Friday, May 27, 2011

The Dream

Last night I went travelling, and when I looked around, I found myself in some sort of dormitory-type homeless shelter: a huge room with steel-blue synthetic carpet of the easy-clean variety, single beds everywhere in rows with a small three-drawer cabinet next to them, and a kitchenette at the very end of the hall furthest from the entrance. In one of the beds that were closer to the kitchenette (and thus, more sheltered from the world) was a person who in the dream was a friend of mine, but looked like an older, thinner, sicker, more bearded version of the New Zealand actor Roger Oakley.

In the dream I knew he was dying of liver cancer, and in fact his skin had that same deep orange-brown colour that my father's skin had when he was dying of liver cancer many, many years ago, a colour that still makes me cringe when I see outdoor advertisements on TV or billboards done by pretty young models who have been spray-tanned with exactly that shade in an effort to look "healthy", which has only resulted in them looking as if they are close to death from liver failure.

And I knew he was dying. I have seen the image of energy of impending death occasionally: it looks nothing like a ferryman or a hooded guy with a scythe, but it is irremediably what it is. And death was with him. It was only a matter of time. He was bedridden, drifting in and out of consciousness, and muttering occasionally. I had a great deal of concern and compassion for him (after all, in the dream he was a friend), so I took off my shoes and, fully-clothed, slipped into the narrow bed beside him. He was lying up in a foetal position, and I curled up around him, resting my arm lightly on his hip. Through his many layers of clothes I could feel the pointy ends of his bones, and I could feel the coldness of his flesh despite a lot of clothes and bedclothes. I was happy to share my healthy warmth.

I passed the time by dozing, waking every so often to check on him. Over a very long time he drifted further and further away from life, rousing and muttering less often, weeping for painkillers less often, even moving slightly in the bed less often. He became colder, but I knew he felt my warmth and was grateful for it. I was the only person who was prepared to give him the closeness he needed on this last, most important journey of his life.

And when it was over and I woke up out of the dream, I knew what I must do. I've been getting hint after hint for decades, but the pressure is really piling on, now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

13th May, 2011

This video aired on 13th May, 2011, on ABC-1, an Australian TV station. It was a part of their regular programme, "The Collectors". We had enormous fun filming it - the whole story from the very beginning can be found here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Feeling Rapturous, Anyone?

Well, it's that time again. Every eight years or so, yet another fool predicts that, based on mistranslations of mistranslations of mistranslations of the Bible or else based on mistranslations of Nostradamus, our world is going to end.

Here is what I wrote elsewhere on the net before the latest so-called Rapture was supposed to happen. It was in response to someone asking whether we were all preparing for the end of the world.


Last night at my regular weekly meditation group, we did a tree meditation. Trouble was, for some reason I manifested as a frangipanni tree, and as it is winter here, it/I had no leaves or flowers. My friend was leading the meditation this week so I was free to sink right into it, and as she told us to grow our tree higher and higher, my frangipanni said "Are you kidding?" I'm a frangipanni. Three metres high is about my limit in these soils!" And as she told us to unfurl leaves and flowers, it replied "In winter? I'm deciduous! Who does she think I am?" So I left it bare, and climbed up through the structure of its branches.

Pretty soon I ran out of tree. Now, it just happens that I have bought some lengths of green plastic ivy for a particular purpose and haven't yet set it to work, and when I ran out of tree, the plastic ivy (still very, very plastic!) came up beside me and said "Here - you can climb on me". So I did. Unfortunately, I had only bought three two-metre lengths which isn't very much (a metre is slightly longer than a yard), so when I got up to the stratosphere, I ran out of plastic ivy, too, even though it had been very accommodating.

We were also at my friend's place with a woodfire in the fireplace, and as I ran out of plastic ivy I noticed a tendril of smoke next to me, so I grabbed that, and continued climbing up on the fluid, graceful smoke. In the distance I could still hear my friend leading the meditation, and she asked us to look back at the earth, and really *look* at it, and notice if - and where - it needed healing. Well, I turned around on my tendril of smoke and looked very hard for a painful, discoloured Japan, but all I saw was this glowing blue/white/green/brown jewel swimming contentedly in space, like a cosmic opal. So I kept climbing, and after a while I ran out of smoke.

