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“you know a lot about hell, anna.”

July 12, 2012

the title is a quote from my brother, who wanted to know the correct pronunciation of baphomet. how i got the reputation of being demon-savvy i’m still not quite sure, but the other day when i was cleaning out my wallet, i found a cheap tarot card that i had been given along with a receipt for a dinner at a mexican restaurant a few months ago. apparently i had shoved the card into a wallet pocket and forgot about it, had been carrying it around for weeks. it was The Devil, of course. “el diablo”, actually. a little red man kind of… er… prancing on a yellow card, holding an awfully flimsy looking trident.

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i’ve talked about tarot cards so many times on here. some people think it’s weird. other people think it’s funny. and others think it’s interesting, a way to sparklever the brain into new pathways of creating. i’ve compared them to brian eno’s oblique situation cards – the cards that he used when recording with david bowie (purrrrr) throughout the berlin triptych. i can’t tell if writing about tarot makes me a visionary or a dink. but there i go seeing the world in black and white – surely there must be a middle ground between visionary and dink, but i don’t tend to see the greys.

it’s rare that i read cards for myself. i don’t like the idea of relying on an outside force for all inspiration, and i also don’t feel comfortable using them as a predictor for all situations. about once a month, i’ll really sit down and deal myself a stern hand, and then usually get ticked off that the cards i “want” never come up. you know, the cards deemed happy or beneficial. rarely the sun, usually the moon, never the lovers, always the suit of swords. however, if there’s one consistency, it’s that the devil usually pops up in a personal reading. if i read for myself or if someone else deals ’em out for me. but what the frig? the devil! the devil!? the only cards that look worse are the tower, death, and the hanged man. for a (very lapsed) catholic girl, it was a shock. people tend to read cards the way they look on the surface. therefore, the devil must be about evil, and acknowledging the evil within, or must be about living in a personal hell.

i learned, once, that just saying the name of a demon brings it to the surface, whether it be belial or the heretofore unnamed pain that nestles itself deep inside of your duodenum and can’t be wormed out. or that it awakens it. that naming a devil (or the devil) summons him (because the devil is male – declarative statement – “never trust a person who has no doubts”). that seems like it gives an awful lot of power to something or someone. and also, i’m probably fucked if it comes to that because i read all of the demon catalogue from milton’s paradise lost out loud in english class in university so i’ve apparently summoned a metric crap-tonne of demons. whoops.

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i started talking about the devil because i don’t believe that the card can be read at face value – and this is why i had SUCH trouble with mccarthy’s tarot scenes in blood meridian (that bloody man had no idea what he was talking about with his hanged man card or maybe he did, still can’t figure that one out).

the devil has always meant bondage – for me. physical bondage, maybe. maybe this is the 50 shades of grey card (please don’t let that statement jack my search engine hits up, i will be so sad) and that’s all well and possible. because it is about pleasure of the senses. but it’s also emotional and mental bondage. like being slung into a web and triggering the trap lines over and over again. it means obsession. mania and the exhaustion that comes with it, and also the concept of digging your cuspids into something and never letting it go, shaking it around until it’s a shredded pulpy mess.

this is the anxiety card. this is the card that i could use to describe my years of CBT and the work that i do to make sure that i don’t become the loneliest girl in the world. this is also the writing card, which is why it ties into this blog and this post and this fucking life. this is the card that keeps your elbows and forearms on your desk and your fingertips to the keypad (or notebook, forgive me). it’s the concept that keeps licking at your ear and telling you that all of your other friends have agents or book deals or publications under their belt, so why don’t you? or this scene is going to offend your father, your mother, your friends, the gay community, the straight community, the virtuous or, quite simply, you’re not good enough. it’s not quite so easy as selling your soul anymore. and i’ve gotten a LOT of flack from my writing peers over the years who tease me like clockwork based on my idea of the writing process and the muse and how i write. and to be honest, it’s getting a little old. maybe it is like taking little bites out of your soul. i don’t always know the words to describe it, and i don’t think i should.

at the same time, obsession is not always negative, and i would be a ninny to intimate that it is. i’ve talked before about how writers are weird, freakish beasts because so many of them (us?) circle around an idea and disregard all other things around them (us??), including other people. including human emotion. but it’s an amazing process to watch, if you have the opportunity. to witness somebody so deep in the act of creating, for serious lack of a better term, is awesome – in the real sense of the word. and quite beautiful. (one of my instructors once told me that ‘quite’ is a ‘quite useless’ word. have to remember that). i’ve seen people shame other people for being too ‘obsessed’, for giving too much of themselves away into what they do. i don’t agree with that. i don’t agree with any form of shaming, not when we live in a world of animals and curios and maniacs and workers and drifters. if obsession drives you to write as much as you goddamn can, if it urges you on like it has a whip to your back, if you can harness that bastard and rein it in and take it for a ride for as long as you can and use its energy, then you should and you must, i think. you’d be a fool not to.

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does the devil card relate to me? as a writer, sure. i tend to focus on one thing at a time. there were no short stories and few poems that came out around the same time as i was working on my thesis. and as a human, sure. i’m not, at the core, flippant. i don’t tend to see the world in a spectrum, in shades of grey. things are yes or no, on or off, good for me or bad. i know what i want – or at least what i think i want – and i pursue, pursue, ponder.  i feel things – all things – in a weird place inside of my gut. to the outward eye that could, indeed, be deemed obsession. i can’t seem to have fun in the chaos. so i take the devil card with me wherever i go to remind myself of that line – the line between fine-tuned artistry and walleyed mania. if the devil helps me write, so be it. lucifer was a pretty sharp-as-a-whip bloke for a little while, anyway. also apparently handsome. score.

i can’t believe i just spent that much time and space writing about the devil. my king james bible is staring balefully at me. sorry KJV.

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yeah, i went there. alan parsons project!

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