Dark duel: Algorab conjunct the Moon against some fancy gossipers

The day of reckoning has come.

Dark stars and the dark moon conjoin the force of ravens and of crows under the signature of double blinks. Algorab makes its pronouncements:

‘Today we’ll cook some souls with the poetry of darkness.’

‘We find some liars, gossipers, and hypocrites and take them out of circulation.’

‘Bring me burdock. Adorn yourself with onyx, and don the longest black dress that you have.’

My seething silence matches the command.

The voice of cowards fills my frontal vision, their public proclamations resounding loudly in my ears: ‘We have so much to share, but not in public,’ the cowards herald in public, asking for DMs and PMs and other ‘friendly’ chats. Gossipers and rumor-makers know their devotion to the cheap trick of seduction by suggestion: ‘Oh, we know so much about such and such.’ The masses flock to them, being devoted to the truth that only gossipers can grasp. Liars know exactly as much as they invent, their pitcher going to the waters all by itself. But only so many times before its pride is broken, shattered to pieces by the meanest rays of a malefic sun. The Romanian proverb says. According to the astronomical odds of magical elections. As in, today is the day. Of reckoning.

The man in black, the other name that Algorab prefers, is ready for some pecking and some pluck. My ink as black as that of a cauldron drips on paper that’s sealed with thorns, looking for the words: ‘thy will be done.’

The postman rings the bell, another magic rattle. A package is delivered from ‘Yes Chef’ supporting the black magic on my table. Black dishes in the shape of the dark moon are brought to me, courtesy of the descendants of warriors. The Samurai of Edo at my command: ‘Yes Chef. Thy will be done.’

I stuff myself with watermelon. I spit out the black seeds as if they were Cornelius Agrippa’s enemies in the shape of the malice of men, devils, and winds. I think of nothing except poetry and the sound the crows make after they’ve feasted on the ones they were after.

The words of magic for revenge are ‘after you.’

This text is part of a forthcoming collection of poems, After You, on the poetics of magic and the everyday encounter with the extraordinary.

For cartomantic activities, stay in the loop at Aradia Academy. For more writing of this sort, visit EyeCorner Press.

This is how magic works

Yesterday EyeCorner Press and translator Oscar Díaz del Valle mutually agreed on the terms for the translation of my book, Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading, first published in 2014. This introduction to the Marseille Tarot is special to me, not only because it became a much beloved book by many, but also because it triggered more subsequent writings on cartomancy, culminating recently with the Read like the Devil trilogy of books dedicated to the practical aspect of reading the Marseille Tarot, the Lenormand Oracle, and Playing Cards. So, to get this work translated into Spanish after many requests from the Spanish speaking fans, placed me in a happy moment. And then it only got better, because magic was afoot.

The very second that the contract with the proper signatures in place reached me via the email, I was on poetry twitter on my phone. I put the phone aside to acknowledge the email, and then returned to twitter. The first post I laid my eyes on featured a picture of a dedicatory poem that Robert Kelly wrote in honor of Saint Jerome, or Hieronymus, the patron saint of translators on his day.

Via Twitter

Obviously both Oscar and I are doing the right thing here, Justice style. While agreeing on the translation and signing the contract, neither of us were aware of the thing called, The International Day of Translators, when both saints and sinners are celebrated for their ability to move words around, and give them new homes. And yet, as we contributed to this day in our own way, Saint Jerome was also making sure that the two of us, ignorant people, understood what grand magic this is already.

So, Spanish speaking folks. Stay tuned. This translation is happening in auspicious time. May the magic of this find you all in good health and wealth.

Dark occultism in the age of misinformation

These days I’ve been writing missives, both in my recent Aradia Academy newsletter and on Patheos, pertaining to my upcoming course in Cartomancy and Necromancy, and I thought about the general attitude people have towards the practice of necromancy, or divination from an exhumed corpse often coupled with sorcery and the conjuration of spirits. They call this ‘dark occultism,’ ‘the worst of woo’ or ‘delusional.’

To be honest, I never quite get what people are talking about when they refer to this practice as ‘dark’ – also in the sense of being practiced by the ones who are presumed ‘thick’ in their heads, that is to say, devoid of the capacity to reason and reflect. Given that we live through comparisons, as soon as I compare necromancy with the social media, I get illuminated. Guess what is darkest. Necromancy or the uninformed opinions we get bombarded by on a daily basis about everything? All ‘worthy messages’ – messages from the beyond, if you ask me, that is to say, beyond all common sense and plain rationality.

