Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Question of Beauty

Recently, some other collectors and I were discussing "beautiful" and "ugly" Tarot decks. I was immediately uncomfortable with the discussion, and withdrew fairly soon. Why? Because humans are creatures of pattern. What they do one day, they'll do another day, What they do in one part of their life, they'll do in another part of their life.

Beauty in Tarot decks is often judged to be a matter of colour, precision of line, proportion, balance. Beauty in people is often similar: we are genetically programmed to look for symmetrical features and bodies because some genetic weaknesses produce a decided lopsidedness, and in addition to that, we have different cultural/racial standards of beauty in the shapes of features and bodies, and the proportions between them.

Yet I've lost count of the conventionally attractive people - men and women both - who are rotten to the core, who ride others and use others because they have a blythe confidence that if one relationship or friendship ends they can pick up another based on their looks and their smiles. I've also lost count of the scarred, the disfigured, the deformed and yes, the smelly also, who have big, warm hearts and would do anything for anybody.

Of course people are people, and good-hearted people and bad-hearted people alike can be found in all degrees of physical attractiveness, which leads me to believe that we shouldn't judge people on their appearances at all, but more on their behavour and on what they say and how they say it.

Getting back to Tarot, I don't like to judge decks to be "ugly" or otherwise. If you judge decks to be ugly and therefore somehow lesser in worth, perhaps you will one day judge people to be ugly and therefore somehow lesser in worth. And let's face it, no matter what we look like on the surface, no matter what cards genetics - or disfiguring accidents - have dealt us, we all have the same feelings and the same inner value.

Even as a very young child I was enormously uncomfortable with the tradition of fairy tales to describe heroines as "beautiful" and rescuing heroes as "handsome" - I felt beautiful on the inside, but every time I came across a mirror, I got a shock. Likewise, I hated and still am uncomfortable with Dickens, whose goodies are unblemished, and whose baddies are always scarred and limping from the rough hand life has dealt them - not in my opinion a qualification for evil, although Dickens obviously thought so.

By criticising and dismissing ugliness in inanimate things, we unconsciously make it easier to criticise and dismiss ugliness in people. I judge Tarot decks on appearances when I am reading for strangers - it really helps to have a variety of "attractive" decks on the table as well as some good old workhorses and one or two historical decks - but there are some pretty decks I just don't use - I own them in my collection and I have used them, but no matter how easy on the eyes they are, they have little depth and subtlety and give inferior readings.

And in my own collection and for my own use, I have some ugly ducklings. They read surprisingly well, and many of them are bizarrely appealing because of their ugliness, because they are interesting and intriguing. Should I judge them to be inferior to an airbrushed, glossy, colourful confection that skids along the surface of Tarot and life?

I think not. Nor are all my friends - or even the person I currently have a crush on - all page three model material. Magazines full of beautiful people don't interest me - vital, alive, intelligent, compassionate, real people do. Tarot decks that are pretty don't interest me - Tarot decks that are interesting and work well do.

It's about time we grew up and stopped programming our children from the earliest of ages via fairy stories, cartoons and the like, to value some ideal of physical beauty, and think about beauty of the soul.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Regardless of what you think of vaccination and whether or not you choose it for yourself and your family, most of us believe it is a very modern thing, dating to some time after germ theory and the dawn of pasteurisation.

Here is an article that seems to demonstrate otherwise, that vaccination and stimulating the immune system generally seems to have more ancient antecedents.

Never underestimate the past. Our ancestors weren't stupid.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Death of the Soul

Depression stalks our world.

The last twenty-four hours or so have been the annual mental, emotional and astral onslaught that is Anzac Day, a day of mourning and celebration, on which we remember a particularly bloody conflict where a whole generation of Australian boys was wiped out on a beach in Turkey. I believe a similar number of Turkish families lost their sons and brothers, also.

I have, some years, gone out to parades and sung along with National Anthems and hymns, or just eaten ice cream and watched the crowds. Today, I decided to spend the whole day in my own home, supposedly insulated from it, to see if the day would feel any better. I didn't leave the house, didn't go for a solitary walk, didn't even step into my backyard in utter privacy. Instead I spent the day in my living-room, listening to occasional rain on the roof and feeling the coldness of Autumn finally close in, when Winter should be about to start. It was the first day I couldn't wear just a tee-shirt and be comfortable.

Rain goes a long way towards alleviating anxiety and depression. It cleanses the air you breathe, washing particles of pollution out of it if you are in a populated area and dust out of it if you are in an unpopulated area. Rain promises that your plants, things of beauty and food, will stay alive a little longer. Rain promises that at least in the short term, you will have something to drink. And, of course, the ever-changing clouds are always fascinating.

