Editor’s Note: If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread. You can visit Sarah’s website here. –efc
By Sarah Taylor
Today, I’m inviting you to work with an archetype from the tarot deck.
This might bring up a few questions along the lines of ‘What is an archetype?’, ‘Where do archetypes fit with the tarot?’, ‘Why would I want to work with an archetype, and how?’ — all valuable things to ask, and all of which I’ll be addressing in this article. Or, I’ll be addressing them as much as I can. You see, on our evolutionary journey through life, archetypes walk hand-in-hand with the unconscious: Both can only be known in part, and indirectly through our own specific filters. Clear as mud? Let me try to explain.
In an article in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, Timothy Chouinard (1970) describes an archetype in this way:
“[An] archetype is not a specific content unless realized consciously; it is otherwise a pure form — unspecifiable of its very nature. … [And he goes on to quote Jung:]
‘The symbols it [i.e. the collective unconscious] creates are always grounded in the unconscious archetype, but their manifest forms are moulded by the ideas acquired by the conscious mind. The archetypes are the numinous, structural elements of the psyche and possess a certain autonomy and specific energy which enables them to attract, out of the conscious mind, those contents which are best suited to themselves. The symbols act as transformers, their functions being to convert libido from a “lower” to a “higher” form. This function is so important that feeling accords it the highest values. The symbol works by suggestion; that is to say, it carries conviction and at the same time expresses the content of that conviction.’ [Jung (1956)]
“… So we can never experience an archetype first-hand; it must always be consciously filtered — or in-formed — through some sort of symbol.”
In other words, archetypes are:
- A blueprint for a feeling, behaviour, state of being
- Universally recognisable, transcending gender, culture, race, religion, region
- Pure potential until we ourselves bring meaning to them; they ask for meaning through us, we derive greater meaningfulness through them
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