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.


Blogger Mr Chaps said...

I can testify that Bored Dominatrix is one hell of a tarot card reader and I think it's a shame she has stopped reading the cards so often. Even if a narrative does not run the way we want it can be useful to have a 'heads up' about the future. I understand how difficult it can be to read the cards for oneself: distinguishing your real intuition from your actual desires is pretty difficult, but BD was and is pretty good at this. Why not go back to reading for others? When you have decided that you will, could you please let me know when I'm going to get a damn job as I cannot read this information for myself. Perhaps reading the cards will help you become a dominatrix who is not so bored any more?

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

I read your linked post about Halloween costumes--very good choices. I dressed as Zelda Fitzgerald one year. I wore a twenties-style dress and shoes and a great flapper cloche hat, with an improvised strait jacket dropped over the whole outfit. No one knew who I was, and I couldn't find a good way to hold a drink. Not my best year.

4:09 PM  

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