Izzy and Sugar Explain The Tarot

I’m not drunk, because I’m working, but I have had a scone with jam and clotted cream and a hot chocolate with crushed Cadbury eggs in it, so I wouldn’t call my state of mind normal, as such, albeit for me a semi-constant sugar high is pretty standard.

And if any cards go with sobriety, the Swords royalty are them. (You really want to be drunk for the Nine and Ten, likewise for the Devil and Tower, each in their own ways, and Temperance isn’t about being sober, despite the name–it’s about being just the right amount of drunk, the right amount of the time.) The King and Queen, at their best, are both about clear thinking, the wise use of power, and the ability to step back and see what the fuck is actually going on. Much as I enjoy a drink or three, none of that goes with booze.

The Queen of Swords is a (generally) dark-haired woman in fancy, flowy robes, often some variety of blue and white. She’s holding a sword, point up, and classically enthroned, though some cards have her standing dramatically on the edge of a cliff. There are nearly always clouds in the background, and usually a river and a tree and some mountains as well. This is really the Most Nineties Fantasy Cover of Tarot cards, except for the ones that are blatantly Elizabeth I.

This one was also a TV series title, of course, and has at least a few namesake novels.

The Swords royalty are really the most classically royal, as is unsurprising in a suit dealing with power. This is a person who’s got good judgment, as a general rule–not so much insight, but a lot of knowledge and the smarts to apply it well–and they make it without bias and with an awareness of the Spider Man-style responsibility they’ve got.  The Queen is careful, but they’re also decisive: they’ll weigh all the information available, but then make a decision rather than dithering.

In the way of Swords, this can come off as harsh, and, indeed, the Queen of Swords doesn’t have a lot of time or energy for the softer considerations of life. Ideally she’s not unsympathetic, but the sob story only goes so far–“well, that’s too bad, but….” is a phrase that she might apply a lot. The negative potential gets at all the Scheming Woman archetypes in fiction, from Lady MacBeth to Miranda Priestly to Lloth: goals matter, the situation matters, and nobody who stands in their way does.

Many interpretations say that the figure is someone who’s known sorrow, which makes sense: when you make a decision and stick to it, especially when you have the power to do that, you often piss people off, or sacrifice some part of your life. That’s sad, but that’s not the end of the world–indeed, “sadness is not the end of the world” is a pretty good Swords summary.

The King of Swords:

In appearance and posture, he resembles the Queen a lot: throned or sometimes standing, holding a sword, dressed in blue and white. There are generally more mountains and fewer clouds in the background.

Speaking of biased interpretations, this card has never been my favorite: there were a lot of readings for me where it was associated with my at-the-time boyfriend and Surly Friend Guy and other Men Who Knew What was Best For People.  The failing of king-type people in general is that of extending responsibility too far, and the intellect of Swords can combine with that to produce a really obnoxious form of moral certainty slash authoritarianism: the sort who got deeply annoyed when other people didn’t run their lives by his principles, and would constantly try to argue them into doing so.

(The King of Pentacles, gone wrong, is classic Overprotective Dad: nobody is taking care of themselves well enough, and nobody has good enough health insurance, and why haven’t you gotten someone to check out that noise in your car OMG YOU’RE GONNA DIE. King of Cups can be either The World Must Understand My Art guy, Dark Messiah, or Super-Incel Stage 5 Whiner/Clinger. King of Wands, we’ll get to.)

That said, this card has as much potential for good as any other, and a good King of Swords is great to have around as a manager, a commander, a head of state, or even a friend. As you might guess, if you’ve been following this blog,  this is a person who’s good with knowledge, power, and freedom–and at his best, they use the first to balance the second two.  They’re strong and commanding, but they’re also honest and fair, and they have the self-knowledge to know the limits of their authority.

“When all philosophies shall fail,

This word alone shall fit;

That a sage feels too small for life,

And a fool too large for it.”

–King Alfred, by way of G.K. Chesterton, and I think apt.

And that’s Swords! Next time: Wands, but before that, Resonance, or Why Originality Is Bullshit


English Majoring It Up

CW: Violence, child death, pet death.

