In his Pictorial Key, Waite mentions that the Sun has a different form in older decks. Even in the Marseilles deck, the Sun card shows an anthropomorphized sun issuing drops down upon two nearly nude figures standing before a wall. Court de Gebelin called the drops “tears of gold and pearl” (he also called the drops on the Moon “tears of Isis”). Waite said the two figures were children who were “facing a water, and gambolling, or running hand in hand.” He also quotes Éliphas Lévi as saying these children “are sometimes replaced by a spinner unwinding destinies, and otherwise by a much better symbol–a naked child mounted on a white horse and displaying a scarlet standard.”
Clearly, Waite opted for the child upon a horse in his own deck, a choice which I too prefer for I find it better connects with the prominent path on the Moon. In the Sun, the Fool completely owns that path: he’s broken free of everything that bound him in before, and he can command his animal state, as is shown by his sitting astride a horse. The horse also shows that the Fool can now command others as well as himself on his path. (The child here is very clearly the Fool for he wears the same red feather, and in Robin Wood’s card, he wears the same feather and crown of five white roses her Fool wore).
Rachel Pollack says that for Waite, “the Sun experience was essentially a burst of freedom. It was a breaking loose, a wonderful liberation from ordinary restricted consciousness to openness and freedom.” She primarily focuses on the image of the child riding away from the grey, stone wall to support this interpretation. She says that the wall represents the past life, which is “bound by a narrow perception of reality” and that the “super-consciousness of the Sun is characterized by feeling a part of the whole world rather than an isolated individual.” In other words, the Child doesn’t need to stay within a pleasure-garden (like the Garden of Eden), for he has realized he can take these pleasures with him into a new life.
In the Pictorial Key, Waite did say that this card represented “the great and holy light which goes before the endless procession of humanity, coming out from the walled garden of the sensitive life and passing on the journey home.” However, he also posed the sun as being the light of the conscious world and the child–with his pure, joyful heart–as bringing forth the superior light of the world to come. As Waite concluded, the child is “the self-knowing spirit” that “has dawned in the consciousness above the natural mind, that mind in its renewal leads forth the animal nature in a state of perfect conformity.”
Robin Wood focuses mostly upon the joy and freedom aspects of this card. The child’s nudity is indicative of these energies, as well as of the pure innocence of his joy and wonder: he is completely unashamed. He wears the white roses of freedom and the red feather of courage–he is the fool, but an entire lunar-solar cycle ahead in his development. He’s no longer worried about enlightenment or knowledge: he’s just content to play in the sun and experience.
In his left hand, the child holds the red banner of life and courage. As this is the unconscious hand, he shows that life is no longer something he must concentrate on: he can just simply live. The wings at the top of the flagpole indicate this new freedom. His conscious, right hand is open to the experiences that like before him.
The child rides bareback to show his complete mastery of the daytime forces and his own animal nature, which–as the pony’s blue eyes show–has also become purified. Underfoot is new green grass with yellow, joyful flowers in it. Behind the wall bloom four sunflowers, one for each of the elements, and a fifth in bud as a reminder that the best is yet to come (the journey is, after all, not at an end). Wood also points out that sunflowers are heliotropes and so typically face the sun, no matter where it is in the sky. Here, however, they face the child, which shows that he shines brighter than the sun.
KEYWORDS: Joy, Vitality, Assurance, Experiencing Greatness, Becoming enlightened.
At dawn today, sit facing toward the east and watch the sun rise. As you do, begin to breathe deeply, consciously. On each inhalation, draw the power of the sun into your spirit. Allow it to fill your body and your mind. At sunset, sit and face the west. Watch the sunset. As it sinks into the horizon, begin to breathe deeply again. On each exhalation, breathe out your fears, anxieties, and illnesses. Allow the sun to absorb these. It will take them to the underworld, where it will burn them to ash.
Keep the Sun card with you today or place it on your altar. Today is a day to simplify. Assess the activities of your day to determine if they are essential for existence, for basic happiness and health. If not, disregard them for the day. As one Eastern mystic said of life, “If it does not involve eating, sleeping, or shitting, it is none of your business.”
The card descriptions are a combination of my own insights and paraphrasing from a handful of sources. I’m currently working with Rachel Pollack’s book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Robin Wood’s Robin Wood Tarot: The Book, and a smattering from Waite’s Pictorial Key. I also strongly recommend Joan Bunning’s book Learning the Tarot as well as the resources found on her website, learntarot.com.