What links photographs of some religious sculptures, a tattoo, a BMW and bottle of salad dressing?  Ostensibly very little, but read on…

A little while ago Jo left a comment on my blog about Aysgarth Falls, saying how they may be rated as the second most popular tourist beauty spot in the Dales, but they were her favourite.  She was kind enough to compliment the pictures, but went on to say that rather an a photographer, she was a writer.

Naturally this piqued my curiosity, so I googled her to find that not only was she a writer, but a published writer with books for sale on Amazon, and her area of expertise is the Tarot.  As the Aysgarth post had arisen from meeting someone on a date, I joked with her that perhaps I should come and consult her for some help!

Now when it comes to any form of fortune-telling, astrology or similar, I’ve always been a sceptic, probably arising from my interest in body language as part of my job, and things I’ve read about cold reading beyond that.  A libran that I know well has been incredibly perceptive about me in recent months, those there was one prediction that disappointingly didn’t come true!

Nevertheless I’ve always been fascinated by the Tarot as a cultural artefact, questioning the origin of the imagery of the cards and their semiotics, so Jo’s post got me thinking again, and prompted me to set myself a challenge.  Could I find objects and images in Durham that would represent the Major Arcana, the 22 “trump” cards in a tarot deck?

Last weekend I walked into the city with this challenge in mind, not a photography challenge as I wasn’t out to create beautiful images, this more of a creative smash and grab, seeking anything that might suggest the title, if not the traditional image, of the 22 cards.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the deck the cards are listed below, together with some notes as to how I justified my choices of image where this may not be obvious.

The Fool  I rejected a couple of images of eccentrically dressed locals (including the busker with handkerchief hanging from one side of his hat as improvised sun shade) as I felt it was a bit personal, and the gargoyle was a good alternative.

The Magician  There are many shop fronts in Durham at present adorned with “Windoodles”.  Most are currently just outlines, but this one had much more colour and character.  It might have a been a candidate for the fool, but the colouring had a greater sense of showmanship and wizardry.

The High Priestess   A carving of Mary from Durham Cathedral.  Given the way she is viewed by the Catholic Church she seemed an appropriate choice.

The Empress   Queen Victoria – couldn’t believe my luck in spotting a man with a caricature of her as a tattoo.  Don’t ask me why!

The Emperor  Now this one had me struggling, until I started thinking more laterally.  This isn’t just any dressing (and no I’m not referring to Paul Newman!)

The Hierophant  Often referred to as the Pope and usually seen offering a benediction, this carving from St Giles was a decent alternative

The Lovers and The Chariot don’t really require further explanation.

Strength  It’s good to see Neptune back in the Market Square.  He has moved around a bit over the years.  Quite like this picture too.

The Hermit One of the two saints interred within the Cathedral, St Cuthbert, the subject of this carving, was a hermit for many years in the Farne Islands

Wheel of Fortune  No casino on my travels so this had to make do.  At least it’s round.

Justice and The Hanged Man speak for themselves.

Death  When the aforementioned Cuthbert passed away, the monks of Lindisfarne carried his body away in search of a suitable resting place away from Viking raids.  After several years they came to Durham and his shrine was developed into the great Norman cathedral

Temperance Within the tarot it refers to virtue.  The Temperance Movement sought abstinence from alcohol; hence tea-totallers.  The kettle worked for me.

The Devil  As a former employee of Barclays Bank I make no other comment than that this imp sits atop their branch here.

The Tower, The Star, The Sun, The Moon, Judgement are all self-explanatory.

APW_9118The World  This gave me some trouble at first, having failed to think of any local spots featuring a globe, I nearly resorted to the Thomas Cook window, yet this photograph taken today in the grounds of the DLI Museum seemed to sum up earth and sky. It just needed a little manipulation to become more globular.

So here we have it, the Durham Arcana.  Jo could doubtless read some meaning into the order in which they appear…

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