I return! With weaponry! And six-dollar cherry-flavored Manischevitz, which is really good, y’all. I don’t know why this stuff has a bad reputation. Also, it’s a really pretty color. Like, I think Merry Gentry’s hair is like that in the books where she gets to bang all the cute fae guys.

Okay okay okay swords.

Swords are air, unless they’re fire. There’s a *whole* bunch of occult arguments going on about that one, and Michael the Archangel gets involved. But the way I was taught, they were air, so they’re air.

Air is the abstractest of the elements. It’s all about the intellect, as well as power and freedom, which both require you to separate yourself from everything else. Power is viewing everything from above and having the knowledge to pull the requisite strings; freedom is saying fuck that noise, whatever the noise is, and having enough power that the noise in question can get fucked.

Positive aspects of swords: intelligence, assertiveness, freedom. Negative: black-and-white thinking, a tendency to be autocratic, and, I suppose, emotional repression and an avoidance of commitment, if you’re the sort of weirdo who thinks those are bad things.

When we get into specific card meanings, swords have a tendency to be, traditionally, The Worst. There are like two non-face cards in the suit where the standard meaning doesn’t include some element of clusterfuckery and woe, and the Ten of Swords is basically It Sucks To Be You, with the one positive aspect But It Might Not Always, Maybe. I went into the likely reasons for that in the Cups suit–Victorian counterculture being all “yay emotions emotions are amazing” as a counter to a world of stiff upper lips, the problems with applying the intellect of this world to the supernatural, and the fact that it’s a lot easier to kill someone with a sword than with any other suit symbol, though admittedly I’ve never tested this in a rigorous laboratory setting.

There’s another possibility I’ve thought of, too. Air is communication and language, traditionally. And these are great, but they can also be limiting: there’s a lot of mystic tradition that putting a numinous experience into words detracts from its numinosity, because we really don’t have the vocabulary for that sort of thing. Language, and intellectual constructs, shape thought, and sometimes limit that thought. Likewise, to really be free in some ways actually requires imposing a lot of limitations, whether on you or others: being a footloose wanderer, unless you’re a dick, pretty much requires you not to start a family. Being free of other people’s expectations involves telling those people to go piss up a rope, more often than not. Not getting the flu, or worrying about getting the flu, means sticking a needle into your arm and sometimes your arm swells up and turns purple for a couple days but it’s worth it; get your damn shots, people.

And power just about always hurts to get, even if you’re getting it for the right reasons.

So swords are, like, okay, you can do these things, and sometimes you even should do these things, but let’s not fucking kid ourselves that it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows in the process, all right?

They’re also phallic as hell, if you’re into that kind of thing.





Oh God What Even Is Time

I’m going into my second LARP in two weekends and if I can find pants, it’ll be a miracle. So here’s an article by a friend that made me want to buy the comics in question: http://www.opendoor-comics.com/blog/spotlight-sunday-9-9-18/

Tarot next week, if I don’t die of, IDK, time.

Yeah Buddy

You want to know about the King of Cups? I will TELL YOU about the King of Cups.

I mean, seriously, I will.

This is a guy on a throne, holding a scepter in one hand and a cup in the other. In most decks, the throne is just floating in the middle of the ocean, which is a pretty awesome trick. Like a more comfortable Jesus, or one of those rafts with cup holders. The animal friends are back: there’s a dolphin leaping out of the sea behind him. It’s kind of a weird skull-face fish-thing on the Rider-Waite deck, but sources assure me it’s a dolphin, and not a freakish creature from Silent Hill. There’s also a ship on his other side, representing balance between the physical and material worlds, or the eternal conflict between ships and dolphins.

As a person, simplistically, the King is an older man, and/or someone who’s good at ruling over emotions. That might mean his own; that might mean other people’s. That might be good, but it’s not a guarantee. If you do reversals, upright tends to be more inspirational, while reversed is where you get body thetans and secret messages from Beatles albums. Otherwise, there’s the potential for both, as well as common-variety support or dickishness, depending on the context.

In the more individual reading, the King is artistic, kind, quiet yet deep, and So Dreamy. The booklet doesn’t generally say that, but it’s pretty well implied.

Like many of the court cards, the King doesn’t often appear in the abstract, but if so, he’s a symbol of balancing emotions–either successfully doing so or the need to do so. Unlike the Page, he knows what he’s doing; unlike the Knight, he doesn’t need to go anywhere. He’s good where he is, even if that’s on a weird floaty throne. Unlike the Queen, he’s handling emotional stuff at its most developed. He just needs to do things with it.

So dreamy.

