Why We May Tend to Interpret the Major Arcana as Negative

For the past couple weeks I’ve been doing either daily or every-other day personal readings for myself for self-reflection.  During that time I have had a few combinations of cards that I felt were a bit “oddly paired together” so I felt it would be good to bring up for discussion on the tarot forums in hopes to gain further knowledge and dive in deeper into the full layers of these cards.

In two of my more recent readings I have had the card of the Emperor arise in my readings, both of which I happened to post on the forum for discussion.  What I’ve found interesting in this, however, is that many of my fellow tarot readers interpreted this card in a negative sense.  I found this puzzling for a few reasons:  1.  I’ve learned through readings and experience that the majors stand for life lessons, 2. These “life lessons”, I’ve found, are often rooted to our psychological processes and can be reflected upon Jung’s psychological model, and 3. Because the majors are based on major inner life lessons for us, they are neither positive or negative.  Instead, they are rather “another block that needs to be added in order to build the wall of wholeness”, metaphorically speaking.

What I have found that by giving my fellow tarot readers readings where I had the Emperor involved, the natural tendency was for them to say something like “Don’t be excessively rational”, “Don’t be strict”, “You have a strict figure around you”, “You need to be cautious”, etc.  I could see these as possibly being true if these cards were reversed, as they would signify the true energy of this card being “blocked” or (perhaps for a better word) ‘”warped”, but this was not the case in either of these instances.  Yet, even if this card was read as a reversal, I would interpret this as a need to bring this card upright to allow this energy within ourselves to be alive so we can grow and become whole.  I felt that these interpretations rather added to the illusion rather than to allow clarity.

So this leads me to my next question through my own observation: Why would my fellow tarot readers have the tendency to interpret this card as negative when it is truly neutral in essence? (And I have not only seen this in the Emperor, but also in other’s interpretations of cards like the Devil as well).

What fascinates me is that by looking back to Jung’s archetypes, the reasoning for this can be explained.  The first thing to consider is that there are many tendencies embedded in all of us because we all have a collective unconscious (according to Jung).  The second thing to note is that all of these additional  interpretations I received were all from women.  Now, the cards in relation Jungian psychology would symbolize that Empress = female energy/anima (the female part of a male) and Emperor = male energy/animus (the male part of the female).  For many people in this world, we tend to have a negative anima or animus to some degree that we need to learn how to control and work with (I know that I do and have, as it has been represented in many of my dreams).

So is it that the reason for our misinterpretations of cards such as these simply the cause of our own unconscious part of ourselves that we have yet to become aware of and learn how to “deal with”?  I’d suppose that awareness of the tendency is the first step of the battle (as I suppose you would now gain from reading this if you have never heard of this before).  Yet, it seems that this can prove the importance for all of us as tarot readers, psychics, psychologists, or any other person in this world who works to help people that we need to be sure to be completely aware of our own inner processes to be sure that we ourselves are giving clear interpretations rather than adding more illusion to the mix of our already illusion-based societies.

As for my cards in my most recent self-reflection reading?  The cards I dealt were: Ace of Cups, 5 of Cups, Emperor (no reversals).  I know that I’ve been on this path of learning how to work through my emotional disappointments of the past, so I am not surprised this came up.  I was simply interpreting it as just a message of “Hey, your getting those negative voices in your head toned down, but don’t forget to set strategic plans and goals for yourself — don’t get too lax in fear of negativity”.  Any other experienced tarot readers who wish to add their interpretations of this short personal reading are certainly welcome.  After all, I may be very well off on my own interpretation as not quite seeing it as negative in this context with the other two cards.  This is where the cards can become rather complex when you start really looking into the psychology of it.

Also, if any of you experienced tarot readers would like to add their own interpretations of my thoughts on reading the Major Arcana, please do so.

I look forward to your comments. 🙂




About Jennifer Twardowski

Jennifer is a graduate student in transpersonal counseling psychology. Her interests are in personality typology (MBTI, Enneagram, Jungian typology), expressive arts, dreams, yoga, tarot and oracle cards, world religions, dance, photography, gardening, floral design, and more!

Posted on June 7, 2012, in Reading Tarot, Tarot and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Welcome to blogging Jennifer, I look forward to reading your viewpoints!

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