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ThothOppression

One month ago today, Atlantide, Bologna’s 17-year-old trans-feminist-queer-punk social space, was forcibly evicted by the police. It seems to have been years ago; it seems to have been yesterday.

Like the hundreds, even thousands, who have been and made a part of Atlantide, I have been trying to make sense out this event, this unthinkable reality. Among the many reasons I am struggling for sense is that I am in the early stages of writing my PhD dissertation, which is rooted in the space and in my own passage in one of its core collectives, Laboratorio Smaschieramenti. The name translates as The Laboratory for Un-masking/De-masculinizing; two gestures in the same name. A portmanteau for the everyday work of trans-feminist-queer self-determination and self-management (autogestione).

After a week of turning inward to make sense out of my own last journey around the sun, this week I finally turn to more fully thinking (and writing) my immersion in Atlantide and Demasculinizing. As ever, my first steps are overwhelming. How to write from this experience?

So, I started today like I always do: Drawing a guide card over morning coffee, something to help unfold the story of the day. I picked The Ten of Wands, Oppression. Never a welcome sight (Especially the day after I pulled the Three of Swords, Sorrow.) The Ten of Wands––the spirit/fire suit––is the essence of blockage; depicting eight burning wands barred by two diamond-strong, green-gray dorjes. With the Thoth Deck, I am draw more to color than I am to the symbolism of the objects themselves. Here, the hot red fire that suffuses the wands themselves in the Ace, Two (Dominion), Three (Virtue), Six (Victory), and Seven (Valour) diffuses into a lighter, cooler orange. It becomes the background, scorching the earth.

Fire (at least as an element of this Tarot) is not meant for the ground, where it consumes and ravages, it is meant to reach upward like the smoke from burning sage. The fire of the Ten is blocked, confined, forced to spread horizontally; it is not unlike the PDs (Partito Democratico) strategy in Bologna (and elsewhere) over the last weeks as they have moved from one eviction to the next, all but setting fire to thriving experiments and established spaces of self-management. This is electoral nihilism at its finest.

The astrological aspect of this card is Saturn in Sagittarius. Saturn is, of course, the discipliner (as anyone who has been through their return/s will know too well) and Sagittarius is the mutable fire sign of the zodiac. Sag is the archer: restless, curious, half human, half animal. As far as this card is concerned, Sagittarius is hitting Saturn’s disciplinary side hard; the Ten is Sag in the third decan i.e. the latter 10 degrees of the sign itself. So, for the card, we have undeniable difficulty. Third decan Saturn (via Darkstar) is telling us stories of people who are banished for their beliefs, whose inability to handle bullshit can get them into a lot of trouble, whose sensitivity can verge on paranoia, especially when it bumps up against limitations to the will for free expression by which Sagittarius itself is more generally defined.

Oddly enough, the actual planet Saturn recently moved into Sagittarius after two years in Scorpio (2012–2014, plus a not so brief retrograde between June 15 and September 17 2015). Saturn went fully into Sagittarius on September 18 and will remain there until December 20, 2017. Actual planet Saturn is presently drifting through in the first decan of Sagittarius, a movement that lasts through December 20. Looping it back to the Thoth, the card linked to the first decan of Sag is the Eight of Wands: Swiftness, Mercury in Sag. This is a magical, electric, fast-moving, rainbow-on-top-of-a-rainbow card. It is, as Mercury is, all about communication and fast moving cycles. It is all about the forceful productions that result from a violent situation and the immense creativity that can result. Though, this kind of creativity risks moving a bit too quickly.

Putting it all together, we come to the very constellation of Tarot cards that the Tens sit in: The Magician Constellation. Which, in addition to the Tens, contains all the Aces, The Sun (XIX), The Wheel of Fortune (X), and The Magician (I). Put them together in the form of a diamond, the same material that blocks the eight burning wands of Swiftness in the Oppression card, and you have a story about communicating, including communicating across cultures. This could include cultures linked to nation, cultures linked to different modes of doing politics, or cultures linked to different communities of practice. Like the diamond, the story is about clarity between action and work. Sitting at the crux of the diamond, on its squarish facing-you facet, is the Wheel of Fortune, which turns things around. It is flanked, on the left, by the Ten of Swords (Ruin, fear of) and our friend for the day the Ten of Wands. On the right we find the Ten of Cups (Satiety) and the Ten of Disks (Wealth). So, at last, to balance the blockage and all consuming fire of the Ten, the Magician reaches for the Ace of Wands, Clarity of Vision, the fire signs together (Leo, Aries, Sag). The Ace asks: Who are you? What negativities must you refuse to bear? How can you stop from abandoning yourself? How can you trust your intuition without hesitation?

