La Papesse et les poissons

Last night, I was a tarot card, having wandered down to the bay to find two water birds at either end of the little pier. I came up between them, a snakeoil seller in my calf-length corduroy coat and floppy black-and-brown leather hat, cigar in one hand and a book in the other. A serpent priestess with a lying grin between a snow-white cattle egret on the piling to my right and a dusky black-crowned night heron on the piling to my left. They eyed me yellowly, ruffling feathers at my approach.

So I bowed low to them, whole body to the ground and approached them reverently on my knees. This they tolerated. And so I sat between two birds, dark and light, a cigar my scepter and an open book on my lap, the Tao Te Ching in English, as interpreted by Ursula K. LeGuin. Court de Gébelin I’m sure had not in mind the Way when he named the cards from Egypt, nor did the Order of the Golden Dawn think much of Lao Tzu when they could pretend to plunder the Qabalah. But I sat and read Lao Tzu’s words through LeGuin’s lens, as the pillars on either side of me danced and bobbed on their willow-switch legs, brushed orange in the sodium-arc light, and I was The High Priestess under a waxing moon, brazen and still.

She doesn’t stand for dogmas, you know, or so the books on tarot tell me. She is not about obeying, but finding your own way, through your own trial, past the gate down into your own spiritual enlightenment, among the roots of things. That is what they say. I could interpret this night in many ways, it seems. Perhaps I shall try to view it from the herons’ perspectives: “Who was that crazy predator female thing, and why did she sit there by us so uncomfortably long and not attack us? Was she looking for a fish?”

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