AUTHOR’S NOTE: This essay explores the relationship between the Lover (the “Crossroads”) and the Chariot (the “Cabbie”) cards of the Tarot de Marseille, although it touches on elements of more recent esoteric decks.

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Copyright Editions de Mortagne (Kris Hadar)

In reading Roberts Place’s volume, , I encountered his association of Plato’s threefold subdivision of the human soul with the septenary (3×7) arrangement of the tarot trumps (the Fool is set apart as a “wild card”). Plato’s unevolved “soul of appetite” corresponds to the seven-card series from the Magician to the Chariot; the developing “soul of will” encompasses the middle series of seven trumps, from Justice (or Strength in the RWS deck) to Temperance; and the mature “soul of reason” imbues the remaining seven, from the Devil to the World. I was struck by how closely Place’s description of the Chariot’s virtuous triumph over the libidinous hankering of the Lovers parallels my own view of the latter card as depicting a “crossroads” with two paths (or choices) leading away from it — a scrupulous “high road” and a “low road” of self-indulgence, with the Chariot as “chauffeur” or psychopomp. …


In , Alejandro Jodorowsky notes that the suit of Pentacles or Coins is “always referred to in the plural” (“Deniers”) while the other suits of the Tarot de Marseille are presented in the singular form — e.g. “Baton” and not “Batons” — showing that the energy of the suit is “essentially collective” from its very beginning in the Ace (to which I would add “sequentially cumulative and acquisitive” since the Pentacles gradually accrue mass as they emerge into their full flowering in the Ten). Aleister Crowley, for one, did not find this a particularly encouraging development; of the 9 of Disks (Pentacles) he said “. . . the descent into matter implies the gradual exhaustion of the original whirling energy . . . As a general remark one may say that the multiplication of a symbol of Energy always tends to degrade its essential meaning, as well as to complicate it.” …


I thought I was going to have to do some prodigious legwork to write this essay, but Mary Greer saved me the trouble with her informative blog article on Eden Gray. Read hers first, since summarizing her excellent research for my own purposes would be pointless:

Eden Gray’s Fool’s Journey

There was little in the way of popular literature on the tarot — esoteric or otherwise — when I first encountered the cards. Although the Aquarian was the first deck I held in my hand (an Army friend had it sent to Germany in 1970), I didn’t begin my studies until 1972 with the Thoth deck and its companion volume, . I had no idea I was jumping in at the deep end of the pool with no clue how to swim; it was available so I latched onto it as part of my general interest in occult subjects at that time. Shortly after, I picked up Arthur Edward Waite’s , but I was so thoroughly immersed in the Thoth that I didn’t buy a Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck until nearly four decades later. Although Crowley’s writing was certainly arcane and enormously difficult for a novice, I found Waite’s to be turgidly Victorian and almost absurdly vague in places (I have since re-read it to slightly better effect). Trying to blend the two with the goal of using the Thoth for divination turned out to be an exercise in futility, since Crowley’s published thought was of a much higher order than Waite was willing (although he was perfectly able) to reveal to the uninitiated in his own tarot book. …


During my intermittent forays into the Tarot de Marseille (I’m still waiting for that “one book to rule them all”), I’ve come across the opinion that Batons and Swords are the “hard” suits, while Cups and Coins are “soft.” There is some logic to this: both wooden batons (also called staves) and edged metal blades are weapons when wielded with the intent to do harm. On the other hand, a chalice is accepting of and gives form to its liquid contents, and a coin as a medium of exchange is often the fungible centerpiece of a negotiated bargaining agreement that belies its unbending metallic firmness. Batons and Swords are straight (or at least linear), stiff and assertive, while Cups and Coins are rounded and agreeably unassuming in the hand. …


Similar to the tarot, which has Arthur Edward Waite’s as the first — if not necessarily the best — gateway to the most popular style of modern tarot reading, the Lenormand cards have their watershed moment in the , a single page of keyword meanings and interpretive guidance that, as a pack-in to the early versions of the deck, amounted to the first “Little White Book” in cartomancy. It was originally written in German and accompanied most Petit Lenormand decks published between 1850 and 1930. …


AUTHOR’S NOTE: This essay captures three previous posts that I’ve attempted to distill into a single piece of writing. I’ve left a small amount of redundancy in the text for the purpose of continuity.

One doesn’t really Aleister Crowley’s(), his exquisitely (and often excruciatingly) erudite companion volume to the magnificent deck of tarot cards he and Freida Harris bestowed upon the world. One stands back at a safe distance, squints sagely at it, maybe scratches one’s addled pate, and tries to think of something profound to say. Much of it simply defies normal language. I was first seduced by it (“reading it” is much too prosaic a concept) around 1972, and it has been a constant source of study, reference and inspiration ever since. I bought a new hardcover copy not long ago (the tattered one I burned page-by-page in a ritual bonfire on the Summer Solstice). As a lifelong user of the Thoth deck and the Book of Thoth (48 years and counting), I was able to condense my impressions of the new edition of the book into a few paragraphs for the curious neophyte. …


It has taken me the better part of 40 years to come up with a reliable working definition for the 14th Major Arcanum, Temperance (Art in the Thoth deck). The common understanding that it signifies nothing beyond “moderation” or “forbearance” has never convinced me, and the concept of “healing” is even more foreign to me as a student of the esoteric tarot; the notion that “Temperance = Sagittarius = the mythological centaur Chiron = healing” is just a little too mystically convoluted to swallow. Nor have I been greatly swayed by all of the elevated talk in the literature about spiritual transmutation and the reconciliation of opposites (Fire and Water); V.I.T.R.I.O.L and the need to seek within for the philosophical “Stone of the Wise;” and the relation of this card to ATU VI and the “consummation of the alchemical marriage.” Beyond its association with the sign of Sagittarius, there is a wealth of ideas to contemplate but precious little to immediately apply at the level of a routine reading. …


In his book , Alejandro Jodorowsky makes much of the “perfection” of the number Eight. His assumptions appear to be based on the fact that 8 represents the completion or fullness of the even-numbered binary series that began with 2. Jodo states “If 2 is accumulation, 4 stabilization, and 6 union in beauty, then 8 is the preeminent symbol of perfection in matter and mind.” This is all very well within his closed system of interpretation (which has similarities to that of French tarot writer Joseph Maxwell), but he deliberately rejects any other ways of looking at it. He considers 9 and 10 to be of a different order. …


The Hermetic Qabalah assumes that the material Universe was created through an orderly evolution of increasingly substantive thought-forms (symbolized by the sephirot — Hebrew for “emanations” — on the Tree of Life diagram) that originated in the realm of pure Spirit (aka the “Mind of God”) and terminated in the mundane reality with which we interact as incarnate beings. This model is held to explain all manner of theories about how things work in the experiential sphere where we “live and move and have our being.” For the inquiring metaphysical mind that is unencumbered by religious baggage, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief involved in making the conceptual leap from the numinous kingdom of spirit to the concrete world of the senses. …


In tarot divination, there is a tendency to look at the Major Arcana (aka “trump”) cards that turn up in a reading and say “That’s all well and good as a philosophical abstraction, but what does it really mean for this particular person or situation at this point in time?” Their archetypal aim can be so far removed from the mundane target of explaining “life in the trenches” that it’s often challenging to link the two in any kind of meaningful and constructive way. They can seem like irreconcilable opposites; one is remote and exalted in the extreme while the other can be about as gritty as it gets. …

About

Parsifal the Scribe

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at www.parsifalswheeldivination.com.

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