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Autumn's Tarot Reading for the Oxford Club
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN PERCIVAL DWIGHT AND CHAUNCEY W. CUNNINGHAM, ESQ.
EXCERPTED FROM PHOOKA NO.427

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On what seemed to be quite a lark, Oxford chapter president Colin Nils sent a copy of the Rider-Waite Tarot to Phooka correspondent Percival Dwight and suggested that he forecast the fate of Team Oxford for the fall season. As the Wight chapter will be Oxford's top concern in the fall season of overland croquet, it is unsure whether Nils did this as a gesture of good faith (in the spirit of croquet) or as what we like to call a 'tice (in the true spirit of croquet). To compose a more even-handed reading, Dwight enlisted the aid of Glastonbury Trounce favourite Chauncey W. Cunningham, Esq., to help with the divination. Cunningham comes from the Manx club, another high contender against Oxford, but nevertheless a friendly rival, as are all chapters throughout Britain. As croquetists are firm believers in glasnost, Dwight and Nils agreed to have the meeting recorded and reprinted here for all O.M.C. members to read. Time will tell if this forecast rings true.

PD: Right, Cunningham. Can you believe the gall of this Nils, sending me a tarot pack to read his own club's fortune?

CWC, Esq.: Quite a bit of boldness on his part. Say, I didn't think old Colin believed in all that poppycock.

PD: It's my feeling he doesn't. I think the boy's trying to throw us for one here. Ah well, I can take a prank as well as give one, so let's get started. Do you know how to use these things?

CWC, Esq.: Well, I'm not one to believe in nonsense either, Dwight, but I will admit that I used to indulge my fancy for the more, how shall we say, occult, side of life. Back in school, you know.

PD: Aha! Then you can shuffle them, or whatever it is needs be done with these things for us to figure out what's going to happen to the old town's team this fall.

(Cunningham takes pack and mixes the cards up, a distinct set of three frapping noises is heard.)

PD: Why three times, Chauncey?

CWC, Esq.: Well, three's a sort of cosmic num-, …er, never mind. I don't know! What's wrong with three?!

PD: Oh, ho! I believe you know a little more about this fortune-telling business than meets the eye!

CWC, Esq.: Nonsense, Percy. I don't know what you're talking about…

PD: No, really. You were saying something? About the cosmic numbness or something?

CWC, Esq.: Nothing.

PD: Come on, C.W., I won't hold it against you.

CWC, Esq.: Really, it was nothing. It's not like I'm some sort of crack gypsy or anything.

PD: All right. So these cards are now shuffled. Three times, to be sure. Not that there's anything significant about that number. What now?

CWC, Esq.: You tell me. There's lots of ways to lay these things out.

PD: Nils gave me this sort of map with the deck. Looks like a sort of simplified greensward, actually. Oh, I say, it's the "As above, so below" spread!

CWC, Esq.: The what?

PD: As above, so below. It's a newer diagram used to lay these things out with…

CWC, Esq.: Hold on, chap! Who's on the spot now? Where did you get so much knowledge about these tarot cards and their layouts?

PD: Oh, shite and onions! You've got me, Chauncey. I was trying to feel you out, first. I'm actually quite fond of the tarot, you see.

CWC, Esq.: I figured as much. Well, we might as well get on with it. It's not as though we won't both be exposed when all this drivel is printed anyway. The agony.

PD: Right enough. So if you'll be so kind as to cut the deck… (A pause as Cunningham does it.)

CWC, Esq.: There you are.

PD: All right. Now do you know about this layout?

CWC, Esq.: Despite my encyclopedic knowledge on the subject, I've never personally used the one we're working on here. Please do explain.

PD: There are nine cards involved, with the first eight surrounding the ninth. Numbers 1 and 2 go to the west, and signify "behind," or what's over and done with. In Oxford's case, this would mean the history of the club, and the baggage they're bringing into the season. It's the part that is losing control over the chapter as the new bits begin. Cards 3 and 4 are placed to the north, as what is "above" Oxford.

CWC, Esq.: Coventry and Derby, for example?

PD: Work with me here, Chauncey. They're showing the environmental status of the chapter. It's how Oxford interacts with the other clubs, their essence generale, if you will.

CWC, Esq.: Ah.

PD: So moving around clockwise, we have cards 5 and 6 on the east side of the center. These are designated to show what is "before" the club this fall, the real meat and potatoes of the reading. It's what's coming into focus on the horizon and what Oxford can expect from the rest of us this fall. These are the cards Nils is most interested in, likely. "Below," or south of center, lie cards 7 and 8, the forces Oxford has under control already, their grounded abilities and players. They also show what support the club has, maybe from outside sources.

CWC, Esq.: And I suppose the ninth card goes in the center, as a sort of coup de grace?

