The Astrology of Tarot
by Juno Lucina
Astrology is the study of the rhythms, patterns, and continual changes of our solar system. Imagine for a moment a large piece of fabric stretched as taut as possible. This is much like the cosmos of existence. Now, imagine that one tiny portion of this vast expanse jiggles ever so slightly, and the entire fabric responds to the change by moving as well. Yet, to anyone who is unaware of the original shift of balance, this movement might appear “mysterious” or “unexplainable”, seemingly mere coincidence or chance. So it is with most of humanity. Trapped inside our own narrow viewpoint (and our own minds and bodies), we do not grasp the grander design of the fabric of the cosmos. The symphony of the spheres plays a dissonant note, and we see only the “problems” that result for us on a personal level, not realizing that discordance is an essential part of dynamic harmony. Every quark, every atom, every star, and every galaxy has joined together to form an intricate web, but often we feel like the trapped fly at the mercy of the dreaded spider. The study of astrology can help us move beyond our limitations and broaden our understanding of existence and our place in it.
Astrological impulsions are akin to a river of energy in which the individual (or group) is currently swimming, conveying all its contents toward a specific direction; if you carefully dam a river on one level, you still have to deal with the mounting pressure, a pressure that will inevitably express itself in some other area of your life.
There are three traditions of astrology that have lasted the test of time and are still practiced today:
- Western (or Tropical) Astrology—founded on the Earth’s revolution around the Sun, called “tropical” because it measures the closeness of the Sun to the Earth’s tropics—the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This system established the twelve signs of the Zodiac, each based on twelve constellations’ positions relative to the Earth and named from Greek mythology. These signs were further grouped by their Greek alchemical element—fire, air, water, and earth—with Earth’s yearly four seasons, and they assert that people born in the same month have similar traits because of their “sun sign” or where the Sun and other planets were relative to the Earth when they were born.
- Vedic (or Sidereal) Astrology—originates from the Vedas, one of the oldest Hindu books, wherein the planets are the soul’s karma and planetary periods of influence are key. It is “sidereal” as opposed to “tropical” because it links the planets to the constellations rather than to Earth itself. One of the modern quandaries about Western Astrology is the precession of the equinoxes, or the motion of the equinoxes along Earth’s ecliptic caused by the cyclic precession of Earth’s axis of rotation. To account for this slow progression, every 72 years the twelve Vedic signs move backward one day so that the beginning of their Zodiac is anchored to the beginning of the appropriate constellation.
- Chinese Astrology—also a system of twelve signs, represented by animals, centered on the creation of the Chinese calendar and based upon the lunar phase at the time of birth as well as the five Chinese elements. Each sign lasts one year before changing, in contrast to the four-week intervals of both Tropical and Sidereal.
Astrological Tarot is based on the system of Western (Tropical) Astrology. Ancient Western (Babylonian and Greek) astronomers methodically watched and wrote down their observations of the skies, recording cycles of change, daily events, and natural phenomena. These astrologers (which simply means those who study the stars) divided the Sun’s path through the sky into twelve quadrants and gave each cluster of stars a name to identify it—thus the twelve signs.
Modern opponents to astrology point out that these fixed star clusters are not actually in the same place at the same time relative to Earth as they were in ancient times when our ancestors observed them.
For example, the constellation Pisces is actually on the horizon when the constellation called Aries has supposedly ascended. Although the signs of the zodiac were named after the constellations, they are not the same thing. Our 360-degree ecliptic, the circle of space that surrounds our Earth on a flat plane in line with the sun, was split into twelve equal segments to accommodate the Zodiac. However, each Zodiacal constellation is not actually 30 degrees; it’s interesting to note that some modern astronomers have reclassified the largest of the twelve (Scorpio) into two distinct constellations, Scorpio and Ophiuchus. Moreover, some planetary bodies do not sit perfectly on Earth’s ecliptic with the sun, with Pluto so far removed that its designation as a planet has been called into question. From the perspective of the Earth, Pluto moves through constellations completely outside of the twelve (or thirteen) constellations. Although Sidereal Astrology at first seems to account for these incongruencies, even astrologers who follow this system cannot agree on the actual starting points amongst themselves, in part because each constellation does not take up exactly 30 degrees of the ecliptic.
As I write this, a friend of mine named Julie Cuccia-Watts is exploring “Real Sky Astrology,” an honest attempt to use the system of Tropical Astrology to interpret what is actually happening in the heavens at this moment in time (thus meaning that many who believe their Sun Sign to be Aries, in Real Sky Astrology find themselves to actually be Piscean)! To support these efforts, my husband and I are currently developing an iPhone App for astrologers wishing to chart the Real Sky Astrology positions and implement this knowledge into their astrology practice. (To find out more about Real Sky Astrology, visit Julie’s website.)
As a result of my own grounding in Astrological Tarot, the apparent incongruities of Tropical Astrology have never troubled me as they have many because through the practice of Astrological Tarot I recognize that although the constellations are convenient visual markers to identify observable changes, they do not necessarily cause the actual changes themselves. Astrologically-based tarot takes the wisdom offered by the ancient system of Tropical Astrology, and much like when a Horary astrological chart is cast it captures a snapshot of the particular cosmic energies manifesting to move the fabric of the universe in a particular direction—not because the Sun actually sits in the sign of Aries as we look heavenwards, but because the energy described by the Sun in Aries (the 3 of Wands) is manifesting in the querent’s life at this particular moment in time.
Every Major Arcana card in a standard tarot deck is also the pure expression of a particular astrological planetary or sign energy. Besides our planet Earth, there are ten other “planets”:
- Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus—the three outer planets.
- Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Mercury—the five classical planets.
- The Sun and Earth’s Moon—the two luminaires, also called “planets” to simplify grouping the major orbs together.
Along with the twelve signs of the Zodiac, this creates twenty-two Major Arcana cards; however, the actual cards usually number zero to twenty-one, as the Fool is generally numbered zero or else has no number at all.
The 10 Planets, in order of their average distance from the Sun, are:
- Neptune—Hanged Man
- Jupiter—Wheel of Fortune
- Earth’s Moon—High Priestess
The 12 Signs through the Major Arcana, in order of their progression around the Zodiac, are:
- Aries, the ram (ruled by Mars, Tower card)—Emperor
- Taurus, the bull (ruled by Venus, Empress card)—Hierophant
- Gemini, the twins (ruled by Mercury, Magician card)—Lovers
- Cancer, the crab (ruled by Earth’s Moon, High Priestess card)—Chariot
- Leo, the lion (ruled by the Sun, Sun card)—Strength
- Virgo, the virgin (ruled by Mercury, Magician card)—Hermit
- Libra, the scales (ruled by Venus, Empress card)—Justice
- Scorpio, the scorpion (ruled classically by Mars (Tower card) and by Pluto (Judgment card) in modern astrology—Death
- Sagittarius, the archer or centaur (ruled by Jupiter, Wheel of Fortune card)—Temperance
- Capricorn, the goat or sea-goat (ruled by Saturn, World card)—Devil
- Aquarius, the water bearer (ruled classically by Saturn (World card) and Uranus (Fool card) in modern astrology—Star
- Pisces, the fish (ruled classically by Jupiter (Wheel of Fortune card) and Neptune (Hanged Man card) in modern astrology—Moon
The four elements of Tropical Astrology find their voice in the Minor Arcana of the tarot:
- Pentacles are the earth signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
- Wands are the fire signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
- Swords are the air signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
- Cups are the water signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
Some interpret the Court Cards as the further mixing of these elemental astrological forces. This adds a profound depth to interpreting the Courts in a reading and is a worthy study, but you’ll have to check out my book The Alchemy of Tarot to explore this in-depth!
