, , , , , , , , ,

Adááʼ (lip). Atsooʼ (tongue). I might not know

the words for for lust or thrust or that wet greased

growl that you make with jaws stretched as you show

me just how far I can go –– but at least

you taught me to say adástsooʼ. We mapped

out our bodies with skull-fucking, hair

pulling and the heat of the day still trapped

in the skin of your pickup. This is prayer

as well. Not Bilagáana or Dineh

prayer, but still holy. Something to drive nine

hundred miles for. Somewhere out in the owl’s

light a goat bleats. Tomorrow we will pray

again without the need for language, mine

or yours, just our untranslatable howls.



In Diné bizaad (the Navajo language), adástsooʼ is the word for the clit. Bilagáana is an older term for white people (such as myself). Owl’s light is another way of talking about the dusk. 900 hundred miles is a reference to Judy Grahn’s “Love rode 1500 miles on a grey hound bus & climbed in my window one night to surprise both of us.” I’ve always adored that poem.

tarot of syssk [booklet]


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They say a creative project is never done until the creator walks away from it. This deck is still a work in progress. A lot of these designs, “seemed like a good idea at the time,” but outside of having a Tarot about an alien marooned in ancient Japan I have no problem changing anything if it isn’t working.

Each card is written in English, as well as Japanese and a made-up language called Galactic Basic (Syssk’s mother tongue). Since a lot of choices that I made fall under the “Rule of Cool” heading (see: it seemed like a good idea at the time) in hindsight I see how foreign languages might be confusing, as if they’re hiding vital information needed to understand each card. They’re not. They could be removed entirely and the card would still be the same.

Originally I intended to use as many gender neutral terms as possible, settling on honorific titles like Sovereign, Ruler, Mx, Sonkeigo and Sensei (both Japanese terms for a teacher), but I ran out of words, so I fell back on Lord, Lady, Master and Mistress as well. If there are other honorifics that would work well in this context I am open to suggestions.

The decks I consulted in designing the cards were The Rider-Waite deck, The Barbara Walker Tarot, The Hermetic Tarot and Yonas Lunata’s Qabalistic Tarot.

Since symbolism only works if a person can recognize the symbols being used here are my notes for cards that differ enough from The Rider-Waite deck as to be confusing:


Childlike. Adventurous. Spontaneous. [R] Naive. Overly Optimistic. Not looking before the leap.

Notes: In Shintoism (Japan’s native religion) the Torii Gate behind Syssk represents the border between the secular world and the sacred and acts as a passageway into a shrine’s sacred space. It is the cliff in The Rider-Waite deck. The beckoning good luck cat is called Maneki-Neko, and ceramic versions can be found in shops and restaurants throughout Japan as a way of welcoming customers in.

[I] THE WITCH: Onibaba.

Self-confidence. Delight in Occult studies. Talented performer. [R] Manipulation. Lies. Power for the sake of power.

Notes: Onibaba literally means, “demon woman,” and plays many roles associated with European witches and witchcraft. The symbol behind her is a bagua, used in Taoist magic to represent the fundamental principles of reality. Because this card corresponds to the Magician, I included the four elemental symbols of water, air, fire and earth, as well as a cup, a coin, a wand and a pentagram to round things out. For more information on Onibaba, I suggest Kaneto Shindo’s 1964 masterpiece of the same name.


Experience. Wisdom. Intuition. Teacher. [R] Using knowledge without wisdom. Two left feet. Unbalanced.

Notes: In The Rider-Waite deck the High Priestess is static; she sits in a chair, holding a book of wisdom and not really doing anything else. Learning wisdom, however, comes in many forms and here it is all about dancing as an ancient form of praying for rain. Dressed as dragons, people would dance and beseech the gods for another fruitful year.


Motherly. Growth. Nurturing. Abundance. [R] Shallow. Ignoring the bigger picture. TERF.

Notes: While the Empress here is the same as found in The Rider-Waite deck, the background depicts what royal childbirth was like in ancient Japan, which I found fascinating.


Architect. Laws. Authority figure. [R] Loves chaos. Patriarch. Control freak.


Blending of traditions. Knows some dance steps. Gives good advice. [R] Counseling needed. Can’t think for oneself. Drowning in dogma.

Notes: One of the curious strengths of Shintoism is its willingness to blend in with other, outside religions. Like the dancing found in the High Priestess, here a Shinto priest dances to Syssk’s drumming, while Buddha and a Taoist monk look on.