We live in the age of complaining, criticizing, contradicting, comparing, controlling, and creating conflicts. We talk about compassion, caring, consolation, and courtesy, but when it comes down to practice, these latter virtues get trumped by the vices listed here first. Mingle compassion with comparison, and you’re already feeding a darker demon than the one that possesses your dead father. As the voices of virtues and vices get mingled in a cacophony of indistinguishable babble, we get to stare at a much darker occultism than the one associated with talking with the dead.

In my work with cartomancy, the primary focus has always been an investigation into how we can get past our limiting imagination. I operate with an imaginal world, and if I decide that a string of cards represents the voice of the dead, then it is so, as this world is subject to both, my strategy of enlarging my field of vision and imagination, and my reflecting on just what the purpose of going beyond limits with poetic images is.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein formulated a famed axiom that falls under the category of linguistic relativism. He said in Tractatus Philosophicus that ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.’ If you think about it, you’ll note that you’re left with no negotiating power. What Wittgenstein says is actually so. So we’re in the presence of the obvious that cannot be refuted.

This axiom has implications for how we think of our language. We assume that our imagination is limitless, but when we pay attention to the demons of misinformation everywhere, we begin to realize that the premise for so much misinformation around us is due to the fact that those who spread it have a very limited vocabulary, and hence live in a very limited world of the imagination. This, however, is presented as original and as steeped in the limitless. There is simply no end to what the anti-vaxxers imagine about the world of science, nor is there any limit to what some Americans believe Trump is still capable of. Meanwhile, the same type of people want to ask you: ‘you’re not invested in any dark occultism, are you?’ The only appropriate answer is, of course, to say that you’re very much invested in the darkest occultism that has ever existed, and that it is all good, as it makes you see the obvious.

Some take this position as impertinence, but what is more impertinent than some indignations? Even as I sit down to write these words, a former university colleague and literature professor asked me in public, in connection with my essay on calling on a dead art collector to impart his words with me beyond the grave: ‘Camelia, are you joking? You cannot speak to the dead. They’re DEAD!’ (her emphasis). I elected to say this to her, although I might have said many other things: ‘the dead are as real as the fictional characters we read about in novels, whose voice inspires us and motivates us. I tend to listen to such voices.’

I put down some cards for my claims.

I see myself justified in impaling some worldviews, go after the fools, and get my own course rolling. There’s just the temperate virtue in that.

Hop on board for some dark occultism, and be better informed.

Cars and Cartomancy

‘The wall moved.’ ‘No, it didn’t.’ ‘Yes, it did, a few millimeters, and it was in my way. That’s why I crashed.’ This is Ayrton Senna talking, explaining why he couldn’t finish a car race in Dallas when he had all the odds with him. As reported by race engineer, Pat Symonds, someone had hit the far end of the concrete block resulting in the track swivelling, so that the leading edge of the block was standing out by a few millimeters. That was enough to make the difference. How could Senna see that? Sense that?

I like this story so much about Ayrton Senna, the legendary Brazilian Formula One driver and god of precision, because it made me understand why, when he died in 1994, the Japanese cried the hardest. This in spite of the fact that Senna at that point was no longer associated with the Japanese, racing for Honda.

Although no one has ever wondered about it, I like to think of a reason. As the Japanese are invested in the concept of kokoro, or the things done with the heart from a standpoint of no compromise, of a death resolve, I like to see how this kokoro crosses national borders, making everyone a samurai, that is to say, if they are able to display it. Senna could. He was just like the most famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, who understood timing and precision in the context of death. You draw the sword too early, you’re dead. You break too early, you’re dead. You lose the competition. You break too late, you’re also dead. You lose your life. There’s a lot of mastery that goes into knowing the difference. The masters who possess such knowledge also raise this difference to the status of art. This means that they get inscribed into my book of conjurations. I call on their dead souls and ask them to teach me how I can risk being blown off course, yet without losing it.

As it happens, I’m not into cars and Formula One drivers, except for the fact that I got a taste for it when, in the early ’80s, I watched the French film Un homme et une femme by Claude Leloush (1966), featuring the love story between a car racer who lost his wife to suicide and a widow who lost her husband to an accident. But as I drove through town and the quiet Danish landscape yesterday, I had Senna on my mind. When I get behind the wheel I call on him, as I’m always curious to know how he’d compete when there’s no competition around, for I’m sure he’d find something to race against.

