Sunday, February 7, 2016

FEBRUARY IS FOR SECOND CHANCES

If you have missed out on something or gotten off to a bad start for this year 2016, remember the slogan, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  Although I don’t think I’ve heard this expression since I was a kid in the Sixties, it was a popular subject for posters and bumper stickers.  I seem to recall it set in psychedelic prints, but maybe that’s just a reconstructed memory.  Since then, the computer era has brought new image associations for starting over: rebooting your day/ week/ month/ year/ life, or hitting the re-set button.

For those of the magical mindset, the calendar brings many additional opportunities for a fresh start, considering that the year is a wheel, and a wheel has no single, separate starting point, but 360 (or 365) starting points.  So, if January 1st is a big day for starting the year out on the right foot with New Year’s resolutions, January 2nd should be honored as a day of second chances for those of us who messed up, or who were too busy or forgetful to get it right and make it auspicious on January 1st.  Likewise the second day of every week and month.  As the second month of the year, February can be a particularly good month for setting a new agenda—especially as Chinese New Year most often falls around the beginning of February.  Of course, if we look at different world cultures, both past and present, we find the new year has also been celebrated at spring equinox, April 1st, Beltane (May Day), Samhain (Halloween), Yule, and on other days besides.

As it happens, this year Chinese New Year starts tomorrow, as it falls on February 8th, and is a fire monkey year.  Though not of Asian ancestry, I am looking forward to this as a second chance, because my new year got off to a really bad start, as I awoke on January 1st with a nasty cold that turned into bronchitis.  Furthermore, I am a fire monkey about to turn 60, having been born in March of 1956.  The sexagenary year is significant to the Chinese zodiac as the completion of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle, as there are 12 animals and 5 elements, so 12 x 5 = 60.

Even if you weren’t born in a monkey year, you can still use the monkey as a lucky charm for 2016, as each year’s animal icon is auspicious for that year.  Following is a little bit of my past research on monkeys and charm lore:

Monkey:  Monkeys are about having fun, going wild, and letting out the playfully curious animal within.  (Think about Curious George.)  There is some dualistic symbolism here: cynical people use the image of the ape to mock human pretensions, while for others, it celebrates our close kinship with the animal world.
When used as a charm image in Asia, the monkey can promote the qualities of vitality and enthusiasm, (especially for persons born in the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Monkey, including the years 1920, 32, 44, 56, 68, 80, 92, 2004, 2016, 28, 40, 52 …), or invoke the strength and protection of the god Hanuman, whose army of monkeys defeated the forces of evil.  In Asian folk art, a well known trio of “three wise monkeys” conveys the injunction to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.  In Japan, different monkey charms are associated with Shinto shrines and deities who grant wishes and bestow fertility, easy delivery, and a harmonious family life. Charm objects include a “wish monkey” on which people write their desires, and a “substitution monkey,” which takes on a person’s bad luck.  Because the Japanese word for monkey is very close to the word for “expel” or “drive away,” miniature monkeys are also used as charms to ward off negative influences and illness.  Japanese monkey charms are usually red for active luck, fertility, and protection.  A term popularized by Buddhism is “monkey mind,” referring to the restless mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another.  You can use this knowledge to promote self-improvement—and when you are agitated and unfocused, you could pinch a monkey charm as a reminder to calm your thoughts.

So, if you feel your year got off to a bad start because you were monkeying around, think about how the Year of the Monkey might help you turn that into a positive.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

GAZING INTO THE PHOTOGRAPHIC UNCONSCIOUS

A Belated Happy New Year to All!  I hope that 2016 will bring you new ideas and adventures that keep your sense of curiosity piqued, because curiosity fuels vitality.  I am very dismayed to realize that I only made one blog-post in 2015.  Ever since I had to stop eking out an existence on the margins of society and get a “real job,” it’s been hard to find time for writing.  I hope this shocks me into greater productivity in 2016.