Romance. Sharing. Equal partnership. [R] Separation. Arguments. Incompatible partnership.


Drive. Ambition. Understands what makes things go. [R] Procrastination. Mind-forg’d manacles. Can’t move forward.


Confident. In control. Inner resources. [R] Drained. Depression. Fear.


Meditation. Alone by choice. Finding answers in oneself. [R] Unwanted loneliness. Withdrawn. Need for introspection.


Prosperity. Windfalls. Paid your dues. [R] Stuck in a rut. Refusing change. Afraid of taking chances.


Fair assessment of oneself. Desire for equality. Karma. [R] Out of balance. Unfair treatment. Ill fate.

Notes: Taking a more psychological approach to this card, Syssk looks in the mirror and sees her shadow side looking back. Until we can be impartial in judging ourselves we are unfit to judge others.


Sacrifice for wisdom. Suspension of disbelief. Calm before the Storm. [R] Indecision. Literal hang ups. Impatience for outcome.


Cosmic transformation. New outlook. Letting go. [R] Fear of change. Living in the past. Need to let go.


Blending of Heaven and Earth. Compromise. Tolerance. [R] Need for moderation. Lack of indulgence. Addiction.

[XV] DEVIL: The Four Noble Truths.

Shadow self, unhealthy attachment, addiction. [R] Releasing one’s own limiting beliefs, exploring dark thoughts, separation from the world around you.

Notes: In The Rider-Waite tarot, The Devil is all about unhealthy attachments, restrictions and fear of one’s own sexuality. In other words, all the negative aspects of your personality that you need to work on. Here I focused on an idea from Buddhism that there are four aspects of being human that no one can escape from: that [1] we all suffer, [2] our suffering has a cause, but also [3] there is a solution to end our suffering and it’s up to you to decide if you want to [4] do what it takes reach that end. The Four Noble Truths. The demon on the right side of the card comes from an ancient legend about an Oni (a mountain demon) who fell in love with Buddhism and decided to walk the path of enlightenment, even though everyone else would still only see a monster. This is, ironically, the same situation Syssk finds herself in but instead of seeing a kindred soul all she sees is an Other (an Other othering another).


Chaos. Sudden Change. Destruction. [R] Time to grow and move on. Rebuilding with a clean slate.


Hope. Dreams. Goals. [R] Losing hope. Disillusioned. Depressed.


Imagination. Visions. Infatuation. [R] Self-deception. Insecurity. Hazy understanding.

[XIX] SUN: Dancing for Amaterasu Omikami.

Dancing for liberation. Glee. Restoring cosmic order. [R] Dark days. Unfulfillment. Turning away from the light.

Notes: Another example of dancing for the divine. In the Shinto creation story, the goddess of the Sun, Amaterasu Omikami, (for complicated reasons) hid herself away in a cave and let the world grow cold and barren. The goddess of the dawn, Ame-no-Uzume, realizing that something had to be done, invited all the humans to the mouth of the cave and performed such wild dancing that the Sun goddess reemerged to see what all the laughter and dancing was about. Thus, burlesque dancing saved the world, once again.

[XX] JUDGMENT: Seppuku.

Self-annihilation only way to save face. Making logical decisions. Practicality. [R] Bad Karma. Poor Judgment. Dishonor.

Notes: Even if a person knows nothing about Japanese history they’ve probably at least heard of the warrior-class called the samurai and how they often committed hara kira (seppuku) ritualized cutting open of their stomachs to atone for some sort of sin. In The Rider-Waite deck, uses the Christian idea of divine judgment, with Archangel Gabriel blowing a horn and zombies rising up out of the ground, hungry for brains. Here, though, the day of judgment is always at hand since your lord might, for any reason at all, order you to commit suicide in one of the more painful ways imaginable. No salvation, no good deeds or bad deeds weighing down your soul, no sitting at the right hand of the Patriarchy, just the atrocious need to save face and the horrific lengths that some people will go to carry out their lord’s wishes.


Endings and beginnings. Cycles. Success. [R] Delay in fulfillment. Lost. Unable to accept change.

Notes: In The Rider-Waite deck, the World is all about completion. Here Syssk’s exile on Earth is over. Her rainbow UFO is fixed, she leaves terra firma for the celestial heavens, clutching her beloved katana sword, the only souvenir of her adventures that she takes with her.


Wild Card.

