Stars and Cards
Astrology and Tarot are popular parlour games. All
lovers are happy when their "star signs" make a
good match or when they draw card "No.
6 - The Lovers" in a Tarot session. No further knowledge is required to
make such a pleasant experience, just as they do not need any theoretical
understanding of how to fall in love.
Those who are
more interested, however, will realise that astrology
does not divide life into good and bad, but that it is a much more complex
system. They will also realise that there is more to the Tarot than first
meets the eye. What do these two oracle techniques have in common then?
Both work with symbols, and these symbols bring up new questions.
They need to be interpreted.
The abstract signs in the chart are translated into images
and figures. The names of the individual symbols, like Aquarius, Mars or
Venus, show the archetypal dimension which represents our inner images. The
heavenly rhythms are just an analogy, while the real content of astrology
is the human psyche,
including the Unconscious. And the Unconscious uses figurative language.
The use of figurative language is common to Astrology and the Tarot.
creation of the Tarot cards does not give us abstract symbols that
need to be
translated into pictures before they mean anything -it gives us complete images
of our inner life. In this respect, the Tarot is a great
complement to astrology. The Tarot is also about symbols. And, just like in
astrology, they need to be interpreted.
Of course, the client who draws the "Devil" will not meet the devil
with his cloven hoof in real life. It is not about the image itself but about
a similar figure in the client's psyche.
Both systems complement each other ideally in practical work. Some Tarot
cards appear to be representing certain astrological symbols directly, and
not completely identical. The similarity between the astrological
symbol and the Tarot image is big enough to see their relation, but on the
other hand, there are also differences which can give us new impulses.
Two practical examples
One of my clients, a 35-year-old woman, had a strong Saturn theme which
was reflected in her birth chart, and which became especially important
by transit during the time of the consultation. She was very stressed with
her everyday life and with her children, whom she raises as a single mother.
The session brought up the necessity to concsiously develop the qualities of
her natal Saturn, and at the end, she came out with the motto: "Work
effeciently, take responsibility, learn to show your personal boundaries
and accept your limitations!"
At the end of the session, she said: "I wish I could be more mature
and relaxed so that I can deal with one thing at a time, step by step." A
nice statement, very Saturnian.
She complemented this wish by drawing the Tarot card "The Hermit". This
card has indeed a great similarity with Saturn, because a wise, old
hermit goes his own way. This perfectly confirmed
the interpretation we had found, and at the same time, it added a
new dimension to it, because the woman said: "The hermit walks
on his own path, all by himself and without any luggage - how much I envy
our subsequent discussion, she realised that she was carrying too much luggage,
some of which didn't even belong to her. Now, she heard the hermit
say: "The only responsibility you need to carry
is your own, go your own way and don't lose yourself in little everyday
This interpretation was an important complement which could have been seen
in the astrological reading as well, but which was expressed directly and
explicitly by the Tarot image. It was immediately accessable
and understandable to my client. As a counselling astrologer, I was pleased
to see my client develop her own interpretation, which would be impossible
in astrology without any special knowledge.
Sometimes the complementing Tarot card does not seem to fit the horoscope
interpretation at first sight. But with a bit of time and further thinking,
it can often represent an additional, balancing piece of advice. With
a different client, I had discussed Pluto topics and their psychological
meaning with such intensity that towards the end of the session, the
air was still
filled with these very intense vibrations. The
client had worked hard and intensively on herself. But the Tarot replied
by complementing the Three of Cups, a card that shows three dancing and
The image radiates such a joyful lightness that the woman almost felt offended
at first, as if the Tarot did not take her passionate efforts seriously.
But soon we found out that it was just
this lightness that she needed in order to balance the previous findings.
She decided to contact two friends of whom she knew that they were not burdened
by any psychological complexes at the moment, and who wanted to have fun
and enjoy themselves. Every thing has its time! The Tarot complemented
and balanced in this case a good but somewhat one-sided horoscope reading.
The symbolic language of two oracle
The knowledge about astrological symbolism in the Tarot is a pre-requisite
for a good combination of the two oracles. It is also helpful to
know something about the history and symbolism of the Tarot.
