4- The Emperor

This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.


This week we explore the what we learn as we move from the natural world into society, how to learn and provide rules and structure how that might play out in the role of leadership – the Emperor.

The Emperor is the archetype of setting up rules and order in society and having the authority to enforce them. In the traditional descriptions of this card there is an idea that the natural world is chaotic, and if we marry the power of the natural world (The Empress) to some societal structure we can move out of survival mode and create the stability that could allow spiritual development – (a foreshadowing of next weeks card of The Hierophant).

There are a couple of elements that are key for the traditional versions of the Emperor card. I will list them here and then lets see what choices have been made in some less traditional decks.

  • The structure of the throne the Emperor sits on is full of rigidity and iron. He sits centered on the throne on a very rigid posture. All of this emphasizes the idea of order and structure.
  • He holds an Ankh – the Egyptian symbol of life to represent the power of life and death
  • There are four rams on the throne representing the symbol of the first sign of the zodiac – Aries. This supports the idea of the new life of spring emerging from a just society.

In the Tarot of the Divine the Emperor is represented by King Arthur, maybe the most fatherly of all the examples here. King Arthur fought alongside his people and provided unity for the knights of the round table.

One idea of the Emperor is that he provides cold hard facts without compassion for his people, and that can be the negative side of the card – gaining too much power and becoming disconnected from people to become a dictator.

But this version in King Arthur is the idea of providing leadership and structure out of care for the land and its people. We can be a leader and still show vulnerability to our community/team. If this idea of compassionate ruler speaks to you today, examine where you can bring more compassion in your own leadership, show vulnerability, or influence that in other leaders.

The Voyager Tarot card for the Emperor for me shows a lot of the elements and aspects of leadership and development. On one hand we have the Emperor as a builder and not just a ruler with the pictures of the hands holding a young sapling, and the different examples of groundbreaking architecture in the card. There is also the dark side of the Emperor which only has a focus on material wealth at the bottom of the card.

But what does it take to build and lead? Just a strong will? Or balance in the other areas like the mental clarity of the eagle, the emotional strength of the whale, and the physical energy of the ram. This card brings along the idea of how much an effective leader or leadership structure has to have balance and not just rules.

If you are a leader where could you be more balanced? What could you add to your toolbox to gain this? What if you think about leading and guiding your own path, what tools could you use to create a more balanced structure?

This Emperor Card from the Light Seers Tarot still has a lot of the same traditional elements, but somehow I find this Emperor more accessible. I’m not sure if its the more laidback tone of the card that seems more familiar, or if we finally see a representation of an authority figure that is from a different race or ethnicity.

More than any other card in the tarot, it seems the hardest for the Emperor card to be represented by anything other than a white European male. I’ve read a few articles on the successes and failures of inclusion in tarot decks, and while I get that it originates from white European society, I live in the modern world and want to see the modern world reflected in my readings. For me that means seeing more than one culture represented in the deck so its more representative of the world, and in the case the leadership styles found in other cultures – many of them female.

So then what of the message of the card? I would say to make sure that your leadership and building of structures, and visions for the future include representation and diversity of thought, and if you don’t have that currently to study or discuss ways to get it.

A very literal idea here of growth through cerebral things versus emotional or spiritual leadership in the Way Home tarot as a tree grows out of a brain in this card.

Another idea of the emperor is that he/she is not just a builder or a leader but also a visionary that can create and share a vision with his team.

An additional idea that this card brings is the Emperor as protector of the forest. What internally or externally do you feel needs stronger protection, and what vision can you provide to do this? Even more so, what is your latest vision for the future?

Sometimes when we have a truly unique vision others may not understand its purpose or be able to see it with us right away. This Bull Elk from the Brady Tarot seems to be lonely at the top, but a true visionary will be comfortable being alone at least at first so that decisions that no one else are willing to make – really hard decisions – can be made.

The elk has the companion of an Eagle representing in this case spiritual guidance – its what the elk uses to keep himself grounded and also to ensure he is making decisions for the greater good and not just to grow his own empire.

Who or what is your eagle? Do you have a difficult call to make that may be unpopular with others but that you know is the right thing to do? If so call on the energy of the Emperor and make sure you know what you need to do for grounding.

The Tarot of Mystic Moments has a much more whimsical take on the Emperor. He still has the structure and vision of some of the prior cards with the castle coming from his head, and he is decorated with medals showing his authority has been earned. But to me the whimsical nature of the card gives me one more aspect of the Emperor which is not to take the structure or yourself too seriously. If we are too rigid, or we cannot show any sense of humor or vulnerability, those we are trying to lead may not be able to relate to us or trust us.

