Did you know that the tarot and the zodiac are intimately connected? It should come as no surprise that while the material world (as described by Madonna and as ruled by capitalism) seeks to divide us, practices that enhance our intuition and our empathy are not only linked but rely on each other for strength and clarity. In fact, the correlations between various esoteric practices, including but not limited to tarot, zodiac, numerology, kabbalah, and crystal properties are manifold and make for some serious revelations—or if not revelations, at least a deep sense of pleasure in life’s patterns. I have almost never received a tarot reading without the cards associated with my sun sign making an appearance.
Have I piqued your interest? Good! While it’s not mandatory to know one in order to practice the other, it can certainly enhance your understanding of a tarot reading or horoscope. This go-round, I’ll stick to illuminating the correlations between the Major Arcana (The Fool’s Journey) and the sun signs, but be forewarned that knowing just a little bit might have you wondering about the Minor Arcana (the elemental court cards) and all their planetary counterparts.
Aries: The Emporer
Aries, a fire sign ruled by Mars, is matched with the card of the Emperor. Aries is cardinal, which makes those born under this sign action-oriented and born leaders—if not socially, then in idea and thought. The Emperor card, card IV in the Major Arcana, is associated with fatherhood. A disciplined man, the Emperor knows how to go to war and make decisions in the interest of his kingdom. The Emperor is the exaltation of the Sun in Aries, using his willpower to put order to the world around him. And, he is also the baby of the house, which is to say, the one everyone organizes their lives around.
Taurus: The Hierophant
Sensual earthy Taurus, a fixed sign full of self-knowing, is related to the Hierophant (card V), the interpreter of sacred mysteries. This might surprise many Taurus people since I have yet to meet one who is not an atheist or at least a skeptic. In fact, it is exactly their reluctance to blindly follow and their commitment to inquiry, to a kind of truth-seeking that links Taurus to the Hierophant. Pillars of the communities they build, Taurus people are dependable and stalwart, trustworthy sources of information, that is why they are the best at spreading gossip and the best at shutting it down. A Taurus knows the truth, forget all other truths.
Gemini: The Lovers
Dual in nature and ruled by Mercury—god of communication—the sign of Gemini is represented by the Lovers (VI) card. This might sound suspect at first, no one wants to think of “twins” as lovers unless they’re really into sleazy music videos from the '90s. Fortunately, the Lovers card references a much older and some might say even sleazier story than any found on MTV, namely, that of Adam and Eve, the original incestuals, wherein one lover was conceived from and as a reflection of the other (except, you know, when they fucked up, only the Eve got “cursed”). Usually depicted as standing beside the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, the Lovers are all about communication and communion. There is no “bad” side, no “bad” one, the card means to teach you. I flourish, you flourish; I fall, you fall.
Cancer: The Chariot
If I were to play a guessing game, I’d assume that watery, cardinal Cancer was ruled by the Moon card seeing as how Cancer is ruled by our Earth moon. Well, if I played that game, I’d lose because when it comes to tarot, Cancer is ruled by the Chariot (VII). Like all cardinal signs, the Charioteer is a person of action. Like all Cancers, the Charioteer is clad in armor to protect his vulnerabilities. Additionally, the charioteer is often depicted with moon on his armor, and despite balancing the forces of lightness and darkness on earth, the charioteer is always depicted by water. It is the card of determination and assertion through balance and intuition.
Fiery Leo is associated with Strength, the VIII card of the Major Arcana, making it one of the more visually obvious connections. Strength, a card traditionally painted in yellow and gold tones, depicts a maiden and a Lion. My favorite Strength cards often forgo the narrative of human conquering and rather depict the two in a kind of embrace. Their embrace speaks of both the maiden’s fearlessness and the lion’s generosity—the classic virtues of a Leo. When the Strength card appears, one knows they have within them and around them a leonine influence, sSelf-assured and courageous in all endeavors.
