Tarot 101, My Way – Minor Arcana: The Aces

There is a common assumption that the Aces represent a new beginning, the first step in any activity; but they more properly convey the urge to take that step rather than its execution.  They carry the potential energy of a suit up to the point of “pulling the trigger” on its promise of action. In that sense they can reflect the rising tension of unrelieved anticipation, like an “itch that needs scratching.” They underlie any step away from center in search of self-realization, revealing something new on the horizon that only requires a firm declaration of intent to emerge into full view. They furnish the inspiration that culminates in the reality of the Tens, the vision behind the purpose of any enterprise and the “root” of any expression of elemental force. They relate to the number One and the “Point” in esoteric number theory, a theoretical position in space that has neither mass nor movement, static but not dormant, bursting with formless energy “on tap,” as it were, ready for the taking.

Here is a graphic presentation of the basic meanings of the four Aces, which also serves as a set of core principles for the suits which they inaugurate:

 

Aces as Significators.JPG


The Minor Arcana: Ace of
Wands

Titles:

The Root of the Powers of Fire

Astrological Correspondence:

The northwest quadrant of the zodiac. comprising the signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“It symbolises Force, Strength, Rush, Vigour, Energy, and it governs according to its nature various works and questions. It implies natural as opposed to Invoked Force.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Creation, invention, enterprise, the powers which result in these; principle, beginning, source; birth, family, origin, and in a sense the virility which is behind them; the starting point of enterprises; according to another account, money, fortune, inheritance. Reversed: Fall, decadence, ruin, perdition, to perish; also a certain clouded joy.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

(General) “The Aces represent the roots of the four elements. They are quite above, and distinct from, the other small cards. In these cards is no real manifestation of the element in its material form. They form a link between the small cards and the Princesses, who rule the Heavens around the North Pole. The point to remember is that, both in their appearance and in their meaning, the Aces are not the elements themselves, but the seeds of those elements.”

(Specific) “This card represents the essence of the element of Fire in its inception. It is the primordial Energy of the Divine manifesting in Matter, at so early a stage that it is not yet definitely formulated as Will.”

Discussion:

In common terms, the Ace of Wands suggests the urge to create, to “step up to the plate; to “get on with it;” to “just do it already.” It implies unconditional readiness to act but also impatience with any delays. Its “metaphorical euphemisms” are “the burr under the saddle” card (aka the “itch that needs scratching” card). Other relevant keywords are willpower, force, vigor, energy, enterprise, initiative.

It represents the creative impulse or idea behind any new venture or enterprise. It provides the spark that fires the imagination, and is full of untapped potential that requires only the slightest triggering event to put it in motion. It represents initiative, enthusiasm, optimism, desire, energy and purpose, all held in a latent state of readiness. It is volatile (think “hair-trigger”) and might be destructive if unleashed before all of the groundwork has been laid for its introduction. Careful handling is the key to making the most of this dynamic but initially unfocused energy. Otherwise, the wielder could wind up with burned fingers. It can create pent-up demand for action that can produce frustration and lead to untimely release and misuse of its potency.


The Minor Arcana:  Ace of Cups

Titles:

The Root of the Powers of Water

Astrological Correspondence:

The southwest quadrant of the zodiac, comprising the signs of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“It symbolises Fertility, Productiveness, Beauty, Pleasure, Happiness, etc.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“House of the true heart, joy, content, abode, nourishment, abundance, fertility; Holy Table, felicity hereof. Reversed: House of the false heart, mutation, instability, revolution.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

(General) “The Aces represent the roots of the four elements. They are quite above, and distinct from, the other small cards. In these cards is no real manifestation of the element in its material form. They form a link between the small cards and the Princesses, who rule the Heavens around the North Pole. The point to remember is that, both in their appearance and in their meaning, the Aces are not the elements themselves, but the seeds of those elements.”

(Specific) This card represents the element of Water in its most secret and original form.

Discussion:

The primal urge of the Ace of Cups is to merge in a meaningful emotional  way with another soul or spirit. It is ready for the experience of ideal love but that opportunity hasn’t arrived yet. The cup runneth over, but there’s nobody there to catch the overflow. The gushing chalice in the Thoth Ace of Cups always reminds me of a water balloon bursting on a pavement. Lots of emotional energy but nothing to pour it into, so it either dribbles away or stews in its juices like pot roast in a pressure-cooker. If this Ace indicates a relationship at all, it’s probably a platonic one.

The “metaphorical euphemism” for this card is “the ‘All You Need is Love’ card,” and a few pertinent keywords are fertility, productivity, conception, pleasure, happiness, love


The Minor Arcana: Ace of Swords

Titles:

The Root of the Powers of Air

Astrological Correspondence:

The southeast quadrant of the zodiac, comprising the signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“It symbolises invoked as contrasted with natural Force; for it is the Invocation of the Sword. Raised upward, it invokes the Divine Crown of Spiritual Brightness. But reversed it is the invocation of demoniac force, and becomes a fearfully evil symbol. It represents therefore very great power for good or evil, but invoked. And it also represents whirling force, and strength through trouble. It is the affirmation of Justice, upholding Divine authority and it may become the Sword of Wrath, Punishment and Affliction.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Triumph, the excessive degree in everything, conquest, triumph of force. It is a card of great force, in love as well as in hatred. Reversed: The same, but the results are disastrous.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

(General) “The Aces represent the roots of the four elements. They are quite above, and distinct from, the other small cards. In these cards is no real manifestation of the element in its material form. They form a link between the small cards and the Princesses, who rule the Heavens around the North Pole. The point to remember is that, both in their appearance and in their meaning, the Aces are not the elements themselves, but the seeds of those elements.”

(Specific) “The Ace of Swords is the primordial Energy of Air. In nature, the obvious symbol of Air is the Wind “which bloweth whithersoever it listeth.” There is indeed, a notable passivity in its nature; evidently, it has no self-generated impulse. But, set in motion, its power is manifestly terrific; it visibly attacks its objective. Its “all-embracing, all-wandering, all~penetrating, all-consuming” qualities have been described by many admirable writers, and its analogies are for the most part patent to quite ordinary observers.”

Discussion:

The Ace of Swords represents great presence of mind and ability to focus on the essential facts of a matter. When invoked, its operation is incisive and economical, mincing no words in expressing its opinion and, if civil discourse becomes dispute, its displeasure. It is always up for a debate or an argument, and will dig into what most people would consider “minute and tedious details” with relish. It is the card of the analyst, lawyer and forensic investigator since it is seldom distracted from its objective. It suggests an impulse to “bring the hammer down” when confronted with adversity. On the positive side, it is supremely rational and capable of precise, innovative thinking of the highest order.

Its “metaphorical euphemisms” are”the light-bulb moment” card (aka the “bright idea” card), and several useful keywords (in addition to those in the “graphic” above) are strength during adversity, or wrath, punishment and affliction.


The Minor Arcana: Ace of Pentacles (Disks, Coins)

Titles:

The Root of the Powers of Earth

Astrological Correspondence:

The northeast quadrant of the zodiac, comprising the signs of Aries, Taurus and Gemini

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“It representeth materiality in all senses, good and evil, and is therefore in a sense illusionary. It shows Material gain, Labour, Power, Wealth, etc.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

Perfect contentment, felicity, ecstasy; also speedy intelligence; gold. Reversed: The evil side of wealth, bad intelligence; also great riches. In any case it shews prosperity, comfortable material conditions, but whether these are of advantage to the possessor will depend on whether the card is reversed or not.

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

(General) “The Aces represent the roots of the four elements. They are quite above, and distinct from, the other small cards. In these cards is no real manifestation of the element in its material form. They form a link between the small cards and the Princesses, who rule the Heavens around the North Pole. The point to remember is that, both in their appearance and in their meaning, the Aces are not the elements themselves, but the seeds of those elements.”

(Specific) The Ace of Disks pictures the entry of that type of Energy which is called Earth.

Discussion:

The Ace of Pentacles shows being well-positioned to “get a leg up” on one’s material circumstances. The “fix is in” and all prerequisites for success are in place. The only caution is not to wait too long to make your move or the advantage may pass unclaimed. There can be a sense of entitlement with this card, the assumption that “all good things come to those who wait.” The myth about boiling a frog (it will sit in the slowly warming pot of water until it’s too late) comes to mind; the perception of impending success may turn out to be an illusion if concrete steps aren’t taken as soon as the chance to act presents itself. If the door is open a crack, push on it and don’t wait for the gatekeeper to invite you in.

The “metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “the ‘ace in the hole’ card” (aka the “golden opportunity” card), and its keywords are mainly positive: materiality, gain, power, success, wealth, contentment

 

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