Is there a subject you are taking too seriously? Make sure what you lead brings you joy and that you can still laugh at yourself.

I hope this article has brought you joy today!

3 – The Empress

This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.


This week we explore the feeling side of the female archetype – The Empress. Where last week’s card of The High Priestess represented introspection and thinking, The Empress is the pure emotion and the passionate approach to life with feeling. The Empress is about experiencing the world in a very physical way through nurturing and growing life itself. She is the Great Mother archetype.

In the Tarot of Mystic Moments the Empress wears a skirt of flowers and is surrounded by nature. A deep connection with nature is only possible by being out in nature and not reading or imagining it. It means going out on hikes, growing things in the dirt, growing food, growing people.

The Empress in this card carries a child and has taken off her crown to already hand to this child as a gesture of protective love. In this way its not just experiencing nature but protecting it and protecting all life.

She is truly Mother Nature, and a way to ask yourself what you are cultivating in the physical world, and if you are spending enough time in it or in nature, or if you are spending too much time in your head.

In the Way Home Tarot we see trees growing directly from a heart with the roots of the trees both being nurtured by and protecting the heart.

In the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith empress card the Empress has a shield with a heart on it. In this card the idea of unconditional love is taken even further to represent something that both nurtures and protects us.

Are you able to feel and receive as well as give unconditional love? Can you see it as a strength? If not you may need to explore which healing process might help you reach the ability to feel love in the world.

In the Tarot of the Divine the Empress is represented by Our Lady of Guadalupe – a Catholic Saint who preformed two miracles – one was a healing miracle and one was a miracle in the natural world with roses appearing on a hillside.

Healing ourself and others is a quality of the Empress, and part of healing is growth. Where do you need to heal, or how do you want to help others to heal and grow? Where do you need to grow yourself? Connect to your higher self and create your own miracles.

In the Voyager Tarot the Empress represents the law of preservation and the power to resurrect, re-create and revive shown here through the Egyptian goddess Selket who cures scorpion and other poisons. These are powerful words and we can only access what they mean for us if we are willing to deeply experience and connect with all of our emotions.

I’ve been writing about how important feeling vs thinking is in this archetype and this is the first card where we see some actual water which typically represents the emotional path of life.

Our emotions are rivers running through us and beneath us and they connect us to all of human experience. Without connecting to them we will most likely feel disconnected from others and from life, maybe even poisoned. Maybe we disconnected in order to protect ourselves and we need to convince ourselves that it is safe to reconnect and feel again. Being able to feel is a way to breath and experience the world, let any poison you have experienced be removed and allow yourself to feel your life again.

The dove over the Empresses head in this card represents peace – the peace we feel when we heal.

Well, I did say I wanted to see more water….in the Afro-Brazilian Tarot the Empress is represented by Yamanja, or as I’ve heard her called before, Yemoja in the Yoruba language. She is the mother of all Gods and in the Afro Brazilian pantheons, the power of the moon harnessed into controlled but nurturing emotion. The moon influences the waves and brings them back to the shore. Expanding on that we can picture that Yemoja is helping us feel grounded in our emotions as opposed to be tossed about at sea.

It is hard when we feel tossed about in the sea of our own emotion, we may need help from Yemoja to feel grounded in our feelings. But we can’t learn how to without going in the water in the first place.

Where do you need to dive back into how you experience, feel and grow in the world? If this card is speaking to you today you are ready…take the plunge!

2 – The High Priestess

This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.


This week’s card is the High Priestess – Inner Wisdom. The first thing I feel I have to cover here is that in some of the original versions of this card there are two pillars placed on either side of the Priestess that represent symbolism that has to do with historical references to the so called first female Priest or female Pope. I personally found that these references were a little to narrow and discounted the hundreds of indigenous cultures that have always had a female spiritual leader until colonist culture took that from many of them.

I don’t understand why we spend so much time looking for proof of this spiritual side of the female archetype and not the male, and also none of this information has ever helped me understand the card, meaning, or the archetype more. Finally I feel it’s contrary to the notion of this archetype which tells us to look within – not in the past and not to others for wisdom and the ability to know ourselves.

I will spend the majority of this article talking more about Self Knowledge and Inner Wisdom which I find to be closer to the true essence of this archetype no matter where it comes from. If you are curious about these references please see Rachel Pollack’s amazing and deeply comprehensive book noted above.

In the Brady Tarot the High Priestess is represented by a Snowy Owl. The snowy landscape adds to the feeling of solitude and silence, which is what we need to have in order to listen to our inner voice and obtain inspiration and clarity from within. Behind the “veil” the High Priestess is able to see the dark and light reflections of the moon, which means we need to also be able to reflect on both the light and shadowy sides of ourself, and we need to be brave enough to lift the veil and see ourselves as we truly are.

