Tarot 101, My Way – Major Arcana: The Moon and the Sun

We have now come to what might be termed the Dark Side and the Bright Side of the human experience. The Moon comes first, marking the treacherous path to its opposite pole, the Sun, with signposts of dubious reliability. The Moon does not offer a clear view of anything that comes under its dim rays; its realm is that of illusion and misapprehension; furtive things done by night. Despite the common error of confusing it with the “Mother figure” of the astrological Moon, that of the tarot is anything but maternally wholesome and  nurturing. It is the flip-side of the High Priestess: tarnished rather than pristine; lowly, not exalted; prone to misrepresent and distort the truth for credulous eyes rather than simply concealing it from the unworthy. It has been linked to psychism due to its connection to the nocturnal landscape of dreams and other subconscious excursions, but it is more attuned to the astral glamor of the carnival fortune-teller than to the virtuous channels plied by the spiritual mystic. The Moon is friend to the prowler and the night-stalker, and hides its face from the honest citizen who walks by day. The key point in its interpretation is “things may not be what they seem;” its advice is to doubt the evidence of one’s own eyes in situations where clarity is lacking, to cultivate a healthy mistrust of the obvious when motives are unclear. It suggests a time to take two steps back and ponder the situation rather than forging ahead heedlessly; there is more than a hint of the “double-dealer” about it.

The Sun, on the other hand, is all about unstinting revelation, to the point that things that might be better left hidden are brought to light with perfect integrity but also painful precision. The Sun is life-affirming and energizing in its undeniable benevolence, but it must be looked upon with care to avoid being “blinded by the light.” It is easy to construe it as bringing nothing but good things to life; there is a tendency to gloss over its less agreeable habit of shining light in all the dark corners when the warm glow of solar indulgence holds sway over the matter at hand. While there is nothing sinister in its manner, it shines its spotlight with remorseless intensity on everything and everyone in sight, excusing none; only its reversal or close proximity to less exuberant cards may bring the momentary relief of a passing cloud. But in most cases it’s the “all systems go, clear sailing ahead” card that we love to see come up in a reading.

The Minor Arcana: Trump 18 – The Moon


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Dissatisfaction, voluntary change. Error, lying, falsity, deception.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, occult forces, error.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

“Illusion, deception, bewilderment, hysteria, even madness, dreaminess, falsehood, error, crises, “the darkest hour before the dawn,” the brink of important change.”


Like the High Priestess, the Moon deals in concealed matters, but on a much lower arc of spiritual trustworthiness. The consequences of failing to see clearly by the Moon’s unreliable light are riskier than those of being shut out by the secrecy of the High Priestess. The latter shelters knowledge that – perhaps for reasons of self-preservation – one is not yet privileged to know, while the former hides psychological pitfalls that pose real danger to any kind of forward progress. The Moon exemplifies illusion, delusion, deception and bad faith. Despite the Moon’s “warm and fuzzy” New Age veneer of enticing mystery, emotional fullness, spiritual inspiration and intuitive insight, it’s much older occult reputation doesn’t warrant such a sanguine outlook. On the other hand, Crowley’s observation that it signifies “the brink of important change” speaks to the potential for “surprises” mentioned in the discussion of the High Priestess. Unfortunately, such “tainted” lunar surprises are as likely to be unnerving as they are to be stimulating and encouraging.

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The Major Arcana: Trump 19 – The Sun


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

Glory, Gain, Riches. Sometimes also arrogance. Display, Vanity.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

“Glory, gain, riches, triumph, pleasure, frankness, truth, shamelessness, arrogance, vanity, manifestation, recovery from sickness, but sometimes sudden death.”


The Sun is one of the most fortunate cards in the deck. There is very little negative to be said about it, other than that at its worst it embodies the most obnoxious qualities of the degraded Leo personality: arrogance, belligerence, narcissism, egotistical posturing, stubborn self-righteousness, love of the spotlight. It is the primary indicator of success and all manner of agreeable circumstances. It overflows with optimism, enthusiasm, vigor, kindness, warmth, and virtually any other superlative of human character short of intellectual excellence. It is the “Good-will Ambassador” of the Major Arcana, spreading light and hope wherever it appears. It’s gestures can seem “larger than life,” and its sweeping positivism sometimes needs to be reined in to fit within the confines of quieter or more sober circumstances, where its relentless cheerfulness can seem like “too much of a good thing.”

More details can be found in this earlier post:


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