How Tarot and Astrology Relate
One of the most sought-after connections in the world of divination has always been the elusive tarot astrology relationship. Are the two fields related? How and where do these two giants of universal truth intersect?
The answer is a complex one, but it’s worth exploring.
If you’re still just a tarot beginner, you might want to skip this article and practice your tarot reading until you’re ready for something more advanced.
If you’ve got a handle on the basics of both astrology and tarot, then make your best cup of tea, sit back and let’s dive in.
Astrology and tarot: Searching for a link
The first explorers to search for a definitive connection between astrology and tarot cards were the legendary occultists of The Golden Dawn.
NOTE: For readers who aren’t familiar with the Golden Dawn, they were a secret society founded by Freemasons in the 19th century and active in England until the early 20th century. The Golden Dawn’s mission was a deep exploration of astrology, tarot and other occult studies. Golden Dawn members were responsible for some of the most classic tarot decks ever made. These include: The Rider-Waite Tarot, The Thoth Tarot, The Golden Dawn Tarot and the Builders of the Adytum Tarot.
The Golden Dawn system connecting astrology to tarot
One of the The Golden Dawn’s ambitions was to define associations between the basic concepts of astrology (like planets, zodiac signs, and the 4 classical elements), with the basic concepts of tarot (like the cards of the Major and Minor Arcana, and the 4 tarot suits).
In the early part of the 20th century, the group succeeded in creating a complicated yet fascinating, unified astrology tarot system. When applied correctly, this unified system can augment tarot readings with additional layers of astrological meaning and can add interesting new interpretations to the cards.
If you’re a fan of both tarot and astrology, it’s a system worth exploring.
The first thing to understand is that the Golden Dawn applied two slightly different systems in order to connect each tarot card to its corresponding astrological sign and planet. There was one system for the Minor Arcana, and another slightly different system for the Major Arcana.
We’ll go over the Minor Arcana first.
Astrological associations to tarot based on modality
As many readers may know, each zodiac sign has its own associated elements, planets and modalities. The subject of modalities is often overlooked in everyday astrology, but it’s very important here when calculating tarot correspondences for Minor Arcana cards.
For those who are unfamiliar with the modality concept, the most important thing to know is that each astrological sign exhibits one of 3 special characteristics. These 3 characteristics are called modalities. They are:
- Cardinal modality (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn all have cardinal modality)
- Fixed modality (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Capricorn all have fixed modality)
- Mutable modality (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces all have mutable modality)
NOTE: Astrological modalities are also called astrological qualities in many reference texts. The two terms, modalities and qualities can be used interchangeably.
Modalities divide the sky into three different categories, with each zodiac sign having one of the 3 qualities.
So why are we discussing modality? Because like the zodiac signs, Minor Arcana tarot cards can also be divided into modalities.
Here’s how that works:
- All Twos, Threes and Fours of all suits are related to the Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn).
- All Fives, Sixes and Sevens of all suits are related to the Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius).
- All Eights, Nines and Tens of all suits are related to the Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces).
As you probably noticed, this system doesn’t cover all Minor Arcana cards so far. It leaves out the Aces and the court cards. The Golden Dawn system does not actually assign astrological values to the Aces or the pages, but there are ways to use them within the system. We’ll circle back to Aces and Pages in a minute.
As for the Knights, Queens and Kings in the Golden Dawn system, they can be interpreted as follows.
- All Knights are mutable. (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces)
- All Queens are fixed. (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius)
- All Kings are cardinal. (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn)
At this point though, we still don’t have a specific zodiac sign for each card. As you can see in the bulleted list above, we have four possible signs for each group of 3 numbered cards, so we’re still a long way from having a single astrological sign for each card. To distill the associations further, we need to consider the associated element behind each suit:
Associating zodiac signs with each Minor Arcana card
So now you might be able to see where this is going. Because each suit has an associated element and each zodiac sign has an associated element, we can now calculate a single sign for each of the numbered tarot cards between 2 and 10.
