Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dark Moon Musings

Noblet Tarot, Flornoy 2014
It's the dark moon. Well, nearly. at the moment it's 1% of full waning crescent, but close enough. The moon is passing between the earth and the sun, and thus the side of the moon that is illuminated by the sun is facing away from us. We can't see the moon in this phase from earth except during moments of solar eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun, and the night portion of the moon becomes visible to us, surrounded by the sun's fiery corona. Once each month, the moon comes all the way around in its orbit so that it passes more or less between us and the sun. If the moon always passed directly between the earth and the sun at new moon, a solar eclipse would take place every month. Instead, in most months, the moon passes above or below the sun as seen from earth. On the day of a new moon, the moon rises when the sun rises, and sets when the sun sets. It crosses the sky with the sun during the day. The new moon is too close to the sun's glare to be visible. Plus, its lighted hemisphere is facing away from us. The dark lasts about three days before the crescent appears. Many people use the terms dark moon and new moon interchangeably. For some, the new moon begins as soon as the moon becomes invisible. For others, not until the first sliver of crescent appears. Tradition holds that no magic should be practised during the dark moon. Traditional yoga practice holds that you should not practice yoga during the full or dark moon, and some traditional yogis fast during the dark moon.

To me the dark moon is a time between times. A waiting period. It just seems natural that you would pause your practices, rather like the moment between breaths.

Today I've drawn 9 of Cups, traditionally the 'make a wish' card. This dark moon will be a time of harmony and happiness for me. Just hanging out waiting for developments. That's cool.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Card of the Day - The Emperor

Noblet Tarot, Flornoy 2014
Today is a day for law and order. Or it may be a day that I come up against 'law and order'. It's an Emperor kind of day.

Here are some statements about the Emperor from Yoav Ben-Dov:

The Emperor rules over matter. 
The Emperor imposes his will.
The Emperor is an earthly father.
The Emperor is ready to fight. 
The Emperor controls himself. 
The Emperor conceals his weakness.

So I ask myself...how do I 'rule over matter' today? How can I impose my will? How do I serve as a patron or benefactor, or a kind of earthly father -- or who is fulfilling this role for me? In what areas should I be ready to fight? How should I be controlling myself today? What weakness should I keep to myself today?

All very good questions to keep in the back of the mind as today's events unfold.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review -- The Oracle Travels Light

It's no secret that I've been influenced by Camelia Elias's first book, Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading, which has garnered mixed reactions; some tarot readers love it and some write that they as much as pitched it directly into the trash bin. Her second book, The Oracle Travels Light: Principles of Magic with Cards seems to be as much a spoonful of Marmite to its readers as that first one. Those who love it tend to write things like this:

'This is a book for those who would risk a finger at the loom of the Weavers...This book is a stick of dynamite disguised as a cigar waiting to be lit with three matches from the hand of a dead man.' Aiden Watcher

'With this butterfly in my gun, I feel I might never again miss my mark.' Atticus Hob

'For those who don't mind walking into the forest of the mind and striking a match, this fire will keep you warm for your whole life long.' Caitlin Matthews

This resorting to metaphoric language goes a long way to showing you what the book is like. The following reviewer, who gave the book 5 stars, begins to touch upon one of my problems with it: 

'This one feels scholarly, yes, but, also muddy and sticky, like the shaman as she imparts the secret knowledge as she is rising from the swamp. The book itself is a potent spell well crafted.' Charles Webb

Even this guy, in trying to explain what it's like wading through the prose style and content of The Oracle Travels Light, has to use metaphoric language.

One confused reviewer says: 'Not sure if the book could use some better organisation, or if the less linear structure is part of the intended delivery. But there's gold in them wandering pathways.' Joe Crow (Another metaphor!)

