In some oracle decks, you will find the odd card which points to balance. The Chronicles of Destiny (by Josephine and Emily Ellershaw) has one. So does Doreen Virtue’s Healing With the Angels, Toni Carmine Salerno’s Wisdom of the Golden Path and The Conscious Spirit Oracle Deck by Kim Dreyer. In the tarot, you’ll find more than just one though. Balance (and the falling out of it) is something which occurs again and again throughout the 78 cards.
So, what is balance?
Jasmine Tanjeloff (of Tiny Buddha) says ‘To me, it means that you have a handle on the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated’.
In many ways, all cards within the tarot suggest a desire for balance or describe a degree of imbalance. It is often their reversed position which tips them from one end of the scale to the other. When the 6 of Pentacles falls into a reading, we might be providing someone with too much support or, alternatively, are taking advantage of the support we are being offered by another. If we meet with The Fool, are we rushing into something carelessly or are we behaving too cautiously? A flip of position can adjust how we react to a situation but it doesn’t necessarily balance it. With this in mind, are many of the cards that we think concern balance actually balanced?
One of the most obvious displays of balance in tarot is Justice. In John Holland’s Psychic Tarot Oracle, he actually changes the traditional name of the card to Balance. What we witness within Justice is a search for the truth. You will notice that her scales are in harmony. When decisions are to be made, she weighs up the facts objectively and honestly, since the scales of Justice suggest fairness and equality. This representation should be free from prejudice, favor, greed or corruption – anything which may likely tip the scales. For some people, this card will turn up to suggest legal situations (and when upright, favourable results) but in most mundane reads, we are looking at a time where we are not hindered by bias, heresy, or selfishness. When you place something on the scales of Justice, you must be honest with your self. Are you acting for just yourself or for the good of everyone?
We might consider The Magician and Hierophant as being in a place of balance, since they stand between two worlds and work as a medium between both. Similarly, The Wheel of Fortune always turns, never suggesting any real preference or side taken. However, within the Major Arcana, there are only three more cards which really suggest balance to me. The Chariot is one, showing a control of two different energies, resulting in success. The man in the driver’s seat can only move forward if he can harness the opposing sphinxes, suggesting that neither must be favoured.
Temperance and The Lovers both suggest a combination of opposites too. The angel in Temperance is an alchemist, mixing the contents of two cups together to invent something new. The flowers in this card are named after Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbows. In some decks (notably the Albano Waite), a rainbow is actually shown. This is interesting because a rainbow needs both the sun (Fire) and rain (Water) for it to manifest.
Bringing two opposites together and maintaining balance can provide us with a basis for mundane interpretations within a reading. To be balanced in life, we might need to find a mix between home and work, leisure and study, or friends and family. Within The Lovers, we also bring two opposites together – that of gender (be that in two people or the roles within our self). This is also echoed within the 2 of Cups, where a relationship is born between two people, each with something to give. When upright, both bring something to the table in equal measure.
In terms of number, a sense of balance and harmony is suggested in all even numbers throughout the suits, most notable within the twos. Each has their own elemental tale of balance to tell – whether this translates as coping, multitasking, bouncing off of another person creatively, or weighing up ideas.
I believe that all tarot readings search for balance at their core. They reach for the kind of life suggested by Tanjeloff. Often, people are seduced by addictions, will become obsessed, are life’s givers or takers, fall into laziness, or will run them self into the ground. Every card within the tarot strives to bring us into a balanced state where we can see more clearly. Each provides its own lesson around balance and has a unique tale to tell.
How balanced are you right now? Why not pick a card and find out!
Illustration from The Rider Waite Tarot by Pamela Colman Smith