Ian Parkin is the author of this post.
Tarot For The Hero’s Journey
In Tarot For The Hero’s Journey, I’ve assigned a Major Arcana card to each of the 17 stages for the common narrative archetype that was first proposed by Joseph Campbell in his book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces".
The Hero's Journey is a narrative pattern identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" (1949). The Hero's Journey describes a basic pattern where the main character goes through certain stages in their journey.
Tarot is a deck of 78 cards originating from 15th century Europe, now often used for divination or self-reflection. The deck is split into the Major Arcana, 22 cards representing significant life themes, and the Minor Arcana, 56 cards reflecting daily experiences.
Aligning a Tarot card with each stage of the Hero's Journey offers a richer, symbolic understanding of the journey's narrative arc. Each Tarot card is abundant with symbolism and archetypal imagery, providing depth and diverse perspectives to each stage. This practice enhances storytelling, self-reflection, and personal insight, facilitating a profound exploration of personal growth and transformation. Furthermore, it supports intuitive thinking and clarity, assisting individuals to connect deeper with their own journeys and challenges. Finally, for those interested in learning Tarot, this alignment provides a memorable and insightful way to understand the Major Arcana, blending personal development with esoteric learning.
The following association of Tarot Major Arcana cards to the stages of the Hero's Journey is my interpretation and not a universally accepted correlation.
Tarot For The Hero's Journey: Arcane Insights For Your Heroic Path
In the original model of the Hero's Journey proposed by Joseph Campbell, he outlined seventeen stages. These stages can be divided into three parts: Departure, Initiation, and Return. I have aligned each stage of the Hero's Journey with a Major Arcana Tarot Card.
1) The Call To Adventure: The future hero is first given notice that their life is going to change.
- Being Called To Adventure Is The Fool: The Fool represents the start of a journey, taking a leap of faith into the unknown. It embodies the potential and spontaneity of any new beginning.
2) Refusal Of The Call: Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, or a sense of inadequacy.
- Refusing The Call Is The High Priestess: The High Priestess represents intuition, secrets, and hidden emotions, akin to the hero's initial reluctance to step into the unknown.
3) Supernatural Aid: Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, their guide and magical helper appears or becomes known.
- Acquiring Supernatural Aid Of The Magician: The Magician represents willpower, resourcefulness, and the ability to manifest - similar to the mentor's role in the hero's journey.
4) Crossing The Threshold: This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of their world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm.
- Crossing The Threshold With The Chariot: The Chariot signifies overcoming conflicts and moving forward in a positive direction - a fitting symbol for the hero's entry into the adventure.
5) Belly Of The Whale: The final separation from the hero's known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.
- Entering The Belly Of The Whale Is Death: This card represents transformation, change, and the end of a cycle - mirroring the hero's metamorphosis as they dive deeper into the journey.
6) The Road of Trials: The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation.
- On The Road of Trials With The Wheel of Fortune: This card signifies changes, cycles, and inevitable fate, mirroring the trials and tribulations the hero faces.
7) The Meeting With The Goddess: This is the point when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all-encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with their mother.
- The Meeting With The Goddess Is With The Empress: The Empress signifies fertility, beauty, nature, and nurturing - qualities associated with the goddess or the divine feminine.
8) Woman As Temptress: This stage is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from their quest.
- A Woman As Temptress Is Devilish: The Devil represents temptation and indulgence, perfectly capturing the stage of encountering seduction or distraction.
9) Atonement With The Father: In this step, the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in their life.
- Atoned By The Father And Emperor: The Emperor represents structure, power, and authority - similar to the father figure or authority the hero must confront.
10) Apotheosis: This is the point of realization in which a greater understanding is achieved.
- Reaching Apotheosis As High As The Star: The Star represents hope, inspiration, and serenity, akin to the hero's realizations and enlightenment.
11) The Ultimate Boon: The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest.
- Achieving An Ultimate Boon With Strength: Strength represents the embodiment of courage, determination, and inner strength developed by the hero from achieving their goal on the journey so far.
12) Refusal Of The Return: Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto their fellow man.
- Refusing To Return Like The Hanged Man: The Hanged Man represents the hero, having found enlightenment or bliss in the other world, is now in suspension, delay, and reflection, while being reluctant to return to the ordinary world.
13) The Magic Flight: Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding.
- A Magic Flight From The Tower: The Tower represents upheaval and unexpected change, often reflecting the hero's precarious journey back with the boon.
14) Rescue From Without: Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often they must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life.
- Being Rescued From Without By The Hierophant: The Hierophant represents guidance and wisdom, symbolizing the aid the hero receives on their return journey.
15) The Crossing Of The Return Threshold: The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.
- Crossing The Return Threshold Without Judgement: This card signifies rebirth, inner calling, and absolution, reflecting the hero's integration of their wisdom into ordinary life.
16) Master Of Two Worlds: This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual.
- Mastering The Two Worlds Like The Sun: The Sun represents success, radiance, and abundance, much like the hero's mastery of both the ordinary and extraordinary worlds.
17) Freedom to Live: Freedom to live is the stage of the hero's journey in which the hero has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
- Finding Freedom To Live In The World: The World card represents completion, integration, and accomplishment, mirroring the hero's ability to live freely with the wisdom gained on their journey.
Assignment Of The Remaining Major Arcana Cards
Each of the remaining cards in the Tarot's Major Arcana represents a unique concept, life stage, experience, or idea that can be aligned with a particular moment or aspect of the hero's journey.
- The Moon: Represents illusion, fear, anxiety, subconscious, and intuition. I relate it to the internal struggles or doubts that the hero will face on their journey.
- Justice: Represents fairness, truth, cause and effect, law. This card I relate to a moment of moral decision or reckoning in the hero's journey.
- The Hermit: Represents introspection, inner guidance, solitude. This card I'm aligning with moments of introspection and self-discovery along the way.
- Temperance: Represents balance, moderation, patience, purpose. It corresponds to stages where the hero learns to balance their old self and their new self, or to integrate different aspects of their experience.
- The Lovers: Represents love, harmony, relationships, values alignment, choices. I align it with moments of partnership, love, or critical choices in the hero's journey.
From Fool to World, our journey's spun,
Each card a step, each step begun.
An adventure grand, both old and new,
Through trials and joy, we find what's true.
The High Priestess, with secrets deep,
Awakens dreams from ancient sleep.
The Magician, with a wand held high,
Invites us to spread our wings and fly.
The Empress and Emperor, a pairing divine,
Balance and order, in perfect line.
Through Lovers' embrace, and Chariot's stride,
Our strength unfolds, no need to hide.
The Wheel turns, fortune's dance,
In this journey, we take our chance.
Through Death's transformation, a new dawn will rise,
With the Hanged Man's wisdom, we sever old ties.
Judgement's trumpet sings the past,
Freeing us to live at last.
The Star, the Moon, the Sun above,
Guiding with hope, fear, and love.
The Tower crumbles, clearing sight,
To reveal the World, in brilliant light.
We are the heroes, in story untold,
Mastering worlds, both new and old.
In this journey, each card we meet,
Is a challenge faced, a trial to greet.
But remember, as through life we roam,
Each step, each card, leads us home.
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