Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Hanged Man

I LOVE the way this picture turned out. It is very closely based on one by Ford (I showed it ages ago here) as we were so surprised to find a "Hanged Man" in fairytale that we just had to pay tribute to the original. Mind-you, that was black and white so in the end this one came out looking rather different. There is potentially much to discuss for any tarotistas here. This story in many ways takes the Hanged Man card back to what was probably its original meaning, which was "Traitor" and showed a "shame painting" (traitors used to be displayed in this way). But the story is so complex and many-nuanced, and the ending so strange - one minute the Shifty Lad is suspended there laughing at fate, the next minute the princess, er, accidentally drops him (sure, sure, I believe that too - I don't think this princess was all that amused or pleased at being married off to a Shifty Lad, even though he was a good looking rogue), that I think you can also read it as the more modern interpretation of "Spiritual revelation, sacrifice, enlightenment, mental suspension". Anyway, I think there is much to be debated here - but I adore the card! You know, when I was a little girl I so much wanted one of those pointy hats with a veil... Moon Cat bag

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Autumn and floods, floods and autumn - and a woodpecker on a lightning rod

Autumn came about two weeks ago, but I didn't like to mention it as I thought if I said nothing, summer might come back. Sadly it seems not. We are living with constant rain and the possibility of floods. Small floods might be okay in a way - they might at least wake our local authorities up to the fact that to dismiss the Prague floods of 2002 at "500-year floods" is hardly facing up to reality in times of global climate change. But large floods - floods like three years ago? I so much hope not, it would be almost unbearable for all those people who have really only just managed to get their places straight again. It's hard to describe what bad floods do - the smell, the dirt, the dampness that can carry on for years - and the loss of some fabulous architectural details (even though we were lucky enough to have only one death, the loss of art and architecture hurts.) Oh well, I look at the rain and hope... On a brighter note, as I was leaving the flat this morning I notice Minnie on the terrace entranced with something. I looked up, and there on our lightning rod was an indignant Great Spotted Woodpecker - drilling in an annoyed manner and obviously being surprised by the iron-hard wood. I joined Minnie in gazing entranced - beautiful bird, though obviously a little short-sighted.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Water sprite demands money with menaces

A beggar has been arrested after dressing up as a water fairy and demanding money from youngsters skating on a Czech lake to guarantee the ice did not break. Police arrested the 47-year-old man after parents complained that a man claiming to be a "water sprite", who was dressed in green and covered in green ribbons, was demanding money at the lake in Brno, in the Czech Republic. Brno police chiefs said they had never come across anything like it before. Vit Cvrcek, spokesman with Brno police told Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes: "Nobody is allowed to beg in Brno. Not even water sprites." ___________ I was actually looking generally for more information on Czech water sprites and came across this post from last winter. Too good not to share. Maybe this winter I will dress as the Snow Queen and demand money for guaranteeing that sleds don't skid? Or I'll be the Green Fairy and take bribes for making sure you don't fall over in a heap after drinking absinthe? This new racket offers a lot of possibilities! Hey ho.

Friday, August 19, 2005

New bag

This one we are very happy with. It's a matter of having refined the shape a little, and most importantly of all, we've worked out how to get the prints really working. Basically it's best if we take some of our detail out of the background - that way you can see the main figure and the bag works even from a slight distance. So, this one is good. The earlier ones are lovely, but I think we'll auction them as samples on ebay in a couple of weeks - they are not as perfect as this one. We have now despatched new sewing person off with the most FABULOUS combination you've ever seen and we wait to see if she is happy and can begin to do them regularly. Fingers - and paws - crossed. Meantime I'm working on the shop - September launch we think. By the way, they are about 7 inches high (bottom to top of handles) and seven inches in diameter - people keep asking. A good size as a handback - you can carry a paperback book just about, along with all the usual. But NOT shopping bag size as yet. We're working on how to do larger without the price becoming very high. The issue is that the fabrics are pricey - but worth it of course, I wouldn't do a bag like this in cheap fabrics. oh - nice tags I think (Alex and Anna design, not mine). We have some with Victorian cakes on - and it made us think we will do a few Victorian Cake bags too - but I digress. Moon Cat bag This is black silk dupion with the dark pink floral-textured silk-mix kimono again. Plus dark pink Czech brilliants. Baroque Cat Bag Baroque Cat Bag

