Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Major Arcana: Innocence

In the Ryder-Waite deck, the first card of the Major Arcana, the zero card, is usually called The Fool. Here, in the Lover's Deck, it is the Innocence card, and it is represented by the lovers Tamino and Pamina, from Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. This was the last opera Mozart composed, and he completed it in 1791. One of the inspirations for the plot of the opera was the rites of the Freemasons, to whom Mozart belonged. The opera recounts the story of a princess, Pamina, and a prince, Tamino, who learn to trust their hearts, innocent and inexperienced as they may be. Thus, they are the perfect symbols of this first card, the Innocence card, of the major arcana.

The basic plot of the opera revolves around the two young lovers. Pamina's father, on his deathbed, bequeathed his magic flute, whose song could offer solace, to his queen. He gave his solar orb, which gave the power of the sun, to Sarastro, his most trusted friend, to hold for his daughter until she came of age. The queen grew jealous of this power, set aside for her daughter, and the desire to posess this gift grew exponentially over time. The queen learned the black arts and soon became known as the Queen of the Night.

Meanwhile, Sarastro took Pamina away to protect her from the Queen. She grew up, and the Queen spent those years, helpless against the power of the orb, plotting to regain it. One day, she came across the young Prince Tamino in the woods. She introduced herself to him, asking Tamino to rescue Pamina and the solar orb from the evil clutches of Sarastro. Tamino, believing the young Pamina to be a damsel in distress, readily agreed, and the Queen gave him the Magic Flute to aid him in his quest.

Off Tamino flew, to Sarastro's palace, where he confronted the great man himself. Sarastro told Tamino the truth about Pamina and the Queen, but Tamino did not believe him. In search of guidance, Tamino played the Magic Flute, which told him to believe Sarastro and follow him to Pamina.

As soon as the two young people saw each other, they fell in love. Sarastro was pleased by this turn of events, but warned that Pamina's father would expect Tamino to prove himself through a test of bravery. The test, Sarastro explained, would pit Tamino against earth, wind, fire, and water. The test began at the foot of a mountain, where he found a deep cave from which ribbons of fire and a waterfall circled by winds emerged. Pamina declared, "I shall lead you, but love will guide me."

Tamino raised the Magic Flute to his lips and began his journey. Pamina took his hand, and together they approached the cave, using the flute's song to ease their fears. The duo was protected by the flute, their hearts calmed by the notes. Together, they would emerge unscathed from the elements in triumph.

The image on the Innocence card is that of Tamino and Pamina at the moment they are being tested by the primal elements of water and fire. Tamino is blindfolded, representing the innocence that limited his view of the world. Blind to the world, he must rely upon Pamina's guidance to survive the tests of the elements. They must trust each other. Pamina, in turn, must trust that true love will guide them to safety. Though she is also innocent of the elements, she knows enough to follow her heart and trust in its guidance. This serene trust is the greatest gift that innocence has to offer.

Personally, I feel much more comfortable with the image of Innocence rather than The Fool of the Ryder-Waite deck, as I believe that it imparts a greater sense of purity and trust, rather than the negative characteristics of deceit and illusion suggested by the Fool.

When the Innocence card emerges in a reading, it can have a number of meanings. It can represent the beginning of a great journey, or the launching of new ventures or risks. It signifies the innocence that allows one to be open to possiblities and protects from difficulties. This card symbolizes the process of facing one's fears and trusting the heart. A sense of optimism emerges. One might be feeling protected by divine forces, such as Pamina did when she followed her heart to lead the duo to safety.

When the Innocence card emerges in a reverse or weakly aspected position in a reading, it may signify that the querent is ignoring his or her better instincts. It might symbolize cynicism or pessimism, and a distrust of the self or others. This would be a signifier that the querent is not listening to those divine forces, and is unwilling to take the first step to make a new start and take a new path.

The Innocence Card is the first card of the major arcana, representing only the first steps in a long journey of development. It is a powerful card, nonetheless, because as we are well aware, every journey must begin with that first step forward. Without that single step, there can be no others that follow.

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