The Magician and The Priestess – A Case For Ladies First In Tarot

After having taken a look at The Fool (0 or Not Numbered) and the Journey of The Fool, I figured it would be logical to do a blog post on the next card in that journey. The card numbered one in most modern decks is The Magician. Over the years I have developed my own preferred sequence. Why not explain my ideas on this along the way? Also, please let’s discuss this! Leave me a message in the comment section and we can go from there.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, my personal choice for card number 1 is The Priestess. In a standard deck the sequence is typically Fool (0), Magician (1) and Priestess (2). My internalized deck swaps Magician and Priestess. My initial reason for considering this switch is based on the understanding of the underlying structure of the 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck.

Very briefly: 3 of the cards are Elements, 7 are Planets and the remaining 12 cards are the signs of the Zodiac.The current sequence of these 22 cards matches the pattern found in the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet (“Aleph-Bet”), which is similarly grouped into categories of 3 Mother letters, 7 Double letters and 12 Simple letters. The modern standard attribution between which Hebrew letter was associated with which Element, Planet or Zodiac comes from one version of the Sepher Yetzirah, a very early book on Kabalah. Note that there are multiple versions with different attributions, so changing it won’t necessarily break with tradition.

Keeping the basic pattern of the Hebrew aleph-bet, (i.e. Element, Planet, Planet, Planet, Zodiac, Zodiac, etc…) but looking at just the cards associated with Planets, you get the following standard sequence: Magician, Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World. In terms of planets, this works out to Mercury, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Sun and Saturn. If we swap the Magician and the Priestess as well as swapping the Sun and the Wheel of Fortune we end up with the traditional terra-centric sequence of the celestial spheres, dante’s heavens, the spheres on the Kabalistic Tree of Life and the Chaldaean Ladder of Lights. This sequence is representative of the original view of Earth as the centre of the universe with the order of the “wandering stars” (the visible planets plus the sun and moon) starting closest to the Earth and moving further away. The sequence is as follows: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

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The result is that you have The Priestess come before The Magician/Magus. From a Left Hand Path perspective this seems most appropriate. Take for example that one explanation for the term Left Hand Path in Eastern Tantra is the fact that the divine feminine is venerated and women traditionally sit on the left during group practice. It is only fitting that the Priestess (Luna/Moon) comes before the Magus (Mercury/Hermes). Also consider the bible story of Eden where the first initiate into forbidden knowledge was the woman Eve, who then initiated her husband. Furthermore, The Moon has been considered the gateway to the Astral plane and the first step in occult initiation. For those who are interested in the Simon Necronomicon you will note that this is also the same sequence of walking the gates. This terracentric sequence is the quintessential occult order of the seven classical planets. Why not align our Tarot sequence to match?

Just for a bit of perspective, I think it’s relevant to note that the popular Waite-Smith deck (published by Rider) decided to swap the positions of the Justice and Strength cards. The reason for this swap was very similar. If you look at all the Zodiac cards, the traditional order laid out on the Tarot in the pattern of the Hebrew alephbet seemed to fit the sequence of the Zodiac starting from Aries and going through. [We can get into why they would start at Aries in a future post.] The only exception was that Justice was in the place of Leo and Strength was in the place of Libra. Some say that this was an intentional “blind,” a mistake put in there to fool the uninitiated. Regardless, it seems to have been noticed by members of the influential esoteric organization The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that the symbols and meaning of Justice with it’s scales seemed to fit Libra much more closely than Leo. Similarly, the Strength card featuring a lion, seemed a better fit for Leo than Libra. Swapping the two in the sequence fixes everything. This is likely where Arthur Edward Waite got the idea, exposing the corrected sequence to non-initiates for the first time by publishing the “Rider-Waite-Smith” deck.

