‘I’m concerned about my divorce.’
‘There’s no reason for it.’
‘But it’s been very hard and I don’t know what’s coming.’
‘Listen, it’s a perfectly normal divorce. Don’t worry.’
‘Your New Year will bring lots of sexual vitality to you. Lots and lots of sex and lots and lots of energy.’
‘I wonder about that. I’m 77.’
‘It makes no difference. NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL.’
This is me, for once, in the witnessing position. I’m staying at a cabin in the woods. The only thing that’s not slow is the German TV channel AstroTV.
I stumble into it. I make big eyes; after all, this is fast when everything else is slow. I get a drink and install myself comfortably in the sofa. I’m ready to be entertained.
The cartomancers on the TV are working very hard. It’s clear that they’re professional to the bones; professional in the sense of being able to handle being in the spotlight, getting questions, shuffling cards (all Lenormand), and answering it all in something like 5 seconds flat. They call this the ‘blitz’ reading.
I’m accustomed to seeing this style of fortunetelling from Romania. No professional fortuneteller I’ve ever seen spends more than 5 seconds flat per question.
There’s something very compelling about this approach, and I use it myself. Readers who work for a psychic telephone line also know the value of speed.
But here’s the thing that I don’t find so compelling: The lack of conversation.
The cards are thrown very fast on the table, in random spreads.
As far as I can follow – as the camera doesn’t always zoom in on the cards – the reader puts cards on the table until he or she gets to a specific significator in mind.
Then a few more cards fall on the table for the sake of creating context.
Anything between 4 cards 17, 21, 28, or 36 can happen, and whether there are 4 cards on the table or 36, the reader still doesn’t spend more than 5-10 seconds per question.
No one reads the cards according to any set method, school, or in any specific layout.
Seemingly the reader reads in line, but that is also only seemingly. I say this because if there’s something I’m good at, then it’s reading in line. I can do it very fast too. Sometimes extremely fast, so I recognize this type of reading immediately. This is not what they’re doing here.
On occasion, there’s a hint of applying the method of reading cards according to distance and their position in relation to the primary significators. But mainly it’s only the cards around the significator that are read.
There’s never any pointing to how one particular card or cluster of cards relates to the question. If there’s pointing then it’s for positioning, not for context.
The method follows actually the classical method for fortunelling which is anchored in manipulating – or to be more polite, in permuting – with binary metaphors: up/down; far/near; positive/negative; inside/outside.
For all its reductionism, what I value the most in this approach is that it’s perfect for training the birdseye view. In my own teaching I often stress the importance of rising above the cards and seeing everything on the table with hawk eyes.
The major downside is that there’s never any conversation going on. I have as yet to see a professional fortuneteller in the classical style (a psychic on a phone line, or a Gypsy) who spends time on ideas, saying: ‘Here’s an idea for you to think about,’ pointing also to just the cluster of cards that suggests something to that effect.
Such an approach would require a great deal of self-reflection. Self-reflection takes time. And time is money. You don’t waste time on TV.
Self-reflection is also the opposite of certitude. Classical fortunetellers don’t suffer from doubt, self-doubt, lack of boldness, and the pain of having to account for what logic they get it from. It’s all about impressions, not analysis.
What I appreciate here is not the ‘I know everything’ attitude, which can be very tiresome and tedious, but the Zen behind it: ‘Whatever I say right here and right now is the thing itself. There’s no right or wrong.’ Indeed, come to think of it, not everything necessitates analysis. The grand art is, however, to know the difference.
So there are both good things and bad things to know about classical fortunetelling:
The good stuff: Speed, capacity for quick and clear overview, and Zen positioning.
The bad stuff: Zero conversation, no reflection, and certainty about shooting blanks (let’s face it, scientifically speaking, last I’ve checked prediction is still a 50/50 thing: now you get it, now you don’t).
What I furthermore take from AstroTV that I find entertaining is seeing how space is filled up and by what emptiness:
The readers get tired quickly, talking basically in a vacuum, though, since they’re professionals, they don’t show it.
The sitters say ok all the time, and nothing more. At best, they promise: ‘ok, got it. I’ll check. The lost wallet is inside the top drawer.’
The cards sit briefly on the table, as if bewildered, asking about their function, as they don’t get to speak much. The only interesting sound they make is when they’re shuffled.
WHAT IS CLASSICAL FORTUNETELLING TO YOU?
So here’s a series of questions for you all, at the end of the year, a year that’s been marked by a grand increase in the popularity of classical fortunetelling:
- How much do you insist on having a conversation with the cards and with the other you read for, even when you have to run a cartomantic marathon?
- To what extent do you think that having such a conversation is significant?
- If you can’t afford to have a conversation, do you have a strategy that combines ‘time is money’ with ‘self-reflection is the thing?’
Let me end here with a samurai cut reading, AstroTV style, 5 cards on the table placed in a random pyramid, for this question. I add to my answer the snappy reflection that the others don’t deliver.
What’s the absolute best in classical fortunetelling?
Classical fortunetelling develops a snappy cunning style of delivering a message, making men believe that they can climb all mountains. They got the key to it all, after all.
Damn. I was hoping to see that the Zen that can inform classical fortunetelling – the idea of the here and now as the ultimate answer – can do more than appeal to belief in totalizing solutions.
But belief in finding the key to whatever problem hits again. In principle, if you can make people believe in anything, they’ll call (on) you.
In its absolute best manifestation, classical fortunetelling can provide a grand key that unlocks your universe. But I guess you just got to be fortunate for that to happen.
I think I’m going to put off the TV, sit under a tree, and scribble some secret sigils. It’s clear that I’ll never be a popular star.
I wish you all a great New Year.
Apropos of Zen. My latest essays on Patheos are all about martial arts cartomancy. If you haven’t seen them, you may discover a few good cuts that you can apply to your own styles. The last two essays also deal with how you can read your cards for the new year to great effect in the simple way.
Lastly, as usual, stay in the loop, if you want to receive news on what’s coming up in terms of courses. In the pipe line for February is a workshop on reading with art cards, and a new, revamped class on reading with the Marseille cards. Stay tuned.