James Bond Tarot
- Movie Tarot Imagery
For something as intriguing as tarot cards, I’d imagine the tarot would be more recognized in our popular culture then it is. I can’t think of many films where the tarot was involved. One film is Woody Allen’s “Scoop” where tarot cards played a minor role.
Perhaps the film that stands out using tarot cards as a significant plot device was the 1973 James Bond film “Live and Let Die”. This was Roger Moore’s first time playing James Bond. This is not a movie review, but a look at the use of tarot cards in film.
The deck created for ‘Live and Let Die’ is called the “Tarot of the Witches” designed by Fergus Hall. At the time the movie came out it was marketed as the James Bond 007 Tarot. The is not a typical deck. The art is bold, colorful and surrealistic. The characters have tiny little hands and feet.
Otherwise the deck follows the standard tarot format. I understand why the filmmakers would use such a colorful deck. It stood out visually in the movie. If you look carefully at the back of the cards you’ll see a stylized “007” pattern.
How realistic was tarot reading portrayed in the film? The card reading character was a Bond Girl, aptly named Solitaire (played by Jane Seymour) who had the power of clairvoyance. Her power was hereditary, passed down from her mother who had the same abilitiy.
The villain in the film was Kananga and he used Solitaire’s clairvoyance for his own sinister purposes. Implausibly, Solitaire’s clairvoyance was never wrong. Yeah, that is pure fantasy. The process of card reading involved elaborate costumes. Otherwise, notice the Celtic Cross layout in one of the images.
A plot element was her clairvoyance existed only if Solitaire remained a virgin. Her virginity (and her usefulness to the criminals) was obviously in jeopardy with Bond mulling around.
When Bond first encounters Solitaire, she speaks to him while reading her cards. She said, “I know who you are and what you are and why you come. You made a mistake. You will not succeed. The cards have followed you for me.”
Bond seems to believe in Solitaire’s abilities, but he is also uninterested in her power. If I were a secret agent and discovered someone with her amazing abilities, for sure I’d report her to intelligence. Forget the bad guy. Then again, maybe not. Who would believe? He really didn’t appreciate the significance. The villain sure did. In real life there are accounts of governments employing psychics and remote viewers. But no. Bond only wants to chase bad guys and have nookie with the girls.
Bond cleverly uses Solitaire’s belief in the cards to his advantage, seducing her by using a stacked deck. After sex, she tells Bond “The power…I’ve lost it. The High Priestess is wife to the Prince no longer of this world. The spiritual bridge to the secret church. It was my fate. By compelling me to earthly love, the cards themselves have taken away my powers. It makes no difference. The physical violation cannot be undone. When he finds out I’ve lost my power…”
This is an odd statement. Does it have any connection whatsoever with real-life spirituality? What to make of the movie’s association of virginity with clairvoyance? It’s only a plot contrivance. I don’t know any authentic spiritual practice that requires virginity for spiritual development, outside the Catholic Church. If anything, a card reader should have a full life experience. It would aid in card reading, not inhibit it.
The silliness aside, it is nice to see a movie with the tarot in full display, even if it is portrayed fantastically. The presence of tarot imagery in popular culture is uncommon enough, that anytime I see it I think it is worth noting and recording. Also noteworthy is another tarot deck featured in this movie, the famous Rider-Waite deck. Can you spot all of them in the images? There are quite a few. The Rider-Waite deck is the real deal, not movie making.
Hex Sign on a barn
During the winter while on the road, I spotted some hex signs on a couple of barns. I was exited to see them! I rarely see these. I took a few pictures (above). Hex signs are really interesting. I’m sure we’ve all seen smaller versions in craft shops for hanging at home. However, they are not only decorative art. There is quite a bit to them.
Most view hex signs as simply colorful decorations, as folk art. Historically they served a specific purpose. They were talismans used to protect the barn, the farm and the home from fire, theft, lightening and misfortune. And to promote good fortune, prosperity and fertility. What made them different from talismans was their generally public nature. They were beautiful art while serving an esoteric purpose. Their occult aspect was not too obvious.
