Wednesday, December 3, 2014


The Tarot deck is really a gathering of ‘’archetypes’’. Even though it was left to the father of Analytical Psychology, Carl G. Jung to coin the term, the tarot cards have all along been communicating through the medium of archetypes, so named by Jung, centuries later, giving credence to his concept of the “Collective Unconscious”. The ‘’Collective Unconscious” is where all knowledge already exists and is available provided somebody can tap into it. However because it is a primal and universal entity it can only communicate through symbols which every human being at some level is able to recognize. Jung differentiates between a psyche’s ‘’personal unconscious’’, wherein all that is forgotten, denied, suppressed or blocked by a person is relegated, as opposed to a ‘’collective unconscious’’ which is a primordial and universal repository, the ‘’soul of the world’’. The ‘’collective unconscious’’ as defined by Jung would explain how psychic systems like the Tarot work.
Jung gave the name ‘’Archetypes’’ to Freud’s ‘’archaic remnants’’ or Plato’s ‘’Ideas’’ and explained them as instincts manifesting themselves in fantasies and dreams often revealing their presence by symbolic images. These are, however, substantially more than just symbols, they would have existed for ever but can be said to come alive only when recognized by consciousness. The archetypes typically originate in the ‘’unconscious’’ part of the psyche therefore, understandably, the conscious part is not able to decipher them readily, for they are unknown to it.
Jung of course was solely concerned with dream analysis and also studied at length how the archetypes found their way into myths and fairytales, but the archetypes in the Tarot cards were never seriously explored by him. Inspite of that, practically all the archetypes mentioned by Jung can be found in a deck of Tarot cards, especially in the Major Arcana, and some may even be projecting more than one archetype. Moreover, just as the human Psyche has, as described by Jung, the ‘’Self’’ and the “Shadow” so does the Tarot archetype have a positive persona and a hidden negative aspect. It is the Tarot reader’s intuition and the surrounding cards that decide what the archetypes are trying to communicate.

Jung calls the process of the ‘’unconscious’’ trying to come into consciousness, so that the Self could be made whole, ‘’individuation’’. Normally the ‘unconscious’ communicates through archetypes in dreams which to the primitive man was very clear but modern man with all the sophistry at his command has lost the ability to decipher that ancient language. A tarot reading when used for the right reasons fulfills the same purpose. It tries to bring to light what is going on with the querent especially what he/she is not conscious of. Our life’s purpose is to make our fragmented psyche whole again, therefore, a Tarot reading is generally a very uplifting and wonderful experience for a querent.

The ‘Shadow’ and the ‘Self’ are the two parts of the Psyche – the ‘unconscious’ and the ‘conscious’- the black and white – literally a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario. Similarly the separation of the male and the female is also a cause of conflict in the psyche and gives rise to the archetypes ‘Anima’ in the male and the ‘Animus’ in the female. The ‘Mother’ and the ‘Father’ the primary care providers leave an indelible impression on a person’s psyche which manifest in various ways in the unconscious. ‘Death’ is another archetype along with ‘Rebirth’ which is a recurring theme being projected by the unconscious. The Wise Old Man/Woman is another one of Jung’s archetypes which has found its way into the Tarot.

The SHADOW in the Tarot
Though every Tarot card has a negative aspect and serves as a warning to the querent, the DEVIL denoted as a grotesque creature of the dark, generally with horns and a tail, is the epitome of what the ‘’Shadow’’ is . In this card the Devil is shown looming large behind a couple holding them in chains. Similarly, the ‘’Shadow’’ is forever lurking behind the psyche threatening to raise its ugly head in a moment of weakness, metaphorically always holding it at ransom – in chains. But if the psyche could acknowledge and see the ‘’Shadow’’, for the figment that it is, its effect would be nullified, just as in the Tarot Devil the chains are  a farce – there  only as long as the two people do not reach out and throw them, for their hands are free.
Though as stated above almost every card has a negative aspect to it, two cards clearly depict it viz the High Priestess and the Chariot. The first has a black and a white column and a curtain behind her hinting at hidden lessons to be learnt and the Chariot has a black and a white horse/sphinx clearly asking for a balance to the prevalent negativities.
The Moon card in the Celtic Tarot beautifully depicts the Self and the Shadow in the Psyche, through the two phases of the moon. The Shadow figure is hiding her face behind a veil and slinking into the darkness.
The Hanged Man too, in a way, depicts the Shadow – life gone awry, everything upside down.

The Devil - Visconti Sforza deck- the Shadow derives power 
from the fear it is able to generate

The Chariot - Mythic Tarot deck-a black and a white horse 
representative of the Shadow and the Self

The Moon - Celtic Tarot Deck- interlocking circles represent 
2 phases of the moon. To me it looks like a representation of the psyche.

The MOTHER, the FEMININE or the ANIMA in the TAROT
There are a number of cards denoting the above archetypes –viz. the Empress, the four Queens, the High Priestess, Strength, the Moon and Justice. When appearing in a female querent’s reading they denote the ‘Mother’. Depending on the card the facet of the ‘Mother’ archetype can be determined. In a male querent’s reading these cards would denote the ‘Anima’ ie the suppressed, feminine, creative energy in a man. Again depending on the card the type of energy that wants to see the light of day can be ascertained.

Arthur Waite Deck - the quintessential mother

The cards representing these archetypes are the Emperor, the four Kings, the four Knights, the Heirophant, the Hermit, the Magician and the Sun. When appearing in a male querent’s reading they could represent the ‘Father’ archetype and depending on the card the different facets of the same may be ascertained. In a female querent’s reading they would represent the ‘Animus’ or the repressed masculine energy.

The Emperor - Crowley's Thoth Tarot - the father figure

The ‘Self’ archetype is evident in the cards – the Fool, the World and to an extent the Hanged Man which depicts a Self that is paralyzed or out of sync, stuck in an impossible position. The Fool is generally shown as a young person of indeterminate sex (androgynous) almost stepping off a cliff. The remaining 21 cards of the Major Arcana tell a story about this person’s journey through life till, rich with life’s lessons learnt, he/she reaches maturity into the figure in the World card.

The Fool - Mythic Tarot - innocent and vulnerable.
 Pure potential.

The World - Mythic Tarot - has come full circle. 
The fragmented psyche is now whole.

The Hanged Man - Thoth Tarot - the upside down Self.

This archetype is denoted by the cards of Death and the Tower as also the 10 of Swords in the Minor Arcana, which in the Arthur Waite deck shows ten swords stuck in a man’s back. These cards are not so much about physical death as about a crying need for change, renewal and resurgence.

Death - Thoth Tarot-Change and renewal

The Tower - Haindl Tarot deck-the false ego crumbling down. Time to let go

This archetype is completely depicted by the Hermit card. It can also be seen in the cards of the Magician and the Heirophant, in so far as they have valuable life lessons to share. This archetype is actually an extension of the ‘Self’, the inner voice or also the voice of god. In a female querent’s reading the same can be depicted by the High Priestess.

Merlin Tarot Deck - withdrawn his super-consciousness inwards
 and comprehends transcendent truths. He is the enlightened Self