Written by Martha Adams Copyright 2017
Upright interpretations of Force XI: The Tarot of Marseilles and Strength VIII: The Rider Deck
In the following posts we talk about Force XI: The Tarot of Marseilles, (B.P. Grimaud, France) that, together with many of the older European tarot decks, is an archetype that represents a need for great courage and self-control; usually necessary in a situation of considerable internal and external conflict, and sometimes, both. She is one of the Four Virtues of the Major Arcana. When we are gripped by challenges to our core beliefs and to our sense of fairness, usually surrounding events that involve significant relationships, Force XI: Marseilles and Strength VIII: Rider often appears in a tarot reading indicating a need for compassionate and ethical behaviour.
Force XI: Marseilles Is a call to us to develop inner-strength and to triumph over potentially self-destructive feelings; offering the opportunity for a level of self-reflection that can bring us greater wisdom.
Force XI: The Tarot of Marseilles. Upright
Force XI: Marseilles depicts a graceful yet gritty young woman wearing an enormous hat in the shape of a lemniscate; also the sign for Infinity and the ouroboros (worn by The Magician I). Her broad hat touches the very top of the card’s image and appears to extend past the card’s uppermost border; an indication of qualities that lie beyond the realms of the physical and seen world. Her hat is the shape of a number eight and positioned at the eighth chakra; signifying divine love, spiritual compassion and selflessness.
Her hat is an elegant pattern of blue, white and golden-yellow. White, which is also the colour of the eighth chakra, indicates the pure intentions and unlimited potential. Deep-blue represents the sixth chakra; that of inner-sight and ‘knowing’. This colour depicts a person of integrity and a vibrant intellect. Golden-yellow is the colour of the third chakra and suggests self-confidence, generosity and abundance.
In the Tarot of Marseilles, the direction in which the Major archetypes face - their whole body language - is entirely intentional. The face of Force XI: Marseilles is raised and, when she appears upright in a spread for a tarot reading, her head and body turn towards the right; traditionally the direction of the future. Her facial expression appears a little weary but one of quiet confidence; and her eyes convey a sense of clarity and solid determination. Her gaze is steady and her attention seems drawn beyond that of her immediate challenge, that of comforting the beast below her, to a further challenge of The Hanged Man XII. Even while she has successfully dealt with a threatening or fearful situation, calmed the beast and quieted ‘the rage within', Force XI: Marseilles might now see that a personal sacrifice lies ahead in order that she grows as a person.
Force XI: Marseilles wears a well-tailored dress of fine fabrics and strong dynamic colours. Her bodice and flowing skirt are deep-blue. Her full sleeves and prominent central bodice-lacing are golden-yellow. And her large cape is a rich-red. Medieval nobility were the only class permitted to wear deep-blue as it was a colour that symbolised high status, honesty and honor. Blue, represents also, the capacity to express oneself creatively; to find one’s voice and to speak one’s own truth. Force XI: Marseilles’ radiant red cloak represents well-grounded passion, physical vitality and robustness. Red, the colour of the first chakra, signifying a sense of security and a solid grasp of reality. Red signifies courage and wisdom and strong and meaningful relationship to one’s family, tribe or community.
Yellow-gold is the colour of Force XI: Marseilles’ large and powerful arms and of the third chakra which, when well-defined, is the energy centre of self-esteem and one that can be developed by pursuing right action. The action of her significant arms is at the level of her strong solar plexus, to emphasis her self-believe in her ability to restrain and subdue the beast. The arms are also an extension of the heart chakra which we see expressed in the tender but determined grip she has on the lion’s gaping jaws. The feminine and neutral colour beige of her forearms creates an element of calm and ease in her hold. Beige can express simplicity, piety and warmth. With these qualities, Force XI: Marseilles is able to draw the beast close to her own body and legs; giving the appearance of restrain him without difficulty.
Reading tarot for others (and occasionally myself) is exciting, inspiring and very gratifying.