Hex signs arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1800s, the tradition brought by immigrants from the Old World. But these protective symbols are very old. They have a long history that reaches far back into paganism. Since hex signs were public, the esoteric symbolism was subtle. If anyone put a talisman from the Keys of Solomon on their barn, it would probably invite a fire started by an offended neighbor instead of warding it off.
Double Star Hex Sign
The symbolism of the hex sign is interesting. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to them. They are often only geometric shapes. It seems any meaning is in the eye of the beholder. However, if we consider numerology and sacred geometry we can discern some of the esoteric meaning behind the hex sign.
These symbols were enclosed in circles. Inside the circles were symbols such as a swastika/solar wheel, rosettes, double rosettes, pentagrams, double stars and triple stars.
A circle enclosing geometric shapes is suggestive of the magic circles of ceremonial magic. The ceremonial magician would evoke celestial/spiritual powers while he remained in the magic circle’s protection. The magic circle is a cornerstone of magical practice.
Lets consider a common symbol, the Star. If we compare the hex sign’s typical “star” with some of the talismanic imagery contained in the old grimoires, they look familiar. Take away the cryptic script and you could easily have a hex sign.
The number of points on the star has significance. Five points, the pentagram, has obvious occult meaning. Four points represents our physical world, symbolized by the four points of the compass. A double star adds four more points to what is symbolized as the material world. This reflects the attempt to protect and bless this physical world, our farm and home, with celestial aid.
Tart Card the Star
In the tarot card the Star; we have a star that looks just like a hex sign. Just draw a circle around it! It represents the actual stars above, but the Star is also a metaphor for a metaphysical force. Astrology is suggestive of the influence of these “stars”. The Star symbolizes the spiritual Universe and the Astral Powers Above. The meaning of the Star card is about harmony between the Heavens and the Earth, the Spirit and the Individual. As is above, so below. As the woman pours water into the pond, she reflects what is going on at a higher level, as the Spirit pours its essence into the world.
The star in a circle, as seen with ceremonial magic’s circle, and with classical talismans and hex signs, represents our attempt to capture celestial influence for our benefit. And keep it in our circle!
Suits of Cartomancy
There is a difference between tarot reading and cartomancy. Tarot cards have become so popular that the art of cartomancy has somewhat fallen out of favor. Cartomancy is divination with playing cards. Skill with cartomancy is still an important ability when reading tarot cards if we include the minor arcana in the deck with a reading. A deck like the Rider-Waite has unique images for every card of the minor arcana, so that makes it easy. But with many other decks…all we have to go by are the suits and the number of pips.
The symbolism of the major arcana is fairly standard. I have not seen any real standard meanings for the minor arcana. The way I look at them, we are pretty much on our own when it comes to determining their meaning in divination. We still need some guidance, so I combine numerology along with the recognized meanings behind the suits. A problem is that numerology also doesn’t have any rock solid meanings either. However, we may be able to cobble together some basic ideas.
First are the meanings of the suits. The heart represents the feminine principle, emotions and matters of relationships and the family. In the tarot the cup symbolizes it. The club (tarot’s literal club) represents the masculine principle, of labor and effort and non-emotional pursuits. The diamond (tarot’s coin) obviously represents money and matters of money and wealth. And finally the spade (tarot’s sword) represents strife and conflict of one sort or another.
When we combine these basic core concepts with a number, we can sort of figure out what is going on. Below are some generally accepted ideas about the symbolism with numbers:
This would be the pure essence of a thing without balance. An Ace of Hearts could symbolize unconditional love…or an unrequited fatal attraction!
This symbolizes two opposites, the ying and yang, which may not be in balance. The two sides of a coin that don’t connect.
Where the number 1 is a point, and 2 cannot form a shape, 3 can now create the first geometric shape…the triangle. Unity and Duality combined into manifesting reality in 3 dimensions. And when a couple gives birth to a child, two now becomes three and that is the start of society and the continuation of life.
FOUR: Physical matter.
The square, and the material world, the 4 corners of the compass, the 4 classic elements, the 4 seasons of nature define the number.
FIVE: The Body.
5 points create the Pentagram or Pentagon. This represents the human body. Now the 4 points of matter and physicality are ruled over by the 5th point of the brain-spirit. The 5 points symbolize the human body, the arms and legs and head, with the head ruling over all of them. This also symbolizes the power of humanity to control matter and nature in general.
