A Hitherby Tarot

I do not know the Tarot.

That is, I am not pig-ignorant about the Tarot, but I am probably low-average for a non-atheist geek.

So I am going to use wikipedia and my own intuition.

Herein I will denote mineownaardvarks’ original suggestions as “the Aardvarks0 Deck.” I’ll also offer two different interpretations as the Ancient and Modern Hitherby decks.

0. The Fool

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Jane as the Fool.

I understand this card as referring to a person on the beginning of their journey. This is any person who possesses dharma. It is also any explorer.

One can make a strong argument for the 12-year-old Ink Catherly as the iconic Fool.

That said, the Ancient Hitherby deck mirrors the Aardvark0 interpretation and uses Jane: a very specific Jane, that is, the Jane in the moment that Martin remade her. It labels the card, “The Is.”

The Modern Hitherby deck disputes this, substituting Tantalus, on the grounds that he has a dog.

1. The Magician

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Martin as the Magician.

I understand this card as referring to the person who makes manifest the is. So Martin is a solid pick. There is a case that the Magician is instead the person who evokes gods, and there are one or two nasty decks that put the monster or Melanie in this role. There is also a good case for Round Man and Chaos Woman. However, both the Ancient and Modern decks use Martin; he is labeled, in the ancient deck, “The Smith.”

2. The High Priestess

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Maya as the High Priestess.

I understand this card as referring to the machinery of meaning—the transmutation of data into content. This is most precisely the process of legendry.

One can make a strong argument for Parvati as the High Priestess. I am not sure why no Tarot decks have as yet done so.

In the Ancient Hitherby deck, the role of High Priestess is filled by the machinery in the Gibbelins’ Tower, and the label “The Mechanisms of Chaos.”

In the Modern Hitherby deck, as most readers know, the role is filled by The Imago.

3. The Empress

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Mrs. Schiff as the Empress.

There is a strong historical Tarot tradition associating Maya with the Empress, both in her role as illusion and as the mother of the Buddha. In building Hitherby Tarot decks it has been difficult for the designers to ignore this association. There is also a strong argument for “An Answer to Suffering” (which has led to certain decks that depict screencaps of this site as the third trump) and even Cronos.

The Aardvarks0 choice is unusual among Hitherby decks principally because of the great tension it puts on Mr. Schiff, embodying both worldly power and the denial thereof. It is certainly reasonable in and of itself that Mrs. Schiff, as something of a mother figure to the residents of Gibbelins’ Tower, would hold the role of the Empress.

The Ancient Hitherby deck puts Maya in the role of the Empress, labeling her, “Illusion.”

In the modern Hitherby deck, conversely, this role is filled by Mylitta. The repositioning of the hero to the Empress slot is considered one of the weaknesses of the Fourth Kingdom, leading inevitably to the Fourth Tyranny and the project at Gibbelins’ Tower.

4. The Emperor

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Mr. Schiff as the Emperor.

Naturally Jane has no father (save, arguably, for “somebody with teeth.”)

In many respects Mr. Schiff acts in this role. Unfortunately, pinning him to it makes for an uncomfortable deck; the card is prone to vanish, or the deck catch fire.

Here in general interpretations differ, based on whether you consider this card to represent “those who give power” or “those who have power.”

The former role is held by Martin in some decks (which usually makes the Empress Jane) and by Santa Claus, Uri, or Zeus in others. The latter role is typically held by either a traditional ruler (Siddhartha, Maya, Suddhodana, Uri, Cronos, Zeus) or the monster, in his rôle as the bondsman of Lia’s line.

The Ancient Hitherby deck puts the monster in the role of the Emperor.

The Modern Hitherby deck chooses, instead, Nabonidus.

5. The Hierophant

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Central as the Hierophant.

Here we have a possible inversion in my understanding of the world as compared to others’. It’s possible that what I, as the writer, see as imperial, my readers will see as hierophancy, and vice versa.

It’s also the case that I’m finding extremely disparate interpretations of the Hierophant when I look around on the web. One source says social order; the other says, working with what you’ve got.

The Hierophant as the person who tells you, “Fit in, use the resources you have handy, don’t worry about the ideal” is generally a negative figure in the first two chapters of Hitherby. The most positive candidate I can think of is Tanit. I recognize that there is a severe oddity in a fairy Hierophant; but, well, the world is broken, is it not?

