On the face of it – and certainly in the 21st Century – the Tarot cards and the world of astrology seem to be two completely separate entities. However, each has proved their powers of endurance as they are the two most popular forms of psychic consultation in the UK today. Some people use astrologers to find out what’s going to happen further down the line, while others use Tarot readers to find out how they think, feel and act is influencing their present and how it could impact on their future. Seen in this light, astrology and the Tarot seem to have little in common. However, it wasn’t that long ago that they were used in conjunction with each other and there is something of a resurgence of interest in those methods.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Formed in 1881, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a secret group of Master Masons who devoted their time to studying ancient, arcane manuscripts and developing methods of fortune telling and divination. They had a huge influence on the development of the Tarot cards, after having supposedly discovered the original Cabbalistic scrolls which explained how the Tarot was to be used. However, the Order wasn’t a group to be satisfied with a bunch of instructions from beyond the grave, so they toyed and experimented with the cards, coming up with new ways to use them and debating points of interpretation.
The Order also had a burgeoning interest in astrology. Although it claimed to be able to trace its roots back to Ancient China, the Golden Dawn embraced the Western branch of the science, which was seen as a branch of necromancy at the time. However, instead of using it as a means for divination or fortune telling, the group decided to use it as a complement to magical rites and rituals, further enhancing its reputation among the uninitiated as a tool for the occult and devil worship. Despite this, the Order did find a link between the Tarot and the signs of the zodiac and began to use the two in conjunction with one another.
Patterns of energy
The Order recognised that patterns are important to the way we interpret events and learn what to expect. When something happens, we quickly identify the pattern involved and when that pattern is repeated, we are quickly able to predict the most likely outcome of those events. They applied this train of thought to the way that both the Tarot and astrology operate, noting the patterns that are common to both of them.
In astrology, there are 12 signs to the zodiac, which are grouped in four groups of three:
● the water signs: Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio
● the air signs: Libra, Aquarius and Gemini
● the earth signs: Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo
● the fire signs: Sagittarius, Leo and Aries
Given that there are four suits to the Tarot, the Order then divided them into the same groups as those in the zodiac:
Wands – fire signs
Cups - water signs
Swords – air signs
Coins – earth signs
Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable signs
They also noticed that the 12 signs of the zodiac are further grouped according to their qualities, giving rise to:
●Cardinal signs: Capricorn, Aries, Libra and Cancer
● Fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Aquarius and Scorpio
● Mutable signs: Pisces, Virgo, Gemini and Sagittarius
Cardinal signs are catalysts; they engender events and generate energy. Fixed signs are those that concentrate and focus that energy, while Mutable signs are those that allow the energy to flow on, giving rise to another cycle of energy transference, starting again with the Cardinal signs.
Looking at this, the Order saw that some cards in the Tarot operate in a similar way and grouped the cards to correspond:
●Twos, Threes and Fours – Cardinal cards
● Five, Sixes and Sevens – Fixed cards
●Eights, Nines and Tens – Mutable cards
By grouping the cards in this way, the Order was then able to go even further, assigning the planets associated with particular signs to their newly-associated cards and even aligning them with particular months. In this way, they created a form of psychic consultation that used all its constituent parts to offer both self-divination and prediction. Querents would be able to ask about specific dates or events and the reader was able to explain their part in getting to that particular point.
The best of both worlds
Many modern Tarot cards come with astrological symbols on them, so readers can see at a glance the astrological significance of cards drawn within a reading. The main advantage for those who use this method of divination and prediction is that it helps with timing; the astrological information associated with a card allows the reader to know when an event has happened or is going to. At the same time, he is also able to use his insight and interpretive abilities to help the querent to greater understand his role in these events. In short, it offers the best of both esoteric worlds.
In addition, the use of astrology alongside the Tarot can only help to enrich the way the reader sees the cards. As an example, the Tower card comes under the astrological influence of the planet, Mars. Mars has its own association of conflict and aggressive behaviour. On its own, the Tower card speaks of the destruction of old ideas, in order to make way for the new. However, combine the two and the reader may be able to state that the querent himself is responsible for that destruction, through a warlike thought, deed or feeling.
The Tarot uses different spreads for different reading and some of these can be further enhanced by the use of astrology. For example, there are certain spreads that look at emotional, psychic or physical events in the past, present and future. Using the months that are associated with each card, the reader can be much more specific about when an event has happened, will happen or is happening. However, he will still have to rely on his intuition to divine the meaning behind the cards.
The use of astrology in Tarot readings isn’t supposed to drown out its primary purpose, but simply to enhance it.