Spoilers: Pet Semetary

Gotten into a surprising number of conversations about Pet Semetary of late, or maybe an unsurprising number given the recent new movie. One awesome Twitter comment stuck with me: namely, that the story is about how everyone dies because dudes don’t listen to advice.  (Yeah, yeah, #notalldudes, whatever.)

And yeah. I posted this on FB and was like yeah, I’ve read the book, I know there’s supposed to be an eldritch horror with mental influence, but frankly in this day and age I think that guy could just sit back with a beer. Except…okay, maybe the story is “everyone dies because dudes won’t listen to advice except from a creepy corruption figure who tells them to give in to their worst impulses,” which makes the Wendigo in the story, like, Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro, and I’m cool with this analogy.

Then I went to buy milk and a sweater, which involves a lot of walking, which is generally when my brain comes up with Dubious Ideas. And so: Totally Unintentional (obviously, a lot of these assholes weren’t even born when the book came out) Pet Semetary As Analogy For Incels/MRAs/Those Dudes That Whine About Girl Ghostbusters.

So okay. One of the basic concepts of the book is that sometimes shit happens and it’s often unpleasant and not necessarily fair, but our job as people is to accept it, do what we can, and get on with our lives. Going forward is painful, but the best option. Trying to bring things back ends with zombie children.

Now, obviously, not getting laid by the people you want or having girls in your video games or whatnot is not a problem compared to having your kid or your pet get run over. But I’m going to be charitable–mostly for the sake of a literary metaphor, not because these assholes in any way deserve it–and say that, okay, it does hurt when you legitimately do everything right and the person you’re into doesn’t return the feelings, and the patriarchy is bad for men too, and when you’re used to privilege equality feels like loss and so on. So there’s some pain.

The route that doesn’t end in badness, the Victor Pascow/Mostly Jud Crandall route, is acceptance. Yes, whatever’s going on hurts, but there’s nobody to blame for it, and you can’t change the situation by force. At best, you can maybe keep it from happening again, but often it’s just a case of sitting with the pain and then moving forward.

Unless you listen to Peterson/Shapiro/the monster beyond the deadfall. What they tell you is that you can totally keep or make things the way you want them to be, that you don’t have to let go and move on, and that you’re right to cling to what was, or what you thought was, or what you wanted to be.

This is where the metaphor shifts.

Because it’s yourself you bury if you listen to those people. You’re sticking your mind in the Dubious Resurrection Pit, because you can’t let go of your old self enough to take in new information like “I’m sad right now, but it will pass, and nobody owes me a relationship,” or “some of the things I liked did leave a lot of people out, at best.”

Most people who do that, thank God, get the animal resurrection model. They’re not pleasant to be around, they’re surly, and many of them smell weird, but basically they’re harmless. Some go all Timmy Bateman with the verbal or emotional abuse. And, as we know from the news, no small number end up full Gage.

Don’t listen to the fucker in the woods. It does not end well.

And that, folks, is what I’m still paying off student loans for.

Next week,  I finish Swords!

Belated Swords

Sorry for skipping last week: time is hard and unforgiving, not unlike swords. (Have you ever heard of a +3 Sword of Forgiveness? A Vorpal Blade of Letting Shit Go? Didn’t think so.)

Having gotten through the only-possibly-mitigated suck of the ten, we’re on to the court cards!

The Page of Swords

Okay so. The Tarot has the whole go-to-the-end-and-restart thing happening a lot, and if the tens are completion, the pages are the restart. Another way to look at it is that the tens are the most intense a particular element and its association in the world can be with people, and the pages are the beginning of internalizing that element.

If you assume that there’s a coherent thematic thing happening here, that’s why the Ten is made of woe and stabbing and the Page is actually doing pretty okay. They’re a young fair-haired person in a tunic, holding a sword and running around on some hills, like how The Sound of Music should have opened. There are some clouds in the background, but the sky’s mostly blue.

In number-and-element terms, this is a young woman who’s good with things of air (knowledge, power, freedom), or someone who’s good with air stuff in an initial, learning kind of way, without authority.  Ideally, this can be the result of going through the Ten of Swords: the more-or-less “okay” condition after that card is some version of “fuck it.” If the Ten was positive for you, this is you taking the power and knowledge you reached for in a moment of desperation and figuring out how to make it a reasonable part of your life. If it was negative, the Ten-to-Page transition means realizing that there’s life beyond the worst thing ever, that you actually aren’t as lost as you think, and that everyone whose good opinion you fretted over losing can go to hell.