Astrology and the Tarot work with open images and symbols. Both arts require
responsibility and skill on the part of the counsellor to be able to
certain chances and challenges. The great benefit of the Tarot, however, is its
immediate understanding. If we include the imagination of the client, he or
she takes part in the interpretation. This procedure democratises
the process of self-development. The clients are less dependent on specialist
knowledge by the authority. And the astrologer feels less pressure to
offer the "correct
interpretation" on all occasions, if the Tarot cards are included. The
session becomes richer and more profound by introducing this creative
element, because pictures speak directly to the soul.
Dream images can have a similar positive effect. If you have experiences
how much more profound an astrological session can become, when a client
talks about a dream, you will know how strongly and deeply archetypal images
the client does not introduce a dream, we have one at hand: The Tarot contains
nothing less than the collected archetypal dreams of human kind. The 78 Tarot
cards summarise the dream patterns of all humans. Even before the Tarot work
starts, we know these 78 scenes, because we dream of these ancient
figures all the time, even if sometimes in different costumes. The Tarot
cards are direct, relentless, magical and comforting, like our
dreams, like our inner life.
Similarities and differences
|Uses ambiguous symbols
||Uses ambiguous symbols
Refers to the rhythms of nature at the time of birth
Is read from 78 archetypal images (Tarot cards)
|Individual parts of astrology are known since ancient
||Individual images and motives are known since ancient
|Its modern structure has existed since the first millennium
||Its modern form has been developed since the Rennaissance.
|Translation ("interpretation") of the symbols is necessary.
||Translation ("interpretation") of the symbols is necessary.
|This requires specialist knowledge.
||This is partly possible without any specialist knowledge
(spontaneous interpretation of the images).
|The symbols do not judge. Each of them contains 50% chances
and 50% challenges.
||At first sight, there are "good", "bad" and neutral cards. But
each of them contains the possibility of its opposite.
|Abstract but differentiated system.
||Immediately comprehensible pictures
|Scientific approach possible
||free, creative system
|Empirical material stems from a long and systematic tradition
of interpreting astrological symbols.
||Written sources for interpretation have only been available
for about 100 years.
|Astrology is a time-based system. Constellations can be exactly
assigned to a certain period of time.
||Timeless system of images. Past, present and future have to
be differentiated through certain questions and spreads.
Relationships between planets and
Which Tarot card corresponds to which planet or zodiac sign? Different astrologers
and Tarot players have their individual assignments, but unfortunately, they
are all different! There is not a single Tarot card which is assigned to
the same astrological symbol. Therefore, I have decided to assign several images
to each astrological image which illustrate different facets of this symbol.
are 22 so-called trump cards, the major Arcana. This fact seduced some astrologers
to the following considerations: there are ten known planets
and twelve zodiac signs, this results in 22 symbols, and therefore, each card
should be assigned
to exactly one planet or sign. But it soon turned out that the two systems
cannot be translated one-to-one. This is not surprising, considering the different
origins of the two oracles: astrology is based on natural cycles, whereas
hand-drawn images by people make up the Tarot symbols.
Those who insist on assigning one particular card to a particular planet
or sign, should also be able to explain how to deal with planets which may
still be discovered, because we can't just invent a few new cards. They would
further have to explain
why this system should be so convincing, despite the fact that at the time
of the creation of the Tarot and during the first three centuries of its existence
only seven planets were known, and astrology therefore only knew 19 symbols.
So, the assignment does not seem to be as simple as that. What a shame! Our
structuring mind would have liked to have auch a baffling logical
The Hermit - more than Saturn
It is just this fuzziness which is very useful in the counselling practice.
Let us return to the example in the first chapter. Saturn is represented in
the Tarot by the Hermit - but not a hundred percent. This figure shows typical
Saturnian characteristics, e.g. the measured pace, the archetypal
of the old sage,
the protective cloak, and much more. But maybe, one day, we see that he follows
his path all by himself, lonely like a mystic - then we have discovered the
Neptunian streak in this hermit. Or we notice his lamp
with the flame, maybe his strong staff - then we perceive the fiery side of
his nature. Like almost all images, the Hermit is an ambiguous symbol that
contains different astrological functions which together become a whole.
So, if our client perceives the mystic isolation of the Hermit, this
is meaningful to the individual. We can almost always see that the two
archetypes are connected with each other in the personal
birth chart. There may be an
aspect between Saturn and Neptune or Saturn is in Pisces or the twelfth house.
