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


"As I approached, several vans came up a side street and unloaded police reinforcements. The new arrivals jumped out of the vans and charged into the crowd, swinging their clubs and chanting, "Kill, kill, kill."

--Pacifist David Dellinger describing a police attack on demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1968

Celebration is short-lived in this suit. The Five of Wands presents the storm after the calm. It is inspiration's first taste of intractable resistance. What manifests nearly always pushes something else aside and - as the Wands learn here - that "something" nearly always pushes back. Some amount of violence accompanies all harvests. Black college students faced it when they integrated lunch counters in the South in 1960. As the decade progressed, Counterculture exuberance was greeted repeatedly by police attacks. Civil rights protests, anti-war demonstrations, campus strikes, sit-ins, teach-ins, street theater, political rallies, even café conversations and organizational meetings drew - if not a violent police response - at least invasive, and illegal, police surveillance. Though the Sixties produced a war of ideas, many of its memorable struggles were fought in the streets.

On January 30, 1969, police began arresting UC-Berkeley students participating in a campus strike protesting the administration's refusal to create an academic department of Ethnic Studies. Mexican-American student leader Manuel Delgado was seized by five sheriff's deputies and beaten to the ground. The explosion of violence inaugurated months of conflict that polarized the campus, brought in hundreds of National Guard troops and resulted in dozens of police beatings and student arrests.

The Five of Wands proposes times of impasse and difficulty and there were many during the Sixties. Mythology scholar Barbara G. Walker describes a Druidic ritual, the Mummer's Dance, which survives in Scotland and Ireland. Five men with swords dance around a sixth, called The Fool, who is symbolically slain, then resurrected with a magic elixir. It is, as with Christ or the Devil, the"death and rebirth" of the hero at the hands of cultural authorities. In this modern Mummer's Dance at Berkeley the physical confrontation was intended to break the heart's hold on inspiration, to disenchant protesters with actions against both life and death - the life of new ideas and the death of no-longer-useful ones. "In the suit of power," writes Walker, "the dire five indicates powerlessness. Earlier security collapses into acute insecurity. Even though the impasse may serve a higher goal not immediately apparent, it feels agonizing to its victim of the moment." Speaking truth to power was not, by itself, enough and protestors must have been shocked at first to encounter a line of armed cops cheerfully willing to crack heads with their clubs. It was even more of a challenge to address the reality that most of the society's citizens favored a violent police response against students. A youth dying in Vietnam was honored. A youth fighting in the streets to stop the war was attacked and vilified. Both children were left by their parents in harm's way and together were sacrificed to stifle any adult reckoning with cultural failure.