This week’s Harrow card, The Carnival, is like a world turned upside down. At the center of the card is a scared child, running from a menacing harlequin. The child holds a fresh lollipop in his hand, and in the background we can see a shadow figure in stilts towering over everybody.
The circus and the carnival are two things that have been associated with fun and frivolity but are just as often as associated with chaos and uncertainty. It’s this last quality that The Carnival expounds upon, the kind of sinister, macabre carnival featured in films and stories like Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” It’s the atmosphere in which the colorful dreams of the circus become vivid illusions that hide a hidden, unpleasant truth.
Despite its foreboding appearance, The Carnival is actually aligned Chaotic Neutral. This is the alignment associated with disorder, madness, and unpredictability, but it does not otherwise have distinctive moral bend in any direction. In addition, it belongs to the suit of Stars, which corresponds to wisdom and intuition. In this way, The Carnival can be seen as something that throws our sense of the world completely out of balance. We may find ourselves in the role of the small child on the card itself, running from bogeymen and hobgoblins that seem to appear out of nowhere.
While The Carnival has no inherently good or evil intent of its own, its chaotic energy is often interpreted as negative because it ends up overturning the patterns we’re used to. The energy of The Carnival can be a potent aid for personal work, however, since it’s all about the hidden truth of the world, but it’s as dangerous as it is unpredictable. Only the surest and most dedicated hands can truly harness an energy whose rules change on a whim, and we can risk becoming an unwitting participant in the very thing we’re trying to use to our advantage. In this light, The Carnival can also be read as a form of risk assessment, challenging us to fully understand a venture’s true purpose and goal before committing to it.
The Carnival can be a reminder that things are not always as they seem, and that even the happiest face can hide the most devious of intentions. This is not to encourage paranoia, however, but to encourage a vigilant and keen mind. We are taken by surprise when The Carnival reveals its true self only if we are lulled into complacency by the bright and cheery show itself. In this manner, it can also be a warning not to give in to the bread-and-circuses distractions of politics, whether personal or global, and to see past the accompanying sideshow distraction.
Hematite, with its supreme grounding abilities, is an excellent aid for helping us to sort through the illusions and fanciful flourishes of The Carnival by helping us keep ourselves rooted and solid. Tourmalinated quartz can help us see clearly through The Carnival’s illusions while also helping to protect us from any negative energies that those illusions may hide. Both stones provide a strong foundation from which we can build our own understanding of The Carnival’s nature without becoming enveloped in it.
Bright blessings, and may the cards be in your favor.
The Harrow deck is part of the Pathfinder RPG and is a fun alternative to a traditional tarot deck both for those familiar with the game, or those looking for a different framework for divination.