Bohemian Gothic-The Queens


I was surprised to realize that this study has barely touched on the queens. There's a thread on the Queen/Pents here:

But we're missing the rest. I'd like to discuss the queens. In most tarot decks, the Queens are the "Water" of court cards, the heart of the kingdom, as it were, it's spiritual side. Also, IMHO, it's pragmatic side. They don't, like the King, give the St. Crispin's day speech that motivates everyone into action, but, rather, like a good mom, they makes sure that all those bows and arrows were made so that once those archers are inspired they can do their job. They are the power behind the throne as it were.

So, what about our BG queens?

Queen Pent has her own thread, which we can all check out for some interesting detailed info on that picture she's looking at so warily. What I'll say about her that interests me is how very tasteful she is. She shows, as a good Queen/Pent should how to put that money to use. How to display to others that you have it in a way that isn't vulgar. Which is a very important point, I think, as other cards in the BG Pentacles suit are all about gaudiness, or ownership of one particular item, or issues with money (5/Pents, 6/Pents and 10/Pents in particular. Not having it is as much an issue in those cards as having it). Queen/Pents in this deck shows that love for money which we would call "just right." It doesn't obsess, go overboard, or hoard.

YET, as in the thread on this card, there is that picture she keeps eyeing, the penitent Mary Magdalene. I know the main question is whether she's prostituted herself for the money, but I actually have another thought on this: Jesus preaches about giving up all ones worldly goods in order to walk with god. Perhaps the message of this card is that simple--that she can't find her way out of this dark, BG deck because unlike Mary M. there, she isn't willing to give up earthly comforts and pleasures.

She can't, like Mary in the picture, leave her comfortable home, wear rags instead of pretty clothes, and, yes, even scourge herself (feel pain rather than pleasure) in order to connect with the divine. Queens are the "spiritual" side of things, and this card says that the spirit of the "pents" is in "things" (having them/not having them). Our Queen here is the only one of the Court Pents who seems to be worried about the fact that having it all may not be having it all. What if heaven can't be reached without renouncing it "all"?



Queen/Swords is a wonderful opposition to our Queen Pents. She is in the Bone Chapel, as we see from the skull emblem there on the wall. There is also a small statue holding a sword. Around her it is as bare and poor as it can be. Nothing homey here. Her clothing, as compared to the Queen/Pents, while tasteful and "queenly" is still plain and severe. Her prized possession is nothing rich or artful, but rather a plain, black book.

This is the Queen/Swords to me, through and through. There is a cool, analytical quality about her, and she seems as spare as her setting. Even her spirituality worships that spareness--down to the bone, no frills, no extras. She is entirely dedicated to her sword, as, indeed, are her Knight and King--both cruel looking figures who show no warmth or mercy. We don't know what book she's reading, but I'm sure we can all identify with being lost in our reading, so focused in the mind, and the communication of mind-to-mind that comes with reading that nothing else matters to us.

That, of course, is the dark, BG side of the Queen/Swords. For all her beauty and flowing hair, she has no soft edges, no warmth or tender feelings. She is the opposite of the Queen/Pents--almost exactly what the Mary M. painting shows (plain in dress, reading a book, skull). She cares nothing for the pretty, rich or beautiful things the world has to offer, nor for it's physical pleasures. She is only interested in spiritual and esoteric studies, away from earthly distractions. This means, however, that she prays to bones and a sword, not to anything with flesh and blood and a human face. Her removal from the earthly world hasn't, as Queen/Pents assumes it would, made her more spiritual because in her case it has also removed her from living, breathing people--or at least caring about them.

As the spirit of the Court of Swords, her analytical mind, while brilliant and clear, is likely as cruel as her Knight there in his torture chamber, and as distant and cut off as her armored King.



Queen/Wands is a creepy match-up to her husband on stage there. Both of them are pretending and playing roles. But our Queen plays her role in a ballroom rather than a theater.

