December 1, 2013 § 4 Comments
Last week I performed a reading that went straight in with the client. She was not only happy with the reading, but also confirmed both the situation and the necessity to follow to the letter the advice that the cards have indicated.
I reproduce the reading here as I think that others might find it useful to see how I ended up assigning agency to the different ‘people’ populating the spread, where I went with both, assigning agency to the person cards external to the client’s own personality and also pertaining to her internal ‘aspect’.
QUESTION: What will happen with my love life in the future?
Here the only other information pertaining to the context of the question was the recent situation of the client having left the man she lived with and his desire for her to come back to him.
Given the context of the question – she left the man, he wants her back, but she made a decision against it – I had determined a time-frame for her cards of 3 months, for a layout that gave her insight into the current situation (3 cards) and how it develops, along steps regarding actions for what to do and what not to do indicated by a card on top (DO) and a card at bottom (DON’T).
The cards fell as follow: 3 cards for the situation: The Star, The Devil, The Fool; card on top (what to do): The Emperor; card at bottom (what not to do): The Tower.
Here I said the following – I quote from my text sent to her:
Whatever inspiring force there was in your previous relationship has turned into an abusive and nasty force enslaving both of you. The chalices of generosity turned into sour imps who can’t even see what’s wrong. The consequence of this is that you rise again, free yourself, and simply walk out of it. The boyfriend may still be nagging at your pants, but sure enough, you won’t turn back. Given this trajectory and the time-frame we’ve imposed here, it doesn’t look like you’ll stumble over a new love in the next 3 months. You’ll keep walking, free of ties.
If we consider the card on top, The Emperor, we can see where the advice from the cards comes from. Because this walking out of a relationship does not have a clear direction, the cards indicate the following: go to your father’s, and seek refuge there. If the Emperor is not your father, than the cards say, go to a powerful man who will help you with your own self-control. This reading is actually also enforced by the card of the Pope that underlies your situation. If you add the numerical value of the three horizontal cards, The Star 17, The Devil 15, The Fool 0, we get 32. 3+2 is 5, so The Pope. Thus, if you stumble over anything in the next 3 months, then it will be your new-found freedom, conscious help from a powerful man, and spiritual comfort coming from a counselor. So, no new love in the near future.
What the cards indicate NOT TO DO under any circumstance is go back to the busted house. We’ve got here the card of the blown up Tower, which as you can see, is not a place you want to be in.
So, pretty clear advice. Stay clear of the oppressive relation, keep walking, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from influential people. A counselor-type may come your way and who will make you realize your spiritual potential – forgive yourself and the other maybe? – and help you with how to cope with what you may regret in your life right now.
Now, the only place where this reading was slightly challenging was in considering whether to see the Fool as the client’s abandoned man, given that we have a neat symmetrical relation represented in the Devil card. As the question was one of relationship, it would have been easy to just identify the tied down antlered entity to the left with the woman (The Star) and the one to the right with her man (The Fool). BUT – not so fast, I told myself. Considering carefully the question, I could not have taken the man in question to still be haunting the spread – which he might have, as we readers of cards often happen to notice. But as the Fool here appears in the ‘future’ position, he can only be thought of as representing the woman herself, not some idiot who made a mistake leaving behind a great and inspiring star of a woman (especially not when it was her decision to leave).
Same thing with the Emperor: While one might be tempted to say, ‘get a grip of yourself woman,’ it is not sure that the powerful man, the Emperor here, is merely a sign that the woman must take control over her life. Had I said that, my reading would have clashed with the situation at hand indicating that the Fool is walking. And since when is the Fool ever aware of the need to get a grip of herself? – Ha, good luck to the ones thinking that control is something that would ever even remotely interest the Fool. If, indeed, such a need for more control should arise, then the only way the Fool can get it is by asking for help. So there.
It goes to show that one must be very careful with considering not only the question but also its context, and then assign agency to the person cards accordingly (trumps and court cards alike).
What I’m trying to say here is that without processing the information the reader is given, or without analyzing the situation, the mere intuition about who is who might not be very helpful to the person. In fact, one can easily deliver the exact opposite message than one I’ve opted for here. Had I said: ‘My god, make sure you submit to the boyfriend (The Emperor) and don’t break up your house (The Tower); just get rid of the negative feelings you might have (The Devil), and carry on lightly (The Fool)’, I’m not so sure that I would have rendered this client any good service at all.
Good luck with your discernment.
Note on the deck:
Marseille Tarot, Jean Dodal, 1701, as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, 2001. A hand-stenciled set.
November 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This one goes to my sister, Manna, the best walker between the worlds that I know.
