The Tarot Muse
Carolyn R. Guss
Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Teacher

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Leonine Cards of the Tarot

By Carolyn R. Guss- The Tarot Muse ©


Seventy-four of the 78 cards in the Tarot bear an astrological connection, either by ruling planet or zodiac sign. As the Sun moves into Leo—whose ruling orb is the Sun—it is interesting to consider the Tarot's Leonine cards and discover what messages they have for us when they appear in our readings.

 First off is the Major Arcana card STRENGTH, numbered VIII in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and XI in others. The image depicted on the Waite-Smith card is common to decks reaching back to medieval Europe, and includes two figures: a woman and a lion. The maiden fondles the big cat's head, opens its jaws, or places her hand into the beast's mouth with no fear of harm. In turn, it eyes her adoringly, and—as in the Waite-Smith deck—licks her hand lovingly with its long, sensuous tongue. In other words, there is both communication and communion. To quote Paul Stookey's "Wedding Song," "there is love." Which is what the STRENGTH card is about: passion, inner strength, and the power of the heart.

 Lions, "the king of beasts," are impressive, dramatic characters—as are most sun-sign Leos (or folks who have Leo predominant in their chart). The lion depicted in the STRENGTH card symbolizes the full force of the personality, with all its wonders and demons. Leo, the "larger than life" sign, contains both. The woman is often seen as a nature-based enchantress—the female equivalent of THE MAGICIAN, Tarot trump I (and indeed the two figures share some common characteristics, the most prominent being the lemniscate, or infinity symbol [ ] that appears above each of their heads). This woman works with the energy of the natural and animal worlds, channeling and harmonizing it.

 This card, when we receive it in a reading, calls us to love and honor all aspects of the self, the noble as well as the fearsome, bringing both into gentle balance. Work with the primal energy of your personality, it suggests, using it positively and productively. One of the most powerful messages of the STRENGTH card is the call to meet our fears and challenges with a loving, open heart: to learn to love what we fear—first in ourselves and then in others (a two-part process).

 The other Major Arcana card associated with Leo is trump XIX THE SUN—the card everyone wants to see appear in their readings. And with good reason: THE SUN presages good luck, good fortune, optimism, health, and happiness. Good, better, best all rolled into one! Medieval Tarot decks often depicted a radiant Sun shining above two playful children or adolescents, usually male and female: imagery that linked the card with the zodiac sign Gemini, the Twins. As THE LOVERS card (trump VI) took on that astrological designation and THE SUN became associated with Leo, the two children became one, riding on the back of a white horse: again a person paired with an animal (as in the STRENGTH trump).

 With this card our consciousness rides exuberantly into the light as we gain a welcome clarity following the shadowy uncertainty of trump XVIII MOON. The appearance of the SUN card can redeem even the most difficult reading, with its radiant offer of optimism, enthusiasm, & joy. Many Tarot readers feel that the SUN card is so strongly positive that its message is not affected by its turning up in a reversed position; alternatively, a reversed SUN may call your attention to blessings that you already have but have not yet noticed or acknowledged.

 The Court (or person) Tarot card associated with astrological sign Leo is King of Wands—such that he might be called "the Sun King," like France's Louis XIV (who was actually a Virgo). In the Thoth Tarot's version of this card (labeled Prince of Wands), a solar monarch rides triumphantly in a golden chariot, pulled by—you guessed it—a fiery lion. Naked except for a majestic headdress and cape that seem to be made of flames, this king is a picture of splendor itself (Louis, eat your heart out). It might be suggested that Prince/King of Wands has made the best use of the lion's energy, as both man and animal seem unified and complete.

