"This must my comfort be:
That sun that warms you here shall shine on me."
William Shakespeare (Richard II)
This be the happiest card in all of tarot: The Sun. It is drawn in a reading and you know all is well, or will be well, at least for a time. It's all about doing the happy dance and feeling utter abandon and joy. It's difficult to turn this card around and see anything at all negative about it. It's party time!
So what is there to say about all that? It's interesting that we spend so much time analyzing the darker cards of tarot and rather skip over the brighter ones. Oh, we're really glad they're there, but we just think we know what it means to be happy and carefree so, enough said, right? I should think you'd know me better than that by now.
Worship of a sun deity is as ancient as dirt. As far back as there have been humans, there is indication that the sun was revered and spiritually significant to every human culture. This is not at all surprising as the sun plays a significant role in our daily lives and without it life as we know it would not exist. Though western cultures have associated the Sun with a male deity, such as Apollo, many other cultures have personified the Sun as a goddess. This is appropriate to remember when we look at the earthly abundance in many tarot Sun card images and relate it directly to the procreative and generative qualities of The Empress. The dualism of sun/male/light and moon/female/darkness is found in many European traditions that derive from Orphic and Gnostic philosophies, with a notable exception being Germanic mythology, where the Sun is female and the Moon is male. So while historically tarot, being developed in Europe, would have associated the Sun with a male deity, specifically the Son of God as Christianity claimed, one can also see the feminine influences in the card as well.
The Sun card often features a child or children and is associated with a sense of returning to a simpler time, a more innocent, carefree way of living. It can also denote childishness or childlikeness in one's approach or view. It is full of optimism and lives fully in the present moment. All of the historical meanings from Waite to Mathers and Etteilla point to happiness, bliss, contentment, and joy. Even reversed the card isn't negative, per se, but is simply muted in its joy. Shall I leave good enough alone? Um...no.
The Sun is the primary life force that governs our existence on earth, but we lose sight of that given its regular appearance in the sky on a daily basis. We often take for granted the daylight that allows for the regeneration and fecundity of the earth. We remember only during an eclipse or during some kind of natural disaster that clouds the sky with smoke or ash that blocks out the sun's light. We think how awful it would be to live perpetually in darkness. Well, we couldn't live perpetually in darkness, as nothing would grow to sustain life. The earth would grow cold and lifeless. But we forget that each morning as some of us draw the curtains to block those morning rays.
Oh sure, we appreciate the sun when we've made weekend plans for an outing at the beach or a picnic. "What a beautiful day," we say when the sun cooperates with our plans. We expect the sun to rise and it does, so it's easy to take it for granted and we do. So it is with the Sun card in tarot. It comes up and it makes us smile, but like not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, we tend not to delve too far into the meaning behind it. Yet the Sun is such a powerful influence. It can make us feel wonderful or it can parch and dry the landscape with too much intensity and heat. It causes us to sweat, to become thirsty, and if we're not careful, it burns our skin.
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and wore a back brace for 3 years. By the time I was sixteen, I was so not going to wear that contraption when I went out with my boyfriend. So, I'd take a change of clothes, ditch the brace and throw it in the back of his car. One summer day we decided to head to the beach. My torso had not seen the sun in two years but this day vanity took over and I so wanted to wear this new bikini I had bought just for the occasion that I threw all common sense to the wind and spent all day out in the sun with no protection. We had a blast that day, playing in the water and laying in the sun. On the drive home I began shaking. I felt ill and cold and yet I could not stand the blanket against my skin. As I stood up to walk, I fainted. My boyfriend caught me, helped me in the house and stayed by my side as I waited for my mother to return home. Over the next week the skin on my stomach peeled away to reveal stinging, burning, raw skin underneath. I stood in front of a fan to get some relief from the burning pain. The Sun, I learned, is not always a friend.
The Sun follows The Moon in the ordering of the Major Arcana, and so brings light to darkness and clarity to confusion. While in the Moon landscape you cannot see nor know what you are seeing is true, but when the sun comes up, you see what you could not in the bare light of the moon. The Sun brings clarity of sight, of mind, and a feeling of safety. It reveals and enlightens. Think that's a good thing? Usually it is, but revelations can be painful as well. Sometimes delusions are a refuge and, once revealed as such, can be heartbreaking to face.
No, I'm not trying to bring everyone down. The Sun really is a great card and as such denotes really happy times, long lasting relationships, happy endings. It can also signify a time period of one year, as it takes the earth one year to orbit around the sun. Or it can indicate one day, the time it takes for the earth to rotate once around. We say things like "having our day in the sun. " Still, in the backs of our minds, just as we know the sun sets each day, we also know that good times don't last forever. As such, the Sun's advice could very well be to take time to appreciate this day rather than take it for granted as we tend to do. This is why I chose to feature The Sun card from The Hudes Tarot deck. The image of the bright sun against a grey sky allows one to both appreciate the breakthrough of the sun after the long, dark night of the soul and clearly see that the clouds are still there, though in the background. This card doesn't neglect the reality that, without those darker times, the Sun times would not taste nearly as sweet.