The Fortuneteller as a Grave Digger

Yes, you heard that right, grave digger, not gold digger. Let me explain.

Two days ago I was a grave digger. Or rather, I was exhuming a dead body. In a dream. I dreamt that my sister and I were deeply at work digging around my father’s coffin. The aim was to move him. After some heavy work with the shovel, going though an altogether unpleasant feeling, I stopped and put my hands over my hips in admonishment. I asked my sister: ‘Will you please tell why we have to do this again?’ She replied, ‘ah, well, I’m sorry. It’s because of me.’ She then started to list a a number of things that I didn’t even want to hear about. I then just said in a tone of resignation, yet filled with anger: ‘That’s bad, but bloody hell, how many times must we do this again?’ I woke up with this repetition in my head: Again. We had to dig him up. Again. That’s one time too many…

As it happens, my father died in Romania in 1976 when I was 8. Sister was 6. She took his death a lot harder than I did. In fact I remember exactly my reaction, when I was told in school by my teacher that my father was now dead. I said, ‘oh well, people come, people go.’ I think this response traumatized her, as she kept returning to it by checking on me constantly to my exasperation. I mean, which part of it was it that she didn’t get? I was quite clear in my response. While she may have thought that my response was off, or that my emotions were inappropriate, I thought that my words were the most appropriate. I still do. People come, people go, and that’s all there is to it. Just as death is not negotiable, our emotions about it are not negotiable either. Not unless we want to waste our time. I never do.

Here’s my father below. Not long after this picture he died. He was a a hunk. I light candles for him. When the time is right. Like today.

Now, as it also happens, since I have some soil from my father’s grave in Romania, I decided that sister I and should perform a little ritual. We were going to take the earth from his grave to the top of the sand dunes outside both our houses on the west coast of Denmark, and bury it there under the Northern Sun. And our watch, since both our houses have a great view over the very thing. I decided that since the man wanted to be moved – again – we might as well do it this way. In addition, this was the place that he designated as a favorite in another dream I wrote about in my book, The Oracle Travels Light. The burial in the dunes was thus less frightening and a lot easier. My shovel was also a lot smaller, and thus kinder on my frail fingers and body.

After the ritual, quite befitting on the Day of the Dead, we came back home and drank rum from a bottle that I had just uncorked the night before, on Halloween. Here was the Demon’s Share for us all.

Now to the point of this narrative for the educationally oriented readers, especially since I have Necromancy and Cartomancy on my head, the rerun of a course I offered last year, opening again tomorrow at Aradia Academy.

We do what we have to do, because we can. If a situation doesn’t help us with action, then we refrain from acting, for what would be the purpose of going against what can’t be helped? If one needs a resolution for it at all, then waiting is the answer. Just wait.

On this Day of the Dead wait for your dead to talk, give you instruction, ask you to move their bodies, or give them The Devil’s Share. Or some light, water, or a prayer. You will be doing all these things because you can. Thank your privilege and be merry on your way. Even if you have to wait for whatever it is that can’t be helped right now. Amen.


Hoodoo magic with playing cards

This week Aradia Academy has opened registration for the Read Like the Devil series of foundation courses focussing on the Playing Cards module, a series that is taught by The Janitor, Bent Sørensen, this time around. He will present 6 video lectures based on my Playing Cards volume of the Read like the Devil trilogy of textbooks.

For fun I here share some of the specialised material he has decided to add to the course. This is one of 5 essays he offers on an adapted use of hoodoo and folk magic together with playing cards. In Bent’s own words:

“In these essays I’ll be working through Professor Charles Porterfield’s book: A Deck of Spells: Hoodoo Playing Card Magic in Rootwork and Conjure. These are not my native traditions by any means, so I’ll be looking at them as an outsider, and as someone who is used to different types of magic with cards.

There is a wealth of anecdote in Porterfield’s book, and he starts out with a discussion of the old Country and Western song, “A Deck of Cards, or A Soldier’s Bible”. So far, so good. He then proceeds to give a potted history of Playing Cards, and their origins and dissemination through Western culture. There is not a lot of detail in that section, but as a very first introduction it might indeed work just fine. Then there is some description of differences in suits and values between traditions, and then a very brief introduction to Tarot cards and to Fortune-Telling decks. Those bits are not so interesting.

By now we are on p. 25, and this is where the book gets going: Porterfield gives us a set of rules of thumb for what he calls “interpretation” of Color, Suits, ‘Ranks’ (pips), Courts or ‘Royals’, and of Timing. He then does a few spreads, and finally lists of meanings – some specific to Kentucky, some to Illinois, and the “The Professor’s Own.” Here we are not keen on lists of meanings, but comparing may be of interest to some of you.