The owl holds a feather which in this deck represents the wands and spirituality/inspiration. The High Priestess is often described as the internal balance of inspiration and knowledge from within to the Magician’s Inspiration to create externally.

In the Afro-Brazilian Tarot the High Priestess is represented by Nana Baruku – the Orixa of rain. She keeps the atmosphere clear – another reference to the clarity required to be able to see and connect with inner wisdom. In this card she if creating the pattern of the moon within the ground surrounding the fire.

If your atmosphere is too noisy or dusty find some way to create a simpler or less noisy space somewhere in your life to be able to sit with yourself and obtain this clarity.

Below the round face in this card from the Osho Zen Tarot is a crystal that is transcending the dualities of light dark. It “reflects” the concept of the dark and light side of the moon from the card in the beginning of the article.

Our inner voice speaks the truth, which is not good or bad, it just is. It brings things that come from deep in our own emotional waters to the surface and allows them to re-emerge as a seemingly new idea. But if you find that inner voice saying something that sounds really familiar, like maybe on some level you have know it all of your life, that will tell you you have found your own inner truth.

As always there are so many symbols to notice in any card from the Voyager Tarot, and this one is no different.

  • the reflection of the mountain in the water in the lower right corner
  • the owl at the bottom who can bring knowledge back from the stars
  • Queen Nefertiti in the center of the card who can bring metaphysical perceptions back into the material world
  • The idea of an oracle represented by the temple of Delphi in the lower left of the card
  • the boat crossing the waters of reflection in the upper left.

Some of us aspire to be these mythical Oracles and to posses metaphysical knowledge for so many reasons. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we could be as worthy or hold as much meaning in our life unless we can be this metaphysical resource for others. But the truth is that by learning to be your own Oracle and coming to find your own truth in the present moment you are connecting to the ancient knowledge. We think ancient knowledge must be this complex codified thing, but its very simple. Look within, breath, and connect to the present moment.

In the Santa Muerte Tarot there is an owl skeleton sitting atop the throne of the High Priestess, and she holds a key that is interconnected to the symbol of the moon where her foot is firmly planted.

So many of us skip this step of internal reflection and try to find this key to understanding ourselves in other places. Also so many times we prioritize creation of other things without taking the time to understand ourselves first. We start families, careers, life paths without truly reflecting on who we are and somehow visualize this as the end result of the path and not what we need to do as an early step in the beginning.

Wherever you are on whatever path, take some time to notice and discover your own inner wisdom.

1 – The Magician

Welcome to a new series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.


This week’s card is the Magician. I have to admit that not all of the cards in the tarot have easy meanings and connections for me, and the Magician is one that I have to use more intuition than others to read, so I’m very happy to study it further here and have more access to its meanings after this. This archetype is about the drive to create and where it comes from, and also how you are or are not able to express it.

Referencing the Rider-Waite-Smith standard image the Magician typically has a representation of all the tools of the minor arcana on a table – a chalice, a coin with a pentacle on it, a staff/wand, and a sword. They represents the fact that the Magician has access to all the tools in order to create. The Magician also has his own wand in his hand which he firmly grasps and points toward the sky while he points the finger of his other hand to the earth. This represents the ability to connect divine energy/inspiration to the act of creation in the world.

Lets explore these concepts through some different representations of this card.

This is the Magician from the Ancestral Path Tarot and its almost dead on the Rider-Waite-Smith version. In this deck the pentacles are replaced with Sacred Circles. The cave paintings in the back to me signify how ancient this archetype and instinct to create is. We as humans have had the need to create representations of what we see around us and what is important to our daily life. This magician wears the robes of several times as well which contributes to that timeliness energy of the card. In the section from Rachel Pollack’s book on the Magician she talks about what happens which we try to hold the power of creation without expressing it, and how that can create insanity because of our need to express ourselves. I think that’s also an important essence of this card when using it in readings. A message to make sure that you are doing one of the things that humans have needed to do to have meaning throughout time and expressing your creative energy in whatever form makes sense for you.

Several folks don’t pick the Santa Muerte deck for readings because of all the skeletons, but look at how much fun this one is having in the creative process. The candles on his hat show a strong flame and connection to the divine. Joy is important to the creative process because it better channels the flow of creative energy. If you are not creating with Joy in your heart this may be where to look with this card.

