The Fool’s Playlist – Exploring the Major Arcana Through Music (15-21)

The first post in this series is available here, and the second 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 15-21.

As before, if you disagree with my choices or have alternate/better suggestions let me know in the comments!

Devil:  Hotel California, Eagles

The Fool coming out of Temperance is feeling pretty stable, right? They’re secure in their new sense of self and ready to continue moving forward. Now that they’ve cleared out the more obvious issues, though, underlying toxic behavioral patterns suddenly stand out in stark relief. These can include serious addictions, but can just as easily be things like codependency, self-doubt, insecurity, ignorance, hopelessness, and even imposter syndrome. The Devil card encapsulates all the many things we do to sabotage ourselves from moving forward.

I can never think of this card without thinking of the classic Hotel California by the Eagles. The singer is driving down the highway full of energy and direction, as we all are when we leave Temperance. Then he grows weary, as we all do, and wants to take a break. When we relax is when those underlying patterns spring up, seemingly out of nowhere, and hijack all of our hard work. Since the Death card the Fool has been exhuming parts of their past they’d rather not consider, and their devils offer them easy ways to avoid dealing with them. “How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat/Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”. Like with all of our devils, “we are all just prisoners here of our own device”. And the final lines? “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” It’s so easy to both know freedom rests in our hands and still feel trapped by our devils, to think we’re not good enough/strong enough to leave the personal prisons we’ve built. It’ll take something cataclysmic to prove us wrong.

Tower: Falling Down, Duran Duran

The Devil is a tenacious bastard. Gradual weaning away from our personal demons isn’t going to free us, not completely. The Fool needs a sudden change, a cataclysmic event, to finally shed those chains and rewrite these deepest of patterns.   Eventually, awareness and focused self-improvement will help mitigate Tower events, but they’ll never go away completely. It’s probably a good thing. We’d hate to get complacent.

I’ve never heard another song that so clearly gets the Tower. The art of the actual card shows us noblemen falling out of a Tower that’s been struck by lightning. In this song – Falling Down by Duran Duran – we hear what those noblemen might be thinking as they plummet to earth. What I love about this song is that the singer doesn’t yet understand why he’s falling. That’s true for most Tower events, I think. We rarely understand why our lives are crashing down around us until long after the fact. It takes distance and a completely changed perspective for us to look back and go “oh, of course that’s what triggered the Tower’s fall!”.

The Star: Lucky Star, Madonna

After the Tower falls the Fool stands blinking in the aftermath. The walls of ego that held them high but confined them to its limits are gone now, and the Fool can go wherever they like. But where might that be? Well, when all seems darkest, look for a light. The Star represents hope, a guiding light we can see and follow now that the Tower is out of the way. Our view of this beacon fills us with a child-like faith in the world and we’ll trustingly follow where it leads.

This is the song that actually kicked this whole project off. I was listening to an 80s playlist when it came on and the second verse snagged my attention. “You must be my lucky star, ’cause you make the darkness seem so far/And when I’m lost you’ll be my guide, I just turn around and you’re by my side”. That’s very much what the Star is – a guide out of the destruction of the Tower and into a more illuminated future, simply waiting for us to acknowledge it before it guides us onwards.

The Moon: – These Dreams, Heart

After the trials and travails of the last few cards, the hope and peace felt at the Star are like balms to the Fool’s senses. And the Fool, becoming drunk on them, enters the Moon. I think that’s where the Moon gets its Jekyll-and-Hyde reputation. On the one hand, it is very much a card of instinct and intuition. With our conscious minds quiet we can explore things we never would have been able to see otherwise, and the insights we get here can be as deep as they are revolutionary. It’s hard to navigate by moonlight, though, and what looks to be a monster might merely be a stately oak. Or vice versa. Our minds can play tricks on us here, and in the aftermath of everything the Fool has experienced of late they may be particularly vulnerable.

The dreamy and mysterious nature of the Moon card is perfectly captured by Heart’s These Dreams. We try to tell time on “a watch with no hands”, and “words that have no form are falling from [our] lips”. We clutch candles, but it’s hard to remember to do that when we’re “hiding away from the pain” we’ve endured over the last few cards. We may even want to live forever in a place where “our feet never touch the earth” and we can “walk without a cut through a stained-glass wall”, and the seduction of that makes staying in the realm of the illusory Moon tempting indeed.