Next section is about prepping your deck for magic and conjure, and this is tradition-specific to hoodoo and rootwork. It involves a lot of work with oils and anointments – something which I find slightly horrifying, as I would not want to smear anything on a classic Piatnik or Dondorf deck, let alone a vintage rarity. So, here is where you make a trip to the grocery store and pick up a brick of inexpensive decks, because you will be cutting them up, hammering nails through them, burning and burying them, and oiling them up thoroughly.

There is a list of specific spells you can do with each card in a deck, and that is gold if you are thus inclined. The spells fall in many categories: healing, harming and cursing, reconciling, protection, blessing – and of course success and money spells galore.

Finally, the book closes with sections of spells, organised thematically according to area of interest and influence (“by condition,” as the Professor says), rather than going card-by-card. These areas are: Work/Money/Success; Love/Family; Healing; Cursing and Harming; and Protection and Jinx-Breaking.

I’ll be mining these last sections during the course, especially the Money and Success part. For all-purpose Road Opening, use the 6 of Diamonds (and we understand why – the Suit of Diamonds is for wealth matters, and the Six is for stable progress) and draw an open road on the card, connecting the three Diamonds on one side first, and then the three Diamonds on the other side of the card. The card now physically resembles a road. Down the ‘road’ in the centre of the card, write the words, “Let the Road be Open!”. For added success use oils such as Road opener oil to anoint an orange candle and the card. Place the candle on the card, and surround this with eucalyptus leaves – light the candle and recite a specific wish for opening. Porterfield recommends invoking Joshua and the opening of Jericho’s walls as the candle is lit. May the obstacles in your way tumble and crumble like those walls! I think the Judgment card in the Tarot can be used to amplify this wish as well.

Lots of these spells involve preparation and discipline. Oils need to be kept, and numerous plant ingredients as well. For those not willing or able to do so, I have adapted a few spells for use in a non-Hoodoo tradition.

For success in business you need three cards: 9 of Diamonds, 9 of Clubs, and 8 of Clubs. You write sigils and names on these cards. On 9 of Diamonds write the name of your bank and your account number you’d like money to flow into. On 9 of Clubs write the name of your business and draw a money sigil, for instance $$€€$$. And on 8 of Clubs write your name and birthdate (you can add sign or any other significator you hold belief in, such as an angel’s name or that of a saint). Now place the 9 of Diamonds in your wallet and say: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” from Luke 11:9 – or words to similar effect, if you dislike using the Christian Bible. Place the other two cards in your shop, or under your computer if your business is online and bless them with this prayer from Psalms 90: “May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.”

One final spell – try it out for the coming week: “Seven Diamonds, Seven Day, Steady Work Spell” — Take 7 of Spades and put it face down under a flat stone. Write your wish for work success in the coming week on a piece of paper and place it on top of the stone. Encircle the stone with 7 pips from the suit of Diamonds, starting with the Ace and going up to the 7 of Diamonds. Place a green candle on the paper and light it, while asking for blessing for the work: “Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfil them; let all the neighbouring lands, bring gifts to the One to be feared. He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.” (Psalms 76) – or words to similar effect. This is good against infidel bosses who don’t recognise and respect your skill set as they properly should.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed this ‘guest appearance’ on Taroflexions by Bent. The Playing Cards course is open for registration with a very limited number of spots left, since the class is capped at 50 students, so that Bent can honour his commitment to give feedback on every single post in the course Facebook group.

Advance your Read like the Devil skills via courses at Aradia Academy.

When the inner voice is a dimwit


Have a look at these cards above:

The Devil says: ‘You can do anything.’ Circumstance says: ‘Today you hang.’ Temperance in the middle says: ‘Know how to mix these voices.’ In the Devil’s voice, what appears a manifestation of confidence is actually a bidding for overconfidence. Just look around: how many manifestations of hyperbolic speech did you experience today? Too many. In the Devil’s voice whatever overpowers you becomes this figure of speech: ‘believe in yourself.’ But if circumstance says: ‘Not today. Today you can’t do a thing, including believing in yourself, because I rule,’ what do you do? Flock to the place where they dispense hyperbolic speeches about your greatness and infallible entitlement? For free? Or, you’d think this is for free, but think again. If you make a pact with the wrong Devil to only ever hear about how great you are, simply because that makes you feel good – ‘supported, understood, and loved’ – you will pay a price. A hefty one. Not just money. More like dismissal from the ones who can see what’s happening: ‘what a dimwit…’


So, what Temperance says is this: ‘Don’t be a dimwit.’ Indeed, we have enough dimwit politicians already whose only ‘suffering’ is overconfidence that they instill in others. For no other reason than to get elected. Other dimwits fall for the song of the siren, and before you know it, we’re with the Hanged Man situation, the one that can’t be helped. All because ‘I believe in myself’ feels so good. But when are feelings relevant if the aim is to see things as they are, the domain of Temperance here, the virtue that entices us to distinguish between narratives?

