The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, was the first in his profession to attach importance to the symbols of the Tarot. He believed that the cards could be extremely useful to practitioners and followers of analytical psychology, suggesting that patients may intuitively respond to the archetypes represented by the cards and, thus, give clues as to what their problems might be.
In psychological terms, an archetype is best described as a broad sketch of someone’s personality that identifies certain traits or habits inherent in their personality. As a psychologist, Jung identified five main archetypes:
● The Persona: the aspect of our character that we present to the world
● The Shadow: a part of us that remains unacknowledged, but is integral to our character
● The Self: the essence of the psyche or a person’s ‘core’
● The Anima: the female part of the male psychology
● The Animus: the male part of the female psychology
These archetypes can be identified in many cards of the Tarot. For example, the Fool is often said to be associated with the Self, while the Swords could be identified with the Animus aspect in both men and women. Jung argued that the way a patient or seeker ‘identifies’ with a certain card can lead a psychologist to better understand just how that person perceives himself.
Jung went on to further identify other suits of the Tarot as having significance to certain feelings:
● The Chalices: represent feelings or the ability to assess whether something is agreeable or not
● The Pentacles: represent the physical ability to assess whether something is real or not
● The Swords: represent our capacity to think and assess just what things are and what they mean to us
● The Staffs: represent our abilities to intuit; to decide where something has come from and where it is going
In essence, Jung viewed the symbols of the Tarot on two levels: the objective and the subjective. The objective level causes us to react to certain cards as the result of our memories and experiences, both conscious and subconscious. The subjective level causes us to respond by putting the symbols in context against the backdrop of what is happening around us.