Sagas Among the Arcana: The Knight of Swords and Three of Pentacles

One day a knight happened upon my shop. She held a blade so sharp and so polished, it glinted blindingly even with the dark overcast. She handed me three coins and said:

“Make me a crown.”

Her eyes slate eyes spoke dangerous promises, so out of self-preservation I gathered my white robes and said:

“Yes.”

Her black stallion marched her away. My legs still shook beneath my skirts, whether from the cutting winds or fear I knew not.

I used her three coins to forge the finest crown in the nation, fine enough for a Queen. 

Years later, in the summer, the stallion returned with its owner. I was sweating, yet I still shook. It was never the wind.

The knight had made a name for herself since I gave her the crown, now dirtied and unshined, leading many a warrior to victory. Now it seems that she wants to lead me to the palace.

“Come with me, your skills may be useful for things other than jewelry.”

Her arm is stretched out. I can make out the chords of muscle beneath the thin sleeves.

Her palm is warm and she grips me firmly as I allow her to haul me upon her mount.

She gives me three thousand more coins and under her guidance, I make much, much more.

Sagas Among the Arcana: The Court of Swords

This week’s card picks: Page of Swords, Knight of Swords, Queen of Swords, King of Swords

 

One day you see them

 when you are within the clouds as the air cuts past you. It’s a dangerous thing to be surrounded by a court so skilled with the sword. 

The Paige stands on the edge of rocks, fearless. But you fear that the harsh wind may blow her over. She sizes you up, curios — who would dare come to level with them?

Perhaps, you begin to regret that it is you who dares.

A snow mare stallion trots around you, the Knight mounted upon it. He has yet to take action, yet you sense he may soon. His twisted, swerved sword aimed in your direction. 

You begin to count your breaths.

One

Ah

Two

Ah

Three —

The Queen.

She levels you with a gaze so frigid. You don’t doubt her sword has the ability for the same. Blood spilled so coldly it freezes. But you sense there may be more. Underneath all the layers of heavy silk and flowers. Calculated intentions. What they hold for you? You’ll never know.

Then comes a shrill screech demanding your attention. Demanding you to take action so that it may make its move so that they all can.

The King is a rainbowed beast, circling above you ready to take its dive. You see metal glint with it. A sword? You wonder why the griffon may ever need it.

You see the King pause every now and then above its kin. It observes. It protects. Loyalty.

You wonder what it would do if you wronged any of them. Those who lay above the clouds. In his realm.

But you need not test it. After all, you aren’t armed with a sword.

Sagas Among the Arcana: If you just tried harder . . .

This week’s 3 card reading  (using the White Numen: Sacred Animal Tarot by AlbaBG):

8 of pentacles – high standards

8 of swords – self-confinement

7 of wands – control

 

 

 

 

 

“You know if you would just work harder . . .”

The boy has heard it many times in his short seventeen years of life. Teachers, parents, parents’ friends, friends, girlfriends, and now law enforcement.

The policewoman at the desk is giving him a lecture about something — he doesn’t care. All he did was steal a pack of Cheetos. He was hungry and he wasn’t fond of his mom’s Sunday stew. He tells the policewoman such as she’s about to hand him a pamphlet for some troubled youth program, and she throws him a scathing frown. Her eyebrows quirk up.

“Yes, now, it’s a pack of Cheetos, but two weeks ago it was . . .” and she continues to list off all his transgressions from the past month. If he doesn’t stop her soon she’ll get into the previous years as well. He isn’t able to, though, because she’s obstinate. By the end of it all, she gives him a warning.

“Soon it won’t be juvie anymore.”

~

He stole a chicken. And now his hands are being tied behind his back. His girlfriend raises her eyebrows at him eerily akin to the policewoman from a year ago.

They were out on a date, and the police found him to arrest him for the chicken he kidnapped yesterday.

Before she can say something, like seriously babe? he takes action himself. 

“We’re through.” He wants to spit in her face to gross out the police and throw her off her game, but he still kind of likes her and doesn’t want to ruin her day anymore. She’s about to fight back, perhaps to disagree with his statement because unlike him she’s loyal to a fault, but he’s already in the car and being driven to jail if the policewoman from last year is to be trusted. He is an adult now, after all.

He’s not too upset about the breakup (and definitely not about the stolen chicken). This girlfriend had said it too. 

“You know, babe, if you just tried harder . . .”

~

Really, all of their standards are just much too high for him. 

That’s the problem he tells himself as he socks this douche in the face. The guy’s teeth are crooked now; he probably tastes blood. Man shouldn’t have taken his beer like that.

His current girlfriend looks at him horrified, “Dude, what the hell?

She’s thoroughly pissed now. He can sense it. He knows that she just wanted a night to rewind after all the exams she just had. She’s kind of the studious type so he doesn’t know what she’s doing wasting her time on him. Maybe she thinks dumbasses are sexy. He should just save her the trouble and dump her like his girlfriend from four years ago.

He doesn’t have the chance to, though. The other guy comes back to punch him. It’s a nasty hit, and he doesn’t feel like he’ll be able to chew again. 

He plans on paying the favor back because for once in his life he needs to be on top of some situation. Also, he needs to defend his honor in front of the girl he’s planning to dump in just a few minutes. 

But he doesn’t have the chance to do either as he slips on glass, and suddenly his head feels warm and sticky. He hears his girlfriend’s panicked voice, unused to being in such situations, and sees the smirk on that bastard’s face.