Cups: Knight and Queen

So the timing’s worked out to a whole illicit-romance-Camelot thing, which is more or less fine by me. (I mean, my vote there is “find someone you won’t destroy the kingdom by shtupping, you idiots,” but human nature has never really gone along with common sense and God knows it’s appropriate for the Emotions Suite.)

Okay, so first of all, Knight of Cups is apparently an experimental film, which I generally feel rank second only to performance art as “things you sit through in college because your friend’s involved and/or you might get laid, and are never fucking worth it,” but this one involves the Tarot, and Christian Bale in a tight black T-shirt, so…there’s often an exception to every rule. I’m open-minded.

That aside, the Knight is generally a dude on a horse with a cup, le duh, often with a river and a cliff somewhere in the background. The horse in question is generally white or light-colored, and has one foot off the ground, whereas the Knight of Pentacles’s horse has all four on the floor.

As a person, the Knight is…yeah, the knight on a white horse. Dreamy, romantic, dashing, good with emotions in a seeking-the-highest-ideal kind of way: the ultimate cinnamon roll. Artistic and refined as well. Totes adorbs. Insert little cartoon hearts here. As tends to go with those qualities, he’s also often impulsive, led by his heart rather than his head or any sense of practicality, and sometimes more charming than sincere, to paraphrase Sondheim.

More abstractly, the Knight is what happens when you try and get the situation the Page hints at. He can mean a lover, or pursuing some kind of creative inspiration, or a new opportunity. Whatever it is, it’s pretty attractive.

The Queen of Cups is a fair-haired woman–generally–on a throne by the sea, usually dressed in white, blue, or green. Like the Knight and the Page, she’s holding a cup, but the Page is the only one who gets the magic fish. In fact, she doesn’t get any animal companions, although often there are little cherubs carved into her throne.

That may be significant. The Queen of Cups, in the mnemonic reading, is an older woman good with emotions, or someone who excels at bringing emotions to their full use and potential. Separating the useful parts of emotions from the parts that just confuse you and annoy those around you, or wreck kingdoms, or whatever, generally does involve spending some time alone, maybe staring out into the water.

More traditionally, the Queen as a person is loving, gentle, and soft, in both the positive and negative senses: she’s apt to be sympathetic, but also not to stand up much to effort, hardship, or conflict. And if she likes you, she might be reluctant to trust your ability to do so–if the helicopter parent is going to show up in a Tarot reading, this will probably be the card indicating them.

In the abstract? Probably the same thing, but, y’know, abstract: empathy and intuition, which are great a lot of the time, but get in the way when you have to make hard choices, draw boundaries, face facts, or let people sort their own shit out. Depending on the reading, you may need more empathy, or your empathy may get you in trouble. Hard to say.

Sadly, this card does not involve Christian Bale in any manner. Neither does the King, but we’ll talk about that next time anyhow.




Friday I’m in Cups

Hey, if you can’t invoke The Cure after a glass or two of five-dollar cherry-flavored Manischevitz, I would like to know when you *can* invoke The Cure.

So now we’re at the end of the numbered cups: the ten, which is All The Water, All The Time in the simplified method. That’s all the emotional stuff, all the secrecy, all the mysticism (as distinct from occultism, which is more Air, and magic per se, which is more Fire), and all the potential for change.

This is another Happy Family scene, but unlike the Ten of Pentacles, which has an old man and a dog in addition to the young couple and kid, the Ten of Cups, in the vast majority of Tarot decks, is pure Eisenhower Nuclear Family: Mom, Dad, two children. The rainbow of cups overhead is less Leave it to Beaver, but would’ve livened up the show considerably.

(There are variants–decks with a single parent, a single figure, or abstract cups and trees are among them. The Peanuts Tarot deck, which of course there is, shows Sally and Franklin dancing. In the deck I use for LARPing, the Ten of Cups involves two women doing crafting things, with cats and giant bees and no men or kids in sight. Said deck is not actually The Lesbian Separatist Sixties Tarot, so this is a little surprising, but there are days when I can’t say I *disagree* with the implied message.)

The less-systematic interpretation of the Ten of Cups is joy, emotional fulfillment, peace, harmony, and so forth. Where the Nine is a party,  the Ten implies more contentment and lasting joy: commitment, because I’m tipsy enough to face that word without crossing myself. Despite the frequent imagery, that doesn’t have to be Rockwellian domesticity. It can mean traveling the world, if you decide to make that your life for some period of time; it can mean having a group of friends you can rely on, or a job that’s more of a vocation.