But now there were stepping-stones beside me, lovely solid round ones, all glittery and swirly, so I stepped onto one of them, and found they were a perfect distance apart for my individual stride, and I kept walking through space on these glittery, white stepping-stones. After a while, I realised they were all spiral galaxies, not with the gorgeous colours you see in Hubble Space Telescope photos, but with an even more beautiful-for-being-simple white-on-white sparkly look. And they were good and solid and safe to walk on.

Now the family whose house this was held at have two dogs, both part-malamute. One of them is considered by everyone to be intelligent and deeply magical, and the other one is considered by everyone but me to be a dumb blonde <grin>. Guess who was keeping me company? Right, the dumb blonde, loping alongside me in spirit-form easily and comfortably, as if I took her on dog-walks through the sky every day of her life. After the meditation she stuck to my side like glue.

Her owner eventually led us back down, so I turned around on the sparkly stepping-stones, then climbed down the smoke, then the ivy, then the tree. We all went inside our trees to receive a gift from the tree-spirit, and once again my frangipanni muttered-and-complained about the season and being inconsiderately woken up in winter, and eventually gave me a tiny parcel of its white sap smaller than a game-playing dice, still liquid and living, and holding the promise of future growth in the spring-to-come, and thus, a commitment that the world would continue to exist. Then my friend led us back to our bodies.

The frangipanni thought it was going to grow, and unfurl leaves and flowers next spring - it didn't think the world was going to end. The planet floating in space felt all beautiful and calm, and wasn't even bothered by the whole Japan thing very much - it certainly doesn't think it's going to end tomorrow. So no, everything will continue.

And everyone else in the goup, although they all had individual journeys, had a sense that the planet didn't really need all that much healing, and that it was here for the long haul.

Humans are such silly creatures - if they are worried about the planet, why don't they just go and look?


And now, post-rapture, I stand by my comments. The world wants to keep existing, and it will keep existing, It is up to us to exist with and on it. Take responsibility for your own existence or non-existence, people - don't blame an ancient book!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: The 7th World Tarot Deck

Title: The 7th World Tarot Deck
Illustrations by Terry Whidborne
Booklet written by Debra-Mary MacInnes

After the episode of "The Collectors" featuring my Tarot collection was aired on ABC-1 a short while ago, I was contacted by the creator of this deck, who was happy to give me a copy to keep in my collection. Self-published in a print-run of just 100 copies, it has not found distribution outlets or a mainstream publisher yet, and I think it richly deserves to find an outlet, plus mass-publication.

The deck as it is in this first print-run, is presented in a simple white box with no artwork, sealed with stickers on which the title of the deck, contact details and a simple logo of a bug with outstretched wings are printed very simply and plainly.

 On opening the deck, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Minor Arcana are the first cards you see, with the Major Arcana at the rear of the deck. For some reason which I haven't really analysed yet, this pleased me greatly; it's as if the deck doesn't need to show off its more glamorous side to attract one in the first place.

And overall, it is an attractive deck. The cardstock is sturdy and gently laminated, and its new-deck-smell is different to the variety of chemical smells that most laminated decks gas-off, instead smelling refreshing and somewhat citrusy. The backs are a simple design in red-ochre, yellow-ochre and black featuring that same bug, in the manner of a woven mat, and are warm and appealing.

Throughout the deck, Majors and Minors all have a broad, elaborate border in ochres, yellows and browns, with a scorched and slightly fantastical edging, placing the image at one remove from the observer and set deep within their own world.

