You can’t just walk on into the Rose-garden, you need a key, and that key is revealed in the Cathar Code hidden in the symbology of the cards of the Marseille Tarot major arcana. Joseph Campbell in The Mythic Image make reference to the Rose of France, the centre of the rose window in the northern transept of Chartres Cathedral. “There, in the center, sits the Virgin, crowned, the scepter of world rule in her right hand and her left supporting the infant Christ. She is in this vision the ‘Mystical Rose’ of the litany, vehicle and support of the revelation of God, the very ‘Gate of Heaven’.” Barbara Walker further expands our understanding of the Rose-garden in her book, The Women’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. “In the great age of cathedral building, when Mary was worshipped as a goddess in her ‘Palaces of the Queen of Heaven’ or Notre Dame (meaning Our Mother/Lady), she was at different times given a variety of rose centered titles: the Rose, Rose-bush, Rose-garland, Rose-garden, Wreath of Roses, Mystic Rose, Queen of the Most Holy Rose-garden.”
Walker explains further, “The church, the garden, and Mary’s body were all mystically one; for she was Lady Ecclesia, the Church, as well as ‘the pure womb of regeneration’. Like the pagan temple, the Gothic cathedral represented the body of the goddess who was also the universe, containing the essence of the male godhood within herself. This was largely forgotten after the passing of the Gothic period.”
In The World card the Rose-garden is symbolised by a yoni, the mandorla shape surrounding the central figure. At this point in the Fool’s journey, they can only go one of two ways. Not being in possession of the Rose Key that allows them to enter the sacred yoni, the Fool is reincarnated and is born of flesh once more, to once again encounter the Magician’s world of illusion. Having been born of water (having become a Fool for Christ) the Fool is in possession of the key, that opens the Mystical Rose, the secret Rose-garden, the Gate of Heaven. Now the Fool as the Christ is permitted to enter the sacred yoni and can now be born of the spirit. As Jesus explained, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
The Cathars possessed the knowledge of the mysteries that would reveal the Rose Key, which was the only way the Gate of Heaven (the Rose-garden) could be opened. In this regard, the Marseille Tarot is much more than a tool for doing tarot readings. If people really knew what they had in their possession regarding the Marseille Tarot they would understand that it was ‘the pearl of great price’ that Jesus explained, would have a merchant sell all that he has to buy it.
Anne Barring and Jules Cashford explain it this way in their book, The Myth of the Goddess. “The great myth of the Bronze Age is structured upon the distinction between the ‘whole’, personified as the Great Mother Goddess, and the ‘part’, personified as her lover-son or her daughter...This essential distinction between the whole and the part was later formulated in the Greek language by two different Greek words for life, zoe and bios, as the embodiment of two dimensions coexisting in life. Zoe is eternal and infinite life; bios is finite and individual life...The Great Mother Goddess can be recognised as the totality of the lunar cycle - as zoe - and her daughter and son-lover, who emerge from and return to her, can be seen as the moon’s phases - as bios...The sacred marriage, in which the Mother Goddess as bride is united with her son-lover, reconnects symbolically the two ‘worlds’ of zoe and bios.”
This sacred union is not the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage of Christ and Sophia depicted in The Sun card. That created the androgyny which is the Rose Key. This Rose Key is the son-lover that now enters the bridal chamber of the Mother Goddess. There was a time in the Neolithic era “when the goddess was the image of the Whole, when life emerged from and returned to her, and when she was conceived as the door or gateway to a hidden dimension of being that was her womb, the eternal source and regenerator of life.” (Barring and Cashford)
It was this knowledge and understanding of the mother goddess that became a key part of Mary’s mantle that was the precious knowledge secreted our of Montsegur by four Cathar perfecti on that fateful night in 1244. They possessed the mysteries of the Rose Key, the key that made it possible to unlock the birth passage to obtaining eternal life, becoming at-one-with the good God. This divine womb of the Mother Goddess was the Holy Grail, for which the Cathars were custodians. This knowledge was the purpose for these portable stain glass windows (the Marseille Tarot) being created in the first place. It was the perfect place to hide sacred mysteries - in plain sight!
The image of The World card included in this article is from the Tarot de Marseille [Edition Millennium] © 2011 FJP (Paris) This photo is from my personal alter, which includes symbols of the Yoni Rose and the Key (the cross).
The image of the 'Gate' is from the book, The Hermetic Museum, Alchemy & Mysticism. Alexander Roob, © 2001 TASCHEN GmbH, Cologne, Germany.