A common practice among those who make a serious study of the Tarot is to develop a story that takes The Fool, the first card of the Major Arcana, on a journey. He moves through the remainder of the Major Arcana until he ends up at The World card, having completed his quest and his cycle. To me, the rites of passage The Fool encounters as he makes his way through the experiences of the Major Arcana of the Tarot mirrors the process many of us go through when we find and being to explore our magical path. Mine started as Wicca and underwent many transitions after that. This many not hold true for everyone, especially those raised in the Craft, but I encountered predictable challenges and rewards that I often saw duplicated in my students that followed afterward.
Once I transitioned out of Wicca, I witnessed my students jump through some of the same hoops in other magical paths. This led me to believe that the process of magical development is larger than the tradition in which it unfolds and is instead, a global phenomenon. If you feel so inclined, take a moment and move through the Major Arcana with me and see if it speaks to your magical evolution as well.
In our story, The Fool begins this journey carefree and open. As The Fool, we are an open, receptive vessel, ready to fill ourselves with all that the World has to offer. We are innocent in the sense that we are blind to the magic around and within us. Like The Fool, we walk through the world without seeing much of it, especially the magical aspects. The Fool is the 0 (Zero) card. It has no number because it is both the beginning and the end, death and birth. By this nature, The Fool is transition. He is the point of Midnight, Noon, Summer and Winter Solstice, and all other pivotal moments that are poised on the bring of something new and revolutionary.
The Magician and The High Priestess
Our lives forever change when we meet someone who introduces us to our own power and the power of The Universe. We have our first encounter with the concepts of “As Above, So Below.” We find that there are people who combine their energy with Divine Energy to manifest change. This teaches us that there is an exciting world of possibilities open to us. The Magician and The High Priestess teach us that we can be anything we wish to be and live the life we dream of having. The Magician shows is that it is possible to manifest our will on earth by Divine and personal powers. The High Priestess whispers her secrets of magic and mystery to us, conveying the esoteric wisdom and promises of rewards untold.
In the Tarot and in our journey, The Magician and The High Priestess often represent actual people we encounter on our path. We may meet them in person, through books, or even through teaching videos. They are our gateway into magic and into our journey through the Major Arcana of The Tarot.
The Empress and The Emperor
From there, we meet The Empress and The Emperor, the balance of male and female power. This may manifest in us, through us, or around us in any representation of the spectrum. We learn that magic is a combination of blessings from the Universe (The Empress) and the application of personal will (The Emperor). The Empress shows us the bounty of the harvest and promises the answers to all of our inner most desires. The Emperor shows us how to command the energies to move to our direction and how to master our intentions. Together, they represent the God and Goddess of The Tarot.
The Hierophant and The Lovers
As with all fine relationships, at some point, the honeymoon must end. After the rush of new immersion into magic, we must now face the world and find our place in it. The first opposition on our path is The Hierophant, who brings him face-to-face with the oppression and pressure of societal dictates, standards, and expectations. The Hierophant whispers menacingly of the resistance patriarchal society shows to those who seek esoteric wisdom and independent thought. He frowns sternly and disapprovingly at the newfound knowledge The Fool has acquired and tries to coerce us back to sleep with the others who do not wish to dream or know of magic.
This brings us to The Lovers, which is the demand for a choice. Do we stand up for ourselves and accept the challenges of living as a magical being in a mundane world or do we succumb to the pressures of the outside world and conform to the status quo? We choose whether to take the road less traveled and blaze our own trail or take the easier path, sacrificing this new – and yet very old – part of ourselves that now craves magical development? Were you hoping The Lovers card brought us to the sexy times of our Tarot journey? Ah, if only!
The Chariot and Strength
We make our choice. One of the ancient wisdoms says, paraphrased, “Once the deciding is done, the doing becomes effortless.” When we sign on, things begin to move and change rapidly for us. The Chariot drives us forward quickly and we barrel along at such break-neck speed that we feels we will become lost in the wind. We adjust to the speed and learn to use it to oue advantage, pulling the power of the opposing forces of society and magic under our control.
