Note: I have decided to forgo the format of “Stop” and “Go” as my journey through the major arcana deepens.

The Hierophant can strike discomfort for those who have experienced a limiting dogma associated with Christianity or Catholicism. While this card represents the pope in the same way the High Priestess is the modern form of “La Papesse,” keep in mind— a woman pope was once advocated for, suggesting there was a concerted effort to inhibit the dominating patriarchy emerging at the time. It is evident in contemporary texts of what we know to be the Bible that there is much more to the symbolism presented in Christian allegory. Thus, Christianity in its meaning should not be itself be demonized, nor should Catholicism despite its rife political history. What has prevailed of these doctrines may be relatable avenues for others toward spiritual life outside of the religion’s origin. These systems are of use to those seeking a spiritual path without the extensive research and meditation which would provide deeper understanding. For those on a more agnostic or comparative path, gnostic symbolism is much more obtuse and interpretable, allowing space for us to weave connections to other cultural mythologies and/or religions. Also, as we will see in a future post, the Devil is merely Pan residing over the wild Earth, and the physical world is his kingdom. The demonization of this figure misinterprets the symbolism as the Devil residing over Hell. Here, we come to realize there is no Heaven and Hell, and these, instead, are components of our being more scientifically described as spirit and body.

The Gospel of Thomas states: “Jesus said: Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion will become man; and cursed is the man whom the lion eats, and the lion will become man.” This is synonymous with the Strength card, both in imagery and meaning. At the time that Catholicism dominated, Orthodox doctrine taught that Spirit could dissolve mind:

“Orthodox theologians argue that the mind (reason, rationality) is the focus of Western theology, whereas, in Eastern theology, the mind must be put in the heart, so they are united into what is called house; this unity as heart is the focus of Eastern Orthodox Christianity involving the unceasing Prayer of the heart. In Orthodox theology, in the Eastern ascetic traditions one of the goals of ascetic practice is to obtain sobriety of consciousness, awakeness (nepsis). For humankind this is reached in the healing of the whole person called the soul or heart. When a person’s heart is reconciled with their mind, this referred to as a healing of the nous or the “eye, focus of the heart or soul”. Part of this process is the healing and reconciliation of humankind’s reason being called logos or dianoia with the heart or soul. While mankind’s spirit and body are energies vivified by the soul, Orthodoxy teaches man’s sin, suffering, and sorrow are caused by his heart and mind being a duality and in conflict. According to Orthodox theology, lack of noetic understanding (sickness) can be neither circumvented nor satisfied by rational or discursive thought (i.e. systematization), and denying the needs of the human heart (a more Western expression would be the needs of the soul) causes various negative or destructive manifestations such as addiction, atheism and evil thoughts etc. A cleaned, healed or restored nous creates the condition of sobriety or sepsis of the mind.”–West_Schism


This is correlative to the Buddhist ideal of ascending beyond mind. Once this state is achieved, we no longer suffer our human nature aside from being housed in a physical body. Buddhism cites the thinking mind as the source of suffering. Thoughts themselves are creative. Personally, I do not adhere to the goal of “no mind”, or even “don’t know” mind, all of the time. But accessing this state is essential in magick, which is why most modern courses in ritual begin with cultivating a meditation practice. We cannot create from a place where our unconscious thought patterns are the seeds which inform our personal realities. We must weed out what grows automatically from seeds carried by chaotic winds we were subject to in our formative years, buried deep within our being. These weeds may also be our karmic reaping, which we can alter through awareness. We must do the work of turning the soil, and plant what we want to see grow and blossom. Once this is achieved, under the right conditions and with a little love and maintenance, the garden eventually grows itself.

Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, perpetuates the illusion of duality or separation, suggesting that Christ is both human and divine (Christ is the human son of God, not God himself), while the bishops of Egypt, Syria, and Armenia held their belief that the divine can fully dictate our biological passions. I understand this relative to the idea that “God” is not separate from the physical world, but is everything. It is difficult to discuss the point of separation here, as the illusion of separation is necessary to discuss the concept of oneness, and therefore it is difficult to express that the whole is the sum of its parts, without first showing the parts. But, the reality beyond words is that there are no parts, in the same way there is no spoon!

We must abandon linear thinking in general to attain wisdom. You are trained to do this with the alphabet. There are twenty six letters in the English alphabet. When we are very young, we learn these letters consecutively and in song form. We are taught throughout our entire education to abandon learned order to form words. Words and speech become our mode of communication. Abandoning linear thinking in this respect allows for millions of fictional worlds to be built and imaginary characters to be born. It allows us to learn anything and everything anyone chooses to literate. It enables us to download emotions into writing style and poetry, and so on. This is also how we approach music theory. We do not play notes consecutively despite our understanding of how it is structured. Nor do we use the color spectrum consecutively in visual art. Again, this is how we must use tarot, and it is how we must begin to perceive how things really are.


The Hierophant is not necessarily the masculine counterpart to the High Priestess, although it is a valid, albeit exoteric, understanding. Rather, he is the culmination of the previous cards and the ensuing cards. With the Emperor, the king of “Below”, The fifth, sixth, and seventh keys are unlocked because Above cannot exist without its reflection. When explaining this to a friend recently, she recommended the movie Arrival (thank you Lauren!). This movie is a beautiful depiction as to how things actually are. This film also espouses that language and the way in which we think about things determines our experience, which is the territory modern psychology is heading toward.

