We continue our exploration of Mary K. Greer’s “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card” with Step 19: Myth & Archetypes.
Mary begins this chapter by saying, “The way you see and describe tarot cards is a reflection of your personal mythology. The resulting stories define your sense of self and give you meaning, identity and purpose.”
In chapter 19, we are going to apply myth and archetypes to our chosen tarot card. An archetype is a symbol universally recognized by all. In psychological terms, an archetype is a model of an individual, a personality trait or behavior pattern. Any image, personality trait, plot pattern, or individual that appears frequently in literature, myth or religion all around the world evokes strong emotion because it touches our unconscious memory. This unconscious memory is what Jung referred to as “The Collective Unconscious.” This pattern mentioned above becomes an archetype when it is repeated through the ages.
For example, in the Star Wars movies you have:
*The Evil Villian (Darth Vader) *The Hero (Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo) * The damsel in distress (Princess Leia) * The Hermit or Wise Old Man (Yoda)
In Tarot, some examples of archetypes are:
- The Emperor (father, ruler, Zeus)
- The Hermit (the wise sage, mentor, guide)
- The Empress (mother, the earth mother, the loving goddess)
- The Chariot (the warrior)
- The Magician (the trickster, sorcerer)
- The Wheel of Fortune (karma, the fates)
In Tarot, the images on the cards evoke profound emotions within us because they are based on mythic stories that have become part of our collective unconscious. If you wish to learn more about the archetypes and the Hero’s Journey, an excellent book is “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell.
In the activity for this chapter, Mary asks us to find a myth, story, fairy tale, movie or song that somehow fits our chosen card and what we have already said about it in previous chapters. To give you some ideas, Mary includes a list of archetypal motifs and mythic figures related to tarot cards in one of the appendices.
You are then asked to respond to the following questions:
*At what stage in the story does your particular situation come in? *What happens in the story before and after this point? *What might these suggest about possible motivations and future choices? *How might your rewrite the end of the myth or story to allow other options?
When I looked I immediately thought of Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie (the 1977 version). They both are alone, leaving home on a journey, perhaps a quest. The Fool/The Seeker card always remind me of The Hero’s Journey, an archetypal journey written about my many people, including Joseph Campbell.
The questions are as follows:
- At what stage in the story does your particular situation come in? Luke is about to leave the farm of his Aunt and Uncle to search for Obi-Wan.
- What happens in the story before and after this point?
Darth Vader captures Princess Leia, who has stolen the plans to the Death Star. Before capture, she hid the plans in a droid (R2-D2). R2, along with another droid (C-3PO), escapes. Luke purchases the droids and while cleaning R2-D2, stumbles upon a message by Princess Leia (who had been captured by Darth Vader) asking for assistance from Obi-Wan Kenobi, a jedi knight. Luke decides to take the robot and find the Obi-Wan (the Hermit archetype) in order to assist Princess Leia. He finds Obi-Wan and his adventures really begin. To simplify, he eventually rescues the princess and destroys the Death Star.
- What might these suggest about possible motivations and future choices? By choosing to “rescue the princess”, one could easily guess that he will be associated with the Hero or the “knight in shining armor” archetype.
- How might your rewrite the end of the myth or story to allow other options?
He could easily follow the path of Anakin (his father) and fall “to the dark side.” In this way, he would take on the villain archetype rather than the hero archetype.
How about you? Did you find an archetype for your card?
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