The Hermit, SunMoon Tarot, Snyder

The Hermit is generally considered a card of isolation and meditation, yet it is more accurately a card of light and guidance from one who has achieved to those still striving – saying ‘where I am you can also be.’ The hexagram-star is a depiction of the Ancient Star (see the An Ancient Star post). His staff is an ashera pole topped by a star, depicting a tool used by megalith astronomers.

The symbol system of the Tarot can elicit curiosity, wonder, fear, intrigue, and superstition, among other responses.

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Attitudes about these images range from reverence to hatred. Sometimes referred to as the Devil’s Picture-book, common opinions are that the images carry esoteric knowledge, forbidden or suppressed information, or hidden history.

Other names for the Tarot were the Bible of the Gypsies, the Encyclopedia of the Dead, and the Perpetual Almanac, names that imply information. The belief that there is a connection between the Tarot and witchcraft has lingered.

Shown: The Page of Cups, Snyder
The Devil’s Picturebook, Paul Huson writes, “In medieval Europe everyone knew that cards, apart from simple gambling, were used for telling fortunes, a dangerous activity. Worse still, lurking within the cards are devils disguised as kings and heroes.”

Today the Tarot is generally used for divination, predicting the future. Perhaps more accurately, it helps the mind consider many possible futures, through the impact of the archetypal images depicted.

 The Tarot seems to hold a special place among those who deem cards sinful. And yet, the fish is a symbol of wisdom; the Page of Cups sits ready to learn the wisdom of the ages.

Attitudes like these have followed the Tarot through the centuries. The first reference to the trumps of the Tarot was in a sermon by a Franciscan Friar in the 1400’s, who contended that the trumps were invented and named by the Devil. Cards in general are considered a vice.

Alluring and colorful, the images on Tarot cards have been carefully crafted. The archetypal images used in the standard cards is powerful, depicting the ancient information held within.

Other imaginative, artistic, and theme-based cards are wonderful but lose the power of the images connected to our prehistory.

What is written about their history varies, and there is little consensus about their origin. The mystery surrounding Tarot cards adds to the belief by some that they are evil, magic, and dangerous. For others, this veil of obscurity is a result of secret powerful knowledge which can be accessed only by initiates.

The images of the Tarot are said to contain surviving lore of the Order of the Knights Templar. Troubadours of the Middle Ages carried Tarot cards and used them as part of their entertainment, to preserve and pass on “heretical” philosophies of the Grail.

Many believe the pictures on these cards contain information and secrets protected from the Roman Catholic Church, preserved in a series of symbolic images.

The mysterious history of the Tarot is connected with The Book of Thoth, ca. 3000 BC, a book credited to Hermes Trismegistus.

Hermes is another name for Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, learning, and literature.

Duncan-Enzmann contends that this esoteric tome was developed from knowledge recorded by the megalith navigators working at Lixus, Nabata (Sudan), and Byblos around 4200 BC – knowledge that dates back at least 8000 years during warm Atlantic centuries, called the Grand Climate Optimum.

The Merovingian Vanir women recorded their astronomical observations as well as the math and geometry needed to calculate longitude, on stone, bone, and ivory. This knowledge was passed on through oral tradition and symbols.

Shown: Rider Waite Coleman Tarot

Many images on the Tarot cards are of the sun, moon, and stars. Others also have astronomical significance but are not as readily recognizable. The sun is the oldest image known. The blonde child on this card represents the Sun Child, a girl, of the Vanir from ca. 12,500 BC, later known as the goddess Helen.

The Moon card depicts two pillars, a symbol which dates back tens of thousands of years to the tools used for measuring movement of planets, sun, moon, and stars.

The star in the Star card is eight-pointed, a symbol of the Venus clock indicating her eight-year cycle. The seven smaller stars represent the days of the week, a division of time contrived about 6000 BC.

Another connection to prehistoric astronomy is of the card Strength. Imaged correctly as a female and a lion, this card carries the same information as the Sphinx: that of the Great Year at autumnal equinox.

The “infinity” symbol derives from and represents the analemma; a symbol relating to the position of the sun and the equation of time, it appears above the female’s head on Strength, above the magician’s head on The Magician, and on other cards.

The Magician wears an ouroborus belt, symbolizing eternal cycling of substance and inanimate matter.

His hands, pointing above and below, depict what the Emerald Tablet tells us: As above, so below. In other words, if you know your astronomy above, you will know where you are on Earth below – something every navigator has to learn.

The Two of Pentacles decodes as a solar, lunar, and stellar year. The pentacle represents time: the Venus clock of the Vanir navigators by which we set our modern clocks until the 1970s.

The analemma connecting them represents flow of time and the exchange of information – something that happens over time.

Pentacles also represent wealth, as the Venus clock allowed calculation of longitude, facilitating ocean trade, increasing the wealth of cultures who knew the secret of longitude.

The suit of wands or scepters represents obelisks, menhirs, and ashera rods, tools used to site and measure the movement of the stars to divide time, and to survey the ground for construction of an observatory.

The Three of Wands represents the triple tau. Tau is a symbol indicating perfect horizontal and vertical, necessary to measure a star’s height from the horizon: the of the Tau is made of a horizontal line and a vertical line.

The Five of Wands depicts dividing an angle by five, a function of the Venusion (Venus) clock, and part of the process of dividing a circle into single degrees, discovered ca 6000 BC.

Solar Vee Winter Solstice, Blombos, S. Africa, ca. 77,000 BC ;  Duncan-Enzmann 

Another card with ancient roots is the Two of Swords, from a symbol for the solar azimuth Vee – an image found in Blombos, South Africa dated 77,000 BC.

Point up it represents sunrise and sunset of the winter solstice, points down, summer solstice. The viewer stands at the v-point and observes the rise and set of the sun. (see An Ancient Star for the history of the overlapped triangles, or hexagon)

Tarot cards connect strongly with astrology and astronomy, which encompass a wealth of information both as exact science and art.

Transmitting mathematical precision and interesting descriptions of the fascinating events in the sky demands accurate recording.

How was this done, then, before written records?

Even with them we have a hard time maintaining accuracy and consistency.

Passing knowledge on to future generations has been a human challenge and activity for millennia. Hundreds of thousands of years ago our ancestors watched the sky and observed the repeating patterns of the stars and the movements of the planets.

Star-patterns were connected to events on earth and recorded, allowing the development of seasonal agricultural calendrics which greatly improved the quality of life.

Let us consider how astronomy was taught once upon a time, long, long before written phonetic language. In these long-ago classrooms, 14,500 years ago, most teachers were women and most students were girls.

Lessons were likely recited, perhaps as rhymes chanted and sung.

Visual aids were also used: pictures and symbols, dots and lines, signs and patterns. All on stone, bone, ivory, ceramics, and bast; small and easily handled, just like flash cards or playing cards.

For tens of thousands of years these lessons were taught by oral tradition, handed down using stories, songs, and pictures.

According to Duncan-Enzmann, there is a missing arcana – one designed to transmit information about the zodiac, Yggdrasil (life cycles), and numeration, and how these affect the human condition. (See Ice Age Language: Translations, Vocabulary, Grammar, by R.Duncan-Enzmann and J.R. Snyder)

For more from The Symbologist, visit her blog and her author page at Amazon.

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The Symbologist Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, folklore, and symbolism, an author, speaker, artist, and business owner. Her MPhil in Divinity from the University of Wales, St. David, explored the roots and evolution of symbols and the stories of oral tradition.

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