Tarot Symbolism

Each of the 78 scenic images of the RWS  (Rider Waite Smith) Tarot deck contain a number of symbols. When familiar with their meanings and possible interpretations, it is easier to “read” and interpret the cards.

Major Arcana Symbols:

 

0 – The Fool

White rose in hand – the soul, the heart, love. White = purity, innocence

Bundle on stick – provisions, potential, possessions (not much = flexible, light, independent). Stick = wand

Sun/Sky – blue, sunny, warm; the right time to travel, make a move

Mountains – obstacles, problems, difficulties in the far distance

Cliff – pitfall

Dog – instinct, spirit guide, warning from the intellect or playfulness

Orange – zest for life, energy

Yellow – Air, thoughts

Eagle’s head on bag – soaring spirit

Fool’s Posture – open, receptive, trusting, happy-go-lucky,  facing left (yin, feminine, unconscious)

1 – The Magician

Lemniscate above his head – symbol of eternity;  infinite potential, connection with universal principles

Red/White clothing – Alchemy; alchemical process catalyst for change

Red roses – passion

White lilies – purity, higher spirit

Objects on the table – 4 elements (4 Minor Arcana suits); possibilities, choices, potential

Garden – nature’s sacred space; emotional and creative power

Magician’s Posture – As above so below; making something real; manifesting spirit force by connecting heaven and earth.

Wand – lightning rod; energy

2 – The High Priestess

White gown – purity

Headdress – three aspects of the moon (symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis)

Equal-armed cross – uniting masculine and feminine powers

High Priestess’s Posture – right hand of power is hidden; left hand holding the Tora, Jewish book of law/5 books of Moses

Veil – something hidden, the unconscious/hidden knowledge

Water behind the veil – unconscious, intuition, mysteries

Pomegranates on veil – fruit of the Underworld, a connection to the myth of Persephone, who spent a third of her life in the Underworld with Hades, because she ate the seeds of the Pomegranate

Palm trees – ability to create through action (fanning), masculine, assertive energy

Columns – entrance to King Solomon’s Temple of Wisdom, Hebrew temple in Jerusalem

B and J – Boaz and Jakin, names of the two  main pillars of King Solomon’s temple

Black and white – opposites, night and day, yin and yang

Lunar crescent –  beginning of esoteric cycle

3 – The Empress

Empress’s Posture – comfort, luxury

Sceptre in right hand – taking the lead, creatrive energy

Gown – pomegranates; link with High Priestess, two aspects of the feminine

Headdress – 12 stars of the zodiac

Shield – heart-shaped, gentleness, passion; symbol for Venus, Goddess of love and beauty

Trees – growth, wisdom

River – feelings, nurture, emotions, life force, change

Corn – Fruitfulness, fertility

Red – passion, love

Yellow – gold, the sun

4 – The Emperor

Emperor’s posture – sitting straight, full-face image, confident, decisive, focused

Clothing – red cloth over armour, protection; ram shield symbolising Zodiac sign Aries

Red and white – in crown, white beard, red cloak: alchemy

Sceptre in right hand – yang (ankh, symbol of life)

Orb in left hand – yin

Sceptre and orb – two contrasting elements, balance

Ram – Aries, assertive power,  force, Aries rules the head, 1st sign of the Zodiac: new life

Background – bare, desolate mountains – limitations, water – little emotions

Stone throne – long-lasting, rigid

Red – colour of Aries, Mars

Yellow – Sun

 

To be continued….

 

 

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