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All images are scans of Tarot cards crafted by Bruce Mitchell from many sources
|Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Tarot - Major Arcana
This is the innocent, young Frodo setting out on a mission to save the world from evil (little does he know). He has been sent by his master Gandalf. Spiritually he is the seeker trying to purify his psyche with no knowledge of what dangers and trials lie ahead.
Frodo has lived a sheltered life in the Shire, the land of the hobbits. Very few hobbits know that beyond their borders, there is a much bigger world. Frodo as 'The Fool' must take a bold but risky step into the unknown, from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a potentially dangerous but very exciting ocean.
1 - Gandalf (The Magician)
Here is Gandalf the White after his battle with the Balrog (see 'The Hanged Man') and his subsequent resurrection. He is now the most powerful of the Istari, the line of wizards sent to Middle-earth (previously he was the second-in-command as Gandalf the Grey under Saruman).
2 - Galadriel (The High Priestess)
Galadriel is shown talking to Samwise or another hobbit. Amongst other names she is called the Sorceress of the Golden Wood by Gríma, and by Faramir the Mistress of Magic. The Mirror of Galadriel which, at her command or spontaneously, showed events far away in time or space, is like the veil of 'The High Priestess', an initiation into Mysteries.
3 - Arwen (The Empress)
Arwen is an immortal half-elf, renowned for her dark beauty for which she was called 'Evenstar'. However, due to her choice described in 'The Lovers', she is doomed to die. She is a symbol of the fruitfulness, greenery and nature of Lothlórien. She is betrothed to Aragorn, later to be his wife and the mother of their son and at least two daughters.
4 - Aragorn (The Emperor)
Aragorn, after the War of the Ring, became King Elessar. He was king of the Reunited Kingdom and Lord of the Western Lands. He is of strong character, commanding respect, a hero and a father figure.
5 - Elrond (The Hierophant)
Elrond is Lord of Rivendell, a centre of lore and counsel. He was sought for his aid and wise counsel. During the LOTR, it was the Council of Elrond that led to the formation of the Company of the Ring. He wore Vilya, the mightiest of the Three Rings of the Elves. He is a counsellor, wise and just. He was originally half-elven but chose to become elven and a Master of Wisdom.
6 - The Lovers [Aragorn & Arwen]
This is the love story of Aragorn and Arwen. Arwen's choice is either to promise to marry Aragorn and thereby give hope to one of the key figures in the War of the Ring but at the cost of renouncing her immortality. The latter is a double burden, for herself and the deep sorrow she will cause her father Elrond. Or not to do this. A difficult choice where one must be guided by the heart.
7 - Shadowfax (The Chariot)
Shadowfax is a royal horse, swift and strong. He is the greatest horse of the Rohan during the War of the Ring. Gandalf riding him inspired others to victory. To be capable of riding him required a self-mastery which the horse would recognise. Then the horse would be the rider's servant.
8 - Treebeard (Strength)
Treebeard is the oldest Ent and therefore their commander and paragon. Ents were exceptionally strong, 14 foot [4.27 m] tall, slow to action and slow in speech. When aroused they possessed the strength of the age-long action of trees compressed into a few seconds. They could crack rocks and move large quantities of earth easily and quickly.
9 - Radagast the Brown (The Hermit)
Radagast is one of the Istari (Wise Ones or Wizards), Master of herb and beast lore. His brown garb and life led deep in nature seems consistent with the qualities of 'The Hermit'.
10 - The Ring (The Wheel of Fortune)
The One Ring that rules them all is a most evil artefact, central to the LOTR. It appears to be merely a ring of invisibility but is actually part of the plan for Sauron to rule all peoples of Middle-earth.
It may be thought of as the Tarot's 'Wheel of Fortune'. The ringbearers are like the medieval figures at the rim. Perhaps Frodo at the top, Gollum at the bottom, Bilbo falling, and Sauron rising. They are all players in the saga lusting for power, fame, etc. Perhaps Tom Bombadil (Temperance) at the centre representing the Spiritual Master free of illusion and the pull of earthly things, as the One Ring has no effect on him when he is in his own domain.
The ringbearer changes perpetually - just as human life changes constantly for better or worse - until a spiritual centre is grounded. Then the changes that may happen have far less impact.
11 - Gwaihir (Justice)
Gwaihir was an eagle from the Misty Mountains. This King of the Eagles symbolises seeing things from a great height and thus seems apt to represent 'Justice'. Gwaihir implies a higher perspective and deep insight on all matters.
In the LOTR, the eagles aided the right, the just, the truthful. They helped achieve the death of the Dragon of Erebor, and the defeat of the Orcs in the Battle of the Five Armies. Gwaihir twice rescued the wizard Gandalf. Gwaihir, whilst ridden by Gandalf, led the eagles that saved the hobbit ringbearers from the eruption of Mount Doom.
12 - The Hanged Man [Gandalf fights Balrog]
This is the LOTR battle between Gandalf the Grey and a fire-breathing demon Balrog. Gandalf sacrifices himself to enable the Company of the Ring to continue its mission to save the world from domination by evil. Entangled they fell from the broken Bridge of Khazad-dûm. This leads to a ten day battle culminating in the Battle of the Peak where both die. This is a very deep and mysterious initiation into the darkness of the world. Gandalf is sent back to Middle-earth by the angelic Valar. He is resurrected as Gandalf the White atop the mountain peak of Zirakzigil. From thence he is rescued by Gwaihir and plays a crucial role in vanquishing Sauron from Eä. So this card is all about sacrifice, death and resurrection.
