in reading tarot cards it’s easy to take each card and dissect it on it’s own; or to think of it in the context of a reading with other cards; but there is an evolution and life cycle within the deck. i’ve heard the major arcana compared (eloquently so) to joseph campbell’s the hero’s journey, and this feels true to me. one of the things that i love about tarot growth or year cycles (adding up your birthday with the current year to find the corresponding card for the year that you are in) is that it really illustrates the evolution of the major arcana. it shows you how the cards progress and offer certain lessons before moving on to the next one.
most people go through growth cycles from 4/emporer up through 15/devil. you may begin a cycle with a 4/emporer year, moving through the next 8 years up to a 12/hanged man, and then begin a new cycle back down at 5/hierophant and run through to 12/hanged man, only to start over with a new cycle again. these are soul evolutions that cover your life. what you learn in each year informs your next year and your next cycle. the cards take you through learning about leadership & personal power (emporer); dogma & conformity (hierophant); relationships (lovers); control & will power (chariot); courage & confidence (strength); introspection & self-examination (hermit); luck & karma (wheel of fortune); cause & effect & responsibility (justice); addictions & self-care (hanged man); hitting bottom & starting over (death); spirituality & creativity (temperance) & bondage vs. passion (devil)- to name a few. those themes follow each other, one after the other. looking at growth year cycles it’s easy to see how the cards inform each other; and how you need to figure some things out before you can move on to the next card.
most people count growth years as birthday to birthday, but mary k. greer talks about growth years applying to both calendar and birthday years. she says that from january 1 to your birthday is an action period- a time where circumstances start to occur that require you to react. by the time your birthday happens- you are ready to internalize those circumstances and learn to process them and apply those lessons to your life. personally, i feel like there is an overlap period where the two cards (the card you began on your birthday, and the one that will begin on your next birthday) intersect. for example my birthday is in august, so i’m currently in a justice year, coming up on a hanged man year on my birthday in august. in the months between where the calendar year began (january) and my next birthday (august); i see new lessons come in that suggest the growth year ahead, but they are filtered through the lens of my current growth year.
for me, justice has been about facing myself. karmic lessons. getting my shit together. being a grown up. it has also been about looking at where i have made good choices and acknowledging that. as the hanged man year has come in, i’ve started to see how i run away: what things are addictive to me and how i struggle with that. through the lens of justice i can look at those things honestly; with a little maturity. i can look at how those things have served me in my life; which of them work and don’t work for me anymore. it’s been about noticing the things that continue to trigger me, and the ways in which i react to or avoid those things. the cause and effect aspect of justice combined with the need to surrender aspect of the hanged man means that the more i try to control things, the more out of control they get. i feel like once i reach my birthday and hanged man really begins, i will not be able to lie to myself anymore. from hanged man, i will move into a death year. i believe that whatever you do not face in hanged man will ultimately defeat you in your death year. so here is to accountability and self-care, to letting go of the struggle to control. here’s hoping i make it through the abyss.