Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Queen of Swords

I used to be a kickass tarot reader.

I suppose I still might be--I haven't been asked to do it for someone else for a while, and I became too frustrated to do it for myself. It was too much an exercise in wish fulfillment, except that the wishes were rarely fulfilled: I would go to the cards when I wanted not an answer, but a particular answer; when I didn't get that answer, I'd get frustrated and pissed off. They're just 78 pieces of cardboard that help you work out a narrative, consider other possibilities, I'd tell myself. They're a prompt towards insight, not the insight itself. But the fact remained that I usually went to the cards because I knew what narrative I wanted to see unfold, and I sought reassurance that things would turn out as I hoped. I rarely got it, so I figured I should quit asking.

For many years before that, however, I was a serious student of the tarot, and for a long time I found it useful. I was so into it, in fact, that one year for Halloween I dressed up as a card I really liked, the Queen of Swords. I made a slinky green dress, found a tiara, bought a cheap plastic sword and used a length of heavy green cord slung round my hips to secure the scabbard to my side.

This was not a costume people understood quickly. I've written elsewhere about various Halloween costumes I've worn throughout the years, and how some of the pleasure is lost if people have to ask what you've dressed up as. One guy asked me, "What are you, besides attractively dressed in green?" In fact, there was only one person at the party who understood my costume, and she kind of freaked out.

What made it worse was that I didn't understand her costume: she had on a beautiful pink dress, and a crown of flowers, and her dark hair hung down her back. "I'm the Lady of Shalott!" she said indignantly, adding, "Aren't you a grad student in English? You should know this!"

"I've read the poem," I said. "And I've seen the painting by Waterhouse at Tate Britain. I don't know, maybe it's because you're not weaving or sitting in a boat. I just didn't get it. Sorry."

"Well, I understand your costume," said the Lady of Shalott. "Why on earth would you dress up as her?"

"I dig the Queen of Swords. She comes up in my readings a lot, and she seems to represent me."

"The Queen of Swords is a tough card," she said. "It's all about suffering."

"Believe me, I know," I said.

Not long ago someone told me they'd done a celtic cross reading about a situation involving me, and of course, there she was, the Queen of Swords. I hadn't thought about her in a very long time; in fact, I'd begun to feel more affinity to the Queen of Wands. But I still think the Queen of Swords is a remarkable card. Here's what Rachel Pollack, my favorite authority on the tarot, has to say in her remarkable guide, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, about the Queen of Swords as depicted in the Rider-Waite deck:
As the yin aspect of the suit, the Queen of Swords symbolizes experiences of both sorrow and wisdom, and especially the connection between them. Having experienced pain (the card sometimes signifies widowhood), and having faced it with courage, acceptance and honesty, she has found wisdom.

The tassel hanging from her left wrist (the side of experience) resembles a cut rope (compare the Eight of Swords). She has used the sword of her intellect to free herself from confusion, doubt and fear; now, although she frowns at the world, she opens her hand to it. Though clouds gather around her, her head remains above them in the clear air of truth. One bird, a symbol of the purity of her wisdom, flies high above her. Her sword, like that of Justice and the Ace, stands straight up.

In the sense that powerless women will often suffer from the actions of men, the card refers specifically to women. In its character, it can represent someone of either sex, for neither sorrow nor courage are restricted by gender.
I can think of many worse images to compare myself to.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Allure of Knee Socks

Leather will, of course, remain a fashion staple in the wardrobe of any dominatrix. But there are times when one wants to wear something besides leather.... Well, there are times when I want to wear something besides leather.

Ten years ago I paid $200 for a pair of fierce Italian black leather motorcycle boots. They remain as fabulously wearable as they were the day I bought them--and I wear them often. They've got enough of a heel to look formidable, but it's not so high that I can't walk comfortably around Paris all day in these boots everyone admires.

The thing about boots is, if you're going to have them on for any length of time, you've got to wear something under them. With these boots, I've worn regular nylons (serviceable and utilitarian), fishnets (pretty hot), and at one point I bought a garter belt, but I can't say I found that garment particularly practical for any situation where it wouldn't be on display. But lately I have been indulging in the joys of and sexiness of knee socks.

That's right, knee socks. I think there's something thoroughly alluring about pairing fancy knee socks with short black boots tough enough that you could kick in a door wearing them.

I mentioned this to Saviour Onassis and he laughed, thinking it was some kind of bored dominatrix joke. But when he realized I was actually ardent and serious, he had to demur. "I find calves really sexy," he said. "I wouldn't want them covered up or obscured."

"I'm not talking about tube socks or athletic socks," I said. "Women's knee socks are generally tight enough that while they may cover a calf, they don't obscure it. In fact, they accentuate it, if you ask me."

Recently I purchased a dozen pairs of knee socks, all of them ornamented in some imaginative way. I have a black pair with wee pink roses all over them, and a dark blue pair with pale blue cornflowers. I have a blue pair, a black pair and a brown pair with dark and pale micro stripes. I have a couple of pairs of argyle socks....OK, argyle isn't all that sexy, but it's at least visually arresting. And the best socks of all have large roses climbing in vines up the side: I got a gray pair with lavender roses and a black pair with bright red roses. I wear these socks under a long skirt with those black boots, and the effect, when I raise my skirt to ascend a staircase and you catch a glimpse of sock, really is quite fetching.... Trust me, I've been told. There's an even better effect when I'm wearing the boots, the socks and a fairly short miniskirt--not that I wear such things often these days, because I don't really want my 20-year-old students to check out my legs. But I used to wear ensembles like that. They get noticed.

In October ago I attended an open house at a very chic tattoo parlor/ spa outside Toronto. (God, I want a new tattoo!) Because it was a newly renovated 19th century carriage house with brand new hardwood floors, we were asked to remove our shoes as we wandered the establish, ate hors d'oeuvres, and talked about tattoos and Canadian politics. I was wearing the black socks with the red roses up the side, and I was very glad that if I had to walk around in my stocking feet, those were the stockings I was wearing.