The following information is copied from a facebook app called simply Daily Tarot Cards. I like these descriptions and I think they are very helpful in understanding the ‘prophetic’ nature of card readings and interpretations. So this is purely for my own amusement and future reference, having it all down in order and in one place. Channeling my inner Emperor today I guess.
O The Fool lies at the beginning of the major arcana, but also somewhat apart from the other cards. In medieval courts, the court jester was someone who was not expected to follow the same rules as others. He could observe and then poke fun. This makes the Fool unpredictable and full of surprises. He reminds us of the unlimited potential and spontaneity inherent in every moment. There is a sense with this card that anything goes – nothing is certain or regular. The Fool adds the new and unfamiliar to a situation. The Fool also represents the complete faith that life is good and worthy of trust. Some might call the Fool too innocent, but his innocence sustains him and brings him joy.
I The Magician is the archetype of the active, masculine principle – the ultimate achiever. He symbolizes the power to tap universal forces and use them for creative purposes. Note his stance in the picture. He acts as a lightening rod – one arm extended up into the Divine for inspiration, the other pointingt toward Earth to ground this potent energy. What makes the Magician so powerful? First, he is not afraid to act. He believes in himself and
is willing to put that belief on the line. He also knows what he intends to do and why. He doesn’t hesitate because he understands his situation exactly. The Magician can focus with single-minded determination. As long as he remembers the divine source of his power, the Magician remains the perfect conduit for miracles.
II The High Priestess is the guardian of the unconscious. She sits in front of the thin veil of unawareness which is all that separates us from our inner landscape. She contains within herself the secrets of these realms and offers us the silent invitation, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ The High Priestess is the feminine principle that balances the masculine force of the Magician. The feminine archetype in the tarot is split between the High Priestess and the Empress. The High Priestess is the mysterious unknown that women often represent, especially in cultures that focus on the tangible and known. The Empress represents woman’s role as the crucible of life.
III The Empress and the High Priestess are the two halves of the female archetype in the major arcana. The Empress represents the fertile, life-giving Mother who reigns over the bounty of nature and the rhythms of the Earth. From her comes all the pleasures and joys of the senses and the abundance of new life in all its forms. The Empress encourages you to strengthen your connections with the natural world which is the ground of our being. Too often false sophistications and pleasures take us far from our roots. Let the Empress remind you to keep your feet firmly planted in the Earth.
IV The figure of the Emperor says much about the essential qualities of this card. We see a stern, commanding figure seated on a stone-slab throne. His back is straight, and his eyes meet ours directly. He is confident of his complete authority to rule. The Emperor represents structure, order and regulation – forces to balance the free-flowing, lavish abundance of the Empress. He advocates a four-square world where trains are on time, games are played by rules, and commanding officers are respected. In chaotic situations, the Emperor can indicate the need for organization. Loose ends should be tied up, and wayward elements, harnessed. In situations that are already over-controlled, he suggests the confining effect of those constraints. The Emperor can represent an encounter with authority or the assumption of power and control. As the regulator, he is often associated with legal matters, disciplinary actions, and officialdom in all its forms. He can also stand for an individual father or archetypal Father in his role as guide, protector and provider.
V Except in rare cases, every human grows and develops within a culture. We learn by living with others. The Hierophant represents such official learning, especially in groups. A Hierophant is someone who interprets secret knowledge. On Card 5 we see a religious figure in a formal church setting. He is wearing the elaborate vestments of his office. His task is to bring the two initiates into the church so they can take up their appointed
roles. Besides churches, there are schools, clubs, teams, companies, and societies. The Hierophant represents all of these because his realm is structured groups with rules and assigned roles. Such environments emphasize belief systems – facts, rules, procedures, and ritual. Members are rewarded for following conventions. They develop a group identity. The Hierophant is one of three cards that focuses on the group.
VI The Lovers is one card that is easy to remember. Love and sex are riveting subjects, and, as you’d expect, this card represents both. The urge for union is powerful, and, in its highest form, takes us beyond ourselves. That is why an angel is blessing the bond between the man and woman on this card. The Lovers can indicate a moral or ethical crossroads – a decision point where you must choose between the high road or the low road. This card can also represent your personal beliefs because to make such a decision you must know where you stand. Following your own path can mean going against those who are urging you in a direction that is wrong for you.
VII Picture Julius Caesar riding his chariot triumphantly into Rome. He has defeated his enemies and conquered vast, new lands. This is the spirit of the Chariot. Card 7 represents the victories that are possible through willpower and self-mastery. A military image is appropriate for the Chariot because this card stands for the strengths associated with combat – discipline, grit, determination and assertiveness. The Chariot represents the positive aspects of the ego. A healthy ego is one that is strong and self-assured. It knows what it wants and how to get it. We can get annoyed at someone whose ego is too healthy, but we often turn to that person to lead us through difficult moments. We know he or she won’t be wishy-washy.
