Tarot and the 22 Paths (part one)

Jan 21st, 2009 | By | Category: Tarot

This will be the first of a group of articles that I will explore and let you explore the 22 paths of the tarot, as they are related to the paths on the tree of life. This series of articles will teach you how you can use pathworking journeys to assist you in finding and discovering your true, inner self, as well as your desires, thoughts and inner emotions. As we work through several parts in this series we will learn how the paths on the tree of life, and the sephiroh (or spheres) on the tree of life are related directly to the tarot, and how the corresponding relationship can be used to assist you in finding, working with, learning from and recognizing your true inner soul.

Circle of Souls - Paradiso Canto

Circle of Souls - Paradiso Canto

It is very important to remember first that the tarot deck originated around 1200AD, which is much earlier than originally believed. This symbolic journey which is indicated on the tarot cards represents the journey from manhood, or womanhood to ultimate spiritual ascension. This ascenision and growth is based on several layers of symbolic meanings and concepts. We will discuss these concepts below and I will help you to build up an understanding of those concepts as they start to create the 22 paths in the tree of life.

These symbolic concepts include that there are 4 suits on the tarot deck which are cups, wands, swords and pentacles. These four suits represent water, fire, air and earth. Each suit also contains four court cards which repersent spirituality (king), the soul and emotions (queen), selfhood and mental progress (knight) and the body and physical aspects (page). The four court cards correspond to the four letters of God in the Jewish hebrew tradition (Yod He Vau He in Hebrew). The four cards can then come to symbolize the trinity plus one other aspect beyond the trinity (or a transition from a spiritual or mystical world – returning to a material or physical world).

‘Yod’ (symbolized by wands) therefore becomes the origin of all things. ‘He’ (sybmolized by cups) represents substance and emotional feelings, ‘Vau’ (symbolized by the swords) which indicates affinity for each other and the completion of this trinity. Finally we have ‘He’ again (symbolized by pentacles or coins) which indicates the return to the material world from the spiritual journey just completed.

Tarot Suit Jewish/Hebrew Letter Element
Sceptre (Wands) Yod Fire
Cup (Cups) He Water
Sword (Swords) Vau Earth
Pentacle (Pentacles) He Air

We also have to consider the 22 trump cards which are not connected to the Major Arcana, but they still lie in the same suits. Every one of these cards can be used to represent a journey along the Tree of Life. These journeys are mystical pathways through the underworld (or astral world) that directly correspond to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. They also correspond directly to the tree of life. As you follow your own path through the major steps (22 of them) you will find that it becomes possible to locate awareness and you may achieve a mystical awakening to your own unique soul: an awakening which is not possible with any other method.

As we begin our journey through the Major Arcana, the cards are as follows: 0 – (the Fool), the holy or innocent person (representing you and your spiritual direction), 1 (the Magician) and the lesser Sun, indicated by will power and all matters of action. 2 (the High Priestess) indicating the female aspect and a reflection of God. This is also known introspection and reflection, or as the ‘Isis of nature’ whose veil cannot be raised by the profane, 3 (the Empress) signifies the mother and all matters of fertility, 4 (the Emperor) the father and form of the Empress that represents matters of organization and structure, 5 (the Hierophant) the opposite of the High Priestess indicating knowledge in practical form and symbolic of religion and religious symbolism, 6 (the Lovers) signifying humankind’s dual nature and symbolic of the emotions of love and unity that are expressed with a beloved – also indicative of any relationship issues, 7 (the Chariot) the last card of the first of three groups of 7 cards, this one represents victory and all matters of success and achievement in general.

The second group of 7 cards is: 8 (Strength) indicating virility as well as spiritual life and the personal test and trials that may come along with it, 9 (the Hermit) which is symbolic of inner knowledge, silence and all things solitary in nature, 10 (the Wheel of Life, or of Fortune) signifying the eternal time that indicates change and cycles, 11 (Justice) indicating the equal aspects of all worlds and forms, and used to represent matters of balance, 12 (Hanged Man) for power that is balanced in all respects and also for the occult symbol of water (consciousness) and personal sacrifice, 13 (Death) significant of the passing from one stage to another stage and any link between spiritual and material – such as a transformation, 14 (Temperance) the great waters of life in humankind and the individualized power which may be used to accept herself, or himself and to gain self-control and balance.

We are now up to the last set of 7 cards and the path aspects that they represent, as follows: 15 (the Devil) power that has been misused resulting in destruction, or temptation, 16 (the Tower) meaning the fall of humankind from the spell, or grasp of materialism and also indicating all matters of falling down, 17 (the Star) symbolic of spoken word put into action or of the spirit as it survivves any fall indicated by grace, 18 (the Moon) material things and the material world as it reflected back to us, also sometimes known as the unconscious, 19 (the Sun) the first of the elemental kingdoms of the Spirit which has been renewed in any form to come to represent joy, 20 (Judgment) matters of evolution which eventually indicates any matter of choice, and lastly 21 (the Universe) the whole universe (or macrocosm) that comes to meet the human being (the microcosm), also known as material Earthly matters of the four worlds signifying mundane existence.

As we work through the following articles in this series we will go deeper into how each of the 22 Major Arcana tarot cards are tied together and connected in a way that represents the tree of life.

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