A DancingWorld Special Feature:

Tarot & The Art of Life

by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

(c) 2001, 1999 Eva Yaa Asantewaa

[The following material may not be reproduced in any way, either in part or in its entirety, without the expressed written permission of the author.]


"Tarot and The Art of Life" can help you boost your creativity or solve particular personal or creative problems. The archetypes (inner transformative, creative energies) of Tarot's Major Arcana can be wise mentors helping you to expand your sense of self, your range of perception and thought, and your ability to make ideas take form.

Each day or whenever the need arises, select a card from your favorite Tarot deck; then take a look at my suggested questions and activities. Besides trying the suggestions, you may also want to use your card as an object of meditation or simply look at it deeply and write down any thoughts, insights, or free associations that come to mind. Keep a journal of your experiences with each card. Over time, you will learn much more about Tarot and about your Self!

Some of you may be total Tarot novices. You'll find "Tarot & The Art of Life" a helpful way to start your exploration. My intention is to give you a taste of Tarot; there's so much more to discover and, after two decades, I'm still happily learning.

Please don't run to any of the millions of Tarot manuals on the market! Start with what you know in your deepest Self as you work with the imagery and energies of your selected cards. Everything you'll need is right in front of your eyes and also within you. Your Self is a mine full of gold. When you have begun to interact with Tarot in this personal way--questioning it, dialoguing with it, embodying it--then you will reach a level of confidence in which you can more easily recognize whatever value commercial Tarot guides hold.

If you absolutely must read a Tarot book, I heartily recommend Mary K. Greer's "Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation" (North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle Publishing, 1984) and Sallie Nichols's "Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey" (NY: Samuel Weiser, 1980).

In developing this feature, I worked with a version of the widely-used Rider Waite deck. However, if you own a different deck, you may choose to consult its images for additional insight into the message of the card you've selected.

Part 1 ---- The Major Arcana

The Fool:

Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side! If you're caught up in fear, it's time to turn your back on fear and walk exactly where you are afraid to go.

Today, literally, take a walk--preferably in an unfamiliar location. However, even if you walk somewhere familiar, at least allow yourself to experience it in a fresh way. Open the windows of your senses and your intuition. Let colors, textures, scents, temperatures, sounds, and subtle energies reach you deeply as never before. Imagine yourself as a very young child or a foreigner from a totally different culture or a being from another planet. What enchants you? Find your wonder.

Carry very little with you on your walk--few material items (only what's necessary) and even fewer preconceived notions. Let your walk be a pure mindfulness meditation.

Sometimes, when we are troubled by a problem or a creative block, it's useful to step away from it, stop trying to solve it, to fix it. Turn your attention to something benign, get down-to-earth. It can help to remember your body’s needs; physical exercises such as low-impact aerobics, yoga, dance, sports and--yes--simple walking can put the body back in healthful alignment with the mind and soul. Creative folk who take time out to walk or exercise in other ways find that the perfect solution to their concerns--or, at least, the next practical step–may float effortlessly into conscious awareness.

How might that child, foreigner, or extraterrestrial perceive and think about the concern that has bedeviled you?

The Fool remembers that s/he is a physical animal and takes comfort and delight in this, coming down from the cold, austere heights of the intellect. This Fool dances near the edge of danger, taking risks in search of all that is intense, vivid, pure, and true.

The Magician:

The Magician has got it goin' on because sh/e has taken great care to pull it all together. Everything is in proper alignment; the energy just flows. The Mage's body holds an exquisite ceremonial pose symbolizing the graceful descent of celestial energy through the magick wand (held in the uplifted right hand) through the heart center (focal point of intense compassion and devotion) and out through the down-pointed left index finger. Heaven and Earth (spirit and matter) are thus united. The inexhaustible, unending quality of this energy exchange is also symbolized by the infinity sign above the Magician's head and the tail-biting snake that serves as a sash around the Magician's waist. All of the Tarot's magick tools--The Sword, The Wand, The Cup, and The Pentacle--are represented on the Magician's altar.

Besides physically imitating the Mage's pose and sensing the energy flowing down through you to the object of your creative intention, you might also benefit by contemplating the Mage's discipline. See that white headband? It suggests that the Mage's thinking has been purified and sharpened in the service of his/her intention. The intention, itself, must be focused and pure, laser-sharp. Consider not only what you want to do but what motivates you. Take some time to write about this in your journal.

