Moses, Another Guy With a Dream

This past week, the world marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Stirring words from a modern-day Moses. Like the biblical patriarch before him, Dr. King did not live to see his people reach the Promised Land. Nevertheless, his vision shook a nation.

As an archetype, Moses is a symbol for someone with a single-minded focus, someone who wasn’t afraid to buck the tide and 12 - Hanged Manact contrary to what was expected. In this way, he becomes a representation of The Hanged Man (Key 12 of the Major Arcana of the Tarot). This card shows a man hanging upside down, often suspended over water. The card is associated with the element of Water, the planet Neptune, and the Hebrew letter Mem (shown in the lower right of the card). In divination, it commonly indicates a period of delay or things in transition. Patience is the watchword.

In the Western mysteries, This card is used in meditation so that we can know the will of God, and become an instrument of that will. It requires us to act contrary to the rest of the world, with its materialistic emphasis. Let’s see how Moses fits the archetype.Moses red sea

Moses is frequently paired with water in the Bible. He is set adrift on the Nile by his mother, to be discovered in the rushes by the daughter of Pharaoh. He is raised up in Pharaoh’s court, destined to become a prince of Egypt (why, Disney, why?). However, God intervenes as a burning bush (Fire, the antithetical element to Water) and turns the world of Moses upside down (clever, huh?). Actually, the letters that spell out Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) tell the story quite clearly. Moshe is spelled Mem-Shin-Heh. The Tarot cards for these letters are The Hanged Man (12), Judgement (20), and The Emperor(4), respectively. Laid out Hebrew-style, right to left they look like this:

4 - Emperor 20 - Judgement 12 - Hanged Man

When we do this work of telling stories, interpreting interactions among cards, we most often work backwards (left to right). So, the story goes like this: A royal person (Emperor) encounters Fire (Judgement is associated with that element), is turned upside down, and starts acting in accordance with Divine will – at odds with the material world.

Moses’s association with water continues throughout his life. The first plague of Egypt involves Moses turning the Nile blood red. On his way out of town with the Israelites, he parts the Red Sea. When they are withering away in the desert and Moses asks God for assistance, he is instructed to bring forth water from a rock. Finally, Moses does not get to cross the River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Water forms his final barrier.

(OK, so why didn’t he get to go into the Promised Land? Because he struck the rock twice when bringing forth water, and God told him just to command it. That Old Testament God was a stickler and wanted strict obedience. I’m sure Moses turned out OK in the afterlife, though. He did appear with Jesus during the Transfiguration, if you remember your New Testament.)

Moses is the model of a person who puts his own will aside (except for that rock-striking business) and molds himself to God’s will, or the dictates of the Higher Self.

Please realize that there is no need to espouse any religion in order to gain benefit from this practice with the cards and letters.”God” can be replaced with “Higher Self” and any of the cards is a psychological archetype, a part of our collective unconscious, free for any of us to work with, non-denominationally.

All that’s required is a bit of knowledge, a questing mind, and a desire to benefit from what reveals itself.

Telling Stories With Tarot

This is a sample of part of a series of classes that I will be conducting in the months ahead. The example used is only a small piece of what will be covered in the class. Be on the lookout, eastern and central Iowa, for more information about these classes.

The Tarot is amazing. It is so adaptable. Sure, you can “tell fortunes” with it, but that is its most mundane use. In fact, it is my opinion that the “is my boyfriend cheating on me” type of question, so often asked of casual Tarot readers, is an insult to the deep, eternal wisdom that is Tarot.

Tarot is a tool for self development. This is especially true when talking about the Major Arcana, the 22 cards that have wonderful names like The Fool, The High Priestess, The Tower, etc. These cards are no less than a road map of the unconscious. They are archetypal symbols that speak to our deepest selves. What’s more, each card contains a lesson, a story if you will, to give us a sense of how to attain the state intimated by the card. This is done through the Hebrew letter that has been paired with each card. This is very handy, as there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Divine providence, perhaps?

Hebrew is one of several languages that have been considered the language of creation. I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of any of that. I use Hebrew because that is language that the Western mystery tradition has used. And it works for our purposes, especially since each letter has multiple associations and a meaning all its own.

So, let’s tell a short story. storybookI’ve decided to use one of the scarier cards of the Major Arcana as an example: The Devil (number 15 of the 22 – I’ve already talked a little about this card here). Really, this card isn’t scary at all. It is a simple reminder of the deception put over on us by our senses. That is to say, the world, as we perceive it, is an illusion. The reality which lies behind this illusion is God’s energy, the very stuff of creation itself. This actually meshes quite nicely with some of the tenets of modern quantum theory. Oh, those ancients. They knew a thing or two.

At any rate, the letter for this card is ayin, which not-so-coincidentally means “eye,” the sense organ most of us rely on as our primary way of gaining information about the world. To get more of the message behind this pairing of card and letter, we need to spell out the name of the letter. For example, in English when we spell the name of the fourth letter of the alphabet, it’s done thusly: dee. Well, ayin is spelled with three letters also: ayin-yod-nun. Don’t worry about the details now, just take my word for it. I’ll guide you along.

Since each letter has a Tarot card paired with it, we can look at those cards to help us out. The three letters and their cards are: Ayin (Devil); Yod (Hermit); and Nun (Death). Laying them out right to left, the way Hebrew is written, we get:

13 - Death 9 - Hermit 15 - Devil

You can see the letter for each card in its lower right corner. Several stories are possible for each arrangement of cards, by the way. That’s part of the beauty of this process. So let’s look at these three briefly. We’ve already talked a little about the Devil. The Hermit is the light of God showing the way. Death isn’t death at all. It signifies a transformation, a radical change. Taking this information and reading right to left, the message is: In order to see the illusion for what it is (Devil), one must concentrate on the light of God (Hermit), which will lead to a transformation of perception (Death). Using just the letters in the same order, we get: Use your inner eye (ayin) to see what God is truly giving you (yod means “hand”) in order to plumb the depths of the unconscious for an answer (nun means “fish” and, by extension, the deep water of the unconscious).

Once you have a vocabulary of associations to the cards and letters, lots of stories can be told with the same arrangement of cards. I didn’t want to cross your eyes (your ayins?), so I kept it simple today. This same process can be extended to the names of the spheres on the Tree of Life (see here and here), or to other words and phrases. The layers of meaning are many, and informative.

Keep an eye out for my class series, where we will explore the intricacies of the Tarot for personal growth and spiritual insight. Coming soon!