In the Major Arcana we find mainly figures placed frontally: characters who look at us as if we were in front of a mirror. However, there are some Tarot characters which shows their backs to us. What do the backs of these Tarot characters represent? What can this mean from a symbolic point of view?
The Tarot characters as a mirror
Tarot cards are actually a mirror. Observing them we are therefore faced with representations of unconscious aspects of our personality: the mirror reverses the perspective, what was on the right is now on the left, that is, the perspective of the unconscious.
Looking at the Fool, the Tarot mirror reveals to us: you are not what you think you are. You are that Fool, recognize which aspects of Fool are about you. The same goes for the Bateleur, the High Priestess and so on.
But if a character is depicted from behind, the Tarot is like inviting us to become the protagonists of the scene. Just like in those “first person” or “subjective” video games where the protagonist we control is shown from behind and therefore facilitates our identification in the game environment.
So if the characters in frontal position generally show our unconscious aspects for the mirror effect, the characters depicted from behind put the accent on our Ego: that part of us that sees, hears, acts and makes decisions in the field of consciousness.
The backs of the characters in the Pope Tarot card
The first Tarot characters depicted from behind we encounter are the two little priests or altar boys. This means we are now one of those two characters. We are there, fearful, in front of the imposing figure of the Pope.
We are thus still novices, all we can do is sit there listening and receiving a teaching. In fact, we are still at the beginning of the Tarot journey; with the Pope we are only at the fifth step and we still have a lot to learn.
But which of the two novices are we exactly? We may be both! In dreams, the symbol of the couple alludes to the theme of duplicity, an unconscious content that is opposed to the point of view of consciousness. We are next to our “shadow twin”, a part of us that we refuse to accept as ours and therefore live in the form of projection, an entity that we perceive as external.
After all, a few Arcana before the Tarot reflected our being “Fool”, therefore disintegrated, without a conscious Ego. At least with the Pope we return to be protagonists, however “double” and still not “united” in ourselves.
The Puer Aeternus of Judgment Tarot card
Only many Major Arcana later we find another character from behind: the creature of Judgment.
That creature, that eternal boy, it’s us. We are one step away from merging with the World, the totality of the Self.
Thanks to the Tarot journey we have reintegrated all our unconscious aspects and we are reborn to ourselves. The novitiate has ended. We merged with our “double” and we have recovered a connection with the divine that is within us: the Angel of Judgment heralds the advent of the Self.