Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Origin of the Species β€” Tarot of the Absurd

I did a woodcut print a number of years ago (to be posted in one week) called, β€œIt was Raining Out.” In the image, a boy pulls a girl by the hand. He points to a ladder which leads to the attic. In the attic, there is a trunk. Outside, umbrellas fall like rain.


*Β  Β  *Β  Β  *


It is the attic, the endless attic where all toys go when they are outgrown, where the works of years past are laid to wait for the minds of future generations. There,Β the treasures are endless.


When it rains out, the boy and the girl sneak into the attic, close the door, and open an old wooden trunk, origin of all adventure. In the trunk lie the treasures of the mind, for it is filled with papersβ€” letters, photographs, journals, cardsβ€” papers covered in writing and images.


One rainy day, the boy picks out a small carved wooden box. A box within a box. He opens it. Inside are slips of paper. On each piece, writ with fine fountain-pen script, is a terse aphorism: a riddle.


The girl takes the one on top and reads it aloud. β€œβ€¦β€


β€œA riddle,” says the boy. β€œBut what could it mean?” He takes the next, reads it. β€œβ€¦β€


β€œI wonder how many there are” says the girl. She dumps the papers and arranges them in a grid on the floor to count. β€œTwenty-two.”


*Β  Β  *Β  Β  *


The problem was, I had no basis for filling in the ellipses. I had never seen a tarot deck. I knew there were twenty-two pictures. I knew there was a fool. I didn’t think the sixteen faces and forty numbers were actually part of the tarot deck. I had some research to do.


I went into a store that specialized in tarot decks and went through their albums of sample cards. Nothing caught my eye. They were all 78-card decks and none of them were special. At last I found a little hand-written booklet with a red lion on the cover and the words, β€œTwenty-Two Keys of the Tarot.” THIS was what I was looking for.


β€œDo you have the deck for this booklet?” I asked the clerk.

β€œIt’s somewhere in the back,” he said, disappearing through a door beyond the bookshelves. When he returned, he handed me a small white box. β€œJust one,” he said. β€œIt’s been here for ages. There’s no price on it.”

β€œMay I look?” I asked. I was filled with that nervous sort of energy that happens when everything is absolutely right. It made my hands shake as I opened the box flap, and I was too jittery to see anything beyond the print quality (real ink on real paper) and the hand-written date. The deck was exactly 20 years old. β€œHow much?” I asked.

β€œName your price,” said the clerk.

β€œTen dollars,” I said, knowing nothing about anything. I wasn’t the sort of person who bought things. The clerk nodded, rung me up, and slipped the deck into a small brown paper bag. I walked home, glowing brilliantly like the sun in the heavens.

4 Responses

  1. cassandra022 says:

    a deck i’d never heard of :0

    lovely first deck story though.

  2. Jessica says:

    I think most people haven’t heard of it, tho I certainly didn’t know at the time. Later on I found it was on K. Frank Jensen’s “most wanted decks” list published in the final issue of the Manteia Courier. Having been totally ignorant, I got it because I liked it best. Thus began my rabid addiction to indie-tarot decks… πŸ˜‰

  3. Mom says:

    Where is the woodcut print?

    • Jessica says:

      In the basement. The lightning’s just horrible for photography. Now no one will ever see this post again anyhow. πŸ™

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