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The Tarot as a Frame of Reference in “The Big Lebowski” – Justice, The Star, and The Chariot
by David Thorsteinsson
Editor's Note from Michael Santangelo: Here is another section of the article on the Tarot as represented in the movie "The Big Lebowski." As art. the movie is a great example of how the Tarot lives in each one of us. As a bonus, it brings a richness of symbolism to fans of the movie. More cards coming in future submissions. See The Tarot as a Frame of Reference in “The Big Lebowski”.
Walter Sobchak: Justice
The tarot image of Justice is a seated woman holding a sword in one hand, and balance scales in the other. Sometimes she is blindfolded to symbolize the impartiality of justice.
Walter is a man who plays firmly by the Rules – such as they appear to him each time. He metes out his justice gun in hand, and, one time in the movie, with a crowbar. A crowbar may not be a “weapon,” but it is a lever and as such it is a close relation of the balance scales of Justice – both tools obeying the Archimedes law of leverage.
Walter, of course, is not the righteous or impartial judge he pretends to be. He is nearsighted (physically as well as mentally) and wears orange glasses, which means that he perceives the world literally in monochrome. He is invariably 100% certain when he utters his sentences, and likewise disastrously mistaken when he executes his penalty. After all, everything about the man is a “fucking travesty.” And although he is a bookish man as well as a Vietnam veteran, he is wrong about such things as the number of lives lost on Hill 364 (there were actually no shots fired there) and the breed of Cynthia’s dog.
Walter is a Polish Catholic who has converted to the Jewish faith. He runs a firm called Sobchak Security, abbreviated SS in its logo. He respects National Socialism for being “at least…an ethos”. He’s a man of opposites. His language, for example, is simultaneously crude and surprisingly rich.
Donny: the Star
Donny is a star player at the Holly Star. The tarot Star shows a woman pouring water over both land and sea. The card is thus firmly associated with the elements Water end Earth. And so is Donny. “Donny who loved bowling, and as a surfer explored the beeches of Southern California from La Holla . . . and up to Pismo.” One could say, in a sense, that Donny was amphibious. He is mysterious, trusting, and hopeful like the Star. Ten stars fade into darkness at his death. Even the Folger’s tin can that holds his ashes has a star-like picture on it.
Dude’s car: the Chariot
The image shows a chariot driven by a warrior. The Dude may not be a warrior exactly – pacifist is a term he self-applies – but his car undeniably takes part in some real-world skirmishes. True, we see no tank battles here, but let’s not forget the following incidents: The car is driven to battle by a stalwart Vietnam veteran and the car is at the receiving end of friendly fire in that same fight. It is involved in several crashes with various obstacles. It is stolen by a dunce and rescued by the police. It is violently attacked and beaten up by someone who might well be a “Chinaman.” Finally, in an apocalyptic spectacle, it is burned to a cinder by German nihilists.
The registration number on the Dude’s car is 376 PCE. The letters of course spell peace, well befitting the pacifist owner. Also, if this declaration of peace may seem somewhat incongruous on a vehicle of war, it may also serve as a gentle reminder that “pacifism is not something to hide behind.”
In the tarot deck, the cardinal number of the Chariot is 7. Does this have anything to do with the number 376 on the Dude’s car? Well, let’s take the sum of the digits – a standard procedure in numerology: 3 + 7 + 6 equals 16. Adding those digits again gives the final result 7.
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About the Author
David says that he has no real existence on the web apart from this article, so he "doesn't personally need any special introduction."
The article in question was written because he and Sigga (his lady friend) were much intrigued with the Lebowski film and its world.