I bring this in because it has relevance for the topic on my mind these days, that of how we follow through with answering a calling. Sometimes ‘listening to your inner voice’ simply means listening to what you’re craving to hear, to what makes you feel good and reassured. Sometimes the inner voice is just a dimwit voice. It’s better to acknowledge instead that sometimes the situation doesn’t help you, and that’s all there is to it. In this case, the best wisdom is the Solomonic wisdom, namely the awareness that ‘this too shall pass,’ because the answer to the situation that can’t be helped is not overconfidence, or belief in a fashioned self that performs according to the Devil’s score. 


I came across some apt words today from an interview with mythologist and storyteller Martin Shaw that may ring a stronger bell:

“We can’t be naïve in times like this, because we are in the presence of underworld forces that will do one of two things: they will either educate us, or annihilate us. And in fairy tales whenever the movement is down – and the movement culturally is down right now – you have to get underworld smart, have underworld intelligence, underworld metis. I have a strong feeling that a lot of what wants to emerge through many ancient stories is a kind of wily, tough, ingenious and romantic force that needs to come forward at this point in time.”

I like to think of Shaw’s ‘romantic force’ as the force that is actually connected with being able to distinguish between the forces that enslave us and the ones that liberate us. Many enslaving forces will look like the liberating ones, but it’s easy to check. Just ask yourself: ‘how desperately do I want to hear the words, I love you?, dispensed by complete strangers who will promise the world of safety for you, often marked by popular cliché lines à la: ‘I’ve got you.’ When these lines reach me, I always go: ‘You do?’ How?

When that is said, love what you will, but know that some loves are not realistic. It’s not true that we are not limited, because we are, nor is it true that there are never any external conditions that can rule over us, because there are. As far as I’m concerned I prefer to love seeing what is the case, seeing things as they are, to the bogus narrative that casts me in the role of superwoman, who, ironically, needs others to ‘hold space’ for her. I don’t fall for that. It’s not good for the realization of my vocation.

Tarot for Vocation, the masterclass followed by a live Q&A and training session has some interesting things to say about how we avoid listening to the ‘inner voice’ that sometimes is nothing but a representation of a dimwit. 

For more of Shaw’s work, read his essay: We Are In The Underworld And We Haven’t Figured It Out Yet.

A reading that slays

For over two decades my partner, Bent Sørensen, had to witness my morning rituals with coffee and fumes, the latter in the form of strange smelling incense or freshly baked croissants. As a standard accompaniment to these, the use of cards.

I’d put down three to five cards, and I’d go like this: ‘not today,’ or ‘what a fascinating idea!’ Other variations of the exclamatory kind would be based on real life examples in the form of discussing what I felt was appropriate to share from the times and lives of the people who buy my fortunetelling services.

Sometimes such examples would generate a whole lesson in cartomancy, more specifically in the method of reading that I’ve turned into a business: ‘…like the Devil.’ We now both operate Aradia Academy, a cartomancy school that teaches others to read like the Devil. Bent has his own special corner in it.

Just this morning we had a discussion about this set of cards below, based on a question from someone looking for ways to infuse their work with more excitement, yet one that manifests also in the form of preserving energy, rather than wasting it. The underlying premise for the question was how to be more mindful at work in relation to actual mental and physical capacity, not idealized or ‘wishful thinking’ capacity.

As is often the case, the cards gave us just the picture that described what we already knew. The Empress, Temperance, and the Star corroborated exactly the woman’s predicament. Straight up the cards show us that, indeed, this woman is going from controlled power to a more relaxed manifestation of it. But there’s a catch in how we see what is happening: does the woman end up giving (rules and conventions) or giving up (rules and conventions)? Which of these two options is more valid?

Looking at the contrasting cards on top and the bottom of the string, the Moon in the position of what to do and Death in the position of what not to do, we might be tempted to say that the danger is to give up inspiring others too soon, because too much has already been given. In this reading, the focus is more on the Star spilling her drinks all over the earth.