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bags! Bags of bags in fact

This is yet another "look what we're developing - what do you think?" kind of post. We're on about number twelve of various versions of these bags and we are getting there now, although we think these are still not quite right (though have to say I took the blue one for a test drive and loved it). They are made from our own graphics - digitally printed with colour-fast inks, vintage fabrics (kimono, obi, and some old and wonderful fabrics we've found locally - today I found unused 1920s silk and satin - which will go into bags). We also use pure silk dupion - from THE best supplier in the UK as the main body. Linings are in silk or cotton. Oh - and we add some Czech glass beads too - right now we are using fire-polished brilliants for some sparkle. Photos are a bit basic - but just to give the idea... Baroque Cat Bag This one has dark pink textured kimono silk (actually woven with a flower texture, very nice) combined with 1950s brocade - silk mix - and lined in cotton. Baroque Cat Bag2 This is silk dupion (the royal blue) with a section of an antique obi - cotton lining. Baroque Cat Bag This is all three bags together. You can just about see the Fairytale bag - adapted from an Art Nouveau picture and combined with silver silk dupion and vintage silk kimono fabric. If there is overwhelming (one?) request for it, I'll also put up a proper picture of the fairytale bag on its own - I've been using it for the last month and LOVE it (aw, come on, someone has to test these things). Added - okay, a crop of the fairytale bag picture. In fact, the colour is more intense - we need to work out how best to photograph these. The picture is adapted from one by Cecile Walton (book the original is taken from is out of copyright now). FABULOUS picture I think. Fairytale Bag The bag itself seems a bit "square" to us. We've changed the pattern a bit to make it more round - as you can see on the cats bags. Sorry, I am in danger of becoming a bag bore!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Two Russian tales - and a maiden king.

I'm not putting these behind a cut as they really need to be seen together. But if you'd rather I didn't put them up like this, please let me know. Hopefully they don't take all that long to download though. I'll try to put up the stories later - both of them are fascinating and very unusual. Whole books have been written about the Maiden King (Maiden Tsar) of course... The Silver Plate The Maiden King

