Tarot Portrait of Our Times

Tarot Portrait of Our Times

Esoterica is a comprehensive world. It is a world that is interrelated and referential, and full of things to experience. Under this umbrella, astrology is useful at showing how archetypal forces intermingle with one another and play out in our lives, while tarot is spectacular at identifying what an encounter with a particular archetypal force is like as an experience in our journey.

I’ve been following Paul Publisher, Hyperion’s resident court astrologer, discuss the effects of Jupiter moving into Pisces and meeting Neptune in that sign. Jupiter and Neptune both rule Pisces.

As I understand it, this gives a strange feeling to our summer. Pisces is the sign of endings and the seeds of beginnings. It starts in late February and ends on the spring equinox in March. A time of mud and wildflowers, of mixture and wrestling with things that never quite take a coherent form. Ideals and illusions in equal parts. Its modern ruler, Neptune, is master of things hidden and elusive, just outside of the reach of our conscious minds. In Pisces he has been creating an ocean mist that disguises the true shape of things, and we are wandering through trying to make sense of what we see.

Neptune, is master of things hidden and elusive, just outside of the reach of our conscious minds.

Together, I believe they correspond to the Moon in the Major Arcana.

With the current zeitgeist and astrological climate, three powerful cards from the Major Arcana seem to capture the dominant energies. The aforementioned Moon but in addition, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Magician.

The Moon

In terms of the Fool’s Journey, the Moon is a card of illumination succeeding the Star. These two cards land in an interesting place in the story: they are immediately after the Fool’s encounter with the Devil, and his subsequent ego death that we see in the collapse of the Tower.

The shock of the Fool’s meeting with the Devil and seeing in that monstrous face signs of his own looking back into him is enough to destroy him. He looks back at the beliefs and stories he has told himself, every idea he has accepted that has helped him form his image of the world and himself, and sees only a Tower Babel, a monument of arrogance and self-conceit that shakes him to his core. And then, it collapses. How precisely this occurs, is on the individual plane. Perhaps without the Fool’s ignorance to strengthen it, the Tower can no longer bear its own weight. Regardless, it falls, and the Fool is left to wander its ruins in despair.

This is the lowest point in the Fool’s Journey. And it is here that he is found by the Star, and then the Moon, on his path towards being reborn as the Sun in a triumph over death and despair. The Star is like the light at the end of the tunnel, the promise that there is still a future ahead of you, and that if you go and see, perhaps it will be one worth living. It is the light that gives the Fool the strength to take another step on his Journey, broken and crushed as he is.

Once you reach the future that the light of the Star showed you, though, new challenges emerge. This is what the Moon represents. Yes, there is illumination, but there is not enough to bring easy clarity. The Fool is rebuilding himself anew from the fall of the Tower. He must pick over each piece of himself and examine it, to try and find a way to put himself back together in a way that works, rather than the mess he was before. He must aim using ideals as his guide, which the light of the Moon will show you, but he must discern which visions are ideals and which are illusions. The Moon will show you both.

A fairly apt description of what things feel like to many right now. Nothing is clear, nothing is easily identifiable, we must learn what rings true by putting it to the test through implementation. Only by grasping something in our hands and trying to put it to use do we learn if it is real, or just another wayward bit of mist.

The Wheel of Fortune

This card corresponds to Jupiter, the classical ruler of Pisces. Jupiter is grandeur, magnificence, and beneficence. Abundance. And as he’s moved into Pisces, it’s like he’s started up a carnival with Neptune. He wanders through the crowds, handing out ideals and good cheer like candy, seating people on crazy rides at every turn. Visions of a dream life for you! A chance at fame, fortune, at fulfilling your deepest desires. Jupiter wants you to find these visions, reach out, and grasp them so that you can make them real. The challenge is, we are here in the light of the Moon. Everything glitters and sparkles enticingly, but not all that glitters is gold. The ideal we are focusing on may turn out to be fool’s gold on closer examination, while the object we overlook in the corner turns out to be the key to everything we desire. Things are looking up one day, down the next, and then back up again as we ride with Jupiter on his great Wheel of Fortune.

Disappointing week? One full of frustrations and recriminations? Today you’re offered free ice cream in your favorite flavor as you walk down the street, and your friends throw you a surprise party to show you how much they love you. Things were looking down, but now in every affair, big or small, you’re on top of the world. And then, suddenly, you’re not again. Maybe it was something you did, a seemingly silly comment here that offended a friend, or perhaps you stepped on someone’s foot by accident. Or, it’s something outside of your control: you take a weekend trip you’ve really been looking forward to, but it rains the whole time you’re there. Don’t despair, though. The Wheel of Fortune is still turning. Soon you’ll be back on top again, where everything just seems to work out well for you. The trick becomes riding the ups and downs with dignity, knowing it’ll all wash out in the end. Tantalizingly, though, perhaps you can find some clues while we’re on this ride on how to make your dream future come true.

The Magician

Mercury as a planet is often simplistically described in terms of communication and thought. The Messenger of the Gods, and the fastest planet, but this not the full story. Mercury does correspond to day-to-day thoughts on how to get from A to B, yes, but Mercury is also the Magician, the alchemist at work transmuting lead into gold, the artist shocking people with magical transformations before their very eyes. I explored this card from the Major Arcana in depth in this Twitter thread.

The Magician is a card that is all about transformation. And, any transformation that is observed will also transform the onlooker. After all, how could the alchemist transmutes something from mundane, base lead into heavenly, solar gold? It’s impossible, or so we say. And yet what is art, if not the transmutation of ordinary objects or paints, or anything really, into a transcendent expression of the human experience? And, every time you see such a transformation, it calls forth something within you in response.

Afterwards, the world seems different. This isn’t because the world has changed, but rather because we have. A trick has been played on us, and we have had our silly preconceptions blown apart. Art and transformations remind us that the world is far stranger and more wonderful than it seems at first glance. And, just as the Magician is our guide through these transformations, the god Mercury is the psychopomp, the one who guides our souls on spiritual journeys, including the final one after death. Mercury is a liminal figure who transcends boundaries, and when we meet him he pulls us past these boundaries too.

This deeper nature Mercury possesses becomes readily apparent when he stations and prepares to go retrograde, as he is currently doing in the later degrees of Gemini right now. In such moments, it feels like the universe is playing tricks on us. In my experience, little inconveniences are taking on an almost comedic absurdity, and they’ve been occurring all through writing this. It’s like Mercury is saying to open up those eyes of yours and pay attention. The psychopomp is here, and he is ready to guide you through the whacky, moonlit Piscean carnival we’re all running around in this summer. You’d best bet he’s got some crazy tricks to show you.

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