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Join Date: 26 Aug 2002
Location: Deep East Texas
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Maat Queen of Swords--imagery


The full moon in Gemini creates twins by way of reflection. The Queen of Swords rising in the cold, blue night reflects upon birth and death—a set of twins we tend to want separated. But the Sword’s Queen cannot do so because within herself she carries life and without, she touches death. Taking the form of the Magdalene great with the world’s child, she sits at a table (or at the end of a shelf) perhaps in her bedroom: a mirror stands near one of the table’s edges, which suggests that the table is a dressing table. She, herself, is dressed in rich, but very loose clothing for she is well advanced in the pregnancy, and it is night.

The objects on the table/shelf—the mirror, a skull and a light—are some of the elements one finds in artistic themes that address vanity, although to a pagan these same things might be used to reveal the view beyond the veil of time and space. A wooden box, its clasp loosened, supports the skull whose lower jaw is missing. The skull, lacking the jaw, can’t tell her very much, but she has other pathways to knowledge--specifically her fingers. Made nearly translucent by the light, they lightly touch the skull’s face as if they were brushing it with life. And note the position of her right hand as it props up her own head and shadows her lower jaw. Like the skull, she neither hears nor speaks. Rather, touch and sight are her tools, and good tools they are for darkness or for light.

And yet She does not look at the skull, but rather at its image in the mirror and/or at the small, bright flare which emerges from behind the skull’s right side. Or perhaps from her index finger. Or from a hidden taper. One doesn’t quite know (one never can in such direct confrontations with death), but the general result is illumination: ours as well as hers. Behind her a single sword hangs; the emblem on its blade thrown into relief reveals a tiny crescent moon with its horns pointed to the east.

Reflection is a good word upon which to proceed with an inquiry into this arcana which represents it in several ways. To cite an obvious and very interesting example, there’s the mirror on the dressing table which reflects what we otherwise would not be able to see clearly: i.e. the skull and the box. The skull looks as if it had a coin over its eye-socket which was moved so that the socket is partially revealed (though that “coin” is very possibly a rendering of the temporal bone) and the box reveals itself to have a delicate filigree of paintwork on its side such as a jewel box might have. It’s as if looking directly at certain things—death, wealth—is quite difficult for us, as if we can see them better through some sort of transformation that distances them, that makes them less real. The queen, however, seems quite absorbed in the contrast represented by the image she beholds in the mirror and the object she touches.

Which of the two is most accurate? Note that her fingers do not appear in the mirror.

Another reflection, this one more subtle, is that of the queen’s head and the skull. These images mirror each other because of positioning. The Queen touches the skull with her left hand and her own head with her right hand, the left mirroring the right as if messages were moving from one head to another through her hands, her arms, and across her heart. So the past (the skull) informs the present (the living woman) which in turn holds the future (the infant)—all connected directly with no mirrors involved. The direct experience of sorrow, of bringing forth life & suffering its loss, and of wealth's real value will in time breed wisdom. One cannot acquire it vicariously.

Of course, “reflection” is also a mental methodology. Considered as thought, reflection is not an exploratory process in the sense that one sets out to collect experiences or data or images. It is not a creative process like brainstorming or similar methods that one might use to generate new ideas. Rather it is a slow, thorough process of making sense of what one already has already experienced and of integrating data that one has already collected. Illuminated by the scrutiny of the present, events and ideas in our past may look different to our inner eye. They may portray novel aspects of themselves, odd pairings and unexpected inversions which try our wits and our patience. Sometimes the process is painful, sometimes peaceful, and almost always arduous because of the time it requires. But, difficult or not, those with eyes to see can emerge from that sojourn warm and whole—as long as there is light.

This arcana is, to my eyes, one of the most beautiful in the deck. The rich, deep colors, the blues, reds and ambers and the lovely caressing light reveal an aspect of the Queen of Swords that one seldom sees. Her rule is not an easy one; sometimes she must be ruthless in her decisions and in her actions. She does not have the easy abundance of summer to fall back upon if she makes mistakes. Indeed, she cannot fail because if she did all creatures under her rule might perish. So she has the reputation of being emotionally cold, smart but sometimes spiteful, and a black widow at the last. No doubt she is all these things. But she is also the mother richly gowned in red at whose touch life flares with a golden light. And what she does reveals more than what she says.
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