Each of the Minor Arcana pips, numbered 2 through 10, is a combination of a particular planet working in a zodiacal sign appropriate to the elemental energy of its suit. Because the Minor Arcana deal with the more mundane aspects of life on Earth—while the three outer planets deal mostly with worldwide and generational issues—the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are not utilized in the astrological combinations of the pips. Although every planet-in-sign combination is obviously not represented in the thirty-six suit cards, the addition of the Major Arcana and Court Cards allows for all possible astrological combinations in a reading, yet prevents the deck from becoming unwieldy and cumbersome to handle.
To further explore the astrology of tarot and begin doing astrologically-based tarot readings, pick up a copy of my in-depth exploration of the topic, The Alchemy of Tarot (now available in both deluxe soft-cover or E-book format). To start doing your own astrologically-based tarot readings much more quickly and easily, explore my first tarot deck, The Kingdom Within Tarot. If you’d like to take your Astrological Tarot journey even farther, check out The Healing Tarot:78 Ways to Wellness, a groundbreaking deck that uses the ancient practice of Medical Astrology and its astrological correlations to tarot to explore our health and healing.
ANYONE CAN READ TAROT
by Juno Lucina
I originally wrote this article for my publisher’s blog, but since it expresses my own views and intentions about tarot so clearly, as well as introduces my new cartomancy projects, I decided to share it with all of you here as well.
I still remember the first time I held a tarot deck in my hands.
I was wandering the Winchester Mystery House gift shop in San Jose, California, both spooked and enchanted by the tour I’d just taken, when I spied a single deck of cards laying there on an otherwise empty shelf: The Halloween Tarot by Kipling West. I’d always loved Halloween and card decks but had never given tarot a second thought. I picked it up, completely unprepared for my visceral reaction.
I was hooked.
After purchasing, I hurried home to “play” with my new deck. Back then tarot decks only came with what was ambivalently called a “Little White Book” (LWB), and I read the one that accompanied my new deck in less than five minutes. I tried some simple readings using the LWB and was amused and mildly intrigued by my results, but I had the sneaking suspicion that much, much more was possible.
I decided to pursue that possibility.
I spent the next year reading every book I could discover on the topic. I practiced with every deck style I could find, from the Rider Waite and its many clones, to Crowley’s Thoth, to Pagan-themed decks, to what I can only call “Decks by an artist who created 78 cool pictures and decided to publish them as a tarot deck to make money,” and everything in between. I read for myself; I read for friends. Before anyone had ever written a book or article about the idea, I used the card images as inspirations for my own poetry, short story, and novel writing.
Eventually, when I couldn’t uncover any more books to read, I began taking classes and attending conferences and symposiums. I explored tarot through the lenses of astrology, occultism, Qabalah, psychology, archetypes, and history. Over time, interpreting and “seeing” the messages in a tarot reading became instinctual: it became my symbol set and mythology. I read professionally at my local metaphysical bookstore for a time, and as much as I loved helping people see the truth of their lives with the wisdom of the tarot, I became increasingly frustrated by my clients’ tendency to grow ever more dependent upon me to help them interpret the cards and make decisions about their own lives rather than transition to reading for themselves and using tarot for their own spiritual unfolding. Spiritual masters and teachers and ministers and gurus are perhaps necessary on the way to awakening, but it is essential that seekers journey beyond dependence upon others for their own spiritual development.
I felt very much about reading tarot as Chef Gusteau from the Pixar movie Ratatouille felt about cooking:
“Anyone Can Cook.”
–Chef Gusteau from the Pixar movie “Ratatouille”
Anyone Can Read Tarot.
However, even as I felt (and still feel) these words so keenly, I am aware of how simultaneously hypocritical that might seem after relaying to you my own tarot journey. How many people have the time (or inclination) to read all the books I’ve read, do all the readings I’ve done, spend all the money I’ve spent, study with all the people with whom I’ve studied, or attend all the conferences I’ve attended? And is “all that” effort necessary, really?
