It’s time for some more Decemberists-themed tarot reading! You can read part one here.
If the song didn’t make it clear enough that the singer is a villain, puffed up by his own power and obsession, then the video leaves no doubt. The Tr*mp demon stands over everything and sneers and puckers its mouth and generally looks ridiculous. The song itself speaks to its victims, telling us, the listeners, that we need to stay out of the way and agree with everything, or we will be severed, cut in the same way the cutting stone would cut us. This is more than just a villain’s song, though.
This song is the one the band released early. It’s the first big single, basically, and it’s putting the album’s message out there. The speaker isn’t just powerful, they are aligned to multiple powers, like whispers, jackals, and surveillance (“it won’t take me long to find you”). Listening to the song on repeat (yeah, I just loop every song, one by one, while I write these), I have to wonder what the song expects us to do about this. I don’t know if my card pull will talk about that or not, but I feel as though the album overall does speak, to some degree, about our possible responses to the hellscape we live in.
This card more traditionally depicts a blindfolded woman clutching the two swords, as though she’s going to use them to defend herself. Here, the bird is free, and the fact that it’s a bird makes this more poignant. It also allows the bird’s nest to appear, which highlights that this prickly, defensive foolishness is about safety. When we cling to ideas that aren’t doing us any good, and when we use them to keep others at bay or to keep ourselves hemmed in, we risk cutting ourselves and others. The song is about a megalomaniac, but the card reminds us of an unfortunate truth: the demon isn’t likely to change. Types who build themselves into these mental “nests” do it because they can’t handle other people. For most of us, it’s a temporary problem that just builds up over time. But, for whatever reason, it’s just true that the “nested” person isn’t going to come out anytime soon.
This song delivers the answer the last song asks for: “hold your ground.” The song serves to depict the lives we lead, shambling, whispering, unsure of what to do. Two figures appear, the starwatcher and the skywatcher — they may be the same person, though one rules the night and one rules the day. These two figures, between them, watch over our time. There is light, if we just watch for it.
I’m very interested in the idea that one bends light and the other is “cruel and fey.” They seem like they’re fairies now, though they could just be unearthly in some other way. I can’t help but think that they are cruel because they are light: light reveals, no matter what the subject is.
This card is all about tension and conflict. The creators’ booklet says the snake with two heads pulls in two separate directions. That certainly describes our situation in and out of the song. This card makes me reconsider the starwatcher and the skywatcher. The card is about two poles pulling against each other, so I feel as though the starwatcher and the skywatcher are opposed, maybe like mythic siblings. The song’s called “Starwatcher,” and that refrain ends it. The skywatcher is cruel and fey, inhuman, out in the day staring up at the sun. That’s one way to be certain — to only be out in the day. The light reveals, but it does not allow for dreams, as the starlight does. It seems as though we have to hold our ground in our minds as well as in our lives. Live your dreams, or at least dream your life, to survive.
This song continues the sky imagery to begin with, and moves into a kind of dream litany. The repetition (which is amped up across the entire album) makes it a peculiar lullaby that’s somehow about the dream state itself. The narrator wants to connect with their love (I assume), but things keep getting in the way. A vision arrives as the speaker is about to go to sleep, in that state between the two realms. The song is about that liminal space. This song also marks (more or less) the halfway point on the album. Songs after this one are different from those before. The songs before are harsh and angry. Even though some following songs are about the inevitability of death and everything being awful, they’re cheerful.
Maybe the song just means we should get some sleep when we’re worried. That’s certainly true.
I love this card. It’s typically a guy making off with swords, generally with a few left behind. It often represents a reliance on trickery and other mental powers. It’s also often considered a fairly negative card, though no card is always bad. This version reinvents the meaning as well as the image, really. Raccoons are considered intelligent and fastidious creatures. They’re associated with thieves because they lurk around at night with masks on their faces. They wash their food before they eat it and they will get into anything, even without thumbs.
A raccoon “steals” because it needs something. But what in the world does this raccoon need with these swords? It seems a little like a trick. What are the people at this fair going to do without their swords? They’ll have to find something less violent to do with their time. So I have to think this card is indicating that the song reminds us to use our brains to take care of ourselves. There’s a non-violent way out of every situation, or, at least, out of this situation.
This song amps up the repetition until it starts to become hypnotic, setting the listener up for the rest of the album. I like the song a lot. The lyrics are from a ghost, haunting a house and a person. The ghost is the person’s, though, which is strange when you think about it. We might say a house has a ghost, or even that the ghost possesses the house (or a person). But can a person possess a ghost? Well, if the ghost is, you know, something else, then sure. The ghost appears everywhere, not just in a certain place. It’s tied to the person, like a feeling. Any feeling can work this way, cropping up in the strangest of places, never leaving us alone. Guilt, depression, sadness, mourning, loneliness all fit the bill very well, with the ghost motif.
This fox looks determined. The artists’ book describes the page as excited to jump out into the world, and the wands indicate creative or spiritual endeavors. Since the song is so entrenched in gloom and ghostly apparitions, it’s appropriate to “reverse” the card. As the Golden Dawn used to say, the card is “ill aspected.” That means the fox spirit is running but not really getting anywhere. The book mentions a creative project that didn’t pan out. In this context, the ghost is the detritus of a past attempt to do something. The haunted person tried something and failed. The ghost is the memory that that attempt, transformed into a constantly-appearing wraith.
We’re through a little over half the album now! Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion!