XXI. Time, As a Symptom

The World, inspired by the song Time As a Symptom

White star, white ship – Nightjar, transmit: transcend!

Joanna Newsom, “Time, As a Symptom” (Divers, 2015)

Image Description

A woman dances, raising one leg and one arm in the air. She holds a sickle in her right hand and raises and golden ear of corn in her left hand, and she is nude except for a pink sash blowing in the wind. Her right foot is on a patch of golden grass, but otherwise she is surrounded by pale blue sky. She is enclosed in an almond-shaped wreath of green leaves. An hourglass is bound in pink ribbons at the top of the wreath, and an egg at the bottom. A nightjar with long feathers flies upward in the top right corner of the card. There is a seven-pointed white star in the top left corner. In the bottom left corner there is a dark brown horse with a red upward-pointing crescent on his forehead. In the bottom right corner there is a woman with golden snakes for hair.


On the album Divers, this song closes the loop with “Anecdotes.” In the tarot deck, XXI ends the trump sequence and starts a new, uncharted decade.

The central figure holds an ear of corn and a sickle. These are emblems of the god Cronus or Saturn, patron of time and the harvest. They are enclosed in a mandorla-shaped wreath, and bound within this wreath are the hourglass of I. Anecdotes and the pearl or egg of II. Divers.

The song alludes to the Eleusinian Mysteries, a festival commemorating Demeter’s search for her daughter, the Maiden. The earth-goddess’ desperate journey was the origin of Earth’s seasons. Though not much is known of the Mysteries, their culmination was the reaping of an ear of grain.

During Demeter’s search, she was raped by the sea god Poseidon. The figures at the bottom of the picture are two children of this union. Her son Areion, whose name is called in the song, had the form of a speaking horse. Her daughter is known only as the Mistress, and was venerated herself as an Earth goddess. At the top of the picture are a White Star and a Nightjar, those called upon to transcend Time and link to the end to a new beginning.

The culmination of the trumps shows the fullness of the cycle of time, in harmony and permanence. “We sow and we reap, again,’ and recommence the parade.

Selected Meanings

Wholeness, unity, permanence, eternity, inertia, stasis, ecstasy.