Louise, played by Amy Adams, harbors the archetype of the Hierophant in being able to decode this language, which gives her the “weapon” or power needed to not only save humanity, but other beings in the “future.” Furthermore, she does this by accepting her own unfortunate fate— an individual sacrifice made for the greater good of others. The Hierophant has working knowledge of the immaterial influencing the material, and vice versa. Leigh J. McCloskey states:

“The Hierophant is both active and receptive, symbolizing the point of convergence between to polarities, i.e. the commingling of universal conscious energy, The Emperor, with the imaginative generative powers of the unconscious, the Empress. The assignation to the Hierophant of the fixed earth sign Taurus, ruled by Venus, the planet attributed to the Empress, symbolized this dual aspect in its outwardly masculine expression of organization, structure, and materiality, while retaining the inwardly feminine capacity to be impressed upon from within… He is the divine pedagogue, which functions as the voice of god within, knowing all modalities and channels through which divine mind manifests or makes itself known.”

With this knowledge he recognizes his capacity and duty to bring it to others. This is the beginning of the Great Work in Western Occultism. Similar to McCloskey’s sentiment regarding the Emperor and Empress, the Hierophant is only masculine in that the High Priestess is immaterial and the Hierophant is the outer embodiment of the High Priestess, as all physical form is essentially masculine. The body itself is the house of the Shekhinah, the arc of the covenant, which is the innate knowledge we all harbor in the microcosmic universal womb. As we continue on from the Hierophant into the Lovers, we find union with the divine which combines our dual masculine and feminine nature (whereas the Devil splits it— and is focused on protecting and addressing the physical apparatus), and onto the Chariot, representative of directing our Will in accordance with Divine Will, and finally Strength— Spirit dictating the passions of the body.


Of note in my recent exploration of the Elder Futhark system of runes, is that its symbolism tends to ascend toward the well-being and higher consciousness of humanity, or at least regional community. For example, the rune which represents joy, represents ultimate joy within the community or family, not personal joy or revelation. The major arcana itself implies a more solitary journey and community is referenced in a more nuanced fashion in the supporting numbered cards (such as the three of cups, the ten of cups, or the ten of pentacles, the two of cups etc.).

A criticism of Maslow’s Higherarchy, a Western psychological theory of development, centers around the fact that this cannot be applied to all human development, since community in most other cultures is paramount to the individual. In Zen traditions of Buddhism, for example, once “enlightened”, one has a duty to enlighten others. This is how I see the Hierophant. Once knowledge is gained, what then? The tarot clearly indicates depth beyond the fifth arcana. With the Hierophant we have completed initiation and it is now our responsibility to act in accordance with the Great Work in a relatable way. Like Jesus on the cross, we are sacrificing ourselves to pursue the greater good of humanity. Knowing is only half the battle, as the Hierophant exists half way in the Western numerical cycle of ten.

The Hierophant, then, is essentially the adept or Buddha nature—one harboring Christ consciousness. He is not the justified adept, necessarily (as we have yet to meet Justice), but is the potential for all mankind to become one. A mundane example of the Hierophant is the student who is ready to teach, but has yet to secure tenure!

If this card appears in a reading, it may represent your expertise is enough to teach to others. It asks you to trust your experience. If there is doubt, or imposter syndrome is present (that sneaky five of swords appearing again and again!), the Hierophant alleviates this fear, suggesting you have what it takes to attain a higher position of mentorship. If you are uncertain about advancement in a career or spiritual progress, it may also represent coming in contact with a teacher or guide who can assist you in this fashion. If we are The Hierophant in a specific scenario, it indicates that teaching or mentorship may help us access the ensuing keys, as we move through the meaning of the Lovers through Strength, and approach the wisdom of the Hermit. This relates to the common notion: if one wants to become an expert in something— teach it.

Personally, I see the shadow aspect of the Hierophant opposite of what most sources indicate.

Most sources interpret the Hierophant as meaning academic knowledge, rather than sacred knowledge. Thus the reversal of it, or the negative connotation means inner knowledge. In the same way many biblical symbols are misinterpreted via their exoteric nature, thereby negating their true sacred meanings, the Hierophant is also misconstrued. In light of this misrepresentation, its reversal becomes its esoteric meaning.

I do not typically read reversals, but the Hierophant within its shadow context likely communicates that one is not ready to step into the role of mentor, guide or teacher, and perhaps may benefit from a mentor or class to improve their understanding or skills. Thus, with consideration of the actual meaning being sacred knowledge, the shadow aspect suggests we familiarize ourselves with exoteric or academic learning as an avenue toward developing an understanding of a deeper meaning which we are not yet prepared to receive. For example, it is easier to channel the muses effortlessly (notice I did not say impossible) through guitar, when one learns first how to play the instrument.

The Number 5

Five indicates a half way point and is therefore a number of movement. This is also why the information housed in the Hierophant is to be disseminated. It implies action, travel, unpredictability, and yet it is on its way to stability; within its nature its opposite is automatically implied. Chaos naturally moves into order if not interrupted. For this reason, five is also the number of growth. It relates to Temperance, an alchemical card related to harmony (think: Philosopher’s Stone).

I see five as a “phase” card. This is how things are now in their unfolding process, but it is not a card that implies stagnancy. The fives in the suits may be seen as “negative” because they indicate suffering in the form of growing pains. We must be mindful that unless we are halting our own progress, things will work themselves out. Resistance, ignorance, externalizing and lack of willpower are some examples of what hinder our progress. Compassion, acceptance and strength move us through challenging times, and therefore contribute to our spiritual advancement.

Five also represents things as they are in the present moment. This refers to the experience of meditation and being, and the Eastern teaching that the only constant in life is change. Hence, as mentioned before, attachment and aversion are what impede development toward a higher consciousness.

Symbolism (Please note: I have chosen not to reiterate meanings of symbols that can be easily be learned through a Google search, and choose only to expound on ones that inspire further reflection)

Gray Pillars: Gray is the combination of black and white. In life, we are often asked to see "gray" areas. When we fail to do so, we fall prey to the illusion of separateness—an all or nothing mentality which impairs healthy functioning within ourselves and in relationships with others. This is representative of the penultimate knowing the Hierophant holds within: All is one.

