The Goddess Major Arcana: Lakshmi/Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune is, for lack of a better word, something of a persnickety card. While it portends motion or movement of some kind, it also seems to stop short of really telling you what’s coming. It tells you that something is about to happen, but stops short of giving you a clue what’s coming. Instead, it reminds us that the Wheel continues to turn, the cycles roll forward, that change is the only constant.

The reinterpretation of The Wheel of Fortune in The Goddess Tarot has a bit of a different energy.  Embodied in Lakshmi (sometimes spelled Laxmi), the Hindu Goddess of abundance and generosity, Fortune brings messages that, literally, Fortune is about to smile upon you. And yet this card also carries the message of The Wheel of Fortune too, indicating that fundamental change is imminent, that we all will occupy every point on the Wheel throughout our lives, and that change is the only constant.

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Lakshmi/Fortune from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr.

When Lakshmi’s eagle comes into your reading, She is encouraging you to surrender to the inevitable ebb and flow of life. The Wheel may turn, but the hub — the Self — remains a stable center. Lakshmi/Fortune brings messages of important changes to come, and reminds you that you can fight change or move with it — but that even if we fight change, it will do its work.  If you are unhappy with your situation, Lakshmi may come into your reading to tell you to be patient — your circumstances will change, as the Wheel inevitably turns.

Lakshmi/Fortune can also bring messages of literal changes of Fortune. Lakshmi is best known for her love of gold and all things luxurious, and for her willingness to share those riches with others. This card can indicate that a change in financial circumstances (for the better) is on the way. This can be the abundant harvest that follows hard work — Lakshmi also rules the Suit of Pentacles in this deck — or an unexpected windfall. And beyond monetary gain, this card can promise that one’s luck or fortune is about to change, that the querent is about to enter a new, more prosperous phase of life.

One of the things I like about this rendition of The Wheel of Fortune is that it feels more benevolent, more loving, and more deliberate. The classic Wheel of Fortune card can sometimes produce a little anxiety when it pops up in reading, as it speaks to the seemingly random and capricious motion of life and the universe. Lakshmi/Fortune feels more supportive. Rather than being told that you’re strapped to the Wheel and subject to the whims of Fate, this card seems to indicate that there is a benevolent, caring energy guiding that Wheel.

 

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Wheel of Fortune

There’s a lot of discussion and debate about the role of Fate and Destiny when it comes to Tarot. Are the preset outcomes that we cannot avoid? Or do the cards merely show us most likely outcomes, which can be altered by free will and choice? Do we have to accept the inevitability of the outcome card, or is there more at work? As with so many things Tarot, the answer (at least for me, as a reader) is, “Well, it’s complicated.” But most readers I know, and I, do account for the external forces that are outside our control — and these forces are embodied in card X, The Wheel of Fortune.

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The Wheel of Fortune from The Rider-Waite Tarot

Who is the Wheel of Fortune?

The Wheel of Fortune, perched between the personal journey into power and into ourselves represented by cards 0-IX and the forces of the outside world represented by cards XII-XXI, is in some ways the fulcrum of The Fool’s Journey. Representing the cycles of life, the inevitable turning of the seasons, the ways in which outside forces can exert great influence on our human lives, the Wheel of Fortune helps us to remember the interconnectedness of all life.

The figures at the corner of the card in the Rider-Waite Tarot represent the four fixes signs of the Zodiac: Aquarius, Taurus, Leo, and Scorpio. In the midst of this fixed, stable energ,y, the Wheel turns freely. It reminds us that there is an order to things, a process and a cycle, even when things seem random. The Wheel of Fortune can literally represent the twin forces of Fate and Fortune, along with the ways in which humans can seemingly move from the top of the world to the bottom and back again, in ways that can see capricious. The Wheel of Fortune symbolizes the cycles of life. and the ways in which unseen forces are at work behind the scenes of a situation.

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Some of my favorite Wheels! From left they are The Fenestra Tarot, The Wild Unknown, The Goddess Tarot, and The Rider-Waite Tarot

When the Wheel of Fortune comes into a reading, you are being reminded that Divine Timing and universal forces are at work. This does not mean you are powerless, but simply that there is more happening than meets the eye. The Wheel of Fortune assures you that life is on the move, but that you shouldn’t just stand still and accept your hand — you are part of the forces that drive the Wheel. The Wheel also reminds us that there are seasons and cycles — hard seasons and rough times do not last, but similarly we will go through these hard seasons along with gentle and sweet seasons. It is all a cycle, and the Wheel can be a message of hope or a reminder to be grateful for all that we have, for these things can pass away.

