Friday, November 23, 2012

Court Cards in the Thoth Tarot

Considering the Court cards of the Thoth Tarot, brought to us by that infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, we find some unusual symbols compared to the Golden Dawn system many of us began with. Interestingly, the Courts are assigned different names and a seemingly different order- instead of Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages the order is Knights, Queens, Princes and Princesses. While Princes and Princesses are not uncommon alternatives to Knights and Pages respectively, the placement of the Knights in the Kings' position is somewhat unique. Hermann Haindl's Tarot assigns the following labels to the Courts- we find the Kings identified as Fathers, the Queens as Mothers, and the Princes/Knights as Sons and the Princesses/Pages as Daughters of their respective suits.
So from all this, we can draw some further conclusions about the nature of the Courts. Focusing first on the Thoth assignments, we find that here there is a more person-centric feel to the deck. The Thoth deck tends to focus more on what each person brings to the situation, or what a given situation might require of a given person. Likewise, the Court cards in the Thoth deck can be seen to represent things to work on or master- each suit represents a different aspect of our own psychological, spiritual and emotional makeup, and each card represents a different aspect or point in life.When interpreting the courts, it's important to keep in mind the nature of the human mind- don't look for a static, unchanging story, or fixed characteristics. Instead, the Courts represent the development of our own mental states as well as patterns of responses and behavior over time. Within the suits we can see a development and maturity of thought and action, and each of the four suits represents a different aspect of our situation- spiritual and will, physical and practical, emotional and relationship-wise, and intellectual and analytical. We can also see in the Haindl Tarot something of a reversed order- the Sons and Daughters are the product, so to speak, of the Mother and Father. This can relate to new developments and new situations we find ourselves in, perhaps due to life circumstances or our own actions and new ideas.
But back to Aleister Crowley. Here we find a, well, self-centered deck, though not in a negative context- merely that the self is the focus of the deck. What do you do, what do you think? These are the questions this deck asks of us. Let's review the individual positions in Crowley's courts to determine what the message is-
First, we have the Knights, representing a similar role to the Golden Dawn Knights. The Knights represent dynamic energy and knowledge- both having a clear intention in mind and the know-how to get there. As usual, the Knights ride horses, and horses are a common symbol of both desire and will as well as instincts. This again tells of the main characteristics of the Knights- knowledge of how to achieve an end, and the desire that will drive them on reach that end.
How do these differ from the Kings? The Kings also represent knowledge and strength, and the common element of the Kings is Fire- indicating likewise will and determination. The difference between Kings and Knights, where they are used, is that though they are similar, Kings tend towards more practical knowledge whereas the Knights, with Air as their element, tend towards more idealistic and black-and-white thinking.
The Queens remain consistent across both systems- Queens are tied to the element of Water, and as such tend more towards support and development than strict leadership roles. This is not to devalue the contribution that a Queen-type person can bring to the situation. Each aspect is important.
The Princes have a different role, however. Here we have, in the Thoth deck, the Princes mounted on chariots- though similar to the Knights, who are mounted on horseback, the chariots are symbols of manipulating change to our own ends. The horses of the Knights represent a combination of purpose and knowledge, yet the chariots represent a conscious and willful manipulation of the world to bring about a desired end. Though the word manipulation tends to have a negative context, as in manipulating and using people, this is not the message here. Rather, it's a sense of using resources to achieve a desired end.
The Princes, likewise, in the Hermetic Tarot, are identified as the "Lords" of their elements, indicating a somewhat Knight- like aspect of mastery, an idea supported by the imagery of chariots in their portrayals. Remember also that the Chariot (the Major Arcana version, I mean) represents conscious and deliberate movement in accordance with will and purpose.
Now on to the Princesses- they correspond roughly with the Pages, in the sense of desire and purpose, but marked by inexperience, and with inexperience a desire to learn and grow, often pushing the boundaries. The Pages represent determination and study, building up to become a Knight in many ways. The Princesses in the Thoth deck represent potential, and the understanding of that potential. Whereas in the other Courts, the cards turn more towards what the individual can do in the situation, the Princesses focus rather on self-development and self-mastery. The message throughout the deck clearly becomes before you can master the world around you, first you must master yourself. This may not be quite the daunting task it seems, considering things from a psychodynamic perspective. What we find is the id and ego- one represents what needs to contained and mastered, that is, the id. Moving beyond simply self-gratification, the result can be that in doing this, we can build and plan for the future.
To conclude, we find that our world, and we as people inside that world, are both complicated, and not easiy divided into categories. Look for a changing, dynamic narrative as the substance of our lives, not a fixed ready-written story. Each of us is different, though all our lives do bear common threads and symbols, allowing us to interpret and make sense of our time here.

No comments:

Post a Comment