This is a classic, gothic image, a Miss Haversham moment. Our Queen/Wands pretends that she's still young, pretty and the bell of the ball. She wears a fiery colored, off-the-shoulder ballgown that no longer suits her, bows in her gray hair and other girlish accouterments. She flutters her fan flirtatiously. She glances back over her shoulder at "people" clustered on and below a balcony area behind--which is really a remarkable painting.

This card certainly embodies the usual Queen/Wands. Flamboyant, dramatic, bold, active, passionate, seeking/wanting attention. And we sense she's probably got quite a temper as well. But our "gothic" element here is that our queen also stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that her time to be all that is long gone. She hasn't the youth or beauty to be the bell of the ball. The Wands suit burns bright, but it also tends to burn out. Like the King on his stage, her time in the spotlight came and went. Only the black cat, with it's glowing eyes, notices her now.



Queen/Cups is one of the loveliest cards in this deck. She is, to my mind, a perfect Queen/Cups, right out of a pre-Raphaelite painting with her gothic gown and Irish Harp, a castle on the lake in the background. There is her silver chalice and pretty flowers. As purely spiritual, genuinely emotional, and feminine as only the Queen/Cups can be.

In pre-Raphaelite paintings, there was the attempt by 19th century men and women not to recapture a lost past (as with our Queen/Wands), but to to go back to a mythic past, one that never happened but that they wanted to happen. (Hmmm...this might be true of Queen/Wands as well...?). A magical version of knights and castles, rather than the real, nitty-gritty truth of such times. Our queen seems lost in that fantasy world, and invites us to get lost with her. We expect her to play us some soothing, haunting harp music--or maybe she already has and this has lured us to her. Her pose is full of promise; this is the Queen who is going to grant your wish. She'll give you what none of the others will: love, warmth, understanding, happiness, sweet dreams.

The only warning we have that all is not as it seems is the raven/crow there, perched on a rock above the chalice. He's gazing up at her. His look makes me think he's saying, "What, are you kidding? This so over the top. They'll never fall for it!" :D The raven/crow underestimates our gullibility, or just the power of the Queen's temptation: to forget about reality and surrender to fantasy. To step into a fairytale.

That carrion bird, a bird that symbolizes death, is undoubtedly with her because he knows what's really going to happen if you're lured in by her dreamy charm. Even in fairytales you have to watch out for glamours--and what's hidden by them. She may not be what she seems, or her immersion in fantasy may be madness and as dangerous as those obsessed and dedicated to a fantasy can be. Our raven/crow likely knows what will happen if we try to leave her and her fantasy, and is waiting for the left-overs.

swimming in tarot

Oooo, fresh meat! :D Glad you're still into this!

I just read this today; will deliberate while dog-walking. I had already been looking at the Q of Wands and the Q of Cups, before your post. They demand to be looked at! You've put your finger on some Q of C things I was wondering about, like the costume from an earlier time than the castle. (Just for fun, look her up on the MRP website, click on the image, and watch the raven appear and disappear--poof! :) )

Now, I've reached no conclusions about the Q of W, but one of my first impressions was that this may actually be a drag queen. I might be wrong, but:
-the person is fairly broad-shouldered for a woman.
-any suggestion of a bustline seems to be accounted for by the tailoring of the dress and the shadow of the necklace. The chest is broad, but there is no more real evidence of breasts than the pectoral muscles of an average man.
-the shadowy contour of the face is like that of a man's, not a woman's.
-the wrists and throat are covered, so one can't prove that the larger wrist-bones and Adam's apple are NOT there.
-there is no woman-fat on the arms, they're kind of flat, like a non-muscular man's. One can't rationalize that it's simply a thin woman, because:
-look at the breadth of the rib-cage, like a man's, that seems to continue straight through to the hips, rather than notch in at the waist. That's a thick waist. A woman that big in the torso would have big arms, too. The actual hip shape is masked by the exaggerated skirt.
-the jaw line is strong, with a broad chin. Women tend to have smaller chins.
-for what it's worth, I think it's a grey wig. One more glamoury.
Is this an actor dressed as a woman? Actors are reputed to be superstitious. Is this person afraid of the black cat? (In some places, black cats are considered lucky. I was brought up in the tradition that they're unlucky.) Or, maybe this person doesn't like real black cats, but doesn't mind the picture of one on the fan--there is one with a red bow around its neck, painted on the fan.
All the other people are in trompe-l'oeil paintings on the wall, including the puppeteer and marionette.
There are three candles lit in the wall sconce above the puppet, though it's daytime, and there is light in the room.

