HY TAROT CARDS? How can tarot cards possibly be relevant in the twenty first century?
Tarot cards are so relevant today that their correlation to prominent members of the Trent community is clear and unmistakable.
Wait - what?
What's the deal with tarot cards anyways?
The process of using tarot to seek or gain insight into the mundane and into the everyday is called "divination". It’s exciting. Divination involves drawing a tarot spread and then proceeding to reflect on the associations of meaning that you can personally identify with. My brothers and sisters, tarot is a head rush.
In my approach in this paper I establish the building blocks of "archetypes" in general, using Joseph Campbell's monomyth applied to film. Then I apply the monomyth to Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates and apply tarot to profile Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among many other biographies and situations. And finally in this paper I apply tarot to four of Trent University’s nine former Chancellors. Yes you read that right. I'll say it again for emphasis. Dear fellow passionate Arthur readers: the trajectory of my line of reasoning in this article is rather long and winding, but our destination comes down to tarot cards and our Chancellors.
As a disclaimer, I do not claim to predict the future, read minds or play the global stock market with tarot. For me, tarot is about universal archetypes.
Distinguished scholar of myth Joseph Campbell, in a conversation with Bill Moyers in 1988, summarized his theory of the monomyth: “Moses is a hero figure. He ascends the mountain, he meets with Yahweh on the summit of the mountain, and he comes back with rules for the formation of a whole new society. That's a typical heroic act -- departure, fulfillment, return.” Those are the three core archetypes according to Joseph Campbell which captures the general contours of every single story, journey or adventure, told by any and all human beings, from every corner of the globe, from every culture.
This monomyth pattern is present in Disney’s The Lion King film where baby cub Simba is exiled from his home (departure), meets Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, discovers the Hakuna Matata “problem free philosophy” (gift, fulfillment) and after being divinely inspired, Simba then returns to his homeland to heroically liberate his people from the evil order of Scar and his band of hyenas.
The monomyth can be applied to the Wizard of Oz. In a fit of teenage angst, Dorothy Gale runs away from her home in Kansas (departure), is hit over the head, travels to a beautiful foreign, supernatural land of sorts, makes friends and encounters fabulous forces, endures a heroic ordeal (fulfillment) and eventually Dorothy returns home to Kansas with a renewed appreciation for her family.
Thomas Anderson was called by Morpheus and his team to confront the truth about the Matrix (departure), dawns the name “Neo”, learns kung fu, meets the Oracle, fights Agent Smith (fulfillment) and then at the end of the movie, Neo returns to the Matrix to save as many lost souls as possible.
Monomyth archetypes are present in The Lion King, The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix and all Hollywood films. Some Hollywood screenwriters explicitly and admittedly use the monomyth archetypes as their guide or as literary devices as they develop their plot and craft their characters, but most screenwriters don’t yet their works still track the departure-fulfillment-return (monomyth) pattern because we are human. The monomyth is there, whether you are aware of it or not. We are all heroes because the monomyth is the human condition. The point Joseph Campbell makes in his research with the monomyth is that archetypes are universal. It is our nature. Wherever you are, there it is.
The same is true for tarot.
In this way tarot is as relatable as Jospeh Campbell's monomyth. Tarot is exceedingly relevant.
It’s interesting to apply theory to film, right? I've made clear the universal connection that Hollywood and myth have with Joseph Campbell’s archetypes (the “monomyth”). Likewise, the twenty two “Major Arcana” from the Builders Of The Adytum tarot deck are a host of possible archetypes or theories applicable to just about anyone or to any protagonist from any story, whether real or fictional.
To provide a general sense as to how tarot is applicable to Hollywood movies and film, I now demonstrate using The Matrix and The Wizard of Oz.
In Card 1, The Magician is invoking the mysterious forces of the universe to interfere or intervene in the physical world. In the scene in The Matrix where Neo is waiting to speak with the Oracle, gifted kids (or “potentials”) are able to, as if by Magick, bend spoons and play with floating objects without physical contact, only with their minds. The Matrix is a world of mystery, wonder and Magick.
Card 15, The Devil, represents bondage, slavery to materialism, living a lie and temptation. Morpheus in The Matrix explains to a recently liberated Neo that humans are "born into bondage, into a prison you cannot truly smell or taste or touch". Humanity is enslaved to the machines and agent gatekeepers.
Card 8, Strength, represents fortitude and defiance, standing up valiantly against humanity's diabolical oppressors. In the particulars of The Matrix, our heroes demonstrate strength (of mind). All liberated 'red pill' hackers are taught kung fu and are trained to jump from city building to city building. They learn these combat skills to resist their machine overlords.
