Whoosh! Issue19 - April 1998

Xena's Redemption And Tarot Symbolism

War And Peace

[41] Both women return to their roots, Xena to her army, and Gabrielle to Poteidaia. While we see what we expect to see in Xena's army, we are shocked to see that Poteidaia is not the idyllic farm community that we expected. We find a place were nothing changes, and where change is even discouraged, and a place where people are better off if they do not know how to think. This is the Poteidaia that the young Gabrielle was so desperate to escape, but it is now the Poteidaia that Gabrielle longs to embrace. Still, she cannot do this until she purges Xena from her life. The people of Poteidaia have told her that Xena is the cause of all her misfortunes. We are witnessing the emergence of "poor little Gabrielle"; Gabrielle the victim. Lila hands Gabrielle the scythe and tells her that by killing Xena, she is actually doing Xena a favor. It should be noted that it would also be sacrilege to kill the High Priestess.

[42] As we saw earlier, there are no victims in Illusia; There are only volunteers. Gabrielle takes the scythe and goes to meet Xena, who is coming for Gabrielle. Gabrielle attacks Xena and Xena easily deflects the scythe and throws Gabrielle to the floor where Gabrielle lies spread-eagled and prostrate on some geometric design, as if she were an offering. Xena kneels and drives her sword into Gabrielle as if she were preforming a blood sacrifice.


You never get to  double or nothing' when this
guy's around...

[43] The stage is now set for what may be the most symbolic scene in the episode. In the Tarot Cards, Death is shown to be a skeleton holding Ares' banner while he rides over the body of a dead monarch. There is a youth, a child and a bishop in the picture. In the Tarot, Death is not supposed to be a bad thing. It is seen as a chance for renewal and rebirth. The Bishop signifies Divine Charity; the Youth represents Faith in the rebirth; while the child signifies the Hope that new life brings. The monarch signifies that no one, not even the great, can escape Death.

The Hermit/Bishop

[44] But in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), we see Joxer in the role of both the Bishop and the Hermit. The Hermit signifies a person who has found Universal Truth through hard work and perseverance. He is also willing to freely share his hard won truth with any who wish to partakes of it. In the reverse, it shows that both Xena and Gabrielle reject the wisdom because of their unwillingness to learn and their desire to hold on to a state of unteachablity.

[45] Joxer is also wearing the hat of the Bishop, but this is a very dark and mournful bishop. The only god present is Ares and there is no Divine Charity. The Monarch, the youth, and the child are all aspects of Gabrielle, and she is lying dead on the floor.

[46] Xena has been transformed into Death, but she is no one's ordinary death. She still wears the red of Ares and the blue of the Priestess. The High Priestess of War and Death are merged into one and both are under the control of Ares. Thus we see Xena and Ares executing a dance macabre over the body of Gabrielle -- over the body of Virtue. They are celebrating the death of Virtue and the finality of death. All verges on being lost, were it not for the intervention of Justice.


There comes a time in every lawyer's life when
he/she wishes for a sword.

[47] In both Xena and Callisto, we have seen Justice at its most primitive: the law of the jungle, the law of tooth and nail. But we have also seen a Xena who believes in a higher justice, one based on Universal Truth. Here, the Universe is intervening to remind Xena that she once knew about Universal Truth. Justice is able to break the spell that Xena is under and Death returns to the state of being the High Priestess of War. But Ares abandons Xena, so in reality, she is the High Priestess of nothing. She is now just Xena.

[48] A door opens, Gabrielle walks onto the stage, and everyone else disappears. Gabrielle is dressed in the white robes of Purity (Rediscovered Innocence). She is wearing the reptilian hide garment, which symbolizes, rebirth, renewal, and growth. This is also symbolic of the shedding of old ideas. She still wears the myrtle in her hair. We are witnessing the birth of a new Gabrielle.

[49] A stronger Gabrielle challenges Xena: "You Killed Me"! A bewildered Xena begins to minimize, "I only killed an illusion," as if that makes all the difference. Intent is still intent. Luckily for both Xena and Gabrielle, everything up to now has been an illusion, but from now on, everything (including the consequences) is real.


[50] This card shows a woman dressed in the white robe of purity restraining a lion. Instead of using force, she is using love and compassion. Gabrielle is Strength and Xena is the lion. This card signifies what the new role of the reborn Gabrielle will be.

The Tower

The early bungee jump trials...

[51] This card shows a tower being struck by lightening and two people falling to their deaths. This card signifies that one's world view is being challenged in a radical way. This is not a bad card, but it is a traumatic one. The degree of the trauma is dependent on whether the card is in the reading, or in the reverse. The destruction of the old world view allows for the development of a new one. The seekers are being touched by the Divine, and the seeds of healing and spiritual wholeness are being planted within them.

