Five of Octopus Haeckel_Gamochonia_noframe

Placement: The Negligible Arcana


An untangled gang of octopus float grim-faced in front of a neutral background. At least, the top three and the bottom left octopus have grim faces. The last at the bottom right rebels from this apparent solemnity of the scene by mooning the illustrator. The others may not feel grim so much as annoyed at their associate.


Right side up:

Fives in tarot often represents the human struggle to achieve balance. It is the storm before the calm. As Boilsplat McFarland wrote in his three book opus from 1470, “The Lord alters its flesh in form and colour to confound all molluscers save those unrivaled in strength and cunning. The fathers of these skilled men learned the error of permitting them to keep company with its fellows. Two may slip from view. Three may break free. Four may take the floor. Five, you may not live.”

He explains over the next several pages as to why five octopus are a particularly deadly combination. To paraphrase, they join together by interweaving their tentacles, transforming them into a single supermollusc, with the most intelligent octopus forming the head while the others functioning as the limbs. This is why the octopus is considered a cephalopod, a Greek word that translates to “head-foot.”



Upside down:

Our own Anais Herschel (who has recovered from her recent ordeal with admirable courage) describes Five of Octopus reversed thusly: “Don’t worry about the **** you’re struggling with right now. That’ll fall apart. If the problem is you (and the problem is almost always you) then it’s you that’s gonna fall apart. Probably lose some limbs.” When asked for clarification, she rolled her eyes and explained that she meant the querent, and not me in particular. I would never sleep again if I believed that my bodily integrity depended on absolutely no one on Earth ever finding Five of Octopus reversed in a reading during my lifetime.


Classic Five of Octopus deaths:

  • Caught in a permanent tangle
  • Caught by a time-lost fifteenth century molluscer unrivaled in strength and cunning
  • A botched group escape from a the ship of a time-lost fifteenth century molluscer unrivaled in strength and cunning
  • Foot-in-head disease
  • Potatohead’s disease
  • A fatal case of the wiggles