With great power comes great responsibility and in the wake of The Chariot propelling us to tremendous speeds, The Fool encounters Strength, a cautionary card that reminds us that energy must be controlled and we must know when to release them and when to restrain our power. This discernment is the key to moderating what is given to us for effective use. We must know when to act, and when to be still; when to speak and when to be silent. This is the battle of the ego and the Higher Self.
The Hermit and The Wheel of Fortune
As much as The Chariot and Strength teach The Fool to harness the energies around us, The Hermit introduces the need for quiet and solitude. Through The Hermit, we learn to go within to find the wisdom and value of reclusive contemplation. Meditation teaches us who we are and unlocks trauma inside our psyches that we must heal to move forward. We learn the importance of stillness in contrast to intense movement and pass the test of looking inward without distraction. At this time, we may have people seek us out to teach them magic, not knowing it is too soon in our magical journey to do so. Most Tarot decks depict The Hermit raising a lantern to find his own way. This means all the little months flock to it, thinking he himself is the light.
The understanding The Hermit awakens in us brings us to our first point of reconciliation through The Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel takes the lessons we learned so far and brings them to the counsel and disposition of Fate. The Wheel evaluates our progress and determines if we are on the right track. Our progress is tallied against our manifest destiny to see if we passed the tests put before us and if each immutable point on our life’s journey thus far was checked off the list. The Wheel of Fortune is card #10, which takes us into a new cycle and in this case, it is one of trials and testing.
Justice and The Hanged Man
Fate presents The Fool with a series of challenges to push us through the fire and galvanize our strengths while purging our weaknesses. We encounter our first test with the Justice card where we are measured, evaluated, and receive appropriate and objective adjudication. This is our opportunity for gracious accountability where we can atone for our wrongs and adjust our karmic balance. We are confronted with our flaws and are given a chance to correct them before moving forward. Justice is one of two karmic balancing cards in The Tarot. We will meet the next one much later.
The Hanged Man offers a period of contemplation and reflection over our place in the world, turning us upside down to see things from a different perspective. This is the esoteric equivalent of “go to your room and think about what you have done.” We might have a pause in forward motion at this time and feel as if we are off track. In reality, we are exactly where we need to be. The 4 shape of The Hanged Man’s legs coupled with the scales of Justice offer us balance. What happens next on our journey depends entirely on how we respond to this challenge.
Death and Temperance
After the perspectives given by the Hanged Man take root, intense change comes into The Fool’s life. Death rides in and sweeps clean away any obstacles to The Fool’s advancement. clearing away any obstacles and hindrances to our magical life. If we did our homework at the last station, then there is little to release. If we cling to what is old and outmoded, what no longer serves our greatest good, and the unhealthy and toxic influences in our lives, then the Death card is brutal and unforgiving. What hinders us from growth falls to the scythe of Death in such a way that we no longer have choices as we did before. In the Tarot, the Death card is neutral, neither “good” nor “bad.” Its purpose is to clear away our obstacles to success.
Temperance allows us to adjust to the dramatic or subtle changes Death brought to us. Even positive change can be jarring and nearly breath-taking when it falls all at once. Temperance helps us adjust the new normal to find a workable, functioning flow. The Hanged Man changed our mental and cognitive perspective, but Death changed our external conditions. Temperance allows us to process and blend those changes into an integrated and workable dynamic.
The Devil and The Tower
Did I mention a series of challenges? We barely get stable on our feet before the next challenge comes. Just when we think we have a handle on the understanding of what The Universe and this life demands of us, the entire process shifts. In Wicca, we called this part “Third Level Trials.” This is where we learn that what we thought was hard before was child’s play. If this were a video game, we just hit the level of “The Big Boss.” In this Rite of Passage, we learn that our greatest enemy is here. The phone call is coming from inside the house. We are the problem. The Devil shows us our own bondage, our weakness, our wretchedness. Here, we encounter every secret we wanted to keep buried, every fear we allowed to linger and fester, and every addiction we justified or mollycoddled. The Devil outs our truest demons and forces into confrontation with them.
