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Sophie-David 
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Legend: Four of Swords, Isolt of the White Hands


In this Legend Four of Swords, Tristram of the Two of Cups is nursed by Isolt of the White Hands and her ladies. The scene is of a quiet sunlit forest, with waterfalls cascading gently down to a large pool. With a great deal of wisdom, the women have brought Tristram to this sacred place of natural healing and restoration, rather than leaving him in King Howel's draughty old castle. If Tristram is going to get better anywhere, its going to be here.

The story seems somewhat strange to me. I suspect that Isolt of Ireland and Isolt of the White Hands were originally the same person. It seems more than a coincidence that there would be two Isolts in the same story, both of them healers. Perhaps this second Isolt was added to extend and deepen the romance. Both Wagner in Tristan und Isolde and Waldherr in The Lover's Path Tarot Desire card omit the somewhat confusing second Isolt - it is Isolt of Ireland only who can cure Tristan.

Nonetheless this is a beautiful card which agrees with many the versions of the story. Even though Tristram still feels the loss and agony of separation, for a time he rests and partially accepts the love of another. It must have been clear to Isolt of the White Hands whom Tristram still loved, but yet in her own love she nurtured him and sought to win him to her. In this I see no shame or even foolishness. Love always involves risk, and in choosing to follow her heart the story may have well ended differently. Unfortunately for her this tale played out somewhat similarly to Lancelot and Elaine in the Five of Cups.



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Leo62 
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This is another card where the legend seems to be a bit at odds with what's going on in the picture. This card evokes a great sense of peace; trees, a flowing river, two people on the river bank receiving healing. There is a sense that the environment is providing the healing, as much as any particular treatment.
I agree that the legend - with it's 2 Iseults - is confusing, and hard to relate to. I wonder if that's because the source material for this version of the story is medieval and comes from a very different value system to ours. We are so distanced from medieval morality that it can be difficult to judge these stories on their own terms. It's hard to find much positive to say about Tristram marrying Iseult of the WH and then not being able to consummate the marriage, and then leaving her...doesn't seem very healing!

There was a similar problem with the Strength card I seem to remember - the image being very much at odds with the legend, which was extremely negative in it's characterisation of women!

Water is very prominent in this card - for me, it's about the healing power of love, and the ability to receive as well as give love - and the fact that both the giving and receiving are healing.



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Sophie-David 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo62
This is another card where the legend seems to be a bit at odds with what's going on in the picture. This card evokes a great sense of peace; trees, a flowing river, two people on the river bank receiving healing. There is a sense that the environment is providing the healing, as much as any particular treatment.
Yes, the picture is much more positive than the story. I think that this may be a sacred pool, and perhaps Tristram will bathe in the waters.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo62
I agree that the legend - with it's 2 Iseults - is confusing, and hard to relate to. I wonder if that's because the source material for this version of the story is medieval and comes from a very different value system to ours. We are so distanced from medieval morality that it can be difficult to judge these stories on their own terms. It's hard to find much positive to say about Tristram marrying Iseult of the WH and then not being able to consummate the marriage, and then leaving her...doesn't seem very healing!
No, it doesn't! Although that happens later in the story, and this is during their best period. I suspect that it was medieval tradition which added the second Isolt; perhaps in the Arthurian period there was only one.
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Originally Posted by Leo62
Water is very prominent in this card - for me, it's about the healing power of love, and the ability to receive as well as give love - and the fact that both the giving and receiving are healing.
Yes, I like that thought.

David



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WalesWoman 
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I'm pretty sure there were two Isolt's... otherwise the end of the story in Two Cups wouldn't make sense.

Isolt of WH wasn't able to cure him... only the Isolt of Ireland could... so that goes with the traditional meaning of this card... rejecting opportunities and not taking advantage or appreciating what you have. This is almost a 4 Cups thing isn't it? So rather than the emotional withdrawal, it is the desire that withdraws and becomes complacent? I confused myself there I think, for some reason all the water and the story seemed like a cups thing rather than a sword... but since swords are fire... it is about passion and we are always getting passion and love confused. Well I do or did or am figuring out the difference.

