Izzy and NyQuil Explain Wands

I have the Plegg, good people. Not as solidly as I did in days of yore, which were Monday, but still enough that I can either keep myself up sounding like the last days of a non-virtuous Victorian lit woman (virtuous women die of scarlet fever, harlots slash flirts get consumption, so I guess it’s appropriate) (except apparently Jane Eyre’s friend Helen, who dies of consumption in the middle of a damn typhus outbreak, thus confusing everyone because CharBron had to be extra) or I can take some drugs. And when Option B is drugs, I’m never going for Option A. (Kidding, Mom slash Federal Authorities!)

The Page of Wands is really the wandsiest of wands. Pages are skilled in a subject, but learning about it–talented pupils (not apt ones, because Stephen King and Nazis ruined that phrase for all of us)–and fire, being the element of passion and inspiration, is all about beginnings. (It’s also the element of will, which you need to keep fire/passion/inspiration going past being a page, but that’s really the exception.) The Bright Young Thing on this card, who’s generally holding a wand in the middle of a desert, is Peak Freshman: there’s a whole universe of fascinating things to learn and awesome people to meet and nobody’s dorm room smells like old Smirnoffs Ice and laundry yet.  Who cares if you can’t find the cafeteria without ending up three states away?

This card means new beginnings, good news, ambition but generally in an “I’m gonna make it after all!” sense rather than a climbing-the-corporate-ladder or taking-over-the-world one,  curiosity and excitement. It’s the card of road trips, New Relationship Energy, back-to-school shopping where this is the year that you have the best Trapper Keeper and your acid-washed Jordache jeans will totally make Gavin Conway notice you…er, I think that may have gotten away from me a bit. You get the idea.

The Knight of Wands: This is where will starts to become a factor. The Knight, like all Knights, is on a horse, but theirs is either showing off, fighting, or dubiously behaved, as it’s got two feet off the ground, which is not an Optimal Horse Position if I recall my fifth-grade riding lessons.  (The horses, for reference, by suit: Pentacles is standing still, Cups is walking sedately, Swords is charging, and Wands is rearing.) (In Rider-Waite–ha–the horse for Pentacles is black/brown, the one for Wands is red, and those for Cups and Swords are both white because there aren’t blue horses and the artist didn’t want to fuck around with greys or palominos, I guess.) Passion and inspiration are hard things to keep going, especially after you’ve learned what’s readily available and have to go looking for more. That doesn’t entirely mean just putting the work into a subject (that’d be Swords or Pentacles) or a relationship (Pentacles or Cups) or whatever: it means staying enthusiastic about it while you do that work. As anyone who’s written a novel or had a long-term relationship can tell you, that’s a hell of a task.

Fittingly, this card is associated with travel–true to some extent of all the Knights, what with the horses and all, but specifically the fact that travel is often helpful when you’re looking to pursue a passion beyond the obvious. You get new perspectives, you get time on the road to think them over, you’re free from the commitments and patterns that sort of shape your life at home. You have adventures, and adventures are a big part of this card. Of all the Knights, this is the one most likely to be the paladin in a D&D party–Cups is probably holier, Swords more righteous, but if you want a paladin who’s also down for going to poke illithids in the face, the Knight of Wands is your person.

The management does not advise poking illithids in the face.



Scattered Thoughts on the 1982 Conan

In a discussion re: taking pleasure in the suffering of your enemies, I noted that the last guy to do that ended up being king of Aquilonia, and so of course had to watch the movie again.

I’ve talked before about how fantasy cults are generally less interesting than RL ones–like, if you’re going to Be A Cult, at least have a weirdo mythos involving rock music or change your names to new ones based on nursery rhymes or something that shows you’re putting in effort, as opposed to being Basically Presbyterian, But Also Cthulhu. (Unless that’s what you’re going for–John Michael Greer’s Weird of Hali series does a good job of having the Lovecraftian gods’ churches feel in some cases like the vaguely Protestant ones I grew up with, complete with internal drama and unpleasant church ladies, but the Cthulhu worship is not meant to be either sinister or a reveal.) This is an exception, and it’s an exception because, as I found out when I was on TVTropes, the makers used the then-recent Jonestown unpleasantness as at least one inspiration. There’s also a bit of Mansonesque imagery in some of the pilgrims meditating and the central “my daughter has turned against me and might murder me in my sleep” thing–though that has echoes of Jonestown too, given Leo Ryan and so forth.

This is not how it works in the original stories, BTW. Set was Bad News, but in a more generally Satanic way: he was the god worshiped in Stygia, which was generally (and somewhat racistly, because no, these stories are not unproblematic) portrayed as No Good, but either it was a whole established theocracy that got alluded to at times but didn’t come up otherwise, individual priests went after people they had issues with via the old “here have a giant naga in a bowl” trick or whatnot, or sorcerers used Set as a source for spells/demons, again usually on their own or as part of a small group that was more about power than any belief. (Similarly, Lovecraft’s Great-Old-One worshippers fall into either “everything bad you’ve heard about ‘primitive’ religions is true, blah blah dancing naked and eating babies,” or the quasi-Satanic sorcerer model of, say, the Whateleys messing around with Yog Sothoth basically because nobody had invented cable yet.)

I can’t say if any of those models was scarier back in the 1930s–I know that ZOMGSATAN was expected to carry some weight in, say, “Rosemary’s Baby,” in the sixties, that it just didn’t for me, for instance–back when Weird Decadent Foreign Religions, And Also There Are Snakes might have been more of a pressure point for the target audience of Weird Tales. They’re not, really, for me reading now: Set and his dudes are threats, sure, in the in-story context, but they don’t really freak me out the way that, say, the fucked-up cabin-fever-on-a-cultural-scale people in “Red Nails” do. But…well, we haven’t exactly stopped having cults in the last thirty-six years (I still remember schoolyard jokes about both Waco and Heaven’s Gate), and while I don’t hide behind the sofa when Doom and the Doomettes come on, the imagery of all those robed people and the “find emptiness” rhetoric…yikes, yeah.

