I. Anecdotes

The Magician or the Juggler, based on the song Anecdotes

It ain’t about how rare you are,
but how hard you are to see.

Joanna Newsom, “Anecdotes” (Divers, 2015)

Image Description

A person hides among red and brown wintry leaves and branches. While her head and hands are clearly visible, the rest of her body fades and seems to blend in with the gray sky. She is joined by three birds: she smiles down at a small brown nightjar, and a pointy-beaked common loon and a mourning dove nestle in the lower branches.

She wears a long scarf with a pattern like a bird’s feathers and floppy hat whose brim resembles a figure 8 or lemniscate. She holds up a pair of binoculars in her right hand, and in her left hand she turns an hourglass, moving the sand in a figure 8 path through both sides of the glass.


The trumps traditionally begin with a Juggler, a street performer or mountebank. Whatever tools they carry, this is a tricky character who lives by wits and eloquence. Hourglass in hand, our Nightjar-Juggler bends time into a lemniscate – the shape of infinity. With her binoculars, she can discern what is far away, and see without being seen. Smiling, she performs a disappearing-appearing act. Like the birds she blends into the winter leaves, or she is miraculously “born into open air.”

The three birds surrounding the Juggler are recurring characters on the album Divers (see also the Suit of Swords). In the song, they are united in some covert operation. They are enveloped in the warm grays of  a misty winter day, where those of us less discerning than these scouts can easily become lost. The picture is meant to evoke the feeling of hearing a birdcall without being able to discern its source, the feeling of being tricked – pleasantly, but tricked all the same. If this card occurs in a reading, one must determine whether the querent is using the cleverness of the Juggler themselves, or taken into one of the Juggler’s illusions.

Just as the hidden provenance of “Anecdotes” is revealed at the end of Divers, the rest of the trumps arrange themselves to show the elusive Juggler’s place in the cycle.

Selected Meanings

Skill, communication, cleverness, sleight-of-hand, trickery, facades, camouflage, manifestation, air.