September/October 2016 Issue
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Love Symbolism in the Tarot
This article was written by Richard Webster
posted under Tarot
- The High Priestess
Feminine insight, intuition, mystery
The High Priestess card symbolizes the virgin or maiden. The archetype of the feminine is the triple-faced goddess: the virgin, mother, and hag. The High Priestess card symbolizes the first of these. The High Priestess sits between two columns, one black and one white. These symbolize night and day, summer and winter, and consciousness and unconsciousness. Each is of equal importance to the High Priestess who sits between them. The crown she wears symbolizes the three phases of the moon—waxing, full, and waning. This allows the High Priestess to dream, and gain intuitive insights. The screen behind the High Priestess contains pomegranates, a symbol of fertility. In this instance, the fertility is likely to be the birth of new ideas, rather than pregnancy.
The appearance of the High Priestess in a spread of cards indicates that you need to look inside yourself to find the answers to your questions. Often these answers are learned through setbacks or disappointments. Consequently, when the High Priestess card reveals a romantic relationship, it is unlikely to be a happy one.
- The Empress
Fecundity, motherhood, nurture, life force, creativity
The Empress symbolizes fulfillment. In most decks of cards, the Empress wears loose-fitting robes, symbolizing pregnancy. In the Universal Tarot, the empress wears green, which is the color of nature, life, renewal, and fertility. Beside her is a heart-shaped stone that has been engraved with the astrological glyph for Venus. The river and forest behind her also show The Empress symbolizes fertility and fruitfulness. Water symbolizes life. The trees behind her are cypress trees, which were sacred to Venus. All of these symbolize the sensual aspects of the Empress.
The Empress can be related to Demeter, the Greek goddess of the fertility of the earth. She also looked after marriage and social order. Demeter was involved in ensuring the fertility of both people and the earth.
The appearance of the Empress in a spread is a positive sign, indicating fruitfulness, fertility, and expansion. It also symbolizes love, happiness, and sexual satisfaction.
- The Emperor
Virility, fatherhood, power, leadership
The Emperor symbolizes fatherhood, virility, worldly power, and male authority. He frequently carries a scepter, sword, or wand. These indicate sovereignty and leadership, but can also be considered a phallic symbol. In the Universal Tarot, the scepter resembles an ankh, which the ancient Egyptians considered a symbol of life. The armrests of the emperor’s chair show two ram heads. Two more decorate the top of his throne. These are an obvious symbol of virility and procreation. The ram’s heads also symbolize Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Aries is governed by Mars, which relates to fiery energy, ambition, lust, and desire.
It is always a good sign to see the Emperor card in a spread, as it means you are on the road to success.
- The Lovers
Union, marriage, passion, desire
The Lovers card usually relates to love and romance. It always means that something pleasant is about to occur. Traditionally, the Lovers card showed three people, a man with a woman on each side, indicating that a choice had to be made. This shows that hasty decisions must be avoided, as the consequences could be disastrous.
Arthur Edward Waite reduced the figures to two in his Tarot deck, and most modern decks have continued with this. The two main figures in the Lovers card symbolize Adam and Eve, the first couple. Behind Eve is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, complete with the serpent and fruit. The apples on this tree symbolize temptation and the ability to determine right and wrong. The tree behind Adam appears to be the burning bush. In the background, between the two lovers, is a mountain that symbolizes climaxes and the ultimate in happiness.
The archangel Raphael looks down on the two lovers. Raphael represents the air element, and this is symbolized by clouds in the Universal Tarot.
Although the two lovers are usually considered to be Adam and Eve, there are other possibilities. One is that the three figures tell the legend of Hercules, who had to choose between two women, one symbolizing Vice and the other Virtue. Many older decks show the three people as a young man, his mother, and the woman he loves. It symbolizes the fact that he needs to leave the security of the family home to start a new life with his lover.
