Tarot 101, My Way – Minor Arcana: The Twos

The number Two represents the Line in Pythagorean number theory; it is the original Point “in extension,” which in theory is infinite but in practice joins Point A to Point B. It cycles from one extreme to the other in an oscillating or reciprocal fashion that is symbolized by the swing of a pendulum, briefly harmonizing the polar opposites of “give-and-take”; “back-and-forth”; “up-and-down”; “in-and-out”; “hot-and-cold”; “yes-and-no” and any form of compensatory action that experiences the effects of entropy.  Equilibrium occurs only momentarily at bottom-dead-center of a moving pendulum’s arc; otherwise the apparatus is in a state of continual flux. Like the mechanical wind-up clock that eventually runs down, it succumbs to the diminishment of friction. French tarot writer Joseph Maxwell considered the binary to be in perfect balance, but I see it more as a state of dynamic tension between opposing principles, resembling a business executive’s desktop “perpetual motion machine.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_cradle

For many tarot readers the Twos represent communication as defined by the nature of the suit (echoing the “call-and-response” quality of the number); they can readily see the “coming together” but not necessarily the “moving” apart. Another popular opinion is that they show a choice between two things. I’m more inclined to see them as indecision leading to hesitation, with the danger of being “stuck in the middle” or left “betwixt and between.” The fundamental expression of the Line is directed motion, which implies purpose, but the Two withdraws as quickly as it engages when it reaches the “end of its tether.” It might be said that it is more about the journey than the destination, and a turnaround is only a heartbeat away. Inertia can bring on the boredom that presages restlessness; thus they can show the first step away from a situation that is ripe for change (“Therefore do they generally imply the initiation and fecundation of a thing” – S.L. Mathers)

 

The Minor Arcana: Two of Wands

Titles:

The Lord of Dominion

Astrological Correspondence:

Mars in Aries, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Strength, Dominion, harmony of rule and justice. Boldness, courage, fierceness, shamelessness, revenge, resolution, generous, proud, sensitive, ambitious, refined, restless, turbulent, sagacious withal, yet unforgiving and obstinate, according to dignity.”

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

“Between the alternative readings there is no marriage possible; on the one hand, riches, fortune, magnificence; on the other, physical suffering, disease, chagrin, sadness, mortification. The design gives one suggestion; here is a lord overlooking his dominion and alternately contemplating a globe; it looks like the malady, the mortification, the sadness of Alexander amidst the grandeur of this world’s wealth. Reversed: Surprise, wonder, enchantment, emotion, trouble, fear.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Two of Wands is called the Lord of Dominion, and represents the energy of fire; fire in its best and highest form. This card represents the Will in its most exalted form. It is an ideal Will, independent of any given object. The background of this card shows the power of the planet Mars in his own sign Aries, the first of the Signs. It there represents Energy initiating a Current of Force.”

Discussion:

The Two of Wands in the RWS deck looks like a placid, thoughtful card, but a good deal of unresolved tension is apparent in it. The man in the scene is standing between two worlds and has one foot in each. He has made a tentative decision (the stave behind him is lower than the one in front) but is still contemplating whether and where to make his next move (the globe in his hand). His indecisiveness leads to hesitation as the “world passes him by.” The implication is that he can’t quite pull the trigger on his desires so he is forever stuck in “planning mode.” The Thoth card has no such ambiguity, showing the intensity of Fire unleashed.

The “metaphorical euphemism” for this card is “The ‘one foot in the past, one foot in the future’ card.” A few basic keywords (more suited to the Thoth version) are “Authority, power, influence over others, boldness, courage.”

 

The Minor Arcana: Two of Cups

Titles:

The Lord of Love

Astrological Correspondence:

Venus in Cancer, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Harmony of masculine and feminine united. Harmony, pleasure, mirth, subtlety, sometimes folly, dissipation, waste, and silly action, according to dignity.”

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

“Love, passion, friendship, affinity, union, concord, sympathy, the interrelation of the sexes, and—as a suggestion apart from all offices of divination—that desire which is not in Nature, but by which Nature is sanctified.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Two of Cups is the Lord of Love. The Two always represents the Will. Therefore, in the suit of Water, it must refer to Love, which recovers unity from dividuality by mutual annihilation. The card also refers to Venus in Cancer. Cancer is, more than any other, the receptive Sign; it is the House of the Moon, and in that Sign Jupiter is exalted. These are, superficially, the three most friendly of the planets. The number Two referring to Will, this card might really be renamed the Lord of Love under Will, for that is its full and true meaning. It shows the harmony of the male and the female, interpreted in the largest sense. It is perfect and placid harmony, radiating an intensity of joy and ecstasy.”

Discussion:

This card promises a “new love” and therefore a tentative one as the pendulum’s swing favors first one partner and then the other in a giddy “stop/don’t stop” manner. There is an exhilaration in the intense urge to match speeds (or at least “parts”) with another person and create harmony that imparts excitement to a relationship. As long as a certain amount of unpredictability prevails, things remain fresh. When the “clock winds down,” boredom can set in and the pendulum may get stuck at the far end of its travel; the “hands come off the clock” and one partner either emotionally or physically drops out of the picture. I call it the “tick-tock effect” of human disenchantment.