The Hierophant as the incidence of social order—well, surely that’s Mr. Kong, isn’t it? He’s the closest to a non-dancing Pope figure that Hitherby has.

The Ancient Hitherby deck depicts Mr. Kong, dangling from his flying broomstick, as the fifth trump, and labels him, “Propriety.”

The Modern Hitherby deck chooses Round Man.

Even though he has a dog.

There is some discussion filtering back in time from the Qwik Club that suggests that at a future time Max will embody the Hierophant. This seems profoundly improbable but interpretations constantly shift as secrets become stories, stories become histories, and the substance of history fades into legend.

6. The Lovers

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Sid and Max as the Lovers.

The Lovers are another card considered structurally weak in the Fourth Kingdom. Thess and Kyrievo indicate how far the concept has fallen.

Classically this card suggests the lure to adulthood, and how the desire for a more equal relationship with another may draw one there. One can strongly argue that Round Man and Chaos Woman are a pair of archetypal Lovers; so are Yasodhara and young Siddhartha. The bleakest versions of this card depict Dukkha alone or the Witch-King and his bride. The happiest depict Sid and Max, or the absurdly hopeful fan OTP Vicious Lily and Tainted John.

The Ancient Hitherby deck depicts a gate; beside it stands a monarch, and his grey cloak is filled with darkness and the endless fluttering of orange and black wings. The label is, “Eduction.”

The Modern Hitherby deck shows Ge and Uri.

It’s not clear how they manage to fit all of that onto a card. But they do!

7. The Chariot

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents the Angel Four as the Chariot.

The most straightforward interpretation of the Chariot puts Iphigenia in this role. She drives a chariot across the sky. She has an enemy to conquer.

Another interpretation would put The Hero there. There’s an element to the Chariot that suggests that the real troubles begin with the charioteer’s victory; this is problematic, since Hitherby protagonists and antagonists alike tend to depart the stage once they’ve won. This is certainly a place where you could put the Imago, who remains a protagonist after the most devastatingly horrible of victories. Mr. Schiff and Tina are also viable (perhaps Tina, pre-reversed), and you can make a case for Alan.

The Ancient Hitherby deck has the Hero in this role.

The Modern Hitherby deck, perhaps to terrify young children flipping through the deck in their parents’ library, depicts Rahu, head lolling down and clinging to Iphigenia’s chariot’s heels.

8. Strength

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Ella as Strength.

This is pretty much a slam-dunk, since, as mineownaardvarks points out, she has a lion. Mylitta is the only other contender, and, let’s face it, her strength was a liability.

The official Qwik Club deck puts Jane in this role, on the basis of her long-term dealings with the principles of dharma. Looking back from the end of the series, others also suggest Mei Ming or Siddhartha.

The Ancient Hitherby deck shows Ella as the eighth trump and labels her, “Promises.” One variation of this card features instead Forbidden A.

The Modern Hitherby deck shows Prajapati, arrow in her leg, winking to the viewer and holding a finger to the beak of a dove.

9. The Hermit

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Siddhartha as the Hermit.

The position of Hermit is where Mr. Schiff really shines, and he prefers to seat himself as the ninth trump when given any say as to his position in the deck. Siddhartha is a viable choice. In many decks, Nature fills this role: naiads, dryads, and the other oracular spirits that populate the world.

The Ancient Hitherby deck shows Ninja Tathagata as the ninth trump, labeling him, “Ninja Buddha.”

The Modern Hitherby deck shows Mr. Schiff, irritably waving the viewer away so that he may resume his meditation upon geology.

10. The Wheel of Fortune

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents the Treasure Wheel as the Wheel of Fortune.

Amusing on so many levels! But absolutely unavoidable.

The Ancient Hitherby deck labels the treasure wheel “Dharma.”

The Modern Hitherby deck is a slide from Martin’s presentation on woglies, with notes on surgery to functionally remove a wogly’s emptiness.

11. Justice

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Belshazzar as Justice.

I think that there is soundness here.

I think that the Hitherby world presents a very bleak view of justice, where every system to secure it becomes ultimately perverse and good outcomes, when they emerge, emerge from generosity rather than fairness.

