Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More Circus Royalty: The King of Pentacles

Although I changed the suit name to rings to be more in keeping with the theme of the deck (well -- they're round, they lay against the earth, and they contain all the physical acts of the circus), the suit is commonly knows as that of Pentacles or the much less mystical coins. The suit often pertains to money matters but it also focuses on the wide range of earthly needs, desires and wants... where the other three suits are loosely defined as those of the mind, heart and spirit, this is the suit of the body.

As such the king of the suit of rings is not a performer in the circus, but its financier: the clue to his identity lies in the poster: he is James Anthony Bailey, the circus impresario who, perhaps tired of competing with P.T. Barnum decided to team up with him instead, thus creating the world’s first mega-circus, Barnum & Bailey. Later, they were bought out by the Ringling Brothers and became the even bigger Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, or “Big Bertha” as they are referred to in the trade.

Unable to find a full-body portrait of Bailey to use on the card, I was forced to perform another Frankenstein surgery on him, and marry his head to another man's body. In this case, the body belongs to John Neville Maskelyne, a great Victorian stage magician, but also an entrepreneur and a partner of Houdini's in the effort to exposed fake Spiritualism for what it was: just acting and parlour tricks. The two men lived roughly at the same time, on two different continents, and Bailey's head looks right at home in its new diggs. 

As the king of the earthy suit he is intimately familiar with the day-to-day operation and needs of his circus from the top down. All others answer to him, the money man. He is industrious and successful, and in his positive aspect also reasonable and understanding of his employee's needs. The only way he can thrive, after all, is to keep everyone else happy.  However, in his negative aspect he is not to be trusted: ruthless, domineering, the opposite of thoughtful, interested only in the bottom line and what he can squeeze out of the people who work for him and his customers alike. We have been living in a world controlled by Reversed Kings of Coins for some considerable time now, and it has taken its toll on the culture.

-- Freder.