Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: Strength

On our voyage through tarot’s major arcana cards, exploring the meaning of each card through the lens of a quote from Doctor Who, we have reached card number 8, Strength.

Strength, in the sense of this tarot card, is not about the sort of physical strength that allows you to bench 200 lbs or win an arm-wrestling contest. The Rider-Waite-Smith card shows a person taming a lion, which is often interpreted to mean using inner strength to combat our wilder, more primitive urges. I tend to read it as being about compassion and courage, which ties in perfectly to this quote going way back to the Third Doctor: “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.”

I love this interpretation of Strength. It’s very personal, more about discipline and self-control than overpowering someone. I’ve read that while the Chariot signifies outer strength and determination, Strength, the card that follows, speaks to inner strength, stamina and persistence. When I see this card come up in a reading, I feel like I can hear the Universe whispering confidence into my ear: “You’ve got this!”

The Doctor is strong in this way. They aren’t particularly fit or physically impressive, but they don’t cower in the face of monsters much larger, much stronger, or much more physically intimidating. The Doctor uses courage, compassion and their wits to overcome their opponents or adversity, not physical strength.

What do you think of this reading of Strength? Are you in control of your inner beast, of the darkness within?

In the next post of #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, we’ll look deep within and examine The Hermit.

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Chariot

In today’s journey through the major arcana as illustrated by quotes from Doctor Who, we’ve reached The Chariot, a card about agency, willpower, and self-determination.

I’m personally invested in this card as it is my birth year card – which probably explains my life-long control issues. 🙂 The Chariot is about action through harnessing the divergent forces in your life (intellect vs emotion, work vs play, ego vs others, etc) and mastering the energy so that it’s working for you instead of against you.

Sometimes, though, you need to do a little fake-it-’til-you-make-it to get yourself moving in the right direction, and that’s why I chose this quote from Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor: “Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!” You don’t need to be an expert, you don’t need to be 100% sure it’s the right path or the right plan, sometimes you just need to gather the reins and your wits and move.

Taking another pop culture spin on this card, have you read or seen Good Omens? There’s a scene where Crowley the demon is holding together his vintage Bentley through sheer force of will. The tires have melted on the rims, the doors have been blown apart, and it’s on fire, but it’s still together by the sheer force of Crowley’s will. There’s a lot of the Chariot in that, too – the idea of mastering both your internal impulses and the external forces around you by strength of will and self-control.

When the Chariot comes up, it’s time for action. Grab those reins and get yourself in motion, and trust that the plan will fall into place when you need it.

Next up on #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes is card number 8 of the major arcana, Strength.

Doctor Who and the major arcana: The Lovers

It’s a new year, a Hierophant year. Happy new year to you all!

We’re now six cards in to #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, our voyage through the tarot cards, linking up wisdom gleaned from Doctor Who quotes with each card of the major arcana.

If you subscribe the major arcana as the Fool’s Journey, the Lovers represents the spot where the Fool takes the what they learned from family (parental figures of the Emperor and Empress) and structured education and community (the Hierophant) and moves off to begin their own life. The Lovers represents on the surface romantic love and life partnership, but it also has a traditional meaning of choice: the Fool comes to a place where they must choose between the family that raised them and beginning a new family.

You can see a shadow of this choice in the appearance of most of the companions in the “new” Doctor Who (Doctors 9 through 13) where a companion must choose between an exciting new adventure with the Doctor, or the structures and traditions of the life they’ve always known.

Of course, there’s plenty of romantic love in Doctor Who, too. This collage from BBC America for Valentine’s Day in 2018 shows just a few of the iconic couples that have been featured over the years.

Image courtesy of @BBCDoctorWho on Twitter

For the purposes of today’s quote from Doctor Who, I’ve chosen to go with the romantic love and partnership aspect of The Lovers, and this quote from David Tennant’s 10th Doctor from the episode Fear Her: “There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”

I listen to the Doctor Who podcast Verity quite a bit (highly recommended if you’re a Whovian) and in a recent episode they were discussing whether any hanky-panky takes place in the TARDIS. Opinions were starkly divided – some of the hosts said absolutely and some said absolutely not. One thing I really appreciate about Doctor Who is how it covers the wide range of loving relationships, from straight and gay and cross-species romance to family relationships and the often quirky relationships the Doctor has with their companions. Contrast the sparks of sexual energy between Rose and Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor to the filial love of the Thirteenth Doctor for her “fam”. (I’m still learning to be conversant in classic Who, but I’m working on it!) There’s a lot of love to love. 🙂

As always, I’d love to hear what you think about how I’ve connected the major arcana to this quote from series, and whether you’re enjoying this project. Next stop is the Chariot!