Notes: This card can be left out, if one wants. It is modeled after the Happy Squirrel, a joke that appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, when Lisa goes to get a reading done. (“Is that bad?” “Perhaps, the cards are vague and mysterious.”) It has since shown up in actual decks, though for the life of me I cannot figure out what to do with it besides give a nod to Stan Sakai’s epic tale of Usagi Yojimbo, a masterless samurai rabbit, who wanders the roads of Edo-period Japan and was a big influence in my formative years. I reused two of figures from the 10 of Wand’s Mistress of Artful Trickery (a kitsune fox-spirit) and drummer.


[0] ACE OF COINS: Sovereign of the Earth’s Roots.

Magnetism. Ideas for making money. Working with hands. [R] Lack of creativity. Money woes. Singing the Blues.

[2] OF COINS: Ruler of the Syndicate.

Multitasking. Business partnership. Financial harmony. [R] Trouble juggling responsibilities. Distracted. Chaos.

Notes: Originally this was titled, “Ruler of Multitasking,” since the 2 of Pentacles in The Rider-Waite deck is all about balancing multiple priorities, except “multitasking” feels like such a modern term, it just felt off. I discovered, however, that one of the older definitions of the word, “Syndicate,” concerns itself with harmonious group work … though its modern usage is almost entirely mob-related. Perhaps there is a better term somewhere.

[3] OF COINS: Lord of the Joint Venture.

Communal work. Craftsmanship. Apprenticeship. [R] Unskilled. Unprepared for upcoming tasks. Problematic individualism.

[4] OF COINS: Mx of Earthly Powers.

Working the Earth. Honest labor. Financial stability. [R] Poor stewardship. Salting the Earth. Failure to understand growth.

[5] OF COINS: Master Destitution: the Ronin’s Path.

Abandoned. Living paycheck to paycheck. No security. [R] Recovering from disaster. Temporarily unemployed. Returning to work.

Notes: If a samurai was a warrior who served a lord or lady, then a samurai who had (through many different ways) lost their lord or lady was called a ronin. Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo is such a person, wandering the land on a musha shugyo (warrior’s spiritual pilgrimage), occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard. Sakai, in turn, was greatly influenced by samurai movies of his childhood, such as Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), from which Sergio Leone heavily “borrowed” the idea for his Spaghetti Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1963). The term ronin means, “to be cast adrift upon the waves,” without family, friends or financial support.

[6] OF COINS: Sensei of Resources.

Asking for what you need. Gifts. Inheritance. [R] Not getting help from others. Having to quickly pay back debts. Bad credit.

[7] OF COINS: Mother of Bitter Profit.

Hard work leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. [R] Climbing to the top. Indifference in coworkers’ suffering.

[8] OF COINS: Crone of Sagacity.

Wise in the way of Money Magic. Taking on an apprentice. Education is liberation. [R] Losing interest in school or work. World-weary.

[9] OF COINS: Sonkeigo of Abundance.

Reaping what you sow. Money is stable and growing. An sea of opportunity. [R] Unexpected expenses. Exhausting one’s resources.

[10] OF COINS: Mistress of Uncanny Wealth.

Finding riches in odd places. Money is good or will be so soon. Secure and stable finances. [R] Major financial loss. May have to burn down the business and flee on foot. Crazy setbacks.

[11] ONNA-MUSHA OF COINS: Champion of a Rich Harvest.

Free market rules! Beginning a new career. Abundance of merchandise. [R] Village market starting to hate you. Delays in beginning the reaping. No one wants what you’re selling.

Notes: Corresponding to the Page of Pentacles, here Syssk and a friend have come to sell the rich harvest of the 4 of Coins at market. There is some debate about whether female samurai existed (why it is important for some people to say that historical warriors, like Hangaku Gozen, ‎Nakano Takeko, ‎Niijima Yae and ‎Ohori Tsuruhime weren’t samurai, but rather simply high ranking women from samurai families, trained in the Way of the Blade, who fought in battles, I don’t know)‎ however, the term used to describe such people is Onna-Musha. The nice thing about telling a story of a xenomorph marooned on Earth is that no one will accuse me of being historically accurate; if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to accept Syssk you can also embrace Onna-Musha as samurais as well, I suppose.

[12] SAMURAI OF COINS: Knight of the Verdant Green.

Satisfaction from an important job. Moving up in the world. Trees love you. [R] Unexpected change in job. Boss out to get you. Coworkers can’t wait to see you fired.

[13] SEISHITSU OF COINS: Lady of the Forced Profits of the Earth.

Materialistic. Gold digger. Trouble handling practical money matters. [R] Unselfishness. Generosity. Has the Golden Touch.

