Part 3 An Interpretation of Force XI: The Tarot of Marseilles.
Force XI: The Tarot of Marseilles and many of the older European tarot decks is an archetype that represents a need for great courage and self-control - usually required in the face of internal and external conflict and sometimes, both. She is one of the Four Virtues of the Major Arcana. When Force XI: Marseilles appears in a tarot reading she signifies a requirement for compassionate and ethical behavior; and that of critical challenges to our core beliefs about what we consider to be fair and just in the relationships with have ourselves and with significant others.
Force XI: Marseilles Is a call to us to develop inner-strength and to triumph over potentially self-destructive feelings; with a degree of self-reflection that can bring us greater wisdom.
The rich dark-blue of Force XI: Marseilles’ bodice and skirt centers our attention on the woman’s figure and reminds us of importance of the fifth chakra; of creative visualization, expression and of voicing your truth. The shape of the material in her floor-length dress cascades to the ground and as it does, takes the form of a pyramid. With that symbol, we are reminded of powerful and ancient civilisations and the significance of the soul to their every action and belief over the millenia. The pyramid, with its square base and triangular sides piercing the skies, is a symbol both of ‘stability’ and disciplined ambition offering an insight to the immense strength that can be had to face life’s challenges by enlisting these values. The sizable lower garment of deep-blue implies the qualities of nobility, sincerity and integrity and covers everything but the sandaled toes of Force XI: Marseilles’ right foot.
We see her cloak as a vibrant swash of red, symbolising the first chakra; flowing over the back of her blue skirt. The relative size of each section of material indicates its relative impact and importance in her attitude and physical expression. Red signifies the positive, energetic passion that 'backs' a dominant state of groundedness. The colours of her clothing demonstrate that Force XI: Marseilles maintains a strong understanding of her own needs and purpose together with her relationships with family and community; in the matter she is currently grappling with however, she must primarily rely on her own wisdom and integrity.
The mid to lower section of this image illustrates a strong young woman in control of a large golden-yellow beast, often depicted as a lion. The lion is a symbol of enormous strength, leadership and courage; he is considered to be the 'king of the beasts'. The lion’s roar (considered by many) is a sound that arouses both great admiration and terror at the same time! His roar creates a vibration that shakes up the senses, and is said to be ‘a voice of Goddess’. The yellow and gold colours, when well-defined, are companion colours associated with illumination, love, compassion magic and wisdom. Yellow represents the third or ‘I am’ chakra and signifies happiness, optimism, honour and intellect. Gold represents wealth and prosperity as well as the ninth chakra or the ‘seat of the soul’ and the archetypal patterns that can shape destiny. Gold has healing properties and is said to clear negative energies from the chakras (aura).
Large swirling, spirals create the beast's cascading golden-yellow mane and coat of fur and complete our interpretation of the lion as a potent symbol of destiny. The spiral is an ancient sign of creation and growth and, in some cases, signifies cosmic forces. Swirls and spirals are symbolically linked to nature, the seasons, and the path of birth, growth, death and reincarnation that all life follows.
With complete focus and concentration on the considerable task at hand, Force XI: Marseilles is seen almost effortlessly restraining the beast. She skillfully holds open the jaws of the golden lion and firmly pulls its head and body against her voluminous blue skirt and at the lower parts of her body. While the jaws face outwards and towards the future he is, for the present, nestled snugly against her abdomen, groin and thighs. The beast’s magnificent body of swirling golden spirals is set at Force XI: Marseilles’ sacral and root chakras. This is perhaps why some interpretations of the Force XI (Marseilles) and Strength VIII (Rider) imply sexual control, potency and power.
The well-defined and dynamic shapes, symbols and colours in the lower part of the (upright) image of Force XI: Marseilles provide a wonderful ‘description’ of the virtuous qualities of this archetype. The relationship between woman and beast can be seen in the relative positions they each hold; and which, in turn, informs us of the fundamental values with which Force XI: Marseilles embraces her challenge: the rich red of her cape shows her strong yet contained passions; the deep-blue of her pyramidal skirt indicates her unshakeable values and her well-developed sixth-sense; and the large yellow-golden beast - with his mane of golden spirals - that is hard-pressed into her own first and second chakras to signify her actions are driven with inner intelligence, joy and determination.
The combined lower imagery in Force XI: Marseilles suggests that she bases herself in the reality of her immediate circumstances and relationships; her stance is balanced and strong and her effort is unwavering. She ‘keeps-a-grip’ (as the saying goes). Force XI: Marseilles' gentle yet unyielding control demonstrates the importance of reigning over sometimes instinctual desires and powerful, destructive emotions.
Force XI: Marseilles is the archetype that demonstrates self-discipline as the means to stem any self-doubt or anger; she recognises these thoughts and emotions as being distractions from her meeting her objectives. With a steady mind and an even heart she is able to overcome life’s hurdles and achieve her soul‘s calling (the infinity sign at the ninth chakra in the shape of her hat).
All the best,
Martha Adams Copyright
Reading tarot for others (and occasionally myself) is exciting, inspiring and very gratifying.