But then considering what Temperance has to say in the middle position here, as if mediating between the controlling power of the Empress and the less controlling actions of the Star, we might as well focus on the Empress instead, and say that if there was any danger in how the woman could give of herself while preserving her energy at the same time, it would be contained precisely within the situation when controlling is desired transparent. I say ‘danger’ because last I’ve checked, when a ruler gets naked in public, relaxation is the last thing that happens. This only works if the ruler is an exhibitionist who likes to entertain the masses of voyeurs around.

In my experience, when it comes down to the reality of some attitudes, I can report the following: the notion that a ruler must be a naked ruler, or to use the trending word, transparent, doesn’t appeal to everyone, as transparency is not measured according to the expectations entertained by people who are neither part of the managing board, nor know anything whatsoever about how to manage a business. If we must make a case for transparency, then we could say that transparency should apply to what the ruler herself makes of the clarity she has about her managing skills. If this clarity is missing, she must act in accordance.

So here, then, to advise the querent to rule less and relax more would mean having to explain what the Moon card is doing in the position of appropriate action, considering the image of dogs howling at the moon and suggesting a whole lot of misunderstanding. The message that was finally delivered to the querent was this: ‘whatever you do, just keep the mystery alive,’ as playing the mystery part is only thing that makes sense.

Now, the curious thing is that for the whole duration of eating croissants and drinking coffee, my partner and I didn’t mention the Death card at all. We didn’t have to. When we said, ‘keep the mystery alive,’ we have implicitly addressed the death situation, or the notion that cuts are necessary. When we both noticed that Death was not on our lips at all, we laughed. We agreed that this is exactly what makes us read the cards like the Devil, slaying without even mentioning death. We can read all the cards on the table, yet without making a fuss about them. How devilish is that?

But why am I giving this example? To tell everyone that Bent Sørensen is now taking over the teaching of my foundation courses. He offers a 21-week long course in reading like the Devil with the Marseille Tarot, the Playing Cards, and the Lenormand Oracle, starting this Saturday. What he does that I never did is guarantee teacher feedback on every single contribution from the students.

Imagine working tightly with someone who had to submit to card analysis of this sort over his coffee and croissants for over 2 decades. The man can now slay. Well, he can do that also without my help, as Bent is accustomed to slaying both visual and literary texts, since he did nothing else in his long career as a university professor. If you’re interested in taking all three foundation courses in one run, I can guarantee it myself that you will get the appropriate and competent feedback.

Bent’s students in his own corner at Aradia Academy, called endearingly The Janitor’s Corner, already know about the slaying aspect, something that was even already commented upon, as soon as I made the announcement two days ago that the foundation courses will open for registration today: ‘Bent will slay,’ was the word, and all I could do was to nod.

As usual, hop onboard, if being precise with your cards is your goal. The registration opens today exactly at 6 PM Copenhagen time, August 1, 2022. Class starts on Saturday. Note that the class is capped at 50 students only, so act quickly if you want to be part of this new venture.

Offense, excitement, and a reading about impotence

As a test, psychotherapists and spiritual teachers alike prefer to ask this question: ‘how often are you offended?’ People’s answers disclose something about their emotional barometer. The less one takes offense, the more balanced one is. This is a good test, but I have to admit that I haven’t encountered anyone who provided a counter question to the question of offense, one that I think would be a good idea to ask: ‘how often are you excited?’ The answer to that question also reveals something about the emotional state of a person, and can, in places, be even more efficient.

While we can agree that taking offense faster than we blink may be a bad idea, being excited about everything is actually worse. Being excited without discrimination is not a sign of being lively or full of optimism. It’s a sign of poor judgment. In fact, the more excited a person is when there’s hardly any cause for this excitement, the likelier it is for this person to also take offense very fast.

A quick trick with the cards would be to ask about what triggers which tendency and then compare. For instance you can pose these questions and then read a 3-card string for each:

What do I tend to be offended about without thinking of the extent to which there is a justification for this emotion?

What do I tend to get excited about without thinking of the extent to which there is a justification for this emotion?

We ask for a justification here because without its presence we may as well dismiss both the offense and the excitement on account of their being overreactions, rather than a proper response to a situation. Try this practice and see what you get.

The more interesting point I want to make, however, is the point about responding with an emotion to a situation, yet without letting that emotion come in the way of how the situation unfolds. In other words, do we give the situation enough space so we can see what it is made of, or do we invade it already with an emotion without actually knowing where the boundaries are?