I pay for this privilege: I smoke a pipe and eat Brazilian chocolate. I dedicate the hedonism to Senna. I also read the cards. As Senna was an inveterate Catholic who regularly performed bibliomantic seances by reading verses from the Bible at random that he would then take as the oracular voice of the divine guiding him through the day, I think that he would approve of the Devil’s work here, the name cartomancy happens to go by.

To keep it with the martial arts kokoro, today I offered Senna my Mars pipe, a sweeter chocolate than I personally prefer, and the Sergio Toppi Tarot in the form of a haiku. He got these cards: Justice, the Devil, and Force.

As this reading was a way to thank him for all he did, and also for accompanying me on my own car trips, giving me instruction even as I have to suffer through plodding along at the lowest speed behind some geriatric – myself joining that club soon enough – I saw these cards as a representation of what he was like: a man of justice and a daredevil of great caliber. In the form of a haiku, however, here’s what I see:

When the time is right

The hot Devil rides once more

Helmet of ardor

I like Senna because he operated with simple truths. He knew what his own justice was. His triumvirate was made up by determination, dedication, and competence. Justice here is the woman of method. Competence stems from methodical awareness and self-reflection. Force has the helmet of overcoming obstacles on. The Devil says, ‘if you want it badly enough, then resolve to go for it. Go all in and give it your all without compromise.’

I can’t think of better cards for Senna. The Chariot in the Tarot, the car, didn’t present itself on my table, as one might have expected. But then I wasn’t surprised, as he was done with that. What we got here instead is the exactitude of ‘neither too much, nor too little, but precisely as much as it’s necessary.’ There’s no space for the unnecessary millimeters that push our walls off track and chance. We can’t afford to crash because of it.

I don’t drive the car very often, but I think I might take my kokoro for a spin again tomorrow, commune with Senna again and hear what else he has to say.

Stay tuned for cartomancy courses at Aradia Academy.

The Lenormand houses as temperaments

Often students want to know how we use the Lenormand houses according to the ‘master method’ that’s inspired by the card significations for a pique playing cards deck. It’s simple. Say you have these cards as part of the line that forms the ‘destiny cards’ in the grand tableau: Cross, Woman, Star, Heart.

Straightforwardly we could say this: ‘you’re looking at a whole lot of grief, but things will clarify to your heart’s desire.’ This all sounds good, but what the heck does it mean? What is the heart’s desire? We could ask the querent, but often when it comes to knowing what the heart’s desire is, we discover that it’s far from obvious to them. So we can’t just assume that by flinging such a line to a person, it will automatically make sense to them. How do we get more specific then?

Looking at the house the Heart fell within, we notice that it’s in the house of the Cross designating illness. Ay, the heartache… The house of the Cross hosting the Heart mirrors the card of the Cross in the house of the Key for negligence and indifference. So now we infer that the heart’s desire may be connected to being acknowledged. A heart invested in the inevitable – suggested by the Cross that the Woman is looking at – is at odds with the state of being ignored. For what does it also mean to say that it’s inevitable that you’re ignored? So there’s a tension right there that, on the one hand tempers the Cross in the Key, and on the other hand excites the Heart in the Cross. Very vexing.

What of the Woman herself? She is in the house of Fish for favors flanked by the Star in the house of Anchor for ambitions. So we can say this: The heart’s desire to not be ignored must favor the inevitable – which includes being ignored – if better days are to be experienced. That is to say, the woman must consciously and religiously – as per the Cross – pursue the inevitable – also per the Cross – rather than merely accepting it as her fate – the Cross idea again… In other words, the inevitable must be part of her crossing of aims. As any act of unconditional surrender requires faith, the woman must favor her ambition to clarify her ideals so that the heart’s desire and aim to not be ignored can be crossed with its own paradox.

Now, this may sound like some complex philosophizing, but if you think about it, you’ll see what I’m aiming for, namely to demonstrate that the houses, in their adding temper to the cards, can turn the power to act around. Here we go from passively looking at grief – and hoping to resolve it in accordance with the heart’s desire – to actively favoring the grief’s inevitability, so that the conditions that subject the heart to its ache can be placated by the force of self-reflection. That is to say, insofar as the Woman in the house of favors can actually favor herself, she has the possibility to bring down the house of indifference through a simple mental move. That’s it.

