Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey

Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780877285151
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 06/01/1980
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 797,210
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Sallie Nichols taught Symbolism of the Tarot for trainees at the C.G . Jung Institute, Los Angeles, and lectured frequently on this subject under Jungian auspices in San Francisco, San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles. In a series of seminars entitled A Tarot Trip into Jung's Psychology presented at the Theosophical Center in Hollywood and elsewhere, she successfully introduced both the Tarot and Jung's concept of the archetypes to audiences relatively unfamiliar with either subject. A longtime student of Jung's psychology, Sallie Nichols had the good fortune to study at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, while Jung was still alive and active.

Read an Excerpt

Jung and Tarot

An Archetypal Journey

By Sallie Nichols

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 1980 Sallie Nichols
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-902-0


Introduction to the Tarot

The Tarot is a mysterious deck of cards of unknown origin. At least six centuries old, this deck is the direct ancestor of our modern playing cards. Down through the generations, the figures depicted on these cards have enjoyed many incarnations. It is a testimony to the vitality and wisdom of the ancient Tarot that, although it had spawned such an active child as the playing cards we use today, the parent deck itself did not retire. In Central Europe, these quaint Tarot cards have remained in constant use for gaming and fortunetelling. Now, in America, the Tarot has suddenly surfaced into public consciousness. Like the puzzling figures which pop up unexpectedly in our dreams, these Tarot characters seem to cry out for our attention.

Dramatic eruptions of this kind usually mean that neglected aspects of ourselves seek recognition. No doubt, like our dream figures, the Tarot personalities have intruded themselves into our complacency in order to bring us messages of great import; but modern man, steeped as he is in a verbal culture, finds the nonverbal picture language of the Tarot difficult to decipher. In the following chapters we shall explore ways to approach these mysterious figures and catch sparks of understanding.

A journey through the Tarot cards is primarily a journey into our own depths. Whatever we encounter along the way is au fond an aspect of our own deepest, and highest, self. For the Tarot cards, originating as they did at a time when the mysterious and irrational had more reality than they do today, bring us an effective bridge to the ancestral wisdom of our innermost selves. And new wisdom is the great need of our time – wisdom to solve our own personal problems and wisdom to find creative answers to the universal questions which confront us all.

Like our modern cards, the Tarot deck has four suits with ten "pip" or numbered cards in each. The four Tarot suits, are called wands, cups, swords, and coins. These have evolved into our present suits of clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds. In the Tarot deck, each suit has four "court" cards: King, Queen, Jack, and Knight. The latter, a dashing young cavalier mounted on a spirited horse, has mysteriously disappeared from today's playing cards. The handsome Knight pictured here (fig. 1) is taken from an Austrian transition deck – meaning a design which falls historically somewhere between the original Tarot cards and our modern deck. As we see, the vitality of this Knight was such that he persisted in the deck after his suit had already changed from coins to diamonds.

That this symbol of single-minded purpose, courtliness, and courage should have disappeared from today's playing cards may indicate a lack of these qualities in our present-day psychology. The Knight is important because we shall need his courage and questing spirit if our journey is to be a successful one.

Equally significant, and certainly as mysterious, is the amputation from our modern deck of the Tarot Trumps, which are the cards that will be the landmarks for our journey. These Trumps – sometimes called Atouts – comprise a set of twenty-two picture cards which do not belong to any of the four suits. Each of these cards bears an intriguing name (THE MAGICIAN, THE EMPRESS, THE LOVER, JUSTICE, THE HANGED MAN, THE MOON, and so forth), and the cards are numbered. Arranged in sequence, the Trumps seem to tell a picture story. It will be the focus of this book to examine the twenty-two Trumps in sequence and to puzzle out the story they tell.

Like the alchemical Mutus Liber (which incidentally appeared later), the Trumps can be viewed as a silent picture text representing the typical experiences encountered along the age-old path to self-realization. How and why such subject matter found its way into the Tarot, which was and still is essentially a deck of playing cards, is a mystery that has puzzled generations of scholars. Only one vestige of the Trumps remains in our modern playing cards: the Joker. This odd fellow who leads such an elusive life in every pack of cards is a direct descendant of a Tarot Trump called THE FOOL, with whom we shall soon become acquainted.

Theories about the origin of this Fool and his twenty-one companion Trumps are various and fanciful. Some imagine that these cards represent the secret stages of initiation in an esoteric Egyptian cult; others maintain, and this with more historical probability, that the Trumps are of Western European origin. Several reputatable scholars, among whom A. E. Waite and Heinrich Zimmer, suggest that the Trumps were concocted by the Albigenses, a gnostic sect which flourished in Provence in the twelfth century. It is felt that they were probably smuggled into the Tarot as a veiled communication of ideas at variance with the established Church. One contemporary writer, Paul Huson, views the Tarot's origin as a mnemonic device used chiefly in necromancy and witchcraft. Another contemporary writer, Gertrude Moakley, pioneered the ingenious theory that the Trumps are of exoteric origin, being simply adaptations of illustrations from a book of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura. This book was called I Trionfi, a title which translates both as "The Triumphs" and "The Trumps."

In Petrarch's sonnets a series of allegorical characters each fought and triumphed over the preceding one. This theme, a popular one in Renaissance Italy, was the subject of many paintings of the period. It was also dramatized in pageants in which these allegorical figures, elaborately costumed, paraded around the castle courtyards in decorative chariots accompanied by knights on horseback in full regalia. Such parades, called carousels, are the origin of our modern merry-go-round. On today's carousels, while children play at being brave knights riding handsome steeds, their grandparents can enjoy a more sedate ride in a golden chariot.

Figure 2 shows Tarot number seven, THE CHARIOT, as pictured in a fifteenth century commemorative deck designed and executed by the artist, Bonifacio Bembo, for the Sforza family of Milan. These elegant cards, some of which can be seen in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, are painted and illuminated in brilliant colors on a diapered background of gold over red with touches of silver. It is good to recall that such triumphal cars as the one pictured here are still an important feature of Italian festivals, and that the delightful rocking-horse spirit of its horses remains forever on parade in our modern carousels.

Actually, very little is known about the history of the Tarot cards or about the origin and evolution of the suit designations and the symbolism of the twenty-two Trumps. But the many imaginative hypotheses as to the cards' inception, and the numerous visions and revisions inspired by their pictorial symbology attest to their universal appeal and demonstrate their power to activate the human imagination. For the purposes of our study, it matters little whether the Tarot Trumps sprang from the Albigenses' love of God or Petrarch's passion for Laura. The essence of their importance for us is that a very real and transforming human emotion must have brought them to birth. It seems apparent that these old cards were conceived deep in the guts of human experience, at the most profound level of the human psyche. It is to this level in ourselves that they will speak.

Since it is the aim of this book to use the Tarot as a means of getting in touch with this level of the psyche, we have chosen as the basis for discussion the Marseilles Tarot, one of the oldest designs available today. Playing cards being perishable, the "original" Tarot no longer exists, and the few remnants of old decks still preserved in museums do not correspond exactly with any pack currently in print. Thus no present-day Tarot can be called in any sense authentic. But the Marseilles version, in general, preserves the feeling tone and style of some of the earliest designs.

There are other reasons for choosing the Marseilles deck. First, its design transcends the personal. There is no evidence, for example, that it was created by one individual as are most of our contemporary Tarot decks. And second (again unlike most contemporary Tarot packs), the Marseilles deck comes to us unaccompanied by an explanatory text. Instead it offers us simply a picture story, a song without words, which can haunt us like some old refrain, evoking buried memories.

This is not the case with contemporary Tarot decks, most of which were devised by a known individual or group, and many of which are accompanied by books in which the authors set forth in words the abstruse ideas which they have presumably presented in the picture cards. This is the case, for example, with the cards and texts created by A. E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, "Zain," and Paul Foster Case.

Although the text which accompanies the Tarot in such cases is usually introduced as an elucidation of the symbols portrayed on the cards, the neteffect is more that of an illustrated book. In other words, it is as if the Tarot cards were devised as illustrations for certain verbal concepts rather than that the cards erupted spontaneously first and the text was inspired by them. As a result, the personalities and objects pictured in these cards seem more allegorical in character than symbolic; the pictures appear to illustrate verbalized concepts rather than suggesting feelings and insights wholly beyond the reach of words.

The difference between a Tarot deck accompanied by a text and the Marseilles deck which stands alone is a subtle one; but it is important in terms of our approach to the Tarot. To our way of thinking, it is the difference between reading an illustrated book and walking into an art gallery. Both are valuable experiences, but they are quite different in their effect. The illustrated book stimulates intellect and empathy, connecting us with the insights and feelings of others. The art gallery stimulates imagination, forcing us to dip down into our own creativity and experience for amplification and understanding.

Another difficulty with some Tarot decks is that a number of these have affixed to the Trumps extraneous symbols borrowed from other systems, implying that there is an exact correlation between the Trumps and other theological or philosophical theories. For example, in some decks each of the Trumps is marked with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet in an attempt to connect each Trump symbolically with one of the twenty-two paths of the Cabalistic Sephiroth. But there exists no uniform agreement as to which Hebrew letters belongs to which Tarot. Commentators have also affixed alchemical, astrological, Rosicrucian, and other symbols to the Tarot. Here also confusion reigns, as one can see by contrasting the ideas of Case, "Zain," Papus, and Hall in this regard.

Since all symbolic material derives from a level of human experience which is common to all mankind, it is, of course, true that valid connections can be made between some of the Tarot symbols and those of other systems. But this deep layer of the psyche, which C. G. Jung termed the unconscious, is, by definition, not conscious. Its images do not derive from our ordered intellect, but, rather, in spite of it. They do not present themselves in a logical manner.

Each philosophical system is merely an attempt on the part of the intellect to create a logical order out of the seeming chaos of imagery arising from the unconscious. Intellectual categories are a way of systematizing our experience of this nonverbal world. Each is a kind of grid system superimposed, if you like, over the raw experience of our most profound human nature. Each such system is useful, and in that sense, each one is "true" – but each is unique. Viewed one by one, these various patterns offer us convenient pigeonholes for organizing psychic experiences. But to superimpose these many grids, one atop the other, would be to distort their symmetry and destroy their usefulness.