Not everyone has been caught by its Marmite charms, though, such as these reviewers:

'One of the most self-obsessed and myopic books on magic I've ever read.'  James Kennedy

'Don't waste your money on this one. Had a look at it and threw it in the bin.' Wordery

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to say about this book and how to say it. That's because there is some good material here that deserves to be considered, and because Elias demonstrates how seamlessly and organically the cards and magic can (and ought to) be integrated into daily life. Those are the good points. But also, there's no escaping the fact that this book is written in a dense, highly frustrating, stilted prose style, and there is a relentless subtextual thread which might reflect a personal war with a religious milieu, in frequent mentions of defying 'cultural dictations' and rather defiant see-how-naughty-I-am-because-I-practice-magic references to the Devil and the Devil card. These start to distract and annoy early on and they don't let up.

So let's just start with what I didn't liked

1. The prose style. It is dense and unlovely. Occasionally unintelligible.

2. All this banging on about being outside cultural norms and expectations. Anyone practicing magic already knows damn well they're outside the box. Why the gloating? This contempt for the 'norm' glares in a sample reading near the end of the book. It is for a man who wants to know if his friend has 'gone too conservative after marriage' to 'the prototype of the Danish woman, for whom everything is a project, including husband, children, the job, the house and the dog.' Elias writes: 'Yack. While listening to more uncomfortable notions about the dangers of life based on the status quo ideals... I laid down three cards, and the horror, the horror.' A good unbiased start, then.  Elias next details the reading which confirms both her and her client's contempt for conventional life, and ends with the client's feedback that his friend had phoned to tell him that he is happy. Elias isn't buying it: 'We could ask Freud what he would make of this demonstrative act of enunciation that discloses the poverty in inauthentic living: if you have to say you are (happy, rich, content, powerful) you aren't.' She then mentions how useful it is to be neutral in a reading and caps the story with this puzzler: 'As it is fantasy that rules the mytho-poetic act, our magic gets strengthened by the flow of speaking creatures, instructing us in the art of graceful deliverance.' Believe me, that sentence is no easier to interpret in the context of the entire chapter than it is here in isolation in this review. (See point 1).

3. Outright dismissal of the right hand path. In a chapter called 'The Paths of Magic,' Elias declares that only those who follow a left hand path live an authentic life, while right handers conform to what is acceptable to the masses. She confirms this for herself in a reading. For the left hand path, she draws The Pope, Justice and The Devil. For the right hand path, Lovers, Magician and Judgement. She gives the following reading, which I give in its entirety, because I found it so thoroughly offensive to light workers:
Here it becomes crucial to understand what the sorceress wants to begin with: To be in cahoots with the Devil, and do what there is to be done in terms of pacts and bonds, or to mediate relations between the ambivalent subject (herself included) and the public?
Whereas the Devil invites us to the underworld, asking us to start with confronting our own demons, the Angel says "all rise, let us now hear the news."
Whereas in the first example we clearly have a situation that requires a complete cut (Justice) with the dogma of the mainstream church (Pope), and entering into formal submission to the Lord of Darkness (Justice + Devil), the second example demonstrates a need to rise above the very idea of choice (Lovers) by tricking oneself (Magician) into believing that the sharing of higher learning is possible (Judgement). 
Whereas in the first example, describing the lefthand path, we are asked to consider giving up a pound of our own flesh and blood in exchange for magical knowledge (Justice cuts and weighs), the second example, for the right hand path, shows us that we are dependent upon the community to acknowledge our magic. Moreover here, as the Magician is looking at the options on his table, we are meant to understand that he may not be aware of how much of that doubting of himself he ends up carrying into the new world.  
Whereas the first example may involve working with necromancy, the ancestors, or the spirit of the telluric forces, the last example emphasises working with celestial forces as received by the larger group. If the first example shows us the transmission of personal gnosis, the price being going down, the second example shows us the transmission of group mentality, the price being having to listen up.

She then caps with this zinger: 'Why is working with the 'Devil' condemned, while working with the 'Angel' is consecrated? Which camp do I want to be in? The winners or the losers?' She calls this a  'transgressive lunch' (your guess is as good as mine!) and says 'good folks have been burned for a lot less than this discussion here.' Tiresome.

