Monday, January 25, 2010

Tarot Trumps and the 22 Stages of the Cycle of the Hero

I am going to be presenting a workshop at Pantheacon 2010 about how the Tarot trumps match up with the 22 Stages of the Cycle of the Hero. I thought that I would present my ideas here for you to examine and ponder. I have been doing this for many years, and it still seems to work quite well.

Joseph Campbell’s book “Hero with a Thousand Faces” - is an examination of the mythic and literary Hero’s Journey. In his version, there are 22 stages and four sections to this cyclic journey. It has the psychological quality and mythic motif of a journey into and out of the underworld, the domain of the unconscious mind. (I read this book back while attending college, probably around 32 years ago.)

Curiously enough, the number of stages in the Hero’s Journey is identical to the number of Trumps in the Tarot. Coincidence? (I sat down years ago and compared each card of the Tarot to the Hero’s Journey and found that they more or less matched.) Let’s perform an operation of our own today and see if we can come up with the same results.

Heroic Cycle contains two actual cycles - the Hero’s descent into the Underworld and his return, and the Cosmogonic Cycle - Creation and ultimate dissolution of the World/Universe.

Hero’s Underworld Descent and Return - Basic milestones -

1. Call to adventure
2. Helpers
3. Threshold Crossing
4. Tests/Helpers
5. Supreme Ordeal (Sacred Marriage, Father Atonement, Apotheosis, Elixir/Boon theft.)
6. Flight
7. Return Threshold Crossing
8. Elixir/Boon Translation

The Elixir/Boon is the objective of the Underworld transit - it is first off, the integration of the Light and Dark halves of the Self into a renewed and holistic individuation. It is also the revelation of the Greater Cosmic Mystery - the ages of creation, golden age, age of death, and final dissolution of the world, and more importantly, the Hero’s role within that cosmic history.

The Cosmogonic Cycle is the never ending cycle of deep sleep, dreaming and waking, and the processes of emanation (cycle half of deep sleep to waking via dreaming) and dissolutions (cycle half of waking to deep sleep via dreaming).

Part I  -  The Separation or Departure

1.  The Summoning or Call to Adventure; the Revelation of the Vocation of the Hero 
(Atu: XX - The Last Judgment)

2.  The Refusal of the Call; Folly or Internalization 
(Atu: 0 - The Fool)

3.  Supernatural Aid or Intervention; Meeting the Spirit Guide 
(Atu: II - The Priestess)

4.  Crossing the First Threshold; Meeting the Fierce Guardian 
(Atu: IX - The Hermit)

5.  The Belly of the Whale; the Underworld
(Atu: XVI - The Blasted Tower)

Part II  -  The Trials and Victories of Initiation

1.  The Road of Trials; the Dangers and Lesser Ordeals
(Atu: X - The Wheel of Fortune)

2.  Meeting the Goddess; Infancy Regained
(Atu VI - The Lovers)

3.  Woman as Temptress; Agony of Separation
(Atu XI - Strength)

4.  Atonement With the Father; Establishment of Inner Values
(Atu: XV - The Devil)

5.  Apotheosis; Self as Exalted Being
(Atu: I - The Magician)

6.  The Ultimate Boon; the secret knowledge of the soul is revealed.
(Atu: VII - The Chariot)

Part III  -  The Cosmogonic Cycle

0.  World Navel; the Central Origin of All Things
(Atu: XXI -  The Universe)

1.  Emanations; Emergence from the Void
(Atu: XVII - The Star)

2.  Virgin Birth; Creative Roles of Women and the Mythical Golden Age
(Atu: III - The Empress)

3.  Transformation; the Age of Death and Suffering
(Atu: XIII - Death)

4.  Dissolutions; the End of the World
(Atu: XII - The Hanged Man)

Part IV  -  The Return and Reintegration with Society

1.  The Refusal to Return; the World Denied, the Completion of the Path of the Mystic
(Atu: VIII - Justice)

2.  The Magic Flight; Escape/Crossing the Return Threshold
(Atu: XVIII - The Moon)

3.  Rescue from Without; the Healing of the Fisher-king
(Atu: IV - The Emperor)

4.  The Reoccurrence of the Boon; the Expression of the World Redeeming Vision
(Atu: XIV - Temperance)

5.  Master of Two Worlds; the Key to the Inner and Outer Realities
(Atu V - The Hierophant)

6.  Freedom to Live; the Function of the Ultimate Boon
(Atu: XIX - The Sun)

So look over this pattern and see if it matches as far as you are concerned. Take the trump cards and extract them from your favorite traditional Tarot deck and arranged in the order above, grouping the cards by the four different sections of the Hero’s cycle. Then use your imagination and walk through the pattern, card by card, to see if you can pick up the thread of the underworld transition. I believe that you will find this pattern to be quite informative and will probably shape how you define the trumps of the Major Arcana. (I know that it certainly changed my definitions.)

When performing Tarot card readings, if a trump occurs in the reading, what does it indicate, now that it has a matching stage in the Cycle of Initiation?

References: “Hero With A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell - MJF Books, NY

The specific sections above are taken from the book “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Volume 1 - Foundation” written by Frater Barrabbas. You can order this book on or purchase directly from the author - all such direct orders will be autographed.

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. Ave Fr Barrabbas. While I too have had a number of TAROT decks, including the Rider-Waite, Thoth deck, BOTA deck, Brotherhood -of-Light deck, I recently have added the TAROT of the Holy Light deck and the Stairs of Gold deck. They have not met up to my expectations of either deck.

    While I am familiar with The Book of the Law and Crowleys' Thelemic alterations of the TAROT, I'm not yet convinced of the accuracy of those changes. Nevertheless, Crowleys' deck is truly a masterpiece in a plethora of ill-designed and even idiotic decks that transmit nothing, nada, terms of esoteric concepts. Unfortunately, after interacting within the OTO and finding it puerile, I divested myself of all of Crowleys' works, and I even had a numbered edition of the 1972 Equinox, among all of his works. Worshiping the Great Beast was definitely NOT my style.

    Thank you for the article on this vast and important esoteric subject.