Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


Police: "We warn you that if you don't remove yourselves from the area you'll be arrested for blocking a public thoroughfare."
Puppet: "Who is the public?"
Police: "I couldn't care less; I'll take you in. Now get a move on."
Puppet: "I declare myself public - I am public. The streets are public - the streets are free."

--Exchange between police and an eight-foot puppet at the Diggers' "Full Moon Public Celebration" at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets, San Francisco - Halloween, 1966.

The fourth card of the fiery suit advances thought and action with a whimsical heart. Four's firm symmetry marks a point of completion: the impetus (Ace), the choice (Two), and the flow (Three) are momentarily consolidated. It is time for celebration. The action inspired by the Four of Wands is playful, but forceful. It draws a crowd. The Rider-Waite card shows a garlanded bower convoking a cluster of joyful women. Here in 1968 the San Francisco Mime Troupe, under its curtained, portable stage, performs one of its hilarious and didactic productions. It is one of a hundred revolutionary melodramas in its repertoire, each a comic morality play about the triumph of human kindness (and a socialist agenda) over the villainous conniving of greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians.

In 1966, some 20 performers broke away from the Mime Troupe to form a new group called The Diggers, dedicated to taking the Mime Troupe's guerrilla theater one-step farther. Instead of just engaging an audience, the Diggers would employ it, creating Countercultural activities and events in which an audience participated directly. The "Full Moon Public Celebration" was one of its first, enlisting hundreds of hippies to dance with giant puppets in the Haight-Ashbury street intersection on Halloween night as a way to block caravans of rubber-necking tourists. Flummoxed cops who tried to stop the event were reduced to arresting a puppet. Led by Emmett Grogan, The Diggers lived their parts, identifying strongly with the hippie habitués of the Haight and less with political activists. Grogan and other Diggers went to the city Farmer's Market each week and scrounged for leftover meat and produce to make a cauldron of soup they dished up free on a lawn near Golden Gate Park. To receive a bowl, people walked through a large yellow picture frame called the Free Frame of Reference, a ritualistic reminder that by accepting free food they were literally changing the frame of their reference, they were themselves actors in the show and by changing their minds could thereby change the world.

Digger performances appeared every few weeks supporting the pure Digger vision of the Haight as a small self-sufficient society free of money and capitalism. With charitable support from the Haight's suddenly wealthy rock bands, the Diggers opened Free Stores (offering free recycled merchandise), free clinics, and free crash pads for hundreds of homeless young people flowing into the Haight neighborhood. The Diggers sponsored rock concerts and events, resentful at times that hippy merchants - who appreciated the extra business - weren't more forthcoming with support. Grogan was not above simply taking what he needed for free performances. It sometimes meant "appropriation", a revolutionary word for stealing that, the Diggers proposed, was just a capitalistic notion applied to the righteous confiscation of resources that by rights belonged to everyone. The underlying hook of all Digger activity was a vision of freedom that derived from a vaguely described, yet emotionally tangible, anarchism and a belief that all anyone really needs should be available without cost.