Late Valentine’s Day at the Symposium

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The planes rumble on the runways. The maidens tremble on the catwalks. The tumbrels rattle to the blood-soaked plane, and you are back.

But before you settle in, look before you. Through that slick Ionic collonade, a crowd has gathered. What’s this? Something else that you remember from Grace Ledbetter’s class!

Today, jackdaws and magpies, the sages have gathered, to talk about love. To talk about love cut through with time. Crippled with the burden of the clocks of our ancestors, we stagger around in the daytime, and maybe post some chocolates to the dorm next door by the tilting-upward of the next due dawn. In short: we know that we need it. And we don’t know how to get it. Or, more specifically—when we don’t know just when the getting’s good.


Alcibiades in Shambles breaks into the party—streaking like the north wind, Boreas, his chiton nearly falling off his ruddy flesh—booming to his former mentor/love Socrates, “Yo Tarot, There’s something I know I need to do by the end of the semester—something awkward, but truly important, and, uh, relating to romance—but it definitely feels like it’s one of those things where there’s a ‘right time’ to do it. I haven’t the faintest as to when this would be. It’s kind-of a confusing situation. How will I know when the ‘right time’ is? Conjecture randomly, as you’re a bunch of cards. Or, are you???”

Never you fear, Mr. Shambles—like the good John of Patmos, we’re all waiting for that special moment. The ancient Greeks had a word for this. They distinguished between two orders of time: chronos, the quantitatively measured time of the everyday, and kairos, a sort of vertical and suspended time, in which the miraculous might happen. Walter Benjamin revisited this concept, calling kairos the “shards of messianic time” that splinter through the empty fabric of clock-time.

In short, Alcibby, we think you’re seeking after kairos. And you’re in luck. Qualitative orders of time, hidden since the dawn of the real? Specially coded instructions from the ends of the universe, bent keenly on augmenting and guiding your daily experiences? This, dear readers, is what TROUGH is all about.

Focus: Wheel of Fortune (inverted) — [Wheel of Tail Noms]
Judgment — [Gabriel, Sweetie, Shh, Y’ll Wake the Corpses]
Five of Swords — [Five of Pounding the Red Hot Phallus Till It Works Again]
Ten of Swords (inverted) — [Ten of Internal [and External] Bleeding]

The Wheel of Fortune represents the union of the fixed and the volatile—it signals that the moment of destiny is at hand. Its position as the focus card indicates that you have, indeed, asked a question about the coming of your destiny. The question of destiny and the proper time for its fruition in your life will be the lodestone for this reading.

The major arcana JUDGMENT is the last card in line before The World—it is the penultimate gesture before consummation with the Good, the union of the actualized Subject and the World-as-Object. Judgment also represents resurrection, and the removal of physical and spiritual blocks and barriers. Judgment also commonly signifies a radical movement towards the healing of the past.

The Five of Swords is the blacksmith—he who seeks to right wrongs; in particular, by fixing what has been broken. Notice that the blacksmith has removed the hilt of his sword—in order to mend the cracked blade, he must handle the blade alone, and dispense with the ideals of the finished, untarnished product that line his smithy. As such, the blacksmith also reminds us of the particular trials and calls to focusing that accompany the difficult work of mending what has already been wrought.

Finally, we come to the Ten of Swords—the Victim. The Ten of Swords conjures one who has, perhaps unfairly, received criticism. It brings forth the image of a figure who has been stabbed in the back, rejected, or injured. The Ten of Swords is commonly a figure for immediate pain and suffering, with a backstory or a hope for recompense. However, united with other cards, the Ten of Swords can begin to flesh out a more complex story of embodied suffering.

For your reading, dear Alcibiades, we call your attention to the narrative of images and likenesses. You will note that both the blacksmith and the victim belong to the suit of swords; we can establish a clear narrative link between the reparative work of the blacksmith and the unstoried suffering of the victim. Note that the victim, here, is inverted—indicating an end or a challenge to suffering, but one which perhaps recognizes the historic legacy that suffering leaves, even after proximate causes of pain have been removed.

We can also trace another visual analogy between the cards. The world outside the blacksmith’s open window is the same mountainous landscape that is the scene of the victim’s injury—only the crisp scene is made dark and brooding by the portrait of suffering. This conjunction indicates that the work of the blacksmith on his cracked sword is with an eye to the beauty and clarity of the landscape outside—as if his careful resmithing of the blade simultaneously recognizes and heals the pain of the victim.

With an eye to your question of kairos, Alcibby, your prognosis looks as follows: Something’s going to happen. And it’s going to be a whopper of a happening. Whatever the happening is, it’ll look and feel alot like judgment—but not in a bad way. Nothing’s going to get locked down this time around. One clue, though: it looks like this judgment may have to do with a confrontation of the past. Something is going to happen to rend the veil that’s been keeping you from your much-needed moment, and then things will get moving. Rest assured, though: whatever angel’s trump is going to cause all this to happen, the genesis ain’t in your ballpark. So sit back, relax, and start listening for messianic shards.

