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Astrological Correspondences & The Major Arcana
... Or "The Hermetic Order of the what now?"
I’m the kind of person who likes to ask questions like:
Why call that card The Hierophant?
and, Why is The Hierophant associated with the astrological sign of Taurus?
and, Why is the planetary ruler of Taurus, Venus, then associated with The Empress?
As such, I’ve wandered down many rabbit-holes investigating and contemplating the foundations of tarot and its modern correspondences.
In a nutshell: the structure of tarot— and the astrological and magical correspondences that practitioners use today— were greatly influenced by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and other Hermeticists of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
What is Hermeticism? Mary K. Greer gives a solid overview:
Generally speaking, Hermeticism involves an intuitive, rather than rational, search for personal knowledge of the soul and of God (a One God who might, nevertheless be known polytheistically). It counsels experiential processes resulting in the removal of earthly and cosmic restrictions to reach an essential unity with the Divine in an ecstatic knowing or gnosis.
… While Hermeticism has had its influence on mystical Christianity, it is more of a philosophy than a religion. Its most direct effect has been on Western occultism including alchemy, ceremonial magic, astrology and tarot and on groups such as the Theosophists, Rosicrucians and Freemasons.
Our modern astrological correspondences for the tarot were established by The Golden Dawn. Arthur Edward Waite apparently had his own reservations about these correspondences, but he still used them as the basis for the Waite-Smith system— the most widely used tarot structure in modern decks.
The Golden Dawn system of correspondences is intriguing and valuable, but it also has its limitations. Because it centers its philosophical and scientific understanding on what our ancient ancestors knew, it doesn’t reflect our own evolving understanding of our planet and cosmos. That being said, I appreciate the attempt to show the interrelatedness between tarot and astrology, especially because I interact with tarot as an interwoven system of relationships.
Let’s take a look at the Golden Dawn’s astrological correspondences for the major arcana, including my corresponding lineages & ecosystems:
Mercury: The Magician, of the People of Illumination who tend the Ecosystem of Will.
Moon: The High Priestess, of the People of Insight who tend the Ecosystem of Intuition.
Venus: The Empress, of the People of The Land who tend the Ecosystem of Creation.
Jupiter: The Wheel of Fortune, of the People of Illumination who tend the Ecosystem of Will.
Mars: The Tower, of the People of Gateways who tend the Ecosystem of Initiation.
Sun: The Sun, of the People of Illumination who tend the Ecosystem of Will.
Saturn: The World, of the People of The Land who tend the Ecosystem of Creation.
Aries: The Emperor, of the People of Faith who tend the Ecosystem of Trust.
Taurus: The Hierophant, of the People of Wisdom who tend the Ecosystem of Knowledge.
Gemini: The Lovers, of the People of Wholeness who tend the Ecosystem of Union.
Cancer: The Chariot, of the People of Gateways who tend the Ecosystem of Initiation.
Leo: Strength, of the People of Mercy who tend the Ecosystem of Hope.
Virgo: The Hermit, of the People of Stillness who tend the Ecosystem of Introspection.
Libra: Justice, of the People of Insight who tend the Ecosystem of Intuition.
Scorpio: Death, of the People of Faith who tend the Ecosystem of Trust.
Sagittarius: Temperance, of the People of Wisdom who tend the Ecosystem of Knowledge.
Capricorn: The Devil, of the People of Wholeness who tend the Ecosystem of Union.
Aquarius: The Star, of the People of Mercy who tend the Ecosystem of Hope.
Pisces: The Moon, of the People of Stillness who tend the Ecosystem of Introspection.
Elemental Air: The Fool, Origin.
Elemental Fire: Judgment, of the People of Insight who tend the Ecosystem of Intuition.
Elemental Water: The Hanged Man, of the People of The Land who tend the Ecosystem of Creation.
Elemental Earth: The World, of the People of The Land who tend the Ecosystem of Creation.
What do you notice?
I’m curious to know what stands out as you read through those correspondences, whether you think of yourself as a tarot/astro nerd or not. What gets you curious or excited? Is anything confusing or frustrating? Should we be considering any changes or adaptations?
I’d love to know what comes up for you. If you received this dispatch via email, you are welcome to reply to me directly. Or, anyone is welcome to…
Here’s what I’m curious about after sitting with the list:
Modern tarot has emerged from western (especially European) esoteric traditions. Tropical astrology is perhaps the most common in the west, but it’s not the only approach. Is tarot ready to evolve beyond a western-centric worldview? Would sidereal correspondences look the same as tropical ones? Or the correspondences for the emerging Divination for Liberation framework within sidereal astrology?
Would considering myth, archetype and tradition from both the northern and southern hemispheres change anything? How does the history of colonialism impact the correspondences?
What would the correspondences look like if we started with a clean slate?
If each major arcana card had a unique astrological body/point associated with it, which would be most important to include? Pluto? Neptune? The nodes of the moon? Chiron? Black Moon Lilith? Something else?
When there are 12 astrological signs and 22 major arcana cards, what’s most important to consider when assigning correspondences? Archetypal/astrological associations with mythology? Elements? Something else?
Okay… I’ve needed out at you for long enough now. :)
Until next time,