Notes: The Queen in The Rider-Waite deck and tying in with the 5 of Coins’ concept of destitution, a wealthy elite is served the best food that the restaurant can offer while in the background, poor Syssk, without a single coin to her name, curls into a fetal ball and wishes (not for the last time) that she was back home.

[14] DAIMYO OF COINS: Lord of the Joys of Capitalism.

Good business sense. Making Robber Barons sexy again. Obsessively industrial. [R] Monopolizing power. Delights in inequality. Blind to the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.

Notes: Daimyo is the term used for Kings in ancient Japan; in this case, the King of Merchants (for what it’s worth.)


[0] ACE OF CUPS: Sovereign of the Root of Riotous Water.

New relationships. Sensuality. Birth. [R] New relationships delayed. Next step delayed. Troubled pregnancy.

[2] OF CUPS: Ruler of the Fertile Imagination.

Romantic passion. Equal and balanced relationship. Sharing mutual feelings. [R] Unbalanced desires. Unrequited love. Not attuned to one’s harmony.

[3] OF CUPS: Lord of Dubious Company.

Wild celebrations. Orgies. Going all out. [R] Fear of overindulgence. Bad family gatherings. Addiction.

[4] OF CUPS: Mx of Heinous Phantasy.

Striving for more. Dreaming large. Feeding a healthy ego. [R] Unsatisfied. Not realizing the value of one’s current state. Boredom.

Notes: In The Rider-Waite deck, the 4 of Cups deals more with issues of apathy and being so narrowly focused as to ignore the world around you. Here, Syssk really loves her blue cup, to the extent that she does not see the helpful Oni (mountain demon) offer up its own, nor the horrific shadow on the wall behind her. Daydreaming is wonderful, except when the world is out to get you and you need to focus.

[5] OF CUPS: Master of the Song of Regret.

Fear of avoidance. Facing unpleasant realities. Lost in nostalgia. [R] The need for struggle. Evolution. Growing pains.

Notes: Apparently Syssk can play musical instruments. Even though lover’s suicides did happen I see this card more as a cautionary tale about what not to do when you’re filled with regret.

[6] OF CUPS: Sensei of Childhood Memories.

Making peace with one’s childhood. Past returning with new meanings. Owning one’s passions. [R] Horror of family. Outgrowing a relationship or person. Becoming your own toxic parent.

Notes: The Barbara Walker Tarot talks about the 6 of Cups being about childhood traumas and memories. Of course Syssk would also have some sort of parent somewhere and in this case it is Xenomorph Queen from the Alien franchise. It’s a side of her past that she doesn’t like to talk about, probably because the only thing xenomorphs seem to do in these movies is drool and screech … so much alien drool. Some families are so embarrassing that the only thing you can do is change your name and flee to an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. (Thank you, Douglas Adams)

[7] OF CUPS: Mother of Uncertain Opportunities.

Discovering your inner road map. Idealism. Loving all your children ardently. [R] Too many dreams without plans. Lacking passion. Dreams turn to whimsy.

[8] OF CUPS: Crone of Abandoned Dreams.

Leaving the past behind. Owning one’s loneliness. Follow through. [R] Lack of closure. Imaginary slights. Settling for the mundane.

[9] OF CUPS: Sonkeigo of the Blade.

Achieved goals and dreams. Skilled master. Uniqueness of craft. [R] Smugness. Unrealistic goals. Not knowing one’s limits.

Notes: One of my goals with this deck was to make it easy enough to understand so that a reader wouldn’t need to know about samurai, their Bushido code of ethics and/or Japanese history (so, naturally I slapped Japanese text on each card because being inconsistent is something that I apparently strive for). The Way of the Blade is, briefly, the idea that a warrior can and will cultivate an, “implacable fighting spirit to overcome their enemies.” How one wants to define an, “implacable fighting spirit,” is left up to the reader to decide; however, for me it means honing your skills until you are a master at whatever it is that you’re doing. In that way it hearkens back to The Rider-Waite idea of contentment, satisfaction and gratitude.

[10] OF CUPS: Mistress of Sublime Harmony.

Dreams coming true. Love and familiar surrounding. Comfort. [R] Happiness delayed. Troubled commitments.

[11] ONNA-MUSHA OF CUPS: Champion of Rebellious Floods.

Crossing life’s floods with help. Growth from self-reflection. [R] Lack of patience for ones own needs. Need for reflection. Immaturity.

[12] SAMURAI OF CUPS: Knight of the Purifying Cascades.