But here's what I really liked

1. Magic in the day-to-day. Elias tells many stories about how she sees magic all around, by making connections. On a day when she is thinking about her father and a person she admires, two crows appear and follow her. She names them after the two she is thinking of. Then later, she finds two white eggs in a carton of 12 and feels it's another sign from the pair. She tells a story of a friend who years ago promised her a gift sending her a Tibetan bowl just as she is deliberating over whether or not she should buy a Tibetan bowl. Do these stories prove anything? 'They prove nothing,' she writes. 'But what they do is tell us what we can make of the way in which we interact with the world. By letting ourselves be enchanted with how things come to us, or with what happens when we point our index finger at someone or something, we get a sense of what it means to be alive beyond the blood pulsing through our veins.'

2. Magic in ourselves. In a chapter called 'Necromancy,' Elias tells a wonderful story about a night when she and her sister decide to do some magic to try to 'uncover an annoying family secret'. They draw cards at random based on images seen by her sister in a crystal ball, and try out an array of magical techniques to coax the truth from the ancestors, who toy with them but in the end refuse to reveal anything. It is such a wonderful example of spontaneous, organic use of magical techniques and cards, and also the magical partnership between the sisters. They are playful and good-humoured through the experience, through the chills and rising hair, and finally give up, spill libations and go off to bed. The story is as much about Elias's relationship with her sister and the magical experience itself as it is about magical technique. Actually more so. We don't receive any instruction as to how to do any of this. The idea is just to do it, enjoy it. 'The point of the story here is to emphasise the very pragmatic scope of any magical working beyond its intended function, which, in my case, is the sheer pleasure of enjoying the company of my sister without having to go through the banality of recounting frustrations related to the reality of our 'normal' lives...In our encounters we have found that raving about our achievements, or those of our loved ones, is only interesting for about three seconds. Hence, we have long since realised that the best of ourselves together is found in our letting sacred objects not only mediate between us, but also inform our gatherings. Nothing really compares to the work of blessing our own treading on this planet, and making recourse to unusual practical magical behaviour that enhances our awareness of alternative modes of viewing the world. A community of two can work marvels.' In the margin next to this, I've translated it: 'Magic is more fun than small talk.'

3. Magic in the cards. The cards and your magic practice can be as natural as breathing. Elias tells a story about being anxious about her sister driving on her own through the countryside to Norway. She turns directly to the cards and draws Chariot, Tower, Temperance. She creates an impromptu spell and tells her sister, 'Take the Temperance card from the pack and enchant it with words of power for protection on the road and balanced driving.' Her sister does have an accident but is unhurt. Elias finds out her sister never did take a card or speak words of power over it. However, Elias believes that 'the thought of it counted enough' to allow her sister to arrive unharmed. I find stories like this endlessly fascinating. Our thoughts affect reality. Magic is anything that helps us direct and focus how our thoughts are affecting reality.  I have no doubt on this point. (This draw could also have been read: You are worried about your sister having a car wreck, but don't be. You can trust that it will all come out in the wash. :D )

Despite its frustrations, I believe this book is worth reading. I've read it three times. I've dipped into it many more times than that -- I've been chewing this book over since February. The margins are filled with my outraged or delighted scribblings. We have a love/hate vibe. That in itself makes it pretty magical to me.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Rise above

What is the most helpful thing I can do for myself today? 

Ancien TdM, Grimaud 1973
Hew down troubled thoughts and give them as an offering to your inner knowing. 

Thoughts that seek to destroy you should be met by the serene indifference of your inner knowing.

The 8 of Swords is all about troubled thoughts. The number 8 itself stand for 'ideas or thoughts of the mind', and Swords 'are the troubles that plague every man'. So the 8 of Swords is the perfect card to represent overthinking, particularly obsessive worries about the 'troubles that plague every man' -- thoughts about things like losing a source of income, having a catastrophic illness, or someone dropping dead, contemplating your own mortality, right down to smaller universal troubles like never being sure you're doing the right thing, or looking back on the past and wishing things had gone differently, all of these are 'troubles that plague every man'. They happen to everyone. The 8 of Swords represents worrying about these things. In fact, the Grimaud LWB says, 'This card has powerful undercurrents and possesses no meaning in the abstract sense. Heavy and overpowering, it marks despair because of the evil undercurrents that it attracts.' Wow. We can all justifiably worry about these things. But does it do us any good?

