Force. Tension. Expansion. Like a massive tree trunk with roots running deep, arising out of the earth and reaching upward to the sky, so the baton presents itself vibrating with life. Made of wood and wielded with power. I position myself with the baton in hand like the Ace and I have a plan. A plan to give shape to what I carry yet unpolished.
Like trees in a forest, batons proliferate and stretch out in a verdant web. When batons in the wild are encountered one initially inserts the body amidst the trees, then comes the taking and deconstruction, in order to transform the tree and its branches into something else. Herein enters labor. A tree is a tree until it is transformed by hands, through sweat, labor, and the domination of the wood. This wood deconstructed becomes home, chair, table, utensils, tools, instruments, church pews, stairs, among many other things. In this way batons have multiform potential.
As one or many labor over the wood or woods, there is a plan afoot, a goal in mind to coax out of the unpolished material.
A plan + Labor (Time) = Accomplished work.
From another angel, baton as stick, either staff or cudgel, carries with it connotations derived from its use.
It is a sign of leadership, order, and as mentioned in the above definition, authority. It is an active tool, since wielding a baton is to do so deliberately, brandishing it, or holding it up high into the air to direct. Batons like swords also protect, keeping what is unwanted at bay. They are capable of hurting, since one can hit with a baton and bruise the body.
Because the baton embodies different functions depending on how the body engages with it, the suit of batons carries acquired dynamic qualities. Ones that are closely linked with labor, as the body exerts itself to wield a baton in different situations. From building things and objects to directing, or holding as a symbol of power.
When looking at the suit as a whole, their weight and density lies heavy, especially as they proliferate. As a thing that can be made into homes and buildings, objects for everyday use, and tools, there is a sense of imposition. Batons impose themselves even as we and our ideas do the same upon the wood.
Out of the four suits, batons stand as the structurally formidable. Forming edifices small and large wherein we are faced with their spatial quality, as in, how much space the stacks of wood take up.
Starting with one, it is upheld like the sword, yet exempt from the cold austerity of steel, the wooden baton holds potential. Two enters the picture, and we can now begin to labor toward a mutual goal. Then the invested hard work is paying off as three appears, opening the road for what is taking shape.
With four, as with all fours, the foundation is laid like a table, or a home with four walls that offers protection against the outside world. Fives are the heart, the core that holds the foundation. Yet at its most basic, fives are the fulcrum wherein the stacked batons exert their equilibrium. Exercise, physical mobility, and movement are subsumed here.
The sixes open a way down the path. Between the confrontation of the four and the five, the six provides a path onward. The seven is the true breakthrough, the unforeseen revelation that puts a momentary pause in what we are trying to build, or directing into fruition. The solutions comes in the shape of the bigger picture, context, via the eight of batons. In the eight we are able to witness what was previously up until now unformed, for here the full shape of the thing itself is encountered.
Nine takes the context and gives it flight. What was being built has expanded beyond the builders. It is now more than the sum of its parts. With nine and ten the transition of exhaustion and overwhelm begins to set in. Ten says no more, too much, full stop.
Yet batons are more versatile than their numerological constraints from 1-10. One can also consider the machinations of labor in relation to power. When wielded, the wielder holds a symbol of authority, integrating the power of influence over a group of others. There’s the maestro conducting the orchestra, or the police officer carrying it as a symbol of both protection and violence. Moreover, just as these particular applications of baton exerts its power on another, so the other, those below this position, exert their agency upon baton through the breadth and depth to which the baton as tool can be used in everyday life. Such as mentioned previously, the capacity of building for oneself home, tools for use, for comfort, for play, and for protection. Let’s look at some examples of baton wielders from the tarot pack outside of the suit itself.
Batons figure prominently within the context of the 78 cards, as opposed to the other suits. From walking sticks that help guide the way and balance the body in motion, to kings and queens overseeing their kingdom from a vantage point, and then there are the tricksters.
We come back to trees, from which batons are taken. Trees that reach without ceasing below and above. Expanding, withstanding, laboring in their particular cadence, non-human, but intricately entwined with human activity. Just as trees extend their branches and their roots, so batons extend their myriad functions as they interact with human life.
Why accomplished work? Because the use of batons is closely tied to accomplishing an end goal, a physical end goal. Transforming one thing into another thing through the exertion of labor and time. Hence why typically in Marseille Tarot context the suit of batons is the suit of the laborer, the worker. As Jean-Claude Flornoy states in the little booklet that accompanies the Jean Noblet Tarot, “Batons are those who produce and construct (peasants and craftsman).”
To mirror one the 21 Trumps…
A cloaked woman wearing a wide brimmed hat topped with a crown, and flowing robes opens the mouth of a lion. Her hands venturing into the mouth, fearless, while her face is set in a sly expression of competence. Strength proves her mettle and is victorious in the act. No other card in the pack embodies the dimensional quality and power of the batons like the 11th Trump. Portents of manipulation and force reveal themselves in her performance. She labors and asserts her power through accomplishing the taming of the beast.
The suit of batons is one where the mettle is tested against the vicissitudes of fate. It is a test of power, of physical capacity, and of competence. Strength deploys these functions in the gesture. The taming of the beast is one of consistence force. Batons are a physically active suit, repeating, laboring continually, sweating, for the end result. Strength embodies likewise, the lady with bulging arms and big hands maneuvers with steady force the mouth of the lion, opening it without having her arm ripped off. Where swords are active in cutting, dividing, and killing. The swift cut. Batons with steady applied force achieve the desired outcome, it is not about cutting but about displacing, shifting things into different forms.
∆ If you’re catching this post/series midway, Animating the Tarot Pips, the introduction along with a master list (with links) of the installments can be found here.
† Deck used: The Spanish Tarot published by Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria, Spain.
* Jean Claude Flornoy quote from the little white book with the Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille reproduced by Jean Claude Flornoy, editions le-tarot.com, Marseille, France, 2014.
Animating The Tarot Pips by Natalia L Forty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at mistandether.wordpress.com.