The meaning of clothing on tarot card images

There are two main things to look for with clothing – the first is whether they are wearing any and if so what kind, and the second is what colors are in their clothing. It is very interesting to look at the issue of clothing in the Rider-Waite deck, although this is one of the areas that varies greatly from deck to deck. In RW, all the people in the minor cards are wearing clothing. Also, all the people in the trumps are wearing clothing, until we reach the Devil – with the one exception to this rule being the Lovers in the Garden of Eden, presumably before the fall and their knowledge of good and evil. Even the Fool, who is the closest to being spiritually pure, has taken on some clothing – a reference to incarnation in the physical body and a willingness to live on earth. After we pass through the Tower, there are no trumps in which people are wearing clothing – everyone is naked. So there is a kind of transition point with the Devil/Tower cards. If we go back to our psychological or spiritual journey associated with the trumps, we can see that there might be a reason for this. In the Devil card, our ego is dissolved and laid bare. From this point on, we have completely left the mundane world and are working on transforming ourselves to our higher selves. Once we pass through the Tower, there is no longer a place for false modesty, hiding anything from ourselves or other people, or any protection from the forces and processes we encounter – we must face each step honestly and openly, in order to complete the process of integration and transformation. Therefore – no clothing 🙂

The other thing to look at is what colors are in the clothing. In most RW and RW clones, the colors are highly significant, at least in the major arcana. For example, place the Magician and High Priestess side by side. Here you will see that they are both wearing under-robes of white, symbolizing their purity of intent and innocence of heart. The Magician, however, wears an outer robe of red, symbolizing his more active, masculine nature, and the High Priestess wears an outer robe of blue, symbolizing her passive, feminine, intuitive nature. The Empress has pomegranates on her dress, symbolizing fertility. The Emperor's clothing is a very deep red, with almost no other colors showing through. He has a bit of blue under-garment showing through, which along with the thin stream in the background, shows he has not completely lost his connection to the feminine Empress and his own intuition.

In the minor cards, we see less direct evidence of color in clothing being significant, but it is still worth looking through the cards with this in mind to see what we can find. For example, in the Five of Wands, the five fighting figures are all wearing tunics of different colors, symbolizing that they have five different points of view and conflicting agendas. However, several of them have undergarments of yellow, suggesting the possibility of at least some compromise if any of them were willing to stop fighting long enough to listen. The man in the Five of Cups wears a cloak of deep black, symbolizing his depression and the gloomy void he has cast himself into. However, it is only a cloak, and if he cast it off he could move on with his life. In the Five of Swords, the central grinning figure has undergarments of red, symbolizing anger, war, and aggression, but his overtunic is green. This could be a reference to the opportunity for growth that inevitably follows destruction (especially in nature), and provides a possible positive note to the card. Many of the court cards are wearing symbols of their energy, for example, the Knight of Cups has fishes on his tunic, and the Knight of Wands has salamanders. In other cards, such as the Six of Pentacles and the Eight of Pentacles, the clothing seems more designed to give the impression of a certain profession or standing in society, a wealthy merchant or a tradesman.

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Teresa Michelsen is a well known and highly respected tarot reader and instructor, and also the original creator of Tarot Moon.
Theresa has over 25 years experience in reading tarot.
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