Captain’s log: Learning the Tarot (and a bunch of other things) – A basic understanding of the Minor Arcana

So, some months ago, I thought I’d try my hand at Tarot. One of my friends, let’s call him JK, came over and spread the minor arcana in front of me. He enquired about my vision of the number 1 to 10… Here are my natural unfiltered answer:

  1. Unity
  2. Duality and union
  3. Triangle, creation and holy trinity
  4. Stability of a square and the anchor of the medicine wheel
  5. 5 fingers of the human hand (Therefore human will… this one I had help!!)
  6. Two triangles, balanced on one another
  7. Chaos
  8. Infinity
  9. Pregnancy
  10. Achievement, end of cycle

Little did I know, he was asking me about my instinctual understanding of the Jewish Kabbalistic Tree of Life! After a few reads and A LOT of help from MA to understand the Sephiroth, I came up with a basic understanding of it. The Tree of Life is composed of 10 spheres which basic concepts are attributed to the minor arcana. Here’s a basic explanation of number one to ten.

Please note, that the concept of each Sephirah is a TINY WHEENY BIT more complex than what I’m about to present. Oh, btw, some people spend their lives studying the depth of the complex nuances of each sphere, some people write blog post about them, so if you feel that my explanations are not worthy of your readership, I’ll politely ask you to go fuck thyself.

  1. KETER – Crown: Consciousness without boundary, beyond what our human nature can understand.ebraic-Model
  2. CHOKHMAH – Wisdom: Father of all, seed of the will and creation, male polarity of the soul.
  3. BINAH – Understanding:  Mother of the Universe, realization of the creation sparked by CHOKHMAH in her womb, therefore the female polarity.
  4. CHESSED – Kindness: Growth of the creation of BINAH AND CHOKHMAH towards stability
  5. GEBURAH – Severity : Counterbalance of the growth of CHESSED, overabundance that brings dysfunction to previous the stability
  6. TIPHERET – Beauty : The harmony between movement and immobility, rich of the positive experience and mature of the negative experience, the Sun in all its beauty and glory (benevolent ruler and ruthless warrior wrapped into one)
  7. NETZACH – Victory: The spark of stepping out of harmony, the action of passionate sensitivity, the one too many, the standing up, the unrestricted power and force and their illusions.
  8. HOD – Splendor: Intellectualisation that gives form to the unruly power of NETZACH, formulation of will and magic through language and communication means.
  9. YESOD – Foundation : Imagination, dream, reflection of the soul, the moon, night time, transmitter to MALKUTH
  10. MALKUTH – Kingdom: Active manifestation, the end and the start of something. The very world we see now.

Noteworthy, on the Tree, stand three Pillars of manifestation, from left to right, the Pilar of Severity (passive), the Pilar of Balance, the Pilar of Mercy (active). The Sephiroth of Severity and Mercy balance itself out in its energy. For instance, the pillar of Severity has a feminine high sphere suggesting restrictive, binding energy (Binah) and masculine low sphere that suggests form over restriction (Hod).

 [There are a multitude of Paths linking the Sephiroth together, these are attributed to the MAJOR ARCANAS and I’m not going to open this can of worms just now, (have you seen the length of this post?! Isn’t it supposed to be about TAROT anyway?)]

The structure of the Tree of life suggests a linear gradation (Malkuth being considered as “low” and Keter as “high”), so it would be easy to make a judgment based on our perceptions of linear reality and our indoctrinated values and to set the goal of the our exploration of the Tree of Life to access to the highest point, of “reaching Keter”, instead of experiencing the natural movement of the Sephiroth and its endless movement towards the End and Beginning. So, how could I truly embrace the Tree of Life and its valuable teaching? By using it as a communicational tool for dreaming. D’UH!

Linear thinking is not really appealing to me when it comes to learning and experience. I find the circular way of thinking much more gratifying, logical and sacred; this is why I’ve made an effort to link it into a circle, but ironically it creates a descending movement instead of an ascending one, not a circle, but not quite a line either. Another exploration for another day.

Now, now. Back to business.

JK asked me how to I perceived the 4 elements, I answered like a good profane… “Fire is the Spiritual Realm, Water is the Emotional Depth, Air is the Intellectual World and Earth is the Physical Kingdom”. He nodded and said “That’s about right”. There was a “but” that he kept to himself, because….

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life presents 4 worlds that are, once again, much more complex than the observations I’m about to present here, Again they are presented in a gradation from higher to lower. They are:

  1. ATZILUTH: Spark of life, emanation of the soul and (Aleister Crowley’s notion of) TRUE will. It consists of the realm of FIRE, active (or male) energy represented by THE WANDS SUITE.
  2. BRIAH: Creativity, sense of personality, unconscious and yes, emotions. It represents the element of WATER, passive (female) energy represented by THE CUPS SUITE.
  3. YETZIRAH: Soul consciousness, intellect, pattern recognition. It is the elements of AIR, active (or male) energy represented by the SWORDS SUITE.
  4. ASSIAH: Human body, material function, manifestation. It represents the element of EARTH, passive (female) energy represented by THE DISKS SUITE.

I’ve come to see the minor arcana as moving on a chess board. When you step onto a case, a card, you are in a world, on a level. It’s about giving a tone to the game, it’s about your move or your next move. How you choose to read it is entirely up to you. Now, some will disagree, but as a translator, I prefer to put emphasis to the MESSAGE instead of the form of a text, when I am confronted to a tricky words problem. I believe that ultimately, the tarot is speaking to you in a manner that YOU, as a caster, understand. The tarot will get the message across if you know how to read what is inside of you.

As for the FORM, as it was subtly pointed out to me, you already have some understanding of it. 😉


PHEW this article was exhausting to write. I’ll be back later for summore Taroistic action!


2 thoughts on “Captain’s log: Learning the Tarot (and a bunch of other things) – A basic understanding of the Minor Arcana

  1. moonfire2012

    This is intriguing and now I want to study it. I’ve always been into sigils and sacred geometry, and I’ve heard of the Tree of Life but didn’t know it was this involved.

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