Willingness to heal. Emotional growth. Spiritual meditation. [R] Ignoring pain. Pushing oneself too hard. No sense of humor.

[13] SEISHITSU OF CUPS: Lady of the Sovereignty of Waters.

Powerful. Life-giving. Cyclical like the tides. [R] Oversensitive. Chaotic emotions. Destructive love.

[14] DAIMYO OF CUPS: Lord of the Turning Waterwheel.

Karmic completion. Just parent. Gentle law maker. [R] Weak nature. Unreliable. Natural born cheater.


[0] ACE OF SWORDS: Sovereign of the Root of the Air.

Beauty. New Ideas. Empire of the senses. [R] Lacking curiosity. Overbearing. Confusion.

[2] OF SWORDS: Ruler of Peace through Power.

No compromises. Battle of wills. Standstill. [R] Reconciliation. Compromise. Accommodating difficulties.

Notes: During the late Edo period in Japanese history almost every large family had a family crest that was worn on the right and left sides of their kimonos. Samurai crests usually featured flowers of some sort, falling leaves, cranes in flight or sacred trees. At some point I decided that Syssk needed a crest as well, so I settled on a stylized version of the face-hugger parasite from the Alien movies (the first stage of xenomorph development after it leaves the egg). The purpose of this card was summed up nicely when Frank Herbert wrote, “Absolute power attracts the corruptible.” Under the right set of circumstances we are all corruptible, even visitors from the celestial kingdom.

[3] OF SWORDS: Lord of the Moon’s Sorrow.

Balancing one’s feelings. Healthy friendships. Riding the turbulence. [R] Love triangle. Jealousy. Heartache.

[4] OF SWORDS: Mx of the Respite before the Storm.

Recovery. Rest. Recuperate. [R] Sensing upcoming doom. Cutting recovery short. Dread.

Notes: A trope that runs through some horror literature is the idea that monsters, while they can assume the shape of a mortal, are often undone when their shadows reveal their true, monstrous form. Of course this only works if a person is observant enough to pay attention to such things and not, as Syssk and her friend are doing, get caught up in fantastical story telling, oblivious to the danger sitting right in front of them. Often we think that the storm we must face is far off and we have time to recover, when, in fact, it has already consumed us.

[5] OF SWORDS: Master of Defeat.

Exile. Deceit. Hidden or old enemies surfacing. [R] Ugly truth revealed. Detachment emotions. Coldness.

[6] OF SWORDS: Sensei of Senseless Struggles.

Realizing the path forward isn’t the best. Campaigning. Following your own path. [R] Blinded by bad directions. Out of the frying pan into the fire.

[7] OF SWORDS: Mother of Betrayal.

Getting played. Being used. Leaving yourself too open emotionally. [R] Trust issues. Skepticism. Suspicion. Uncertainty.

[8] OF SWORDS: Crone of Ambitious Passing.

Owning who you are. Speaking one’s mind. Being fabulous. [R] Walking on eggshells. Fear of independence. Not being true to oneself.

Notes: I am a horribly cynical person and this is, perhaps, the most cynical card in the deck. Syssk works hard to try and blend in with the unwashed masses surrounding her and it is a thankless task. She’s mastered make-up and how to sit politely, poetry and tea ceremonies, the katana sword and the samurai code of ethics, Bushido. None of this changes the fact that when people see her all they can see is her monstrous appearance and not the enlightened soul. For some of us being an outcast is much more preferable than having to compromise or hide who we really are, but I suspect, for Syssk, that is not an option open to her and everything about this planet is hellish in one form or another. In a world that has yet to invent the steam engine, let alone FTL drive, the endless prattle that the Earth is the center of the universe and that humanity is some sort of beloved pet for a Creator god blew her mind the first time someone said it and every time since. An ancient Zen koan asks, “What is the ocean to a frog living in a well?” Or, to put it slightly differently, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect (also an alien marooned on Earth), “would often gate-crash university parties, get badly drunk and start making fun of any astrophysicists he could find till he got thrown out … fifteen years was a long time to get stranded anywhere, particularly somewhere as mind-boggingly dull as the Earth.”

[9] OF SWORDS: Sonkeigo of Malice.

Workplace stress. Worried sick. Enabling a bully. [R] Light at the end of a tunnel. Recovery. Burden lifted.

[10] OF SWORDS: Mistress of Painful Endings.

Betrayal. Stabbed in the back. Crash and burn. [R] Learning from mistakes or betrayal. Getting back on feet. Communicating well with others.