If we look at the card in this way, we do not just perceive the general image
of Saturn, but the individual colouring which it took on for a particular person
at a particular time. The subjective statement of the client "The Hermit
is so cruelly isolated!"also helps us to work on constructive perspectives.
We could ask questions like: "What exactly is cruel about his
loneliness? Which strengths could lie in the isolation? Could you imagine some
satisfactory loneliness?" etc.
Not only the symbols themselves and the relationship
between the cards and planets are ambiguous: the main ambiguity is in our perception
of the world. It is amazing how different people can see different things
in one and the same Tarot image. This is a crucial point, as we know that different
viewpoints can lead to different scopes of action.
And indeed, we can choose the way in which we want to translate a certain symbol
into a real life experience. We can turn Saturn into suffering or enjoyment,
defeat or success. Astrology and Tarot are two different methods which both
want the same: that we rethink our lives. They help us to reinterpret,
redesign, twist and turn something we perceive as negative until it has
changed its face. Something might enter our lives as problem, but gradually
it turns into a pool of insight, a cause for liberation and for accepting
our personal responsibility for our so-called fate.
I don't consider astrology and Tarot primarily as methods of describing current
states, but rather as instruments for change, for metamorphosis. They can help
us to recognise the meaning in our suffering, the challenge in a problem, the
message in our happiness. If we knew a technique which provided clear-cut
and unambiguous truths, which could distinguish neatly and logically
between light and darkness, this technique would be useless for self-recognition
On the contrary, we can make good use of the
ambiguity of the two symbolic systems. This, however, requires that we don't
act as omniscient Tarot experts, but that we ask our clients about their impressions
and that we let them take part in the interpretation.
Masculine and feminine symbols
Finally, a short note concerning the distribution of masculine and feminine
symbols. Basically, a male figure in the two systems represents a masculine
principle in our own inner psyche, no matter if the person is male or female.
The same is true for feminine symbols or planets. Only in second place would
we interpret a female figure - as a projection - as a clue that the client
is asked to confront or deal with a female person in their environment.
We are all made up of a mixture of masculine and feminine principles.
But still, we first
think of a man when we see the image of a warrior or a king. Therefore,
the counsellor should
mention that there is a complementary perspective to it each card (i.e. the
masculine side in a woman's psyche, etc.).
The Tarot is one of the rare occidental systems
without the usual patriarchal dominance of men. Even such a perfect system
as astrology has more male than
female planetary gods. For example, Poseidon-Neptune is a male god, even
though the astrological Neptune certainly represents a feminine principle.
The 22 Tarot cards, on the other hand, contain about as many female as
male figures. The many powerful
women on the cards where one of the main reasons why the Tarot always had to
remain underground, because the male priests, censors, scientists and secret
agents always suspected that Tarot players could challenge the traditional
authorities. This suspicion was certainly not without reason.
Another reason for the mistrust of those in power was the fact that even
simple people were able to understand the Tarot, since it was made up of images
rather than written information, nor did it require complex calculations. Let
us remember that general schooling has only been properly introduced in Europe
for less than 200 years. Before that time, schooling and education were only
accessible to a small male elite. Education often makes people want to
free themselves and utter their opinions. From this point of view, education
powerful, because it represents a wholistic image of man.
On the background of this democratic and women-friendly tradition of the
Tarot, it is sad that even in the 20th century, the two most famous Tarot sets
are not named after their women painters, but after the men who had the idea
and commissioned them.
Rider and Waite didn't draw one line of "their" cards
- it was Pamela Coman Smith who painted them. And how ever much
inspiration Master Crowley may have contributed, the "Crowley-Tarot"
was actually painted by Frieda Harris. Just to illustrate how unjust
this is for these women: Imagine, Vincent van Gogh's famous sunflower
would have to be called "Sunflowers by Claude", because it turned out that
Monsieur Claude, the neighbour, had said one day: "Oh, Monsieur Vincent, would you
care to paint me a few nice and juicy sunflowers!"
Astrologie mit Tarot.
Chiron Verlag, Tübingen, 2005.
This book can be ordered (in German) at:
Translated from German by: