Orientation of Figures and Symbolism of Body Parts[1]

Translated from Le Tarot De Marseille by Paul Marteau

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The orientation of the figures indicates the nature of the action, according to whether the figure is seen in profile on the left, straight on, in profile on the right, or there is mediation, responsive action, direct action, or evolution (that is to say, training action). If the figure is standing, it is an indication of some hidden travail: activity, giving orders, energy.  A seated figure’s action is executed in a passive mode: inertia, resistance or internal planning.
In this interpretation, the head plays the capital role, because it gives indication of tendency or will; if, for example, the body is presented standing in a frontal view, but the head is turned to the left, as we see in the Juggler, this indicates some sort of reflection preceding a direction action which is being prepared.
The HEAD in the Tarot express the will, the act of commanding.
The COVERED HEAD corresponds to figures who are not expressing their will with their bodies, because the headdress, being a material thing, the will is expressed in an set of ideas symbolized by it. For example, a crown represents a very powerful outward expression, but one originating in more subtle planning, owing to the jewels which draw our attention. The will is more impersonal in the other head coverings which represent things engendered by the personal will.
The HAIR expresses a flowing of effusion. If it lacks color, a strong force of will is not present, but if it is colored, this is a greater manifestation of mental activity. If it is the color of gold, it represents a mental realization more formed, more concrete, more realized; if blue, the force is more located in the spiritual and tends to stay there.
HAIR IN DISORDER is an indication of a will with great power behind it.
HAIR CAREFULLY STYLED has no one particular meaning. The expression of will may be more contained–for example, JUSTICE, which is closely directed state of mind.
A BEARD indicates the will, a willful and more focused concentration.
The NECK is a passage between the mental (the head) and the spirit (the chest).


COVERED, it indicates a simple communication between the two planes; COVERED, it re-enforces, according to its color, the difference between the mental and spiritual intensities.
The NECK needs to have a high neckline if it is to avoid excessive letting go and losing composure.
Completely uncovered, it represents freedom, independence.
The TORSO represents the spirit; buttons and ornamentation are spiritual enrichments, specific aspects. if the clothing is of two colors, the spiritual has a double meaning.
The whole torso represents the spirit, with its spiritual side represented by the breast, and the material side by the stomach–for example, instincts and maternal love.
The BELT is the reasonable aspect of the psyche: a being does not give in and impose reasoning on his dispositions.
The ARMS specify thoughtful, reasoned actions. They are the interpreters of the mind and of the mind (their color indicates whether the mind is prevailing over the spirit.
The LEFT ARM is the conveyance of a spiritual message which is altruistic and emotional; psychic power directs it.
The RIGHT ARM conveys decisions, volitions, hopes, the realization of action.
The LOWERED ARM signifies an action which has born fruit or an impediment to action: the arm directed downward of the Juggler underlines his indecision and submission.
The RAISED ARM indicates a connection with the High, the seizing of forces.
ARMS ON THE BELT at the midriff represent a circulation between the spiritual and the physical, as if untying or letting go, or making a decision about something.
The LEGS indicate the realization of something through action. If the entity is standing firm, the action is firmly based; crossed legs represent waiting or the status quo.




If a FOOT is in the air, as the Emperor’s is, it’s an indication of a beginning and decision making.

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[1] The given descriptions are general, but they can be attenuated or accentuated by certain details of a figure’s clothing.

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