Tarot and the Planets
When Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman-Smith designed the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck, between them they managed to include symbology from pretty much every esoteric system available. Therefore it should come as no surprise that astrology and the planets play a large part in the design of the RWS deck.
If you’ve been reading the other posts on this page, you should know by now that the minor arcana cards represent the astrological elements of air (Swords), Earth (Pentacles), fire (Wands) and water (Cups). The major arcana also has specific cards for each astrological sign and therefore, that signs ruling planet as well.
The astrological associations for the major arcana are:
Aries – The Emperor
Taurus – The Hierophant
Gemini – The Lovers
Cancer – The Chariot
Leo – Strength
Virgo – The Hermit
Libra – Justice
Scorpio – Death
Sagittarius – Temperance
Capricorn – The Devil
Aquarius – The Star
Pisces – The Moon
The planetary associations in relation to the astrological signs for the major arcana are:
Sun – Leo – Strength
Moon – Cancer – The Chariot
Mercury – Mercury is the ruler of Gemini and Virgo and therefore The Lovers and The Hermit cards respectively.
Venus – Taurus and Libra – The Hierophant and Justice respectively
Mars – Aries – The Emperor
Jupiter – Sagittarius – Temperance
Saturn – Capricorn – the Devil
Uranus – Aquarius – The Star (Prior to the discovery of Uranus, Aquarius was ruled by Saturn)
Neptune – Pisces – The Moon (Prior to the discovery of Neptune, Pisces was ruled by Jupiter)
Pluto – Scorpio – Death (Prior to the discovery of Pluto, Scorpio was ruled by Mars)
When you think about the planets and their elemental associations, it’s logical that the Sun should be the ruler of Leo and that the Strength card should be their representative in the deck. The Sun is one humongous, badass ball of fire and therefore that it should represent a fire sign is pretty obvious. Leo being the fixed fire sign of the group is dependable, firm, loyal, stubbornness and stability personified and the Sun isn’t going anywhere for a long time yet (I hope!). The Strength card reflects this immutable stability in nature as the card is more about emotional and inner strength than any kind of physical strength. The Sun also burns very brightly and likes to be seen (you can’t really miss it unless you shield yourself from it) and likewise, Leo’s love to be noticed. Leos love to be seen looking good and to be adored. As the most aesthetically driven sign of the zodiac, this can sometimes lead to them seeming a bit arrogant or superficial, especially when it comes to choosing partners and friends but rest assured, if you have a Leo as a friend, you have a genuine, loyal and generous friend who will bathe you in the warmth of their light and support you with their strength.
The Moon is a confusing one for me when it comes to planetary associations. You would think that The Moon card in the RWS deck would be the one that represents the sign ruled by the Moon itself. However, whilst The Moon card is represented by a water sign, it’s the mutable Pisceans that get that honour. The Moon tarot card is very dream focused and represents someone who is avoiding moving forward on their path due to a lack of self belief, so my first impression was that it is not at all representative of the actual Moon when it rules Cancer and The Chariot Card. Cancer is tenacious (hence The Chariot and moving forwards like a warrior), highly imaginative, loyal and persuasive. All skills a good charioteer needs to navigate the obstacles in life and serve themselves and their armies. Like all good water signs, Cancerians can be a bit emotional, sensitive, pessimistic and insecure which does hark back to that fear of failure that dominates The Moon card. The physical moon is said to create fleeting emotional patterns and wells of insecurity in them that are beyond their control and this is why it is the ruling planet of Cancer. Fiercely Loyal and brave, Cancerians will ruin themselves to defend their friends if they must and are not shy of a fight.
Mercury is the planet of communication and it is easy to see why Mercury represents Gemini in The Lovers card. Gemini is a mutable air sign so they tend to be very cerebral, very up in their heads, anxious, indecisive, philosophical and curious but also very adaptable and exceptionally loving. When a Gemini gives you their heart, it’s yours entirely and completely but only for as long as you look after it because Gemini is no fool and expects back what they give out in love and friendship. Fickle and dual sided, they will have no qualms about walking away from someone who they think is taking advantage of their good nature. Most Gemini’s are master communicators and can happily talk all day but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of anxious worrying and over analysing they do trying to balance their two sides, leads to a constant babel of inner discourse that is three times the volume of what actually makes it out of their mouths. Therefore with The Lovers card representing twins, duality, decision making and internal debate as well as genuine love, this is clearly a card of communication with yourself and others.
What’s not so obvious is The Hermit and its role in the sign of Virgo and the planet Mercury. The Hermit is largely about introspection so how does that relate to communication? The Hermit takes a completely different view to communication and is much more about learning, communication with the inner self and communicating with others to provide information and education. Virgo is a very analytical sign but it’s also very practical and a mutable Earth sign so you can expect that analysis to be grounded in the physical world and in reality. Virgo’s are the teachers of the zodiac and often take on roles such as journalists and writers. Fields where they can put their analyses down into writing and convey that message to others. Much like the Hermit relies on books and written resources to get the information required for learning.
Venus is the ruler for Taurus and Libra which is odd because the planet of love is the ruler for both the bullish and practical Taureans and the logical mediators of Libra. Taurus being a fixed Earth sign makes them by nature inflexible and stubborn, depicted by most media as bullish and conservative in nature but this is only half the story, underneath the tough exterior, they are deep romantics. Sensual and Earth loving they feel the need to be surrounded by love and beauty at all times. A key candidate for the planet Venus then but what about The Hirophant? Well, Taureans being Earth lovers, they are highly spiritual people. Their practicality and reliability doesn’t get in the way of their faith in the unseen. Like the church, they are focused on material wealth and money, they stick to their guns, even despite evidence to the contrary and show an unwavering commitment to what they hold dear.
