Mysteries of the Tarot--for all levels

Those of you discovering your Tarot decks for the first time might be learning that your decks are split into 2 groups–the cards with titles (like “The Fool”) and the cards with suits (like Swords or Cups). Did you know that these groups are called “Arcana”? That’s just a fanciful Latin word which means “mysteries not apparent to the uninitiated.”

Well, congratulations! YOU are now on your way to becoming one of “the initiated”!

I’d like this thread to be a companion to Sammy’s Beginner’s Journey through the Corpus Spiritus Tarot thread, where we pull back the veil and peer into some of the mysteries behind these cards and tie the Corpus Spiritus deck into some of the esoteric topics we discuss here on the rest of the forum.

I’m going to begin this conversation at what some of our experts (I see you there! :wink: ) might consider a “beginner” level, because I’d like this thread to be like the rest of our forum and include as many friends who want to play.

I’ll be pacing myself along with Sammy’s thread, as I don’t want to be a spoiler for his fun. But feel free to join in this conversation and take it wherever interests you as well. (If I wanted to be The Lone Voice, I’d write a Kindle book instead of opening a discussion thread. :laughing: )

So let’s start in!

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So, the Arcana, huh? What’s up with that, right?, you might be asking. That question alone has caused all manner of discussion among scholars (And we could have a lot of fun for a long time with that topic just by itself) because a lot of it is speculation and theory.

Since I love myself some fanciful stories, let me share one fanciful story that I was taught way back when when I was learning about the Tarot. (I have no idea how true it is but I think it sets the stage nicely for us.)

I was told that way back when (long before the Visconti deck was created in the 1400’s) the Tarot was devised by the mystery schools (some have speculated going back at least as far as Ancient Egypt) as a tool of sharing, teaching and preserving ancient esoteric knowledge. These masters put their understandings into a form that was transportable and could be understood by anyone with eyes.

Images were carefully crafted for 2 reasons. The first reason was an acknowledgement that many in their worlds could not yet read. Even those who could read were often limited to reading a single language. Images had the potential to be understood regardless of the owner’s ability to read or their ability to read the language of the author of the card. (This last bit comes in handy for the next chapter of this story.)

The other reason for images was a wise understanding (these were Masters, after all :wink: ) that our unconscious doesn’t “speak” in words. Our unconscious communicates in images. So, these images speak directly to your unconscious. (Neat, right?) And that’s doubly neat because these wise Masters also understood that out unconscious connects to our Higher Self, to the Collective Unconscious and to Source/All-That-Is/Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-It.

Continuing with my fanciful story, in ancient times (during the times of the ancient mystery schools of Egypt and the rest of the Fertile Crescent) those Masters witnessed the destructions of their great libraries holding their teachings. They probably suffered personal persecution, too.

So, they created these decks, in a form that’s transportable and which could be understandable (by those “with eyes to see,” as the phrase goes), containing their understandings.

[ETA: More recent scholars were concerned about “putting a loaded gun into the hands of babies” (as one described it), meaning these mysteries are powerful and, without intelligence or supervision, these powerful mysteries had the potential to be dangerous. So, it became common to misdirect noobs to protect them. This practice of “blinds” became common in and indentified during the 18th and 19th centuries. I’m added this idea here because sometimes the image of the cards doesn’t always depict what you might think it does at first glance. Like with The Fool card.]

My story says they then gave these decks to various nomadic people (who were likely to escape the frequent invasions of the time) who then brought these decks to new lands, preserving their knowledge and beginning a journey across the ages to your hands. You’re holding a testament to an adventure that spans across the ages. Wow!

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There are many ways of looking at the mysteries of your cards. (And hopefully, we’ll be discussing them here in this thread!)

The framework that has most resonated with me has been “The Fool’s Journey” or the journey of Spirit into fully manifested form. IOW, the process of creation or, as someone else has said here in another thread, the process of “turning energy into things”–the process of manifestation. (And isn’t “everyone” talking about “manifestation” on YouTube these days?)

(And, again, this isn’t The Only Way to look at the Tarot. It’s simply the way that’s resonated most to me. And this way means we’ll diverge from the order of Sammy’s thread when we get to the suit cards, the Minor Arcana.)

