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All images are scans of Tarot cards crafted by Bruce Mitchell from many sources
| Biblical Tarot - Major
This is the first or prototype biblical man. He is the prime ancestor of all of us, Adam. Just born he is innocent, ignorant and foolish of the ways of the World and of the way back to God. This is like all humanity as they relate unconsciously or superficially and eventually seek to understand themselves and Life.
Two aspects of The Fool's energy are apparent in the image.
(1) Adam, as already mentioned, is spiritual poverty, immaturity, frivolity, rashness.
(2) The Hand of God, seen creating Adam, is spiritual clarity and wisdom so perfect that Man cannot comprehend its implications. Others may see this wisdom as irrational, innocence, folly.
This card could also have been called Adam Kadmon, the Kabbalistic spiritual or cosmic man rather than any physical man.
Another idea I had for 'The Fool' was Joseph walking into or being thrown into a pit.
1 - Jesus Christ (The Magician)
Jesus Christ as 'The Magician' card is: creative force and will in action; occult wisdom and power; true individuality and self-mastery. Witness his many miracles...
2 - Our Lady (The High Priestess)
This is the Virgin Mary, the Madonna. The picture used was felt to be ideal for representing the traditional energy of this card. Another possible image would have been the Virgin of the Annunciation with the Book of Prophets spread open before her, symbolising and containing the secrets of Life.
The veil of the High Priestess is traditionally the Veil of Isis, the barrier of perception between the planes that were sevenfold in the legends of Ishtar. But biblically it is the Veil of the Temple that was woven by the young virgin, in scarlet and purple silk, in the apocryphal stories of Mary. This was rent at the Crucifixion, opening to the world the potential of that which hitherto had been concealed and unrevealed since the expulsion from Eden.
Our Lady is wholly feminine and virginal, untouched by male energy, the highest form of anima, as well as the ultimate woman. Christian mystics have spoken of "becoming Mary and bearing God from within".
3 - Bathsheba (The Empress)
Bathsheba was a beautiful woman, espied bathing by King David. She was lusted after by him, and later bore him Solomon. She is: a beautiful, Venusian woman of greatness; a mother, fecund, sensual, abundant, fertile, radiant feminine energy, fully woman, luxurious, nature at work.
'The Empress' could also be:-
(1) Mother Mary, so representing both 'The High Priestess' and 'The Empress', but for the sake of clarity Bathsheba was chosen.
Mary as 'The Empress' keywords: Madonna & child = mother, fecund, fertility; the Coronation, especially with crown, gardens and plants, rose, baby, stars, ear of corn, earth and water = an Empress as Queen of Heaven and symbols of fertility, abundance, nature and mothering.
In the conception and birth of Christ, the divine became finite in being incarnated in a human body (High Priestess to Empress). Revelation 12 refers to "the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery", which some writers took as Mary, Queen of Heaven.
(2) Queen of Sheba, who had a love affair with Solomon.
Both Bathsheba and the Queen of Sheba are more approachable animas for men in Christianity than the Virgin Mary.
4 - Abraham (The Emperor)
Abraham, the first of the Old Testament patriarchs.
5 - Moses (The Hierophant)
Moses received the Ten Commandments of Law from God. On seeing his unfaithful people worshipping the golden calf, he broke the divinely engraved stone tablets. God replaced them and Moses put them in the Ark of the Covenant as a visible presence of Deity. As such he is the lawgiver, a spiritual authority, a Master and a veritable Hierophant. Moses was traditionally the founder of the Kabbala.
6 - Adam & Eve (The Lovers)
Adam & Eve are 'The Lovers'. They are in Paradise, in the Garden of Eden. Initially, the Love is an unconscious bliss in Heaven. Then the Archangel Raphael appears telling them that God forbids them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, they eat it and 'fall'. Now the challenge is to Love consciously, whilst immersed in separativeness, time and matter. They can return to the Light...
The serpent is not necessarily evil and can represent wisdom or self-knowledge, the overcoming of ignorance. It can be the vital evolutionary force of kundalini coiled at the base of the spine with its potential to rise and create the sacred marriage of cosmic consciousness at the top of the head.
Thus, this card can indicate a choice of great difficulty. There may be a choice between maintaining a comfort level of awareness, or penetrating deeper into personal issues that need clearing to achieve a more harmonious energy.
Or it can be about practising more than earthly love, integrating sacred love.
Or about successfully practising both the joy of two and the joy of oneness.
7 - The Chariot [The Ark]
Noah's Ark has come to rest after the Flood. Much of humanity that did not heed the divine call have unfortunately perished, or alternatively the wicked have been punished. The good have triumphed for now.
So, the card means: success, victory, the triumph of self-discipline. At least for now.