The two pillars do not have a veil like the High Priestess does. While one source states this represents exoteric knowledge, I disagree. Considering the pillars are gray, I believe this suggests revealing the secret that, unlike in the High Priestess card, black and white are illusions. Thus, the High Priestess suggests a more exoteric presentation of which we must seek a deeper meaning beyond. As an example: The High Priestess may give us a vision of the Ichthys symbol and by her very nature tells us that it is not what it seems, but the Hierophant reveals its true origin as the vesica piscis.

The symbols on the pillars remind me of a womb with ovaries, as do the horns of Hathor, representing the divine feminine. The horns of Hathor represent the astrological course of Venus during the year. Thus, this form could also indicate a midpoint between Heaven and Earth, which reflects the meaning of the fifth key. Furthermore, this is another curious example of how above reflects below: the female reproductive system taking the same shape as the course of Venus, the planet known for love and sexuality.

Roses and Lilies: Red roses represent desire, while lilies represent purity of thought. This suggests utilization of will as it correlates with Divine Will, and also spirit over the physical (as in the Strength card: notice the white tunic adorned with roses, as well as the lion being the color red). The use of roses and lilies is a recurring theme throughout the deck.

Crossed Keys: The silver and gold crossed keys indicate again the duality of moon and sun (also applicable to gold and silver in alchemy). The X shape is also found (four times) at the feet of the Hierophant. This could be one of many Egyptian symbols that adorn the major arcana. Read more about the symbol of X

X: The Gebo rune in the Elder Futhark

is strikingly similar to the concept of the Hierophant. In Taking Up The Runes, Diana L. Paxson states: "... the primary meaning of this rune is exchange. This includes giving, sharing, receiving power; psychic joining of two or more people to rcreate a physical or magical result or exchange between gods and humanity... it may also involve sacrifice (including self-sacrifice)."

Heimdallr brings forth the gift of the gods to the humans - Nils Asplund

(Note: There are some archetypal correspondences of Heimdallr to the Hierophant which may be coincidental, namely that he governs the spaces in-between gods and humans, and is said to have keen hearing (also an attribute of the Hierophant, associated with ability to listen to one's inner voice/truth). However, I find uncanny correlations in meaning in the Elder Futhark as they appear also in the major arcana, the suggestion being that both systems hold the key to development of higher consciousness, according to natural Law.

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What are some key words and images that come to mind when you think of The Emperor?

Write these down if it helps acquaint you with the concept.

How I think of it:

I prefer not to think of the cards in terms of good or bad, positive and negative. Sometimes they can be warnings, like STOP signs, and sometimes they can be predictors, or GO signs.


The Emperor is the male counterpart to the Empress, and relates in the same way to the Magician the Empress relates to the High Priestess. If we put the one and two side by side, and below we have three and four, we see that diagonally connecting them (one and four, and two and three) yields the shape of an X, indicating the fifth key from the first four. Visually, X represents the chalice or cup (above) and the point of the wands suit, or phallus (below). The X is also emblematic of the Hierophant sporting X's at his feet and crossed keys. X also marks the spot, denoting four points which create a square, a classical representation of a foundation. Thus, the first four arcana are the foundation of magical work, in tandem with the foundation of the Universe.

The Emperor may indicate an actual leader or a personification of law, but more generally he represents that immaterial components are in place to begin the karmic process on the physical plane. What has been imagined and desired is becoming a reality. If an individual has graduated from school, created a vision board, or has simply harbored a strong intention for some time now, seeing the Emperor means hard work done in the realm of imagination has become a physical reality. In other words, the Empress sows and the Emperor reaps.


The Emperor represents positive manifestation only when one's actions align with a sense of order. Things become a bit more complex with this notion. the Lovers, key six, is the balance between the conscious and unconscious realms— self-consciousness in which we are fully aware of our divine potential and are supported by Universal Love. Once we attain this awareness, the Chariot represents our ability to navigate the forces of creation and destruction— the in and out breath of the Universe within our own lungs, and the Buddhist assertion that the only constant in life is change. The Chariot represents that we are masters of our own reality, and through utilization of willpower or qi, we choose the life we wish to live.

In this sense, the Emperor is the emergent consciousness surfacing from the realm of the unconscious (subconscious). If what we manifest in our physical realities is not in line with the Emperor's intentions, or the Grand Architect, as we may call him, our paths will constantly be rectified by destruction to maintain balance in the grand scheme. We have not yet reached the Chariot. If we constantly defy movement toward Justice, the lightening bolt in the Tower card will implement destruction of the divergence and order will attempt to begin again.

Psychologically, memory, imagination (including fears and wishes), and dreams are not merely stored in the brain, they are stored within the body. The body is the vehicle for the messages of the unconcious realm. We must pay attention to our incarnate existence: pains, behaviors, and repeating patterns seemingly out of our control (the Devil card may appear in a reading to indicate areas of attention in this respect). These are not things to stop; they are things to be listened to. Any indication of upset is the Universe telling us to steer in a different direction. Whether we are drawn to toxic relationships, continue to self-sabotage, or act out of fear, the consequences are never desirable. We may even somatize unaddressed stress, trauma and emotions. The consequences of acting unconsciously are lightning bolts attempting to shift us back into balance by giving us an opportunity to rebuild.

Think of a building that was started without blue prints, built by someone not consciously skilled in the work. The foundation is poor, and the way it is "organized" is erratic. To make use of the material, the building must be struck down and rebuilt.

Applying this to a person, this is why many saints previously lived a debaucherous lifestyle before finding a connection with the divine. If someone does not achieve this balance in their lifetime, karma will see them born again until they reach the stage of Justice, or Justification prior to the beginning of another cycle.

