The Notes That Weren't
And what happened . . .
The April Daily Notes were disrupted last week, when something sad and sudden happened in my world.
I started a post about related Tarot themes—but it seemed too heavy for the beginning of Spring. Then I tried to write a lighter post, but it didn’t seem worth finishing. And another attempt turned bleak in spite of my intentions.
So this morning I sat down to think about the past, present, and future of EP.
That will be my theme over the coming week or so. But for today, I decided to publish the two already-written posts. They don’t seem good (enough) to me, but that may be partly my state of mind.
Anyway—they won’t take up much reading time! And they will bridge the gap from last week to now.
April Daily Notes (4.28.23)
I’ve been thinking about suddenness. So as part of my ongoing experiment (just Google “Tarot” + whatever is happening in my life), I tried a variety of search terms—and as usual, found unexpected things.
But before I even tried the Google query, I looked for a deck I remember thinking was both clever and potentially useful: The Tower Takeover Tarot. Every character from every card is falling out of The Tower . . .
I thought I had written about it previously, but it seems I didn’t—perhaps because it speaks for itself. If you want to know more about the deck, check out creator Kaylani Perisho’s social media pages, or her Kickstarter funding page for the second-edition deck.
Reflecting on The Tower and suddenness, I was recalled one of the few worth-watching movies that includes something about Tarot: Sudden Manhattan. I thought I’d written about this too, but am beginning to doubt my memory! So I’ve borrowed the relevant listing from Emily Auger’s magisterial volume, Cartomancy and Tarot in Film: 1940-2010.
If you can find the movie, I think you’ll enjoy Louise Lasser’s “Dominga”—and the plot is actually quite engaging.
There’s an unsettling further story, though. Shelly had worked as an actress for years before making Sudden Manhattan—her first serious outing as a writer/director. It was a small success, and over the next several years she made progress in her career as a filmmaker. She married and had a child.
And then . . .
One day in 2006, for no apparent reason, she was murdered in her Manhattan studio by a complete stranger, who staged her death as a suicide.
You can read about the complicated investigation in her Wikipedia entry if you are curious. But I’m thinking here about the suddenness with which terrible events can occur.
The fact that something happens suddenly—seemingly out of nowhere—can make the event seem random or meaningless. The Tower, however, offers a different perspective. Suddenness takes on its own meaning, through its place in the Tarot matrix, and its context in a given spread. Which reminds us that things are not meaningless just because they are not linear, or not part of a causal chain.
April Daily Notes (4.30.23)
T. S. Eliot’s long poem The Waste Land was published just over a century ago, in 1922. It remains the only work of “serious” literature that has a Tarot aspect, except for Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies—which I’ve written about previously.
For a broad look at Calvino’s work, browse this new piece in The New Yorker.
Calvino and Eliot use Tarot very differently in their work, of course. And while Calvino knew a good deal about Tarot, Eliot claimed to know almost nothing. But as it turned out, his evocation of the cards became one of The Waste Land’s best-known features.
In fact, Tarot gets its own module in the Schmoop study guide to Eliot’s poem. Their summary of how the cards fit into a network of references connected with prophecy is surprisingly good.
Eliot invented several cards for his Tarot references—most notably, the “drowned Phoenecian sailor” and “Belladonna, Lady of the Rocks.” The Phoenecian sailor made it all the way to American television, where it appeared in an episode of Have Gun, Will Travel.
Discovering a Tarot scene in that popular mid-century Western was one of my favorite serendipities of last year. But right now, I’m thinking of Eliot’s poem because of its opening lines:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
We needn’t go into all the allusions and implications contained in these lines to get the essential point: because we think of Spring as a time of renewal and new beginnings, it’s doubly painful when bad things happen.
The loss of Rachel Pollack this April was deeply distressing for many people, in several different communities. Although I haven’t yet expanded my series of Rachel posts as much as I would like to, I have gathered them in one place. For those of you who didn’t see some or all of the original posts, this will be more convenient. And for those who saw them earlier, I’ve added a few more images and some small details.
As it turns out, making a longer document viewable on Substack is not as easy as you might think. But I’m still working on it, and will have a solution—or a different approach—over the weekend.
As always—thanks for reading. And . . . . May the 4th Be With You!