PD: Exactly so. This will represent the Oxford club, and more amusingly, Colin Nils himself.

CWC, Esq.: Can't wait for that one. Let's get moving. Draw the first card, Percy.

PD: All right.

Card 1: 9 of Swords

PD: That's a downer of a card.

CWC, Esq.: I say! What's the poor fellow on that card doing, weeping like that?

PD: Looks like a nightmare victim. Let's consult Pollack. (Dwight extracts a copy of Rachel Pollack's double-volume set, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, from the bookcase.)

CWC, Esq.: You're not fooling around here.

PD: I thought it might come in handy. Nine of Swords… Here. "The image of deepest sorrow, of utmost mental pain." Hmm, that's not what I expected to find in Oxford's closet. Do you suppose they've been hiding something from us?

CWC, Esq.: Well, Nigel Trond did drive a hoop clean through his foot last month. He was drunk as a fitch, hammering in his own course. Spiky things, those hoops. And swords.

PD: By god, that's right! Oxford won't be the same without him. Be a while before that lad is back on the trounce, eh?

CWC, Esq.: Rather. That incident may be what prompted Nils to send you this pack. You suppose he's worried about a season without Trond?

PD: I'd bet money on it. So that's the nightmare Oxford's waking up from. Not a pretty one, to be sure. Next!

Card 2: 7 of Swords

CWC, Esq.: Again with the swords! So this one is a picture of a chap making off with a bunch of weapons from an enemy camp, looking over his shoulder and grinning as he does it. What's Rachel say?

PD: Oh, this one's good. She says it's about taking action against difficulties, a daring act or a strike against enemies. You know what I think it is? It's all that gear Oxford got from Reading when their chapter closed up shop. They made quite a killing at that auction.

CWC, Esq.: To be sure. I'd say that as far as equipment goes, Oxford has got the best there is. Still, it won't make up for the loss of poor Nigel.

PD: It's awful to say, but on a purely sporting basis, I think his injury is a godsend.

CWC, Esq.: No comment.

PD: The description goes on. It's about how this gain will amount to no gain. The club is still working with its own players, and while they're quite good, it's still mano y mano out on the greensward.

CWC, Esq.: All too true. Let's do move on, Oxford doesn't seem to be coming into this season with much good karma.

PD: Yes.

Card 3: 3 of Cups

CWC, Esq.: Ah, looks like a party! Or a witches meeting, rather. What are those birds up to, dancing around like that?

PD: Like I explained at the onset, this is Oxford's atmosphere, their dealings with other clubs. You must admit they're a jovial bunch, and always enjoy a party or tournament. This looks to be the club keeping its spirits high despite the loss. They are celebrating the harvest, a common theme in these fall tournaments, and everyone is invited. This is probably them preparing for the Doppelganger Doubles tourney in November. That's always a joy. It could also be the club's positive attitude when coming into a game. Oxford always seems to be the most confident.

CWC, Esq.: Careful, Dwight. Let's try not to lose too much of our own mystique here.

PD: You're right. But Oxford does have a good attitude, win or lose.

CWC, Esq.: It's true.

Card 4: Knight of Wands

CWC, Esq.: Hello! What's this one mean? Some sort of champion for Nils, I suppose? I hope he doesn't think that's him!

PD: This one's a contrast to those witches next to him. The wands are the suit of fire, and the knight epitomizes the same element. He's here to show a mad dash into the fray, a bunch of thrashing about with no real goal. He's a troublemaker, but he's got no real plans. I don't think Nils would like to be associated with this fellow.

CWC, Esq.: No. Looks like the club might be a little less sure of itself than we thought. This knight's brash, but his plans are unfinished.

PD: Should prove to be an interesting season, nonetheless. Powerful yet unpredictable. From what I've seen so far, Oxford will be pulling out of its past misfortunes in a strong way. We may have our hands full. All right. Card 5, please. And if you'd like Chauncey, you can read Pollack for the rest.

CWC, Esq.: My pleasure. Let's see what lies ahead for our Oxford rivals.

Card 5: 5 of Pentacles

CWC, Esq.: Oh my.

PD: Yes, this one looks to be rather nasty. For them, I mean. Could that little man on the crutches be Trond? (Coughs audibly. (Stifling a chuckle perhaps? -RB))

CWC, Esq.: I hope not, for his sake. Let's see what Madame P. has to say on the matter. She's talking about a team that stays together throughout the hardship, that the hardship itself is what binds the group. Without it they may dissolve. Also, notice the church behind these two beggars. They certainly aren't seeing it, or if they are, they don't care. Do you think Oxford plans to secede from the Association? Another way to look at it is that the church is locked for the night, as most churches are nowadays. They couldn't get in if they tried. What do you make of it, Dwight? Do you think Oxford is planning a split?

