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Who Are You in the Tarot?
Discover Your Birth and Year Cards and Uncover Your Destiny
By Mary K. Green
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2011 Mary K. Greer
All rights reserved.
Constellations, Principles, Archetypes, and Beliefs
You are embarking on an adventure with this book as your guide. This is a magical journey, illuminated by what I call the tarot constellations. The universe that we gaze at in the night sky above us was first mapped into meaningful groups by the ancient Chaldeans, "the sky gazers," six centuries before Christ. In the West, we identified these groups as constellations; named them for mythical beings, animals, and objects; and told stories about them that served as guides to the meaning and purpose of life. Similarly, the tarot deck is another map of consciousness evolved by our predecessors and transmitted to us, in which we now chart the journey of our Self. A semimythical philosopher by the name of Hermes Trismegistus described the relationship between the inner and outer universe like this:
That which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above, to achieve the wonders of the one thing.
Called the Hermetic axiom, this phrase is central to all alchemical and metaphysical philosophy and the key to an understanding of the use of symbols such as the tarot.
Consider, however, that the astronomical and astrological constellations are not actually connected star systems; they are imagined collections of points of light, some originating relatively near us and some far more distant, that appear related only from our personal viewing platform, which we call Earth. Because of our own inner need for personal meaning, humans throughout history have projected our own consciousness upon the night sky in the form of complex patterns and pictures. Nevertheless, the meaning we find in them is completely valid: When we gaze at the stars, we see ourselves clearly. As author Joseph Chilton Pearce has aptly said, "Man's mind mirrors a universe that mirrors man's mind."
Tarot Constellations and the Nine Basic Principles
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, constellations are "groupings of objects, properties, or individuals," especially ones that are "structurally or systematically related." Most events and concerns current at any particular time in your life are "constellated," or clustered, around specific core issues. To the extent that constellated issues within you influence your actions, they also define your character.
The cards in a reading reflect your current constellated issues—both inner and outer. These constellations are made up of cards that resonate to the same theme, of major and minor intensity, and each card within a constellation gives a different perspective on the theme. The more situations in your life that fit the description, the more you are involved in a core issue or dilemma that will continue to project itself and its meaning onto outer events until it has been dealt with. The positions in a tarot spread break the constellation down into several constituting properties. Much like a constellation in the sky, which is a grouping of stars defining the lines of a figure and representing a story, a tarot spread pictures you and tells a story about you. Thus, spreads are also constellations picturing the events that have come together to form your current story.
More important for our purposes, there are a set of nine tarot constellations consisting of the Major Arcana cards plus the Minor Arcana cards of the same root numbers 1 to 9. (The Court or People Cards will be dealt with separately.) These nine sets of cards constellate or cluster around nine basic principles. The division of the Major Arcana into nine similar groups, called "The Qabalah of Nine Chambers" (see appendix B), appears in the writings of MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley, members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, from which emerged two of the most influential decks used today: the Waite-Smith and Thoth Tarot decks.
The Constellations Discovered
I was first introduced to the concept of "tarot constellations" in 1978 by Angeles Arrien, who taught tarot using the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. She explained how she was playing with the cards one evening and had laid out both the Major and Minor Arcana in groupings based on the numbers: All the 1s together and all the 2s, etc. She then included all the cards that added up to each of the nine single-digit (root) numbers. For instance, since 17 = 1 + 7 = 8, the 17th card, the Star, was placed with the 8s, and so on.
She was arranging the groups into patterns when the phone rang. It was Joseph Campbell, author of works on mythology and symbolism, with whom she was leading a workshop at the Esalen Institute. He was excited by a realization he had recently had of how constellations are not just in the sky and stars, but such pattern groupings occur everywhere in our lives. Angie says she stood there as Campbell spoke and looked at the cards she had just grouped together all over the floor and saw that they were "tarot constellations." To the extent that constellated patterns within yourself determine your character, they become patterns of personal destiny—major forces that motivate and direct your life.
Chart 1: The Nine Principles of the Constellations
1. The Principle of Will and Focused Consciousness
2. The Principle of Balanced Judgment through Intuitive Awareness
3. The Principle of Love and Creative Imagination
4. The Principle of Life Force and Realization of Power
5. The Principle of Teaching and Learning
6. The Principle of Relatedness and Choice
7. The Principle of Mastery through Change
8. The Principle of Courage and Self-Esteem
9. The Principle of Introspection and Personal Integrity
Using the Lifetime Cards in a Reading
Imagine that you have come for a tarot consultation. I may begin (even before knowing your question) with the tarot constellation determined by your birth date—your Personality, Soul, Hidden Factor Cards, followed by your Year Card. These are all explained in this book.