The more complicated version is about new ideas and vision and THE FUTUUUUUURE, which may or may not be so bright as to require tinted glasses, and hopefully not in an eighties-cold-war sense. The Ten is disaster, but so is the Tower, and in both senses there’s often the context that it’s a disaster that needed to happen: burning the forest to clear out the undergrowth. In that case, this would be the Minor Arcana version of the Star: fresh vision, insights, hope.

It’s also about vigilance, grace, and a little secrecy, because you might be hopeful, but you’re not naive, especially if you consider this in the context of the Ten. Hope is great, rebirth is great, but what happened still happened, and you’re wiser about the ways people can dick you over. So it goes.

Knight of Swords

This guy’s racing along on a white horse, with clouds blowing in the background. He’s got a sword, a shield, and armor, his hair’s blowing back, and it’s all extreeeemely dramatic! He Knows Things! He’s going to Do Something About This! Does it matter what this is? Ideally.

This is a card about courage, recklessness, and good intentions, the best of pavingstones. This is about a person with an ideal about knowledge, or freedom, or power, who’s determined to make it happen–often regardless of the cost to them, and sometimes regardless of the cost to others.

One of the dangers of Swords, and of power and intellect, is believing that you know exactly the way things should be and that you have the right-slash-duty to correct them when they’re not. Being a Knight, there’s a certain militancy about the “correctness” here: this person might work at a soup kitchen, but they’re more likely to run for office or protest cuts to healthcare.

If you’re actually right and you can be effective, this is great: go save the whales, get a damn minimum-wage bill passed, punch a Nazi in the face!

A lot of people are not these things. At best, in these cases, they end up ardent but flailing activists, quickly burned out and convinced that nobody can do anything because they couldn’t manage the equivalent of running barefoot up a vertical wall, or scholars so obsessed with a particular theory that they can’t handle alternative points of view. (Religion is an easy target here, but I dated a geneticist for a while, and holy God do people get vicious about mouse DNA.) At worst…well, we’ve got a whole lot of history for “at worst.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad card to draw, or even to be, but it’s one that calls for caution. The more I see of Swords, the more I think that their negative associations come from the tendency of people who Really Like Abstract Theories to see those theories rather than the way things actually are, and to take personally any differences between the ideal and the real.

When the world outside your head doesn’t match the world inside it, it’s very rarely your job to make that happen, and it’s never your job alone. Forget that at some degree of peril.


Story: Chariot

In my grand LARP-week tradition, here’s a story that I wrote years ago:

The arguments rise and fall and rise again, like waves coming in with the tide, like fire roaring on the hearth: we must have and we will not. Sometimes we could try or perhaps we might. Rarely. Very rarely. Not, praise the Seven Wandering Stars, as rare as they were at the beginning; the sharp edges have been worn down, melted, softened. Two weeks have done that.

Two weeks of…treating? It makes a strange verb. One treats a wound or a disease, treats a horse or a hound kindly–or not–treats a subject lightly or seriously; there’s little mention of treat in the abstract, the usage that means putting down the weapons and putting on the best clothes and talking about how to go forward. How to stop fighting. How to do something else.

In a way, despite the meetings and the sub-meetings and the little clumps of people talking in hallways and on staircases, the specifics don’t even matter. Young folks–and some of the older ones–raise their voices and speak of honor and insults. Old people–and some of the younger ones–talk for hours of wisdom and complications. On all sides. On every side.

And you, who were a mason’s daughter and apprentice before time and wars and plague made you queen, you listen to the words and the tones under the words, and you think that alliances are much like buildings.

At least, the good ones are. Just as the good friendships are, or the good marriages, or the good apprenticeships, at that. It’s a metaphor that keeps coming to your hand. You may be biased.

Yet it works, for people; it works in all of those situations; because under the words are the same two impulses, pulling against each other: I want to be part of something more. I want to stay myself. It’s rare to see a man or woman or country who’s willing to melt like metal in a forge, who wants to enter into alchemy and become someone else, something else. Most of us know who we are and like it, or have made our peace with it, and don’t want to give that up.

