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Tarot Hermeneutics

Exploring How We Create Meaning with Tarot

Week One Waite-Trinick Tarot

See Below for Issues raised from during week:

Read what participants shared.

Audio recording of teleconference week one. (Best to download into your computer then listen to it. Do not listen on-line as you are likely to be cut off.

Read all of Abiding in the Sanctuary. The images are not to be reproduced on line. You can however download for your personal use digital images through the British Museum Link.

Review the tree of life and the paths of the major arcana for the RWS and or Golden Dawn system.

With this review in mind consider it as the path of purification for humans in a fallen state of nature (sin). What is sin for you? Does it keep you from God(dess)? How?

Consider the W-T tarots as symbols of Christian initiation.  What are the central sacraments of the Christian tradition? Emphasis Baptism, Eucharist. Reconciliation.

Titles for the Major Arcana

The attributions listed here are in accordance with those of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Society of the Inner Light, the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.), the Servants of the Light, and Pamela Eakins, Tarot of the Spirit.

Waite-Trinck number Card name (Astroanalog): color association; musical note; Path; Hebrew letter; alternative title
Golden Dawn Titles:

0  Da’ath

XI The Emperor (Aries): Scarlet, pure red; C-natural; Kether-Chockmah; Aleph
4 Aries—Emperor: Tetragrammaton, Sun of the Morning, The Grand Architect of the Universe, The Ancient of Days, God as Father and Maker, Osiris, Guardian of the Holy Grail, The Cubic Stone, Alchemical Sulphur, The Law of Four, The Daredevil, Conqueror, Mars, Ares, Lightning, Chief Among the Mighty Ones, Priapus, The All-Father, Athena, Minerva, Spiritual Illumination, The Beginning, The I Am, He Who Sees and Sets in Order, The Warrior, The Survivor, The First One, The Pioneer, The Initiator, First Logos, The Higher Self, Lord, Eternal Life, Father of the Sun, Husband, Hercules, Spiritual Governor, The Man of War, The Stone Cube, Constituting Intelligence, Reason, Sight, The Cube of Space, The Wisdom of Sovereignty and Beauty, The Ram.

XII The Empress (Venus): Emerald green; F-sharp, G-flat; Kether-Bi nah; Beth
3 Venus—Empress: Aphrodite, Isis Unveiled, Eve After Her Union with Adam, The Devouring Mother, The Goddess of. Love, Lilith, Mother Nature, Isis-Urania, Demeter, The Queen, Daughter of the Mighty Ones, Objective Reality, Alchemical Salt, Gate of the Equilibrium of the Universe, Kali, The Manifester, Ma, The Corn Woman, The Magma Mater, Love, The Gate of Heaven, Astarte, The Love of Master and Student in the Mysteries, Wife, Luminous Intelligence, Imagination, The Wisdom of Understanding.

XIII The Wheel of Fortune (Jupiter): Violet; B-flat, A-sharp; Kether-Da 'ath; Gimel
10 Jupiter— Wheel of Fortune: Chance, Fortune, The Law of Karma, Tarot, The Sphinx, Lord of the Forces of Life, The Three Fates, The Gambler, The Guru, The Three-Headed One, The Cycle of Events, Zeus, The Circle of Time, Excess, Rota, Rotation, Major Fortune, True Will, The Law of the Wheel, Wealth and Poverty, Intelligence of Conciliation, Rewarding Intelligence of Those Who Seek, Expansion, Lady Luck, The Guide Force, The Mercy and Magnificence of Victory.

XIV The Chariot (Cancer): Yellow-orange; D-sharp, E-flat; Chockmah-Da'ath; Daleth 
7 Cancer— Chariot: The King in Triumph, The Charioteer, The Chariot of Osiris, Chaos, Home, The Fence, The Box, The Children of the Powers of the Waters, The Driver, Lord of the Triumph of Light, The Conqueror, Unification, The Source, Reconciliation, He Who Bears the Holy Grail, Self Control, Progress, The People, The Masses, Intelligence of the House of Influence, The Well, The Crab, Victory, Birth-Death, The Chariot of Reincarnation, The Ark, Receptivity, Understanding, Acting on Severity, The Dog.


What is Da’ath on the Tree of Life? What does it mean to begin pathwork with Da’ath?