From the information contained in your Personality and Soul cards, I gain some idea how to communicate with you in a reading. This understanding may modify how I interpret a card or the extent to which I emphasize its importance. These personal cards also suggest how you can best hear what the tarot has to say.
During the process of describing your basic characteristics and life issues, my intuition tunes into your potentials and possibilities. You'll most likely find that this basic information resonates with you and affirms that there are reasons for acting the way you do. If you have the Chariot as both your Personality and Soul Card, for instance, it is natural for you to protect your inner feelings. You are not just hiding behind a mask of bravado, or a role in your life, but also that is the sanctuary within which you develop your abilities. Nevertheless, that sanctuary must eventually be torn down when you have learned what you need from it. As a Chariot, if your life is currently in upheaval, we will look to see if you are breaking through an old and restricting identity that is now holding you back.
Thus, even before an actual reading has commenced, you have some insight as to not only "what" but also "why" something is occurring in your life. This is especially pertinent if you are asking the question, Why is this always happening to me? Repetitive occurrences can often be traced to the lessons inherent in your Personality, Soul, and Hidden Factor Cards— those cards that answer the question, What have I come here to learn? The Minor Arcana number cards of the same constellation show the kinds of life situations in which you are most likely to experience these lessons. Often, after only a few minutes of my describing the characteristics of your particular constellation pattern, you will begin to see for yourself, in the images on the cards, their relevance to your life.
Next, I calculate your Year Cards for the last several years and for the next three to five years. From the description I give of these cards, you begin to see a developmental pattern forming—for instance, how the choice of one year is acted on in the next, or how you move from an inner or more reflective state to a social or more aggressive energy. You can see how this allows you to experience complementary lessons in succeeding years. For instance, in a Chariot Year, you attempt to maintain control over opposing instincts and drives, but in the Strength Year that follows, you learn to come to terms with your instincts so that you can act in harmony with that power from within. Such an opportunity will not last forever—you have only a limited time to directly face your inner "beast" and discover what you truly "lust" after. Then you will move on to your next lesson, carrying with you what you learned this time around. Thus you begin to see each year as an exciting opportunity for growth. The lessons of the current year usually directly affect the situation for which you've come to the consultation.
This process can take from a quarter to a third of the time I allot to a consultation. By the time I ask for your specific question or issue, you already may have had your most pressing questions answered. Your immediate concerns are now placed into a larger perspective, so you see them as part of an entire life pattern. This is a major purpose of the tarot constellations.
Archetypes and the Tarot
The tarot cards hold great personal significance because they symbolize your inherent and eternal human characteristics, which psychologist Carl Jung labeled "archetypes." These archetypes, visualized and projected upon two-dimensional painted cards, speak at the deepest levels of secrets veiled behind your everyday personality.
The events in your life develop around myriad patterns or themes, in a way similar to the themes of ancient myths. Once you begin to perceive such patterns, you realize that your life is not meaningless but has great mythic and spiritual significance. M. Esther Harding, a Jungian psychoanalyst, says:
The fact that the path unfolds in this way, step by step, leading the individual on, often by quite unexpected turns, towards the goal of wholeness, must mean that there are in the psyche patterns or rules of development analogous to the patterns operative in the physiological realm—such as that, for instance, which leads to the growth and development of the embryo. Surely we should not be surprised to find in the psychic life such a priori patterns ...
Harding goes on to say that men and women, by finding such wholeness within, and in freeing themselves from the conflicts and division in their own lives, will "be doing something constructive towards the solution of the very problems that are devastating mankind." A world free of conflict and division can only exist if it is inhabited by people who have first freed themselves from conflict and division.
In the concepts of Jungian psychology, the term constellated refers to a particular archetype made up of interlocking factors, possessed of great power, and activated by an excess of energy. This constellated archetype can dominate your psyche unless you understand its energy and integrate it into your personality. Otherwise its qualities will be projected onto other people whom you deem more powerful and capable. You will then feel either inadequate and inferior or egotistical and bombastic in that area. Yet the values inherent in that archetype are accessible to you, and you will gradually assimilate them.
