management of a home, and some writers in the twentieth century gave ‘economy’ as one of Trump 14’s keywords.

Since the figure on the Tarot de Marseilles card is assumed to be mixing water and wine, other keywords for Temperance are Combination and Uniting. In divination, the Trump can signify the combination of ideas and the solutions that arise from pooling resources, whether these take the form of intelligence (i.e., information) or money or other assets. Prediction-wise, Uniting translates into marriage, the card often being taken as an omen for a wedding that will prove fruitful, either in terms of offspring or through social advancement. Traces of these meanings can be readily located in the delineations supplied by tarot experts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

S.L. Mathers, having studied the French masters (he lived for a considerable time in Paris and his French was fluent), assigned Temperance the following keywords:

Combination, Conformation, Uniting; R. Ill-advised combinations, Disunion, Clashing interests, etc.

When Mathers came to compile the Golden Dawn’s tarot manual, Book T, he adjusted his view slightly, giving the card the revised significance:

The combination of Forces. Realisation. Action (material), with an effect either for good or evil.

The occultist Sepharial allocates Trump 14 the meanings:

Moderation, carefulness, economy, good management. Reversed: an important card showing divided interests.

Writing in the 1950s, Frank Lind favors the keywords:

Moderation, Diplomacy, and Combination, while suggesting that, when the card appears upside-down, it implies Opposition.

A diplomatic approach is one that strives to create a win-win situation, wherein everyone benefits and nobody feels bested or taken advantage of. This is what Lind had in mind when he associated the keyword Diplomacy with the card Temperance. Other writers suggest Negotiation or Arbitration as suitable meanings for the card for the same reason. Where other people’s needs are not taken into account, grievances thrive and multiply leading in turn to an unwillingness to cooperate, an unwillingness at times so strong that someone becomes an active opponent to a scheme or an idea. Here we encounter Lind’s Opposition, which is Mathers’s Disunion in another guise.

A further facet of disunion occurs when we think of Union as a focused approach to a problem. Then disunion refers to diffusion, lack of focus, the ‘clashing interests’ mentioned by Mathers, and Sepharial’s ‘divided interests’, both of which are interpreted as barriers to success since they are reversed meanings for the card.

Continental gypsies saw Temperance as a fortunate omen when upright, possibly forecasting for the inquirer marriage to a wealthy person. Reversed, however, they took it as indicating a degree of thoughtlessness that would have damaging consequences – the opposition due to lack of diplomacy we have already come across.

They had one other keyword that they applied to the card, one that sets us on a journey leading back to the spiritual or higher meaning of the preceding Trump, Death. That keyword is Metamorphosis, signifying the change of one thing into another. This view of the potency mediated by the card lies behind its alternative, if rarely used, title, The Alchemist. The science of Alchemy, the precursor of modern chemistry, was predicated on the belief that it was possible to turn lead into gold, and as this is a change of one thing into another, it is a striking instance of metamorphosis.

The notion does not yet connect up with the higher meanings of Trump 13, Death. One more step is needed to accomplish that, and we find it in the divinatory meaning assigned to Temperance by C.C. Zain, founder of the Church of Light: Regeneration. What is metamorphized, what is transmuted by the alchemist, is at the same time regenerated: what died due to the action of Trump 13, is changed and given new life by the processes represented by Trump 14.

Paul Christian, one-time pupil of Eliphas Levi suggests Initiative as the primary keyword for the card. Papus allows Initiative only a secondary role. Initiative on its own is too passive a meaning for such a dynamic card, for Temperance represents initiative moving into action, powering and directing events. For this reason, authors such as Mathers have chosen to emphasize Action at the expense of Initiative.

The card’s ‘Secret Titles’ are: Reversibility; Harmony of Mixtures (the Harmony of Mixed Elements); and Balance of Strengths. The first of these, Reversibility, refers to a notion projected onto the figure on the card. When she has finished pouring liquid into the vase in her right hand, the lower vessel will be full and the upper one empty. It is assumed that at this point the Lady Temperance begins to transfer the liquid from the full container back into the empty one, and that she will do the same again when the currently empty vase has been filled. The comment on her repetitive action is at times expanded to ‘Reversibility of Processes’, since, presumably, she will continue doing the same thing over and over for all eternity. ‘Reversibility of Processes’ is also a reference to alchemy. For occultists, on the spiritual level Trump 14 signifies the Universal Solvent, a miraculous agent capable of transmuting base metal into gold.

Here we return to the idea that the figure on the card as an Alchemist. Esoteric teaching says that everything that exists came for One Thing (denoted by Trump 1, The Juggler or Magician). Since by this mode of thinking, lead and gold share the same origin, it was thought possible to change lead into gold by taking it back to its primordial state. This could only be accomplished by treating the lead with a substance called the Universal Solvent – the stone, or sometimes a powder, capable of dissolving anything that exists on the material plane, preparing it to be re-formed and reborn on the physical plane in a new and improved guise.

The Secret Title ‘Harmony of Mixtures’ refers to the action of Trump 14 on the intellectual level. It excites the card’s keyword ‘Combination’ into action; and according to the texts circulated among occultists it denotes “The combination of ideas which create the moral life of a human being – or on a wider stage, of the nation, or the race.” The ideas that influence the moral life of a nation are many and various, and several may actually be mutually exclusive; yet they exist together in the national psyche in a kind of harmony.

It is the same for individual psyches. We are all capable of believing directly opposing ideas, and of applying one idea in one set of circumstances and another idea in a another set of circumstances. How many of us in our youth encountered the expression “Don’t do as I do; do as I tell you”, spoken by a parent or mentor? In divination ‘Harmony of Mixtures’ corresponds to a pooling of solutions in order to come up with a way out of a problematic situation. The inquirer may need the cooperation of some other person if she is to get her scheme off the ground or successfully reach her goal. In the older meanings, this interpretation is covered by the phrase ‘the combination of forces’, highlighting the fact that the inquirer might have to combine her efforts or ideas with someone else’s in order to achieve her ends.

On the physical level, the combination of forces continues to be the key factor, but now the emphasis is on the forces of the natural world. These are principles such as male and female, active and passive. It is from the notion that male and female are to be combined that, back in the eighteenth century, the divinatory meaning of Marriage became associated with the card. The ‘Secret Title’ Balance of Strengths’ applies to this quality of the physical plane, too (though it actually holds sway on all planes). It refers to those working partnerships where each person has her or his role and the end product wouldn’t be saleable if one person’s contribution was absent. A case in point is the collaboration between W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. Gilbert wrote the libretti for the Savoy Operas and Sullivan wrote the music. Neither was as successful apart as they were together, but both were necessary components of the operettas they produced.

Around about the time of Eliphas Levi, another title became associated with Trump 14 which the student investigating tarot lore might come across. That title is variously rendered in English as The Intelligence of the Sun or The Solar Genius (‘genius’ in this case meaning ‘a spirit’, and in the present context ‘intelligence’ also refers to a spirit, a mind without a physical vehicle). On the Tarot de Marseilles card (see the first line of cards toward the start of this article) the figure of Temperance bears a flower-like shape on her forehead. Some of the French tarot masters altered this to the astrological sigil for the Sun, a circle with a dot at its center, and aligned the card with solar forces by naming it, as we have just seen, The Intelligence of the Sun.

Temperance_tarot_charles6   14 visconti

The earliest tarots do not depict the Lady Temperance with wings.(See above.) By the time the Tarot de Marseilles deck was created, someone had turned Temperance into an angelic figure. Nineteenth century ‘rectifiers’ of the tarot images chose to retain the wings, not knowing any better. In these ‘improved’ tarots, Temperance is winged and wears the solar emblem on her brow. (See below.)