There are also swords and a big jug of water hanging over him maybe ready to put out this inspirational light, but this magician seems unbothered by the potential to loose inspiration and become blocked. The word “Will” is also put next to the palmistry hand signifying the importance of focus and willpower in this process and archetype. The process of creation is not always such an easy flow between inspiration to manifestation. Sometime you must have willpower and intention to keep the process going.

In the Tarot of the Divine fairytales and mythology are used to represent each of the cards in the deck. For the Magician we see the fairy godmother from the story of Cinderella. In this case the Magician doesn’t create because of divine inspiration. This Magician is there to support someone else with helpful creations that are entirely unexpected, and that act is the inspiration. Its the spark of getting help from out of nowhere right when you need in the most.

When reflecting on this card think about if you are ready to be the fairy godmother to someone else, and that’s where your creative inspiration and joy lies, or if this is what you are in need of. If this is what you are need of maybe look at the tools and materials you already have and if you can manifest any of this yourself.

In the Brady the Magician is referenced by the Raven, and throughout the rest of the deck this Raven shows up in other cards signaling back to the power of creativity. This Raven has a blank banner above it representing the ability to create the first page of a story with the resources available.

The Raven has many tools to carry with it but it grasps each firmly showing not only an instinctual creative energy, but an instinctual confidence.

Never underestimate the importance of storytellers in our societies and communities. They are true magicians and also another kind of architect that brings a dream to reality.

What of your story are you finally ready to tell? What dream can you bring to others by writing it?

I love this card from the Afro Brazilian Tarot because it shows a literal “hand of the divine” touching this man in order for him to create spiritually for his community and congregation. He has a chalice, he has a stake for the sword, he has a plate for the physical world manifestation of this process, but where is the wand?

He is the wand, and his skill is the ability to channel this divine energy into the the world and create. If you were going to focus on becoming a wand and channeling inspiration how would you do it? Through meditation? Through another kind of ritual? By healing so you can continue to unblock and allow more to flow through you?

Ah the Voyager Tarot. Soooooo much imagery in one little card. (Actually the card stock is quite large, but you know what I mean.) This card really does show examples of all the tools, and also how to become a connection between the heavens and the earth.

There are a lot of images here that reinforce the things said above such as the hieroglyphics for both an ancient evidence of the need to create as well as creation in the physical world and not just in our minds. The thing that hits me the most in the card is just how much is there, and how much power can be present.

First, are you clear what your tools are or do you need to first refine them so you can more easily channel them? And also the Magician can always become dangerous and too powerful if he gets greedy or starts to create with ill intent. Make sure you are creating out of joy and not revenge or greed, or the need to seem more powerful.

The Osho Zen Tarot, as always, comes at this card from a completely different angle. It is asking if you feel connected to the universe in the first place perhaps signaling that you are blocked somewhere and unable to create. Are you at home in your own skin or your current environment or do you feel like you are constantly fighting the world or even the universe?

Home is the inner quality of acceptance and relaxation. Fighting to get what we need and pursuing an individual agenda means we have forgotten than there is no separation between ourselves and the universe, and once we can realize that this is an illusion, we can discard that illusion and feel our existence, and our home inside and out.

In this way we create the energy we need to exist and be at home in our own skin, and after that we will feel the flow we need to channel this energy into creation.

Unable to shed the illusion? Follow the advice of the guidebook that comes with this deck and “go out and look at the stars”.

After all, we are all made of stars. Be well.

0 – The Fool

Welcome to a new series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. I will dedicate each article to the exploration of one card at a time. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

The first card of the Major Arcana is The Fool which is typically shown as a young man with a dog and a knapsack heading out on a journey, sometimes described as an epic journey. The fool traditionally carries a white rose as a symbol of peace and purity. The dog symbolizes the guide within offering divine protection, and the knapsack all of his past experiences and knowledge.

Its one of the foundational Archetypes of the Major Arcana along with the Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Emperor and Hierophant, and this foundation is being completely open to this new journey.

The 0 represents both being open and the process of returning back to the beginning and starting either the first journey, or a new journey from the beginning. The fool is open to all possibilities, even the possibility that things will not work out, or there may be unforeseen obstacles.

Let’s start with this card from the Osho Zen Tarot. In most Fool cards its unclear if the Fool is about to take the first step off a large cliff, or onto a fairly even path. In this card it looks like you are about to take a real leap of faith from the beginning, and without a dog or knapsack to boot! (Luckily you still get the white flower.)

The fool, more than maybe any other archetype, is living completely in the present moment which is where our intuition can function at its peak. He is not concerned with the past or what might happen in the future.