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Godfather Death

As I was asked an interesting question on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum about how this deck differs from The Whimsical Tarot, I thought I'd show the "Godfather Death" card. I did answer the question properly (to me the essential difference is that The Fairytale Tarot is for adults - after all, fairytales were mostly not ever intended for children, as you can see clearly if you read the old stories). So, to illustrate this a little better, here is Godfather Death. Not a "making it easier" version of Death, but oh so memorable, wickedly funny and TRUE. By the way, Rachel Pollack, as I've mentioned, wrote a fantastically dark and sexy and strange version of this story in her "Godmother Night" novel. Godfather Night Godfather Night XIII Death: Godfather Death The Brothers Grimm Once there was an old man who had twelve children, and when the thirteenth was born he did not know where to turn for help. He went into the woods in desperation and there he met the Good Lord who said to him, “Let me lift your child from his baptism and take care of him. I will make him happy on earth.” But the man answered, “No, you aren’t the godfather I want. You give to the rich and allow poor people like me to starve.” With that, he continued on his way. Soon he met Death, who said to him, “Let me be godfather for your child. I will make him into a physician and make sure that he lacks for nothing.” “That sounds a good offer,” said the man, “And I like you, for you treat rich and poor alike. Come to the child’s baptism tomorrow.” The next day Death arrived and acted as godfather for the child’s baptism. Years went by, and when the child was grown into a man, Death came again and took his godchild into the woods, and said to him, “Now I will teach you how to become a physician. When you are called to a sick person you must look carefully to see if I am standing at his head. If so, then without further ado ask him to smell the fluid in this flask, and then rub his feet with its contents, and he will soon be well again. But if I am standing at his feet, then there is nothing you can do for I will soon take him. If this is the case, do not attempt a cure.” So Death gave him the flask, and the young man became a famous physician. People were amazed by his skill, because he could immediately predict whether a patient would regain his health or die. One day he was called to the king, who was suffering from a serious illness. When the doctor walked into the king’s chamber, he saw Death standing at his feet, and knew that his flask would be of no use. But he desperately wanted the benefits that would come to him if he cured the king, so he devised a way to trick Death. He took hold of the king’s bed and turned it around, so that Death was now standing at his head. This simple move succeeded, and the king regained his health. But a few days later, Death came to the young man. He was very angry and threatened him, “If you ever again attempt to deceive me, it will be the end of you.” Soon afterwards the king’s beautiful daughter fell ill, and no-one could cure here. The king was distraught, and finally proclaimed that whoever could save her life could marry her as a reward. The young doctor came, but when he entered her bed chamber he saw Death standing at her feet. Amazed by her beauty, he ignored the warning and turned her bed. Then he let her smell from the magical flask, and rubbed the soles of her feet with the liquid. The moment he returned home Death appeared, looking terrifyingly angry and seizing him, carried him to an underground cavern where thousands of lights were burning.”Look!” said Death. “These flames are all the living. But here is a light that is flickering and will burn only a little longer, before it go out. This is your life!” Horrified, the young man begged Death to renew his candle, and finally the grim godfather agreed. However, as he took out a new candle and held it to the flickeringcandle he pretended to stumble and fall forwards, and this put out the thin flame completely. With that, in an instant, the young man’s life ended. Aarne-Thompson type 332 KEYWORDS AND PHRASES The death of a strong part of one’s identity • A physical or spiritual death • The absolute closure of a cycle or phase in your life • A difficult transition, but one that prepares you for new ways of living. Godfather Death is one of those stories that reminds us that in the past death has often been regarded with humour as well as fear. The trick that the boy plays to try to defeat Death is somewhat silly, and makes us smile, even while we shiver with the certainty that it will have horrible consequences. One moral of the story is, clearly, that death can never be defeated in the long term and that if we try to cheat ‘him’, rather than simply accepting the inevitability, then we may only make matters worse. As the old man says at the beginning of the tale, Death treats everyone, rich or poor, exactly alike - an undeniable truth that we all have to learn to live with. In a reading, this can be a startling and disconcerting card. But it’s important to realise that although this Major can indeed stand for a physical death (something that I think we would deny to our cost) it much more ocmmonly indicates the death of one aspect of our identity - and a move from one life to another. It’s strongly transitional and as such is likely to point to a phase that may be difficult to pass through, but that may also result in a real change for the better. The imporant thing that “Godfather Death” can teach us is not to deny or try to cheat such life-changes when we see them on the horizon...

