I have been getting back into my Tarot study during the college break, and have been looking at the numbered cards in the Minor Arcana and the corresponding card in the Major Arcana. As a framework for this study time I decided to look at one number every few days and see how the cards in different decks relate to each other.
As it is nearing Saint Valentines Day, I am beginning with the number six – The Lovers. Except this card is not really about lovers as such, but of being in love, and not necessarily romantic love. It could be a new passion or obsession, a new country, a new career choice. Any sudden need to take a new path in life, something that overcomes you with all the power of Cupid’s arrow. Whatever you fall for can often result in a difficult choice, or even a rash move that may have huge consequences. But if you don’t make the move, and follow this new found love, then you will never know, which could cause a lifetime of regret.
The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it or regret it, but I don’t want to be it’s prisoner either. – Mick Jagger
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. – Sydney J Harris
In this series of studies I intend to look at many different decks, but I will always include a standard Rider Waite Smith deck for comparison. For the sixes I have chosen my Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative deck, Tarot of the Wyrd, the Thoth, and The Wild Unknown.
I am beginning by looking at The Lovers cards as they are the archetypal sixes and their symbolism shines light onto the minor sixes.
The Lovers card relates to the sun sign of Gemini, which is evident in the symbolism on all of these cards, and Gemini is often represented by twins. Tarot of the Wyrd I think confuses the card a little, as in my understanding this card does not always represent romantic love, although they could be brother and sister or even old friends, but the love letter in the background suggests otherwise. The angel is there in the form of a wee cupid-like cherub, and although Gemini is an air sign this card has both the passions of fire and the emotions of water, which seem to go with romantic love.
The RWS Lovers card is very biblical in its imagery. The angel is said to be Raphael and by the way he holds his hands he appears to be blessing the couple below. The mountain in the background looks to me like a volcano, which gives the card some tension. The serpent and the tree of knowledge are shown behind Eve, and Adam stands before the Tree of Life. But what will happen if they come together? I see this card as more of a balance of the energy of male and female rather than opposites. They are equal, they have not yet been tempted and the love they have is pure and innocent, and platonic.
The Wild Unknown is a lovely interpretation of this card, with the two Canada geese flying free and yet together through the air, the sun shines on them blessing their journey. Unlike many birds, the male and the female Canadian geese both look very alike, and it is hard to tell whether this is two male or two females or one of each. I think the fact that we cannot tell in this card, is a wonderful piece if possibly unintended symbolism. To me is says that in love and true friendship gender is irrelevant. That’s my take and I am sticking with it.
Then we have the Thoth Lovers card. This card is very focused on opposites, and in the background we have a large central figure who is hidden behind a veil. Like Raphael in the RWS, the hands appear to be held out as if blessing all the creatures below. There is cupid at the top and the serpent at the bottom. It speaks to me of choice and balance, everything being kept in harmony, but it cannot stay this way forever. A choice has to be made, and possibly with that choice comes sacrifice.
The images in the Rider Waite Smith are familiar to many. The Six of Swords is about crossing from a place or situation or even a problem, to another place of solace and clarity. There is a hint of sadness. The way ahead is made clear, and the journey is easy once you know where you are going. Like many six cards it is about balance, responsibility and family. The ferryman works while the family rest, they in turn will pay him when they reach their destination. They have earned this fare, the books are balanced. It is a gentle card for a Sword. The family are in the capable hands of the ferryman, and the water is calm, there is no need for high passions or emotions. This is one of the most peaceful Sword cards in the deck. Maybe it signifies a world cruise even.
The Six of Wands shows a procession of victory, or the arrival of someone important. It could be a new passion in the life of the querent, if so it may be fiery and short lived. I get the feeling this guy is resting on his laurels from the crown on his head, maybe a false triumph. At least it is a welcome break after the struggle in the Five of Wands. Still there are many around him waiting to takeover, well that’s how it feels to me.
The Six of Cups is about harmony, good memories and family, especially children. The symbolism here reminds me of holy communion, and the card is about communion of friends and family and shared joy. It is a rainy afternoon over an old photo album maybe with grandparents or old friends. It is a happy and comfortable card in most RWS based decks. It is the most emotional of the sixes, but the six of cups is not about romantic love. It could represent a new or old friend coming on the scene but only in a platonic, brotherly way. The figure in the background is leaving the party, going back to the home, maybe this could represent the querent is some readings, looking for the comfort of the past. It’s a safe place to be for the moment.
The Six of Pentacles is clearly about giving and receiving, the rich man gives to the poor. The Robin Hood card. The scales indicate balance. Pentacles relate to material riches, and this is what is being shared in this card. It could symbolise a small win or monetary gain, or it could equally be about donating to charity.
