Daily Draw January 10th, 2010
While browsing through the Minchiate deck I became interested in the Knights and the Sagittarius card because of the Centaurs on them.
Sagittarius depicts the centaur Chiron. I was puzzled by the boar on this card, and Brian Williams, in his book The Minchiate Tarot, refers to it as looking like a family pet because the historical example he shows has a bowl before the boar like the food or water dish of a pet.
On pondering this mystery, I have decided that the boar refers to the fourth labour of Hercules, in which he was supposed to capture or kill the boar that lived on Mount Erymanthus. Along the way he met some centaurs, there was wine involved and centaurs are terrible when they get drunk, and Hercules in defense began shooting poison arrows and killing centaurs and he wounded Chiron, who then was changed into a constellation after he offered to give up his immortality and change places with Prometheus. Some accounts also say that Chiron gave Hercules the information to kill the boar and thus complete his labour with success.
That’s the basic mythology. So the boar is a reminder of the whole story and a delightful clue as to how Sagittarius came to be. For me, that makes sense of it being on this card.
The Knight of Swords and the Knight of Wands (Staves) in the Minchiate are centaurs.
The Knight of Cups and the Knight of Coins are sphinxes. Master Coins is a plain sphinx with the lower body of a lion, and Master Cups has the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the tail of a serpent. Brian Williams refers to this as “the long tail of a fish.” I’m starting to get a little worried about Brian Williams’s take on some of these cards. This is most definitely supposed to be the tail of a serpent as often depicted in early Greek mythology. You could stretch it and say it’s a sea serpent and thus tie in with Brian’s fish reference but it’s not a fish except on Brian’s card. I find that odd, but I could find no information to support his reference.
One of the neat aspects of the Minchiate deck is the way the court cards change among the suits: Sphinxes and Centaurs, Handmaids and Pages. I thought this was charmingly different.
Sphinxes were popular in the Renaissance and often show up in art of the period. I didn’t realize this, but because of the Hellenistic influence in Asia, particularly India, but also the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Burma, sphinxes are often found in the art of those regions. They can be somewhat different in Asia, because of local stylization, although the basic form of lion body sometimes with wings can be seen in examples. Some of the depictions are of demon sphinxes with fangs and angry countenance.
My random passage to tie in with the cards with the NIV bible is 2 Samuel Chapter 15.
This is about King David’s son Absalom, who after stirring up trouble and being banished by his father, is finally allowed back into Jerusalem. Absalom was a petulant, spoiled young man, who murdered one man and destroyed the property of others. Always angling for power and manipulating people, he was just a nasty horror of a man/child.
In this chapter Absalom gathers a fancy chariot and horses and a smart-looking guard of fifty men, and sets up on the road leading into Jerusalem. When people passed by on the way to place a complaint before the king, Absalom would start chatting with them and bemoaning the fact that people weren’t being heard by the king or his representatives, and that if only he were in charge people would be heard and get justice. Such a friendly, helpful boy.
For four years he carried on like this, and then he asked the king to let him go to Hebron, and was given permission. Once there, he started his real campaign of secrecy to set himself up as king. People were tricked into following him and he gathered conspirators about him.
The knights always remind me of sons of kings, and are often referred to as that when writing of the court cards as a family set. The knights have such energy and look quite rousing, quite pleasing to the crowd. Youth can be very compelling, but often lacks ethics and judgment. Dashing off with big ideas and physical attractiveness and energy, they can ignite the world toward fine goals, or ruin it, depending on their maturity and moral balance. Much like centaurs, who could be teachers, thinkers, and moderate, reasonable creatures as Chiron was, or drunken, murderous louts.
And a random association: Zadok was a priest in David’s court who comes into the story, and I have always loved that piece of music by Handel called Zadok the Priest which was a coronation anthem for George II of England. They used to play it over the credits of a marvelous 1970s BBC documentary series called Royal Heritage, and it immediately sends blood to my chest with its soaring majesty.
Absalom could have been a majestic leader, but instead chose to be a whining fink, an ungrateful son. Such is the destiny of Knights in Tarot depending on which way the cards fall.