Yesterday I put on my astrakhan coat, strings of fresh-water pearls, Misaki pearls, opals, rune amulets from the Lofoten islands, and hamsa bracelets from Israel. I was properly armed and ready to visit the annual wellness/body and soul fair in Copenhagen hosted over the weekend. The minute I stepped inside the big forum, I could see that there’s system to the madness. The ground floor offered grounding things: crystals, stones, drums, animal skins, and incense. The first elevation and up had Tarot, witches, angels, Indian gurus, and a corner full of what others in everyday parlance would refer to as the ‘totally-beyond-redemption-speaking-with-the-dead’ type of folks. Most of the visitors walked about either in a completely catatonic state, or a state of eagerness, which often resulted in their sticking their noses into crystal balls and the like, and forgetting to pay attention to who else was walking about and who they stepped on. But then this is the place for the totally disturbed, totally narcissistic, totally righteous, and totally loving.
As I like to see totalities in action, I never want to miss a beat, so I try to attend as many encounters of this type as possible. On a more pragmatic level, I was interested in seeing what else the Danish tarot community is up to these days. I went to what was advertised as a lecture on tarot by the owners of the Danish Tarot Academy, Ulrik Golodnoff and Søren Rasmusen. As it turned out, there was no lecture, but instead an invitation to the public to just come forward with individual questions, which the two lecturers would answer by looking into the cards, in ‘stereo’ as they put it – the Waite/Smith and Crowley/Harris decks. This is not very interesting for the members of the audience who can make a distinction between place and space and various types of exhibitionism. Also as a general rule, an exhibitionist is not interested in seeing another exhibitionist, or having to listen to people asking questions as to whether the cards could say something about how and when – ‘when, I need to know NOW’ – a lost philanderer lover will return to the one and only loving bosom. While the Waite/Smith Tarot suggested: ‘forget about it, honey, your man is an immature and insincere Page of Cups in reverse’ and the Crowley/Harris suggested busted security in the 4 Wands in reverse, the two lecturers failed to deliver a synthesis or a narrative that would say something commonsensical about how the imagery of the two cards in fact supported the same message. The subject was also lamenting that she didn’t get it, insisting also that her lover promised that he would come back to her. Yes, and there are no dishonest men on the planet, but if she worked hard at it – the two lecturers said – of course the additional 5 cups can also turn into grand love, because good fortune is in sight as signaled by the Wheel of Fortune. The woman was happy with this answer.
For some reason, the Danish tarotists are particularly fond of Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. I think this has to do with the fact that they think Crowley/Harris is ‘cooler’ than the standard Waite/Smith. I am a Marseille reader myself, so I don’t belong to the club. In fact, as there aren’t any other Marseille readers in Denmark – most people find the historical decks difficult to read with, as there are no pictures on the minor Arcana cards – I can consider myself a one-woman show. For cultural reasons, however, I rather like the mainstream decks used yesterday, and I can also read with them without any qualms – I can even do the kabbalah stuff in relation to the Thoth deck, if need be. Consequently, this knowledge enables me to make a few assessments. So, on yesterday’s performance: No, no, and no, I don’t think so, OMG, that is so no, absolutely not, no way in hell, nope, and no. I had a hard time finding a ‘yes’ when, for instance, Rasmussen was telling the woman concerned with her lover that the 5 of cups in the Thoth tarot was challenging her to think of what Jesus would do if he was sitting on a hotplate. As an image in itself – Jesus with a hot ass – this works brilliantly, but if you leave things up in hot air, merely telling someone that they need to find a way of hopping between the branches of the Tree of Life, from Geburah ruled by Mars to Tiphareth ruled by the Sun, is not very helpful. Given also what we know of Jesus, who’s to say that he wouldn’t elect to burn and endure it all, carry the heavy cross, instead of taking another path? Thus, telling the woman to go soft and beautiful on the inconstant and disinterested lover is a way of betraying her trust and siding with the absent potential bastard.
At the end of the day, although I can appreciate people’s unfortunate efforts – and I still believe in the poetics of Tarot and its ability to derail our reality for the better, in spite of everything – let’s just say that while entertaining, the Danish Tarot Fair fails on the question of precision. But then, balancing Tarot’s potential for precision with its potential to leave it open and up to us is the grand art. It is for this reason that we don’t give it up, even though we may feel the urge to smash a few pedestals, go from small scale to grand scale and thus rewrite and reclaim the tarot schooling from clubs, establishments, and body and soul fairs.