The idea of the houses lending temperament to the cards that fall into them comes from my own reflections on the Lenormand cards, explored in my courses and in the third volume in the Read Like the Devil trilogy dedicated to the Lenormand cards that will soon launch.

Meanwhile, the point is that while we read lines in cartomancy – using all the cards we fancy, from playing cards and tarot to fortunetelling cards – we also read between the lines. By this I don’t mean to say that we read some invisible text between the lines, as we metaphorically do in verbal communication, but rather that we read the visuals as a concrete manifestation of it. The Lenormand houses give us exactly that opportunity, as they function as a temperate space for the reading between the lines.

Cards: A Helium Poet Lenormand, second edition, by Camelia Elias.

Stay in the loop for cartomantic activities at Aradia Academy.

The problem is called grief

‘When you move slowly and then all of a sudden into the dark, you grieve.’ That’s it. That’s the line I delivered today. ‘How?’ the person wanted to know, expecting me to say something about how grief can be vanquished, or dispersed like the clouds. ‘You grieve by staying with the problem. It’s your staying-power that gets you out of the rut, not the banishing.’ This is not easy to understand, as most internalize their grievance precisely as a concept, but if one gets past that, to seeing grief as more than a concept that merely has to do with feeling or emotion – all rather heavily constructed – then we’re getting somewhere.

When it’s not about predicting the stock market fluctuations, I get questions about what people think are problems. It’s a problem when you get laid off. It’s a problem when your intended suddenly marries another. It’s a problem when you can’t communicate with your children, and it’s a problem when others don’t respect your work, or when your talent doesn’t get recognized. It’s also a problem when you get cursed, or when you have to suffer others’ envy, jealousy, and hatred of what you do. Even when other people’s problem with you may actually be entirely their problem, the truth is that most are affected, and thus turn these other problems into personal problems.

I read cards for all of it. But one of the things that occurs to me is that when people take the step and seek the fortuneteller’s advice regarding any problem, what you can be sure of is this: in addition to the problem, whatever problem, you’ll have grief on your table. Grievance follows problems. How do you deal with it?

My Lenormand Foundation Course is open for registration until tomorrow. We don’t just learn to read the cards like the Devil. We learn philosophy. We learn about the impact of semantic and semiotics on how we perceive a visual text in relation to a problem and its ensuing grief. We learn techniques of seeing so that when we do fling that line at the other we read the cards for, we move their heart.

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Cards: A Helium Poet Lenormand, second edition.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” doesn’t work in divination

I used to be obsessed with Beckett, because I was obsessed with the void. Because Beckett was obsessed with the void, I was obsessed with Beckett. Obsession works with false correlatives. I was on to myself when I dedicated quite a chunk of pages to Samuel Beckett in my second doctorate dissertation 7 years ago.

The inspirational world is also obsessed with Beckett. Or, rather, with what the inspirational world decided Beckett’s words from his absurd Worstward Ho! are all about. Failure. As a human thing. Hallelujah. If only we can find someone who can validate failure for good. Beckett is so delicious.

You know the words, now a famous meme: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I often come across Beckett’s lines in magical discourses on magical practice, from divination to cursing or burying your enemies: ‘Make mistakes, do it all wrong. It’s delicious to fail.’

Well, err. Wait a minute. As far as divination is concerned, let’s try this analogy: if we forget that divination is a technology in addition to being an interpretative art, we forget that there’s no difference between what a doctor does and what a magical healer does. Let me put it this way: would you go to a doctor who relishes his failures, or what’s worse, can’t even wait to fail better, and more, fall from all graces too because, well, it’s delicious?

I wouldn’t.

By the same token I wouldn’t go to a diviner or a magician who just loves to fail. Because. Human nature. We can so relate. Right.

Magic and divination practices are about technique. The function of a technique is to be applied, not interpreted or evaluated in terms of the human condition. There’s no such ‘this is delicious, this is gross’ parody here. If you learn a technique, you test its value by trying out its efficacy. A doctor can be very nice and full of compassion or other vulnerable human shit that’s just so endearing, but at the end of the day, what you want to know is if he can cut your gut in a competent way. Either he can do that, or he can’t. There’s no ‘fail better’ here. Beckett is so laughing.

