Within a Tarot deck there are cards that have gained a negative stigma over time, largely due to misinterpretation by the media and out-dated cultural superstition. Hollywood has over-exaggerated the qualities of the cards, their meanings become warped and distorted for fictional entertainment. Unlike film-makers who use Tarot cards as a scary prop to enhance the fears of the audience, genuine Tarot readers regard their decks as a tool to reveal the truth of a matter, to explore possibilities, and to support their own intuition.
“The Hermit” is usually depicted as an elderly, cloaked figure wandering a dark landscape, clutching a small, glowing lantern. This image can emote feelings of being excluded; we tend to think of the stereotypical Medieval village hermit, an individual banished by the locals to live isolated from his/her peer group. Indeed, the figure of the Hermit is alone, but this cards accentuates a feeling of an individual attitude- if you are the kind of person who normally works in a group, have you considered trying to succeed by yourself? If you are constantly supportive of other’s goals, do you take the time to focus on your own ambitions? The light of the Hermit’s lantern is symbolic of our own inner truth and wisdom which lights our way through uncertain times. The age of the figure doesn’t reflect frailty and weakness- it is a mark of being strong enough to go it alone, that your experiences and lessons from your past will help you navigate unknown terrain. No matter how dark things may seem, the light of hope will guide you.
The Hanged Man
The figure of this card is rather alarmingly strung upside down with his hands and feet bound behind his back. Perhaps it is thinking of public executions where prisoners were hanged for their crimes until they were dead that makes us feel squirmish when “The Hanged Man” turns up in a reading? However, the figure on the card is usually drawn as hanging by his feet from a tree- not by a noose around his neck in the gallows. The interpretation of that the person on the card is upside down can be seen as a sign that a change in perspective can help resolve issues- can being more empathic to others help you better understand their actions? The suspension of the figure indicates that you could be at a point of limbo in your own life- suspended between choices, swinging between past and future. The bounds of the Hanged Man are symbolic of what holds us back which could be financial circumstances, negative relationships, poor health or self-imposed limitations.
No doubt, this is the card that tends to grab most people’s attention and probably has the worst reputation of The Major Arcana. Thanks to the diversity of illustrations through the variety of the Tarot card decks available on the market today, “Death” is no longer solely portrayed as a terrifying cloaked skeleton wielding a sinister scythe; some Tarot visionaries create “Death” with scenes of death in nature (such as wilting flowers or vultures). Having this card appear in a reading does not mean you or someone you know will die- it is simply a reminder that all things must come to an end, which can sometimes be hard to face, but this is the natural order of things. “Death” represents transition, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, much like a Phoenix. Are there issues in your past that need to be laid to rest in order for you to move forward into the future?
“The Devil” in religious terms is portrayed as a hideous, evil monster set about us to induce hate and suffering. The horned figures and various demon shapes that show “The Devil” scowling from the card are not a form of external bogeyman lurking in the shadows; this card is about facing up to our own inner demons. We must take an honest look at ourselves, and ask if our current actions and intentions are truly for the good of others as well as being beneficial to ourselves. Are you tempted to do something you know in your heart you shouldn’t? Are you really committing as much energy to your projects as you can? Don’t let your guilt and weaknesses control you- learn to forgive yourself and others, accept your limitations and respect your boundaries.
The sight of a demolished, crumbling building has in recent times become a distressing sight for many, and the fear and confusion of 9/11, the memory of the falling World Trade Centre could be an attributing fear factor to “The Tower” card. Although the nature of this card is destructive, more often than not old, derelict structures are torn down in order to create something fresh, new and functional; unhealthy eating habits can be banished as a new diet becomes established, a stale daily routine can be broken with mediation invoking inspiration, an old relationship is coming to an end so that happier relationships can be found. The foundations of a building are symbolic of our personal values, and no matter what chaos might break out on the surface we will find strength in the core of our spirit.