. . . . . .
The table is set, the house is lit, and the pact stands. The ivy drips from the heart. Passing through the ring it makes a wreath. Underneath it is a fountain. The Angel Raphael wants compassion. So be it. Messages from afar come through, though all of it is familiar. The hidden star makes an appearance, just as you have finally managed to remove some wax off your ritual garments. Some cards can be used for that. The word is: ‘A whole lot’. A whole lot of history transmitted through prenuptial agreements unfolds right under your nose. The spark of the amethyst lights up the path up the ladder. The Belladonna of the Key is about to plunge into what she won’t tell. The spell is lunar.
November 10, 2013 § 10 Comments
These days I find myself explaining to people interested in consulting the cards with me the difference between the various types of readings that one can opt for and why we read according to size, so to speak.
As I distinguish between what I call small focused readings (3-card), medium readings (5-7 cards), large readings (9-13 cards), and tableaus (36-52 cards), I thought of saying something here about what is at stake in choosing between the various options (when money is not the main factor determining what people can afford).
I will also demonstrate briefly with examples of recent readings that I’ve done for people of different age, race, class, and gender. I will use the Lenormand cards to illustrate here, and I will only focus on readings with up to 13 cards. But I must say that I read through these options with all the cards that I’m proficient in reading with: Tarot cards, playing cards, and oracle cards.
Let’s begin with a 3-card reading.
As it all depends on the nature of the question, the focus can also change according to the degree of specificity in the question. That is to say, one can easily zoom in on a problem, and yet be as abstract or concrete as one wishes to be. Let’s take the example of the abstract question, and without passing judgment on its practical usefulness.
‘Does he think of me?’ (Variant: when the querent wants to be more open-ended in her question, she may ask, ‘to what extent does he think of me,’ or ‘how does he think of me?’
The straightforward answer here is:
Yes, he thinks of you, repeatedly and deeply.
As we can see here from The Lady, The Whip, and The Fish, this 3-card reading can be to the point and maintain the focus. One can elect to offer elaborations, but they are not necessary. In the case above, the cards indicate that although the supposed lover thinks of his love interest, he is not free of hidden aggressions. A whip, after all, has corrective connotations. With a whip in hand we tend to discipline. Next to the Fish floating freely, the Whip may be getting out of control and developing into an obsession. The querent can decide to what extent such thinking of her is any good, or whether it has the potential to actually go somewhere. My point here is that, basically, a 3-card reading can go as deep as a tableau, but it will not elicit the same wealth of information as the larger sets do.
The 5-card is almost like a 3-card reading with 2 more cards in play where you see the dynamics of what you may want to do but you must not unfold against the background of what it’s a good idea to pursue even if you’d like to do the opposite or something else. It sounds convoluted, but it’s not. This is a good one for the tarot cards, if you want to use only the major arcana cards, though, of course, the full pack can also be in play any time. Some actually prefer the ‘dos and donts’ type of spreads with the playing cards, as playing cards indeed go straight to the point. Tarot cards and oracle cards give you more visual cues to work with, but they are certainly not more precise than the playing-cards, as some may think. Ultimately, however, what you go for is simply a matter of mood and preference.
Here’s an example: A man wants to know how he can communicate with his partner.
The straightforward answer here is: Stay optimistic, but don’t even think about saying a word.
If we look at the string of three cards on the horizontal line, and indicating the present situation, we can see that the relationship is at a standstill. A heavy incurable atmosphere permeates the relation. The bond is there, and it’s strong (Anchor+Ring) but right now, the dead rules (Coffin). In the position of ‘do’ we find the card of the Sun. So the man is advised to maintain a positive outlook on the situation. In the position of ‘don’t we find the woman herself. This tells us that what the man must not do under any circumstance is impose anything on the woman, least of all tell her things about herself – even positive things, such as compliments. With the Sun above, one might be tempted to set the record straight, and shower the woman with a lot of light, but the cards clearly say: bad idea.
As we can see then, from a 5-card reading of this type, a lot more information can be gleaned, and we also have a better sense of the depth of the situation. If we want more dynamics we must go with the square of 9 cards or call on the council of 13.
The 9-card reading gives you ampler information, as the field of play is larger. As we read here columns and rows and diagonal lines, we get a sense of more depth. This is great with the Lenormand and the playing-cards, but some, again, also prefer the tarot cards.
Let’s look at a quick example:
A woman wants to know if she is going to get the promotion in the corporation she works for.
