Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Most Illusive Card

The seven of swords may be the trickiest card in the deck, but then tricksy-ness is part of the meaning that it has become associated with. Once again I had a base image that I'd immediately fallen in love with, but which I could not find a place for. 

It actually shows an aged Mister Punch from a then far-future time (wearing springs on his feet and an electromagnetic hat) visiting a museum of outdated technologies ("modern antiques" according to the caption)... and as near as I can tell, all of the exhibits were in active contemporary use in 1879, when the illustration was made. So what we actually have here is an allegory of progress, in which the great and advanced technologies of today become the museum pieces of the future. Here is the original illustration:

The things on display include gas light fixtures, a diving suit, a steam engine, a thermometer, fireplace implements, wood paving, clay drainage pipes and more. Christine Payne-Towler, she of the great Tarot of the Holy Light, defines the seven of swords as "the card of mental preparedness, acquired through the use of imagination, including rehearing and visualizing one's desired achievements in advance." In my own Tarot of the Zirkus Magi, I ended up assigning the title of "Audacity" to this card. Katz and Goodwin, in their new volume Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot. define the card as "Design, attempt, wish, hope, confidence."

It takes a little thinking, but in the end I think this audacious illustration is right at home on this card. In the original drawing, Mister Punch is shown leaning on a cane. I replaced it with a sword. I then hung five more swords in the case behind him (replacing the oar), and placed the final card below the puppet theater stage.

-- Frede.