That being said, if your curious mind seeks new inspiration, you might want to explore the realm of the “Photographic Unconscious.”  This is a term used by the essayist Walter Benjamin, whose attention to the small things of everyday existence reveals ways in which our material world manifests elements of our collective dream worlds.  By the same token, the photograph can be a window into the world of the Unconscious, because it can capture image objects that give rise to chains of meaning beyond those perceived and intended by the photographer or the subjects photographed.  This is as true for staged photographic compositions as it is for candid snapshots.

At our last magical chat session (which was in November), the subject of the Photographic Unconscious came up in relation to ways you can read a photograph (or other arrangement of images) like a tarot card.  When a particular image—whether in a tarot card, a photograph, or whatever interior or exterior scene is before you—strikes  you as personally significant, your Unconscious is sending you a signal that this is something you should pay attention to, as carrying special meanings for you.  And when you are able to make additional associations between the symbols, you can appreciate what a wonderfully expansive inner life you have.

This concept also gives you a lot to work with if you are a photographer.  For a collection of photographic symbols that provokes new insights and associations, take a look at Brandy Eve Allen’s “Invisible Light Tarot Deck,” which is in the end process of development and will by available for purchase by February 1st.  You can learn more about this tarot deck, as well as Brandy’s work, at http://brandyeveallen.com/about/, and https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brandolina/invisible-light-tarot-deck-by-brandy-eve-allen.

The images in this collection were generated with infrared photography, and as Allen says, “Similar to the way the tarot cards reveal that which is hidden, infrared film is picking up light that is invisible to the human eye.”  Among the photos that I find significant in this respect are those used in the Sun and Hermit cards, because of the stark contrasts between light and shadow.  So, all we can make out of the woman in the foreground of The Sun card is her figure in black, suggesting the philosophical observation that the brighter the light, the darker the shadow, (as well as the Jungian concept of the “bright shadow.”)  In the Hermit card, the pyramidal structure of the tent is dramatically illuminated, echoing old stories about the hermit as the one who shines a light in the wilderness, to point out the way that leads outward and upward.

Note that Allen also offers new images for the Minor Arcana cards, too, (which is always something to be appreciated), so The Invisible Light Tarot offers 78 compositions to challenge your ability to make new meanings.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Back at the Triple Goddess for Easter

Just as my corner of the Midwest is emerging from a very frigid winter, I am once again returning (from my winter hiatus) for my first-Sunday-of-the-month discussions of Tarot and Magic at the Triple Goddess bookstore (on the east side of Lansing, Michigan).  Although tomorrow happens to be Easter Sunday, the bookstore will apparently be open, and so I will be there from 1:30 to 3 p.m. as previously.

In the past, I held these Sunday sessions more like workshops, with activities and an agenda to follow, but since we've gone to a more free-form sort of thing, it seems to be working better.  The main purpose is to explore all different sorts of tarot decks, (as well as oracle decks), getting to know the individual cards in more creative ways, as well as finding new ways to activate the magic in the cards.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

More about THE LOVERS and THE MAGIC OF DOUBLING



In the previous post, we looked at a love spell involving The Steampunk Tarot, which uses an image of doubling in The Sun card, (echoing some of the more antique renditions of this card).  When different creative teams come up with new tarot deck variations, it expands our understanding of the individual cards, and offers new opportunities for magic working.  Another deck which portrays a happy couple in its rendition of The Sun card is the “Tarot of Jane Austen,” (a Lo Scarabeo deck by Diane Wilkes; illustrated by Lola Airaghi).  This deck also portrays a happy couple in The World card, as in the world of Jane Austen, relationship is key to completion and wholeness.  These cards, then, are ideal for a spell where love leads to marriage, as shown below.

