Way of the Hero – Part 1 – The Journey Through Major Arcana

Before I wrote this article, I was thinking about the theme. There is so much I want to share with you, one, two, even hundred articles won’t be enough. However, when my answer finally came, I began to write. I believe that each one of you will read this and future articles and find answers to your most troublesome questions.

Not so long ago, I thought of myself as a very open, sharing person, and the world perceived me as such. To all I was very successful, beautiful, talented, I made my own decisions, I had more than enough love and money, health, and friendship. So on, and so forth.

People admired the way I looked, the way I succeeded in the life, the way I lived, even the way I built my house – my ego was perfectly satisfied.

One day, some years ago, my “perfect” world collapsed.

On June 9th, 2001, my father untimely passed away, taking with him my old beliefs, perceptions, and his comfort and protection. It was a time of despair. While there were many self-help books written on how to pass through grief, I had a strong belief that those books were written by selfish and heartless people who simply never new love. Little did I know that the attachment I had towards my father had nothing to do with love, but with projection. I was angry and upset. I was not just ready to let him go.

I was born when my parents were in their late thirties. My only sister is seventeen years older than me and they had no children in between. I was a long-awaited, but unexpected, child, born into a successful, already established family. My parents represented the whole entire world to me, and when time came to be on my own I never actually left them. I got married and had my own kids, but my parents always protected and supported me. My mother, may she be blessed, continues to do so.

What did it all mean?

Well, as you will discover later, when my father passed away I was left only with my mother’s female energy. What does the male energy represent? It represents a strong foundation, strength, physical protection, home, and material things. And the day he passed away, my material world collapsed. It started to diminish from the physical presence of my reality and continued until most of my possessions were lost.

This was the moment when I needed to accept the call. I needed to understand that I was “not in Kansas anymore”, and that I was a grown human being with my own lessons and experiences, with my own husband. But the most important was an acceptance of the fact that I am totally independent of my parents.

However, I refused and tried to delve back into my familiar surroundings. I refused until I lost most of my possessions. Until I had no other choice, but to accept the call. Years have passed since then and now, looking back at how it all started, I can relate my experience to the most known archetypal adventure: “The Way of the Hero”.

And I would like to share it with you.

As we all know there are a seventy-eight cards in a Tarot deck, where twenty-two cards belong to Major Arcane. They are as follows: the Fool, Magician/High Priest, High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, High Priest, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Wheel, Justice, Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Judgment, and World. It starts with the Fool (whole and complete) and all ends with the World (Wholeness).

For many years I considered myself a follower of the Jungian Psychology school. I have a strong believe that 22 cards of Tarot show the way of each person’s life – the Way of the Hero – the oldest tale of all times. It is a blueprint that lays the foundation for every single adventure or fairy tale that was ever written. They all begin with someone who is about to start the journey to find treasure, conquer evil, and save the world. It does not matter when the hero lived, nor does it matter the time when the tale was written, whether it was thousand years ago or today, all heroes follow the same scenario. I don’t believe it was actually written by any person, or invented by some smart scientist, I strongly believe that this is a reflection of the knowledge that our souls accommodated while developing within human bodies. Time went by and all the knowledge was inherited by new generation. That is why we all love to listen to those tales. They remind everyone of us of the reason we came to this life and what we have to do.

Many philosophers and scientists were delving into the story, discovering and describing the process. However, Swedish psychologist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung played one of the most major roles in this movement. He was the first to describe the “Collective Unconscious”, through which humans are all connected. Without going deep into details, I want to mention that every human being’s experience and knowledge is stored there. And right on this level, where we are all interconnected, we dwell on archetypes – which are pro-roots of the human soul. Archetypes are general characters that we are born with, our karmic luggage, always within us, within our personal psyche.

For example, we all know the archetype of the Wise Man. Even though we may or may not see this one in our own lives, we all will meet him sooner or later in dreams or meditations. And we all will recognize him, because he exists as one of the major players within the “collective unconscious”. That is why the “Way of the Hero” is nothing more but an archetypal template of the life’s scenario. It is built from generic characters and pro-roots. And this is the reason why we recognize every character within any kind of description. It all starts the same: the hero gets a call which he MUST take. If he refuses to take his call, life will hit him harder and harder until he is left with only one choice: Take the Call. Again, I am not here to draw a map of the way of the hero, there are many books written on the subject, but I want to show you how I was left with no other choice but to take my call. Instead of inventing another fairy tale, I want to show you how the “Way of the Hero” is visually described within the major arcane of Tarot Cards. And how it can be used as a major tool to assist you on the journey through your own inner world.

The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor 

We all start as the Fool, whole and complete, a vulnerable child who is just about to take a bite from an apple of the Tree of Knowledge, but not many Fools reach the World card, even though everyone has the potential. Some people are stuck for years and end at the Tower, some are hanged and die with the Hanged Man, some go as far the Sun and some can see the World, but will they eventually reach it? In the Old Testament, Moses knew that he will see the Promised Land, but will never enter it. While it is not that difficult to move through first cards, it really becomes a challenge when we feel like a Hanged Man or find out that our world is shaking as the Tower.

