1. THE FURIES or The Fool (10-13)
2. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT or The Lovers (14-17)
3. THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN or The Emperor (18-22)
4. THE DELIVERER or Strength (23-28)
5. GABRIELLE'S HOPE or The Empress (29-33)
6. THE DEBT or The Moon (34-37)
7. THE DEBT II or The Hanged Man (38-41)
8. KING OF ASSASSINS or The Chariot (42-46)
9. WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP or The High Priestess (47-51)
10. THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... or The High Priest (52-58)
11. MATERNAL INSTINCTS or The Tower (59-63)
12. THE BITTER SUITE or Death (64-67)
13. ONE AGAINST AN ARMY or Temperance (68-71)
14. FORGIVEN or The Sun (72-76)
15. KING CON or The Wheel of Fortune (77-80)
16. WHEN IN ROME... or Justice (81-84)
17. FORGET ME NOT or The Hermit (85-89)
18. FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS or The Star (90-93)
19. TSUNAMI or The Devil (94-98)
20. VANISHING ACT or The Magician (99-102)
21. SACRIFICE or Judgment (103-107)
22. SACRIFICE II or The World (108-110)
A new line of XENA dolls, latest merhcandise offering/onslaught.
Introduction For several months now I have risked my sanity during long nights spent sifting through the eclectic detritus of occult trivia, goy-ish cabalism, cynical superstition, cheesy psychoanalysis, and postmodern over-theorizing left on the table after the last serving of the third season of Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP). From the gory entrails of the third season, I bring you a reading.
 I have come to believe that, contrary to popular opinion, there is evidence of a subtle but sophisticated overlay of continuity and character analysis that binds the third season episodes of XWP tighter than any Xenaverse bodice. Below I lay out for you a theory that can serve to bridge some of the gaps and questionable passages of the third season if one chooses to accept it. Yet, to test its unseemly structure requires a suspension of disbelief and a measure of steadfast foolhardiness that only a dedicated Xenite driven to the brink of madness by season three could ever muster. I invite you to follow me as I retrace the winding path of my fool's journey, if you dare.
 As befits Hollywood's current obsession with new age interpretations of that branch of Jewish mysticism known as the Cabala, a set of ideas explicitly drawn upon in the creation of THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), let us begin by examining the numerological significance of the number of episodes in the third season. There are twenty-two episodes, two and two. Two plus two equals four, a magic number. There are four legs on your average Centaur, four corners to the known world, and they say it takes four Amazons to screw in a light bulb. This is highly significant.
 It may also be worth noting that there are twenty-two cards in the Major Arcana of most decks of the already-much-discussed Tarot cards, also said to be linked to the Cabala. After first dwelling on this random connection, the second arcane vision of the third season that struck me during a fourth viewing of FORGIVEN (60/314) is that each episode mysteriously corresponds with a Tarot card from the Major Arcana. However, the connections are not based on the well-known Waite-Rider Deck used in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), but rather on a melange of the images, themes and interpretations found in the numerous decks that abound.
 The overall theme of the archetypal hero's journey from nascent consciousness through death and rebirth ties the disparate images of the Tarot together into a coherent story. Similarly, it is possible to reach beyond labels of first impression such as "serious dramatic episode", "ridiculous horror movie ripoff", and "meaningless slapstick comedy" to view each episode of the third season of XWP as but one segment of our dynamic duo's very own archetypal journey through all that personal growth and development stuff that never entered Conan's thick head.
 This journey has something for everyone. Xena begins the season picking her nose and ends it examining her near-fatal flaws. Gabrielle finally figures out how to get Xena's full attention. Joxer learns how to throw like a girl (good boy!). Xenites world-wide get some free counseling on their control issues and obsessive-compulsive disorders: "sit back, relax, and just allow".
 Below I provide for each episode of the third season of XWP my "reading", basically a hokey narrative description that incorporates the imagery and themes of the particular Tarot card that I associate with that episode into (almost) every sentence. I then offer brief advice for Xena and Gabrielle derived from lengthy meditation on the episode and on the meaning of the card (remember, you get what you pay for). The meanings and associations I attribute to each Tarot card are drawn from my primary sources, The Dictionary of the Tarot, Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey, The Secrets of the Tarot: Origins, History And Symbolism and The Mythic Tarot (see source list below). Some occult enthusiasts of the Cabala have attempted to associate each card with a cabalic Hebrew letter, with varying success [Note 01]. I have included these in each "reading", marked by an asterisk (*).