[11] ONNA-MUSHA OF SWORDS: Champion of Rejuvenating Zephyrs.

Attention. Grace. Source of springtime. [R] Premature autumn. Crudeness. Disregard.

[12] SAMURAI OF SWORDS: Knight of Typhoons.

Courage. Quickly and unexpected change. Riding out the storm. [R] Pointless violence. Change as disaster.

[13] SEISHITSU OF SWORDS: Lady of the Sea’s Sovereignty.

Grace. Rectitude. Hidden powers. [R] Bitter. Delight in drowning fools. Indifferent.

[14] DAIMYO OF SWORDS: Lord of the Raging Winds.

Owning one’s own power. Bending reeds and breaking oaks. Sharp mind. [R] Nasty and mean spirited. Abusive. Ball of agitation.


[0] ACE OF WANDS: Sovereign of the Root of the Flames.

Passion. Starting point. Answering the call. [R] Lacking creative thinking. Uninspired. Tunnel vision.

[2] OF WANDS: Ruler of Foreign Influences.

Embracing the alien. Long-distance relationship. Synchronicity. [R] Traditionalism. Incompatibility. Old and moldy.

[3] OF WANDS: Lord of the Far Expanse.

Counseling. Returning home. Third party assistance. [R] Third party interfering. Impulsiveness. Lacking the initiative.

[4] OF WANDS: Mx of Martialed Armies.

Stability. Gathering one’s forces. Firm foundation [R] Debilitated commitment. Troubles of cohabitation. Adynamic planning.

Notes: This is suppose to be an army on the march but I am unsure if that’s apparent.

[5] OF WANDS: Master of Strife.

Serving a fair and just ruler. [R] Serving a vicious and wicked ruler.

Notes: The term “Bushido” has been referenced several times so far. I have been calling it a samurai code of ethics, concerning all aspects of moral attitudes, behavior and lifestyle. The best example of its essence comes from Stan Sakai’s The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy, where the following conversation takes place between our rabbit ronin Usagi and a samurai who serves the antagonist of the story:

Usagi: You’d die for a lord who vilifies you? He doesn’t deserve your loyalty!

Torame: I’m a devotee of Bushido, the samurai’s code. Do you remember the warrior riddle I told you?

Usagi: “Which more exemplifies Bushido? The samurai who serves a good and fair lord, or the one who faithfully serves a wicked lord?”

Torame: The Samurai who is loyal to his unprincipled master because he who remains faithful even in adversity has the greatest warrior spirit. After all, “samurai” means “to serve” and devotion to your master is paramount.

[6] OF WANDS: Sensei of Nauseous Sacrifice.

Victory at a price. Losing by winning battles. Stress vomiting. [R] Unable to understand why you lost. Disillusioned. Rewards long delayed.

Note: In The Rider-Waite deck, the 6 of Wands deals with public recognition over one’s success. Here, however, the card has more to do having to preform some sort of task that you find personally abhorrent in order to succeed. That, too, usually has very public ramifications (think: selling out for money, or sacrificing a friendship to get ahead) but you’ve decided that failure is not an option, so the ends justify the means, as they say.

[7] OF WANDS: Mother of Valour.

Attacked from all sides. Win battles and playing well with others. [R] Attacked from all sides. Defeat. Feeling drained and stressed.

[8] OF WANDS: Crone of Swiftness.

Expanding horizons through travel. Talking to people or seeing new places. Reading new ideas. [R] Frustration and delays. Can’t seem to communicate. How do you make this hawk go?

[9] OF WANDS: Sonkeigo o£ Tenacity.

Bad ass with a katana. Ready and prepared for what is ahead. Good at defeating others. [R] Paranoid from many past battles. All vain pomp. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

[10] OF WANDS: Mistress of Artful Trickery.

Duplicity as a positive thing. Getting others to carry your burden. Looks great with nine tails. [R]

Overburdened. Too many responsibilities. Unable to see what is right in front of you.

Notes: In Japanese folklore, Kitsune are trickster fox spirits that have the ability to shape shift into human form. The card speaks to the 4 of Sword’s warning that a sinister shadow might be concealed in the most charming of outer appearances. In this case the Kitsune is using a life-size puppet to manipulate others, while Syssk, jamming on her biwa in the background, remains oblivious to any danger.

[11] ONNA-MUSHA OF WANDS: Champion of the Luminous Flames.

Companion. Assistant. Helper. [R] Refusing advice. Lone wolf. Getting foolishly burned.

[12] SAMURAI OF WANDS: Knight of Thunderbolts and Lightning.

