Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

Le bateleur

Photo: Framed woodcut of “Le Bateleur”, a tarot card featuring an accordion-playing fisherman seated in front of a table overflowing with cod.
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I finally got around to framing and hanging our Le bateleur (which translates from French as “juggler,” “street performer,” or “busker”) tarot card woodcut print. It’s the perfect size to go under one of the sconces in the hallway leading to our offices, and it looks pretty damned good.

It’s a gift that our Toronto friends Natalie and Eldon gave to us during our visit to Toronto last October, just before we flew off to visit the Philippines.

(It’ll be nice to be able to travel again…someday.)

Le bateleur is one of Canadian artist Graham Blair’s woodcut prints. Here’s how he describes it:

The earliest known tarot card decks date to the early 1400s, and for several centuries they were used simply as game cards, becoming associated with divination only after the 1780s. While the first tarot cards were hand-painted, for most of their existence they were printed from woodcuts using the same techniques that I use today.

This design is my North Atlantic interpretation of the first and one of the most famous trump cards – Le Bateleur – which traditionally depicts a sleight-of-hand magician sitting in front of his table of tricks, the image of a skillful trickster and master of the material world. In my version, the magician is an accordion-playing fisherman seated in front of a table overflowing with cod. On the deck of his ship are the tools of his trade – a cod jigger and splitting knife – and the tail of a humpback whale can be seen in the distance. This magician’s sleight-of-hand is manifest in the jigs and reels he coaxes from his accordion.


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