Dearest Atlantideans, through the labyrinth of some old fashioned, pre-capitalist knowledges, I send up and out all power to you/to us today. We will find our way through this fast moving, ground-loving fire, flooding it with the depth of everything we are. #AtlantideOvunque!

Academics, researchers, and other knowledge workers: Please read and sign Atlantide Statement of Solidarity, available in English and French, here.

Everybody: Please read and sign the Public Inter-Natio(A)nal Transfeminist and Queer AnNOunCEMENT for Atlantide, available in English, Italian, and Spanish, here.

ThothPrudence

Take care, then,
For aren’t you
typically
more than
a little
nagged by the
fire drive

To devour it all
Before you know
which fruit is borne
Of this
p-art-i-cul-ar
tree?

Do devoir,
And so too
They’ll do.

Like you,
They need only
time:
the soil of
trust.

Turn it over softly,
with the sweet
echoing memory
of yesterday’s
Saturnalia.

The next trudge,
may startle
mid-winter’s
precarious root
Unless you shhshh
quietly
the voice
of imprudence.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 8.03.20 PM

1 The Fool (Le Mat or Il Matto, the Italian word that appears on some earlier versions of the Tarocchi, can be translated not only as ‘the fool,’ but also as ‘the beggar,’ ‘the madman,’ or ‘the lunatic.’) is the only unnumbered card in the Tarot de Marseille (In other decks it is numbered zero.) The Fool is placeless and numberless. It is the card of beginnings and endings – a card more concerned with movement and temporality than with location and spatiality – alternately counted as the highest or the lowest of the trumps. The Fool ascends and descends the order of the Tarot.

The card itself depicts a vagabond whose torn pantaloons are playfully pawed at by an indeterminate species of animal; perhaps a companion, perhaps a vigilant guard chasing a stranger out of town. Regardless, the figure seems undisturbed. They* carry a rather thin knapsack filled with few possessions. They look ahead with a youthful freshness and naïveté. The Fool approaches the threshold of the card itself, bearing their ass to the opposite side as if to say, “I don’t need your acceptance! Onward!”

The Fool is taking the initial steps on a relational drama that unfolds across the Major Arcana, or the first twenty-one cards of the Tarot. If we understand the Tarot as a complete system of interpretation, The Fool is the figure who sets that system into motion. The Fool is the animator of archetypes. On the one hand, they are a figure of great openness to the multiplicity of encounters which will ensue on the journey and, on the other, they are a figure great stupidity, even madness. In both guises, The Fool is something like a Simmelian stranger, embodying the tense relationship between absolute fixity to a point of origin (zero-point of lowest trump, preceding The Magician I/The High Priestess II; absolute reterritorialization) and utter detachment from any spatial specificity (zero-point of highest trump, succeeding The World XXI; absolute deterritorialization).

The Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana culminates in Le Monde, The World, sometimes called The Universe. This is a card of accomplishment and completion. On it, we find an androgynous  human figure, dancing at the center of a yonic wreath. In the Tarot de Marseille, the wreath is surrounded by four classic elemental figures, or the tetramorph: the cherub/human figure (Aquarius/air), the eagle (Scorpio/water), the lion (Leo/fire), and the bull (Taurus/earth). Assembled together, the figures are joined in celebration of the historical accomplishment of the Fool’s journey. This is a card of human triumph in the formation of a world. The world is both an abstract and an earthly card. It is practical; a card which crowns cyclicality, renewal, and unity. It is at once emancipatory and inaugural, suggesting in the notion of completion, the inevitability of return. The World is a card of rhythms and wholeness. It suggests a freedom guided by the teacherly values of responsibility, discipline, and contemplation. The world, in a word, is totality.

The Tarot, of course, is a game of chance as much as it is a tool or system of interpretation. The act of reading Tarot generally requires the querent to focus on a particular problem – or at least the outline of a problem. The acts of shuffling, drawing, placing, and reading the cards affirm a commitment to engage a problem through both the order and the arrangement of the cards in the reading itself and in terms of the overall architecture of the Tarot. Cards from the Major Arcana suggest overarching principles of consciousness and action, so-called ‘court cards’ indicate personae and individuals, and cards from the Minor Arcana speak to transformational struggles and victories that unfold in everyday life.

A reading is spatial in that the relationship of the cards to each other must be considered in terms of the geography of generally agreed upon positions in the map of the reading itself. (The first position being that of the querent, the second of their immediate obstacle or opportunity, etc.) A reading is temporal in the sense that it takes place with respect to a situation that is ‘present’ to the querent and insofar as the order in which the cards are drawn is the singular factor in determining their position. The manner in which a reader draws connections between cards is therefore expressed in an art of spatio-temporal analysis.

I invite you to draw a card.

* While some traditions gender The Fool as a male, others portray The Fool as androgynous. Therefore, I use ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ to preserve this indeterminacy.

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