Lest through such confusion we lose our way in the Trumps, we make no attempt in this book to correlate the Tarot symbolism with that of other disciplines. For the most part we shall confine our discussion to the Trumps as they appear in the Marseilles deck, picturing other versions of the cards only when these seem to offer insights that enrich their meaning. We shall try, as Jung did with symbolic material, to amplify by analogy, leaving the symbol's ultimate meaning, as always, free and open-ended.

In defining the scope of a symbol, Jung often stressed the difference between a symbol and a sign. A sign, he said, denotes a specific object or idea which can be translated into words (e.g., a striped pole means barber shop; an X means railroad crossing). A symbol stands for something which can be presented in no other way and whose meaning transcends all specifics and includes many seeming opposites (e.g., the Sphinx, the Cross, etc.).

The pictures on the Tarot Trumps tell a symbolic story. Like our dreams, they come to us from a level beyond the reach of consciousness and far removed from our intellectual understanding. It seems appropriate, therefore, to behave toward these Tarot characters pretty much as we would if they had appeared to us in a series of dreams picturing a distant unknown land inhabited by strange creatures. With such dreams, purely personal associations are of limited value. We can best connect with their meaning through analogy with myths, fairy tales, drama, paintings, events in history, or any other material with similar motifs which universally evoke clusters of feelings, intuitions, thoughts, or sensations.

Since the symbols pictured in the Tarot are ubiquitous and ageless, the usefulness of these amplifications will not be confined to this book. The Tarot figures, in various guises, are ever present in our lives. By night they appear in our sleep, to our mystification and wonder. By day they inspire us to creative action or play tricks with our logical plans. We hope that the material presented here will help us to connect with our dreams – not only with those which come to us at night, but with the hopes and dreams of our daylight hours as well.


Map of the Journey

Before setting out on a journey, it is a good idea to have a map. Figure 3 is such a map. It shows the territory we shall be covering in this book. Pictured here are the twenty-two Trumps as they appear in the Marseilles Tarot which, as already indicated, is based on some of the earliest surviving designs. The way the cards are arranged in this map offers us a preview of the kinds of experiences we may expect to encounter along the way.

The best way to get at the individual meaning of these cards for oneself is to approach them directly, as one would the paintings in an art gallery. Like paintings, these Trumps are so-called projection holders, meaning simply that they are hooks to catch the imagination. Speaking psychologically, projection is an unconscious, autonomous process whereby we first see in the persons, objects, and happenings in our environment those tendencies, characteristics, potentials, and shortcomings that really belong to us. We people the exterior world with the witches and princesses, devils and heroes of the drama buried in our own depths.

Projecting our inner world onto the outer one is not a thing we do on purpose. It is simply the way the psyche functions. In fact projection happens so continuously and so unconsciously that we are usually totally unaware it is taking place. Nevertheless these projections are useful tools toward gaining self-knowledge. By viewing the images that we cast onto outer reality as mirror reflections of inner reality, we come to know ourselves.

In our journey through the Tarot Trumps, we shall be using the cards as projection holders. The Trumps are ideal for this purpose because they represent symbolically those instinctual forces operating autonomously in the depths of the human psyche which Jung has called the archetypes. These archetypes function in the psyche in much the same way as the instincts function in the body. Just as a healthy newborn babe arrives with a built-in tendency to suckle or to startle at a loud noise, so his psyche alsoshows certain hereditary tendencies whose effects can be similarly observed. We cannot of course see these archetypal forces, as indeed we cannot see instincts; but we experience them in our dreams, visions, and waking thoughts where they appear as images.

Although the specific form these images take may vary from culture to culture and from person to person, nevertheless their essential character is universal. People of all ages and cultures have dreamed, storied, and sung about the archetypal Mother, Father, Lover, Hero, Magician, Fool, Devil, Savior, and Old Wise Man. Since the Tarot Trumps picture all of these archetypal images, let us look briefly at some of them as they appear on our map. By doing so, we can begin to familiarize ourselves with the cards and demonstrate how powerfully these symbols act in all of us.


Excerpted from Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols. Copyright © 1980 Sallie Nichols. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction to the Tarot,
Map of the Journey,
The Fool in Tarot and in Us,
The Magician: Creator and Trickster,
The Popess: High Priestess of Tarot,
The Empress: Madonna, Great Mother, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
The Emperor: Father of Civilization,
The Pope: The Visible Face of God,
The Lover: Victim of Cupid's Golden Error,
The Chariot: It Carries Us Home,
Justice: Is There Any?,
The Hermit: Is There Anybody There?,
The Wheel of Fortune: Help!,
Strength: Whose?,
The Hanged Man: Suspense,
Death: The Enemy,
Temperance: Heavenly Alchemist,
The Devil: Dark Angel,
The Tower of Destruction: The Stroke of Liberation,
The Star: Ray of Hope,
The Moon: Maiden or Menace?,
The Sun: Shining Center,
Judgement: A Vocation,
The World: A Window of Eternity,
On Spreading the Cards,

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