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.
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.