The Happy Squirrel Card In The Tarot

Image Credit: Geran de Klerk (CC0 License) & Derek Gavey (CC BY 2.0 License) | Edited By: Mat Auryn
Image Credit: Geran de Klerk (CC0 License) & Derek Gavey (CC BY 2.0 License) | Edited By: Mat Auryn

Have you ever found a card in one of your tarot decks named “The Happy Squirrel”? The Happy Squirrel is a recent addition to the Tarot‘s Major Arcana cards. It originates from an episode of The Simpsons (Series 6, Episode 17) where Lisa goes to visit a fortune teller.

In the episode the fortune teller does a tarot reading and draws the Death Card (XIII), which upsets Lisa. The fortune teller calms Lisa down stating “No, that’s good! It means transition, change…”, something every tarot reader has had to explain at some point or another. The next card the fortune teller draws is “The Happy Squirrel” (XXIII), which Lisa thinks is cute however the fortune teller freaks out and Lisa asks whether that’s a bad card to which the fortune teller shrugs stating, “Possibly, the cards are vague and mysterious”.

Ever since that episode the card has been a bit of a joke within the tarot community and eventually artists started including it into their deck. Most don’t read with the card and pull it out before a reading. However, I find it’s very fascinating that this card has entered our consciousness and has created an update to the Major Arcana. For me there’s a lot of synchronicity regarding the addition of the Happy Squirrel card and find that it works in a reading very well.

Just like the scene in the Simpsons with the card, I have found that the Happy Squirrel’s simple and whimsical appearance is deceptive just as the acorn commonly associated with it may appear to be small and simple. Yet it has the potential to grow, when deeply rooted, into a powerful and strong oak tree.

Squirrel Symbolism

To begin understanding the Happy Squirrel card let’s look at the spiritual symbolism of Squirrels.

“Squirrels can teach us balance within the circle of gathering and giving out. If we are doing too much of one or the other, squirrel may appear to help us. Squirrels are the masters at preparing, but they also are reminders that in our quest for our goals, we should always make time to socialize and play. Work and play go hand-in-hand, or the work will create problems and become more difficult and less fruitful.”

– Ted Andrews
Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small

“Squirrel: This creature is always preparing for the future; it can show the shaman how to do this in a practical way. Sometimes its appearance heralds changes, even adversities. Plan ahead so that you have time, resources, and energy stored.”

– D.J. Conway
By Oak, Ash, & Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism

“Ask for squirrel’s help when your life is so busy and full that you feel as if you’re scurrying around without focus, and you want to feel more purposeful and directed. You’ve accumulated too much stuff and are ready and willing to give away and recycle those items that have served their purpose and are no longer needed. You find yourself worrying about the future a great deal, to the point that you’re blocked or even frozen into inaction. You’re going through a cycle in which you feel unsafe, and you want a spiritual guardian to help warn you of any potential danger or harmful situations you might inadvertently wander into.”

– Steven Farmer
Power Animals: How to Connect with Your Animal Spirit Guide

The Number 23

Next, lets take a look at the numbering. The card is XXIII which is the roman numeral for 23. Why 23? The Magician to the World is 21. However, the Fool is card 0 making the card the 23rd Major Arcana card. In my point of view the Happy Squirrel is not part of the Fool’s Journey but rather a force outside of it. The number 23 is also a “holy” number in Discordianism. Discordianism is a religion and subsequent philosophy based on the veneration or worship of the Eris Discordia, the Goddess of chaos, or archetypes or ideals associated with her.

“The Principia Discordia states that “All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5″— this is referred to as the Law of Fives. The 23 Enigma is regarded as a corollary of this law, since 2 + 3 = 5. It can be seen in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy (therein called the “23/17 phenomenon”), Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (therein called “The Law of fives” and “The 23 Enigma”), Arthur Koestler’s Challenge of Chance, as well as the Principia Discordia. In these works, 23 is considered lucky, unlucky, sinister, strange, or sacred to the goddess Eris or to the unholy gods of the Cthulhu Mythos.

As with most numerological claims, the enigma can be viewed as an example of apophenia, selection bias, and confirmation bias. In interviews, Wilson acknowledged the self-fulfilling nature of the enigma, implying that the real value of the Laws of Fives and Twenty-threes lies in their demonstration of the mind’s power to perceive “truth” in nearly anything.

“When you start looking for something you tend to find it. This wouldn’t be like Simon Newcomb, the great astronomer, who wrote a mathematical proof that heavier than air flight was impossible and published it a day before the Wright brothers took off. I’m talking about people who found a pattern in nature and wrote several scientific articles and got it accepted by a large part of the scientific community before it was generally agreed that there was no such pattern, it was all just selective perception.

