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(For a list of all card articles, open March 2008 on the sidebar).

Thursday, 6 March 2008

King Of Swords

clouds follow his eye
waiting for the dawn to come
he is the mountain

He's always looking to the dawn, I guess.

He's future tense, for me. A card that's about where to go, what to look for. I usually get him near the end of a reading. He's not 'inside' my consciousness; he is a missing piece.

I can be afraid of him - he reminds me of people in the real world whom I fear. He's just a card, and can be good or bad depending on which way the world turns; mostly, he reminds me of someone who very much inspires me, but I'll give you some images before I write of that:

Images of the King of Swords:

The trad Rider-Waite mountain king.

Control from the Osho Zen deck. He has fists, but no body; he is the apex of a shape, not a person of flesh and blood.

Amano's old, bearded warrior. I remember M saying he had way more time for the Knight than the King in this court.

When I write about court cards, images of the people who I think fill the roles best float near to the surface of the writing. She was there in what I wrote, but I didn't speak of Tolmir when I did the Queen of Swords. I might go correct that, though how to explain the scope of the Bitter One, I'm not sure, because she is that role and has pulled other stories into her fae orbit as I've grown with her.

No matter. The King of Swords makes me think of Guan Yu, who is the nearest thing I have to a patron deity. He is also called Guan Gong, or Yunchang, which means 'fleeting cloud'.

Guan began his career of righteous heroism as a fugitive; he killed a bullying magistrate, fled his home, and met Liu Bei (Xuande) and Zhang Fei just as Xuande was about to start his quest to save the Han Dynasty from rebels and eunuchs and other bad sorts. As Xuande was related to the Han, the other two deferred to him as their leader, and eventually helped him declare himself Emperor of Shu Han - something I feel is key with Guan Yu; it was never about him. All the wildly aggrandising distortions of history that get told about him are about his helping someone else because he believed that person was the person who should be Emperor - and Xuande deserved that support not because he was a great guy, or because he was particularly smart or powerful, but because he had the dynastic right and the stars in the sky spoke well of him, and as far as Yunchang was concerned, that meant Xuande owned the world.

Guan Yu did not admit to pain or fear. Guan Yu could not be bought, and would not break his oath to Liu Bei and Zhang Fei. His downfall was his arrogance concerning his daughter; he refused a perfectly good proposal for her hand, saying that her suitor was not good enough to marry into his family, and a tumble of pride, jealousy and betrayal rolled downhill from there. He and one of his two sons were captured and executed - executed because everyone knew that Guan Yu could not be bought, or swayed by pain or fear.

"Though not born on the same day of the same month in the same year, we hope to die so -" lol, FAIL. After he'd been beheaded, Yunchang went to see a monk he knew and demanded the return of his head. The priest said he could have it back when [list of prominent warriors Guan Yu had killed] got theirs back. Upon hearing that, Guan Yu became enlightened. ! He then promptly wandered off to make his own killers very very dead, because that is what enlightened dead people do, apparently.

I am being all sarky about that because it really, deeply inspires me. I've tried to draw enlightened-Yunchang a thousand times; a figure made of myths and symbols and blocks of colour - possessing Lü Meng; standing in the doorway while Guan Xing killed Pan Zhang. Because of what he did to support the dynasty he believed in, death was just the beginning for Guan Yu; he was deified about 400 years later, called 'Saintly Emperor Guan' even though in life he was blatantly neither; he is a temple guardian in Buddhist myth, and in Taoist myth, he slays demons; he is a ghost who comes to battlefields, and who helps the people who live on his mountain.

He's on top of my CRT monitor right now - green-robed, red-faced and wearing a VERY impressive hat. He is four inches tall and his spear is almost as big as he is. Every so often I set fire to something in the hope that the smoke will please him.

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