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The Tarot, Terrorism And Global Warming: What The Tarot Has To Say About The Modern World

The 78 card Tarot deck is based upon an ancient philosophy, which can bring startling insights when applied to the modern world. This article explores these ideas in the context of current global issues such as international politics, global warming, terrorism etc. For anyone interested in world affairs or learning more about the Tarot.

I wanted to write this article to demonstrate how the ancient philosophy behind the Tarot is still relevant to us today, and to show how these ideas can be used to illuminate our modern world. Whether or not the Tarot has any mystical power I believe a lot can be learned from the view that it gives of the universe, which goes back to antiquity. As someone who teaches and practices Tarot I also wanted to create a guide to help people understand the meanings behind each card, by reframing tarot in a modern context which can be related to more easily.

When someone receives a Tarot reading the cards offer meanings that are universal but also personal to the questioner. If one was to carry out a reading for the state of the world, how then could the reader interpret the cards? What are the pressing issues for us all at this time? I asked myself this question and, whilst thumbing through the pack, the meanings became quite obvious and stark to me. Below I have listed these meanings for the 21 Major arcarna or trump cards.

FREEDOM - The Fool
TECHNOLOGY - The Magician
RELIGION - High Priestess
HUMAN RIGHTS - The Empress
STATE POWER AND SECURITY - The Emperor
TRADITIONALISTS VS MODERNIZERS - The Hierophant
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS - The Lovers
WAR AND CONFLICT - The Chariot
WORLD POLITICS - Strength
INNER WORLD - The Hermit
INTERNATIONAL LAW - Justice
WORLD POVERTY - Hanged Man
GLOBAL WARMING - Death
THE MISSING ELEMENT - Temperance
TERRORISM - The Devil
GENETIC ENGINEERING - The Tower
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION - The Star
THE INTERNET AND THE INFORMATION AGE - The Sun
POWER AND CORRUPTION - The Moon
POPULATION - Judgement
THE ENVIRONMENT - The World

FREEDOM - The Fool
As card number zero in the pack the Fool represents all that is new, free and innovative. In medieval times the court jester was someone who was not expected to follow the same rules and conventions as everyone else and so was free to be spontaneous and creative. The Major Arcana is often described as a journey through life starting at the childlike simplicity and freedom of the Fool and ending with card number 21 - The World. However, for many in the world, freedom or lack of it, is a big political goal which they need to achieve before they can start their journey.

TECHNOLOGY - The Magician
Technology is now the backdrop to all our lives and to those who don't understand it or haven't witnessed it before it seems like magic. When people first saw inventions such as moving images or photography some believed it to be witchcraft or some kind of trickery. On the card the Magician shows a powerful figure performing his tricks with us as his audience. He is about to make things happen before our eyes that we never thought possible. The message of this card is that if you know what you are doing and you have the energy of commitment behind you, you can achieve incredible things. This is a valuable lesson for the modern world.

HUMAN RIGHTS - The Empress
The Empress is a ruler that respects her subjects. She is a motherly figure who believes in nurturing and caring rather than controlling and dictating. It is perhaps an unusual card considering its historical origins. We tend to see this regard for individual human rights as quite a modern enlightened view. The Tarot's values however are timeless and not subject to fashion.

STATE POWER AND SECURITY - The Emperor
The Emperor has a different approach than that of the Empress. He is an old-fashioned ruler who believes in running his empire efficiently and systematically. He believes in looking after the many and not compromising for the needs of individuals. One of the big debates at this time is how much power should the state have? Many argue that with the greater need for security at home and abroad we need a government that is strong and which from time to time is willing to lessen the human rights of a few in order to safeguard the majority. Others disagree, arguing the state has too much power and should behave more like the Empress. This argument will probably never be resolved and so these two cards sit side-by-side in the deck reminding us of this dilemma.

WAR AND CONFLICT - The Chariot
This card needs little explanation. There have always been wars and probably always will be. There is therefore no need to put this ancient card into a modern context.

WORLD POLITICS - Strength
Although this card often depicts a man wrestling a lion, the strength referred to here is strength of will and courage rather than physical strength: the ability to endure and overcome difficulties. In fact it could be seen as the strength of will and character to resist the temptation to use physical force to solve a problem. For today's modern world many problems could be solved by a stronger political will and greater courage. Perhaps one day more world leaders will realize that there is something stronger and more enduring than military might.

WORLD TRADE AND FINANCE - Wheel of Fortune
This card reminds us that life can be a bit of a lottery and fortunes can go up as well as down. It often depicts someone partying whilst someone else (or is it the same person later in time?) plummets to his doom. It is a stark reminder and warning of the fragility of life. In the week after the 9/11 attack Wall Street remained closed for several days, and nobody knew what was going to happen. It was clear the markets were going to slump but would they go into free fall? Were the US and world economies to be dragged into a downward spiral of recession? Our modern lives depend on financial markets and world economies. The card is a reminder not to be complacent.