Card 5, The Hierophant, could represent an interpreter of scripture for the people he mentors and guides. A Hierophant casts prophecy. In The Matrix, "The Oracle" character is a rogue computer program from the machine world who accurately interprets and influences the future, guiding Morpheus and his band of heroes along their path to destiny to resist the machines.
That's tarot and The Matrix, in short. Next I apply tarot to the The Wizard of Oz.
Card 7, The Chariot, represents public exposure or a role which involves becoming the focal point or centre of attention. Dorothy Gale literally parades around the town square when she arrives over the rainbow as she encounters the Lollipop Kids and the entourage of the supernatural beings and citizens of Oz.
Card 13, Death, represents sudden change or release or emancipation through destruction. In the words of the Wicked Witch of the West at the end of the film: “Who would have thought that a girl like you could have destroyed my beautiful wickedness? What a World! What a World!” The Wicked Witch is dead and Dorothy is free.
Card 2, The High Priestess, can represent a message that needs to be revealed. This card can serve as a catalyst for remembering something of critical significance, like a great secret. In Dorothy Gale’s story, Gelinda, “The Good Witch of the South” guides Dorothy as Dorothy embarks on her journey. The pair meet again at the end of Dorothy’s adventure when Gelinda conveys the secret insight and provides the special message or answer which Dorothy has been seeking all along: how to return home to Kansas. “There is no place like home.”
See how entertaining tarot and divination can be?
The “monomyth” - - a series of archetypes or a model typically used in literary theory - - I apply next to the unusual context of biographies of various real life heroes. I then substitute Joseph Campbell's archetypes (like "departure") with tarot archetypes (like "The Empress", "The Tower", and others).
I apply tarot to Eminem and Mark Zuckerberg. But I begin with the monomyth applied to real life biographies Bill Gates and Nelson Mandela. Just like with Moses’ story as I noted earlier, the core monomyth archetypes to look out for are: (1) departure, (2) fulfillment, (3) return.
Falling in love with computers as a bright and skilled youngster, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975 (departure) to embark on creating his own software company, Microsoft. Bill Gates by the 2000s generated enough shareholder wealth to become the wealthiest human alive (fulfillment) and has since returned his money to humanity by sharing as much of his wealth as he can, lifting millions of children out of poverty.
Nelson Mandela started out (departure) fighting for socialism, freedom and revolution as a young adult in South Africa, was incarcerated for 27 long, arduous years (fulfillment), yet returned to his people bearing the gift of democracy, making history through revolution in 1994 by striving to liberate the citizens of his nation from the scourge of Apartheid and racism and by embracing peace and reconciliation.
Joseph Campbell actually has seventeen archetypes which are just as common and applicable as these three essential ones. Humanity can’t escape these archetypes because heroism is the human condition (as made evident with the monomyth). My point is that the same is true for the twenty two cards or archetypes of the Builders of the Adytum Major Arcana (tarot cards).
Let’s now interpret hip hop rapper Eminem using tarot.
Card 3, The Empress, represents fertility and abundance, as well as patiently cultivating intellectual vigor. Eminem is creatively dynamic and has successfully turned his talents and passions into gifts which he shares with the world. Eminem gives birth - - metaphorically speaking of course - - to new pearls of wisdom, rhyme after rhyme, poem after poem, song after song.
Card 9, The Hermit, represents withdrawal to cultivate discernment and soul searching. Seeking sobriety, especially as apparent in “Not Afraid”, after a relapse in his battle with substance abuse, Eminem retreats and checks into rehab, yet always returning to the spotlight sharing excellent poetry with his fans and audience members alike.
Card 14, Temperance, represents self-control, moderation, virtue, seeking clarity and a healing energy. Eminem tactfully approaches the divisions and conflict that mark the hip hop community and black neighbourhoods with compassion and understanding rather than with bitterness and anger, notably so in “Like Toy Soldiers.”
That’s tarot applied to Eminem’s music and biography, in brief. Next I cast tarot onto Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his enterprise.
Card 10, The Wheel of Fortune, represents seizing the opportunity and realization of your destiny. Facebook as a startup, arriving on the scene out from nowhere, Mark Zuckerberg took full advantage of his white privilege and maximized the opportunities offered by his social position to become the most successful millennial entrepreneur to date. Yes, Facebook has a serious racist Fake News problem all over the world. And sure, Facebook turned out to be a platform for narcissistic, lonely, spoiled rich kids in the First World. But elsewhere in some places the youth wield the gift that is Mark Zuckerberg's social media syndicate as a social movement to overthrow their despots and rebel against their oligarchs.
