I’ve been rewatching Sherlock, which has me thinking about the ways the series has added to the legend of Sherlock Holmes: bringing the series into a modern setting, impeccable casting, and twists that keep the old stories feeling new and unpredictable. I wondered what the cards would have to say about how the new versions of characters add to the classics. I chose significators (cards to represent individual people) for five main characters (Sherlock, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Moriarty, and Mycroft), and then pulled a minor arcana card for each character to show what this iteration brings to the character. I rarely use Marseille-style decks, but the minor arcana in these decks are referred to as “pips”, and I simply could not resist the pun.

1.) Sherlock: High Priestess

I chose this card for Sherlock because it signifies hidden mysteries, intuition, independence, and a receptive energy. I don’t see Sherlock as a particularly receptive person emotionally, but his ability to take in every detail around him, to not discount the smallest clue, signifies a receptive quality.

2.) This iteration of Sherlock: 8 of Cups Rx (reversed)
The image on this card shows three upright cups and five turned downward. This indicates taking in more than one can hold. Sherlock locks every useful piece of information he has into his mind palace (this card also indicates visualization exercises), to be sorted out later. He can’t for the life of him remember Lastrade’s first name because it seems like superfluous information. Cups signify emotion, which we see in Sherlock’s frustration at being without a case leading to emotional outbursts and an over indulgence in drugs as a means to escape boredom. There’s certainly more of an emotional element to this Sherlock than the Victorian era iteration. There’s also more of a sense of him being an outsider. The classic version of the detective is highly respected by society and Scotland Yard; this version is routinely referred to as a “freak” and a “psycho.”

3.) Watson: King of Wands
I chose this one for Watson because it indicates generosity, courage, a need for action. This is a king who has seen battle, who uses his passion for the greater good. There’s an element of writing as well (the book in his lap). What clinched the decision to use this card for Watson was this line from Mary K. Greer’s book Tarot Reversals: “…walk through fire for something he believes in.”

4.) This iteration of Watson: 9 of Cups Rx (reversed)
Here we see three tiers of neatly stacked cups, all turned upside-down. This is some serious emotional release: everything that has been neatly kept inside comes spilling out. In the Victorian stories, Watson’s military career is really only referenced in passing, insofar as it pushes the plot along. The modern-day Watson struggles with his wartime experiences: he comes home with PTSD, a psychosomatic limp, and a new therapist. His military past is part of who he is and how he navigates the world. He’s so much more emotionally available than his Victorian-era counterpart (unsurprisingly–I mean, that’s kinda what Victorian England was famous for).

5.) Mrs. Hudson: Queen of Cups
Admittedly, I partly chose this cards because of an exchange between Mrs. Hudson and Lastrade in which he asks why she makes tea for the reporters camped outside of 221B Baker Street; she replies, “I don’t know. I just sort of do.” She’s a nurturing person, who is very sensitive to the feelings of others. The figure on this card is literally pouring tea, which is also–tellingly–known as “being mother”.

6.) This iteration of Mrs. Hudson: 5 of Swords
I love this image of swords appearing out of a haze; this shows those moments when Mrs. Hudson is talking at an unresponsive and disinterested Sherlock, and suddenly she says something that puts all the pieces into place for him. There’s a sharp mind and a strength of will indicated by this card, something sorely lacking in the Mrs. Hudson of the old stories. The modern-day Mrs. Hudson does so much more than show people in and serve breakfast!

7.) Moriarty: Tower
This card is about sudden and unexpected change, change you don’t want but need in the long run. It’s chaos that brings order in its wake. Moriarty forces Sherlock out of stagnation, boredom, and complacency. He strips away a false sense of security, security in his own cleverness, in his ability to defeat any foe.

8.) This iteration of Moriarty: 8 of Swords
This card shows an ability to reconcile differing points of view, to weave disparate ideas into something stronger than the individual parts (this is, in essence, what a consulting criminal does). There’s perfect order in the arrangement of the swords. I particularly like the celtic knot-work between the swords, indicating a true mastery of thought, the ability to keep intricate plans hidden inside ordered patterns. Where there’s a master detective, there must be a master criminal. Order, balance. But this version of Moriarty seems to me to be so much better suited to be Sherlock’s nemesis than the older version of the pair. The Victorian Moriarty was barely in the stories, and was only created as a plot device. He died trying to kill Sherlock Holmes; the modern version died trying to discredit him. This is what makes the modern Moriarty so terrifying: he understands that to kill a man is simple, but to destroy him is a whole other level of dastardly.

9.) Mycroft: Hierophant
This significator was by far the easiest to choose: the Hierophant represents “oughts and shoulds,” order, problem solving, institutions, “the system,” and vows (which makes me think of Mycroft continually siting the Official Secrets Act). The Diogenes Club (of which Mycroft is a founding member) and its illustrious membership also fall under the auspices of the Hierophant.

10.) This iteration of Mycroft: Ace of Cups Rx (reversed)
Here we see a single upside-down cup at the center of a large cross. To me, this is a clear indication of inwardly focused care. The Victorian Mycroft is sedentary and overweight. The modern Mycroft is seen on a treadmill in one scene; his diet is referred to multiple times. Both versions detest fieldwork, but the modern version hates it because he doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, whereas the older version can’t be bothered to leave his chair by the fire at the club. The Victorian Mycroft cares far less about the process of deduction than the results; as long as he reaches the correct answer, he really doesn’t see a need to show (or even think about) the work that lead to the result. The modern Mycroft continually asks Sherlock to explore and explain his reasoning. There’s an element of oneupmanship in both versions, but the modern Mycroft genuinely cares: about procedure, about results, about his own health, about his brother.


One thought on “Sherlock & the Five Pips (with Significators)

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