We are all on a journey here, we are kings and queens of our own kingdoms. When everything goes well and we are moving through positive aspects of life, we are happy and calm. But just when we think that life cannot be any better, we find ourselves on the opposite end of it and starting to ask questions such as “How in the world did I get to point B, when I was so happy at point A?”

The sooner we understand that we live in the world of opposites, where one opposite is constantly changing into another in a perfect cycle, the better it is for us. In fairy tales, we may see this as a kingdom under threat and the king must find a hero to save the kingdom. On a mundane level, we may see it as a threat to our accustomed lives: loss of health, a loved one, a home, money, or a job.

By looking at opposites we meet our heavenly parents, who represent the male and female parts of the world: Magician and High Priestess. We learn the life of opposites, of magical and mystical ways. As magicians we learn about the outside world, we learn to actively change the outside in all possible ways and then we understand the mystical way of the High Priestess, the way of doing nothing, the ZEN way that brings us to our subconscious. Now we are ready to hear the call and take it. Both ways represent the world of dualities and are neither good or bad. It becomes bad when the Fool decides to explore only one way. We have to understand that yes, we are able to change the outside world (Magician), but we also need to know that in order to do so, we have to recognize and listen to our Inner Voice (High Priestess).

So, the Fool already took the bite from the infamous Tree of Knowledge and built the system of beliefs of his own understanding of “good” and “bad”. His world is under the threat, and to save it he must take the call and acknowledge the world of realities. But, we are actively trying to reverse the process, we are trying to fix it, we just don’t want to take the call.  And at this point, we meet our earthly parents: Empress and Emperor. The Empress perceives the time as a cycle, a circle with no end and no beginning. For her everything returns to its place, nothing is lost. She gives a birth to the same things over and over again. For the Emperor, the time is linear. Everything has its end and beginning, and he calls the changes “progress”.

That’s why in her world everything will be born again, she believes in the circle of rebirth. In his world, there is no rebirth. Our Fool is taping into mother’s energy by acknowledging his creativity. He is now giving birth to new projects by expressing his creativity. With Emperor he is still living in the real world, he creates the realistic plan, simply putting creative ideas into a manageable plan to reach the goal. He uses his mother’s creative talents to produce something with his hands, as his father.

Now, both pairs go as following: The Magician, The Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, male, female.

Why? Well, because as we know “As Above, So Below, So Below, As Above”, or outside is a reflection of the inside. Earth energy is a mirror reflection of Heavenly energy.

Earthly parents exchange sides with heavenly parents as in a mirror.

Every manifestation of material things in our life follows this principle: in the beginning, we need the starting impulse (the Magician), which needs a reply, an echo, that is ready to absorb it (the High Priestess). Without such an echo, the impulse will be turned off. However, no echo will exist without the first impulse. When we recognize both, then — “from One came Two, from Two developed Three”, then the embryo starts to develop (The Empress), and by the end, it takes its unique shape (The Emperor). If we take the development of a human baby as an example: semen (the Magician), egg (the High Priestess), embryo (the Empress), birth of a baby (the Emperor). If we take the development of the project as an example: idea (the Magician), positive fertile environment (the High Priestess), the process of creation (The Empress), and its final successful outcome (the Emperor).

This same mapping is true for our Hero. The first four cards give us an idea about where the Hero is heading and which tasks he needs to solve. The male way is the way of the will, consciousness, and the way of knowing the laws of life and the world in which he lives. The first card is The Magician – the active male card which helps the Hero to recognize the call and gives him the courage to take it and begin his way.   And when hero is old enough to get out of his house, out from the protection of the Mother (Empress), he enters the world (Emperor).

Now the hero goes through the period (the High Priestess) where he learns about relationships between his peers, and first delves into the depths of his own subconscious world, into the unknown mysticism of life. Now he needs to learn to live and to let others live, understand that everyone is different, and accept people without judgment. He learns to sympathize with others. Now he must learn to surrender to this period, which cannot be forced. All he can do is to let it take him through and be ready to follow his highest call for the first time without the support of his mother (The Empress). On a mundane level, we may meet someone who we would never accept, a person we could never feel any kind of sympathy for. Simply speaking we must accept the “unacceptable” and understand that this person is the one who most needs our acceptance and love. And that this person is nothing more than an exact mirror reflection of ourselves.

Now, our hero is all grown up and meets new challenges: he must learn again to surrender and let go of old beliefs and the independence that was conquered prior (The Emperor). In a mundane level, we may loose some or all of our material possessions, our job, or our health. And again, we must surrender and follow our highest call.

© Rita Digilova 2009

Leave a Reply