VIII Usually we think of strength in physical terms – big arms, powerful legs – but there is also inner strength. Inner strength comes from an exercise of the heart muscle. It is perseverance, courage, resolve and composure – qualities that help us endure when times are tough. In the past, a person with inner strength was commonly said to have character; he or she could be counted on in the darkest moments. Card 8 represents this energy of quiet determination. Strength is not a flashy card, but one that is solid and reliable. Card 8 also represents patience and compassion. Getting angry is easy when events turn sour, but dealing calmly with frustration takes great
strength. So does accepting others and forgiving mistakes. We need strength to mold situations softly. The Chariot controls through mastery and authority. Card 8 is more subtle, even loving. Notice how the lion (itself a symbol of strength) is being guided and tamed by the woman’s gentle hands.
IX The traditional hermit is a crusty, bearded character who has withdrawn from the company of men to live a life of seclusion and hardship. Card 9 supports this understanding. The Hermit represents the desire to turn away from the getting and spending of society to focus on the inner world. He seeks answers within and knows that they will come only with quiet and solitude. There comes a point in life when we begin to question the obvious. We sense that there is a deeper reality and begin to search for it. This is mainly a solitary quest because answers do not lie in the external world, but in ourselves. The hermit on Card 9 reminds us of Diogenes, the Greek ascetic who is said to have gone out with a lantern in hand to search for an honest man. Diogenes is a symbol of the search for truth that the Hermit hopes to uncover by stripping away all diversions.
X In Greek mythology, there are three women known as the Fates. They are responsible for spinning the destiny of each person at his or her birth. It is not surprising that the Fates are spinners because the wheel of fortune is an apt image for the elusive turns of a man’s fate. This is the theme of Card 10. The Wheel of Fortune is one of the few cards in the major arcana that does not have a human figure as a focal point. This is because its center is above the realm of man – in the higher levels (clouds) where the destinies of all are woven together in the tapestry of life. The tarot recognizes that each person sets his own path in life, but is also subject to the larger cycles that include him. We experience chance events that appear to be accidents although they are part of the great plan.
XI On Card 11 we see the familiar figure of Justice. She has the scales of equality and impartial judgment in one hand, and the sword of decision in the other. In the tarot, Justice represents the understanding that life is ultimately fair and just. Even though the vagaries of day-to-day life tend to make us doubt this fact, Justice reminds us that there is divine balance. Notice the similarity between the Emperor and Justice. Both cards stand for universal order; the Emperor in its underlying structure, Justice, in the action of karma – cause and effect. There is a serious feel to Card 11 – the tone of the courtroom. This card refers to legal matters of all kinds, but is not restricted to them. The courts are where judgments are made and decisions rendered. Our legal system is the official arena in which we explore the principles of Justice – fairness, impartiality and the quest for truth.
XII The Hanged Man is one of the most mysterious cards in the tarot deck. It is simple, but complex. It attracts, but also disturbs. It contradicts itself in countless ways. The Hanged Man is unsettling because it symbolizes the action of paradox in our lives. A paradox is something that appears contradictory, and yet is true. The Hanged Man presents to us certain truths, but they are hidden in their opposites. The main lesson of the Hanged Man is that we ‘control’ by letting go – we ‘win’ by surrendering. The figure on Card 12 has made the ultimate surrender – to die on the cross of his own travails – yet he shines with the glory of divine understanding. He has sacrificed himself, but he emerges the victor. The Hanged Man also tells us that we can ‘move forward’ by standing still. By suspending time, we can have all the time in the world.
XIII Death! A powerful energy indeed. Who can look at the dark, skeletal figure on Card 13 and not feel uneasy? Here we see the face of our deepest fear – our greatest unknown. We recoil from Death because we think of it as annihilation. In the tarot (and in life I would suggest) Death is not a permanent end, but a transition into a new state. Life is eternal in its essence, if not in its form. To grow, to move, to live – we must DIE to the old to give birth to the new. It is a truism in tarot work that Card 13 RARELY has anything to do with physical death. A responsible card reader never interprets Card 13 in this way because this view is too limiting. Death is not something that happens once to our bodies. It happens continually, at many levels and not just in the physical. Each moment we die to the present so the future can unfold.
