by Diana Sobolewska
Once upon a time there was a young man who made his living by travelling from fair to fair. He would do tricks for people, and everyone would laugh and clap and throw some pennies. But one day, this young man, whose name was The Bateleur, decided he had had enough of doing the same tricks, again and again. Each town he visited looked the same. Each person who clapped, he felt he had seen a thousand times. He was bored. So he folded up his little table, packed up his few belongings and decided to go on a long, long voyage. He wanted to discover the world! He wanted some adventure!
But he didn’t know where to go. So he stopped off at a lady’s house for direction. Her name was The Popess. She was a very wise woman and many people went to see her when they had questions. He begged her to give him some advice. “I don’t know where you must go, but I can tell how to go”, she said. “You must listen to what your heart says. If your heart says go right, go right. If it says go left, go left.”
Chapters III and IV
The Bateleur decided to go right, and he reached a castle. In this castle lived an Empress and an Emperor. The kind Empress welcomed him herself, and provided him with food and a bed to sleep in for the night. The Emperor was a powerful Emperor, but a just one, and his people loved him. The Emperor gave The Bateleur permission to travel through his lands.
Next morning, the Bateleur thanked the Empress and the Emperor for their kindness, and went on his way. He walked many miles, over hills and dales, and reached a forest. But as it happens sometimes in forests, he got lost. He began to feel scared, lonely and hopeless. He cried out “What am I going to do now?”
While he was sitting with his head in his hands, The Pope came by. The Pope was a friend of The Popess who had already helped The Bateleur at the start of his journey. Do you remember her? The Pope cheered up the Bateleur and gave him a map to guide him out of the forest.
“ Good-bye and go well”, said The Pope. “Never forget, that if you have a map, you cannot get lost.”
With the help of the map, The Bateleur walked to the end of the forest, and reached a meadow, with fruit trees and sheep grazing there. It was so beautiful, that he hesitated to go on. “Maybe I’ll just build a cabin and live here for the rest of my life.” “But if I stay here, I’ll never know what is beyond the horizon.” “ Travelling like this can be so tiring.” “But it would be a shame to abandon my dream.” The poor Bateleur just couldn’t make up his mind whether to continue his journey or not.
Just then the sun set. Never have you seen a scene like this. The sky was suddenly golden, red, orange, pink and violet with blue glints peeping from behind some cottonwool clouds. The birds filled the air with their evening songs. The Bateleur was amazed, and felt such peace and Love in his heart, that he hesitated no longer. “If this is part of the world I am to discover, then my choice is made. I will continue my journey.”
After a good night’s sleep on some soft grass, he was awakened by the sound of wheels. A man was driving past on a cart pulled by two horses. “Hail to you, man,” The Bateleur cried out. “Will you sell me your fine cart and horses? I have gold pieces in my bag and will pay you well.” The man agreed to sell him his horses and cart. How proud our Bateleur was now. “This is wonderful!”, he shouted. “I can make my horses gallop and I feel like a charioteer! I will call my cart a Chariot! And it will take me to the end of the world!!”
But our friend was not paying attention. He was driving too fast and hit a large stone in the road. He veered off to the left, and his cart crashed into a cabin. The cabin was all in pieces. So was the cart. “Ooooh!” cried an angry voice. “Look what you have done to my cabin!” A lady come out from behind some trees where she had been hanging her washing. “Now how are you going to pay me for this! Justice must be done!” The poor Bateleur had no money left in his purse – he had spent it all on his horses and cart. But as he was an honest man, and felt terrible about having destroyed the lady’s house, he gave his horses to her. And he continued his journey on foot, not feeling too pleased with himself at all, as you can imagine!
An old man was walking slowly on the road in front of him. He was The Hermit and was known far and wide. He would go from village to village, teaching people how to find the truth. His carried a stick to support him. He carried a lantern to guide him at night. The Bateleur caught up with him. “Good day, sir”, he said. The Hermit looked at him for a long time. Then he said “Good day to you, Bateleur.” “How do you know my name?” asked the Bateleur. “It is written in your eyes, and I can read your eyes”, said the Hermit. “You know my friend, most people think that time passes. Actually, it stays where it is.” And then suddenly he disappeared. One minute he was there, one minute he wasn’t. The Bateleur rubbed his eyes and thought “I must be dreaming.”
