Trans-Saturnian Planets and Tarot

One of the riddles that the Golden Dawn based Tarot poses is how the trans-Saturnians  may fit into its scheme of attributing planets to Trump cards. Originally, the system included only the seven visible planets (more accurately, five planets plus the Luminaries) that are known since time immemorial.

For those of you unfamiliar with that scheme (or who can use a refresher), this is what it looks like:

The Magician – Mercury
The High Priestess – Moon
The Empress – Venus
Fortune – Jupiter
The Tower – Mars
The Universe – Saturn

Then there are three cards that belong to three of the Aristotelian elements:

The Fool – Air
The Hanged Man – Water
Judgement (The Aeon) – Fire

There is an explanation why the element Earth is not included in this system, although it’s actually sometimes attributed to The Universe/The World together with Saturn. Likely, I will go into this topic some other time.

The twelve remaining cards belong to the twelve signs of the zodiac.

This whole system is closely connected to an ancient and fascinating Kabbalistic text called Sepher Yetzirah. I shall talk about it in the future. However, the Sepher does not address any trans-Saturnian planets.

Not surprisingly, it occurred to modern occultists that the scheme as forwarded by the Golden Dawn could be supplemented with the three trans-Saturnian planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in lieu of (or additionally to) the three elemental attributions. And again not surprisingly, there is no consensus as to which of the three planet should belong to which of the three cards. Let’s look into this a little more closely.

In the most common scheme, the three known trans-Saturnians are attributed to the Trumps in this fashion:

The Fool – Uranus
The Hanged Man – Neptune
Judgement (The Aeon) – Pluto

Some switch the attributions of Uranus and Pluto (i.e., in the Hermetic Tarot), but I prefer the above scheme, based on the following grounds:

Uranus is definitely the quirky planet both astronomically (for one thing, his polar axis lies in the plane of his orbit, so he is “rolling” around the Sun) and astrologically: His influence makes for surprises, the unexpected; he inspires revolutions against the social order overseen by Saturn, the outermost of the classical planets; and where Saturn represents orthodoxy and methodical deduction, Uranus stands for out-of-the-box thinking and sudden inspiration. All this behooves The Fool.

In Tarotology, Saturn is linked to the completed order represented by The World (The Universe), whereas Uranus and The Fool lead beyond that borderline and start up a whole new cycle.

Finally, in the traditional Golden Dawn system, The Fool belongs to the element Air. While there is no general agreement so far amongst astrologers regarding Uranus’s elemental nature, to describe him as “airy” makes good sense. Not only is he the ruler of the Air sign Aquarius in modern astrology – anything that flies, from birds to planes, is under his domain. And the Uranian type of human often has their “head in the clouds.”

Next – both in the order of the trans-Saturnian planets and the Trumps in need of them – we come to Neptune and The Hanged Man. This is again a really good match.

According to Aleister Crowley, The Hanged Man is symbolizing “the formula of the Dying God” of the Piscean Age, as exemplified by Jesus Christ (Pisces is the sign ruled by Neptune). The Hanged Man speaks to themes like being in a deadlock, sacrifice, and redemption; people born under a strong Pisces or Neptune influence are all too familiar with those, as a rule. But also meditation is generally no foreign concept for them, and some versions of The Hanged Man emphasize this side of the card. All the aforesaid also applies to the 12th house in the chart (traditionally meaning things like imprisonment, retreat, isolation), which resonates with the twelfth sign Pisces, as well as with our twelfth Trump, The Hanged Man.

The Hanged Man is linked to the element Water in the traditional Golden Dawn scheme, so there is another argument in support of the Neptune theory. In Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot, he is suspended over the sea.

Finally, there is Pluto, whose astrological influence is one of death that eventually leads to rebirth or regeneration. This is really in keeping with Judgement (The Aeon for the Thothies amongst us), for this card is about reviewing the past and setting up the future . Whatever has not been resolved up to this stage goes into the next cycle.

The element attached to Judgement and The Aeon is Fire. Well, Pluto’s exact elemental nature again is still subject to debate in modern astrology, but seeing him on the fiery side is definitely apt. Not only did he take the place of the Fire planet Mars as the main ruler of Scorpio. His influence during a transit is generally one of calcination in the terminology of alchemy, as he burns all impurities to ashes, especially in the initial stages.

So that’s three hits out of three aims for this extension of the Golden Dawn system – a pretty good record, in my book.

Best wishes,

Michael

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2 thoughts on “Trans-Saturnian Planets and Tarot

  1. A very thoughtful post. I never really learned how to interact with the trans-Saturnian planets. I use the seven-planet system in Tarot (particularly because the trans-Saturnians have no place in the Minor Arcana without upending the whole system), and because I learned astrology through Tarot rather than the other way around, I actually don’t pay attention to any planets in an astrological chart that can’t be seen with the naked eye. I should probably amend that at some point, I’m sure, although it hasn’t posed much of a problem up to this point.

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    • Yes, you can certainly still practice astrology with the seven traditional planets only. They constitute a complete system. Personally, I wouldn’t want to do without the additional information that the trans-Saturnians provide though – especially regarding psycho-spiritual topics. Actually, I hope that the discovery of additional planets will restore the symmetry of the domicile scheme, which in my view is the genetic code of astrology. I talked about this extension already in the astrology category, but I will have more to say about this and the domicile scheme in general in the future. Of course, we would be posed with the question how to integrate the two additional planets into the Tarot, as we are already out of Trumps. For one thong, we could allow further double attributions (besides The Universe already belonging to both Saturn and the earth element). But some authors actually suggested extending the series of the Trumps to twenty-four; they have different reasons, but it’s interesting to note that this might at once solve the aforementioned problem.

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