Although at any point in your life an archetype may constellate in your psyche, at birth you are born into a particular constellation. This is actively demonstrated through your astrological chart calculated for the exact minute of your birth. Yet another level of this "birthmark" is the archetype whose energy is constellated on the date of your birth, symbolized by the tarot card corresponding to the numerological sum of your birth date. When you are named, another energy is constellated, which it is your task to assimilate. These apparently "chance" occurrences become more understandable if you accept that your Greater Self chose your birth circumstances so that you could develop particular characteristics, face specific kinds of challenges, and focus on fulfilling a self-determined goal. Your name given at birth, with its cultural, familial, and generational significances, indicates the social constellations with which your soul desired to work. If you change your name, you choose to express new archetypes that reflect new energy constellations. Often when you release an archetype into consciousness, it cannot fit back into its old container, so a new one—a new constellated formation, a new name—must be made for it. Each year of your life is also defined by a particular confluence of energy, represented by an archetype whose passing influence gives you the opportunity to understand and integrate its values and lessons into your Self. If that energy already exists in your name or in the date of your birth, it becomes activated and more accessible than usual. You must deal with it directly and constructively, or its powerful effects can be destructive rather than beneficial.
You could say that the cards determined by your birth name and birth date represent the major tensions with which you will struggle all your life. Cards that express you only at certain times or under particular circumstances may show secondary issues. Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz calls these constellated archetypes "a mass of dynamic energy" and "a factor of psychological probability." According to von Franz, the constellating of an archetype actually creates an inner pattern or structure in the psyche. Oracular techniques, she says, are attempts to get at these basic structures so that the psychological probabilities can be read. To quote her: "Divination oracles are an attempt to contact the dynamic load of an archetypal constellation and to give a reading pattern of what it is."
The central archetypal constellations in a person's life—with which they must cope through an entire lifetime—are the forms of one's chosen purpose and are expressed in the birth date and name given at birth. This personal data deeply represents what one is destined to realize, meaning both "to make real" and "to comprehend the meaning of."
Another way of looking at the Self choosing its own destiny is the image of the child or fool in the act of playing a game of chance, that is, gambling. When dice (one of the oldest forms of gambling) are rolled, the "luck of the throw" determines the move. Fate supposedly rules that moment. But, according to Jung's theory of synchronicity, everything that happens at any given moment in time is meaningfully related. Fate then becomes a synchronistic phenomenon. Thus, synchronistic events—which seem to be unique, sporadic, and unpredictable—happen within a larger firmament that we are rarely, if ever, able to see. Coincident events mirror the constellation, with each event illuminating a small portion of the greater field—i.e., the archetype that is seeking expression. I see this in the image of the Fool in the tarot, who throws fate—and himself—to the wind. He simply steps into and goes with an existing current, although he cannot see it. He trusts his destiny, and eventually he may come to recognize its modes and perimeters.
But, you may ask, how can a number tell me what my central archetypal constellation is? Scientifically speaking, we live in a time-space continuum based on mathematical "relativity." We measure both time and space in numbers. Again, according to von Franz:
Number gives information about the time-bound ensemble of events. In each moment there is another ensemble, and number gives information as to the qualitative structure of the time-bound clusters of events.... I think we have to see that number is an archetypal representation or idea which contains a quantitative and a qualitative aspect.
Von Franz references Richard Wilhelm, a translator of the I Ching, who explains that the Chinese felt the future could be predicted by knowing how a tree contracted into a seed.
Thus, "if we know the kernel point of a situation [such as one's life], we can predict its consequences." I interpret "consequences" here to indicate what one's life stands for. Von Franz continues: "Now what that means in psychological language is that if we know the deepest underlying archetypal constellation of our present situation, then we can, to a certain extent, know how things will go."
In this book, I attempt to give you some of the tools for discovering your "kernel" constellation.
The Nature of Beliefs
The tarot cards act as mirrors enabling you to look at your experiences with some objectivity. The tarot images mirror our beliefs about life and literally depict the hereditary and societal belief structures that we have been born into, specifically in our Western culture. They show great affinity with Hermetic philosophy, Qabalah, astrology, numerology, Jungian psychology, mythic and symbolic psychologies, alchemy, and other esoteric metaphysical systems.
Excerpted from Who Are You in the Tarot? by Mary K. Green. Copyright © 2011 Mary K. Greer. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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