Here’s what I say. Don’t fall for the endorsement of failure if you want to master a craft. There’s no human nature involved in mastery. That’s why it’s called mastery. Learn a technique and apply it like a scientist does in an experiment. Take precautions that you won’t blow yourself up in the air, which you would if your approach is slacking.

A fortuneteller who applies technique to superstition is a fortuneteller who has gone beyond belief. This means that there’s no one-to-one mapping of a random symbol or glyphs to an equally random idea of signification. A symbol does not equal meaning, any more than fantasy equals divine inspiration. This means that there’s zero space for dicta such as, ‘it can also mean this other thing’ when looking at cards that hold ambiguous signals. If an answer to a question is precise, and it can be, it’s because the context makes it so, as context frames a concern.

If I asked the cards: ‘What is mastery?’ and got the Ace of Diamonds, the Ace of Hearts, and 2 Hearts on the table, I could answer quite straightforwardly and without attachment that mastery is a dance with a singular idea that takes seat in the heart.

If I asked the cards: ‘What is failure?’ and got the Ace of Spades, 3 Hearts, and the King of Diamonds, I’d say that failure is what a king does when he looks away from the essential stacking of narratives from the heart. If you only listen to what you want to hear, then congratulations. You’re in for the delicious failure.

In my work with the cards I don’t confuse mastery with narratives that make me feel good. What has feeling good about it got to do with anything? Either I cut your gut to perfection, or I don’t. Not all things are intuitive. Some are counter-intuitive. The counter-intuitive falls in the category of analysis, risk calculation, and statistics – the topic of a recent essay on Patheos.

If you want to read the cards like the Devil, then you shift into the gear that’s called mastery, not failing better, as if, indeed, Beckett had the substance of our whole human nature in mind when he said that. He didn’t. He was thinking of the void, devoid of substance, content, signification, meaning… In the void, he was thinking about not failing at all.

Hop on board the Playing Cards Foundation Course in its last run if you’re tired of shallow thinking, and mastery is what you seek.

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Cards: Jakob Holmblad, Samlede Værker, 1700s, in my private collection.

Knowledge and understanding of your own wisdom

Information? There’s that. Understanding? Not so much. Information is fast. Understanding takes time.

This January, being a month of clearings on all fronts, I’ve had the opportunity to check with my understanding of what I’m doing. If I spotted the slightest confusion about it, or downright misunderstanding, I took the bull by its horns and remedied what there was to remedy. You can’t make clear what you don’t understand. You can’t clear out confusion, when you lack basic knowledge. I divined with the cards too. I do this to clear my own blind spots, not only those of others.

First I ask the cards about how I understand exactly my position vis-à-vis what I want to achieve. I often think I have enough information about my ways of doing things, but do I also understand why I’m doing things? For what purpose? It’s not a given that knowing yourself equals understanding yourself.

I use the cards to ask about both: What do I know about myself? How do I understand what I know about myself?

Every new year I start with such an investigation. To give an example: December has been a month of publishing: The Heart Sutra and Tarot, The Childless Witch, and Read Like the Devil, the essential course in reading the Marseille Tarot have been launched. Following these beautiful works, both in content and in looks, demanded a re-vamping of EyeCorner Press. I knew why I wrote these books, but do I also have a clear understanding of where I’m going with my prolific publishing? Gertrude Stein used to say: ‘I write for myself and strangers.’ That worked for her, but is her understanding my understanding as well? It’s not a given that another person’s truth and justice are also my own. Just think about it. The world is full of convictions. But how many are the result of personal, deep understanding of a situation? Not many.

If you have convictions, but realize that they are not yours, take your cards and ask about it. You may want read some old cards for situated wisdoms, or playing cards, as they have a way of hitting just the essential nerve.

An early Tarot from 1700 in my private collection

The cards today highlighted the family business: the Page of Coins and the King of Coins have an encounter of the hearts. Who does the third drinking cup belong to? Something to look into. Earlier today a Jungian colleague, professor of classics at Maastricht University, spoke of a major case of synchronicity involving the archetype of the Magician in a situation dating back to 1990 when I shared some news with her. It was my time to gape. Indeed, three are drinking in the picture here, even though we only see two people in action.

Speaking of playing cards: as I’m archiving the foundation courses, so I can focus on new material, the Playing Cards Foundation Course will have its last run beginning in February. Registration opens in just a few days on January 25th.

As usual, I hope to see as many of you as possible for another round of investigative cartomancy, where we tackle precisely the question of what we know and how we actually understand what we know.

Stay safe in the New Year, and read come cards and books. I’m always happy when you grab mine.

My books in the Divination Series with EyeCorner Press

The Devil made me do it

Do or think? Think first, and then do? Don’t think any, but still do according to a formula? In the creative art world that is the question. What Devil possesses you when you are in a creative frenzy? One of your own conjurations, or one that you borrow? Do you follow your own thought process when you ‘do’, or do you ‘do’ according to other people’s established methods? It’s not always easy to determine, especially if the frenzy is led by a form of enthusiasm, or the regular desire to stand original in what we can term the expression of ‘conceptual sovereign signature.’ We all want to have one such if we have any ambition to create anything via improvisation rather than imitation.

2020 started for me with a wish for more art. The whole of January I thought of ways of making more art. At the time I was making fine art gelatin silver prints, immodestly thinking of channelling Robert Mapplethorpe, a Devil in his own right. But this part was mainly related to sound, rather than image. When he sold his photograph, the famed Man in Polyester Suit, for almost half a million dollars at an auction – a photograph that he didn’t even process himself in the darkroom; one has assistants for that – I could just imagine the sound of the hammer. High art is attached to hot names. I don’t have a hot name, but I have the craft. And it’s as high as the hell Lucifer, lord of darkness and darkrooms sits in. The word photograph actually means, writing with light… How appropriate!

I had these thoughts going on in my head that actually led me to publishing a photo book as a talismanic grimoire, Being Besides Myself, combining images of my gelatin silver prints with magic words on how we sense the world with the body and the mind.

At the same time, I also had a dream of the Man in Black in early February. The story of how that went was duly recorded in the form of creating an art tarot, printed by professional printers and ready to be shared as a limited edition of 100 copies since early March. The corona intervened, borders closed, and airmail stopped working. This tarot is still waiting on my table. I’m grateful to the many who showed an interest in the form of ‘I absolutely must have this’. Stay tuned.

But let me recount the story here for the sake of making a specific point about the difference between arts and crafts. The Man in Black, aka the Devil, appeared in my dream. I told him I was thinking of creating a Red Tarot. He said, ‘just do it’. I sat down the next day and did the whole major arcana set of cards in one sitting. The method was oil on paper through the technique called ‘monotype printing’, for which you use oil, or ink transfer. If oil, the texture can be lush. If ink, there’s absorption that makes the paper look like a Rorschach test.

Red Tarot from Camelia Elias on Vimeo.

The same day I finished the Tarot, I shared it on social media. The same day this very method inspired others to do their own Tarot. How excellent, I thought. As a method theorist in both my academic life and in my life as an artist, there’s nothing that pleases me more than to see that, if I invent an ad hoc method that combines the processual and the conceptual, it gets to be applied by others right then and there.

In the world of arts and crafts, the emphasis is on doing, on actions. In the world of art, the emphasis is on ideas. For instance, there’s only so many ways in which a painter can mix the red and apply it to the canvas. But when the painter frames this action with words that go beyond the processual, the work becomes conceptual.

Before I sat down and tried my hand at how the oil would look on the paper, I engaged with the conceptual that led me to a very clear formula: ‘Make it red. Make it in 30 seconds. No edits. It is what it is.’ This method of doing a set of cards in one sitting originated, however, with my first two decks, the Oracle of the Fables Marseille Tarot and A Helium Poet Lenormand, both created in 2013. Sometimes I like my ideas so much that they end up as a classic, when I find myself making variations of the same.

The Man in Black method of creating art

While still waiting to set a date for the release of the Red Tarot, today I thought of releasing formally the method that’s already been picked up by others. Let me call it specifically, The Man in Black method of creating an art Tarot. Here’s a challenge for you who are creatively bent.

Start with a story. Dream something. Actually dreaming of the Devil makes a good story. Then set out to express some art in any form, be that a tarot deck or a dish. You can change the variables, but you don’t need to invest thinking in this, unless you want to make an original contribution. Changing a variable is changing a variable, not conceptual art, or your original thought. If you need minutes instead seconds for it, then take the time it takes. But be specific. If you need to make it green instead of red, then make it green. See what you come up with.

