Horses in the Tarot

By Sue Goodrum, known on the Forum as Seraphina

I like to refresh what I notice in a Tarot card and to develop my knowledge of symbols and colours. Invaluable to me is the experience and wisdom contained in The Secret Language of Tarot written by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone.

Horses feature in seven cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck: The Death card, each of the four Knights, the Six of Wands and the Sun.

Horses have long been associated with, wildness, freedom and beauty. They have a nobility or dignity about them, they embody pride and power. And yet they often pull vehicles or carry their human rider, in mythology they are the ‘servants’ of the Gods and have a special affinity with the underworld and the souls of the dead.

Rider Waite Smith Death card

I drew out the seven cards and looked more carefully at them than usual. For the first time I noticed the colour and pattern on the horse’s bridle, and even the colour of the horse itself, exquisitely matched, with the rider’s clothes or part of the landscape.

The fiery orange of the horse of the Knight of Wands, matching the hills and soil beyond, amplifying the passionate, hot-tempered, and sexual energy of this character. Or perhaps my eye is drawn to the cooler green bridle, matching the steel of the Knight’s armour, suggesting the fearlessness within.

Four Rider Waite Smith Knights

The pure white horse in the Death card, bringing to my attention the stripping back of anything unnecessary. The matching bridle of tiny skulls and crossbones letting me know this is a powerful time. In this card, the horse is the guide, the rider is led.

I then notice the significance of there being no bridle or reins in the Sun card. The rider is at ease, completely trusting of the horse, there is a sense of equality, missing in the previous six cards. A feeling of freedom and expansiveness for all concerned.

Rider Waite Smith Sun card

I look more carefully again at these seven cards. ‘How is the rider relating to their horse? Are they directing it or being guided by their animal?’ The stance of each horse is also helping to convey a message to me. The horse at absolute full stretch under the Knight of Swords: is the rider a hero or a bully? The solid, unmoving blackness of the Knight of Pentacle’s steed: does this show stubbornness or careful thought?

The horse in the Six of Wands, almost completely covered in a coat which matches the inner garment of his rider. Is this the leader having their moment of glory, turning their horse into a magnificent throne? The horse temporarily subdued; perhaps a message for the rider to treat their subordinates well, for victory can be short-lived.

Rider Waite Smith 6 of Wands

Each tarot reading is unique and can bring out different aspects of the same card. The more I explore the symbols used in the Tarot, the richer my readings are. Horses are magnificent animals and having studied this chapter and looked more carefully at these seven cards, I know when any of them next appear in a reading, I’ll understand a little more about the person I’m reading for and their choices in their present situation.

Seraphina, aka Sue Goodrum, has been a TABI endorsed Reader for nine years.

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