Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tarot Dignities, Part Two- The Minor Arcana


In considering the Minor Arcana as dignities, we find that there are two aspects to each card, as here the cards are assigned both a suit and a number. Whereas the Major Arcana cards have a specific designation in terms of their title and meaning, we find that here the cards are defined in terms of their number and suit. We can likewise assign the Courts a numerical value, but for the time being let's look at just the number or pip cards. In the four suits we also find the four elements represented- interestingly, there are two elements that could be considered negative, that is, passive, and two that could be considered positive- that is, active. Both Air and Fire are active; they can be seen as acting upon, whereas Water and Earth can be considered passive- they are acted upon rather than acting. We can also consider Earth to be a neutral element, as in some systems it is thought to be the basis from which the other, more active and fluid elements arise.
But on to the numbers- turning again to the Sephiroth, we can see three vertical divisions in the Tree of Life diagram, and these can likewise be used to assign each number one of the three dignities- positive, negative or neutral. 
In this diagram, there are three numbers on the left side, three on the right, and four in the middle, totaling 10. In this depiction, the left hand pillar is called the Pillar of Severity, or alternately the Pillar of Judgement- here we assign those numbers that are thought to have a constructive, yet also limiting influence. On the right hand side is the Pillar of Mercy, sometimes also called the Pillar of Expansion- these are the numbers thought to have a supportive, sustaining influence. Interestingly, the Pillar of Severity can be considered to give form and structure by limiting expansion, whereas the Pillar of Mercy provides the raw material that is structured and limited. The middle pillar could be said to contain, then, the neutral numbers. It's common for the Aces and 10s to be regarded as both neutral, the 10 marking a point of completion, where the Aces then pick up again. So in this system as far as dignities are concerned, we find the Aces and 10s to be equivalent for our purposes.
With these two concepts, limitation and expansion, the numbered cards of the deck can be seen as acting in accordance with this, either to expand or limit the energy of a given card. And this, in turn, can indicate a positive or negative dignity- remember that for these purposes a positive dignity is one that acts favorably (expands or intensifies the energy of a given card) towards the situation, and a negative dignity is one that acts antagonistically (reduces or limits the energy of a given card).
Notice also that both the Aces and 10s are considered neutral in this system- this is because both represent potential. What we use this potential for can be either good or bad; think of them as raw material, that can be used to make a weapon to harm or a tool to construct. We find the following numbers with their respective categories:
Positive: (Expansive, increasing and supporting) 2, 4, 7
Negative: (Limiting, decreasing and setting boundaries) 3, 5, 8
Neutral: (Representing potential and raw material) Ace, 6, 9, 10
Considering also the elements, there are two ways to look at the cards- one is to consider their elemental assignment or placement in terms of the Zodiac, which is useful in terms of the Major Arcana, as well as their numerical value, which is useful for the Minor Arcana. However, the elemental assignments of the Minors can also be taken into consideration, as each of the four elements represents an area of our lives, relationships and development. In terms of dignities, this can likewise indicate a little more about that particular dignity- here the elements can indicate what area that positive influence is coming from. The Swords indicate communication, thought or ideas. Cups indicate spiritual, emotional or relationship factors, Wands indicate will and determination, and finally Pentacles indicate material resources. This is a somewhat arbitrary system, and there is bound to be a good deal of overlap, so again, use your own judgement on what each dignity can mean, and be sure to take the situation into account as well. 

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