RWS basic symbol meanings

Discussions of the arcane symbols of Tarot and other decks
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Symbols appear on each and every tarot card - visual signs that convey meaning. Some of them are highly individual and personal, others time-honored and traditional. Some are easy to understand, others difficult and multivalent. In this forum, we want to study symbols from different decks, traditions and cultures together using books, websites, lwbs and our own intuition.
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tarotbear
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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by tarotbear » 16 Oct 2017, 12:20

Michael Sternbach wrote:
16 Oct 2017, 07:41
tarotbear wrote:
16 Oct 2017, 07:34
I don't think the list is sooooo bad ...

But, of course, it doesn't answer the question I always have - which is why is a salamander - which lives in damp rotting leaves in the forest - is the symbol for the element of FIRE? {Ask anyone in food service about their salamander oven}.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_salamander

Hint, hint... :icon_e_wink:
But it still doesn't explain why a wet,damp creature that lives in damp areas is considered the element of FIRE. A "FIRE jelly doughnut " does not explain a connection to FIRE- except in an oven!
There are three ways of looking at things; theirs, yours, and my Tarot cards.

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Nemia
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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Nemia » 16 Oct 2017, 13:03

I didn't check it but possibly the association of fire and salamander is based on the look. The salamander's skin looks like little tongues of fire against a dark background, the typical and most impressive way fire was depicted (think Bosch's Garden of Pleasures). And of course a fiery animal can be observed to love the damp - it has to cool its inner fire.

Ancient lore and medicine often looked at analogies. Red stones were supposed to heal blood-related problems, coral (that grows like a plant and is red) is a potent protector of life force, and citrine is still sold as helpful in urinary tract problems. So if an animal looks as though there's inner fire breaking through a dark layer, that's what it's associated with.

Possible explanation - I'll go to look for more. I always loved the sylphs and undines :-)

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by theFeeLion » 16 Oct 2017, 14:44

Abrac wrote:
16 Oct 2017, 09:27
Cirlot's Dictionary is available at Internet Archive.

https://archive.org/details/DictionaryOfSymbols
Thanks for that Abrac! I'm going to save that as a bookmark now :icon_mrgreen:
Come faeries take me out of this dull world. For I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame. - W B Yeats

May you touch dragonflies and stars, dance with faeries and talk to the moon. - Unknown

Beginners Tarot Club

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Seeker » 17 Oct 2017, 10:14

Abrac wrote:
16 Oct 2017, 09:27
Cirlot's Dictionary is available at Internet Archive.

https://archive.org/details/DictionaryOfSymbols
Thankyou Abrac, now I also have DuQuette's "Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot" as my bedside companion.

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Nemia
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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Nemia » 17 Oct 2017, 10:24

Seeker, that's a very good book. Milo DuQuette has the knack to make the complicated look easy.

And the Cirlot link is great. I have the book but sometimes it's easier to look it up on the Internet...

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Seeker » 17 Oct 2017, 12:19

I do enjoy the font of wisdom here and own up to a slight discord concerning DuQuette's final paragraph in Chapter Zero...

Given that age makes us set in our ways, I think it becomes increasingly more difficult to accept that our perspectives are, if not unfounded, but another step towards a greater truth.

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Nemia » 17 Oct 2017, 12:28

I found this little paragraph very reassuring. He says there that however set in his opinions and smug he may appear, his "understanding of Crowley, Thelema, and tarot is constantly changing". He's "perpetually reexamining [his] theories and changing [his] opinions". I like that. It opens the door to critical and active reading.

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Seeker » 18 Oct 2017, 10:02

I see some decks substitute 'discs' for 'pentacles'; is it common amongst deck variations to use alternate suit symbols?

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Nemia » 18 Oct 2017, 10:42

Yes, it is quite common. Wands can be called Staves, Rods or Fire; Cups can be Chalices; Swords usually stay the same but in some elementary decks are called Air (like in the Orbifold) or Feathers (Margarethe Petersen); and Pentacles can be Coins (which is their original name in the older tarot decks; Pentacles is a new invention) or Crystals (Inner Child Cards).

It takes getting used to but often the names, symbols and elemental assignations of a deck are important hints to the way the creator/s understand the tarot.

These symbols have developed historically, there are books with highly interesting chapters about these developments in different cultures (Michael Dummet, Paul Huson and others).

And there are different conventions how playing card suits and tarot suits are connected.

I always decide before I work with a deck that I go with the creator and not against him/her. If someone decided that for him, the Swords are Fire since they're forged in Fire, I go with him. That works best for me.

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Re: RWS basic symbol meanings

Post by Seeker » 18 Oct 2017, 16:35

Great, I can change the antiquated symbols of pentacles, clubs, swords and cups on my deck to a scrawled: advantages, actions, strategies and feelings.

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