The Tarot Talks Archetypes
What is Yours?
Astrology and Tarot are separate artistic disciplines with distinct histories and traditions, but there are powerful connections between them, with many astrological archetypes embedded in the Tarot.
Image: Public Domain from The Book of Hours, Jean Pierre Verdet
The 78 cards of a classic Tarot deck include 22 Major Arcana cards (Greater Secrets) and 56 Minor Arcana Cards (Lesser Secrets.)
The Major Arcana cards shine a light on life-changing situations and events, or draw attention to some crucial aspect of your own personality or behaviour, demanding attention at the time of the reading.
Each sign of the Zodiac is linked with a Tarot card from The Major Arcana. Your sun sign and your Major Arcana card represent key archetypes. But what exactly is an archetype?
The word derives from Ancient Greek and means a very typical example of something, like a model from which other copies are made; a prototype.
Arkhetupon ‘something moulded first as a model’, from arkhe-‘primitive’ + tupos ‘a model’.
The Oxford English Dictionary offers these definitions
- A very typical example of a certain person or thing.
- Later, in Psychoanalysis (in Jungian theory) a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.
- A recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.
Archetypes are complexes of experience that come upon us like fate, and their effects are felt in our most personal life.
The ‘anima’ no longer crosses our path as a goddess, but, it may be, as an intimately personal misadventure, or perhaps as our best venture.
When, for instance, a highly esteemed professor in his seventies abandons his family and runs off with a young red-headed actress, we know that the gods have claimed another victim.
From Jung: Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Image: John Strudwick 1849-1937
The archetype represented by your Major Arcana card does not define you, of course, any more than your Sun sign does. You and I are unique. Every living thing is unique and yet- it is also classifiable
The archetypes are classifications of behaviours and attributes, and in the Tarot, the Major Arcana chime with the signs of the zodiac.
There are two key archetypes in play in personal astrology; the archetype of your Sun sign, and then there is your ‘outward face’; a key aspect of the public persona, represented by your Rising Sign or Ascendant; the planet rising on the Eastern horizon at the time of your birth. It’s a good idea to read both when reading your horoscope.
If you know your time of birth, you can identify your rising sign via this link
Discover the Tarot’s Major Arcana card for your zodiac sign below.
Aries (Mar 21-Apr 19)
Astrological archetype: The Ram. The Warrior.
Major Arcana card The Emperor – (energy, organisation, leadership)
Spring bursts forth after winter and so does the ram with the year’s first lambs, and so does The Emperor in you and me. The Emperor decrees we can’t just creep through Life. We need to push sometimes, and push hard or we would never get anywhere. The Emperor is fiery, energetic, driven and determined, good at delegating but controlling – some might even say bossy; A battering ‘ram’. The Emperor may be accident- prone due to general speed and haste. Male or female ‘he’ needs to learn how to take it easy, and slow down, to be more careful and patient, to stay curious and listen to the ideas of others. He’s not the only Emperor round here.
Taurus (Apr 20-May 20)
Astrological archetype: The Bull. The Farmer.
Major Arcana card The Hierophant – (faith, study, tradition)
This card is about the power and wisdom of the written words and of tradition. Books, publishers, librarians, churches of all faiths, and universities are indicated by this same card. The High Priest (Hierophant) does things by the book, and has faith and trust in the old ways. He is all about standards. He is a protector, a gardener, a teacher, a mentor, a scholar, but the other message of this card is that change can be good, even necessary, wisdom is knowing when to bend with the wind, and that does not necessarily mean the same as throwing out any baby with the bathwater.
Gemini (May 21-June 20)
Astrological archetype: The Twins. The Jester.
Your Major Arcana card is The Lovers – (choices, love, duality)
This card has another name: ‘The Decision.’ Gemini is quick-witted, but sometimes decisions need more care and time than mercurial Gemini gives them. There is an innate restlessness, Gemini can be quick to walk away, even when sometimes they might do better to stick at things, even if they are bored, or the going gets rough. Gemini is the archetype of the Jester, the one who can take any turn of fate with a laugh and makes sure we remember to enjoy ourselves. This is the wisdom of Gemini. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves in order to keep a healthy sense of perspective. Laughter is powerful medicine. What we can’t joke about, we can’t deal with..
Cancer (Jun 21-Jul 22)
Astrological archetype: The Crab. The Mother.
Major Arcana card The Chariot – (progress, effort, co-operation).
The Crab is famously gentle, home-loving, intuitive, private; even secretive, but just look again at this guy/girl. This is Cancer’s Tarot face. The Chariot carries the victorious on parade. The Chariot takes us places. This is a card of triumph through discipline and sustained effort; the harnessing of resources, the charioteer and the horses working as one. Choose your teams well, put in a sustained effort, you and they can do great things together. The Crab may be the archetypal sign of motherhood where the Ram is fatherhood, but these are qualities, not identities, while a carer is not a servant, and the gentleness of Cancer does not make it a doormat. No way. Push too far they will withdraw.
Leo (Jul 23-Aug 22)
Dominant element: Fire.
Astrological archetype: The Lion. The King.
Major Arcana card Strength – (courage, willpower, fortitude)
Life demands courage to meet it head on. To learn new things you have to take chances and risk failure. But the fire of Leo also demands control. The lady patiently restrains the lion. It shall not devour her. She shall not try to harm it. The lion represents the spirit of the Leo subject. There is natural courage and charisma, but the Lady represents strength with gentleness and restraint – moral courage. The lion does not want to be ruled, but nor does she wish to be devoured, power must be used wisely and tyranny is always to be resisted.