Thus began my next pursuit in the possibility of tarot: to craft a tarot deck that incorporated everything I’d learned about tarot so that—
Anyone Can Read Tarot.
I spent years writing the book, which was ultimately so long that my publisher prudently decided to publish it as a standalone coffee-table collector’s tome — The Alchemy of Tarot: Practical Enlightenment through the Astrology, Qabalah, and Archetypes of Tarot. With a foreword graciously written by one of the many Tarot Masters I met along my own tarot journey, Lon Milo DuQuette, it was a huge amount of work that — although illustrated with images from my first tarot deck by artist Shannon ThornFeather (The Kingdom Within Tarot) — was written to be used with any tarot deck. My goal in writing The Alchemy of Tarot was to bring together everything I’d read and learned and experienced and practiced in one place, so that you don’t have to. Within its pages, you’ll find the following aspects of tarot explored:
- Basic Classical, Horary, and Medical Astrology in Tarot
- History of Tarot
- Gematria (Hebrew Numerology)
- The Golden Dawn and Rider Waite deck
- Crowley, his Thoth deck, and Frater Achad
- Qabalah and Pathworking for Spiritual Awakening
- The Fool (Hero’s) Journey via Joseph Campbell and the Sacrificial God Mythos
- Elements, Seasons, and Cycles
- Western Philosophy, Buddhism, Yoga, Christianity, Judaism, Paganism, and Hinduism
- Mythological Archetypes
- Myers-Briggs Court Card Connections
- …and much, much more….
Now, if you are reading that long list and thinking, “I thought you said, ‘Anyone Can Read Tarot’—in no way can I learn all of that!” I get it. I penned The Alchemy of Tarot for the person who wishes to explore the muchier possibilities that these 78 cards might have to offer in one expansive book.
The opposite of an LWB.
But, The Alchemy of Tarot is not for everyone, and remember where I began–
Anyone Can Read Tarot.
To this end, I collaborated with my good friend Shannon ThornFeather — who just so happens to be an artist, Ceremonial Magician, and student of Metaphysics in her own right — for almost two years to create a new tarot deck. As I wrote the book and told her what I envisioned for the images on each card, she took my long and involved descriptions and manifested the artwork. It was Tarot Masters Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack who helped the two of us choose a name for our new creation — The Kingdom Within Tarot — as it was crafted to visually depict the tarot’s archetypal roots in every image — the Kingdom within tarot, if you will — with the dual goal of helping each individual restore his or her own Kingdom Within through tarot practice.
The Kingdom Within Tarot is meant to be taken straight out of the box and read effortlessly, no prior experience necessary. The guidebook that accompanies it is simple, straightforward, clear, and delivers precise divinatory readings for all levels of reader, including how to interpret reversals, “yes or no” questions, and questions of time. This guidebook can be used to read with any standard tarot deck, although the pictures on each of the cards in The Kingdom Within Tarot deck focus the reader by visually portraying the meaning of each card to deepen your own intuition and confidence while reading. That said, while this system of interpretation may be used with any standard tarot deck, there are many alternate ways of interpreting tarot that also work exceptionally well. Please don’t think my book or deck have the final word on tarot (that is like claiming to have the final word on Existence), but it does contain the ingredients you’ll need to see the truth of your life’s circumstances and improve your life as a result, without the help of another person.
Tarot Master Ferol Humphrey helped The Kingdom Within Tarot find its publishing home with Schiffer/ REDFeather MBS, and I supposed my foray into publishing about tarot was complete. It was never my goal to create many different decks as some creators do, and with the publication of The Alchemy of Tarot for the more advanced reader and The Kingdom Within Tarot for “Anyone,” I returned to my other passion of novel writing.
Over the next year, however, it became increasingly clear to me that I had not quite succeeded in my aim, that–
Anyone Can Read Tarot.
