The Tarot de Marseille can be read as an initiatory path. The sequence of the 22 Great Arcana, the figure cards of the deck, goes from the young Magician (I le Bateleur) past the High Priestess as initiate (II Papesse) to finally the realization, the new birth of the World (XXI le Monde) with the four mystery figures of the evangelists around it and the untranslatable Mat (the jester, with no number before the beginning or after the end), who goes about his path in complete freedom. If he was able to get rid of the dog that was still near him.
An arcanum (plural arcana) is a secret, from the Latin word arcanus, meaning “put in a chest or case” and thus hidden, waiting to be discovered.
The center of the development path is Map XI, the Force (Fig. 1)
The Great Arcana can be arranged into three times seven + the liberated Mat. The first set of seven then concerns the initiation to the body. The second series the initiation to the soul. The third series the initiation to the spirit. The level of interpretation at which spirit, soul and body are seen depends on the seer. The images invite projection of contents of our individual subconscious. The Force is in the middle of the second seven. What do you see on and in the image? A richly dressed lady appears to be controlling a lion sitting in front of her by its open mouth. Several details of the female figure stand out: on the head she wears a broad-brimmed hat in the shape of a lemniscate, the symbol for infinity. On top of that hat six little flames are burning. The line at the base of her neck suggests a mask. The right foot protruding from under her long robe shows seven toes. With both her hands she points the lion’s head to the front left. She herself is also more or less looking and moving in that direction and thus, according to interpretation, towards the future.
The cards that surround the Force in the series are:
the Wheel of Fortune (Fig. 2)
and the Hanged Man (Fig. 3)
They stand, very succinctly expressed, for taking responsibility for one’s own destiny (X) and for coming to rest in surrender, trusting in the golden connection with above (XII). Those who look at the images make their own associations. A mythological hanged man was Odin, who after being hung for three days could read the wisdom of the runes.
The Force: a female figure in rich clothes. The soul, or the anima. She expresses controlled and controlling power. The woman’s hands and the lion are below her middle, the line of the heart emphasized in the garment. The power of the soul gives direction to the lion, the abundant and wild life energy available to man. Energy of the old or of the new life. Who is the lion?
We see a soul connected to eternity, open to heaven with the flames of the spirit and controlling the life energy of man. Man in his duplicity. A figure like the centaur, combining an animal and a human body. The right foot of the woman stands on the ground, thus allowing the energy received from above to flow out sevenfold in the going of her path.
Depending on the quality of the soul, there is power in this image – from the connection with above, from the center, controlled and focused – or power – from the animal person, to rule as king of the animals. The choice is up to the soul.