On an inner level Cronus, the Hermit, is an image of the last of the four Moral Lessons which the Fool must learn: the lesson of time and limitations of mortal life. Nothing is allowed to live beyond its span, and nothing remains unchanged; and this is a simple and obvious facet of life which despite its simplicity and obviousness is painful for us to learn and often only comes with age and hard experience. Cronus is a god who both embodies the meaning of time and also rebels against it. So he is humbled and overthrown, and learns wisdom in solitude and the discovery that one is ultimately alone and mortal are dilemmas which all human beings must face. Acceptance of this condition is also, in a mysterious way, a true inner separation from the parents and from childhood, because it means the sacrifice of the fantasy that someday, somewhere, someone will come and magically make it all better. ‘And then they lived happily ever after’ is a sentiment that cannot survive in Cronus’ world. Youth passes into maturity, and can never be regained in any concrete way; but memory and wisdom are distilled from the passage of time, and also the gift of patience.
The lesson of the Hermit is one which cannot be learned through struggle and conquest. Thus Cronus stands in counterpoint to Heracles, for struggle will not stop. Only acceptance of time yields the rewards of Cronus’ Golden Age. Through enforced limitation and through circumstances which only time, not battle, can release, the Fool develops the reflective, introverted, solitary stance of Cronus the Hermit. Thus Cronus is in some ways an image of humility, which often begins with humiliation in the face of that which we cannot change, but which can result in a quality of stillness and serenity without which we cannot endure the obstacles and disappointments which life sometimes brings. However clever the intellect, however warm the heart, however strong the sense of identity, the vicissitudes of life would shatter us if we were unable to find somewhere within the patience and prudence of the Hermit, who teaches us how to endure and wait in silence. The negative face of Cronus is calcification, a stubborn resistance to chance and the passage of time. But the creative face of this ambivalent god is the shrewdness to change what we can, to accept what we cannot, and to wait in silence until we can tell the difference.
Here we meet the ancient god Cronus, whose name means Time. In myth, Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth) mated and produced the first race, the Titans or earth-gods, of whom Cronus was the youngest. But Uranus regarded his progeny with horror, for they were ugly and imperfect and made of flesh. Thus he shut the Titans up in the depths of the underworld so that they might not offend his eyes. But Gaea grew angry and meditated a terrible vengeance upon her husband. From her her bosom she brought forth flint, fashioned a sharp scythe, and gave it to the astute Cronus, her last-born. When evening fell Uranus came as usual to rejoin his wife. While he unsuspectingly slept, Cronus, who with his mother’s aid lay hiding, armed himself with the scythe, castrated his father, and cast the bleeding genitals into the sea.
Cronus then liberated his brothers and became sovereign of the earth. Under his long, patient reign the work of creation was completed. This time on earth became known as the Golden Age, because of the abundance over which Cronus presided. As god of time he ruled over the orderly passage of the seasons, birth and growth followed by death and gestation and rebirth, and was worshiped both as a grim reaper who set the boundaries past which man and nature could not go, and as a god of fertility. But Cronus could not himself accept the cyclical laws which he had inaugurated, for when it was prophesied that one day his own son would overthrow him as he had his father, he swallowed his children as they were born so that he could preserve his rule unchanged. Thus follows the story of Zeus, the youngest of Cronus’ children, whom we met in the card of the Emperor and who in myth overthrew Cronus and ushered the reign of the Olympian gods. Cronus was banished, some say to the depths of the underworld, but others say to the Blessed Isles where he sleeps awaiting the beginning of a new Golden Age.
On a divinatory level, the card of Strength, when it appears in a spread, implies a situation where a collision with the lion within is inevitable, and where a creative handling of one’s own rage and inevitable, and where a creative handling of one’s own rage and senseless pride is desirable. Courage, strength and self-discipline are necessary to battle with the situation. Through such an experience we can come in contact with the beast, but also with that part of us which his Heracles, the hero who can subdue it. Thus the Fool, having developed the faculties of mind and feeling, now learns to deal with his own ferocious egotism, emerging from this contest with trust in himself and integrity toward others.