The Boy Who Left Home to find Fear

One of my favourite stories (hmm, just realised I've said that about others, and that in fact I've probably become more fond of more stories through doing this deck). Boy Who Left Home Four of Cups: The boy who wanted to learn to shudder (also known as “The boy who left home to learn what fear is”) The Brothers Grimm A father had two sons, the older was smart and sensible, the younger one seemingly stupid. The only problem with the sensible boy was that he was easily scared, while in contrast the younger was unable to feel fear or shudder at all. Seeing his brother afraid, he became curious about what it felt like to experience fear and declaried that he wanted nothing more than to learn how to shudder. The sexton came to the house one day and offered to teach the youth how to shudder. Late that night, he woke him and told him to go and ring the church bell. The sexton secretly went there beforehand him dressed like a ghost and jumped out when the boy arrived. When the boy called out to the white figure asking him to identify himself, the sexton said nothing, so the boy, far from being afraid, pushed the “ghost” down the stairs, breaking his leg. When the boy’s father hears the news, he was so ashamed that he banished his son. The boy left home and on the road he met a man who claimed he could teach him to shudder. He told the boy to sit beneath a tree where seven men have been hung. Doing so, the boy saw the phantoms of the hanging men, but even they didn’t make him in the least afraid. Eventually he heard of a haunted house, that was supposedly filled with treasure. The king had made a decree stating that whoever spent the night there could marry daughter. Already many men had tried and failed. The youth decided to spend three nights in the haunted house. Over the three nights, he saw many horrific things, including yet was unable to feel fear or to shudder, and came away quite unmoved,. He happily won both the treasure and the king’s daughter. One night, he complained to his new wife that he was still unable to shudder so she simply fetched a pail of cold water and poured it all over him. Finally, he found out what shuddering is! Aarne-Thompson type 123 KEYWORDS AND PHRASES Being unimpressed and bored by everything • Sinking into ennui • “Couldn’t care less” • Feeling listless and disinterested in your surroundings • Having it all, but feeling depressed by this The young boy in this story is weirdly disconnected to reality - he has lost any ability to feel fear and, it’s implied, he may not be able to feel any ordinary human emotions in a normal way. Everything he sees is simply a spectacle, which leaves him mentally and physically untouhed. In fact, it’s only when his wife takes rather drastic physical action that he feels something, albeit physcial - although it isn’t clear whether this is temporary or succeeds in finally waking him up to sensation. Like all the Cups the Four of Cups deals with emotionality, but in this case, feelings are blocked - there is a boredom and numbness that affects everything in life. We are told that the boy in this story is regarded as stupid, but “dull” is the word that more accurately describes him. The card is all about disconnection, depression and a general ennui - a time when nothing can touch you or move you. To others, this can look like a callous lack of interest, but in fact it isn’t a case of someone choosing not to care, but rather someone who cannot care, even if they would rather be experiencing“normal” reactions and emotions. One notable feature of the Grimm’s tale we’ve used to illustrate this card is that the boy desperately wants to feel fear and knows that the fact that he doesn’t makes him an object of suspicion and even contempt to his family and community. It’s significant that it’s only when he’s married - in other words, when he becomes a part of the established community - that he finally feels something. In reading the Four of Cups consider how serious and/or long-term the problem indicated is. Sometimes the general feeling of dullness and depression is very temporary - all we need is to be encouraged to get active and involved for a while, and it will pass. Howver, in other cases such a feeling may set in as a persistent and distressing problem, and it may need real support and treatment in order to help the sufferer break through and take part joyfully in the world once more.