Straight off, and just by looking at the central card, the Mountain, we can infer that it’s going to be very difficult. What first appears to be a familiar bagatelle, letter recognizing a small contribution at work (Letter+House+Fox), turns out to be more about letting the woman go (Letter+Scythe modified by Ship). If we follow the V-line consisting of Letter+Fox+Clover, we may say that the promotion is in the house in spite of forces against it. But it looks like the actual job will be performed elsewhere (Ship under Fox indicates that the job will be with another environment). So what does this promotion consist of, then, if not staying on the job? With the Scythe in the last position, it’s difficult to maintain an entirely positive reading here. We can also say that the doubt about a positive outcome is related to the fact that the relation at work has been strained, perhaps due to vain ambitions (Sun over Whip). As the querent offered a context for the reading – she has just graduated while on the job – it is easy for me to make the inference that what we are talking about here is the graduation paper, which, while useful to have, is not enough to sway the boss. So it goes. The good news is that once an educational elevation is consecrated it can always be used elsewhere. The Book, the surprise card here, and looking on to the whole drama, indicates that much. One just never knows what lies around the corner. And perhaps enemies are not always worth fighting with. One can just move on to sunnier pastures.
Thus as we can see, from a 9-card reading we can make all sorts of deductions that we can back up with evidence from the cards themselves. And the querent can go home thinking about a whole lot of things, including that fact that, as in the case above, it would be a waste of energy to start thinking about what more one could do, or what other requirements one could fulfill to get a job that may not even be the ultimate bliss; not with the competition around trying to put sticks into your wheels all the time.
Generally speaking, then, which option is best for a reading depends really on the nature of the question. The cards can confirm for you what you already know (3-card option), and then advise you even in spite of yourself, or some would say, against your better judgment (5-card option). But the cards can also tell you more about where you come from with your question and what motivates it – things that you may not even be aware of. They can tell you why you want to know what you want to know before they indicate a trajectory for the future (9-card option). So, depending on what you want to achieve, on what the aim is with your question, you can adjust the reading so that the spread addresses your need.
The more cards on the table, the more information. The art is to put it all together in such a way so that you don’t end up with a walk in the woods with a guide who doesn’t know the woods. And one last note, as this is also one I get all the time, namely the assumption that the Lenormand cards are more to the point, while the Tarot is more ‘out there.’ Wrong. You can be as deep or swift with any of the cards you read with, for the only task you are called to perform is address the queren’t question. If the querent is ‘out here’ interested in metaphysical questions, then you can address that with all the cards on your table. None lend themselves to answering such questions better than the others. If the querent just wants to know how the others perceive him or her, then the cards will have an answer for that too. All the cards. If the querent wants a predictive reading, your task is to read the cards, not predict anything. And you can do that with any cards you happen to have in your hands.
The game is, and has always been, to pay attention and participate in the event while you’re paying attention. This is the grand privilege that card readers can afford themselves and which the so-called scientific community and hordes of professional counsellors have not yet figured out. But then guess what? Our time may come when we may see more respect from people at large for the good wisdom that we impart on a daily basis because of these, so-called, ‘trivial’ tools. A hundred years ago in anthropology it was considered taboo to participate in any of the events observed and practiced by peoples of dubious ethnicity and provenance. Now, however, everyone wants to go crazy and dancing. So, the world is changing all the time. Therefore the game is, and has always been, to pay attention and engage directly with that which you make an effort to pay attention to.
For more elaborate readings and examples, you may want to look at my posts tagged with the following: 3-card, square of 9, council of 13, grand tableau, and grand tableau with playing cards. More generally for posts that demonstrate a method, you may look at my Method page. Enjoy!
Note on the deck: Dondorf Lenormand, Carreras, 1926
November 3, 2013 § 4 Comments
Let’s attempt formulating a definition for ‘magical solutions’. Their mainstream name is ‘superstitions’ – just think of the acts that people engage in when they wear an amulet against the evil eye. But what is the function of a magical act, beyond providing a counter-force to some force that one is not so happy about? Can a magical solution be more than merely about protection, empowering, and clearing?
Culturally I see all magical solutions as art insofar as they can all potentially destabilize rigid cultural structures. We can call superstitions ‘folklore art’. Superstitions, or magical solutions, are there to provide a loophole for the mind that is stuck in a rut. Magical solutions in this sense are the most logical and commonsensical solutions around. They show us a way out of precepts and dictations. They allow us to get out of our routines. A magical solution therefore is a solution that helps us to get out of our heads.