Virgo: The Hermit
Virgo’s corresponding tarot card isn’t as obvious as that of Leo or even Gemini. While Virgo translates to virgin and is considered a feminine card, the Hermit (IX) is depicted as a lone elderly man who carries a lantern in the dark. But, Virgo is ruled by Mercury, god of information, and so it is valuable to consider one possible etymological root of Virgo—virga, a young shoot—and to think of this root as the root of wisdom which Virgo seeks. In seeking, Virgo, who is mutable (heavily subject to influence and surrounding energies), must retreat. The Hermit card asks us to step away so that we might reflect more keenly. It is a card that asks you to behold your inner self and foster it with great care.
Justice (XI) is the card associated with Libra, and for obvious reasons! Behold, the scales in the left hand of Justice and the sword, belonging to the element of air and mind, in her right, both aspects of Libra. Yes, Libra is well known for her commitment to what is fair and right, often embroiled in a long long journey toward a mythical state of impartiality. Under the auspices of this card, a Libra doesn’t have to feel too bad about all those indecision jokes, and it’s a good thing Justice is often swayed to one side or another by intuition and information because Libra has got both in spades.
If it weren’t enough for Scorpio to be depicted as a terrifying scorpion that can sting you if you dare to threaten them, the gods and goddess also granted Scorpio Death (XIII) in the Tarot deck. What luck! A terrifying image of a skeleton riding a horse. It’s safe to say that both images aren’t quite what they seem and, while initially jarring, the Death card in a Tarot reading can portend renewed sense of life. That’s because the skeleton depicted represents what remains after death, what is intrinsic to us and remains with us throughout the numerous lives we lead. The Death card is all about transformation and rebirth, just like every Scorpio breakup.
Ah, Sagittarius, half human, half horse, all bad impulse control. What better card to represent such a morally complicated sign than the card of Temperance (XIV)? This tarot card oft depicts an angel spilling water from one cup to another, moderating and leveling. So, too, does the Sagittarian strive to be moderate in their actions and their philosophies, actively seeking to know what is not known and make of it something palatable. And, it’s no coincidence that Temperance is also related to abstinence from intoxication because when the Sagittarian gets a taste for freedom (from an enclosure, from inhibitions), they might gallop much farther than they mean to go.
Capricorn: The Devil
In an interesting turn of perspectives, Capricorn—devoted, filial, and tenacious—is most closely associated with the Devil (XV) card. There is, of course, one glaring similarity: both cards depict an entity that is part goat. Sure, Capricorn is half goat, half fish (weird, amirite?) and the Devil is half goat, half man, but potato, potahto. In either case, both sun sign and tarot card depict a force that is driven to succeed but chained by earthly expectations and each one is subject to certain, shall we call them, “temptations” that are self-destructive. Cardinal Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, is a sign that works arduously through their own limitations. The Devil, too, wants you to know what is and isn’t right for you—but he wants you to find out the hard way.
Aquarius: The Star
Let it be known that Aquarius, often confused for a water sign due to, well, “Aqua,” is actually an air sign—the wind that carries the waves. It isn’t so shocking, then, to find out that the tarot card corresponding with Aquarius is none other than the Star (XVII), a goddess pouring water in the river and the earth with one foot on each. She, like Aquarius, bears water (emotional elements) and pours it out where it can be of use to all. Like the Star, Aquarius is optimistic, concerned with dreaming up the path toward a greater good. Like Aquarius, the Star is more concerned with her celestial journey rather than what earthly things might stand in her way.
Pisces: The Moon
Ah, Pisces, the last sign on the western wheel, abundant with magic that is certainly not of this world. Yes, the sign of the fish swimming in opposite directions is in fact not of this world at all and is most closely tied to the Moon (XVIII) card in the tarot deck. Idealistic and subject to undercurrents, Pisces is sensitive to what lies in the subconscious and what lives in dreams. So, too, does the Moon represent our connection to our shadow self, she has her own light and asks you to adjust your eyes so that you might see. When the Moon card rises in a reading, it’s time to connect with the Piscean aspects of your personality, to weave effortlessly through disparate spaces, people, and projects, connecting each to the other with soft radiant light.