SIX: Balance and Harmony.
Six points creates the Hexagram or Hexagon. This is a special number, the first perfect number. 1+2+3 = 6, and 1x2x3=6. It is the union of two triangles upwards and downwards merged together in unity. Unlike the number two which can be unbalanced, here is balance achieved. It is the combination of forces…like the male and female principles or sky and earth.
SEVEN: Good Fortune.
Seven is a prime number and the seven points create the Heptagon or Heptagram. This is considered to be a lucky number. It is the sum of 3 (spirit) and 4 (matter). This combination of spirit and matter means we will get what we seek. It can create two heptagrams and the second is called the Fairy Star and imbued with special importance in some traditions.
Eight: Material Concerns.
The two squares of matter are combined into one. This is not about material objects itself but about our relationship to material matters. It is the complexity of material existence. The eight points creates the Octagon and Octagram. This number is often thought of as symbolizing success.
This number is considered a negative number. I think because it is a chaotic number. Nine points can suddenly take many geometric shapes; meaning order is giving away to chaos. Chaos does not have to be bad, but it opens up the door to chance and randomness.
Ten is the number of completion. Mathematics is based on 10.
Now if we have a suit card, we can come up with some idea what it might represent without having to remember each card’s meaning. A nine of spades would be a bad card…chaos and conflict. But a ten of spades could represent success from a conflict. The real trick is how each card relates to others in a layout, and modifies their meaning. It really becomes an intuitive exercise. I find pondering a card layout is a lot like playing chess…a lot of thinking is going on. It’s like trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle together. Except chess has clear rules!
I am not the biggest fan of concept tarot cards. These are tarot cards that are totally redesigned to fit some niche category. They can be fun and really interesting, but I don’t use them for readings. I suppose I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my tarot cards. I imagine there is a higher wisdom in the original designs, which can get lost in translation to other formats. Then again, what really matters is how we respond to the cards since they spark our intuition.
A concept deck I own is the Da Vinci Enigma Tarot. These tarot cards are based on the drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci, which I enjoy. Do they translate well as tarot cards? Some do, most don’t. I see the deck to be enjoyed as a Da Vinci fan and not for divination. After all, Da Vinci himself was not a superstitious man, but a humanist.
Da Vinci was a true genius, both as a scientist and an artist. What makes Da Vinci unique was the variety of his interests. There are different types of intellect. There is the standard IQ, which measure reasoning ability. In addition there are intelligences that are not measured by tests. Outside of math smarts, there are many other types of intelligence…artistic and creative intelligence, social intelligence, and even athletic intelligence. Few people have all types. The socially inept professor or the artist who can’t handle math are examples. This may be related to the differences between the left side and right side of our brain. Each side has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Da Vinci seemed to have both sides of his brain working at full capacity. He was an artist and scientist, an engineer and inventor, mathematician, sculptor, musician and whatever else he put his mind to. Do we have such mental giants around today? I think so, but today, fame does not go to the brightest, but the flashiest. Or the richest. We have short attention spans.
If there are different types of intelligence, is there such a thing as spiritual intelligence? How would we even begin to classify that? Spiritual perception is neither science nor art. How can anyone have a special intelligence with something that is not visible? Would this only be skill at speculation?
I think some people are born with a “spiritual intelligence”. I think this skill is like a heightened intuition or insight, the ability to understand things, to see deeper. The Buddha had this, Jesus had this. Some are able to perceive things most people cannot. This might also include what is called psychic ability, or second sight, or witchery. Shamans were said to have this talent. It seems to include the ability to straddle both the physical and spiritual dimensions.
Where are today’s spiritual giants? Do Da Vinci’s of spiritual intelligence walk the world? Or do they exist only in the past? Who would you classify as your own personal spiritual giant?
Are women more spiritual then men? On the surface, it would seem to be. Think of all the people you know. It seems women, regardless of their faith, are more into daily spirituality then men. But it is really so? Women pray more, are usually the ones who have to gather the family for church or handle the religious chores. Guys would rather play golf on Sunday.