To emphasize, I do not use the term divine in a religious sense, but rather to represent the ultimate power of the Universe, not higher than us, but higher within us.

Paul Foster Case states: "Psychologically, therefore, (the Emperor) represents the self-consciousness of man, when its activities are engaged in the superficial interpretation of experience are overthrown. He is the definer, the lawgiver, the regulator. He is the mental activity in human personality. He frames the constitution of your personal world."

The Number 4:

It’s impossible to discuss the Emperor in a numerical context without mentioning the inner journey I’ve traveled while in contemplation of this fourth tarot key. The number 444 has been relentless in its appearance these past two years, and while I never knew what it meant, I decided it was a sign indicating a higher guide. When I see it, I feel like a glorious glowing fractal into the grand design. A reminder that while I am an intrinsic piece of the puzzle, as we all are– I am merely a piece of the puzzle.

My understanding of this synchronicity has recently increased. The personal gnosis received associated with the number four is truly unprecedented in my life. In fact, many synchronicities and insights have arisen in conjunction with contemplating and writing on the Major Arcana (literally meaning “powerful secret”) in general. What started off as an intended academic pursuit to better retain the card meanings, proved to be a mystical one instead. As Paul Foster Case and predecessor, Eliphas Levi, mention, the cards are a pictorial manuscript containing Universal Knowledge.

What I seek is a natural connection between magic and science. I have treaded this path carefully in order to convey my thought process in writing, yet the message is still phenomenological in nature. My insights should be considered with wonder, not taken as facts. There are days in which I do not believe in anything I hold to be true, and of utmost importance to me is Netflix and chill— and pizza (I recommend Dark, btw). But belief has little to do with Truth, and is a function of ego. It is ultimately inconsequential to the whole of existence. It is not necessary for magic, or prayer or opening a tight jar of salsa to work. There are a myriad of other factors in play.

My discovery has to do with the fourth dimension and the “Advent of Time”, which emerges instantaneously from the birth of the physical realm beginning with the Emperor (I utilize quotes because Time is not actually time as we know it, and as we will see— there is no true beginning to it). This is potentially reflected in Paul Foster Case’s concept of the Cube of Space in tarot. He relates his revelation of the cube to the Sefer Yetzirah in Jewish theology.

The Cube of Space could be an insight into the existence of the fourth dimension as well. It is also mildly similar to the geometric representation of a Tesseract. It is important to keep in mind that The Cube of Space is personal gnosis specific to Paul Foster Case, which is now a part of tarot mythology, and should not be considered as evidenced historical fact. I feel the same about Eliphas Levi’s mystical interpretation of tarot. It seems that he and the former have received profound insight from the cards, but I do not think that this means tarot itself physically dates back to Egyptian times.

What we are getting at here is not a literal historical connection via an ancient root race, or alien intervention, but the fact that we, as potential Hierophants, harbor the secret knowledge manifested in the tarot. This knowledge is accessible by ascending beyond our physical bodies in the fashion of Christ Consciousness, or the rising of Osiris. Pictures are the language of the unconscious realm; it makes sense that similar symbols would arise naturally in different spiritual systems. Essentially, the “Whole” or the Universe is communicating through them, which makes personal gnosis of the utmost important.

The Cube of Space as it relates to tarot and the twenty two paths of the Qabala

Depictions of 2D, 3D and 4D. The fourth dimension is theorized to be related to Time.

With the Emperor, the next three keys populate: The Hierophant, The Lovers and the Chariot. All seven keys combined (seven— a divine number) create the physical world. Remember, on the seventh day in creation, God rested. The physical world cannot exist without time and change. Thus, life and death are natural consequences of Malkuth. Although I had gleaned, while meditating on the High Priestess, that there are no real numbers and only implied rates of change, I now understand this notion on a much deeper level. The human mind is limited by third dimension perception where time only appears to be linear. Numbers are merely differentiated from one another for constructive purposes, but in fact they are all relative to each other. When we really think about it, the lines blur, and numbers take on meaning only as they relate to one another. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that something (1) emerges from nothing (0) in the same way it is sensible that two emerges from one.

Points and The Hourglass

In the back of our mind, we will keep the correspondences loosely with the Qabala. However, the focus is the first eight tarot keys emerging from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries whereas the major arcana were associated with the twenty two paths in the nineteenth century.

I had the inclination to explore the keys as points associated with events. Doing this allowed me to visualize exactly what the keys meant. The Magician was a single point, and combined with the High Priestess, a line was created. The relation of one point with another does indeed create a path which eventually forms the shape of the fabric of the Universe (abstractly speaking), and uncannily— the infinity symbol (the figure eight) and a perfect hourglass (when drawn).

Depiction of how I visualized the first 7 and emergent 8th tarot key— forming an hourglass (with notes from consequent research).

The first three keys create a triangle. However, this is a triangle in the second dimension. It remains flat, meaning that it is not yet material as we know it in the physical world. It floats within the womb of the divine feminine.

Something wasn’t right with my approach. I appointed the Magician as a pinnacle, with the High Priestess and Empress descendant from him. Visualizing it this way, The Emperor would then become a fourth point forming the base of a bottom tetrahedron. This was a fantastic discovery. During my meditations, I kept visualizing what looked like a peace sign inside of a two dimensional triangle. In continued contemplation of the Emperor, I eventually made the connection. It was the two dimensional representation of a three dimensional tetrahedron!

In my conclusion, the Emperor formed the base of the physical world. Excited, I mentioned this insight to my husband. He thought it was interesting I learned this through insight, and informed me that similarly, Lon Milo Duquette places the Emperor atop the physical world. Aha! He is NOT the cornerstone of the foundation as I was visualizing him, but rather ruler of the foundational Kingdom— a monarch seated in his throne at the apex of the material realm. My mistake was making the Magician the pinnacle. I corrected this in my visualization so that now the High Priestess takes her seat next to the Magician, with the Empress creating the third point in the heavens: the triangular base of an upside down tetrahedron. The Emperor then fell into place— the heart between Above and Below. I know was able to visualize Above as the shape of a cup appropriately indicating the divine feminine.

