Do not sit on The Emperor’s face

The bad news is that South Africa’s parliament failed yet again to pass a vote of no confidence in beleaguered and hopelessly corrupt President Jacob Zuma, even using a secret ballot. The good news is that my tarot reading predicting this result turned out to be correct.


The Wild Unknown Tarot deck.


I’m still novice enough to be pleasantly surprised whenever a reading makes sense. Looking at the cards (I used Kim Krans’ Clarity Spread), with The Emperor crowning the lot, my hopes that Zuma would be ousted faded. I’m not The Emperor’s biggest fan. Intellectually I know The Emperor represents rules, order, society: humanity’s will imposed on the natural world. But emotionally? Humanity’s will has been awfully patriarchal, and Lord knows I resent having to pander to patriarchy.

For me, Zuma is the reflection of both these aspects of The Emperor. On the one hand, he is South Africa’s third democratically elected president, and so The Emperor here speaks of the victory of order over the apartheid era’s chaotic discrimination. But then we have Zuma the man. He behaves like a king rather than a president. He has massively enriched himself at state expense; most recently with the notorious Gupta family, but his corruption has a long and rich history. He’s been tried for rape. He has six+ wives. In short, he’s what happens when The Emperor’s energy is left to run riot without The Empress’ to balance it out: toxic masculinity on a national scale.


The other cards in the spread speak volumes about the impact his tenure has had on politics. There’s a sense of hopelessness in the 8 of Cups. This was the eighth motion of no confidence against Zuma and like the others, it failed. The Father of Cups speaks of continuing indecision: the ANC majority was led by emotion for their party rather than the consequence for their country. The Lovers mark this choice. Interestingly, The Lovers reflect a choice with ethical undertones more than romantic love (as per Benebell Wen); the ANC majority chose wrong, giving in to the temptation of corruption and pride.

2c32f033f3556687cbc084978fe2c5adThe Emperor’s biggest frailty, though, is that he believes his own press. In The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Emperor is a strong, tall tree under a burning sun. Yet it’s that same tree that’s destroyed in Krans’ The Tower, toppled by a lightning strike. The Waite Emperor seems painfully aware of this danger: he’s a haunted, isolated man, clad in armour and wild-eyed even though no feasible danger seems to exist. Emperors and empires were made to fall.


Though Zuma wasn’t ousted, he’s a marked man. The no confidence vote was very close – 198 against, 177 for – closer than it’s ever been. It will have showed him and the ANC that his loyalty and thus his leadership is suspect. His lightning strike might not be that far off.




“You can’t handle the truth!” Reflections on Justice


Lucky old me had “Justice” as my stalker card all week. I spent more than a moment staring at Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Tarot version of it, puzzled. “Decisions, karma,” the Not-So-LWB said, and like every other relatively innocuous person in the history of the world, I had a brief sensation of terror: which of my sins would come back to haunt me? Then I remembered I don’t subscribe to karma and went from horrified to horrified and confused.

Perhaps Justice is not so much about decisions and karma here as it is about its central concept, that of truth. How can one have justice without truth? But what is the truth? In the Tarot, The Fool steps off the cliff (or tumbles from the branch, in The Wild Unknown) in search of truth, only to discover The World at the end of an inner journey. The truth has been inside her all this time. It’s not a lesson taught so much as it is a journey of rediscovery. Similarly, tarot’s Justice isn’t concerned with external laws. It isn’t about the truth so much as it’s about a truth in your life right now.


I’ve been staring at both cats on the Justice card, insisting that there’s a choice to be made: an external “truth” to trump an inner truth. But my gut’s been right all along. Don’t do it. Step back. Trust God. In other words, retreat like the Hermit, the Fool’s next stop after Justice. Today was a reminder of that in miniature. There’s no way to skip the inner contemplation of the Hermit and expect to get past The Wheel of Fortune, another stalker card, unscathed.


Stepping back as a way to move forward is counter-intuitive. It’s why I’ve been so reluctant to retreat, like Krans’ Hermit tortoise settled in its shell, the light of inner truth burning securely atop it. I’ve wanted to do do do, even if it was only spinning wheels.

But so the Fool(e) learns! Hopefully next time round I’ll rediscover this without quite so much drama, politics and nonsense.