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Distinction Between The Greater And The Minor Arcana
http://www.tarotreadingsecrets.com/articles/18/1/Distinction-Between-The-Greater-And-The-Minor-Arcana
By 
Published on 12/3/2005
 

In respect of their usual presentation, the bridge between
the Greater and Lesser Arcana is supplied by the court
cards-King, Queen, Knight and Squire or Page; but their
utter distinction from the Trumps Major is shown by their
conventional character. Let the reader compare them with
symbols like the Fool, the High Priestess, the Hierophant,
or-almost without exception- with any in the previous
sequence, and he will discern my meaning. Read more ...

 


What Is The Distinction Between The Greater And Minor Arcana?

In respect of their usual presentation, the bridge between
the Greater and Lesser Arcana is supplied by the court
cards-King, Queen, Knight and Squire or Page; but their
utter distinction from the Trumps Major is shown by their
conventional character. Let the reader compare them with
symbols like the Fool, the High Priestess, the Hierophant,
or-almost without exception- with any in the previous
sequence, and he will discern my meaning.

There is no especial idea connected on the .surface with the
ordinary court cards; they are a bridge of conventions,
which form a transition to the simple pretexts of the
counters and denaries of the numbers following. We seem to
have passed away utterly from the region of higher meanings
illustrated by living pictures.

There was a period, however, when the numbered cards were
also pictures, but such devices were sporadic inventions of
particular artists and were either conventional designs of
the typical or allegorical kind, distinct from what is
understood by symbolism, or they were illustrations-shall we
say?-of manners, customs and periods.

They were, in a word, adornments, and as such they did
nothing to raise the significance of the Lesser Arcana to
the plane of the Trumps Major; moreover, such variations are
exceedingly few. This notwithstanding, there are vague
rumors concerning a higher meaning in the minor cards, but
nothing has so far transpired, even within the sphere of
prudence which belongs to the most occult circles; these, it
is true, have certain variants in respect of divinatory
values,- but I have not heard that in practice they offer
better results.  

Efforts like those of Papus in The Tarot Of The Bohemians
are strenuous and deserving after their own kind; he, in
particular, recognizes the elements of the Divine Immanence
in the Trumps Major, and he seeks to follow them through the
long series of the lesser cards, as if these represented
filtrations of the World of Grace through the World of
Fortune; but he only produces an arbitrary scheme of
division which he can carry no further, and he has recourse,
of necessity, in the end to a common scheme of divination as
the substitute for a title to existence on the part of the
Lesser Arcana.

Now, I am practically in the same position; but I shall make
no attempt here to save the situation by drawing on the
mystical properties of numbers, as he and others have
attempted. I shall recognize at once that the Trumps Major
belong to the divine dealings of philosophy, but all that
follows to fortune-telling, since it has never yet been
translated into another language; the course thus adopted
will render to divination, and at need even to gambling, the
things that belong to this particular world of skill, and it
will set apart for their proper business those matters that
are of another order.

In this free introduction to the subject in hand, it is only
necessary to add that the difference between the fifty-six
Lesser Arcana and the ordinary playing-cards is not only
essentially slight, because the substitution of Cups for
Hearts, and so forth, constitutes an accidental variation,
but because the presence of a Knight in each of the four
suits was characteristic at one time of many ordinary packs,
when this personage usually replaced the Queen. In the
rectified Tarot which illustrates the present handbook, all
numbered cards of the Lesser Arcana-the Aces only excepted-
are furnished with figures or pictures to illustrate-but
without exhausting-the divinatory meanings attached thereto.

Some who are gifted with reflective and discerning faculties
in more than the ordinary sense-and I am not speaking of
clairvoyance-may observe that in many of the Lesser Arcana
there are vague intimations conveyed by the designs which
seem to exceed the stated divinatory values. It is desirable
to avoid misconception by specifying definitely that, except
in rare instances- and then only by accident-the variations
are not to be regarded as suggestions of higher and extra-
divinatory symbolism.

I have said that these Lesser Arcana have not been
translated into a language which transcends that of fortune-
telling. I should not indeed be disposed to regard them as
belonging in their existing forms to another realm than
this; but the field of divinatory possibilities is
inexhaustible, by the hypothesis of the art, and the
combined systems of cartomancy have indicated only the bare
heads of significance attaching to the emblems in use. When
the pictures in the present case go beyond the conventional
meanings they should be taken as hints of possible
developments along the same lines; and this is one of the
reasons why the pictorial devices here attached to the four
denaries will prove a great help to intuition.

The mere numerical powers and bare words of the meanings are
insufficient by themselves; but the pictures are like doors
which open into unexpected chambers or like a turn in the
open road with a wide prospect beyond.