In The Illuminatus! Trilogy , he expresses the same view: that one can find a numerological significance to anything, provided “sufficient cleverness.

– Wikipedia: The 23 Enigma

The Squirrel In Mythology & Folklore

The Happy Squirrel card also finds itself between Major Arcana 21 (The World, The Universe, The World Tree) and Major Arcana 0 (The Fool). Because of this I associate the Happy Squirrel with Ratatosk (or Ratatoskr) of Norse mythology. In the Nordic cosmology Ratatosk moves freely about Yggdrasil, the World Tree. In this cosmology the squirrel Ratatosk moves up and down the tree passing along insults from the wyrm serpent below and the eagle above, sowing discord.

Though he has access to all the realms of Yggdrasil and the beings within it, he is mostly concerned with the excitement of turmoil. In a sense he’s that church lady whom despite going to church religiously, is more concerned with gossiping behind others backs and creating drama than having a real spiritual connection with her God. While Ratatosk could be seen as an agent of unification – uniting the above and below and keeping the cycles of destruction and rebirth in motion, it appears he uses his travels to sow dissent and keep the beings of each realm against each other, perpetually separated. Interestingly enough, Hexagram 23 in the I-Ching is about dissolving, stripping and separating two forces. Thus Ratatosk seems to be the alchemical process of dissolving and combining of “SOLVE ET COAGULA”.

“We are told in the same poem, Grimmismal, that the squirrel, called Ratatosk, runs up and down the tree, carrying messages – presumably hostile ones – between serpent and eagle. The battle between a serpent and an eagle is something which does indeed take place in nature […] It’s value as a symbol is obvious: the eagle, bird of heaven, and the serpent, creature of the earth, are fundamentally in opposition. The shaman, like the squirrel, can act as a link between them, for man, if he fully realizes the possibilities of his dual nature, can partake both of earth and heaven.”

 H.R. Ellis Davidson
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

“Many other creatures dwell in the branches and roots and on the ground beneath the tree [Yggdrasil], evoking a kind of peaceable kingdom, with the squirrel as its lively interworld messenger, running up and down and up again. The story, I have read in various commentaries, speaks to the ongoing conversation between heaven and earth, with the squirrel symbolizing our essential connectedness to both these realms.”

― Lyanda Lynn Haupt
The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild

In Celtic mythology Queen Medb was a historical queen whom some believe was an incarnation of the goddess of the same name. She was later transformed into a Faery Queen like most Celtic deities after the rise of Christianity, and is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. while faeries have their positive attributes, faeries are also well known for confusing and tricking people and we have such terms as being “faery-glamoured”, “pixie-led” and “faery-taken”, which reflect this notion.

Queen Medb is perhaps best known for the Tain Bo Cuillaigne, or Cattle Raid of Cooley. In the story Medb’s consort King Aillil are comparing possessions. The king lists his possessions and Medb matches him item for item until Aillil states he has a magical bull, which Medb does not. Knowing about a magical bull in Cooley she decides to have her armies steal it so she can match her consort’s possessions, thus starting a war. She is a goddess of lust and intoxication and in this story she “lusts” after the bull, and is intoxicated with the idea of having as much as the King. Her emblem was that of a squirrel and the squirrel was her messenger which perched on her shoulder.

“The squirrel was an emblem of the Irish queen Medb. There is an old Scandinavian legend that the squirrel is a messenger of the gods and carries news of what is going on in the world to animals in distant lands. The squirrel Ratatosk was said to dwell in the Scandinavian-Norse World Tree. Ratatosk was a mischief-maker, carrying gossip from one place to another. ”

– D.J. Conway
Animal Magick: The Art of Recognizing and Working with Familiars

The Wabanaki Native Americans have the legend of Meeko the squirrel. In the legend the Squirrel was originally created to be a giant monster of intense destruction. It wasn’t until the god Glooskap came along and brought judgement to the squirrel and regained balance. But though his size was changed his temperament wasn’t and thus kept sowing discord through words and taking delight in it, much like Ratatosk.

“He called Meeko, the squirrel. Meeko was greatest of all the beasts. “What would you do if you met a man?” Glooskap asked him. “I would scratch down trees upon him!” barked Meeko. Glooskap frowned, but lifted the squirrel in his arms and gently stroked his back. Meeko grew smaller and smaller, until he was as he is to-day. “Now, what would you do?” Glooskap asked. “I would run up a tree,” cried Meeko”

– Gilbert L. Wilson
Myths Of The Red Children & Indian Hero Tales

“So now Meeko goes about the woods with a small body and a big temper, barking, scolding, quarreling and, since he cannot destroy in his rage as before, setting other animals by the ears to destroy each other. When you have listened to Meeko’s scolding for a season, and have seen him going from nest to nest after innocent fledglings; or creeping into the den of his big cousin, the beautiful gray squirrel, to kill the young; or driving away his little cousin, the chipmunk, to steal his hoarded nuts; or watching every fight that goes on in the woods, jeering and chuckling above it,—then you begin to understand the Indian legend.”

