General Book of the Tarot

by Sepharial


In the Greater Arcana competent authors on the subject have rightly seen a system of rendering or symbolising the great cosmic principles of Creation per se. Not in relation to any special plane or element but above these, and consequently to be considered as the abstract origin of all and everything in the Lesser Arcana.


Papus gives us the descriptions of the Greater Arcana from the Book of Hermes, which probably will be the source in concrete of all later descriptions up to our time. How this book has been delivered through the ages is not known to me, but the clearness and systematic accuracy of these descriptions are proof of a high origin.

Where Papus, in his book on The Tarot of the Bohemians ventures to indicate relationship between the symbols of the Greater Arcana and zodiacal and planetary principles, he is hopelessly wrong however. He does not insist on it nor does he appear to make any use at all of these relations or explain how they are to be found out. Logic is entirely absent in this particular side of his renderings.

Without any difficulty or doubt we read in the first twelve arcanas the
essential natures of the twelve zodiacal houses. Thus:

Arcana        I.                    The Magician Aries
    „             II.                   The High Priestess Taurus
    „             III.                  The Empress Gemini
    „             IV.                  The Emperor Cancer
    „             V.                    The Hierophant Leo
    „             VI.                  The Lovers Virgo
    „             VII.                 The Chariot Libra
    „             VIII.                The Justice Scorpio
    „             IX.                   The Hermit Sagittarius
    „             X.                    The Wheel of Fortune Capricornus
    „             XI.                   The Strength Aquarius
    „             XII.                  The Hanged Man Pisces

We do not know what sort of conclusions Dr. Papus and others may have drawn for themselves, but it seems rather astonishing that this analogy has never been stated in public. It is as easy to recognise the nine planetary principles, i.e. those at present known to astronomy and astrology, in the following arcanas. So we find:

                    Arcana          XIII.               Death                           Saturn
                        „                XIV.               Temperance                 Mercury
                        „                XV.                 The Devil                     Mars
                        „                XVI.               The Tower                    Uranus
                        „                XVII.             The Star                       Venus


                       „                 XVIII.            The Moon                    Moon
                       „                 XIX.               The Sun                        Sun
                       „                 XX.                The Last Judgment      Jupiter
                       „                 XXI.               The World                    Neptune

while: Arcana XXII or Zero: the Fool must evidently be taken for the principle of the Earth itself, upon which we are carried away in space without being able to loose ourselves from its course. It may be as well interpreted as the Pars Fortunae, which must not be mistaken for the 'Wheel of Fortune' in the series of the arcanas. This has as much to do
with the former as the cusp of the Tenth house has in the horoscope with the Pars Fortunae.

We shall treat everyone of these cards in its turn hereafter. First let us have the scheme at large.

General Book of the Tarot

Main Library