XVIII. Sawdust & Diamonds

The Moon, inspired by the song Sawdust and Diamonds

There’s a light in the wings, hits the system of strings,
from the side, where they swing –
see the wires, the wires, the wires.

Joanna Newsom, “Sawdust & Diamonds” (Ys, 2006)

Image Description

A blue moon in a purplish-brown sky, over the blue sea. A flight of white stars leads up to the moon, and a pawing dog is lightly visible against them. A system of white strings surrounds the moon. A white dove swings down on one of the strings, and a seated woman pulls on another string. The woman wears a white hat that resembles a dove’s wing, and a white apron with a red droplet pattern on its trim. She holds a pair of pliers in her left hand. Behind her there is a tall crenelated tower. In the distance toward the shore, there are more buildings and a line of seven red trees.


Following XVI and XVII, we remain by the sea, now looking up to the Moon. This is a card of intense dreams, illusions, and even madness. The Moon pulls the ocean as well as living creatures along in her cycles. This influence is like a “system of strings” (or the strings of the scales in VIII. Does Not Suffice), which tugs at and connects its elements in symmetric tension. The figure wears a wing upon her head to match the dove whose string she pulls. If unbalanced, the relationship becomes that of puppet and puppeteer.

The composition of this card is inspired by the Jacques Vieville tarot (see Selected References), which shows a woman spinning beneath the moon.

Seven trees line the shore for the lyric “seven days out to sea” (roughly a quarter of the Moon’s journey), and eighteen red drops on the figure’s apron allude to menstruation – two ways in which the Moon marks time for humankind. But the guide through this deep night is the promise of eternity, the place at the top of the wide white stairs where the Moon waits to receive.

Selected Meanings

The moon, visions, deeply-felt emotion, lunacy, nightmares, possession, symbiosis, interconnection, puppetry, tides, storms.