TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 4 of Chalices

Elysium

 The battle raged, thunderous with destruction, despair and human cries of violence. Lucius, shield in one hand and gladius in the other, cut men down one by one. The sweat and muck in his eyes made it difficult to see, and he hoped he slayed only the enemy. Rain fell hard, and each drop stung his face; it cooled his body though it pinged off his armor. 

Lucius found himself alone, ensnared in the sudden hush of the surrounding dead. In this temporary calm, he wiped the grime, sweat and rain from his eyes, looking this way and that. Had the battle ended? A strange silence had befallen the field and Lucius thought he might be dead and on the threshold of Elysium. 

Lightning flashed and struck the ground nearby; the vibration snaking up his legs. Lucius blinked, and, astonished, glimpsed a young woman in a strange yellow cape standing in the middle of the battlefield. She had appeared in the flash and now glanced around, confused. 

For a moment, Lucius thought she might be a witch and raised his sword to slay her, but his dark eyes met hers and Lucius froze. A shock of short black hair framed her thin and dainty face, white as marble. Long dark eyelashes outlined big blue eyes which shone with fear and wonder. Eyes fixed on him, she extended a gloved hand, reaching for him. 

Thunder clapped and the clamor of war broke the eerie enchantment. Out of the corner of his eye, Lucius caught the menacing figure of an enemy, turned and stabbed him dead. The young woman remained, confused and frozen to the spot. A sword rose behind her, ready to strike. Lucius rushed to her side; he pushed her to the ground and killed the enemy. She screamed, covered her head with her arms and rolled herself into a bright yellow ball. Lucius kept fighting, aware of the delicate figure at his feet, careful not to trample her. 

Another lull. Lucius pulled her up by her elbow. He placed his shielded arm around her and ran with her into the nearby forest away from the onslaught; her body warm under his protective embrace. 

Lucius pushed her against a tree and told her to stay there. She freed herself from his grasp, hopped up and grabbed the nearest branch. He watched amazed at her nimble movements as she climbed the tree. She stopped on a fat branch and huddled against the trunk. Those big blue eyes shone at him through the wet leaves. Thunder and lightning flashed, and Lucius prayed for Jupiter to spare the tree from Vulcan’s bolt. Their eyes met one more time, and he returned to the fray. 

The battle soon died and the young woman clambered down from the tree. She walked among the dead, looking for her savior. She found him caked in blood and mud. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she wiped the blood from his closed eyes. He groaned. Her soft giggle of relief sounded like heavenly music in his ears. He opened his eyes and smiled into those bright blue irises gazing down at him. 

“Lucius,” he whispered and pointed to himself. 

The young woman took his hand in hers and raised it to her lips. 

“Miriam.”

THE GODDESS TAROT: XVIII The Moon

Arcane

Derek stood before the bookcase and sighed. He scanned the spines searching for the book stated in his handwritten note. It didn’t help that the borrower had only provided the title of the book. He’d checked the catalog and the only reference was “occult”, which had turned out to be an extensive section in the library basement. He was on his third bookcase. 

Aha! Derek checked his note again and retrieved a dusty book with strange symbols on the cover and titled “Necromancy, Wizardry and Dark Magic” in big bold letters. He sneered as he perused the pages; pure balderdash and poppycock. 

He heard a strange rumble far away and wondered whether a storm was coming. Derek shrugged and tucked the book under his arm. He turned to leave when the ground shook and flung him into the bookcase. The lights flickered, and the books rattled in their shelves; a few tumbled onto the floor. When the tremor ended, Derek rubbed his shoulder and sighed. He set the requested book aside and bent down to pick up the fallen books and reshelve them. 

One lay open, and, as Derek reached for it, a cold draft blew through the aisle and flipped the pages. Derek squinted as he tried to read the writing. He didn’t understand the language, nor the alphabet. Something crept up his spine and tickled the back of his mind. 

He sat cross-legged on the floor, and without touching the book, stared at the pages. He sensed he could almost read the writing, as if he’d once known it but had forgotten long ago. The pages then turned to an illustration. 