Person with an inner fire. Using the storm to your advantage. Good at dodging the wrath of the gods. [R] Anticlimax. Thunderbolts and lightning very very frightening. Need for follow through.

[13] SEISHITSU OF WANDS: Lady of the Uncanny Glow.

Eroticism as creative power. Living life to its fullest. MILF. [R] Burns out quickly. Restlessness. Unsatisfied.

Notes: The erotic nature of our lives is profoundly spiritual. Since Syssk is the avatar for the reader the question of where Syssk falls in the sexuality spectrum has come up and while she is certainly intersexual (bodies that fall outside the strict male/ female binary) trying to define an alien species in human terms will only take us so far. She identifies as a “she/ her,” and while she is curious about the concepts of sex and romance she has yet to find anyone willing to teach or share. Perhaps she is Panromantic (someone who can experience attraction to anyone regardless of gender identity, sex or anatomy) or perhaps she is Demisexual (someone who does not experience attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection first), but what is important is that it’s something only Syssk herself can decide upon and, as of this writing, she is still weighing all her possibilities.

[14] DAIMYO OF WANDS: Lord of the Song of the Turbulent Fire.

Owning one’s self. Charming. Legendary. [R] Forked tongue. Smooth talker who is massively insincere. Sucka MC.


Originally the deck was going to feature astronauts and their Alien familiars. But that path would lead only to issues of copyright infringement, which is why Syssk ended up looking the way that she does and not like this:


[The Hanged One]



, , , , , , ,

The day is dead and lain in fog – not, “laid

in fog.” That’s when the city’s odd twilight

rolls in, turning streetlights wispy, decayed,

grotesque. Among the shadows our delight

comes when we gambol and glow. All that wet

air, pools of cool oil, smeared by ghostly palms

between your breasts. Morass of dew and sweat.

Straddle me,” you say, kneeling with maelstroms

in your cunt, tempests in my cock. I curl

down the valley of your cleavage. “Seismic

upheaval?” Indeed. Slickness, all foggy

and cum-splattered around your neck; a pearl

necklace. Drastic love: the sort of drastic

pleasures others just dream about, dimly.



, , , , , , , ,

Worms of the flesh. Dreams of rapture. “The dead

do not sleep … at first,” you said, on the night

that you followed me home. From gray sickbed

to gray earth. No salvation. No white light.

No choir singing praise. Just hunger striding

through my doorway, greedy for pillow talk.

Fuck flesh,” you called yourself, with a gnawing

look. Yes, that look, “Skewer me on your cock.

Eat me. Drink me. Love me. Make much of me.”

The dead are cold; yet you still sweated, hips

twerking, thundering; deluge from a storm cloud.

Regrets? Since I thought lust was unholy,

never knowing this. My tongue: on your lips,

between your thighs, under your winding shroud.



, , , , , ,

Sweet-tooth? Just for jelly rolls.” What I said,

with the cinch of your muscles wrapped around

my cock. What I said, the first time I spread

your cheeks until your sphincter’s puckered mound

gaped wide: “That’s not the arse of a fifty

eight year-old.” Sitting in your dentist chair,

with your scrubs around your knees, I slid three

fingers and a thumb in. If this is prayer

Venus Callipyge would approve. What word

do kids use? “Booty.” Venus with the Huge

Booty. You’ve been married for years and years

and your husband still won’t go there. Absurd.

Just once,” you said, cumming in a deluge;

without noxious hang-ups or macho fears.



Some are young, some are old/ My man says sissy’s got good jelly roll,” Ma Rainey sang on Sissy Blues. “My man got a sissy, his name is Mistress Kate/ He shook that thing like jelly on a plate.” Jelly roll, in this case, being slang for one’s arse. Venus, the Roman goddess of lust and beauty, had many manifestations: Venus Anadyomene (Venus “Rising from the Sea”), Venus Barbata (“Bearded Venus”) and Venus Callipyge (“Venus with the Beautifully Large Buttocks”).



, , , , , , , ,

In the old sailor prayers their songs go —-

9 waves, 9 tides, 9 times the sea has come.”

I’ve known only 3 ocean storms. I know,

I’m told, the gods of the sea are gruesome.

Even now, with the rain falling in sheets,

something vast and deep, full of roiling clouds

with long, tangled strands that lurches and beats

on the deck, howling through the stays and shrouds,

halyards and braces, hungers. I hunger,

too. 3 times this hunger has come. With you,

like the old sea prayers, I would make it 9.