As stated in the previous post, you don’t perform love spells with an intent to bind a reluctant partner to your will, but to send an invitation out into the Universe, to attract the attention of individuals who will resonate to a shared vision of pleasure in relationship.  When performing this spell, as you lay out the cards, you could visualize different ways that you and your potential partner might come together, (while also allowing for unexpected ways of meeting), having fun discovering some things you have in common, and the eventual trip to the altar.

You’ll notice that The Lovers card is not included in this particular spell.  That’s because the Tarot of Jane Austen also uses an older conceptual rendition of The Lovers, that features another woman in the scene.  Older cards which depict the man having to decide between two women make a philosophical statement about choices, and touch on Jungian notions of lunar and solar forces, and the Dark Woman and Bright Lady archetypes.  However, for purposes of a love spell, we normally don’t want to distract attention from the desired one-on-one relationship, because we want the Lovers to be solely and intimately focused on each other.

Monday, June 2, 2014

LOVE SPELLS AND THE MAGIC OF DOUBLING


Yesterday’s discussion session at the Triple Goddess centered on how the mysteries of twinning and the magic of doubling can apply to love spells, The Lovers card, and other cards with images of doubling, particularly as they apply to male and female characters. 

I want to make a few more points on this topic, but for those who attended, first let me apologize for my tendency to get distracted and confused, so that I don’t stay on track—jumping from topic to topic, dealing with things out of turn, skipping over some individuals, or not giving enough time to their questions and concerns, or too much time to others.  Because my son has been accompanying me, he’s able to give me a retrospective with some constructive criticism on these issues.  Also, because I am aware that I do have these problems, I’m very happy to have people hold my feet to the fire and forcefully pull my attention back to whatever or whoever I should be focusing on.

So anyway, I brought up this combined topic for discussion because I had heard that some of the attendees were particularly interested in love spells, plus the sun is currently in Gemini, the sign of the twins.  When we consider the reasons for engaging in romantic relationships, (as well as friendships, partnerships, and other types of one-on-one relationships), elements of twinning often add verve to the relationship.  There is a desire to find kindred spirits who share some of our personality traits and interests, and so also serve as mirrors to our selves.  However, we also like our partners to have some opposite traits and qualities, so as to complement our strengths and weaknesses.  It is no surprise that in magical twin pairs, opposites are also often portrayed; for example, the cult of the magical twins in Afro-Caribbean culture defines different types of twins, including a male and female pair.  On top of all that, there’s something about the idea of having a twin that is “fun,” so those of us who were not born twins may feel like we’ve missed out on something special.

The joy of having a partner who is a kindred spirit can be brought into love spells that use tarot cards with images of doubling.  As I explained about love spells during our session, the idea is not to coerce some individual into a relationship against his or her will, but to send out a mental call that attracts people who are on your same vibratory wavelength, holding out psychic images of the fun—as well as the fulfillment--you can enjoy together, should they respond to your magical invitation.  For doing tarot spells along these lines, there are of course a lot of images to choose from, to offer different visions of how life can be beautiful in relationship.

In keeping with the themes of pairing and twinning, I was going through my decks to see if any of the newer ones have picked up on images of doubling in The Sun card, as some of the very old versions feature a pair of children, and others a pair of lovers.  (This is in addition to The Lovers card.)  The imagery in question makes an astrological reference to the sun as ruler of the 5th house, which governs love, pleasure, and children—though the image also recalls the Gemini twins.  Although I find very few modern decks that include a human pair in the Sun imagery, this is nicely portrayed in “The Steampunk Tarot” (by Barbara Moore and artist Aly Fell), so this card can be used to bring an image of happiness into a love spell, as illustrated below:
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “steampunk” is a literary and artistic genre that evokes a Jules Vernian fantasy, (set in the age of steam), and combines 19th century tech with high adventure, and sometimes also magic.  This steampunk tarot spell emphasizes the alchemical quality of an ideal relationship, so as you would be laying out the cards, it would be good to think about the joyful chemistry needed in relationship.  (In fact, if one knew something about chemistry, one could put a test-tube holder next to the card layout, containing two tubes with substances that mix well—and then mix them while thinking about the importance of having the right chemistry with another person;  persons that don’t have a chemistry set, but know something about aromatherapy, could try mixing essential oils.)  Notice, also, that the Steampunk 10 of Cups  puts the pair in more direct focus than other versions based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.  I like to have the Sun card up above, in the same way that children’s drawings often have a sun in the sky to denote happiness.