In this story of the cards, even though Death is facing the High Priestess, I don't think he's going for her. I think he's making obeisance to her. It looks like he's just chopped up worries from the 8 of Swords and is looking to her for approval. She certainly looks on at him with a benign and pleasant expression. They see eye to eye. So it could be that he's destroyed the overthinking and is turning it over to the higher mind, the aspect of self that exists above the ego. That's one way to read the story of the cards.

Another way to look at this draw is that in fact 8 of Swords and Death ARE working together -- the overwhelming thoughts and Death have teamed up to try to destroy you. But they find themselves squared up against a more powerful force than themselves -- inner knowing. In this story told by the cards, Death uses the 8 of Swords as his primary weapon, wreaks havoc in the mind, turns toward the High Priestess looking rather exhausted and hoping to go for her next, but nope. She is wise to his tricks. She looks mildly at him. She even looks somewhat amused by him. He can stand there panting and clutching his scythe all he likes. She knows that while she's locked eyes with him, he doesn't have the strength in his scrawny arm to raise it against her.  He'd just better hope she doesn't decide to lift her hand from her book against him! But she won't have to. And that's another way to read the story of these cards.

That is the most helpful thing I can do for myself today. Rise above troubled thoughts that believe they can destroy me. They can't. I cannot be destroyed -- not even by myself. No, not even if my thoughts have convinced me that they can. They can't. Not if I look them in the face and let them know I see them. They can't get the real 'I'. Not the higher me.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Ancien Tarot de Marseille -- a very old deck finds a new forever home

Ancien Tarot de Marseille, Grimaud 1973
I bought this deck on eBay the other day (£8 -- bargain). In the photograph, you see the box with plastic insert to hold the deck divided in half, the instruction booklet, and on left, the Ancien Tarot de Marseille deck. Next to it on the right, I've placed the CBD tarot for comparison, so you can see how thick the card stock is. It is about twice the thickness of the average tarot deck.

I was really surprised at how pristine the deck is, considering it is 43 years old. The cards still had the cellophane bands around them. They look brand new. The box has some slight yellowing, and both box and deck have that curious smell that comes with old paper. I can't describe it, but you know it when you smell it. It isn't terribly strong, but it's there. The cards have a tiny copyright imprint: G & P Grimaud 1963 (not 1973). The cards are extremely oversaturated with colour, consisting of golden yellow, dark blue, dark green, deep red, a peachy flesh tone and black. The background and some card details are vivid white.  The deck is solid and chunky in the hand, and there is no way to riffle it. Hand over hand is the only way to go.

There are some endearing quirks to this deck, for example, the coin suit is called 'money' and cards are labelled 'Knave of Money', 'Queen of Money'. The Tower is called 'Tower of Destruction'. Lovers is called 'The Lover'.  Batons are called 'Clubs'.  The Popesse is called 'The High Priestess' but the Pope is still 'The Pope'. And card XIII is labelled 'Death', on the side of the card. I have no idea who did the redrawings or what deck it is based on.

Here's my draw for today:


9 of Clubs, 2 of Swords, Knave (Page) of Swords. The Knave has his eye firmly on the flower configuration in the centre of 2 of Swords.

Interpretation:

An obstacle or delay causes conflict; the best course of action is to take up a mildly defensive posture while keeping attention focused on the heart of the matter. Be prepared to swat lightly, like at a fly. It's very likely you'll not have cause to strike. It will probably resolve itself. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Line of sight reading starting with three majors - what should be my priorities today?