Virgo (Aug 23-Sep 22)
Dominant element: Earth
Astrological archetype: The Virgin. The Craftsman.
Major Arcana card The Hermit – (Self-sufficiency, connection to nature, analysis)
The Hermit often likes to walk alone, and this is usually by choice. Time alone, especially in quiet, wild, green places, is especially good for the Hermit, male or female, married, or single. People turn to the Hermit for wise advice. The Hermit knows how to listen and sees far more than he or she says. The Hermit shines a quiet light along his path and others may safely follow in times of need. Animals can trust to the hermit’s compassion. The Hermit is often a talented artist or crafts-person, slow, methodical and a perfectionist, so much so, that she never feelsthe work is good enough to sell, even when it is. Virgo’s challenge is to expedite..
Libra (Sep 23-Oct 22)
Dominant element: Air.
Astrological archetype: The Scales. The Judge.
Major Arcana card Justice – (order, reason, restitution).
Libra combines analytical ability with intuition, and a natural grace and charm, with a talent for diplomacy. Justice is capable of severity, however, and can just now and again be overly keen to apply the letter of the law, forgetting the spirit. See the Sword in the hand of Justice. But the scales don’t stay still. They are rarely in perfect balance. They see-saw, like Libra’s moods and occasional indecision. Libra is changeable. It may be the only sign of the Zodiac represented by an inanimate object, and a Libra subject may be a born judge, but still, they are only human. But without Justice there would be chaos and misery, mature loose and running red in tooth and claw. There could be no society and no civilisation.
Scorpio (Oct 23-Nov 21)
Dominant element: Water.
Astrological archetype: The Scorpion. The Actor.
Major Arcana card Death – (endings, liberation, transformation)
There is no life without death. There can be nothing new without something else changing or ending. But just like the song, the seasons don’t fear the reaper. Death is not the enemy of Life. Scorpio understands this great mystery. Intuitive, subtle, often somewhat secretive, charismatic, intense, Scorpio is devoted to their loved ones, while with others they may be a true friend and powerful ally – or a vengeful enemy. Death has a long memory. He has seen it all before. Get in the way, and he may mow you down with that scythe. Sometimes it is better to walk away. Sometimes it is wiser to call it quits and call time on something that no longer serves you well.
Sagittarius (Nov 22-Dec 21)
Dominant element: Fire.
Astrological archetype: The Archer. The Explorer.
Your Tarot archetype is Temperance – (moderation; timing, healing).
Temperance was regarded as an angel- a force for virtue at the time the Tarot was first in use. Temperance is about moderation, and self- control, and the avoidance of extremes. But Temperance has other meanings…alchemy, the fusing together of two elements, materials or qualities to make a new thing stronger than either individual element; Intellect and feeling, ability and ambition, one person and another, one people and another. This is a force for diplomacy, reconciliation of differences and also for physical healing after illness.
Capricorn (Dec 22-Jan 19)
Dominant element: Earth.
Astrological archetype: The Goat. The Builder.
Major Arcana card The Devil – (also Pan. Wildness, entrapment, liberation)
Powerful opposites meet in the Goat. Capricorn, thought to be named originally for the ibex which mated at this same time of year, is the builder and the banker of the zodiac; hard working and solid yet agile, with an often understated glamour and a keen, if dry sense of humour. The Devil comes in many guises; often powerfully attractive. Or think of animal magnetism. That’s Pan for you. The Devil warns us to beware compulsion reminding us that we can get trapped by our own behaviour as much as by circumstance but we can choose to liberate ourselves by exercising the willpower sufficient to change the behaviour or the circumstance, bringing order out of chaos.
Aquarius (Jan 20-Feb 18)
Dominant element: Air. (Special note: Aquarius is sometimes mistakenly identified as a water sign because its symbol is the water carrier)
Astrological archetype: The Water Carrier. The Teacher.
Major Arcana card The Star – (hope, inspiration , humanitarianism).
The Star of hope has much in common with the imagery of the Aquarian Water Carrier. It shines its brightest, far-off light when everything else looks dark. The figure in the card has one foot in the water, symbolising her powers of intuition, and the other foot still on land, denotes her stability. Her knee is a bridge between elements. The stars symbolise the card’s over-arching message of guidance, hope and inspiration. Aquarius loves people as a general concept, but she is not one to blend in with the crowd, indicated by the biggest star above her head, which is bigger and set apart from the others.
Pisces (Feb 19-Mar 20)
Dominant element: Water.
Astrological archetype: The Fishes. The Seeker/Seer
Major Arcana card The Moon– (imagination, instinct, intuition)
Like Pisces, The Moon card is associated with the subconscious, and suggests that things are not always as they first appear. The Moon card also represents our secretive side or “shadow self”. The barking dog and the wolf in this card represent Pisces’ wild side sitting alongside its more domestic self. Pisces may seem gentle but the pull of the wild is strong, and so is the pull of the ocean’s tides. These people are deep. The crayfish crawling from the water represents “coming into consciousness” and the possession of psychic abilities, true of all signs in their different ways, but especially archetypal of Pisces.
Watch for the archetypes manifesting in real time all around you.
Until next time 🙂