Read about the Sun, Moon, and Stars in the context of Deuteronomy 4:15-24 (from the Old Testament) which warns against idolatry…
15 Because you saw no form at all on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, be strictly on your guard 16 not to act corruptly by fashioning an idol for yourselves to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or of a woman, 17 the form of any animal on the earth, the form of any bird that flies in the sky, 18 the form of anything that crawls on the ground, or the form of any fish in the waters under the earth. 19 And when you look up to the heavens and behold the sun or the moon or the stars, the whole heavenly host, do not be led astray into bowing down to them and serving them. These the Lord, your God, has apportioned to all the other nations under the heavens; 20 but you the Lord has taken and led out of that iron foundry, Egypt, that you might be his people, his heritage, as you are today.
After the “iron foundry,” or rather “the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10), which is the test of one’s spiritual purification—that is the Tower card (XVI)—perhaps our devotion and resolve are tested further by the temptations of the Star (XVII), the Moon (XVIII), and the Sun (XIX) cards…
23 Be careful, therefore, lest you forget the covenant which the Lord, your God, has made with you, and fashion for yourselves against his command an idol in any form whatsoever. 24 For the Lord, your God, is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
…Because what comes next in the tarot deck… is Judgment (XX).
What are to we to make of this, we tarot enthusiasts (and truly all contemporary men and women) who are so visually inspired, so image conscious, so battered and consumed by illustration and ocular-fantasia… with movies invented with CGI technology, websites with doctored photos, the television news that assaults us with all too graphic realism, our cellphones and smartphones that chain us to the world’s contrived visualizations and brainwashings?
Perhaps it is a call to snap out of the dream, a call to arms, a warning against being brainwashed, to be a discernment warrior. If you allow yourself to be brainwashed—deceived—and don’t keep things in perspective (as Temperance advocates) then you run the risk of starting to believe that the Star and the Moon and the Sun have more personified power than they naturally do (as part of the Creation that the One God put forth).
We can understand this idea from a hermeneutical perspective—think on the historical attributes of those cards. Each of them was attributed to a pagan god (The Star = Venus; The Moon = Diana; The Sun = Apollo) the reverence from which the Church was trying to avert its congregants. If those heavenly bodies continue to be “idolized,” the message of the one true God would have been nullified, minimized, and would have perhaps dissipated from the ancient world. One’s test of faith lay in to whom one succored one’s belief and supplication to be raised from low misfortune (The Wheel, card X).
We shouldn’t necessarily be literalists and ignore signs and images. Again, we are visual animals… “those who have eyes should see.” (Isaiah 6:9-10; John 9:39; Mark 8:18) The scripture in Deuteronomy above states to take care “not to act corruptly” in fashioning an idol for one’s self. The distinction is important. It doesn’t say not to create imagery at all. Rather, to ignore our visions and disregard our imaginative, visual creativity is to ignore our inherent human tendencies and gifts of visualization and admiration of beauty. But we should use our vision to weigh and measure and discern what is true and what is not—we should keep things in perspective and not allow our eyes to be fooled.
What does this mean for tarot readers? I think it’s a reminder that the cards themselves DO NOT HAVE ANY POWER OF THEIR OWN. They are not magical amulets that can influence the physical world around themselves (that would be idolizing the cards). They are merely TOOLS used to help us relate to concepts and that help us discern truth from falsity, better judgment from worse judgment. The “magic” comes from the awe-inspiring ability of our minds to blossom with a million anticipatory and hopeful visions of the world inspired by those paper card pictures.
THAT’S how amazing the mind is… and recognizing the fascinating complexity and beauty of the human mind’s capabilities is a form of gratitude to the universe—or the Lord, God—for His astonishing creation; it’s giving praise to God to recognize our complexity of vision.
What this passage in Deuteronomy says is: “keep it in check (Temperance, card XV) and remember your source and commandments and your covenant.” The Star, often attributed as “hope,” is fine, but remember who created the heavens in which she shines so brightly. The Moon, often attributed as meaning unknown mystery and cycles, is fine, but remember who placed the Moon in the sky and set it spinning in order to draw and ebb the tides. The Sun, often attributed a meaning of ultimate success, is fine, but remember that it was your God who first created the light to dispel the world out of the chaos. Citizens were encouraged by the clergy to keep vigilant to the truth; stay the course of true belief. The Star, Moon, and Sun during the Middle Ages and Renaissance were one’s test of wills, a test of fidelity.
Food for thought...