Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Tarot Minor Arcana

A Bean Sprout, Numbers, and the Minor Arcana

What does a bean sprout have in common with a Tarot deck? — Time!
We can think of the Minor Arcana cards as the time-keepers of our lives. They can be aligned with the four changing seasons of earth’s yearly cycle around the sun, and we can apply the implications of their meaning to our daily lives. How do we associate that with the Tarot? First, we see there are four suits: Wands (Fire), Cups (Water), Swords (Air) and Pentacles (Earth) which represent earth’s seasonal changes in general. Each suit consists of 10 numbered cards, plus four court cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King. The numbered cards are not about quantitative functions, but instead, have metaphysical meaning in Tarot. Various interpretations describe the cards as representing processes of change and growth in situations that can be correlated with a person’s life. My teacher, Gail Fairfield, views the Minor Arcana in developmental cycles: “Within the fourteen cards of each suit, there are four cycles of three… a conceptual level 1,2,3; actualized level 4,5,6; expanded level 7,8,9; a transitional level 10; and a fulfilled level P, K, Q, K.” (Choice Centered Tarot, Ramp Creek Publishing, 1990, p. 30)

For a quick overview for finding meaning in the cards, I’ll use a bean sprout as a metaphor for the states and stages of life-processes that are implied in the Tarot. A study of the Tarot Minor Arcana can reveal the underlying universal laws and patterns manifest in our earthly existence. I like how the author, Arthur Young, discusses the process of fourfold development in his book, The Geometry of Meaning (Delacorte Press, 1976). He says, “Spring is the time of physical acceleration…Summer is the time of physical change…Autumn…is the time of mental stimulus” and “…Winter the time when growth has ceased” (p. 118).

In SPRING, the ground is prepared, but empty, (Zero 0, the number of the Fool). [Think of TV’s Mr. Bean] No thing is happening, yet it is full of unbelievable possibilities. One (1) the seed planted in the ground represents a beginning. It is motivated to start the miraculous life-building process—it germinates. (Aces) For us, it’s beginning to conceive an idea; to create something new; a time to start a new endeavor. Two (2) by mirroring some mysterious life-DNA-blueprint within the seed, it begins to establish itself as a new life and becomes something—a “bean sprout.” It sprouts 2 leaves, which are initially nourished by the seed. This action resembles the same process for us as we begin to establish our own unique identity (number 2 cards). Three (3) the bean plant flourishes in stage three with more leaves and its sweet flowers bloom. It is an expression of creative powers and unification of purpose. We synthesize our growth, plan our strategies, and are learning to adapt to a changing world by working together (number 3 cards).

Four (4) in SUMMER, the growth of the plant increases; it matures, and pollination takes place. We explore how to manifest our dreams, ambitions, and plans. We find stability and learn to structure our lives by stepping out of the box (number 4 cards). Five (5) in mid-summer, bugs and disease attempt to attack the plant and, its resilience is tested. It persists in fulfilling its mission. Now, we face our own challenges and confrontations. We take our chances in learning how to deal with opposition, arguments and the unexpected (number 5 cards). Six (6) the plant reaches the apex of perfection and beauty, producing an abundance of graceful bean pods. We strive to find balance and harmony in our lives, and count our blessings, and savor our successes (number 6 cards).

FALL, Seven (7) an entire cycle is complete and the harvest is on. The bean plant is ripe and fulfilling its creative function by continuing to replenish its kind. We bask in a sense of victory and accomplishment in having achieved our aspirations. We have subdued the opposing forces (number 7 cards). Eight (8) from the stems of the plant, the bean pods snap open releasing the seeds within, which drop and fall where they may. We have an opportunity to begin again at a new level; to re-invent ourselves and go in a new direction; a send off to new events and new possibilities (number 8 cards). Nine (9) the new bean seeds make their way back into the earth and wait for the moment to begin the cycle again. We have integrated all our lessons and are learning a new way of thinking and being. We take on a new attitude of well being (number 9 cards).

WINTER, Ten (10) the bean plant enters a transitory state of dormancy, even torpidity. Its function has been fulfilled and accomplished, which was to live and grow and replenish its form. It is the end of a cycle and everything is complete, yet there is a promise of renewal again in the spring. We are in a state of transition into the unknown. We have accomplished our goals and can now rest at the end of a cycle and reminisce on rich memories of the events in our lives (number 10 cards). [The next segment will continue with the court cards.]