Saturday, 29 August 2009
Now, this bird that's in the background of the Star card...
Is it really an image of the sacred ibis?
...or the scarlet ibis?
Waiter, there's a bird in my Star card! There's an ibis perching on the tree in the background. Every writer I look to maintains that it's the sacred ibis of Egypt, representative of Thoth and Hermes, and symbol of the mind. The mind is coming to rest in the tree, symbolising meditation and the gaining of divine inspiration from the energy of the Star.
Ok. It's just that the sacred ibis is mostly white, and, well, the bird on my Rider-Waite Star card looks kind of red to me...
The scarlet ibis, and for that matter, the roseate spoonbill, are cousins of the sacred ibis. However, they come from South America, which could dilute the ancient Egyptian symbology somewhat. After all, most evidence suggests that the tarot did NOT originate in Egypt anyway, but in the courts of Milan! However, that's a subject for another post. (The Golden Dawn put the ibis on the Star card. There was definitely some ancient Egyptian influence in that society, but it wasn't the only form of mysticism they embraced.)
Nevertheless, if you're a cousin of someone, you share some of their DNA. So I see no reason why the scarlet ibis can't symbolise the mind like his cousin, if he wants to. All that remains is the question of his reddish tint.
Scarlet ibises are born white, but they get redder and redder as they grow older because they eat a particular type of crab, absorbing its colouring. Funny, isn't it, that the crab is an old symbol of the subconscious mind?
By eating and repressing the subconscious, the 'mind bird' has gone red, and needs to meditate in the tree to set things right again. He may not be the only one who'd benefit from a period of self-reflection, either. Perhaps Little Red Riding-Hood had more going on under that cape than we first thought...