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Digging around my hard drive for some of my older files, I ran across these notes drafted for a class on Tarot that I taught a few years back. I thought I’d share.

Although it’s a sparse outline, those familiar with Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces will get the gist, and I think the high points are clear even if you haven’t read Campbell’s work. This approach to the Major Arcana as a mythic cycle deeply informed the design of my own deck.

Speaking of which, if you get curious and want to read more about my take on Tarot, head on over to Amazon and check out my Watcher Angel Tarot Guidebook. There you will encounter, among other things, more on the Tarot as Monomyth as well as a comparison of the court cards with the Myers-Briggs personality types.


Tarot as Monomyth

Presented by Michelle Belanger – http://www.michellebelanger.com

The Tarot and Joseph Campbell’s Cycle of Cosmogenesis

Concept: Approaching the Major Arcana as a mythic cycle to enhance understanding of the cards and assist with mastering their meanings.


Campbell’s Monomyth:

As expressed in his seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; the core story that emerges in myths, dreams, and fairytales.


Separation –> Initiation –> Return


I. Departure:

The Call to Adventure

Supernatural Aid

Crossing the First Threshold

The Belly of the Whale


II. Initiation:

The Road of Trials

Meeting the Goddess


Atonement (at-one-ment)



III. Return:

Refusal to Return

Rescue from Without / Forced Return

Crossing the Return Threshold

Master of the Two Worlds

Freedom to Live


Campbell: Dream is the personalized myth; myth is the depersonalized dream.


The Major Arcana

  1. The Fool

The call to adventure

  1. The Magician

Trickster/initial guide: the tools but not the wisdom

  1. The High Priestess

The lady of mysteries; drawn deeper in

  1. The Empress

Queen; the realized Mother

  1. The Emperor

King; the realized Father

  1. The Hierophant

The evil sorcerer; crystallized structure to be over-turned

  1. The Lovers

The promised princess; the beloved other Self (anima/animus)

  1. The Chariot

The hero’s journey; the process itself

  1. Strength

The lesson of inner strength; emotional vs. physical

  1. The Hermit

The wise old teacher

  1. The Wheel

The turning of Fate; God is the machine

  1. Justice

The hero weighed in the balance

  1. The Hanged Man

Self-sacrifice; the journey within

  1. Death

Internal transformation; childhood’s end

  1. Temperance

The union of Heaven & Earth

  1. The Devil

Facing inner demons

  1. The Tower

Final surrender of the Ego

  1. The Star

Emergence after rebirth; first glimmer of hope

  1. The Moon

False light; comprehension emerging from the unconscious mind

  1. The Sun

Full dawn; rejuvenation; awareness emerging into consciousness

  1. Judgment

The forced return

  1. The World

Apotheosis; Campbell’s “Freedom to Live”

After the World, the whole journey begins anew, elevated to a higher level.