But on Anzac Day, none of that helps. Far away and long ago, people were dying. Far away and right now, people still are - we haven't learnt a thing. People who are traumatised by murder and torture in their own countries flee on the first vehicle they can, often not even being told what country they are being trafficked to until they disembark, but the delightful Tony Abbott says it is all about how attractive the government's policies make Australia look. Political changes here are never going to change the desire of people in distant lands wanting to flee in any direction they can from certain death and mutilation. And then these deeply traumatised, damaged people who have fled everything they know, the countries they love, the people they love, the only language they know just to survive, find themselves behind padlocks and razor-wire because they have somehow done the wrong thing in trying to stay alive.

Depression stalks our world.

I did a reading recently for someone I know, and all I was told by the subject was that it was "about relationships". I turned over one card after another, and a vast, complicated and very personal story unfolded in front of me. A wounded human being, carrying deep, secret pain within them from long ago, searching desperately for the person who could help them heal. It was very hard to find a way to tell them that finding a lover, even "the right one", will not help them heal - they need to heal before they will be capable of being free and comfortable in a nurturing relationship. I know they wanted me to say that on such-and-such a day they'd meet a tall dark handsome stranger who would adore them and make everything better in their life. I coudn't honestly tell them any such thing, I cannot promise what isn't there now and may not ever be there if they don't overhaul their life. I have a lot to overhaul, myself.

Depression stalks our world.

And yet, until triggered by something like a day drenched in warfare, I feel like a happy person. I wouldn't normally say I'm depressed. I wander around looking forward to whatever is coming next, grateful for the ability to be upright and breathing, and pretty-well with a permanent smile and a ready laugh. I have discussed luck and happiness on this blog before, but sometimes the best of us don't feel so lucky. Sometimes a dark stain spreading across the world can seep through to anyone.

I do a bit of work on the inner realms from time to time, and I've definitely been neglecting it in recent weeks. I went down into a particular "cave" after doing the reading to be selfish and do a little housework on my own mood, and I found a network of dark energy rushing through me that had multiple sources, both inside and outside of me. I didn't deal with all of it, but identifying it and dealing with some of it is a start.

On four occasions I have sat with coma patients, and only one of them was someone known to me. On all occasions I dropped into a working trance, with the aim of finding the essence of the person. In three of those four cases I failed to find them, and in the fourth case, they wanted to leave anyway. One of the other three came back, but permanently danaged, "unsouled".

A "shellshocked" person, a person with post traumatic stress disorder who can no longer function, will be partly or wholly unsouled. Their family and lovers will report not that they are damaged, or psychologically wounded, but that they are "a different person". People just instinctively know when someone is merely psychologically harmed and capable of healing, and when it is vastly more serious than that. A magical person will see it on the inside, and it is a frightening thing to see.

I remember reading something in the last few months - I'm sorry, I didn't record references - about a colony of chimpanzees where the senior males were somehow removed from the group, perhaps by predators or poachers, and the junior lads didn't have the seniority to push their women around. It is said that in chimpanzee society a pecking order enforced by violence of senior males to secondary males to females to children, each level punishing the one below it slightly more than they themselves are punished, is natural in chimp society. It is also "natural" in highly stressed human societies, and you could make a case that most of our societies are stressed because we were evolved over millions of years to live on soft earth in groups of twenty to fifty, not on hard concrete in groups of millions.

But the interesting thing in this colony was that once the senior males were taken out, the senior females took over leadership. And instead of bullying underlings unmercifully, they bullied only those young, upcoming males whose testosterone was starting to kick in, and let them know in no uncertain terms that no child-abuse, spouse abuse or unreasonable fighting would be tolerated in the group. And as those lads grew into adults, the dynamic of the group was softer, more peaceful, and the young capered around without an eye to suddenly running away, and the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the group were uniformly better than in regular groups whose blood had been sampled. The groups was peaceful when the elder males with their crusty traditional ways were taken out.

In the early 1980s, a friend of mine who was a political anthropologist suggested publicly a good way to take a huge step towards world peace. As a parent, he had noticed the beneficial effects of warm milk and cookies (what he actually called by their proper names, biscuits) on very young children, their teenage siblings, and even on occasion on his own moods. His suggestion to take the first step to world peace was this:

To take all the world leaders and their generals, strip them out of their uniforms (including suits) and put them in fluffy, fleecy, colourful tracksuits without the insignia of rank, lock them up in a warm, comfy room with soft floors and lots of cushions, and feed them cookies and warm milk until they got friendly and talked their differences out, feeding each other cookies as peace offerings.