The Minor Arcana cards are unillustrated but subtlely decorated, allowing one's intuition more free rein than illustrated pictures do in my opinion, as the observer is not locked into the artist's idea of what the card is about. Wands feature freehand-drawn rods with a burst of ripening grain at the end, simple and more appealing than if the artist had used a ruler to make them perfectly straight. Swords feature a simple, double-sided blade with a basic hilt and a spiral handle forged from the same piece of metal, again drawn freehand. But attractive as these suits are, Pentacles and Cups are where the Minors come into their own. Cups feature cafe-style coffee-cups. I don't know why that surprised and pleased me so much, but it really did. It's as if this deck is more down to earth than decks with showier goblets. And Pentacles are a brown circle, infilled with yellow-ochre, centred with a four-petalled purple flower with a red centre. The floral nature of these Pentacles again veers away from the showy, ceremonious nature of many other Pentacles, towards an earth-based, fertility-based idea, bedded deep in the colours of the country the deck was designed in.

The Court Cards are reversible, busts of individuals usually seen in profile around the symbol of their suit, rather like the court cards in playing decks. Unlike playing cards, though, there is plenty to go on in the expressions and postures of these people to give you divinatory clues. What I like is the cohesiveness of the Court Card characters: cards like the Queen Pentacles and the Knave Pentacles (this deck has Knaves instead of Pages) could be members of almost any race on earth, cards like the King Wands could be anything from Asian to Native American, while the King Pentacles is unashamedly Aboriginal - yet all of the faces, different though they are, seem to come from the same reality the same culture, even the same race - Human.

Along with the reversible, mirror-image Courts, there is something else marrying this deck to commonplace playing cards - the two Jokers. Yes, we have an eighty-card deck here, with no title cards but instead two Jokers. They are identical - I am not even going to begin to describe this card to you - it looks different every time I see it. Needless to say, in my copy and my use of it I'm treating it as a twenty-third Major Arcana card, and leaving both of them in the deck. I've often thought that the Fool card as we experience it in most other decks should really be two separate cards: one indicating the beginning of human consciousness, ignorance, the start of the learning process, and another indicating a state of being experienced but being untouched and uncorrupted by the world. In my own deck which I haven't found an artist for yet, I call the former "The Barbarian" and the latter "The Jester". In this deck, they are The Fool and the Joker, and the cards work well on that level.

In the Major Arcana the range of humans we see in the Court Cards gives way to the non-human, undeniably removing us from the day-to-day and dumping us slap-bang in the middle of the archetypal. Throughout, the "human" roles in the Major Arcana are filled by skinny, long-limbed, floppy-eared, cherry-nosed Tolkienesque earthern-folk who are really very appealing.

Cards I am particularly drawn to? Justice is naked and evidently male, blindfolded and balancing a Sword on his forehead, pieces of a broken yin-yang symbol spinning on strings from its hilt. The Hanged Man is a marionette, hung from strings attached to his elbows, knees and pointy hat. Death is a fantastical crysalis with teeth (and an overbite), with a fat, juicy, delicious moth hovering in the background. The Tower is an unstable stone structure balanced on a wagon and a fork, tipping and crumbling. The Star is an Edward Lear-like bird on a bicycle with a Star on a stick. The Hierophant is old and eccentric, standing on a book and wearing a Papal mitre. The Lovers are Zaphod-Beeblebrox-like: one body, two heads. The Fool is prancing and playing his stick like a flute with his long fingers. The Hermit reverts back to the original concept of Father Time for this card, standing on a clockface and carrying a scythe from which, yes, a lantern dangles, but a double-ended two-candled lantern recalling the shape of hourglasses.

Cards I dislike? It would be hard to name one. Perhaps I am not so fond of the fairly conventional, cutsie dinosaur used in The Chariot, but even that card is attractive in its own way. This is a deck that has a great deal of charm.

I have only had my copy a very short time so far, but I am finding that each of the images gets deeper and more meaningful every time I look at it, which is what you want from a divinatory tool. This is a worthy deck, and I am proud of the fact that it was developed in my country, Australia, and while not labouring its Australianness, has a feel of red earth throughout.

I hope that in the very near future, Terry is able to find a conventional publisher for this deck, as it is a deck that will appeal to many, many people from all over the world and deserves very wide distribution.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To Kill or Not to Kill?

I was just arguing with a friend of mine about the ethics of killing, and it was an interesting discussion, so I thought I'd bring it here. I haven't asked my friend and thus don't have permission to quote them, but I can reveal my own ideas.