Monday, August 8, 2005

The King of Wands from the Fairytale Tarot - The Elf Hill

It's a dreadful thought, but I have to say this is also a good way of getting myself to re-proof-read these sections. I keep finding typos. Also - suddenly realised both these stories have a Norwegian theme - for no particular reason. This is another very long one - some are really short - honest! Elf Hill Elf Hill close up A close-up - the Goblin King of Norway, and the Elf King's daughter. The King of Wands: The Elf Hill Hans Andersen A very long time ago, but not so far from here, there was once a grand elf-hill in which the old elf king had his palace. One day the place was all aflutter with comings and goings as the king was expecting distinguished goblin visitors of rank and had decided to invite everyone who was anyone to a huge ball in celebration. The old man of the sea and his daughters received invitations, as did the old man of the stream, the brownies, the grave-pig, the bone-horse, the church dwarf, and a whole host of others. On their hill, the elf maidens had already begun to dance, even as the great hall was being prepared; the floor was being washed with moonlight, and the walls were polished with witch wax while the old elf king had his gold crown specially shone with powdered slate pencil. “Dear father elf,” said his youngest daughter, “please tell us now who the guests of honor are to be.” “Well,” he said, “ I have made a splendid match for two of you, my dear daughters. The venerable goblin king of Norway, who has a gold mine and castles and strongholds galore, is on his way here with his two sons, and each son wants a wife. The old goblin king is a real Norwegian, honest and true, straightforward and merry. I have known him for many a year, and his wife too, before she died. His sons are rough, but you can polish them easily enough.” Just as he finished speaking, hey ho, the goblin king himself arrived, impressively crowned with sparkling icicles and polished fir cones, muffled in his bearskin coat, and wearing his sledge-boots. They all entered the mound, where all the best people were gathered. Everybody had excellent table manners except the two young Norwegian goblins, who put their feet on the table just as if they were in a rowdy inn. However, their father conducted himself quite differently. He talked entrancingly of the high crags of Norway, and of waterfalls rushing down with a roar like thunder. He described bracing winter nights on which the sleigh bells chime, and boys with flaming torches skim over polished ice so clear that one can see the startled fish swish away underfoot. He had a way of talking that made you both hear and see the scenes he described. As he spoke the elf maidens did their dances, whirling around like tops. But the king was not interested in dancing. “Whirling indeed.” he laughed, “What else can the girls do?” So the Elf King showed off his daughters’ skills. One could make things vanish – but this was judged by the goblins not to be a useful attribute. The next could become her own shadow, again not so useful to a practical goblin. The third had studied brewing with the swamp witch, and this skill immediately got the goblin king’s attention. The fourth daughter played a harp that could make people obey her, and the fifth liked Norwegians – something she regarded as a rare skill. The sixth was embarrassed “I can only tell the truth,” she said, “so nobody likes me.” And the seventh? Ah, the seventh daughter had the skill of telling stories. “Why, I’ll take you for my own wife,” exclaimed the king, “and in the winter you shall be our teller of tales. We shall sit in my great stone castle where the pine logs blaze, and we shall drink our mead out of the golden horns of old Norwegian kings, and have a good time indeed.” But what of the boys? Well, they had got bored with the whole process, and forgetting all about elfin wives were off racing around the fields. Dismissing them from his mind, the old goblin danced around the room with his young bride. Then he changed boots with her, which for goblin-kind was much more fashionable than merely exchanging rings. Just then, the cock crowed. The dancing was finished, but at least one maiden had found a good match. KEYWORDS AND PHRASES Theatrical and charismatic – a showman • Unconventional and often inspiring • A communicator who can carry off eccentricity with panache • A leader who attracts followers with sheer energy • Someone who never follows the pack – always out in front. The King of Wands is a showman - he loves to be noticed and to be the centre of attention. One of the lovely, and very Andersen, touches in this story is that the old goblin king manages unintentionally to completely outshine his dull sons. The older and more socially able king is the one who combines straightforwardness with an unexpected romanticism, whereas his sons are simply louts. While we see that the king is attracted by the elf who can brew good beer, it’s the girl who can tell stories that he immediately takes for his own - at heart he loves imagination and fantasy more than ale, but his sons are quite the opposite in their tastes. When this Court card appears in a reading it tends to indicate the influence of someone who is self-assured, showy, very active and often charismatic. Think of the way in which the old goblin king enters completely into the spirit of the ball, telling fabulous stories, charming his hosts and, at the end, dancing with energy and enthusiasm, and you have a snapshot of this King. He may not necessarily be physically handsome (although sometimes he will be), but he is always attractive. It isn’t surprising that he’s often the one who gets the girl, and that he’s also usually surrounded by friends old and new. While it may not be strictly relevant to the most obvious meanings in reading this card, there is an aspect of this story that may repay discussion; this is the whole notion of elves and fairies living in mounds and hills. Lewis Spence, writing in British Fairy Origins sees this as a very strong indication that there was much confusion and merging together of old myths about ghosts, spirits and fairies. As he writes, “Many barrows and other sepulchral spots in Britain and elsewhere are pointed out as fairy dwellings.” [Spence] It’s obvious to anyone who reads much fairy mythology that the very same mounds that were used to bury the dead in ancient times were later associated with both the hauntings of spirits and the activity of the fae. Certainly, to enter a neolithic barrow or a fairy mound (and they could be one and the same site) was seen as dangerous for humans. It’s significant, in this tale by Andersen, that it’s only denizens of fairyland who are invited to the Elf Hill; for ordinary people the glamour of fairy is both hazardous and often false. So perhaps an awareness of the dangers of fairy hills can add an unusual, but significant, nuance to this card? Mostly the King of Wands is like an egotistical but charismatic older actor - insisting on being the centre of attention but with such charm and energy that few people around him really mind. But perhaps, just sometimes, he does carry a certain danger in his attraction? Certainly with this King all may not be as it appears and theatricality and performance will come above sense and sensibility at times. So admire, enjoy and befriend this King, but don’t get too caught up in his performance, it may fade with the light of reality and leave you with little but faint memories of colour, fantasy and a beguiling glamour.

