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3. & 4. The Parents
Every Sunday's getting more bleak
Ok, my people, tomorrow marks Saturn’s big move into Pisces after a six-year slog through Capricorn and Aquarius (I mean, if you didn’t feel the churn and burn, where have you been?!) This Piscean shift is my “coming of age” Saturn Return (1993-1996), and I’m ready to get emo with it. Let’s throw Pisces patron saint Kurt Cobain into the boombox and strap on our flannel. Buckle up, buttercup.
So between the dreamscape of The Reboot, the mystery of The Alchemist, and the theological throw down of The Chaplain, we’ve been wandering around Esoterica quite a bit, so let’s bring it back down to earth. It’s time to meet The Parents.
3 & 4 | The Empress & The Emperor
In Euro-traditional Tarot, we’ve arrived at the cosmic mother and father archetypes. The Empress embodies the wildly creative, nurturing, fertile soil and capricious climate that give rise to The Emperor’s seed manifested — a bounty eventually harvested and distributed via the tools and methods of law and order. The Empress is the nutritiously raw ingredients to The Emperor’s precisely measured contents inside of a package with dietary info and a UPC label on the side.
The Empress also symbolizes the erotic essence of Venus, the embodiment of passion, sexuality, and the arts, while The Emperor is represented in Mars — strong and battle-ready, like a five-star general who relies on logical intellect and authoritarian action.
And to return to Greek mythology for a second, recall the High Priestess's link to the goddess Persephone. The Empress and Emperor are her parents, Demeter and Zeus. Zeus tricked Persephone into joining Hades in the Underworld where she decided to stay half the year, while Demeter spent that half in maternal grief, mourning her daughter (which, in mythology, symbolizes our season of winter). Both of these regal archetypes can indeed go dark. A heartbroken maternal figure can turn cold and barren just as a provoked father figure can turn rigid and self-righteous.
When you draw The Empress, consider whether forces in your life are roots that act as nurturing sustenance or restraints that keep you tethered. Is there some idea floating around in the womb of your imagination that begs for birth? And if you pull The Emperor, take note of the law and order around you. Is the structure in your life essential scaffolding or a stifling prison? Are you locked in or locked out?
From day one, I knew there’d be some mommy and daddy issues in the Bonesick universe. As I developed this following story slice and Tarot diptych, however, I felt much less confident in my path. It was bound to happen!
I’m trying to dig my way through the parental tropes and clichés. But there’s a very slight autobiographical thread here too, which makes this key plot point in the story a vulnerable one to boot. I’m trapped between waiting for my Empress — the creative, organic growth of my imagination — and shackled to my Emperor — falling prey to story writing over-architecture.
After two and a half weeks of waiting for Zeus’s lightning to strike, I just gotta ship this. I accept that this is mega-draft mode. I’ll tinker over time to make what I see in my head work on paper, but let’s start here and see how she lands.
3 & 4 | The Parents
No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
— Andrew John Hozier-Byrne
Pam hovered over to Toby on the couch. “You seem particularly somber today, buddy.” His stare was even more vacant than usual.
“It’s March 18th,” Toby answered quietly.
“Ah.” Pam gave the anniversary acknowledgment some breathing room before she asked, “Feel like talking about it?”
Toby shrugged. “Eh. What’s to talk about? Everything was falling apart. He got scared. He walked out on us. On the whole town, really. Every year, I stare it down all over again.”
Pam scooted in a bit closer. “I’m all ears and limbs here. Lay it on me.”
Toby took a big gulp of air. “I’m just super annoyed that decades have passed and I can’t shake it off. No, it’s gotten worse. Look at me, I’m quite literally a skeleton of myself.”
“Aw, Toby, it’s going to take a while. Remember what the doc told you? ‘Addition by subtraction,’ right?”
“I know. It’s just that this mark he left on me feels insurmountably permanent.” Toby wound his memory all the way back to his childhood home as Pam snuggled in closer.
It was an unseasonably warm afternoon for that time of year, so his mom was in the backyard preparing garden beds. Toby loved watching her in her element, bits of dirt and straw tucked throughout her auburn curls. He distinctly remembered that he snuck up behind her that day with a trowel. Or no, maybe a spade. He handed it to her and said something cheesy like, “a Garden Queen needs a scepter.” She laughed and told him a Queen needs her Prince’s help before the King gets home. It wasn’t hard to tell which dimmed the light moment between them: the dark clouds rolling in from the west versus the foreboding gloom of his father’s return.
That evening, Toby was drawing his bedroom when he heard the muffled force of the front door announcing that his father had come home. His mood was dark, as expected. Toby could sense it in the absence of greetings between his parents. And when the silence was interrupted by a series of hushed exchanges, Toby knew better than to step out of his safe cocoon to ask what was for dinner. With an ear to his bedroom door, he gathered they were arguing about the Church again. “As of today, we’re officially down to 175—” he heard his father say, “—from over two thousand just a year ago.” He must’ve been talking about the congregation, or rather what was left of it. “Stuart, that’s all the more reason to stay,” he heard his mother answer with a layer of exhaustion. Toby knew she had repeated these eight words too many times to count.
Eventually, his parents collapsed into an uncensored war of words. From time to time, Toby caught poetically Biblical bits and pieces, “a shepherd tending to his flock” and “throwing seeds onto rocky soil,” but nothing that amounted to any sense of confidence that his family wasn’t headed toward certain disaster. When he heard his father shut down the battle with a defiant growl, “I’m needed elsewhere! End of story!” Toby crawled into a deeper cocoon of blankets and his favorite stuffed toys. His stomach rumbled, but he knew his mom would have to slip a plate of food into his room later that night. Sleep needed to carry him until then.
A clap of thunder startled Toby from a heart-wrenching nightmare to bleak awareness. His terrible dream clutched to his consciousness:
Toby was standing at the open front door with his mother.
They had watched his father gather things into a suitcase.
They had listened for a word of solace that this was temporary.
They had waited for a tearful embrace.
They craved a goodbye.
They received none of these things. He left without even a glance back. As if they never even existed to him.
Toby sat up in his bed. He saw no plate of food waiting for him. He knew the end had come. He knew down to his core that the morning would dawn only darkness.
“Pam, I just don’t get it. I should’ve shoved that man’s memory into a trash compactor.” With a swift stroke of his boney hand, Toby swiped away his childhood bedroom, his sad little house, that terrible spring, his father’s departure, and his devastated mother. “He’s not worth the fuel I feed him. But here I am, pumping away like this trip is going to finally deliver me to a resolution.” Toby got up off the couch. “I need to get out of here. I’ll be down at Nick’s.”
Pam floated behind him, holding vigil till he walked out the door. So much work still needed to be done before he’d be ready. With the soft click of the latch, she shuddered at the thought of the tests that awaited him.
Synchronicity of the Week: Nada! My synchie guides pushed me out on my own to create this one. “You’ve had enough fish biscuits; it’s time to do a solo dive,” they told me. Neat!
References: The lyric at the beginning is from Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.” I remember watching the video in the middle of the day at my old job and being gutted, trying to hide the pools in my eyeballs.
The “rocky soil” mention is from the Bible’s Parable of the Sower.
Next Time: When your mood goes dark and your emotions get the best of you, it’s best to take up counsel with a neutral party. Two-for-ones are optional.
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