Tarot Tutorial: Astrological Correspondences
By Mick Frankel
You’re a Tarot reader. You’ve been doing readings for a while and you really enjoy it. Querents who come to you find that your readings are insightful, helpful and practical. But you have a nagging feeling that there’s another level available to you. Perhaps you find yourself saying the same kind of thing every time ,say, IV The Emperor appears in a spread? Perhaps the pip cards start to blur after a couple of readings? For example the 5 of Swords and the 7 of Swords?
Maybe you’ve wondered about how to handle questions about timing? Sometimes more detail than “Yes, but not now” would be really useful to have at your fingertips. And perhaps, dare I say it, you’ve seen Tarot readings by others and thought, “How on Earth did they get that? I wish I could do stuff like that.”
Well, I know from my own experience that adding a level of astrological correspondences into your readings makes a huge difference. Little by little, you’ll find that your Tarot work has moved up to the next level.
But astrology, isn’t that very mathematical? Will there be cosines and log tables? Memories of maths lessons bring with them the cold sweat of panic and despair when you were faced with a geometry question.
In fact, to add a layer of astrological correspondences into your Tarot readings, you don’t need to learn how to read horoscopes or how to draw up a birth chart. What I’ve found to be most helpful is an understanding of the symbolism of the basic building blocks of astrology. That’s to say the planets and the signs of the zodiac.
Most pleasingly, there are 12 signs of the zodiac, 7 traditional planets (including the Sun and the Moon) and comparatively recently in Tarot terms, 3 outer planets have been discovered. This gives the possibility of one-to-one correspondences between the 22 cards in the Major Arcana and these 22 astrological fundamentals (12 + 7 + 3).
An interest in Greek and Roman mythology will be really helpful. For example, you’ll recognise the basic qualities of Mars from his association with action in mythology. Once you get an understanding of the signs and the planets, you can start to see how they might combine and interact. If you think of the planets as actors, you can think of the signs as the role that they’ve been given to play. Some roles will suit them better than others. Some roles won’t suit them at all, others will fit them like a glove.
For example, Mars can express himself easily in Aries, traditionally the first sign of the zodiac. This may not always be good news, especially if you need peace and quiet and time to think, but if the time is right for action, Mars and Aries is a great combination: Russell Crowe in Gladiator.
– – –
Let’s look at an example Majors-only reading that I’m about to do, specifically for the TABI Blog.
about to go away for a couple of weeks, here’s the three-card
spread that I created:
1) Me in this situation
2) Qualities that will be very helpful to me while I’m away
3) Qualities that won’t do me any favours!
I drew three cards from my Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Here’s what turned up:
1) Me in this situation – III The Empress
2) Qualities that will be very helpful to me while I’m away – VI The Lovers
3) Qualities that won’t do me any favours! – XIII Death
The system of astrological correspondences that I use comes from Book T of the Golden Dawn. In this system, The Empress corresponds to the planet Venus.
The Roman Venus is similar to the Greek Aphrodite: the eternal Goddess of love and beauty. No mortal woman to compare to her. She loves luxury in any form and so she understands money very well because money allows us to enjoy the good things in life.
But more than anything else, the planet Venus rules love. On this trip, I need to emphasise my love for the people around me and I need to show my appreciation for their hospitality. Venus doesn’t like hard work so I need to recognise that I’m the guest, I don’t have to get my hands dirty and can relax and have lots of treats just like Venus would.
Also, significantly, since this trip involves playing music, Venus is very creative and she loves beautiful things and lovely music. This spread asks me to acknowledge that the people around me see me as a creative person who has helped to build something special.
Venus is the only planet of the three cards. The other two cards in the spread correspond to signs of the zodiac.
The Lovers card links to the sign of Gemini, the twins. This correspondence adds a very useful layer of meaning to the Lovers card. Gemini is the quickest thinking sign of the zodiac. If you know anyone born in late May or early June, perhaps you can recognise just how having the Sun in Gemini gives you a non-stop, speedy mind.
So I need to let my ideas flow easily and quickly. I need to express my thoughts without too much of a filter on them, especially during any kind of creative collaboration. If it’s a choice of saying what’s on my mind or going with the flow, Gemini would speak up and express itself.
This card is really helpful and encouraging as I plan to be writing some music with some friends abroad.
The third card also links to a sign of the zodiac; very different to chatty Gemini though. The Death card corresponds to the sign of Scorpio, the scorpion.
Intense and highly emotional, Scorpio has none of the lightness of the sign of Gemini. The strength of Scorpio comes from a depth of feeling. No sign of the zodiac can match the capacity of Scorpio to take on the deepest mysteries of life including death itself.
looks like turning up dressed from head-to-toe in black and saying
very little other than asking people, “But how do you really feel?”
won’t fit in with the point of this trip! If you know anyone born
around Hallowe’en you know how the Sun in Scorpio brings with it a
gift for emotional depth, psychic power and sexual intensity. Those
So… the message is clear. Accept that you are seen as a very creative guest who can enjoy the luxury of being away from home. On this trip, nobody wants intense conversations about what happens when we die. Let your ideas flow, keep the mood light and have fun!
– – –
If you’re not familiar with using a layer of astrological correspondences in your Tarot readings, please take a look at this three-card spread and then think about what I’ve put into this reading that you may not necessarily have got from the cards.
Perhaps the astrological connection of the Lovers to the sign of Gemini has helped to put the meaning of choice into the context of creative thinking and self-expression?
Maybe linking the Death card to Scorpio helps to give a visual cue to the kind of stereotypical appearance and behaviour that isn’t appropriate this time around.
And crucially, can I put my issues with self-esteem to one side and enjoy the pleasure and sheer existential thrill of living life in the way that beautiful Venus would love… just for a couple of weeks!
– – –
This example reading is just to give you a tiny taste of the way in which adding a layer of astrological correspondences can take your Tarot readings to the next level. Taking aside the Aces and the Court Cards, each of the pip cards in the Minor Arcana corresponds to a combination of a planet and a sign.
More specifically still, each of these 36 cards – that’s to say each of the pip cards 2 to 10 in the four suits – corresponds to a 10° segment of the 360° zodiac. This gives very precise timings indeed. Each card represents a 10 day period in the year.
But even with just the Majors, there is layer upon layer of astrological meaning that can be added to your existing knowledge and experience of the cards. For example, in the reading, Gemini is a mutable sign, that’s to say flexible and adaptable, whereas Scorpio is a fixed sign, more stubborn and set in their ways.
And as a final example, Gemini, the twins, rules the lungs. I’ll be doing some singing on this trip so I need to focus on my breathing and remember all the things that I’ve been taught about technique and posture.
Scorpio on the other hand has a completely different rulership in the physical world!
– – –
I run an e-mail self-study course called “Astrology For Tarot Readers”. Please get in touch if this article has got you interested in learning more. I’ll be happy to give you more details about the course.