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Tarot Archetypes: a Doorway to Our Subconscious

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Tarot Archetypes Image

The more people that are interested in self-knowledge, the bigger their interest is in everything related to the subconscious. That is why recently there has been a growing interest in the study of various personality archetypes. An archetype is a universal symbolic theme that is derived from the collective unconsciousness that indirectly affects our personality, behavior, and ultimately our lives. We all want to understand ourselves better and it is through the archetypes that we can uncover the mysteries of our own psyche. In this article, we will discuss tarot archetypes and how they can be presented in our lives.

Archetypes in Tarot

The images on Tarot cards represent the different stages of our life on different levels – from spiritual to physical. If we line up the cards in a sequence, these individual images form a story or life journey that can also be seen as the spiritual journey of an individual.

Each Tarot card of the Major Arcana symbolizes a certain archetype – the stage of our life or a phase of our spiritual journey.

There are different classifications and interpretations of Tarot archetypes. In this article, we will look at the Tarot archetypes through the prism of such archetypes as:

  1. the Self
  2. Persona
  3. the Shadow
  4. Anima
  5. Animus
  6. the Child
  7. the Wise Sage

When reading through the description of each archetype, you may recognize your own journey which may give you a better understanding of your life. Make notes of what archetypes you resonate with and what archetypes you may reject. Pay attention to your feelings and emotions. All this is important for a better understanding of your subconscious blocks, fears, and emotions. You may also recognize your strengths, positive aspects of your own personality that could be hidden, and your inner power that’s waiting to be revealed. Journalling would be helpful for tracking all your thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at Tarot archetypes.

Tarot Archetypes

THE SELF

The Self is our most authentic side. It’s who we are, regardless of any social norms and rules. The Self is our pure consciousness moving through life, growing, changing, and becoming a person. The whole purpose of our life is to rediscover ourselves and to understand on a deeper level who we really are.

This archetype manifests itself in the following Tarot cards:

  • The Fool (0/XXII)
  • The Chariot (VII)
  • Strength (VIII)
  • The Hanged Man (XII)
  • The Star (XVII)
  • The World (XXI)

Now, let’s explore each archetype a little deeper.

The Fool (0/XXII)

Major Arcanum Tarot the Fool Archetype Image

The Fool is the starting point for Major Arcana. It symbolizes the beginning of our journey and the purest expression of the Self. This arcanum reflects the fearlessness and innocence of the inner child. Just like a child, the Fool does not know how to be afraid, how to be shy, or compare himself with others. The Fool is always in a state of blissful ignorance – fearless, careless, and free.

The Chariot (VII)

Major Arcana Tarot the Chariot Image

This arcanum stands for the experience of our personality, which is formed through the drives of the unconscious, karma, and the story of our life. In general, the Chariot represents our karma and the “baggage” that we have brought into this life. We cannot simply “drop out” of our karma, but we can certainly work on ourselves, spiritually grow, and evolve so that we can consciously affect the direction in which our life is heading.

Strength (VIII)

Major arcana Strength archetype image

The red lion on the card symbolizes not only our inner wildness but also our will. The woman on the card represents wisdom. This arcanum reminds us that the lion tamer lives inside each of us. This inner tamer challenges and strengthens the forces which reside on this planet and in each one of us. Thus, this arcanum explores the struggle between you and your Shadow, with the human figure standing for the Self.

The Hanged Man (XII)

The Hanged Man Tarot Archetype Image

This arcana explores the benefits of being still and subverting your expectations. The Hanged Man represents the Self and our ability to see things from another perspective. He has a perfectly normal, clear, and unequivocal point of view – only his point of reference is not the earth or defined in earthy terms. His “standpoint” is the heavenly, transcendental perspective.

The Star (XVII)

The Star Arcana Image

All our dreams revolve around this star; our personal truth is the source of our dreams. This source cannot run dry – it is simply a matter of finding it and doing as the figure in the picture does: taking it in her hand and letting the earth become fruitful. When the star then illuminates not only the night, but the day as well – then this truth radiates in its full splendor. The figure in the card is in complete harmony with her environment. She represents our ideal Self.

