Monday, April 16, 2012

The Major Arcana, Continued- The Hermit, The Wheel, and Justice

At this point, we're up to the Fool learning the two types of strength and interaction he will use in the world- it seems our inexperienced Fool is not so foolish as when he began! Now the Fool comes to a point of reflection- all this work, all this thought and new knowledge, may be a bit overwhelming. So it is that we come to the Hermit card.
The Hermit commonly has two symbols, as shown here in this version of the Thoth deck. The Hermit is carrying a lantern, a symbol of illumination- uncovering or illuminating that which was hidden from his sight, but nonetheless is still there, perhaps aiding his journey, perhaps, if he's not careful, a stumbling block. In this card, the staff the Hermit carries is absent, replaced with a cosmic egg, representing the world. The Hermit has it for the same reason he has a staff in other decks, as a symbol of dominion and rule over the world. And the Hermit is indeed a worldly figure, perhaps to the point of weariness. This is why he's a hermit- he wishes to use that lamp not to illuminate the path outside of him, but rather to see within himself, and reconcile all that he has learned and all the new knowledge he has gained into a more unified whole. Again, note the symbolism of the cosmic egg- from this synthesis, the Hermit/Fool can return to the world even more bright and intelligent, and better able to work within that world, than he was before. Another interesting image, and the reason why I chose this particular depiction, is the three-headed dog, Cerberus. It's said that he guards the gateway to the underworld, and this too is partially a symbol in the Hermit. The Hermit 'dies' or withdraws, becomes dead to the world, in order that he can more clearly focus on what's ahead of him and within him. Notice also the position of the dog's heads- one facing forwards, one upwards, and one looking behind. This too indicates the sum total of what the Hermit has learned- he knows he needs to look at the whole picture- not just the future or the past. He can look to the future while remaining in the present moment.
The next card in our cycle is the Wheel, also sometimes called the Wheel of Fortune. This has little to do with Vanna White (unfortunately, ha ha) and more to do with the concept of the Wheel. This particular version is from Toni Allen, and I chose this because of the chess pawn imagery. Why are there pawns on the wheel? Well, the card represents two things- one, an uncontrollable force, such as karma, and secondly, a sense of things moving in cycles. Here we have the sense that some days you're up, some days you're down. And when you're in either position, know that it's bound to change. This too the Hermit realizes, and part of his seclusion is simply to come to terms with this. It's about neither praising the rose nor cursing the thorn, to borrow a page from Raven Grimassi. Instead, simply accept what is and see clearly. Good and evil largely come from our own viewpoint and attachment. An apple may be good, but have you considered the apple's perspective on the situation? The Hermit comes to see how life is just that- a cycle, a wheel. The spokes and the outside of the wheel may turn, but the axle at the center always remains in the same place.
And from this, we come to the Justice card. Again, some decks have the 11th position occupied by Strength, and that can work too. However, the Justice card here is closely linked to the Wheel, and is in fact a similar message. There is often the "Blind Justice" figure on this card, and she is always shown carrying two things- a balance or scale, and a sword- to reward the good deeds, and punish the evil. This image comes to us from the ancient Egyptian concept of judgement- when you die, your heart is removed and weighed against a feather, to determine if your life was good and just, and your heart pure. If it is, you go on to the afterlife. If your heart is wicked, you get eaten. Kind of thins the herd out, it seems. But at any rate, the concept is the same here in the Justice card- like the Wheel, what we do comes back to us. Wiccans will no doubt think of the Law of Three- what you do comes back to you three times over, for good or evil. If you bring harm to others, you get that harm back. If you work for the good of others, you too will receive good. While not necessarily this ratio, whatever we do does indeed come back to us. It's simply cause and effect- every action has a reaction. From seeing the cyclic nature of the world around him, our Fool now learns how everything comes back to him- and like the ideas of the Wheel and Justice, we're all intertwined in one great web of existence. Thus, the Fool, contemplating himself, learns more about the world around him and his own place in it. In this way the Fool can come back a sage- with knowledge of the workings of the world that previously were hidden to him. Where he saw chaos and random chance, he now comes to see order and interdependence.

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