21 Days of Light & Shadow

I got this idea in the shower tonight (the bathroom is my sanctum cogito, excuse my bastard Latin): 21 days ’til the solstice; 21 days of light turning to darkness before it turns around again; 21 Majors – not counting the Fool who makes the journey – and I have the Light and Shadow Tarot that’s been waiting patiently since July to be given a starring role.

Every day I’ll pick a Major in sequence, then draw a Minor and interpret the two together along the theme of exploring the light and darkness within, on the way towards the World. We’ll see what kind of disaster it turns into !

Light and Shadow Tarot by Brian Williams, Michael Gopford; Inner Traditions, 1997

I The Magician – 6 of Swords

The first thing that jumped out at me was the ferryman in the 6 of Swords. Is that the symbol for Mercury he’s got around his neck? Yes, it is. Mercury/Hermes is a psychopomp, “ferrying” messages and souls from one world to another. The Magician is commonly aligned with Mercury.

The light and dark/calm and disturbed waters on either side of the boat remind me that the Magician navigates the same waters, using Will to pull order out of chaos, knowing entropy is always waiting; always walking the line between the two, recognising the value in both.

I’m also getting a very strong Air-Water message. Not just from the 6 of Swords, but the Magician with all those fish! Again, walking the line, moving between the worlds. What’s interesting is the contrast between the Magician – who seems to just throw things at the wall and see what sticks – and the ferryman in the 6/S, who uses a compass (Science?) to chart a course. Even the visuals in the card are strikingly different: chaotic vs. nicely ordered straight lines.

“Method behind the madness”; Big Bang. Life (lots of plants etc. in the Magician) explodes out of a single moment, (seemingly) without direction and it is scary. No, intimidating. But once the dust settles, Life progresses with an amazing sense of purpose, as if it always knew what it was doing in the first place. So there is faith here, too. Even when the light is blinding and the darkness overpowering, it eventually sorts itself out. Sometimes the light is searing and blinding; sometimes the darkness is overwhelming and consuming. You have to dip into both to make the stuff in the middle.

And don’t forget that the man in the 6/S is making his way through unknown waters to new shores. There is an inherent sense of adventure (and faith!) in this card. Gods know, the Magician loooooooves an adventure, preferably one that goes “BOOM!” and maybe sears the eyebrows a little. If I was starting a new project (and I kinda sorta am, internally…) this would be a very auspicious pair of cards to receive. They seem to say, “Yes, you are ready and prepared.”

Finally, I like how these tie in with the cycle of light-dark-rebirth. It is specifically mentioned in the LWB for the Magician, and the Ferryman facilitates. Traditionally, he only ferries one way (special circumstances notwithstanding) – from life to afterlife – which fits the “dying” sun, but the psychopomp can bend the rules and bring the dead back to life. I don’t know where I was going with this; it will come to me later.

5 thoughts on “21 Days of Light & Shadow

    • submerina says:

      I’ve been here 9 years now, but I wonder if my body is still on souther hemisphere time. Most days feel like glorious summer to me! (Until I wake up to the grey grey greyness :()


  1. Digital Dame says:

    I love your insights into these cards. I never would have thought of the Big Bang in relation to the Magician, what a wonderful idea.

    I have this deck, but again, not one I’ve really worked with. When it first arrived, it had a REALLY REALLY strong chemical smell, and it’s taken literally years to wear off. Must be something to do with the manufacturing process. I loved the cards, but couldn’t handle the smell. Now it’s finally abated so I have broken it out recently. B&W decks always fascinate me.


    • submerina says:

      I’m lucky – I got mine 2nd (possibly more) hand, so there’s no smell at all. My Pearls of Wisdom though – peeeeee-yew! I think I might have developed chamical sensitivity just from opening the box *yuck* Love B&W decks and especially the woodcut art. I bought some glow-in-the-dark nail polish the other day and am scouting for a B&W I can work my *magic* on ;)

      The Magician’s a showman and what bigger show than the Big Bang? Well, until the whole lot collapses in on itself again!


  2. erishilton says:

    I’m digging this deck! The only other black and white deck I’ve used is the Hermetic, but this one really pops. In the 6 of Swords, I usually look for the light on the shore, but it’s different with this one. Instead of a compass, to me it looks like he’s holding a mirror or something reflective to signal to the shore… Weird, huh?


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