The Tarot of Music

This summer, I had begun teaching piano lessons in my neighborhood. The community where I live has plenty of opportunities for kids to swim, go to the park, and play in the lake, but few options to get involved in the arts or entertainment.

Surprisingly, not a single piano teacher has been included in regional directories or websites, despite that piano teaching is a fairly common way to bring in some extra cash in many communities, all over the world.

Oddly enough, as my attention shifted from international intuitive consulting to local piano lessons, my chat and phone requests for tarot consultations began to drop off. If transitioning to piano teaching represented a huge increase in finances, I could understand the karma.

However; neither profession has been adequate to pay the bills, and my goals were to increase both options for work; not to shift from one meager living to a similarly meager living in a different field.

Fortunately I have extensive training in music, from many years ago, and my credentials include a college degree in music as well as a lineage in the piano which extends back to my great-grandfather! I have been aware of a connection between music and the tarot, as I learned the cards as an extension of the manual dexterity exercises that I mastered as a pianist.

As I researched the connection, I became aware that western music transitioned from simple Gregorian chant to advanced harmony around the same time that the first Trionfi decks added a major arcana to four-suit card games, during the Italian Renaissance.

However, as I searched for correspondences between music and tarot, there was little available save for a reference to writings by 20th century occultist Paul Foster Case, who apparently assigned musical tones to the Major Arcana.

Since there are a maximum of 12 musical tones (or 17 to 21 individual notes if we include, for example, both G flat and F sharp as separate notes, and exotic or theoretical notes such as E sharp) the number of standard major arcana exceeds the number of individual notes.

Paul Case chose to assign the same note to several different cards, for example High Priestess, Hanged Man, and Temperance are all assigned to G# whereas the only card assigned to A# is the Wheel of Fortune.

Although I’m sure there is logic and reason behind Paul Foster Case’s correspondences between the major arcana of he tarot and musical tones, like many occult major arcana interpretations, I’ll just accept his offerings without undue concern and not attempt to explain it to clients whose interests are often more about how the card interpretations may relate to ” real life ” questions and concerns.

However this may be, my feeling as a person of musical background is that the individual tones may have been very profound in ancient times when they were first established, and very likely from a standpoint of physics, sound waves and the harmonic vibrations of various elements.

For most of the public who listen to music, however, the power of the medium is really much more basic. We remember the song that was playing when we fell in love, but not necessarily the key signature. We remember whether we were listening to guitar or drums, and the words to a song.
This, for me, is a powerful correspondence which has not been served by musical tones and major arcana.

I began to wonder if, since there was not an existing workable system of musical correspondences, perhaps I should come up with one myself? And, in a frenzied evening of inspiration, this is exactly what I did.

What I am finding, as I post the various cards and correspondences, is that people are interested music and tarot correspondences, based on the first few examples that I posted:

The fool

symbolizes youth, folly and the adventure that life brings to the young. He is the rebirth of life and his traditional instrument is the funereal bagpipe, to which he is attached like a baby to an umbilical cord which connects to the placenta of his knapsack.
His contemporary instrument is the saxophone, the sensual relationship of his parents, from whence he was conceived. The instrument is not of his own, nor does he understand how to play it. It’s the only a dim memory from the last cycle which precede his birth or rebirth.

The magician

symbolizes transition beyond youthful folly. He is the development of skills, personality and abilities. His tools, laid out on the table before him, are simple. His strength is within himself and his personal development, and not in the workings of complicated machinery.
Unlike the fool, he is knowledgeable in magic and capable in the rhythms of his craft. His instruments are hand-held percussion; traditional finger cymbals, tambourine and hand drums. His contemporary instruments include castanets, maracas and the wood block.

The priestess
is the first of four archetypal human figures. She symbolizes feminine connection to the divine and soaring flights to upper realms of heaven. She is the girl priestess, the virgin, the temple prostitute, the Sibylline crone and her sounds reach up to the highest pitches.

Her instrument is the violin of the string quartet and her voice, like the three other archetypes, speaks through an instrument which closely resembles the human body and with a voice which emanates through the vibration of strings, much like human vocal chords.

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The remainder of the correspondences is currently only in schematic notes in a private notebook at this time, although I may publish them as I write. ”