While the Emperor is now at the bottom of the reverse tetrahedron, he is now also atop the next three keys, The Hierophant, indicating Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, representing adepthood (rather than priesthood) that we can all attain, The Lovers, being the liaison between the conscious and unconscious realms which microcosmically connect the known (physical world) with the unknown (heavens or immaterial realms), and the Chariot. The Chariot is particularly interesting because it represents quite blatantly navigation of the Yin Yang, and shows up in many myths, including Egypt and the Far East, symbols of which are employed in the RWS. The Chariot also completes the form of the hourglass, after we connect and create all the vertical lines in place, of which there are three. Later incarnations of the hourglass are depicted with three, not four poles, creating an obvious triangle from an aerial perspective.

The eighth key, Strength, is automatically indicated in the first seven. We see on the Strength card an infinity symbol. The hourglass itself, from the placement of the first seven, creates an infinity symbol (the number eight) suggesting that eight emerges from the first seven. Eight is four times two (as above so below). Strength is similar to the Chariot. Once we can understand or navigate the qi, the flow of Yin Yang in the Universe, we can overcome our physical vices and/or inclinations.

One of the first tarot decks is the Cary Yale Visconti deck, which emerged around the same century (or thereafter) of one of the earliest depictions of the hourglass in an allegorical painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The hourglass is held by Temperance— an alchemical symbol. As we see in this series of painting on government, other tarot archetypes also appear, including Security (Strength), who holds an image of a blindfolded hanged man, the Tyrant (Devil) and Justice, bound by the Tyrant in the Effects of Bad Government. Furthermore, Securitas also holds a flag stating:

Without fear every man may travel freely

and each may till and sow,

so long as this commune

shall maintain this lady sovereign,

for he [the commune] has stripped the wicked of all power

Effects of Bad Government in the City: Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1338/1339

Allegory of Good Government: Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1338/1339

This phrase quite accurately represents the visual meaning/depiction of the Strength card. The red lion represents the Devil, and one could say that the woman in the Strength card is actually Justice. Furthermore, in this painting itself, some interpret “Securitas/Security” which is synonymous with Strength, to actually be Justice herself.

In another Italian painting “North Italian Illumination” (dated 1459) the Hermit (key nine, emerging from Strength) holds an hourglass, not a lantern, and in the background in the sky we see The Chariot. In the Cary Yale Visconti deck, the Hermit is also holding an hourglass. The hourglass symbolism is congruent with archetypes known in Italian culture. Furthermore, the tarot has clearly retained its potentially original Christian symbolism, dating back to the Cary Yale Visconti deck. This may represent the hidden meaning of biblical allegories which harbor esoteric truths. In this respect, Eliphas Levi and Paul Foster Case were not wrong in their symbolic applications in later years, in the same way it is not wrong to relate this information to modern scientific discovery, or its potential relationship with the hourglass.

In Paul Foster Case’s application of the tarot onto the Cube of Space, the Hermit is in the Northern face. This also aligns with Masonic tradition:

“The direction North is also of great importance in the rituals of Freemasonry, for the North symbolized that which is unknown. The general shape of the lodge room used in Masonic ritual work is oblong. The North is symbolized by an empty, open post of this oblong, shrouded in darkness. Correspondingly, on the Masonic altar are three great lights, or candles…” (David Allen Hulse, New Dimensions for the Cube of Space)

The title Itself, North Italian Illumination suggests sparking the darkness of the Northern spiritual journey with one’s own inner flame lit by knowledge.

Prior to knowing the significance of the North, after taking a hike (IRL) where I’d seen two loons (loons represent dreams and the unconscious), I dreamt I was passing a lake or river of countless loons. There was hesitancy in traveling further North, but I trekked on, although at the point I decided to continue, I awoke.

North Italian Illumination 1459

Hermit: Cary-Yale Visconti tarot: ~1447

A Dream and Sacred Geometry

The Emperor lies in the middle between past and future. He is the present. He is the connection between as above and so below, and is the emergent karma from causality existing in the above. The sand in the hourglass and its usage indicates that the meaning behind the first seven keys, how they come together to form time. The hourglass is oddly similar to a light cone. I explain all of this in our current conception of linear time, which is incorrect, but necessary for conceptualization. Is this why all of this information seemed to populate in my mind? With the appearance of the Emperor in my thought field, did “Below” instantly reflect from the work I had done in contemplating the components of “Above”?

As I looked into scientific concepts relating geometry to time, I discovered a potential alignment with the symbolism in the first seven/emergent eighth keys. Rudolf Steiner suggests that in the fourth dimension things are reversed and they cast three-dimensional shadows. In a light cone, where the cones between past and present meet, exists the present. The present creates a plane of four directions. As soon as the sands of time pass through the midpoint of an hourglass, they become the past. While they remain in the Above, they are the future. Thus, the plane created by the meeting point of past and future is the present (a light cone). Many ancient symbols look like an hourglass which both looks like and transmits the same implications as a light cone; a light cone potentially reflects the totality of existence. There are examples listed below, all representing the same concept, pointing toward the divine feminine in which all knowledge is sourced. Interestingly enough, in the RWS deck, the hourglass has been replaced by a lantern, indicating the connection between light and time.

Light Cone

RWS Hermit with lantern (enclosing the six-pointed star which the mergence of the two triangles indicating Above and Below)


Now it is necessary to mention a dream I had, which propelled me further in this discovery. Perhaps I continued my venture North while in waking life! The dream was followed by a plethora of synchronicities.

