The Tarot is a set of cards consisting of an additional suit of 22 trumps (Major Arcana), and one extra face card per suit besides the number of ordinary playing cards. The Major Arcana are archetypal forces that exist in the consciousness of all human beings, although they tend to be projected on prominent people, authorities and also ordinary folks we meet in our personal life. They represent the original matrix from which all our human perception comes.
Each character in the Major Arcana is a specific aspect of our Core Multidimensional Identity, as it appears from the limited perspective of our separated reality. In astroshamanism they are called Totem Spirits, or Paheka, and function as the keepers of the fragmented parts of the soul that the seeker retrieves during his healing journey. Thus, astroshamanic work involves establishing a connection with each Totem Spirit and, through the assistance of the Spirit Guide, acknowledging, recovering and integrating their qualities.
The Tarot offers a version of this healing path of retrieval and unification. Its purpose is firstly to isolate the fragmented parts so that we can see them in their essential form, and secondly to assist us to mend these core fragments and guide us bit by bit until they are brought to their original unity.
Tarot cards have filled me with great wonder since I was a child. In my Bolognese circle of relatives, food and tarot cards constituted the major source of fun and celebration. Family gatherings usually took place on Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons in San Venanzio di Galliera (Bologna).
First there was the outer mystery of eating a copious meal. This was something I could take part in and also fully understand. Then the lunch table was tidied as a subtle anticipation of an upcoming inner mystery: the cards. This bit was not allowed for children, although they could watch, as long as they were silent and respectful.
The ritual was officially announced by my grandmother or another family elder crying out Bestia! This term is the Italian for “beast”, which here was pronounced with the sibilant consonant “s” turned into an emphasized “sh”, as it is typical of the Bologna’s dialect.
The table was covered with a green cloth, while participants would gradually sit around in solemn excitement and start constructing a wee citadel made up of little piles of coins. Then the cards were distributed in three rounds. After a moment of fervent silence, some players would knock on the table three times.
This act appeared to convey the entitlement to a privilege, given the fact that those who did not knock looked rather disappointed. Yet at the end of each game, a more striking dissatisfaction was visible in those who had to release parts of their citadel and give them to the player who had shouted Bestia at them. This on the other hand was delighted since he could increase the size of his citadel.
The decks used in Bologna (IPiacentine) and Sicily were slightly different, yet still made up of the same number of suits and cards (40 cards and four suits going 1 to 7 plus three face cards).
Later I also saw decks with 52 cards and two jolly jokers, until one day at the age of 12 I came across a most cryptic deck with 22 additional cards called Major Arcana. This was one of the most amazing discoveries in my childhood. I had never seen those cards and nobody in the family knew anything about them, or perhaps they did not want to show that they knew. Those cards appeared very familiar, and from that moment my interest for the Tarot soared.
This article is the introduction to a series of articles devoted to the Major Arcana, that will follow in this blog. Just browse the topics section on the right under “Tarot” to see what is available.
For general information on the Tarot and the Major Arcana, please refer to the abundant web-pages and books available in the marketplace. In this regards I recommend: 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usagel by Paul Huson, The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination by Robert Place, and Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous (to which I refer below). Here I would also like to mention Il tarocco intuitivo: una chiave di lettura tra psicologia e magia (In Italian) by two Osho sannyasin friends, Swami Prem Bodhi & Swami Anand Rajendra, which was one of my first most passionate readings on the topic.
In this series I intend to cover only the astroshamanic and mystical elements of the Tarot. For this purpose I will use three decks: the Rider-Waite-Smith, the Thoth tarot deck and the Tarot of the Saints, yet I believe I will also refer to other decks.
The function of this series on the Major Arcana is to present the theme so as to encourage a direct relationship with the spirit essence of each of the 22 archetypes. Only through direct experience it is possible to get understanding of the nature of these cards. The information provided below is merely a taster and the invitation is to get the complete meal. If you would like to receive more details on the Totem Spirits and how to contact them, please refer to Astroshamanism Book One and Book Two.