“Tao Jones and the Wages of Yin”

Forgive my weakness for loopy “pop-culture” titles, but this one comes from a serious place. As I previously mentioned, I’m reading a fine book titled The Tao of Thoth and went online to look for an image of the Taijii (“Yin-Yang”) symbol. I came up with one that showed the 24-hour day in “yang” and “yin” terms with the “Utmost Yang” at noon and the “Utmost Yin” at midnight. This gave me the idea of creating a daily reading approach that uses the active Fire and Air cards to symbolize the “yang” portion of the day and the passive Water and Earth cards to reflect the “yin” period; I extended this model to the Major Arcana via their zodiacal associations. The “yang” trumps are used to show the “Great Yang” (the white spiral) and the “yin” pips depict the “Lesser Yin” (black dot) within the spiral. The “yin” trumps represent the “Great Yin” (the black spiral) and the “yang” pips the “Lesser Yang” (white dot) within. The court cards I kept separate for a second purpose.

The contrasting cards above tell the story in a cinematic way: “Full of optimism (Sun) the Crusader (Emperor) sets out on his quest for the Holy Grail (Lust). But he finds only disillusionment (Moon), uncertainty (Priestess) and self-doubt (Hanged Man.)” The challenge he faces is to recognize the “yang within the yin” in this bleak scenario and ultimately transcend the outward appearance. Like Indiana Jones, he must “choose wisely.”

In the example reading below I didn’t apply the diurnal and nocturnal “timing” notation and just went for an impression of the energies at work during the ongoing day. The two Major Arcana indicate the main theme of each elemental dynamic, and the Minor Arcana might be thought of as the critical Superego or Conscience standing in the background and commenting. Once I placed those cards, I shuffled the court-card pack and dealt one card in the middle as the “bridge of awareness” between the two poles suggesting how they might be integrated. Although I didn’t use reversals, that might serve to show which is the dominant direction of flow.

This turned out to be a fascinating exercise. When I came up with this notion I had just finished and posted an essay that used Crowley’s statement about Analysis and Synthesis and his “Method of Science, Aim of Religion” motto to describe tarot reading as either a “deductive” (inferential) or an “inductive” (synthetic) act. Then the Hierophant (“Mr. Religion” in the PoMo deck) backed by the 6 of Swords (“Science”) showed up in the “Great Yin” position as the “inner motivation.” The Emperor backed by the 7 of Swords (“Failure”) in the “Great Yang,” or “outer motivation,” position implies that I may have overreached or overstated my case. The Knight of Wands could be saying that I just blithely “went for it” in my usual self-confident manner without a second thought, urged on by the Emperor. (I sometimes use the analogy of the Knight of Wands as the Emperor’s “little brother.”) Not entirely true, I did pause to reflect for a minute before I hit the “Publish” button; there are hazards in being too forthright, and I have the psychic scars from previous “flame wars” to prove it.

There is also a Taoist seasonal concept that views the Summer Solstice as the “Utmost Yang” during the course of the year, and the Winter Solstice as the “Utmost Yin.” It’s conceivable that one could perform a yearly tarot reading based on this design, but I think I might bring in the eight trigrams (the Bagua) that customarily surround the Taijii symbol, perhaps to show the eight Celtic festivals as “light” and “dark” way-points during the annual cycle; I will probably have to tinker with the traditional sequence of the trigrams to make this work.

A third possibility is to use the monthly lunation cycle as the framework for a slightly different “yin-and-yang” approach as long as we don’t get too “astronomical” and start talking about the Sun-Moon relationship in terms of conjunctions and oppositions instead of simply as an expression of visible light. Since the Moon is by nature a “yin” symbol, the New Moon (or “Dark of the Moon”) could be considered the “Yin within Yin” point and the Full Moon as the “Yang within Yin;” between each hemi-cycle there are three intermediate phases, making for a total of eight, once again aligning with the idea of eight trigrams. The waxing Moon would symbolize emerging “yang” energy and the waning Moon its “yin”counterpart. I imagine some creative adjustment would be necessary here as well. This kind of syncretism is the next logical step for someone like me who has created hundreds of more conventional tarot spreads.

Originally published at on March 9, 2022.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
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 .