I am a mostly-vegetarian, not a vegetarian-through-conviction, although I see the suffering of many of the animals we raise for consumption and do not think it is a good thing. I choose to eat meat only occasionally because I simply think to eat meat only occasionally. I might go a few weeks without buying meat or meat-based products - there is plenty of protein in the legumes I love to eat, and plenty of vitamin B-12 in the mushrooms I love to eat, so there is really nothing meat supplies that is necessary to health that I don't routinely get from the rest of my diet, anyway.

When I eat meat I generally eat meat that has come from a butcher or supermarket. Someone else has killed the animal. Someone else has gutted it, and removed all the stinky-bits. Someone else has skinned it, and sold the leather. The stinky-bits, the shed blood, and structures like feet and heads have usually been sold off to fertiliser producers, making most of the so-called vegan products people buy not animal-free at all.

However. Much though I dislike fishing, I have had a partner who enjoyed it, and I killed fish that I later ate. I also once shot an emu with extensive truck-related injuries, which I then dismembered and ate later - emu meat is redder than beef, richer in iron, protein and B-12, and lower in fat, making it far healthier, as well as far less damaging to the Australian environemnt than any lifestock animal. After all, it is designed to be here, they aren't. Also, because the animal died suddenly rather than being carted around the country in terrifying trucks for many hours then chased down a race to its death, its flesh's flavour hadn't been tainted with terror-hormones.

If you are going to eat meat at all, it is much more ethical to kill - or be prepared to kill - your food yourself, than to pay someone else to do it for you so that you don't have to face the realities of the sacrifice that another living creature makes for your meal, so that you can pretend you had nothing to do with its death, and so that everything can be "nice" and you can lie to yourself about not being a killer. If you are not prepared to kill, don't pay someone to kill on your behalf, soullessly.

I have a friend who doesn't believe in killing. Mutual friends have told me that since their conversion to Buddhism, a conversion that is perfectly fine to me, they now spent a lot of time and effort chasing mosquitoes out of the house instead of slapping them against walls, because "mosquitoes have souls too". Do they refuse to take antibiotics, or herbs, or even refuse to get better and fight off infection through their unaided immune system, because microbes have souls, too? Do they examine the ground carefully instead of just walking, to make sure that every step doesn't take the life if an ant? I have seen them walk, and no, they don't look down and clear every foot-sized piece of ground before they tread on it. So there's hypocracy straight away - why is a mosquito's soul and life-force more important than an ant's, when mosquitoes prey on us and are our natural enemies, and ants don't and aren't?

Then, this same person still eats meat. The same mutual friends have assured me that this is okay, because he doesn't kill the meat himself. All that tells me is that he doesn't have the honesty and integrity to look the animal in the eye and face the reality of the impact that he is having on the life of that animal. Without killing it, he doesn't have a chance to own the impact he is having on the life of that creature, to breathe a silent apology to it as he kills it, to make the killing as clean and painless as possible, to go into trance and guide its soul to the afterlife. Instead, he condemns it to terror in a cold and unfeeling abbatoir where nobody gives a damn about it.

Strangely, as an unenlightened non-Buddhist, I have a big problem with this!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How lucky am I!

How lucky am I! I can sit in my living room in eastern Australia and talk to friends in Canada and New Zealand, friends I have never met and probably never will meet, but will certainly not forget.

My garden, largely untended, has some pumpkins coming along, and I've just doscovered that as well as edible fruit, my prolific rosella plants have edible leaves. They're great fresh - I'm about to experiment with steaming them.

It's getting colder - so while I complain and have to rug up, I am no longer feeble, breathless and swollen with the heat, and don't have to mop up great pools of sweat on a regular basis.

There is a roof over my head and people in my world who give a damn. And next Friday, 13th May, ABC-1 will be showing my Tarot collection on the show "The Collectors".

Life just doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Too New to Read Tarot?

Recently I was asked by someone who was just starting to learn to read Tarot if they were too inexperienced to read for themselves. I didn't think so. That's the best way to learn - reading for others when you haven't built up your skills base yet is a recipe for disaster if they take your reading with the same seriousness as a reading from a more experienced person who isn't just feeling their way into it.