Arcane-Arcana-14-temperance    knapp 14

This legacy passed to A.E. Waite, and in the tarot drawn under his instruction, Temperance is definitely an angelic being with the solar sigil on her forehead. Because the figure was known in the French tarot tradition as The Intelligence of the Sun, it is not uncommon to find later commentators identifying the angel on the Temperance card with the Archangel Michael, who is the Angel of the Sun according to Qabalistic lore. The design of the Waite-Smith card has influenced a great many of the tarots that have come after it, as the line of cards below demonstrates.

r-w temperancetemperancemmTarot 14

All this recondite talk of alchemy and angels is of little interest to the average tarot reader, however. There the concern is almost entirely with the divinatory meanings of the cards. In the case of Trump 14, Temperance, one of the better synopses of its predictive significance is that penned by Richard Huson, and it is with that that I end this article.

This beautiful allegory stands for fruitfulness, action, life and vitality, tempered, however, with wisdom and restraint. It is a fortunate card and often fore­shadows a rich marriage. When in a reversed position, the symbolism of this arcanum loses its restraint, and fruitfulness degenerates into dissoluteness, vitality and action into mere restlessness and changeability.

Death is Not the End

                      by Tony Willis      

The Qabalist Eliphas Levi says of 13 that it is “the number of death and of immortality”, an apparently contradictory statement. He continues: it is “the most mysterious of numbers, for like the Sphinx it devours those who do not comprehend it.” At a later date, this theme was picked up by the seer and numerologist Cheiro, who wrote in his Book of Numbers, “In some ancient documents it is written: ‘He who understands the number 13 will be given power and dominion.’" To discover what lies behind these pronouncements, we must dig deep into the symbolism and lore associated with the tarot Trump 13, known as Death.

In divination, the card has as its chief meaning a metaphorical death. It may herald the conclusion of a cycle, the collapse of a business, or the termination of a love affair. When the card is prominent in a spread, expect something to end.

13 II    13 cary yale    ws Death

As there is no ending without a new beginning, the wise tarot reader looks to the symbol following Trump 13 for signs of a more upbeat tone attaching itself to the inquirer’s life, moving forward. In a reading concerning the affections, Death trailed by the Ace of Cups would show the end of one relationship (Death) while holding out the hope of a new one blossoming in the not too distant future (Ace of Cups – aces are indicative of the new).

Tarot readers should also be aware that there are some things an inquirer might ardently desire to see the end of. Death coming after the 8 of Swords, for instance, points to an oppressive situation where the inquirer feels they have restricted choices, that life is dull and lacks stimulation (8 Swords). Therefore the presence of Death in this instance is an uplifting factor, predicting the passing of these drab, uninspiring conditions.

Because it can be interpreted in a variety of ways, Death is not an easy card to decode. More than usual, this Trump’s meaning is dependent on the other cards around it in a layout. As noted, it can signify an ending, or an ending giving way to a new beginning. In this latter sense, it is a card of transformation. It can, however, be a symbol of misfortune for it can signal the death of hopes. One of the gypsy readings for Death is:

Upright or reversed, a bad omen. Do not undertake anything for the moment.

S.L. Mathers meanings for Trump 13 (The Tarot, 1888) encompass all the concepts just set forth.

Physical death, Change, Transformation, Alteration for the worse. Reversed: Death just escaped, Partial change, Alteration for the better.

Richard Huson’s suggested interpretation takes a gloomier view of the Trump.

This arcanum is a very evil omen . . .; it threatens serious loss, and should serve as a warning to the inquirer to postpone for a time any important action or enterprise which he may have been contemplating. If the card appears reversed, its portent is more sinister still; the inquirer should look to his health.

Both delineations are valid; it simply depends on where the Trump falls in a layout and which other cards surround it.

In the Tarot de Marseilles, Death is represented as a skeleton, mowing with a scythe. Instead of mowing grass or reaping corn, the figure is mowing human heads, hands and feet – a gruesome image for anyone who has not laid eyes on the card before. At other times, Death has been depicted as an armored skeleton riding down a succession of people: mothers, children, prelates, kings, peasants and paupers. The message is that, no matter what our social standing, no matter how rich we are, Death will take us in the end. A.E. Waite revived this image for the Waite-Smith tarot of 1909.

