Pardon the Hanged Man

by Melanie Harris

I was asked a question the other day that made me want to run home and crumple up the High Priestess card so as to put a crease or two in her pristine face.  There I was, feeling like the Page of Cups, lighthearted, fresh, and full of joy.  I had achieved the impossible: a break from housework, and I decided to use my well-earned time to myself to take a relaxing walk to the thrift store.  Without the usual hindrance of a heavy baby stroller and a 7-year-old who's as fast as the Chariot with the Ace of Wands beneath its wheels, I felt young and liberated.  It was great to be able to shop with nothing on my mind but fashion and prices.

I had found some bargains and taken my selections to the checkout when it happened.  The cashier met my eyes and asked, "Do you get the senior citizen discount?"  What?!

Incensed, I replied, "I'm thirty-one!  You honestly think I look like a senior citizen?!"

Shocked by my agitation, she answered with mock innocence, "Well, it's hard to tell sometimes."

All I could do was grab my shopping bags and storm out in a huff, casting an idiotic and uncouth, "You look old, too!" over my shoulder.  

Now, I may have a couple more wrinkles than I should, having had a somewhat hard life, a slightly wild youth, and two magical children, but I definitely don't look decades older than I am.  Five years older, sure, but twenty-four years older?  The nerve of that cashier!  

Maybe it was a simple mistake; perhaps her mind was elsewhere.  Possibly, she acted in response to my reputation as a price haggler.  Regardless of her questionable motives and the absurdity of her suggestion, it really bugged me.  As I walked home muttering my indignation, I had a shocking revelation.  I've reached the age where I'm old enough to be sensitive about my age.

I sought solace in my Tarot deck, skimming through the cards in hopes of discovering some previously overlooked wisdom about getting older.  I didn't find it.  Sure, the Pages represent youths, and the Queens symbolize adult women, but there's not a single forehead wrinkle or smile line in the whole bunch.  With the exception of the old man Hermit, all the images look a lot younger than I am, like perfect twenty-year-olds unmarred by the ravages of time.

The Tarot speaks of life in its entirety, though, so surely the conspicuous lack of outward signs of old age in most of its subjects is in itself meaningful and significant.  So what if I have a few gray hairs and several wrinkles?  The aging of our physical bodies does not matter much to the higher journey of the spirit.  The body is a mere shell, after all, a temporary container for the everlasting soul.  Many of us have souls older than dirt, so why be fussed if the flower pot has a crack or two on its exterior?  Perhaps the women depicted in the Tarot all look young because age truly doesn't matter.  

A woman at her best, be she eighteen or eighty-five, is a Queen of her own realm, a timeless being of beauty, grace, and compassionate wisdom.  I'm not going to be upset about aging, and I shouldn't let it bother me that a thoughtless cashier mistook me for one of the silver set.  After all, evading death as the birthdays tick by is something to celebrate, not cry about.

Despite my understanding of this, it still bothers me a bit when someone thinks I'm older than I am, and I still pray for results when I slather on the wrinkle cream.  Commercial society puts a lot of emphasis on youth, and we simply don't see too many seventy-year-olds heralded as beauty icons.  I'd like to help change that.  I think my next big project will be to design the "Old Lady's Tarot", complete with a wrinkled High Priestess and a balding Magician.  Right now, however, I confess I'm rushing to the drug store to buy some dark auburn Miss Clairol. 


Tarot Trivia

compiled by Melanie Harris

1. On the High Priestess card of the Rider-Waite Tarot, what do the "B" and the "J" on the columns represent?

2. Which card is also known as The Juggler?

3. Which occult scholar suggested that The Pope and The Papess cards be re-named The Hierophant and the High Priestess?

Answers at the bottom of the Deck Review page

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