But be a bit careful - don't read on the same subject too often, especially if you've already had a reading from someone else on it. Do the work that issue requires in your life first, before you do more readings. A reading simply shows you the next step to take in any area of your life, the things you need to do or stop doing. Until you've done that, another reading will be pointless and perhaps harmful (your even asking the question implies that the difference in cards pulled has already harmed your confidence in your cards and your ability to read them).

After all, what happens when you keep pestering people about something? They get annoyed and less responsive. I believe so do Tarot decks, too, with over-use on the one subject. Think of other things to read about, even if it's the old standard: "what do you want to tell me now?"

In the particular instance where the person has recounted first drawing the Ten Cups iin a reading, then later drawn the Ten Swords and was puzzled by the difference, I'd pull back a bit, and ask what meaning the number ten might have for you personally. Have you lived in a house numbered 10? Do you work on a team of ten people? Is it numerologically "your" number? Is it a significant number or a number surrounding someone you know?

While you're still learning and unsure, why not pull a card every morning? Look at it, think about it, write it down. Then at bedtime that night, look at it again, and see if it relates to anything (or anyone) in your day that day. This will help you get familiar with how you personally read the cards (everyone is different).

You might also want to play Tarot Solitaire as well. It is played like windows solitaire, but with Tarot cards. Lay out an extra two columns, instead of alternating "reds" and "blacks" keep each suit to itself, and run the Majors starting only with Card Zero and Card Eleven (the way the suits start with Kings), in strict numerical order.

This game takes time. Like regular solitaire, it will sometimes work out and sometimes not. It's interesting to speculate on which suits you can't get to work out, and how they are currently important in your life. But mostly, it keeps in the images of your deck in front of your eyes, and you learn by absorbtion and familiarity.

Good luck, and enjoy your Tarot deck.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Nature of Revenge

It is with sadness, today, that I greet the same news that, according to journalists, the rest of the so-called free world is celebrating, the death of Osama bin Laden.

I am fully human. One death can never make up for another death. Death, any death, brings with it loss to the world and sorrow to one or more people. Sally Sara said today "One bullet answers another bullet", pointing out by implication that all acts of warfare no matter how "justified" by previous events, only brings more conflict and misery. Killing people never works - as Gandhi once said, you cannot expect peace if you prepare for war.

If we have no weaponry anywhere and no standing armies - official or unofficial - at all, then all quarrels will get resolved with sticks and stones, and hand-to-hand combat. It is much harder to kill someone if you have to use your own muscles, meet their eyes close-up and face the fact of their excrement and/or spilling intestines than if you can sit inside a machine and press one button or even more so, if you can sit in a building many kilometres away and press a button. It is also much harder to kill thousands of people in an instant with a single stick in a single hand, than it is with a thermonuclear weapon that can be triggered by a single person.

Disarm everybody immediately, national armies and terrorist groups alike, and war will disappear, degenerating to much less deadly person-to-person skirmishes. Hell, perhaps we'll even be able to decide which group "wins" by using team sports as symbolic battles, with no bloodshed at all.

And you have to wonder why so many Third World countries act as nesting-sites for terrorist organisations in the first place. When I was a child and a teenager, the PLO, the defensive forces of the Palestinians, were referred to nightly on the News as "terrorists". More recently, they were referred to as "Freedom Fighters" by the very same journalistic organisations. More recently still, they have faded from journalistic scrutiny in favour of the Afghans. It's all a matter of perspective - if you identify with a body of struggling people, then they are freedom fighters, whilst if you identify with their oppressors they are terrorists.

Bin Laden is one of the bad guys, they all tell me. I live in a wealthy First World country, one that is embarrassingly subservient to America mostly because of a succession of spineless heads of government rather than from any need to be subservient, but nonetheless, we perceive ourselves as being one of the stronger countries, informally subject to America's whims. We are nobody's victim.

