The Celestial Ship of the North: its value and usefulness for Tarot readers

If you have ever experienced the frustration that comes from being unable to fit "the answer" given in a book to the question that has been asked, then here is a solution.

How can we learn to read cards?

We probably all began with a book or two of someone else's meanings. You lay cards, turn them over, read the meaning - and get stuck.

The Tarot works better, or talks more fluently to you, if you make connections with the symbolism for yourself, instead of trying to memorize someone else's.

We probably all know what a jigsaw puzzle is. It comes with a picture of what it looks like when completed - and we put the pieces together more easily because of this. So when we pick up a single piece, we know it's part of a seascape, or a city-view, or a mountain, or whatever. We know that, for instance because of the colour of a particular piece, it belongs in the bottom right corner of the meandering river picture, and not in the mountain village scene.

In a similar way, we have a general idea of the meaning of any particular card. Strength is strength; The Lovers can be about making the right decision.

So if you have a card in front of you and aren't sure what it means, trust yourself and trust the Tarot. Choose part of the symbolism and talk about it - relating it to the question or using it to come up with an answer. You will make connections and they will be accurate because you know the card it is taken from. If you talk about a sword, for example, you know you are talking about Justice, for instance, and not Judgement or The Star. You will be able to say sensible and useful things to the questioner.

So with The Lovers, you might talk about the man and woman as a partnership or a particular kind of relationship with its rules that make it work. Or Adam and Eve and parents and their influence. Or the tree as part of nature, that grows in spring, but hibernates in winter, and so you have the importance of acting correctly by being in harmony with the bigger picture. Or maybe you spot the mountain and that can show there is a hill to climb and you will do better and act more safely if you take time to prepare and organize instead of just rushing off out the front door.

The author of the Celestial Ship of the North gives us meanings for symbols, and we can make use of them in our Tarot studies. Thus, on Page 80 of Volume One we read that:

The Egyptian god Sebek-Ra, who wore the horns of the Ram or Lamb, is identical with the Lamb that was imaged on the cross for seven or eight centuries, and which bore the sins of the world or took them away, and was later converted into a human figure.

This piece of information can remind us of The Emperor - with the rams' heads on this shoulders, and the symbol of Aries (The Ram) on his helmet.

If we are going to be true to The Emperor or make the most use of what he represents, then we are supposed to take the blame for the benefit of other people. This might be hard and make you feel that life can be unjust.

However, there is great freedom in taking responsibility. If something goes wrong, we can blame others, or fate, or the economy, or whatever. In this state of mind, there is not a lot we can do now or to stop it happening again.

If, on the other hand, we figure that we should have seen it coming or we could have done better, then we control our own reactions and this gives us some power to influence future conditions.

Again, on page 82, we read:

The double triangle, known in India under the sign of Vishnu, with its apex pointing upwards, was always masculine, and with the apex pointing downwards was feminine and a form of the number 6.

This may be useful if we want to understand The Lovers (card number 6) or The Devil ( 15 = 1 + 5 = 6). If you are represented by The Lovers, then you understand when to take action (masculine) and when to react to what is going on (feminine). If reversed, you may take action when you should hold back, and vice versa.

We might say that with The Devil - because it can show real problems that can take a while to solve - you try to take action when you should hold back and what you do really backfires; or you don't act when you should and you end up with a much more serious problem to fix.

We are dealing with a similar kind of problem of acting at the wrong time with both these cards, but the consequences are probably much worse with The Devil. For more on this, take a look at 1 (The Magician) and 5 (The Hierophant) and how they can go together. The solution may lie in creating a positive combination of these two cards.

There is also a double cross inside the lamp that The Hermit holds aloft - is it to guide others, or for his own benefit? We can now do more with the meaning of this card.

The Celestial Ship of the North is, or can be, very useful for students of the Tarot. The author writes about what symbols mean, and you will recognize a lot that belong in the Rider Deck. Put the basic information together with what you know of the card, and your readings will improve as what you say makes more sense to the questioner.

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