The Tarot in a Nutshell

by Lon Milo Duquette
Author of The Magick of Thelema & The Way of the Secret Lover: Tantra, Tarot & the Holy Guardian Angel

For centuries the beautiful and mysterious images of the Tarot have captivated tee imagination of Western Civilization. The earliest examples date from the 14th Century and (it is commonly believed) were introduced to Europe by nomadic Gypsies who used the 78 cards as a fortune-telling device. But, as modern students have discovered, the Tarot is much more than a parlor game; it is a living, evolving pictorial storybook of the Divine. The entire deck is structured and organized in concordance with the ancient principles of the Hebrew Qabalah. Each card not only represents a Divine aspect of nature, but visually triggers the corresponding psychic center in the human consciousness. There are many versions of the Tarot for the eye; now let the initiated artistry of David & Steve Gordon take you on a unique and wondrous journey, a musical Tarot for the mind's eye.

MAJOR ARCANA (The Trumps), Part I:

Divine wisdom is foolishness to we mortals. What made the pre-existent Absolute forsake the perfect bliss of Nothingness in order to initiate creation? We cannot answer. We only know that the Universe springs from the Great Zero. Appropriately, our odyssey begins as a babe in a blue egg; or a handsome young FOOL, neither male nor female, gazing guilelessly into the sky before stepping off a precipice into a vast abyss. Tumbling through the void, the fool becomes the All, and is transformed into a progression of archetypal characters and images.

As the MAGUS, the All has become the self-conscious, directed, concentrated Will. This Cosmic Magician functions as a conduit, transferring that which is above to that which is below. The weapons of his magick are the Wand, with which he creates; the Cup, with which he preserves; the Dagger, with which he destroys; and the Disk, with which he redeems the world. His counterpart is the HIGH PRIESTESS. Only this Virginal Goddess of eternity is worthy to become the Great Mother of Fertility. Her chaste truth is of such purity that it can be veiled only by undulating waves of light. As the Magus is the Will of creation, the High Priestess is the Idea.

The union of the Magus and the high Priestess transforms them both; she into the EMPRESS, the Great Mother goddess, gate of all life; and he into the EMPEROR, Lord of patriarchal power, imperious director of energy. His marriage to the Empress is of primary importance to the government of the cosmos, for their child the HEIROPHANT, will unite the Macrocosm (the world of the Gods) with the Microcosm (the world of humanity). He is the "god-Man," symbol of human evolution in the New Age; when each of us must be responsible for our own spiritual destiny. That which is above is united and harmonized in each individual with that which is below. There is no bond that can unite the divided but love; in the LOVERS card, all of the previous Tarot characters achieve their synthesis. Ecstasy dissolves the illusion of separateness; through the thundering silence comes the Oracle of the Gods.

MAJOR ARCANA (The Trumps), Part 2:

Riding as a triumphant king, the Knight of the Holy Graal conveys the precious secret of life in a starry canopied CHARIOT. The blood is the life, cosmic equivalent of evolving DNA, carried by the Charioteer through a sea of infinite generations.

The process of creation is completed when supreme balance is achieved. The abstract Fool of pre-creation finds the perfect partner in the manifest Goddess of ADJUSTMENT (Justice). With her golden scales she equilibrates all energies, forces and principles; against the feather of her perfect truth she weighs the hearts of humanity.

The HERMIT stand upon his lonely mountain top and gives his light to the world. It is also he who descends into the underworld of our subconscious and, if we allow hi, will guide us to the celestial heavens of superconsciousness. From this spiritual vantage we see the cyclic nature of creation; an ever changing, ever increasing, ever diminishing WHELL OF FOTUNE. The power which turns the wheel is the primal, undirected LUST (Strength) of solar energy, symbolized by a beautiful Goddess astride a great lion. It is she who bears the Holy Graal now.

The still, blue waters that suspend the Fool as a babe, serve also to reflect. Is it you, or is it the HANGED MAN who is upside down? His sacrifice is not an occasion for mourning. DEATH is life itself. The caterpillar dies to become the butterfly; the maiden dies to become the mother. Without the Great Transformer there can be no new beginnings.

A royal marriage, alchemical union of opposites is celebrated in the ART (Temperance) card. Male and Female, Sun and Moon are conjoined to create the elixir of life. Fire is poured upon water, and water upon fire to produce the rainbow seal of a Divine covenant.