Libra, on the other hand, is a cardinal air sign so they are very much of the intellectual world. Libra’s love to find balance (hence the scales as their symbol) so it’s easy to spot why Justice is it’s tarot card. They take a more introverted approach to the love aspect of Venus than their Earth loving Taurean stable mates. Libras love to be in a committed partnership and are passionate when they are happy in a relationship. Libras strive to find peace and harmony and they do this by ensuring that all their relationships are balanced and fair. A love of the arts is also not uncommon in Libra’s who can harbour a love of expensive things.
The triumvirate of Mars, Aries and The Emperor is an easy one to spot. Mars is the God of war, Aries is the cardinal fire sign and will burn anyone who gets in their way, and The Emperor is a mature man who is confident in his opinions and stubborn. He rules with little compassion and likes to get his own way. Aries are by nature competitive and dislike people who make excuses for not trying to improve themselves. Known for being impatient, short tempered and aggressive, it’s important to realise that this sign can also be courageous, determined and confident. They will defend their friends passionately and are the people that you want on your side in a fight or a difficult negotiation. Their natural drive makes them enthusiastic, their competitive nature makes them optimistic and passionate, and they are also generally very honest.
Jupiter Is the planet of abstract thought and higher thinking which matches Sagittarius curious and philosophical nature. Jupiter is also keen taking some time out for leisure activities so this combined with Sagittarius curiosity explains their need to wander and be free to explore the world. The Temperance card reminds us to keep exploring both our inner and outer worlds in order to unite these two worlds and become whole as a person.
Saturn is the hard worker of the astral realm. The clock-watcher and the organiser. Which is probably why it’s the ruling planet of the cardinal Earth sign Capricorn, as Capricorns make great managers/planners and are the responsible sign of the universe. Saturn is all about playing the long game and focusing on life lessons rather than getting bogged down in the minutia. As far as their tarot card, The Devil is concerned, it seems they share more traits with The Devil himself than with the people in front of him or the overarching meaning of the card. No, I don’t mean Capricorns are evil, I mean that they are masters of self-control and that they don’t suffer fools gladly. They have their eye on the future and are tenacious at achieving their goals. They also can get a bit carried away with their own importance and as the second-largest planet in the solar system, Saturn is definitely a major player. The Devil card is a warning to not get too carried away with over indulgence or addictions to the extent that it interferes with your life, causes you hardship or diverts from the path to inner wisdom, something the actual Devil would never allow himself to do.
Uranus is also a planet of higher thinking which might make you think that Jupiter would have been a prime candidate for ruling Aquarius prior to Uranus being discovered in 1781. However, that honour went to Saturn and it is said that Aquarians are often similar to Capricorns in that they can be practical but also uncompromising and aloof. Being the fixed air sign, Aquarius is very cerebral but also very rigid and reluctant to deal with big displays of emotion. Uranus was the first planet that was discovered using a telescope because although it is visible to the naked eye, it wasn’t recognised as a planet by historical astronomers due to it’s dimness and slow orbit. Therefore, the planet that was hidden in plain sight encourages us to think beyond the obvious and look at the universe in unique ways. A trait brought through by The Star card which reminds us to trust in the universe and seek enlightenment through self development and the higher consciousness.
Neptune is the planet of fantasy and dreams so it’s fitting that it’s the ruler of dreamy, whimsical Pisces and The Moon card in tarot. Prior to the discovery of Neptune, Pisces was ruled by Jupiter which also makes sense with Jupiter being the planet of abstract thought, however Jupiter is much more academic that Neptune which is all about illusion and imagination. The Moon card talks about unfulfilled dreams and more specifically, the fear of moving forward, between the towers, to take action and manifest those dreams in reality. This fits in with Pisces tendency to avoid the truth, blame others and fall into a victim mentality rather than looking for solutions to their problems within themselves. This fear tends to come from Pisces sense of empathy and the ability to feel emotions on a deeper level than most. They know what it is to hurt and to feel that hurt deeply so they naturally avoid that feeling. However, this does make them the most selfless, loving, generous, tolerant and loyal friends.Their innate intuition and empathy coupled with their creativity make them excellent artists and musicians.
The final planet in our solar system, Pluto (is it a planet this week? I think so. It will always be a planet to me anyway. Sucks to be you NASA) is the ruling planet of Scorpio and represented by the Death card in the tarot deck. Pluto is named after the Roman God of the underworld so the connection with death is quite literal in that context. However, with death comes transformation and Scorpio’s are the Kings and Queens of starting over. Never one to dwell on life’s problems for long, they’re quick to take action to help themselves and others. Likewise, in Tarot, the Death card doesn’t really mean a physical death when it’s drawn, rather it means the end of a period of your life, a project, a struggle. One of the recurring themes in tarot is death and rebirth, the old must make way for the new so this card represents leaving behind the things that are no longer serving you and moving forward to the next phase of your life. Being a water sign, Scorpios are all about emotions but unlike whimsical Pisces and determined Cancer, Scorpio expresses that emotion in passion and with an open heart. Scorpios hate dishonesty and are exceptionally trustworthy, a true friend. Their resourcefulness and bravery make them great leaders and you know that with a Scorpio in charge, not only is success is highly likely but the troops will be well cared for too. Prior to the discovery of Pluto, Scorpio was ruled by Mars which I guess I can see in terms of the leadership skills. Scorpio’s can also be aggressive when challenged and being the fixed water sign, somewhat stubborn and inflexible so that also fits with the God of Wars attitude to life! Scorpios lack Mar’s impulsiveness and fire though so they tend to be a bit slower to anger and like to seek out the truth of the situation before they allow themselves to get worked up.
All signs – http://www.astrology-zodiac-signs.com/
Planets – Wikipedia pages