Tarot and Astrology
Updated: Sep 7
Since at least the time of the Golden Dawn, over 100 years ago, the tarot deck has been associated with astrology in a very specific manner. There is absolutely no need at all to use the correspondences that developed — however, if you love astrology, and also love tarot, the allure is pretty obvious. In fact, my first tarot teacher does not practice these correspondences at all. Instead, he lets the images and numbers speak for themselves, always drawing at least two cards within the context of a question and divining meanings from the relationships between the cards. And while this style has great appeal for me, I just couldn’t help but to be irrevocably drawn back again and again to the esoteric correspondences that had developed between astrology and tarot. To add insult to injury, my teacher doesn’t practice reversals, but I love them and do!
Therefore, I am studying tarot now within this context, trying (very slowly!) to learn the meanings of each card. My current technique is to hold a thought in my mind, usually an activity or event that I am about to do or have just done, while I very thoroughly shuffle the deck. Then the tarot card I draw is supposed to, by the mysterious laws of the universe, have something important to say about that thought. Today I drew a card to represent the writing of this Newsletter. I drew the VIII of Cups.
If you read some descriptions of the meanings of this card, you get things like “Disappointment, abandonment, withdrawal, escapism” or “A man of dejected aspect is deserting the cups of his felicity.” Yet, when I first laid eye on this card, that is not the message I got at all.
I wrote the following in the document that I maintain in order to develop my own interpretations of the cards:
“When I first saw it, the cups looked abundant, and then I saw the Moon hugging the Sun, so a joining of the two Lights. The person is walking away, satiated, because he drank from one of the cups, but did not need anymore, and so is continuing on now.”
So which is it? Well that question assumes there is only one answer. But the answer depends on the context, as ever. The beauty of divination (and astrology is also a form of divination) is that you can always find some meaning. That challenge is a huge part of the fun. If I had just believed what I read in my little booklet that came with this Rider Waite deck, or what I read online, I might have wondered why the heck I was even planning on writing a Newsletter! But I don’t believe everything I read. For today, I will go with my interpretation. And here’s some more that I wrote about this card for today:
“The eight of cups could also be a gift that the traveller has left for the next person who comes upon them, to help them in their journey. In this case, my newsletters are the cups I am leaving for my subscribers, since I have drunk from the cup of astrology, and can now share it with others. Or maybe the traveller filled and stacked the cups zeself.”
I wrote about the decans in the July newsletter. They are small portions of the sky, spanning ten degrees each.
Therefore there are three decans for every Sign. In the Golden Dawn correspondences which I currently embrace, the Virgo II decan we currently inhabit, in early September, corresponds to the IX of Pentacles, a lovely card showing “a woman who has accomplished works of great beauty and created her own little world” as T. Susan Chang says in her fantastic book ’36 Secrets.’ She also says a little later that this woman’s “walled paradise seems like perfection itself. Is it really?” This hints at the ambiguity present in the art of divination. As we read the signs in the skies or the cards, the very process of sorting out these obscurities lends insight and clarity to the situation we are grappling with. But we must always trust our own intuition and not just believe whatever we’re told. In completely contradicting every rule my tarot teacher gave me, and in opposing what others said about the VIII of Cups today, I certainly am doing that! But we want to be careful to not trade out one master for another. For example, in dismissing my tarot teacher’s guidance, am I putting too much stock in the Golden Dawn? I’m gonna say “no” on that — however, it’s important to ask the question.
And a word to my tarot teacher (you know who you are 😁) I still love your tarot style! In fact, I can easily imagine performing tarot readings for others someday which follow your teachings. There is a purity to it that is dear to me. But I like to have options (Gemini Rising). And I’ll always do it my way (Aries Sun.) And if someone doesn’t like it, that’s too bad (Scorpio Moon)! 😁
One more thing: once I have a good handle on the tarot, I fully plan on incorporating it into astrology readings. It will be a few months, at the very lest, until I reach that point, but I really look forward to it.