Nisan: Tarot Card/ Emperor

Emperor Card from Smith-Waite Tarot
Emperor Card from Smith-Waite Tarot
(aka Rider-Waite Tarot)

With Nisan we leave the lunacy of Adar behind.  Rosh Chodesh Nisan is the New Year of Kings, so it makes complete sense that the Emperor (קֵיסָר) is the card for the month.   In the Transparent Tarot, the image is of a city.  It is the man-made world, well organized and structured. What does this mean for us?  In Nisan, we are challenged to once again leave slavery behind us and take responsibility for our lives.  In Egypt we built cities for Ramses with nothing gained for ourselves — not even a decent meal.  The Emperor reminds us that now we are responsible for ourselves and the cities we build.

The Emperor in the Waite-Smith Tarot sits on a throne with rams’ (טלה) heads as ornaments and wears a garmet with a rams’ head on it.  The throne is solid and stable, and under the cloak with the ram’s head on it, he wears armor.  This image reminds us of the interconnection of the ram and the Jewish people.  In his writings on the shofar as spiritual practice, Michael Chusid says:

“A totem is a symbol, usually an animal or other natural  object, used to signify a tribe or group of people. More  than just a mascot, emblem, or iconographic  signature, a totem embodies a tribe’s self-identity. It  carries the tribe’s spiritual energy, informs decisions about behavior, and often acts as an intermediary  between a people and its god or gods. Jews do not erect totem poles like those of Native  American tribes in the Pacific Northwest; our biblical  proscription against graven images is too strong to  allow that. Yet our totem is alive and well and deeply  rooted in our history and liturgy; our totem is the sheep; more specifically, the ram. ” (Hearing Shofar, Book 3)

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