This brings us to this handy table which shows the relative sign for each of the numbered Minor arcana cards:
|Tarot Card||Associated Zodiac Sign|
|2, 3, 4 of Wands||Aries (fire)|
|5, 6, 7 of Wands||Leo (fire)|
|8,9,10 of Wands||Sagittarius (fire)|
|2, 3, 4 of Cups||Cancer (water)|
|5, 6, 7 of Cups||Scorpio (water)|
|8,9,10 of Cups||Pisces (water)|
|2, 3, 4 of Swords||Libra (air)|
|5, 6, 7 of Swords||Aquarius (air)|
|8,9,10 of Swords||Gemini (air)|
|2, 3, 4 of Pentacles||Capricorn (earth)|
|5, 6, 7 of Pentacles||Taurus (earth)|
|8,9,10 of Pentacles||Virgo (earth)|
What about a tarot astrology connection for tarot Aces and Pages?
Technically speaking, neither Aces nor Pages are assigned to signs in the Golden Dawn framework. While they can be assigned astrological values, they are not considered strong connections.
For example: Because all Ace cards symbolize the creative genus of energy, they each symbolize all 3 signs which are associated with their classical element. You can treat Aces in this respect like wild cards for their classical element.
In other words, if we assign each Ace to it’s elementally-related signs we get:
- The Ace of Wands (fire): Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
- The Ace of Cups (water): Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
- The Ace of Swords (air): Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
- The Ace of Pentacles (earth): Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
While that “works”, it’s obviously not nearly as strong an association, as cards 2 through 10 and the Knight, Queen and King.
Major arcana zodiac associations
Now that we have the Minor Arcana associated to its relative astrological sign, let’s move on to the Major Arcana.
Needless to say there are many more Major Arcana cards in a traditional tarot deck than there are zodiac signs. The Golden Dawn associated some Major Arcana cards with planets, others with elements, and others with the 12 signs of the zodiac.
NOTE: The Golden Dawn’s astrological associations for the Minor Arcana only uses the classical 7 planet system of astrology. Thus, only 7 planets are assigned to tarot cards under their model.
First, the zodiac signs: Here’s a visual reference showing the associations of tarot cards with the 12 signs of the zodiac.
Here’s a complete table of the Major Arcana and its astrological associations, including planets, elements and zodiac signs.
Astrological elements associated with the Major Arcana
- Fire – Judgement
- Earth – The World
- Air – The Fool
- Water – The Hanged Man
The planets associated with the Major Arcana
- Mercury – The Magician
- Moon – The High Priestess
- Venus – The Empress
- Jupiter – The Wheel of Fortune
- Mars – The Tower
- Sun – The Sun
- Saturn – The World
The zodiac signs associated with the Major Arcana
- Aries – The Emperor
- Taurus – The Hierophant
- Gemini – The Lovers
- Cancer – The Chariot
- Leo – Strength
- Virgo – The Hermit
- Libra – Justice
- Scorpio – Death
- Sagittarius – Temperance
- Capricorn – The Devil
- Aquarius – The Star
- Pisces – The Moon
Is the Golden Dawn tarot astrology system “correct”?
The Golden Dawn were brilliant occultists with deep insights into both tarot and astrology. Is this the only possible means of associating tarot with astrology? No, certainly not. But it is the most widely accepted tarot-astrology unified theory.
However, there are plenty of tarot readers who would logically say that the Sun tarot card should represent the Sun, and that the Moon tarot card should represent the moon. Those are seemingly obvious tarot astrology associations, and many tarot readers do choose those associations instead.
Either way, as a tarot reader, the link between tarot and astrology can be a powerful one, and it can be applied tarot readings for an additional dimension which incorporates a wealth of astrological references. Exactly how much weight to place on any tarot card’s astrological properties in a reading is of course, up to the reader.
Can I use the Golden Dawn tarot astrology system while analyzing birth charts?
Unfortunately, the system created by the Golden Dawn is mostly an augmentation to tarot, rather than a true two-way connection between tarot and astrology. For a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, the Golden Dawn system doesn’t work particularly well to enhance the meanings of astrological birth charts with an additional layer of tarot information. It would be wonderful if it did.
None of this means can’t try to add tarot meanings to your astrological charts. While the results may be interesting, don’t expect any universal consensus on that practice.