The fool’s dance: finding the still point in The greater trumps

Barbara Newman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Charles Williams and his characters need no spaceship or enchanted wardrobe to enter the otherworld, for it is simply the hidden heart of this one. Its portal is awakened vision. As both a fervent Christian and a practicing ritual magician, Williams used magic to open the supernatural dimension that features so prominently in his novels. Once a potent magical object has been loosed into the world, where it unleashes havoc, the damage must be contained by a saintly character who surrenders to the Divine, restoring the cosmic balance. Williams establishes striking parallels between magical sight and contemplative vision, as also between the performance of magic and the act of prayer. Focusing on The Greater Trumps, this essay considers the Fool (the figure numbered “zero” in the tarot deck) as an image of Christ who stands at the center of the magical dance enacted by the cards. Two maiden aunts, seemingly with little in common, turn out to be parallel seers of the divine: Nancy's aunt Sybil, a saintly contemplative, and her fiancé’s aunt Joanna, a gypsy madwoman obsessed with the goddess Isis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-171
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Inklings Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Charles Williams
  • Magic in literature
  • The Greater Trumps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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