So, then, buildings. Finding the compromises you can make and still stay yourself: things you don’t discuss, things you don’t expect, things you can give away. Lovers. Land. A day off. A day remembered. A song. A flag. Bricks remain bricks; wood remains wood; they lose none of their essential nature for being placed in a framework.

And yet you don’t talk about bricks or wood, but about houses. Fortresses. Cathedrals. Greater things. Things that serve a purpose: things that do what bricks and wood, on their own, cannot. There has to be a structure.

So you wait. You watch; you listen. Then, in the silence that falls after the latest round of arguments, a silence that will be a brief pause for water and regrouping if you let it, you stand up and speak.

This is what will be.


Izzy and Berenjager Explain the Nine and Ten of Swords

Okay, so first of all, Berenjager is honey liqueur, and it is good stuff. The name means “bear hunter,” and the German version is Barenfang, or “bear trap,” which are the best liquor names of all time. The label says it’s made with a “generous amount” of honey, and holy shit they are not kidding at all about that. 10/10.

You really want to have your bear-themed honey drunk on when approaching the next two cards. Yes, the swords=negative thing may be exaggerated for reasons I’ve mentioned before (weapons as symbol, Tarot developed by feelings-having romantics, and so forth), but intellect and particularly power can be dangerous things to mess with in our society, long-term associations have their own kind of power, and, in general, Shit Gets Real here.

“Real” in some terms in The Nine of Swords, or HOLY FUCK How Much Did I Drink Last Night?

I mean: there are nine swords on the wall, sure, that’s a thing, but someone is sitting up in bed, burying their face in their hands,  and I guess this pose indicates Existential Dread if you’re more innocent but it mostly reminds me of a lot of Sunday mornings. Like, you could replace the central figure with any picture from Hungover Owls and get the same general effect. You consumed substances. Some of them were blue. Then you had a lot of opinions about sitcoms from the nineties, you think, and now you’re in a motel where the lobby features tourist booklets about Maine. Are you in Maine? You’re pretty sure that wasn’t in your plans.

This is probably not what the original or indeed the Victorian artists intended, but it’s also not inaccurate. The specific meaning has a lot to do with doubts, fears, guilt, and other bad shit that is mostly in your head. Shit may indeed be bad, but it’s not as bad as you think, and you can get through it, but worrying will only make it worse. Yes, you may have sung a lot of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and you may have tried to catch mushroom poppers in your mouth like a seal, but you know what? It’s not the end of the fucking world. Most people do worse by the time they hit thirty.

Similarly, in the mnemonic sense, the Nine of Swords is intellect, power, and freedom, but not enough or not what’s needed in the situation. All the power in the world won’t make your own brain shut up, because your brain is a dick, and knowledge often just makes it more dickish, particularly in these situations: yeah, you’d love to un-know what your friend’s cousin looks like naked, but here you fucking well are until those brain cells die. As for freedom? Yeah, you had free will. Look what–and who–you chose to do with it.

That said? You can roll with this. Take some Alka-Seltzer and dim sum, or the mental equivalent, and call in sick. This isn’t the end of the line.

The Ten of Swords

This…kind of is. This is probably the card for which the consensus is most clear that it means Nothing Fucking Good For Someone. A person–or in one case, a whale, because it wouldn’t be the modern occult scene if we didn’t have motherfucking whales involved with everything–has been stabbed with ten swords, and I am not an expert, but this is way more swords than is actually needed to stab most people.* Furthermore, the person doing the stabbing has just left the swords in the victim, even though swords are pretty valuable.

My Dubious Profiling Skills say that this means either the perp has plenty of swords and/or cash to go around and can just walk away whistling and leave a goddamn arsenal behind, either to show contempt, to ditch the weapons, or because they find the victim so goddamn gross that they don’t even want to wipe off their blood, or the victim was so threatening that whoever stabbed them wanted to leave them good and stabbed, in case they got any ideas afterwards.

(In the background, generally, some clouds are either approaching or departing, and it’s either sunrise or sunset. Also, mountains.)

(I will note that the Gummi Bear Tarot shows the victim-bear looking not only stabbed but squished, and it’s very sad.)


