Mission Improbable?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: In the past I’ve written about the subject of “facing” (gaze or regard) of the figures on the tarot cards. Here I’m going to address the related topic of gesture or posture, at least to the extent that it applies to the scope of this essay.

As I wind down my second pass through Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of Tarot, I came to the realization that Jodo believes each trump card to have a uniquely individual “mission” in which it is completely absorbed, with no pressing need to engage or interact with similarly situated adjacent cards unless there is no other choice. This epiphany came as a result of his observation that the vertical sword in the right hand of Justice (on the viewer’s left) blocks or impedes the free expression of the “mission” of the card on that side, which is trying to independently bring its energy to bear on the future (toward the viewer’s right). The implication is that something doesn’t quite measure up to her virtuous sense of right-and-wrong, and rather than debate it she is just going to close the door (talk about “gatekeeping!”). After some deliberation on how to interpret his sequencing in a two-card series, I decided that – although his “decimal numerology” moves from the right (the “Ones” position) to the left (the “Tens” position), here his definitions flow from left to right according to the “normal” tarot practice of emulating the way the English language is read. So I will use that assumption in my text.

To use Jodo’s example, here is Justice barring the advance of the Chariot with her indomitable sword.

Obviously, not all right-hand cards will demonstrate a “blocking” posture; in some cases they will gesture in the opposite direction to that from which the left-hand card is entering. The assumption then is that the two are “pulling” (or “pushing”) toward the same goal and are joining forces in the effort. (Jodo suggests that they are “journeying together” and sharing their power.) On the other hand, the card on the left may be steering away from engagement (here the Charioteer looks like he would rather be somewhere else).

In the following pair, the Emperor is powerful enough to ignore the ultimatum of Justice and pursue his own affairs, frustrating her in the process since he won’t bother trying to convince her of his righteousness or even put a benevolent face on his indifference. The “Divine Right of Kings” comes to mind, and Justice is rendered impotent in choosing to defy it.

But looks can be deceiving. In the Hermit-Justice pairing, it appears that the Hermit is also disposed to disregard Justice. But Jodorowsky entertains the notion that the Hermit is “walking backward into the future” while holding his lantern aloft to light the way for those following him. He is focused on where he’s already been, not where he’s going, and the uncompromising sword of Justice is likely to catch him squarely in the rump if he doesn’t watch his step. Once he realizes his plight, he is more likely than the Emperor to apply some kind of finesse to persuade her to drop her opposition, and she is more likely to accept the wisdom of his argument, something the Emperor was wise enough to not even try.

If Justice is on the left in these combinations, she will not be operating from a position of strength and will have to settle for supporting the agenda of her active male counterpart, who will tap her for her sound judgement but won’t submit to her priorities. Although I won’t post them here, I’m going to continue exploring numerous other combinations to see what they might reveal with their mutual bearing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s