Not Drunk Tarot…

…drunk true crime! And frankly I’m sort of surprised nobody has made a Serial Killer Tarot, given the state of the world…although apparently there *is* a site where you can buy t-shirts with various killers represented as major arcana, thanks, capitalism. (For the record: I can buy Manson as Hierophant and Gein as Hermit, but Ramirez as the Devil seems facile, Zodiac as the Magician is a bit of a stretch, and IDK what’s going on with Dahmer as the Sun or Bundy as Temperance.)

But I’ve been listening to The Blotter Presents podcast, which discusses true-crime media properties and is done by Sarah D. Bunting, who is generally amazing, and lately they covered Yet Another “Was X Jack the Ripper” drama, which, as Sars says…no. No, he was not.  And I, having read a lot of true crime (a good John Douglas profiles-of-horrible-murders book will keep most people from talking to you on pubtrans), have a lot of feelings about this.

CW: Serial killers, mention of mass murder/assassination.

There is exactly one property which I can get behind in re: the Someone Famous was Jack the Ripper theory, and it is From Hell. That’s because I’m pretty sure Alan Moore is just going off the “but if it were true, it’d be an interesting story,” principle, and does not believe that JtR was actually a time-traveling Freemason acting on the orders of Queen Victoria* but also invoking male dominance in the twentieth century through occult rituals. (Although he might, because we are talking here about Alan Moore.)

Without the time travel, this was an actual theory, which was weird: first of all, the mutilations-were-symbolic-warnings thing falls down because, to paraphrase Douglas, dude went to town in such a way as to probably hit a dozen different Secret Rites coincidentally. Disorganized killers: they are gross. But also, the secret-royal-marriage-and-love-child aspect does not in any way work: Victoria had nine kids, Edward had been involved in multiple scandals already, and I’m pretty sure there would have been a number of responses other than a Vast Murderous Conspiracy, ranging from simply paying the chick off to a discreet disinheritance in favor of whoever came next to just taking the non-improbable chance that a shopgirl talking about her royal marriage would’ve been met with “…sure, honey,” from all influential parts.

But at least that theory was a thing in the seventies, which from what I can tell is a time when people legit believed that aliens had built the pyramids and avocado green bellbottoms and muttonchop sideburns looked good on human beings, and which was definitely a time before serial killers were as much of an understood phenomenon. In the post-Silence-of-the-Lambs world, when there are voting adults who grew up watching the Law and Order franchise, is there really anyone out there who doesn’t know Serial Killers 101, namely that they’re generally nonentities who get off on twisted shit and decide to explore that in a seriously nonconsensual manner? After Dahmer and Bundy, do we really think that there needs to be a massive weird conspiracy or a famous person or someone with elite skills to kill five women in an at-risk demographic in Victorian London?

(Similarly, I haven’t done a lot of research, but I’d have expected JFK conspiracy theories to go down considerably after Hinckley and also just a surprising number of people trying to kill Ford. Once we took a couple of these people alive, we know what their deal is as a general rule–namely, that they’re fucked-up little nebbishes with weirdo goals that make zero sense to anyone living in reality, end of story.)

Apparently the answer is “yes,” or “no, but we need to put out an hour of programming,” and, okay, you do what you’ve got to do, but man…at least read a book? Watch an hour of the aforementioned Law & Order? Something? Because “they both killed some people” isn’t what anyone would call a similar signature or MO. Dude in Australia that a Netflix docudrama tried to get excited about? Killed two wives to avoid bigamy charges, more or less. H.H. Holmes? Killed a whole bunch of people for insurance money.

Neither of these are good people, or even non-horrible people, don’t get me wrong–like, it takes a special sort of person to think “You know what would solve my financial problems? A murder castle,”–but those are very different from the non-financially-motivated murder of strangers. With serial killers…we may not know who any particular guy is, but we know who they are, as a group, and it’s not the same thing.

Which is a tie-in to writing, here, especially writing villains: not all evil people come from the same source, or have the same motivations. Being evil in one or two ways does not imply that you’re going to be evil in every single other way possible. Think about what your villain does and why they do it…and, as with the But What About Prince Edward theory, whether there would be about ten easier ways to accomplish the same end.

And on a more shallow note, stop re-summarizing your program every fifteen minutes, History Channel. This is 2017; the only people watching with ad breaks are in hotels and do not care about following the plot. God.

*This does make me want to read fiction whereby every murder in Douglas’s The Cases That Haunt Us was carried out by a sinister mystic conspiracy and the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped by interdimensional Rotarians or whatever. Cherie Priest apparently has a book where Lizzie Borden fights Cthulhu, so that’s a good first step.


Power Couple And That One Guy: More Drunk Tarot

Welcome back to Izzy And Booze Explain The Tarot. This week, my companion is Dr. McGillicudy’s Intense Apple Pie Liqueur, and let me tell you folks: the good doctor knows what he is about. As my friend Elise said, this isn’t just apple booze with cinnamon spice–awesome as that is. You get a distinct pie taste. God bless Canada, the origin of this drink, and its strict advertising standards.


