LARPing, vacation, and now dentistry have happened. Back to Tarot next week. Meanwhile, here’s a clip I’m very fond of, both because of my first novel and for personal reasons.
LARPing, vacation, and now dentistry have happened. Back to Tarot next week. Meanwhile, here’s a clip I’m very fond of, both because of my first novel and for personal reasons.
Is the plural gins and tonic? Gin and tonics? Either way, I’ve had two, because I am On Vacation, with my parents, who may or may not secretly be the heroes of early-century SF/horror (Dad went wandering around the Arctic, studied mushrooms, and then taught weird math; Mom was into archaeology and Latin) and have also been spending some quality time in a hot tub.
Cups, Number Seven: Bright luck–that is, luck that appears good–in matters of water. A dude contemplates seven cups in a cloud, and each cup has a thing coming out of it, which varies depending on the deck. A snake is pretty common. So are castles, fruit, dragons, a disembodied head, etc.
This is about dreams and visions. A lot of the time, it’s sentimental daydreams, in a “castles in the air” sense, like, okay, you bump into Chris Evans at the deli and it’s a whole thing. Or it’s wishful thinking: yeah, they totally Meant Something in the interview when they said they’d let you know. Wanting things can cloud your judgment: everyone who buys a lottery ticket thinks they know the winning numbers.
That said, daydreams are important, and healthy. Every couple months, some hand-wringing dudebro or dudebro-adjacent lady publishes a piece concern-trolling about romance novels giving women “unrealistic standards,” which…I have a lot of opinions on, and many of them involve the phrase “oiks who think cargo shorts are formalwear and won’t go dancing,” but the relevant ones here are:
Dreams and visions are good far-off guides, but not so great when you want to know what’s actually going on at ground level, is the point.
The other thing the Seven of Cups means is choice, or priorities. There are a lot of things coming out of those cups. Maybe having a snake and a disembodied head is not going to work out for you. If you want a job that gives you a bunch of free time, you might need to take one that pays less, or has less status. The selection of romantic partners available when you want commitment and/or kids may be different from the ones you get when you don’t. Some of these choices are because the current system sucks ass, and I’m all for overturning it in a lot of ways (nationalized health care and child care FTW), but that’s its own struggle, and some choices are just the way things and/or people are.
So the Seven of Cups speaks to getting to the core of things, and finding the truth inside the daydreams: whether that’s what’s going on, or what you really want, or what bargains you’re willing to make.
Next week: the Eight!
Like many of you in the US, I spent yesterday consuming my weight in red meat, marshmallows, and wine spritzers, then falling asleep in the sun like some kind of large lizard in a striped dress, and as such am behind on many things. Have a story–Tarot will likely return next week, when I’ll be in PA with family and gin.
* * *
There’s not a set date, no regular interval. She doesn’t need to go back every nine years, or every ninety, or even every nine-times-ninety, although she suspects she would run into trouble if she attempted to wait for the last, and she’s only ever approached the second once. That was in Iowa, in America, and she’d been fond of her grandchildren. They’d been fond of her, too, and so they’d overlooked a good deal, but in the end there was only so much she could do before people started asking questions.
It would be easier now, in some ways. Better hair dye; better makeup; better dentistry. Better records, too, is the problem. Not perfect, though. Particularly not during a war. People disappear all the time. As for appearing–well, records stay in buildings, and buildings get bombed frequently enough.
She doesn’t worry that the glade will fall to one of the bombs, no more than she worries about the tanks and men that might be in her way. She did worry, once, but ancient promises hold, old bargains are still good, and things are taken care of. Now she walks forward and knows that the road will open.
Besides, in a way, these men are less worrisome than those before: vile as their superiors are, they’ve been raised in a world where some things are not done, and other things simply are not. The first would offer her some protection, if others didn’t. The second means that a man who encounters a small forest beneath the city streets will probably stare and blink and back away, and that his fellows would laugh at the story.