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Hierophant

We are nearly on the eve of a new year. 2021 is a Hierophant year: 2+0+2+1=5. There are lessons to be learned in the coming year. Are you ready to learn them?

To find a quote representative of the Hierophant, the fifth major arcana in my ongoing #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes project, I’ve gone way back to the beginning, to the First Doctor and the very first season of Doctor Who: “As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”

The Hierophant is a complicated card, one of the more challenging ones for me when it comes up in a reading. It’s about teaching and mentorship, traditionally from the perspective of spiritual learning, rituals, conformity and tradition. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the First Doctor of all the Doctors was perhaps most like the traditional reading of the Hierophant: a teacher who keeps slightly separated from others, they are the keeper of knowledge, and share it at their prerogative.

I tend to favour a reading of the Hierophant that focuses more on learning as something we do throughout our lives, especially as it relates to community and society, and about establishing a spiritual practice that helps us to be mindful. The Doctor, an alien time lord who is centuries old (or millennia, depending on where you pick up the story,) may begin as an authoritarian source of knowledge and wisdom, but you can see them evolve as they learn from their companions over the years. And, as the Doctor learns from the experiences shared with their companions, so the companions do, too.

On the Fool’s journey, as we move from the structure and rigidity of the Emperor’s worldly domain, the Hierophant encourages us to work with a mentor or spiritual leader to begin to develop our belief systems. We need to rely on others on our journey, as the First Doctor observed, to learn about each other so we can learn about ourselves.

What will the Hierophant mean for us in 2021? I think it will start with looking and reaching outward, towards others, in community and society. We should focus on what we can learn from others, and on empathy and compassion, and learning and growing. Mindfulness will help us act for the greater good, not just to satisfy self-serving impulses.

Speaking of focusing on others, the next stop on our journey through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes is the Lovers. Meanwhile, I’m always curious what you think: does this Doctor Who quote illustrate your understanding of the Hierophant? Like I said, this is a challenging card for me, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Emperor

On today’s stop in the journey through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, the major arcana as framed by quotes from Doctor Who, we’ve reached the Emperor. The Emperor is our card of authority, of order, of leadership and structure. Did you know that we’re in the waning days of an Emperor year? It may have seemed a chaotic one, but think of the conflict around exertion of control through the rules and lockdowns put in place by governments, and (at least here in Canada) how the government has stepped in to also protect those most at risk. It has been a year exemplified by the struggle for societal order to contain the perils of the “natural” world – in this case, the spreading virus.

To illustrate the Emperor’s bold leadership style, I’ve selected a quote that was uttered by two Doctors, and echoed by a third. In the 50th anniversary special, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor responds to Clara’s question about his name being a promise. He says, “Never cruel or cowardly.” The War Doctor adds, “Never give up. Never give in.” And then, several seasons later, the Twelfth Doctor echos the sentiment in the farewell speech I quoted last week: “Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never ever eat pears!” I almost wanted to invert the posting of these two quotes, because I think the fuller one I chose to represent the Empress shows an evolution in the Doctor, as he goes from the patriarchal nature of the Tenth and War Doctors’ quote to the more nuanced consideration in the Twelfth Doctor’s speech.

In a lot of ways, the Doctor is like the Emperor. A natural and powerful leader, he encourages you, like the Emperor, to stand up for what is right, to assert leadership and respect order (as it applies to timelines, at least.) He is a defender to those without power, asking loyalty in return. Of course, the Doctor has a wildly chaotic side – the Emperor would probably not condone stealing a TARDIS for a joyride that lasts for millennia. And the later Doctors, in particular Twelve and Thirteen, have stepped away from the bombastic universe-leading president-of-the-world style to a more quiet, behind-the-scenes enabler, so the humans (and others) can save themselves with the Doctor’s benevolent mentoring. But that, too, is a powerful form of leadership.

As a bonus, I found this illustration on Reddit by Redditor jpw3bb – a beautiful render of this quote in Gallifreyan.

Illustration by redditor jpw3bb

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts. Is the quote “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.” evocative of the Emperor for you? Why or why not?