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Tarot Archetypes

The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo 1541.
The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo 1541. "The Judgement" is also one of the Tarot cards.

Mythical and Symbolic Ingredients in the Tarot Cards


Archetypes - symbols of fundamental ingredients in human life - are used in abundance in all forms of divination. Also the Tarot card deck consists of a number of archetypes, representing aspects of our world and our lives.



Myth Emerges

Most of what we call myth was originally speculation in an effort to explain the world and all its dazzling phenomena. It was a process in which imagination assembled the inner world with the outer, sort of like a jigsaw puzzle.

       When the images that were formed made some sense in both worlds, they were kept and expanded all the way to complete cosmologies.


The Evolution of Myth

The formation of myth was a kind of research. Myths that helped people relate to their reality became trusted and were orally transmitted from generation to generation, until they were written down – if not replaced by other myths along the way, and forgotten.

       So, myths have their own evolutionary law, their own survival of the fittest.

       Those that gain trust are enforced, also improved as human experience increases. The ones that for one reason or other become less convincing will be discarded.

       The purpose of the myths is to shed some light on what to make of it all. Some elements and themes came rather naturally, because of what could be observed already by primordial man.

       Dreams made him aware of something existing apart from the palpable world his body inhabited. So, myths emerged about what existed beyond and around what the eyes could see.


Death catching a pedlar. Illustration from Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526.
Death catching a pedlar. Illustration from Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526. Portraying Death as a skeleton started in the 15th century and soon became the norm. Artist around that time made many such pictures, with the basic message that nobody escapes death. "Death" is also one of the Tarot cards.


       People died, but were remembered as clearly as if they still walked beside their survivors. So, there were myths to explain what had become of them, because they clearly had not disappeared completely even after their bodies decayed into dust.

       And people were born out of the bellies of their mothers, soon growing just as big as them. Myths were needed to explain it.

       Also, during their lives, fate struck people very differently, rewarding some tremendously and striking down hard on others. Again, myths were made to explain it.


How did it begin?

The earthly life and its burdens raised numerous questions in the heads of our ancestors. So did the sky high above their heads.

       The sun with its warmth and light appeared and disappeared daily. The moon moved differently and its light was as cold as it was weak in comparison. Not only that, but in the cluster of little white dots on the night sky, some moved and the others did not. Myths took care of that.

       The greatest mystery of all was from where it all came. Had there been a beginning, and if so, what caused it?

       One woman out of whose womb the first child fell. But if so, where did that woman come from? One man, whose seed had planted that first child in its mother’s womb. But again, where would that man have come from?


Adam and Eve, by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, showing some similarity to the Tarot card "The Lovers". Painting by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.


       One first morning enlightened by the sun, but out of what did the sun originally emerge?

       This was the greatest challenge for myth to meet, and many myths did. Some did it well enough to survive for thousands of years. A few of them are still around.

       Some of these myths, but not as many as one might think, also dealt with the possible future end of it all.

       For more on myths of creation, go here:

Creation Myths


Myth Making Sense

When watching myths as ancient explanations to the mysteries of life, patterns become clear.

       In all the cultures and eras we have been able to study, myths of old form systems of explanations for worldly life as the human mind experiences it.

       Whatever primordial man wondered about, could be dealt with in a myth. So, their number increased, as did their complexity. They gave solace and a comforting feeling of life making sense.

       This was a need of the mind, satisfied by the very capacity of the mind that created the need. In the distant past, when little was known about how the universe works, myths substituted that ignorance.

       This mechanism of the human mind, speculating where knowledge is scarce, goes on today.


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NEXT


Tarot Archetypes

Myth Emerges

Archetypes - the Themes of Myths

Archetypes of the Tarot

List of Tarot card Archetypes






The Book

Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tarot Unfolded

This book focuses on the Tarot card images and their allegorical symbols. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. The book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

More about the book here.

My Other Websites:


I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


Complete Horoscope

How predictions are done in classical astrology with the full horoscope chart. Many examples.


Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


Other Books of Mine

Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Your Health in Your Horoscope

What the horoscope says about your health, according to the old tradition of medical astrology. Click the image to see the book (and Kindle ebook) at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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