Matter and Spirit. Deconstructing the Court Cards and our solar year Part II of XVI
The Descent and the Climb: The Queen of Disks
This is the story of the Devil and the Wheel, and the Devil and the Tower. But it starts with the Archer trying to launch the Universe. It’s a bit heavy.
The Queen of Disks rules over a part of the year that shows us both the peak and the nadir of the solar journey. This is Solstice time for Earth. In the Northern hemisphere, the dark night outnumbers the day light, the days growing shorter and shorter until the hinge of the year is reached at the Solstice. In the Southern hemisphere, the peak of summer is reached; but it is still a hinge point in the solar cycle. These hinges are placed at the start of the Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn; the turning points of the year that herald the seasons.
When we see the Queen of Disks, we think of the sign Capricorn; the woman is wearing goat horns and there is both oasis, and the desert in the Rosetta Queen of Disk and the Thoth Queen of Disks versions of the card. Tabula Mundi Tarot’s Queen of Disk has dual mountains, the domain of the goat that climbs as well as descends, and does it all over again.
This is Persephone, but all grown up. The Princess has become the Queen. For Capricorn is the sign of aging, the story of solar years passing. Capricorn has the Devil as the associated Major card. This Queen, like Capricorn, has perseverance and ambition, and knows both the descent, and the climb. Persephone is now Demeter. Persephone’s name means “female thresher of grain” from the proto Greek and Sanskrit roots perso and parso, referring to a sheaf of grain, and connected to another Indo-European root for “to strike”. But it also may come from the Greek pherein phonon, “to bring (or cause) death”. Her descent into the underworld caused the lamentation of Demeter and the darkness of winter. In the North this is the death of the Sun’s light that warms the Earth, or in the Southern hemisphere this is the Sun that scorches the desert before the world begins to cool.
Yet Persephone rises, and grows into the Queen of Disks.
We can mirror this story looking at the three decans, and associated minor cards, in her domain. While she really has that Capricorn vibe on the surface, she starts, like all the courts, with her “shadow” decan preceding the sign. The shadow decan is each court’s blind spot. Hers is the last decan of Sagittarius, beginning around December 11th and ending around December 21st, when the Solstice point is reached and the Sun passes into the sign of Capricorn. When this Queen is not at her best, she can be a bit heavy handed, due her shadow card the Ten of Wands, seen in the Tabula Mundi Queen’s court crest represented by the crossed hammer and pick of oppression.
The last decan of Sagittarius is assigned the Ten of Wands, Oppression. The Archer vs. the Anvil. Whichever hemisphere you live in, conditions could get burdensome. Here in the Northern half the daylight is decreasing, and over these next ten days we will be counting down to rock bottom.The Sun rises late and sets early, and well before supper time all is in darkness. It really messes with people’s internal fire. At least in this area, sually the first snow that makes a mess that needs to be “dealt with”, falls around this time. New Englanders go out and huff and puff and move around the flakes into piles, shovelful by shovelfuls of the stuff, and though at times it looks fluffy, that schizz gets heavy.
In the Southern half of the planet maybe it is the heat that feels heavy. Either way, Christmas is in the very next decan, and unless you opt out and even if you joyously participate, there may be just a bit of work now required in preparation of that time ahead as well. Perhaps plans are being made and schedules are being squeezed, travels are arranged or dwellings are needing to be cleaned and things cooked. Or if one is out of that circus it may just be that it is going on all around you anyway, which can be depressing if you feel left out. In any event, lots of people will welcome when it is over with already. The Ten of Wands has Sagittarius, the last fire sign, in it’s last decan. The fire is preparing to shift, and it is wavering at this point, burdened by approaching earth. The card combines Sagittarian fire with the ruler of the decan, oppressive Saturn with the Universe card lending all its gravity.
On or around December 21st, the Sun shifts gears, spinning slowly on that hinge. Depending on your perspective it reaches its low point or its high point. In a solar horoscope chart, with Aries placed at the sunrise point, or on the ascendant cusp of the first house on the horizon line, then Capricorn falls at the top of the circle, at the zenith or midheaven. The Sun has traveled from Aries through the signs until it reaches Cancer at the bottom of the wheel back up through the horizon line at Libra and to the top of the chart at Capricorn. The low point of the Sun here in the Northern hemisphere is actually at the top of the solar chart.
So no matter where you are, it is a story of opposites and cycles: rises and falls, climbs and descents, sunrise and sunset, midnight and noon, darkness and light, deserts and oasises, death and growth. It is one reason why the Queen of Disks in Book T is described as best portrayed in profile, with one side of her face in the darkness, and one in the light.
After the last decan of Sagittarius, where the fire is almost put out but not quite, we get to the first decan of Capricorn, and the goat climbs, the Sun shifts towards light again.
The Wheel turns, and things change even if it is not always apparent. The card for this decan, the Two of Disks is indeed called the Lord of Change. This is the decan of the Devil and the Wheel. The days slowly begin to lengthen, or shorten. Something really has shifted. But we can’t really tell yet, as it has only just begun. It is still very dark out. There isn’t momentum but there is perseverance, and there is rising and falling, beginnings and endings, climbing and descent; all major characteristics of the Queen of Disks. The Two of Disks combines the sign of Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, with decan ruled by the planet Jupiter. Saturn is associated with restriction and compression, rules and boundaries, while Jupiter is associated with traveling outward, freedom, extension and enlargement. Contraction and expansion; it powers an engine or a pump. It’s that which builds a muscle. Mountains are climbed and descended and climbed and descended again. It keeps the solar year going and the solar gear moving and the wheel turning even if it is slowed down by grains of sand. We get through Christmas at least. Time passes, and things change throughout eternity.
All this sand has to go somewhere. Sand is actually like little building blocks, little bits of quartz. In the card for the next decan we see building blocks of matter; struck by lightning, the elements form. The Devil and the Tower. Things replicate and grow, bit by bit. The Three of Disks shows what happens when a spark from the Tower, as Mars, meets the middle decan of the Cardinal sign Capricorn, or the card of the Devil, the Lord of the Gates of Matter. This is the martial force applied to build corporeal substance. We move on from initial Change, and start to build Works. This Queen’s goal is building; she strives for this in one way or another, and is successful more often than not.
So these three decans and the minor cards of the Queen of Disks speak a bit about this Queen’s past and future, as well as both her shadowed and lit natures. Her shadow card the Ten of Wands, shows the oppresive nature she may retreat to in times of strain as the fire sign she secretly harbors meets the Saturnine anvil. Persphone is tasked with bearing the burden of being the cause of death and darkness. The Sun darkens in the Northern hemisphere or scorches in the South. Persephone had to descend, but she rises again in the Queen of Disk’s middle decan, the first decan of the sign of Capricorn. Things change, what is contracted expands and vice versa. Persephone is released and the wheel of the year again turns. The maiden matures. Time passes, and in her last decan, which is the middle decan of the sign Capricorn, we see her fruition. Things are built as well as fall with the passage of time.