What do the mythological creatures on Tarot cards mean? What is the significance behind the creature and monster symbolism of the Tarot? What are the Tarot cards with magical animal symbols and their meanings?
On this final day of the Animals of Tarot series, I am going to explain some of the mythical animals on Tarot cards. Some of these symbols you may already be familiar with (such as The Sphinx) and others you possibly recognize but didn’t know the names for them.
There are two animals I am going to outline here which are not mythological; the snake and the jackal. The reason why I am explaining them in this section is because, in Tarot, they are supposed to represent beings from Greek and Egyptian mythology. Because they are Gods/demi Gods and not just regular animals, they appear here.
If you love this post, be sure to check out the other parts in this series:
Part III: The Meanings of Mythological Creatures on Tarot Cards (This Post)
The caduceus is an ancient symbol which features two snakes intertwined into a figure 8 around a staff topped by a set of wings. The symbol of the caduceus first made an appearance in human history around 4000-3000 BC. In Tarot, the caduceus appears on the 2 of Cups and is very rich in meaning.
The 2 of Cups is obviously a card of lovers, love and even soulmates. While the caduceus doesn’t necessarily represent soulmates, the individual symbolism which make up one does:
The Snakes - temptation and sexuality
Two Snakes - lovers intertwined
The 8 Figure - infinity, forever lasting
The Wings - a blessing from God, something holy
The Staff - magic and supernatural forces
There appears to be a chimera symbol on the Two of Cups, just above the Caduceus. A chimera usually makes up of 3 animals but - because you can only see it head on - you can just make out a lion and the wings.
In Greek mythology, chimeras are usually female. I am pretty sure that caduceus are male, so having one above the other may represent both the male and female aspects of spiritual love and soulmates.
Some people have theorized that the 3 animals within a chimera symbolizes time and a 3-part yearly calendar. Therefore, it is possible that the chimera on a 2 of Cups represents the ever lasting nature of a soulmate relationship.
Other than a chimera, it is possible that the lion and wings represents the winged lion; a symbol of Mark the Evangelist.
The dragon appears on the 7 of Cups and it looks are though it is slowly creeping out of one of the chalices. Dragons are very much like mermaids in that they appear in pretty much every culture all over the world. Although their meanings vary slightly depending on where you live, I am assuming that the dragon of Tarot will take on the European meanings and superstitions.
In Europe, dragons are associated with treasure. There is a belief that dragons locate and hoard riches, so if you find and kill a dragon you get to keep its wealth. Because of these myths, dragons can also be interpreted to represent hoarding and the discovery of lost objects.
Sometimes, dragons can also symbolize the triumph of good over evil, and stories of dragons are often told to highlight the power of bravery and doing the right thing. For example, in the legend of George and the dragon, the dragon demands a daily human sacrifice until St. George defeats and slays the monster.
The dragon on the 7 of Cups reflects the fact that the figure has many choices to make. They can choose between the riches of the dragon, or the other items in the cups (sex, power, property etc). This obviously can be interpreted as the seeker having to make difficult decisions.
The Jackal appears on The Wheel of Fortune, but it is not a jackal per say; it is supposed to represent the Egyptian God Anubis.
Anubis is highly associated with death. In fact, in divination and fortune-telling, jackals are generally associated with deaths and dying because they have a reputation for hanging around graveyards at night.
I think that Anubis appears on The Wheel of Fortune, because he is a symbol of death, which in itself is a symbol of fate. There is not one person who can escape death, just as one cannot escape fate and, therefore, he is an obvious addition to this card.
The Sphinx’s symbolic meaning of divinity and nobility is highlighted in the story of Thutmose IV. A young Thutmose one day fell asleep and dreamed that the sphinx spoke to him, promising him that, if he dug him out of the sand, he would become pharaoh (apparently, the sphinx was buried at the time). Thutmose did as he was instructed, and eventually went on to become a 18thdynasty king.
There is a snake slithering its way down The Wheel of Fortune. This, however, is no regular snake; it is supposed to represent the monster of Typhon from Greek Mythology. Typhon does not meet a fortunate ending; it is eventually defeated by Zeus and banished to Tartarus.
The presence of Typhon on The Wheel of Fortune is rather interesting, but a good way to look at it is that the creature can symbolize the misfortunate aspects of The Wheel of Fortune. Although the card is generally read quite favorably, it can also mean that your fortune is turning; if you are already going through a positive streak The Wheel can mean that this is about to change, especially in a more negative reading.
A tetramorph is a composite of four symbols. However, when symbolism experts discuss a tetramorph they speak of it as one.
Tetramorphs appear twice in Tarot; once in the corners of The Wheel of Fortune, and once in the corners of The World. These tetramorphs are suppose to represent the four authors of the Four Evangelists; Luke as the ox, john as the eagle, Mark as the lion and Matthew as the man.
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Cards used in this post are The Rider Waite Tarot deck.