Here is Tristam surrounding by all this healing energy, flowing emotion into a pool of tranquility, for Isolt of WH loved him greatly too, but he couldn't reciprocate this love, what he wanted was elsewhere... so he's lying there all listless and blah, pining for what he can't have, sick in heart and body and soul. Perhaps if he could have gotten over the Isolt #1, the other Isolt's love could have healed him, but he wouldn't and couldn't accept that.

So that is where the story changes and turns into something similar to the 3 Swords/ 5 Swords tradegy through trechery element that Sophie-David described. Jealousy making Isolt of WH tell Tristam that the other Isolt hadn't come and he died of his wounds and broken heart before she could reach him. So there is the difference then between true love and passion, love would not resort to treachery for revenge, but passion would.



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Sophie-David 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
I'm pretty sure there were two Isolt's... otherwise the end of the story in Two Cups wouldn't make sense.
Yes, that is true, but in the versions of the story which Wagner and Waldherr use there is no Isolt of the White Hands. Isolt of Ireland is the only one who can cure Tristram, and she comes to Brittany to do so. Nothing is mentioned of a second Isolt during his exile. Isolt of Ireland simply arrives a bit too late and Tristram dies in her arms.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
So that is where the story changes and turns into something similar to the 3 Swords/ 5 Swords tradegy through trechery element that Sophie-David described. Jealousy making Isolt of WH tell Tristam that the other Isolt hadn't come and he died of his wounds and broken heart before she could reach him. So there is the difference then between true love and passion, love would not resort to treachery for revenge, but passion would.
Thank you for reminding me of how this Two of Cups ends, I was getting the accounts confused with The Lover's Path. I agree, Isolt of the White Hands would not have betrayed Tristram if her love was true. As you suggest, it is likely that she knows passion but not love - or perhaps by this time her love has been poisoned by his rejection. There seem to be so many negative women in these stories, its a bit disheartening at times!



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WalesWoman 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sophie-david
There seem to be so many negative women in these stories, its a bit disheartening at times!
I think that's what happens when it's HIStory and the whole influence of patriarchy of the Church... women did after all according to the Bible, cause man to sin and get kicked out of Eden. Won't go into that whole thing, since I just don't have that sort of energy, but... it was debatable at this time if women even had souls.

It all depends on your focus, most of the men in these stories weren't exactly candidates for sainthood. LOL



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Sophie-David 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
I think that's what happens when it's HIStory
Hey, that's a neat one WalesWoman, "HIStory", is it one of yours?
Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
it was debatable at this time if women even had souls.
Oh yes, that "concern" actually dates back to classical Greece, the foundation of Western Civilization.
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Originally Posted by WalesWoman
It all depends on your focus, most of the men in these stories weren't exactly candidates for sainthood. LOL
No, I was thinking that too! Good with the sword and that's about it. I suppose it makes it easy for each of us to identify with these men and women in all their foibles. But in some ways its actually worse than the world as it really is - there are very few stories of anyone living happily ever after.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic and romantic, but I see a lot of joy, courage and moral strength in the world. I mean, I think you are happily married, and I am happily married, although I know we're both North American fat cats. But in the parts of the third world where people are able to provide for their basic needs, they is actually more joy and love there than many experience on our relatively affluent continent - I know this from the first hand experience of people whom I trust.

Perhaps the strength of these stories is that they bring forth the issues we face in clear polarities. They are morality plays rather than documentaries. They are coloured by their time, but present the consequences of one's choices in a simple and well-defined manner. Which is perhaps just another way of saying that like the Tarot itself, they archetypal.