Noblet Tarot, Flornoy 2014 
I decide to use majors only, and if I need more cards, I will draw from the minors. Boom boom boom. Magician, Popesse, Pope. But what are the Magician and Popess looking at? Let's draw some more.  Knight of Swords (not pictured). He's facing the left, too, so what are they all looking at? 4 of Coins. And on the right, what is the Pope looking at? 8 of Cups (not pictured).

The trickster and the warrior have their eyes on material stability, but the Popesse has their number and sets it down in her little book. She's not fooled. Back to back with the Pope, who is casting a spell toward the future -- thoughts and ideas that bring happiness; plans for future happiness. Expecting a good emotional outcome.

The three central cards, the original three card draw, show the female and male counterparts back to back. They could either be divided, working in opposition and not pulling together, or they could be seen as back to back in a defensive position, like you see in martial arts films. If the Magician were looking toward the Popesse I might suspect that he is trying to trick her, and that he represents her suspicions about the Pope, who she has her back toward. But he isn't he's looking away, and that makes me think there's something beyond him that he's focusing on, and has nothing to do with the Pope, so that puts the the Popess and the Pope in a defensive couple posture instead of as adversaries. The Knight of Swords suggests that the Magician's tricks are meant to harm, but harm what? and 4 of Coins is solid, material stability. The Trickster is out for my money. But I'm watching. I've got my intuition and I'm taking notes. The Pope's got my back and he's looking toward the future and trying to keep spirits up.

So my priorities for today are to do some research to make sure that my financial stability is not under threat. In fact, the Magician and the Warrior could be aspects of the Popesse sent out in pursuit of financial stability, not necessarily adversaries. Either way, information should be gathered today, and about what? Trust my instincts.

Another interpretation is a division between one partner who feels the need to keep the focus on these concerns and the other partner who just wants to be happy and puts all his attention on happiness. So in that way they turn their backs to each other. And boy does that sound familiar.

Lots to think about today.

So okay, second try -- my priorities for today are to take care of the financial security in whatever ways I can, in whatever ways my intuition tells me I need to, but also not to turn my back on my partner, who might be feeling ignored. I don't know if you've noticed, but I can be pretty intense, and often forget to be 'happy' about stuff. :)


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Elemental correspondences -- have you thought about yours?


I've just been reading The Oracle Travels Light by Camelia Elias, again. The first time I tried to read it, it just didn't click for me. I couldn't follow. It was a bunch of gobbledygook. And this after I was so utterly smitten by Marseille Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading. I admit, I was trying to charge through with a pen in hand, looking for the 'good stuff' to incorporate, and not really reading it the way it was meant to be read. Several months later, it seems to be falling into place. And today, I felt a real paradigm shift with regard to elemental correspondences -- the elements we assign to the tarot suits. I initially rejected this when I read it in Marseille Tarot, and even wrote in the margin of that book: 'These are off base -- but as long as she is consistent, I guess it doesn't matter.'

I learned on the Golden Dawn system, which is used in the Rider Waite Smith and most tarot decks. Nearly all readers in the English-speaking tarot world use this system:

Fire - Spring - Wands
Water - Summer - Cups
Air - Autumn - Swords
Earth - Winter - Coins

If you want a book that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about applying this particular system to tarot, then Benebell Wen's Holistic Tarot is the book for you. I read that one cover to cover and thought my life was complete, until I got hold of Marseille Tarot directly after reading it!

Now I'm not an expert on various systems and don't know the origins, but I do know that some decks switch Air and Fire, having Swords = Fire and Wands = Air. Decks such as Silicon Dawn and Legend Arthurian do this.

The Crystal Tarots by Elisabetta Trevisan switches Cups and Swords so that Cups = Air and Swords = Water, which is really hard to fathom.

Let it be known that you don't have to use elemental correspondences in tarot readings. It's not necessary in the slightest. And you don't have to use a widely accepted system, or follow the system of the deck you're using -- though it may be a challenge to deviate, as some decks make the elemental correspondences very plain in the art work and colouring. But if you do use correspondences, you ought to have a good reason behind your choices, beyond, 'It's the one everyone uses,' or 'I just like them like that.'