Ceremonial magick is a deliberate art, following specific traditions and rules. Its practitioners have studied and practiced long and have been tested. They are skillful. The Magician is counseling you to attend to your skills. Have you disowned any of them? Do any need upgrading? Do you need to apply more focus? Do you need to take time out to better articulate your purpose before proceeding with your plans? Do you need to carefully map out a skillful plan? Do you have everything--material, emotional, or spiritual--required to implement your plan? Do you believe in yourself? Do you have confidence in yourself?

Consider each of the Magician's magick tools. How might they relate to your problem or plan? The Sword governs air, thought, vision, discernment, communication. The Wand governs fire, passion, energy, enthusiasm, drive. The Cup governs water, feelings, emotions, creative fertility, flexibility, generosity. The Pentacle governs earth, matter, the body, manifestation, stability, security.

The altar itself is a powerful symbol--an external manifestation of what the Magician is within, that is, a place where Heaven and Earth (spirit and matter) come together. What steps have you taken or could you take to set aside sacred space for your creativity?

The High Priestess:

Now, you see it; now, you don't. Is there something about your creative project or problem that's driving you absolutely crazy? Something elusive you just can't get at? Take a look at the High Priestess on her throne flanked by one black and one white column, literally polar opposites. Her robes and veil are so watery, she look as if she might dissolve and flow away. Only one hand may be seen; the other is concealed as is one end of the mysterious scroll (Torah?) she holds on her lap. Like the moon, symbolized as her crown and at her hidden feet, she's always changing.

Yet, in her own maddeningly silent way, the High Priestess signifies the potential for growth (moon symbols, pomegranate print on her curtain) and advancement. Behind her florid curtain lies a large body of water--the personal subconscious, perhaps, the realm of dreams, fantasies, and visions, or even the collective unconscious. She’s the sentinel. We can only advance beyond her if we are ready.

Imagine approaching the High Priestess. She will gaze into your eyes, searching for the answer to a question she will not voice aloud. Without doubt, the question will be one well known to your soul, but it may surprise your conscious mind. Without a satisfactory answer to this question, the High Priestess will rebuff your efforts to move on to the next level. She can act stern and forbidding. She can be evasive. But she can be welcoming, too. Sit in front of her for a while. A significant truth may arise in your mind even without your consciously willing it to do so.

The High Priestess tests you for a possible breakthrough, a kind of initiation. Often, such a period of transition requires you to give something up, to shed it--something tangible or perhaps an attitude or belief system or even a relationship that may no longer be appropriate or healthy. You shed your past, taking only that which furthers the new person emerging from within you. Along with new possibilities come new responsibilities. You may feel restless for change but also melancholy about leaving people, places, or things behind.

See the white cross on the High Priestess' gown? It is not originally a Christian symbol but, rather, an ancient symbol of union (of spirit and matter) in a dynamic intersection that catalyzes radical change--a crossroads. If you feel you cannot face the crossroads--and its challenges--you must turn back.

Spend time "talking" with the High Priestess, mind-to-mind. She really wants you to be ready and to break on through to the other side. Even if it takes longer than you think at first, she'll get you there.

The Empress:

Some images of The Empress that clearly show her to be the mother of all things, virtually spinning the manifest universe from her body. The Rider Waite imagery depicts her as an ample diva lounging on a very cushy, comfy throne.

Occasionally, we get in a really tight headspace where we believe that we must work, work, work and struggle, struggle, struggle in order to produce our creative product. We exhaust ourselves or block our energies and end up frustrated and resentful. We feel we must work our minds into a frenzy to find a solution to a problem. The Empress reminds us that sometimes we can simply relax, turn to the Universe, and breathe in what we need.

She is the bottomless cauldron of Cerridwen, the Grail with a boon for every ill. Her generosity towards us extends from the tiniest seed in the wheat surrounding her throne to the drops of water in the stream cascading behind her to the stars the crown her.

There's a Venus/woman symbol in the valentine-shaped shield propped against her throne. When you consider your creative project or your problem, find the generous, sensitive, fertile spirit within yourself--even if, perhaps especially if, you happen to be male.

Unlike the Magician who is dressed in one white and one red garment, The Empress has taken the red force of vitality (red rose pattern) directly into the white of her flowing gown. She has not only conjoined but fully integrated the two colors. Consider: Are you separating two things that should be integrated? How might the concept of integration help you find your solution?

If you’re working with an abstract idea, bring it into the realm of the visual. Take out some colored markers, crayons, or paints, some large sheets of paper, and draw it. Let your hand move freely over the paper. You don't have to make great art, and you don't have to make your image for anyone else to see and judge. It's for you. For your soul. To help you to see your ideas, your feelings, your inner visions.

When you are finished, if you don't understand what you have created, put it aside for a while. Even if you come back to it later that day or evening, something may have shifted in your consciousness.

The Emperor:

There's a time to relax and a time to shape up. The Emperor looks at you and tells you, "It's time to shape up!" No slouching! No lounging! Sit up straight! How forbidding he looks!

Here's where it really helps to follow the rules--even if those rules are internal ones that stem from your own high standards. Respect yourself.

You can tell from The Emperor's throne, decorated with the skulls of rams, that he has achieved his lofty place by bold action. The Emperor is one of the Tarot's most outward-oriented figures--governing the realm of material power and gain, assertiveness and visibility. He's a warrior. Are you willing to be a warrior for those things you hold precious?

How willing are you to stand up and stand behind your project? How bold are you willing to be to squarely address your problem? What practical measures can The Emperor suggest to you as you face him, pen in hand, ready to take notes on his worldly wisdom?

The Emperor may not be Tarot's most freewheeling or creative figure, but he is undoubtedly a commanding one. He's an elder but not without vitality: Look at his crimson (fresh blood, immediacy) and magenta (old blood, experience) robes, his flushed cheeks. The blue fabric of his sleeves is the blue of high, spiritual authority. Don't think The Emperor is without his connection to Spirit. It is his hidden source, and it is yours.

Do you find The Emperor an uncomfortable figure? Are you afraid to claim your power?

Can you imagine a powerful person within yourself? What would he or she look like, move like, think like? How would he or she approach your project or your problem?

The Hierophant:

The Hierophant is obviously a figure of institutional spiritual authority. However, while s/he might appear as a Roman Catholic pontiff to most, the Hierophant has been described by others as a shaman, a guide, a teacher, and a translator of the language of the Other World.

This great being can be considered a bridge between worlds, making connections, exchange, learning and understanding possible where they might have seemed impossible. Look to the card for its numerous symbols of duality and linking--the two monks, the overlapping keys, the two-fingered mudra (sacred gesture), the columns and crosses.

To advance in your work or to solve your problem, it might be useful to find a teacher or mentor; to learn a new language or to find ways to simplify your language and communication; to get assistance in making contacts or accessing resources that will benefit you. Alternately, selecting this card might indicate that you need to become a bit of a Hierophant yourself, providing the linkage and facilitating the understanding of others.

Remember, too, that the Hierophant is a lucid channel, a conduit--ultimately, one who serves. What is it that you serve? What does your project serve? If you accept your role as one who serves, what then is your proper relationship to your work, to your source, to your goal?

The Lovers:

Very often, the Tarot shows us images of opposites brought together. Now, here are the Biblical, primordial man and woman in all their Edenic innocence (naked, hands open) with an angel hovering above. The Lovers card counsels you to go back to the very roots of your project--perhaps the original light of an idea, your original spark of enthusiasm, the childlike wonder and love that is so easy to lose sight of when you are in the middle of a muddle.

If you are concerned about a problem, look to its roots, too. Can you retrace your steps and find the place where it might have been possible to go a different, better way? Sometimes, you'll find that you cannot correct that misdirection. You just have to let it go. However, you might discover that it's possible to go back, see things a little more clearly, and take the turn you missed. It may not be too late.

Above and behind the grand angel shines a huge, generous sun. The angel shields the earth and all its creatures from the full blast of that sun because, after all, we might not have the capacity to safely take it all in. The angel filters that energy and transmits just what we need. The Lovers card reminds us to be open and trust the goodness of Spirit, to look for the big or subtle workings of Spirit in our creative work and throughout our lives.

Take a breath. Relax your guard, and let the good in.

Consider and acknowledge all aspects (of your project, of your problem). Is there anything that you have left out because it doesn't seem to fit? Take another look at it. Perhaps there is some appropriate way to use it, to welcome it back, to bring it out. If you look at it with fresh eyes, polish it and restore its original shine, it just might work, bringing new energy and life to all you do.

The Chariot:

Funny thing about this chariot: Where are its reins? The Charioteer's hands rest lightly either around a scepter or on the edge of the chariot. Sh/e is a celestial figure--see the stars, the moons, the cryptic sigils?--who magickally controls the movement of this vehicle which is none other than the mind itself.

The Charioteer is Will raised to the highest level and aligned with the will of the Most High. All of the imagery of duality and symmetry in the Charioteer's canopy, chariot columns, pristine white cuffs, wheels, and sphinxes exemplify order. (The sphinxes are intriguing, aren't they? Why do you think they are seemingly at rest? Why do they not need harnesses?) From this order comes serenity and efficiency without struggle.