 I often think of King Wands as the trail-blazing monarch—the guy who points the way, charts the course, enabling (some might say expecting) others to follow. It is no coincidence, an astrologer would tell you, that both Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were Leos. When King Wands appears in a reading, prepare to be energized (and possibly overwhelmed). As a "masculine" and fire zodiac sign, this Leo male is powerful, positive, and even domineering. He is likely to be honest, personable, expressive, and innovative—and, while mature, to seem younger than his years. His optimism and enthusiasm are contagious, such that King Wands is thought to bring inner spirit into outer world. King Wands is achievement-oriented: he sets goals and—unlike Queen of Wands (ruled by Aries)—follows through to completion what he begins.

 King of Wands' presence in a reading alerts you to a person (usually male) with these qualities who is playing a significant role in your life—or calls on you to assume a leadership role, along with adopting the qualities he represents. Make big plans, then implement them. This may not be the time for you to share the spotlight. Don't be stingy, with self of others: you may be called on to fill a protector role, particularly with children, animals, or those unable to defend themselves. At the least, treat yourself to a facial, massage, or an elegant piece of clothing so that you look and feel your best.

 Three Minor Arcana, or suit cards, relate to Leo: the 5, 6, & 7 of Wands. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, 5 Wands illustrates a situation I refer to as "the staff meeting": five young men in colorful costumes wield their sticks in various directions—as expressions of themselves. The card suggests excitement, challenge—and possibly conflict. These gents need a look at the STRENGTH card to learn how to channel that energy. This is a card of playful competition: voices crying-out to be heard, which create cacophony rather than harmony. Some readers feel that these "voices" might indeed be the multiple ones in our own heads, which are often in conflict with each other.

 In a reading, 5 Wands suggests ideas being exchanged—sometimes ardently—or placing yourself into the arena of competition. Don't expect acquiescence—or even cooperation—5 Wands indicates: everyone needs to have their say. Productivity may or may-not happen, as energies fly off about. Enjoy the excitement and embrace the challenge, but don't get overly caught up in it. If things overheat, call for an arbitrator.

 The 6 and 7 of Wands are quintessential Leo cards. The 6, in the Waite-Smith deck, depicts a laurel-crowned leader astride a white horse (perhaps the same equine from the SUN card?), with subordinates—who seem both wary and supportive—behind him. Six of Wands is one of the leadership cards in the Tarot, and suggests that what seemed unresolvable in the 5 has come together as the result of a team effort. A victory has been achieved, and whether you find yourself in a leader or follower role, responsibility and cooperation—along with trust—are essential now for further advancement and ultimate success. As natural leaders, Leos (such as Napoleon Bonapart or Fidel Castro) understand this intrinsically; in receiving the 6 of Wands in a reading, any of us is advised to put into practice what Leos are born knowing.

 In the 7 of Wands, the rugged individual emerges, along with the protective aspect that Leos are known for. In the Waite-Smith version of the card, the person is protecting himself: a man courageously holds his own on the high ground, with six staffs poking up at him. The seventh he holds across his body in a defensive posture. He is hard-pressed, as his face attests, but is caught-up in the excitement, as Leos frequently are. A friend of mine once posited, when talking about our animal companions, "Cats love drama"—a description that applies to Leos (whose symbol is a big cat) as well.

 So as Mr. 7 Wands struggles to defend himself, he seems oblivious to the fact that he is wearing one boot and one shoe—or is he? Some Tarot folks find his unique choice of footgear an expression of identity, much as Michael Jackson (a Virgo) used to wear a single glove. As Isabel Radow Kliegman puts it in her book, Tarot and the Tree of Life, "this is the card that urges you to have the courage not only of your convictions but of your ‘abnormalities'."

 Thus, when 7 Wands appears in your reading, you may be called-on to defend yourself—frequently after fervently expressing your own beliefs and principles. Go ahead and speak out—but only if you feel strongly about what you espouse, as you may, to paraphrase an old expression, have to put your wand where your mouth is.

 These six Tarot cards—VIII STRENGTH, XIX SUN, and Wands 5, 6, 7, and King—bring energy, passion, direction, and light into our lives: even moreso if you have Leo predominant in your astrological chart or receive them during that sign's transit (July 23-August 22). Use their qualities well when they appear in your Tarot readings.