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Tarot and the Sign Aquarius
By Anthony Louis
The Bearer of
On January 20, the Sun begins its month-long journey through Aquarius, the sign of the zodiac assigned to the star trump of the tarot. The sign Aquarius has both a traditional ruler, Saturn, which is associated with the final tarot trump, the world, and a modern ruler, Uranus, linked to the initial card of the tarot, the fool. The sign Aquarius belongs to the element air, and the tarot’s air suit of swords illustrates typical scenes related to intellect, communication, logic, decision-making and overcoming adversity.
The symbolism of Saturn and the tarot’s world card was discussed in a previous article about Capricorn (December 21–January 19) and the tarot. This month we focus on Uranus and the sign Aquarius.
Aquarius (Latin for “bearer”) is the eleventh sign of the zodiac. Astrology originated in the area of the Fertile Crescent, where the rising of the constellation Aquarius after sunset (which produced a Full Moon in Aquarius) coincided with a rainy period that often brought floods, turning the earth in that region into a veritable “aquarium.” Unlike the waters of the lakes, rivers and oceans, which are associated with the water signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, the waters of Aquarius descend to the Earth from the heavens.
The ancient symbol for Aquarius was the image of a man (Ouranos) pouring overturned urns of water from the heavens onto the Earth below. Ouranos was the original sky god who controlled all heavenly phenomena including the air, the winds and the rain-bearing clouds. Despite the connection of Aquarius with rain, ancient Greek astrologers regarded Aquarius as an air sign because of its symbolic connection with the winds as well as its geometric relationship with the other two air signs, Gemini and Libra, with which it forms the aspect of a trine.
The Sun reached its lowest point at the Winter Solstice on December 21, the start of Capricorn, and from there began its ascent back from the underworld. The re-emergence of the Sun from its dark night of the soul corresponds to the myth of Persephone’s release by Hades from the underworld to rejoin her mother above. Demeter (the Roman Ceres, the goddess of grain) was so delighted to regain her daughter that she put an end to the barrenness of ceaseless winter. The rains of Aquarius, the water bearer, are a gift from the gods that restore life to a dying planet and assure the continuance of the human race.
Aquarius and Baptismal Water
In the ritual of baptism, both Judaism and Christianity adopted the symbolism of Aquarius, whose water brought forth the emergence of new life. The water of baptism frees believers from the darkness of original sin, puts an end to spiritual barrenness and initiates the faithful into a new life of the spirit. The connection between Aquarius, with its life-restoring water, and the tarot’s star trump makes this card one of tremendous optimism and hope for the future.
The Star and the Fool Cards of the Tarot
The Rider-Waite-Smith star card, numbered seventeen, depicts a naked maiden with one foot on the earth and the other foot in a body of water. In each hand she holds an overturned jug from which water flows to the earth below, an ancient symbol for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius, the water bearer.
The fool trump, numbered zero, is the first card of the major arcana. The Rider-Waite-Smith version depicts a young man staring toward heaven as he stands at the edge of a precipice, his small dog yapping at his feet. The fool represents the novice who is about to embark on a spiritual journey. The tradition of the Golden Dawn assigns the tarot’s fool trump to the planet Uranus.
Uranus (the Greek Ouranos) was the first child of Gaia (Mother Earth). As the original sky god, Ouranos became the first heavenly father when he poured water in the form of rain onto his mother earth below so that she would flourish with plant life. Ouranos also impregnated his mother to produce the first race of gods that ruled over mankind. Only when Ouranos became a tyrant did his mother plot with their son Cronos (Saturn) to wrest power from his father Ouranos by castrating him with a sickle.
Tarot Meditations While the Sun is in Aquarius
The period when the Sun through Aquarius is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s star, fool and world cards, as well as the suit of swords of the minor arcana. Consider your own spiritual journey and where you need the winds of Aquarius to blow and the healing waters of Aquarius to flow in your life.
To prepare for meditation, sit or lie in a comfortable place and allow your body to be free of tension and distractions. Pay attention to your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out as you inhale and exhale. If distracting thoughts enter your mind, simply observe them and allow them to float by as you gently return your attention to your breathing. When you have established a steady, comfortable rhythm of breathing rhythmically in and out, turn your focus to the tarot card you have selected for meditation.
Observe the card and contemplate its images. Imagine yourself as a character or element in the card. In your mind’s eye, enter the card and become part of its scene. What are you thinking and feeling? What questions are you asking of the other characters in the card? What do they expect of you? What is the story that underlines the scene on the card? How does that story relate to your own life? Take your time playing out the story as if you were in a dream. When you have completed your meditation, you may wish to record your observations in a tarot notebook for review later on.
If you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some books you may find useful.
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element Books.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing
Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser Publications.
Tarot Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.
Tarot Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn Publications.
The traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards (greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56 minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and published by Rider in 1910.
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