 Why does this matter? What does it explain? Read on and judge for yourself. I myself am no longer playing with a full deck and do not trust my judgment. However, you may find that aspects of the cards shed an interesting light on some of the more inexplicable choices made by the writers and producers in season three. The close correspondences could be mere coincidence, a corny miracle, my admittedly overactive imagination, or a joker in the pack... Which is most likely? All I know is that you can find anything you want at "Xena's Restaurant", if you look hard enough.
 There is at least once interesting connection that the many illusions and allusions stirred into the mix this season have in common- Shakespeare, the Cabala, Greek drama, Roman history, occult symbolism, scientific discovery, Persian mythology and religion, apocalyptic hysteria, Egypt, the Tarot... Why, it is the Renaissance, in pictures. Whaddayaknow?
1. THE FURIES (47/301) or The Fool
Xena goes nutso in THE FURIES.
 "Aleph*" am I? Xena begins the great journey of the third season driven by instinct, ready to jump off the cliff while her lapdog, Ares, demands her attention. Out of the blue, Ares rocks Xena's world with an unexpected challenge and a shocking revelation. Ever the Trickster, he convinces the Furies to sentence her to perform every comedy routine ever invented by modern jesters from spinning her chakram on her finger to reciting from King Lear. Xena abandons her normally razor-sharp wits for a more scintillating view of the cosmic absurdity of life, thankfully colored by her self-hatred and cynicism. She is alternately foolish and super-rationally sane, deliriously entertained and terribly anguished. Xena's insanity causes her to say potentially painful and damaging things to Gabrielle and Cyrene, but they are more concerned about staying alive.
 Xena's price of admission to Ares' dark carnival is to sacrifice her mother, but luckily the court fool mocks and resists her dangerous king. No longer bound to her carefully controlled mental world of logic and order, Xena's madness gives her key insights, allowing her to wrest control of her destiny from Ares through sheer force of will and the magic of television special effects.
Advice to Xena Loosen up, you control freak. You need to pay more attention to the people who bring you joy and meaning before they turn you in to the karma police. You must take great care with your choices: you have keen insight, but you delude yourself about some important things.
Advice to Gabrielle Yes, you think she is crazy now, but it gets better. Hang on 'cause the roller coaster is about to hit the big hill. Be ready to follow your instincts and take some risks, because TPTB [The Powers That Be] are said to be ROFLTAO [Rolling On The Floor Laughing Their *ss*s Off] and that never bodes well.
2. BEEN THERE DONE THAT (48/302) or The Lovers That naughty boy, Cupid, mocks Xena and all star-crossed lovers in this episode with just a hint of a certain timeless tale now attributed to that other great Bard. Two rival houses doom young love with a blood feud, the age old tale of opposites, duality, brother against brother, constant crossing of swords (*"Zain"). Poor loverboy has chosen to call on the gods, trapping Xena in a messy and almost indecipherable dilemma. Xena looks up from the flames of Joxer's funeral pyre to see the two lovers reunited, then settles down in a clinch with her own "best friend", unaware that, by her actions, she traded in her favorite whipping boy for this Hallmark moment.
 At first as the day begins to repeat itself again and again, Xena tries her same old tricks. Sorely tested, she opens herself up to inspiration and intuition and finds the key in Saturday morning cartoons. Unable to be in two places at the same time, Xena must closely examine the consequences of each of her choices. By ignoring small details, like Gabrielle, she is able to catch a glimpse of the larger pattern and make new choices that result in more permanent change. Xena saves the day, the sappy couple is reunited and prepared for a divinely-blessed marriage, and everyone has a good laugh, blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits them.
Advice to Xena You will have to make crucial choices in the struggle between your passions and your conscience, and the decisions may force you to examine your values. Do not allow yourself to be driven blindly. By the way, it is a bad idea to kill the messenger: she still owes you those little dumplings.
Advice to Gabrielle You too need to be ready to examine your choices and from whence they come. Time to take control of your own destiny. Do not let Xena make all the decisions; she has some trouble keeping you in mind.
3. THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303) or The Emperor Xena struggles (again) to overthrow the influence of the Father, Ares, and his hold on Xena's own wicked "children". Ares and his minions forging the weapons from the metal of Hephaestus could represent the active, masculine principle that brought us civilization, and its price (hint: think war), or just an unhealthy obsession with that Madonna video.