Those new to tarot symbolism sometimes express surprise that Death does not fall toward the end of the Trumps. An occultist shows no such surprise, for esoteric teachings declare that physical death is not the end of the soul’s journey. The death of the body does not mark the extinction of the soul. Death is thus a transition, and also a transformation. Both terms have been assigned as keywords for Trump 13 at times.

Eliphas Levi tells us that every particular life that ceases returns to the bosom of universal life, at which time universal life reabsorbs and decomposes it. In the fullness of time, that spark of life will return to the material world, incarnating in yet another body. The occultist accepts this as a necessary process during which the soul learns (while in incarnation) and then reflects on what it has learnt (in the afterlife).

deathA Biblical text sometimes applied to Death is John 12:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” It is in connection with this saying that a seed is sometimes represented on the Trump, in the B.O.T.A. tarot, for example (see illustration), where it can be found floating in the air up in the left-hand corner of the card.

Esoterically, Trump 13 stands for the immortality of change; that is, immortality viewed as permanence in the essence of a thing not in its structure. The structure in this instance is the body, the essence is the immortal soul. The former dies and disintegrates, the latter continues apart from the body, until a time comes for it to take on flesh once more. This teaching is encapsulated in the mystic equation Ten plus Three equals Thirteen. Death (13) is part of an on-going process (10, the Wheel) in which its complement is birth (3, the Empress). The Wheel turns, whirling the soul through a seemingly endless round of births and deaths until the point of potential freedom from the cycle appears – the Day of Judgment, when the soul is finally called to a higher realm, on condition that it is found worthy of such an apotheosis. The relevant mystic equation of this event is Thirteen plus Seven equals Twenty. After death (13) comes the opportunity to progress (7, the Chariot) to a more spiritual mode of existence, if the soul can discern and react to the clarion call sounded on the trumpet of the Angle of the Day of Judgment (20). This is something we shall come to in due course, as our study of the Trumps draws to a close..

For now, let us turn our attention to the secret titles given to Trump 13. (I should point out that these titles are no longer secret; they have been published several times and a diligent search of available texts on the tarot will uncover them.) One title is Immortality in the Essence, with which we have already dealt. Another is rendered either as Death and Rebirth or Death and Reincarnation; this concept has also been covered. Levi restated this as Death and Immortality (see the opening paragraph of this article). A third title is the Transformation of Forces. This refers to the after-death process of which Eliphas Levi spoke, mentioned above, wherein the soul is reabsorbed into the great sea of Universal Life to be broken down into its component parts. This process is known to occultists as the second death. It is the death of the personality and it is a requisite part of the preparations for the formulation of a fresh personality to be sent forth to inhabit a new vehicle of incarnation.

In tarot terms, the soul continues beyond the milestone of Trump 13, Death, having seven more steps to take before it stands on the threshold of the Day of Judgment. Having passed through the Gates of Death, the soul experiences a period of adjustment (Temperance) prior to encountering the forbidding figure of the Devil, and traversing the inferno (Tower) as Dante did until the Star of Hope is seen shining in the east. Then, in spiritual terms, the soul rises first to the level of the Moon and thereafter to that of the Sun and finally the blast of the trumpet is heard and the soul is ready to be judged.

The Hanged Man

by Tony Willis

Way back in the eighteenth century, the French pastor, Antoine Court de Gébelin, had an epiphany. It occurred to him that the tarot dated from the time of Ancient Egypt, and this being so, it must also have an esoteric aspect. Court de Gébelin proposed plausible explanations for most of the images on the Trump cards. He came badly unstuck, however, with his attempts to unravel the symbolism of Trump 12, the Hanged Man, Having spent his life either in Switzerland or France, de Gébelin was unfamiliar with the centuries-old Italian practice of suspending traitors by their feet, customarily after the offender had been put to death by other means.

