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Daily Tarot

Fill in the Blank: Putting Words to the Trumps

By Daily Tarot

One of the highlights of my week are my Friday evenings, where I co-facilitate a Tarot study group. Our format is very free and open to all levels of experience, and as such we get a lot of new ways of seeing cards I’d never imagined before.

Going over the Death card with the group, a member who is going through the cards for the first time (So exciting!), made a good point. He said he was having trouble with the words on the cards. The first set of cards, we talked a lot about ‘being’ the figure in the card; How might it feel to be the High Priestess, or stand like the Magician? Some cards had names which didn’t fit the formula of a figure, but up through The Hanged Man, there was always clearly people to identify with in the cards.

“Am I supposed to be Death, like the Grim Reaper? Or be the idea of Death in general? How am I supposed to do that?” All are great exercises, but for someone just trying to get a handle on the card the differences in approach represented an interesting question, which he posited: “What are the Major arcana really for? Are they archetypes of people, are they supposed to represent qualities, or what? On the one hand I have this Emperor guy and the Magician, and on the other I have cards like Death and Strength. I’m not feeling any consistency here.”

Exploring the differences between the literal categories of the cards immediately seemed like an interesting idea. Death in particular fits more than one category; Death can be an event or a mythical figure, among many other options. The simplest approach is the definition: The action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism. So it is the process of dying, or the instance of the death itself.

But what cards have clear categories, and what happens when you try to express a card like the Magician with a quality, more like Strength? What words would you choose? Would you also alter the image, or leave it the same?

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