The dream, which I had while meditating upon the High Priestess, I came to discover was about the Clifford Torus.

I did not know what the form was when I had the dream and I had tried to Google search it in vain. Ironically enough, a few days after this dream, I decide to watch a movie called Buster’s Mal Heart, a dark comedy which addresses the concept of multiple realties within the same time frame; the underlying theme is a madman’s obsession with what he calls the “double asshole theory.” Even in researching this film, I could not find a scientific correspondent to the form depicted in the movie.

By happenstance, I was compelled to order a book on sacred geometry, and this is where I discovered the Clifford Torus. In modern science, it is thought to be the immaterial form of the Universe. Hmm. Maybe this is why I love donuts so much? A cross section of this is the vesica piscis (the torus in two dimensional form) which has been around for centuries previous to the torus theory. Another delightful synchronicity was finding a youtube animation of a double torus creating the Yin Yang (which I highly recommend watching). Time flows like a breath within this geometrical form.

The vesica piscis (cross section of the torus) symbol represents the divine feminine. This is the same shape as the Ichthys, or “Jesus fish”. But doesn’t the meaning of “Ichthys” itself represent Jesus, the son of a masculine God? Not if we simply consider that the biblical form of God may actually be feminine. If this is a symbol of the divine feminine from which all originated, I wondered— where was the divine masculine, aside from the obelisk representing the phallus?

The entire physical world, ruled by the Emperor, is masculine. If the reversed tetrahedron shape, a cup, represents the womb, then a three sided pyramid in the physical realm is a phallic. A thought occurred to me: could this be why the Western world is currently existing in a patriarchy? Since things must be proven according to Newtonian science, are we are leaving out, completely, the role of the divine feminine? Of Quantum physics?

Utilizing the feminine power of intuition and imagination could advance us considerably toward a state of unification rather than division symbolized by the Devil: the division between masculine and feminine each separately bound to the Devil with chains. The reader sees the Devil sitting upon a two dimensional rectangle (focus in the physical realm without consideration of the Whole), rather than the three dimensional cube the Emperor rests upon in the BOTA depiction (as David Allen Hulse mentions), while The Lovers is unification of the two under God.

The divine feminine is also the essence of magical work.

My dream torus

Dream torus in motion

Real torus (animated)

Vesica Piscis

Sheela Na Gig: Vesica Piscis depiction

Christ inside the center of Vesica Piscis

Relation to the Human Body

As mentioned previously, the Vitruvian Man (1490) is a representation of the biblical assertion that we are created in the image and likeness of God— a microcosm of the divine. The human embryo forms a mouth at FOUR weeks, and a sphincter at EIGHT weeks. We begin our forms as a torus! We could in fact, scientifically be formed in the image and likeness of the divine!

In the dream, the ebb and flow of the energy within the center of the torus happened simultaneously, where both holes in the original sphere were impressed and met at the middle. As you can see in the images below, the empty space within the torus is shaped as an hourglass. As the energy in the middle met, the outer form of the sphere parted, and the structure formed what looked like an apple core. Within the dream, I had the thought that this was relevant to implosion, or what is talked about in The Secret Doctrine, an in-breath of the Universe. This is also the secret of meditation. Our breaths literally reflect the breath of creation. We understand this to be true, but here is the potential “science” behind it. The concept of Root Lock in meditation employs the perineum muscle between the anus and genitals to activate kundalini. With this consideration, we have another cultural representation of this facet of innate knowledge.

Human Embryo Development

All Really Is One

Here is where it gets trippy! If time is not linear, it is necessary to consider that the reverse is also true, thus indicating the paradox of existence. One is able to flip an hour glass upside down for a reason. The past, present and future exist simultaneously. We have created the cosmos in the image and likeness of man. Here we understand the notion that man is in fact God, and vice versa. To consider only one and not the other limits understanding of the Yin Yang, and prevents us from acquiring the ability to navigate the Chariot. This is what is meant by “All is one”, rather than a profane connectivity between all things, or a unified humanity.

In the past, I grappled with the idea that separatedness is an illusion, a Buddhist perspective, and instead I personally held it to be true that things were both separate and not. However, I now understand that separateness truly is an illusion. It is an illusion that perseveres because it is how things appear to us, and we must move through this illusion to literally get to the heart of matter! Or, erm— the Emperor, and all that he can unlock!

So, what came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is: Both! This illusion is also relative to the saying, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.”

(I would like to note that in discussing the mergence and separation of masculine and feminine, this is not meant to perpetuate heteronormative culture, and refers only to physical biology of creation outside of the imposition of cultural morals. This is irrelevant to individual gender expressions or sexual preference, which should be respected and accepted unconditionally. The way I look at it, accepting masculine and feminine energy as two parts of a whole, merging in myth to form the the holy androgyne, supports homosexuality, bisexuality, and all gender expressions. We harbor these energies within us at all times.)

Kuan Yin: "The one who perceives the sound of the world" (Notice the Vesica Piscis/vaginal shape of this particular depiction.)

Labrys: Minoan Double Axe: "In ancient Crete, the double axe was an important sacred symbol of the supposed Minoan religion. In Crete the double axe only accompanies female goddesses, never male gods. It seems that it was the symbol of the arche of the creation (Mater-arche)." - Wikipedia

Mere Dane: West African Adinkra symbol for time changes, looking simultaneously like a light cone, the torus (with two openings North and South) and the middle plane where exists the present. Also indicates the duality of light and darkness. Note: I am not sure what the actual symbol is meant to depict; these are my observations/associations.