Mnemonically, this is All The Swords: all the air, all the power, all the knowledge, all the freedom.  This can be great, but usually you don’t get that without a sacrifice. Maybe you sacrifice who you were, or your old ties, to get freedom–this card sometimes gets a “rebirth” optional meaning. Maybe you have to invoke power in tense situations or act powerless to get what you need or want. Maybe you find out more than you want to know. Maybe you crush your enemies and see them driven before you.

And maybe your women are the ones lamenting.

I’m not gonna lie: most specific interpretations of this card are along the lines of Wow, It Sucks To Be You. Disaster, endings, betrayals, despair–your dog dies, your girlfriend leaves, your truck breaks down, and they’re serving dubious fishsticks in the cafeteria. Part of the human experience is getting as low as you think you can, and this is, conventionally, that card.

Now, there are a couple of possibilities that make it maybe suck less.  One is, as I hinted at earlier, that the person with all the swords in them isn’t actually you. This is not a common interpretation, which is partly due to me learning a different tradition and partly due to a lot of modern-day mystics being sweetness-and-light types who would clutch all sorts of pearls at the notion that sticking a bunch of swords in your enemy’s back and walking off is a viable option. These people are silly.  Power and knowledge are dangerous things to handle, but if you can do it well and in a good cause, fucking go for the kidneys, is what I say. And yeah, keep the asshole from getting up again.

If it is you with swords in your vital bits, well, first of all, your pain isn’t insignificant. As I mentioned above, someone went to a lot of fucking trouble to stab this person and make sure they stayed stabbed. If this a thing someone did to you, it’s likely you put some marks on the son of a bitch beforehand, and there’s some satisfaction in that.

Second, this is as bad as it gets. A lot of interpretations have the light in the sky as sunrise, and the clouds lifting. If the worst has happened, then the worst is over. Insert Janis Joplin lyrics here. That doesn’t mean it’s not awful, it doesn’t mean you don’t hurt, but it does mean there’s no further down to go. You’re alive, and if this card means an ending, it’s probably an ending that needed to happen. If it means betrayal, at least you know who your real friends are–or aren’t–now.

For the record: last time I got this card in a daily reading, it was right before a bus trip where I had to first act all sweet and desperate to get on without printed tickets and then get into it with an asshole from Hartford who kept yakking on his cell phone. Definitely some power/knowledge/freedom issues, but I didn’t die or anything.

* Next week, I will tell the story of Brandon and the Emo Zombie.



“Of A Broken Heart,” Sure, or A Dumbass Victorian Trope Explained

CW: Pregnancy, childbirth, holy shit health issues connected to same

So I was reading about one of the more idiotic Revenge of the Sith aspects on Twitter, as you do, to wit: Padme dying of The Sad in a world of advanced robot medical care. Someone else mentioned, as a dumb reason but not as an excuse, that Lucas had said he was drawing on the traditions of Victorian drama.

First of all: those are *generally* nothing to mess with unexamined. I’m more than passingly familiar with Victorian media, and everyone in the dominant culture back then was some degree or other of racist, sexist, imperialist, and on all the goddamn drugs. Sherlock Holmes stood out because he used that shit immoderately, but this was a time when you not only could buy cocaine and opium over the counter but were actively encouraged to do so, to say nothing of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Tonic. (The vegetable is gin.)

I’m not saying that all Victorian fiction was made by or for stoned bigots, and I’m not saying the time didn’t produce some damned fine works, but…it’s a lot easier to get away with certain tropes if your audience thinks a certain way about women or whoever, and it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to get away with anything if your audience is at least forty percent high at any given point. (I haven’t tested this scientifically, and don’t plan to unless Pringles offers me sponsorship funding, but there were Some Incidents in college.)

Second, and more specifically, the “woman gives birth, dies of broken heart slash disgrace” trope…okay, let’s talk about childbirth.

I admire, respect and, in some cases, love, people who choose to have kids, but/even more so because pregnancy and childbirth are the most fucked-up states that a healthy body can be in. Things Happen. Bones shift. Organs move around like they’re Busby Berkeley dancers. Substances emerge. The whole process has always struck me as less beautiful mystical experience and more late-Akira Tetsuo but ideally with a happier ending, and pretty much always a less trippy one with fewer motorbikes.

