Of Lions and Virgins



William Blake, Songs of Innocence, The Lamb:

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

William Blake, Songs of Experience, The Tyger:

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

 What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Also from Songs of Experience:

Selfish father of men
Cruel jealous selfish fear
Can delight
Chain’d in night
The virgins of youth and morning bear.


I reminds me of Demeter and Persephone, or of the many many legends of the innocent, youthful, virginous, and pure, being imprisoned deep in the dark and cold earth by the evils of the world.   Blake’s writings are full of lions with heavy manes and ruby tears and innocent youth being stolen and imprisoned by wild animals.    Obviously I think this is another layer of meaning on this card, and really all the 8s, the interplay of innocence and experience.    This one, the 8 of Cups, innocence is cloaked in experience, covered, warmed, imprisoned maybe.  Is it our inner child (for wont of a less foofy expression)?  Is it our inherent humanity, goodness,core of goodness, which gets covered  out of necessity by skepticism, cynicism, ruthlessness, or even just maturity which naturally changes us and implores us to act out in primitive ways as we compete for our lives, the lives of our families and our ability to reproduce the healthiest children and continue our lines.  Sexual maturity.  New and old.

I still find it interesting that the lions eyes are closed.  And he is just a skin.  Maybe it implies something which is not living, a falseness, where the core is what is real.  Or at least real from one point of view, which is the point of view of this card, the 8 and Water; perhaps in water the innocent inner core is active and dominant.


The 8 of Disks painting has been sitting on an easel near my drawing table drying.  I have gotten more and more unsatisfied with it.  That white streak down the middle is way to glaring!  I’ve been trying to think of what color or image would be better and finally decided that I will weave the 2 lions together there – maybe put a little distance in it so it looks like they are coming together at a farther away point.


Back to the 8 of Cups, I was feeling uneasy about it last night while I was working on it.  I never did post what I had done the other night because I have been too busy to get to it but regardless you can see that I haven’t gotten much done.  I’ve just been going over and over the face.  I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like and it just hasn’t been happening.  So I wanted to see what other people have made of the card and looked at the modern bibles of the minor arcana, the Rider Waite and the Thoth.  The person in the RW is cloaked, as well, and seems to be abandoning something.  The Thoth calls this card Indolence.

**I just thought of something, if you ascribe the Major Arcana to the Hebrew alphabet starting with Alef-Fool, which I don’t *exclusively* then the 8s would be also associated with Zayin rather than Chet!  Weapon/sword/war.  ***


Anyway, Indolence.  I have to come clean and admit that I don’t know what indolence means.  I have never known what it means.  All these years that I have had and used the Thoth and I have never used the word indolence or looked it up!  Ha, kinda ironic!



In”do*lence, n. [L. indolentia freedom from pain: cf. F. indolence.]


1. Freedom from that which pains, or harasses, as toil, care, grief, etc. [Obs.]


I have ease, if it may not rather be called indolence. –Bp. Hough.


2. The quality or condition of being indolent; inaction, or want of exertion of body or mind, proceeding from love of ease or aversion to toil; habitual idleness; indisposition to labor; laziness; sloth; inactivity.


Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad. –Cowper.


As there is a great truth wrapped up in “diligence,” what a lie, on the other hand, lurks at the root of our present use of the word “indolence”! This is from “in” and “doleo,” not to grieve; and indolence is thus a state in which we have no grief or pain; so that the word, as we now employ it, seems to affirm that indulgence in sloth and ease is that which would constitute for us the absence of all pain. –Trench.

Dictionary.com, “indolence,” in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Source location: MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indolence. Available: http://dictionary.reference.com. Accessed: January 15, 2009.


So I have to ask, is the lion protecting the innocent from pain?  Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  Becoming like our biggest threat, our biggest danger, becoming hardened and cruel.    Or, to be less dramatic, just grown up and hungry, trying to survive in a difficult world, adjusting behavior in reaction to the dangers of the world.  Is the ultimate goal of this card to drop the shielding lion and be vulnerable and risk yourself.  Sounds eastern religion-ish.  OR is it to occasionally see the need for the lion, allowing it to awake! (a little Zayin there!)  It reminds me of the image on our Great Seal of the United States which has an eagle and in his right (dominant) talon he holds an olive branch, a symbol of peace.  In his left hand he holds a bundle of arrows.  His head is turned toward the right and the olive branch, but it is said that when need be his head will turn toward the left and the bundle of arrows.

Is the lion the bundle of arrows? 

Here is something else to think about, from Aesop’s Fables (another great source for animal symbolism, lions abound):

 The Eagle and the Arrow – An Aesop’s Fable
An Eagle was soaring through the air. Suddenly it heard the whizz of an Arrow, and felt the dart pierce its breast. Slowly it fluttered down to earth. Its lifeblood pouring out. Looking at the Arrow with which it had been shot, the Eagle realized that the deadly shaft had been feathered with one of its own plumes.

Moral: We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.


Another layer of meaning – to beware of providing the means for your enemies to destroy you.  

You can read that any way you want, and I am sure it would mean something different to every person, depending on how they live their life.  In the context of the 8 I would think it must in some part depend on what you have done and how you have behaved in the past.  Live good and well and karma has no reason to come smack you down.  Then you just have to worry about the Wheel of Fortune, and……


All in all I think innocence and experience is a good description of this card, and reading it will likey be very heavy on context.

From William Blake, Songs of Experience, The Angel (just a snippet)

So he took his wings and fled:
Then the morn blush’d rosy red:
I dried my tears & armed my fears,
With ten thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was arm’d, he came in vain:
For the time of youth was fled
And grey hairs were on my head.


One last thing.  Maybe a week before we got Starlight, I had the thought that possbly the reason black cats were thought of as familiars for magical folk is because it’s true, people who are in tune with the ways of the earth know there is nothing wrong with, or bad luck about lovely black cats and so we keep the persecuted little things.  Wellll…….maybe there is a little something to their color + catlike nature that makes them magic too…..

Anyway, whatever that was that was giving me a problem bonding with animals has lifted, I have been loving our pets and truly enjoying their company.  Starlight reminds me so much of my most favorite cat ever, Raven.  I even ran accross a Newf the other day and got to pet him and chat with his owner.  I’m feeling much better about it all.  Maybe I have loosened the lion over my heart, where animals are concerned.  Maybe that is what this card means for me, personally.

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1 Response to Of Lions and Virgins

  1. I love the way you think… 🙂

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