The Cathar were dualists, meaning that in their beliefs there were two worlds, each ruled by a different God. They saw this world as having been created by an ‘evil God’ and heaven as the world of the ‘good God’. In the majors of the Marseille Tarot, the Magician is seen as the billboard advertising the nature of the world of the evil God, where Strength, as explained in the first blog in this series, is the billboard for entering the world of the good God. This dual world concept is highlighted by the hats worn by the Magician and Strength. These hats are a key for unlocking the layout of the cards. As depicted in this lemniscate layout, the world of the evil God is reflected in cards I - X. The world of the good God is in fact the very centre of the World card, behind the dancer. Cards XI - XX is a detailed explanation for the transformative journey the Fool will have to take to reach the world of the good God.
If you recall, in the Magician card, there are only three legs of his table exposed. It’s my belief that this represents the reach of the world of the evil God. Legs one and two are cards I-V and VI-X respectively. The third leg is depicted in cards XI - XV, which means that cards XVI-XX are in no way influenced by the Magician. That’s because those cards are about the Treasury of Light, where illusion doesn’t exist. The reason I preempt Temperance in this way, is that she and the Devil both have wings, which suggests that the Fool is going to be less impacted by the Magician at this point in the Fool’s journey. Wings symbolise a heavenly influence. What that really means is that even though it’s not impossible for the Fool to resort to being caught up in the ‘things’ of the Magician’s world once again, the chances of it at this point are much less likely.
If you recall, the Fool is in a liminal place that sits between the worlds of the evil God and the good God, which is also the halfway point of their journey through the Dark Night of the Soul. The key to this card is the water being poured into an empty vessel. Saint Augustine said, “Empty yourself so that you may be filled.” Fourteenth-century German Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart observed, “No cask can hold two different kinds of drink. If it is to contain wine, then they must of necessity pour the water out; the cask must become empty and free. Therefore, if you are to receive God’s joy and God, you are obliged to put out created things.” The Hanged Man and card XIII are the emptying out. Grieving, that place of still being attached to ‘created things’ essentially means that the cask (vessel) is still filled with water. Even being in the place of having to exert discipline to be detached from wealth, power, love, and fame means that your vessel is still filled with water.
Only when the vessel can be emptied without attachment, as an act of self-love, will it be truly empty. This emptying out, and the capacity to refill was perfectly aligned with the third Beatitude - Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Meekness was closely linked to the word humble, etymologically speaking. The word humble came for the Latin humilis meaning ‘lowly, humble, literally “on the ground”, from humus “earth”. A small but significant symbol in this card is the five-petalled rose on the forehead of temperance. “In the Middle Ages a rose would be suspended from a ceiling of a council chamber requiring that all present, sub rosa (under the rose), pledge to secrecy…Church confessionals are often decorated with carvings of five-petalled roses indicating confidentiality.” Confession is an outward acknowledgement of those things to which the Fool was attached, belonging to the world of the evil God, that were not self-loving. It’s at this point that the Fool chooses temperance, self control of their appetites. From its classical Greek origin, the word temperance meant moderation in action, thought and feeling. Now the cup is truely emptied, the Fool has inherited the earth!
A Course in Miracles has a saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” This card depicts the student being ready, as the teacher has appeared and is refilling the Fool’s vessel with wine (metaphorically speaking)! In the gospels, this source of knowledge was referred to as the Comforter, “which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.” In the Middle Ages the Holy Spirit was fashionably called the Spirit of Wisdom. The thirteenth century onwards was, in some quarters of Christendom, called the Age of the Holy Spirit. The Beguines [lay Christian religious orders], the Joachimites [followers of Joachim of Fiore (c.1135 - 1202) who taught this concept of the Age of the Holy Spirit, which he said would start in the middle of the thirteenth century], and even the Cathar subscribed to an age where the role of the church would be made redundant by the function of the Holy Spirit. It was taught that the Spirit of Wisdom would change the hearts of those who listened, such that they would be so attuned to “pure love” that there would be no need for the church, the Eucharist and the pope.
In this state of consciousness, having had one’s vessel filled by the Spirit of Wisdom, the Fool is ready to experience the fourth Beatitude, represented by the Devil card.
(The image of Temperance included in this article is from the Tarot de Marseille [Edition Millenium] © 2011 FJP Paris
The image of the Lemniscate was formed using the Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot circa 1650. ©The Flornoy Estate [Letarot.com Edition]