The Sun: Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles

The lure of the Moon is strong, but eventually morning does come. It’s time to let a little sunshine in! The bright light of the Sun shreds the illusions of the Moon, showing the Fool that their deepest and darkest places really aren’t that deep or dark. They can finally banish the shadows, accepting that they’re worthy of all the love and joy they can possibly find. The Sun allows them to see the world as the beautiful, happy place it can be, and they understand that it can always be this way if they would only get out of their own way.

Once we see the meanings for this card there’s really only one choice for the song, isn’t there? The Beatles perfectly nailed the energy of the Sun with “Here Comes the Sun”, cheerily assuring us that while it’s been dark and hard up to now, smiles are returning and ice is melting. When the Sun appears, everything really is all right.

Judgment: Killing Me Softly, The Fugees

After traversing the three Celestial cards the Fool is ready to tackle the rest of the journey. And really, the only thing left at this point is looking back over where they’ve been thus far. There’s an element of analysis to this card that’s similar to what we see with Justice, but we’re now far beyond ideas of simple cause and effect. It’s not about fairness anymore, it’s about progress. From here the Fool can see what they did, acknowledge how it affected others, do their very best to make amends to everyone affected (including themselves), and endeavor to do better on the next go-round.

 

The song for Judgment is Killing Me Softly by the Fugees. (The older version works too, of course, but I like this one.) The singer in this song is listening to what seems like their life coming from a stage. That’s how we have to approach this card – as something we experience outside of ourselves and then handle to the very best of our abilities. The process can be profoundly uncomfortable, but once we’ve done it we’re ready to leave it all behind and embrace our new future.

The World: On Top of the World, Imagine Dragons

Now that our Fool has finished processing they’ve completed the Fool’s Journey. This piece of it, anyway! They know that there are more journeys in their future and that the call to set out on a new adventure will soon become too strong to resist. They also know that, just like before, they’ll rush off half-cocked to start the whole cycle again. That’s for tomorrow, though. Today is for celebrating and appreciating the view from where they stand. It’s pretty damn spectacular!

The song for this final card is On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons. The Fool has crossed the highest mountains and deepest rivers, paying their dues, all the while dreaming of being where they are right now – on top of the world.

 

And that completes the Fool’s Playlist! May it provide inspiration and solace on your  next journey!

 

The Fool’s Playlist – Exploring the Major Arcana Through Music (8-14)

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.

 

The Fool’s Playlist – Exploring the Major Arcana Through Music (0-7)

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 0-7.

Disagree or have alternate/better suggestions? Hit me up in the comments and let me know! I’d love to see!

*Note: This post is full of embedded videos. FYI.

The Fool: How Far I’ll Go, Moana

I find that the Fool’s Journey as a concept really speaks to me, on both a Tarotic (is that even a word?) and spiritual level. With that being said it should be no surprise that the image of our brave Fool setting off on an adventure with just a knapsack of tools they can’t yet use and maybe a small dog for company resonates strongly, too. Hell, make the knapsack the size of a small car and I LIVE this life, small dog included!

The song that immediately came to mind for this card is How Far I’ll Go from Moana. Moana is called to seek something more than she knows, so she sets off to find it. In a boat she can’t sail. With no water, no provisions, and no plan. But she does it anyway, because settling for the life she knows is scarier than the unknown. Her companion here is a little pig, but it’s close enough to the little dog of the Fool card to count!

The Magician: Razzle Dazzle, Chicago

The first two people the Fool meets on their journey are the Magician and the High Priestess. They exist only in balance to each other, so definitely come as an equal pair. The Magician is the card of the tangible and material, the part of the world we can sense and affect with our conscious minds. On the one hand, the Magician can seem awesomely powerful. He knows what all the tools in the Fool’s knapsack can do, and he knows how to use them well. He’s got charisma and flair to spare, but sometimes it’s hard to see what’s really there and what’s just smoke and illusion.

What better song is there for this than Razzle Dazzle from Chicago? The singer is a highly successful lawyer who delivers on what he promises, but he does it by creating such a spectacle that people focus on his creations instead of the truth. He’s undeniably skilled in the ways of the world but not necessarily ethical, and that flexibility is part of his power.

The High Priestess: Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac

Where the Magician represents the physical world, the High Priestess represents the hidden depths of our unconscious minds, our individual potential that has yet to meet a catalyst for manifestation. As such she is a confounding, mysterious figure. She doles out our inner truths in riddle and rhyme, and often it’s only later that we understand what she was telling us. If we’re lucky we’ll figure it out before we need it, but that is in no way guaranteed.