Tarot of the Wyrd, (above), has very similar images to the RWS. The main difference is the Six of Watches, which shows a nurse, so rather than giving the gift of material things she is giving the gift of time, and as the key word says selflessness. Still they say time is money, and she is presumably paid for her work, so it has the same give and take meaning.
The key words on these cards all pretty much match the symbolism in the RWS. The word Solace on the Six of Cutlery seems to emphasise the leaving behind troubles aspect of the card. The Six of Wands makes me think of politics, all the important people carrying the staffs, I still see this card as a short lived success. That would fit the world of politicians very well :)
I hesitated about including the Thoth deck in these studies, because I have not studied the system or any of the related teachings, except some astrology, in any depth at all. so Still a little learning begets more learning and so what the hell, I am including it, if only to compare the basics to the other decks I am looking at.
I do know the sixes relate to the centre sphere on the Tree of Life. This sphere or Sephiroth is numbered six, and is called Tiphareth, which means beauty and harmony, balance. The cross symbol in the centre of the Six of Swords is one of the symbols used for Tiphareth. Although these cards are a lot more esoteric in their symbolism, they keywords are very similar to the RWS meanings.
The Six of Swords is Science, which at it’s most basic level means to know. The card has a lot of clarity, the swords are sharp. The windmill like things in the background seem to symbolise wind or air to me, and Air is the element of Tiphareth. That could be wrong though, it is just an impression I get! The astrological symbols show Mercury in Aquarius… this could have a connection the the keyword science, as Mercury in Aquarius is very open to learning and stretching the mind. They see the bigger picture with ease.
The Six of Wands is given the keyword Victory, the staffs are very reminiscent of the RWS image. The flames remind me of keeping the fires burning, Bighid’s flame, the torch they use for the Olympics. Astrologically it shows Jupiter in Leo. This pairing can represent someone who loves the limelight of success and victory, and it can be theirs through a benevolent and caring attitude. However, there is a need to take care not to let ego get in the way.
The Six of Cups is Pleasure – again very similar to the RWS. It feels abundant this Six of Cups. Astrologically we have the Sun in Scorpio. Scorpios can easily become addicted to pleasure at the expense of all else, but this is all I can remember that seems relevant to the card right now. The image has a kind of family, passing down feeling with the central cups connecting to and filling the other cups.
The Six of Disks is a lovely card, it has the sun, (from the Tree of Life sixth Sephiroth), a watery moon element, with the Moon in Taurus (Shown by the astrological symbols on the card), and Pentacles have the Earth element. Everything needed for things to grow and succeed. It is a very balanced card all round which again fits with the RWS symbolism. This card makes me think of putting something out to the universe and being in the right state to receive what you ask for.
The Wild Unknown has fast become one of my favourite Tarot decks of all time. I will do a post about this deck as it does deserve at least one all to it’s beautiful self, but for now I am just looking at the Sixes, in relation to those on the other decks I have covered here.
Six of Swords, no boat, but the swords are laid down, at rest. Maybe the battle has finished, at least for now. On the horizon is a colourful rainbow, a symbol of hope, just as in the RWS image there is a journey to be made, but a hopeful one. All is looking good for now.
The Six of Wands is a kind of victory card. The butterfly has emerged safely from the chrysalis, escaped the ragged branches with it’s wings perfect where they could have been easily torn. It is above the troubled times below… just like the rider in the RWS Six of Wands. Still, this is a success for now, no one knows what lies in wait. Every battle won no matter how small is encouraging.
The Six of Cups is a stunning card. I see the Tree as representing family and roots. The tree of now is so easily turned into the colourful branches of the tree of the past. There are many routes to follow and get tangled in for some dream time. Often we see memories as far more colourful than they were at the time, this card demonstrates this perfectly.
The Six of Pentacles in The Wild Unknown like the Thoth card speaks to me of wishes coming true, the tree has borne fruit. When I look at this card the fruit is weighted to the left of the card which is bending the branch, this to me indicates that to attain balance some of the fruit could be given away, which will keep the tree upright and unbroken for more fruit to grow.
In summary, six seems to have a fair but of duality about it in all of these cards, both the trumps and the pip cards. Choice, balance, harmony. Leaving and moving forward to new things, Victory yet also the possibility of loss of that triumph, sharing, giving and receiving. Although most of the cards are illustrated with people, the love could quite easily be a passion or hobby whose undertaking can represent a difficult choice to the querent. Sometimes the love for ourselves and our own fulfillment comes at a cost to those closest to us.
As always the cards surrounding the six can cast light or shadow on the situation.
I am enjoying this journey, the sixes were great to start with, I may pull a card to see which one I do next!