Absent-minded observations, haven't strung them together sensibly yet.



swimming in tarot said:
All the other people are in trompe-l'oeil paintings on the wall, including the puppeteer and marionette.
AH-HA! You've solved the mystery for me. I was so confused by those people, but now I see.

And you know, I think you're right that our Queen/Wands is a drag-queen. Certainly there's nothing more dramatic and flamboyant than that. Nor so bold, even if this is an entertainment where all the actors are men and he is only dressed in women's clothing for a performance. And there's an even greater distance between an older man wanting to be a beautiful belle than there is an old woman wanting to be one. It's all art and artifice, all tricks played on the eye.

I'm reminded of Hamlet when he speaks to the actors, and one of them gives a speech about Queen Hecuba and starts to cry as he recites it. Hamlet asks, "What's he to Hecuba or Hecuba to he?" Meaning why is this actor getting worked up over a fiction? Which, of course, is ironic as the actors in Hamlet are doing the same, getting worked up over the story that they're in. Getting lost in in it as if they were these characters, suffering these things.

This could really be a fascinating card if it's asking the same question. How much energy and passion do we give to the parts we play? The drama we involve ourselves in which has nothing to do with who we really are? Wands, to me, are as much about charisma and drama as they are about passion and fire. It's always interesting how willing we are to be fooled, either by an actor on stage, or by our own acting. We know that man in a dress is a man, yet we're willing to let him convince us he's a beautiful woman--and he's willing to convince himself of the same for however long he plays that part. I, myself, was fooled by the painting on the wall--so three-dimensional, yet it's a painting!

Looks like these queen of Wands/Cups have a lot more in common than I thought. What is real and what is pretend?


The background is the Masquerade Hall in Cesky Krumlov castle. We wanted to give the impression of a somewhat bizarre ballroom scene, and this seemed the ideal place:
The dancer is taken straight from a very old photograph. We found it really quite amazing - very unusual for a photograph of this period (I think it's 1930s). Personally, I think it is a man. Alex thinks it's a woman. The ambiguity and yes, as you say the "Miss Haversham" feel to this figure, is what attracted us to using it. It provoked very strong feelings on the original thread - many people objected strongly to the fact that this is a rather aversive Queen of Wands. I think one detail is more or less impossible to see but it might be worth pointing out. Her fan shows a black cat. The cat, I feel, symbolises both something that she hides behind, and something that can, at the same time, see through her artifice.

By the way, just as an aside, the whole castle is heavily haunted and also a site of fairy tales. Don't miss the story about the figures on the Masquerade Hall walls - it's believed that they once came to life:


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The Queen of Cups is a depiction of the classic German Lorelei. She's a beautiful siren who haunts the Rhine river - and who attracts men with her singing and playing and then drags them to their doom.
So while very beautiful, she is also very treacherous. The crow, I think, knows that this lady can be a harbinger of death.

By the way, we also used the Lorelei as our Moon card on the Victorian Romantic. I notice that we seem to circle around themes in our decks - there are many cross-references which are sometimes deliberate but more often just creep in.

I won't say much more for now, because I find it fascinating - and very eye-opening - so see other interpretations of these images.

But... well, I will just say that all our four Queens are hiding something, some truth about themselves. In contrast to the openness of the normal tarot queens, our Gothic ladies are tricksy and not to be trusted.

