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The Major Arcana: A Story – by Sara Gilbert

The Major Arcana - a Story by Sara Gilbert

My story is based on the legend of Achilles arguably the greatest warrior who ever lived, portrayed by Brad Pitt in the film “Troy”.


The Emperor

Greece around 1200 BC consisted of around 20 different kingdoms loosely held into an alliance by a powerful, manipulative and controlling, ego-centric general called Agamemnon. This man exemplified the energy of The Emperor. He had bound the various kings to him through his strength and ability to assert his authority, determined to unite Greece and make her the ultimate force in the region. He was driven by self-interest and the pursuit of power rather than a higher purpose He had achieved his aims through continuous battle, often spearheaded by Achilles, an inspirational and fearless warrior, whose courage and skills as a fighter could overcome seemingly overpowering odds, by motivating all who followed him. Achilles was cast from a different mould, driven by values of integrity and valour, his dream was to become immortal, his name remembered forever for his feats of bravery and courage and his fighting prowess. He too had strength and determination but it came from self-mastery of his inner aggressions to serve a greater good, typifying The Chariot, he had total confidence in his ability to overcome any adversary and win a battle on the turn of his sword. While Achilles fought for Greece, he had little respect for Agamemnon, who he openly disdained, for using politics and manipulation to achieve his own self-serving ends. He recognized the power Agamemnon wielded, but was undeterred by his authority, knowing he depended on his warriors to achieve victory for him. Agamemnon hated Achilles for his lack of respect in return, but his advisors counselled him that he needed Achilles to prevail.

The Magician
From the Rider-Waite Tarot published by U.S. Games, Inc.

Achilles found he had a grudging respect for Odysseus, King of Ithaca and tended to listen to his counsel above any other. He recognized the energy of The Magician in Odysseus who combined the ability to fight bravely at his men’s side like Achilles did, but was a far deeper thinker and strategist, also able to convince others of the wisdom in his plans. He was a skilful enough communicator to manage to keep Achilles and Agamemnon from ruining the Greek alliance with their enmity. Achilles loved and followed him for these qualities and recognized they resulted in more effective leadership than he or Agamemnon could provide overall. Odysseus managed to persuade Achilles to continue to fight for Greece in a campaign against Troy (Turkey). They were amused and aghast that one man’s stupid addiction and inability to control his baser instincts, represented by the energy of The Devil, had resulted in the two regional powers being pitted against each other. Paris, the weak son of Priam, the King of Troy, had fallen in love and stolen the wife of Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus, King of Sparta. Agamemnon had no compunction in pretending to avenge his brother’s honour to get her back, but of course the real driver for him was an excuse to conquer Troy. Achilles could not believe that Paris was prepared to risk the peace his own father had worked so hard to achieve, for his own self-interest, and vowed never to allow his own interests to overcome the greater good.

The Lovers
From the Rider-Waite Tarot published by U.S. Games, Inc.

Achilles himself needed a soul connection to give and receive love unconditionally, he was strongly driven by his values and principles, but capable of the love denoted by The Lovers, when they were also invoked by his partner. His lifelong young friend Patrocules was dearest to him, but he was beginning to truly love his courageous and defiant slave Briseis, who was cousin to Paris. Agememnon stole her from him out of spite, and he was so aggrieved he refused to fight Troy anymore. He gave in to Patrocules’ entreaties to fight in his place, wearing his armour to inspire the men, not wanting his beloved men to lose their lives. Hector, Priam’s brave and gallant older son, killed Patrocules in the battle, believing him to be Achilles. Achilles was devastated and angered by the death of his friend and challenged Hector to a duel, despite Briseis’ entreaties that her cousin was an honourable man. He killed him and dragged his body behind his chariot afterwards, denying his family the ability to follow their custom and bury him with funeral rites.

Priam sneaked into Achilles tent after dark and pleaded for the right to bury his son. Achilles was filled with admiration for Priam’s courage and love for his son, typified by Strength, which enabled him to confront and plead with his killer. He was filled with remorse for what he had done in anger so gave Priam back the body, promised a 12 day truce for the funeral games and freed Briseis to return to Troy with her uncle. He told her “If I hurt you, it was not what I wanted”. He told Priam, “Your son was the best man I ever fought and you are a far better King than the one leading this army”.

Achilles had experienced a karmic change represented by Judgement as an outcome of this awakening. He allowed unconditional love and compassion to overcome his need for immortality. He released his men and sent them home to Greece. While he continued to Professional membership help overcome Troy, his main objective was to ensure Briseis survived. He saved her from Agamemnon’s guards, after she had killed Agamemnon and ironically Achilles himself was killed by Paris’ arrow in the process. He died content, telling her “Don’t be sad, for you brought me peace in the middle of war!”


Published in the Journal of the Tarot Guild of Australia Inc. The Magician, #27 Autumn/Winter 2008
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Magician Issue 27