This card goes a little further than the classic image and asks you to consider that any start to any journey, no matter how large or small a trek is just as big of a leap of faith and a surrender to the unknown. Also, you may think you are more prepared with the dog and knapsack at your side, but what you may encounter on this journey may require something you don’t’ already have, and thinking that you are more prepared than you are is a false confidence in the first place.

So take the leap! All by yourself. Your path awaits.

This Fool card from the Santa Muerte Tarot does show a soul with several tools that they think might help them. They are leaving the grave which in this deck would be the nest with their heart on their sleeve and are looking forward to a joyful new journey and transformation represented by the butterfly on their finger.

On one hand its seems an easier start to just step up and out of the nest. On the other hand the place they are leaving was difficult to leave, and this may be a time to recognize the effort that goes into that first step. Or maybe dropping the baggage is the real first step to be able to be on the journey. Will leaving it behind free you up to channel your energy better? What will it take for you to take this first step out of the past?

Another very classic view of the fool from this card from the Lua Tarot. In this deck the card is not called the fool but The Seeker, which is the Golden Dawn Tarot name for the Fool card. This might cause you to ask if you know that your are seeking something and not starting out on the path without awareness of any preconceived intention. The fool does not necessarily carry the idea that they even intend to be on a journey, but the Seeker does. What might the idea of intention bring to your awareness of your own journey?

This card from The Mystical Moments Tarot is even more forthright about the dangers that the woman may encounter on the journey. The aspect of the fool that is being emphasized here is the idea that failure is part of the journey, and if you aren’t willing to be open to failure you are not truly open to the journey in the first place. This is a key aspect to the archetype of the fool.

Additionally the idea of learning is shown here as this person is genuinely curious about her surroundings. She is willing to surrender to the journey to experience life fully. Are you starting your next journey with any fears of failure? If so that will prevent you from connecting fully to the present moment where there is no failure, only opportunity and learning.

In the Afro Brazilian Tarot deck the Fool card is at the end of the Major Arcana. For me it has the connotation of openly coming from your place of power to start the next journey. Its the idea of willingly surrendering again to the journey over and over again no matter how experienced or practiced you feel you might be. There is nothing whimsical about this Fool’s journey here, this man is charging into the unknown in a way that connects to the earth in a very intentional way. Very different than stepping off a cliff into the unknown, but requiring just as much courage and surrender to head out once more and not get too comfortable.

This card also seems to connect with the Osho Zen Tarot concept of the Fool in that no matter how much you are exposed to and learn, you should keep dropping this “baggage” and come back to the present moment to start anew empty handed. Over and over and over again. That is a very pure essence of the Fool archetype.

In the Brady Tarot the fool is represented by a young cowbird who has dropped a feather to test the height of the nest first before heading out on its first journey. It is being helped by a bluebird who is feeding it one last meal before it sets out alone.

In this version of the fool card we are not talking about intuition or intention but instinct that allows this bird to start its journey. What’s the difference? Instinct implies an innate drive toward action and not thought. What would it mean to listen to your instincts versus relying on the more cerebral and spiritual process of intuition or intention? Would using instinct first or for a period of time allow your intuition to grow that much further? Maybe another aspect of the journey is this idea of instinct versus intuition.

The last example I have of the Fool is from the Way Home Tarot. It has more of a first person feel to the card versus all of the others so you could even picture these are your own two feet ready to take the first steps of the journey. Can you spend some time visualizing and meditating on what this journey, this first step, or this quest is? How would this work.

If we go back to the beginning of the article (see what I did there?) we can remember that in order to see the journey and start the journey we must be connected to the present moment. Close your eyes. Create that connection with your breath, drop your baggage, and take that instinctual leap! Be open and ready to leave the last journey behind and start anew.

Lost in utopia

The lizard has lost its manners and is pulling a grumpy scowl across its face
The blue flower strays lackadaisically in the wind
Tall towers stroke the sky

We’ve lost our minds but we haven’t yet lost the universe

A half formed thought streaks across the sky in plaid letters
What do the letters say?
We don’t know.
We’ve lost our language and misplaced all our punctuation.
We flow through abstract sequences, colors bleeding into other colors.
Inanimate objects tell us what to think
Until…

We finally hit our head
feel our own blood run down our forehead
and wake up.

Wisp dreams

their dreams were wisps of smoke
they prayed for rain
through the understated mahogany of the trees

the dotted stars faded in the morning
but the wisp prayers still hung in the air
unable to be blown away in new gusts of wind

only the softly falling drops that finally came three months later
finally washed away the answered prayers
like salt being washed from a wound

the cleansing rain awoke a new dream
this time reflected in puddles that would last until the rain stopped
and the new dreams echoed into the sky
with the rays of the sun.