Monday, 28 March 2011

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Today's card from the Wizards Tarot by Corrine Kenner and John Blumen is the Seven of Pentacles.

This card follows quite traditional symbolism.  What stands out for me, though, is the use of colour.  A female student stands to the left of a plant with reddish leaves.  She leans on a stick as she gazes at the plant, from which sprout seven silver pentacles.  Her vest is green, her shirt white, and her dress is a gentle mauve check.  At her feet the ground is tan, but slightly further away it is white, and the branches of a plant in the foreground seem heavy with snow.  The suggestion, then, is that her magic has allowed this plant to grow and bear fruit out of season.

For me this brings up the question of whether there is some cost to pay for using magic to go against nature's rhythms.  This fits, in a rather different way, with the idea of reaping what you sow, and having to wait to see the outcome of your work.

Also, something about the silver of the pentacles against the red of the plant made me think of the nursery rhyme:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

I have a fascinating book, Pop Goes The Weasel, which gives histories behind nursery rhymes.  For this one, the author suggests three different associations.  I'll go with the one that makes most sense to me. 

Far from the pretty picture painted by the rhyme, it is pretty dark stuff.  Mary I of England's father Henry divorced her mother by proclaiming himself protestant.  Her brother, Edward VI, the first fully protestant King of England, tried to exclude her from the line of succession, putting in her place her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, Queen for just 9 days.  Once on the throne, Mary started freeing imprisoned Catholics, including her Lord Chancellor Gardiner (the gardener?).  She also arrested, tortured and killed protestants.  Gardens always grew around graveyards, so one interpretation is that her "garden" grew because she killed so many.  Also, the protestants were tortured with implements (nicknamed cockleshells) that crushed their genitals, with thumbscrews called "silver bells", and they were sometimes beheaded with early guillotines called "maids".  Grim stuff!  Nevertheless, Mary also reaped what she had sown, as she died without heirs at the age of 42 and was succeeded by her sister Elisabeth I, who returned the country to protestantism.

I am grateful for harvesting the fruits of my labours.

I am thankful for the cycles of nature, even if they don't always suit my purposes - I'd love to have some more sunshine!

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