The picture of a man hanging from a gibbet by one ankle was a puzzle to de Gébelin. He solved the puzzle by means of a drastic measure: he presumed that, over the passage of time, the image had become reversed. Rather than representing a traitor’s punishment, de Gébelin posited that Trump 12 depicted a man tethered to the ground by one foot, his other foot raised up. De Gébelin explained the gesture by saying that it symbolized Prudence, the one Cardinal Virtue not already among the tarot images.

tdm hanged man  gebelin-pendu  prudence

The man is frozen in time, lifting one foot in preparation to hesitantly setting it down slightly ahead of himself, his intention being to test the ground before trusting his whole weight to it. The first drawing above of the man upright is de Gébelin’s re-envisioning of the Tarot de Marseille image. The second is a much later version of the Hanged Man as Prudence, indicating that de Gébelin’s idea continued to have support in certain quarters, though it never gained wide acceptance.

De Gébelin’s explanation of the picture doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and, as I’ve indicated, didn’t prove popular. With the rare exception, students of the tarot have held tight to the Tarot de Marseille picture on the Trump, whether in its original form or as refined by some later tarot “reviser”. At the same time, however, tarot readers didn’t cleave as tightly to the Italian interpretation of the card. In old Italian decks, Trump 12 is sometimes titled Il Traditore, the Traitor, but the vast majority of taroists reject that delineation in favor a very different one – Sacrifice.

Depending on the inquirer’s situation the card can denote a willing sacrifice or an involuntary one.

The Gypsy meaning for the upright card is twofold.

A trial lies before you and some form of sacrifice will be necessary.

And: You sacrifice yourself too much.

In reverse, it signifies

Your sacrifice is useless.

Frank Lind gives the card the same significance expressed in his own words.

Sacrifice. Suffering and anxiety.A victim to the spite and intrigues of others.

Reversed: Suffering and anxiety may be needless, exaggerated by consultant, or largely self-imposed. Unwilling self-sacrifice.

The meaning accorded the Hanged Man by S.L Mathers (1888) is worth noting.

Self-sacrifice, Sacrifice, Devotion, Bound; Reversed: Selfishness, Unbound, Partial sacrifice.

12HangedManRiderWaite   h-man   Arcane-Arcana-12-pendu-hanged-man

While it covers the main factor, Sacrifice, Mathers’ delineation brings in two other concepts. The first is Devotion and the second the idea of being Bound – or in the case of the reversed card, Unbound.

“Devotion” is a reference to one of the secret titles of Trump 12, Charity, derived from a Greek word meaning Love. In a divination, the Hanged Man frequently represents an individual who is prepared to make sacrifices for another out of altruistic love – a husband for a wife, a mother for a daughter, the permutations are endless.

The idea of a person being bound is reflected in a phrase applied in Europe to the Hanged Man – the Slave of Duty. It describes a person who does the right thing even if it is not to their immediate benefit.

Another of the secret titles for the Hanged Man is ‘’”the Zodiac” and in some occult schools its associated glyph is the diagram of the Twelve Houses of Heaven – a Circle divided into Twelve equal segments. This symbol links the number of the card with the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is also the significance of the twelve stumps on the supports to the gibbet on the two last cards shown above.

It is said that each soul is required to incarnate under all twelve signs of the zodiac and to learn the lessons embodied by them before it can be released from the Wheel of Rebirth. Esoteric tradition associates the zodiac with the twelve labors of Hercules. The Greek strong man had to complete these tasks before he could be released from a bond of servitude to the despotic and envious king, Eurystheus.

The promotional material for a Blog Talk Radio item on the subject had this to say:

The labours of Hercules are a chart of the soul’s journey through a cycle of lifetimes. They represent the great wheel of birth and death and are considered one of the Keys to the mysteries.

The labors can also be thought of as ordeals or trials of strength. A connection back to the Hanged Man can be seen in these words of Robert M. Place in The Tarot, History, Symbolism and Divination about the figure on the card:

He is going through an ordeal, but willingly, to further his goal..