Others, short horsemen with long mustaches or clean-shaven legionnaires, would have come back with troops and torches. Odds are that they wouldn’t have done any permanent damage, in the end–the glade has its ways, and secrecy is only the first of them–but even so, she feels the threat less now.
She walks down a flight of marble stairs. Her heels don’t click this time, as they had a generation ago; they’re low and sensible, suitable for a woman in her position. They make discreet, muffled sounds that soon become the only sounds around her. The noises of the street fade with a rapidity that would amaze anyone who’d come down the first three steps with her. Someone who could measure depth would be more amazed still.
She is not beyond amazement, but she is used to this.
And she knows that any companion would not fare well.
The forest opens itself before her, glowing with a rose-pink light like summer sunset. Unfamiliar birds sing in gold-leafed trees; the air smells like cinnamon and cloves. It’s beautiful. It’s fantastic. It’s not a lie–as far as anything is real, this is–but it is deceptive.
Turning off the path here would be a very bad idea.
Even when the path disappears ahead; even when everything disappears ahead. She walks over a black void, high above the glinting stars, and she never pauses, nor shakes, nor turns pale. She has made her bargains, and she’s come back to fulfill them once more; it suits nobody’s purpose to let her fall. And yet she knows that this is no illusion. Like the forest, the void is real, and anyone else trying to walk it–or she herself, if she hadn’t kept some kind of faith over the years–would fall, screaming, forever.
They say, now, that there is no wind in the void, but there is wind here. It clutches at her, whipping her hair out of its pins; it pushes her from side to side, hard enough to test and tease but not hard enough to kill; and after it’s tired of that, it becomes a man standing in front of her, a man with something golden about him., though she’s never been able to say precisely what.
Maybe it’s his smile. He smiles easily. He holds out one hand. She doesn’t take it–she has some idea of what would happen if she did, and although it would not be unpleasant, it’s not her path just yet. Instead, she hands him the first of her burdens: the blue flower and the poem.
He eyes her with patience, and amusement, and perhaps a little pity, though not as humans would understand it. Sympathy, maybe, as one student to another during a long and boring assembly: oh, they’re making us do this again.
They know each other, a little. They don’t talk here, though. That is not part of the rite–Standard Operating Procedure, they call it now–and there would be consequences. She smiles back and shrugs one shoulder, what can you do, and he fades back into the wind.
Crossing, her feet bleed. That too is part of things. The blood drips into the void, though if the stars mind they’ve never complained, and then soaks into the earth on the other side, her price of acceptance and her token of admission. It says that she belongs here; the ground would rise up and throw off anyone else, anyone who did manage to get across the void.
Even her, if she’d broken certain oaths.
She hasn’t, though, and so it doesn’t, and she walks onward through a forest that’s slightly greener and smells a little more like forest, sharp pine and damp earth. The trees are still different from any she’s ever seen, though–some silver-tipped and blue-barked, some with feathers for leaves, some heavy with transparent, jewel-like fruit–and the birdsong is nothing she’s ever heard.
Ahead of her, one of the trees parts like the double doors of some grand house, and a man steps out onto the path. He’s darker than the other; his smile is slower; and comparisons are both pointless and an inescapably human tool. We relate to things by way of other things, and so each is connected and bound into the greater whole. He is as he is, as the other is what he is, lords of air and of earth, and whatever else they are is for other times and places.
He, too, holds out a hand, waiting like a conductor at his hundredth sympathy or a priest at his thousandth wedding: knowledge of the rite, and a quiet joy in the familiarity of it. Easy for him to be joyous, of course. His feet aren’t bleeding.
And yet it is a comfort for her to be here, again, to come back from a world in its convulsions of change and to repeat, to reaffirm, to verify and signify that some things remain.
She gives him a red rose, with a bracelet draped around it: copper linked with gold. Hard to find, in these days of rationing, but she’s been saving it for a while. One never knows.
He takes it with a slow and ceremonial bow, and then is gone as quickly as the other.