We are certainly not a Third World country, struggling under crippling debt caused by past borrowing from the International Monetary Fund, amounting to such a burden on every individual citizen of the country that their entire lifetime earnings and the lifetime earnings of every child, grandchild and great-grandchild will not be enough to pay back the present debts of their countries, let alone any future debts.

We are not a Third World country where, due to taxation to make payments on these debts, climate change and just plain famine, nine out of ten people do not eat even every second day, and because of hunger do not have the physical strength to cultivate crops even if they had the money to buy seed.

We are not a Third World country to whom international aid is offered and accepted, where the urban and probably richer citizens get first pick of any food or medical aid and a small percentage of it trickles through to grassroots communities, and where the politicians receive any financial aid and make it disappear into obscenely luxurious mansions, stables full of cars and overseas bank accounts for themselves and their closest friends while building one or more show-schools for journalists to photograph.

So what would we know of human misery? What would we know of the urgency to have children and grandchildren so that when we are too old to fend for ourselves in countries without pension schemes there will be someone who cares enough to allow us to live in a corner of their homes and feed us the odd morsel of food instead of being alone to starve on the streets, yet cannot keep those same necessary children alive through their childhoods because of child-starvation, disease outbreaks or even the forcible recruiting of child-soldiers, whose life-expectancy is necessarily limited.

The International Monetary Fund has forty or fifty member-countries, including many of the poorer Third World Countries. Oppressed by the world financial system, they cannot withdraw from it. At the same time as it has so many supposedly equal members, it effectively has a ruling clique of perhaps half a dozen main countries "running" it, at least in the sense that when they speak, everyone else sits up and takes notice. The United States is one of those, and the World Trade Center (sic.) was a potent symbol of American wealth and fiscal power over the rest of the world.

And the world's poorest nations are all aware of this. How could they not be?

If you live in a region where 1,000 people die daily of starvation and unmedicated disease, that's a loss of 365,000 people in a year, 3,650,000 people in ten years, decade after decade. If this goes on in your country or your little group of small, closely related countries for forty or fifty years, as a thinking member of your population you would start to get a little desperate. Politics doesn't work. Negotiations don't work. Art and photography, though affecting sensitive people in wealthier countries, doesn't change your lot, either. Even trying to find some route, any route to a First World country in order not to die and watch your children dying, will get you locked up. What else can you do?

If you have reached the absolute end of your tether as an individual in a nation that has reached the absolute end of its tether and has no resources left, perhaps drawing attention to your countrymen's desperation is worth a symbolic act. And the felling of two towers that symbolise the heavy hand of western financial policy with only 3,000 or 4,000 deaths - fewer people than you lose to death-by-poverty in a week, is a small symbolic gesture that just might draw the attention of a world which has turned its back on you.

Rest in peace, old man. You failed, but at least you tried, even if the methods you used were condemned.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"But you Already HAVE a Tarot Deck!"

Some time ago, a friend of my teenager stayed with us for a week, and during that week her mother, a friend of mine, took me out and bought me a carload of groceries - her way of saying thank you, I suppose.

While we were at the shopping centre I went to the post office there, because I was expecting a parcel crammed full of Tarot delights from these people. Actually, I wasn't - most of the delivery had already happened, but one deck had been omitted and sent on later, and that was what I was waiting for.

So my friend M. and I went to the post office, she waited outside and the smiling guy there handed over my parcel to me. As I walked out of the post office to met up with her again, I was jumping up and down, saying "My parcel's arrived! My parcel's arrived!" And before I was even two or three metres (yards) from the door of the post office, I was chewing through the tape at the corner of the package - it was very, very well taped up indeed - trying to get into it.

My friend laughed at me. "Calm down," she said, "you'll soon know what's in it."

"Oh, I already know what's in it," I told her, "it's a Tarot deck."

She looked at me, completely confused. "But you already have a Tarot deck, don't you?" she asked. She simply couldn't wrap her mind around my wanting another one.

I was floored. Didn't she understand? As a Portuguese Tarot collector and friend of mine said, and I quote: "Ive already got a book in my house, but - oddly - keep buying more too. Insane isn't it? Ive also already got a CD and keep buying more of those too. Just can't control myself."