When Strength appears as a person it represents someone who can gain trust and respect through their generous and open heart. Their love and kindness has overcome many obstacles and made friends from opponents. Love and faith are grounding influences and provide strength to triumph in all situations. Stand up for the underdog and fight a noble fight. Injustice and meanness can be overcome and a new path of positivity created with strength appears. Strength uses love and trust to overpower negativity and remove obstacles. With Strength, you are reminded to assess your relationships and learn to forgive past problems. It is possible to continue moving forward but only if both sides are willing to turn over a new leaf. With Strength, relationships with animals are important and play a healing role in your life. You may have to build a relationship with a troubled animal or spend time training that leads to a deeper bond. Just like the picture in the card portrays co-operation between man and beast can lead too loving relationship.
The faith and love that made you believe anything was possible has vanished, you are left with fear and doubts. Without rediscovering your courage, you have a hard time moving forward and reaching for success. In some cases, this card can represent someone who has given up, on themselves and life’s opportunities. It is important to realize that the only thing standing in the way of change and transformation is fear and the doubt it creates. Sometimes it is possible to fake it – go along like everyone else and act as though everything will be OK, even when you fear it won’t work. Attempting to change in spite of your fears may release some of your doubts. Remember that the fears, like shadows can evaporate with the light of day.
On an inner level, Heracles battling the Nemean Lion is an image of the problem of containing the powerful and savage beast within us, while still preserving those animal qualities which are creative and vital. The lion is a special kind of beast, and reflects a different aspect of the human Psych than do the willful horses in the card of the Chariot. The lion in myth has always been associated with royalty, even when it is at its most destructive, and this king of beasts is an image of the infantile, savage and totally egocentric beginnings of a unique individuality. This the Nemean Lion is not wholly evil, but possesses a magical skin which can offer invincibility. This invincibility is connected with the sense of inner permanence which comes from a solid sense of ‘me’. When we wear the skin of the lion which we have conquered, the opinions of others – the great They who strike such fear into the hearts of the timid – mean little, for we are armored in our own indestructible sense of identity.
However promising its potential, the lion is savage and vicious in its animal form. This side of a person unleashed in the ‘me first’ drive which will happily destroy anyone or anything in its path, so long as one’s own gratification is assured. Rage is one of the manifestations of this drive – not healthy anger which might be appropriate to a situation, but a furious, explosive, floor-beating tantrum when we do not get our way. Implacable pride is another of its faces – not self-respect, but a bombast and inflated self-importance which can make us savage and unrelenting toward those upon wom we are dependent or who steal the limelight from us. The lion is in many ways like the angry infant in us, demanding that the world revolve around oneself, and destroying blindly and at random when it does not. But this beast is conquered, then we can appropriate the magical skin, which in psychological terms means integrating the vital power of the beast and making it serve a conscious and responsible ego. Thus Heracles’ conquest of the lion is not truly a killing, but a kind of transformation, so that the strength and determination of the animal are expressed by a human and not a beast. Herein lies the ambivalence of the card of Strength, for Heracles could not easily simply destroy the beast without any benefit accruing from the slaughter. This is the negative face of Heracles within us: the kind of strength which represses all instinct without any transformation, leaving behind a strong shell within which lives a soul without passion, without anger, and without a true identity.
Here in the card of Strength we meet the great Warrior Heracles, called Hercules by the Romans, who in myth was the most invincible of heroes. He was the son of Zeus, king of the gods, by a mortal woman called Alcmene. Zeus’ wife Hera was, as usual, jealous of the child born from her husband’s adultery, and persecuted the hero with terrible punishments. She drove him mad, and in his madness he inadvertently murdered his wife and children. Heracles begged the gods for some task to expiate his crimes, and the oracle at Delphi ordered him to subject himself to twelve years of arduous labors in the service of the evil Kink Eurystheus, who Hera favored. Thus the hero voluntarily bound himself to the servant of the goddess who persecuted voluntarily bound himself to the servant of the goddess who persecuted him, in expiation of a crime for which she ultimately responsible.
