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Who’s Who in the Tarot

March 11, 2017

by Tony Willis     

As they represent the Five Elements, the essences, one might say, of which everything in the cosmos is composed, the first five tarot Trumps hold a special significance. They are more likely than the other cards of the Major Arcana to indicate people. In a horoscope spread, the card falling in the first house will convey the state of the inquirer’s mind at the time of the reading, and can be taken to represent her (or him) at that specific moment in time. But that is not the effect being described here.

Take Trump 1, the Juggler or Magician, for example. This card references the inquirer. To understand this better, imagine that the following line of cards comes out as part of a tarot spread: 5 Pence, 9 Swords, Juggler, 9 Cups. Keeping to the divinatory meanings that originated with the Golden Dawn, we can make sense of the tableaux in the following way. It will be the inquirer themselves (Juggler) who overcomes the problems signified by the 5 of Pence and the 9 of Swords, and brings about the success, pleasure and happiness forecast by the 9 of Cups.

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There are exceptions to this rule, the most obvious occurring when the horoscope spread is employed. In that case, the Juggler in the third house of siblings indicates that the inquirer’s brother or sister is about to make an important change to their circumstances, one that will be accomplished smoothly if the card is upright, or that will be beset with obstacles and setbacks if it is reversed. But in most other types of spreads, Trump 1 stands for the person consulting the cards.

On the contrary, Trumps 2 to 5 tend to represent other people, their intentions, motives and actions. This approach can be particularly useful when working with the Trumps alone. It does, however, raise certain problems, such as whom each of these cards should indicate. Depending on the question asked, either the High Priestess or the Empress can represent the inquirer’s mother. Likewise, either the Pope/Hierophant or the Emperor can represent the inquirer’s father. In matters of love, I take the Empress to indicate the female inquirer and the Emperor to indicate her love interest. For a male inquirer, I reverse the signification and take the Emperor to represent the inquirer and then the Empress is his lady love. The High Priestess, should the card appear in a spread relating to a love question, might then indicate the inquirer’s mother, and the Pope their father. Other solutions to this problem have been suggested but this is the one I find works best for me.

Again exceptions occur when the horoscope spread is employed. The High Priestess in the first house of a horoscope spread, for instance, registers that, at the time of the reading, the inquirer is in a reflective frame of mind. The gender of the inquirer makes no difference to the interpretation. Either way, the inquirer is most probably in planning mode; or if the inquirer works in literature or the arts, they may have finished a painting or a novel and be in that lull that falls on the creative mind between the completion of one piece of work and the start of the next.


The first five Trumps also have particular meanings when any two of them occupy houses 1 and 7 in a horoscope spread. In such an instance, the combination forms a comment on the relationship between the inquirer and his or her other half.

The Juggler and The High Priestess occupying those houses, no matter which card is in the first house, signifies that the two people concerned have much in common but that there is enough divergence in interest to add spice to the relationship.

The Juggler and The Pope in these houses is a sign of complimentary personalities: the desire to direct events in one party is balanced by the good judgment and the inclusive approach of the other. In this, and in all other examples, the actual gender of the people involved is of no relevance. In the present instance, both parties could just as easily be female and the implications would remain unaltered.

The Juggler and The Empress. The common factor shared by these two cards is creativity. The pair may work together in some creative activity, like David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress. Or the person designated by The Empress could be the other’s muse or inspiration. Or the couple could have careers in the same field of artistic endeavor, as Victorian poets Robert Browning and his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning did. Sometimes the person represented by The Juggler is a business woman or man while the person represented by The Empress is their Rock, the ever-dependable, sure foundation to whom the business-oriented person can turn for reassurance, love and unquestioning support.

The Juggler and The Emperor indicates great compatibility in respect of material goals. Whichever partner is represented by The Juggler is an instigator of actions; the one represented by The Emperor has the focus to see a thing through to a conclusion. It is the symbol of the power couple.

The High Priestess and The Empress are also complementary. The party represented by the High Priestess is knowledge-orientated, without necessarily being wise. Yet the card describes someone who can plan effectively. The Empress provides the emotional intelligence that The High Priestess often lacks. It can be an edgy partnership if one or both parties isn’t able to honor or accept the other’s input.

The High Priestess and The Emperor. The High Priestess’s accumulated data will be put to good use by The Emperor thus ensuring that The High Priestess’s vision becomes reality.

The High Priestess and The Pope. This pair have the same religious, spiritual or ethical outlook on life. However, each may strive in their own way to make the world a better place. Humanitarian interests or ecological concerns are at the heart of what they do, on whatever scale they choose to do it. It is a combination ideally suited to fostering or adoption.

The Empress and The Emperor. The couple are soul mates. They may well have been together in a previous life.

The Empress and The Pope. Both parties have charitable dispositions and display generosity of spirit. Neither is a push-over, however, as both are grounded individuals. It can be a very formidable combination when applied to the realm of art or spirituality.

The Emperor and The Pope. Ideally the personalities complement one another and this acts as a spur to them to shape the material world through their joint efforts. The Emperor’s practical rationalism is balanced by the philosophical or spiritual motivations of The Pope.

The Devil

Besides these five cards, there is one other that can signify an individual. It is The Devil reversed. In that state Trump 15 can represent an enemy or rival.

All other Trumps should be assumed to relate directly to the inquirer. Death is a symbol of some kind of loss: it is the inquirer’s loss. This tends to be true even when the card appears in a horoscope spread. Death in the eleventh house of friends, for instance, is more likely to forecast the end of a friendship than to indicate that one of the inquirer’s friends will suffer a loss. By the same token, The Chariot is a symbol of victory: it is the inquirer’s victory. The Tower is a symbol of disruption or destruction: it is the inquirer’s life that will be disrupted, something of the inquirer’s – it may be a relationship or their career – that will be destroyed.

From → tarot divination

One Comment
  1. Apl Kont permalink

    Very interesting! Espesially the pairings!
    Thanks Tony!

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