 Ares the God/King/Father is forceful, full of active energy, in love with war, conquest, victory, and strife, the original bad boy. Like a good 90's parent, Ares gets himself a new family to replace the old one when his children turn on him. His new "son" Agathon sports all the trappings of the immature ego Ares so loves, ambition, rashness, arrogance, and overconfidence, but he's no match for Xena, even with his cool new tool.
 Xena enters the castle through a window (*"Heh") and again bests Ares at his own game, turning a couple of her recruits to his army back towards the high road. However, Xena is still playing by Daddy's rules, no stranger herself to drive and ambition, logic, analysis and will. She has a little work to do before she can step out of his shadow emotionally and spiritually.
Advice to Xena Any man can be a father, but being a good "daddy" is an acquired skill. It is time to develop a more well-rounded personality, but you may need a little help from your friends. It is also a good time to work on your weaknesses, since you have obviously mastered the one-woman strike force routine.
Advice to Gabrielle Time to step out of Xena's shadow. Get in touch with your inner child, that cute little baby butch. Every girl wants to marry someone like her father, so you better haggle for a leather jacket and work on your best Travolta/Presley pout.
4. THE DELIVERER (50/304) or Strength
Khrafstar, in his mutated form, takes exception to Xena dissing his boss.
 The Devil would be an obvious choice and Boadicea is looking good in her Chariot, but the New Tarot image (a fiery sacrifice of a woman before a lion, a serpent rising, and a man drinking blood) in the card renamed as "The Deliverer" clinched it for me [Note 02].
 Xena makes the selfish decision to go to Britannia without consulting her better half and spends most of the episode in a bitter rage against Caesar, reveling in her battle lust and superior exercise of strategy and power. Xena is the classic "lion": pure instinct, egocentrism, rage and implacable pride. She recovers a bit of self-discipline, but only for a moment, when she realizes something is going on at the temple where Gabrielle was last seen. As in the well-known Persian myth, the wily and silver-tongued snake, (*"Teth") Dahak, god of lies and deceit, offers Gabrielle a bite of the apple from the tree of Knowledge and paradise falls apart.
 Much like the characters in Shakespeare's version of Julius Caesar, Xena and Gabrielle are forced to face the dilemma of the ambiguity of innocence. Gabrielle and Xena are overcome by the events of the episode despite Xena's worldly victory, arguably failing the tests of what has happened so far in their personal development. Engulfed in the cosmic electricity of the evil god, Gabrielle becomes victim to a vastly superior force, the classic martyr beginning her descent into a long, dark night of the soul, that interminable eleventh hour before death and resurrection.
 This card can be linked to Indo-European myths (and maybe Stonehenge), in which a male god, ruler of the heavens, cannot come into the world without his female counterpart, some earth goddess mother figure [Note 03]. However, interestingly enough, this female god is not necessarily the gentle maiden aspect of the goddess, as you might expect, but the Destroyer, the Mother of Nations. Say that ten times fast and who do you get? (Hint: it ain't the UPS girl.)
Advice to Xena You need to harness your aggressions before they destroy you. It does not have to be the end of your all-too-solid sense of self. Accept responsibility for your emotions and actions and their consequences, instead of blaming others, friend or foe.
Advice to Gabrielle You are going to need all your courage and your moral, mental and physical strength in the struggle with the writers who control your fate. You will need to take risks, develop your ability to assess reality and make sound judgments, and face your own base humanity. They have thrown you to the lions.
5. GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305) or The Empress The nightmare begins as Gabrielle (ever the earthy goddess) cavorts in slow motion in a beautiful field of dandelions gone to seed, embraces Meridian (quite a fecund name), and then brutally stabs her. The fertile and Destroying Crone aspects of the Mother Goddess are fully developed here, as Gabrielle passes through her own gauntlet (*"Daleth") - an initiation into the brutal reality and duality of the physical world.
 The banshees, woodsy ancestors of the Spice Girls, defend Gabrielle as she ripens with the child of Dahak. Xena brings Gabrielle to a secure fortress of stone and wood where she delivers the little devil under the watchful eye of the Beast. Is Hope the child of Darkness or the Divine Child, the Liberator who will be killed and resurrected to save the world, or to destroy it? Stay tuned.
 Gabrielle, consumed with mother-love, defends what she sees as a young, defenseless creature against her child-devouring, evil step-mother, Xena. Is Gabrielle as stubborn and blind as Demeter in her season of grief or is Xena? Gabrielle and Xena experience serious domestic strife, psychic alienation, sorrow, and loss as they continue their journey into a state of affairs that only a good musical can set right again.