As cards go, it’s pretty great. No real downsides, at least not in the standard interpretation. This is, therefore, one of the places where the systemic and the individual diverge a lot: there are plenty of potential downsides to having All the Emotions, at least as many as there are to having All the Intellect or All the Will, but here we are. Due to the weirdo feedback loop of association and imagery that is Tarot, usually this means All the Emotions in a good way; if emotions come up in a bad sense, that’ll generally be the Five or Eight.

I’m going to blame the Victorians again and move on to the Page.

This card features a person–usually a light-haired young woman in more modern decks, but a guy with a dark pageboy hairdo in the Rider-Waite–standing on a beach and regarding a cup with a fish in it in a tolerantly amused fashion. From what we can see of the fish, which is generally its head, it’s too big to fit in the cup comfortably. This might symbolize the subconscious slash emotions inevitably breaking free of their confines, but then again it might not.

As per before, in the simplified version, this is a young person who’s good with water stuff, but in a talented-beginner way rather than someone with expertise. More complex versions, if this is a person, suggest that the Page is artistic, trusted, and helpful–a very poetic cinnamon roll, most likely. Kind of adorbs.

When this card doesn’t mean a person, it can mean a message, often an unexpected one, or a surprise bout of love or inspiration–which suggests that the fish is a Surprise Fish. On some cards, in fact, it’s a Surprise Talking Fish, which is the sort of thing people keep running into in fairy tales. Generally speaking, the Page is a positive card and the message is a good one, so it’s more Hey, Bonus Talking Fish than Dude I Just Wanted A Soda What Even Is This?

Just don’t let your SO browbeat you into asking the magic fish for sequentially fancier houses. Never ends well.


Cups…of Coffee?

At the moment, due to Circumstances, I’m only altered by caffeine and whatever’s in this coffee cake. I feel good about it, though. Crumb toppings are full of spiritual insight.

The Eight of Cups:

There are eight cups, often stacked in towers, and a figure walking away from them, usually into some mountain-y, river-y wilderness area, doubtlessly full of emotional significance and probably mosquitoes. (I’m a little bitter about Nature right now.) Sometimes they’re going up a staircase instead.

Pretty much all meanings of this card can be boiled down to “fuck this noise.” Going by the numbers-and-elements system, it’s a significant challenge to emotions—but probably one in which the reader has some choice. This isn’t the Five, with cups knocked over and wine everywhere (there are a few decks with overturned cups here, but not many). Everything’s upright and in place on the Eight—it’s just that the figure in question doesn’t want to deal with it any more.

Mostly, this is good.  Mostly, it doesn’t feel good at the time. You’ve got a lot of cups there, you’ve probably spent a lot of time acquiring the cups, and the wine, and stacking them into patterns, and now you’re coming to realize that you don’t actually want that (maybe the complicated patterns were procrastination to keep you from thinking too hard about it) but walking away from all of that? Into the rocky, bug-infested wilderness? Is that really the right choice?

It is, usually. (There are occasions where it’s not, like if you keep running away because you think something’s better waiting for you Over There, and it never is, maybe figure yourself out and stop being Don Draper.) Things end. People change. Over there in the wilderness is what you actually need, and there probably won’t be as many mosquitoes as you think.

The Nine of Cups:

A guy is surrounded by cups—sometimes other things, too, like a throne or a party—and looking pretty happy about it, bordering on smug in some decks. And why not? He’s got nine cups! That’s great!

It is. It’s not the greatest—nines are “almost but not quite” cards—but it’s still pretty awesome. You’re having a good time, you’re happy, and if you don’t have all the emotions you need for lasting fulfillment, or if emotions/water requires some balance from the other elements, that’s not a bad thing.

Likewise, the more book-derived meanings of this card usually are about parties, or wishes come true, and that’s all pretty great. The caution with the Nine is to remember that it’s not the Ten: getting what you want right now won’t necessarily make you happy in a month or a year. “Be careful what you wish for” is part of that, but part is the old hedonic treadmill, the stupid human ability to get used to a level of good fortune and start seeing it as just normal. (We fly through the air regularly, crossing entire continents in six hours, and complain about the food on the way.)

So everything’s great, and you’re celebrating, but keep your eye on the ball. Don’t screw over the other elements by, say, neglecting your work or your friendships or your own insight and power. Enjoy this moment, but eventually you’re going to need to figure out where to go from here—going back to the Eight and realizing that you’re in a different place now? Deciding that this is the spot for you and working for the sort of lasting situation (emotionally, if not temporally or spatially) that the Ten entails?

Enjoy the party. But don’t forget about the morning after. Maybe keep some Pepto-Bismol around.