She goes on. It’s not long, it’s never long, before she sees a glint up ahead: sunlight, from who knows what sun, glinting off something that is almost water except for the moments when it’s fire. By each side of it are her flowers, red and blue; they’re as tall as the trees now, and their petals fall around her as she walks forward.
She, sure of her greater purpose, of the task for which she volunteered with as much will and better knowledge than the lads currently in the trenches, does not know the details. Cannot know–not if she wants it to succeed in the end. She doesn’t know why, precisely, and she gets the feeling she’s not supposed to ask that either.
She does wonder, as the not-water-not-fire closes over her, who she’ll be this time.
Did you know that you can get cherry-flavored Manischevitz for six bucks? Because you can.
Anyhow! Back to Cups: the Deck of Good Times, Mostly.
Not so much for the Five of Cups, in which three of the cups have been overturned and spilled, typically, a red liquid. Probably wine, possibly blood, could be Kool-Aid. Use your own associations here. There’s a person, generally huddled in a cloak of some sort, brooding about them and ignoring two upright cups, which are either behind them or off to one side.
So obviously this isn’t great. The mnemonic meaning is “dark luck with emotions,” and, yeah. Generally speaking, nobody’s super thrilled about spilling their drinks–Cloak Person didn’t even get the fun of spilling them on someone obnoxious. Also, this card doesn’t say who spilled said cups, and the lack of another figure suggests that Cloak Guy is responsible. Spilling one beverage is a party foul; to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, spilling three looks like carelessness. Shit has gone ill, and either it’s actually your fault or you think it is.
Thaaaat said, not all is lost. Remember those two cups? They’re still there, they’re still upright, and frankly two drinks is enough for most people to go on with, at least temporarily.
This is a card about setbacks, and about how you approach them. It is totally normal and even necessary to be upset about the three spilled cups–that was some perfectly good wine/blood/Kool-Aid, and now it’s gone, and that’s harsh. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you’ve got two more cups waiting for you–and, you know, cups can be refilled and wine/blood/Kool-Aid is probably good for the grass.
Take a breath. Things suck, but everything doesn’t suck as much as you think.
Six of Cups
Since this is a quest for emotions, it’s one of the easiest places to go once you pick yourself up from the five–and like the six of pentacles, the quest with the six of cups involves other people. The card shows two figures, one of whom is generally a young girl (and the other is often not much older). One hands the other a cup with, often, a bunch of flowers in it.
This is a very pentacle-y cups card. It’s about emotions, yes, but it’s also about the past, and sort of about getting back to basics in order to go forward: finding simple joys, reunion with old friends or lovers or family, even rediscovering an old hobby or spiritual connection that brings out some emotional aspect you need now. It can also refer to nostalgia or to literal childhood, but mostly it’s about looking at your life, emotionally, and realizing what you want in it that you don’t have now.
* * *
Reminder 1: If you like sex and the occult in sort of historical settings, you might enjoy my books! They’re at Amazon, Sourcebooks, and Barnes & Noble, as well as many other fine stores.
Notice: If you like a much gentler, interesting take on the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, John Michael Greer’s Weird of Hali books are over here: https://www.miskatonicbooks.com/?s=weird+of+hali&post_type=product in editions that look really nice on a bookshelf and smell great as you read ’em.
I really enjoy them, and while I think you can read Kingsport without much introduction, the paperback version of Innsmouth is over at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Weird-Hali-John-Michael-Greer/dp/1935006126.
Conversely, this is me on caffeine. Whee!
The Three of Cups has three young women dancing around, each holding a cup. Usually there’s a pastoral springtime background, and usually each of them is wearing a different-colored dress. Some cards give them the Charlie’s Angels triad of black/red/blonde hair.
As per the mnemonic, this is real growth in emotions. Given the image, we’re often talking about becoming a member of a community, or growing closer to one–it’s all very Golden Girls/Travelling Pants/Ya Ya Sisterhood, really. It can also mean celebration, and letting yourself have a good time.
