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Kathleen Meadows

Da Vinci Code and the Tarot

May 25, 2006 | Comment icon 0 comments
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The western world is all agog about Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code especially now that the movie has been officially released. Already attracting the largest audience upon its opening weekend, the book and the movie is based upon the premise that Mary of Magdalene is Jesus Christ's life partner, and survived him, pregnant with a female child. This child is the ancestor of the many generations leading down to a present day woman who is a main character in the story. This article will not focus on the obvious reasons for the controversy Brown has instigated, but rather why the Tarot gets mention at all in Dan Brown's book. It's also intriguing that the movie failed to note this reference in the book!

On P. 98 of the Da Vinci Code paperback edition, Langdon asks Sophie, “The pentacle has meaning to you?” “Yes. I didn't get a chance to tell you, but the pentacle was a special symbol between my grandfather and me when I was growing up. We used to play Tarot cards for fun, and my indicator card always turned out to be from the suit of pentacles. I'm sure he stacked the deck, but pentacles got to be our little joke.”Langdon felt a chill. They played Tarot? The medieval Italian card game was so replete with hidden heretical symbolism that Langdon had dedicated an entire chapter in his new manuscript to the Tarot. The game's twenty-two cards bore names like The Female Pope, The Empress, and The Star. Originally, Tarot had been devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned by the Church. Now, Tarot's mystical qualities were passed on by modern fortune-tellers.The Tarot indicator suit for feminine divinity is pentacles, Langdon thought, realizing that if Sauniere had been stacking his granddaughter's deck for fun, pentacles was an apropos inside joke.”

The Tarot, magical, archetypal and replete with symbolism, points to a path to enlightenment, self-actualization, and as Jung would name, “individuation”. The Tarot's core premise is that in order to reach an enlightened state of being, whereby you access your true and authentic self, and manifest this SOUL/SELF into the world, you must reconcile, integrate, and embrace the opposites within your psyche. These opposites are comprised of your light and shadow qualities, your female and masculine energies, and your spiritual and material aspirations. In the Tarot, The High Priestess (Number 2) represents the counterpart of the Magician (Number 1). She symbolizes the Chosen One and as a couple they signify the Divine Couple or Royal Pair. Whereas the Magician captures and transmits the divine impulse toward the unfolding of the universe, the High Priestess embodies the divine love that supports and nurtures this impulse. The medieval philosophers said of Sophia (the Feminine Face of God named by mystics and ultimately the entity the tarot is referencing in the High Priestess; and Dan Brown's main female character in his novel, is named also “Sophie”), “The wisdom of the father lies in the lap of the mother.” Sophia is God's reflection, and for this SELF reflection to occur, wisdom is crucial.Number 3 in the Tarot's Major Arcana is assigned to the Empress. She represents animated matter and stands for hope on the spiritual level, the possibility of spiritual awakening, and the capacity to adapt. The Empress points us to Aphrodite/Venus, A Goddess physically beautiful, and a wise judge and counsellor.
In The Da Vinci Code, Mary of Magdalene would signify the High Priestess (and indeed many say she came from a temple where she was a High Priestess) as a single woman. Once she met, partnered and became pregnant with Jesus's seed, she becomes the Empress. Jesus Christ and Mary of Magdalene together in the Last Supper painting present a picture of the divine marriage, in alchemy referred to as coniunctio symbolism. The coniuncctio in alchemy stems from the notion, that every soul is a composite of male and female, and only in the course of their decent do they separate into masculine and feminine souls. The descent of the supernal spirit is brought about by the holy union of the king and queen. This event is marked in the tarot by the Temperance card which is typically identified as the wedding card.The notion that Jesus and Mary were a couple is absolutely and simply logical based upon classic and ancient religious and esoteric writings (of which the tarot is one) that point to images and symbols of wholeness, completeness, life giving and affirming, strength and self actualization. That their union is fruitful is also in line with esoteric teachings. From two coming together into one, emerges a unique third, representing the divine child who will herald in a new day, glowing with a vision of the future that inspires optimism and hope. That the Mary and Jesus union brings forth a female child, corresponds to the last card in the Tarot majors, the World card. In the World or Universe tarot card, we see a woman dancing with joy and fulfillment in the centre of a wreath, a symbol of an abundant harvest, and earthly gifts from the Goddess and God.

The symbolism of the Tarot pervades the Da Vinci Code from the four Knights, who are the centre of the secret society charged to protect the Holy Grail, to the suits of which one is “pentacles”, and another is “cups” symbolizing the Holy Grail itself or chalice, to the imagery of a female deity. I have only barely scratched the surface of this fascinating connection between The Da Vinci Code and the Tarot. I was disappointed when the movie failed to even mention this relationship since its reference is so profound and pervasive. It is my sincerest hope that I have begun a process of investigation into this exciting, modern relevance of the tarot to classic mystical traditions, art, and story.

Kathleen Meadows, M.A.

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