THE EYE CAN’T HIT WHAT THE HAND CAN’T SEE

Teaching at Omega Institute this past week, with Mary K. Greer (and on the previous weekend, Liz Dean, Melissa Cynova, and George Koury) I was looking through my notes from Omega 2013 and found some Tarot aphorisms I had written down. I added some new ones and decided to share them with the class. Now I’d like to share them here (maybe with an edit or two). They express what the Tarot has meant to me. If they seem puzzling, or provocative, that’s their purpose.

From 2013
Every card is a door
Every card is a world.
Every card is a living being.

A Tarot reader is an Opener, someone who opens the way.

The reading does not come true.
It becomes true.
Every reading begins a journey and a process of becoming.

How does Tarot mean?
Where do meanings come from?
How does an individual card come to mean something?

The meaning of the card evolves through every reader, every reading.
Meanings accumulate over time, they propagate, have children.

The eye can’t hit what the hand can’t see.
The hands, in shuffling and laying out the cards, see them before the eye.

The Three Sisters: Desire Divination Destiny

What you love, loves you.
To become a Tarot reader, you just need to love the Tarot. It will love you back.

From 2018
Tarot is a living being. The cards are its extension in the physical world.

Tarot comes from the future. We are the necessary servants to bring it alive.
Every reading, every question, brings it further into life and consciousness.

We are the agents of Tarot’s evolution.
We are the Tarot’s reproductive system.

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Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 5:01 am  Comments (6)  

RULES FOR TAROT READERS

The wonderful Camelia Elias asked me to contribute to a project in which she asked various people to come up with “21 +1” rules for Tarot reading and divination. I’ve asked her if I could share them here, and she said that was fine.

She actually wanted them unnumbered, but I’ve included the numbers here, because they inspired my rules.

Some people will recognize the first four as what I’ve called “The First Directive,” featured in various of my stories and books, in particular my story “Visible Cities,” just published in the current issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

here are my rules:

21 +1 RULES FOR FORTUNE-TELLING
Rachel Pollack

1. See what there is to see.
2. Hear what there is to hear.
3. Touch whatever you touch.
4. Speak the thing you must speak.
5. Speak only the thing you must speak.
6. The client knows what they want. Do not change their questions.
7. Keep moving.
8. The Tarot may be scary, but the Tarot is your friend. Or to put it another way, “Fear not! Ishtar is here.”
9. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. Someone’s life may depend on it.
10. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow.
11. You can’t go forward if you won’t look back.
12. Keep your feet in tradition, and your head in the light.
13. The one forbidden rule of divination—do not predict the day and manner of a person’s death.
14. The Tarot is a map of the Land of the Dead.
15. Be tricky.
16. Dazzle.
17. The Tarot will heal if you allow it.
18. From the back of the head, the Presence is below. Thus, the Presence is above, and glory fills the Earth. (from Ha-Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh, the Book of the Angel Raziel)
19. Open your heart to the Sun.
20. Wake up!
21. It is always possible, at any moment, to see everything at once. Just don’t count on it, or try to force it.
+1 The eye can’t hit what the hand can’t see.
Dream like a butterfly, go home like a bee.

Published in: on July 11, 2018 at 11:47 pm  Comments (5)  

INTERVIEW WITH THE DEVIL

The wonderful French Tarotist Oephebia Laidi asked me to join in “interviewing” the different Major Arcana cards. By luck, I got the Devil, and decided to take the “interview” idea literally. I suspect that of all the Major cards, the Devil is the one who would most like the attention of an interview. As Mick Jagger put it, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of very great renown…”

Before the actual interview, here is a Devilish personal tidbit, as promised on Facebook: Way back in ’73 or so, I was invited to an orgy with Mick Jagger and Germaine Greer (now there’s an odd couple). I’m happy to say i declined.

Here is the interview:

INTERVEW WITH THE DEVIL
RACHEL POLLACK
(All answers are the Devil him/herself speaking)

Possible meaning of the card,
Darkness. Never underestimate darkness. Remember, All things may come out of darkness, but only light can come out of light. And if the universe is mostly dark matter and dark energy, doesn’t that make my magic stronger than the Magician’s? Passion, obsession, wild times. Addiction, especially when paired with the Aces (Cups-alcoholism, Swords-drug addiction, Pentacles—money and work addiction, Wands—sex addiction). Comedy, mirth (don’t take that scowl too seriously). Obsessive relationships, love “gone bad,” feelings of being trapped. Pride (as if that’s a bad thing!! “Say it loud! We’re gay and proud!”).