Originally, and only a few weeks ago, I found the idea of the divine feminine much more alluring, as this I had thought was where all the answers lay, in the origins. This is the split between esotericism and religion. Esotericism always harbors the divine feminine, as it remains hidden in the immaterial womb. Religion is masculine, as it is manifest here, physically on Earth. The tip in either direction in the history of religion and the occult is not holistic. One continues to tip further, in the fashion off a see-saw, to balance out the other when what we seek to achieve is balance. We cannot hold this notion in our minds because in the third dimension which we perceive, time is in fact linear. From an evolutionary standpoint, we have not, as a species, been able to break down the paradigm of Newtonian physics. Essentially we are brainwashed into an imbalanced way of thinking. However, if we use the powers and potential of the divine feminine, an aspect of the fourth dimension which harbors dreams, visions, memory, imagination, we understand that we can easily visit the past in our present experience. Furthermore, we can perceive the inhabitants of immaterial realms as well, both existing inwardly in the microcosm, as the Hindu deities, and outwardly in the macrocosm.

The Emperor: Builders of the Adytum tarot

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What are some key words and images that come to mind when you think of The Empress?

Write these down if it helps acquaint you with the concept.

How I think of it:

I prefer not to think of the cards in terms of good or bad, positive and negative. Sometimes they can be warnings, like STOP signs, and sometimes they can be predictors, or GO signs.


Ah, The Empress. Let’s begin by discussing the painting that comes to mind, The Birth of Venus. Venus is the planet that rules the Empress. Thus, she represents love and beauty— albeit through the archetype of “mother”. Aphrodite, too, is represented by the Empress. But what’s love got to do with it? When we pair the major arcana it twos, we begin with The Fool/The Magician, and ensuing is The High Priestess/The Empress. Both the former archetypes are the energetic or immaterial equivalent of the latter. The Fool is the potential which manifests in The Magician. The High Priestess is the vessel for the subconscious, which is manifested here on Earth by the Empress. This triad, or triangle represents the Holy Trinity. It is the essence of karma. What stirs within the conscious (light) and unconscious (dark) mind becomes one’s physical reality.

The Empress is associated with Daleth on the Qabala, which means door or womb. The way I see this is the way I perceive life in general. If the Magician is light within the dark womb of the High Priestess, then the Empress is the combination of these two— yet, she is her own. Thus she is universal love, woven through all physical creation. She is not birth, as yet, but impregnation. If the High Priestess is the empty womb with which anything is possible, the Empress is the version of her which has conceived with the illuminating seed of the Magician. She is the Virgin Mary after to her visitation from the Holy Spirit.

The world of form (ruled by Mother Nature or Gaia, both Empress correlates) is the intermediary that bridges the worlds of light and shadow. Any artist knows that light and shadow create form. So it is with science, mentioning again the theory of E=MC2. This is the essence of such popular notions as “good” (light) and “evil” (darkness), which is also essentially why in Gnosticism the world of form is considered “evil” and is ruled by a malevolent archon, the first “thought”. Form, or shadow is a consequence of light. I believe it is incorrect to separate the two, and this is the fault of most mundane Christian beliefs. An interesting aside: When we consider the symbolism of this archon being the first “thought” of Sophia, we have a clue as to why much of the suit of swords seems filled with cards of anguish despite their corresponding numerology. But I digress, as this warrants its own post.

In reality, there is no good and evil, as these are judgments created by the human mind. The Empress is dual in nature and represents both folly, indicating disorganization, or wisdom, representing harmony— depending on what has been set into motion in the realm of Magician and the High Priestess. Often, when seeking guidance, we begin with the physical, starting our work in shadow which is specific to the realm of Malkuth, and ascend toward the top Sephiroth, finding the source of our disorganization which we experience as manifest here on Earth. Rarely does one come to a mentor or therapist knowing what causes their suffering. Rather, the nature of the suffering is identified and the process involves a healing journey toward the source. What is the maladaptive behavior, evident in the physical realm, that calls for investigation? This is often why we tend to repeat behaviors which are unhealthy for us. It is a communication that something needs to be addressed under the surface.

Interestingly enough, this reflects the cognitive behavioral triangle indicating the connection between thoughts, feelings and action. Simplistically, thoughts and feelings can be considered seeds of the magician which swim around in the womb of the High Priestess and dictate our actions, made manifest by the Empress. When we are conscious of our thoughts and feelings, we attain control and are able to direct them to our advantage. By doing this, we are truly embodying the magician, by directing our divine will internally to manifest positive actions (and, as a result, opportunities) rather than allowing the process to remain unconscious. Essentially, we are changing the karmic response. We can also work directly from the source through dreams, visions, and meditation. This will bring us insight as to what is directs our physical experience(s).

Most people we encounter on a day to day basis are dictated by this triad, without even realizing it. This contributes to the distress we are currently experiencing in the world.

When we take the typology of the idea of thirdness, it becomes much more than a triangle. It is not, one, plus one, plus one equals three. Rather, it is the succession of two, from one, which creates the third. Thus, in society at large, we have the concept of the other, in which all three energies are alive and interrelated. To quote Winnicot: “Between the mother who is physically holding the baby and the baby, there is a layer that we have to acknowledge which is an aspect of herself, and at the same time an aspect of the baby. It is mad to hold this view, and yet the view must be maintained.” -1988 p. 167

Thus, with all two party relationships exists the third. It with in this dimension the transference in psychoanalysis lives.