We are now at the point where I have to discuss the Tarot and gender a little more. My point of view is that, while gender *identity* is a real and complex thing, gender *roles* are societal bullshit that needs to die yesterday. The Tarot, however, was made in the days (NOT IN ATLANTIS OR EGYPT WE HAVE DISCUSSED THIS) when people thought women had fewer ribs because of Eve and fewer teeth because Aristotle, and then was popularized as an occult thing by a crowd containing far too many of the sort of fluttery person who thinks the uterus has Mystick Power. So we’ve got a bunch of cards with gendered folks on ’em, and a bunch of interpretations of how such-and-so represents the active male principle.

Because q.v. societal bullshit, but societal bullshit is a powerful influence, my general guideline is: such-and-so may well represent the active *stereotypically* male principle, but there’s no reason that a person of any other gender can’t do that just as well. If I say “represents the male blah blah blah,” please read as “represents all the qualities we’ve associated with men for Reasons,” but I will try and avoid saying that when possible.

Whiiiich brings me to the next card.

The Empress.

This is a woman, because see above. She’s got a crown and a scepter, and she’s typically sitting on a throne in the middle of a field of grain, and it is all, like, Peak Earth Mother/Demeter/Persephone/Earth Is Like the Uterus of the Earth, Maaaan/Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young. Alll about fertility, this card, whether that’s the initial germination/conception/getting an idea phase (“fertility” can be more metaphorical than actual-bun-in-the-oven, thank God in my case), the nurturing/growth/pruning-and-weeding-and-other-plant-stuff phase, or the harvest. Stuff grows! It’s great! She makes it grow, not with much effort on her part but just by being there and being who she is.

At at first this seems very female, but fertility gods? Also a thing: John Barleycorn, Freyr, Osiris, He Who Walks Behind the Rows…there are plenty of male figures in mythology who are about growth and nurturing.

Likewise, this initially seems like one of those cards that’s just all great all the time–but growth unchecked is cancer, for one thing, or overpopulation, or just having a million projects such that you never actually finish any of them, plus not all projects are good ideas. I also want to come back to both John Barleycorn and He Who Walks for the negatives on this one: a lot of fertility, especially under adverse conditions, requires sacrifice. Be sure you know what you’re giving up and for how long–like, a willing and reborn sacrifice is one thing, but killing all the adults and then going weird and fundie might be too much even for a bumper crop of corn.

The Emperor 
Guy on a throne on a mountain with a scepter and an orb insert “Hitler has only got one ball” jokes here.

This is the Temporal Authority card. If you’re Freudian, this is your dad. If you’re Abrahamic, this is God. This is a guy who is in control, and he doesn’t even need to be the micro-managey sort of control. He’s at the top, doing his thing; as long as he’s there and does that, everything else is going to turn around him more or less like he wants it to. Both he and the Empress have a lot of their power just by being who and what they are: like stars or planets, their gravity sets everything else up.

At his best, the Emperor is King Arthur, or Gloriana from Spencer (what, I’ll be in debt for an English degree until I’m eighty and I’m not supposed to make obscure literary references?), or popular images of Alfred the Great or Elizabeth I: the wise ruler, totally devoted to the smooth and just running of their realm. SF supplies us two easy images for the bad side of the Emperor: you’ve got good old Palpatine, autocratic planet-exploding terror of the galaxy, and then you’ve got the Emperor from Warhammer 40K, a figurehead kept alive by the deaths of millions of psychics, a man who’s only still alive because he’s got a whole empire as a parasitic organism and thus his death miiiight be worse. Maybe don’t be those guys.

The Hierophant
Now I’m gonna take you back to almost the start of this sequence. We started with a pair of figures representing the different forms of spiritual power: Magician and High Priestess. We moved on to temporal power in the Emperor and Empress. The Hierophant crosses those streams like he’s fighting fucking Gozer: Church and State, together at last. Yaaay?

Well, sort of yay, yes. I don’t subscribe to Wood’s conformity-is-bad-also-have-I-told-you-about-the-sixties worldview here. Some conformity is bad; some is good.  Conform too much and you’re Pleasantville pre-colors-and-teen-sex; shun conformity too extremely and you’re that guy who expresses his individuality by not showering, or anyone from RENT. At his worst, the Hierophant corrupts spirituality with greed or bigotry and imposes his beliefs on people who didn’t have a meaningful choice in the matter. At his best, though, he sets up and upholds the structure that lets most people get comfort and inspiration from religion, and that’s good. Structure works for a lot of people. Individual self-awareness quests aren’t everyone’s priority, nor should they be.

The Hierophant incorporates bits of all cards before him but the Fool. Like the Magician, he’s good at logic, manipulation, and study; like the High Priestess, he serves or exploits a community; like the Empress, he nurtures (either spiritual growth or his own power); like the Emperor, he keeps an organization running. He’s Syncretism, The Card. In some ways, he’s a low-level mirror of the World–as much involved in all the world’s structures as a person can get.

And, fittingly, he’s the last card that’s really a person.

Next time on Drunk Izzy And the Tarot: coming together, right now. Not like that. Unless you’re using the Thoth deck, in which case maybe.