So it is not surprising that one would choose Belshazzar as Justice, or Dukkha.

That said, it is my inclination to be fair. Since the story itself is unfair to justice, there is no reason to compound that in a Hitherby-based Tarot. I’m willing to see Maya here, or Martin, or Mr. Kong, or even Santa Claus.

The Ancient Hitherby deck presents the Gibbelins’ Tower as the eleventh trump; as always, notes one interpreter, justice is repurposed anthropophagy.

The Modern Hitherby deck chooses a nest of mirror pieces, as presented by Martin to Mei Ming.

12. The Hanged Man

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Mylitta as the Hanged Man.

The choice of Mylitta here is really interesting.

My understanding of this card is that it’s about the hero willing to sacrifice everything for someone else. It’s also someone who’s upside down, but secretly in alignment with the world.

For all that I adore Mylitta— for all that I’ll assert that she did well— I think that she really was upside down. Her power was in making that work out for her, not in being secretly the one who was right-side up.

But I’m really glad that someone else admires her, because she wasn’t wrong.

She was good. She just showed up a bit too late.

The Ancient Hitherby deck picks Micah as the Hanged Man, and names him “Our Gods.”

The Modern Hitherby deck picks Sid.

Why Sid?

Well, for one thing, when you hang him upside down he just kind of sighs. You can’t say that for many Hitherby characters! Most of them would wriggle!

XIII. Death

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Dukkha as Death.

To which I say: wow.

That’s neat.

I totally wouldn’t have gone there, but I can see where it comes from. The first thing any SF reader or TV watcher learns about the Tarot is “the Death card isn’t actually bad. People just see it that way. It’s just change.”

And then there is Dukkha, the endless capacity we have for suffering, and why?

Because we fear suffering and see it as bad. Because we are irrationally attached and irrationally prone to desire.

I am not sure I can top that, particularly given the connections between Death and the Emperor— given that Death is the Emperor’s tool and his instrument of office.

So I will give you this one. You have nailed it and perhaps even changed the story a tiny bit thereby. It is not The Wind. It is not Woglies. It is not Story.

It is Dukkha.

In the Ancient Hitherby deck he glowers malevolently. He is trump 13. He is labeled, “False Ideas” and he is the tool of the monster.

In the Modern Hitherby deck he is falling into a storm, he is irrationally stretched, and he holds up a sign, and his name is Dukkha, or, “Attachment.”

14. Temperance

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Mr. Kong as Temperance.

I understand this card to refer to harmony; balance; synthesis; healing; a woman pouring liquid from one jar to another; that which stands between Death and the Devil; and the instrument of the hierophant.

In the face of everything— in the face of emptiness, madness, suffering—

“We must try to be good.”

My first temptation here is to propose Mrs. Schiff. I also think of the angels and of Cyane and Realistic A in particular. (I must remember to edit the discussion of the Hierophant to include the suggestion of Realistic A, although I will not do this tonight.)

Cyane is particularly apropos because she is a creature of water. She answers emptiness with the hope of magic. For this reason angel-heavy decks often claim Realistic A as the Hierophant and Cyane as Temperance— or vice versa, of course.

Some decks will put the Wogly in this role. In short, they say: we heal because we cannot bear the wogly’s bite.

The Ancient Hitherby deck puts Tainted John here, and labels him, “The Ghoul.”

The Modern Hitherby deck has Meredith as Temperance. She’s dressed as a pirate and she’s pouring water from one vessel to another.

Or chaos.

It could be chaos, or it could be water with really strange fish in it. And is that Tara behind her on the deck?

15. The Devil

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents the Monster as the Devil.

Here are my thoughts on this.

The Devil is that which binds us into error and misconception. It is the way we bind ourselves to the material world. It is part and parcel with the Tyranny of the Mundane.

He is the dark side of the Lovers. He is their folly.

One of the fundamental assertions of Hitherby is that it is not the fault of victims that there are monsters.

Thus in most of the decks that feature the Monster as the Devil, he is the Monster of long-ago. He is the Monster that hurt us, before, but he is not here now. Escaping him requires only the healing agency of temperance.

In a deck constructed to address the immediacy of the story, the Devil is the sign of the errors we make ourselves. He is the Wogly. He is Thysiazo, or Maya, or even Martin.