Even though The Alchemy of Tarot contains a section that details how to utilize the tarot for questions of health and healing, I realized this was a virtually untouched area by professional readers (for good reason — tarot is NEVER medicine and NEVER should take the place of seeking medical advice from a credentialed medical practitioner), and at that time I could find no decks or books on the market to help people use the tarot in addressing their own holistic health and healing. So, I decided to write the book.
I contacted an already well-established tarot artist I had met before and whose artwork I deeply admired — Monica Knighton, best known for her Tarot of the Dead and Stolen Child Tarot — and asked if she would be willing to craft whimsical black and white illustrations of each tarot card to visually portray the health and healing messages for this new project. This book eventually became a book and deck set, The Healing Tarot: 78 Ways to Wellness, also published by Schiffer / REDFeather. Monica’s card illustrations are truly exquisite, and I still have some of my favorite of her original drawings adorning the walls of my home today. The comprehensive guidebook (larger than what accompanies The Kingdom Within Tarot but smaller than The Alchemy of Tarot) thoroughly examines tarot from the perspective of health and holistic healing by using correlations with medical astrology and is crafted to answer the age-old question: How do we heal? For each card, the traditional meaning is included, as well as the upright and reversed health meanings. The Major Arcana’s archetypal healing messages are explored in-depth, making this deck both practical for divination as well as a metaphysical and philosophical treatise on holistic health and healing.
With this second project completed, I returned to pursuing my other passions. In many ways, it seemed I disappeared from the tarot community, and many of my friends who shared my love of tarot would ask me why I seemed to vanish from the tarot scene?
Juno Lucina is my pen name (she is the aspect of the Roman goddess Juno who first opens a newborn child’s eyes to the light), and I am by nature a private person, uncomfortable with self-promotion. I prefer others to take the spotlight, and although I admire my compatriots who have risen in the cartomancy public eye over the past ten years with their personal branding, social media presence, and speaking engagements, I am truly happiest when at home researching and writing behind the scenes. I applaud and support my more famous friends but am quite content to have remained virtually mute for six years as I developed my novel writing and explored other aspects of my loves and this lifetime. I thought that what I had to give the world of tarot was already out there for those who sought it, and that was enough.
But then COVID-19 struck our world…and everything changed.
Today, I find myself working on two new cartomancy projects — a new book about tarot and a very unusual oracle deck. The book builds upon what has already been written, but in no way repeats it. The book’s working title is Tarot Beyond Belief: Using the Tarot to Choose the Stories We Wish to Live. As you can probably guess from the working title, the intentions of this book far surpass in scope anything I’ve attempted before. But, if you’ll recall, tarot is my symbol set and mythology, and the symbols and myths we believe and enact shape who we are and the world we create together.
Why an oracle deck rather than a tarot deck, you might ask? Unlike the world 15 years ago when I began working on my first tarot deck, the world of today is bursting with new tarot decks of every style imaginable. As I said, it was never my intention to create another deck. But then the day came when my tarot and oracle decks were unable to address aspects of existence post-pandemic that wanted to be addressed…and then a small, soft nudge woke me in the middle of the night to whisper what might be…and finally a good friend spoke to me about what he hasn’t been able to find in his vast cartomancy collection.
Finally, Steven Bright—beloved cartomancy reader and creator—posted this quote on his IG account:
Steven’s wise words provided me the audacity I needed to imagine the sharp-toothed oracle I was seeking but hadn’t yet found…
Thus, the idea for Frame This Oracle was born.
This oracle deck is built upon my same belief that anyone should be able to read the cards for themselves and is also something completely different from anything I’ve seen. Once again, I’m only creating it because I see the need in our world and haven’t found it anywhere else. Collaborating with artist Dan Goodfellow, our oracle is entitled Frame This Oracle. Both Tarot Beyond Belief and Frame This Oracle will be published by REDFeather MBS/ Schiffer.