Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop! An international group of tarotists 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. You can hop back to the Fool Stop Tarot Blog, the official blog of the U.S. Games Systems. Or read ahead here and then hop forward!
When I found out the theme for this cycle of the Tarot Blog Hop, I ran it past a number of friends to get their insight on it. One immediately responded as if it were obvious, “Well, you’re painting a journey—that says to me that you’re taking action and creating something.” Huh. I hadn’t thought of that. But it seemed right on—and very appropriate for the seasonal symbolism.
Ostara is a holiday associated with the spring equinox. Unlike the earlier spring holiday, Imbolc, which is representative of the first stirrings of growth still deep underground, Ostara is the time of visible expansion—shoots, buds and the earliest of the foolhardy blossoms that push up through the snow and show off their colorful defiance.
According to my Webster’s New Collegiate dictionary, Easter comes from the Old English eastre and is akin to the Old High German ostarun. It goes on to say that both derive from the prehistoric name of a pagan spring festival associated with the east. In traditions worldwide and throughout history, the east, through its natural association with the dawn, symbolically represents the beginning of things, new birth and resurrection. This is celebrated at the holidays of Ostara and Easter.
One of my early Rocky Mountain springtimes was spent in Rist Canyon. I remember how difficult the winter had been (we were up a mile and a half of four-wheel-drive-and-chains Jeep trail) and I remember one day seeing the most lovely little purple flowers half-buried under the snow. They looked like furry crocuses. We asked around and found out they were pasqueflowers.
Pasque is the word for Easter, the time when these flowers bloom. Checking my Webster’s again, I found that these flowers were called passefloure in Old English from the French passefleur from passer, to pass. The derivation goes back to the Hebrew pesach, Passover. The flowers, and this time of early spring, symbolize that which has passed through the difficult and deadly winter to spring to life in the early days of growing light. The pasqueflower is a reminder that our suffering will pass, and new opportunities will present themselves.
In Christian symbolism, the resurrection of Christ at Easter is preceded by His Passion, or suffering. Consulting the dictionary again, I found something very interesting. Passion also means being acted upon—passive. Here is an interesting contrast to my friend’s interpretation of the Ostara theme—to take action, create.
There is a tarot card with a similar paradox. The Emperor brings to mind from its title alone a powerful and ruling figure. It is easy to read the card as a force that acts upon us, we the passive recipients of his command. But the Emperor is esoterically associated with the astrological sign of Aries, the beginning of which is marked by the vernal equinox. Aries is a cardinal fire sign, initiating, energizing, inspiring and creating. Aries is fiercely independent, not likely to rule or be ruled, but exploring, pioneering, breaking boundaries.
The Emperor is, I think, the one card that Waite got wrong. His image shows a white-bearded stately ruler, sceptre and orb in hand, armored and then draped in a robe and cloak of red. He shifts uncomfortably on his throne carved of rock, adorned with the seasonal ram’s heads. He is foregrounded; in the far distance a blue ribbon of river spools through a yellow desert from which rises a steep and towering rock cliff. As he fidgets, he glances to the side. One tarot reader told me he was looking to his wife, the Empress, to get permission for his actions. Waite has produced the image of the weary ruler, tired of his assigned duty, ready to move on. But an Aries doesn’t squirm or seek approval. An Aries just acts.
I think a better image for the Emperor is that of either Aleister Crowley or Paul Foster Case, both of whom show the statesman in profile, turned to his right, legs overlapping to form a cross, surmounted by the triangle of his arms and head. This forms the symbol of alchemical sulfur, the expansive force in nature, which activates the process but is evaporated out before the process is complete.
The Emperor faces full profile to his right to show that all his force and power are directed towards the Empress, who receives and gestates this energy in her process of manifestation. The Martial energy of Aries is directed towards Venus, who rules the succeeding sign of Taurus, associated with the material—money, possessions, comforts—that which can be obtained and maintained. This Emperor advises that when we get spring fever, not to let that energy dissipate, but provide it direction and focus. Aries are notorious for starting things and not finishing them!
The Emperor in profile suggests the compromise between passive and creative—directive. He takes the unregulated influx of spiritual energy and gives it shape and focus so that it can be most effectively and efficiently utilized.
Curiously, when I initially read the description for the Ostara theme, the very first card that popped into my mind was the Druidcraft Three of Wands. It shows a man in the foreground on the right, one foot on the ground, one on a rock, as he leans against a large old tree, his back to us, looking off into the far distance. To his left are planted three saplings. But his gaze is on a path that winds off into the distance before him. To me the card symbolizes wanderlust. Despite the fact that he has established new beginnings in his present environment—the three saplings—his mind is already casting ahead to his next adventure. Does he stay to tend what has been newly established or head off to the next new thing? This card is associated with the second decan of Aries, ruled by the Sun, and is a fitting example of the Aries initiating energy.
Wanderlust only needs a direction, not a destination. When we paint our own journey with new life, we are not hitching a passive ride, nor are we creating a specific place of arrival. Rather we are entering the flow of the Divine, and through our directive force, choosing which heading to take on our exploration. With the confidence of the pasqueflower, we push up from under our darkness, our suffering, our times of death, and know that as the light waxes, so our new life dawns before us.
Hop ahead to Michael Banuelos, the Modern Day Oracle!
For a complete list of all bloggers and links to their Ostara Blog Hop entries, visit Musings on the Tarot.
Joy Vernon is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Reiki Teacher in Denver, Colorado. Her specialty is the Empyrean Key Transformational Guidance, which combines energetic and esoteric modalities to help her clients break through blocks and align themselves with their higher purpose. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2012 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.