17: Star

From beyond the golden rainbow, she pours water into the world. Well. Probably water. It’s a bit thick for water. Maybe it’s milk. And there’s that butterfly again, flittering around outside the world with her. It’ll get down there eventually to do its little butterfly things.

This is the beginning of the truly celestial part of the traditional Major Arcana. There’s a shift from them being concerned with the classes of people you’ll meet in the world to greater forces they have to grapple with, and then towards cosmic concerns. Here, we have a hope of endless resources out amongst the stars. Some of them pour onto this planet but who knows how much more is further out there?

Mystically, this has to do with the idea that all of us are stars, dropped onto this planet to do our thing. (As Carl Sagan pointed out, we are all starstuff – made from atoms forged in the birth and death of earlier stars. Is this the same thing? Well, yes and no. There’s a few layers of metaphor going on in both of these ideas; lots of stuff about glowing eternal luminescent soulforms in the mystic view, and a poetic decision to tag ‘stars’ as an origin of our atoms rather than any of the nearer places they’ve collected and been transformed before being assembled into a biological system complicated enough to look up into the sky and wonder in the laid-back astronomer’s view. Both might want to get back out there again, but they have some very very different methods with which to go about it!)

You could also probably start thinking about the panspermia hypothesis: the idea that life on Earth did not begin here, but rather that the early, simple protooganisms that spread and diversified into all the creatures we see around us fell into the fertile fields of this virgin planet. (How is this any different from the theory that one petroglyph or another represents an ancient alien astronaut? (And, deeper in a parenthetical diversion: what were those aliens *here* for anyway? Miners? Missionaries? Using our remote planet as one stop in a long island-hopping supply chain across a primitive area to launch an invasion? Maybe all our religious symbols are caricatures of things as prosaic as Quonset huts and airplanes, and as unlikely to ever work as one made out of wood.))

About that butterfly again. There’s a good chance it probably started with someone looking at an indescribable blob on a terribly-printed woodcut drawing. “Is it a bush with flowers? Is it a butterfly landing on a shrub? I dunno, man, just finish the drawing and get it done, I wanna get these things out the door.” So much for a straight line of symbology reaching back to the Great Masters Of Antiquity, huh? One artist decides a blob of ink’s a butterfly and we have other people using them as mystical symbols for a soul’s transmigration. Decide for yourself if the recurring butterflies in this deck are a symbol for anything; it’s all just blobs of ink on paper anyway, isn’t it? You’re the one looking at them and imbuing them all with meaning. You’re the star of this show here, not the deck. Put four and four together to get eight, or forty-four, or a couple of cute upside-down h’s. Or double Jupiters depending on the font. Not that Jupiter is associated with this particular card, mind you.

And of course we have the dark goddess of the night sky bending over the world, her body jeweled with stars, the bulk of the galaxy seen edge-on turned into a river of milk running along her curves. Don’t forget her; she’s important, even though this text almost never talks about her. Some things are best left to be discovered yourself.