Take this domestic drama as an example. A woman speculates and worries endlessly about the possibility that her husband is having an affair. If she wants to put and end to her misery she has 3 possibilities: 1) to confront the man and take it from there, 2) to go to a counselor and hear what empowering device he might have to pass on to her, and 3) to try to empower herself through her own experience of using what is already there as a solution, in the form of public consciousness. For instance, generally in the Balkans, where I come from, there’s the belief that if a woman wants to make sure that her man will never leave her, she must stick a fish that’s alive into her vagina. She must go to bed with it and wait for it to die. In the morning, she can take it out and use it as the main ingredient in the coffee pot. She must serve the ‘dead-fish-coffee’ to her husband, and then just wait. The man is now caught in her web. The result of that act, and at least until the man proves her wrong? She stops being depressed, and she stops speculating. More specifically in Romania we have given up on the dead fish, but not on the idea of such acts serving women well. I heard of women who put three drops of their menstrual blood in the coffee served to their men for the same purpose to great effect. Some would say it’s good with variations.
One of my favorite performance artists is Marina Abramovic. She has made an interesting film, A Balkan Erotic Epic, that not only captures but also reenacts some of these beliefs. Her claim is that most of these magical solutions go back to the times before the main religions took over the function of chanting and dancing for the way in which we experience the cycle of life. All these practical and magical solutions are also erotic in their thrust, as it was once believed that eroticism was not something that was in one’s power. With eroticism being transcendent, being of the gods, it thus makes a lot of sense to use it to appease the gods or the forces of nature. If it rains too much, indeed it can’t hurt to go out in the fields and expose your private parts to the weather gods. There is a long tradition for such acts having a positive effect.
But what do I want to say with these examples, apart from proposing that a magical solution can be thought of as a modality that can get us out of our heads? In my experience with devising magical solutions for all sorts, people don’t suffer from rational problems. Hence, it’s pointless to send them to rational psychotherapists, logicians, clinical consultants, or even worse, business consultants. What most of these people are known for is passing on consecrated knowledge according to the mainstream culture. As the mainstream culture is mainly interested in maintaining its own interests, mostly material, what is consecrated is not the knowledge that disturbs, or makes the subject wake up, but the knowledge that confirms people in their fears. Oy vey.
Today I attended an annual fair in Copenhagen, Mystikkens Univers, dedicated to the mind, body, and spirit relation. The interest in tarot has doubled since last year, judging from the numerous booths offering tarot consultancy. The scrying game is also booming, and so is everything shamanic. It was absolutely wonderful to walk around rational people looking for an irrational solution to their irrational problems. For, who indeed, can claim to have ‘rational’ problems, ever? I could bring in the neuro-scientists at this point who would answer: no one. But I don’t want to waste my time with demonstrating what science has to say about validating ‘the other world’.
My point is that in buying a magical solution, what one really buys is the bypassing of dualistic distinctions that insist on ‘good and bad’, ‘high and low’, and ‘right and wrong’ dichotomies. When buying a magical solution, one buys balance. If balance is the art, and most sciences would also agree, then there’s no point in addressing what is questionable or ethical in a magical solution. A magical solution is there to be experienced not judged.
I have to admit that I have a hard time with all the practitioners of shamanic magic – from witchcraft to palo mayombe – who caution people interested in benefitting from the magical arts against desiring to interfere with the fate or so-called ‘free will’ of others. Where I come from, while regrets may be experienced as a consequence of using a magical solution that may turn out to be more than what has been bargained for, it is hardly the case that one feels guilty about what one has done. It may be that the woman who serves her man coffee with menstrual blood in it so that he may be with her forever will regret her act – for who wants to be together with someone who’s not really interested in one – but the truth of the matter is that that act can also be countered with yet another act. It is not for nothing that one talks about binding and unbinding, catch and release, and the long tradition of specializing in both, the poison and the cure.
These days, and just out of curiosity, I read a lot of manuscripts dealing with magical solutions across cultures, and I have to say that I very rarely come across any old material that dictates that one must be ethical in one’s acts. At least not in the sense of what I hear ethics is defined as today. A quick glance at the Norwegian grimoire, Hexeformularer, assures me that no one devising the magic here was giving ethics any thought, for what is good and what is bad, indeed? One could also attempt the manuscript about sacrifice and see what the real deal is. The Danes in Småland don’t lag too far behind either, in their beliefs that magical solutions are to be experienced by the undivided between logic and illogic mind. Not to mention the Romanians’ take on all things magic. A good synthesis, Solomonic Magic, is written by professor of literature and history, Antoaneta Olteanu. This is a good introduction to the magical solutions that counter the benevolent bent in the Western world towards ‘horrifying’ things. More can be said and more books can be read. As far as I’m concerned I’m of the opinion that we must all follow our commonsense to the best of our own ability.