The Queen of Swords is, to me, Carmilla - the beautiful young girl who is in fact nightly sucking the blood of the young, besotted girl who she "befriends". That amazing, wonderful hair is nourished by the energy and lifeblood that she takes from another - yet she can seem so innocent. She has the wisdom and knowledge of centuries, even though she appears to be a seventeen year old.

The Queen of Pentacles? Well, she is one of those people who just pushed her way into the deck and I still don't know her full story. I didn't even know that the picture was a Penitent Magdalene when I chose it (although of course it's perfectly obvious that it is) - I just wanted it there. I think, the more I look at her, that she was a successful courtesan who fooled an old, rich man into marrying her. Penitent she is not! I doubt that her new husband will live long, and she is already planning her next move. Such a pretty face - hiding such a murderous character.
When she gets older, I think she gradually becomes the woman on the Four of Pentacles. She gets her castle, she gets her lavish jewellery, she has rings galore (one from each marriage?) and the money to pay for manicures and make-up artists. But look at her face - this isn't a happy woman.
If I saw both these cards come up in proximity in a reading I would usually see them indicating someone who is devoting their entire life, ruthlessly, to the pursuit of wealth.


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baba-prague said:
The background is the Masquerade Hall in Cesky Krumlov castle. We wanted to give the impression of a somewhat bizarre ballroom scene, and this seemed the ideal place
How better than a place called "Masquerade Hall"! It's perfect! A Masquerade is exactly right, to my mind, for the Queen of Wands, because the thing about Masquerades is that when people put on costumes they tend to become much bolder and more dramatic than they usually are. For a night, they can be reckless, flirty, silly, bold, passionate--either because they're hiding behind a mask, or because they're lost in the pretense, and know everyone else is as well.

Ah, so I made a mistake here, the painting looks so three-dimensional, I thought they were 3-d! It's "commedia de Arte" accounting for the person in the clown outfit that doesn't seem to be touching the ground. Got it! Painted artifice. Like the make-up on our Queen.

Her fan shows a black cat. The cat, I feel, symbolises both something that she hides behind, and something that can, at the same time, see through her artifice.
I also connected it with the astrological sign of Leo which I usually attribute to the Queen/Wands--in an ironic way, of course. Instead of a real lion, she gets a cat. Which I think goes with our Belle there. She thinks she's more than she is, the way the cat thinks it's a lion, a fierce predator, but really isn't.

Of course, a black cat also carries all sorts of other symbolic meaning, but what I liked was the idea of the Queen thinking herself all sleek and feline and such when it's very obvious that she's not.


baba-prague said:
The Queen of Cups is a depiction of the classic German Lorelei. She's a beautiful siren who haunts the Rhine river - and who attracts men with her singing and playing and then drags them to their doom.
Lovely and, again, perfect. Very watery, alluring, magical, dreamy. Very Cups.

The Queen of Pentacles? Well, she is one of those people who just pushed her way into the deck and I still don't know her full story. I didn't even know that the picture was a Penitent Magdalene when I chose it (although of course it's perfectly obvious that it is)
Thank you for that look at the card again. I thought her expression was distressed, but actually, she seems quite angry at the picture. As if she's saying, "That's gotta go!"

To me, the Queen/Pents--usually--is emblematic of a woman of excellent if rich taste. So it makes perfect sense to me that the painting would bother her not only in reminding her of something she doesn't want to be reminded of (i.e., money doesn't buy you salvation), but also in that it doesn't go with her very careful decor. It's probably a family heirloom and she's mad she can't just throw it out.

I do find it interesting how close the painting is to your Queen/Swords, who mimics it closer in dress and book and such, but isn't any more the Penitent Magdalene than the Queen/Pents is.

As for story--I can't quite put her in that loop back to the 4/Pents, myself, as I see her as the Queen, at the end with the courts. As someone who had achieved exactly that perfect love and aquisition of wealth that all those minor pents (including 4) want to achieve but fall short. Which isn't to say she is perfectly happy--the way she glares at the picture says otherwise. But she is the Queen. As close as the pents can get to that ultimate achievement, she gets short of the King ;)