Whenever three women show up in an image, someone is going to think of the various Three Fates or Maiden/Mother/Crone connotations. This doesn’t tend to come up for me, but if it does for you, cool–and within that framework, it could refer to a social group in which everyone has their role, like being “a Samantha” or “a Rose.”
Note: mythical groups of women tend to have three members, but those on TV have four, more often than not, and I’m not sure what’s up with that. (Little Women kind of has it both ways, where you have three actual girls and Doomed Saint Beth.) (Spoilers, I know.) There’s a bullshit MA dissertation waiting to happen here.
The Four of Cups is stasis in emotions, just as it’s stasis in material stuff for Pentacles. A dude’s sitting under a tree, staring broodingly at three cups. Our old friend Disembodied Cloud Hand makes a rare non-Ace appearance to offer him another, but he doesn’t seem to see it. (Occasionally, Disembodied Cloud Hand is nowhere in sight, and the fourth cup just shows up from the ether because what the hell, why not?)
Cups Dude is not as much of a dick as Pentacles Dude–being kind of a doofus about your emotions is not as directly harmful to others as hoarding material goods is. This card isn’t as entirely negative, either: the most obvious complex interpretation is the typical teen-movie foolishness of ignoring the best path because you’re too wrapped up in others, but it can also mean meditation and contemplation, and that taking some time to consider your options sometimes opens up an entirely new path.
You just have to, you know, turn your head and look at the damn thing.
I need to refresh my booze supplies, so this will be Inexplicably Sleepy Izzy Explains the Tarot, which should have much the same effect.
The Ace of Cups is, duh, a cup. It’s also apparently a rock band from the sixties, which I didn’t expect but when you think about it isn’t all that surprising. It’d probably be easier to count the occult symbols that didn’t become names for sixties rock bands. Many decks have said cup being offered by the traditional Disembodied Cloud Hand, and many cups have “W” on them, presumably for water but also maybe for wine or whiskey, I’m not judging.
(Note: reinterpretation of the four elements as Whiskey, Cigarettes, Rock, and, IDK, Pizza?)
(It’d work for Pentacles.)
Usually there’s some kinda glowy, frothy element at the top of the cup, and water streaming down. Often there’s a white bird involved. More New Age decks have dolphins, because of course they fucking do.
Simple meaning is, of course, new beginnings in emotions. Usually this is a positive, and that makes sense–there are other cards for grief, anger, or getting trapped–but in standard verbose interpretations, holy shit this card is bluebirds and roses. Aces are all positive (except for Ace of Base, who have no prophetic meaning as far as I’m aware) and I mentioned the general interpretation of cups as good cards last time, so the combination is…intense. (The Holy Grail thing does not help here, I’m sure.)
Love! Emotion literally overflowing! Joy! Fulfillment! Everything’s the best! Woo!
I would combine the two interpretations and distinguish this card from the other Super Happy Fun Cups Card (the ten, we’ll get there) by saying that this is the beginning of all that good stuff. It may just be starting to make an appearance. It may, depending on the reading, be an opportunity rather than a manifested thing.
In terms of jobs and relationships, this is definitely a honeymoon phase card. He’s so sweet and charming! They have free bagels on Thursdays! That’s not to say that those feelings are invalid, or won’t last, but this isn’t a card that says they will one way or another. It probably doesn’t point to anything false–the charm and the bagels do exist–but whether they’ll be enough to last during the long term, when you have a three-hour meeting and the guy really really wants you to watch his performance art, is not the business of the Ace.
The Two of Cups is like the Lovers minus five to ten levels–the Heroic tier to the Lovers’ Epic, if you played any 4E. The typical depiction is of a couple, each holding a cup, and often but not always a caduceus topped by a winged lion head between them on account of Reasons, and probably Alchemical Symbolism. Like, offhand I would say that the caduceus likely represents communication, transformation, trade/negotiation and the crossing of borders/boundaries between people, and the lion’s head with wings represents the fact that a winged lion head is totally metal. Although it does parallel the Slightly Pervy Angel on the Lovers card nicely.
