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Tarot cards as masculine and feminine

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 18 Jun 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.

lili  18 Jun 2002 
I was reading in a book about the categories of male and female or masculne and feminine runing throughout the tarot, the book talks about the use of sexual symbolism in tarot derives from the ancient belief that everything in creation is either masculine or feminine, or is produced from either a union or a conflict between the two. For instance in this book talks about the 4 suits of the minor arcana marked by symbols wich represent male and female sexual organs- Wands and Swords are phallic symbols and Cups and Discs are womb symbols. Wands and Swords regarded as masculine suits while Cups and Discs are feminine suits, the book show how in the mjaor arcana most of the cards have either a male or female figure and many of these representing the different aspects of what are known as the masculine and feminine principle wich it is describe as very opposite. any opinions? 

Thirteen  18 Jun 2002 
I think the masculine/feminine split on *most* of the cards is pretty self-evident. Tarot cards have a lot of old-fashioned, pagan symbolism (thanks to the Golden Dawn folk), and this means that there is a strong god/goddess feel to them--i.e., the idea that there isn't "one" male god, but rather a god and a goddess whose love and sexual interaction creates and reflects, well, everything. The two are different but absolutely equal, as opposed, to say, spiritual paths where the female is complete submerged (only phallic symbols exist) or rendered negative (there are female symbols but they're all considered bad). Or where sex and gender are rendered neutral.

Of course swords and wands are "masculine" (phallic) and cups/disks "feminine." Even what they represent, they following the western view of what is masculine (air/fire--male) and feminine (water/earth--female). The intellect/energy vs. the emotional/body.

If I have any objection to this it's that it's pretty cliché, old fashioned, and not necessarily valid.

As for the majors, while there are some male/female cards (Empress/Emperor), there are also cards that emphasize balancing or merging the two. Such as Temperance. Several cards, though they may seem to have male/female figures, actually have (or should have) androgenous figures. For example, The World where the dancer always looks female, but is traditonally considered androgenous. 

Liliana  18 Jun 2002 
I guess Ive always automatically thought this way, never considered others might not think of this.

Earth (pentacles) and water (cups) are fertile and produce life so i always considered them female

Fire (wands) and Air (swords) are more forces that act upon something else and the symols themselves are very representative of male genitalia (in magick workings wands are often supposed to be shaped this way, and in the great rite the knife is dipped in the chalice to represent sexual union) So theyve always been male

But I dont consider the sex of the majors fixed,a male can embody the Empress, but I doubt a card could be designed successfully with a male on the Empress. We all have male and female traits inside that can be expressed. Some decks even switch traditional roles,like the male Temperance in World Spirit or the male Star in Connolley. Seeing the roles reversed seems strange at first, but it gives you something to think about.


emily2otters  18 Jun 2002 
thirteen wrote:

which i would have written, had i been as articulate. ;)

my most easily recognized emotion when thinking about tarot's m/f symbolism is boredom. didn't we settle these questions back in the seventies? 

lili  18 Jun 2002 
The idea here is that qualitys pertaining to both male and female can be manifested within each person, relationship, and situation, both forces being equal and complementary to one another it is wrong to think as one being superior or better than the other, the notion about superiority and inferiority is completely alien to the philosofy of the tarot. 

The Tarot cards as masculine and feminine thread was originally posted on 18 Jun 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the active threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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