The Charioteer's advantages--and yours--are a calm, purposeful mind, a pure, focused intention, a clear and clearly-articulated vision. It's wonderful to get The Chariot when you are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Let The Chariot's cool blue wash over you. The yellow sky (a symbol of Mercury) will raise and organize your mental energies. Meditate on The Chariot and you will think, write, and speak in a more organized and understandable fashion. Things will click into place, and you will be able to grasp not only the small details but also the larger picture.

The Charioteer, eyes fixed on the goal, helps you to get a sense of where it's all going.


The bold image of the Strength card brings together the world of matter and the world of Spirit in cooperation. A white-gowned maiden crowned in wildflowers, the infinity symbol hovering above her head, gently grasps the snout and jaw of a red-gold lion. Here we see raw vitality under the guidance of pure spirit. Fearlessly, the lady places her hands near the beast's sharp teeth.

My Tarot teacher told us that some Tarot authorities questioned whether the maiden was closing or actually opening the lion's mouth. That it might be an act of opening is an intriguing possibility. Take a close look and see what you think. What do you think would it mean if the action were an opening rather than a closing?

I must tell you, however, that after these many years, I've cast my vote for "closing." The feeling is definitely one of wise, compassionate, limiting control of a force that could so easily go out of control. However, there may be times when you will need to see that action as a very careful, gentle opening. It may mean something specific to you, your project, or your problem.

We are asked to consider which figure represents true strength. Perhaps both do, each in very different ways.

What are your strengths? How do they differ? If they differ, how might they work together in a balanced, cooperative way?

Are you being compassionate with all parts of yourself? Are there parts of yourself that you judge harshly and try to control by force?

Do you honor both your spirit and your body?

Give yourself a gentle embrace.

The Hermit:

It's not easy when you strike out on your own and you take that lonely path that has never been explored before. Or perhaps others have walked it, but they have left no trail marks for you.

All the better to really see the terrain through which you walk.

At this time in the history of the world, so much is changing and so swiftly that many of us find ourselves to be pioneers, setting out on frontiers where we must operate without rules or make our own. Perhaps we long for companionship and find no one who satisfies. Perhaps we long for mentorship, and the right mentor never crosses our path. Perhaps we labor long and hard with little support and recognition, but we continue to hold our dream and spin it out into the world from resources deep within us.

The Hermit is a lonely seeker. Yet, The Hermit can eventually become a wonderful guide for others, lifting, once again, the lamp that helped light his own solitary way. That lamp contains the six-pointed star (Solomon’s Seal/Star of David) that combines the elements of air (downward-pointing triangle) and fire (upward-pointing triangle). All this fire needs to keep on burning and lighting the way is the air of Spirit (inspiration), and it has that in abundance. The Hermit's bare, practical staff provides steadiness on the high, snowy path.

If you identify with this Hermit, consider that there are many more like you out in the world. You are very important, in your way, to our world at this time. Your efforts are not without purpose or ultimate attainment. Your significance in the life of others may not be noticed immediately, but it will be.

Robed in a grey, hooded cloak, The Hermit is a symbol of humility and simplicity. His long, white beard suggests that he has been on this path for a very long time. He has no need of glamour or any kind of showiness. He attends to what is right in front of him. He lives in mindfulness of the present. As we meet him, he is standing, not striding. When he walks, he probably moves in small, careful steps, and they are enough.

Wheel of Fortune:

Round and round it goes, and where it stops, only Spirit knows.

When you feel perplexed, take a spin on this mystical, magickal Wheel. Imagine yourself spun around by the energies of the snake, the dog-headed man, and the sword-bearing sphinx until you land on one of those four clouds. Each cloud bears a figure holding an open book. Imagine yourself sitting in front of one of those figures--the angel, the eagle, the winged bull, or the winged lion. Ask the question that is most pressing or speak the truth that is most urgent. Then listen as your spirit companion reads a message from the book, something especially for you. You can sit and ask questions and get responses (in words, images, feelings, or deep knowing) until your companion tactfully but firmly closes the book.

Now, it's time to get on with your life.

Alternately, the Wheel of Fortune can appear when your life is in upheaval or, simply, you and/or people, places, or things around you are in a major transition. You might want to honor the nature of that liminal time by not forcing decisions or expecting stability. Ride it out. Or use the turbulent energy as fuel for changes that may have been difficult for you to accomplish in the past.

Please click on the link below to read further.....

(c)1999, 2001, Eva Yaa Asantewaa [This material may not be reproduced in any way, either in part or in its entirety, without the expressed written permission of the author.]

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