The World (XXI)

the World Arcana Archetype Image

We find this card at the end of the Fool’s journey. The figurine on the card represents the balance of contradictions: calm and agitated, half-clothed and half-naked. In some Tarot decks, you can clearly see that this figurine is androgynous which also represents the balance of two genders (polarities). This card shows us that each of us has two wands (the polarities) at our disposal. Our task is to distinguish or combine the opposites and all four elements. Each of us is endowed with all four elements. What you make of them is our personal contribution and our participation in the world.

PERSONA

The persona is our “facade”, the face that we present to others. This is how we want people to see us and to think about us, this is the role we would like to play in society. We may wear different masks in life depending on the situations and people we interact with. We have created these masks for presenting ourselves in a certain way but they may not represent our authenticity – our true self.

This archetype manifests itself in the following Tarot cards:

  • Justice (XI)
  • Temperance (XIV)
  • The Star (XVII)

These Tarot archetypes urge us to take a closer look at the masks we choose to wear around others and be more authentic in how we present ourselves to this world.

Now, let’s explore each tarot archetype a little deeper.

Justice (XI)

Justice Tarot Archetype Image

This arcanum represents a borderline experience that makes clear to us that there is something greater than ourselves. This archetype urges us to be true to ourselves, to drop the masks we wear to be someone else rather than ourselves, to be authentic, to look into our past and learn from it, and to choose who we want to be in the future.

Temperance (XIV)

Temperance Major Arcanum Image

This arcanum stands for bringing polarities into a balanced co-existence. This card invites us to grasp the contradictions of life with both hands. Instead of rejecting one of the polarities, it invites us to find the right balance. This card represents the balance between who we are inside and what society wants us to be.

The Star (XVII)

The Star Arcana Image

The figure in The Star card is naked which shows us that her Persona has dropped completely. This card shows us that only by dropping our Persona completely, can we recognize and accept our own place in the Universe, as well as our purpose on this planet. The Star represents the pure, true, clear, and purged core of the soul, the indestructible and inalienable essence that resides in each of us.

THE SHADOW

This group of tarot archetypes represents our Shadow self – a hidden and forgotten place within us all. Our Shadow self has an unconscious nature and contains all the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to admit to having. It is only through the effort to become self-aware that we can recognize our shadow.

The Tarot cards that represent our Shadow self are:

  • Strength (VIII)
  • Death (XIII)
  • The Devil (XV)
  • The Moon (XVIII)

Let’s take a deeper look at these Tarot archetypes.

Strength (VIII)

Major arcana Strength archetype image

In this card, the lion represents our shadow self. It symbolizes our inner demons, animal instincts, and wild thoughts that swirl under the surface. This is the Shadow self that torments us from within. The question is: do we need to tame the lion, or can we learn from its wild and fierce nature? By using your wildness wisely, you can activate your artistic side and let your creative energy flourish.

Death (XIII)

Death Tarot Arcanum Image

Death is a universal human shadow that follows us from the day we are born. Most people prefer not to think about it. But in many ways, the understanding that nothing lasts forever and we are only a temporary phenomenon on this planet becomes the basis of how we decide to live our lives. This card is not just a question of letting go, but also actively bringing something to a conclusion. It warns us against harsh and unjustified aggression and encourages positive and consistent action.

The Devil (XV)

Devil Tarot Card Image

This arcanum represents all your basic instincts that your Shadow embodies. It symbolizes our uncivilized nature – everything in us that remains original and unrefined – which can be a curse or a blessing. The downward-pointing pentagram in this card is an invitation to find a personal quintessence that points downward (grounded). The torch in this card stands for our mission on this planet which is to bring light into the darkness.

The Moon (XVIII)

Moon Tarot Card Image

This arcanum represents our hidden impulses and instincts. The Moon is the realm of inner wildness, unleashed emotions, and deep feelings that society seeks to tame and suppress. But it is important to embrace this aspect of Shadow to a certain extent. The Moon arcanum is an invitation and exhortation to have the courage to express your strongest feelings and reveal your wild nature.

