Salamander, Tarot and the Element of Fire #tarot #salamandersymbolism

salamander

Those of you who study Tarot will know that the image of the salamander appears on 3 cards of the Rider deck, all in the suit of wands – representing the element of fire. The salamander, though, is shown only on the “royalty” cards, and not on all 4.
Rider Page of Wands
In the Page of Wands, we see a young person contemplating the growth that is sprouting from his wand, which he holds like a staff, ready to embark upon a journey.  He wears a yellow tunic (symbolic of the 3rd chakra – the power center),  which is covered in salamanders curving toward circles. Under the tunic, the Page has on orange leggings, the same color as the lining of his cloak.

Rider Knight of Wands

The next card in the line of royalty, the Knight of Wands, depicts a knight riding a steed, presumably towards battle. Again, we see a yellow tunic with salamanders, some of which are now forming complete circles, connecting tails to heads. The figure has moved from the point of contemplation that we see in the Page card, to action. The color orange, symbolic of the 2nd, or sacral, chakra, appears on the steed, as well as in flaming plumes emerging from the Knight’s back and head.

The 2nd chakra is where we house the energy of creation, both sexual and artistic. From this energy center, which exists between our tailbone and our solar plexus, we give birth to our unique gifts. When our 2nd chakra is healthy, we  glow with the fire of creation. We have a healthy and satisfying sexual life, and are manifesting our innate creative gifts.

The salamander has long been considered the animal symbol of fire.  Some species of salamander, the type we associate with the elemental symbol of fire, are a bright orange. Often we see them appear in the woods, or upon our walking paths, after it has rained and the earth is still damp. These silent, harmless creatures, look like curls of flame on the forest floor, and we must watch our step carefully so as not to tread on them.

The lithe body of the salamander also evokes the element of fire with its ability to bend and twist with stealth-like ease as it crawls across the ground.  Its moist skin reminds us that fire often needs the element of water to temper its heat. When we have too much fire energy inside of us, we can literally feel a burning in our second chakra. Sometimes this burning is a call to put our creative gifts into action, sometimes it reminds us of a balance lost.  When an individual has suffered sexual abuse, or is sexually obsessed (which can be a side-effect of sexual abuse), the second chakra will often appear over-inflamed.

With the second chakra, as with any of our energy centers, it is always a question of finding that healthy balance. An over-expressed chakra can create havoc, while a stagnant chakra can lead to lethargy. In the case of the second chakra in particular, a loss of appetite for pleasure and a lack of vibrancy in one’s aura can result.

When I opened up my deck of Rider Tarot cards I was initially surprised to see that the image of the salamander appeared on the Page, Knight and King (image later in post) cards, but not on the Queen.

Rider Queen of Wands

Unlike in your average deck of cards, the King in Tarot does not “trump” the Queen card. In fact, I often find that the Queen cards symbolize a more balanced energy representative of the suit. In the Queen of Wands in the Rider deck, we find a woman/queen sitting on a throne with her legs relaxed and spread out to the sides. Her “relaxed” posture shows us that her 2nd chakra is unrestricted.

The animals featured in the card include the lion, fox, and cat. Two of the three lions are yellow, as is the robe and crown of the queen, symbolic of the 3rd charka, the seat of our inner power. The fox is red/orange, evoking the 1st and 2nd chakras – another indication of the comfortable, fearless aura of the queen. In her hands she holds her wand (in bloom) and a sunflower – a symbol of the birth of one’s creative and sexual self (the fertilized seed’s growth into a flower). Then there’s the black cat, sitting at her feet. When I was at Goddard College, I took a tarot workshop with Rachel Pollack, and I remember her telling us that she associates herself with the Queen of Wands card.

Once, when Pollack was giving tarot workshops overseas, a black cat suddenly appeared and sat at her feet while she spoke, then, just as quietly, left when she was finished. The cat, especially the black cat, is associated with feminine mystery and magic. One can’t help but feel the feminine and creative power of this card, yet it is not overwhelming or threatening.Rider King of Wands

Now, maybe it’s just me, but the figure in the King of Wands card looks a bit disgruntled, and dare I say a bit angry. Although he is seated, he looks as though he is getting ready to stand, his gaze turned toward an unknown source that may be troubling him. His left hand (the hand that held the sunflower in the Queen of Wands), is partially clenched and the arm is pulled back as though prepping to support the king to stand.

The element of fire is everywhere in the picture. The King’s hair is a red/orange, as is his dress. His yellow crown bares tips that look like flames, and the salamander has reappeared. Instead of a cat at his feet, we see a salamander off to the side. On the back of his throne, and on the outer layer of his cloak, there are salamanders curled into circles. One can’t help but think that the king has not only mastered this element, but perhaps has over-mastered it to the point where there is an imbalance, or too much heat, in the second chakra.

Twice in recent days, an orange salamander has appeared on my path. Its small, flame-like body reminding me to go within and assess the 2nd chakra energies that are calling for balance, for voice, and for healing. It’s a reminder that sometimes  we need a bit of fire to burn off the emotional element of water, and to spur our desires into action. My salamander, after all, came after rain.

The Ego

IMG_1104When I think of the ego, the Rider Tarot image of The Chariot comes to mind. That embodiment of masculine energy. In the card, we find a man sitting solidly on a throne in front of a background of civilization. He is a master of the mind, and the yellow energy of power colors the empty space surrounding him. Where will the chariot take him?

The obvious destination appears to be power. But power over what? The self? Society? What is the goal of the ego?

In tarot, there is a progression towards the ultimate union of masculine and feminine energies to achieve a weightless balance. Boundaries are blurred into an untethered soul who knows only the dance of divine truth. Can we get there without ego? Can we get there without all the cards that proceed it?

Perhaps. But, ego does have purpose. He drives us forward through that 3rd chakra. He gives us a path to voice. Notice the curtains of blue folded beside the figure, and the blue wings of truth balancing that yellow orb, opening like a book.

Ego moves us forward. He drives us. But at what cost? At some point we need to let go of the reins and allow power to give way to balance. To connection. It is not coincidental that the figure depicted on the tarot card is alone, his back turned toward society. The ego drives us forward, but it is a solo journey. Eventually, the heart will seek connection.

The ego wears armor, the untethered soul dances in the air of truth inside a shere of heart energy.