M. is a literate, educated woman, and has plenty of books. She also has more than one outfit that she wears - I've seen her in several, over the years, and I'm willing to wager she owns more shoes than I do: I have one pair of sandals, one pair of runners and one pair of black shoes "for good". She probably has several pairs of earrings, too, or necklaces, although I've never really noticed jewellery on her - I know I have a lot more jewellery than I ever actually wear. She probably even has more than one saucepan, or more than one knife, fork and spoon.

So why should one Tarot deck be enough?

Another person I know in the same discussion, said that her husband used to ask her why she needed more than one Tarot deck - right up until she asked him why he needed more than one camera. Apparently he shut up completely, and hasn't bothered her since.

Different Tarot decks have different artistic styles, and let's face it, the more diverse the collection of art you feast your eyes on, the more content and developed your inner self is. They also have vastly different feels, and put both you and the client in different moods.

A Tarot deck is like a book: every time you pick it up, it tells you a story, a story of greater or lesser complexity. A collection of Tarot decks is like a library: a book for every mood or stage in your life, each one another step on the path of your enjoyment in life and your quest for self-education. And they are things of beauty: a Tarot collector can be both a serious reader and a butterfly, flitting from one glorious flower to another of a different colour, size and shape, and with a different perfume.

But it's not just people who are not involved in Tarot themselves, M's attitude can also be found in people who are involved in Tarot. I have a local friend whom I occasionally swap readings with, not because I really need her to give me readings, but because she needs the practice adn doesn't get as much opportunity as I do, and I'm very happy to give her the chance as well as giving her a reading. She reads with quite a well-known deck, the Mythic deck, which was the deck that was used in the Tarot course she took many years ago.

The teacher of that course taught her a number of things that are hard to un-teach: that Tarot is dangerous and you need "protection" from it in the form of Christian prayers (Tarot is just cardboard and ink - any "danger" is from your own mind and in your own mind), and that no other decks work, the Mythic is the only one that works, and if you use other decks your bond with it will weaken and you won't be able to read with it any more.

This is completely untrue, and almost as laughable as the "dangerous" thingie. Like everyone, I bought one deck first, and learnt on it, But I found that every time I bought a new deck and familiarised myself with the new images and the new ways of thinking and feeling that those images triggered, my knowledge of general Tarot got deeper and more complex. I have around a hundred decks now, and I know and love all of them - and can tell you at a glance what deck any randomly card came from - and each of them have added to me, to my knowledge and abilities.

The last couple of times this friend and I did a swap, she commented on how deep and incisive my readings for her are, while she seems only to skate on the surface of my life when she reads for me. And how do I manage it, seeing as I (deliberately) use a different deck for her every time? It's because a wide range of decks has given me a greater opportunithy to develop and grow as a reader.

And aside from all of this, there's another strong reason in favour of collecting decks. Imagine you were vsiual, and you liked to look at lovely and/or interesting art, art that engages. How many pictures could you fit on the walls of your house? Five? Ten? Thirty-five? Maybe fifty if you're in a biggish place and they're smallish pictures?

A single Tarot deck contains (usually) seventy-eight images, and in many decks they are high art, complex art, satisfying art. I routinely carry two decks in my handbag, and often a third or even a fourth. I keep another half-doxen or so in my Tarot Readers Kit Bag. Which means that at least eighty sit in a large wicker basket on a small shelf. I go through the basket regularly, pulling out decks and revisiting their images with pleasure and delight.

If every deck had exactly seventy-eight images (they don't - some have one or more extras) and I had exactly a hundred decks (I don't - I have either ninety-eight or ninety-nine), then that is seven thousand, eight hundred individual works of art that I manage to fit into a very small house. Many significant public collections of art don't contain as many works of art, and most don't display all of their possessions, keeping much of their collections in storage and rotating it pretty well as I do.

So for those of us who are not billionaires and don't have houses as long as shopping centres to hang paintings in, Tarot collecting is an economical and space-efficient way of collecting art, collecting satisfying visual treats that will give you joy for the rest of your life.