The reason behind the ordeal was set forth thousands of years ago by the great sages of many nations. Confucius cast it in these words:

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trial.

It was with these and similar thoughts in their minds that the French tarot masters of old allotted the Trump the meaning of Ordeal or Trial, which Frank Lind expressed more prosaically as “suffering and anxiety”.

The Lady & the Lion

by Tony Willis            

In the Tarot de Marseilles, the Trump Strength is numbered 11. It portrays a woman holding the jaws of a lion. Some say the lady is opening the lion’s mouth, others that she is closing it. From a symbolic point of view it makes no odds. Whether the woman is opening or closing the beast’s maw, she is employing her physical strength to execute the feat.

For once, the card’s esoteric (philosophical) and exoteric (predictive) significances are the same. On the spiritual level the Trump represents moral strength, its associated keyword Determination. On the intellectual level it represents mental strength, and its keyword is Endurance. On the material level it represents physical strength and is associated with bodily vigor and activity; its keywords are Energy and Work.

Tarot pundits over the centuries have presented the card’s mundane significance in their own words.

S.L. Mathers, in a book published in 1888, associates these keywords with the Trump:

Power, Might, Force, Strength, Fortitude. Reversed, Abuse of Power, Overbearingness, Want of Fortitude.

Around forty years later, a French author revealed the meanings used by continental gypsies.

Success through work, perseverance, will-power. Reversed, disgrace, cares.

In 1936, Richard Huson penned a more comprehensive delineation for the Trump:

Invincible strength and dauntless courage . . . It promises victory and the attainment of the end in view to those who know how to direct their natural gifts and will-power into the right channels, and who persevere in their efforts with unflagging energy. Reversed, it means vain and fruitless striving, dissipation of energy and abuse of power.

Frank Lind, in the early 1950s, is more concise but his message is the same:

Courage. Endurance. Struggle for supremacy. Victory over Evil. Spiritual powers and capacities.

There is no such consistency to geometrical representations assigned to Trump 11. It is a topic rarely mentioned, and when attributions are given, they are hardly ever explained. If the number 11 is represented in terms of other numbers, it can be expressed by five equations.

mmTarot 05mmTarot 06




    5 + 6 = 11





mmTarot 04mmTarot 07




    4 + 7 = 11





mmTarot 03mmTarot 08




    3 + 8 = 11





mmTarot 02mmTarot 09




    2 + 9 = 11





mmTarot 01mmTarot 10




    1 + 10 = 11





The last equation translates as: Change (The Wheel) initiated or directed by human intelligence (Juggler/Magician). This interpretation is, in outline, the meaning awarded the card by Richard Huson above. Two plus Nine speaks of our native wit (The Hermit) combining with wisdom gathered by experience (High Priestess) to lend our spirits grit and resolve. Three plus Eight is a numerical representation of actions aimed at increasing (The Empress) the degree of fairness or balance in a situation (Justice). Four plus Seven is more metaphysical in its significance. It describes the need for a solid base or foundation (The Emperor) whenever one intends to move forward with any lasting purpose in mind (The Chariot). Where these two coincide, the Will is in a position to create beneficent future conditions for the individual is exercising her of his will.

More metaphysical still is the combination Five plus Six. The Pentagram (five) is the symbol of the ordinary human being with all its faults and psychological foibles. The Hexagram (six) is the symbol of the perfected human being. The enmeshing of the two generates the invincible strength and dauntless courage we have so often met with in the delineations for Trump 11 we examined earlier in this article. The bringing together of the Five and the Six is a mystery, and as such it is the meaning for Strength that the average person has most difficulty grasping.

The other four equations are eminently understandable, however, and the student can go a long way towards comprehending the various operations of Trump 11 by analyzing them. The rarified atmosphere of the metaphysical heights is not an environment wherein everybody can breathe with ease. But if such matters attract you, application and dedication will in time bring you to an apprehension of these mysteries, to the extent that you are able to understand them.