Third gender, cultural diversity and inclusiveness are the hot topics of the Tarot community these days. Although these issues became fancy only recently, the core of the problem is quite technical and have its roots back to unknown times – the times when the Tarot deck was designed and created.
However, our general misconception originates from our wrong perception of the esoteric sciences, particularly of the Tarot, and especially of Astrology.
I will do my best to keep it short and simple, and not to get too technical.
First of all, esotericism is a rational way of understanding man and the universe. Esotericism has at its very foundation a couple of laws and principles which practically govern the universe, and for that matter sometimes they are called “Universal Laws”. Some of these laws are the Law of Three, the Law of Four (Tetragrammaton), the Law of Seven, and so on. Not all of them are number related, but numbers, unlike words are less exposed to mistranslations and misinterpretations. Three plus four is seven in any language; there is no room for speculations about that. Some of these laws are survived unaltered; others suffered misinterpretations and alterations according to the human perception at different times.
Secondly, when the Tarot cards surfaced mysteriously for the very first time in Northen Italy in the mid-fifteenth century, the deck and the cards were explained according to the Judeo-Christian, dualistic model and moral standards. However, the Judeo-Christian model is a religious one, which means that is a strictly emotional matter, while esotericism is about “the higher mind,” respectively it is a rational matter. Religion is a way of feeling, esotericism on the other hand, is a way of understanding. These things are sometimes complementary, but generally speaking, they are conflicting.
I think, and I have consistent technical arguments for it, that the Tarot is an esoteric instrument and it was designed and created in more ancient times then we can imagine or physically prove.
The Tarot is composed of 78 cards. This is a quite odd number, don’t you think? Why 78 and not 77 – a mystical number – or 80 – a round, even number? The correct answer is because 78 is divided into 3.
Other similar instruments of prediction, like the I Ching, for instance, is composed of 64 hexagrams. 64 is only divisible by two because it is built upon the dualistic model of Yin and Yang, of the female and male principles which is the foundation of the dualistic model. Some may argue that Yin and Yang also include the transitory stage between these two, but basically, it is still an exclusively dualistic model.
Coming back to the Judeo-Christian dualistic model, the man was associated with positive, active, right, light, etc; while the woman was associated with negative, passive, left, dark, etc. The origin of this division of “good and evil” most probably relies on the story of Adam and Eve, but it has its roots in the story of Tiamat and Marduk in the Babylonian mythology.
The key to understanding the gender distribution in the Tarot cards is in understanding the Court Cards.
The vast majority of the scholars and authors claim that the Tarot deck is a late development from the ordinary playing cards deck. It only would make sense if only the 22 Trumps would have been added to the regular playing cards deck. However, the regular playing card deck has only three Court Cards; the Tarot deck has four. Which are the three Court Cards from the playing cards deck, which one is the additional one and why is still subject of speculations and debates. I think the correct answer is in understanding the entire architecture of the Tarot deck and, once again, understanding the gender distribution within the Court Cards.
In none of the unaltered esoteric concepts, there is no such division in two, but in three.
In Astrology, we have the Three Qualities: Fixed, Cardinals and Mutables; in Numerology, we also have three qualities: active, passive and neuter; In the Kabbalah, we have the three pillars of the Tree of Life; in Alchemy, we have the so-called three primes, and so on. Gurdjieff introduced the Law of Three, but he also has spoken about the three ‘brains’ – centres – which governs the functions of the human being.
These three “qualities” represent the three genders, the three basic (esoteric) principles of the universe: female, male and androgynous, respectively active, passive and neuter.
People easily mistake gender for sex, respectively for genital organs.
Today we refer only to male and female genital organs, but there were times when androgynousness, respectively hermaphrodites existed – most probably physically, not only in myths and legends.
Gender is not exclusively about the organs, the genitals, but about the manifestation of these three energies, respectively principles. Although hermaphrodites may do not exist anymore physically, or they are rare and isolated cases, – most probably they were exterminated systematically -, the three principles remained unchanged. We are all connected – and included – by the same laws and principles which govern the Universe.
These three energies transposed to sexual preferences or options, manifestations of the principles are heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. Let me be clear, bisexual is a generic term and it includes all the sexual orientations and denominations (omnisexual, pansexual, trisexual, polysexual, multisexual, etc) people fancy nowadays. When the term ‘bisexual’ was originally coined, ‘bi’ was meant to signify ‘both’ and ‘both’ was considered to include all the genders. For instance, the literal dictionary definition of bisexuality, due to the prefix ‘bi’, is a sexual or romantic attraction to two sexes, respectively both to males and females. Pansexuality, however, composed with the prefix ‘pan’, is the sexual attraction to a person of any sex or gender. From purely physical and technical, genital perspective, in this case, “any” means two.
Whatever names, monikers, labels or tags you prefer, the three fundamental principles remain the same. In the abstract, theoretically and philosophically, these categories may or may not have several subdivisions, and some of them were tagged, labelled or named differently at particular moments. It is not something which started today, but it is a long and ongoing process started thousands of years ago.