It can also mean greatness through equilibrium. The calm follows the storm. The flood is over. Peace, quiet and balance are restored.
Other ideas for this card included: Merkabah chariot mysticism; Ezekiel's chariot vision; Blake's chariot and God passing judgement on Adam; Zechariah's four chariots vision; Elijah taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire; Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on an ass (a humble chariot representing his lower self) with palms (of victory) spread before him.
8 - Samson (Strength)
Samson is a well-known symbol of strength. A youthful Samson slays with his bare hands a lion that roared at him. He massacres an entire army using only the jawbone of a donkey. Even when blind and captive, God gives him the strength to break down the columns of the enemy temple, thereby annihilating the enemy (and himself). This superhuman strength symbolises great inner strength and self-reliance.
"Be strong and of good courage" (2 Chronicles 32:7).
9 - St John the Baptist (The Hermit)
John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. He is the forerunner of Jesus, as this image shows. As 'The Hermit', he points upward, lighting the way for others. His disciples left him for Jesus and then, presumably dressed in his brown camel's hair garment, he continued his inward quest as a hermit.
Elijah, who was also very hermetic, is thought to be John's past life. So as karma for cutting off so many prophets heads as Elijah, John had to be decapitated.
Another idea I had for 'The Hermit' was Joseph, either as head of the Holy Family, or as Joseph of Arimathea in the Grail tradition. In both, he is custodian of profound mysteries.
10 - The Wheel of Fortune [Rose Window]
This is a Rose Window symbolising the potential of every human. All the characters are the past and future lives of the individual. When we reach relative perfection, we live in the centre as symbolised here by Jesus.
This translates well into the symbolism of 'The Wheel of Fortune', where living on the periphery subjects us to the vicissitudes of life. The only way to achieve any sort of equilibrium is to align with the Tao or Middle Path or Being-Here-Now.
Other ideas were: Ezekiel's wheel and seal; one of the 'wheels' of angelology, the ophanim; the Last Supper with Jesus at the hub, and/or possibly as regno (I reign) about to tumble into regnavi (I have reigned) with Judas as regnabo (I will reign), with the other disciples around (e.g. Thomas doubts, Peter denies).
11 - Solomon (Justice)
Solomon's wisdom is famous. The image shows his wisdom in action. He effectively achieves justice in the case of the baby and the two mothers.
Daniel as the personification of Justice was another option. Daniel was used instead in a similar way as the Prophet of Swords.
12 - Crucifixion (The Hanged Man)
Jesus is on the cross at the Crucifixion. Christ is crucified on the flowering tree. Jesus was crucified between two thieves who were opposed to one another in their ultimate behaviour. The two thieves symbolise Man's torment between opposites. This invites us to discover life beyond duality.
T.S. Eliot thought 'The Hanged Man' reminded him of "the risen Christ seen by the disciples on the road to Emmaus".
This card is a symbol of sacrifice, of commitment to cosmic principles, of the sorrow of one who thereby cleanses and uplifts others.
13 - Death
Death is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The pale horse ridden by Death is Ahriman. All four horsemen - Death, War, Famine and Pestilence - are essential before the final revelation of perfection. The old and weak (ideas, habits, etc.) must be stamped out before the new life can shine, i.e. before the Last Judgment and the New Jerusalem.
Other ideas for this card were: the angel of Death, the angel Azrael; the River Jordan (rivers are symbols of transformation) which is crossed at 'death' to reach the Promised Land.
14 - Temperance
An angel offers the cardinal virtue of Temperance. Traditionally the 'Temperance' card has a figure transferring water from one vessel to another. So, this angel might be: the archangel Gabriel; the archangel Michael; or, from Ezekiel's vision, St Matthew's angel (the man/Aquarius the Water Bearer).
15 - The Devil
This is The Devil or Lucifer or Satan. Satan in Hebrew means 'adversary' or 'enemy'. The Devil tempted Man to fall into separateness, into finiteness, into hatred. Awareness of its abominable ways ultimately can push us to return to the Light.
16 - Tower of Babel (The Tower)
This is the Tower of Babel and the punishment for its construction. The sky-scaling tower was built by the descendants of Noah, who in their insane pride intended to invade Heaven from its top. This was to take revenge on God for having drowned their ancestors in the Flood. God punished the builders by the confusion of tongues, so that they were scattered all over the Earth. Ever since humans have spoken many different languages to the detriment of communication between them.
Any society can build such a Tower of Babel, intoxicated with a false culture, rendered pompous with petty power, and encouraged by a misinterpreted faith.