MAJOR ARCANA (The Trumps), Part 3:

All matter is born from the blending of Darkness and Light. The fearsome appearance of the DEVIL projects the illusion that we are hopelessly enmeshed in material existence. But the material world is our school; not our prison. Ignorance and superstition are the true "devils" that would bind the human spirit. So long as our eyes are closed, we remain in darkness. Old fears and attitudes must be destroyed like a lightening struck TOWER. Once illusion is annihilated, true meditation can begin. Illumination arises within like the evening STAR.

Like images in our dreams, the MOON is a portrait of our shifting unconscious. She appears to shine, but merely reflects the light; she appears to change shape, yet that is only her ever changing position to the SUN, true symbol of Life, Light, Love and Liberty. Our ancestors, in their ignorance, saw the Sun as a dying God, sacrificed daily and yearly only to resurrect each morning and each Spring. So deeply ingrained was this image, that we believed ourselves also subject to death death hat required continual elaborate rituals to assure our "life-after-death." In older Tarot decks this process was portrayed in the card entitled The Last Judgment. With the new AEON, however, has come the dawn of new consciousness. We know the sun does not die, nor does it need to be resurrected. Night, winter and death are all illusions simple shifting of a shadow. Our spiritual identity has now shifted from the Earth to the Sun. As such, we close the cycle of Trumps by taking our proper place in the UNIVERSE, dancing like a divine Fool in the center of the belt of the Zodiac, ready to withdraw once again into Nothingness.

MAJOR ARCANA (The Four Suits):

The ancient Qabalists divided creation into four descending levels. Every aspect of Deity has its proper place within this fourfold structure, including the celestial personages such as Seraphim, Cherubim, Archangels, Angels and yes, even human beings. In the Tarot, the four worlds are represented by the four suits; Wands (Fire), Cups (Water), Swords (Air) and Disks (Earth). Within each suit is a Knight (the King), a Queen, a Prince and a Princess, who represent respectively the fiery, watery, airy and earthly aspects of each suit. In addition to these "Court" cards, each suit has ten numbered cards; the Ace is the archetypal emblem of the suit, and Two through Ten expose the dynamic inner workings of the element.

WANDS (FIRE): Representing the highest of the four worlds, the Wands symbolize the fiery Will of the God, source of all energy and creative passion. Dominion, Virtue, Completion, Strife, Victory, Valor, Swiftness and Strength finally degenerate into Oppression as we descend the ladder of the world of Wands.

CUPS (WATER): As water both mirrors and absorbs light, the suit of Cups receives the influence of the Wands and reflects and nurtures their radiance. This is the heart and Soul of God. Love, Abundance, Luxury, Disappointment, Pleasure, Debauch, Indolence and Happiness dissolve uneasily into Satiety as the work of Water is completed.

SWORDS (AIR): A sword slashing though the air can destroy, defend, discriminate, enforce judgment and invoke powers either for good or for evil. What better symbol for the perpetually all-creative Mind of God? Even the titles of the suits of Swords sing of the triumphs and tragedies of the mind. Peace, Sorrow, Truce, Defeat, Science, Futility, Interference and Cruelty end inevitably in Ruin if Reason ignores the influence of the Will and the Heart.

DISKS (EARTH): Disks represent the manifested material plane, lowest of the four worlds and visible fruit of their influence. Money is a perfect example of the Disk; it is a coin, the reward of physical labor (Disks), which is directed by intellectual process (Swords), which has been inspired by creative visualization (Cups), and motivated by the will to achieve (Wands). All things on the material plane are the product of this fourfold development. Change, Work, Power, Worry, Success, Failure, Prudence, Gain and finally Wealth rewards the courageous traveler at the end of our Tarot journey. But the journey has not really ended. The TAROT, often spelled TARO, is not a ladder, but a wheel, a snake swallowing it's tail; perpetually beginning anew as a Great Zero the FOOL.

To experience music based on the Tarot, check out

Music of the Tarot by David & Steve Gordon.

For further study of the Tarot, we recommend: "Book of Thoth" by Master Therion/Aleister Crowley & The Thoth Tarot Deck by Crowley/Harris.

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