The evolution of the ‘Mother’ in Tarot

Farley, Helen (2006) The evolution of the ‘Mother’ in Tarot. Hecate, 32 (2). pp. 68-87. ISSN 1839-4213


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The first tarot decks, beautifully hand-painted in the courts of Northern Italy in the fifteenth century, boasted wonderful images of cherubim and angels, mysterious landscapes and many enigmatic figures wearing glorious robes of gold. At first glance, it would appear that the image of the mother was absent from these original decks. Though maternal images and themes were not explicit, I will argue that the mother has always been present in the tarot deck in some form, though admittedly a portrayal of maternity was not the foremost purpose of these cards. In the trumps, women appeared as feminine personifications of the moon and astrology, the Theological and Cardinal Virtues, as the Popess (in more recent times known as the High Priestess), and as the Empress. Further, it was usually a woman who ruled over the World trump, typically the most powerful card in the deck. It was for the game of tarot that Queens were first added to the all-masculine court of King, Knight and Jack. By examining the likely identities of the female figures illustrated in Renaissance and subsequent decks, their status in the trump hierarchy and their subsequent divinatory meanings, I will argue that over nearly five hundred years, the role of the 'mother' in tarot has become increasingly significant. In conclusion, I will demonstrate how the image of the mother has become explicit and integral in many New Age divinatory tarot decks, some entirely focused around the idea of the archetypal 'mother'.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Access to published version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2018 05:25
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2018 05:25
Uncontrolled Keywords: tarot; religion and culture; religion and society; cultural history; divination
Fields of Research (2008): 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220405 Religion and Society
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society

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