Well, there is a lot more that can be said about bringing images of pairing into love spells and other tarot spells, so I hope to say a bit more about that in my next post.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Returning to the Triple Goddess on April 6th

Yesterday I went over to the Triple Goddess, which has settled very nicely into its new location where it shares space with Everybody Reads bookstore and Creating Heroes Comics, to discuss upcoming plans with Dawne.  So, I will once again be showing up on the first Sunday of the month, from 1 pm to 3:30--free and casual, as always.  The exception is the month of May, when I will show up on the second Sunday, as I have a commitment for the first.

This year I want to do more of a free-form sort of thing, so I can be more responsive to peoples' needs and interests.  That was more of what I had in mind when I conceived the idea of "magical chats," but due to my compulsive need for organization, I turned the sessions into workshops with programmed activities.  Therefore, I've asked Dawne to keep a sheet of paper on hand, so people who would like to stop by can write down if they have any questions, issues, problems, interests, or concerns that I can address, and to which those present can contribute group energy.  Dawne will forward that information in advance, so that I can think about whether there are any charms I could put together, or other sorts of things I can bring along--including any special card decks--to see what sort of divination or magic we might apply to those particular concerns.  If you are planning to come, you could also let me know what you'd like by posting a comment to this blog.  Now that I'm getting back into action, I promise to check for comments more regularly.  (Sorry Dan and Cate, that I was so slow to respond to your question.)

Also, if you just feel a spontaneous urge to drop by, that's fine, too.  You don't need to sign up in advance or have to have any specific questions for me.  You can just drop in and hang out.  I will throw an assortment of materials into the back of my car, just in case a use for something or other comes up, pertinent to whatever we might be exploring.

By the way, one of the really nice things about this new venue is they have a very large conference table, which will make it nice if we do tarot spells or other activities where we want to be able to spread out cards and the like.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More about the Lenormand Deck

Because I posted a Valentine's Day card spell yesterday, illustrated with Ciro Marchetti's "Gilded Reverie" version of the Lenormand deck, I thought I'd say a few more words about this deck.  The Lenormand was actually the first fortune telling deck I got to know, long before I heard of tarot cards, because my grandmother owned a version of this deck.  For purposes of comparison, below is what yesterday's Valentine spell would look like with my grandmother's deck:


An interesting thing about the Lenormand deck is that the card reading technique (as described in the booklet that came with this older version of the deck) involves laying out the entire deck in rows of 8 cards, with 4 cards centered in the bottom row.  This layout isn't too unwieldy, because there are only 36 cards.  (This differs from most tarot techniques, where you're dealing with just a few selected cards.)  You then interpret the different cards in terms of how they are positioned in relation to the "key" card, which is card 28 (a man), if reading for a man, or card 29 (a woman), if reading for a woman.  Cards closer to the key card carry more weight.  Cards are also read in relation to each other, so favorable cards close to card 27, the Letter, would foretell good news, whereas challenging cards may warn of news that is not so welcome.  Graphic relationships also figure in interpretation, So, card 6, the Clouds, has a dark side and a light side, and it makes a difference whether events denoted by other cards are to the side of the dark clouds or the white clouds.  In seeing how card meanings are modified by how they stand in relation to one another and their graphic features, my early experience with the Lenormand helped me to appreciate ways that tarot images can interrelate. 

Persons who are intimidated about studying tarot because they're concerned there's so much to learn might want to try the Lenormand instead.  I've used it very effectively, and it offers a different selection of images for those who want to do more with card spells.