Twins are central to the theme of the Thoth deck because they are central to Crowley’s vision of the new Aeon. The Aeon of Horus is represented by Horus of course, but not only as the one, falcon-headed god. As a ‘composite’ god named Heru-ra-ha, he is more often characterised as twins in the Thoth Tarot: Ra Hoor Khuit and and Hoor paar kraat. They are the passive and active aspects of Horus, one being the child with his finger over his mouth as a call for silence, and one as the warrior. Both are present in the Thoth deck’s Lovers card, for example. Thinking about them as twins, and having just read the brilliant blog post by Divine Descent on siblings, I wondered if there were any cards in the Tarot that we could consider sisters or brothers – or indeed twins – that could give us some new insight.
It’s interesting and not surprising, I suppose, that our first inclination is to pair the cards off as couples in marriage. The mother-father archetype is a strong one and important. We match up the Empress and the Emperor, and the Priestess and the Hierophant. I can see the first two as a royal marriage, although when I’m using the Tarot, that relationship isn’t often useful unless parents relate to the question. And I don’t think of the Priestess and Hierophant as a couple at all unless something I’m reading reminds me to do so. Other than usually being portrayed as opposing genders, I’m not sure how much they really work together as two halves of a whole. There are so many other ways to explore two sides of a situation and I wonder if considering these couples as our primary pairs is really all that helpful. Can we broaden out the concept of a pair to include twins?
One aspect of Thelema is the concept that at one point we are all part of Divinity. You could say we ‘start off’ as part of a Whole. When we’re born here on earth in Malkuth, there is the pain of separation and with it the constant longing to rejoin Spirit. In fact, The Book of the Law says that we endure the pain of separation because we anticipate the bliss of reunion. This can explain why we seek one-to-one relationships with others – as a way of filling that void of loneliness that we get from being split from our origin. We crave the intimacy of Oneness.If we think about being split apart from ourselves, that would mean that twins or siblings could be an intuitive, spiritual approach to pairing cards in the Tarot.
The Empress and the Priestess as a pair is interesting to think about: the worldly, sensuous, explicit, physical self and the otherworldly, intellectual, implicit, intuitive self. We all have both of these aspects. We are physical beings with a spiritual side – we choose whether or not we explore that aspect of ourselves, but it’s always there. The relationship of these energies parallels that of the Horus twins, with the Empress being the active twin and the Priestess being the silent, Divine child. When we work to reunite with the Priestess we can channel her wisdom into our physical selves as the Empress. We are at least in part reunited.
The Empress and Priestess are two of the only three cards in the RWS that have pomegranates on them. The veil behind the High Priestess has pomegranates on it and the Empress’ dress is decorated with them. The Fool also has pomegranates on his tunic – almost totally closed. The fruit opens a little more on the Priestess’ veil, and even more on the Empress’ gown. The Fool is all genders, and they give the pomegranate to the feminine line as we move into the Magician and then the High Priestess. It is a symbol of the feminine twins/sisters who create the rest of the Tarot by signalling that this will be a journey of the soul in the body.
It is of course a reference to the story of Persephone but we can trace that underground journey back much further – to a pair of divine sisters, rather than the later version that we know much better, of a god who kidnaps himself a wife. We have to work hard to find meaning in that story because when you change a pair of twins or siblings into a pair who are married (n.b. against the bride’s will) it becomes a story about sex (or rape and possession in this case), rather than exploration and growth of Spirit. The pomegranate in Tarot functions as a gateway to that underworld journey that will let us look for and find our ‘other half’, that being the other half of our own selves. Our own Divine twin.