Whether you’re a sufferer or not, this reading has also told us that there are at least two parties involved in this kai(e)rotic breakthrough. The work is on the part of the blacksmith—not the sufferer. When the blacksmith is ready to look out his window on that foreboding mountain scene, and to see the work that his swords have done, he will also be ready to remodel those swords, and to transform the landscape of suffering caused by his handiwork. The window in the smith has neither panes nor curtains, which tells us that the blacksmith can’t hide from the world outside his work—or the consequences of what his work has done, once it’s left his hands. His ivory tower—er, smithy—may shield him from some things, but his swords are cracking inside in parallel to the wounding of the victim.

So, dear Cibs: wait for the moment of judgment to happen to someone else. It’s not in your hands; but when the blacksmith takes up the crack in the blade, and suffering is acknowledged —then it will be your special time to act. In the meantime, you might take up a hobby: progressive rainwater harvesting, or learning to perform reparative readings Ă  la Eve Sedgwick.

(This question wasn’t, by any chance, about Patio bar???)


Diotima Parton writes in to Trough Now with an impassioned request, which Socrates reads mockingly, for he is a jerk, “Dear Tarotte [sp?] — tl; dr! But my friends thought this might be helpful, see. I’m in love with an Orestes of the mind, see. Madly, passionately in love, see. I think we might be able to make a great thing, see. So can you guys help me figure out what our chances will be? How does my Darling O conceive of me?”

Well, Diotima—don’t give up hope just yet. We’ve taken your question to the font of the priestess, and it’s not all bad. Do you know where your ‘Darling O’ lives? This might be a reading to share with the neighbors—on the way to your local florist.

Focus: Hermit (inverted) — [Quoth the Raven, “Don’t Look Now, But the Moon’s a Flying Snake”]
The Moon (inverted) — [I Thought Sailor Moon Had Cats, not Dogs]
The Lovers — [The Fucking Lovers; or Cupid is a Sexual Voyeur]
The Star — [OK, Fish Lady, I “Get” the Milk, But I Don’t Think Blood’s Supposed to Come Outta There]

Ah, Diotima Parton (who comes from either Democratic Athens, or Gattlinburg, TN), the focus of your reading is the Hermit, who, in his solitude, meditates to hear his inner guidance, which manifests in Exaltation of the Truth. Long story short: your love of loves—who “reminds your soul” of the Form of Beauty from the Real World—is in a state of questioning solitude, perhaps after said period of meditation, perhaps even after discovering the Truth. The Moon—pointing toward rest, anticipation, and preparation for the fantasy-actualization of dreams—perhaps surprisingly, reinforces this in its inversion. “Oh, no!” you might say. “My love is not dreaming of me? I am aghast! I am lost! Throw me into the umbrous bowels of Tartarus, I say!”

Well, scratch that, you’d only say that if you hadn’t just seen the meaning at the center of it all. It’s, uh. It’s pretty clear. It feels silly for us to write anything about it, at all. We’re blushing. Right now. It’s the Lovers—the “Minor” Conjunction, though it’s not precisely clear what’s “Minor” about this card—who are pretty clear on the fact that they’re pretty into each other, and want to come together in the act of sex. Right. Now. In this particular deck, there are actually two Lovers cards (in addition to Sex in a Vial ); this one “has more fun.” They don’t want to dream of you anymore, they don’t want to anticipate receiving your love. They want to get down to business. Sooner rather than later. The Star, who in her inexplicably diverse lactation—which signifies, and I quote, “the peace beyond blood red fear and milk white hope”—is in a state of calm and peace through ascent and understanding… well, the Star couldn’t make this any more clear. They want to know as much as you want to know—they want to be in that state of peace, wherein not even sanguineous lactation can disturb their Zen. They are hoping to understand you—and, they hope, your reciprocal love for them—so as to begin the potentially very sexy journey out of isolation.

Write them a love letter. Write them two love letters. Ask them to Coffee. Ask them to Pub Nite, and have Brendan Work play their favorite song over the sound system; see if a certain SBC Manager will do a special dance for them. Do whatever it takes, without getting a restraining order. They may still be struggling with whatever put them into isolation in the first place—which could prove a problem, even though most of the cards indicate a desire to move out of this state—but your prospects together look pretty great.

(And, if the card’s any indication, if you guys work out, the sex’ll be fucking superb.)

… Make it three love letters.


(We also received two questions we won’t develop in full, the first inquiring as to whether or not one should participate in the rite of Krunkfest, and the second concerning an individual’s chances of ever being in a band with an individual known only as Tay-tay. To the first: if you’re asking Tarot whether or not you should do Krunkfest, it’s doubtful you have the Krunk spirit to do it right. Besides, Tarot says you won’t really dive into the good stuff, anyway [the Devil, inverted—one of its salient meanings being vice; it heralds lameness in your Krunkfest future], so why bother? As for the second, we’re being merciful in not subjecting your ego to the reading we drew for you [recall the card with the bro impaled by, like, ten swords?]. Here’s hoping your major has taught you something practical, like bridge building, or designifying the signfier.)

Philemon and Ornery Sal welcome your comments and inquiries for the Priestess. How to handle your hallcest, mayhaps? Or, the way to win the heart of the Willets Pirate Queen? Write to us at:

The Phoenix

Discover more from The Phoenix

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading