Explore The Different Tarot Archetypes (Shadow and Light aspects)
Last Updated: December 15, 2022
There are many different tarot archetype themes that you will find in the Rider Waite Smith deck. Each archetype has its own unique theme and story. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common tarot archetypes and what they mean for your readings.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced tarot reader, understanding these archetype themes can help you better interpret the cards and their meanings.
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What are the archetypes in Tarot?
An archetype is a very typical example of an object, person or situation. In tarot, archetypes are characters or events that are used to tell a story and express various themes such as love, power, justice, protection, healing etc. An example archetype in high school is The Librarian or the Book Geek, in tarot this could be The Hermit, we’d have the Jock as the Chariot moving forward for that motivational victory for the school, and we’d have the Lovers as the High School sweethearts who choose to stick together many years (kids, house, commitments etc) later.
The Major Arcana cards in the Rider Waite Smith tarot system are not directly associated with specific Jungian archetypes (tarot as we know it was created in 1909, and Carl Jung’s archetypes were published after, in 1919). However, each of these cards is associated with a particular archetypal image or symbol that is meant to represent a major aspect of human experience and consciousness. Here is a brief description of some of the archetypal themes associated with each of the Major Arcana cards in the Rider Waite Smith tarot system:
The Fool: the beginning, the potential, the unknown
“The Potential” archetype is associated with the first card of the Major Arcana. This archetype symbolizes the spark of something new and suggests that anything is possible if we are open to it. In a high school setting, this would be someone who has just transferred or started their completely new. In astrology, the Fool is often associated with the sign of Aquarius.
In Jungian archetypes: Light aspect: The Poet, The Child, The Pilgrim / Shadow aspect: The Fool, The Orphan.
The Magician: the creator, the manipulator, the master of magic
“The Creator” represents our ability to manifest what we want in life through creative action and focus of will. In a high school setting, this would be someone who is much like the Popular kid. In astrology, The Magician is linked with Mercury and the sign Aries and Gemini.
In Jungian archetypes: Light aspect: The Pioneer, The Alchemist / Shadow aspect: The Artist, The Poet.
The High Priestess: the mystery, the secrets, the unconscious
“The Unconscious” archetype is associated with our ability to access and interpret the hidden knowledge that lies within us and the universe. In a high school setting, this would be someone like the High School Witch or Tarot Reading Goth or Mystic. In astrology, the High Priestess is linked with the Moon and sign Cancer.
In Jungian archetypes the light aspects are: The Oracle, The Mystic, The Crone nd The Guide / Shadow aspect: The Skeptic, The Explorer, The Vampire, The Prostitute.
The Empress: the mother, the abundance, the fertility
“The Fertility” symbolizes growth, abundance, and fertility in all areas of life. In a high school setting, this would be someone who is like the Moms in the Neighborhood, who is always taking care of others and providing support. In astrology, The Empress is linked with Venus, Taurus and Cancer.
In Jungian archetypes, light aspect: The Queen, The Mother, The Goddess / Shadow aspect: The Martyr, The Hedonist.
The Emperor: the father, the authority, the leadership
“The Authority” symbolizes power, leadership, and the ability to create order. In a high school setting, this would be someone who is like a Sports Coach, whose leadership cultivates supported results that can be counted on, and as an additional masculine energy figure in your life.
In astrology this archetype is linked with Aries and Mars, and in Jungian archetypes the light aspect of the Emperor are: The Warrior, The Father, The Hero / Shadow aspect: The Rebel, The Rescuer, The King.
The Hierophant: the teacher, the guide, the spiritual advisor
“The Teacher” signifies knowledge, experience, and understanding gained through traditional teachings or practices. In a high school setting, this would be like the spiritual or philosophical authority figure (like a teacher or counsellor) who is generally well liked. In astrological archetypes the Hierophant is linked with Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Taurus.
For Jungian archetypes the light aspects: The Teacher, the Virgin / Shadow aspect: The Oppressor, The Engineer
The Lovers: the love affair, the connection, the choice
“The Choice” archetype is associated with the Lovers card. It symbolizes the power of choice and connection, as well as our ability to choose love over fear. In a high school setting they are the couple that everyone admires and looks up to. In astrology, this is linked with Mercury, Venus, Gemini and Libra.
Jungian archetypes light aspect: The Lover, The Companion, / Shadow aspect: The Saboteur, The Virgin
The Chariot: the determination, the control, the triumph
“The Control” represents determination and willpower, as well as the ability to take control of our lives and triumph over adversity. In a high school setting they symbolise the Sports Jock who has the determination to win, and loves to enjoy the triumphant victories of winning. Astrologically, they are linked with Cancer, Scorpio and Mars.
Jungian archetypes for the Chariot light aspect: The Athlete, The Hunter / Shadow aspect: The Servant, The Gambler
Strength: the courage, the inner strength, the self-control
“The Courage” as an archetype symbolizes inner strength, bravery, and self-control in the face of fear. In a high school setting, Strength is the inner courage to stay true to yourself, even in the face of adversity, such as when the collective students face tough situations like no funding for social events or sticking true to a schools values. In astrology this archetype is linked with Leo and Sun.
Jungian archetypes for Strength include the light aspect: The Warrior, The Nature Child / Shadow aspect: The Sustainer, The Creator
The Hermit: the wisdom, the guidance, the solitude
“The Solitude” symbolizes wisdom and guidance gained through self-reflection, introspection, study and solitude. In high school, this would represent either the Loner or the Wise One, who appears to be closed off but has a wealth of knowledge and insight, such as a Librarian.
In astrology this archetype is linked with Virgo and Mercury and for Jungian archetypes they would have light aspects: The Hermit & The Student / Shadow aspect: The Seeker, The Monk/Nun
The Wheel of Fortune: the change, the cycles, the luck
“The Luck” represents the ever-changing nature of life and destiny, where sometimes we are successful, and other times not. In high school, this archetype would be the Lucky One, who always seems to have luck on their side and is able to find a way out of any situation. Astrologically, this archetype is linked with Jupiter, Sagittarius, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio & Aquarius in the traditional imagery, and is sometimes aligned with Pars Fortunae.
Jungian archetypes for Wheel of Fortune include the light aspect: The Gambler, The Engineer, The Fates, The Unseen / Shadow aspect: The Creator, The Gambler
Justice: the fairness, the truth, the balance
“The Truth” symbolizes fairness, justice, and balance in all matters of life, both large and small. In high school, this would be the Headteacher role who would fairly support the students and staff, and bring justice to the school. In astrology this archetype is linked with Venus, Libra, Saturn & Aquarius.
Jungian archetypes for Justice include the light aspect of The Judge, Avenger, the Diplomat / Shadow aspect: Gossip, The Detective
The Hanged Man: the sacrifice, the perspective, the waiting
“The Sacrifice” symbolizes the power of giving up something we hold dear in order to gain a different perspective on life or advance further in our. In a high school setting, this would be the student who stands up for what they believe in, even when it causes them stress, harm or pain.
In astrology this archetype is linked with Neptune, Pisces and Saturn. Jungian archetypes for Hanged Man include The Seeker, The Martyr, The Slave / Shadow aspect: The Exorcist, The Shaman
Death: the transformation, the change, the rebirth
“The Transformation” suggests the death of old known ways and the rebirth of something new. In a high school setting, this archetype is linked with the student who undergoes an unexpected change in their life, such as the loss of family member, a scholarship admission or a relationship break up.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Pluto, Scorpio & Capricorn. Jungian archetypes for the light aspect are The Liberator / Shadow aspect: The Destroyer
Temperance: the moderation, the balance, the harmony
“The Moderation” symbolises the practice of finding equilibrium and balance in all aspects of life, even when faced with great difficulty. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who maintains their composure and keeps things peaceful during times of stress or uncertainty.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Sagittarius and Jupiter, while Jungian archetypes for Temperance include light aspects of The Samaritan / Shadow aspect: The Healer
The Devil: the temptation, the materialism, the bondage
“The Temptation” is the archetype of materialism, which can bring us into bondage and lack of personal freedom. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who gets drawn into material possessions or superficial relationships in order to gain status and power.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Capricorn & Mars, while Jungian archetypes for The Devil include light aspects of The Trickster / Shadow aspect: The Victim, The Addict, The Bully
The Tower: the upheaval, the crisis, the revelation
“The Crisis” is the archetype of unexpected events, which can bring about a new revelation or an unexpected growth. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who is able to handle the ups and downs of life in order to gain personal insight and growth.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Uranus & Aries, while Jungian archetypes for The Tower include light aspects of The Victim / Shadow aspect: The Avenger, the Destroyer
The Star: the hope, the inspiration, the aspiration
“The Hope” symbolises the belief that something better awaits us in the future, and this can be a source of inspiration and motivation to keep going even when faced with difficulty. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who strives to make the most of their circumstances to reach their goals, despite their odds (socially, economically, financially, culturally etc).
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Aquarius & Saturn, while as a Jungian archetype it relays to light aspects of The Visionary, The Advocate, The Healer / Shadow aspect: The Angel, The Martyr
The Moon: the fear, the uncertainty, the illusion
“The Fear” symbolises the ability to be aware of and overcome our fears in order to gain a different perspective on life or advance further in our journey. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who is able to question their own beliefs and confront their fears in order to gain self-growth, like the Sports Jock to Academically Succeeding trope where they fear being unpopular despite befriending their tutor etc.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Pisces, The Moon & Neptune. As a Jungian archetype it takes light aspects from The Shape Shifter, The Goddess / Shadow aspect: The Mystic
The Sun: the joy, the success, the vitality
“The Success” symbolises the victory, the win at the end of a journey, the feeling of accomplishment and success. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who is able to push through their challenging circumstances and achieve something great in spite of them – like getting accepted into a top university or having a successful career path afterwards.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with The Sun & Leo, while as a Jungian archetype is aligned with light aspects The God, The Guide / Shadow aspect: Midas/Miser
Judgement: the accountability, the judgement, the redemption
“The Redemption” symbolises an archetypical journey that ends in a positive outcome, often caused by our own actions or decisions. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the student who is able to learn from their mistakes and redeem themselves through hard work and dedication.
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Pluto, Libra, Sagittarius & Scorpio, while Jungian archetypes for Judgement include light aspects of The Messiah, The Judge / Shadow aspect: The Wounded Child, The Father
The World: the completion, the achievement, the success
“The Achievement” symbolises the culmination of a journey, when we have achieved our goals and come out on the other side feeling a sense of fulfillment. In a high school setting, this archetype would be the school energy who as a community strived to reach their academic and financial dreams despite their circumstances (such as a district threatening to close a school unless they passed inspection, etc).
Astrologically this archetype is linked with Jupiter & Saturn, while Jungian archetypes for The World light aspects are: The Mentor, The Storyteller / Shadow aspect: The Unseen
Whilst there are three types of archetypes mentioned with suggestions within this article, there are more types of archetypes you can assign with tarot. Examples include The Lovers, The Hermit, Death & The Tower. These each represent unique storylines and can be used in tarot readings to help gain a deeper understanding of yourself or others.
Ultimately, tarot archetypes are a great storytelling tool for tapping into our inner self and allowing us to reveal hidden truths about ourselves, whilst helping you round out meaning for the cards themselves for future readings. Until next time xox
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