Tarot in the Sky
A note on Christmas and The Star . . .
This post was originally written in 2020, so it refers to astronomical events in that year. But I wanted to share it again, because the part about The Star is timeless.
Also—there’s a new astronomical connection happening now, as 2021 turns into 2022. The long awaited launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will take place on December 25 of this year. And this amazing instrument will bring new scientific information that we can’t yet imagine.
It usually works out that we can find common ground between cutting-edge science and “ancient wisdom,” “perennial philosophy,” “esoteric schemas,” and many forms of spiritual exploration. And Tarot is somewhere in the mix, even if the interconnections are not obvious.
Tarot in the Sky
An especially vibrant planetary conjunction is taking shape in the night sky, as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together. They'll reach the closest point (just a tenth of a degree apart) on the night of December 21 — which is this year's Winter Solstice.
In the photo above, taken on December 13, 2020, that's Saturn on top, Jupiter below. (Credits: NASA/ Bill Ingalls)
According to NASA:
It's been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this 'great conjunction.'
Naturally, scientists are saying that the occurrence of this unusual event on the Solstice is "just a coincidence." But anyone attuned to the rhythms of the year — and the rich symbolic terrain of the heavens — will feel there is great significance in this convergence.
That's especially true given the extraordinary difficulties that have beset human beings over the past year. So it would be hard not to see such a remarkable celestial display as a signal of something very important . . .
Whether it's a reminder, a promise, a warning, or some other sort of signal remains to be seen. But for now, Tarot offers us a point of reference that dates back to before the last “great conjunction,” which occurred in 1623.
Here are some examples of how The Star has evolved in Tarot history . . .
That’s a Bembo deck (c. 1450) at left, Nicolas Conver’s Marseilles-type design (c. 1760) in the center, and the path-breaking Voyager Tarot (1986) on the right. For a rich discussion of Star iconography visit this thread on the Tarot History Forum.
Meanwhile—as an overview—I offer this excerpt from my new book-in-progress:
Historical perspective: The Star was originally so called (presumably) because its central figure, a robed woman, held a star in her hand -whether for decorative purposes, or with some deeper meaning we may never know. But the imagery of this card was changed significantly in the Marseilles-type deck, where the central figure became a nude woman, kneeling by a stream and pouring liquid from two vessels. The later imagery is obviously connected with that of the Temperance card - both figures pour liquid from two vessels; both are by the water (in Waite-type decks, both have one foot on land, one in the water); and both are seen beneath star-filled skies. But it is unclear why they should have taken on this similarity. Perhaps the simplest explanation is based on their order in the sequence of the trumps, for these two gentle, ethereal cards flank the two most disturbing images in the deck, The Devil and The Tower. They differ in that the figure in The Star is a mortal woman, not an angel - and instead of conserving liquid by pouring back and forth between the two vessels, she pours the liquid out. With one hand she pours into the water, with the other onto the land. This symbolism has been interpreted as representing the order and continuity of being (in the symbolic circular flow of water through heaven and earth).
Divinatory principles: Hope and aspiration. Faith, immortality, and inner light. (Problematically: dreaminess, disappointment, and pessimism.)
Archetypal theme: The new vision of reality that comes out of the breakdown associated with The Tower.
Mythic associations: By tradition, there are seven small stars and one large star on this card. The large star is connected by some with Sirius(the star of Isis and the brightest star seen from Earth), and with the Star of Bethlehem. The seven small stars may be connected with the Pleides, a group of Greek maidens were transported into the heavens after death. Another mythic association is with the cup-bearer Hebe/Ganymede, who brought nectar to the gods of Olympus.
So be sure to spend some time contemplating the symbolically rich Tarot Star as you prepare to view the Christmas Star of 2020. NASA explains easy steps for viewing the great conjunction and EarthSky offers further astronomical information.