XXI The Garden: The Garden of the Hesperides
The Garden (The World in most tarot decks) represents being attuned to our truest and best self. It is the place we attain when we successfully follow our deepest purpose.
In the Tarot of Delphi, the garden, the apples, the nymphs and the serpent symbolize integration with nature and ourselves.
Mythology of the Garden
An enormous serpent is wrapped around a tree – trunk and bough. He has slithered down to entwine one of the women lounging in its shade. The women are nymphs, called the Hesperides. They are the daughters of Night and Darkness, and they live on the peaceful edge of day.
The serpent, called Ladon, has the gift of speech and is loved (not feared!) by the Hesperides. They sit together in eternal tranquility of the evening in the orchard near the sea.
The orchard garden belongs to Hera, Queen of the Gods. Hera was affectionate toward Ladon and placed him in the garden with the Hesperides to protect the golden apple tree. (The tree was a wedding gift from Gaia, Goddess of the Earth.) The serpent was the perfect guardian – wise, clever and ever wakeful.
This trail of female admirers is not accidental. Long ago, the serpent was an emblem of female power and wisdom. Echoes of the sacred femininity of the snake continue in the positive attributes of its symbolism: birth, regeneration and, especially for the Greeks, prophecy.
Restoring the Sacred Feminine
The theme of regeneration is mirrored in the golden apples, symbols of immortality. These are the apples Hercules stole in his legendary eleventh labor. In some versions of the story, Hercules killed Ladon and, in disturbing the peace and balance of the garden, ushered in a new, fractured world order. The Hesperides were overheard weeping. Hera, angered and grieving, placed Ladon in the night sky as the constellation Draco.
The golden apples were returned to the garden by Athena, Goddess of Wisdom. The wise, feminine, conscientious force of Athena repairs the fracturing that results from the violence, egotism, and brashness of Hercules. The women, however, have been separated from the sacred serpent.
In the soft yet dazzling light of the evening, the egrets in the azalea bush may offer a key to regaining the garden. The azaleas mean temperance in the Victorian flower lexicon, and the white bird is a symbol of purity.
With clarity of thought, integrity in thinking – well before action – and moderation in all things, the gifts of the evening garden are attainable. It is Delphic message again: “Know thyself. Nothing in excess.”
KeywordsPeacefulness. Acceptance. Contentment. Fulfillment. Attune. Integration. Regeneration. Harmony.
Choosing the Art
The 21st trump is called The World in most traditional decks. The circular painting in the Tarot of Delphi’s 21st card, called The Garden, is by Lord Frederic Leighton. The shape mimics the round designs in most World cards.
Common illustrations for The World feature a figure framed by an oval laurel wreath. The character varies – a nude woman, an androgynous figure, or in some cases, the Christ.
Renaissance decks often featured the world itself – a globe with twins holding it aloft or a sacred-looking, supernatural figure hovering above it. Within the sphere may be an idyllic scene or rarefied symbols.
In the Tarot of Delphi the peaceful scene within a sphere is retained. The sacred figures sit within it.
Many interpretations of The World say that there is no shadow to the final card. The Tarot of Delphi accepts this as generally true and, at the same time, honors the Garden as a reward for facing the deepest shadows of our lives.