Advice to Xena Hate is not a Family Value. And that other bumper sticker does not promote senseless beatings and random acts of violence. Get out of your head and tend to your relationships before time catches up with you. Change is inevitable: do not rage against it and let your world become barren and sterile.
Advice to Gabrielle The real world involves change, duality, ambiguity, and good and evil all rolled up into one. Remember, everyone sells their soul sometime, but not everyone gets to do it for Xena. Examine your motives and you might learn a thing or two.
6. THE DEBT (52/306) or The Moon
Borias is gone in Season 3, but returns in Season 4.
 The great white hunter, cloaked in darkness, prepares to make a blood offering to an old friend, that archetypal virgin mother moon goddess who haunts the crossroads that separates Xena from Gabrielle and the scene of Xena's crimes of passion, the one who presided over Xena's momentary purification. Xena submits to her fate and runs off to face the evil legacy of her brutal past, when she was even more full of the darkness that cloaks her soul and subject to the force of her instincts. She may emerge reborn from this Night Sea Journey or face spiritual death, but not until she crosses the water and enters foreign territory, "a land as different from ours as night is to day", naked and alone.
 Xena loses her sense of direction in the Heart of Darkness, full of longing and regret. Deception, betrayal, hidden enemies, it is all good. Xena is whacked in the back of the head (*"Qoph") by her former henchman, traded in by Borias, then sold to the dragon by her former best friend. Gabrielle quickly realizes the grave consequences of her error of judgment, but will Xena? Actually, Xena will discover hidden powers deep within but also succumb to her hidden enemies: her inability or unwillingness to control her savage instincts, her belief that she is unworthy of life, happiness, and love, and, her fear of being close to anyone.
Advice to Xena A treacherous path lies ahead, but even the darkness has its own strange, familiar light. You may have to shed that hard shell to be able to emerge from your internal mire. The greatest danger you face may be to your soul and spirit from your own animal instinct. Try to remember to subdue the beast without killing.
Advice to Gabrielle Hate to say it, but you are human too. You too have to deal with your own animal instincts, too long ignored. Good and evil intermingle and black and white turn grey. Heaven endures and the earth lives a long time, because they do not live for themselves. Watch your back with friends that still do.
7. THE DEBT II (53/307) or The Hanged Man Xena is sentenced to death and thrown into the dungeon with a door around her neck, separating her soul from her body, in preparation for her next crucifixion. Xena's life is in suspension, as is Gabrielle's. She can do nothing but watch and wait and contemplate the beautiful water imagery (*"Mem") that abounds.
 Xena, always a fan of voluntary suffering, at first plans to leave Gabrielle behind again, but her punishment gives her time to think about Lao Ma's lessons in bondage and in discipline. She dwells on that turning point in her psychic life: her initiation, her great resistance to spiritual influence, and her failures. At the last moment, her instincts and Lao Ma's training kick in, and Xena manages to suspend her will and silence her desire long enough to escape from danger. Self-surrender leads to momentary transformation, but Xena quickly proves again that reconstruction of attitudes and awareness is slow.
Advice to Xena Do not let these dark nights of the soul become a habit; find your source in yourself. To open yourself to life, you have to risk pain through trusting others. There is always the option of a musical if it does not work the first time around.
Advice to Gabrielle Have patience while Xena treats you like a mushroom. You too may need to sacrifice something, perhaps a strongly-held conviction or attitude, maybe a demon child or two, or maybe someone else's image of you.
8. KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308) or The Chariot A struggle between twin brothers, one dark, one light, headed in different directions: a skilled assassin committed to evil and a bumbling idiot who yearns to do good. Joxer and Jett pull the King of Thieves, the very embodiment of ego and earthly pride, back and forth until Autolycus gives up on reining them in.
 Autolycus wisely focuses on playing the field (*"Cheth"), and getting down to business with the divine Cleopatra. Though usually quite keen on individualization, Gabrielle acts out her guilt and self-doubt by vainly trying to be just like Xena. Ignoring her usual direct route through the orange cones, Gabrielle chooses not to tell all to Cleopatra, and her convoluted plan crashes to a halt at Xena's lovely feet.
 Our young charioteer, Joxer, is always ripe for a fall, and he does, again and again. However, the episode ends with a triumph of the spirit as the influence of the bonds between family and friends prevents Jett from committing another murder. Joxer rises up for a brief moment of glory, bravely facing up to anger, conflict, and his older brother, but he quickly falls again.
