Joseph Campbell (1949) proposed that within every great story ever told, from ancient myth to modern day movies, one can find the same narrative inside every tale. He called it The Hero’s Journey. If we consider the chronological order of the Major Arcana or Trump cards to be a story (often referred to as The Fool’s Journey), a similar narrative is found there as well.
Whether Fool or Hero, the journey involves archetypes and stages an individual walks through on the road to find wholeness, happiness and purpose. Below are my thoughts on how they compare:
The First Septenary
The First Septenary on the Fool’s Journey represents the Self, or the place where we formulate our identity in relation to the common world. Not only is this place where we are born, this is the place where our dragons and inner demons are born too.
Every young child knows kindness, love, and generosity, but s/he also expresses anger, selfishness, and greed. These emotions are part of our shared humanity, but as we grow up, something happens. Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected, and that feeling of rejection can sometimes manifest into shadows we carry with us into the future – dragons that, if aren’t slain, can impede us from reaching our full potential.
Let’s look at the first seven cards/stages/influences of the Fool’s Journey and how they set the stage for the Hero’s Common World:
THE MAGICIAN – This is the stage where we develop motor skills and learn we have the ability to control things. We learn that we can use our bodies to interact with our environment, and that we can manipulate our environment through our own actions. We also learn that actions have consequences.
THE HIGH PRIESTESS – In this stage we develop a desire to know, and understand. We pick up, not just language, but non-verbal queues as well that allow us to know if someone is sad or angry without them telling us. We intuitively pick up on a tension in the room, which leads to a desire to uncover the cause of that tension.
THE EMPRESS – This stage includes the influence of the mother, female role models, and creative skills.
THE EMPEROR – This stage includes the influence of the father, male role models, discipline and structure.
THE HEIROPHANT – This stage includes the influence of society, education and religion. It fosters the need for belonging and being accepted by others.
THE LOVERS – In this stage, we develop friendships and romances; we start to get a taste of our own independence and make our own choices.
THE CHARIOT – The phase where we can act on those choices and move in those directions.
The Second Septenary
The Second Septenary on the Fool’s Journey echoes the Departure and Call to Adventure stages of the Hero’s Journey:
STRENGTH – In this stage, we start to notice a stirring restlessness inside us. We’re becoming discontented in our Common World and are longing for something new. We try to subdue the beast inside, but it gets harder to contain.
THE HERMIT – The Hermit parallels the Old Man/Wizard archetype from the Hero’s Journey who comes along and says, why don’t you go on a journey, you might learn something about yourself.
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE & JUSTICE – Both of these cards indicate forces bigger than ourselves, or outside of ourselves. We feel a sense of purpose or duty to maintain/restore harmony in our lives. If we notice a threat to harmony, inside our outside of ourselves, we now have a cause.
THE HANGED MAN – The message of the Hanged Man is analogous to Refusing the Call. Once we receive our call to adventure, a common first response is to deny it, tell ourselves we aren’t ready or aren’t good enough. We may try to convince ourselves that there is someone else much better for the job. However, after a good think and second thought, our minds our changed by another point of view and we accept our quest.
DEATH – This is the stage where we Cross the Threshold. After this, there is no going back. Our previous selves are left behind for good.
TEMPERANCE – I tend to see this card as the calm before the storm. It symbolizes uncharted territory, therefore we are going to be cautious. The figure here is not cannon-balling into the pool, just dipping its toe.
The Third Septenary
The Third Septenary contains all the juicy stuff. This is where it gets exciting! It is in these seven cards that we see the Initiation, Trials and Return of the Hero on his journey. This is the part of the adventure where we ascend and come into power.
THE DEVIL – Well, hello there inner demon! Here we confront the dragon, the big villain in our lives so it can no longer oppress us.
THE TOWER – It feels like our dragon has the upper hand. After experiencing such a crushing blow, our ego is rattled and we are not sure how we can ever recover.
THE STAR – But we DO recover! This card restores hope and is akin to a Rescue from Without in a Hero’s Journey.
THE MOON – I see the Moon as Crossing the Return Threshold. The Fool/Hero experiences some discomfort at this phase while they still sort out their new identity after experiencing adventure and defeating the villain. Until that is sorted out, the Hero may Refuse to Return to the Common World. They are not quite out of the darkness yet, so there is usually one last trial to confirm to themselves who they are now.
THE SUN – Victory! He who was once a Fool is now officially a Hero. Harmony has been restored and the individual now realizes their true power and potential.
JUDGEMENT – This is the phase of rebirth, ascension, apotheosis and/or atonement.
THE WORLD – In this stage the Hero returns to his old world renewed and complete. He has achieved a new sense of freedom.
Keep in mind, these are just my interpretations. Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or even constructive criticisms in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, consider watching the full replay of my Sacred Wisdom of Geek Culture Webinar linked below.