Sunday, April 4, 2010
And then there was Moses…
According to Corinne Heline, author of The Bible and Tarot, (Devorss, 1969) we can associate the symbolism of certain biblical characters, such as Moses, with the Tarot Major Arcana. Although she discusses the symbolic essence of Moses in The Chariot card, I find his story also fits the role of mage in The Magician card. For instance, in the search for meaning in the stories of Moses’ miracles, we see that “Rods” (Wands) were used to channel or translate the supernatural powers of the Lord. What appeared to be magic acts were performed by Moses and his brother, Aaron, as they engaged in a deadly contest with the Egyptian Pharaoh’s magicians.
But first, let’s look at the story of “The Burning Bush” as this is where the Lord told Moses to go back to Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to “Let my people go.” (Ex.3) On Mt. Horeb, Moses experienced miraculous events that, to adherents of Tarot, are significant symbols of steps to take on one’s spiritual path. He had to deal with his feelings of inadequacy to do what was asked of him, and so he said he needed a “sign.” God told him to cast his “rod” to the ground. Immediately it turned into a snake and he ran from it. But when he mustered the courage to take the snake by the tail, it became a rod again (overcoming evil). When he put his hand in his shirt and took it out, it was leprous, but when he put it back, the leprosy was gone (healing). Then when he dipped his hand in river water and poured it on the dry ground, it became blood (living waters of life).
In the efforts of Moses and Aaron to liberate the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, they were to “stretch out your rod” (under the Lord’s commands) to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites. (Ex.7–12) As the story goes, the power of God was translated through their “Rods” in setting off ten plagues that profoundly affected the lives of the Egyptians. Moses turned his rod into a snake when Pharaoh asked him for a miracle, so the Pharaoh demanded to see more. Hmmpf, his magicians could do that and they did! So next, Pharaoh got more than he bargained for—ten deadly plagues.
Under Moses’ direction, Aaron used his rod to initiate the first three plagues. Moses then used his rod to bring on the rest of the plagues. I view these as symbolic lessons in the context of the human condition such as: dealing with mortality and immortality (Nile, blood, dead fish); uncleanness (frogs); illusions (gnats); reality and unreality (diseased cattle, boils); ignorance versus wisdom (hail, locusts); the dark side versus enlightenment (3 days of darkness); and hopes for the future dashed (firstborn died). Finally, the Pharaoh couldn’t take any more and said, “Take your flocks and herds…and BE GONE; and bless me” (Ex. 12:32).