A baby in swaddling clothes left behind at a doorstep. Derek examined the picture and wondered why it brought feelings of déjà vu. A memory flashed; he sat in the kitchen with his mother, snacking on milk and cookies. 

“You found me on the doorstep,” he’d said, matter-of-fact. 

“Of course not,” his mother had smiled, “you were born in the hospital. I know, I was there.”

The memory ended and his mind focused on the picture. Though he couldn’t see it, he knew the doorstep belonged to an earthen home with people around a warming fire. 

The picture moved, and Derek, frightened yet curious, wondered whether his mind was tricking him. The door creaked open; an old woman peeked out. She saw the baby, picked it up, gazed left and right, and cradling it, took it inside the hut. Derek’s heart thumped, as long-forgotten dreams flared and burst into puffs of haze in his mind. Could he be the baby?

“Derek! Are you down there?”

The boss’s voice plunged into the basement and broke the spell. Only the strange writing remained on the page. 

“Coming!” He yelled. 

Derek closed the book; the cover was old, leather-bound, weather-beaten and title-less. He put it back on the shelf, at the very end where no one would notice it. He grabbed the book on magical crapola and walked toward the stairs, reluctant to climb them. 

The library closed and Derek, the last to leave, snuck down to the occult section, retrieved the book, hid it under his jacket and took it home. 

Moonlight shone as he pulled into the driveway, its eerie silvery light an omen, which Derek felt with every cell in his body.

“Once in a blue moon, Derek,” Grandpa’s forgotten voice whispered in his memory, “a book comes along that changes your life.”

ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: XIX The Sun

Premonition

Rainer sat on the topmost rock of the hill. The sun shone bright in the sky and warmed him. He was shirtless and the soft breeze cooled his skin and gave him goosebumps. He loved sitting in the sunlight and being out of doors, rain, snow or shine. 

The breeze turned cold, and the wind strengthened. A storm cloud rolled through the baby blue sky towards him. It darkened the land below it. Rainer stood and faced the cloud; soon it would obscure the sun. 

“Someone’s coming,” he murmured. An eagle swooped down and alighted on the rocks nearby. It screeched at him. 

“Show me,” Rainer said, and the eagle flew heading east, towards the storm. Rainer sprinted down the mountain, nimble as a cat and eyes on the eagle. Now and then he skipped from rock to rock, his footfalls soft and silent on the barren ground. Rainer followed the eagle into the woods; it led him to the riverbed. 

He stopped on the bank and listened to the river as it flowed over the rocks. Rainer glanced around him, straightened his neck and sniffed the air. The night before he’d heard two bangs, and the acrid chemical stench of gunpowder had overwhelmed him. Now the gunpowder was faint, but the humid wind brought with it blood and fear. 

The storm cloud blocked out the sun and Rainer’s spine tingled with foreboding.

He turned to the eagle, “I will wait inside tonight.”

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: 9 of Cups

The Cotillion

All eyes stared at the handsome young man as he entered the doorway. There was something strange and mystical, almost ethereal about his presence. His tall, lean figure graced the door while his black hair shone in the light cast by the flickering candles on the chandelier. His piercing blue eyes under long lashes glanced around the ballroom. Even the musicians stopped as he crossed the room. 

Women smiled. The girls, the belles of the ball, dressed in colorful dresses, high hairdos and lace gloves, fanned themselves and giggled as he glided past them. They fluttered their eyelashes attempting to get his attention. Older men grinned with mischievous glints in their eyes, while the young men, dressed to the nines in high collars and tails, smirked and scowled. 

The beauties all gasped as the young man approached a seated young lady with her head lowered. He extended his hand, and the lady, gaping with eyes wide and cheeks afire, obliged. He led her to the dance floor; she stumbled on his arm. Ladies giggled as the conductor a-hemmed and the music resumed. 

The handsome stranger and the young lady began their dance while all other couples stood and watched. The young lady, plain and clumsy, spun and swirled like a princess on his arm. Her face glowed with her beaming smile, while her dull eyes sparkled with delight. She became the most beautiful lady in the room. 

