Placement: The Obscure Arcana
Framed in a circle of brick, a butcher slaughters an animal, usually a lamb, cow or goat, while an assistant holds the animal still. Visually, this card compliments both the Strength card* and The World card** of the Major Arcana. In many decks, The Butcher and assistant wear the tradition white aprons, often stained with blood. Sometimes, as in the above featured image, The Butcher keeps stains away by working in the nude. Depending on the deck, the animal’s reactions can be resignation, confusion or an eye-bulging, nostril-flaring terror.
In some rare versions of this card, as with the The World, and Wheel of Fortune,*** the creatures representing the four evangelists (Matthew’s flying man, Mark’s flying lion, Luke’s flying ox, and John’s eagle who, since it already had wings, was given the gift of opposable thumbs) sit in the corners of the card. The lion watches, salivating, the ox gapes in horror, the eagle preens one of its wings, and the man turns his head away, whistling.
Right side up:
You, or someone else who holds influence over your life, will destroy something to maintain your survival and comfort. This is sometimes necessary, even to those who refrain from consuming meat. Consider the tale of the holy knight caught in a gale on the snowy plains of Hoth, whose noble tauntaun expires to provide him a warm, though fetid, shelter. As Sir Elton of Pinn famously declared, “‘Tis the circularity of existence, which moveth us all.”
Other interpretations for this card exist, of course. In versions where The Butcher wears the toga and armour of a roman soldier, a lamb may represent Christ. However, other taroists in our community insist that this lamb has been spared by someone who picks and choses which creatures will live and which will die, which makes The Butcher a closer thematically to the Judgement**** card, despite a lack of zombies.
The lamb represents you. Beware of cleavers and human beings offering affection. You must sacrifice yourself in some way so that others may continue to thrive. Consider it an honour.
*See Strength, posted on January 25, 2016
**See The World, but not today. I have yet to write a post pertaining to that card. In the meantime, do go out and see the world.
***See Wheel of Fortune at some point in the foreseeable future. All futures are foreseeable, or else the tarot is nothing but an entertaining series of illustrations used in European trick taking card games.
****See Judgement… eventually.
Classic The Butcher deaths:
- You experience a wardrobe malfunction when the oversized wicker suit you wear to a civic event catches fire. The mayor assures you this is normal.
- Your liver pairs well with fava beans and a nice Chianti
- A cleaver accident
- Choking on a bone
- Mad cow
- A mad cow
- An entire herd of disgruntled bovinians
- A coup orchestrated by an army of same, joined by their sheep, pig, goat and duck allies
- Sacrificed as an “acceptable loss” in the war against the livestock hordes