Daily Draw August 31st, 2009
Today is a special birthday for someone close to me so I hope I get a good card! This is from the remarkably interesting Silenus Tarot:
9 OF WANDS
Vigilance, be prepared to ward off adversity. Good old Orpheus and his lyre in hell with Cerberus. I’ve heard the overture from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld many times. If you aren’t familiar with it there is a 9.5-minute audio version at YouTube. Catch the excitement:
In a comment someone says “Of course the part everyone loves and knows is at 7:36 . . .” so listen for that can-can bit. Yeah, we all know that bit.
Funny thing, I was thinking before I shuffled the cards that if I drew a card with Cerberus from the Silenus Tarot, I could copy depictions of Cerberus from William Blake, John Flaxman, Gustave Doré, and Sandro Botticelli and do a comparison of them. I was chuffed when I did draw Cerberus after hesitating over the backs of two other cards, so I have attached that comparison for interest’s sake. These images are illustrations from various editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno. Dante uses the three-headed dog Cerberus as the guardian/tormenter of the gluttons in the third circle of hell, Canto VI. Virgil feeds the dog heads with handfuls of dirt while Dante observes those condemned because of their gluttony.
The Botticelli drawing of Cerberus has been lost, alas, but my book reproduces the relevant section from Botticelli’s fully painted Chart of Hell. I’ve reduced it further but you can see the blobs of snow, rain and hail and Cerberus growling and being fed by Virgil. Blake is Blake and has his own vision but his friend Flaxman’s depiction seems to derive much of the style from Blake.
Orpheus (the son of Apollo), went to the Underworld to reclaim his bride Eurydice, who had died on their wedding day. The unfortunate fellow was told not to look back as he was leading Eurydice out of the Underworld, but he forgot, so he lost her forever.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that my view of Orpheus is forever touched, or tainted as you will, by Neil Gaiman’s version of his story in the Sandman comics, Fables and Reflections collection, and also the Brief Lives collection. In those stories he was the son of the Sandman, and became headless and sang beautifully. I guess he couldn’t play his lyre without arms so he sang, thus Gaiman was able to perpetuate the myth of Orpheus’s lovely music. There is one illustration of Orpheus’s lone head in the sea while the Sandman, Morpheus, stands on the beach, that completely obliterates the Greek myth for me. Oh well, such is life and imagery. Neil Gaiman and Bullwinkle have done much to carry the torch of literature and history.
The lesson for today is not to be a glutton, don’t look back, and be vigilant going forward; beware of dogs.
I dread to admit how long this took me, but that’s what I like about waking up with a daily card, I can meander a bit with books and art. I knew when I ordered the Silenus Tarot that it was exactly the kind of deck I use and enjoy.