Brothers in Arms

“You have to look at the card for a few seconds before you see that the animals that pull the chariot have neither reins nor bridles. It’s the Captain James T. Kirk card, the card of leaping before looking, of burned bridges and uncovered asses. The card of thinking you know what’s going on when you don’t. As a message for the reader, it was ambiguous.”

Rosemary Edghill

If almost anyone in my social network sent me a text that said, “Holy shit! I just hit myself in the face!” I’d respond with something like, “Oh no! Are you hurt? How did this happen?” However, when I receive the same message from my Misfits brother Tony, I’m like, “Good job, but you really don’t need to tell me every time you masturbate.”

It was Tony who talked me into joining the Misfits in the first place, and over the course of our friendship, we’ve coerced each other into any number of misadventures: For example, I forced him to go on a meditative labyrinth walk, and in return, he tricked me into qualifying for IML (which is probably worth a story of its own sometime). He currently lives in San Francisco with his husband, but he’s coming to visit over his Easter break, and in anticipation of our reunion, I’ve been reminiscing about our many escapades, the majority of which left lasting impressions on both of us.

My favorite, though, left permanent scars.

It all went down a couple of years ago, when Tony launched himself on a mission to come up with a concept for his next tattoo. After a few days of research, he emailed me to show off the design he’d selected to have etched on his bicep:

thurisaz
Innocuous AF, yo.

“Isn’t it amazing?!” he wrote. “It’s simple, clean and meaningful. Perfect”

His glee is always infectious, but something about the rune he’d picked was niggling at me. The runes themselves are decidedly not my forte, as I tend to shy away from anything occult I can’t pronounce, but seeing as how I have the entire Internet at my disposal, I poked around and quickly found a name and description.

Thurisaz. “Thorn.” Conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness, and male sexuality. Or, as Tony saw it, conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness and MALE SEXUALITY (-ALITY -Ality -ality…).

In an attempt to distract him with metaphysics until I could figure out a nice way to throw rocks at his joy, I was all, “Hey, that reminds me of the geomantic figure Rubeus.” To which Tony responded, “Brother! You should get that as a tattoo when I get mine!” While I appreciated the invitation, I was about as likely to get a tattoo of Rubeus as I was to have the word “republican” branded on my forehead. What I was likely to do was have a controlled meltdown over his identification with Thurisaz, but only because I fundamentally disagreed with his interpretation, and I’m never, ever wrong about anything.

Call it a pet peeve or control issues or what have you, but I lose my damn mind when negative connotations are removed from divinatory archetypes. A friend of mine once purchased a Celtic-esque Tarot deck, in which the Devil card had been replaced with “The Green Man.” There was no Devil in Paganism, the deck’s creator explained in the little white book, so there was no need for such a card in the Tarot. The Green Man — symbolizing nature’s bounty and gentle, paternal guidance — was ever so much more appropriate. One wonders how the Green Man relates to the obsessions and addictions foretold by the Devil, but one sincerely hopes it translates as, “You, alright?! I learned it by watching you!

Symbols have meanings, and those meanings have power, yet while we accept that ignoring symbolic warnings in the “real” world results in consequence (as anyone who’s run a red light in front of a cop can attest), we’ll toss out any portent with an “ick” factor when attempting to scry or divine. We won’t rework the meanings of standardized cultural motifs — which would be appropriation at best (“Why would you think I’m gay? This is the Pink Triangle of Imaginary Dietary Restriciton Awareness.”) and dangerous/idiotic at worst (“You guys are Crips? Neat! I’m a Scorpio, which is why I’m wearing this fetching red bandana.”) — but the logic that keeps us from doing so is nowhere to be found when we decide that the Tower means “invest in immoveables.”

Tony is fascinated by the supernatural but has only cursory knowledge of it, which made it difficult to loudly condemn his dtermination to stamp what I saw as the runic equivalent of a “Kick Me” sign on himself. Fortunately, he saved me the trouble by unwittingly pointing out what a dickhead I can be about these things.

Shortly after his first message, Tony wrote back to express some newfound reservations. He’d been tooling around online, looking for good Thurisaz pics to show his tattoo artist, when he came across some explanations of the rune that were less than glowy.

“I want it to be the right symbol for me, but there are a lot of really dark meanings here,” he said, his disappointment palpable even in sans-serif font. “What do you think? Should I get it?”

Fuck.

Tony may be a big, burly conglomeration of brotein, but he’s also, without a doubt, the most affable person I’ve ever known. He has no enemies — everyone is a friend until they prove otherwise, and if they do so, he wishes them the best and moves on without grudge or resentment. He is trusting and honest, and he trusts me to always be honest with him.

So I responded to his question as honestly as I could:

“I think it’s awesome that you see the good in everything.”

In the end, Tony got his Thurisaz, and I agreed to get a stylized Puer, which represents male sexuality in all its expessions (the phallus, the sword, the plow… the ink-filled needle) while being far less incindiary than Rubeus. Additionally, it’s the first of the geomantic forms in their proper order and signifies the beginning of the astrological year, making it the ideal start to an armband featuring all 16 figures.

Much like the Chariot, Puer speaks of jumping to conclusions; of shooting first, asking questions later, and setting aside collected wisdom in favor of immaturity; of losing your shit over your best friend’s choice of body art without stopping to consider how capable he is of making his own decisions, or getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment, because hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And you know what? It totally was.

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5 thoughts on “Brothers in Arms”

  1. Oh hell, I’m totally fucked up right now (proof being: I’ve had to retype practically every work in this at least twice), but it should be “reined”, not “reigned”.
    She’s talking about leather straps that lead horses, right? Reins, right? “Reign” refers to monarchies, not to physical guidance tools.
    Always look forward to news from The Forge!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “[Puer is] the first of the geomantic forms in their proper order and signifies the beginning of the astrological year.”

    Well, one of the many such orders, I suppose. I argue that Acquisitio is, but that’s neither here nor there. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently noticed that my Llewellyn Tarot deck also lacks a Devil card, replaced instead with “the Horned One” (Green Man–same meanings and connotations). It really bugged me when I noticed, because of exactly what you said about symbolism and meaning. Call me crazy, but I would like to know when I am getting myself bound up in some bullshit. I had no idea this was a common thing and now I’m super paranoid about buying decorative decks, in case they’ve also pulled this crap. I should just get a standard Rider-Waite deck (but I’m a visual person and I don’t connect to the images on the RW deck, wah, wah, wah…).

    THAT TANGENT ASIDE, good on you for not shitting all over your friend’s parade! It can be hard to stand back and let adults make their own decisions, especially about things that will be permanently etched onto their body. I think you answered his question in a very diplomatic way.

    Liked by 1 person

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