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 act 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 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:
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.