Relating to the Tarot: Patrons.

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I didn’t come up with the idea of Tarot patrons. It’s an idea that is significantly less widespread than significators (at least, as far as I can tell), although I think they go hand-in-hand when it comes to identifying on a more personal level with your cards. The first place I came across it was a on fellow Tarot blog. Since reading about it there, though, the patron has become an essential component of how I understand the cards and my relation to them, which is why I recommended my friends select their own patrons as a follow-up to the selection of their significators.

While the significator was an exercise aimed specifically at getting familiar with the court cards, the patron is all about the Major Arcana.* In many respects, the patron and the significator are very similar. If nothing else, you should identify with them both. But there is a difference. The difference between a significator and a patron is essentially that of the Courts versus the Majors: the former represents actual people, while the latter represents something altogether higher.

I like to think of it like this:

The Tarot, as I have stressed before, is akin to a book. More particularly, a book containing myths, such as Hesiod’s Theogony or Snorri’s Edda. If the Tarot is the story, the significator is the hero archetype, or the protagonist. His or her divine beneficiary would then be the Tarot patron. Thus we have gods and heroes, the characters of our very own personal myths and legends.

For example, during the seige of Troy, Menelaus at one point challenged Paris to a duel. Paris engaged and was ultimately bested. At the last moment, however, Paris was saved when he was shrouded in mist and teleported to safety by Aphrodite. If Paris chose for his significator the Page of Cups, Aphrodite would be his patron (or matron, as the case may be), and she’d probably be the Empress.**

You don’t have to believe in any god to participate in the patron exercise. In this case, consider “god” a metaphor to represent whatever it is you consider an ideal. The patron is a guiding voice, something you strive to emulate. In particular, the patron should express your relationship with the Tarot, although it certainly does not have to be limited to that.

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So, how should you go about selecting the patron? If you know anything about the cards and their meanings, then you should be able to select the card or cards which best illustrate your worldview with little difficulty (or, perhaps, a lot of difficulty, depending on how sure of yourself you are). But these posts are aimed at the beginner, so I’ll suggest this approach: which one do you like the best? Which picture strikes you? Everyone has a favorite, and in my experience, a person’s favorite Major and their “patron” often turn out to be one and the same.

For example, my patron is the Hermit, which should come as no surprise to any regular reader of this blog. Not only did the Hermit introduce me to the Tarot, but he represents my approach to the cards, and indeed, much of my spiritual philosophy.

You should pick one card for your patron. Having made that decision, though, I think there is nothing wrong with going back and selecting others as you see fit. The Hermit is my patron, and would be my only patron if I were to select only one. But a more complete understanding of my relationship with the cards requires at least one more: the Magician. I can continue with more, but at the end of the day, it is these two figures that I think best defines my relationship with the Tarot.

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Now, there is something to be said about the Major Arcana as a sequence. Regardless of which card is your patron, it is imperative to incorporate them all into your worldview. The patron serves only to introduce us to the pantheon. He or she may look upon us in favor, and so we would naturally be inclined towards that figure. But they are all an aspect of a greater whole, and that includes your patron as much as it does your least favorite card. In fact, your least favorite card can suggest as much about you as does your favorite, but that’s a subject for another time.

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Perhaps the idea of the patron is not as well-known as the significator because the concept it represents is a bit more abstract. I hope I did a satisfactory job of explaining what a patron card should represent. Once you’ve selected both your significators and your patrons, you should begin to have a handle on how you personally connect with your cards. As I said in the previous post, these exercises are not meant for getting better at using the cards. In fact, while the significator can be used in divination, the patron has almost nothing to do with the actual practice. It’s an idea, something to hold in the back of your mind while you are divining. As Jack of Wands asks in his blog post I linked above: “Under whose auspices do you read Tarot?” It is a question worth asking of anyone who uses the cards, I think, and it is in that spirit that I pose this exercise.

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My Patrons and my Significators.

 

*Technically, you could use a Major Arcana as your significator. I’ve done it before. But just for fun, let’s try and stay within the parameters I’ve set for these exercises, at least for now.

**Paul Huson’s DFW Tarot assigns famous names from antiquity to the court cards based on popular renaissance attributions. The Page of Cups is Paris, according to his sources, hence my assumption that he might select this card as his significator. The Empress-Aphrodite correlation needs no further explanation, I hope.

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4 thoughts on “Relating to the Tarot: Patrons.”

  1. I went and read Jack’s blog post, but decided to reply here since this one is more recent. When I first began my esoteric studies in 1971, the Hanged Man as an expression of “initiation” (at least according to Aleister Crowley) was the card I related to most (it’s still one of my favorite cards, and I have a post about it on my blog titled “Hangin’ Out”). For a long time between then and now, the Hermit was closer to my ideal patron (by the way, is that the Mary-El Hermit? It’s the main reason I want that deck.) Since I began to break out of self-imposed isolation in 2011, I find I relate best to Temperance, not least because I finally came to grips with the practical application of its alchemical meaning after struggling with it for four decades. I have another lengthy blog post on that one. I thought about the Hierophant (yet another blog post), but that and Temperance have much in common from a “teaching” standpoint (one is traditional and the other abstract), and I see Temperance as 1+4=5 being the Hierophant on a “higher arc.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You did an amazing job at explaining what a patron is! I’ve heard of this concept before, and didn’t understand it. I’m glad that you made this distinction ” the patron has almost nothing to do with the actual practice” It actually cleared most of my questions up. Great exercise to bond with the Tarot as a whole. I’m going to put some thought into this, but the card that comes to mind as my patron is “The High Preistess”
    Thank you for the information!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading!
      If I continued down the line of cards that I consider to define my understanding of the Tarot, the High Priestess would be number three. To be honest, though, I don’t fully consider her to be on the same level as my patrons, although I’m not sure I could explain exactly what I mean.

      If the patrons describe how I approach the Tarot, the High Priestess is more of a “why”, if that makes any sense. I tend to think of the Tarot as a veil between myself and the unknown “divine”. The Hermit is how I communicate with this unknowable divinity. The Priestess, on the other hand, IS that divinity, or at least, the face that divinity puts on so I can more easily address her. In an odd way, the Magician straddles both spheres for me. Similar to the Hermit, he is the way I approach the cards, but he is also a divine counterpart to the Priestess.

      Liked by 1 person

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