However, we are discussing principles and basic universal energies, someone sexual orientation and preferences are not the subject here; we respect that and consider it a private matter, instead, we should focus on understanding the principles. Not at least, this is a formal and general discussion, we do not discuss anyone’s sexual orientation and preferences, but universal principles, so please, don’t take it and make it personal!
Physical, psychological, and cultural androgynousness among humans is attested from the ancient times and across world cultures. Androgynousness, respectively sexual ambiguity became fashionable in the seventeen’s mainly due to David Bowie, and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Bowie, in 1972 declared himself homosexual. In a September 1976 interview with Playboy, Bowie stated that he is bisexual. According to today standards, most probably Bowie would have been labelled omnisexual, pansexual, polysexual, respectively considered transsexual or transgender.
According to current standards, both homosexual and androgynous, but to some extent, even bisexual are “outdated terms”, and some persons may consider them offensive and/or inaccurate.
Instead homosexual, nowadays the “politically correct” term is gay, respectively lesbian. However, some people may argue that they are not homosexuals, but gays – or lesbians. It seems more like an emotional choice, rather than a practical matter, and you can argue rationally with someone’s emotion.
This is an interesting thing because it is one wonderful example of how “divide et impera” – divide and conquer – works. Divide and conquer is a common Roman principle in politics and a technique which is meant to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests. Actually, it is a little bit more complex because they create different interests in order to divide groups of people. There is another saying to showcase the idea: united we stand, divided we fall. Division and segregation are one of the oldest technique of mass and individual control. Long story short, there were tribes, then the tribes were divided into clans, the clans into families and finally there is the individual. When a group is divided, each division is weaker and easier to control than the original group was. There is another thing about family: when someone has a family, something to lose as it says will take fewer risks, and will be more obedient.
Division and segregation was constantly applied to the all forms of human associations. The empires were divided into smaller kingdoms. The religions are divided. Christianity is divided into thousand different religions, cults and sects. Muslims are divided into Sunni and Shia, and they are killing each other constantly for hundreds of years. We are divided in many ways it is possible: socially, economically, politically, culturally, spiritually, religiously, and sexually. Not because it is right, but because smaller groups and isolated individuals are more easy to manipulate and kept under control.
On the other hand, it is amazing how people willingly hang different tags and labels upon themselves believing that those fancy badges will make them special, make them extraordinary. And I honestly believe that everybody is unique and extraordinary, and nobody needs those tags and labels to define her or his identity. I may be wrong, but those tags only make people more exposed, vulnerable and eventually isolated and divided into more small and targetable categories. Some people may find psychical comfort and self-confidence belonging somewhere, respectively being labelled and placed in fancy boxes, but I think it is only a subtle form of exclusivism, which unavoidable will result in isolation, marginalisation and discrimination.
There is a very good story shared by Gurdjieff , which I hope will make you wonder about the tags and how you choose to identify yourself.
Gurdjieff stated that it is an Eastern tale which speaks about a very rich magician who had a great flock of sheeps. The story says that this magician was closed-fisted and very mean. He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to build a fence about the pasture where his sheep were grazing. As a consequence, the sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines, and above all, they ran away, because they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins and they going to be killed eventually.
After a while, the magician found a remedy. He hypnotised his sheep and suggested to them first of all that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned, that, on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant. Secondly, he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them. In the third place, he suggested to them that if anything at all were going to happen to them it was not going to happen just then, at any rate, not that day, and therefore they did not need to think about it for the moment. Further, the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not
sheep at all; to some of them, he suggested that they were lions, to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, and to others that they were magicians.
The story says that after this all the magician’s worries about the sheeps came to an end. They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins.
Now you should honestly ask yourself if you have voluntarily chosen those tags or a “magician” has tagged you?
There is another important aspect which requires further clarifications.
According to Gurdjieff’s Law of Three, every phenomenon is composed of three separate sources, and this law applies to everything in the universe, including to the human beings, as well as to all structures and processes.
The three energies are called active, passive and neuter. However, we should bear in mind that these energies are all active, but differently.
Wearing different tags, have as its first consequence segregation and exclusiveness. The direct consequence of exclusiveness is unavoidably discrimination. Can not bag to differ but be included. Can not be both in and out simultaneously. Secondly, people wearing different tags ultimately start to hate each other. Of course, very few people will admit openly that they despise, disregard or hate another. But they do – and we all do, secretly, because we are all imperfect human beings. But we hate even to admit it. We can hate each other for anything and nothing. No reason is a reason good enough.
We like different music genders. We vote for different politicians. We support different sports teams. We go to different churches, temples, or mosques. We have different diets and food preferences. We have different sexual preferences. We hate each other because simply sometimes we don’t have anything better to do or we need to argue with somebody because we are full of hate and frustrations. We pick up a fight with a stranger because we don’t dare to challenge our boss, our parents or our partner(s). We are only brave enough to fight when we have nothing to lose; there is no stake for us in it and, of course, we prefer to fight online, hidden behind a fake picture and a made-up username.