You know, it would probably help. Gandhi said, wisely, "You cannot prepare your people for war, then expect to have peace." That is true on an international level, and on a personal level. As long as we - or my client - feel defensive and needy, we will never really master our circumstances and get what we truly need. And while we have standing armies with serious weaponry at the ready, we will never settle conflicts with nothing worse than a handful of twigs and a few harsh words.

Depression stalks our world, and it is way passed the time we need to get a grip and start to heal ourselves on an inner level.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tired. I spent the night in an occultly friend's bedroom, and as a matter of course she had Magickal Seals on it. In my case, they took the form of the Pointer Sisters' two smash-hits "Fire" and "He's So Shy". I couldn't just hear the songs - I could see the dark shapes of them (glo-mesh and sequins, but still dark) chasing each other up walls and round and round in circles on the ceiling. On the floor, they bounced from piece to piece of furniture - they never touched the floor, which was tiled in something like white marble. Now I know what material to built my entire house out of, if I want it to be Pointer-Sisters-proof.

Six hours of it. Not just being forced to listen to the songs, but to see them - the songs themselves, not the band - scampering about. I next meet the girl tomorrow, in all likelihood. I'll be bringing weapons - I have revenge to wreak.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Perils of Reading Tarot

I had a strange client yesterday. He started ringing me last week, and since then has rung me several times a day. I stopped taking his calls, although he said nothing worrying.

This morning, on an impulse, I took his fifth or sixth call for the day, pretending I didn't recognise the number and answering it as I would a call from an unidentified number.

He said we spoke last week about a reading, and did I remember. Did I what. I said yes, and let him book me. What the hell, I needed the money. I had a girlfriend's car for the week - but do you think I could find my trusty local street directory?

So I went to Google Earth - which took time - and downloaded the directions from my address to his. Then I looked at them incredulously: they made a long, winding route out of getting from my place to the local bridge which I already knew I'd have to cross. I went the ordinary way as far as the bridge, then followed Google, word for word. When I was far from home, I sensed my client was nearby: I've been navigated UP the back-streets, to have to come DOWN the major roads to find him. In the meantime, I conferred with veterinary surgeons and boatbuilders to confirm that I was, actually, pointed the right way.

Got there at last, three minutes late. Parked, grabbed my Tarot-stuffed bag, walked to the house - I make a policy of never parking *right* in front of a client if I don't have to - I may want to sit in the car and scream for a while before I'm fit to drive.

The house smelled of unostentatious money, and had a car that also smelled of unostentatious money parked in the drive - not a four wheel drive, which is a good sign in a client. Oh well, at least I'd get paid - why hadn't I quoted him ten dollars more, was my thinking.

Walked up the path. The screen door was shut, but the main door was open. Before I had a chance to knock, I saw my client.

Or rather, his buttocks.

In a nice foyer with what looked like white marble tiles on the floor, a hairy arse in a black g-string was pointed straight at me. His posture was exactly that of a Moslem on a prayer-mat - but without prayer-mat, clothes, or any hint of devotion.

Now, to me, black G-strings, especially on males, speak of BDSM, specifically subs. My first thought was: what kind of a service did he think Tarot readers offered? I didn't feel threatened - I was just amused and caught off-balance.

I knocked; he jumped up, covered himseslf with a towel, apologised profusely, let me in, and went to get clothes on. I came in, happy that he hadn't shown signs of locking the door, and making sure I had it in my line-of-sight the whole time.

I waited, and glanced at the floor he had been addressing. No household Altar. No stain he might have been scrubbing, or scrubbing-brush. No hint of why he might have been folded up, arse-uppermost, on a cold tiled floor.

When he came back he was dressed unostentatiously in neutral clothes, and seemed like a quite personable 50-something guy. He was polite and respectful, and still quite apologetic.

He had concerns about something happening in his neighbourhood that might at some stage concern his children, who were at a vulnerable age, and the reading centred around it. Of the decks I brought with me, he surprised me by choosing Luigi Scapini's Vetrate deck, cultured and beautiful. The cards were quite talkative, and addressed his concerns first superficially, then in some depth.

He was happy with the reading, which had some advice-cards in it, and paid up. As I packed up and rose to leave we were chit-chatting around the reading, and he was apologising once again for how I found him (really - he knew when I was due, and I was slightly late, does he own no clocks?). I repeated a precis of the advice cards, and added an extra word of advice with a smile on my face: next time you book a Tarot reader, be careful how you're dressed!

The reading was unremarkable, but the context it was wrapped up in was so unusual that I think I won't forget it for the rest of my days. What the -

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My collection

A little bit of local press coverage can be found here. And some pics can be found here as well. Have fun, people.

It's funny how things change: you talk to a journalist, the years you've been reading get changed (I would have said around thirty) and there's just a slight twist in tone. Still, c'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pommes de terre.