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Leo62 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophie-David
Perhaps the strength of these stories is that they bring forth the issues we face in clear polarities. They are morality plays rather than documentaries. They are coloured by their time, but present the consequences of one's choices in a simple and well-defined manner. Which is perhaps just another way of saying that like the Tarot itself, they archetypal.
I believe that the rise in popularity of the Arthurian legends - beginning in the 12th Century - went hand in hand with the development of notions of courtly love and honourable conduct. There was a kind of artistic renaissance at this time in Europe (much of it due to European's encounter with the learned and technologically advanced Islamic world via the crusades). Trouveres or troubadours - travelling poets and storytellers - became popular and the likes of Chretien de Troyes wrote romances, including versions of the Arthur story, that codified a new, more refined approach to what was considered "right" behaviour.
This was a sea-change in attitudes from smash-n-grab might-is-right rule of the sword to a notion that "decent" behaviour towards others is what makes one a Knight. This included treating women with courtesy and honour (a revolutionary concept for it's time, however old hat or problematic it may be for us now) and the outlandish notion of romantic love between a man and a woman.
So yes, the medieval versions of these stories were a way of exploring these new ideas and attitudes and codifying them into a series of morality tales.
However alien or annoying or negative these stories seem to us, I think it's important to try to seem them in the context of their time. They were an attempt to articulate a more civilised, progressive way of living - shame that it was not acted out more in the real world, or history might have been quite different!



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The Dark Ages, with their extremely limited literacy and the break in historical continuity which went with it, were the age in which the importance of the image was vital. With this there was a rise in right brain consciousness, a relaxation of clerical authority, and a derationalization of Christianity. This was a time of disorder, violence and confusion, but there is evidence that a benefit came through the weakening of the patriarchal controls and hierarchies which have been typical of most the historical era, which was that sexual equality and thus erotic love were both ascendant.

It is from this fertile and egalitarian period of darkness that, when literacy began to be extended in the tenth century, history witnessed an unparalleled celebration of the feminine in literature and in song. It is likely that the bards of which Taliesin is the archetype were in fact singing of the feminine throughout the dark ages, long before their verses began to be recorded. As you suggest, the Crusades further stimulated western culture, art, secular education and travel, and from the eleventh through the fourteenth century, this blossomed as the period of the High Middle Ages.

This golden age, a fusion of feminine dark with masculine light, came to an end in the fourteenth century when a series of wars ended in the plagues. Rising from the Black Death, the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, with its explosion in literacy and the arts, also brought with it the ability to organize, intellectualize and rationalize, and thus to objectify, dehumanize and marginalize those considered opponents and inferiors. This sudden and extreme movement into the left brain brought with it the intolerance, inquisitions, and witch burnings of the sixteenth century. Only in the last two centuries has western society begun to rebalance the dark and the light.

It is over this thousand year spectrum of human history that this Legend developed in all its richness, complexity and self-contradiction, adapting itself to the times as human consciousness shifted, evolved and devolved.



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I think I'll stay out of the politics of this... since I think we have a long way to go yet and seem to backslide all the time. More has changed in the past 40 years than in the last 200 and I don't even want to begin to disagree with the enlightenment of western civilization, since we are still doing the same thing we have since forever, the whole manifest destiny which is pretty Machiavellian STILL. So if 4 Swords is about rectifying the wounds and hurts and pain we have created... I'll only say, we are atleast recognizing some things almost as much as we sit back and ignore or deny the obvious. But not nearly enough and far too passively when it come to making positive changes. As long as there are innocent and not so innocent dying due to inequality, conflicts and "wars" to keep us in the things we desire...the only thing that has really changed is our sophistication and power to completely destroy everything.

I've been trying to think of the card itself and the images on it... that sometimes someone may want to heal you, but the only way you can is to withdraw and kick back, removing yourself in order to heal from within. It's wonderful to have the resources available to you, but the real healing comes from resting, relaxing, stepping back to take stock, to reflect and regenerate the self. Removing yourself from your emotions even tho' the setting is one of peace, safety and tranquility, there is a sense of isolation of going with the self. So part of that could be learning to be comfortable with what you have created... or accepting it and growing from it, getting over it even. I keep forgetting Swords is Fire and looking at it in the traditional thought thing.

So in a way this sort of changes the meaning for me... and makes it almost a Hanged man thing... that desire, acting upon it or suffering the loss of desire or something desired has led to this state. With 4's as foundations that this could be either what progresses from the 3 or even discovering what is at the root and going on from there. Or just letting it get you down... and not quite ready to get over it yet. Will you heal yourself or just brood over what you can't have? So as a foundation it has the whole question of how you look at what you want to create for yourself... to look at life as either half empty or half full, to accept or reject, to withdraw to contemplate or pout, to lay down and play dead or get up and go on.



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