i’ve written before about revolutionary girl utena, which i called at the time a “huge influence on me”. this is true, of course, but it doesn’t quite get at how the show lodged itself into my dna, at how much it shaped who i became. it was what helped me actually acknowledge my bisexuality; it was what helped me survive my adolescence, even after i left anime behind; it was what made me feel like i could be okay.
twenty years later, people ask me about the sword i had tattooed on my forearm.
there are many reasons i got the tattoo, some of which i keep private. the stock answer i give has to do with tarot, and the queen of swords, and how much i love that card.
one reason is utena.
you see, here is how the story goes: once upon a time, there was a prince much beloved by the people. this prince had a sister, who was a witch. when the prince died, the people blamed the witch for his death. (it was not her fault. the witch loved her brother but she could not save him.) the witch’s girl-child body was pierced with the million swords of the world’s hatred.
the witch is caught; she is trapped. the prince - not dead, only changed - finds another little girl and shows her his sister. the girl pledges to become a prince herself, to save the witch. it takes so much (it takes a miracle) but the girl does save the witch. she is free.
all this to say: swords are the suit closest to my heart and have been ever since i started reading tarot. it’s a suit full of struggles and also the beauty of overcoming difficulty. it always ends with a figure plunged through with ten swords and that always reminds me of the end of utena. (in addition to the literal tarot reading i mentioned back in december.)
of course, the million swords of hate are the beginning of the witch anthy’s story, not the end, though the audience does not learn about it until the last third of the show. anthy carries around the secret of her betrayal, by her prince, by the world, a sword in her heart to be used by whomever can grasp it.
anthy betrays utena in the last episode of the series; she slides a sword into her back easily, as though betrayal is second nature to her. she has been abused for years untold and she cannot believe, truly, in utena’s goodness, in her devotion to anthy. utena does not give up; she frees the girl trapped all those years ago.
i’ve said before that i needed to learn how to save myself but that’s not the entire story. the girl i cast in utena’s role when we were in middle school helped so much: she gave me a space where i could practice being brave, she told me she would be there for me, and she was. i was in my own trap, and she was instrumental in my escape.
so this week, darlings, remember that betrayal and heartbreak are never the end of the story. remember what beauty can be found in overcoming your struggles. and if you need it: i believe in you.
this week’s deck: sasuraibito tarot
this week’s crystals: rose quartz
ps, if you’d like to read some poems i’ve written about utena, check out “a girl who cannot become a princess is doomed to become a witch” at freeze ray and “The Witch is Dependent on Her Solitude” on page 35 of the september 2015 issue of the rain, party, & disaster society.