Less seriously: I haven’t been to many orgies, tragically, but the people at the Settite one seem to be having a lot less fun than I’d think. Granted, having People Soup as the refreshment might kind of kill the mood. (Yes, I did originally start that sentence with “On the other hand.” Yes, I am awful.)  And why even go to the trouble of *having* a cannibal orgy for your cult if you’re not going to do anything but sit there and then turn into a snake, Doom?

Okay, random witch/demon/vampire/heavy metal album cover chick: if your plan is to kill the dude during sex anyhow, why bother giving him the information he was bargaining for? Doing so at orgasm also seems like a weird timing choice, like, if you can think clearly enough to give directions at that point, it seems like you’re not having that great a time. Or do your prophetic abilities only work when you’re getting boned?

The point of the Wheel of Pain never really gets explained in the film. A Wiki says that it’s a grain mill, which means that the dude who bought Conan when he was full-grown just kind of wrecked the local food supply. Or had the locals switched to a windmill and just never bothered to tell him?

I’m always kind of sad that black lotus is only mentioned incidentally, and only the one kind. The stories involved basically as many kinds of lotus as there are kinds of Kryptonite in the Silver Age stories: I don’t know if one of them splits people into red and blue versions of themselves, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

An Exfuckingcessive Amount of Wand

Oh hey I moved and then fucked off to Pennsylvania and finished the first draft of a novel and am now sitting on my parents’ couch drinking a G&T plus lemoncello. Logically I believe I’m now immune to malaria AND scurvy, TAKE THAT 1800s MARITIME DISEASES.

So let’s talk about the Nine of Wands. This card has a person holding on to one wand, with eight more of the fuckers around them.  They do not look happy. Usually they’re wounded, often on the face. Sometimes they’re David Bowie and a lion, but that’s the Cosmic Tarot and it’s weird and IDK why everyone gets so damn obsessed with lions in Tarot, like there are at least two decks where they pop up gratuitously and that’s not even counting Strength. Happens in Biblical stuff too. It’s a big cat and the males have extra hair and are cub-murdering assholes, I don’t get the mystikal allure.

Mnemonically, this is about having a whole bunch of passion and willpower and relationships and stuff, but that’s not entirely what you need, or want, which corresponds nicely with my view of human relationships: they’re great and all, but when you have a whole lot of social stuff going on and/or a whole lot that you care about and/or are very determined, it can be An Entire Thing wherein suddenly you’re disguising yourself as a waiter and trying to win the bowling tournament on the same night as your anniversary. Or, if you’re not Fred Flintstone, you’re booked solid every damn night and you need to lie the hell down and take a nap already.

That one wand the person is holding–is that for support? Was it blocking the way, with the other way, and the person has picked it up to move it out of the way? Hard to say. Depends on context. One interpretation of the Nine is hope and determination in the face of adversity, pushing forward because the worst is behind you, but another is the need to be cautious and watchful. Those two things are not entirely incompatible, though: maybe you’re pretty close to getting The Thing, but you only have so much energy left, and you need to be careful not to spend it on things you don’t really want.

Know your goals, says the Nine. Figure them out if you don’t. Then tell everything else to piss off and go for it.

The Ten of Wands shows someone carrying ten wands, all by themselves: no buddy, no horse, nothing. This is a shit-ton of wands, technically speaking, and as one might think, it’s pretty clear that they’re heavy. The person carrying them is usually bent over a little, arms wrapped around the whole bundle. Having recently moved boxes up and down a ton of stairs, I sympathize. Not too far in the distance, there are a couple houses that the person’s heading toward.

Okay. You have all the fire: all the passion, all the will, all the relationships. Yay! Now what the hell do you do with them? As with the Nine, that much fire stuff is A Lot of Fire Stuff, but in the Ten, it’s more under control. You’ve got your arms around them, you’ve got them off the ground, you’re making progress, and the destination isn’t too far away–you just have to get there. And then you have to deal with whatever you’re going to do with ten wands–if it’s fire, are you planning a celebratory bonfire, or a smith’s forge, or a pyre for your enemies? Some of these things last longer than the others, some are more creative or destructive, some involve other suits. None of them are bad, or invalid, but, as with the Nine, this is a situation where it’s really important to know what you’re doing.

Now that we’re on the fourth suit, it’s worth noting that the Cups and Pentacles tens are situations that could last–metaphorically, though people move and kids grow up and all that, they’re both settled, happy families, not going anywhere–while the Ten of Swords hopefully won’t, because ouch, and the Ten of Wands clearly won’t. The figure on it is going somewhere. Fire is the most transient element: air might be fickle in terms of where it’s going and when and how strong, but it stays air, left to itself. Fire, left to itself, spreads as much as it can and then burns itself out.

And so the specific meanings of the Ten vary from “holy shit, this is a lot” to a “harvest home: you’ve done what you need to do, now you just need to try a little longer and you can relax and enjoy it” sort of a thing. I think all of them center around the question of what success means and what you do with it, because the Ten of Wands is going to become another card. Passion and will and bonds are all temporary things–there’s a reason the polyam community uses New Relationship Energy as a frequent term. Getting any of them to last requires the insight and curiosity of Swords, the physical effort and practicality of Pentacles, and the emotional labor and insight of Cups.

Of course, lasting isn’t the only goal…