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the 99s

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Oct. 8th, 2008 | 05:22 pm
music: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult's A Crime for All Seasons : Yesterday's
posted by: shatterstripes in silicon_dawn

I was asked to write a bit about the 99s.

In general, the 99s are a reminder to not be so serious. They started as a joke: I was sitting around with my boyfriends and we came up with the idea of the 99 of Pentacles, whose meaning is (as video games have taught us) "a free man". I formalized this into the language of the Golden Dawn and called it "The Lord of Every Extend", then simplified it down into "Extend". The art is comedic and cheery - and yes, there really are 99 pentacles on there. Copy and paste is wonderful!

The other 99s are just sketches and ideas, right now. 99 cups, up on a wall, being drunk. 99 sword-missiles raining down on a demon trying to shield herself with an umbrella. 99 wands springing out of the Earth, all the way into space.

If 9 is 'perfection' in the numerology of the Tarots I used, 99 is 'too much perfection'. So much it becomes something else.

I've tried to take these silly concepts and treat them with some seriousness. What does the video game concept of "an extra life" mean in the real world? It's a second chance. It's a suggestion that what you think is total defeat is just a setback. An unexpected trip to Japan when you're flat broke. What does it suggest to you if the 99P shows up right next to Death?

99 Cups is titled "Recursion". Like the 0, like the 99P, this is me bringing concepts from being an occasional computer programmer into the deck. The song "99 Bottles" describes a simple recursive process: "N bottles of beer on the wall. N bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around: N-1 bottles of beer on the wall. Now repeat." (Or 'if one of those bottles should happen to fall', as the 'kid-safe' version goes.) Take a huge process and break it down into a simple, easily repeated one, and it doesn't seem as huge - just long. Maybe it even seems automatable. On the face of it, the card is about getting gleefully and thoroughly blasted, but it's also about leveraging smart tools to solve your problems. I should probably have one of the drinking figures hold something to symbolize this, when I get around to tackling it in AI.

99 Swords is titled "Fission". Or perhaps "Fusion". I still haven't decided. Missiles rain down from the heavens, upon a figure huddled under an umbrella like Wile E. Coyote pathetically hiding from an oncoming rock. And like the Coyote, this doom is from our own cleverness. It's a card making light of the shadow of nuclear obliteration that I grew up under; the same themes reoccur in the 8 of Wands. But while the gamblers of the 8W have planted the seeds of their future in a bunker, most of us have no defense, no plan. I've spent my whole life in port cities and cultural capitals, both sure targets in the event of someone pushing The Button. Just the other day my heart leapt into my mouth when I read a story about a meteor the size of a car being predicted to hit Earth next week; for a moment I was afraid it was big enough to be a dino-killer rather than to just burn up on the way down. Life is impermanent and sometimes the only defense is laughter - even if the humor is as black as the space between galaxies.

99 Wands is, for the moment, titled "Starseed" - though I ended up using a lot of my ideas for it on the Princess of Wands. I am probably going to come up with something sillier for 99W; it ended up being a bit too serious. So right now the 99W is mostly just a problem I need to solve, to figure out what waaay too much of one of the things the Wands represents is.

The 99s are a reminder that while a lot of things about interpersonal relationships haven't changed since the Tarot was first invented, some things about the world they're embedded in have. We have the same old fights in the magical new media congealing on the Internet. We have new traps to fall into - how many friends do you have who are avoiding their depression by counting levels in WoW or some other online RPG? But we also have new metaphors coming from these new trades and tools; we can extend ourselves in surprising ways.

The 99s are jokes. Right now, with only one finished, and none of the Void court to balance them, I wouldn't suggest keeping the 99P in a working deck. But once they're all done (and those of you with handmade decks will get an envelope in the mail!), seeing more than one turn up in a reading is a cue to look for the jokey side; it's a reminder to laugh at your problems before they break you.

These jokes are balanced by the Void court, which are about the people, or parts of yourself, that have left your life - intentionally or not. I'll talk more about those once they're further than sketches. Perhaps I should consider contrasting the individual Void court cards against the corresponding 99s: Queen/water/Cups, King/air/Swords, Cavalier/fire/Pentacles, Prince(ss)/earth/Wands. I'm not sure there's a real link there; I'll know when they're all done.

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Comments {3}

Your Obedient Serpent

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from: athelind
date: Oct. 9th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)

...99 of Pentacles, whose meaning is (as video games have taught us) "a free man"...

And now, inevitably, I have a mental image of a 6 of Pentacle (if not a whole deck) with imagery cribbed from The Prisoner.

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from: shatterstripes
date: Oct. 9th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)

Hmm. You could maybe get a suit out of it. Or a Majors-only deck...

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