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


"Many a housewife staring at the back of her husband's newspaper, or listening to his breathing in bed is lonelier than any spinster in a rented room. Much of the loneliness of lonely people springs from distrust and egotism, not from their having failed to set themselves up in a conjugal arrangement. The marriage bargain offers what cannot be delivered if it is thought to offer emotional security, for such security is the achievement of the individual."

--Germaine Greer, from 'The Female Eunuch' 1970

Existing far from the infatuation sparked by the Two of Cups, the Ten looks to build on love's back some reliable structures of security, commitment, and contentedness. Joy may emerge from sexual bliss but salvation arises out of reliable, even pedestrian, routine. Within the predictability of shared daily experience there exists an ineluctable comfort, even when the conditions of that comfort seem stark and confining. The comfort, whatever its quality, is a compelling symptom of salvation from a human's greatest emotional fears: loneliness and abandonment. Infants work very hard from the beginning of their lives to attach themselves to caregivers, to make themselves indispensable to their parents' happiness. To be anything but indispensable is to court a fatal abandonment since abandoning infants is humanity's oldest method of family planning. Babies have been left in the streets, dropped into streams, and smothered by their mothers (the English called the crime "overlaying" and limited its prosecution in the 18th century because it was so widespread). A tacitly legal version of infant abandonment was organized by the European orphanages of the 19th century, managed by nuns who received unwanted infants through a slot in a door and then placed them in large nurseries where up to 90 percent died.

It is little wonder that human anxiety over security and attachment has primal roots, and that this anxiety is expressed throughout a lifetime. It is notably expressed in adulthood when men and women seek in partnership to move a quality of comfort from the family of their birth into another of their own creation. For quite a long time humans have relied on gender roles to secure the comforting terms of their loving relationships. And given the high stakes of survival, it is remarkable that the Counterculture's women and, in some cases, men chose to challenge, undermine, and repudiate role-playing to old scripts that had provided reliable stability but no longer made emotional sense.

As women found their voices, old urges needed new terms of engagement. Examination of traditional marriage proved it to be a political institution in which power was distributed from the top down, from provider husband to dependent spouse and children. Counterculture men, alert and resistant to the regimented domestication of their fathers, also had issues with marriage. Like latent school children, men and women for a while retreated into the exclusive companies of their own genders to rant and explore while still extending the occasional olive branch to each other in urgent moments of intimacy. Women met together to raise their consciousness and affirm the legitimacy of their needs. Men gathered to find words for their unspoken feelings and restless anger, to beat drums and invoke the spirits of old warriors and wise men. Conversations continued. There were still marriages. There were still babies. But the terms of relationships, the rules of emotional security, were in constant flux then and remain so today.

Women and the experiences that grew out of Feminism's Second Wave brought about a transformation of intimacy. The Ten of Cups indicates the achievement of any valued goal, the realization of a dream, the arrival of someone in one's life who looks after one's interests, in Christian terms the visitation of an angel. But another meaning is a good relationship and a lifetime of loving contentment. As Barbara Walker writes, "In general the Tarot's 'salvation' was not the orthodox dream of heaven, but a practical solution to the perennial problems of fear, alienation, loneliness and disconnectedness." Salvation arrives through love, and with that love (the terms of which are now perpetually negotiated) comes only a security that is - and always has been - the singular achievement of the lover.