Monday, February 12, 2018

Exonerating the Devil for Mardi Gras

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~ Oscar Wilde
There are a lot of tarot cards with a bad reputation. Some deserve the cringe that comes unbidden which we carefully try to hide. For others, it's possible that we are letting our knee-jerk reaction to a traditionally 'bad' concept overtake us. The Devil, impish as ever, maintains his tarnished reputation gleefully. But is this reputation one that's well-earned? Or one we've attributed to the goatish little Capricorn card, making him more scape-goat than devil-goat?

The Devil from Deviant Moon Tarot

In our Daily Tarot Discord Community, we have what I cheesily named Holiday Ambassadors. I could not resist signing myself up for Mardi Gras. Being somewhat native to the area heralded as the true home of Mardi Gras, I felt it appropriate to be the ambassador of the holiday. However, as I searched for information to share I realized Mardi Gras was as misunderstood as The Devil.

As I searched, I discovered so much conflict on whether the holiday was Christian or Pagan in roots. I even discovered conspiracy theories stating the holiday was never Pagan, but rather that churches wanting to discourage the revelry began rumors of its Pagan roots. What better way to prevent heathenry than to call it heathenry, amiright? To make this search even more fun, I found that the official Mardi Gras page considered disparaging the heathenry of the French Quarter during Mardi Gras season to fulfill the requirements of a page devoted to history and tradition. That's right. The official site dedicated its history page to promising visitors that the exhibition of breasts is not a Mardi Gras tradition and proceeded to blame the tourists.

As a society, we're taught to distance ourselves from our more licentious and wanton tendencies. Tourists who could easily research parade routes and know that the larger, more elaborate parades do not run through the narrow streets of the French Quarter, somehow find themselves surrounded by strip clubs, gay bars, and huge ass beers because it's Mardi Gras. They leave and report to their friends, "Mardi Gras made me do it." Or, "I saw so many crazy people, but I didn't partake." Sure ya didn't. That's why you went to exactly where the parades weren't. ;)

The very nature of Mardi Gras is a last hoorah before Lent. Regardless of its ancient associations, its current purpose is to celebrate from Twelfth Night until Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Lent is a time of sacrifice, of releasing from our lives that which we have become too dependent. Mardi Gras is to partake until we are forced to stop. Historically, Mardi Gras has been paralleled with Saturnalia as well as Bacchanals. There's a dotted line to the Feast of Fools as well, but none quite line up to the timing of modern day Mardi Gras, leaving it primarily either a Catholic or secular celebration until firmer associations can be uncovered.

This great lengths some go to distance themselves from the extravagance and excess of the celebration, reminds me of the intense reaction The Devil often evokes. Addiction as a meaning gets tossed about more fervently than plastic beads at Mardi Gras. Certainly, there can be too much of a good thing. Desire is a fickle and dangerous mistress, but there is so much more there! The chains don't bind. The Devil himself appears more amused than harsh in most cards. In other renditions, such as the Shadowscapes depiction, the devil isn't even paying attention. More than likely, you invited yourself to his festivities. The key is not overstaying your welcome.

Face Mask, Mask, Mardi Gras, Parade, New OrleansThe card which appears before The Devil is Temperance—the Sagittarian card of integration. Temperance is about balance and allowing an ebb and flow of self through self. There are no barriers between the many aspects of self. Your Id, Ego, and Superego flow in harmony. Each are given proper expression when appropriate. The Devil's party is an appropriate time for your Id to roam free for a short time. However, in order to let him out then you must partake in something which is most certainly a Mardi Gras tradition—mask your Ego.

By obscuring your identity, you in essence free yourself from the watchful eye of your superego. Your ego can gracefully deny responsibility, and your id's deepest whims are set free. In many ways, the mask becomes your true face. The impulses you repress and hide from society are able to spring naturally to the surface. However, be sure to remember the card which follows The Devil—The Tower. Stay too long and you will be thrown forcefully out. You don't have to go home, but you most certainly can't stay here!

Ultimately, when The Devil appears it may be that you have chained yourself to pleasure, but there is just as strong of a possibility that you need to unchain your desires. Let your hair down and release the wildness in you that has been repressed, locked away in the dark spaces of yourself.

Find Your Inner Devil

Shuffle your deck however feels right. Or be super naughty and shuffle it casino-style. One time won't hurt it. When you're ready, go looking for The Devil. Yes, you heard me. Seek out that puckish card. The card immediately before will be the mask you wear everyday, or the face you present to society. The card immediately after will be what the mask hides that wants to surface. This is something that if you repress it too long may surface in ways that are unhealthy. Look at the card following this one as well to identify ways you can express your hidden self in a healthy way.

With no further ado, laissez les bon temps rouler!

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