Lucy Voss (aka Scorpio) sheds light on the nuances of individual tarot cards by bringing them to life in her tarot-inspired fiction.
A Stitch in Time
The Women’s Institute were all assembled in the community hall for a meeting to discuss work on a project to mark the Village’s history. The Hierophant walked on to the platform and stood at a lectern. “Typical ex-Military wife” said the Queen of Swords out of the side of her mouth. “She was a serving officer herself, they both were,” hissed the Queen of Pentacles. “Now sshhh.”
“Good afternoon, Ladies, and welcome to our history project,” said the Hierophant. “What your committee has decided, “ she gestured to three Pentacles and three Cups people seated behind her, “and I of course, is that we create a frieze depicting the history of our village through the ages.” “Tapestry?” asked Eight Pentacles. “Partly,” replied the Hierophant, “but we were thinking collage and more general embroidery would be easier. We don’t want people left out, everyone will want to contribute, and it will be a team effort, so what we produce must be within everyone’s scope.” “I don’t want to contribute,” muttered the Queen of Swords. She raised her hand: “I can’t sew at all,” she said, looking a bit pleased with herself. “Ah, but I hear you are handy with knitting needles,” said the Hierophant, “so there will be some part of this work of art where your knitting can be incorporated.”
“Will it just be WI members?” asked Six Pentacles. “If it is a village creation, I think all the villagers should take part.” “Oh, we will be asking everyone,” said the Hierophant. “The schoolchildren will be contributing, any of the men who like sewing will be asked, and those who don’t sew but are practical in other ways will be able to help with the mounting.” “Do we have a set design for this creation?” asked the Emperor, “or is it freelance and see where we end up?” “Three Pentacles?” said the Hierophant. “Slides please.”
Three Pentacles produced some slides with ideas for illustrations for different periods in the village’s history. “You’ll be in groups,” said the Hierophant, “and you will each take a period of history and see what you come up with.” “Won’t that mean each century or whatever will be a different style? It’ll be higgledy-piggledy,” asked Three Wands. “We’ve thought of that,” said the Hierophant, “so now ladies I’ve divided you into groups, and each group will work with one of the slides and see what else they come up with, and we will meet again in two weeks’ time. This frieze has to be ready for mid-summer.”
There was some muttering among the WI members about their Chairman being high-handed, but the majority were amenable and worked together in their groups without too much difference of opinion. When they reconvened two weeks later the proposals for the different sections of the hanging were looking very promising. “Which bit will you be doing?” asked the Queen of Swords. The Hierophant smiled and played with her Liberty scarf. “The Committee and I will be doing the joins between the panels – you’ll see. We are all contributing, no-one is sitting back and watching others at work.”
At the primary school the teachers were showing their classes how to do cross stitch. “It’s to go in the hanging frieze of the village history we are making,” said Miss Cups. “Everyone is doing something. Each of you will embroider one cross in a section of the frieze, and they will all be the same size as each other, that it why you must practise.” “What colours can we use? Can we do rainbows?” asked Seven Cups. “Wands will do red, you Cups blue, Swords yellow, and Pentacles Green……… ach… needles are for sewing with, not stabbing class-mates, young Five. Apologise to Four Wands at once. Now.” “Sewing’s for soppy girls,” muttered Five Swords. The King of Cups overheard as he walked into the classroom. “I’m sewing, and I’m Head Teacher, so I hope you don’t think I am soppy,” he said, smiling at Five Swords.
Mrs Five Pentacles did dress-making in addition to her other odd jobs. She was much in demand as she had a fine collection of fabric off-cuts and her bags of remnants were raided by everyone. “This is nice,” said the Page of Cups picking up some tawny silk. “It is,” said the Queen of Wands, “it was used for a dress I wore to a wedding.” “Oh,” said the Page, “I wonder if we’ll be going round recognising each other’s previous outfits?” and she giggled.
“What on earth are you knitting?” the King of Swords asked his wife. “Whatever it is it isn’t straight.” “No,” replied the Queen. “It won’t be, it’s a tree.” “Tree?” said the King, and shook his head. “You’ll get your turn soon enough, so don’t think you won’t,” retorted his wife.
Nine Wands was finding her group hard going. One of her ladies had been called away because of family illness. She was the best needlewoman in their group – “Of course!” thought Nine to herself. Eight Swords worked diligently but she was not really enjoying herself. “I’m sorry, Nine,” she said, “I just seem unable to see beyond this small piece of tapestry, stab, stab, stab.” “It’ll be better when we can see the bigger picture,” said Nine Wands, hopefully. “At least we are not doing cross-stitch like the children. Mine are driving me wild, they are cross-stitching everything in sight.” The real problem was that both Four Pentacles and Four Cups were in the group. Both ladies lacked enthusiasm for most things, and getting them to co-operate was proving difficult. Each insisted on using only their own materials, each would only do “their own bit” and refused to help the less handy, even though they could have done.
Finally, the day arrived when the frieze would be put together. Initially the Village Hall appeared to be a circus of people, sewing materials, sections of frieze, anxious women adding finishing touches or removing dangling threads that had escaped notice. The Hierophant appeared with a chart and a stern expression. She went round the room and then moved each group and their section of frieze to their place in the Village story. The frames that the men (and some of the women) had produced were positioned and the whole work of art took shape. “You’ve got to hand it to her,” said the King of Pentacles, “it’s all been very well planned and executed.” “Yes,” agreed the Magician, “I didn’t see how it would work at all, I expected something pleasingly amateurish, but this looks really good.”
The children came in escorted by Miss Cups and Mrs Pentacle and placed their discreetly-velcroed cross-stitch on the frieze. “So look, children,” said Miss Cups, “look what you are a part of.” The adults applauded and the children beamed.
Mrs Nine Wands stood in front of her section of frieze. She felt dissatisfied. She saw the Hierophant walking towards her and put her hand to her face. “It’s all right,” said the Hierophant, “we can do something about it. I’m just sorry you got two members of the awkward squad in your sewing party, but it isn’t school, or the army (a little laugh). When everyone’s gone we can make some adjustments.” “How?” “You’ll see, I set things up so that we could do some post installation tweaking, if needed.” When the hall was empty the Three Pentacles and the Queen of Cups came in. “I thought we could put this here ……. and this there ….” said the Queen, and after some nifty work with velcro and the clever fingers of the Three Pentacles, the panel was the equal of any other.
“You’ve changed our work,” said the two Fours crossly when they next saw the frieze. They folded their arms across their chests and stuck their bottom lips out.
“It was everyone’s work,” said the Hierophant. “Team Tarot.”