I think men are not more or less spiritual, but are spiritual in a different way. It comes down to the basic difference in the way men and women think. Men are mostly left brain types, thinking more logically and that everything has to have a purpose. Women tend to be more right brain, thinking more emotionally and with intuition. It seems that spiritually of any stripe would be primarily a right-brain inspired function. Men mostly approach spirituality with their left-brain logic, which can lead to problems. The masculine left-brain approach to spirituality focuses on dogma, theology, and power.
If women are generally more spiritually oriented then men, why do men call all the shots and make all the rules with religion? It’s not even close to 50/50 where half of the religious leadership is male, half female. Religion is a male dominated arena. Pastors, priests, patriarchs, evangelists, popes, preachers, rabbis and mullahs are virtually all male. Men are in charge because our testosterone makes us more aggressive then women, and that is the bottom line. In life victory goes to the most aggressive, not the most gentle, and that includes matters of religion. With the male left-brain approach to spirit we focus on theology over love.
An example of masculine spirituality was in the news recently: Pakistan has approved Islamic law in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in a peace accord with the Taliban. I watched the news footage showing bearded Taliban dudes practicing their version of Islamic law by whipping a guy accused of homosexuality and a woman of adultery. I thought to myself, if women were in charge it would be a different world.
There are new frontiers of spirituality that place power with women in equal measure with men. These frontiers are our pagan and Wiccan communities. Paganism is unique with their idea of the Goddess. Their beliefs focus more on personal experience and interaction then adhering to some rigid dogmas. So far I have not heard of any fundamentalist pagans, but if guys ever take over paganism, for sure that would happen next!
Looking at the oldest versions of the Tarot cards, there is a strange card, number 2, the Papess, the female Pope. Later it was redesigned to be the High Priestess. There is the legend of Pope Joan who was supposed to rule as Pope for three years in the 800’s. Disguised as a man she became pope until she got pregnant. There is no proof of a female pope but what is important was that it was widely believed long ago. What makes the story and card remarkable is how out of place she was. What is this card saying? Maybe that spirituality should not be male dominated. Tarot cards are wonderful in putting equal emphasis on both the male and female duality.
The High Priestess card is a call to equality in Spirit.
A few years ago I had the chance to travel to Eastern Europe. I was there for a short time, but it felt like I really was a world away from the United States where I live. The culture, the lifestyle is so different. In the U.S. everybody drives everywhere and we really don’t see people walking on the streets. In Europe…everybody is walking. It feels like a more social society and not so isolated like life in the U.S. can seem.
While I walking the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria I would pass many different little shops. I would wander in and check out what they had, and I did not recognize most of the brand names. In one interesting little shop I came across a deck of tarot cards. Of course I had to buy it! The cards are by artist Dora Gadzhova, called the Durer Tarot, made it in Bulgaria. It is a beautiful deck in a style that I find engaging. The symbolism of this deck is inspired by Albrecht Durer in its own unique way. I have not seen anything about this deck anywhere. There must be all types of unique tarot decks created around the world that we never get a chance to consider.
The very first deck of tarot cards I bought when I was a teenager was the 1JJ Swiss Tarot. At the time I bought it because I thought it was attractive. I knew nothing about the symbolism at the time. But the cards appealed to me. In the years since I explored the symbolism of the tarot, I found this 1JJ Swiss deck was lacking in the intense symbolism of the Marseilles cards. Yet I still own this very first deck of mine. I have used it more then any other and I have developed something of a bond with these cards. They have shared a lot of my life with me.
Now…I am thinking of putting aside my old (worn out) deck and start using this new Bulgarian deck. I find these cards combine a more complex symbolism along with attractive imagery. What do you think? Should we stick with our old deck we have used for years? Should we alternate between decks? Personally, I think we develop a bond with our cards…emotional, intellectual or spiritual. Yet, change is also good. We need to stimulate our imagination with such changes. Stick with an old friend…or go for the new deck in town?
I consider the Bible to be an occult scripture. How so? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be the exact opposite of anything occult? I could refer to the Kabbalah or the bible code concept. Christianity has been the inspiration for mysticism of all varieties. Occultism has strong foundations in Christianity.
