Friday, April 8, 2011

The Magic of Opening and Tarot

Last Sunday’s workshop theme was “the magic of opening,” in keeping with the month of April’s association with the word, aperio, “I open,” (because at one point, it used to open the year, and because spring equinox opens Nature’s year), as well as the month of April’s being dedicated to Aphrodite and her divine powers of opening. Our tarot exercise therefore involved posing questions and doing a card search to find areas in your life where you can find a magical opening. This was more involved and subjective than other April card searches we have done, (such as searching for the Fool card to identify some area of life where you may feel that the Universe is playing a cosmic joke on you, but where you might also encounter rewarding synchronicities), because people had to go through their decks until they found a card whose imagery conveyed the idea of opening for them. So, here are a few thoughts and observations on images of opening in the tarot, (using the RWS as the standard).

Because the Judgment card shows people who have risen from their graves, it can denote a change in status or a new phase in life that result in things opening up for you. It is also apropos of Easter/Springtime’s theme of emergence.

Another card that hints at emergence is The Moon, which portrays a crayfish, (which can represent impulses that come from some very deep, primitive part of the Self), partially emerging from the water (of the Unconscious). In her book, “Tarot as a way of Life: A Jungian Approach to the Tarot,” Karen Hamaker-Zondag discusses the rising of symbolic images from the unconscious, when, “In The Moon stage we open up to these inner images” [168]. Notice, also, that the road shown leading off into the distance is an “open road.”

A card that conveys a very reassuring sense of openness is The Sun. The Sun’s face is gazing straight outward with its extended rays like the open arms of the joyful child. The “idea” of the Sun can also suggest being out in the open, in open country, the freedom of nature, etc. Yet, there is that wall there, though it suggests not so much a barrier as a protective enclosure, and although the sunflowers echo the sun-face, they are a cultivated plant.

Some of The Sun’s imagery is echoed in The Lovers, where a sun image is the background for the angel, whose arms are spread in blessing, and the man and woman, whose arms are also outspread. The man and woman in this card are nude, suggesting their openness and honesty with each other, as well as their essential humanity. We see similar body imagery in Judgment, The World, and The Star.

Some cards can have images of openness, yet remain somewhat equivocal. In the Star card just mentioned, the woman is out in open nature under an open sky, but her preoccupation with her task makes her slightly closed off to the viewer, and although there is openness in The World’s joyful dance, she is enclosed in a sacred circle. When cards have mixed imagery, you have to think about how the themes of open and closed play off of each other in your particular situation.

The Fool is another tarot figure who is out in open nature under and open sky and a radiant sun, with arms spread in an opening gesture, but the chasm he’s about to step off into represents a more dangerous open. Unlike the figures whose nudity suggests a lack of social pretensions, he is fully clothed.

Some Minor Arcana cards may hint at the idea of openness, though overall, they have a more closed-off quality, with their human figures confined within their own little worlds, (or elemental spheres). An interesting example is the 8 of Cups. The Number Eight has a very organized character, which can contribute to a sense of comfort and security, but which can also convey the feeling of being locked in. This can conflict with the very fluid, emotionally expressive nature of the Cups, which can then lead to the desire to leave an emotionally confining situation. The RWS card illustrates this with a person who has turned his back on the cups, and is wandering off into the wild, following the path of the river. That he may have found some emotional opening to pursue this adventure or make this escape is suggested by the arrangement of three cups on top of five cups, with a gap in the top row. The symbology might have been different if the cups had been in two tight rows of four, as that would have suggested more of an emotional holding pattern. This shows how the little graphic decisions made by the artists/designers can bring in quite different nuances.

Well, I have more to say about themes of openness in the tarot, so I will carry this into my next post. TO BE CONTINUED …

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