In my work with the cards I prefer to think of the more interesting questions that underlie what we already know. For instance, we all know that emotions exist, but are they real? See, this particular question was already successfully asked and answered by the sages of the world. For an example, I like to point to the fun discussion about the reality of emotions that the Dalai Lama and the actor Richard Gere once had. I wrote about this in an essay on Patheos that you’re welcome to read.

In the context of offense and excitement that is not about the current Johnny vs Amber drama that I also made a passing remark about, let me refer to a recent reading I performed that featured both emotions on my table.

The impotent case

A middle aged man was concerned about his health, more specifically his vitality. The three cards on my table, the Hermit, the Magician, and the Charioteer, gave me an opportunity to say the following:

‘You’re impotent now, but you can rise again through a simple trick.’

At first the man took offense. He didn’t want to hear his problem being spelt out quite like that. I could read his expectation on his face. He wanted me to be more diplomatic and consider his feelings. But what I did instead was to terminate this non-verbalized expectation by pointing to the fact that being diplomatic about emotions doesn’t interest me. What interests me is what I see in the cards. Which in his case was good news. He was excited about it. In fact so excited that he managed to shift his response from feeling a ‘real’ emotion about the whole misery to one of hope. He put his first emotional response aside, because he also saw that I wasn’t going to waste my time with feelings of either shame or embarrassment. He was now ready for the trick. What was he supposed to do?

I pulled another card to see what the Hermit was looking at. The World. ‘Do you see this woman?’ I asked the man. ‘Look at her. Consider how you felt once, when you looked at her as if through the lens of a camera.’

The man took offense again. Such an impractical trick, he thought, given that this was a past flame and he had no possibility of connecting with this woman. Didn’t I have anything about the current situation? I said, ‘this is the current situation. Whoever you’re with now is not even represented in the cards, so another woman is not the answer here, but if you want to feel young again, full of drive and enchanting power, then you must activate your memories.’ I then pointed to how all the three male characters here are looking towards the past, so I figured that my suggestion would make sense, taking the visual cues into consideration. The man took a minute to think about it, and then got excited again. He could see the point of this discussion, especially in light of the fact that no woman of the present could make him feel the way the woman in his past did.

We ended the session on that note. We went from offense to excitement. But the beauty of the session was this: without telling the man to relax about both taking offense and being overly excited, he managed to detach from both emotions. He was willing to consider the power of memory and how visualizing his past love was going to do it for him, physically speaking, once more. As far I was concerned, I was glad that I had no emotions of my own invested in this work. For what would be the point of that?

If you’re curious about this kind of approach to emotions through the cards, you have a chance to learn more. Tarot and Emotions is a 4-week online course at Aradia Academy starting this Sunday. Hop on board.

The fortuneteller as a grey eminence

If the fortuneteller is not a grand, grey eminence, what is she? What exactly is her function? I like to think of myself as a grey eminence, a title reserved to the masters who are past the age of illusion. Often people come to the cards for empowerments that, sadly, also equally often consist of plain flattery in the form of false validation. But when someone comes to me and says, ‘fuck, I think my whole spirit just died,’ the only thing I can offer that’s genuine is this question, ‘what spirit?’ – echoing my favorite Zen masters plus Nisargadatta.

Apart from what the cards have to say, I never tell anyone that they are some marvellous such and such geniuses, nor that they are unfortunate victims of circumstance, people with whom I then sincerely sympathize. I just ask the people who come to me for empowerment to think about the notions of identity, spirit, and self, and other bogus ideas such as ‘follow your heart’ – when the conditions for it are not even there – or ‘perform only what gives you joy’ – when the knowledge of what that might look like is lacking.

If there’s an empowerment, then it consists of this: prepare yourself to die. Properly. Question your fears and desires. Are you a slave to them? Why? Because they are a source of thrill and enjoyment? I like what answer we get here from the cards, not just the hard cards, such as the spades in a pack, but the other suits too. They are not there to give us what we want to hear. They are there to remind us of what divination is actually all about, namely hearing uncomfortable truths.

Jakob Holmblad’s Samlede Værker, 1700s, in my collection

Even the Queen of Hearts must heed attention to what is essential. A community of vulnerable people crying is only as good as its beliefs. But are these beliefs going anywhere? Not if you ask the grey eminences around who have forsaken all beliefs. There’s belief, and then there’s the singular work of what direction to give the sincere dropping of all pretense.

Advance your Read like the Devil skills at Aradia Academy.

