History of male social roles in Son cards of Motherpeace Tarot

As I mentioned in the previous post, Minor Arcana suits in the Motherpeace Tarot can be seen as portraying four eras of human history. This influences both appearance and meaning of the cards. As an example, let’s analyse Son cards of all four suits and see how they match what (we think) we know about male social roles in history.

(When Motherpeace Tarot was created, Marija Gimbutas’ research was recent and greatly influenced the card meanings. I will therefore keep referring back to Gimbutas in this post).

Son of Wands

The Son of Wands is the only one depicted among other members of society. His skills are oriented toward other people: he is an entertainer or perhaps a storyteller. He is empathetic, taking pleasure in making others smile. There is no sense of social hierarchy or pecking order: his humour is neither self-deprecating nor relies on mocking the audience. He is not a figure of authority; possibly not a father, but perhaps the woman’s brother or her eldest son.

This agrees with the description of pre-patriarchal, matrilinear societies from Marija Gimbutas’ work. These were societies where families were organised around a mother, her children and siblings (matrilinearity). They did not have significant status differences and no evidence of social hierarchies remained. Women and children were treated with respect.

Son of Cups

In contrast, the Son of Cups concentrates on his own psyche and emotions. His skills (meditation, yoga) are of benefit only to himself; even his music is for his personal pleasure. Embarking on a spiritual quest, he isolated himself from the rest of the society and refuses to share with others, but is not hostile or actively destructive towards it.

This drive to independence can be seen as a general tendency in Neolithic humans. It was during this era that farming was invented and some animal species were first domesticated (goats, sheep, and cattle; dogs being domesticated in Paleolithic). There is evidence of specialisation occurring among craftspersons, as well as gradual differentiation between society members (only some of them were buried in special places, or had their skulls preserved and used in ancestor worship).

Son of Swords

Then comes the Son of Swords, desiring to take away other people’s property, killing or enslaving those that don’t run. He is armed with newly invented bronze weapons and covered by bronze armour. He had to stunt or repress the side of personality traditionally considered feminine in order to become a „real man” (as Vicki Noble explains in „Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art, and Tarot”, the dead dove in his hand is a symbol of Aphrodite/Venus and feminine qualities in general). This shows he is involved in the society in his own way: he cares for what other men think of him and needs their acceptance in order to fit in.

This is again consistent with Gimbutas’ theory – the Son of Swords is a member of the Kurgan culture. This is the time when war became a good thing, men started being defined as warriors and women as slaves/property. Evidence exists of gendered division of labour in previous eras, but it is only at this time that one gender became worth-less and therefore it became critical for men to „prove” themselves different from women in order to retain their status.

Son of Discs

Finally, we have the Son of Discs, depicting Robin Hood. Here we have a privileged man (Earl of Huntingdon) who divides people according to his whim into deserving and undeserving, robs the latter and gives to the former. True to the spirit of Coins/Discs, he is only concerned with material possessions and influences the world by manipulating wealth. As a (previously) rich and thus independent person, he doesn’t care about rules of society and is free to concentrate on his personal quest for justice.

With the invention of coin as an abstraction of time/effort exchange, humans became even less aware of how dependent they actually are on one another and on the natural world. This is what allows the Son of Discs to think he can make it on his own. After introducing accumulation of wealth, property laws, and expanding economy, a rigid social structure of haves and have-nots came into being. Note that Robin is an outlaw not because he promotes taking property by force (this is a given since the Swords period), but because he sides with the underdogs, therefore inverting and threatening the existing hierarchy.

This card also relates to modern male social roles since today, men are (still, mostly) considered to be responsible for earning money and providing for the family, which is supposed to be their life goal (note Son of Discs concentrating his skills on a single great Disc/Coin). They also dominate governments and courts, determining – like Robin – who is deserving and who is not, and redistributing wealth in the guise of taxes, government spending and benefits.

(Note also how the era/suit correlation allows us to explain active and passive personalities with no need to refer elements and genders. Wands and Swords depict extroverts, men who care about their standing in society, while Cups and Coins/Discs show two introverts-individualists, who think they stand on their own).

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