When the piece ended, he thanked her, led her back to her seat and bowed. He then approached the young lady seated in a corner by the drapes. She was a chubby girl with the unfortunate body of a barrel. Her heel caught her dress as she stood, and ripped the hem. She stomped to the dance floor, clinging to his arm. 

The dance began and once again his grace and charm turned a bumbling wretch into the most gorgeous girl in the ballroom. Dance after dance, plain girl after plain girl, each uglier than the last, for a few shining moments became the most radiant beauty of the night. 

The natural beauties squirmed and smirked. It seemed when he danced he drained them of their beauty and, as long as the music played, their features contorted into ugliness. One old man, the grandfather of the first dancing partner, noticed this enchantment also befell the young men. The handsome grimaced and raged out of jealousy, while the plain gentlemen, delighted by the occurrence, shone with dignity and composure. While the music played, beauties and beasties learned how the other half lived. 

The clock struck midnight. Thunder boomed above the musical din and lightning flashed, casting the ballroom into an eerie blue light. 

The patrons gasped, all eyes fixed on the dance floor. The young man had vanished. Only a pile of glimmering pearly feathers remained in his place.

UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: VIII Strength

Reflection

Jenny stared at the funhouse. Lightning flashed in the distance, yet the town fair was still in full swing. She counted her tickets, aware of her dad’s impatience to be home before the storm arrived.

“It’ll be a big one,” Dad said and allowed Jenny one last game. 

She chose the funhouse. 

Jenny took a deep breath and advanced toward the attendant, her tickets held out before her like a dangling paper snake. 

A shy, soft-spoken child, with plain brown hair, plain brown eyes, round glasses and a tiny pinched nose, Jenny looked like a frightened squirrel. At school, kids teased and bullied her for being a weakling, a bookworm, and a doormat. At home, she listened to her centenarian grandmother’s stories of the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa and growing up with the soldaderas, women, like her great-grandmother, who’d taken up arms. Jenny wished she were a soldadera. Now, at the funhouse entrance, was her moment to prove her bravery to herself, because the funhouse scared her to death. 

She entered and walked through the mirror maze with caution, gazing at her altered reflection. Here, tall and thin, there, squat and fat, or slanted, bent and squiggled. Jenny tried to laugh but seeing herself amplified and deformed frightened her. She reached the center of the maze, and a circle of mirrors multiplied her into all shapes and sizes. 

Jenny stood, eyes to the ground, daring herself to look at the plethora of Jennys surrounding her, when thunder clapped and the lights went out. It was but a moment, yet Jenny’s heart skipped in her chest, her stomach jumped and she shut her eyes. An instant later, the generator whirred, and the lights turned on again. Jenny counted to three and opened her eyes. 

She was still in the funhouse and surrounded by mirrors, but, instead of the multitude of Jennys, she gaped at an oncoming cavalry. Shots rumbled around her like the thunder outside until she didn’t know which was which. 

The men on horseback wore big sombreros and, by the neckerchiefs that masked their faces, Jenny knew they were bandidos out for blood and pillage. Screams soon mixed with the thunder and gunfire; someone shouted at Jenny in her grandmother’s Spanish and she turned in the direction. 

In the mirror beside her, stood a young woman in a long blue skirt, high-necked blouse, and her plain brown hair wrapped into a bun. She gazed at Jenny through her plain brown eyes and round glasses upon her tiny pinched nose. In her arms, the woman held a rifle, and slung across her torso, she wore a bandolier, replete with ammunition. The woman nodded at Jenny, who felt the weight and cold metal of the gun in her own hands. 

The woman fixed her eye on one bandido and fired. Jenny staggered back from the recoil; the rifle hot, yet safe in her arms. Jenny, together with the woman in the mirror, lifted the gun to her shoulder, fixed her sight on another bandido and shot. Again and again, they fired. One by one, the bandidos fell, and in doing so, their image in the mirrors disappeared until only the young soldadera and Jenny remained. 

The soldadera set her rifle down and Jenny felt her arms lighten. She pierced Jenny with her plain eyes, now full of fire, then smiled and winked. She disappeared and left Jenny looking at her own self in the mirror, surrounded only by plain, distorted Jennys. 

Jenny straightened herself and smiled, no longer the frightened squirrel.