The Biology of the Tarot
by La Vonne Parker
Perhaps you can imagine my surprise, after returning to college at the age of 40 for the sole purpose of gaining knowledge to further my research in Tarot, when I discovered that knowledge of tarot was to be unfolded, not only in obvious classes such as Philosophy and World Religions but also in Biology class.
The tarot, with it's four suits; coins, swords, wands and cups, have direct correspondences to the four elements that are vital to all of life: nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Bringing these life-sustaining elements together, with the tarot cards, we get a new understanding and variation to the age old tool. Once I began to apply the four essential elements directly to the elements of the cards I was stunned at the new connections I began to make within the tarot.
The first suit is known as Cups and is commonly associated with water. Because of hydrogen's special attraction to itself, we get water which gives the association of Cups. Being the lightest and ninety percent of the universe's total mass, nothing can live without it. Hydrogen is a solvent and a heat conductor, dissolving away the past and bringing temperatures back to an equilibrium. No matter how challenging life gets, a soak in a soothing tub of warm water or a trip to the beach will always lighten the spirits.
Usually symbolized with a sword, air is naturally connected to oxygen. Making up twenty percent of the earth's atmosphere, oxygen is essential to the breath of all life. When there is too much oxygen, death will surely follow. When we can breath, we can rise above a situation and think clearly, leading to good decision making. On the other hand, when we think too much and worry, breathing patterns change, restricting oxygen flow to the brain, impairing the ability to think clearly. Manufactured by plants, a walk through the garden will clear the mind as fresh oxygen is taken in.
When lightening flashes or dazzling fireworks twinkle in the night sky we are witnessing nitrogen at work. Wands, the next tarot element, is the fire that changes everything. Nitrogen, eighty percent of the earth's atmosphere, is essential to the organic cycle that is fundamental to the wheel of life. Representing the change, growth, life and death process, wands are associated with nitrogen. Unable to do much on its own, nitrogen is essential to the sustainability of life when bonded with other elements. Fire can never exist without something to burn and nothing remains the same after being burned. Even in death nitrogen creates a new beginning, a new cycle. Watching children, plants and puppies grow, change and move through the nitrogen cycle gives life meaning.
Scientists know that ninety-nine point nine percent of all organisms on earth are carbon based. Carbon is the backbone of life. The earth, in the tarot, is represented by Coins. Primitive societies frequently use stones or shells as money. In physical terms, the economy, holds international society together. Coal and natural gas, made of carbon chains, are burned to cook our food and heat our homes. Warmth and food bring families and friends together. Families are the carbon backbone of human life. Without our family, nothing else would exist in the same way the carbon skeleton holds together life. Money, friends, and family can make and break us while carbon chains make and break constantly.
Whether the suit is Cups, Swords, Wands or Coins as they are represented by earth, air, fire or water we cannot live in the Universe without any of them. Just as hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon are essential to all of life so are the elements of the tarot. These elements are essential to life and always have been, whether they are regarded by their names from the chemist's Periodic Chart of Elements or by their corresponding names upon the mysterious tarot cards. Now I am 43 and anticipate with wonder and excitement many more surprising secrets that will be unveiled from the tarot as I gain more knowledge while continuing my education at the university level.
Read Part II...
© La Vonne Parker
La Vonne fell in love with Tarot in 1999. Since then she has worked as a public reader, teacher, and research writer. La Vonne went back to college in 2003 at the age of 40 to get a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Women's Studies to create a research foundation for tarot study and writing.