Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Death — Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Cards

niki st phalle tarot deck cards

 

 

 

I have recently acquired, via moolah, the Nikki St. Phalle tarot cards. I first encountered this deck ages ago, when it was newly released. At that time I decided that I only wanted 78-card decks, which remains true, for the most part. With this purchase, I feel as if my unintentional collection is complete. At least for now. Now I want to buy a really expensive camera.

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 niki de saint phalle cards

One of the main ways cultures around the globe deal with death is through ritual and religion. In my family, discussion of religion generally progressed something like this:

 

Setting: Yellow 1977 VW bus, long road trip. External reference to apostles.

 

Me: “What’s an apostle?”

 

Mom (to me): “I think the four apostle were named Peter, Paul, Luke and John.” (to my father): “Is that right Paul?” (My mom was born of Jews.)

 

Dad: (noncommittal grunting sounds indicating probable ignorance.)

 

Me: “But what did they do?”

 

(pause)

 

Mom: “Paul? You went to Catholic school.”

 

Dad: (emphatic grunting sounds indicating definite ignorance)

 

Me: “Nobody knows what they did?

 

Dad: “Exactly. Nobody knows what they did.”

 

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Eventually, I asked my mother why she brought us up without teaching us about religion. “I taught you about compost,” she replied. “Birth, death and regeneration all right there. Isn’t that religion?”

 

Eat food. Put scraps in the Temple of Compost. Visit the Temple, turn the pile. Wait. Add scraps. Visit. Turn. Add. Wait. Visit. Turn. (Winter. Spring.) Plant garden. Add compost. Repeat. Is it religion?

 

I sincerely believe in compost. I have never, in all my wanderings, put my foodstuffs into the trash. My younger sister and I speak in hushed tones about stealth composting systems we have developed for honoring the biodegradable potential of uneaten edibles while living in urban areas where there is seemingly no place where one can decay in peace. Hush, hush. Let it rot.

 

There is no dogma. There is no incontrovertible truth other than the truth of potential. The only absolute is the absolute potential for Death to bring forth new life. This is what we must honor; this is what we must facilitate.

 

Denying Death, denying waste, denying that which we see as unwanted or unusable or trash does not make it disappear. Putting trash someplace where we cannot see it does not make it disappear. Turning our heads away from Death does not make Death disappear. Turning our heads from Death causes Death to linger, haunting future generations with illness and waste.

 

Stockpiling Death does not make death go away. We stockpile Death in wastelands caused by pollution dumped through unseen “necessities” of modern life such as waste disposal, mining, demolition, concentrated animal feed operations, driving and roadbuilding (unseen, yes, because we ignore the waste), hospitalization, and so on. When waste is ignored, Death wins. When the potential energy of “waste” is honored and movement toward this potential is facilitated, we need not fear Death. This is the religion.

 

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Death — Vertigo Tarot

Godfather Death

 

Having come to a temporary halt on this blog, I’ve seriously been trying to work on the book for this deck. I’m taking all the entries and putting them in order to see what I have. What I have, it seems, is sort-of like a scrap-book. It’s interesting and eclectic. Sometimes, I spend a lot of time writing and I’m sure, in the end, what I have written won’t make it into the book. Research for a folk-tale for arcana #13 is one example. I wanted to find a folk-tale about a man who had tricked Death. The following story is such a tale. I like how the boy in the story is the 13th child and how the man turns down god as a godfather. I like how easy it was for him to trick Death— once. But of course, in the end, Death always has the upper hand. Anyhow. I don’t think I’ll put it into the book, so I hope someone here reads it and finds it amusing. It took a lot of time to pare down the story into something fun and brief. It is called—

 

Godfather Death*

 

Once upon a time there was a poor old man who had twelve children. When a thirteenth was born he did not know where to turn for help. He ran out into the highway to ask the first person whom he met to be the godfather.

 

First God came walking down the road. He said to the man, “I pity you. I will hold your child at his baptism, and care for him, and make him happy on earth.”

“I do not wish to have you for a godfather,” said the man. “You give to the rich, and let the poor starve.”

The man went on his way.

 

Next the devil came down the road. “If you will take me as your child’s godfather,” said the devil, “I will give him an abundance of gold and all the joys of the world.”

“I do not wish to have you for a godfather,” said the man. You deceive mankind and lead them astray.”

He went on his way.

 

At last came Death, walking on withered legs. “Take me as your child’s godfather,” he said, “for I make everyone equal, without distinction. He who has me for a friend cannot fail.”

The man said, “Next Sunday is the baptism. Be there on time.”

Death appeared as he had promised and held the child at baptism.

 

When the boy grew to a young man, Death took his godchild into the woods and said to him, “Now you are to become a doctor. Pay attention when you are called to a sick person. If I am standing at his head, let him smell from this flask, then anoint his feet with its contents, and he will regain his health. But if I am standing at his feet, I will soon take him. Do not attempt to begin a cure.” With that Death gave him the flask, and the young man became a renowned doctor.

 

Once, he was summoned to the king, who was suffering from a serious illness. When the doctor approached, he saw Death standing at the king’s feet. His flask would be of no use. But it occurred to him that he might deceive Death. He took hold of the king and turned him around, so that Death was now standing at his head. It succeeded, and the king regained his health.

 

After the doctor returned home, Death came to him with a grim face. “If you ever again attempt to deceive me, I shall wring your neck,” said Death

 

Soon, the king’s beautiful daughter took ill. No one on earth could help her. The king wept day and night, until finally he proclaimed that whoever could cure her could have her as a reward. The doctor came and saw Death standing at her feet. Astonished at her beauty, he forgot the warning, turned her around, let her smell from the healing flask, and anointed the soles of her feet with its contents.

 

He had scarcely returned home when Death seized him and carried him to an underground cavern. There, the physician saw thousands and thousands of candles burning in endless rows, some large, others medium-sized, others small. Every instant some died out and others were lit. Little flames jumped about in constant change.

“These are the life-lights of mankind,” said Death, then pointed to a little stump that was just threatening to go out. “There is yours!”

“Oh, dear godfather,” said the horrified physician, “light a new one for me that I may enjoy my life and become king and the husband of the beautiful princess.”

“I cannot,” answered Death, “for one must go out before a new one is lighted.”

 

The physician immediately fell into hands of Death.

 

*Re-told from Children’s and Household Tales— Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Berlin, 1812 & 1857, Tale no. 44. The Grimms’ source: Marie Elisabeth Wild (1794-1867). Variations of the tale are found dating back to 1553.