The first post in this series is available here.
The Major Arcana cards represent the biggest, deepest, most spiritually important aspects of our lives. But it can be hard sometimes to relate their energy and importance to bloodless words on a page.
Music helps with that, though. Music can connect us to the energy of the cards in a way words can’t. So here are my current picks for songs to represent each of the cards. This post covers cards 8-14.
As before, if you disagree with my choices or have alternate/better suggestions let me know in the comments!
*Note: This post is full of embedded videos. FYI.
Strength: You Gotta Be, Des’ree
No one gets every single thing they want, and sometimes hard work and dedication simply aren’t enough. It’s easy for our ego-driven Fool to become disillusioned when things don’t work out. However, it’s through those losses that the Fool learns Strength, the first of the three Virtues in the Major Arcana. Here the Fool begins to learn the strength of their own convictions and character, and how they apply to the larger world around them.
I had my choice of songs for this one, but eventually went with Des’ree’s You Gotta Be. What makes that song fit so well are the lines “Herald what your mother said, read the books your father read, try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time”. Strength doesn’t abandon what came before, it combines it with personal experience to build something more fitting and lasting. The song also focuses on many character traits instead of just brute strength or endurance, like the strength to be found in vulnerability. I’d really rather simply call this card “Character”, because that’s how I read it, but no one asked me (yet!).
Hermit: Crawling in the Dark, Hoobastank
At this point in the journey, the Fool has learned everything they need to successfully navigate the material world. Most folks seem to stop their spiritual development at the Strength card, in fact, and have no interest in going any further. But our Fool senses that something’s missing. Why are we the way we are, and why does the world function as it does? The Fool is starting to ask probing questions and look for deeper truths. These questions aren’t exactly light topics, and the Fool may be surprised at how quickly questions alienate them from the people they thought they knew. That’s fine, though – a period of seclusion reduces distractions, and the Fool appreciates that as they dedicate themselves to finding answers.
While Hoobastank isn’t normally a group I’d turn to for meaningful lyrics, and the vibe of the song certainly isn’t the more ethereal one I associate with the Hermit, Crawling in the Dark undeniably captures the essence of this card. “Show me what it’s for, make me understand it! I’ve been crawling in the dark looking for the answer. Is there something more than what I’ve been handed? I’ve been crawling in the dark looking for the answer.” Me too, Hoobastank. Me too.
Wheel of Fortune: Where Are We Going From Here, Blackmore’s Night
The Wheel of Fortune can be a challenging card to read. I follow a goddess of transition and fate symbolized by wheels, though, so for me this is very much a card signifying a leap of faith. I think it’s appropriate that the Fool is card 0 and this is card 10 – they feel like mirrors of each other. Except by the time the Fool encounters the Wheel they have some experience under their belt. They’re no longer clueless Moana setting off on an adventure they can’t comprehend. They’ve survived enough to know what adventuring means while still appreciating that they’ve still got a long way to travel – they’re not even halfway through the journey. And while it might be tempting to quit, the Fool still thinks there’s something more meaningful at the end of the road. They just have to get there.
There are many songs that play with the idea of cycles and change, but few do it with the contemplative grace of Blackmore’s Night. “We’re all on this road, miles to go, braving new pathways into the unknown/But who do you ask, when no one really knows, where are we going from here?”. When this card appears I answer with “the Powers – let Them guide you”. This is the first card where I think the Fool really grapples with the idea that there are Powers out there beyond human understanding, that can provide assistance along the way if only we take a leap of faith and ask.
Justice: Beds Are Burning, Midnight Oil
Justice is the second Virtue card of the Major Arcana. The Fool has just taken their first spin on the Wheel and now they’re pausing to consider cause and effect. While the Wheel was the first place the Fool encountered the Powers, Justice is the first place the Fool encounters universal laws. They begin to see their actions as part of a larger world, developing concepts of “fairness” and “balance” they maybe didn’t have before. I always think of college freshmen when I see this card, encountering ideas of intersectionality for perhaps the first time and wondering why the whole world doesn’t work for everyone equally. It should, right? Right?
Any number of social justice anthems could be used here, but I went with Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil. An Australian protest song, it advocates giving land back to the Aboriginal people who were forcibly relocated to settlements by the government. What clinched the choice for me was the chorus: “The time has come to say fair’s fair/To pay the rent, now, to pay our share!”. Seeking justice for the oppressed even if it’s against their own self-interest is a turning point for our young Fool on their journey that deserves a moment of reverence. What better for that than a rock song?
The Hanged Man: The Hanging Tree, Jennifer Lawrence
The Hanged Man is another of those cards that can be challenging to read. In this card the Fool encounters their personal “cross”, a situation or experience that threatens to break them. None of the skills they’ve learned thus far can help them carry the burden of it, so they have to submit to it instead. In so doing they learn that things will work as they should if we simply let them. As the Hanged Man is hanging upside down, so too do we take what we think we know and turn it on its head. What can we learn, and where can we go, if we focus on inner growth instead of outward measures of success?
This song – The Hanging Tree from the Mockingjay movie – is creepy in the extreme, and the “hanging” in the title isn’t even why I chose this song. On the one hand, we have the song itself, where the narrator is asking his love to join him in death so they can both be free. He even refers to a noose as a “necklace of hope”. I love the way that plays with the idea of sacrifice embedded in this card while flipping expectations. I also appreciate how a simple story ballad about a murderer becomes, through the singer in a specific time and place, a song of rebellion against corruption and a battle cry for a better (living) future. How’s that for turning something on its head?
Death: Dust in the Wind, Kansas
Having gained wisdom in the last card, the Fool is now prepared to cut out the aspects of self that hinder future growth. By the time our Fool finishes this stage they’ll have an easier time moving forward. Like a forest fire, it clears out old tangled growth to make room for a whole new life. Death is a card of transition and change, and with practice we realize that we’re always in the realm of this card. Consistent self-improvement leaves us no other choice.
The best song I’ve found for Death is Dust in the Wind by Kansas. A song that speaks of impermanence and transition, it perfectly encapsulates the idea that everything eventually passes. Even the most entrenched habits we despair of mastering. We just have to keep chipping away at them.
Temperance: Sober, Kelly Clarkson
Temperance is the third Virtue card of the Major Arcana, and like Strength and Justice is also about balance. There have been substantial changes in the Fool by now, and a new equilibrium needs to be established before further progress can be made. Think of a sword that’s been heated and beaten over and over – it requires plunging in cool water to harden the metal and temper the blade. Temperance literally tempers us, or allows us the space to temper ourselves, to make sure that we’re strong enough to handle the rest of the journey. After all, the most challenging bits that still lie ahead.
Kelly Clarkson’s Sober is a perfect fit for Temperance. The imagery even works! After realizing “nothing’s real until you let go completely” with the Hanged Man, and “picking your weeds but keeping your flowers” with Death, we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel when we realize that “we might catch a glimpse” of who we’re growing into. And while we could backslide, and need to repeat the lessons we’d thought we’d learned, we know that it’s more important to do it right than to try to rush it and lose our way.
The third and final post is available here.