The Number 3

The idea of the Empress can be indicated as the precursor to birth, hence “door”. A baby is born, or rather conceived— meaning the physical form of an idea has begun to take shape. This is the beginning of a manifestation. As I had mentioned in the High Priestess entry, and recently alluded to, The Empress shares the same twelve star crown that early depictions of Mary wear. This indicates both her connection to the High Priestess, and to the divine mother who gives birth to Jesus, a combination of body and soul manifesting the divine on Earth. When we think of the Holy Trinity, the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, we are really seeing the divine light (The Magician), plus The Holy Spirit (The High Priestess) manifesting in the womb of the Empress (Jesus as manifestation). Both Jesus and Buddha represent the power we all have to be like them, hence, we can all be Buddhas and we can all attain Christ Consciousness. As you may have gleaned given previous entries, I find it fascinating that some of these symbols reflect inherent knowledge of our bodies organs (as I had mentioned previously about the male/female chromosomes). According to Paul Foster Case, creation ensues when the veil of the High Priestess is penetrated, much like the vaginal hymen, the breaking of which is necessary for procreation: “The veil between the pillars hints that the High priestess is virgo intacta… only when this veil is rent or penetrated by concentrated impulses originating at the self-conscious level may the creative activities of subconscious be released and actualized.” -1947 p. 52

The wheat symbolizes manifold existence. A seed has the blueprint inside of it for what it is to become, and yet— it is the same blueprint encased in many seeds of its kind, leading to multiple manifestations of this ONE design. Thoughts work in this way as well. It is this idea that informs such popular concepts promoted in “The Secret” or the “law of attraction.” Again, we only need to look within science and biology to see how this works. In thinking about the word “blueprint” consider the Three of Pentacles. Three figures are working together to bring to life the blueprint that the The Fool holds in his hand.

Much of this is reflected in a Neo-Platonic philosophy, which I invite you to familiarize yourself with (and draw your own conclusions!):


Careful, though! This does not mean the perfect and beautiful unconscious of the universe will always manifest for you. If you get the nine of swords followed by the Empress, it could mean that your fears and worries are dictating your reality. If you focus on what you don’t have in the subconscious (or what Psychoanalysis refers to as the unconscious), poverty will manifest.

In addition, the Empress may also denote too much fixation in the physical sense, at the expense of the High Priestess: Intuition. I choose not to read reversals (I prefer interpreting in the context of other cards), but this is potentially why a popular interpretation of the Empress reversed is an overbearing mother. If a mother uses her intuition, then it does not result in overfeeding, spoiling, or helicoptering. These things are done out of the fear of either not being a good enough mother, or fear of harming the child. This is an important concept in shadow work— Going inward to see what personal insecurities we have which we may be taking out on others (often without realizing our propensity to externalize). Smothering is another word for overprotecting, and is synonymous with suffocating. We are actually hurting our children when we our overbearing mothers, despite the behavior being the result of the very thing we fear! Now, your “child”, depending on your question, may be a work situation, a relationship, or your physical health. Ask yourself, whatever it is you need to take care of, are you nurturing in a balanced way? Are you listening to your gut, and willing to fix the foundation? Or are you focusing on patching up the exterior just to save face?

Try this activity:

Look at your tarot card, and determine what symbols in it resonate with you. If you are advanced, any tarot deck will do. If you're new to tarot, I suggest starting with a variant of the Rider Waite Smith.


Starry Crown - Twelve tribes of Israel, also the Zodiac (As above, so below). Astrology— the unalterable pattern of the cosmos within which we must exercise our free will.

Waterfall - The waterfall represents perpetual motion and abundance. Replenishment. If we personify Mother Nature into Gaia, this would be the sustenance that flows from her breasts. We need only to turn what is provided by nature for our survival. This also represents continual motion and change. Acceptance of change, the processes of the physical world, including life and death, leads to peace. We must accept that we cannot control our place in the ultimate design, yet know that we harbor the divinity to live a life of abundance and peace. The other day, I happened upon an old fortune I kept in my change box: “The situation is changeable, yet you cannot push the river.”

Vegetation - Lushness of the life all around us, sustained by the waterfall. Abundance.

Pomegranates - Reflective of the feminine symbol on her heart-shaped shield, the pomegranate represents, like the wheat, multiplicity. The Empress, according to Waite, is the “fruitful mother of thousands”. This is indicative of the cosmic womb or egg, within which things eventually populate. Paul Foster case states: “Psychologically, the Empress represents subconsciousness as the mother of ideas, the generatrix of mental images. The power by which she works is the power of subdividing seed-ideas, derived from self-consciousness. This is the power of deductive reasoning. The apparent multiplication of images is really the splitting-up of the seed-ideas into manifold presentations. This is symbolized by the multiplication of the original seed in the wheat-ears at her feet.” 1947 p. 61 (Note: “self-consciousness” refers to the Magician.)

Scepter - The Empress holds a scepter with a sphere, which is feminine. Think of the pointed wand of the Magician, which is phallic. A sphere does not penetrate, but can be penetrated.

Shield - Representative of Venus and what it symbolizes. A shield shaped like a heart bearing this symbol represents the Empress’s protective, motherly nature.

Instead of an image I will share with you a vision I had which reminds me of the Empress, and represents all that is discussed within this entry. I came into a mindset of healing when I envisioned the Earth as a goddess itself (Gaia), yet she was on her knees— a position of desperation, and her expression and energy were that of pain and anguish. She was in a cycle of addiction. Though her presence was inherently and visually beautiful, due to an unidentified flaw, her hands had morphed into war, famine, disease and suffering. This was the "food" with which she fed herself, and as she consumed this decay, her body began to lose its beauty. I realized that all that is unhealthy within each of us contributes to the imbalance that is currently destroying the Earth. I choose not to elaborate on this philosophically, as I also hold the belief that while we are in a state of chaos—hence change, the process will naturally rectify itself despite our agency. However, we have the freedom to direct our Will in one direction or the other, contributing to the imbalance, or contributing to equilibrium via deliberate action. Thus, we can sustain the life of the Earth as our home, or we can contribute toward it's ultimate annihilation. Both will eventually create order in the Universe, yet it can either be achieved through healing and regeneration or death. Right now, to balance the excessive destructive energy, we must choose love. We must choose the natural state of the Empress.

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