This is the tenth post in a series on the creation of Divination’s setting and magical universe as defined by the tarot. The first post in the series is Making a tarot-defined setting, and you can find the entire series linked at the bottom of each entry.
The Road of the Infinite Loop (Strength)
Direct Source: The World (Astralism)
Upright: Living Dynamo
Inversion: Esoteric Craving
Strange Artists who navigate the cosmos, harness its secrets, and try to remain neutral in the face of conflict.
The Way of the Loop, which attracts wildly variant and eccentric Artists, all seemingly touched by their proximity to the bizarre in-between dimension, Nowhere. To these Artists, space is a simple puzzle to be solved. These Artists feel a call from their Road to remain neutral, and to create peace and foster safety, even amongst those with whom they may have tremendous ideological disagreement. Some may even support and travel with the Caravan, the nomads who traverse the backstage of reality for exploration, adventure, or a connection to a culture of Artists.
I have a friend, a poet and a philosopher, who likes to say: “we are all part of the same thing.”
There’s a lot inside that little phrase. It makes me think of another quote by Neil DeGrasse Tyson: “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”
Both these phrases are true: reality connects all of us together in infinite ways.
I think that’s what’s really going on in the Strength card. Most people read this card as emotional strength, internal fortitude. Emotional control. And I agree with that reading.
But then why this painting? What about a lion-taming human says: strength?
It’s because the depiction is of one thing, whose molecules are connected into two beings. The portrait is of the woman and of the lion, connected in biology, chemistry, and even atomically. The reason they express self-control and restraint with one another is because they are connected, and they’re both in a state of awareness about it.
This state of awareness is really rare in both the human and animal kingdoms, which is why you don’t see a whole lot of people out there in mystic relationships with deadly animals. Plus, the state of hunger ends that awareness quickly.
But conceptually, that’s what the Strength card depicts: a perfect frozen moment where two beings could see their differences and fight to the death, but instead choose to unite and enjoy a moment of connection and peace.
I designed a Road based on this concept. What if some Artists felt the pull of their Road, and all it wanted to do was teach them the lessons of the Strength card?
These Artists would be called to meet others with peace, as both the woman and the lion do in the card. Peace when violence is definitely an option.
But to really explore my interpretation of the Strength card, it would also suggest that they were the same thing as everything else they encounter. The lions of my world—spirits, reapers, ghosts, creatures of mind, desire, and ephemera—the Road would demand an Artist recognize them as united.
Even if conflict with another being is unavoidable, this Road would first encourage an Artist to see a path that preserves peace and life, for their sake as much as that of the entity they encounter.
You simply never know when you’ll be the lion and when you’ll be the human. A Traveler—as I was now calling these Artists—would have to tread lightly to ensure a good experiences as both.
(All this led to deep places. I wrote a twist, as they say, and baked it into the Road of the Infinite Loop and its associated character creation structure. I won’t ruin it here, but it will be in the book, and fulfills a huge archetype of magical storytelling—the blessed child who experiences contact with the Art their whole life.)
The World card—the final of the major arcana sequence—attempts to show us everything by showing universal symbols. The animals in the corners represent the four elements, and the woman in the center is wreathed by a loop tied with bands of infinity. All of it saying: this is everything.
What if the Source of the World Card just let you explore it all? Be connected to it all?
The infinity signs unite the Strength Card and the World Card. Making the World the Source for Strength felt very tarot to me based on that.
So how would Artists navigate the greater scope of reality?
I had an answer in my old roleplaying stories, going back to my 20s.
I’ve long used a kind of nonplace called Nowhere, a hallway magic folks built and maintain. Nowhere is a scary dreamscape that drags you out of alignment with reality, but gives you a place to hide, and a way to cross reality quickly.
In my stories, Nowhere functions as a service hallway, built by Artists, staffed by Artists. I made the Artists on this Road those caretakers, creators, and navigators. They’re a little closer to the Astral universe, as beings who are connected to everything, and are aware of it.
This all cooked into the Art of Astralism, the talent taught by the Source of the World.
Sometimes Nowhere looks like real places, and sometimes it doesn’t. It usually looks like hallways, but arrives in “rooms” which have their own weird properties and only half-exist in solid reality. Wild, deadly, unpredictable: you might suddenly find yourself at your childhood home, or in a pit of vipers, or in a warehouse with upside-down gravity. Nowhere is conceptual, and each room obeys the Artist or Artists that built it.
And somewhere in all that, there’s a Caravan. A peaceful collective of Artists and spirits and strange beings, all committed to traveling together in peace, leaving the Caravan when they wish, and serving it while present. Exiles and runaways from the Solid Plane, they live quite well and truly off the grid, for as long as they’re willing to remain peaceful.
Many of these ideas started in stories that emerged during 2020. With months at home to explore big ideas, we tried gonzo stories that included riddles with sphinxes, awalk along a grand road (the Axis Mundi), showdowns with giant immortal beings, doors in brick walls leading to creaky, graffitied hallways.
Many of those concepts are baked into the Road of the Infinite Loop and the World. It’s the Road that lets you as players range the farthest in this weird tarot world.
Hopefully you go so far, you’re surprised at what you become, and what you’ve always been.
That’s all the Roads and Sources! Next I’ll talk about how all these Roads come together, and what it’s like to be an Itinerant Artist, one who doesn’t walk a Road but still practices the Art.
>> Read the next post in this series: Itinerant Artists
Find the rest of the series here:
- Entry 1: Making a tarot-defined setting
- Entry 2: The Roads and Sources
- Entry 3: This game will teach you tarot
- Entry 4: The Road of Two Lands
- Entry 5: The Unwritten Road
- Entry 6: The Shivering Road
- Entry 7: The Crooked Road
- Entry 8: The Garden Road
- Entry 9: The Road of Scale and Blade
- Entry 10: The Road of the Infinite Loop (this post)
- Entry 11: Itinerant Artists
- Entry 12: The Esoteric Renaissance