The Fairytale Tarot - The Lovers

Lovers Lovers close up A close-up - showing the not-so-happy prince - and the rather-pleased-with-herself Tatterhood. VI The Lovers: Tatterhood Norwegian Traditional Tale Once upon a time there were a king and a queen who had no children and so they took into their palace an adopted girl. One day this little girl began playing with a beggar’s child who was passing, tossing a golden apple between them. When the queen saw this she scolded her daughter and tried to chase the beggar child away.”If you knew my mother’s power, you wouldn’t drive me out,” said the girl. When the queen asked what she meant, she told her that her mother could help the queen to have her own children. So the queen called the beggar woman up to her rooms, and eventually persuaded the woman to give her advice. She told the queen to bring two pails of water to her bed chamber. She was to wash herself in each of them then throw the water under the bed. The next morning, she would find two flowers growing where the water fell, one beautiful and one ugly. The beggar woman told her sternly to eat the beautiful flower but not the ugly one. The queen followed these instructions, except that she found that the beautiful flower tasted so good when she ate it, that she also ate the ugly one. Sure enough, the queen became pregnant, and gave birth to two girls. The first was horribly ugly, and was born with a wooden spoon in her hand. The second was incredibly beautiful and sweet. The elder twin they called “Tatterhood,” because she was always so dishevelled and ragged, and because she had a hood which hung about her ears in tatters. One Christmas eve, when the girls were nearly grown up, there was a frightful noise in the hallway outside the queen’s apartment. Tatterhood asked her mother what it was, and eventually the queen reluctantly told her that it was a group of trolls and witches who had come to celebrate Christmas. Tatterhood immediately marched off with her wooden spoon, and began to hunt out and drive away the hags and trolls. The noise and disturbance of the fight was tremendous. The beautiful twin sister peeped out from a crack in her door to see what was going on, and up came an old witch, who whipped off her head, and stuck a calf’s head on her shoulders instead. Seeing this, Tatterhood was angry, but said that she would save her sister. So she took her - complete with calf’s head - and they sailed off in a ship to the land where the witches lived. When they arrived, Tatterhood rode on her goat to the witches’ castle. There she saw her sister’s head hung up by a window, so she grabbed it and rushed back to the ship. The witches pursued her, angry as a swarm of bees, but Tatterhood beat them off with her wooden spoon and reached the ship, where she replaced the calf’s head with her sister’s own head. Once this was done, Tatterhood sailed off again on a long journey to a strange king’s realm. This king was a widower, and had an only son. When he saw the strange ship approaching , he sent messengers down to find out where it came from and who was on board, but when they got to the dock, the only person they saw the ship was Tatterhood, riding around and around the deck on her goat with her hair streaming in the wind. They asked if she was the only person on the ship and she said no, she had a sister with her, who she would not let them see. “No one shall see her, unless it’s the king himself,” she said. The men returned to the palace, and told the king what they had seen on the ship, and he at once went to take a look himself. When he arrived at the ship, Tatterhood brought out her sister, who was so gentle and beautiful that the king at once wanted to marry her and make her his queen. But Tatterhood this was only possible if the king’s son would take Tatterhood herself. The prince did not at all want to do this, because Tatterhood was such a rough and ugly girl. However he was put under such pressure by his father that he relented at last, though with very bad grace. After the weddings the king left with his bride and she was so lovely and so grand, all the people stopped to look at her. After that, along came the prince on horseback by the side of Tatterhood, who trotted on her goat with her wooden spoon in her fist. The prince rode silently and looked very sad. “Why don’t you ask me why I ride upon this ugly goat,” said Tatterhood. “Why do you ride on that ugly goat?” asked the prince. “Is it an ugly goat? Why, it’s the most beautiful horse that a bride ever rode,” answered Tatterhood; and in an instant the goat became the finest horse ever seen. They rode on a bit further, and Tatterhood said, “Well, now you can ask me why I ride with this ugly spoon in my fist.” “Why do you ride with that ugly spoon?” asked the prince. “Is it an ugly spoon? Why, it’s the loveliest silver fan that a bride ever carried,” said Tatterhood; and in an instant it became a silver fan, so bright that it glistened. Again, they rode until Tatterhood told the prince to ask about her hood.“Why do you wear that ugly gray hood on your head?” asked the prince.“Is it an ugly hood? Why, it’s the brightest golden crown that a bride ever wore,” answered Tatterhood, and it became a crown at once. On they went, and next the girl told her new husband to ask why her face was so ugly and gray.