by Kate Braun
P.D. Ouspensky’s Symbolism of the Tarot mentions that Tarot can interface with any other “occult system.” This means that not only the 22 Greater Trumps but also the 56 Lesser Trumps can be referenced to astrology, numerology, Kabballah, alchemy, and any other methodology of interest. Some Tarot decks come complete with symbols of these various methodologies on each card, making the interface easier, but if you choose to incorporate another system into your Tarot interpretation it is not necessary to buy another deck. The brief examples given here, combined with a careful examination of the cards you are currently using, may be all you need. In addition, there are many books readily available on various methodologies which you may find useful.
The following examples are based on the cards designed by A. E. Waite and executed by Pamela Colman Smith. This was the first deck in which pictures appeared on all 78 cards; any deck with pictures on all 78 cards can be said to derive from it. Not every card will have visual references to all occult systems. A close examination of each picture is necessary.
Greater Trump IV, The Emperor, sits on a throne decorated with rams’ heads, indicating much Aries energy; the Lesser Trump Queen of Wands holds a sunflower, sits on a throne decorated with lion heads and has lions rampant on the tapestry behind her, all references to Leo.
Each number from 1 to 10 has a meaning which can be interfaced with the numbers on both the Greater and Lesser Trumps. I recommend consulting a good book on numerology for this information as this is a study with which I am not very familiar.
There are twenty-two Greater Trumps and twenty-two paths connecting the stations of Kabballah, implying a connection between each Greater Trump and the lesson that may be learned by being on a particular path. An in-depth examination of the meanings in each Greater Trump will help you understand the lesson to be learned. Dion Fortune’s writings are but one source you may peruse.
Greater Trump XV, The Devil, has a black background. Black is the color of lead, a metal alchemists associated with heaviness, gloom, and despair. These attributes may be seen in the figures of Adam and Eve; they are so weighed down by the darkness they do not realize that the chains binding them to The Devil’s perch are loose enough to be lifted up over their heads, releasing them from their bondage. The Lesser Trump Queen of Pentacles has a gold background; gold is the purest metal, is the goal alchemists strove to achieve. While alchemists were speaking metaphorically about refining base metals to produce pure gold, the Queen of Pentacles is telling us to literally nurture and cherish our money and material possessions to further their growth and increase (hence, the rabbit in the foreground).
If you care to pursue the integration of alchemy and Tarot, I recommend reading Tarot Revelations by Joseph Campbell and Richard Roberts. Roberts’ contribution to this book focuses on alchemy, and also includes some numerology correlations. It contains much information which can be helpful to the Tarot student, whether serious or merely curious.
There are many books discussing Tarot interpretations which include these and other methodologies. I encourage any Tarot reader or student to investigate them. Adding an overlay of other “occult systems” to your interpretation can result in a more profound reading.
© Kate Braun 2010
Read more about Kate Braun here.
Another Tarot article by Kate can be found here: Greater and Lesser Trumps: Which is More Important in a Spread?