The Wheel of Fortune can also come into a reading when we are feeling discouraged. This card reminds us that our trials will pass, that the Wheel will turn and we will be on top of the Wheel just as assuredly as we are sometimes on the bottom. This card encourages us to cultivate optimism — not in a “Just Think Positive” kind of way, which can be simplistic and even hurtful when things are genuinely hard, but in the sense that we remind ourselves that all these cycles inevitably turn, and that no matter how dark things seem, the dawn will eventually come.

For The Goddess Tarot, Kris Waldherr chose the Hindu Goddess Laskshmi (Laxmi), the personification of luck, fortune, and abundance. She brings a bit of a different energy to this card. Come back tomorrow to get to know Her!

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Lakshmi/Fortune as The Wheel of Fortune in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to us the photo of the card generously granted by the artist.

 

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The Goddess Major Arcana: Chang O/Contemplation

The Hermit card encourages us to go within, to be guided by our own innermost light, to withdraw and connect with ourselves so that we can return to the world and operate from a place of empowerment. For The Goddess Tarot, Kris Waldherr eschewed the robed Hermit of the classical Tarot and instead chose the Chinese Moon Goddess    Chang-O (Or Chang-E) to embody the Hermit and his call to contemplation. Fittingly, Waldherr also retitled the card Contemplation.

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Chang O/Contemplation as The Hermit in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card generously granted by the artist.

Chang-O was exiled to the Moon, as a result of her efforts to obtain divinity. On the Moon, her only companion is a white hare — the Rabbit in the Moon familiar to many of those well-versed in Chinese mythology. With only the hare to keep her company, Chang-O was drawn to seek Truth within herself, to contemplate Life’s mysteries, and to spend time in silence and contemplation.

When she appears in a reading, Chang-O calls upon us to mindfully and purposefully withdraw from the world around us. This is not a retreat born of fear or unwillingness to face issues, but instead a mindful withdrawal so that we can shut off the background noise and find what is True. I take Chang-O as an invitation to go deeper into spiritual practice, particularly contemplative practices such a meditation, prayer, labyrinth walking, journalling, or other solitary, mindful practices. She can also be a message that the “world is too much with” the querent — there may be many people giving their opinions, a lot of information coming in, and a lot of competing demands. Chang-O encourages us to listen to the small, still inner voice that we all have — our intuition, our gut, our connection to the Divine.

In our modern world, it can be difficult or impossible to go on physical retreat or withdraw from the world and its everyday demands. Chang-O reminds us that even if we cannot physically withdraw, we can set aside time to be still and quiet with ourselves. She invites us to cultivate that quiet and contemplative time, even if it’s just a few minutes each day sitting in silence with a candle or a short walk with meditative music in our headphones at lunch.

Perhaps the most important message of Chang-O/Contemplation is that this withdrawal must not be permanent, even though Chang-O’s own exile was lifelong. Rather, she encourages us to withdraw so that we can, in time, re-enter the the world feeling more calm, more centered, more sure, and more empowered.

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Hermit

The greatest journey, so it has been said, is the one within. Up to this point in our journey through the Major Arcana, the focus has been on forward movement and claiming all the various facets of our Power. It’s been an active, sometimes fast-moving journey. But here comes the Hermit to change all that.

We have just dared to pry open the jaws of the subconscious with the Strength card. This represents a turning point in the Fool’s Journey. Now it is time for us to explore the realms that were revealed with the opening of the lion’s jaws.

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The Hermit from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Who Is The Hermit?

The Hermit, Card IX, calls on us to turn from the outward journey to the inner journey, to follow our own light through the darkness. Cloaked in grey (and looking not unlike Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, to my eye anyway), The Hermit represents the willingness to seek knowledge in even dark places, to wander alone in search of great Truth.

Associated with the sign of Virgo, The Hermit invites us to disengage from the outside world for a time to reflect, explore, and regroup. While The Hermit signals the need for retreat, this is not retreat in the sense of admitting defeat, but rather retreat in the sense of taking time apart in order to realign and reconnect — more like a religious retreat than a military one, so to speak. With his lantern and staff, The Hermit is able to support his own footing and light his own path.

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A collection of some of my favorite Hermits. From left, they are the Fenestra Tarot, The Wild Unknown, The Goddess Tarot, and The Rider-Waite Tarot.

