For my first post about a specific card in the Major Arcana, I chose to write about the Hermit, for reasons there explained. Using the concept of cross sums, I’ve decided upon the Moon for my second. Cross sums refer to a pair of cards in the Major Arcana, the sum of the digits of the second card being equal to the number of the first. In this case, the sum of one and eight (18, the Moon) equals nine (the Hermit), making them compliments to each other. Cross sums often have deeper connections to each other than just the numbers printed at the top, and the Moon and the Hermit are not exceptions, although I’ll get to that later. For now, some more general thoughts.
The Moon is one of the most mysterious cards in the deck. It is dark, its symbolism is eerie, and its divinatory implications are often terrifying. At its best, it’s a card of dreams; at its worst, a card of nightmares (I may have plagiarized that last line, but I’m not sure where from).
Of course, it doesn’t have to be all bad. There is creativity and imagination in this card that is behind some of the greatest artistic works of all time (many of which came from tortured souls – it’s important to keep in mind that every genius has his or her flaws, and every great work comes at the cost of great sacrifice). This is therefore a card of inspiration, albeit at the price of some sort of internal anguish. It can also be a card of hope: behind the moon, we can see the rays of the sun about to emerge.* In other words, times may be excruciatingly difficult, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you can just keep to the path.
But not straying from the path is easier said than done, and in this way, the Moon is a warning, and a dire one at that. In the Fool’s Journey, the Moon is the final stage before the joy and relief of the Sun. The most difficult portion of the journey is behind you (facing the Devil), but you are not out of the shadows yet, and it is a grave mistake to think otherwise. How many myths and fairy tales warn against getting sidetracked when the journey is nearly complete? One step off the path, one taste of the forbidden fruit, one drink from the river of forgetfulness, or even just a glance behind you in the direction from whence you’ve come (just ask Eurydice) is all it takes to trap you forever in the horrifying Otherworld of the Moon. One step off the path, and you may never see the Sun again.
But there is hope, if you can only keep in mind the connection this card has with the Hermit.
In the Fool’s Journey, the hero has reached maturity through the lessons of Justice. His next step is to find his true identity, his inner light, which he does with the help of the Wise One. The risks shown by the Moon are really just symbolic of the danger of losing oneself, whether that be to an abysmal depression or a violent rage or anything else, and it is by remembering the lessons of the Hermit, by following your inner light, that you can keep to the path until day breaks and you are safe again.
The connection between the Moon and the Hermit is especially notable in the CHT. In this deck, the Hermit holds a lantern much as he does in any other. However, while in the other decks the lantern seems more or less ordinary, this lantern is significant in that it clearly contains the Sun. Now, look at the Moon from the same deck, and you’ll notice in the center there are nine red Yods. Yod is the Hebrew letter which is assigned to the Hermit, red is the color of his robe, and nine is his number. Directly under these Yods, as if being drawn up by them, is the Sun.
So yes, the Moon is a frightening card, but it is a necessary part of the Journey, and though it is without help (you must get through this part on your own), it is not without hope (so long as you can remember the guidance of the Hermit).
The towers pictured in this card can represent a couple of things. A pair of columns or towers is a recurring motif throughout the Tarot, and often indicates binary opposites, such as light and dark, and the need to reconcile them. In this card, they can also be seen as a gate, the threshold which must be crossed before you can re-enter the realm of daylight. To me, they seem ominous, like watchtowers trying to prevent escape.
It calls to my mind the titular Two Towers of the second installment of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Minas Morgul and Orthanc. These towers are the bases of operations for the series’ two most formidable antagonists, the Lord of the Nazgul and Saruman the Wizard. The tiny heroes need to pass by these towers unseen before they can ever hope to reach their ultimate goal. This is made all the more difficult by the relentless temptation Frodo feels to put on the Ring. If he had given into the temptation, especially in the vicinity of Minas Morgul, the Nazgul would have been alerted to his presence, he would surely have been captured, and all would have been lost.**
The Moon card absolutely fascinates me. For all its shadowy darkness, it’s one of my favorite cards in the deck, and particularly in the CHT, it has a haunting beauty about it. Most of my thoughts here about its role in the Hero’s Journey came from Hajo Banzaf’s book, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in how both mythology and psychology tie into the Tarot (which is itself based mainly on studies by Campbell and Jung before him). This card is heavily connected to the subconscious mind, which is largely why it seems to picture such a dark and frightening place. But the Sun is there, just beginning to peek out, and if you ever find yourself struggling through these realms of darkness, remember that you couldn’t have found your way there in the first place if you didn’t possess the Hermit’s lantern to guide you back out. Perhaps, when it’s all over, you can look back on your experience in peace, and write a poem or a song or paint a picture about it that moves people deeply, because you have the power to do that. After all, you’ve been through the depths, so affecting people on a deeper level will come naturally.
*I’m convinced that this card actually depicts an eclipse, rather than the night.
**Yes, I know, I know. Frodo did put on the Ring, and right when he was closest to finishing his quest. But he was saved when Gollum attacked him, which was something Gandalf, the wise old Hermit character, foresaw (well, Saruman is also the Hermit, but of the Etteilla turncoat variety). It was Gandalf’s advice that kept Frodo from killing Gollum when he had the chance, which is ultimately what saved Frodo and his quest to destroy the Ring.