Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Major Arcana, Continued- The Lovers, The Chariot, and Strength

I realize that in some decks, the positions of the Strength card and Justice (number 11, Strength is then numbered 8) are actually reversed in some decks. Which is the correct interpretation? Well, it depends on the deck. Keep in mind the Major Arcana differ from the Minor in that it's the symbolism of the card, not its numeric assignment, that is used in interpretation. Curiously, it's the opposite case for the Minors- the artwork of the card points to the meaning of the number and suit, not the other way around. But for our discussion purposes here, let's go with the Rider-Waite numbering. Either system is equally valid, in my opinion- at this late in the game, who knows how it was originally intended? Valid explanations have come up for both sides of the argument. 
At any rate, we now come to the Lovers, The Chariot and Strength. These may seem like disparate cards at first, but we can interpret them from our dear Fool's perspective as yet again being interrelated lessons. 

First up, we have the Lovers. This particular image comes to us from the Gilded Tarot, and seems to embrace more of the literal sense of the card. However, there is a deeper meaning here. Certainly the card can be interpreted as love and romance. Yet deeper than that, we see a message of choice. In order to love someone, you have to be free not to love them- free to leave, though you may not wish to. In other words, you make a choice. Thus, this card becomes a little more complicated to interpret, and develops multiple layers. A new relationship, perhaps even a romance, definitely involves choices. It's about making a decision, and acting on that decision, and knowing you've made the right decision. So as far as the Fool is concerned, the time has come to decide. He's developed some knowledge of the world around him, and its operations. Now he's ready to commit to someone else, in some sense or another. He might find himself at a crossroads- there's potential on both routes, but the Fool needs to make a decision, and this card is about making the right decision. How to proceed? Think carefully, the card advises. You already know the answer, just clarify it in your own mind, and then follow it with all your enthusiasm. 
This brings us up to the Chariot. Here we see typically two animals of different colors, usually black and white, pulling the chariot, guided by the hand of the driver, who has his confident hands on the reins. The fact that these animals are different colors isn't just for artistic value. It represents opposing forces- those things that might not necessarily be working together, but nonetheless are brought together under one hand. It represents will working on the world, and the imposing of one's will on a perhaps less than cooperative world. What drives that chariot, and especially what keeps those two opposites from running in opposite directions, causing damage to the chariot, and no end of trouble for the driver? It's willpower, the will to follow through on the choices we've seen made in the Lovers card. Without that will of the driver, the chariot is doomed. But with a strong hand, he can guide the chariot wherever he chooses. 
    In the Strength card, we see in many ways the opposite of the Chariot. This too-freaking-cute version of the card comes to us from, and in many ways expresses the theme of the card. We have the usual imagery of a young lady with a lion, or similarly large and potentially dangerous beast. Yet it looks like neither of them is actually posing a threat. This is the message of the card. The young lady is not so much overcoming the lion as she is working with its nature; she doesn't deny that the lion is, well, a lion, but at the same time, works with that nature and in so doing, overcomes it. Unlike the Chariot, she doesn't force or impose- she simply works with. It's like that old Taoist adage, about how the water yields to the rock, and in so doing, flows over it and overcomes it. It's a message of going with the flow, not fighting against the tide. The tide may be too overpowering to fight against, but working with it can help. So from these two our Fool discovers the opposite principles of first, exercising and even imposing his will on an otherwise chaotic world, and its opposite, working with the forces around him, not wasting his energy trying to overcome them, rather working with them. Sometimes in our life, we find ourselves in each of these two positions- the real trick of it is to know which way to go. 

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