Consider important repetitive ceremonies in your life? What does participation in sacraments mean here?

The tree of Life as a sacramental path of Illumination

Research 3 stages of mystical life: purification, illumination, union.

Consider the meaning of the Emperor and the Empress as the exemplary couple. Consider where they now appear in these new paths for the tree of Life as the Illuminative way?

Emperor between Kether-Chockmah as aleph?

Empress between Kether-Binah as beth?

Wheel between Kether-Da’ath as gimel?

Consider symbolic meanings for the letters. (meanings given in text for cards by Goodwin and Katz)

If you have time ready this essay by A. E. Waite. I offer provisional translations of some of the Latin below.

The Hermetic and Rosicrucian Mystery by Arthur Edward Waite Scanned from the original publication, the periodical "Occult Review", vol. 8, no. 4, Oct. 1908. Formatted and corrected by hand, Sept. 2002.
This article will offer important clues to the ritual symbolism in Waite-Trinick Tarot.
Translating the Latin:
Vel sanctum invenit, vel sanctvm facit; The Holy makes as the Holy acts.
Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus; That always true, that everywhere, that from all.
Credo in unum Deum; I believe in one God.
unam sanctum catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam; one holy catholic and apostolic church.
panis quotidianis; of daily bread; panis virus et vitalis; and the salty Bread of Life; lusus puerorum; child's play; facilis ascensus superno, an easy supernatural ascent.
lapis qui non lapis, lapis tingens, lapis angularis, lapis qui multiplicetur, lapis per quem justus aedificabit domum Domini, et jam valde aedificatur et terram possidebit, per omnia etc. the stone which was not a stone, a stone contingent, the corner-stone, the stone which was multiplied, just build a stone house of the Lord by whom, and now very built up and possess the land, in all things.
Est in Mercurio quicquid quaerunt sapientes; There is in Mercury whatever wise men seek.
Laborare ese orare: prayer is work
Et antiquum documentum Novo cedat ritui:Praestet fides supplementum Sensuum defectui. Ancient document New rite yields: Afford to reinforce the faith of Where the feeble senses fail.
Est una sola res; There is only one thing.


Aleph — Ox, One, Clan, Cattle, to learn, train, tame or teach, community, family.

Given these letter associations what are we to make of the Emperor?

Images: on raised pedestal, hand in raise in benediction, halos  9.

"Contemplative Themes: Singularity, Purpose, Purity, Radiance, Being, Expression, Thought, Truth"


Beth — House, temple, daughter, tribe, tent, dwelling place.

Given these letter associations what are we to make of the Empress?

Images: Halo, lap hands cupped, fold, raised pedestal

Contemplative Themes: The Mother, The Divine Feminine, The Soul of Nature


Gimel — Camel, maturity, to do, perform.

Given these letter associations what are we to make of the Wheel?

"I come in the power of Light, I come in the Light of wisdom, I come in the mercy of Light, the Light hath healing in its wings."

Images: 8- spoke wheel- heart, wings, bare feet, gown

From the Neophyte Ritual of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

"Contemplative Themes: Divinity, Movement, Creation, Connection, Unity, Wholeness and Healing"


Daleth — Opening, gate, portal.

Given these letter associations what are we to make of the Chariot?

Images: 3- double set wings, male nude, winged dais, small halo, bare feet

The Chariot, connecting Chockmah, Wisdom, and Da'ath, Knowledge, is that ascended meditation or contemplation that cleaves the soul to God.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

"Contemplative Themes: Ascent, Revelation, Cleaving to God, The Opening of the Soul"

Issues raised from during week:

These shared remarks, more or less in order I received them, are slightly edited. Usually omitting only stuff that does not address the topic. I will remove any remarks upon request of the writer.

From Elena Charalambous:

I was wondering about the Emperor and Empress being placed on a pedal stall, and it reminded me of Adam and Eve; being made in the image of God; having dominion of the Earth and all its inhabitants.  

Trumped by The Wheel we see a celestial birth, which could be the birth of Christ?  Pg 99 holding the invisible form – the living presence of God - a supernatural birth.  

Between The Emperor/Empress sin (separation sets in) and divinity is needed to remind mankind of their inherent nature. The wheel offers this truth, through the cycles of life - clothed rather than naked (the naked truth which nobody likes, rather prefers clothed, enabling a gentle unfolding).