13 - The Black Rider (Death)
The Black Rider card represents the Tarot card of 'Death'. It shows the Nazgûl, powerful and terrible servants of Sauron. They were so corrupted by their rings that their physical forms had faded and they were invisible to mortal eyes. They wore dark robes to give themselves visible form.
The Lord of the Nazgûl was the Witch-king who practised black magic and wielded the greatest fear and power. Any blade touching him caused death to the wielder. Close or prolonged encounters with a Black Rider caused the condition known as 'Black Breath': despair, unconsciousness, nightmares and eventual death.
14 - Tom Bombadil (Temperance)
Tom Bombadil is a mysterious character of great knowledge and power, at least in his own domain. He is a "merry fellow", the Lord of the Old Forest, the oldest being of Middle-earth. He was possibly a Maia gone native, a type of nature spirit or god. He was happy and carefree, nearly always speaking poetically or singing. His power within the Old Forest was absolute, even the One Ring could not affect him there.
Hence he can represent the Tarot card of 'Temperance'. He is the calm centre of the Wheel of Fortune, a symbol of stability, temperance, balance and harmony.
15 - Sauron (The Devil)
Sauron is 'The Devil' of LOTR. Sauron had been defeated twice before the War of the Ring but never completely destroyed. In the Third Age his form was an ever-searching (for the One Ring), giant, lidless, fearsome, red, evil eye.
16 - Tower of Orthanc (The Tower)
The Tower of Orthanc is the great tower at the centre of Saruman's fortress where he resided. After Saruman's corruption, the Ents attacked it but never toppled it, as it was made of unbreakable black rock. However the plain of Isengard was totally ravaged and the evil Saruman was eventually ousted. This made way for the Fourth Age where Orthanc became a tower of the Reunited Kingdom of King Elessar.
In terms of traditional Tarot meaning, we might say that despite the tower not being shattered, it was symbolically. Impure parts of the ego were exposed and ejected, or transformed into goodness.
17 - Goldberry (The Star)
Goldberry represents 'The Star'. She is the wife of Tom Bombadil, to whom she is a source of brightness and joy. Her singing was like bird song. She was golden-haired and as bright as an elf-maiden. Her garments were often silver and green. Flowers continuously bloomed in the spring of her light and laughter.
Tarot-wise she is an apt symbol for the hope, inspiration and optimism of 'The Star'.
18 - Saruman (The Moon)
Saruman symbolises 'The Moon'. In the Tarot, 'The Moon' can be about deceit, hidden enemies, danger, confused vision, glamour, psychic forces, disillusionment. The life of Saruman conveys this.
He was head of the Istari (Wizards), called Saruman the Wise or Saruman the White, and originally a true friend of the Rohan. He was a respected sage and counsel of the forces of good, above Gandalf in power.
Then he became corrupted by a desire for power through acquisition of the One Ring. He becomes a rebel wizard, deceitful, a false friend misleading the forces of good and Gandalf. His duplicity towards the White Council, which trusted him as their One Ring expert, delayed many good actions and lulled many justified fears. When Gandalf exposes Saruman's distorted vision of his greatness, Saruman even imprisons Gandalf atop Orthanc. He bred orcs and other foul creatures through his sorcery. Little did he know, but eventually he was merely a pawn of Sauron ('The Devil'). Saruman was assassinated by his servant Grima, that he had so mistreated. Beware power and misguided illusions!
19 - Glorfindel (The Sun)
Glorfindel symbolises 'The Sun'. He was an elf lord of great power, second only to Elrond ('The Hierophant'). He was tall and straight, his hair of shining gold, his face fair and young. He was fearless and full of joy. His eyes were bright and keen and his voice like music. On his brow sat wisdom and in his hand was strength. He was of great skill and courage in battle. Before the War of the Ring, he had duelled and defeated a Balrog; like Gandalf he also died in the process and was sent back to Middle-earth by the angelic powers. When Frodo was rescued by Glorfindel at the ford to Rivendell, he saw Glorfindel inwardly as one of the Firstborn, as a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. This describes well a sun god!
20 - Final Eruption of Mount Doom (The Last Judgment)
The Final Eruption of Mount Doom card depicts the moment when the One Ring is finally destroyed. This is the moment the Ring that rules them all is unmade in the cracks of doom and Sauron's kingdom is no more and all evil disperses. It is the demise of the Third Age and the dawn of the Fourth Age. This is 'The Last Judgement', a time of reckoning, where foul darkness can be replaced by Light.
21 - Eä (The World)
Eä is the whole universe, the World that Is, the "Little Kingdom" of God, that is distinguished from the World that Is Not. This image shows Eä as the Earth/Arda and the heavens in the circle which is animated by the Secret Fire (the lightning is the Flame Imperishable). This is bound by the principles of matter, space and time. Also depicted outside of Eä are the Timeless Halls (on the right) and the Void (on the left).
Tarot-wise, this is 'The World', an image of the Cosmos, a symbol of both perfection and the completion of a major cycle, as well as the limitation of Earth life.
by Bruce Mitchell
by Bruce Mitchell
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