Chapters X and XI
So much had happened in such a few days! The Bateleur had met so many people, seen so many new things, had done so much! It was starting to make his head turn! It was like those Wheels of Fortune he would see at the fairs he used to travel to. You would turn the Wheel, but would never know what you would win. “Hmmm”, he thought! “Life is full of unexpected surprises. Life requires courage”, he thought. “To conquer life, one needs Strength.”
And so he pondered on life and its twists and turns. He pondered on what he had left behind. He pondered on what he had gained. He pondered on what he had lost. He felt in between two worlds – like he was hanging upside down! “Today, I’m like a Hanged Man!”, he laughed. “Just hanging here and pondering!”
Goodness, how our Bateleur has changed. One can hardly recognise him anymore! He was just a young man who knew little about life at the beginning of our story. All he knew before were his tricks, his fairs, and the few towns of his county. He had changed so much in such a short time. “It’s funny”, he said. “I feel like I’m not really me anymore. But at the same time, I am me. I Can’t Put a Name on this feeling of mine.”
He continued on his path, and came to an inn. In return for a few of his old tricks to entertain the innkeeper’s guests, he was given food and shelter for the night. And that night, he had a dream. He dreamt an angel came to visit him. “I am your guardian angel”, she said to him in his dream. “My name is Temperance. Whenever you need me, call out for me and I will give you peace.”
“ What a beautiful dream”, sighed the Bateleur when he woke up.
He washed and went down to the dining hall for breakfast. At his table was a rather evil looking man. The man said, “I saw your tricks last night. If you join up with me, I can take you to places where we can become rich! I will teach you some tricks that will make people want to give us all their money! I will teach you tricks that will give you power over people! What do you say?”
The Bateleur thought that it would be nice to be rich. But something about that man made him think of The Devil. And he remembered what the Popess told him so long ago: “If your heart says go right, go right. If it says go left, go left”. He thought of The Temperance who had visited him in his dreams to talk about peace, and he knew that with this Devil man he would never find peace.
“ No thank you”, he said politely to the Devil man, and he got up from the table and left the inn.
The Bateleur was not happy. He no longer knew what he was travelling for. He no longer found his journey exciting. He felt that it had no purpose. He said to himself “What is my place in the world? Who cares about me? No-one misses me. No-one cares if I live or die. If I do tricks, people clap and then forget about me. No-one needs me.”
He felt suddenly that his past life had been thrown down from a high Tower and had shattered into a thousand pieces. He walked lonely down the highway and when at last night fell, he sat down wearily under a tree and waited for sleep to come. It was a stormy night, and the rain fell on his face.
Do you remember the last time The Bateleur was worried? Yes, that’s right! He saw that beautiful sunset. Now the night had fallen, and the sun had already set. But just before he shut his eyes, the clouds opened in the sky, and there shining brightly was a Star. He looked at this Star and it twinkled at him, and it seemed to say to him: “My friend, be of good cheer. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” The Bateleur gave a little smile, the rain stopped falling and he fell asleep feeling much happier.
Just before dawn, he woke up. His Star had gone, but there was the Moon looking down at him. The Moon looked so old, like an ancient, beautiful mother. He thought “The world is mysterious. It’s like the Moon. Who has ever seen the other side of the Moon? There are secrets to be discovered. Let me continue my journey and see what these secrets can teach me.”
When morning came, the Sun shone in all its glory. It dried The Bateleur’s wet clothes, it warmed his body. He lay on the grass, and listened to the birds singing, the bees humming. He watched the butterflies flit past. He saw a little green frog hopping by on his way to the nearby pond. A squirrel scurried up a tree.
Chapters XX and XXI
And suddenly, like a trumpet from the heavens calling people triumphantly to make a final Judgement on their life, the Bateleur realised that he was part of the World. The World was no longer outside of him, but in his heart. He was the World, just like the grass, the birds, the bees, the butterflies, the frog and the squirrel.
And the Bateleur was free. And freedom was good. He could be want he wanted to. A genius or a Fool.
And he was content.
And that is the end of the story. Now close your little eyes and go to sleep.
Diana Sobolewska is known for her love and passion for the Tarot de Marseille. She is also the founder of the Tarot Study Forum.
This story first appeared on Aeclectic Tarot, reproduced with author’s kind permission.