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T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Tarot Cards - Allusions & Interpretations
08-10-2019, 06:36 PM
Post: #1
T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Tarot Cards - Allusions & Interpretations
Phoenician SailorEdit
The Phoenician Sailor – Phlebas, the Smyrna Merchant – Mr. Eugenides, have the same symbolic character, and are related to Shakespeaere’s play The Tempest. In The Tempest, Ariel’s song to the shipwrecked Ferdinand, is about the drowning of Ferdinand’s father, Alonso. The Waste Land has many references about The Tempest: the drowning of Alonso and Ferdinand is seen as their purification by water, so Eliot was impressed by the perspective or the view that the suffering is changed into art. Ferdinand is related to Phlebas, and Mr. Eugenides. Since drowning is done by water, which this leads to purification, water plays diverse roles in the poem and is the symbol of purification, baptism, refreshment, and growth.

Belladonna - Lady of the RocksEdit
250px-Leonardo da Vinci - Virgen de las Rocas Museo del Louvre c 1480-1seivim
Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna of the Rocks"

“Belladonna” means beautiful lady. The word suggests Madonna (the Virgin Mary) and, therefore, the Madonna of the Rocks as in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. The rocks symbolize the church. But there are also other rocks – rocks of dryness of the waste land. Belladonna is also an eye-cosmetic and a poison – the deadly nightshade. In the next line, the figure of the Virgin becomes “the lady of the situations” – the woman in the waste land –
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08-10-2019, 06:40 PM
Post: #2
RE: T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Tarot Cards - Allusions & Interpretations
The manner in which Tarot cards play a role in the work of T.S. Eliot's 'The Wasteland'.
Extracts from this document...


THE MANNER IN WHICH TAROT CARDS PLAY A ROLE IN THE WORK OF T. S. ELIOT'S 'THE WASTELAND'. "Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant, Had a bad cold, nevertheless Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe, With a wicked pack of cards." This is when tarot cards introduced in the work of Eliot 'The Wasteland' in first poem ' the Burial of the Dead'. Tarot cards, undoubtedly, play a very important role as the cards. Various reasons account for this 1. The predictions in 'the Burial of the Dead' come true as the unfolding of consequences in the other poems in the collection namely 'A Game of Chess', 'The Fire Sermon', 'Death by Water' and 'What the Thunder Said'. It is a sort of introduction to the proceeding poems. Eliot intentionally calls the cards wicked since the cards go on to reveal all the misfortunate wicked state of the world- now a WASTELAND. 2. The five elements of nature seen in the cards are parallel to division of the collection into five parts with each part representing an element of the nature. 3. The cards signify the helplessness of the people, and they have lost all hope in themselves and thus have to resort to astrological means to attain hope. more.


2. Three staves; reportedly the man with three staves: The three staves represent opportunity, which if neglected due to pride, greed or arrogance will lead to hampering of the efforts. Phlebas, the man concerned obsessed with profit and loss i.e. greed eventually suffers. 3. The wheel: It is the Wheel of Fortune marking a change likely to come. It may hold unpleasant surprises. In Death by Water, the wheel of fortune has brought about a change in Phlebus's circle-wheel of life, in which the ship's steering wheel played a role. 4. The hanged man: calls for a temporary pause in life. Preaches cultivation of patience and sacrifice and shuns selfishness, manipulation and emotional blackmail. "The river's tent is broken": in the Fire Sermon calls for stagnation or a pause in life. Indifference has overcome man, as in the case of the typist who responds only by heaving a sigh of relief after sex, or Elizabeth who remains a virgin all her life after the betrayal by Leicester. Tiresias, is a deformed man unique like the hanged man. "Old man with wrinkled female breasts." 5. Death: A new beginning, with the end of an age. Here all that is good is dead as Jesus is crucified Allusion in 'What the Thunder Said': 'He who was living is now dead.' more.


"There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home. It has no windows, and the door swings." The atmosphere of void is created thus. The card signifies imprisonment in an unwanted place, restrictions imposed as in the love story of Elizabeth and Leicester, where Elizabeth died a virgin. To gain freedom from this unwanted place the Wasteland, we must follow the path of Datta, Dayadhvam and Damyata i.e. give, sympathize and control. The syntax of the poems of wasteland have a sort of mystical element in it. The thoughts are fragments which do not reveal the whole truth. This can also be a resort to show that they are images of what the cards indicate by revealing only parts of history and the present circumstances. Our life and worlds in today's wasteland may be reflected back to us in the richly woven symbols of tarot that have some deep significant meaning other than the indicated one. The contemplating hidden truth behind each card is similar to a truth of life, each active today or dormant. Thus tarot can be concluded to be a wise being endowed with divine intelligence by nature itself. In spite of destiny having a great role in deciding the fate of a person, the ultimate outcome is a result of man's action. This is the also what tarot cards specifically wish to convey. more.
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08-10-2019, 06:46 PM
Post: #3
RE: T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Tarot Cards - Allusions & Interpretations
Basking in the ignorance of the symbol: T. S. Eliot and the Tarot cards…
January 29, 2013

In his notes to the Waste Land, that seminal (oh, how people love inflated words!), monstrously intellectual piece of poetry that would have never come out in such a compact form without Ezra Pound‘s input and disinterested devotion, T. S. Eliot plays with a long string of symbols grabbed at random from books he was reading at the time, struggling under the influence of the occult, exclusive club the Golden Dawn (of which Yeats had been the chairman).

Eliot uses in the Waste Land the imagery of the Tarot deck of cards, introducing thus some of the cards, among which the character of the Hanged Man (Le Pendu, arcana XII) :

“A wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,

Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,

(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

Here is Belladonna, The Lady of the Rocks, The lady of situations.

Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,

And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,

Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,

Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find

The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. “

Then, Eliot (whom Pound was calling, Osiris knows why, “old Possum“) throws in this pitiful footnote :

” I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples to Emmaus. The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant appear later; also the ‘crowds of people’, and Death by Water. The Man with Three Staves (an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King.”

This is an amazingly ignorant, arrogant and self-centred confession (not counting that he uses “associate” three times in only three lines of text): “because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples to Emmaus.” and: “I associate all this, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King”!…

Needless to say that there is nothing of his lazy metaphors in the traditional symbolism of the deck of Tarot.

Everything Eliot invents, everything he puts in the poem about the symbolism of the cards is not only wrong, but he himself candidly acknowledges that he doesn’t care about their traditional meaning and value.

Shame to Eliot. You don’t play with symbols!… He himself wouldn’t have bothered going through the lyrics of some, let’s say, Ainu poet totally ignorant of the basic symbols of the Christian faith, but who would shamelessly write :

” I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Christian pantheon, faith and symbols…, but hey! – here is what they suggest to me”… apart from having a good laugh.

Symbols are not Lego bricks to be switched around. Symbols are powerful tools. They are always part of a coherent system and become totally empty and valueless when taken out of that system and combined at random.

Eliot’s pal, Ezra Pound, had at least always systematically tried to get his symbols and cultural blueprints right, whenever he tackled an alien culture, be it Japanese poetry or the lyrics of the Troubadours.

But then again, Pound wasn’t awarded the Nobel prize in literature. Eliot was, in 1948… for the Waste Land among other things.
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