The Power of Story: Cards XVI - XXI of the Major Arcana

The Power of Story: Cards XVI - XXI of the Major Arcana

By Sterling Moon

The importance of stories transcends all cultures and timelines. They offer a way to derive meaning from tragedy, to teach, and to escape. I’ve found I can relate any situation back to a tarot card, particularly when life gets complicated. Tarot didn’t “click” for me until I learned the story of the Major Arcana, which is a classic tale of the human path to enlightenment. Card 0, The Fool, is the protagonist and an archetype for all of us. The Fool’s journey is our journey. Each card tells a piece of The Fool’s story - the people they meet, the lessons they learn, and new methods of spiritually leveling up.

The first ten cards contain fairly simple lessons on a practical and mental level. After that, the lessons intensify. Much like in our owns lives, when circumstances unexpectedly change (Wheel of Fortune X), our lives are upended either by choice or happenstance (Hanged Man XII), and endings are inevitable (Death XIII), we have an opportunity to either introspectively meet our challenges and find a new way forward (Temperance XIV) or we can mask our fears with excess and self-oppression (The Devil XV). In either case, any falsehoods in our lives are operating on borrowed time. The Tower XVI is next in line and it is here that we pick up the story. I offer this to you as a way to reflect on the current state of our world, ways we might build a better one, and your own personal role in doing so.

The Fool has recently confronted their own inner demons and the ways they have allowed excess, toxic ideas and relationships, substances, materialism, and empty connections to dominate their lives. The Fool has begun to realize how these were just covering up old fears and traumas. Lost in thoughts of how much work they have left to do as thunder rumbles above, The Fool lifts their head and sees a majestic castle tower up ahead. A bubble of hope emerges in their chest. Perhaps the nobles that live within can offer comfort and assistance? They must have knowledge that isn’t available to the rest of us, The Fool thinks.

The hope quickly turns to horror as a bolt of lightning hits The Tower. It crumbles immediately, taking down everything and everyone within. The Fool comes to the site where The Tower stood and realized that while it looked strong, it was unstable. Barely containing their grief and shock, The Fool sits. After a time, they realize that this will eventually offer a chance to build something on a stronger foundation. Even though The Fool is able to see how The Tower’s fall could eventually lead to something good, it is too soon to rejoice.

Feeling hollow, The Fool walks until nightfall. They reach a pool of water and come to rest, lost in the reflection of stars on the surface. One seems to be growing brighter and bigger. The Fool looks up. A beautiful sphere of light with a figure within descends down to greet them. The being sends messages to The Fool's mind that brings them to tears. The being reminds The Fool that help, hope, inspiration, and joy will come when they most need it. The Star (XVII) reminds The Fool that they never walk alone and that their guides, ancestors, and even their own highest self are available to support them at any time. Comforted, The Fool sleeps and does not wake until the following night.
Refreshed and determined, The Fool continues on. The Moon (XVIII) is full and wolves howl in the distance. The Fool is pulled like the lunar tides to the edge of a dense forest with a river running through it. They do not want to enter, but know they have no choice. On the bank of the river, The Fool finds a small boat and knows that they must navigate the waters to the other side in order to complete this phase of their journey. As The Fool travels, they understand they could go mad here, yet it is also strangely beautiful and invigorating. The moonlight plays tricks with the shadows and The Fool struggles to identify what is real and what is not. The Fool is confronted with the shadow of their own soul and the darkness they typically tamp down. The Fool screams, laughs, and revels in the freedom the darkness offers. Time has no meaning here, but eventually, The Fool sees that The Moon is setting and they have reached the end of the forest. Exhausted and elated, The Fool understands that the darkness is a part of them and that to ignore it is to ignore a part of themself. The Fool leaves the boat by the water’s edge and bids The Moon goodnight.

The Fool begins walking towards the first light of morning. After the depths of The Moon, The Sun (XIX) feels like a warm balm for their soul. As the sunlight intensifies, The Fool finds themself in a glorious field of flowers where berries and edible plants are in full season. Fresh water is abundant and the trees offer shade and comfort. The Fool weeps. While their pockets are empty of the trappings of wealth they once sought, they feel like the richest person that ever lived. The feeling of abundance and prosperity that lies here is like none they have ever known and this forever changes The Fool.

After basking in the final rays of The Sun, The Fool looks to the sky in amazement as it literally cracks open. Angels begin trumpeting from the heavens and the ground begins to shake and split. The Fool is stunned to see caskets rising from the earth. The Fool finds that they are staring back at the corpses of their former selves and is overcome with feelings of regret and shame for things they’ve said and done. The time of Judgement (XX) has come. The angels benignly say that The Fool is at the end of their journey, but there is no future when one is trying to drag along the past. The Fool bravely visits each casket, accepting the lessons that each past self taught them and finally saying goodbye. The angels retreat and the caskets sink back into the ground.

The Fool finds they are at the end of their story...and the beginning of the next. The Fool knows who they are and is strong in their values and priorities. The World (XXI) has revolved on its axis and it is time to begin again, having synthesized the lessons of past journeys.

At this juncture, gentle reader, we turn the story over to you. You are The Fool, as am I. Can you see yourself and your own circumstances reflected in this tale? How will you approach each of these challenges? Are you ready to put the past to rest? To redefine wealth and allow outdated structures to crumble? To embrace your darkness along with your light? Tell me, what kind of World are you ready to create next?

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