Madame Sosostris figure is a reference to Miss Jessie Weston’s book. A Tarot deck of cards has four suits; cup, lance, sword, dish – the life symbol found in the Holy Grail story. The Tarot cards
was were originally used to determine the events of the highest importance to a person. Madame Sosostris is a mock Egyptian name suggested to Eliot by “Sesostris, the sorceress of Ecbatana in Aldous Huxley’s novel Chrome Yellow”.
Connection to The Waste Land
Madame Sosostris is a gypsy who tells fortunes at a fair. The phrase “had a bad cold” was meant for Madame Sosostris, and it’s in an ironic way. She actually doesn’t know much about fortune telling because even though she is reading the fortune of the protagonist, she doesn’t know the protagonist’s real fortune. She finds that his card is the Phoenician Sailor, and she warns him against death by water, not realizing that the other inhabitants of the modern waste land is that the way into life may be by death itself. The drowned Phoenician sailor is a type of fertility god whose image was thrown into the sea annually as a symbol of the death of summer.