Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!
An international group of tarotists (check out the master list) are all writing on the same topic and then linking to each other so that the reader can hop from one blog to the next, seeing all the permutations and facets that the topic inspired in different writers.
Our assignment for this Hop, proffered by Joanne Sprott of Cosmic Whispers Tarot, is to discuss “the influence of the Sun and/or Mercury in the Tarot.” After stealthily determining that fellow blogger Morgan Drake Eckstein of Gleamings of the Golden Dawn was writing on Mercury in the small cards, I determined that I would take on the challenge of Sol in the small cards.
Sol in the Small Cards
The astrological zodiac wheel (360 degrees total, a circle) is divided into twelve signs (30 degrees each). Each of these signs is subdivided into three sections, called decans (10 degrees). The pip cards minus the Aces, 2 through 10 of each of the four suits, also number 36 and correspond to the decans.
In astrology, just as each sign has a planetary ruler, so also each decan is ruled by a planet. There are two primary ways of assigning the planets to the decans, and the one chosen by the Golden Dawn when they layered this symbol system onto the tarot cards was the Chaldean system, based on the Chaldean order of the seven traditional planets, in which they are arranged from the slowest to the fastest (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon).
Using these correspondences, each of the tarot small cards, from 2 through 10 of the suits, is assigned to the planet that rules the decan according to number and suit. This might sound complicated, but this handy-dandy chart by my friend John Allen shows how easy and elegant the system is.
Using this system, the Sun rules five decans and is assigned to five of the tarot pips (each planet gets five decans (and cards) except for Mars who wanted the last word and so bullied his way into a sixth).
When you work with both tarot and astrology, you quickly find that it is much easier to refer to the luminaries Sun and Moon by their Latin names Sol and Luna to avoid confusing them with the similarly titled tarot cards.
3 of Wands – Sol in Aries
Working in zodiacal order, our first stop is the Three of Wands, Sol ruling the second decan of Aries.
Sol is associated with the self–our first intro to astrology is through our Sun sign. It is also associated with logic and reason, the outer and visible, consciousness, and action.
Sol is exalted in Aries; one way to think of this is to think of being a special guest in someone else’s home. You are treated with every honor and respect and given everything you might desire, but it’s not your home, not the place where you can make the rules or where you’re in charge. Aries is associated with the qualities of action and courage, and it is great at getting things started.
The Three of Wands can be read with many of these meanings. I call this card “the open door”–that’s what it looks like to me–someone standing in a doorway formed by two wands–the third wand behind him outlines the door itself which has swung open. On the other side of this door is a world of possibilities–he is just beginning this journey, or stepping into a new leg of the journey. Success is guaranteed by Sol, so this is a very positive card.
10 of Swords – Sol in Gemini
Next we have Sol ruling the third decan of Gemini.
This can be a bit of a stumper–Gemini is associated with intelligence, witty banter, quick thinking, and adaptability. Doesn’t seem to describe the card, does it? But when a student asked me about this in my Esoteric Tarot class last year, I pulled my copy of Austin Coppock’s 36 Faces off the shelf and we read what he had to say.
The third decan of Gemini leads into the summer solstice (marked by the beginning of the subsequent sign, Cancer)–the height of the Sun’s power–and the beginning of its downturn. The folklore of the battle between the Oak King and Holly King, and other similar seasonal battle myths, shows the new king overthrowing the old king at the height of his power. This card shows that defeat. It is the height of power of dispassionate logic and language and their subsequent defeat as they become trumped by the Cancerian traits of love, empathy and compassion (Two of Cups).
8 of Pents – Sol in Virgo
Our next stop is Sol ruling the first decan of Virgo.
Virgo is associated with perfectionism, attention to detail, and service to others. The Eight of Pentacles almost perfectly describes those qualities. This card represents the detailed precision of repetitive work, the consistency in practice necessary to perfect a craft.
The first decan of this mutable sign is taking over the energy of Mars ruling the third decan of Leo (Seven of Wands)–it takes that highly energetic, ambitious and often aggressive martial energy, which had been in the spotlight of Leo, and gives it a channel to focus and develop it towards mastery. The Seven of Wands/Mars in Leo is the movie star needing to learn the discipline of the actor; the Eight of Pentacles/Sol in Virgo is the actor working patiently to become a star.
6 of Cups – Sol in Scorpio
The Six of Cups corresponds to Sol ruling the second decan of Scorpio. This was the topic of my very first blog post, back in August 2009.
Scorpio is known for being deep, secretive, passionate and transformative. The card titled Pleasure doesn’t necessarily seem to fit those qualities, especially when most RWS-derived images show two children playing or exchanging gifts. But when we think of this card as our own childhood, the memories that are personal and protected, the dreams that are private, the young passions that drove us to become what we are today or that we still aspire towards, this card becomes a powerful illustration of the potent drive of long-held secrets and wishes. When I get this card for a client, I often ask how their childhood influences the current question at hand. Whether it is the pain of long-held trauma, or the bubbling spring of repressed desires, the answer to the question posed here connects long-lost dots and launches the querent on a trajectory powered by the fulcrum of deeply-held memory.
4 of Pents – Sol in Capricorn
Our last stop in our zodiacal order of the Sol-ruled pips is the Four of Coins, Sol ruling the third decan of Capricorn.
Capricorn has the desire for growth of the cardinal signs, grounded with the discipline and diligence of the earthy signs. It is career-oriented, hard-working, and can see deeply into the structure of things.
The third decan of Capricorn hands off to the first decan of Aquarius. Capricorn in this decan lays the groundwork for the new age, the idealistic and humanitarian utopia of Venus ruling the first decan of Aquarius. Capricorn is comfortable with this delayed gratification–it knows the value of hard work for its own sake, and although a word of praise means the world to a Capricorn, they can forego it due to their own confidence in their work. The Four of Pentacles captures these qualities dutifully.
Sol Ruling the Small Cards
Because Sol represents the self, we often find the Sol-ruled cards to be more personal, or more reflective of our essence, rather than referring to the parts of us that arise and fall away with the vicissitudes of happenstance. Likewise, it’s worth considering the Sol-ruled pips to represent the essence of their respective signs.
Sol in Aries is the essence of courage and trying new things–the Three of Wands opens that door.
Sol in Gemini is the essence of logic and reason–overwhelming us in the Ten of Swords when it never lets up.
Sol in Virgo is the essence of precision–and the Eight of Coins shows us that attention to detail.
Sol in Scorpio is the essence of the deep passions that spur our transformation–and the Six of Cups invites us to explore those memories.
Sol in Capricorn is the essence of the discipline of hard work–and the Four of Pentacles shows us that strong foundation, and the possible limitations, of that dedication.
If you’d like more information on the planetary rulers of the decans as they relate to the pip cards, you can refer to this handout by my friend John Michael Allen, or this handout from my website. Also, Austin Coppock’s book 36 Faces discusses the astrological decans in great detail, including very insightful information on their relationship to the tarot cards. Another great resource is Ben Dykes article, The Decans in Astrology.
Joy Vernon has been studying and teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup, and she served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is one of the psychics at Isis Books and is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. Joy also teaches Traditional Japanese Reiki. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2015 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.