[52] For Xena and Gabrielle, the past is being shredded. We are witnessing the death of the old, the death of blaming and recrimination, the death of false self-destructive illusions. We are also witnessing the birth of real communication. But the birth is being stifled by accusation and anger, so it is important to move on to an even more traumatic situation in order that Xena and Gabrielle may reach catharsis. (Note that when Gabrielle and Xena are being pulled into the hole of the Wheel, for the first time in this episode, we see that they have concern for each other and Xena tries to help Gabrielle).


[53] In the Judgement card, we see a picture of the Angel Gabriel blowing the Judgement Day trumpet while six souls are being raised from their graves to go forth to receive their judgement. In THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) we see that Gabrielle and Xena have returned to Dahak's temple and that Gabriel has been replaced by a very dark angel. When this angel blows his trumpet, he is not raising the dead for judgement, but so that they can become judges. Xena and Gabrielle are on trial for the sin of Hate, and they are being judged by their peers. The Haters are being judged by Haters. The judges pull back their cowls to reveal Callisto, Caesar, Ares, Khrafstar, Xena and Gabrielle.

[54] Both Xena and Gabrielle are transported back to the moment of their individual trauma. Xena is placed on the cross of Caesar, while Gabrielle is chained to Dahak's alter. The subjects of their love who are now the subjects of their hate, become their tormenters. The fact that they have allowed themselves to be controlled by hate has brought them back to this, back to the places where their hate was born. Only here where their hatred was born can they renounce hate. With their renouncement of hatred, the judges are destroyed and both Xena and Gabrielle are released.

[55] We now see that Gabrielle is dressed in her regular clothes while Xena is dressed in the sackcloth of a penitent. The Wheel returns and opens up to reveal the world behind a veil of water and across a stream. On the other side we see Solan, who is the Sun and Gabrielle and Xena make for the veil of water. Gabrielle crosses over without hesitation, but Xena hesitates and is scalded by the water.

The Devil

[56] The Angel of Judgement reveals himself to be Ming T'ien and he now appears in the role of the Devil. C.S. Lewis stated that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside, and nowhere is this more clear than with respect to Xena. She is being held back because of her inability to renew herself, and she cannot renew herself until she learns to forgive herself. Xena cannot begin to forgive herself until she has been forgiven by others. She finally discards her illusions and asks Gabrielle and Solan to forgive her. This they freely do. Since Xena is unable to forgive herself, her act of self-redemption becomes an act of salvation on the part of Gabrielle as Gabrielle reaches back through the veil to grab hold of Xena's hand and pull her through.

The Sun

Come back, child. A little peeling is good for

[57] This is a card of great joy. All the hard work is now in the past. The seekers can now begin to reconstruct their lives. The fact that Solan is the Sun should signify to Xena that everything is forgiven. Unfortunately Xena still cannot forgive herself, but she is back on the right track and she is much wiser now. The rage is gone, but Xena must realize that the soul is like a bottle: once it becomes empty, it can easily be filled again, so it is better to fill it with something good.

[58] The real change seems to be in the new Gabrielle. Gabrielle is no longer the naive little country girl that we first met, although she keeps much of the country girl charm that makes her so endearing. What we witness is a new Gabrielle, reborn and renewed. She is now a mature young woman who understands her place in the world. She has traded her naivety (immature innocence) for wisdom (mature or rediscovered innocence).


[59] We now know that Xena is back on the right path. We also know that she is both the High Priestess and the Queen of Swords, and that her destiny is to become the Spiritual Warrior. She is also Death, but only if she wants to be. Gabrielle is the Empress and the Queen of Pentacles, but she is also Strength and Humanity. She is now the Conscience Guide. In the episode ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) we see a Gabrielle refusing to let Xena stray from the path, no matter the personal consequences. In FORGIVEN (60/314) we see a Xena who still cannot forgive herself, who still considers herself to be unforgivable. But we know that despite her personal demons, Xena will be all right with Gabrielle there to help her.


Tarot Basics. Evelin Burger & Johannes Fiebig. Sterling Publishing, N.Y., N.Y. 1971.

Mastering The Tarot. Eden Gray. Penguin Books, N.Y., N.Y 1971.

The Tarot. Alen Oken. The Crossing Press, Freedom, Ca. 1996.


Brian Lashmar Brian Lashmar
I was born in 1949 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; where I still live. I received a B.A. in Anthropology and a diploma in Addiction Studies from McMaster University. My hobbies include researching Medieval and Classical heroic literature. I also enjoy fly fishing for sunfish and trout. I hate computers for the godless contraptions that they are, but unfortunately, I'm addicted to one. I am a fan of Samurai movies and I admire the works of Inagaki, Kadokawa, and Kurosawa. THE SEVEN SAMURAI and RAN are two of my favorite films. I have a dog named Suzie, and two nameless cats.
Favorite episode: THE BITTER SUITE
Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "What if none of this really is happening, and we're, like, all in somebody else's head and they're making us up?" BEEN THERE DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203)

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