XIV There are certain people who exude a kind of quiet composure. They may not say much, but they go about their business with an air of calm deliberation. Their presence is comforting because they are so centered. For me, this is the energy of Temperance. To be temperate is to show moderation and self-restraint. In a world full of enticing indulgences, it is often necessary to find the middle ground. Sensible, maybe, but also a bit boring? The energy of Temperance may seem unexciting on the surface, but it is the calm of a hurricane’s eye. All around are swirling winds, but in the center is a still point that brings everything into balance.
XV Lucifer. Mephistopheles. Satan. The Prince of Darkness. No matter what we call him, the Devil is our symbol for what is bad and undesirable. From our human perspective, we see the world as a struggle between light and dark. We want to vanquish the bad so the good can prevail. In fact, good and bad cannot be separated, just as you cannot separate a shadow from its source. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and it is caused by errors that hide the truth. Card 15 shows us these errors.
XVI The Tower is an unsettling card. Fire, lightning, falling on jagged rocks – definitely looks like trouble! Card 16 will not be welcomed by those who dislike change. It represents a sudden, dramatic upheaval or reversal in fortune. Usually change is gradual, giving us time to adapt, but sometimes it is quick and explosive. This is the action of the Tower. In films, the hero sometimes slaps someone who is groggy or babbling. Having tried everything else, he finally resorts to a sharp sting to snap him out of it. Sudden crises are life’s way of telling you to wake up. Something’s wrong, and you’re not responding. Are you too full of pride? Expect a blow to your ego. Are you holding back your anger? Expect the dam to burst. Are you stuck in a rut? Expect a surprise.
XVII People have always looked to the stars as a source of inspiration and hope. There is something about their twinkling light that draws us out of ourselves and up into a higher plane. When we turn our eyes heavenward, we no longer feel the distress of earth. The Star reminds me of the clear, high voice of a soprano. There is something otherworldly about it. All the harshness and density of everyday life has been refined away leaving only the purest essence. After being exposed to the Star, we feel uplifted and blessed.
XVIII If you look around the room right now, you will (probably!) see people and objects that are comforting in their familiarity. Everything is exactly as you expect it to be. You know that if you closed your eyes and opened them, the room would be the same. But…have you ever lost the familiar to find, in its place, a world so extraordinary you can’t even grasp it? This is the experience of the Moon. Most of the time we live in a tiny pocket of normality that we wrap around us like a security blanket. We turn our backs on the mysterious universe that waits outside. From time to time we may sneak a peak with our imagination, or venture out through fantasy or expanded awareness. We can be thrust out there unprepared through drugs, madness or intense experiences such as battle. The Moon is the light of this realm – the world of shadow and night. Although this place is awesome, it does not have to be frightening. In the right circumstances, the Moon inspires and enchants. It holds out the promise that all you imagine can be yours. The Moon guides you to the unknown so you can allow the unusual into your life.
XVIX Brilliant. Radiant. Sparkling. So many of our words reflect the power and glory of light. When we turn on the light in a room, we illuminate it so that all the dark corners are visible. When we turn on the light in our minds, we are enlightened. We see clearly and understand the truth. Both within and without, the energy of light expands our limits and makes us shine. Throughout history, people have honored the Sun as the source of light
and warmth. In the myths of many cultures, the Sun is a prominent god – full of vigor and courage. He is the vital energy center that makes life on earth possible. In the tarot the Sun also symbolizes vitality and splendor. The Sun is definitely not a meek and retiring card.
XX On Card 20, we see people rising up at the call of an angel. It is Judgment Day, when the faithful are brought to heaven, but what about those who are not saved? Have they been judged and found wanting? For their sins, will they be denied the presence of God? It is this aspect of judgment that is unsettling. How can judgment be reconciled with forgiveness? In fact, judgment comes in two forms. The hurtful kind says, ‘What you did is wrong, and you are bad and worthless for having done it.’ This type of judgment separates and leaves no room for redemption. It is possible to judge without condemning. We assess the matter, weigh all sides and try to discern the truth. We recognize the need to choose and hope for the courage to do so wisely – but without blame.
XXI The World – Completion. It’s Thanksgiving Day. You’ve just finished a delicious meal, and there’s a hot mug of coffee in your hand. Friends and family are arguing about the latest fiasco, the baby’s cooing at you from across the table, and your feet are rubbing the belly of a devoted mutt. You’re happy, fulfilled and truly thankful (at least until you have to start the dishes!). For this moment, the World and everything in it is yours. We all recognize this feeling. It can come at any time or place and is always welcome. We can feel it at home raking the leaves or on the world stage accepting the Nobel Prize. It can seem quiet and simple, or wild and glorious. What is this feeling, and where does it come from? Card 21 can help us find out.