I debated a few songs for this one, but eventually settled on Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. The lines that clinched it for me were “she’s like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness; she rules her life like a fine skylark and when the sky is starless”. She’s a mystery and an enigma, everything and nothing all at once, and mystery is where she gets her power.

The Empress: In My Arms, Plumb

As the Fool starts interacting with the world the Empress is usually the first “other” to impinge on their awareness. My relationship with the Empress is surprisingly complex, and I find that her meaning shifts for me quite a bit as I read. At her core, though, she’s the quintessential mother of the Tarot, often depicted in burgeoning fields with a babe at her breast and a shield at her side.

I wanted a song that captured both the love and the fierceness of this card, and I found it in Plumb’s In My Arms. She talks about the joys and pains of motherhood, knowing that she’s doing everything she can to keep her child safe while acknowledging that eventually that won’t be enough. She’ll always be a rock to cling to, though, and a safe space, and if that’s not the essence of this card I don’t know what is.

The Emperor: March of Cambreadth, Alexander James Adams (as Heather Alexander)

If the Empress is the loving mother of the Tarot, the Emperor is certainly the stern father. This is a card of top-down authority, dominance, and law and order. While the Empress is focused on her child first and foremost, the Emperor is focused on the whole of those for whom he is responsible (family, tribe, even nation). Individual happiness within that group is great but not required. He protects his people from anything that could be seen as a threat with swift and decisive action. In return he expects obedience. After all, hasn’t he demonstrated over and over again that father knows best?

I see him as a very black and white thinker, with a streak of ruthlessness that can’t be denied. If he can’t cajole things into going his way he’ll damn straight make them. Which is why this song is such a great fit. It’s a call to battle, tribe against tribe, where “us” vs “them” thinking is paramount and top-down authority must be heeded to prevent disaster.

The Hierophant: Tradition, Fiddler on the Roof

And now we’re at the Hierophant! The teacher, the sage, the guide, he who guards tradition like treasure and upon whom the continuation of society rests. The Hierophant represents both the underlying worldview and the formal education the Fool encounters when they first venture from their family unit into the wider world. He also represents faith and mystery traditions both. Anything that is passed on from generation to generation eventually falls into the Hierophant’s realm.

He too is very much about the whole over the parts, but while the Emperor comes at it from a familial or even tribal place the Hierophant thinks of the soul and society. He’s usually represented as a Pope-like figure for just that reason. The song I chose for this card is more Jewish than Catholic, but I think the meaning shines through clearly enough regardless!

The Lovers: Take Me to Church, Hozier

The Lovers is a surprisingly difficult card to find music for. There are a billion love songs out there (and I’m probably low-balling that number), but the Lovers isn’t just any love affair. The Lovers is where the Fool reaches for that which completes or complements them on a soul level (sometimes a person, sometimes not).  It’s one soul finding another, or us finding pieces of ourselves. It’s soulmates and alchemical weddings and keys fitting locks, not giggly crushes and bubblegum. Claiming what we yearn for also requires us to critically assess what we’ve learned from our elders, weighing the values we’ve been taught against the values we’re now mature enough to choose and prioritize for ourselves. That’s a lot to put into one song!

Thinking of the Fool’s Journey, though, brought this card’s song into sharp relief for me. Especially as we’re coming out of the Hierophant! Hozier’s Take Me to Church is a direct rebuke to the traditions and norms that would keep the Fool away from that which fits them best, a rebellion of the purest kind, and as such is the best fit here.

I normally try to choose lyric versions of songs for this, but it would be a crime not to showcase Sergei Polunin’s dance to this song. So here it is, in all it’s amazing glory.

The Chariot: – Lose Yourself, Eminem

The Chariot is the ultimate card for setting your own course and charting your own way. Wishy-washy people who don’t know what they want can never hope to master the Chariot. It takes will, dedication, and tenacity to keep the horses moving together so we can reach our goals. This is the ego of the adult Fool, strong enough to persevere and triumph over the world around them.

There was really only song to choose for this. It even has a driving beat that sounds kind of like hoofbeats! Eminem’s Lose Yourself is about pursuing our goals – whatever they are – with everything we’ve got. When we enter a zone where failure ceases to be an option we’re touching the essence of this card.

 

Want more? Click here for the next set!