As an example, here are two versions of the tarot card “Judgment”. Its imagery is clearly taken from the Christian idea of the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment. Their meaning is not quite that. The angel at the top could be interpreted as spiritual guidance from Above, or as our own higher self, the part of us connected to the Universe, often called our higher guardian angel. Whichever, it is calling on us towards the path to enlightenment and becoming one with the Universe. Of note is that one character at the bottom who has their back turned to us. This represents our self in the scene, seeking inspiration, face turned toward the event. This card invites our direct participation.
However, with the idea of an Occult Bible, I am referring to something else. First is the definition of “occult”. Occult is defined as dealing with the supernatural, with spiritual agencies, about matters that are beyond human comprehension, and concerning secret and hidden knowledge. Occult literally means, “hidden or concealed”. That is the Bible from my perspective…dealing with deep spiritual and supernatural concepts in a cryptic, indirect way.
People assume the Bible is clear-cut in how it defines God and the nature of reality. I personally don’t see it that way. I see the Bible as mysterious with multiple layers of meaning. The first glance is often the incorrect glance. An example could be how Genesis explains the creation in seven days. This can’t be literal (first glance). If we look deeper, we see glimpses of the scientific evolution of the universe described in metaphors. “Let there be light” can be viewed as starting with the Big Bang, and then a step-by-step process of cosmic evolution all the way down to human life…first plants, then sea life, then dinosaurs/birds, then mammals and finally humans. It is not described as a simultaneous creation. There might even be metaphors of what existed before the Big Bang…if only cosmologists had an open mind to consider the possibility.
Which leads to the most occult document of all…the bible’s book of Revelations. Thoughts of Revelations lead directly to bible prophecy. Talk about cryptic! A lot of people have stumbled in trying to understand Revelations. As a young guy I’d listen to a TV preacher named Charles Taylor discuss his view of biblical prophecy. Over the years he gave updates, and I recall him putting great importance on the European Union. He considered how the emerging 10-nation European Economic Union would transform into a 10-nation world power governed by the Antichrist. Sounded good at the time. Except now the European Union has 27 states! Other proponents of Biblical prophecy like Hal Lindsay also laid big eggs. Nostradamus had a better track record then these modern sages.
Therefore, I fearlessly jump into where these others sages tread! I will give my two cents on eschatology. I think the secret of understanding Revelations is in verse 8:8, the “Second Trumpet”. It states that “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea”. Most of Revelations’ plagues that befall mankind sound remarkably like the byproduct of an asteroid hitting the earth producing an extinction level event on par with what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are vivid verses that visually describe the sky darkened by the debris hurling into the sky and falling down burning much of the planet. Looked at from this perspective, the verses make chilling sense. After this disaster will follow the collapse of civilization and all that entails.
When can we expect this to happen? I sure hope not in my lifetime! A lot of Christians believe in something called the “rapture”. This means that before this asteroid slams into the earth, all proper born-again Christians who follow the correct theology will vanish into heaven, leaving behind all the rest of us to endure the end of the world. “Proper” Christians have nothing to fear and actually look forward to the end of the world.
Personally, I don’t think God plays favorites. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, pagans, or agnostics don’t deserve to be “left behind” while right wing Christians get to watch us from heaven while we handle the asteroid collision. What is up with that theology? I call it Chicken Theology. Maybe “end times” preaching is too scary without a rapture?
I will make my one true prediction concerning bible prophecy and the end of the world. When that time comes, “proper” Christians will be stuck here on earth with the rest of us. After the asteroid strikes, some Christians will be watching the event on TV and thinking, ”where the heck was the rapture?” If the end of the world ever does transpire and we all remain in it together, it will mean that God really does not play favorites, favoring one theology over another. And I will be proven right! But I’d really, REALLY prefer not to have that last chance to say, “I told you so”.
Not a good day
Ghost hunting is a fun hobby. It is a nice way to socialize with people from different backgrounds who share this common interest. It’s a great excuse to get together, hang out and share ghosts stories and unusual experiences. The best place to for such social ghost hunting is at a haunted pub!