“The Fool’s Journey” starts with the first card of the deck, The Fool. Sammy’s shared with us the everyday meanings for this card.

As I understand The Fool’s Journey, The Fool is Spirit in its pure form, with its intent to set out on its journey…by stepping off that cliff.

We can see, by the expression on his face, that The Fool is unconcerned by what’s before him (or her). And doesn’t that make sense? I mean, when all you’ve experienced is All-That-Is and that All-That-Is is yourself, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

In fact, in the Corpus Spiritus deck, The Fool is looking up to the source of the only light in the image. Could that light be “The Light” or a representation of Source/All-That-Is/etc.? Could The Fool be reminding us to be mindful of where we’ve come from? That there is more to us than our physical forms?

In Sammy’s thread, I asked about the dog:

If The Fool represents Spirit in its pure form about to begin its journey, what does the dog represent?

We had some great answers in Sammy’s thread. One answer–on a more esoteric, more “mysterious” level–might be that the dog is “the ego,” because the only way that The Fool can begin his journey away from All-That-Is is to develop “his” unique, personal perspective–an ego, the dog.

In some decks, the dog is shown nipping at the hem of The Fool’s tunic, perhaps alerting The Fool of the step he’s about to take. And doesn’t it seem like the ego does that (a lot) to us? Warn of us stuff and “dangers”?

To me, I think the important thing about this card is that it’s the first card. I mean, the deck doesn’t end here. It continues. That tells me that the “danger” of the cliff and of what The Fool is about to do isn’t real or as “dangerous” as the dog seems to think.

How many times have we been worried about something (thank you, ego) that we got through nonetheless?

Maybe this card is reminding us to hold the attitude of The Fool (rather than our more human attitude of the dog)? After all, as lovely and as clever as our canine friends are, humans have the potential to be smarter and wiser than our dogs. Maybe this card is asking us to become aware of which piece of us is being the loudest in the moment or in the situation in question?

After all, the man is a much bigger, more prominent figure in the image.

Here’s a question for you all to contemplate: “Who” is calling the man “The Fool”?

Happy journey to us all!

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What are your thoughts about The Fool card?

Oh, and what do you think The Fool might be carrying tied to the end of his staff?

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Excellent analysis!! And an great question to contemplate!

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Forgot about mentioning that dog in reverse is god. So if you’re saying that the Fool represents spirit, it makes more sense in the progression that the second card is the Magician. I was asking myself what the leap was to get from Fool to Magician. What would prompt the Fool to become the Magician. A Magician is a magic man, and ours is an alchemist! Mastery of the elements, symbols of the four suits present in his laboratory. And he’s in a lab! The traditional RWS deck has the magician outdoors with flowers and grass and all. Ours is in an alchemical laboratory with smoking beakers and a skull! When I looked at the mandala of the magician NFT at the top of the scene is the sword. When I stared at it for awhile it became a lake with people walking on the shore. Suddenly it was a whole new world, where a second before it was just a sword. It was like it gave birth to more, it revealed more than is evident to the eye. Mastery - that it why I would want to go from unlimited formless being to creating out of elements. And isn’t it all alchemy? Beingness breaking into seeming elseness?

Okay before I go any farther, I will wait for something to catch up to me, lol.

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Forgot this bit. In the court, the fool was a jester, a joker - who often would have been an intelligent sort that was capable of hiding in plain sight. They were known as men of wit, able to entertain easily. Able to become something more than they appeared, while staying in a role that made them almost invisible except for the favor that their wit incurred for them. Perhaps a fool because he seems disinterested in the life of men. He is a wanderer, all belongings able to be dangled over his shoulder, oblivious of what an observer might call danger - living only to be.

Maybe one that calls him a fool wants to fool us? Or wants to label him so that we think he is something other than he is. It is a label. We label each other when in the traditional life. It puts us in boxes and makes things easy to sort. Pushes away things we’d rather not deal with now in order to make room for the more important stuff. Yet the label is rarely the thing labeled, it is only a word. Words are used to create energy boxes. The Fool is a title, a label, an energy word box that cannot contain the energy that we perceive as this beingness represented by card zero.

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