“Set the Table, Doug”
As my revisionist thinking on the significance of the Major Arcana in a tarot reading continues to churn up fresh ideas, I entertained the notion that the functional relationship between the minor cards, court cards and trump cards might be likened to the experience of dining out. The minor cards provide the “meat-and-potatoes” of the reading, the court cards represent the “wait-staff” who bring some personality to the table, and the trump cards suggest the environment of the restaurant itself. This quirky vision reminds me of Douglas Adams’ equally quirky book, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” in which a talking cow (aptly named “Dish of the Day”) offers up choice cuts of itself to discerning diners, carved “on the hoof” as it were. Which is pertinent to nothing else I’m going to say here beyond inspiring the title, unless we choose to think of our tarot deck as that intelligent cow and the cards we pull as USDA “certified prime.” We, of course, are the “master butchers” and the “gourmet chefs” who prepare our metaphysical repasts and cook them to perfection.
Bringing this down to the level of the spread cloth, we could envision the trump cards as the “table setting” for the figurative “meal.” Ideally, a single trump would work best for this, but if we draw several we might consider them the revolving appointments of a multi-course dinner, each tier with its unique dish (adjacent minor cards) and bevy of servers (court cards), assuming that the spread is large enough to accommodate this multiplicity. This is just another twist on my belief that the trump cards — rather than being prominent “movers-and-shakers” themselves — simply set the stage at the archetypal level for the prosaic drama enacted by the minor cards, sometimes with key performances by the court-card “supporting cast.” We will have to decide for ourselves whether they are announcing a tragedy or a comedy, but in my own practice I’m convinced that, except in very limited circumstances involving unplanned events that depart markedly from the routine, they don’t amount to much more than “emcees,” or at best “Shakespearean narrators” who prime the audience for the upcoming action. (Even the Tower, which should be the most disruptive of all, I’ve found to deliver only mild upsets in everyday life.) At times I’ve even removed the Major Arcana from the deck when approaching an extremely narrow mundane topic with no apparent archetypal implications and little chance of encountering any.
To continue the “dinner” analogy, there are a number of imaginative ways to apply this model. We might see the Fool as “a quick bite full of empty calories at a fast-food joint;” the High Priestess as one of those snooty places where you get portions the size of a golf-ball; the Empress as a wedding reception (hopefully the bride isn’t already pregnant); the Emperor as a formal, black-tie affair; the Hierophant as a church gathering for “dinner and incidental sermonizing;” the Chariot as a “mobile food vendor;” the Wheel of Fortune as a “pot-luck” supper (at which we might need considerable luck); Death as the “salmon mousse” scene from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life;” the Star as the “anorexic’s delight” — a thimble-full of mineral water and a small bowl of undressed lettuce; the Moon as a “liquid lunch;” and the World as one of those all-you-can-eat buffets. These mind-stretching exercises are enormous fun and one of the reasons why I love the tarot so much.
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on February 14, 2022.