INTERNATIONAL LAW - Justice
The meaning is simple: that is the need for justice, judgement and good decision making. The card perfectly illustrates the need for international cooperation over rules and legal matters.

GLOBAL WARMING - Death
The image of the reaper is a reminder that life exists in cycles and that all things come to an end. It speaks more of change than actual death, and how this change can be painful. There seems little doubt that the world climate is moving into a new phase. These climate cycles have always existed - such as the various ice ages - but never has the change been so rapid or man made. This change will inevitably result in the deaths of individuals and of species. Global warming may be one of the biggest challenges we have faced in our history.

TERRORISM - The Devil
This is perhaps one of the most straightforward interpretations. The Devil has always been a figure of fear, a corrupting influence that has no compassion or feeling for others. Unfortuneately we live in a world where a few individuals wish to induce this level of fear in others, motivated by self-interest or warped philosophies. Sadly they can become trapped by world-views which can convince them their philosophies are right. This perhaps is the definition of evil; and strangely often done in the name of God.

GENETIC ENGINEERING - The Tower
When creating this list there was such a temptation to make this card about the 9/11 attacks. I have heard that some people have made this connection but I think this is taking the card at face value rather than trying to understand its full meaning. The card in the modern deck actually makes reference to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The card does stand for upheaval and disruption but it also warns of the dangers of over-stretching oneself and getting involved in things beyond one's understanding. In Genesis the tower is struck down; and the punishment for challenging God's authority is that the people are cast out and made to speak in different languages. If for ancient people the tower represents diversity, then for us in the modern world diversity is represented by the human gene. Genetic engineering now gives us the power to do what may be thought of as challenging the authority of God. We could do worse than look at this card for advice on this matter.

GLOBAL COOPERATION - The Star
The Star in the Tarot refers to a way forward and to hope for a better future. When I was growing up, hope for the future seemed to centre around the space program. It was the only area over which the then two super-powers would cooperate. Maybe this was because the expense became too much for one nation, or maybe as I like to believe because when one looks to the stars it makes our differences down here on Earth seem less important. It certainly does seem that if human beings are to progress then we must embrace collaboration. The card reminds us to hold the star as a symbol for hope, and whether it is a star of David or a star of Islam shouldn't matter.

THE INTERNET AND THE INFORMATION AGE - The Sun
This card represents knowledge and understanding. When we understand something we are enlightened and that's what the sun does to the earth: it shines light on dark corners and illuminates the globe. One of the most significant inventions of the last forty years which brings knowledge and illumination to the world is the internet. It is interesting to note that the internet has been made possible by lasers transmitting information through high-speed fiber optics. Thus, the internet, in effect, is made of pure light. The card also depicts a happy couple who could be lovers: the inference being that understanding between people is the key to harmony. Never before has so much knowledge been available to so many. The couple on the card reminds us however, that unless this knowledge is used to build closer links between people, it is a waste of time.

POWER AND CORRUPTION - The Moon
The word 'lunatic'' derives from the belief that the moon's rays had the power to intoxicate and send people mad. In the modern world one of the most dangerous forms of intoxication is that of people becoming drunk on power. We see this throughout the world where leaders are corrupted by their power and become self-aggrandizing tyrants. We also see it in the board-rooms of multinational companies where individuals can be seduced by the love of money and the power it brings. The card itself refers to corruption and confusion and to all the dark dealings that happen hidden from the light of day. It has the opposite meaning to the Sun; thus the antidote is to shed light wherever possible.

POPULATION - Judgement
With shrinking resources and rising birth rates, population control must be one of the most pressing world issues for this time. This card speaks of a judgement day when things come to a head and decisions have to be made: when the result of our actions good or bad must be accounted for. In the judgement day myth all the people that have ever lived are risen back to life. Best estimates would put this at about 107 billion souls!

THE ENVIRONMENT - The World
The World card simply represents fulfillment and completeness. Having the World at one's fingertips means having everything one could possibly want. The problem with having everything we want however, is that this is usually at the expense of the planet. The card's meaning of completeness and self-containment is a reminder that we must get what we want in a way that is sustainable. This is the final card of the Major Arcana and the end point for our journey. This is our home and we cannot get away from it until death; so we should look after it.

Submitted by:

Fred Street

Fred Street is the creator of http://www.tarot-cards-reading.com a free Tarot reading site which offers a wide range of readings online and by email. Ideal for anyone learning Tarot




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