“Alchemy is the art of manipulating life, and consciousness in matter, to help it evolve, or to solve problems of inner disharmonies.” ~Jean Dubuis
I have been fascinated by both super-heroes and the Tarot since I was thirteen years old. I loved to immerse myself in Spider-Man’s ongoing dilemmas and the soap opera sagas of the X-Men. I also felt a strong connection to the richly detailed figures in the Tarot. Now that I am older, I have more clarity in how these two subjects relate to one another. Let us explore these worlds of wonder together!
Super-heroes are symbols, heroic ideals in primary colors and tight costumes. They embody larger than life principles, values and ideas. Through sequential art they teach us life lessons such as Spider-Man’s well-worn adage “With great power comes great responsibility,” or through Wolverine when he says, “The key isn’t winning — or losing, it’s making the attempt. I may never be what I ought to be, want to be — but how will I know unless I try?” (as written by Chris Claremont). Super-heroes give us hope as they tackle each success or defeat with honor, integrity and courage. They inspire us to rise to our challenges in a similar manner.
The Tarot uses ancient archetypes to reveal information. Each card of the Major or Minor Arcana can be used individually (like a comic book splash page) or collectively (like panels of a comic book story) to determine a story applicable to the querent. It is important to note that the word “arcana” translates from Latin to mean “life secrets.” The 22 Major Arcana cards are also called “Trump” cards which comes from the Latin word for “triumph.” They teach us how to access our own hidden power.
Through symbols, both super-heroes and the Tarot use archetypal and emotional imagery to inspire us to connect with our larger than life selves. Whether we think of it as a spiritual or a Divine connection, there is a higher vibration at work when we relate to words and images. In her book A Magical Course in Tarot, Michele Morgan writes:
The mind relates through images, the heart through feeling, the soul through an inner connection to our divine self. The Tarot links all three by way of universal symbolism, creating a doorway through which the intuitive senses are free to explore, gather and translate timeless spiritual wisdom.
This spiritual symbolism comes across in comic books as well. In an August 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, writer Grant Morrison said:
How do we fight against the idea that we are doomed? We are fighting against it with the super-human story, which is that there is a future, something beyond this, if we can just get better. You may look at superheroes and just see trash, toilet paper. I’m looking at them and seeing William Blake angels.
Comic book writers like Grant Morrison (and Alan Moore) are no strangers to the mysteries of magic. There also exists a real world connection between comic book super-heroes and the Tarot in contemporary Tarot practitioners and teachers. Acclaimed film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky has written profusely about the Tarot de Marseille as well as having penned the Metabarons graphic novels. Rachel Pollack, author of the authoritative Tarot work Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, has also written a critically-acclaimed run on DC Comics’ Doom Patrol. Clearly there is much to be learned by working with both of these systems of symbolic narrative. May we all find the knowledge we need to transmute our lessons into wisdom!
“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold. That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” ~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist