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Surprise in the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on January 21, 2010 | Comments (12)

In the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn, there are three cards that when set together side-by-side form a panorama. They are The Empress, The Emperor, and The Hierophant.

I’ve used my newly acquiring, super-amazing Photoshopping skillz and put these cards together for you. I think it is pretty cool.

Now, the LWB says nary a word about this at all, so we are, first, left to discover it on our own, and, second, left to our own devices to determine why. Was it just a clever little trick that the artist threw in for fun? Is there some unusual relationship between these three cards that someone with more Golden Dawn knowledge than I have knows about (if so, let us know in the comments, please!)?

It is interesting and puzzling to me. I sometimes think of pairs, such as the Magician and High Priestess, the Emperor and Empress, or even the High Priestess and the Hierophant (especially in decks where the Hierophant is renamed the High Priest). And I may have, at some point in my life, thought about the Magician, High Priestess, and Hierophant. But I am pretty sure that I have not considered the Empress, the Emperor, and the Hierophant as a trio.

The Empress has a dove, sign of Venus nearby, and sits by the dawn. The Emperor has a ram (easy…Aries) technically sits in front of a curtain, but probably really the height of the day. The Hierophant has a scroll (which is usually given to the High Priestess, who, in this deck, has no scroll) and sits at the sunset, his arms resting on bulls (for Taurus).

How do these relationships affect the meanings of these cards? Let me know what you think in the comments.


Reader Comments

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on January 21st, 2010 @ 11:25 am

First off, Beautifully done I love this image.

As to a Trio …
I’m not going to claim I’ve ever thought of it in such clear terms, but

The Empress (Goddess) Earth Power and Fertility.
The Emperor King Power of the State.
Hierophant (Rabbi) Power of Tradition, Power of the Church.

Together they represent the forces people turn to naturally for Wisdom, Guidance, Comfort and support, no?

I am a little surprised this surprised you so … One exercise I have long believed in is to take each suit
including the trumps and lay them all out first to last and see what story they tell; this certainly can give
rise to links between larger groups of cards than pairs. In the Gendron we see a young Nagual appearing in the Fool, 3 of Wands, 6 of Wands, and 7 of Wands clearly Mel sees at least these cards linked in the young shamans journey.

Still I am very interested in the Answer to your question from a student of the Golden Dawn; again thanks for sharing this quite impressive.

Blessings, BB.

Written By Teresa Michelsen
on January 21st, 2010 @ 11:29 am

Hmm. To me this connects the Hierophant with the other two more than in most decks. I have always seen him as entirely separate – off in his own church, preaching to the masses, while the Emperor and Empress take care of the administration of the empire, each in their own way. Here they seem to all be working together. That raises strange feelings for me on a societal level, but at a deeper personal level is much more comfortable.

Written By Theresa
on January 21st, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

Wow – how cool is that? I love surprises like that.

Connecting the Hierophant with the Empress and Emperor is interesting.

Written By Morgan Eckstein
on January 21st, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

I have always associated these cards with the Imperator (Emperor), the Hierophant (Hierophant, of course), and the Praemonstrator (Empress). For lodge attending members of the Golden Dawn (such as myself), it is hard not to think of them as a single unit; these three officers all sit on the dais and are engaged in the running of the lodge. Thanks for drawing my attention to this bit of artwork.

Written By Maribeth
on January 21st, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

Definitely does away with the notion of separation of church and state!

Written By helen
on January 21st, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

I don’t know if this makes any sense at all but relating to the dawn, day and sunset part of this card the idea that the Empress is there at the beginning of her creation (mother – dawn) the Emperor forms the stability and support for that creation (father- day) and the Hierophant helps to inform that creation (teacher -sunset)

It’s in that first part of the Fool’s journey 0 -7 which I call the education stage

Anyway me just waffling. :O)

Written By Ty
on January 21st, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

Being trained in medieval and Renaissance studies, the arrangement caught my eye (as an art historian, I’m always looking for such arrangements- it was great to actually find one!)and brought to mind the (often uneasy) marriage of church and state for about a 1000 years in Europe, built on the Classical tradition. I’ve always been intrigued by the ‘herirarchy’ of the major arcana, particualry this triad. This arrangement makes it pretty blatatant, and very organic, as previosuly noted. It’s one of the surprises that makes this deck unique, beyond ‘just’ being a fully illustrated GD deck.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on January 21st, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

On 2nd glance, notice the dove over the Empress, the Lamb at the Emperors Feet.

Dove, Empress, Sophia.
Lamb, Emperor, Son
Hierophant is then Father … Father Son Sophia (Ghost)
the Christian Trinty Manifest on Earth, no?

Written By Morgan Eckstein
on January 22nd, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

Something that did not immediately occur to me (until a couple of hours later after reading this post) is the fact that according to Golden Dawn, the paths these cards are assigned to arise out of the same sephirah, Chokmah.

Written By Irmata
on January 22nd, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

Very cool! I’m guessing you’ve looked to see if there are any other cards in the deck that fit together, whether in progression or not?

I have been grouping the Hierophant with the Emperor & Empress in the little tarot games I play while learning. The energies of the Magician and HP came together and are made manifest in the Empress, who is joined with the Emperor by the Hierophant. They become the (alchemical) lovers and have to sort out their differences in the Chariot etc.

Like “BB”s observation of the Trinity too – this is probably n keeping with the Golden Dawn tradition, right?

Written By lada
on January 22nd, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

nothing maternal nor nurturing in the expression of THAT empress, is there?

Written By Ethereal Spirit
on January 23rd, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

Seeing them this way (and wow! thnx), I see embodiment(Empress), application (Emperor), and accountability (Hierophant). Then (sunrise to sunset) the progression of steps to mastery.

But in this view/deck it seems more of a progression without end, since the Hierophant appears to be holding the scroll, instead of writing or showing/teaching, and is looking back in contrast to the other two looking forward, as if in review.

I have little knowledge of Golden Dawn too, and would be interested as well as why this deck shows the Hierophant in a different perspective.

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