The Jezebel Syndrome
“Deep within everyone's heart there always remains a sense of longing for that hour, that summer, that one brief moment of blossoming. For several weeks or months, rarely longer, a beautiful young woman lives outside ordinary life. She is intoxicated. She feels as if she exists beyond time, beyond its laws; she experiences not the monotonous succession of days passing by, but moments of intense, almost desperate happiness.”
― Irene Nemirovsky, Jezebel
This newsletter is not exactly about Tarot per se but more of an observation.
An emergence in the feminine cultural psyche that emcompasses gender, ethnicity, self-identification, dynamics and everything else really, is a sign of the times.
It is important that we sit up and take notice of this observation as it will percolate to the surface in our Tarot journeys, be it a consultation, soul mapping or workshops. It is intrinsic to self-discovery and our placement in society and although the theme may not be new and as we know there is nothing new under the sun, what is emerging is contemporary and hewn from the ebb and flow of societal trends and expectations.
Let’s call this observation the ‘Jezebel syndrome’.
Being a Tarot reader and tutor means I get to hear the nitty gritty and see the muddy feet on the clean white carpet. I love stories, I really do and we all have one, if not several. In recent months I have been drawn to a story that keeps getting retold from various sources. It is the tale of the woman who is on her path towards potential and realisation. What is interesting about this tale is that it is predominant amongst women who have powerful personas, who have accomplished much and who wish to strive further. Women who, at the same time, have raised families, cared for loved ones and had to make tough decisions about the well-being of others and indeed self. Women who have worked hard, paid attention and are prepared to develop their capacity for compassion but at the same time want to understand what it is to put self first.
These women talk about amazing opportunities or important life choices. Maybe this means they will be in the spotlight or demand some kind of notice and adherence. To them life matters, all life matters and yet, they carry a sense of shame. This is not the same as humility or self-depreciation but a shame of being somebody. Inside that persona is the shamed woman, the ‘how dare she’ that was so prevalent in the stuffy, patriarchal Victorian era but somehow has interfaced with the contemporary homogeny of how a woman should perceive her path to success and potential.
So, who was Jezebel?
In short, she was a Phoenician princess. She advised her husband Ahab to do all sorts of heinous things, like the worship of Baal for example and the riddance of the prophets of Yahweh which was done through violence and chaos. Ultimately she became associated with false prophets and fallen and abandoned women.
Christian lore drew a comparison with a pagan or an apostate masquerading as a servant of God. I think in that there is a clue why there is a sense of shame and that it is the woman asks herself, ’am I being in unauthentic?’ or ‘am I being honest?’ One’s own truth becomes questionable. It is a bit like the shadow of the Magician, he appears as the trickster, believing in his own illusion, a victim of his own plot or indeed the words of inspiration that fall from his mouth may not be real.
Of course all of this is part of the distraction that the ego, the part which blames oneself for being female or successful or strong and wishes to manipulate to its own end. Cosying up to what society or the institution expects of us all will not necessarily get us far. The Hierophant asks us to challenge dogma, to be maverick, to take our self-reflection and to do something with it!
We must make a move from the repressive Victorian ideals.
We must challenge Freud’s hysterical woman, play with the Yellow wallpaper and step into Rosetti’s picture of the Fallen woman and stand her up. In Ruskin’s of Sesame and Lilies he proclaims that as a woman walks by the flowers will bow and nod. This was his interpretation of how a woman representing the Empire should be, blameless and pure, so pure that even nature is behest to her charms. But you know what? It doesn’t exist, none of it. Our new Empire is what we can bring into life from our tool box. So, ladies, tool yourselves up.
The Jezebel stereotype is an oppressive image.
It is a form of racialised, sexual harrassment which began in the States during the eras of colonialisation and slavery. The shame of the abandonment felt by women as they pick their way forward is an apparition of that. Society no longer has to point its fingers but merely push a button.
In the end Jezebel was killed off, through defenestration, she stood at the window in her wig and finery taunting Jehu, her aggressor, and as she did so eunuchs pushed her out of the window into the street below to be eaten by dogs.
If the success of a woman taunts the powers that be, if the pathway to potential arouses her inner demons it is not rabid dogs that should await her but a trophy, a celebration, the reward of taking life and running with it.
If this blog has struck a chord with you then perhaps you could pull a card or two for yourself.
See the cards you draw as a mirror for your very own Jezebel and look for how she can point you in the right direction to be without shame or doubt and to be at the centre of your own stage.