ZERO IN THE TAROT
Whirling through the Major Arcana
by MJ Stone
Here I go again, spinning round and round, eyes closed, a quantum leap just waiting to happen. Flirting on the brink, whirling like a dervish, I am the primordial force, the Nijinsky of the cosmos. To most I am a fool, but to friends I am fondly nicknamed, a zero. Descending, inexperienced into the world, I am air, the breath of life, pure oxygen.
Some call me an eccentric and a know-it-all. But like the Latin, Follis, meaning a bag of wind, I am the conscious impulse that breathes life into the Tarot and my 21 Arcana companions. Beyond comprehension, I am a trickster, a sly fox and a vigilante rabbit, the roadrunner who defies Wiley’s scientific grasp.
Lucky are the mortals who catch a glimpse of me. I am the burning bush of Moses, jump starting life’s evolutionary process. Manifesting in archetypes, in fleeting glimpses, in your dreaming: I begin my dance with the Major Arcana’s Magician, and continue to spin and bedazzle throughout the Piscean Age. By card 21 I complete the circle drawing you into the Age of Aquarius by handing you the World.
Two thousand years ago, I was the essence of the fish and manifest in the man who walks on water, in the shaman who cures the sick and draws Lazarus back from the grave. I am the spirit of that first-century’s quantum leap. I am the message that lives in the heart of the Son of Man; I am card number 1, the Magician.
I represent the spirit of the people where the Christian leap of faith is about to occur. I live in the hearts and minds of Pagan Rome and amongst Northern Europe’s nature-worshipping Druids. I am an incarnation of Morgain, the archetypal goddess and Western, second-century, animistic state of mind. I embody the essence Gaea; I am card number 2, the Druid light, the High Priestess.
I celebrate the union of opposites, where the archetypal Christ marries the Lady of the Lake. I am fertility, the birth of the new faith that catches fire in the third century. I manifest as the pagan projection of Venus transferred onto Mary’s Immaculate Conception. I am card number 3, the Empress.
The quintessence of the Age of Aries is embodied in the Roman Empire. But by century four, the folly of the fish has usurped the pioneering spirit of the ram. From 392 to 395 Theodosius the Great reigns as the last Emperor of a United Rome. Representing the advancements of a previous age, I embody the spirit of the Tarot’s King Arthur. I am card number 4, the Emperor.
The spark that ignites the fire and seizes hold of your imagination is the fifth-century form that I take. I am the inspiration that fires the mystic hearts of Saint Augustine and Saint Patrick. Saint Augustine wrote City of God in 411 and Saint Patrick returned to Ireland in 432. I am the Rumi of devotion manifest in card number 5, the Dalai Lama of the 22, the Hierophant.
My dance turns transcendental when century six gets under way. I am the love affair that develops between Byzantium and Rome when they are reconciled in 519. I am a united Christian Empire, Venus and Mars in love. I am the harmony and peace projected by card number 6, the Lovers.
I am a seventh-century noble and heavy-metal warrior for the Christian world, inspiration for the Silver Tower, the first order of knighthood that was established by the High King Balmord the Red in 653. I emerge in the legend of the Holy Grail. I am the archetypal Lancelot, card number 7, the Charioteer.
Out of knighthood springs the flower of chivalry. I am the eighth-century dance that occurs when Charlemagne becomes king of the Franks in 771 and is crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor. Grace, courtesy and devotion form the trilogy his reign inspires, attributes best exemplified by the chaste and fair lady of the Tarot, card number 8, Justice.
Following on the heels of infinite hope comes infinite despair in the ninth century. Louis the Pious succeeds Charlemagne in 814. He is a conscientious Frank who demonstrates that he is an able general and administrator. But on the throne the kindly Emperor is easy prey to schemers, the worst being his own children. Having divided his Empire amongst his sons, he finds, to his grief, that not only do they war among themselves, but they turn on their royal benefactor, forcing Louis to abdicate and seek refuge in a monastery. Such is the dance of a lonely monarch, the King Lear of the Tarot, I am the spirit of card number 9, The Hermit.
When the tenth century rolls round, the Christian world is a ship of fools sailing for an unknown disaster.. Wild musings and millennial fears motivate the hearts and minds of the medieval collective. But by wheel of time proves kind and the thousand-year anniversary of Christ’s life passes without cataclysmic consequence. I am benevolent and kind, the embodiment of fate as represented in card number 10, the Wheel of Fortune.
The first quantum leap of the new millennium is inspired by social activism. I am the spirit that catches fire in the wife of Leofork, earl of Mercia, when Lady Godiva makes her stand. She persuades her husband not only to found monasteries at Coventry and Stow, but also obtains a reduction in the excessive taxes levied by her husband by consenting to ride naked through the town on a white horse. Only one person disobeyed her orders to remain behind closed shutters; that old fool of a tailor, Peeping Tom, peeks through his window and is immediately blinded by Godiva’s radiant projection. In the Tarot, I am fair and beautiful. I am seen holding open the jaws of that proud lion, Leo(fork); I am card number 11, Strength.
