My Journey into the Tarot has me looking with new eyes at the relationships between the wisdom figures of the Major Arcana. Before this journey, I would pair up the Magician and The High Priestess, but as I wrote about in last week’s post, it is actually the Hierophant and the High Priestess who offer each other necessary balance and when their cooperate a healthy wholeness.
So where is the Magician’s partner? The Magician’s partner is within. As the number One, the Magician represents the unity of all things and thus is neither masculine nor feminine (sorry to any Pythagoreans out there who classify this as a male number!) but a blending of both. The prominence of the 4 elemental tools or emblems of the suits contains this hidden nugget of truth because the Magician uses with equal facility the feminine elements of water and earth and the masculine elements of fire and air.
Perhaps this is why my current favorite reading decks all have androgynous Magicians: Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe, Tarot Roots of Asia, and Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot. In the Gaian Tarot Circle, although it is more automatic to see the Magician as man, were certain the figure is a woman and were surprised that others even conceived of it as a man.
The High Priestess then becomes the Major Arcana to have a gendered identity as the essence of feminine being. She brings forth the Empress, the physical, life-giving, creative force of the feminine. The cosmos springs from the feminine receptive to all life.
If we take the first flaring forth as an example, here is a wonderful description of its beginnings from Thomas Berry’s and Brian Swimme’s The Universe Story:
In the beginning was a flaring forth of evanescent beings. In every instant the universe was fresh, just as a flickering flame’s shape is fresh, nearly created. In the beginning, the universe was a sparkling. Nothing endured the beginning except the flickering creativity bringing forth each new billowing. The intensity, the concentration, the shimmering of the beginning was so extreme that no single being in the entire universe endured it, but each thing disappeared almost as suddenly as it entered into existence. (p. 20)
But to endure this great creativity needed form, the first photons and neutrons partnered and a foundation for a stable on-going creation of matter is made. We have entered the realm of the Emperor who brings structure to creation. At its best his structuring supports on-going creativity and his leadership leads to harmonious relations. This is possible when the Emperor and Empress partner just as the first proton and neutrons.
The High Priestess and Hierophant show this partnership within institutions and especially within the institutions that transmit religion and tradition. Their partnership, too, needs a dynamic dance of the feminine and masculine energies and inclinations.
The dance of these two couples played out in our society has been imperfect. We are emerging from a time when the masculine has led to too much and partnered too little, but in our times the Goddess and earth/green movements have been bringing the feminine back to center from the margins. We need to reclaim her wisdom.
And we need to make a leap.
We need to leap into The Lovers as an expression of the masculine and feminine integrated within us as individuals and within our societies and institutions. They need to embrace each others as equals.
The first six cards of the Major Arcana now show me a journey of healing. From the original unity of the Magician, we have passed through a perhaps necessary separation of the masculine and feminine, but in our times we have been damaged by the false belief that one is superior to the other. The Lovers invites us back to a dance of equality and joy.
May it be so!