ROTAtions Cycles & Seasons asks "Why is ROTA capitalized?" hinting that the answer is as common as a deck of cards.
In the traditional Wheel of Fortune card, ROTA is spelled out on a large wheel. Reading the letters clockwise, starting at the top, spells TARO; continuing full circle gives us the word TAROT.
Studying Tarot and contemplating its imagery can illuminate pathways where patterns emerge and lessons learned. Keys I-XXI in the Major Arcana are laid out to represent "The Fools' Journey." The Fool is tarot's Zero key card. Like Percifal in Arthurian legand, the Fool is a Seeker, in a quest for the "Holy Grail" - enlightenment, gnosis.
Mapping the Fools Journey
This is a process of laying out major arcana cards from I-XXI in 3 rows of 7 cards each. These numbers are not arbitrary. Greek mathematician Pythagoras like the musician Orpheus who preceded him, saw a relationship between numeric order and the archetecture of music. Pythagoras believed the 7-note musical scale captured the orbit of sound around the 7-then known planets and called this the "Music of the Spheres." He postulated a correspondence of this music to the 7 energy centers along the human spine, and used the 7-stringed lyre of Orpheus to bring these centers into harmony, an early example of music therapy.1
A special significance of the number 3 is found in most if not all cultures. Among the Celts in particular, with all their triad proverbs, 3 times is indeed the charm. Tarot maps the major arcana into 3 acts: Opus I, II, III. Each Opus is a stage in the grand musical composition that is our individual lives, and collectively as engineers and architects of what manifests in each Age. Our challenge is to make this play out harmoniously. Contemplation can help, contemplation of nature-music-art, including Tarot.
Jzero2 the Fool, is the Joker, the only major arcana card employed in card games. Tarot was a card game in times past, its esoteric messages hidden from the general populace. A "wild card" that can play anywhere, the Fool stays with us - is us - in our Fools Journey to #21, the Anima/Axis Mundi-World Soul-World Tree.
1.Robert Place, A Gnostic Book of Saints
2. J for Joker, zero for the Fool's tarot number. I call the Fool Jzero after a song by Cat Stevens.
To take the Fools Journey, lay out your deck's major arcana card with 0-Fool atop 3 rows of 7 cards:
The 1st row I-Magician through VII-Chariot is Opus I, our journey from birth to young adulthood. We develop our maturity in the 2nd row, VII-Strength through XIV-Temperence, Opus II. Our attention shifts from the personal to the universal in the 3rd row, XV-Devil-XXI-World, Opus III.
My interpretations of each card are available to my students. Carrie Mallon's "Frolicking through the Major Arcana" is a good online map you can use now. A graphic of the layout is included. Take a look at card XXI The World. Note the dancer is poised within an ellipse in the shape of a Zero. When the Fools Journey ends, it is ever beginning...
Quinta Essentia - Essential 5th
Now the Fool has reached 21, the formation of another map comes into view. Key #21 the World Tree is now at the center point that orients space into 4 sections, a circled cross quincunx wheel that also divides time into 4 seasons. It divides matter into the 4 classical elements Earth-Air-Fire-Water, united by the quinta essentia, from which comes the word quintessence, familiar to alchemists and perfumers.3
The anima mundi is the quinta essentia, the elixir that unites and heals the world.
The entire deck of tarot is a quincunx wheel map, layed out on the graphic below, with the 4 suits of the minor arcana at each spoke and the major arcana at the center.
3. Mandy Aftel, Essence and Alchemy
Minor arcana "pips" paradoxically comprise the majority of the cards in the tarot deck. The four suits are related to those of playing cards, and linked to one of 4 classical elements: Swords to Spades (air)-Wands to Clubs (fire)-Cups to Hearts (water)-Pentacles to Diamonds (earth).
Wands are sometimes "air" and Swords "fire". Names of suits may vary. Bucklands' Romani Tarot suits are Bolers (wheels)-Koras (cups)-Kosh (staves)-Chiv (knives). Wildwood Tarot suits are Bows-Arrows-Vessels-Stones.
There are other variations but virtually all the tarots minor arcana consist of 4 suits.
To traverse the Quinta Essentia (quincunx) map, lay your cards as described above. Again, the Fool is the Wild Card, encountering each group of 5.
You should see the I-Magician surrounded by all the Aces, his tools. Likewise II-X will be associated with each corresponding number in the 4 suits. Journeying through this process is extensive, and I only do this in person. But you can note connections you notice between each set of 5.
Note also that Tarot X-Wheel connects the second half of the tarot and the higher octave of numerical values. How is V-Heirophant linked with XIV (14, 1+4=5) Temperance? Any coincidence the game of tarot is similar to Bridge? ...please forgive me for teasing you, but it's good to do some research and contemplation on your own!
Most tarot pips, unlike playing cards, show pictures of daily life.
Court Cards bring personality to those situations.
Court Cards may be personal significators; you may identify with their character description. There are 16 court cards and also 16 results in the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Subjectively, I associate Extrovert with Wands & Swords, Introvert with Cups & Pentacles; Sensing with Pentacles; Thinking with Swords (air), Judgement with Kings & Queens and Perceptive with Knights & Pages.
Once you've chosen your significator (you can always choose another later), lets explore the ambrosial aspect.
Perfume can be built around the 4 suit tarot "families"; perfumers have long used "fragrance family" categorization of scents. The Michael Edwards Fragrance Wheel@ starts with 4 basic classifications, which can link to the tarot families: Fresh-Wands, Floral-Cups, Oriental-Swords, Woodsy-Pentacles, for example.
- Fresh "airy" fragrances include citrus-lavender-fir
- Floral "watery" rose-jasmine-gardenia
- Oriental "fiery" oakmoss-vetiver-cedar
Your favourite signature scent can help determine your tarot significators(s).
Perfume families are loosely based on which part of a plant the fragrances are extracted from, and there are 7: Seed-Root-Bark-Resin-Leaf-Flower-Fruit.
Generally, spicy seeds and amber resins produce Oriental scents, roots and bark are Woodsy. Leafy scents trend Fresh, flowers Floral. Fruits in the berry or apple families are water like the Florals that precede them, but citrus fruits trend Fresh.
is used in fragrance "notes" classification, based on speed of evaporation. Top (aka Head) notes are most volitile, rapidly evaporating, fresh and airy instruments in the tarot symphony orchestra - the woodwinds, associated with tarot Wands.
Middle (Heart) notes are the flowing strings, watery Cups, and the most tenacious, lingering, Base notes resound like earthy Pentacle percussion instruments. Base notes are also like the fiery Swords - sultry, seductive, rousing to action.
Like a music piece, some fragrance notes are "bridges"; like the tarots Hierophant and Temperance; they harmonize notes. A composition of 3 or more notes is an "accord," pronounced "a chord".
Traditional perfumers work at an organ composed of notes and accords - how very musical!
An arrangement of 21 fragrances in 3 rows of 7 each brings together the Aural, Visual, Ambrosial aspects of the Fools Journey.