In the previous “Way of the Hero” article, I have explained the five steps, or levels of the Hero’s journey and mapped them out within Tarot cards. We looked at: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, and The Emperor.
Now our Hero will journey through The Hierophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot.
The Hierophant – The Hero’s Education and Preparation for the Journey.
Now The Fool finds the mentor, the one who educates him and prepares the Hero for his journey into the outer world. The word “Hierophant” literally means “the one who teaches the holy things”. He can be a spiritual teacher in the physical world or a spiritual guide from the non-physical realm. He is the teacher but is often playful or mischievous. He also represents organized religion, both its positive and negative aspects. Ideally, the Hierophant prepares the Fool spiritually for the adventure of life. One example of such a relationship is the story of Merlin and Arthur.
This is when the child starts to understand the boundaries between Self and others, family, and the community. This is the point where the individual starts constructing his or her own identity; consciously, unconsciously, or as shaped by exterior forces. He is our very first level of understanding between right and wrong, and good and evil. It is related through cross sums (the sum of the digits) with The Temperance. The Hierophant presents the lessons of heaven to earth. Temperance guides the soul from this world to the underworld. So, the Hierophant prepares the hero for the journey into the outer world and Temperance is our soul guide for the journey through the night.
Choice – The Lovers
Now our Hero gets a signal or impulse that drives him out of the Garden of Eden, out of his childhood, and towards adulthood. Sometimes it is shown as a curiosity (for example: Pandora and Eve); sexual desire; or duty (ex: a soldier’s call). Whatever it is, once we have stepped the past through threshold, there is no returning to childhood. The Hero has to make a choice: to follow the faith of his father or to go his own way – follow his heart’s desire.
Through its cross sum (the sum of the digits), The Lovers card is associated with The Devil. He is often the source of the impulse or that thing inside of us that responds to it. The Devil’s energy is absolutely necessary and absolutely deadly.
If his own way is chosen, then The Lovers typically draw the Hero’s attention to whichever impulse drove him from home, to whatever impulse made him move out, reject the faith of his fathers, and made him accept the call. That original impulse should be honored, but if it dominates the hero’s life, it will grow tiresome. The call must be renewed.
The Lovers are also a reminder that to fully advance, we need to interact with other people: lovers, friends, adversaries – each one teaches us, each one stretches us, each can break our hearts, and each one can kill us.
Exile – The Chariot
After the impulse that pulls the Hero out of the Garden and into the outer world, he gets on his chariot and departs. At that point, we are the Hero of our own story; maybe the Hero of everyone’s story. That Hero might represent Helios, the Greek god who drives the Sun’s chariot across the sky and brings light to Earth. If he reaches too high and is unprepared, the Hero may face danger.
The Chariot is number seven in the Major Arcane. It represents the possibility of traveling through the mysteries of the Universe. It also evokes the Seven Gates of Hell that Innana passed through when she was required to partially disrobe at each one before finally being presented to the Queen of the Underworld, her sister Ereshkigal. The myth “Descent of The Goddess”, one of the sacred texts of Wicca, tells about the Goddess who descends through the Seven Gates to meet the Lord of the Underworld.
Depending on the deck, the Hero’s Chariot is entailed with two sphinxes or two horses: one black and one white. Black and white in this symbol mean duality, through which we perceive and reason our reality. Our consciousness is not capable of perceiving or understanding anything that has no logical contrast. We wouldn’t know what is the male if we didn’t have the female. And we would not know what light is, if we couldn’t see the dark. The hero must control both opposites, represented by the black and white horses or sphinxes, but he still needs to learn how to direct them properly. He has to understand the polarities, the duality of the world.
Through its cross sum (the sum of the digits), The Chariot is related to The Tower. Much like the Chariot takes us from our home, the Tower carries us from either what we have constructed for ourselves or what has been constructed for us.
It took my consciousness a very long time to absorb the duality of our world. Not the meaning of it (understanding the concept of duality was easy), but the actual absorption of the duality into my consciousness, so I could perceive the universe from a higher perspective, as a whole and not as divided. I do still struggle occasionally between good and bad, love and hate. I live in the human body after all, so it is expected. But the more I can put myself in the observer’s position, the easier and faster I can raise above dualities. It is hard, I admit it, but no one said it would be easy.
So, our hero must understand dualities and why they exist. Without knowing what death is, we wouldn’t know that we lived. When we are born we collide with this dilemma, however as children we do not realize it. Only the gradual process of self-development reveals the phenomenon of our existence.
What is a self-development? Both parts of a word, “self-development” show us the exact essence of it: there is a development of the Self. Our abilities and our potentials to achieve all we want in this lifetime are stored in the subconscious mind. But they are stored without any movement, like in a safe-deposit box. Self-development means understanding available opportunities, and by comparing them with their polar opposites, we can realize and fully explore them.
By going through the process of gradual self-development, we not only begin to understand our surroundings and adapt to our environment but also continually test it with our increasing consciousness and find ways to change our environment and surroundings according to what we desire.
Between these two poles, between our inside and outside worlds, exists a pressure, (like between electric or magnetic poles, forcing them to be drawn to each other or to repel each other. People often feel the inconvenience of being between both poles when they have to make a choice between two opportunities. Usually, we reach one pole and declare that it is the “right” or “good” one and label the other as a “wrong” or “malicious”. But the more we resist the “wrong” pole, the more we attract it.
So, the Hero’s goal on this stage is not to delve into the side labeled as “right”, but to unite the opposites and achieve wholeness.
However, it does not mean that we should be stuck on this stage until we unite all possible dualities. We will continue with the process of uniting the opposites on all stages.
On the Lovers’ stage, the Hero learns what the opposites are and is able to distinguish between right and wrong. Now his level of consciousness will take the next step by departing on the Chariot where he will learn how to unite these opposites to achieve wholeness. But the only way to do that is to deeply understand the polarities of the surrounding world.
I also want to mention that the dark and light horses, as well as the charioteer, each represent one of the three aspects of the soul: the Soul of Appetite, the Soul of Will, and the Soul of Reason. And when we divide the twenty-one numbered Tarot trump cards into three groups of seven cards each, we find that the three groups correspond to these three aspects of the soul.
© Rita Digilova 2009