Alternatively it is a tower built to preserve the Sacred Mysteries and to make an ascent to Heaven by stone stairways. However, they soon begin to dispute about the summit (God) and the tower's treasures. But the tower's treasuries are empty as the truth treasure is not set in stone, is not belief. But belief takes over, others are taught to believe, different versions arise, disputes proliferate about the nature of and rights to the summit (God). So arose misunderstanding and confusion and destruction. Therefore within your own soul build a lofty tower by which you may ascend to Heaven.
Other biblical references to the Tarot meaning of 'The Tower' (sudden change): the fall of Lucifer (Jesus in Luke 10:18: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven"); the Fall of Adam; the Flood and the fall of Atlantis; God's vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrah; the destruction of the Temple; various Old Testament descriptions of the punishing wrath of the Almighty against those who strayed from His service; Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus.
17 - Star of Bethlehem (The Star)
The Star of Bethlehem proclaimed to the three wise men the coming of the Christ, the hope of the world.
"The Star is a phenomenon that inevitably occurs in the life of a true mystic, a true Initiate. Above his head appears a star, a luminous pentacle, to represent him in the higher spheres when he has fully developed the five virtues of kindness, justice, love, wisdom and truth. This light, this Star that shines above the stable means that every Initiate who has in him the living Christ, shines with a light that appeases and nourishes, a comforting, healing, purifying, revitalising light. When this light shines brightly enough to be seen from afar by others, they know that something special is manifesting itself through that being. It is the Christ.
Then those in authority, those who are rich and powerful, come to assist him. Even great religious leaders who think of themselves as the great High Priests, realise that in comparison they lack something, they have not reached the same high degree of spirituality, and so they come to learn at his feet, to bow down before him with their gifts. That is the reason for the presence near the Christ Child of the three Mages, Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspard. The Mages were leaders of great religions in their own countries, yet they came... Why? Because they sensed the Light. They were astrologers who observed the sky, and the fact that there were certain exceptional planetary configurations made them conclude that something extraordinary was taking place on earth. The birth of Jesus corresponded to a phenomenon that took place in the heavens 2,000 years ago." (O.M. Aïvanhov)
18 - Salome or The Moon
'The Moon' is connected to the chaotic waste of waters at the beginning of the world in Genesis: "Before all things are the Waters and the Darkness and the Gates of the Land of the Night".
Personified, the questionable side of 'The Moon' might be Salome, who under her mother's influence has St John the Baptist decapitated.
Two cards were made for 'The Moon'. Only Salome is shown. The alternate card was lost. Another possibility is the Archangel Gabriel, the archangel associated with the Moon, and is what I would have chosen today (2019 vs. 1988 when I made the cards).
19 - David or The Sun
'The Sun' personified could be David. Royal David or King David corresponds in many ways to the Greek sun god Apollo. He is the youthful hero, the harpist and psalmist, portrayed as the perfection of youthful manhood. His days were a time of independence, expansion and prosperity for Israel.
Two cards were made for 'The Sun'. Only David is shown. The alternate card was lost.
If David was not used as 'The Sun', he could be the King of Disks.
Another possibility for 'The Sun' is the Archangel Michael, the archangel of Light and the Sun. This is what I would have chosen today (2019 vs. 1988 when I made the cards).
20 - Last Judgment (The Last Judgment)
This is the Last Judgement or Day of Wrath. In a 15th-century woodcut, Archangel Michael is shown weighing the souls of the dead at the Last Judgment.
In the Middle Ages, at the Last Judgment, it was believed Christ would appear in majesty upon the clouds. Then a great winged angel in the sky blows a trumpet. Below coffins open and human figures emerge, dazzled by the light. They are judged and sent to heaven or hell.
The angel is usually identified as Michael, the leader of the forces of Light that rout the Devil and the forces of evil in the war of heaven. Medieval thought believed Michael guided souls after death. Michael is also believed to have saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from harm in the fiery furnace. Importantly, Michael means 'like God', implying the spiritual potential of humans: "We can rise from the grave of our old dead self now, while we are still in the physical body, if our ears are not deaf to the trumpet call from on high".
So, this card is the Resurrection available to all of us now! This is a lengthy process of turning all that is dark or coarse within to Light and Life. Judgment happens all the time, as it were, as we negotiate unhappiness and torment to eventually awaken to our Inner Spiritual Self. Through purification all the personal and cultural karma are driven from us. We are freed from the confines (coffins) of materialistic philosophy and we are resuscitated and reborn into the divine world of Light. As Adam and Eve once did, we can soar in Pure Love.
21 - New Jerusalem (The World)
This is the Revelation vision of the New Jerusalem. It is a cosmic paradise descending from heaven to earth.
This tradition sees earthly Jerusalem as the centre of the world, as golden Jerusalem. It is the counterpart of the shining City of Heaven. However, the New Jerusalem suggests a perfection of all of Earth, the Universe and Heaven.
As 'The World' it may also indicate the Cosmos at different times:-
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