Monday, March 23, 2015

Stillness and Motion

(The Prisma Visions Tarot is a full-color version of the Light Visions Tarot I've written about previously, and the only deck I've bought for myself in over a year, also through Kickstarter. The quality of both decks is amazing. More information on artist's website, if anyone is interested.)

It's been months and months since I've done much of anything with my decks, months since I've written anything substantive at all. I first pulled out the Thoth because it is a comfort deck of sorts, at this point, but the cards were at once too familiar and too distant, a reminder that my reading skills have gotten a bit rusty. And so, perhaps a new deck for a new perspective...

The five of pentacles - the card of misfortune, of bad breaks, of poverty and ill health, of crisis, of loss and lack and falling down without the energy to get up. The Thoth titles this card Worry, and yes - instability, insecurity, they do tend to produce that.

The traditional RWS image is of a pair of cripples and beggars staggering through heavy snow, passing a wall and a stained glass window that brings to mind, for me at least, a church. Here, however, we have something a good bit more intriguing. The man is no longer stumbling forward. He has collapsed, too tired or lacking the will to go on. He is alone. More interesting still - there is no snowstorm howling around him; if anything, the background looks rather peaceful, warm. No, the snow is raining down on him only from out of that stained glass window, which here is tucked into a crumbling wall rather than a solid edifice. The window retains its vaguely church-like appearance, the lingering remnant of some kind of authority - but how much of an authority is it now, half-exposed in a wall to nothing that is quite clearly falling apart? The snow only falling down from that one window is so suggestive of the power of perspective, the limits of focusing on that one point. What would happen if the man were to crawl away a bit further - he turns his back to the window, but also to everything beyond it; his eyes linger on the snowflakes falling, the cold. Perhaps he is hungry - there is that fruit there, high up in the branches of the tree, but how could a man so tired, so listless and worn, hope to climb up that high? It is easier, surely, to focus on the familiar, even if it freezing and miserable.

The eight of wands next to it is even more of a contrast to the traditional imagery. In the RWS and direct derivatives, we usually have some variation of eight staves flying through the air as though thrown forward. The Thoth calls this card Swiftness, showing a prism, a rainbow, bolts of energy thrusting outwards. In either case it is a card that speaks of momentum, of rapid motion, of channeling energy and taking action, of progress, initiative, change. Here, though, the image rather strikingly seems to be one of stillness: the wands stand in place, vertical, as the thin trunks of young trees. In the background we have reeds, the hint of sunrise or sunset against still waters. If someone asked me how I thought it sounded like, inside this image, I would say quiet, it looks quiet there.

And yet - look closer, study the image for a bit longer, and you notice how odd it is, really, all those colorful flowers just blossoming like that, directly from the trunks of the trees. You see the white wisp of energy, of motion, of something curling and climbing up the rightmost of the trunks, the wands. It is, perhaps, a more subtle kind of motion than the stave flying through air, smaller, simpler, but perhaps that is the point - this is something graspable.

Something graspable, something slow and grasping, something crawling, dragging itself up.

Someone might tell that man collapsed in front of that window to drag himself up by his bootstraps, to stand, to walk away from that ennui and cold. Yes, you have lost so much, yes, you are tired and so very cold, but see what kind of a difference just a few steps would make? You could climb over that crumbling wall easily to the other side, see what is on the other side, see what that bit of the world is like, try. Someone could say, and it would be words, all of it, sounds, abstract and distant and a little unreal, everything. Unreal, the word could, to a person too exhausted to want to exist any longer, too tired to want to bear any more weight, a person simply done with trudging, a person capable of finding a sort of numbing comfort in pain. Swiftness, momentum, the thought of sending staves arcing through the air in rapid motion - that kind of effort is laughable, when one doesn't have the energy to stay standing.

But that climbing shoot, that barely visible at first glance, perhaps that is graspable. Perhaps the man could crawl, inch by inch, a bit further away from that too-familiar window, that stream of snow. Perhaps that crawling, grasping might turn into something more, in time. How much energy does it take, to find motion again in the quiet stillness of broken, crumbling ruins?