Coming after the changes we endured when we faced Death, The Fool now endures a full breakdown on all levels. The Tower lays waste to the remains of our life and we finds that while we thought that we had surrendered all a few steps earlier on his journey, now we are truly stripped bare. Our very soul, dignity, security, and ego all come under the sword as we aggressively question what we learned, who we are in the world, and what we has to offer. During this time, we may suffer a health crisis, undergo tremendous relationship loss or restructuring, change jobs, move into a different home, or experience other profound changes. This breaking down that The Tower brings shows us our misperceptions about what is important and what is not.
The Star and The Moon
Beaten to the ground by the challenges we have endured, we may even wonder why we are still here, why we survived. We are too tired and sore to even be angry at our lot in life and the losses we incurred. In some ways, we are as we were when we started: we have nothing. Everything we thought was permanent and important has crumbled around us. The carefree innocence we had in the beginning is gone and in its place, we may feel despair and longing, not only for what is gone, but what could have been. We may wish we never started the journey in the first place. Unable to kneel or stand, we lie flat on our back and allow the darkness to take us. It closes in, hiding us, comforting us, and within that black embrace, we see The Star. The first Star of the night twinkles above us, its singular beauty shining like a precious diamond in the sky above. Inside the darkness of ourselves, we feel the same light and know it is the essence of hope. We dare to dream once more.
As we meditate in the darkness, seeking wisdom from within and casting our energy to The Star, The Moon rises. Ephemeral and misleading shadows begin to dance around us in its light, subtly playing with the pockets of quicksilver blackness. Among the movements and shifts of shadow, both outside and inside of us, we begin to see the ghosts of insecurities and fears flitting about. Can we truly rebuild or should we simply lie down, close our eyes, and die? How close is the end of our journey? In the Tarot, The Moon is card #18, which by numerology is #9. We are almost finished with this cycle, but in the light of the Moon, we cannot see it. The Moon deceives in that not all is as it appears, but within those shadow and shapes, everything is mutable. Weary, these thoughts, doubts, and hopes dance in our minds and around our bodies and we drift to sleep, seeking the solace of the darkness and the respite from dismay.
The Sun and Judgement
When we awaken, the warmth of The Sun casts onto The Fool’s face as it peeps over the horizon. The Sun pushes away the dark and turns the sky a brilliant yellow, which fills The Fool with courage and faith. The fears and sadness of the night vanish and we realize we are back in the light. We understand that the lack of encumbrance we feel now and also had at the start of our journey is not a curse, it is a blessing. The Fool is free and just as empowered as before and even more so. We are naked, exposed, and we do not care for we no longer have anything to hide. We have no deep secrets, no doubts, no insecurities, no addictions, no hooks to hold us back. Just as The Sun radiates from above, so do we radiate from within. The transition is that fast, that complete.
This realization brings us to the final point of reconciliation, which is Judgement, the final karma card of The Tarot. So great is our own light from within once the shadows and doubts are cleared away by the power of The Sun, that any remaining karmic debt is purged, released into the fires from above and within. We are judged and found worthy. With the Justice card, our accountability brought repercussions because we had not yet evolved this far. Having faced our demons, embraced the necessary changes, and stepped into our light (power), our harvest comes and our rewards are made manifest. The card depicts the Christian Judgement Day when the dead rise from the graves to be judged. We ourselves have gone through a death and rebirth and we now stand welcoming of our new life that we have earned.
We stand clean and reborn, ready to walk over the threshold of The World, the final card of the Tarot Major Arcana. As with most cards in The Tarot, The World card is full of symbolism. In the corners are representations of Earth (the bull), Water (the human), Air (The bird) and Fire (The lion). As with the previous two cards, the figure is nude and unashamed. The World brings closure to our Tarot journey and at the same time, opens the door into a new level of experience. Equipped with the lessons from our journey, we moves forward with confidence as the innocent, unburdened Fool once more. We now welcome the lessons The Universe brings; a receptive vessel to be filled with the mysteries and wisdom of magic as we begin our magical journey once more on a new level of consciousness.
Cover photo by David Gavi on Unsplash; Tarot photos are in the public domain