Emotions, moderation, harmonious relationships
Temperance is one of the seven cardinal virtues. In medieval art, a woman pouring water from one container to another symbolized temperance. Sometimes a water pitcher and a burning torch were used. This showed the water quenching lust. In the Tarot, the Temperance card shows an archangel pouring water from one container to another. This is probably Archangel Michael, as he wears a solar orb on his forehead. This symbolizes the element of Fire, which relates to Michael. Beside Michael are lilies, originally a flower with erotic connotations. In the Christian tradition, the Easter lily is known as the passion flower.
In a card spread, the Temperance card indicates a happy, harmonious relationship as long as the two people involved are prepared to cooperate with each other. It also indicates a time to open up and discuss your true feelings.
- The Star
Hope, guidance, renewal, dreams, desires
This is one of the most optimistic cards in the deck, as it suggests hope and promise for the future. The maiden depicted in the Star card is young and naked, signifying innocence and purity. She has been associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and fertility. She has also been associated with Binah, the sephiroth of higher reason in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The young maiden is pouring water. The water poured on the ground makes the earth fertile. With another pitcher, she pours water into a pool of water. This symbolizes abundance. The message is that the future is both fruitful and abundant.
- The Moon
Subconscious, change, creativity, fertility
Ancient people observed the cycles of the moon and noticed the different effects it created in the natural world. They also noticed that the female menstrual cycle took twenty-eight days, and as a result, considered the moon to be the Great Mother, responsible for fertility, pregnancy, and new life. This explains why the Moon has traditionally been associated with women.
At night we see things dimly, and the moon came to indicate the subconscious mind. Objects that look sinister or alarming at night cease to hold any fears in the daylight. Consequently, this card sometimes has negative overtones. It is also a card of creativity, as inspiration also comes from the subconscious mind.
The two towers symbolize a gateway protecting the path that leads to the mystical realms of the moon. This lunar path shows the way to intuition, insight, and feminine wisdom. The two dogs symbolize the fear and attraction of this mystical path. The crayfish possibly symbolizes the astrological sign of Cancer, which is ruled by the moon. It is also possible that the crayfish, crawling out of the sea onto the land, symbolizes mankind’s evolution.
- The Sun
Joy, happiness, optimism, enthusiasm
The Sun card does not have a direct relationship with love and romance, but when it occurs in a spread, it is a sign of warmth, happiness, and optimism. The sun can be considered the source of all life. In the Universal Tarot, some of the sun’s rays are straight, while others are wavy. This symbolizes the dual qualities of warmth and light. The naked boy on the horse symbolizes the start of a quest for spiritual growth. The red banner symbolizes energy and action.
This card is a highly positive one to receive when the question relates to love and romance.
- The World
Wholeness, satisfaction, success, fulfillment
The World card indicates the end of a cycle of experience. The wreath surrounding the dancing figure in this card symbolizes the womb, and indicates that a whole new cycle of experience is about to begin. The wreath in the Universal Tarot deck is comprised of laurel leaves and red ribbons. The leaves symbolize success, and the red ribbon is a sign of achievement. Another intriguing possibility is that the wreath depicts a zero. The first Tarot key, The Fool, is zero. The World, Key twenty-one, is the final card of the major arcana. The zero in this final card could indicate that the end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end. The heads in each corner of this card are the four “living creatures” of Ezekiel: a man, an eagle, a bull, and a lion (Ezekiel 1:10). They symbolize the four elements, the four directions, the four seasons, and the world itself. The naked woman in the center of the card holds two wands that symbolize the positive and negative energies that make up the world. Some writers have hypothesized that the woman is a hermaphrodite, but in the Universal Tarot, she is gloriously feminine, and is possibly Eve, dancing in a young, new world where perfection was possible.
From Magical Symbols of Love & Romance, by Richard Webster
Richard Webster was born and raised in New Zealand. He has been interested in the psychic world since he was nine years old. As a teenager, he became involved in hypnotism and later became a professional stage hypnotist. After school, he worked in the... Read more
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