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.
Right, Cunningham. Can you believe the gall of this Nils,
sending me a tarot pack to read his own club's fortune?
Esq.: Quite a bit of boldness on his part. Say, I didn't
think old Colin believed in all that poppycock.
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
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.
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.
takes pack and mixes the cards up, a distinct set of
three frapping noises is heard.)
Why three times, Chauncey?
Esq.: Well, three's a sort of cosmic num-,
mind. I don't know! What's wrong with three?!
Oh, ho! I believe you know a little more about this fortune-telling
business than meets the eye!
Esq.: Nonsense, Percy. I don't know what you're talking
No, really. You were saying something? About the cosmic
numbness or something?
Come on, C.W., I won't hold it against you.
Esq.: Really, it was nothing. It's not like I'm some sort
of crack gypsy or anything.
All right. So these cards are now shuffled. Three times,
to be sure. Not that there's anything significant about
that number. What now?
Esq.: You tell me. There's lots of ways to lay these things
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!
Esq.: The what?
As above, so below. It's a newer diagram used to lay these
things out with
Esq.: Hold on, chap! Who's on the spot now? Where did you
get so much knowledge about these tarot cards and their
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,
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.
Right enough. So if you'll be so kind as to cut the deck
(A pause as Cunningham does it.)
Esq.: There you are.
All right. Now do you know about this layout?
Esq.: Despite my encyclopedic knowledge on the subject,
I've never personally used the one we're working on here.
Please do explain.
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.
Esq.: Coventry and Derby, for example?
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.
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.
Esq.: And I suppose the ninth card goes in the center, as
a sort of coup de grace?
Exactly so. This will represent the Oxford club, and more
amusingly, Colin Nils himself.
Esq.: Can't wait for that one. Let's get moving. Draw the
first card, Percy.
1: 9 of Swords
That's a downer of a card.
Esq.: I say! What's the poor fellow on that card doing,
weeping like that?
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.)
Esq.: You're not fooling around here.
I thought it might come in handy. Nine of Swords
"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?
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.
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?
Esq.: Rather. That incident may be what prompted Nils to
send you this pack. You suppose he's worried about a season
I'd bet money on it. So that's the nightmare Oxford's waking
up from. Not a pretty one, to be sure. Next!
2: 7 of Swords
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?
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.
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.
It's awful to say, but on a purely sporting basis, I think
his injury is a godsend.
Esq.: No comment.
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.
Esq.: All too true. Let's do move on, Oxford doesn't seem
to be coming into this season with much good karma.
3: 3 of Cups
Esq.: Ah, looks like a party! Or a witches meeting, rather.
What are those birds up to, dancing around like that?
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.
Esq.: Careful, Dwight. Let's try not to lose too much of
our own mystique here.
You're right. But Oxford does have a good attitude, win
Esq.: It's true.
4: Knight of Wands
Esq.: Hello! What's this one mean? Some sort of champion
for Nils, I suppose? I hope he doesn't think that's him!
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.
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.
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.
Esq.: My pleasure. Let's see what lies ahead for our Oxford
5: 5 of Pentacles
Esq.: Oh my.
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))
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?
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.
6: 4 of Wands
Esq.: Now that card's got all the looks of a winner.
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!
Esq.: Hmm, Pollack says that this card brings in the resolve,
the stability where previously there was none. Maybe Oxford
will pull itself together.
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?
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.
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.
7: 7 of Cups
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
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.
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
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
Well, he did send me a tarot deck to read his fortune
Esq.: At the same time, we're going along with it
Maybe this next one will clear things up.
8: 9 of Pentacles
Esq.: Looks to be quite a happy pair, those two in the garden.
The bird's blind, though. What's Rachel's take on this matter?
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.
But she's distant as well, still far from the house in the
background. Maybe this split is more of a possibility than
Esq.: Maybe we're reading too much into these cards.
It happens. Any guesses as to which note we'll end this
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?
I haven't the foggiest.
Esq.: Well, then.
9: 10 of Cups
Esq.: Ouch, not good for us, it seems. More people dancing!
And that rainbow! Why, it's almost as bad as the 4 of Wands.
Esq.: Better, I think. They're all so, so joyous!
What a crock!
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."
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.
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.
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!
Esq.: Relax, Percy. It's just a possibility. Uncanny how
it makes so much sense, though. Most of it, at least.
To hell with Oxford, let's reshuffle and lay them out for
this weekend's Uffington 36-wicket!