ANIMA & ANIMUS

Carl Jung believed that every person has feminine and masculine aspects of character – anima and animus. In combination with each other, anima and animus create a union, a whole, a complete Self. A healthy psyche is characterized by a balance of masculine and feminine aspects.

Although anima and animus are traditionally associated with the genders, they are, in fact, a set of qualities relevant to both men and women.

The Tarot cards that represent the union of the polarities are:

  • The Lovers (VI)
  • Temperance (XIV)
  • The World (XXI)

The Lovers (VI)

The Lovers Tarot Archetypes Image

This Tarot arcanum stands for a union of logic and intuition, mind and heart. This card is a representation of alchemical Divine marriage. This Tarot archetype comes to life when you feel the need to do some tidying up in your mind, to sort out what is best among all the ideas you have stored there. It helps you make balanced choices that promote harmony. It also helps in developing acute intelligence and quick thinking. It is only when we merge our intuition with our logic that we are able to make a balanced choice.

Temperance (XIV)

Temperance Major Arcanum Image

In this case, Temperance refers to the balance between masculine and feminine energies. The alchemists referred to the mysterium coniunctionis (the secret of the union), which they regard as the aim of the great work, as the marriage between heaven and earth. Thus, this arcanum represents alchemical divine marriage in its fullness. This card shows us that by maintaining a balance between the masculine and feminine, we save ourselves from being absorbed by our inner Shadow.

The World (XXI)

the World Arcana Archetype Image

The figure in the card carries two wands that represent ‘I’ and ‘you’. This arcanum stands for not only a union of two opposites but also, a complete acceptance, rejection of the division of the world into opposites. This archetype reveals itself when we stop dividing the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘black’ and ‘white’ but start seeing it as a whole.

ANIMA

The concept of Anima refers to the feminine energy that exists within us. The Tarot cards that represent our Anima are:

  • The High Priestess (II)
  • The Empress (III)
  • Strength (VIII)

Let’s explore these three Tarot archetypes a little deeper.

The High Priestess (II)

The High Priestess Archetype Image

The High Priestess is the maiden form of the divine feminine. She is young, yet wise beyond her years. History and legends relate priestesses with oracular powers such as the Pythia of Delphi, the Sibyls (prophetesses), as well as Cassandra of Troy, and temple women and nuns. Today we see them as mirrors of our own personalities. There’s the High Priestess within each of us.

The Empress (III)

The Empress Archetype Image

The Empress represents nature, fertility, and our caring and nurturing instinct. The Empress is the archetypal mother who nurtures and protects all of her creations. This card is a mirror of women’s femininity, as well as men’s female aspects. The Empress reflects our personal experiences as a woman and/or with women. In general, the Empress archetype represents our inner Empress and Goddess of Love within us.

Strength (VIII)

Major arcana Strength archetype image

The gender of the figure in this card doesn’t really matter that much but this arcanum represents the divine feminine qualities such as purity, softness, and gentleness. These qualities stand in contrast to the wild savagery of the lion. Embracing your feminine side, regardless of your own gender identity, means confronting your inner conflict between wildness and gentleness.

ANIMUS

The animus is the masculine aspect of our character. This is the force of movement, the conquest of new horizons. It reflects our need to observe, feel and form categories, algorithms, and structure of life. This rational approach is very different from the soft intuitiveness of the Anima. But the masculine aspect is essential for our harmonious living, regardless of our gender.

The Tarot cards that represent our Animus are:

  • The Magician (I)
  • The Emperor (IV)
  • Hierophant (V)

The Magician (I)

The Magician Archetype Image

This card stands for uniqueness and singularity. We all are capable of doing magical things and witnessing miracles. Each of us is special and has his or her own individual role to play in life. The Magician archetype can be applied regardless of gender. Yet, the Magician is a counterpart to the High Priestess, and while she is concerned with lifting the veil to the beyond, the Magician harnesses the divine to manifest things into this world.

