A male priestess. Meeting the Mystic from the Son Tarot

The Mystic. From the Son Tarot
by Christopher Butler. Schiffer Books. 2012.
The scene in this card is one of moonlight, half light and maybe’s. Between black and white temple pillars we see the figure of a man; arms outstretched, rising from dark waters. His crown is the three-phased moon and he holds a spinning disc, emblazoned with the word TORA, the Hebrew word for sacred texts and divine wisdom.

It’s difficult to tell where his body ends and the waters begin, for the whole scene is veiled with interlocking lights and shadows. At the foot of the card, there are hints of flowers, crystals, wheels, and spirals, yet all is mysterious and uncertain. We are face to face with The Mystic.

Man embodying the Divine Feminine

In a traditional Tarot deck, this card would be the female figure of The High Priestess. The essence of the card embodies traditionally feminine qualities but people from across the gender spectrum can also embody her energy. That’s why I portrayed the figure as a man when I created the Son Tarot. As the deck was designed specifically for gay men, I wanted this card to show the possibility of their embodying an archetypal force that can often be revered and feared simultaneously. Drag culture celebrates the female within but the parody element of drag is the very thing that often makes such potent inner energy safe to acknowledge.  Drag is an ancient, wonderful and richly humorous tradition but ultimately it’s a mask that veils deeper realities.

Honoured Intercessors

In modern monotheistic faiths, lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, trans and intersex folk have rarely been validated with purpose, and have frequently encountered ridicule and hostility. In earlier traditions, you find a different picture. Queer folk were often viewed as mystically bridging the gender gap and given special roles within the spiritual life of the community.

In Native American tribes, such folk were known as ‘Two Spirit’. In ancient Europe, there were the Galli priests, and in Africa, you would have found the witches and gatekeeper shamen of the Dogara tribe. The social prejudices encountered in modern society have resulted in many queer folk carrying an ingrained spiritual homophobia. Some, like myself have emerged from religious doctrines that declared our sexuality to be evil and abhorrent. Dogmas like these cause spiritual low self-esteem that is difficult to dislodge. By contrast, many ancient tribes saw such people as possessing both a unique role and great spiritual power.

Bridging the spiritual chasm

As queer folk sit somewhere on the bridge between the genders, they were also seen to bridge the gap between the material and the spiritual world. The time for them to reclaim this heritage and to celebrate their spiritual uniqueness is long overdue.

As we progress into the Major Arcana, we realize that we are not just flesh and bone. There is a hidden, transcendent part of us too. We are body, soul, and spirit. Our spirituality is a vast and undiscovered landscape that cannot be fully explored through the traditional, rational ways of thought. The realm of the spirit must often be touched through the intuitive ways of knowing and through the sixth sense.

In the Son Tarot, I portrayed the The Mystic standing in a two-pillared gateway similar to that of the traditional High Priestess. The pillars are emblazoned with two as yet separate symbols for masculinity and represent the complimentary opposites that the Mystic reaches out to connect. When they meet in his touch, the two symbols of Mars can be fused together, realizing the connective power of bodily and spiritual union. For gay men, I wanted to show our unions with each other are not only forged on the physical plane but also on one of spirit.

The beauty and mystery of sex

Our cultural concept of the celibate priest or nun is an unhealthy and relatively modern concept that you won’t find in the ancient traditions I’ve mentioned above. To bond with a lover is to walk through the gateway into temple space where love serves a higher purpose and connects us to unseen realities. Physical union also involves the intermingling of minds, hearts and spirits. The queer community has long been fed a narrative linking sex to shame. The High Priestess in all her rainbow gender manifestations, including the Mystic, shows that sex should be embraced and respected as a mystical act and a deeply enriching experience.

Straight or gay, we all embody the Mystic

I also hope my depiction of the Mystic shows straight men that they can also embody this archetype. Although different in expression from their queer male counterparts, straight men also embody the capacity for second sight, intuition, empathy and receptivity. Ingrained misogyny and concepts such as ‘machismo’ have progressively taught men to both fear and shun their feminine side, thereby distorting the role of men in our society. To be whole, all people need a healthy, dynamic balance of masculine and feminine qualities within their psyche. The confrontational, patriarchal politics we see on the modern world stage, along with the rise of heartless capitalism are in my eyes, a reflection of the unchecked and unbalanced masculine, afraid of the true feminine and in flight from its tempering influence.

This card encourages you to explore your spiritual dimension. It’s much bigger than the physical dimension you are so well acquainted with. It also denotes the hidden aspects of your life path for by their very nature, the Priestess and Mystic are representations of unseen realities. Have faith. The answers are all there, even if it isn’t yet time for them to be uncovered.


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