Losing the plot: A 3-card challenge

Reading cards for insight into relationships in love, at work, with money, or the body, is a classic, but I’ll say that there’s at least one other equally pressing topic worth considering that’s related to the situation of having lost the plot. The feeling of having lost it is not quite the same as having lost control. Rather, it is more about having lost the sense of scope and direction. For instance, you can easily experience the following: you ditched the job you hated for one that gives you joy, and suddenly you realize that, in spite of the joy, you lost your direction.

What do you do? You cast three cards on the table and get an answer. All cool. But when the state of mind doesn’t support a straightforward answer, you can experience the inverse of the situation when, instead of the cards mirroring clarity, or at least showing you an exciting alternative to your predicament, you see them speak of three different scenarios. Of course, here I’m talking about reading the cards for yourself, a situation that can bear the risk of ruining everything, in case you made a decision based on ambiguity.

In addition to this, there’s also the situation when you pose the question about your feeling of having lost it, and the cards give you all the images that go contrary to that. I once did this and got the following: Force, the Emperor, and the Pope.

WTF, I thought, none of these cards mirror my feeling, so what’s going on? As a diviner, one is accustomed to have at least some of the cards on the table validate the context of the question, which is when you know you’re in business, as it were, with these cards showing what you already know is the case and leaving the others on the table as ‘active agents’ towards resolving the issue. But when the cards corroborate nothing, then what?

I was like, ‘I lost the plot in this situation,’ and the cards went, ‘no, you didn’t. Your moral spine is strong (Force mirroring the Pope), and you most definitely are in control of what the said moral spine is doing (Emperor). Now imagine my feeling about this picture. Was I disappointed? – ‘oh, but I thought I lost it, give me something to work with’ – or elated? – ‘yay, I still got it.’ If I went with the first, wouldn’t that be a manifestation of insecurity and doubt? If I went with the latter, wouldn’t that be a manifestation of the superficial, of taking the lazy approach to what I’m already suspecting is actually the case? When am I more right, in the first response or in the latter? Or are both suggestions valid? What would I think without the cards?

Let’s just say that, in spite of the context and the question providing half of the answer in any divination session, when what we say always relates back to the context of the question – there are instances when the cards’ level of ambiguity cannot be resolved by either context or the way in which the question is formulated. What do we do in this situation? What do we do when we have to address the issue of others losing their plot?

I’m always exploring this, and now together with others in the upcoming course on the 3-card challenge, a course that gives us the opportunity to look at the situation when the cards undermine what is presupposed. Hop on board if you want to challenge your challenges.

If you want to see more interesting examples of a 3-card challenge, currently I’m posting a few on my Instagram account. Others are shared in my newsletter issued by Aradia Academy, especially when a new course is launched. Stay in the loop.

The 3-Card Challenge course in training reading the 3-card draw with the Marseille Tarot starts on April 10. Registration closes on April 9.

Things and ideas on a plate

I actually like Black Friday. Those who can’t afford ‘the thing,’ can now enjoy it at considerable discounts. I thought about the ones who put effort into making ‘the thing.’ I felt grateful for their valiant attitude. One takes responsibility for how a thing measures up against standards in a different way than one does when one merely sells ideas. I know this because I’m engaged in both the world of making things and the world of inspiring through ideas. Making things with your own hands requires a spine that the head full of ideas doesn’t have.

As Thanksgiving has been upon the many friends and acquittances I have in the US, I participated in both watching people express gratitude and making a few generous offers myself across the board and in various forms. For instance, I bought books on Black Friday – again – and sent people to a freshly restocked Read Like the Devil shop. I had red howlings and silver halides on the menu in addition to other quirky things.

Regarding gratitude, here’s what I think, quite contrary to the popular opinion. You don’t need lessons in gratitude. What you need is remembrance. Remembrance of how to appreciate the world of things and the world of the people invested in making the things that you either need or desire. What you don’t need is a world of ideas instructing you in how you can show gratitude by buying self-validating thoughts. Talk is cheap. Cheaper than the whole concept of Black Friday itself.

Today is Saturday. I played with the unique Carolus Zoya deck that I received as an act of gratitude for my work with the cards. I remembered to appreciate the maker. In my mind I thanked everyone who has ever bought both the first book that showcased this deck, Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading, and the latest that displays this deck in a different form, Tarot for Romeo and Juliet, now also out as paperback.

I also remembered to thank all those who got my own decks inspired by the Carolus Zoya cards, the Arcades Tarot and the non-commercially distributed Tarot Interdit that only a handful of people got. Generally I thanked everyone who got my things and my ideas alike.