The “metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “The ‘lovers’ pledge’ card (aka the ‘puppy love’ card),” although “plunge” might be a better word than “pledge” since there can be a certain delicious desperation in it. A brief set of basic keywords includes “Impulsive emotions, harmony, love, pleasure, intensity of joy.”

 

The Minor Arcana: Two of Swords

Titles:

The Lord of Peace Restored

Astrological Correspondence:

Moon in Libra, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Contradictory characteristics in the same nature. Strength through suffering. Pleasure after pain. Sacrifice and trouble yet strength arising therefrom symbolised by the position of the rose, as though the pain itself had brought forth the beauty. Peace restored, truce, arrangement of differences, justice. Truth and untruth. Sorrow and sympathy for those in trouble, aid to the weak and oppressed, unselfishness. Also an inclination to repetition of affronts if once pardoned, of asking questions of little moment, want of tact, often doing injury when meaning well. Talkative.”

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

“Whatsoever arises out of the idea of judgment and all its connections—power, command, authority, militant intelligence, law, offices of the crown, and so forth. Reversed: Cruelty, perversity, barbarity, perfidy, evil intention.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Two of Swords was formerly called the Lord of Peace Restored; but this word “restored” is incorrect, because there has been no disturbance. The Lord of Peace is therefore a better title. This card manifests the very best idea possible to the suit. The energy abides above the onslaught of disruption. This comparative calm is emphasized by the celestial attribution: the Moon in Libra. The Moon is change, but Nature is peaceful; moreover, Libra represents balance; between them, they regulate the energy of the Swords.”

Discussion:

The 2 of Swords in the RWS deck is the quintessential “horns of a dilemma” card; external inputs have been pinched off and self-reliance (aka “navel-gazing”) is the blindfolded woman’s only recourse to problem-solving insights. The scene is a claustrophobic, defensive one that discourages striking out in a new direction.  Calling this a “decision to be made” card is missing the point; it shows more a “decision withheld” or deferred, an inability or unwillingness to come to grips with the dimensions of a problem and a consequent dodging of the issue. Both reluctance to engage and resignation stand out in the woman’s body language and expression.

The “metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “The ‘mental block’ card (aka the ‘horns of a dilemma’ card)” A key concept to consider is “Reconciliation after difficulties, but with residual tensions.” (To my mind, “residual tension” is in the ascendancy here.)

 

The Minor Arcana: Two of Pentacles

Titles:

The Lord of Harmonious Change

Astrological Correspondence:

Jupiter in Capricorn, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“The harmony of change. Alternation of gain and loss, weakness and strength, ever varying occupation, wandering, discontented with any fixed condition of things; now elated, now melancholy, industrious yet unreliable, fortunate through prudence of management, yet sometimes unaccountably foolish. Alternately talkative and suspicious. Kind yet wavering and inconsistent. Fortunate in journeying. Argumentative.”

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

“On the one hand it is represented as a card of gaiety, recreation and its connections, which is the subject of the design; but it is read also as news and messages in writing, as obstacles, agitation, trouble, embroilment. Reversed: Enforced gaiety, simulated enjoyment, literal sense, handwriting, composition, letters of exchange.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Two of Pentacles was of old time called the Lord of Harmonious Change. Now, more simply, Change. It shows the type of Energy appropriate to Two in its most fixed form. According to the doctrine that change is the support of stability, the card is called Change. Its celestial rulers are Jupiter and Capricornus; and these symbols are most inharmonious, so that in practical matters the good fortune of Jupiter is very limited. Their influence on the card is not great. Yet, Jupiter being himself the Wheel (Atu X), he emphasizes that idea.”

Discussion:

There is a certain queasiness to this card in its RWS incarnation. The figure is slightly off-kilter and the heaving ocean in the background arrests the eye. He appears to be rather clumsily juggling mundane considerations that may not make any difference as the ships sail away into the future without him. The lemniscate (infinity symbol) linking the pentacles is probably beyond his comprehension as he struggles to keep even two “balls in the air.” He is too close to the action to be philosophical about it. To my eye, the lemniscate suggests “being on a treadmill,” and joining the number Two to the sluggish suit of Pentacles reminds me of the old aphorism “The more things change,  the more they stay the same.” As a card of “change,” the image doesn’t engender much confidence in the ability of its agent to deliver the goods. It looks more like “uncoordinated change” or “only going through the motions” to me. Despite Crowley’s assumption, there is a restlessness to the scene that does not bode well for stability. On the positive side, if the juggler drops one ball and concentrates on the other, he will be more apt to produce something useful; he appears to be pondering just that but he does look a bit nonplussed by the prospect since to do so would be to renounce his mission in the interest of pragmatism. I’d say he needs to unload or get off the proverbial pot; his “antsy” posture gives him away..

The “metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “The ‘if you see a chance, take it’ card (aka the ‘tipping point’ card), and several pertinent concepts and keywords are “Change for its own sake, resistance to change, impracticality, imbalance, wasted effort, mindless repetition, insecurity.”

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