Like the religious hermits of old, this Hermit has chosen solitude in order to seek Truth. By removing himself from the distractions of day to day life, he frees up his time and energy to explore the unseen inner world that will bring him the wisdom that is one of the goals of the Fool’s Journey.

When The Hermit makes his way into your reading, he is inviting you to take time out and focus on yourself. The world may be too much with you — you have lost your perspective on a situation, or are looking for answers outside yourself that can only be found within. The Hermit may be an indication that it is time to focus on spiritual matters, especially meditation, prayer, and solitary contemplative practices. He also carries the message that it is time to care for yourself, to be willing to say No to things that do not serve you so that you can say Yes to that which feeds your soul. At other times, The Hermit indicates a need take a more detached view of a situation — it is time to pull back and observe, to withdraw your energy from others so that you can have enough to nurture your own growth. The Hermit’s lantern will illuminate the dark corners where Truth and Wisdom lie, if we are willing to venture into the dark with him.

The light of The Hermit’s lantern is re-envisioned at the light of the Full Moon in the version of The Hermit in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. In this deck, the Chinese Moon Goddess Chang O (or Chang E) invites us to contemplation. Come back tomorrow to spend time with the Rabbit in the Moon.

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Chang O/Contemplation as The Hermit in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card graciously granted by the artist.

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The Goddess Major Arcana: Oya/Strength

So, the first thing you’ll notice when you look at the re-interpretation of the Strength card in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr is that it is actually card XI rather than card VIII, as Strength is in the Rider-Waite Tarot. This is a controversy — or at least a discussion — in Tarot circles, with reasonable arguments on both sides. (You can read more about it through the links in the Strength entry.) In order to keep things consistent, I’ve chosen to keep Strength in the card VIII position for this blog series.

The move to card XI isn’t the only way in which Strength in The Goddess Tarot differs from the classic Rider-Waite. For many, the lion is the archetypical image of the Strength card. But on this Strength, there’s not a lion to be seen. Instead, Strength is represented by the Yoruba Goddess Oya (who is also honored in Santeria, Ifa, and other Afro-Caribbean traditions). Rather than opening the lion’s jaws, Oya instead is taming and commanding the mighty winds in this rendition of Strength.

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Oya/Strength from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card graciously granted by the artist.

Oya calls upon us to command powerful forces both within ourselves and in the world at large. She reminds us that we have the power to tame that which seems wild and out of control, through the force of our own Will. We have the ability to commune with the unseen and unseeable. As the Goddess of Storms, Oya commands the might of the thunderstorm, the hurricane, the torrential downpour, the mighty winds. While these are destructive forces, they are ultimately amoral — they destroy not because they wish harm, but because it is in their nature to destroy, to move things out of the way, to make way for new life and new creation. We can fear these forces or we can recognize that we are part of their cycle. Oya reminds us that we have this choice, and that we have endless reserves of power at our disposal if only we remember to use it.

Oya also reminds us that we have the Strength to face our trials, our obstacles, and triumph over them. When She appears in a reading, I take it as a call for the querent to remember their own inherent Strength and to draw on their own inner reserves. Oya assures us that we will be able to speak with authority when the time comes, that we will be able to command our energy and resources to achieve our goals. She also reminds us that even when we feel weak or at the mercy of the world around us, we are strong enough to withstand even the most forceful wind.

When Oya comes striding confidently into your reading, She reminds you that you have the Strength not only to withstand the winds, but to unleash the whirlwind if you so choose. She reminds you to be brave, even when your voice shakes. Speak your truth. Stand in your power. Command the wind and the lightning.

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A Journey Through the Major Arcana: Strength

We have a Tarot controversy! In the Rider-Waite Tarot, the 9th card in the Major Arcana is Strength. However, if you look back in Tarot history, and look at different decks — including my beloved Goddess Tarot and the well-respected Thoth Tarot — you’ll see that the 9th spot (card VIII) is instead Justice. (In the Rider-Waite, Justice is card XI, whereas in other decks Strength is card XI). How can this be, and which way is “right”?

There’s a good deal of writing on why Waite changed the order of the Arcana from the classic arrangement (Justice at VIII and Strength at XI). I’ve read a great deal on this, and I’ve worked with decks that use both numbering systems — I’ve never found it at all problematic to move back and forth between the systems. For the purposes of this blog series, I will be treating Strength as card VIII and Justice as card XI, even though these are reversed in the Goddess Tarot (which is the subject of the Goddess Arcana portion of this series).

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Strength from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Who is Strength?