Prompted by how much I invest in making things and coming up with ideas, I looked at my cards to get a sense of priority. I live off ideas, but I also like to make things. Sometimes I run out of time, and I can’t dedicate myself to both as much as I’d like. Ever so apt, the Carolus Zoya originals gave me this set of pictures:

And suggested the following: ‘rely on the love and affection of the men of love in your life. They like your work. You’re both the woman who makes things and the woman who has ideas. At the top, however, is the slot machine. In goes a coin and out comes the materia that you can use to give form.’

Temperance in the wings says: ‘keep making things and the ideas about what form to give them in balance.’

Yes, Sir, Carolus Zoya. You may be old, but you’re still as fresh as the most handsome seducer.

Before I forget, here’s the latest book featuring these cards, both the fine edition and the paperback. Enjoy!

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Please, stop

I found myself pleading this week. As I was browsing several virtual book fairs dedicated to fine art and letter press books, I quietly intoned: ‘please, stop torturing me… I don’t have 5 or 35000 dollars for this one.’ The life of the bibliophile can be hard, as there’s always the extremes that make it so. Some books are too damn fine. Others, although presented as such, can also make me plead, ‘please stop. Excellent binding. Very bad art… Please, don’t waste my money and my time with it.’

I experience the latter pleading especially when I dive into occult literature. While I love it that occultists have an eye for the materiality of the book, and thus make an effort to present it as best as they can, the contents don’t always match the fine binding or elaborate typography.

As a general rule, it’s not easy to pull off an occult book of value, because the genre itself presents a challenge. As most occult writing is based on an individual’s personal gnosis and praxis, I must admit that I hardly ever find it fascinating to hear about a practitioner’s relationship with Saturn, and just how it went with his visualization of the Lord of Death, while conjuring the image of a tight coffin. I mean, sure, fine by me. But, so what? Is this thing going anywhere? No, because it’s personal…

I also have a problem with the so-called channelled art, and I’m pretty sure that the ‘High Ones’ out there are already pissed off with my objections. When I come across books that reference this or that hermetic or magical order’s ‘secret’ manuscripts, all channeled material, I want to scream: ‘That’s it, High Ones? Is this all you can do for us, mortals? Present us with lame art of no significance?’ I guess I’m not very nice in my judgments.

Now, granted, if you check your history books, you’ll learn that most occult material has never been intended for public view, as it’s ‘occult’ for a reason. So the art is not really art and the thought that goes into it is not really a thought either. Thus, as far as I’m concerned, most occult material should stay hidden from plain view, so that we may all be spared the lamentation: ‘please, stop. I don’t want to see this…’

But publishers insist. ‘Isn’t it fascinating to read Aleister Crowley’s occult, bad poetry?’ It isn’t, if you ask me. Then the fancy production. Publishers give the personal gnosis a nice cover, and hope that we can all suspend our discernment, going for the book as a fetish instead. I fall for this trick, but only so many times…

Tarot for Romeo and Juliet

As I was mailing a copy of my own fine edition book, Tarot for Romeo and Juliet, to famed tarotist Rachel Pollack, we had a brief exchange about the lack of fine bindings in the Tarot world. There’s no shortage of those in the occult world. Tarot collectors collect cards, not fine bindings, and this was a point of lamentation. Rachel mentioned her contribution to the book accompanying the Tarot of Lenonora Carrington by Fulgur Press. In addition to their standard edition, they also issued a fine edition that sold out quickly. So that was good.

Then there’s Scarlet Imprint’s book, The Game of Saturn, by Peter Mark Adams, referencing the Sola Busca Tarot. I gave a longer review of this book when it came out, mentioning its looks too. A fine thing indeed. In terms of content, however, although it’s announced in the title that the book is about decoding the Sola Busca Tarot, in actuality The Game of Saturn is not about Tarot, but rather, about the conjectured sinister occult practices of elite families in Venice and Ferrara. The cards are used to hypothesize about these practices. Still. A fine book.

And that’s about it. Where are the others? Where are the good looking books that are not just the ‘little white books’ accompanying a deck of cards, now a concept that most in the Tarot world have started to revolt against? There’s good writing about the Tarot out there, but often the packaging doesn’t match the content.

As a way to shut myself up about it, I looked today at a gift that just dropped into my mail box, a gift that actually prompted these thoughts. Cartomancy student and artist Merete Veian sent me back my own book, The Arcades Tarot: Haiku Poems. Why would she do that after a year of keeping it, I thought to myself, until I opened it. To my astonishment it looked like Merete illustrated the whole thing, making excellent use of the ample negative space around each of the poems. A most astonishing feat to the eyes. This was good art I was looking at. Just like that, my poetry book got elevated to an art book. I liked that.

