Monday, 1 April 2013

Cosmic Tarot Arabesques

Cosmic Tarot, US Games 1988
These two cards echo one another so fully that I can't help but be intrigued by them. They are the 4 of Wands and 6 of Swords from Cosmic Tarot, US Games 1988. In both cards we see a dancer wearing loose trousers and either a tight vest or no top, flowing hair, the left leg back and extended, left arm held parallel, right arm down. Both dancers balance on the ball of the foot within a circular pattern on the ground. Each card has a pyramid on the right side of the card, behind the dancer. Each card features the horizon. Each card has an oval shape of light that extends off the card. In the upper right corner of each card, we see an item--a bird in one card, a caduceus on the other. When the cards are placed side by side in order, both the horizon and the oval shapes more or less line up. The 4 of Wands seems to be daytime, the 6 of Swords night. The 4 of Wands features a woman, flowers and a bird and is pink; the 6 of Swords shows a man, swords and the night sky with caduceus and is blue. In the 4 of Wands,there are some slightly mountainous formations on the horizon, where the 6 of Swords is flat. I'm not sure why, but the woman seems to have her chest more toward the ground in a more classical arabesque, though the hip is quite open, while the man has his chest and hip fully in alignment, more a leg extension than an arabesque, I guess. No idea why this might be.

Anyway, these two cards echo each other so strongly, there must be something behind it.

I bought a companion book to Cosmic Tarot by Jean Huets, an editor for US Games. However, she is not the creator of the deck and does not seem to have worked very closely with him on this book, that I can tell. Mostly, it's her own ideas about the cards, which in my opinion are no more valid than anyone else's. Still, having someone else's ideas handy can act as a springboard, though of course it would have been much more useful to have Norbert Losche's thoughts!

Huets' thoughts on 4 of Wands are similar to my own first thoughts: the posture of the woman echoes the bird in flight. In fact, her forward-thrust chest and hair flowing backward suggest movement. The oval in the sky is behind her, making it seem as though she is moving away from it. Of course, she isn't, she has the toes and ball of one foot on the ground at least. It's curious to me that flight and movement are integrated into this card, which for me has always represented stability and groundedness. Huets solves this: 'The four wands and four flowers, symbolic of earthly foundation, would seem to ground our dancer. However, it is with her earthly body that she offers us wings.' It seems to me that flowers are a curious symbol of groundedness, being so fragile and temporary, much like the woman's posture. This is a temporary pose which no one can hold for long, particularly with the forward momentum that she seems to be displaying. I still must ask: Why the spiral? Why the pyramid? Why does the ground seem to be made of shifting sand? What is the significance of the ridgy landscape on the horizon to the left of the card? Why are there two pyramids on this card and one on the 6 of Swords?  The Wands is a suit of fire, and so I can understand why it is broad daylight, and the sky is the curious pink, and the land looks sere and almost parched. I can understand the colour choices. I'm just still not clear why this awkward (though beautiful) and completely unnatural body posture was chosen for 4 of Wands. Now that I think about it, though, the RWS deck does show four wands with garlands of flowers and women dancing in celebration. So perhaps this is the same sentiment. The four wands in the card are the firm foundations, and the dancer is celebrating them, just as in the RWS. She dances in the middle of the four wands for the joy of her groundedness. Her groundedness protects her and makes her feel safe to leave the actual ground through dance, to even take flight. Hmm.

The 6 of Swords cards is set at twilight, and at the top of the card you can see black night and stars, which lightens as it nears the perfectly flat horizon. Six swords all point directly to the man's foot, and behind his left leg there is a caduceus balancing on the ground (doesn't appear to be planted there). A circle of light on the ground echoes the shape of the spiral in the 4 of Wands card. Whereas the 4 of Wands makes one think of flight, the 6 of Swords suggests precision. The woman's body posture suggests movement that is free and joyous, whereas the man's seems more disciplined and controlled. Perhaps it would be slightly easier to go up on tiptoe with your leg behind you as part of a forward motion--her body looks to me like the next move is to bring the left leg forward and take some running steps. The man's suggests to me that he is about to pivot on his toe to turn in the opposite direction, swinging his left leg down so that he can strike another pose facing toward the pyramid. I don't know why I see this, but I do. She's going to move and he's going to continue to show control and discipline by staying right there in the same pinpoint (or should I say 'swordpoint) spot. So the 6 of Swords seems to be about precision, discipline. Makes sense as the name for 6 of Swords is Science. The stars at the top of the card combined with the caduceus make me think of physics and medicine. The cool blues of the card bespeak the cold logic of the swords suit. Huets says, 'Martial arts use the body to enhance mental acuity, and the mind to enhance physical prowess and grace. Hatha yoga yokes mind and body together. The positions of ballet are intended to create an aesthetic effect on the beholder. These arts are not creative. The forms are dictated by tradition and passed on by teachers, gurus or masters. Their fruit is reaped only through dedication and regular practice.' I like that, I agree with what she's saying here.

I still have no idea why the deck creator designed these two cards to echo one another so strongly. Perhaps it's because they represent, in a way, opposite meanings.

2 comments:

  1. I can easily connect her to traditional Four of Wands ideas - having created a strong foundation through practice, or dancing for joy. His card, though, is more of a challenge. Perhaps ideas coming together to knock us out of our stuckness, into movement? Like he's ready to go, but just needs that little push... :)

    ReplyDelete

Share your wisdom, please! Comments welcome.