Strength is a iconic card, one that even people who don’t read Tarot (or have their Tarot read) recognize. The woman attempts to pry open the lion’s jaws, yet there is an air of gentle determination rather than a struggle of wills here. The Strength embodied here is not physical, or at any rate not just physical. There is a strength of character, of will, of spirit in the woman on the card that allows her to tame the lion not by overpowering him, but by holding power with him.

The woman on this card wears the white robes of innocence, evoking the image of The Fool, and she is crowned with the infinity symbol of The Magician. She is adorned with greenery, reminiscent of The Empress. As she cradles the lion’s head and works to open his jaws, this woman represents the ways in which humans grapple with our animistic nature as we move through The Fool’s Journey. The lion represents our instinctual, animal nature, while the woman represents the spiritual and intellectual self. The lion is also sometimes seen as the forces of the unconscious, and the woman is using spiritual knowledge and the growth of The Fool’s Journey to open the unconscious to learn more about the mysteries that are so often locked away from us.

When Strength appears in a reading, She is reminding us that we have the strength, determination, and Will to accomplish our desires. Ruled by fiery Leo, Strength assures us that we know where we are headed (echoes of The Chariot!) and we have the stamina and persistence to get there. And  yet Strength also reminds us that we can take a compassionate approach — we can give others the space they need, and we need not overpower others to accomplish what we want. Instead, we can gently tame our challenges and find ways to surmount any obstacles. Strength’s other message is that of self-mastery: as we explore our subconscious and tame our animal nature, we know ourselves better and have deeper confidence in our strengths, talents, and abilities. We learn to balance all the aspects of ourselves — animal and human, instinct and intellect, logical and emotional — and thus walk the world as whole beings.

I also read Strength as an exhortation to step into one’s own power, to recognize one’s inherent strength. Which is one reason why I love what Kris Waldherr did with this card for The Goddess Tarot….

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Oya/Strength from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card graciously granted by the artist.

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The Goddess Major Arcana: Rhiannon/Movement

All your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised to you heaven?
Will you ever win?

~ Stevie Nicks, “Rhiannon”

Rhiannon, the Welsh Great Queen, has been a major force in my life since I was 21 years old, when I heard and felt Her invoked in a powerful Imbolc ritual. As I have gotten to know Her over the last two decades, I have learned a great deal about myself, my Sagittarian need for personal sovereignty, and my strong instinct for both self-preservation and self-determination. I’m always excited when I see renditions of Her and Her ethereal white mare anywhere, and Kris Waldherr’s rendition of her for The Goddess Tarot is one of my favorites.

In this deck, Rhiannon represents The Chariot, and is reconceptualized as Movement. How incredibly appropriate, given that Rhiannon’s white mare carries Her swiftly between the worlds. She moves quickly and directly towards her goals, unimpeded by anything or anyone that would stand in Her way. Moving at the speed of light, Rhiannon/Movement encourages us to set our sights on the horizon and move fearlessly.

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The Chariot as Rhiannon/Movement, from The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr. Permission to use the photo of the card generously granted by the artist.

Though the image is quite different from the way The Chariot is pictured in the Rider-Waite Tarot (and most other decks I’ve seen), Rhiannon/Movement still carries the essential energy of The Chariot.

In one of the most well-known tales about Her, Rhiannon is spotted by a mortal man as she rides through the forest on Her white mare. He is immediately captivated by Her beauty, and gives chase on his own steed. Yet the more he chases Rhiannon, the faster She goes. And the faster She goes, the more he spurs his own mount on. This chase goes on, in some accounts, for three days and three nights. Ultimately the man pulls his lathering, exhausted stallion up short and calls out, “Lady! Stop!” And Rhiannon does just that. Incredulous, he asks, “Why did you not stop?” And Rhiannon replies, “Sir, why did you not ask me?” This determination to follow her own path, and to not be waylaid, is the essence of this card. While Rhiannon does eventually stop when asked, She only does so as a result of a direct request — She does not give up her agency without a direct ask.

When Rhiannon/Movement rides into your reading, She is asking you to also channel this swiftness, this movement, this willingness to head directly towards that which is calling you. Movement can especially indicate career growth and travel, but I often interpret it as forward, positive movement towards goals of any kind. Sometimes I see it as an invitation to follow a calling, even if there are forces in the querent’s world that might try to dissuade them.

Rhiannon/Movement also reminds us that we know our path, if only we will get out of our own way. We can trust our ability to move toward the horizon, even if the journey seems daunting. She tells us that the wind is at our back, and that the Universe is supporting us as we chase our dreams and our destiny.

 

 

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