PD: I'm not sure what to think. Oxford is probably the strongest club in the Association now. A split could be possible, but what could the advantage be to that? I'm leaning toward the original feel, that Team Oxford is riding out the storm despite their loss of Trond, and as we saw in the last card, their inability to focus.

Card 6: 4 of Wands

CWC, Esq.: Now that card's got all the looks of a winner.

PD: It certainly does. Those two in the middle are even holding up laurels, like they've won the championship. And the people in the background are dancing, much as if they're celebrating the victory. Quite similar to the 3 of Cups in space three. Oh, Nils is rolling on the floor laughing as he reads this, to be sure!

CWC, Esq.: Hmm, Pollack says that this card brings in the resolve, the stability where previously there was none. Maybe Oxford will pull itself together.

PD: Perhaps. But is the four-poster figure in the foreground their new home, after they've marched away from the walled city? Is this the outcome of the split we're predicting?

CWC, Esq.: Very observant, Dwight! Yes, it's an open, vulnerable structure. This is still the suit of fire, you know. The wands are often brash and optimistic. Still, it's a better scenario than the one presented just one card previous.

PD: True, true.

CWC, Esq.: She goes on to explain that these are the two people who are tossed into oblivion by the Tower card, number sixteen in the Major Arcana. I wouldn't be surprised if that one came up later. But we've got no more future to predict here. Let's take a look at the soil Oxford is standing upon.

Card 7: 7 of Cups

PD: That's an odd looking scene. Everything from the Shroud of Turin to the spoils of war. But look at the laurels here, extending from a poison cup! What could this mean as Oxford's basis?

CWC, Esq.: Looks like shaky ground to me. The contents of these cups are visions, not realities, but the dreamer (I would suppose this to be Nils) is able to take them or leave them. That is, if he wants to make something of his dreams, he needs to be proactive. Not too likely given the thrashing nature of the previous cards.

PD: Still, this card falls into the "below" section of the reading. Could this be how Nils runs his club to begin with? If so, all this dodgy action could be business as usual.

CWC, Esq.: Each of the visions is distinct, and need not connect to any of the others. I think Nils may be a bit daft, his headgear may be a bit tall and pointy, if you know what I mean.

PD: Well, he did send me a tarot deck to read his fortune with.

CWC, Esq.: At the same time, we're going along with it…who knows?

PD: Maybe this next one will clear things up.

Card 8: 9 of Pentacles

CWC, Esq.: Looks to be quite a happy pair, those two in the garden.

PD: The bird's blind, though. What's Rachel's take on this matter?

CWC, Esq.: It's prosperity. A rich and successful life through sacrifices and proper choices. This one's not in keeping with the other cards we've seen, but it paints a better picture of what I've always thought of Oxford. The club has consistently made careful choices in the past, why are so many of these brash cards thrown into the mix? This is in keeping with their old system of policies, but perhaps the club is gearing up for a change. I'm thinking that we're about to see some real change from Nils and his group.

PD: But she's distant as well, still far from the house in the background. Maybe this split is more of a possibility than we've imagined.

CWC, Esq.: Maybe we're reading too much into these cards.

PD: It happens. Any guesses as to which note we'll end this tune on?

CWC, Esq.: Well, I was hoping for a card or two from the Major Arcana. Something bold in the club's future. I'm not wanting to see anything too positive, you know, for the sake of the rest of us. Maybe The Fool or The Tower. Something like that to shake up old Nils, you know. Yourself?

PD: I haven't the foggiest.

CWC, Esq.: Well, then.

Card 9: 10 of Cups

PD: Oh, hell.

CWC, Esq.: Ouch, not good for us, it seems. More people dancing!

PD: And that rainbow! Why, it's almost as bad as the 4 of Wands.

CWC, Esq.: Better, I think. They're all so, so joyous! What a crock!

PD: Give me that book! I want to see what this is supposed to mean. Ah, the rainbow as taken in the Biblical sense is a symbol of renewed faith. Never again will God flood the earth with such misfortune. "But the rainbow carries a more positive promise," she says. "That life brings happiness and not just an absence of pain."

CWC, Esq.: Bollocks.

PD: Well, I hope he doesn't take this outcome to mean he can lead his club to the Promised Land. There's a harder road ahead for Oxford if they do split.

CWC, Esq.: Why split now, though? It's obvious from the rest of the cards here that Oxford plans to win it all through sheer unpredictability and force of will.

PD: Still it looks like they've got nothing to lose. Colin, if you're reading this, which I'm sure you are, congratulations on your victory in cards, but a house of cards won't stand long against Team Wight!

CWC, Esq.: Relax, Percy. It's just a possibility. Uncanny how it makes so much sense, though. Most of it, at least.

PD: To hell with Oxford, let's reshuffle and lay them out for this weekend's Uffington 36-wicket!

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