In the end, he decides he’s tired and lets his eyes flutter, anticipating an awakening in his favorite holding cell.

Sagas Among the Arcana: Sink

This week’s 3 card reading  (using the White Numen: Sacred Animal Tarot by AlbaBG):

8 of wands

2 of wands reversed

ace of wands reversed

 

You rush, so you step too far into the quicksand and 

                                                                                                   sink

                                                                                                               sink 

                                                                                                                           sink.

But what you expect to be grainy dirt are actually reptiles that entwine and bind you. Your hands are coiled by cool scales. Entrancing and atrocious at the same time. They tighten and tighten

You’re trapped.

How could you be so foolish?

You should have looked around more, taken a step back, and observed

But you’ve never been one to observe, have you?

Perhaps, now, you should observe. Calm your mind and pay none of it to the 

                                                                                                               rattle 

                                              rattle

rattle

                                                                                                                                              rattle

                                                                               rattle

Soon, it’s too hard to think. There are nooses around your neck and your energy drainssss

All you remember is:

Act too quick,

                                 then

                                                you 

                                                              sink.

Sagas Among the Arcana: The Queen of Coins

This week’s one card reading: The Queen of Coins

 

The Queen is one to share her riches with all. She’s not a queen in the typical sense though, the people simply call her their queen because of the way she nurtures them all. 

Today, she arranges buckets, upon buckets of grape tomatoes; all of which she grew in her garden. She thought it would be nice to share them with everyone, for no other reason than that she wanted them all to have some pleasure on this bright day. 

She picks up one of the wooden barrels. It’s heavy — but still, it’s fine. The wood is rough on her arms; they’re tough enough, she says though. It’s a simple burden she’s willing to carry.

~

On the way to her first destination, The Queen sees the

 town’s princess. The town deemed her a princess because of her beauty, she’s always smiling, and always engaging. 

No one has ever complimented my appearance, The Queen thinks a bit wantingly. Wait, no  — she immediately does away at the green vines that tempt to entwine around and capture her mind. She’s a good person, that’s enough.

The Princess drops the basket she’s holding. The roses in it all spill out. People around all rush to pick them up for her. Someone dashes into The Queen; the tomatoes seem to roll and threaten to fall out into an avalanche. The Queen squeezes the heavy bucket firm against her chest; it hurts. The pressure is a bit too much.

People pick up the roses and prick themselves on thorns. The Princess flushes graciously. The attention she bestows is dazzling.

Someone help me, please. The Queen doesn’t say this aloud; her annoyance is passive and she shows no sign of weakness. The heels of her palms threaten to bleed under the jagged wood.

The Queen somehow also yearns for that dazzling attention from The Princess. She wonders what it would be like to be acknowledged by someone so charismatic.

But she’s not going to ask for it. 

~

The tomatoes are delivered and people are grateful.

Oh, you didn’t have to! They had all said. You’re too kind.

The Queen appreciates it. The words give her energy. Nex

t time, she’ll pass out the strawberries. 

As she walks back home with empty buckets, her hands still burn a bit. No one had noticed the red marks on them.

She sees a lonely red rose on the road. She picks it up, her blood smears on the petals, but no one would be able to tell.

Only she can.

Some Thoughts on Tarot Cards

One of my favorite parts about art is how it can be shared through so many mediums; art is in everything, and being able to see that makes life a lot more interesting. A great example of art being conveyed through a unique medium are Tarot cards: a deck of 78 unique cards, often used for fortune telling and games. It was relatively recently that I gained an interest in the obscure world of tarot cards, having been inspired by an old HBO show that my parents used to watch called Carnivale (a great show and I highly recommend it, but the end leaves a lot to be desired). The show uses tarot readings to further the plot and create dramatic tension, but more interesting is how the show uses subtle tarot symbolism that makes the story feel like a great epic is unfolding and the characters are all pawns of fate. This technique is similar to that employed in classical epics, such as The Iliad and The Aeneid: the use of portents and prophecies that connect the story together using a common thread, often calling back on themselves and revealing the role of divine fate in an extraordinary way.

Artist: Matt Bailey Instagram: @baileyillustration

I absolutely love the feeling when a prophecy is fulfilled, or when I can draw the subtle connections between events and and characters and be able to see how the prophecy influences the events of the story. This is one of my favorite things about tarot card art as well: the use of symbolism and subtle meaning conveyed through the illustrations is fascinating and endless. Each card has lore and tradition behind it, with multiple interpretations that all come together to form a single story. Personally, I don’t believe in actual fortune telling, but I appreciate how the cards are designed to create the effect of prophecy. Each card has identifying symbology that can be found in any version or reinterpretation, and have been tradition ever since they were first created, making each card immediately recognizable and therefore more iconic. This quality of the tarot can be found throughout popular culture as well, from literal uses such as Led Zeppelin and The Hermit figure, and more subtly in the archetypes of The Fool, The Magician, and The Lovers often found in storytelling today.

The other thing I love about tarot cards is the physical aspect of the art itself; there are so many versions and styles of illustrations, and I think the cards are such a great medium of artistic expression. An artist can follow the strict format of the cards and symbology while still illustrating them in their own way, giving them the perfect amount of creative freedom. There’s a lot to be said for the proportions of tarot cards themselves and the powerful effect of the format, which makes them the perfect template for creating something unique. It’s a great endeavor to undertake, illustrating all 78 cards, but it’s a great way to develop and refine your style and to put your creativity on display.

Artist: Micah Ulrich – Instagram: @micah_ulrich