The contemplative guy is me, but more generally it is a young man who is vexed by the world. His pallid complexion and the reddish tint of his eyes indicate his status as an outsider and an enemy. Above him though I put the Tarot sun. I think I did this because I want to believe that the world is ultimately good, and this guy will find the world around him – with the little cold blue moon that floats nearby– merely represents what the moon tarot represents — that is, the disorienting and indecipherable way things appear when one can only see by moonlight, or in our case, the human senses.
See more of Chris’s work.
The phoenix represents the hope of rebirth into the sun tarot image. Beneath him is the devil in his fallen form, taken from a short story I was writing about a man who is visited by the devil. Next to the phoenix is the heron, a limnal animal that corresponds to the unconscious and ethereal, and is juxtaposed to the moon as the phoenix is to the sun. But the heron is a noble animal, and so, even though the moon tarot card is considered a bit scary, the main thing about the two is that they speak of how uncertain the world must be for a human mind, limited as it is.
Next to the heron there is a corpse floating in the dark. But he is meant to look calm, as if the heron where ferrying his soul and that this isn’t bad even if it’s frightening and beyond our understanding.
Next to the heron is the Magician from the tarot, but placed in the desert. This is a reminder that we are in a hostile place, and to survive we must be able to channel the power of perception and manifestation that is inherent in that card. Below him there is a jackal. The jackal is a master of survival, another desert dweller (life at its harshest seems like a desert), and a master of the night. He is connected to magic, cunning, and death. He is adjacent to the magician because this is the sort of magic we need in the wasteland. He is also positioned so as to contrast against the serenity of the corpse. This is as a reminder of the need to accept mortality and death and not to fear it. But though much of this is gained from meditative acceptance, I don’t think you can really remove fear of death (and so live life to the utmost) without also striving to have power over it. To have “power” over death, a person needs to be the magician and the jackal, needs to conjure by force of will and thrive by a preternatural understanding of the state of the wasteland. That is to say, the only real way to have any sort of mastery over death is by having mastery (in as much as it’s possible) over life, and the more one can influence his or her own life by pure volition, the less power death and mortality have to cripple us with fear and dread, and so freed, a person can become so much more than just that animal with the unfortunate foreknowledge of its own death.
Next there is the apartment building. I always think of these sorts of buildings as symbolic of the mind. In one window, though its hard to see in this picture, there is a forlorn man smoking a cigarette. The drapes are red to reflect vitality, but he is oppressed by his mind and so the red is faded, not like the magician’s robes at all. But the next window has an angel, and so though the man is forlorn, we see he oughtn’t despair because his mind houses a powerful and beautiful spirit.
The bottom right shows the knight of cups. (this picture is full of tarot symbolism). The knight of cups represents intuition, creativity, and being in harmony with emotion. He also represents chivalry and romance. All of these have always seemed the most pure and most invigorating of life’s gifts. He is in direct contrast to the devil, on the opposite side of the page. As I said, I have identified myself with the enemy for most of my life, have identified and sympathized with the devil. Probably the main reason I felt this way (and still do, though I am trying to break this toxic association in my mind) is because growing up in a small redneck town, being weird, being mentally ill, I was not the knight of cups. And so I became more and more the devil.
Finally, the woman with the lemniscate, symbol for infinity. She is the strength card. But the strength card usually shows the woman taming a lion. This represents using strength of will, self-mastery, calm and kind energy, to make an ally of what is ferocious and wild. But it felt more appropriate to me to have this energy, this self-mastery, be used to draw in something else: equally wild, but representing not the fierce and overwhelming, but the tranquil and elusive. Of course she is also stylized to look like a forest spirit, and the tarot sun is in the background, and in the tree the fruits of the good life are growing. This is in contrast to the trappings of the apartment building, the hard mind, and represents and embrace of the natural. See even that the line dividing her from the knight of cups has moss growing and spilling into his frame, a sort of connection between them. She is what the central figure is looking for in his vexation, figuratively and, in a sense, literally.
See more of Chris’s work on Deviant Art.