Through The Chariot a new life is born, bursting through the destiny of the wheel?  Man is a born a new creation?  The Christ is born?

The Magician is the reality of the sacrament and the transformative process.

The Fool - foolish wisdom vs. The Christ as Fool -; sin vs. repentance/new beginnings.

The High Priestess -  I need to think about :-)  

The Last Judgement representing a new level of understanding, within the psyche of mankind, through the trinity; the birth, death and resurrection of Christ?

From Mary K Greer

I'm not sure if you have read or have referred to Waite's Lamps of Western Mysticism (1923), but this book is probably most relevant to the W-T deck, especially the chapter, "The Path of Contemplation" which is on the Kabbalah. Most significant are the 22 numbered stages called 'The Inner Doctrine of the Path' starting on p. 264 of the Steiner Publications edition.

While most of these stages are very vague (like many of the cards!), a few of them make mention of elements that accord exactly with a card and image of the Waite-Trinick deck on the Tree in Marcus' book. Item 1 appears to start with the W-T Emperor. I had thought that it might start with Malkuth but it seems to start at the top of the Tree.

If you need a copy of these 22 statements on 'The Inner Doctrine of the Path' then I can send them to you. (Link to pdf)

Kudos to Mary for providing this crucial excerpt above link and this article below link that provides important historic and cultural context by which to understand the symbolic platonism from which tarot images derive as elements of popular culture.

I've been reading one of Christine Payne-Towler's favorite essays, the long article "Sympathy or the Devil" by Wouter J. Hanegraaff. [is  a founder and president of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, ESSWE].

From Johanna G Sherman

Bitul - "Self-nullification or Selflessness"

What I found on "Bitual"


Kudos to Johanna for this reference and for recording our teleconferences Week 1 best to download this link by right clicking and "save item as.."

Reproducing the page with my comments in italics.

"Bitul is the spiritual state associated with the inner experience of chochmah, [Emperor, Chariot, Magician link to this sephiroth: How does our opening with Da'ath, knowledge, figure into this?] whereby one's consciousness opens up to a continuous flow of Divine wisdom and new insight through one's nullifying his sense of autonomous and self-sustained being. Bitul is the experience of ayin, of being nothing within the omnipresent radiance of God's infinite light. In general, there are two identified levels of bitul:

"Bitul b'metziut ("existential nullification") constitutes the absolute form of bitul whereby one loses all sense of independent existence. This is the state of bitul in the world of Atzilut, whose consciousness, permeated by the supernal level of chochmah (Abba mekanen b'Atzilut), is solely that of God's omnipresence."

This represents a stage of unification or on the verge of unification. I object to the translation as "existential nullification" and would suggest something like "supernal emptying" instead. Existential belongs the Bitul hayesh level of purification. Here Bitul b'metziut is a loss of self agency but not will which is transformed into adoration, pure free love of the divine, one could say, only God exists. It is at the end of the illuminative stage and the beginning of the unitive. The Unitive state is absolutely dependent upon the divine as freedom.

Bitul hayesh represents levels of self purification as one become aware of moral imperfections, later a dependency upon the divine and a growing distain of the self, ego that claims identity as something or its own independent self exercised as agency and apparently independent of reliance upon the only being, god. This "independence"  is shadow false freedom, is bondage, slavery because it does not recognize its own true nature and origin in the divine.

"Bitul hayesh ("nullification of [one's] somethingness") constitutes a lower form of bitul whereby one is consciously involved in the process of nullifying the outer layers of self (ego). This is accomplished by the concentrated effort to experience the continual recreation of all reality, including oneself, as "something from nothing." This impresses upon one's consciousness that there is no independent reality attached to one's sense of "somethingness."

"This is the state of bitul present within the three lower worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, while its conscious experience is dependent upon one's Divine service. Divine consciousness in the three lower worlds derives from the chochmah of malchut d'Atzilut, referred to as the lower chochmah, thus giving rise to the lower level of bitul."

