Death — Vertigo Tarot

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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.


Two of Wands — Vertigo Tarot

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Dave McKeanIllustrator: Dave McKean

Author: Rachel Pollack


[I just read some old notes I have on this deck. It is the 1995 1st limited edition of the Vertigo tarot, in the white box. The white bag to hold the cards is missing and the card tuck-box is a little wrinkled. My mother got it for $1.00 at a book sale some years ago. She picked it up because she was feeling slightly dizzy. Also she knew I like tarot. Plus, my younger sister is a Sandman fan. A dollar!]


On one hand, the Two of Wands is about the power and energy of a focused will to achieve a goal. Such self-authority leads to progress, wise decisions, and discovery.


On the other hand, inability to focus may lead to lack of planning. Instead of letting this lead to fear of unknown, it can be used to enable one’s self to be open to change and to give up a sometimes-debilitating need for power.


This card contains great balance. There is a sort of symmetry in balance, but balance is far from symmetry alone, for balance is more alive than symmetry— more dynamic— more real. Symmetry remains unchanging; balance moves like fluid around obstacles. Growth is difficult when one focuses on maintaining symmetry. Balance has space to expand toward unknown horizons— to explore an un-bordered edge.

Nine of Cups — Vertigo Tarot

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Illustrator: Dave McKean

Author: Rachel Pollack


If this card is right-side up, it says:

Witness the perfection of art:  desire, beauty, sensuality. Count your blessings. Live in the moment. Enjoy the good life. Contentment with your accomplishments forms a foundation for the future. Balance is always needed, but right now is more a time of enjoyment than of suffering the negative consequences of such pleasure.


If this card is upside-down, it says:

Frustration. Your wishes may not have yet come true. Perhaps you are being unrealistic. Wishes do not manifest of their own accord. Something is missing deep down. Be careful not to over-emphasize your fantasies or gratify your own desires at the expense of others.


I am especially unfocused today— as opposed to my regular, generally unfocused self. This being the Vertigo Tarot, my thoughts meandered around the request, “Tell me something about dreams.” (I also thought, “Give me an idea for a boy’s name,” tho not so seriously.) Although every card in this deck may be linked to Dream, the Nine of Cups is generally a dream card: daydream. Rachel Pollack writes, “…the dream here is of the body… We spend a great deal of our imaginative energy on sexual images… The artist takes these fantasies and uses them as a vehicle for something less personal, even serene, as if art, in its universality, transcends physical desire…”


This card tells me I have a tendency to daydream rather than get about to doing the work necessary to follow through with my ideas. I know that: I have a house full of things that could potentially, when I get around to it, be fixed up or made into other things. My most intentional work of art— my wicked deck of cards— moves toward completion at a snail’s pace. But who among us is not a dreamer? Nonetheless, Nine of Cups shows emotional, physical, and sensual satisfaction. Perhaps if I was less satisfied, my daydreams would be more than dreams.


Some say happiness is an attitude of choice. If my biggest dream in life is to be happy—and in the end, whose isn’t?— than I am successful. I have accomplished— with some hard work— the most important dream. Every other daydream is just icing on the cake.


Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May All Beings Be Happy