Unlike the Lovers, these two people have their clothes on, which is sad, and symbolizes that they’re working as mortals in the mortal world rather than being cosmic forces. They’re also turned to face each other rather than the reader, which again suggests operating more within their normal sphere of existence. That plus the caduceus also implies that this is a situation they’re working out and talking about–this isn’t the insta-harmony of the Lovers, who either have a cosmic understanding or have already settled all that to the point where they can just chill in front of a tree.
The interpretations are…basically the Lovers, in the more verbose version: the willing union of separate or opposing forces. This can mean romance, friendship, partnership, or whatever; it leads to transformation, harmony, cooperation, and a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts. Symbolism suggests that this is a more fragile, guarded, and maybe newer such arrangement, but not necessarily wildly any of these qualities except when compared to the Lovers.
In the more simple interpretation, this is the potential for real growth in emotions–which goes along with the “newer” aspect of the Two. If the situation started with the Ace, this is where you start figuring out not just the details of how many vacation days you get and whose house you go to for Christmas, but how you feel about those details and why. You may find you feel more strongly about summers at your grandparents’ house than you knew, or that you actually don’t mind hanging out with your co-workers once in a while.
Two is a card of stability, but within that stability, it’s also a card of exploration. This is where you’re at. Now what?
Next week: Three and Four!
Because last week was a game and this week I’ve been catching up on Life.
“Sending. Station M-12, sending. Ready to receive.”
She speaks normally now. Trainees are prone to shouting at first, or to overemphasizing their words, as if dealing with a deaf great-aunt. The instructors tell you that the implants can pick up a whisper and transmit it–well, “distance” really isn’t an issue for the transmission, or anything else out here, where time and space and other things are as close as the lashes on an eye–but the new fish never believe it. Not deep down.
In front of her, the screen is lit up, a point of blue against the starfield behind it. The entire chamber is transparent, plexiglass reinforced against any number of things. The chair is comfortable beneath her; around her, the air is warm, and the only sound is her own breath. Back on the main station, the humming is constant: lighting, computers, life support systems. You get used to it.
Out here, nothing hums. That’s important.
“M-12. Ready to receive.”
She stares out, ignoring the screen, not quite ignoring the stars. They’re important. So is the space between them. They make a pattern, stars and space; the stars define the space and the space defines the stars.
Not enough of a pattern and you don’t get a message at all. Too much and you get interference–or, at least, you do if you’re human. Some minds can take in unsorted data, maybe, and juggle it like a street performer with three lit torches and a chainsaw, but humans are still too much ape and not enough angel, or maybe not even “too much” or “not enough,” just not quite balanced. Not quite something else. There are a lot of theories.
Humans need the pattern stripped down.
She asked her instructor, when she’d first come out here and was still talking too loud, if that meant stripped down was better, if cities and books, gardens and jewelry, were mistakes, were things that everyone should be trying to abandon. She was sincere, in the way of the young.
“Can you eat while you’re sleeping?” he asked, lifting one red eyebrow.
“…no. Well, if you have a feeding tube–”
He waved a hand. “Does that mean you should never eat? Or never sleep?”
She keeps a framed picture in her quarters now, as a reminder: a man and a woman, locked in an embrace. Bright colors. We perceive the whole in separate parts.
You repeat yourself three times, at three minute intervals, three times a day. That’s the job; that’s the privilege. You repeat yourself, and then you sit back and watch as the screen fades, leaving you with the stars and the space.
The message, when it comes, will not be in words; it will not be in sounds; it will not be in anything independent of her, because “independence” is one of those concepts that works on some levels of the pattern and fails on this one.
She will listen to the way the silence shapes itself around the echoes of her voice, and the message will be there.
Everything will be there.