12 Days One: Hanekawa’s Sword Problem

It’s the first day of the annual 12 Days tradition. I’ve got a gimmick this year. I’m doing tarot readings for characters in anime. If you’ve got a tarot deck lying around somewhere, you should give things like this a try. I started doing it when I was watching The Last Temptation of Christ several years ago. It helped me understand the characters very well. Our first client is Hanekawa Tsubasa from Bakemonogatari. I rewatched this series this year. In this case, I taught the first two episodes. I’ll only do readings for shows I watched this year.

Here are the cards:


(these are from the Rider-Waite deck, painted by Pamela Coleman Smith. I’ll try to let you know something about each deck. This one is the classic, the one everybody’s seen. It’s based in part on Golden Dawn traditions, with Waite’s attempts at revisionism and historical references (that is, references to the older tarot tradition) thrown in.)

Note the overlap in the middle. The cards, in order, are the 7 of Wands, 8 of Pentacles, 4 of Swords, King of Swords, and 10 of Swords.


7 of Wands

A struggle to find one’s Will in the world, but one that should eventually be successful. The struggle is aimed at producing something new or getting into a new situation.



8 of Pentacles

Making things, particularly homely, earthy things. Someone works hard at realizing the goals mentioned in the previous card. They dot each i and cross each t. They don’t miss a thing.



4 of Swords

Severe swords meet a generous spirit. The mind holds one back from the society one craves. A kind of mental death follows. Or at least a sleep.



King of Swords

Mastery of the mental domain, a permanence usually not possible in the quick-moving realm of thought. The danger is that mental habits could cause one to stagnate, because nothing new is coming in or going out.



10 of Swords

Ominous. The mind has come back to earth, but the landing was hard. It’s a landing not everyone survives. Maybe stress has laid Hanekawa out.

There are no cups, which are traditional symbols of emotions, healthy or not. There are no major cards, which would indicate huge events (or, maybe, the lack of trumps indicate that, sad as we may be as viewers, she’s just a side character after all?). So what we have here are tons of cards showing us a person who is in her head most of the time. That’s the easy part. It’s also not too hard to work at things, to get details just right, because all those details were planned in advance. But it’s a real struggle to make any of that intelligence or hard work mean anything. Without some kind of emotional connection, it’s all effort wasted.

I sympathize. What I’ve gotten from re-watching Bakemonogatari is how cerebral everyone is. Spirits blunder across these people who are trapped in their own thoughts, and, as with Senjogahara, accidentally get wrapped up in the emotional lives of the humans around them. Hanekawa’s problem is even more internal, as she has a doppelganger, but the problem is still how cut off she is from everything. Spirits, perhaps, are the egregore we send out, like mental pseudopods, to try to connect to the great stream of life around us.

I wasn’t a practicing magician when I first watched this show. It’s a fucking experience to watch it again now.


Happy fun-time notes: as of writing this post, I have only completely finished the first Monogatari series. Please, don’t spoil anything for upcoming shows. I’ve been stuck in the Karen episodes for years now…

2 thoughts on “12 Days One: Hanekawa’s Sword Problem

  1. Pingback: 12 Days Eleven: Handa-Sensei’s Return to the Earth – Better Living through Symbolism

  2. Pingback: 12 Days Four: Motoko Kusanagi’s Devilish Entrapment – Better Living through Symbolism

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