Wheel of Change Tarot ~ Tarot Tree Level Five


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Wheel of Change Tarot ~ Tarot Tree Level Five


This level is an echo of the third level, where we saw the Goddess in her triple form. Here she is expanded, loosely, to show the “five stages of womanhood”, as discussed at length by Genetti. It can be seen that Judgement and Strength are expressed in The Star, The Empress is the Earthly form of The World, and The High Priestess and Death unite in The Moon.

These five cards express a cycle, as seen in the sunrise in both the Death and Judgement cards, and show the powerful facets of women of all ages the world over.

\m/ Kat
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Judgement


As the first card in this Level, this card represents Birth. Although the sun could be either rising or setting, there in the background, there is that about the card that makes me certain it is rising. The green of the Goddess’s body has a distinct feeling of newness and emergence. The Sun itself, says Genetti, represents both head and heart, and the consciousness and warmth that they bring. Together, this gives an enlightened way of seeing, and, combined with the dawn imagery, advocates leaving pre-judgements and expectations behind to allow for a totally new view of something or someone. When I look at this card, I hear in my head the word “paradigm” whispering insistently.

The child is born upright, fully-formed, its eyes open. This child is us. Its posture is a joyful shout – arms raised, eyes forward, back straight, legs poised to launch into a new life. Although the card’s message could be seen as being reproachful, yet this image gives it a gentle, hopeful, exciting tone. It is a promise anew, that if one person is willing to succumb to renewal, paradise awaits. For paradise is here, and now. It is only our own limitations that stop us from knowing that.

\m/ Kat
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Strength


See the individual post on Stength here.

\m/ Kat
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The Empress


A fecund woman at the prime of her life sits on an island int eh middle of two streams of a river. The island’s shape recalls the female genitalia and the flowing water suggests femininity itself. The two streams represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the cradle of civilisation. In this way, The Empress represents tradition and ancient heritage, and its ability to remain ever relevant and new in a changing world. She therefore represents change and adaptation through fluidity.

The form of the land around and behind her suggests a woman’s pregnant body, as viewed from between the knees, with the yoni, swollen belly then the breasts in the background. She is the picture of the pregnant, fertile world, with flowering and fruiting trees, breasts heavy with sustenance, the growing plants giving up their seed for human food.

The hill at the centre rises toward the Moon and carries a spiralling road upon it. The spiral recalls the journey of life, as one moves outward from the centre of one’s birth, in ever-increasing circles as one’s world grows wider, till the spiral ends with Death, to be reborn. One side of the hill is green, the other browning in late summer. The green side reflects the two cards that come before it, with sunrise in Judgement, noon in Strength and here we find ourselves in late afternoon. The sky darkens and the year wanes as we find ourselves moving toward the nighttime of a woman’s life.

The cut apple the Empress holds is a symbol of the Goddess, bearing as it does the five-pointed star deep within. Because of this, the apple has been long associated with fertility goddesses, especially Aphrodite/Venus. It is a promise, the promise of new life in every fruit. The fruit is the Empress’ body, holding within it the potential for a tiny plant to rise up and become a towering, fruitful tree like the ones behind the Empress in the card. The basket of eggs, likewise, represents promise and potent strength to sustain life. Eggs, a rich source of protein, are valued food items in many cultures where other protein foods are harder to come by. The magic of the egg, where the tiny bird emerges from within the shell, echoes the womb of the Goddess and the Empress, where life is nurtured until it is strong enough to emerge into the wider world.

\m/ Kat
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The High Priestess


The sky here is black, the stars shining audaciously, because the daytime of the woman’s life is passed and she wanders, following her Soul, in her own inner darkness. It is in the later part of life we learn the courage to face this kind of darkness, and learn its lessons without fear or lasting damage. The knowledge gained throughout life has “added up”, as it were, so now this lady finds herself in possession of the ability to seek wisdom – the two are separate entities, though related. The owl, her familiar, is the herald of passing-over; she is able to pass beyond the veil at will. The willow trees picture link her to water, the traditional element of womanhood. The trees are barren-looking, because it is not a time for growing, but for staying still and looking within.

Above her, the Moon is shown pointing downwards because she is no longer a vessel in the sense that the Empress is. Her life, as represented by the whole Moon, is more obscured than not, and the thin sliver of brightness left is shrinking. She is clothed in black and blue, crone colours of wisdom, healing and inner seeking, and cradles a basket of the Goddess’ vowels (for a great description of this symbolism, see Genetti’s discussion of the Five of Swords). They are inscribed on five-pointed stars, linking the High Priestess to the Empress before her.

Like Samson, she wears her hair long; it is braided to symbolise her control over her strength, and her tendency to keep it close and only share it with those she considers truly worthy. The two braids represent the inner and outer selves; two kinds of wisdom that balance each other out. She is equally wise in both areas of life. Above her head we see a spider’s web, linking this card to the Eight of Disks and hence to Winter, inner journeying and self-knowledge.

\m/ Kat
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Death


This card shows the traditional skeleton of the Tarot at what is presumably sunset – but in the context of this Level of the Tarot Tree, I prefer to see it as sunrise, as the sun begins to brighten the sky with its glory prior to bursting above the horizon in the Judgement card. For this Level is a cycle, not a discrete line that has a beginning and an ending.

The skeleton’s great scythe recalls the Moon from the last card, now become a sharp blade for harvesting. It is also reminiscent of the suit of Swords, the blade that separates one from another. Separation and ending is often painful, but necessary. The pure white shroud, spiralling upwards about the skeleton, represents a new beginning, Death itself (the Chinese culture holds white as the colour of Death) and the free spirit, moving upward and away from the corporeal.

The skeleton stands before her latest victim, seemingly dancing among wild roses. The roses each bear five petals in the traditional Goddess symbolism, and with their thorns and sour-sweet perfume they are an apt representation of the bittersweetness of an ending giving way to a beginning. Birds of prey soar in the canyon beyond the skeleton, waiting to fulfil their role in the cycle. The newly dead person lies at peace at the bottom right of the image – the hair lays out and the body seems to melt into the ground. Our physical bodies are made up of atoms and molecules that have been recycled throughout different life-forms for billions of years, and upon our physical deaths, those atoms will again be released to enter another life form. It is a self-cleansing of the world.

The body’s Soul already moves away in the ferryboat, not looking back but forward across the River. No grief is felt for the loss of the old life – a new one awaits. Hence the great beauty of this card – Death, of a person or a way of life, is sad and painful and frightening, and yet creates possibilities in many unfathomable ways.

\m/ Kat
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