Advice to Xena Definitely follow up Cleo on that offer to drive her little red Corvette, but do not leave Gabby in the dust. You have already matured and reined in your arrogance and aggressive instincts, oh flawless one, or we would counsel you to pass on that tired ego trip of killing your conscience and shaping the world to your will.
Advice to Gabrielle Beware of dark horses bearing angry princesses who have completely lost control. It is time to find your own way of being a hero. Xena has proven that she is not good at sharing. Coming to terms with aggression in others and yourself can result in a stronger personality or at least a good rock opera.
9. WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP (55/309) or The High Priestess
Xena, Leah, and Meg, not necessarily in that order.
 The dreidel falls on "*Gimel" as Xena and Gabrielle save a temple from marauders. First, Gabrielle saves Leah, high priestess of the virgin goddess Hestia, from being burned at the stake for her divine gift of prophecy. We meet again the many faces of Xena, the eternal triple goddess (warrior, princess, priestess, barmaid, virgin, prostitute, vampire, poet?) as Xena and Gabrielle struggle to hold on to their notched belts under the scrutiny of the original Church Lady.
 Priestess Leah manages to turn even the local brothel into a singing nunnery and teaches order for a moment, but the naughty blacksmiths of the world obscure her message for all time. The prophetess Xena passes out sagely advice like candy while dealing with the bad priest's henchman, but it is Leah's arcane knowledge that saves her worshipers from his crusade.
 Some women believe that you must know yourself, that strange coincidences are the unconscious mind revealing brief glimpses of the secret destiny of each individual. Others believe only in the conscious mind, that you must take matters into your own hands. We learn that these approaches are not so different as they may seem.
Advice to Xena Your reluctance to take advice from wise women is becoming a real problem. Be careful of blindly following your unconscious and ignoring the moralizing of your self-appointed inquisitor. You may think your path of secrecy and silence makes you appear seductive and wise, but it may ultimately lead you to despair.
Advice to Gabrielle Have patience. Your undeveloped potentials and the secret of your destiny are all busy percolating away in your unconscious. Watch your liability to be overwhelmed by enthusiasm, do not try to sneak a peek or you may regret it.
10. THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... (56/310) or The High Priest Everyone's a critic. It turns out that the gods are jealous of Gabrielle's own unique strengths. Ares points out to Aphrodite that they both will end up lost to the annals of history, like the High Priest and his Eleusian mysteries, because they do not have a dedicated scribe to pass on knowledge of their deeds. Only Xena will get the chance to sell truckloads of monogrammed trinkets and baubles in the late twentieth century, because she was lucky enough to snag the talented bard as a sidekick.
 Aphrodite's spell gives Gabs a chance to channel through her quill a divine power only slightly less awesome than that of her enchanted sports bra. Our gifted pope-in-training takes the keys to heaven and runs wild, providing beer and fishes, taking care of Gaia's orphans, and sending the barbarians east, then west, then to the caves. Unlike the man in the hat, she is not infallible, but the unconventional and imaginative thinker learns to consider carefully the consequences of her word choices.
 Joxer betrays her and his inner feelings in a revealing manner; the magic scroll unfortunately gives visual form to the musings of the Fool. Love struck Judas allows the peddler a chance to manifest his own innermost desires, dinars. Though Xena comes along to give Gabs the hook (*"Vau") and make things dull and tidy again with her masculine logic, the power of Gabrielle's chaotic creativity has made its indelible mark on the material world.
 The High Priest admonishes us to look deeper to find the truth in Gabrielle's scrolls, for she has mastered the art of allegory. We may catch a glimpse of her troubled inner world in her choices. Gabrielle's test drive of the powers of destiny is crude but effective: She forces Xena to jump in a lake and do some serious fishing, allowing her to return only when she figures out who matters most to her.
 Safe from Xena's shadow, Gabrielle lives large as the focal hero. She takes the pesky gods down a peg, getting back at both Ares and Aphrodite for jerking her chain. And she brings back a piece of the good old days in the life that she must long for.
Advice to Gabrielle You have already figured out that you must apply your spiritual ideals in the real world to have effect. Keep hacking away. Watch out for poison arrows unless you fancy the martyr's gig as the wounded healer and self-sacrificing spiritual teacher [Note 04]. Do not flatter yourself too soon, check out the next episode.
Advice to Xena Keep your eyes on the prize, and I do not mean the one that got away. You ignore your spiritual development, and that spirited little devil, at your peril. Try to remember that she is better at self-sacrifice than you are. Maybe you should think about why.