There is a lot going on, and a lot of places it can go wrong. The New Agey “oh it’s totally natural women used to just have babies in the field and then go back to harvesting crops” thing happens sometimes, but sometimes it super doesn’t. I have friends who work as genetic counselors and maternity nurses, I have friends and a sister who’ve given birth, and I watch a lot of Call the Midwife, and…hips aren’t always big enough, fetuses are assholes and turn the wrong way around or onto their sides or onto their own damn umbilical cords, and holy shit the placenta is just fifty-seven kinds of horror waiting to happen, is my impression. Nothing good involves the word “abruption.” Yikes.

(The TVTropes article on Death by Childbirth, by the way, describes the human placenta as unusually “aggressive” for mammals, in case that thing wasn’t Silent Hill enough.)

There are some evolutionary reasons this is worse for humans–basically, our heads are too damn big–but it’s not great for animals either. I read a lot of James Herriot as a kid, and while the picture book adaptations are all heartwarming puppies and kittens, in the actual stories the guy spends half his time shoulder-deep in the equipment of some reproducing farm animal. (Prolapsed uteri are easy to fix in sheep, hard in cows, impossible in pigs. I have never used this knowledge in my life, but I’ve had it since I was twelve. All Things Bright and Beautiful indeed.)

Before the parts of modern medicine that involve blood transfusions and surgery, childbirth was pretty frequently deadly, which is one of the reasons we get all those fairy tales about stepmothers. (Also half of them were real mothers and then people got squeamish, but that’s another story.) We didn’t have those in the Victorian age. We knew, in fact, just enough about medicine to completely fuck things up most of the time (q.v. the healthful cocaine thing).

See, certain elements of medical knowledge, like taking out bits of placenta (see above re: Fucked Up), advanced faster than others, like…washing your hands. And I’m not here to claim that midwives were better because of Intuitive Nature Womynnne Blah Blah Blah, but midwives were also generally not going from dissecting corpses to assisting in childbirth. Yes, that’s a thing that happened. A surprising amount.

Note: at one point, people did suggest that maybe some kind of sanitation would be a good idea, and a bunch of doctors got offended because “gentlemen don’t have dirty hands,” and if it seems like a fair number of men haven’t changed in two fucking centuries WELL HOW ABOUT THAT?

So a bunch of women got “puerperal fever”–read fucking streptococcus–and died, in addition to general childbirth-y dying, which was also pretty damn common (and the tight corsets of the age sure didn’t help, come to think of that). Hospitals weren’t exactly friendly to visitors or great about providing explanations, so if you weren’t a doctor or maybe a close relative, what you probably heard was that such-and-so gave birth and then died for some reason.

Plus, you definitely had the cultural connection between mental/spiritual character and physical health–it is well known in Victorian lit that women die either of being too worldly (Ruby Gillis, Daisy Miller) or too saintly (Beth March, Helen whateverhernamewas in Jane Eyre)–and the additional fact that childbirth means you Had The Sex and a baby was actually coming out of your less-than-mentionable parts oh my God the horror. “We never talked obstetrics when the little stranger came,” indeed. I read the darkest Anne of Green Gables novel, the one where her first kid actually dies and her friend has a Traveler-style angsty backstory involving being blackmailed into an abusive marriage *after* her father hanged herself and she found him *after* she saw her kid brother get run over by a hay wagon, and Anne’s two pregnancies get weird handwaves of “precious burdens” and “counting her days” and in one case a prolonged stork metaphor. This was an age when you never said “pregnant”–you were “in the family way,” maaaybe, or “in a delicate condition.” And that’s if you were *married*.

Combine an all-but-unmentionable condition, frequent deaths from mysterious-to-the-layperson (and even to many doctors, where infection was concerned) causes, and the attitude that people, especially women, could basically die  from either being too good for this sinful world (Brave Mother Gives Life for Child) or no better than they should be (Wanton Hussy Repents Too Late). I can’t say for sure that this is how the “dies of The Sads after giving birth” trope developed, but I can totally see a potential path there. (Plus, fictionally, dead parents are wicked convenient.)