Card 19, The Sun, represents new friendship and shining in the spotlight. Mark Zuckerberg, marrying his long time girlfriend in 2012, committed himself to learning Mandarin. Almost like a diplomat, Mark Zuckerberg has endeavoured to build bridges and friendship with Chinese business tycoons and politicians.
Card 16, The Tower, represents the evisceration of ambitious plans, as well as the end of one order and the beginning of the next. Mark Zuckerberg's social network is disrupting the struggling corporate media oligopolies and thus destroying America’s decaying neoliberal propaganda apparatus. We can all thank Mark Zuckerberg with exuberance as we celebrate the destruction of the dreadful media empires of old, like CNN and the NY Times.
That’s tarot applied to celebrity Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the next section I note the clear connection that tarot has with Trent University's former Chancellors.
Having shared tarot-informed interpretation of film and real-life contemporary figures, now I turn to apply tarot to the real life biographies of notable members of the Trent community.
Card 4, The Emperor, depicts a masculine, war waging king representing service in military and politics. The Honourable Leslie Miscampbell Frost, first Chancellor of Trent University (1967-1973) served in the Canadian military in World War I and as Premier of Ontario from 1949 to 1961, heralding and spearheading an era of state-funded publicly accessible higher education.
Card 11, Justice, represents taking responsibility and embracing your ethical obligation to overturn an otherwise unjust status quo. The Honourable Eugene Alfred Forsey and second Chancellor (1973 to 1977) was director of the Canadian Labour Congress for a time, committed to the ideals of economic justice. Eugene Alfred Forsey worked diligently to make ethical public policy at the foundation of our economy.
Card 20, Judgement, is a symbol of liberation and weighing the truth and the factors of a given scenario, and above all, finding forgiveness and arriving at a mutual understanding. Jean Margaret Wemyss Laurence, fourth Chancellor (1981 to 1983), is remembered for embodying the values to which the Academy aspired then and still does today: informed and balanced criticism, humanitarianism, self-reflection, humility, discernment and renewal.
Card 21, The World, or sometimes The Universe, can represent celebrating an accomplishment and achieving a reward from a long life or journey of work or productivity. Roberta Lynn Bondar, ninth Chancellor (2003 to 2009), is Canada’s first female astronaut who photographed the world from outer space, winning international awards of recognition as an inspiring leader among Canadians and women alike.
HE TWENTY TWO tarot archetypes are universally applicable to any contemporary work of fiction (like novels or movies) or any individual personal life story (like biographies). Tarot is also applicable to you and to everyone of one us on a personal level. Some psychics are experts at tarot and can guide you through an insightful interpretation of a spread. But the authenticity of a tarot reading can only be verified by the client’s own intuition and inner knowing. The seeker is the ultimate arbiter and judge of the quality of a psychic’s reading. The messages conveyed by psychics to you personally will only resonate sometimes. The more experienced, well read and gifted the psychic is, the better. Some psychics can be charlatans and dupes. Others are legit. I trust and personally recommend Toronto's Carolyn Molnar, Canada's “Barefoot Prophet” Paul Pacific and Peterborough's very own psychic and medium, Rev. Judy Morgan.
For further reading on tarot I recommend Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Thoth. For those starting out I recommend Sarah Bartlett’s helpfully accessible introductory work, The Tarot Bible. And of course a tarot reading list wouldn’t be complete without Paul Foster Case’s remarkable esoteric opus, The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order. The last book there as it appears on Amazon is a forgery. If you want a genuine copy, go to the source. Get it from the official Builders of the Adytum website at: www.bota.org
As part of my closing thoughts, I’d also like to thank TrapNation’s SXSW Mix and all the sundry melodic dubstep and rap musicians on YouTube who deserve credit for inspiring me to ask Arthur to publish this article as a four part series.
My argument in this essay is not that my audience ‘should’ begin learning about or practicing tarot. I'd like to emphasize that you don’t have to study tarot to appreciate humanity's relationships with each other and the cosmos. I'm not trying to convert any one. I am merely demonstrating or observing the collective, universal application of archetypes to the human condition and to Trent’s former Chancellors. Waving my hand from a distance I am presenting a non-argument. I am merely sharing unordinary interpretation of film and biography because it’s fun. Like with any host of archetypes in general, tarot specifically can provide the student with a higher vantage point.
Tarot will not abolish the IMF, nor alleviate the serious and urgent disruption of Earth's climate, nor gently dismiss our beloved yayhoo in the White House from office; but if you are into historical biography, literary theory or the social sciences, tarot is a gift from the Creator.
L . V . X
“May you die and be reborn, in the limitless extending Light of Godhead.”
So Mote It Be
The author of this paper is a Trent alumnus who majored in Philosophy from 2003-2008. The Initiate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to explore the author's many other caffeinated writing samples over at Summit Ministry.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.