I manifest in the profound convictions of a man who is hung out to dry for what he believes in. A sword’s crushing blow extinguishes the life of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on a cold December evening as he ascends the steps of his altar. The brutal event sends tremors through 12th-century Europe. Blame for the murder lays at the feet of Becket’s former close personal friend, King Henry II, who can’t bear that Becket would challenge his authority. I am the indestructible spirit that lives in the heart of martyrs. In the Tarot, I am the archetype of thwarted potential, card number 12, the Hanged Man.
The dance of the infinite is a single-minded and hostile interpretation in the 13th century. A low point in religious orthodoxy occurs when the words of prophets are manipulated to inspire fear. So begins the age of Crusades and repression. The dark hostility reaches a crescendo in 1231 when the Inquisition begins. Pope Gregory IX makes the Dominicans responsible for ferreting out heresy. Thus bloomed an age of torture and intolerance. Historically, I manifest as card number 13, a demon angel arriving on horseback who exposes heretics and burns them at the stake. I am Death.
In the 14th century, hope is rekindled when the Renaissance begins in Italy and balance is regained as a consequence of the middle path. So emerges a new age of illumination, spurred on by the likes of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and Giotto. I am an invigorated spirituality that rises above the black plague. You find me in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I am the archetypal, open-minded alchemist and an angel of rational intelligence, card number 14, Temperance.
The reactionary forces of an allied state and church obscure the light again. I am the pure heart of Jeanne D’Arc, burned at the stake, by the British, as a witch after her ecclesiastical trial. I am the essence of the Aboriginal people of the New World that 15th-century Europe discovers, demonizes and brutally conquers. I am card number 15, the face of European power, the Devil.
Against a backdrop of Martin Luther’s proclamation, the start of the Reformation and the publication of Machiavelli’s The Prince, I live in the spirit of the 16th-century humanist, Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia. He is locked up in “the tower” and beheaded as a traitor for refusal to acknowledge the authority of the excommunicated king, that fool Henry the VIII. I am the archetype of righteousness and the ghost that inhabits the murdering place. Struck by a lightening bolt, the inspiration for card number 16, I am the Tower.
By century 17 religious authority is determined to keep science in check. Astronomers challenge the church on the mechanics of the universe. After constructing a telescope, Galileo enlarges humanity’s vision and conception of the universe. In 1610 he sees the moons of Jupiter through his lens. Eight years later Johannes Kepler proposes the last of three laws of planetary motion. But in 1633 the Inquisition forces Galileo to recant his belief in Copernican theory. I manifest in the Night Watch painted by Rembrandt in 1653; I am the intellect that yearns for an ever-widening comprehension of the origins of the universe. In the Tarot, I am card number 17, the Star.
My rebel yell is a call that awakens democracy in the 18th century. In 1775 the American Revolution begins and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is adopted. In 1789 the French Revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille. In 1793 Louis the XVI and Marie-Antoinette are executed. The door is opened for the ultimate rebel, Napoleon Bonaparte. In the Major Arcana, I am a wolf howling at midnight, an iconoclast who eclipses the sun’s bright light and undermines its authority. I inhabit the spirit of card number 18, I am the Moon.
Free of the limitations that church and state once imposed, the new world democracy throws open the doors of science. I am the spirit of invention inspired by the likes of Joseph-Nicephore Niepce, who takes the world’s first photograph in 1826. I shine in the brilliance of F. B. Morse, who patents the telegraph in 1844. I’m present in 1866 when Alfred Nobel invents dynamite, when Alexander Bell patents the phone in 1876, and, three years later, when Edison perfects the electric light. In 1892 I provide the impetus that led to the Diesel engine being patented and I’m present when Pierre and Marie Curie discover radium and polonium in 1898. The philosopher of the century is Nietzsche, who set forth some of the existential ideas that made him famous, namely, the proclamation that “God is dead.” Nietzsche’s atheism -- his account of “God’s murder” -- was voiced in reaction to the conception of a single, ultimate, judgmental authority who is privy to everyone’s hidden, and personally embarrassing, secrets. In the Tarot I am the bright light of reason, I am the spirit of the collective, I am an ego that imagines itself all radiant; I am card number 19, the Sun.
God is dead and the 20th century turns quantum. We are flying high, airplanes in sky, the dance is an automated, nuclear fandango. I am present in the advances of Einstein, The Wright Brothers and Henry Ford. But I am also twisted out of shape by two world wars, Hiroshima, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Holocaust and the ongoing wars in the Balkans. I am a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind. But I am, also, hubris, egotism and greed. I am the glory of intellect and its despair when it functions disconnected from the heart. That’s when I manifest in the extinction of species, in global warming, overpopulation. I am the volatile environmental legacy that children are inheriting. I am the edge on which the collective dangerously waltzes. You recognize me as millennial fear. In the Major Arcana, I am the angel who trumpets the dead from their resting place, card number 20, Judgement.
And into the 21st century, arms extended, the cosmos whirling around, I give you the Aquarian age. I embody the new century. I dance the dance of the mystical mother, the provider of life and all your immediate metaphysical frontiers. I am the intellect and heart of the living, breathing earth. I am your goddess, your scientific, subjective point of view, as object of faith. I am your garden and worthy of worship. I am the third planet in the solar system, a mystic top, whirling on axis, perfectly illuminated in the sun of infinite Buddha light. I am the deity of the new millennium. The goddess lives. I am hope and promise, card number 21. I manifest in nature, I am the World.
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