Suffice to say, then, that where magic is concerned, and as my tarot cards of today testify too where the question of how we define a magical solution is concerned, we need not think about it, but just do it. Walk your walk, and don’t be too concerned with how the skeptical others try to perceive what you’re doing standing on your head. A magical solution is not about choosing one or the other, but rather about allowing the arrow of chance to catch us unawares. Perhaps one can even declare it in public if need be, that all hope of escaping the grip of influences that are not useful to us may materialize as a most fantastic flight. And if flying is not enough, then take out that sword and cut through all that which is not useful to you like through cheese. Be free. The moon is dark tonight. It’s a good time for new beginnings and more powerful magic. May you all experience it.
Note on the deck:
Marseille Tarot, Jean Dodal, 1701, as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, 2001. A hand-stenciled set.
October 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
A student told me today: ‘You’re simply so awesome.’ He said that last week too. ‘Well good,’ I was thinking. I was talking about Marxism, my favorite movie, The Life of Brian, the stoning scene in that movie, and being stoned in general. I mean, why don’t we ever vote into public office the ones that don’t wear a black suit? Ideology is a manipulation of rhetoric, some say. I believe that. All we need to do is pay attention to what words are being repeated by our politicians to get a sense of just how poor a state our thoughts and souls are in. In Denmark right now the holy cow is ‘democracy.’ Right. I run to Borges for a second opinion: “Democracy is an abuse of statistics,” he said, and he was right.
I got flowers today and a beautiful birthday card. Tomorrow I turn 45. That’s awesome enough. I look at my little fun table and enumerate the luminous things on it: A Victorian-time crystal ball next to a black tourmaline stone and a leaf skull. An antique Chinese bronze, enamelled censor, all the rage. I swear the incense smells better when it comes out of it. Next to it I have a Brazilian nut. For protection, the Brazilians say. Behind the scrying device there’s a stone filled with natural mountain crystals that my sister dragged all the way down from that witchy place, the top of Brocken in Germany. She was hiking there by night. She stumbled over the stone, picked it up, and decided that my name was written on it. When she realized how beautiful the stone was after she gave it a vigorous wash in the river the day after, she considered keeping it for herself. But then she got cold feet. You never know with those energies, and once a decision is made in that context, you don’t take anything back. The crystal ball looks on to the other crystals. My sister is good at gazing into the beyond. She is what they call ‘a natural’. Then there’s the Japanese bell that my friend with the card gave me. The sound of that can raise not only hell but some 9 heavens too. The pink Thulite stone sits next to some Samhain pumpkins and among cards. Lots and lots of cards. I’m of the opinion that if I didn’t read cards, I’d die from boredom.
The birthday card I received today makes me think of the Lenormand cards. Taken together, the Mouse, the Heart, and the Moon suggest the following: spent passion leads to stoning. My friend is good with weeds, so who knows what she had in mind when she encoded the rune stone Thurisaz in the Moon. First I thought it was Wunjo, the rune of joy, but the more I look at the faint drawing behind the silver, the more I can see it’s the rune of monsters and giants. As they say, when going to the other world by any means, if you expect to see monsters, you’ll see monsters, and if you expect to see fairies, you’ll see fairies. Perhaps that’s what the Book on the birthday card is all about. The primary meaning of the Book in the Lenormand oracle is secret, not knowledge. Some kind of smoke comes out of the Book. Before the book my friend drew a spark. First I thought it was a Star, the card of inspiration, but now that I think of it, I can see it’s a spark. Try to hit two stones together and see what you get. There are definitely two red dots in the Star, so, I’d say something is going on here. And I’m not saying this because I’ve just had a huge meal that consisted of entrails – my favorite kind of food steamed to perfection in the French pressure cooker along exotic spices that can indeed induce altered states of consciousness.
Although I don’t celebrate anniversaries, tomorrow my sister and the family circus will be visiting. I think I’m going to leave everything on my magical table as is. After another day of teaching, getting everyone into divining will be a good idea. Unless, of course, another student will tell me how awesome everything is. How awesome Gertrude Stein on the reading list is, and by association, how awesome I am again. At 45, if I can allow myself to say that I can do more than feel the pain of others, then I can also look at the roses and say, everything is as it should be. Just awesome.
Note on the items:
- Lenormand Oracle, Dondorf, Francfort (the purple), 1880.
- Playing-cards, hand-stenciled, Grimaud, 1853
- Chinese censer, 1890.
- Crystal Ball, Two Worlds, Manchester, 1890.
. . . . . .