The Mirror of Galadriel. A metaphor for the Tarot from the Lord of the Rings.

I first read Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in my teens. It remains to this day one of my favorite books and one chapter has me drawing parallels with the Tarot. When Frodo and Sam are invited to look into the Mirror of Galadriel, they see as she describes,

“Things that were, and things that are and things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell.”

The Mirror is a powerful metaphor for the Tarot. Just as it reveals glimpses of the past and present, we see our own past and present reflected in the symbols of the cards. The future is as yet unknown to us so what glimpses we see are more heavily filtered through our own limited understanding.

Possibilities, not certainties

The cards reveal possibilities and our reaction to an individual card image can tell us a great deal about our own issues. If we are honest enough with ourselves and brave enough to face what the cards are saying, we can learn much about our hopes, our fears and what drives us. Knowing such things equips us to let go of the future and bravely face whatever it brings.

When Sam looks in the Mirror, He sees a vision of his village being destroyed. In blind panic he wants to go home, thereby turning aside from his quest. Galadriel counsels against this. She tells him,

“The Mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds.”

Choices in the cards

Knowing the future may not be the best thing for us. There’s a fine line between making informed choices with a view to future security and manipulating the present in an attempt to ensure the outcome we want. Also, to assume that any card gives you a reliable picture of the future is dangerous, particularly if you fix all courses of action with only one end in mind.

Most readings contain cards that speak of the future. This is good, but hold onto them loosely. We are finite human beings and we may not always have the capacity to understand what those cards are telling us. Also, when a card is drawn, it symbolises a single possible facet of your future. Our lives are much more complicated and one symbol can never contain the multi-layered truth of reality.

Look to the future by all means but if you’re fixated on a single outcome then you need to ask why. This is the sum of what I believe regarding the Tarot. It’s also the sum of how I believe a good reading should be conducted. If I’m doing a reading for someone, I hope my role will be to explain the cards’ symbolism and aid the journey through their meanings. A reading is about possibilities and choices. For me, that’s far more exciting than the mere predictive.


Illustration © Alan Lee from the illustrated edition of the Lord of the Rings. Published by Harper Collins.

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