The first of the famous Twelve Labours which King Eurystheus required Heracles to perform was the conquest of the Memean Lion, an enormous beast with a pelt that was proof against iron, bronze and stone. Since the lion had depopulated the neighbourhood, Heracles could find no one who could direct him to its lair. Eventually he found the beast, bespattered with blood from the day’s slaughter. He shot a flight of arrows at it, but they rebounded harmlessly from the thick pelt. Next he used his sword, which bent, and then his club, which shattered on the lion’s head. Heracles then netted one entrance of the two-mouthed cave in which the lion hid, and crept in by the other entrance. The lion bit off one of his fingers, but Heracles managed to catch hold of its neck and choked it to death with his bare hands. Then he flayed the pelt of the lion with its own razor-sharp claws, and forever after wore the skin as armour with the head as a helmet, thus becoming as invincible as was the beast itself.
On a divinatory level, the appearance of Temperance in a spread implies the need for a flow of feeling in relationship. Iris, guardian of the rainbow, suggests the potential for harmony and cooperation resulting in a good relationship or a happy marriage. We are challenged with the issue of learning to develop a balanced heart, while also being gently reminded that the Fool cannot remain forever even with the beautiful Iris, and must pass on the next Moral Lesson.
Careful control of volatile factors resulting in a successful conclusion. A harmonious partnership, peace restored after a troubled time. Self-control and adaptability. The power of imagination, being such that wishes can be fulfilled. The meaning of the Temperance is strongly connected to balance and harmony. When it appears, it is a time where you are able to see both sides of an issue, reach agreements, and use your control to master whatever comes your way. Disputes will be resolved, relationships renewed and problems sorted to everyone’s benefit. When the Temperance appears, relationships are healed and new ideas spring forward. A period of calm and peace peace, Temperance gives you a break to fix any lingering problems and enjoy their resolution.
Arguments and misunderstandings. It doesn’t seem to matter what you try, life is out of balance and harmony is absent. With Temperance reversed, it may seem like there is not enough time to get things done. Sometimes it can show you that spreading yourself too thin is dividing your energy and stopping you from accomplishing things. Emotions run high and at work or home, you feel unnecessary competition spurring you on.
On an inner level, Athene, goddess of Justice, is an image of the uniquely human faculty of reflective judgment and rational thought. To the Greeks, this faculty was divine, because it differentiated man from the beasts. Thus they envisaged Athene from he head of great Zeus, uncontaminated by a corporeal mother who might link her with the physical and instinctual world which we share with the animals. Athene’s judgments are not based on personal feeling, but upon impartial objective assessment of all the factors contained in a situation, and on ethical principles which stand as firm guidelines for choice. Athene’s chastity may be taken as a symbol of the intactness and purity of this reflective faculty, which is not influenced by personal desire. Her teachings of the civilizing arts also reflects the capacity of the mind to hold untamed nature in check and transform it through clarity and objective planning. Her willingness to battle for principles rather than passions springs from the mind’s capacity to make choices based upon reflection, holding the instincts in control.
The card of Justic is the first of four cards in the Major Arcana which were traditionally called the Four Moral lessons. These cards – Justice, Temperance, Strength, and the Hermit – are all concerned with the development of those individual faculties necessary for us to function effectively in life. They all contribute to what psychology calls the formation of the ego, which means the sense of ‘I’ that each of us must have in order to experience a sense of worth and value in life, and to cope with life’s challenges from a stable and truly individual base. The Fool, having passed through the two great challenges of youth – erotic desire and aggression – now faces the necessity of building his character and developing faculties which will help him to deal with the great range of life’s experiences. Thus, when the Fool meets Athene, goddess of Justice, he must learn how to think clearly and how to cultivate the faculty of a balanced mind. He must learn to weigh one thing again – something he could not yet do in the card of the Lovers – and come to the most impartial judgement possible. Justice is not possible unless we respect fairness and truth as important ethical principles rather than a nice behaviour which we adopt because we want to be liked by others. Athene raises us above nature, and represents our striving toward a perfection conceived by the human mind and spirit.