I am full of lascivious anger —-

but you knew that when you kissed me. You knew

this storm would be both grotesque and divine.



, , , , , , , , ,

With blood, cramps and acne came the hijab,

the veil. “Feel blessed that you have a gorgeous

godhead dwelling in your bones.” With a stab

of my tongue I wriggled in. Lewdness

isn’t metaphor but pure parasite.

Like their Holy Laws, I’m an acquired

taste. “Don’t go,” you said on our 7th night,

since you now desire what I once desired:

a new language found in our gasps and purrs.

Your own eldritch ne’er-do-well to rouse “goo”

in your cum-caked skivvies as your mirthless

parents sleep. A companion with fingers,

making circles in the moonlight. In you.

This, too, is sacred; like lust, like solace.



, , , , , , , ,

In old sex comedies, orgasmic cries

were changed into operatic high notes.

That wet ¡shlick!-roar you make between your thighs

would have caused a panic. For them, “Deep Throat,”

was a code name and, “Pink Eye,” a virus.

This is sacred: your blood shot eyes, lashes

gummy with my cum, your sweaty, “thickness,”

cleansed in the bath. Others cling to stigmas

and fears about sex. Since we’re divas who

can’t sing, we choose the real thing. No censors

or sound effects; just, “O! Cum on my face.”

The Gods adore such mettle. We, who spew

prayers in their praise, like all feral lovers,

each time the Gods bestow orgasmic grace.



, , , , , , , ,

Pleasure, as they say, is its own reward;

for those of us who barter and haggle,

dreaming of more. To die wet. To die hard.

To die loved. To be more than a wastrel.

He’s at work,” you say. “They’re outside playing.

Wish it was your cock and not” [here you shake,

drawing your phat butt-plug from your gaping

Ö] “This. Look!” [on your webcam you ache, quake

and crack.] “Guess it can’t be helped, fu-fu-fu.”

They’re not lost years, frenzied at my computer;

we’re the tribe that does what it must for lust,

without apology. “Play Siouxsie Sioux

and cum for me.” I stand: drunk, hornier

than the gods and start with, “Cities in Dust.”

how would you interpret the tarot’s chariot romantically?


, , ,

“Wuv, twue wuv.” [Princess Bride, 1987]

Focus, confidence and determination are all good things, in theory. From them we get that rugged individualism (with a dimple in the chin) that my therapist keeps going on about as being so important for a healthy Ego and sense of self.

Personally, I feel that the Ego in all its forms is highly overrated, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. It takes us into the realm of psychology and science is some of the least sexy and romantic aspects of being human that I can imagine. It’s great for analyzing and cataloging behavior … less so as dating advice.

Be bold, we’re told, when taking actions on love. Take control of your love life. Go get what you want. We’ve all heard these words in one form or another. Just feed that inner Don Juan (or Donna Juanna, if you’re Brigitte Bardot) and that wretched misery in your soul might finally be silenced (key word: might). Curiously, that advice seldom works … unless your idea of a happy life is living out the plot points of most pornos.

I can only offer my own experiences, but people who advocate that this is a positive card (at least in the Rider-Waite world) are one sort, lovers who burn, as Rumi reminds us, are another.

In this case a structured and ordered approach when it comes to love is not the best path forward since love is neither structured, ordered nor something that you can control through willpower. Love is chaos. Love is madness. Love is what keeps the poets writing late at night and laughs at rules and the way “things are suppose to be.” In short, I question anyone who champions this card as someone who has spent far too much time thinking about love and far little actually experiencing its messy glory.

This is why, for my deck at least, I changed the Chariot to a Palanquin because you can’t make a palanquin go simply by willing it. You need others to literally do all the heavy lifting, you need to act together to make anything happen. Love is, by its very nature, communal. The Rider-Waite deck seems to have forgotten that and assumes that boldness (that great Victorian virtue) will achieve your goals. Again, love has no agenda, no secret code that you can break and “make it happen.” To hammer the point in a little further, up and beyond the fact that this litter has no bearers, the woman in it wants to smoke her hashish but has no flame to light it. Perfect control and confidence have yet to start a fire (unless its a metaphoric one) since she needs to take the match Syssk (the xenomorph seated next to her) offers.

That’s the love lesson that I take away from here: forcefulness in love is called rape. It’s why “Love magic” has nothing to do with love and everything with exercising your control over another. Do not follow that path, it never ends well. Only by working together can we make love bloom and, of course, the Ego of the Chariot has very little to do with that.