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Tetramorph and the Four Corners of Tarot

It’s snowing. There’s no going outside. Like C.S. Lewis’s home bound children, I spent the morning looking for a magic wardrobe.

People or books tend to be my magical doorways and today I walked into a book. Perusing The Watkins Dictionary of Symbols, I came across a excellent discovery and new word.

The Tetramorph.

Ever wonder about those four creatures in the corners of the World card?


See the similarity between the images?


Christ In Glory, circa 1200,  British Museum

I’m not talking about the figures in the middle. Although it is worth noting that within Tarot, it is YOU, who becomes the Divine. Which, of course, you are!

Check out the four corners. Those figures are a Tetramorphs.

The Watkins Dictionary says, “In some cultures, the four-headed guardians of the four directions on space – symbolizing in many traditions the universality of divine dominion and guarantee against the return of primal chaos. The four biblical tetramorphs described in the first chapter of Ezekiel have the heads of a man, lion, ox and eagle.”

Christianity goes on to link this with the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

With Christ’s incarnation, resurrection, sacrifice and ascension.


Above, Christ with Four Evangelists, Bode Museum.

Tarotist link the corners with the four directions and the four suits of tarot.

Astrologers with Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius which of course connect to the vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox and winter solstice.

We have the complete cycle of the year and the FINAL card in Tarot, the World card.

We all know Smith and Waite took loads of inspiration from Christian symbolism but it is still super fun to see them all together.

Above, we see 13th Century Ivory Carving “Christ in Majesty.”

The Tetramorph was not unique to Christianity. Like all religion, Christianity was built on the shoulders of those who worshiped and prayed before. The Tetramorph was first seen in in ancient Mesopotamia. Note below, how the Palace Guardian below combines the elements of human (face), eagle (wings), lion (body).


Palace Guardian, c. 965 BCE, British Museum

You will find the Tetramorph in the four corners of the Wheel of Fortune card too.


Does any of this help us divine the future?


But Tarot symbolism helps us unlock the past. Especially when we examine Tarot imagery as a repository of the human spirit. We see how early man understood the nature of the world.

And those of us who listen to secrets whispered from the past (and tarot speaks to you all the time) are bound to unlock unexpected gateways to the future .

Happy snow day and happy hunting.

Hope you discover your own magical doorway today!


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