Cheap Shots #18: Justice Restored

No, this isn’t about the impeachment of Donald Trump. It alludes to the fact that Aleister Crowley returned the trump cards Justice and Strength (aka Fortitude) to the positions they held in the historical decks of Italy and France: Justice as the eighth in the series and Strength as the eleventh. For his part, A. E. Waite adhered to the Golden Dawn’s astrological exigencies by swapping the two positions. I would venture to say that, if there had never been an attempt to attribute the zodiacal signs to the tarot trumps, there would likewise never have been a need to confront these difficulties. Crowley makes an elaborate intellectual case for it; Strength has a LION on it, so it must be associated with Leo, while Justice sports a BALANCE, so it has to be connected to Libra. So far so good, but leaving them where they were in the traditional sequence of trumps just wouldn’t do esoterically because the zodiacal order becomes hopelessly scrambled. Nothing for it but to renumber them and come up with a convincing argument for why they should be switched.

My personal opinion is that Crowley could have simply said he was putting things back where they were, zodiac be damned. After all, in the Golden Dawn system of correspondences, Strength is naturally dominated by the Sun (the ego or  conscious mind) as ruler of Leo, the pinnacle of virility suggested by the Lion, but it’s the woman (the intuitive subconscious) in the image who is the agent of self-mastery; she is – if not exactly subjugating the Lion – at least coaxing it into working cooperatively with her. No alpha-male Leo of my acquaintance would sit still for such indignity; masculine pride would stand in the way. So much for zodiacal purity.

Crowley was primarily interested in mustering support for his other imaginative brain-fart (uh, storm), the whole “Tzaddi is not the Star” rationale. Seems to me he was barking up a dubious etymological tree with his “Tsar, Czar, Kaiser, Caesar  . . .” line of reasoning;  although it looks promising on the surface, it ultimately comes across as forced. The zodiacal symmetry he imposed with his “double loop” looks elegant but, again, it strikes me as “much ado about nothing.” You’re probably getting the idea that I don’t use the Hebrew letter attributions or the paths on the Tree of Life for much of anything in my practical  approach to reading the tarot. You would be mostly right, although I do get some mileage out of Crowley’s (and others’) views on Tree of Life positioning.

Strength as Leo and Justice as Libra make perfect sense in interpretive space, regardless of where they fall in the orderly array of signs imposed on the trumps by the Golden Dawn, either in the Chaldean model of the astrological universe or on the Tree of Life. I use those zodiacal correspondences all the time in my practice because they work very well. That said, my current thinking is to follow the traditional order when reading with the Tarot de Marseille or the Thoth (which, as I have said elsewhere, have more in common with one another than either does with the RWS deck), and the Golden Dawn order when reading with the RWS or a clone. In the final analysis, though, where they land doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to the art of divination.

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