It is very tempting to look at the cards of the Tarot, specifically those of the Major Arcana, as symbolic metaphors, or to put it in Jungian terms, as Archetypes/Archetypal Images. This is understandable; even in the oldest of decks, these cards seem to evoke deeper meanings.
However, sometimes a card might just be a card…
And sometimes, the truths they point to are more obvious than they might seem.
So while the dense symbolism of the astral cards in the Tarot can undergo radical re-imaginings, it probably behooves us to take a step back, and consider them for what they say they are: stellar objects. And while one can extrapolate layers of denser astrological symbolism, this too can be stripped back (not that I don’t ascribe them with deeper meanings myself).
The Tarot isn’t being subtle here: it presents us with three astral directives/directions:
The Star (XVII), the Moon (XVIII) and the Sun (XIX)
Cards 17,18 & 19.
(It is worth noting that the only cards that come after these three are Judgment (XX) and finally, the World (XXI)).
However, let’s keep our focus on the astral cards:
Why the Moon?
To be very clear, I’m not exploring the symbolism of the card; be it the fox and hound, the scorpion in the waters, or the two towers in the distance.
Instead, I want to consider the Moon itself.
There’s a good chance that without lunar tidal waves, there would be no life on planet Earth.
Selene to the Greeks, Luna to the Romans, sometimes associated with Hecate, the Goddess of crossroads and witchcraft, the Moon is typically associated with the sacred feminine, though there are mythological exceptions (for example, the male Mesopotamian Lunar God Sīn).
Ties to birth, ties to madness (hence the word lunacy), She seems to creep into the deepest – and evolutionary oldest – parts of our collective psyche.
Is She worth venerating?
Anything less would be crazy…
Why the Star(s)?
To be very clear again, I’m not exploring the symbolism of the card; be it the naked woman, pouring water onto the land and water (harking back to Temperance, card XIV), the number of stars (seven around a singular eighth, all of which are eight pointed), or the bird perched on a tree in the background.
No, the question here is why the star, and perhaps which star.
The stars fed us; their periodicity guided our plantation cycles.
For instance, the Pleiades played a major role in many First Nation agricultural societies; stories of the Seven Sisters abound.
However, the stars did something else, which may have been just as important in the story of humanity.
They guided us.
We’ve used the heavens to guide our ways for exploration and trade for millennia. This, as much anything else, gave rise to the various expressions of human culture that make up our story.
Is the Eighth star the Polar star? A fixed point, a compass bearing?
Why the Sun?
Yet again, I’m ignoring the art…
Once upon a time, the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenatan proposed making the Sun the supreme deity.
His solar cult only lasted for all of one generation; under the short rule of his son, Tutankhamen, all of the older Gods were restored to there former glory.
Still, maybe Akhenatan had a point:
Without the sun, there is no life.
When people mock solar power, I mock people.
‘Cause everybody, virtually everything, is solar powered.
Does it make sense to worship the sun?
If you like being alive, probably…
The objects in the sky, the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, have shaped every aspect of human evolution and culture imaginable. With as much light pollution as we suffer, it’s not surprising that we take them for granted.
This is truly our loss.
If you’re lucky enough, take an evening off and get out into the countryside. Look up at the Heavens. Catch a glimpse of the Moon.
And if you make it until dawn, thank Ra for another day on planet Earth.