Meaning: Peel back the curtains and reveal the mysteries of nature. Let your observations take you beyond your familiar zone and into new territory. See how fleeting this life is, sing until the end.
Reversed: There are times when beliefs that help us feel in control conflict with the beliefs of others. The solution is to return somewhere where everything meets, to meet them out in the open.
If there was some credible pattern to the order of the trumps, it would be that after all the trials of Death and the Tower and so on, the celestial group near the end do seem like a kind of reward, icing on the cake. The Star marks the end, and for enduring these trials, with new eyes the universe becomes apparent for its wonders. That would be a point of maturity, I’d venture.
With the celestial cards in the tarot limited to Sun, Moon and Star, this card would first bring to mind not a generic star, else it would be called The Stars, but specifically it is Venus. The planet is often the first and brightest star, and in the night sky appears to interact with the Moon’s phases. More familiar after the Middle Ages as Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, this card is yet another face of the classic Mother goddesses, she frequently wears the blue cloak of night. About half of the old cultures believed life crawled out of the sea. But as the night goddess she was also associated with death, rebirth and status in the old days, when the elect such as a King waited in the chilly depths to be reborn. For many cultures, that place of waiting was the glass castle at the North Star, another possible candidate.
The Star by the time of the tarot has a new layer of meaning, as something of a candidate for muse of the Humanists. The occult picked up on this also, being enamored with the star as the analogy of the preciousness of every person’s scintilla of being. But to the people of the 15th Century as much as to ourselves, the stars are both knowable and true in their movement, and hold certain information for us in plain view if we’re devoted enough to record it. This card is usually the most open to artistic interpretation, but typically features stars and water. Easily conflated with Aquarius, this card is more primal, referring to the old Sea Mothers, such as Aphrodite and Venus, who had been reduced to ‘love’ emblems. This is the card of creation, of the stirring of life from the seas. Primal, and contains a range of emblems referring to it, the myth of the star’s descent into the sea. The Paris example has an astronomer at work, the Marseilles has Temperance emptying her jugs into the big drink, and one of the Visconti decks feature a woman kneeling in the open with an anchor tied to her and a severed head, possibly a link between St. John the Baptist, whose head was said to reside at Amiens, and Orpheus the head that washed up still singing, symbol of prophecy and poetry. At other times, the downward pointing spear may appear, having various meanings, it is also analogous to the thrown lightning bolt, victory, and the stirring of the seas. In any case, the card is a reference to preceding matriarchal religion of long archaic times.
“The type of the goddess is that of Aphrodite the Modest, unclothed and decorous, and the material is ivory, closely joined. However, the goddess is unwilling to seem painted, but she stands out as though one could take hold of her . . . The maidens are singing, are singing, and the chorister frowns at one who is off the key, clapping her hands and trying earnestly to bring her into tune . . . Eros, tilting up the centre of his bow, lightly strikes the string for them and the bow-string resounds with a full harmony and asserts that it possesses all the notes of a lyre; and swift are the eyes of the god as they recall, I fancy, some particular measure. What, then, is the song they are singing? For indeed something of the subject has been expressed in the painting; they are telling how Aphrodite was born from the sea through an emanation of Heaven. Upon which one of the islands she came ashore they do not yet tell [..] but they are singing clearly enough of her birth, for by looking upward they indicate that she is from Heaven, and by slightly moving their upturned hands they show that she has come from the sea, and their smile is an intimation of the sea’s calm.” Philostratus the Elder, 3rd C. BC
Aphrodite, known to the Romans as Venus, is a very old cult, traced easily to the island of Cyprus, to a place called Paphos, where remains of goddess worship date back three thousand years. It must have been a mother cult, and the story as it was passed along always had to it a bit of a riddle, that she had fallen from the heavens, and so she was a star, but that she arrived at Paphos by coming out of the sea, like a shipwreck survivor. Whoever this stranger was, she was very wise, and well liked, and founded a goddess centre that survived to the very end and the bans brought by the Roman Empire. In some versions of her story, she ascended again and awaits a time to return and lead a new era.
The most famous image of Venus today, the Birth of Aphrodite Anadyomene, Goddess of the Sea, is one of the few such images of the old religions to continuously remain. Seen as analogous for beauty, the goddess who rose out of the sea, born a full grown woman (and therefore a virgin) who could restore her virginity simply by returning to the sea. This understanding gives a picture of what the popular temple offered women of the Mediterranean who were able to travel.
As goddess of the sea, Aphrodite was patroness of sailors. The sailors of North Italy, the sailors of Marseille, the sailors who played Tarot knew the Goddess of the Sea perfectly well. Who but the antique sailors lived close enough to the elements to be struck permanently pagan by circumstances alone. They called her Star of the Sea, Stella Maris, the -s being silent and sounding like Marie, about all the Catholic they could get out of the hard bitten coastal enclaves.