Lastly, think of the frenzy that goes into it, the Devil you conjure. To make it more interesting, you can think of what class of demons you’re dealing with. Is this a Goetic spirit you’re making a pact with, or are you with Lucifer himself here? If you depart from my tight formula of the processual described here, and fancy throwing your own thoughts into it so that the work acquires your own unambiguous individual signature that’s not under my class of devils, be specific about both, the process and the thought behind it. Frame your work in a strong way. Don’t allow for ambiguity to inform your move, even though being mysterious about it at the suggestive level may appear seductive. If your original thought is strong, it will come across as obvious, making the suggestive pale in comparison.

So, let’s have the formula again, for the sake of keeping an orderly record:

  • Dream it (your story)
  • Make it red (your color)
  • Make it in 30 seconds (your time)
  • No edits (your promise)
  • It is what it is (your resolve)

I’d love to see what you come up with in your combination of the processual with the conceptual, performing the idea. At the end of the day, you may be lucky to hear a great sound, when the hammer falls, and when you hear others herald you as a brilliant, original thinker and artist. Keep going.

Stay in the loop for cartomantic courses at Aradia Academy.

The fear of not knowing what is the case

Many talk about fear. Fear of death. Many offer solutions. I also like to talk about fear, either Zen style or cartomancy style, or both, and offer some insights.

But here’s my theory, against the mainstream notion that what people fear the most is death. People are not afraid of death. No one is really afraid of death. How can you be afraid of something that you don’t get to experience until your time is up? And since no one who died came back to tell us all about what it’s like to die, we can’t in all actually develop any real fear of it. Watching a horror film will instil a lot more fear in anyone than the abstract notion of death.

You can only be afraid of what you’re familiar with. Things like love. Or, even more common, the loss of love. We also fear the loss of identity to a much higher degree than we fear death. The same goes for our fear of scarcity or loss of home. We all know what it means to not have things. Not having things has consequences, personal and cultural. For many, the fear of not having enough money is greater than the fear of death. The fear that your rival has a better image in the public space is also quite nasty and real. Look at teenagers. They’re ready to kill themselves for what they perceive is lack of failure to achieve success in terms of projecting a particular desired identity.

I’d say that these types of fear are much stronger and greater than the fear of losing life. I’ve seen people dying. Not one of them were afraid of death as such. Some went out with a sense of horror. Others with a sense of regret. But having a sense of horror or regret is not the same as fearing death. In the context of dying, it simply means that if fear is present, then it’s related to losing the body, or the more conceptual notion that you amounted to nothing, and there’s no legacy.

Here’s what I think: What we call fear is our inability to see what is the case. As I prepare the lecture notes for a new round of Cards and Magic, in which a discourse on fear will feature predominantly, I think of what the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein said that baffled his colleagues: ‘The world is what is the case.’ Now, some Zen master trained in going beyond the world of ideas would say, ‘d’oh’. Of course the world is what is the case. What else would it be? Image, politics, identification mechanisms, embodied desires? Haha, if only. These are just self-enchantments. Many enchant themselves with concepts because they fear what is the case, or worse, they fear not seeing what is the case.

I sat with bones today, and cards, and swords, a red silk kimono and thoughts about fear. The Zen masters before me would give me the evil eye: ‘Are you sure you’re afraid of something?’ I’d answer: ‘I’m dead sure that I’m afraid of not seeing what is the case.’

I looked at some cards that I pulled at random:

The Tower, Justice, the Moon.

What if the edifice we build for a just cause is insane, a legalized looney bin? I started laughing because, for whatever reason, I instantly saw myself writing the script for the next blockbuster movie.

It’s all in the language we use to describe what we feel. But are feelings that require language to describe them real?

Wittgenstein would say, ‘get real’.

I’m about to get very real with some strong material for the 4th run of Cards and Magic, now in a special edition, due to a price dive to fit the times, yet increased flow of ‘what is the case’, and nothing but. I will not be a slave to any fear. Following my heart is a much better option. You’re welcome to it.

Registration closes tomorrow. We’re as big a group as in the first run. Over 150 are in. It’s Woodstock all over again, the unofficial name the students gave to the first run of Cards and Magic. We keep going like that. We will not be foolishly fearless in this course. We will be besides fear, smashing a few towers in the process, and letting only the moon shine on us. Because. Magic.

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