Then I glanced at another book, an art book that Merete did as a graduating project in my Cards and Zen program, Nonreading. I thought about the art books I had been looking at this whole week, books that I couldn’t even begin to get close to – though I tried my best to support the artists. My heart was filled with joy. I have such things in my house, unique takes on art as art relates to cartomancy in general and the Tarot in more specific terms. Merete’s book is a most ingenious concoction, worthy of the ‘special collection’ category in reputable museums. She did everything herself, the binding, the paper (hand dyed), and the writing…

Next to Merete’s book on my shelf of fine bindings and art books is also Carissa Krueger’s graduation project. The 22 major arcana explained. In hand writing and collage art. The quality of thought that goes into this book exceeds most of what I’ve seen in the occult world. This is not the regular grimoire recipe book that goes in steps, or in trite descriptions of method and analysis, ‘first you do this, and then you do that, and when you’re done channeling Beelzebub, think of how transformed you are, and therefore a much better person than before…’ A good book that reflects on the Tarot will do more than describing or heralding unsubstantiated claims.

I’m waiting for more good looking books to happen, whose content lives up to what the covers promise. I’m waiting for more publishers and editors to demonstrate discernment, choose authors who actually enjoy writing, rather than the name writing gives them. I’m waiting for good art to happen. I’m waiting for discerning readers to demand beauty of thought and powerful talismans from the books that they read. Words are magic. Let us try to fuck them up a little less, think about just what kind of celebration that goes into the creation of a book.

In the words of Lucille Clifton: ‘People wish to be poets more than they wish to write poetry, and that’s a mistake. One should wish to celebrate more than one wishes to be celebrated.’

We use cards and books as a gateway to the extended field of the imagination. Why limit ourselves to what is merely commercially viable, to what sells, with the selling point fashioned in prejudice and assumption, as in, ‘this is what people want?’


What people want is not cheap and ephemeral validation and confirmation of their identities. People want an author and an artist’s lust for life. I’m invested in this desire myself. I buy the books and cards of authors and artists, if I can clearly see that their lust comes across. If that’s not present, then I activate my lamentation magic phrase and act in accordance: ‘Please stop. Don’t waste my time…’


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Erotic Dreams

How do we dream of another? Part of my job as a diviner is to read the cards for dreams. People tell me what they dream about, and I elucidate their dreams with the imagery from the cards. I thus create a palimpsest, or put a layer of new images on top of the dream’s already existing symbolic world.

On occasion, however, I get to read for the dreams of a third party. ‘How does he dream of me?’ women sometimes ask hoping to get an idea as to how they perform in their lovers’ dreams. Men ask that too. Usually the reason for the desire to know is coupled with loss. When the idea of togetherness is fraught, we want to know how we appear in our lovers’ dreams.

I said recently, while looking at the Knight of Coins, 2 Batons, and the Ace of Swords: ‘In his dreams, your lover seeks you out, but he is barred from penetration.’ ‘At least there’s that,’ the woman said, looking intently at the penetrating sword.

In my latest book about to be launched in a few hours, Tarot for Romeo and Juliet: Reflections on Relationships, I talk about the importance of knowing the heart of another. Reading the heart of another is one of the most intimate acts, and as such, it makes a great impact on the way in which we understand the world in terms that are not shallow.

The new book is a book about how we read passions, reading passions being the very core of divination, but what I also explore most ardently is how and why we fail at relationships. Although I ask tough questions, I also write about love, as if love was ‘the thing itself,’ the vehicle that gets us transposed to a universe where we only exist because the other exists. In other words, a world of beauty and infinite potential.

Borrowing Shakespeare’s passionate lovers, Romeo and Juliet, I weave a personal story of love and loss through encounters with the Tarot. At the cartomancy table we also encounter Werner Herzog’s films, Klaus Kinski’s acting, Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, and professors of Psychology, Renaissance, and Religious Studies. Juliet drives a sports car without crashing and Romeo commits harakiri, Japanese style, while reading books such as Thinking with Demons.

I’m excited to release my 15th book in the philosophy and practice of divination category when EyeCorner Press also celebrates 15 years of operation. For this reason Tarot for Romeo and Juliet got an extra touch, appearing in the form of fine binding, dressed in silk and gold, and speaking in a voice that hits the heart and the gut.

This edition is limited to only 193 copies. Go for it. Go for the marvelous and enjoy the wisdom of knowing the heart of man. It’s as good as an erotic dream.