The Emperor (IV)

The Emperor Archetype Image

This arcanum represents the father and ruler and all the images of the father and ruler that are manifested in our life (mentor, boss, president, teacher, etc.). The Emperor card is a mirror of men’s masculinity, as well as women’s masculine aspects. This arcanum relates to your own experiences as a man or with men. The Emperor archetype invites us on a journey of exploring new possibilities in life.

Hierophant (V)

Hierophant Tarot Arcanum Image

This Greek word means ‘he who proclaims what is sacred’. This arcanum symbolizes our personal strengths and weaknesses and suggests that we see them as a gift of God. To make a human being we need both – strengths and weaknesses. This is where our evolution comes from. It doesn’t matter how many weaknesses you have. What counts is what you make of them.

THE CHILD

We all have an inner child – the “part” of our personality that stores all our memories, feelings, needs, and attitudes towards ourselves and others. When we are connected to our inner child, we feel excited, enthusiastic, and inspired by life. And when we get disconnected from our inner child, we feel tired, depressed, bored with life, and sick. Therefore, it is so important that we stay connected to our inner children and let them out to play!

The Tarot cards that represent the Child are:

  • The Fool (0/XXII)
  • The Sun (XIX)

Now, let’s take a deeper look at what these Tarot archetypes represent.

The Fool (0/XXII)

Major Arcana Tarot the Fool Archetype Image

This arcanum represents our inner child – naive, innocent, open, and joyful. It is only by his/her naivety that they can live life so joyously. The figure of the Fool personifies the openness and indeterminacy which is inherent in every situation. The Fool (just like a child) boldly steps into the unknown. It is impossible to say whether the Fool’s next step will take him over the edge to disaster, or simply to the next rock. His focus is on the present moment. We reveal this archetype when we start taking life the Forrest Gump way: “Life is like a box of chocolates…”

The Sun (XIX)

The Sun Tarot Arcanum Image

“Birth is not a momentary event, but a permanent process. Our aim in life is to become completely born. Living means being born every minute.” (Erich Fromm) This archetype stands for self-determined creating of our lives in a way that is not regulated by habit or routine but through our own free choice and free will. This arcanum stands for replacing conformist behavior and conventional thinking with our own style of living.

THE WISE SAGE

The Tarot cards that represent the Wise Sage are:

  • The Hierophant (V)
  • The Hermit (IX)

Let’s take a closer look at what these Tarot archetypes stand for.

The Hierophant (V)

Hierophant Tarot Arcanum Image

In Tarot, this is the archetype of a wise old man, whom we see as a spiritual mentor/teacher. At the same time, each of us has a guru within who communicates with us when we silence our minds. The Hierophant archetype represents this inner guru. When we study sacred texts, perform spiritual practices, pray, etc. we allow the Hierophant archetype to reveal himself and guide us along our spiritual path.

The Hermit (IX)

The Hermit Tarot Archetype Image

The Hermit is one who deals with his problems when the time is ripe and without trying to avoid the life challenges. He lives his life in the experience of God, in His presents. This Tarot archetype represents an independent path to and with God. Our inner Hermit reveals himself when we decide to spend time in solitude to see our current situation/life challenge/problem in a new light and to find a deeper understanding of current life events.

The Bottom Line

The journey to our subconscious can be challenging. It takes courage to face our true selves, our fears, uncomfortable feelings, and emotions. Tarot archetypes were created by our subconscious to help us deal with certain life challenges. By exploring these archetypes and meditating on them you may find that you are fighting against certain Tarot archetypes and feel encouraged by others. The goal is to understand why you reject certain Tarot archetypes and how you can use them to your benefit.

Katya Ki is the Founder of SOLANCHA Magazine, a Metaphysical Expert, a Reiki Master, and Human Rights Attorney. She has been studying Eastern metaphysics, cosmology, and esotericism for almost 20 years now. And she's still discovering new knowledge, which is hidden in ancient teachings. During her pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt, she discovered the SOLANCHA System. This is how the SOLANCHA journey started!

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