Ever read xxxHolic? It’s old now, I suppose. I loved it when it was coming out, and owned nearly all of it. It turns out the reason the ending made no sense was simply because I’d missed a volume, oops. I decided to re-read it this year, in an attempt to sell it when I was finished. I have a few volumes left to go, but I did sell them, alas. I needed the space, and there’s a lot of xxxHolic.
So our “client” for the evening is Yuuko’s first client in the series, our main character Watanuki. If you don’t remember, or never read this thing, Watanuki can see spirits, and they make him ill. Yuuko is a witch who grants wishes. Watanuki wishes to stop seeing spirits, and Yuuko grants his wish — however, he has to work for her.
Honestly, doing this so closely juxtaposed to Bakemonogatari I realize both narratives appeal to me for similar reasons. They’re both about ground level magic, about a very particularly Japanese kind of occultism. I don’t have any tarot decks or oracle cards that are appropriately Japanese, so we’ll just have to deal with this one instead:
This is the Golden Dawn Tarot. There are lots of tarot decks purporting to be the deck the Golden Dawn used, but there’s no such thing. Every member was meant to paint his or her own personal use deck. So this deck is simply painted according to the instructions. So, for instance, if you go digging around in it you’ll see The Lovers card doesn’t depict two people about to get married (or get it on, at least). That’s the Rider-Waite tradition. This deck portrays Perseus rescuing Andromeda instead.
Anyway. The reading.
XVII The Star
There’s a run of heavenly cards near the end of the Major Arcana. They go Tower – Star – Moon – Sun – Judgment – Universe. The Tower represents a destruction of ideas or ideals, like the Tower of Babel was destroyed. I tell you that to tell you this: The Star is the first light that emerges after such destruction. Watanuki lost both his parents, and lives alone as a high schooler. That’s not too odd, for manga, but the narrative refers to it again and again. In this narrative it’s important. Watanuki is blundering around in the darkness, and only just begins to “see the light” as the narrative opens.
XVIII The Moon
The other reason I gave you the whole run of cards is that the next card is, well, the next card! The Moon typically depicts confusion or the vision associated with night time — dreaming. Watanuki is both lost in a fog of mystical vision and bound and determined to leave it behind him. He’s dreaming and he hates that that’s so. Over the course of the narrative he has to learn that, actually, it’s pretty cool (but dangerous). He has to learn to navigate by the stars and the moon, rather than the sun.
Princess of Wands
My first instinct is to say this is Yuuko, the witch. She’s a lady who uses magic, and the Golden Dawn certainly associated their magic with the element of fire (really all of them, you know how it is). Centered in the spread like this card is, it makes the character central. But, and this is crucial, not important. Yuuko is the catalyst for Watanuki. He thinks she’s just a layabout because she always makes him cook and buy snacks and serve up beer or sake. But she’s providing him a home life, something he doesn’t have. Eventually he starts cooking for classmates, who inevitably become part of his narrative for other reasons.
Plain and simple, right? Well, in this narrative, Yuuko always offers what people ask for, or what they deserve, or what they pay for. For example, at one point they get a client who is haunted by a photograph. Turns out, it’s a photo of her and the woman she killed long ago. Yuuko destroys the picture, but says if the woman ever allows herself to be photographed or recorded in any way, the image will be of that photo instead. So Yuuko behaves justly, not exactly “nicely.” Watanuki doesn’t like it, but slowly begins to accept that it’s right, even if it’s not good.
9 of Wands
The 9 of Wands is all about lunar power. It’s fire in the position of the moon, so I’d call it a card of powerful visions and magical prowess. Watanuki is learning those things over the course of the story.
Eventually Yuuko dies (though given that xxxHolic is part of CLAMP’s weird alternate universe thing, apparently the “real” Yuuko was never there to begin with? I don’t know, it gets confusing…). Watanuki takes over the shop and outlives everybody. His rival / bro / not quite love interest apparently has kids at some point, because at the end of the story the bro’s great grandson is Watanuki’s assistant. Watanuki comes into his own, even if CLAMP has to add in that melancholy “everyone dies” theme right at the end. They had to sign it somehow, right?