In the Ancient Hitherby deck the fifteenth trump is “Righteousness,” and its picture is Jacob, watching the devouring of his runt.

In the Modern Hitherby deck the fifteenth trump is Cronos.

16. The Tower

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Sukaynah as the Tower.

How neat!

The Tower is the destruction of our comfortable position. Though it is truth that brings the Tower low, nevertheless, the destruction itself is never welcome.

I think that Sukaynah is a solid choice, due to direct story events. You can also make a case for the Imago, as a destroyer; Siddhartha, Chen Yu, and Belshazzar, as agents of destruction against the Third Tyranny; Tainted John, who killed Thysiazo; Nemesis, in part because she’s cool; Latch, cracked; or Alan, in his capacity as a fiend.

The Ancient Hitherby deck and the Modern Hitherby deck both portray the Wogly. This ties the Tower more tightly to the Wheel of Fortune than perhaps one might prefer.

17. The Star

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Cyane as the Star.

Certainly in Hitherby the Star is an angel.

Angels answer emptiness with hope; and what is the Star, if not the sigil of hope?

But which angel?

The Star is the opposite of the Devil and the instrument of Strength. One may reasonably say that this puts the following prospects forward for the Ancient deck: Realistic A; the Runt; the Maw; White Lion; Tanit; Promises; Micah; the Hero. In addition it suggests, for the Modern deck: Rhea; Uri; Zeus; Bidge; Jacob’s Carpet; Ink; Yasodhara; Rahu; and Ketu.

My favorites here are the Hero and Yasodhara, but regrettably neither suits. The Hero is already the Chariot; and as for Yasodhara, she is anything but an angel.

The seventeenth trump of the Ancient Hitherby deck is Cyane, and her label is, “The Possible.”

In the Modern Hitherby deck, the Star is Max; for that moment when Sid, mired in darkness, understood that he did not have to be alone. Variant decks often put Realistic A here, in his place.

18. The Moon

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Mei Ming as the Moon.

The central representation of illusion in Hitherby is, of course, Maya; though we may also put forward Ii Ma, the Monster, the Shadow, Mei Ming, Magic A, Bob, Dukkha, and Yasodhara for this role.

The Ancient Hitherby deck depicts White Lion, and labels him Power.

The Modern Hitherby deck presents Iphigenia, who is the sun, as the Moon.

19. The Sun

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Iphigenia as the Sun.

This is totally reasonable.

The fact that the Sun isn’t a very good Sun is another serious flaw in the Fourth Kingdom.

Who in Hitherby is confidence? Optimism? Certainty? Endless energy and joy?

Broderick raises his hand. Hope springs eternal in Broderick that he shall be a major trump. But we rule him out once again. Who may argue that Broderick is the Sun?

Who, then?

Alan, perhaps. Martin, certainly, were Martin not the Magician. Jane, on her best days. The Monster, but we shall not put him here. Sebastien? Tanit? Micah? Siddhartha?

In the Ancient Hitherby deck, the nineteenth trump is Tanit, named “The Fairy.”

The Modern Hitherby deck depicts Liril.

20. Judgment

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Ii Ma as Judgment.



I mean, seriously!

That’s horror! That’s terrifying!

I think that I don’t want to be that bleak. I think that it is possible for broken things to be remade. I think that in the end we can make bright judgments.

In the Ancient Hitherby deck, the twentieth trump is the namecatcher wasp, hovering over a rock, and it is named, “The Wind.”

The Modern Hitherby deck shows a beast, perpetually under siege by mini-people, and the label (1 of 1). Forgive the artist; she has done the best she can; it is difficult to show, in still small frames, our Story.

21. The World

Aardvarks0 Deck: The Aardvarks0 deck presents Ink Catherly as the World.

This is sound.

There is very little in Hitherby that is complete, after all, save for the legend of Ink Catherly.

The Ancient Hitherby deck depicts the Goodblow as the twenty-first trump, and labels it “The Actual.”

The Modern Hitherby deck shows Jane.

She’s drinking a glass of delicious chocolatey Qwik. It tastes really good! Don’t let anybody tell you different!

It’s shameless corporate marketing, perhaps, but she isn’t the least bit ashamed.

(to be continued.)

Categories: Vanished From Imago