My summer solstice yesterday was magical. I have received a marvelous gift in the form of a pack of cards, a bag with magical plants, salts, and crystals, and a blackthorn tincture from Dana Komjaty, a Dutch artist and herbalist. Dana’s cards are all original artwork. They are not a facsimile. A regular 54 playing-card deck has been transformed into an oracle. Dana painted on the surface of the cards with white wash, and then glued keywords of her own choice, and at random, on the face of the cards. The manual labor that must have gone into this process impresses me. The result is just beautiful.
INTUITION OR LOGIC
Dana and I have talked about reading cards and my claim that we can read with everything. All we need is a method. ‘But how about intuition?,’ most of my cartomantic students ask me. ‘And is knowledge about esoteric systems important?’ To this I often reply the following: Yes, It’s fascinating to know what people were thinking throughout the ages and where they came from to the cards. But is this necessary to one’s ability to read the cards? Here I would say, no. It’s not. What’s important is that one goes with a few solid and down to earth meanings of the cards, and which one has arrived at not by way of ‘intuition’ alone, but rather by way of observing how nature plays a part in the suits, or how the trumps embody situations. Say, answering simple fundamental questions: why are hearts or cups associated with water, family, friendship, and healing? Well, simply because hearts and cups relate to the blood, the circulatory system, hence blood relations, or good flow as the flow between friends. Why are spades related to the earth? Well, what do you do with a spade? You dig the earth with it. When the Hermit retreats his steps, does that mean that he disengages from ordinary life? Indeed it does. Do we need to embody that movement sometimes? Indeed we do.
The way we arrive at these meanings is not part of a greater mystery, but rather part of what we make of a thing’s function. When we reduce meaning to function, what we create is poetry. As things don’t have an inherent meaning, there is no meaning other than the meaning that we, as a collective body, assign to them. The poetics of the cards is all about intuition plus function; or intuition plus pattern recognition; or intuition plus process. It’s not enough to get information from the cards, all sorts of information coming the random way. One must also develop a sense of how one can process this information. This process is based on learning and self-discipline, and has very little to do with what we ‘intuitively’ make of it.
Which brings me to giving an example of how we can read with original artwork, where we can both, make recourse to traditional meanings and assess what ‘comes through’ when looking at how randomness creates a pattern of meaning independently of ‘tradition’.
Dana’s cards are a palimpsest. New ‘meaning’, or rather, a possibility for meaning, has been superimposed on traditional playing cards. How do we read the cards underneath the paint? And do we even want to bother? And wouldn’t some of the artist’s randomly chosen keywords work counter to the traditional keywords of each card? Now, that is the challenge. Such challenges have already been with us, if we consider the Lenormand cards that feature a playing-card inset on each of the image-loaded 36 cards. Most readers don’t have a clue as to how to read these insets, and they are convinced that they were placed there to serve the needs of the people who just want to play cards rather than read with them. So you get two packs in one, a piquet playing-card deck and an oracle. Others feel that the playing cards could be read, but they seem to contradict the images they accompany. Would one have to devise a system of one’s own, if one doesn’t want to get lost in the woo-woo woods? I’m one of those readers who take up such challenges with joy, as I consider them a way of flexing my brain and my elastic of wisdom (you may check out my other posts on this here and here).
With Dana’s pack I’ve decided to go for the Council of 13 (read an intro to this method here). As I’ve been confronted with the question of boundaries lately, both in my personal life and also as others have presented me with, I’ve decided to ask the following question:
How do we set boundaries to our giving? The implicit concern here is how we measure our resources by giving them away, to whom, for what purpose, and at what time. And are we happy with what we get in return, if feedback or something else is needed?
Here’s what the council says:
The central card, FATHER (King of Clubs) already tells me that the starting point is precisely here, namely in the ability to provide, like a father or a king would. The FATHER is flanked by WOMB (Ace of Hearts) and MOON (3 of clubs). This tells me that the resources that can be provided are also those that find themselves gestating. They are in latent, rather than manifest from. Already a question prompts itself here: how can I manifest my giving? What’s in the WOMB, only the MOON knows. I like the association of the WOMB here with the Ace of Hearts, the card that indicates the house par excellence. But we’re dealing here with the very core of the house, which is often not something that one gives away. One shares of the house with other associates in it or outside it little by little (3 clubs). The womb knows good timing.
Incidentally, the surprise card here, BIRTH, enforces this reading already from the very beginning. BIRTH simply tells me that the setting of boundaries for one’s giving must be aligned with timing. You must give of yourself exactly at the right moment. You can FEEL this moment (card above FATHER, the Queen of Spades), and anchor it in awareness. REMEMBER, the card below FATHER, (Jack of Hearts) indicates that setting boundaries for what to give, to whom, and when, is very much indeed a question of aligning your resources not only with the needs of others, but also your own needs. Your own needs for feedback, inspiration, and material things, must not be forgotten. So, the emotional content that goes into acts of generosity must be in touch with what you can provide, as well as with your gut feeling for when to do it. How well do you know your womb, so to speak? We all have something cooking inside of us, but how many of us can guarantee that what we give birth to is flawless and healthy?
The outer frame also tells me that this exchange between one’s values and other’s needs must be fiercely protected. The card FIERCE (Jack of Spades) in tandem with BEAR (5 of spades) warns of the possibility to overload ourselves. On the vertical axis, we are told that the pleasure in giving (5 of hearts) can be FRAGILE. Therefore listening to the CROW (Joker) may be a good idea. Giving is fun, but remember also the wisdom in the play for discernment.
GO for BEAUTY, the final diagonal line tells me. The other joker in play here urges us on, GO. Let us enjoy what the clever and beautiful Queen of Diamonds has in store for us. Knowing how to give is BEAUTY. The first diagonal in the reading tells me that there may still be an elephant in the house, the WHALE (10 spades) causing us to worry about our DILEMMA (8 of diamonds), but as long as we remember that a process of birthing is a natural process, then we can wait, we can be patient. We learn not only to communicate with our concerns, but also to communicate them to others.
While the WHALE can also be a FIERCE BEAUTY (as the reading of the curves tells me), mirroring the desire to let GO of a BEAR-strong DILEMMA, it may also contain all that is vulnerable in a giving act (WHALE, FRAGILE, GO), mirroring the deliberator (BEAUTY, CROW, DILEMMA).
Does someone overstep our boundaries? Call on the fierce Jack of Spades. Do we overstep others’ boundaries? Learn to feel how the Queen of Spades accepts things the cool way. Overall, keep the balance between the manifest giving represented by the FATHER, and the more hidden and latent powers of the WOMB and the MOON.
I am very grateful for this act of giving here, from Dana. Her deck proves to me once more, that indeed we can read with anything. All we need is a method and commonsense. The common sense that allows us to make logical inferences along what we intuitively get from the cards.
Thank you, Dana, for this most thoughtful and sensuous gift, and for the please it has giving me already in answering my question.
For those interested in knowing what system I imposed on the playing-cards underneath Dana’s artwork, if it’s not already or immediately apparent, see my post: Fortunetelling in Three Steps.
Original artwork: Dana Komjaty.
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