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ace up the sleeve. ace of cups, that is.

November 25, 2010

a fact that some of you may not know about me: i read tarot cards. actually, you might know this if you’ve looked at some of the older posts on this blog. but regardless.

i got my first deck when i was about 12 – not because i knew what they were, but because they were genuinely beautiful, these arthurian cards all done up in watercolours. thick card stock, wonderful quality – they were too far out of my price range at that age but i still managed to get them. i got my second deck about a year ago at a store here in vancouver, and it’s a more lurid set of cards – celtic mythology themed, lots of nudity and swooning. pretty fabulous. pretty great. thinner card stock, bright illustrations. and getting a pack of tarot cards just for the art is a totally legitimate reason to buy a deck, in my opinion. and i tend to use the different decks for different readings, for different people.

people have mixed thoughts on tarot. a lot of people believe that they are the tools of charlatans (or the devil, i guess), and i can agree with that. and then a lot of people think that tarot is one of the most logical and accurate ways to “tell fortunes”, if you will, and i can see that too. me, personally – i think that the best way to deal with tarot cards is to take them seriously when you want to take them seriously and to stay loose with them when you want to stay loose. (you shouldn’t take anything too seriously, anyway, i suppose.)

my readings for people are hit and miss, though lately they’ve been maybe about 70 percent hit and 30 percent miss. i’m not good at reading cards in a crowded area, with other people watching on. i get nervous and i can’t quite figure out the energy or the ideas or the problems that i’m trying to pin down. if i’m in a quiet area with someone who is receptive to the idea, i can usually pull off a pretty good reading and have some fun while doing it.

i very rarely read for myself. i’d say i do it about once a month, and only when i feel an inexorable need to do so. it’s too easy to fall back on the tarot – or angel cards, or the i ching, or anything of that nature – and use it as a weird crutch.

i do, however, read for my writing.

brian eno – a musician who was a part of roxy music and who worked with david bowie on his berlin triptych of albums – often used a set of cards called “oblique strategies” when recording with bowie. if they were stuck, if something wasn’t working, if the music wasn’t coming, they drew a few cards. the cards said things such as “honour thy error as a hidden intention” and “only one element of each kind” and “try faking it” – oblique strategies indeed. some of the cards are cryptic, some are harder to interpret, but all of them are going to make the dealer think with a little more of their brain. and apparently it worked, because although i don’t really like the berlin triptych, many bowie fans think that low, heroes, and lodger are three of his best (and most innovative) albums. there was most certainly a creative explosion in berlin.

but oblique strategies – the vintage decks – can go for exorbitant prices on ebay. and the new deck is 30 pounds, which is decent, but honestly, i find that the tarot cards work just as well, if not more laterally, since each card can have more than one meaning, especially as it relates to the other cards around it.

if i’m really stuck in a scene, i will draw one or three cards to see what comes up. (i tend to like playing around with odd numbers when doing card spreads.) the key with tarot is to keep an extremely open mind, to agree to acknowledge the uncomfortable, even if it disquiets you, even if you don’t want to acknowledge it.

i guess this post isn’t incredibly interesting unless i spill something about myself, too. okay. lately, when i read for myself, or if my good friend chris reads for me, the devil always comes up.

now, this is the thing about tarot reading. cards like death or the hanged man or the devil aren’t necessarily bad things. death can mean actual death, but more often, it means rebirth. the hanged man is about surrendering, about giving in to a decision, to the stasis, and finally finding peace. the cards that often look the most foreboding are sometimes the most dynamic and the most telling.

the devil is a tough one. i never used to get that card. one of my websites that i use for tarot research describes the devil as follows:

This card lets you know that you are caught in an unhealthy, unproductive situation. You may be in the dark about something – ignorant of the truth and its implications. You may be obsessed by a person, idea, substance or pattern that you know is bad for you (or maybe you don’t!). Sometimes this card reflects back the negativity that has made you doubt yourself and your future.

i couldn’t understand, for the longest time, why this was coming up in readings, and then i really started to work on my thesis, and comprehension came to me. my thesis is the ultimate bondage and the ultimate obsession. the card is a warning, but also i think it’s encouragement. if i’m being productive, then i need to keep at it.

so let’s say you’re stuck in a scene, or with characters. flip a few cards and see what the H is up. writers USE tarot. my friend sigal has stressed this point to me many times. there are websites dedicated to tarot for writers. anyway, say you flip a few cards. if i were to riffle my deck and see what cards came up for my thesis right now, i would get the magician, the wheel (reversed) and the 5 of cups (reversed). if i broke these cards down to their most basic, basic, basic meanings, it would go as thus:

– magician – a strong male character who has faith in himself and his abilities. someone who is borderline intuitive, who is primal and determined. (am i doing justice to my male character? is he weakening? do i need to amp up his personality and the primal side?)

– the wheel, reversed – a change of fortunes/twist of events that i am not acknowledging in my writing. a refusal to accept a change. not moving forward properly. no movement. (am i hanging onto a scene for far too long? am i obsessed with a specific time period in my writing and not paying enough attention to another? is my plot dragging?)

– 5 of cups, reversed – refusing to let go of something (maybe an idea that i am too attached to in my writing?) or someone. a loss that i am not letting happen. glossing over the feeling of being bereft. (am i hanging onto something?)

granted, those were very abbreviated meanings to the cards, but even through that, you can see how tarot might make you see something in a different manner. i can read for a specific scene, a specific character, a specific interaction. it’s cool. i like it a lot.

if you don’t have a deck, don’t muck around with those fake online cards. shoot me a message and i’ll flip a few cards for you and maybe tell you something that you don’t want to hear.

also, in the vein of fortune telling, here is the divination of hafez. it’s divination through poetry – persian ghazals (with english translations). you click, and then you’re presented with a section of hafez’s persian lyric poetry, and you glean your meaning from that. it’s pretty exquisite.

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