– William J. Long
Secrets of the Woods

The Happy Squirrel & The Tree of Life

Every tarot cards has a connection to either a Sephiroth or a path within the Qabbala Tree of Life. So where would the Happy Squirrel fall into that model? To me he would obviously fall in the hidden Sephiroth of Da’ath). Positioning it here places it near Kether which is associated with the aces in the tarot and the “seeds” (acorn) of energy. It’s path then runs down to Tiphareth (Consciousness and harmony, the balance of the middle, beauty, the Macroprosopus) associated with Sixes and Knights (the use of energy) down to Yesod (Reflection and Imagination) associated with the nines and finally Malkuth (the root, the origin, the Kingdom, the physical, the Microprosopus) associated with the Pages (Messengers & Youthfulness & Ambition). Likewise Da’at sits between the male and female polarities of Binah (Understanding & Realization) and Chokmah (Power of Creation, Energy, Wisdom). Let’s explore a bit further:

“Da’ath means “knowledge,” and magickally it represents all knowledge, but not necessarily the understanding or wisdom to use it properly. The knowledge of the invisible sephira is the knowledge beyond reason, the knowledge that becomes apparent by its absence, not by its direct revelation. Da’ath is claimed to be the closest thing humanity can understand of the Supernal Triad while incarnate. It is knowledge, but not the power to work appropriately with that knowledge. Some magicians recognize that as they climb the Tree, while others mistake Da’ath for Kether, mistake knowledge for the Godhead. As wonderful as knowledge is, it is not a substitute for divinity. Such magicians are said to get lost in the Abyss, obsessed with magickal knowledge but lacking the understanding to apply it properly to their spiritual journey.”

– Christopher Penczak
The Temple of High Witchcraft: Ceremonies, Spheres, and the Witches’ Qabalah

Divinatory Meanings

So what is the divinatory meaning? Well, that’s up to you and your intuition. But if we were to tie these threads together we begin to see a unifying picture. There’s a sense of gathering (though it seems to be more intellectual or spiritual) to the point of hoarding. There’s a theme of being distracted and confused. Ratatosk also parallels this idea with being a creature who has access to all worlds; that of humans, gods, giants and monsters – however he is an agent of chaos, confusion and trickery.

The elements of Da’ath can provide a sense of false enlightenment and the hoarding of spiritual knowledge without the application of wisdom. Alternatively, it could be about having experiences of a spiritual nature and not being sure where to put them, or clinging to them too strongly at the expense of further growth. Da’ath asks us to strip away what doesn’t serve our spiritual journey and offers us ego death via what Aliester Crowley called “The Night of Pan” which he also associated with Da’ath, through this process we reach Kether – the Crown. Psychoanalysis reflects this idea as well:

“Precocious intellectual development is often evidence of the formation of a pleasure ego which stands in opposition to the integration and assimilation of the normal demands of the id and superego in any kind of fruitful manner. As such it is an intellect devoted to dissension, and accompanied with failure or breakdown of those inhibitions necessary for mature character development. Ratatosk the squirrel, on the world-tree Yggdrasil, in Norse mythology, is a symbolization of such a perverted intellectual development.”

– Lila Veszy-Wagner
Ratatosk: The role of the perverted intellect

I will offer possible keywords, both positive and negative and you can intuitively assign them however you want and whether it’s the energy of the upright card or the reverse card or both depending on how you read tarot.

POSSIBLE KEYWORDS: Synchronicity, Ego-Death, Shamanic Journeying, SOLVE ET COAGULA, Gateways & Thresholds, Mediumship, Humility, Samadhi, Proper Use of Energy, Power or Manifestation, Spiritual Growth, Ascension, Higher Self, Divine Humor, Unverified Personal Gnosis, Trickster Energy, Vagueness, Mysteries, Enigma, Paradox, Jokes, Pranks, Chaos, Discord, Spiritual Confusion, Intellect without Wisdom, Slander, Pinning Others Against Each-Other, “Witch-Wars”, Pettiness, Confirmation Bias, Insanity (Being Nuts), Improper Use of Energy, Power or Manifestation, False Appearances, Under-estimating, Manipulation, Illusions, Spiritual Fast-Food, Spiritual Hoarding, Misunderstanding, Being Pixie-Led or Faery Glamoured

A Few Tarot Decks that contain the Happy Squirrel Card

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