Coming back to the genders, understanding the three principles, energies which are at the foundation of the universe and everything in it – as above, so below – is crucial to understand how the esoteric sciences are working. It is relevant to understand the Zodiac signs. While Tarot is fundamentally Astrology based, it is one of the factors which determine the meaning of each Tarot card. Another factor would be the Element, which symbolically represents the material aspect.
In Astrology, for instance, the genders are determined arbitrarily by attributing one Zodiac sign to male, and one to female. This division begins with Aries being considered male and Taurus is considered female.
What I’m saying is that this division is incorrect and holds the seeds of exclusiveness. It is the dualistic model which was explicitly created to exclude the third option. Correctly, the Three Qualities represents the three genders. On each quadrant of the Zodiac wheel, each of the three genders is represented. Aries is masculine, Taurus is feminine, and Gemini is androgynous.
In the Tarot, we have The Emperor for Aries, The Empress for Taurus and The Magician for Gemini – although, these attributes were also altered and misplaced or misattributed. Just to be entirely accurate, I have to mention that the enumeration should begin with Leo and it goes clockwise. The correct triplets are Leo, Cancer and Gemini; Taurus, Aries and Pisces; Aquarius, Capricorn and Sagittarius; and finally Scorpio, Libra and Virgo.
The Trinity is also another symbolical representation of the three genders/energies: the father, the mother and the son. Although, the Church badly damaged the symbol of the so-called ‘holy family’ by removing the mother – the Mother Goddess – and replace it with the Father God. As a consequence, they created an odd enumeration of two males and one possible female or androgynous being: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also an attempt to transpose an esoteric principle from polytheist times into a monotheist religious dogma. However, the creation is the singular exclusively feminine attribute in the universe, respectively the ultimate act of creation is giving birth, ‘bringing into being’. No matter how hard men are trying, this is the one thing they can not physically alter or change. They inverted all the attributes; they placed all the blame into the account of the women; treated for centuries the woman as inferior; they created an entirely false perception of the men and women’s characteristics and qualities; but still, men, physically, is not capable of creation, only women are.
Initially, the Sun was considered feminine, the Moon masculine, and Venus being both the Morning and the Evening Star was considered androgynous. It is not an accident, but all the Abrahamic – patriarchal – religions are Moon centred. Think of the Mount Sinai, which is generally referred as “Mount Moses”, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, means “the Mount of Sin”. Sin was the Babylonian Moon god, also known as “The Father of Time”.
Also, you may think of the star and crescent symbol, the emblem of the Ottoman Empire. If the Moon had been a feminine symbol, it would have so much exposure and importance as a patriarchal symbol?
Truth to be told, most probably creation was a manifestation of (divine) androgynousness. Tiamat was the goddess of the salt water, the sea, and the myth says that she was mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water and through this “sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully created the cosmos. Tiamat (and Abzû) is/are a symbol for Hydrogen. Gurdjieff described a twelve scale of “Hydrogens” to exemplify his so-called “Ray of Creation”. However, this is an entirely different discussion for another time.
What we all should bear in mind is that everything is embedded – included – in the architecture of the Tarot deck. All the three genders, all that diversity people fancy nowadays is included – and it is, according to the laws. No need for inventing or adding anything, it is all there. We are all included, and I really don’t see any point to exclude each other.
On the other hand, unfortunately, we still have a completely wrong and distorted picture and understanding of the genders and their function both in the universe and our lives. We keep on trying to explain and understand from exclusively the dualistic, patriarchal perspective things which are, fundamentally, of trin nature. We have been educated and cultivated to think emotionally, and our rational function has been obsoleted continuously. We do not believe what we see, but what we have been told to believe.
The problem is, we have been channelled to see and understand things in one, and one specific way only. Moreover, we take everything personally, and we are getting very emotional about everything, instead of being detached and rational.
We always have three choices, although we have been taught only about two. We can be eighter a sheep, a wolf or an eagle.
Esoteric means ‘hidden’, “secret’, at the reach of only a few. The Tarot is an esoteric instrument, and if you are genuinely interested in the Tarot, you should start digging much deeper beneath the surface. You have to study; you have to learn, you have to cultivate and elevate yourself, and don’t believe the first thing it is given to you on a silver plate. Some believe that Astrology and Numerology are optional and only additional ‘things’ for a Tarot reader, but they are not. You can not understand one thing without knowing, learning and understanding the other. These are all connected and only make true sense knowing them as one, integrated body of knowledge.
The truth is out there, but you may not see it yet – you have been blinded.
(Excerpt from the book “The Unified Esoteric Tarot – General introduction and Guidebook” by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.)
#unifiedesoterictarot #78dayschallenge #tarotdeck #tarotcards #tarot #thefourthway #astrology #numerology #alchemy #kabbalah #learningtarot