Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Major Arcana: Fertility
The III card in the Lover's Path Major Arcana is the Fertility Card, represented by the pair Cleopatra and Caesar. Ryder-Waite uses The Empress to represent this card, and it represents fecundity, abundance, and growth. This amazing duo is the perfect pair to articulate these themes.
Cleopatra reigned as Queen of the Nile, empress of Egypt, for over two decades. During that time, she became known across the lands as a seductress with a highly musical voice and unusual intelligence. Made queen at the tender age of seventeen, Cleopatra was quickly forced into exile by those who resented her power.
To regain her rightful throne, Cleopatra turned to Caesar, by smuggling herself to him rolled up in an oriental rug. As the rug unfurled and the young queen was revealed, Caesar could do nought but fall in love with her, and he would help her successfully return to power.
Cleopatra would bear a child to Caesar, a young boy they named Caesarion, or "Little Caesar." The queen returned to Egypt, leaving Caesar to fight the Roman fight. He could not forget the beautiful enchantress, however, and invited her to return to Rome.
For almost two years, the duo lived together in his magnificent palace, a life of golden happiness. Caesar was so besotted with her that he erected a statue of her in a temple of Venus. Though he was already married to another woman, many believed that he would find a way to wed his queen, thus making their son heir to their combined kingdoms.
Together, the lovers were simply too strong, their empire too vast. They were doomed to fall. Caesar became dictator of the Roman Empire, and his enemies accused him of plotting to make himself King. Threatened by Caesar's amassed power and Cleopatra's ambition, several Roman senators conspired to kill Caesar on the infamous Ides of March in 44 BCE. Heartbroken, but always pragmatic, Cleopatra took their soon and fled Rome to save their lives.
Upon her return to Egypt, Cleopatra consolidated her power, using all that she had learned from Caesar. She would also easily seduce Mark Antony, one of three rulers who would divide the spoils of Casear's Roman empire after his death. Mark Anthony helped Cleopatra extend her reign, conquering Crete and Cyrenaica, making her Queen of Kings. This prompted the Roman Senate to declare war on Egypt.
This time, affection was not enough to protect the queen and her empire. Even with his military aid, the Egyptian forces were easily overcome in a battle at sea. Realizing that defeat was at hand, the lovers Cleopatra and Mark Anthony took their own lives.
With the end of Cleopatra's reign, the golden age of the pharaohs came to a close. She was the last monarch of Egypt, despite her determination, Egypt would become a province of Rome with her death.
On this card, Cleopatra and Caesar are depicted in the fecund glory of their ruling years. Pregnant with Caesar's son, she is draped in jewels, representing the richness of their union, and frought with the optimism that their unborn child will take their empires even further. Caesar wears the crown of laurels of the victor, and they are surrounded by the symbols of their expanding empires. Of chief symbolic importance are the multiple cats that roam at their feet. Cats, great and small, symbolize the fertile powers of Bastet, the regal Egyptian cat goddess.
The story of Cleopatra and Caesar, then, represent the host of possibilities that lay before them at their zenith. Hope, optimism, fertility - all are symbolized in the images of the Fertility card depicted here.
When the Fertility cards appears in a reading, it symbolizes power, ruling over one's life, expanding horizons, or experiences of fertility and abudance. When this card is selected, it may symbolize a new marriage or special relationship which supports one's growth. It may also signify practical action which manifests itself as a physical product - children, artistic endeavors, or wealth. It can also specifically symbolize pregnancy.
In its reversed or weakly aspected position, the fertility card signfies deprivation or sterility. The querent might be feeling the lack of material resources or limitations that are overwhelming. It symbolizes the need for more abundance in life.
I remember doing a reading for a friend, and the Fertility card popped up. She was appalled and said "Why, I CAN'T be pregnant!" I smiled, and patiently explained to her that perhaps she was "pregnant", but that the "child" might be something other than a human baby. As we feel the magic of the Lover's Path Tarot, we must remember that each card had a wide range of meanings, and that they must be interpreted in the context of our own lives. The completion of a manuscript or artistic work is as much the process of giving birth as the physical act of giving life to a baby.
Let us all be fertile in our lives, and produce many great works to share with the world.