Some background on the Tarot first:
A Tarot deck contains 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards. The major arcana display archetypal images that offer a path of self-awareness, spiritual expansion and psychological wholeness. Archetypes are culturally-shared characters and themes that provide us with images and role models of who we want to become. Whilst the way archetypes are represented are culturally specific, there are universal archetypes that are recognised by all cultures. The brave hero, the nurturing mother, coming of age, the dangerous stranger, for example, are characters or concepts that reflect the human experience.
The sequence of the 22 major arcana archetypes follows a well-worn trail: the archetypal quest, or hero’s journey, that is the subject of myths and legends the world over. The essential lessons we encounter along the Tarot’s archetypal journey alert us to opportunities for growth and transformation that help us reach for our highest aspirational goals and touch the deepest, most soulful experience of being alive.
In the book have woven the 22 archetypal experiences with stories of growth, transformation and empowerment that I collected for a PhD thesis some years ago. It’s a fascinating and inspirational read, due to be published early next year. The journeys of the women through the circumstances of their lives to follow their inner light and find a sense of wholeness is resonant with the journey through the major arcana cards of the Tarot, which is a spiritual journey of personal growth and the expansion of consciousness.
Here’s a taste of what the book offers:
The High Priestess is the card that invites us to spend time listening to our inner voice, or intuition. For those who are raising children or pursuing a career, always meeting the needs of others, solitude and reflection is an important first step in developing your intuition and rediscovering your deeper longings hidden beneath the demands of your busy lives. The High Priestess, as a Moon Goddess, is associated with women’s cycles. Once upon a time women were in tune with the psychic peaks and troughs that accompanied their cycles and drew on their “wisdom of the womb”, their embodied wisdom, to connect them with their inner voice. Here are some stories:
Women are tied up with their biological system and they gain a lot of wisdom through this.You are at the mercy of your periods and that has a big influence on your life. You have to become conscious of and accept the moods, the hormones and the drives. Women face death with childbirth. You move over for the person growing inside of you. Your individuality moves over.
Women are more in touch with what’s going on around them, they can read situations better…. I’ve had a lot of telepathic things happen to me. I can walk into a room and I can sense an atmosphere. I can meet a person and I can like or instantly dislike them…
My cousin died of cancer and it was absolutely traumatic because I felt that I was dying…. And when my daughter left home after she finished Uni I had this incredible, incredible pain that I was almost bending over with because I couldn’t part with her. I was very close to her and very in tune with her because I was going through menopause when she was going through the teenage years.
The Strength card carries such an important message for women. The card is about inner strength: taming our animal instincts in order to rise to a higher level of consciousness. The basic message is about taming aggression and ego-centredness and becoming more sensitive to others’ and our own deeper needs. It teaches us to assert our will through love not force, hence the compliant lion, willingly allowing the lady to close (or open) its mouth. Yet for many women the message of the Strength card is about taming our timidity which comes from fear. It teaches women to speak up when something needs to be said, to stand up and be counted, and to stand on our own two feet. By developing inner strength we begin the journey of discovering our deeper needs and claiming the inalienable human right to pursue our own desires. Here’s one story:
After my marriage ended there was almost a sign on me that said, “am I desirable?” I needed to feel that I was still attractive. It’s all very difficult when you’ve been through a traumatic divorce with someone rejecting you and telling you you’re ugly and fat. It’s very hard, the desire to be loved and to get affection is stronger.
And because I’ve always had a spiritual dimension, I went through a stage of asking “please God make my husband come back” to “please God let me survive from day to day” to “please God let me understand what happened so I don’t do it again, and the final stage was “let me be a person who doesn’t need a man. Let me live by myself and be able to say it’s okay to be alone, that I don’t need to lean on anyone.” And what I, and most women want out of life, is to survive those experiences and to make sense of it and to be your own person.
The Hermit invites us to begin the process of self-examination and self-discovery. This card often represents an important turning point in our lives when we examine our past in order to determine our future. For many of us it is when we begin to surrender the vanities of youth, with its infinite possibilities and consider how we want to spend the rest of our lives. In order know ourselves fully we must delve into the darkness of our shadows to understand and overcome our limitations and discover possibilities of who we may become:
These transitions in age every ten years are a time of looking back and taking stock and acknowledging where one’s at and deciding how you really want to spend your time. And part of ageing is acknowledging that there’s life and death and identifying those fears and looking at them and going through them. Middle age pilgrimages, when one contemplates the inevitability of death. That’s when one looks at the context of one’s life. That’s the task that has to be done at this stage. And accepting death and all that goes with it, that’s hard. It’s no easy thing midlife, it really runs deep.
The Star card offers hope that we can be our “higher selves”. It is the same star that we see shining in the Hermit’s lamp: the star of our own inner light. We have come to a place of deep mystical union with our own spiritual source, the font of our own creative inspiration. The Star card depicts the inspirational experience of a flash of insight emerging from our unconscious that reveal to us who we could become; who we deeply desire to be. We must grasp this fleeting insight and follow it back to its source, like Ariadne’s thread, as it will return us to the centre of our own existence where our deepest desires and highest aspirations reside:
I’ve decided I should be an artist rather than talking about being an artist and that’s why I resigned from my job. I didn’t want to be bitter about what I hadn’t done. Where I worked I was the oldest person in a very trendy multimedia art department and I felt I should have achieved a lot more. I felt I was becoming less and less capable, mainly because I’ve been teaching and worrying about the students. So I’ve been feeling a bit of a fake. I have a lot of trouble taking my artwork seriously and I have to find a way of seeing myself as an artist.
I was helped by a friend who suggested I go and see a movie, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I remember walking out of the movie and onto the street and just as the light changed I realised, I knew from within, that I’m free, I don’t need the approval of others to feel good about myself. And that helped me to leave my job. And leaving teaching was a freeing experience. It gave me time to think about what I needed to do. How to carve out a career and do the work I want to do. Because I need to feel good about myself from within.
In the World card we have come full circle. We have transcended our personal concerns and limitations and understand that the worlds’ concerns are our concerns, the big picture is our picture. In its fullest expression the World card represents the mystical experience of enlightenment, Christ consciousness or universal consciousness. It is a card that symbolises our interconnection with all things; hence the world dancer, keeping time with the pulse of the cosmos, the poles of light and dark, of positive and negative energy, of masculine and feminine forces balanced and vibrating rhythmically to the song of the universe:
I have a more universal view of spirituality now. I believe in a supreme being and I believe there’s a spiritual dimension to all of us. There has to be a power that connects us even if it’s only universal thinking. If a discovery is made, one part of the world the same thing is happening elsewhere. That’s world consciousness. There’s nothing that’s grabbed me and said “you must be a follower” but I like to look at what’s there and be grateful. Being grateful for what you’ve got is important.
Travelling overseas opened my eyes to the world. I travelled around Europe and one of my friends loved to go into churches and she would always light a candle. And it was a nice way to travel. You feel connected to the culture and appreciate where people have come from. In Greece, those ruins were wonderful. I feel like I’ve travelled where the Gods have been.