Kings and Hands

No, this isn’t a post about Game of Thrones, though I’ve been addicted to the series and just finished the third book (vtec just kicked in, yo).  Martin, you better hurry up and finish that shit, son, because if you die before you finish this series and have your family turn this into another Frank Herbert’s Dune 6, imma be ANGRY.

So, I’ve been having chats with the four Kings of the Tarot recently in order to understand more about their respective elements.  I’ve so far chatted with the first two by contemplating their cards and symbols, kind of like pathworking with the Qabbalah.  I tried doing that with the King of Swords recently, but the first few times didn’t go so well and I had a hard time visualizing the environment around me; eventually, he said “we can’t stand to be still”, so I took that as a hint to move on and go on a walk instead.  Along the walk, I figured it’d be nice to have the image of the King of Swords from the card tag along, and we chatted just as successfully walking through a few local parks as we would have with me at his throne.  Plus, it gave me some much-needed visualization practice, so I can better tackle the card itself more.

I’m using a variant of the Rider-Waite deck (the Original Rider-Waite, which is softer on the eyes and is very subtly different from the standard Rider-Waite) as my keys to contemplation.  In trying to picture each of the four Kings, and as someone with their Venus in Virgo, I took especial notice of their hands and what each holds.  The Kings of Coins and Cups hold both a scepter of office and their suit’s symbol, but the Kings of Swords and Wands hold just their symbol.  They all hold their elemental weapons differently, and this alone carries significant meaning.

The King of Pentacles holds a large coin in his left hand and a scepter in his right.  The scepter is simple and is capped with a large sphere on the end; given the weight of this mace-like scepter, it shows the heavy force that earth can apply to a situation but only if controlled and directed, since his scepter is in his right (active and dominant) hand.  The scepter is also similar to that of the Empress (Trump III), who holds hers in her right hand as well, indicating the relationship between the pure element of earth and its bounty and generative ability.  He is the only king to hold his elemental weapon in his left hand, the side of reception and passivity.  This shows how the element of earth is set apart from the other three: indeed, this goes all the way back to Plato, where he claims that earth is the only element that comes out from any process as earth, while air, fire, and water can all transmute into each other.  Earth is the foundation and materia for all things, and can only ever be acted upon: earth can be shaped, molded, tilled, heated, broken, or carried, but it will always still be earth in one form or another.  Fire can cool into air, air can condense, water can evaporate, but earth will always be earth.

The King of Cups holds a large but simple cup in his right hand and a decorated flower-like scepter in his left.  The scepter is shaped like the top of a cup, much like the back of his throne, and indicates that his will as King does not direct, since the scepter doesn’t have a proper point to direct his orders; rather, it dissipates and spreads.  Much like how a hose directs a stream of water which splays out on contact, water does not force but spreads out over and covers its object.  He doesn’t hold rest the base of the cup on his throne’s arm like he does his scepter, but holds it out as if he were asking for it to be filled.  The cup, after all, is the ultimate symbol of reception, representing the female side of the universe and always takes in, but as a force of nature can also be poured out and give its essence back to the world in a new form.

The King of Swords holds a sword in his right hand and nothing in his left.  His sword points away from him towards his right, showing that air will always tend to the objective and detached and logical side of a situation.  His left hand is empty, but he wears a ring on his middle finger, the finger associated with the element of Air and with balance and judgment.  The King of Swords hinted to me that this is actually a signet ring, which bears his mark showing authenticity and truth of whatever he applies it to.  This, an abstract symbol, is his tool of office instead of a scepter, and is particularly well-suited for the element of logic and communication.  The scepters, then, would represent a force that needs material and weighted direction and can be held onto to be controlled; the Kings with scepters represent the heavy elements that form the material world, while those without represent lighter and more active forces which are more wily.  Plus, both the Kings of Cups and Swords hold their weapons in the air without support, while those of Pentacles and Wands support them by resting them on something.  Water and air are fluid and must always be in motion; earth and fire are fixed in one direction (downward for earth, upwards for fire).  Fire and earth have to have something to substantiate themselves on, while air and water can be freer and travel around as they wish.

The King of Wands holds a tall staff resting on the ground below his throne’s dais, with his left hand empty and resting on his lap.  His staff shows signs of life, with green leaves sprouting from it, and represents vitality and energy (surprise! it’s a penis).  However, the King here is pointing it slightly to himself, indicating that will and decision begin first with oneself and then directs it outwards; after all, the staff supports first and helps move around second.  Both his wand and the sword of the previous king have their business ends above their heads, while the weapons of the Kings of Pentacles and Cups are bounded or framed by their bodies.  This reflects that the elements of fire and air are active and extend beyond themselves, while those of water and earth are passive and receive forces from outside.  His left hand is clenched into a fist, thumb pressed down; his is the only King’s hand whose free hand’s thumb is closed and hidden.  This might imply that his will is absolute and will not receive any input from anyone; notice how he’s almost pulling his arm away from the world into himself.  (I haven’t had a chat with this King yet, so this is just what I’m making sense of.)

All this is just about their hands and what they hold.  I haven’t even touched on the layers of symbolism of their thrones, crowns, clothing, armor, or backgrounds.  The Tarot really is just dripping with meaning, and everything is in it for a purpose and with a point.  Why I’m not already a palmist is beyond me.

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

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