Once a small group of us ghost enthusiasts went to visit the famed Red Lion Pub in Chicago. This pub is called the most haunted pub in the city. It is right across from the Biograph Theater where gangster John Dillinger was shot down in an alley. The over 100-year-old building had a history of being involved with the Chicago gangsters of the 1940s. Here is a link to the Red Lion’s website that tells about the fascinating history of the pub: http://www.redlionchicago.com/history.html
Second floor at the Red Lion
The stories about the Red Lion Pub concern multiple hauntings. The stories of ghosts include a young cowboy, a blond guy, and a bearded man-in-black. The most enduring ghost story involves the ghost of a young lady. Some stories suggest a beautiful young woman had died (was murdered?) in an apartment over the pub. Other stories say she is a flapper from the 1920s. Most convincing are the stories of a mentally challenged woman who lived and passed away at the building. These hauntings are said to occur on the pub’s second floor.
Tarot reading for the dead
The stories of the manifestations include sightings of vanishing people, objects moved in closed rooms, voices heard when no one is present, cold spots, invisible touches, the scent of a powerful perfume, and ladies getting locked in the women’s restroom…and then released after a few minutes with nobody around.
The evening our group arrived at the Red Lion Pub, we immediately went upstairs where the haunting is said to occur. Luckily it was empty so we were able to take photos without attracting attention. Not that it mattered. We are not the first to visit the pub with ghostly intentions. We all shared our stories and speculated about the pub and the nature of whatever might be present. When a ghost story involves what seems to be multiple spirits, that is really baffling. Solitary ghosts make sense, but what to make of multiple ghosts? We could only speculate that spirits gather together, just as the living does. Maybe ghosts like to socialize as well?
I did a tarot card reading, not for the living, but for the dead…for whatever unseen might be present. There actually is logic involved in tarot card readings for the dead. A tarot reading in a public place immediately attracts attention. I have done readings for people at social gatherings as something fun to do, and it always gets noticed. If it attracts the attention of the living, why not the dead as well? The dead probably don’t pay
2nd floor women's restroom
much attention to ordinary activity, but something new and unique might pique their interest…and perhaps allow us to take their picture! Looking at the cards I laid out, using the celtic cross method, I noticed a strong element of tragedy in the cards…very apt for the situation.
As the evening got late, other people eventually came upstairs and we put our cameras away. Of the pictures we took, the most intriguing picture was taken by one of our lady comrades. She took this picture in the second floor women’s restroom. This is where there were reports of women getting mysteriously locked in the lady’s restroom and then released. It is a picture of multiple orbs in a swirling pattern. The most persistent haunting story involves a ghostly female, and it is of note this photo was taken in the women’s restroom. Mere coincidence?
Myself under the Red Lion
photo by Warner Bros Pictures
It’s great that Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his role as the Joker. Bravo! In his performance he created one of the great movie villains. When I saw the Dark Knight movie in the theatre, it left me thoughtful. What was the theme of this movie? It really did tackle some significant themes, something uncommon for action movies. I had to ponder this movie for a while.
One of many themes in the Dark Knight film, is both Batman and the Joker are damaged individuals, suffering from severe childhood trauma. Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma shaped him for the better, or at least in a better direction. This was a reflection of the positive nature of his upbringing by his parents. Wayne channeled his parent’s ethics into a positive direction. The movie suggests the opposite of the Joker. The personal stories he tells his victims suggests a horrific childhood. A child raised in a dysfunctional family will very likely follow in those dysfunctional footsteps. The Joker seems as intellectually brilliant as the Batman, but his intellect is aimed at trying to prove to the world how unfair life is and how morality and civilization are all a joke. The Joker’s rage is actually against his childhood.
The writers of the movie thought this through very well. The Batman character has evolved through the decades. From a child’s comic book, it matured under writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Inspired by these writers, director Tim Burton reinvented Batman along the line of this mature Batman. Yet, it was only a halfway journey into the direction the comic’s writers had already taken Batman. Later directors totally sank the movie franchise by going back to the silly past.
Director Christopher Nolan finally realized the Batman character’s full potential, taking the work realized with the Batman comics and transforming it into his movies. The themes of the movie were already present in the comics. The idea of the Joker as Batman’s dark opposite is not a new concept. That the Joker finds meaning in his life with his duels with the Batman is a common theme in the comics. What Nolan did that was brilliant was to take the very best ideas of the comics and somehow distill them into a truly excellent series of films.
Lets look at the character of the Joker. The Joker is an example of a Jungian archetype, the trickster. The trickster is a mythological character who plays tricks on clueless humanity. They were often malicious, such as the Norse trickster god Loki. Other tricksters were the fairies whose used their “glamour” or illusion to befuddle mortals. Or he could appear as the diabolic Mephistopheles who attempts to trick men into selling their souls in a doomed Faustian bargain. In the Batman movie, the Joker is very much like a Mephistopheles, who presents terrible moral choices without any chance at victory.
Also significant is the very name…the Joker. The Joker card is reputed to be based on the Tarot card, the Fool. If so it is the only card of the Tarot’s Major Arcana that appears in our modern playing cards. The Tarot’s Joker, the Fool, is the only unnumbered card. It shows a vagabond wandering with a bag hitched over his shoulder and a dog nipping at his legs.
What is the symbolism behind the Fool card? Slung over the Fool’s shoulder is a bag containing the suits of the Tarot. The four suits of the Tarot cards represent the various conditions of human existence, but they are tied up in the Fool’s bag, unrealized and unused. The Fool is unaware of their potential, and his own.
The next card in the Tarot is the Juggler. The Fool’s bag is now opened and their contents are laid out before the Magician on his working table. The Magician understands his potential and exercises it. The Fool wanders the earth clueless to his potential in his bag, chased by the dog of mundane everyday life. The Fool card symbolizes a state of ignorance and unawareness. The other cards of the Tarot show a steady progress through the various states of human existence on the path to final enlightenment. But at the very beginning is the Fool, completely oblivious to his great potential.
Is the Joker the Fool, and Batman the Magician?
The Fool and the Juggler cards
QUEENS OF HEARTS AND CUPS
The Rider-Waite Tarot is a legendary deck of tarot cards. They are unique in having symbolic imagery for every card of the deck and not just the major arcana. The minor arcana consist of what is now our standard deck of playing cards, except it has the addition of a Page added to the face cards of King, Queen and Jack/Knight. The Rider-Waite deck is full of symbolism from mystic A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith. It can be fun trying to find all the symbolism in the cards, like a game of spot the symbol.
To understand the symbolism in the Rider-Waite deck, we need to understand that each of the four suits of the cards represents one of the four basic occult elements. The suit of diamonds represents the element Earth, and in the Rider-Waite deck it is symbolized by the Coin. The diamond/coin symbolizes matters of money, commerce, and property.
The suit of hearts is the tarot’s Cup, and it symbolizes the element of Water. Water represents matters of emotion, the heart, and relationships. The suit of spades represents the element Air, and is shown as the sword in the Rider-Waite deck. I tend to disagree with this, I think the spade/sword should represent fire, but so be it. The spade/sword symbolizes conflict, politics, and power. And finally the suit of clubs is symbolized by a literal wooden club in the Rider-Waite deck, representing the occult element of fire (as in kindling wood).
The first card of the major arcara is the Magician (or Juggler). It shows the Magician at his working table and laid out before him are the four suits of the minor arcana (and our modern day playing cards). The Magician seeks to obtain mastery over the four occult elements and thereby all aspects of the human condition. Notice the magician points upward towards the Heavens/Universe and downward towards the earth, to call down divine power for dominion over the physical world.
Aces and Queen of Cups
Today is Valentine’s Day, so in honor of the holiday lets look at the Rider-Waite Queen of Hearts/Cups. Can you spot the symbolism in the Queen of Cups? Now that we understand the Cup symbolizes the element of Water, we can see all the symbols of water in the card. She sits on a throne at a beach with the water and sand at her feet. She holds in her hands the elaborate Ace of Cups. Her robe has the pattern of the ocean’s waves on it. And most interesting, engraved on her throne are Undines, which in occult theory are the elementals of the water.
In occult theory each of the four elements have spirits that exist in those elements. In water exist the Undines, in earth the Gnomes, in the fire live the Salamanders, and in the air dwell the Sylphs. These elementals are a big deal in occult theory. Some say faeries are the same thing as the elementals. I sort of doubt that. Elementals are a cornerstone of occult practices and their power is summoned in ceremonial magic. Faeries are not so cooperative!
The Rider-Waite face cards have these elementals represented in them. Knowing the Rider-Waite cards are filled with elemental symbolism, it can be fun to search the cards yourself and see if you can spot the symbols.