XVIII – St. Mary – The Moon

This is the card that originally got me going on a study of this entire deck. Someone on a forum was complaining about how she thought that Mary, the mother of Jesus, should be on The Empress card and Robert Place was all wrong. I went to examine things a little closer and here I am over three years later, writing up my impressions of the last four cards.

From 2005, quite a while ago, are some thoughts I posted in that forum mixed in with my current thoughts.

Specifying that a motherly archetype like The Empress has to be a mother to know nurturing and birth is not supportable–there are many childless people who are mothers and fathers in spirit to others in the world, some religious, some not. It is an arbitrary specification for The Empress to be a mother, so not viable to restrict the archetype to those who have physically given birth. [Note: As I discuss for The Empress card and told this woman on that forum, St. Helena WAS a mother; the whole impetus for being declared Empress by her son Constantine was that she was his mother.]

In this deck, Jesus is the Sun, and as a reflection of that, his mother Mary naturally fits the role of The Moon. There is a bit of illusion and mystery to Mary, not only in regard to the Immaculate Conception but in regard to the way her mystique nearly took over from Jesus in worship. I used to find the cult of Mary rather distasteful, because I assumed it replaced veneration for God, which is often the Protestant view of the Saints come to think of it, and probably where my attitude developed, being a Protestant. The Church worried about the cult of Mary as well in the early days which surprised me. At one point I think the Church banned her likeness because devotion to her usurped the classic place of Jesus.

I have come to understand Mary’s allure. Thinking historically, nuns and priests who voluntarily left their families and remained celibate and without children, needed a mother figure for comfort. I’m sure it’s easy to see why Mother could usurp the place of a torn and tormented saviour. After my own mother died I finally got it, I understood how men and women would need a mother figure and how she was not a replacement, but more of a bridge, an intermediary. The Queen of Heaven is approachable, like your own mother would be perhaps if you were afraid to tell your Dad something.

If you look at the history of other deities, they often encompass the idea of Mary. I am thinking specifically of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy and compassion who started out as a male Indian deity and gradually changed into our current concept of her, with discernible acknowledgement historically to Mary, the Mother of Christ in Western traditions. Indeed, Robert Place mentions that titles attributed to ancient goddesses like “Lady” or “Queen” or “Mother” became associated with Mary. Another example of how the people morphed pagan ritual into Christianity.

Emotion, intuition, the nurturing qualities of the female, worry about family (and this woman must have worried herself sick about her children.) Deep spirituality is the Moon, and psychic premonition and the deception of others. Fears, dreams, daydreams, I like the connection to motherhood via the Moon.

There is a darker side to being the mother of a saviour to the world, the fear and worry which this highlights. Mothers are often given credit for intuition and “knowing” when their children are in trouble or something’s not right. She knew of Jesus’ inevitable death and the danger to her other children from political and religious factions. Deep, mysterious motherhood and the mental and emotional umbilical cord it carries, is much like the Moon archetype. The ghostly sadness of clouds drifting across the Moon, the deep paths of the soul who bears that knowing sadness all her life, howling into the night.

On this card, she radiates love and the grace and forgiveness of God. I like the way Place has beams of light coming from her hands, radiating out to the world. Unconditional love plus night and rest with the peace of forgiveness and understanding. Many people in Medieval times viewed her as a living presence or emanation from God, as do some people today. I was interested to see that her main feast day is January 1st, which was my mother’s birthday. She is described as the Queen of Heaven in Revelations 12:1, standing on the moon with twelve stars crowning her and clothed with the sun, as in the symbolism that Robert Place drew. See, even in the bible she is clothed with the sun/son, a reflection of Jesus on The Sun card in this deck. She is perfect for The Moon card.

She had a dark path did she not? This poor mother, knowing and carrying the cold secret of her son’s birthright all her life, the ultimate mystery.

As you might expect, there are many depictions of Mary in art. I particularly like depictions of the Annunciation in Medieval manuscripts as they are often very elaborate with beautiful borders and flora with gold highlights. She is on several of my cards, both in her motherly aspect from stories of Christ, and as a child with her own mother St. Anne. I like that aspect too as it indicates the nurturing she herself experienced.