The Numberless Card – The Fool

The Fool in the Tarot is one of the 22 Major Arcana cards. Today the standard is to number The Fool zero and place it at the front of the sequence but that wasn’t always the case. For example, many of the classic decks use Roman Numerals which has no symbol for the number zero. It simply went unnumbered. Its position in the deck was once considered more flexible as well. It was common to put The Fool at the front or the back of the set but it has also been placed second from last, perhaps just to emphasize that it can go anywhere. We can even consider that The Fool can easily be placed between any of the cards. This could indicate the function of messenger or go-between.
It is interesting that the root symbol of this card is the element of Air. Considering the fact that the Major Arcana only has three element cards (Water, Fire and Air – No Earth) I think this points to the concept that these three are the principal elements and that combined they form Earth, a derivative element. This concept comes out Hermetic Alchemy, where they also substitute the names of the elements for alchemical Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. That being said, elemental Air is the equivalent to the principle element of alchemical Mercury. Mercury of course was the messenger of the gods in Roman mythology.
The Fool seems to not only travel the Major Arcana but apparently can also be found in a standard deck of playing cards, in the guise of The Joker. Considering that standard playing cards are built along the same basic lines as the Minor Arcana of the Tarot, could we not also make the leap to say that The Fool can travel anywhere in the deck it pleases? In its variant as The Joker, it gives more the impression of the Trickster. Examples of this can be seen in the mythological characters of Loki, Prometheus and Lucifer. This also gives us an association with “Mercurial” figures.
We can also consider the concept of The Fool’s Journey. This interprets the sequence of the Major Arcana cards to be the journey The Fool goes through. More than half of the Major Arcana cards represent signs of the Zodiac. If we think of a journey through the entire zodiac, our final destination is right back where we started. The difference is that we have changed in the process and are not the same as when we started. This leads us to the connection with the quintessential Hero’s Quest as discussed by mythologist Joseph Campbell. You start the journey as the Fool (naive, curious, ambitious and foolhardy) and transform into the Hero through the various experiences and trials.
Various architects of Tarot decks have been compelled to change the sequence of the 22 cards in the Major Arcana. I have to wonder if they were trying to alter the path taken by The Fool. Changing the sequence can even change the final destination. This is very interesting to me as most of the decks and today’s standard sequence have been designed by practitioners of Right Hand Path spirituality. Perhaps there is a more appropriate sequence for those on a Left Hand Path. What are some of the cards that you think could represent the climax of the Left Hand Path? Would this climax be at the end of the deck? If not, which card would be at the end? I would love to discuss these things with you! Please leave a comment with your thoughts on these questions or anything else related to the ideas explored in this article or the accompanying video.

LRS Podcast – Tarot Episode

LRS Podcast Sigil

http://lrspodcast.podomatic.com/entry/2010-11-20T22_54_37-08_00

This is episode four of the Luciferian Research Society (LRS) Podcast. My friend Matt and I produced this back in November of 2010. It is 80 minutes long and is stuffed full of information about what the Tarot is, the different types of Tarot readings, tips on how to spot a scam artist, how to make your own training deck. I also do a few example readings, some LRS members explain some of their favorite cards and we also have some great music! We should have called it the “Crash Course On Everything You Need To Know To Start Working With The Tarot” episode but we decided to keep it simple. I thought I would share it here as a resource.

Have you ever made your own Tarot deck? What is your favorite card and why? Is there a specific deck that you like working with the most? I want to know what all of you think about this stuff. Let’s chat!

The Differences Between Tarot and Regular Playing Cards

Welcome to my new Tarot blog! I have committed myself to posting here regularly in an ongoing exploration of the Tarot. This is a blog rather than a private journal because I would like to invite you to join me on this journey. Please comment on these posts and share your thoughts, ask questions and explore links. Sometimes I will have meditations on cards and sketches I have made. Other times I will create challenges and games that are intended to stretch our skills with the Tarot specifically and with symbolic language in general. If this sounds good and you would like to participate, please subscribe to this blog using either your WordPress account or sign up to receive each new post in your email inbox. Another way to get involved is to purchase a Tarot reading from me. Please check out my offerings here: http://www.jeremycrow.com/readings.html

To start off the new blog I hope you enjoy this video I made a few years back describing how Tarot differs from a standard deck of playing cards. I also give some ideas on how to do a reading with a standard playing card deck if you already understand the Tarot. Do you use playing cards for readings? How do you find it different from the Tarot? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!