Etteilla v. Waite, Part X.

Creation – Preservation – Destruction. As I’ve said a few times already, this is the general mythic pattern which appears to me to fit the distinct Major Arcana of the Type III Etteilla deck (as opposed to the Hero’s Journey pattern of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). Last time, I wrapped up the section of the progression which dealt with Preservation – culminating with the dubious Magician. Now, things are about to take a darker turn. The equilibrium which defines Preservation is upset, and the world is about to end. The following cards are the cards of Shiva; of Revelation; of Ragnarok; of the Apocalypse.

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Last Judgement: The day of Judgement is a fitting start to this portion, and I believe it coincides naturally enough with Judgement from the RWS. These cards are not exactly the same, however; in the GE, the angel is seen descending from heaven wielding a sword against the living (seven people for the seven deadly sins, perhaps?), while in the RWS the angel awakens the dead with a blast from his trumpet. In the RWS, Judgement is the final step before apotheosis. Here, it is not the end, but merely the beginning of the end. For all the differences, though, I can’t think of a better RWS equivalent than Judgement.

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From the MST – Both are dancing.

Death: Another fairly straightforward match. Another symbol of the End Of Days.

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The Monk: Based on the imagery, this card should match with the Hermit. This monk is shown leaving his monastery, and the divinatory meanings warn of treason and betrayal. This monk is not really a monk anymore; he is an apostate. He also happens to look very much like the High Priest from the previous post. This former symbol of morality and harmony betrayed his purpose when faced with the Devil, Judgement, and Death, whether from fear or corruption it matters not, thus making a mockery of all that he once stood for. This is yet another sign that civilization is on the decline.

Another possible match is based not so much on imagery as on meaning: the Hanged Man is sometimes interpreted as a traitor being punished for his heinous crime. But we can also consider the Monk’s departure from traditional religion in a different light: the Hanged Man sometimes represents initiation into the occult, or an inversion of perspective to gain spiritual insight. Such might be the case with the Monk, who is perhaps only moving on to bigger and better things. The world is falling apart around him; his old faith is no longer serving him, so why should he continue to serve it?

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From the CHT

The Struck Temple: This card shows a walled city or temple complex burning to the ground. It is quite possible the flames came from the sun in the upper corner – divine intervention. Everything in this post so far has been a sign of the impending apocalypse. Now it is actually happening. This card is the violent Destruction of the world by fire. This card is the End.

Except it isn’t the End, not really. There are still three more cards to examine, which I shall do next time on Etteilla v. Waite.

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The Lightning-Struck Tower.

When folks think about scary cards in the Tarot, usually the Devil and Death are the ones that come to mind.

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The Tower – DFW

Of course, this makes sense. But if I were to select the card which held the scariest implications for me, I would pick the Tower.* Everyone knows the Devil is to be feared. That very fact, to me at least, tends to lessen the fear a little bit (I doubt I would feel that way if I were actually faced with the demon, but from my spot of comfortable safety, that’s how I feel). And Death isn’t so scary from a certain viewpoint. It’s inevitable, anyway, so to fear it is useless. The Tower, on the other hand, represents security; confidence, even. It’s an impenetrable fortress from which you can see any danger far before it reaches you. Or so you think.

You know to fear Death and the Devil. In fact, you count on your Tower for protection from these things. No one ever expects that his or her Tower will fail. But if you pull this card, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And that, to me, is far scarier than the things you hide from in the dark.

Like all the cards, the Tower is really just a metaphor. It’s symbolic of rigid worldviews that you might use as a crutch to help get you through this chaotic existence. Once it’s formed, it’s very difficult to get rid of, and most people wouldn’t ever care to get rid of it, anyway. People build their walls, creating a comfort zone, and most are incredibly reluctant to make even a slight change to it.

And of course, despite all self-imposed illusion, the Tower cannot stand up face-to-face with the Devil. That’s why it’s place in the sequence of the Major Arcana is directly following the Devil, and that’s why it’s shown being blown apart. That’s a scary thought.

But things aren’t always as they seem, especially with the Tarot. I’ve already written about the ambiguous nature of the Devil; eventually, if you follow the path set by the Majors, you’ll come to a point when you realize the Devil isn’t to be feared at all, but embraced (with more than a little caution, of course). And it is that realization which shatters the Tower, not the Devil himself. You might notice that it is not always a lightning bolt which levels the Tower; sometimes it’s a column of flame from the Sun. Either way, it’s coming from above, a sign that a higher power is taking control. An act of God, if you will. If you’re the type to believe in acts of God, you’re probably also the type to believe they don’t happen without reason.

Nobody ever enjoys the destruction of their Tower. It can be quite traumatic. But it’s ultimately liberating. People tend to think of their Tower as protection, never realizing that it’s actually a prison. The lightning bolt tears across the sky, striking down with divine force the Tower you’ve worked so long to build, but which you’ve outgrown in the process, like a snake shedding its skin.

So yes, it is pretty scary when the Tower shows up in a reading. But it’s not the end of the world, no matter how much it may feel that way for a time.

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There is so much more to be said of this card, but I’m going to sign off for now. I think each of my thoughts would be better addressed on their own, rather than trying and failing to make a coherent post here stringing all of them together. Think of this as an introduction.

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Some of the things I intend to discuss in the future are deck-specific, like the Eye in the CHT.

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*Actually, I might select the Moon, because while the image of the Tower is scarier on the surface, I think the Moon can be downright terrifying in its false light and illusion. But I’ve already written about the Moon, so here we are with the Tower.