That doesn’t mean it’s a good trope, though, and it’s sure not a good trope when it comes from people writing in the twenty-first century. It’s sexist, and furthermore, it makes no damn sense. People do die in or after childbirth in real life–especially when they’re doing so in less-than-favorable conditions–but it’s a nasty, gross business, more John Hurt than Beth March. It’s no less tragic than any other death but no more saintly or deserved. Glossing over that by saying “well we have Superscience Robots but she died of a broken heart what can you do?” just makes you look dumb.

More Swords Than Is At All Feasible

Welcome back to the Swords section of Izzy and Booze Explain the Tarot! Tonight’s episode is brought to you by St. Elder, elderflower liqueur, which was a holiday gift from a friend and is all kinds of good.

Seven of Swords

Holy shit, look at this guy. Seriously, do an image search for “Seven of Swords” or get out a couple decks and have a look at this card, in which some random if smug looking dude is just making off from a castle or a tournament ground carrying five swords like it’s no big deal.

First of all, someone’s GM is clearly not enforcing the weight rules,  or really anything else, because swords are both kind of heavy and pretty sharp.  Dude seems to be carrying them unsheathed and bare-handed, and not bleeding all over the damn place, and furthermore is carrying them pretty casually,  despite not looking in any way muscular. At least he usually leaves two in the ground, I guess? (There is legit one deck where he’s clutching all seven in his hands, behind his back, and I’m like, one, what kind of freakish giant hands do you have, and two, HOLY JESUS TENDONS.)

This guy is either secretly Superman or he’s going to be rethinking his decisions really damn soon.

Most of the time, he looks like he’s sneaking away, so this is clearly not authorized barehanded multi-sword carrying.

That might be part of the point. Sevens are bright luck, and bright luck isn’t the same as good–it looks good, but there’s generally a catch. More specifically, this card is about secret plans, treachery, dishonor, and generally being a sneaky motherfucker. So yeah, the person this card refers to has most of the power and knowledge in a situation, but they got it through underhanded means, and maybe aren’t handling it in the wisest or safest ways, and it definitely could come back to bite them.

And why the hell do you need five swords anyhow? You’ve got, like, a general sword for killing things, and a silver one for werewolves, and an iron one for fae or tanar’ri or whatever the hell side of the Blood War takes hits from cold iron and first of all, at that point, just level up and get a damn Holy Avenger already, and second, you still have two swords for no particular reason I can see.

Also, what criteria are you using to tell the swords you leave in the ground from the swords you pick up and stick under your arms so you can give yourself a really intense shave?

The Seven of Swords: yay, you got knowledge and power! Do you really want…all of that? Will the way you got it come back to bite you? It’s worth thinking about.

The Eight of Swords

These swords make more sense. Not that they’re being used as intended, but they’re at least being used. Namely, they’re sort-of-but-not-really imprisoning a woman: she’s in the center of a horseshoe, and there’s an opening in front of her so she could just walk out, but to be fair, she’s bound and blindfolded and, in one excessively creepy card, her mouth is stitched shut. (The swords are all stabbing her in the heart, too, and you can see the heart, and it’s this whole Virgin-Mary-Clive-Barker thing, and Google Image Search gives me no actual deck for this one, so there’s even odds this is some kind of curse and I’ll die in seven days.) She’s generally near water, under a cloudy sky.

This is a major challenge in knowledge, freedom and power, and the three are pretty clearly linked here. If the woman in the center could see, or had her hands free to feel more cautiously, she could easily walk out. But she can’t.

The specific meaning here is feeling trapped or constrained. Some interpretations say that’s self-imposed, and some say that it means your judgment is clouded, and I think it’s a little of both. Like, she can’t just take the blindfold off, because her arms are bound, so escaping isn’t an easy thing or a simple choice.

But: the swords are point down. Running into them would be a bad idea, and walking into them might still hurt, but “collide slowly and carefully with the things until you find a path out” is totally a non-lethal option, as is “kneel down and use the hilt to nudge the blindfold off,” and probably a couple more things. Hell, she can walk forward and hope for the best.

Getting out of the situation you’re in, if the Eight of Swords is where you are,  probably isn’t going to be painless or dignified, and you might have to take a small leap of faith. But you’re not actually as trapped as you think.  Life is not old-school Nintendo: running into obstacles won’t kill you. It won’t even take away your raccoon suit most of the time.