In Marseille Tarot, Elias gives her set, saying, 'This is my own rendition, and based on my understanding of how the card readers of old, the cunning-folk, must have thought of it when they passed down the essential idea':

Fire - Spring - Coins
Water - Summer - Cups
Air - Autumn - Wands
Earth - Winter - Swords

What? My brain could not compute how Coins could be anything but Earth, or how Swords could be anything but Air. She wasn't even switching Wands with Swords, which at least I'd seen before in other decks. No, she's switching Wands with Coins and Coins with Swords!  I dismissed this as some personal quirkery and moved on, because her explanations were too impressionistic and I could not follow them:

'Coins/Diamonds are for spring and fire. A fresh idea is a hot idea. Coins are chiseled for exchange and culture. We hold coins in our hands. They denote working with our head. Coins represent the nervous system. All things on fire. Travel vehicles that use an engine. Expensive computers. A cooking range. The kitchen. The dining room. The roof of the house. East.' (Marseille Tarot, page 123)

What what?? Coins, fire engines, computers, what the hell?

'Batons/Clubs are for autumn and air. An idea needs to be harvested. Trees grow in the air. Tall trees turned into batons to fight with are at arm's length. We exercise with a stick. Make fences. Clubs represent the muscular system. We run. We use our legs, or take an airplane to whiz through the air faster. West. The floors of the house.'

Okay, I thought -- whatever! This must be really over my head or else this lady's just got some very kooky ideas, but it doesn't matter, because the rest of the book is so useful. Those are some crazy words and phrases hooked together there. I made question marks in the margin and turned the page.

Then, this morning, I was up at an even more ungodly hour than usual (4.00 AM -- sciatica), and encountered these notions again in the book The Oracle Travels Light. This time, it seemed to click. Reluctantly, I might add, because I do not like writers meddling in the affairs of my fixed ideas, for I am subtle and quick to anger. :) But click it did:

'What are the four suits in a pack of cards? Nature, our own bodies, and prompters of action,' I read. Hmm. Tell me more...

'The cups suggest our blood, and the way it circulates in our bodies. Without our blood streaming we are dead.' Yes, true. Cups are essential. Liquid is life. Yes, yes.

'With the diamonds or the coins, we make transactions. We can feel our adrenaline making our blood hot when we're about to close a deal that's important to us. Having your brain on fire is no small thing.' Pause. Squint. Coins as fire? NO. That's not right. I pictured all those tarot cards showing coins nestled in earth or growing on trees. And yet...my own feelings about money aren't cold like the earth, or in any way about growth cycles. My feelings about money are fevered. I have to admit it. I carried on reading...

'With the clubs or the batons, we build dwellings, or compete.' I pictured wattle and daub construction, and cavemen hitting each other with sticks. 'They have the energy of the wind. Before they are cut down, tall trees know who whispers in their leaves.' By god, I suddenly saw treetops swaying in the breeze and heard the noise and thought holy crap! Trees are wind! That's how they talk! What else is here?...

'With spades or swords, we dig the earth. We go to war to conquer territory, more land - more earth.' Great gods, I see this. Spades ARE used to dig the earth, and swords ARE forged to conquer, and to conquer what? More land! Holy paradigm shift, it hurts to have your gears switched. But I could actually see how swords could be EARTH.

So here I am. Changed again. I've already given up esoteric blah-blah when thinking about the suits. Taking the example of Enrique Enriquez, I've started looking quite literally at cups, batons, swords and coins in my readings. And it feels to me as if these correspondences are also more literal and mundane, more suited to the actual emblems themselves. I could never really see how batons were fire, but I can relate to trees swaying in the wind; it is an image that is much more deeply meaningful to me than imagining sticks burning. And I can relate to the fire in the brain caused by coins. Yes. And digging the earth with spades and battling for land with swords makes far more sense than the vague image of a sword slicing through the air. So yes.

Will this last? I'll just have to try a few readings and see. And with the TdM, no artist has imposed any elemental ideas onto the cards for me to fight against. I can use whatever I want, or not use any. Beauty.