From Cynthia Tedesco

here's a bit for thought on relevant of Wheel/Chariot as well other themes like Ophan/Thrones & much more ( i think ) for our study.






above... there is also much on the highlighted searches w/in the over-riding themes of MERKABAH & METATRON 

my working thesis is that
a/ rel. between THRONES & WHEELS  as well as Wheel/Chariot
b/ Waite is working w/in a Merkabah Hebrew tradition w/these images as well as R.C. Sacramental Tradition   (& fancifully i know... i think there is a possibility that this is behind ....)
c/ the GRAAL / GRAIL RITUALS in the literature. [see pdf of The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal by Arthur Edward Waite [1909]



above is in today's mail from Caloine Myss... here's her 'rundown' on examining one's soul as per chakra... in her ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT she lines this (the Chakras) up w/the SACRAMENTS & THE TREE OF LIFE. 

Oh... did notice there were 8 not 12 'pie sections' in THE WHEEL? can make a stretch & say this is not only astrological but the Chakras as many... i.e. Carol Herzer use 8 not 7 Chakras as there are many more than 7...

 ... in many 'near death experience, NDE stories in our times... the 'great light' is illustrated in just the way we are describing the HALOES surrounding the figures in our images... ALSO BIRTH CANAL imagery ( very stylized obviously... as one who has give birth ) 

... What is effect of working on the images upon those on the teleconference? i know i am getting much 'closer' to them as i work w/them... at first i didn't have a feeling about them one way or another... now i am doing a 360 degree change.

So folks what is you experience shaping up to be as we continue to explore these images?

We all want to hear from you!

The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabalah  

Secret Doctrine in Israel a Study of the Zohar and its Connections

by Waite 

what about Waite's HOLY KABBALAH? the 'big book?' the above have 'funky' titles & i'll read them too... tried to find them on the internet but i guess Kessinger has copyright or license.  

that said, Waite DID believe there was 'A Secret Church' in Israel. i don't know what he means exactly ~ unless it's Kabbalists but perhaps he will explain himself. 

SO FAR... i do think Waite's emphasis on the early mystics of the Church (amongst others of course ) lead me to consider Merkabah Mysticism because there is evidence that St. Teresa of Avila & St. John of The Cross where of Jewish ancestry... St. Teresa herself along w/her grandfather had to march b4 the Inquisition avowing their loyalty to The Church & disavowing their Jewish heritage...

BUT if you read her 'Castle' you KNOW she is referring to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. But she works with 7 not 10 Sephira. that is what led me to consider Merkabah Mysticism as a possibility for this 'Hidden Church' business as a 'combo package' of Kabbalism & The Catholic Faith... Anglican, Roman, Orthodox whatever. I think The Graal/Grail 'Church' ( find me one! here is a link to one for download) is a possibility of THE FISHER KING... PERHAPS 'THE POPE OF THE HIDDEN CHURCH' OR CHRIST HIMSELF.. as going underground in a WOUNDED STATE because the Christ was completely Romanized & the Hebrew Faith so ignored ....  

Waite also references The Albigensian Crusade ... & also speaks out against Heresies... i noticed Tomberg [in MOTT Meditations on the Tarot a downloadable version] doing likewise ... a mystic treads very UNPOPULAR ground in The Church & in The Temple. they cause trouble. they are censored. How did Waite stay faithful to The RC Church & write all he did? it's a mystery to me...

Lay people can get away with all sorts of stuff as long as they pay there tithes and do not openly dispute with priests and bishops in MHO.

while the folio is titled THE GOLDEN DAWN: THE GREAT DANCE OF THE ROYAL FIGURES BY ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE & ED. BY DARCY KUNZT ... in this context all the Majors are 'Royal' ... i think you should have a copy. [Cynthia get BIG KUDOS for making this pamphlet available to us in a timely fashion].

I hope to hear from more of you. Have a question? Then write it down and perhaps it will be addressed next teleconference. If you discover something you think relevant or useful send it to me.


Related Pages

Classes completed

Week 1 Notes,

Audio W-T Tarot Week One

(please download file rather than try to listen to it as streaming)

Week 2 Notes,

Audio W-T Tarot Week Two

Week 3 Notes,

Audio W-T Tarot Week Three

Week 4 Notes,

Audio W-T Tarot Week Four

Week 5 Notes,

Audio W-T Tarot Week Five


See digital images of the Waite-Trinick Tarot from the British Museum Research website where one can download for one's own personal study all 43 images.

For access to study material see annotated study Guide


Christian Symbols

Liturgical Vestments

Golden Dawn Major Arcana as Drawn by Wang under the direction of Regardie