“So,” said the prince, “why is your face so ugly and gray?” “Am I ugly? You think my sister beautiful, but I am ten times more beautiful,” said the bride, and when the prince looked at her, she was so beautiful, he thought that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. After that, both prince and king set out with their brides to the princesses’ palace, and there was no end to the celebration. I know this story is true, as I was at the feast myself. KEYWORDS AND PHRASES Active passion - for a person or possibly for an activity or interest • Choice in making a relationship • Beauty is in the eye of the beholdert • Issues of beauty, ugliness and the true nature of both • sexuality and love There are a myriad of lovers in fairy stories, indeed it seems as though half the traditional tales include a wedding or two. So there were many stories that we might have used to represent The Lovers if one thinks of this card simply as being about love or passion between two people. However, The Lovers card in modern Rider Waite Smith based decks is very significantly different from that in pre-RWS decks such as the Tarot de Marseilles. The older decks usually showed a man choosing between two women, one young and beautiful, the other more mature. This card was sometimes even subtitled “choice”. It was this element of a conscious and active choice about a relationship that I wanted to convey in this card, and the lovely and unusual feature in the story of Tatterhood is that for once it is the girl who does the choosing. For this reason, Tatterhood is a story that was rediscovered and to some extent reinvented in feminist retellings of tales in the 1970s and 80s. Tatterhood herself is, after all, that rare thing in traditional fairy story, an ugly girl who is active, brave and intelligent, who takes matters into her own hands, and who finds and gets (in spite of the odds against it) the husband that she wants. The story is a remarkable one. Here is a girl who was not desired - not in fact supposed to have been born at all - and yet she saves her household, and specifically her sister, from a bunch of trolls and witches, and then sets off on a self-navigated journey, sister in tow, that ends with her marrying her off to a king, and herself to a prince. A self-actualised heroine indeed! So what does this mean for our reading of The Lovers card? Certainly, it puts the emphasis on initiative and choice; it asks us to think carefully about whether one partner is the more active one in making a choice to commit to a relationship, and if so, which partner? This alone is something not always considered when reading this card. More importantly, and on an entirely different level, this story also asks us to consider what a passionate relationship is based on and what really matters to a lover. It does seem, at the end of the tale, as though the way in which Tatterhood finally wins her prince’s admiration is to conform and become the rich, elegant and most of all beautiful young girl that’s required for a “happy ever after” in fairytales. Yet surely things aren’t quite so straightforward? For we have to ask, if all it takes for the ugliness to change to beauty is for Tatterhood to be questioned about it, then why did she remain ugly in the first place? She is not, apparently, under a spell; and in fact, so active is this girl, able to defeat witches and trolls with ease, that being subject to enchantment seems highly unlikely. So could it be a matter - again - of choice? Is Tatterhood able to do so much and have such freedom - in contrast to her sister who seems an entirely passive pale shadow - because she’s considered ugly? This throws us right back to considering again the old version of the Tarot Lovers. The usual interpretation of that card is that it shows a man choosing between a beautiful girl, who may have little to offer except her beauty, and a less attractive older woman who may be the more sensible choice - in terms of money, position and stability. Is it so simple really? When we make a choice about the person we form a relationship with, is it such a cool weighing up of the pros and cons that influences us? Or do we tend to get swept away by passion? What if we flipped the original card around and saw it in terms of two women making a choice about whether or not they want the young man in front of them - what would that do to the way we read this card? Relationships are, as we know at heart, varied, unpredictable, and often very different from conventional cliched expectations. At the end of Tatterhood we have an odd formula; the girl tells the prince what question to ask, and in response a transformation takes place. Surely one way we can interpret this is through the old idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Tatterhood literally asks the prince to look again, to look afresh, and when he does, things are suddenly different. Although the tale appears to end conventionally, the process of getting there is, in fairytale terms, extremely unusual. It’s this that makes these Lovers so very interesting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Whoops, the Fairytale Tarot was "outed" on Aeclectic

Not that it was a secret, but I hadn't really planned to post anything on it until it went to print (even that is a while before publication as it has to BE printed, get to the distributors and all the rest). But in fact it's very nice to finally show it a bit more publicly. There a new temporary page here. I decided I didn't like the design of our original pages, so I'll need to redo them. Things are SO interesting right now - and I am SO glad I finally got to do something with fairytales - real tales, the old and odd and disturbing ones - the way they should be.