Mythology or folktales attached to your assigned card (when possible),
There’s so much! There’s all the Western Devils, Satan, Lucifer, Samael, Lilith, Iblis, Ba’al-ze-buth (okay, Beelzebub, bub), Baphomet, Ashmedai. Have you ever thought about the fact that God is just called “God” but I have more names than you can remember? So who’s the important one?

Numerology connection (when possible, as the court cards have none),
15 “reduces” (as if I could be reduced!) to the Lovers. Some people say I’m a “corruption” of love, but I say, I’m the one who actually likes sex. O is the 15th letter of the English alphabet, as in “Oooo.” 15 consists of a 1 and a 5. When the Magician and the Pope get together they produce me!

Element traditionally associated with your card,
Earth. Nothing like being grounded. Fire can burn itself out, Water can just spill, Air can blow away, but Earth will always remain.

Astrological association (ruler, planet etc.),
Capricorn. Go ahead, call me an old goat. I consider it a compliment.

Meaning of the symbolism found in the card,
Meant to scare you—the scowl, the torch, the open hand (what you see is what you get, pal—no secret divine mysteries, as with the Pope/Hierophant), and of course, the chains. The chains are wide enough for my subjects to slip them off and walk away But do they want to? Have you noticed that they’re smiling?

Shadow side,
Light. It’s kind of embarrassing, but my hidden side is light.

Crystals associated with the card,
Not into crystals much but I like stones. Onyx, obsidian, jet. Rubies are good. Supposedly they go with Cancer, but what’s a crab going to do with a nice blood-red ruby?

Herbs, flowers or essential oils connected to your card.
Kind of improvising here, but I go for deadly nightshade, mandrake, ergot, black fungus, opium—alcohol is not an herb, is it?

So that’s it. and now,here’s the link to oephebia’s whole set of card explorations: https://oephebia.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/major-arcana/

Published in: on July 8, 2018 at 4:31 pm  Comments (1)  

WHY?

I have been taking a class on Jewish mysticism, taught by a brilliant man named Robert Micha’el Esformes. He mentioned recently that Hebrew had two words for “why,” one for how things came to be, and the other for what is their reason or purpose. I was so struck by this that I wrote the following short essay.

THE TWO PART QUESTION
Thoughts on “Why”
Rachel Pollack

Those of us of a certain age may remember the old-time comic, “Professor” Irwin Corey. Corey would come onstage wearing a shabby, ill-fitting tuxedo and high-top basketball shoes. Then he would spout pompous nonsense.

When he appeared on television, such as the Tonight Show, where he could sit down with the host, they would go through a set routine. Johnny Carson would ask “Why do you wear sneakers?’ The professor would draw himself up and proclaim, “You pose a two-part question! ‘Why?’ has plagued philosophers and scientists throughout the ages. Far be it for me—in the short time allotted to me—to attempt to answer the eternal question, Why?”

Then he would pause a beat, and say, in a calm voice, “Do I wear sneakers? Yes.”

I thought of Irwin Corey when Reb Micah’el told us that Hebrew has two words for Why. Language shapes our thoughts far more than we realize. Having two words for why allows us to view existence itself in a new way, what we might call origin and purpose.

Why does the Sun exist? Because pieces of previously exploded stars came together and forged a new blazing body of heat and light.

Why does the Sun exist? In order to make life, and ultimately consciousness, possible.

There’s a famous question in philosophy and science, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” With only one word for “Why” we tend to focus only on origins. Indeed, many will dismiss the idea of purpose, or what we might call destination, as a kind of mistake in how we think, even a sentimental distraction.

But having two words for why allows us to ponder both sides, or both ends, of the mystery of existence.

I am certainly no expert on Lurianic Kabbalah, but it seems to me that the teachings of Isaac Luria are deeply ingrained in the double meanings of why.

Why do we exist? Because the primordial being, the hermaphroditic Adam Kadmon, separated into two, the male Adam (whose name means clay, or dirt) and the female Hava, or Eve (whose name means life).

Why do we exist? Because a world of broken vessels needs us to repair it—tikkun olam—and in so doing, re-unite the two parts of the Divine that separated when the world broke, the male Holy One, or King, who dwells On High, and the female Shekinah, or Presence, who dwells in exile with humanity.

It is partly through our human contemplation of Why, both the origin and purpose, that we can help restore the separated parts of God.

Published in: on May 31, 2018 at 12:46 am  Comments (4)  

SEE WHAT THERE IS TO SEE

Here is another part of the material I put together for Readers Studio. It comes under the category of pondering what Tarot is, what it means to us, and how we use it. The reading at the bottom, based on what I call “The First Directive,” is one I will be doing in my upcoming Tarot On The Hudson class here in Rhinebeck, May 26 (if interested in joining us, please write to Zoe matoff, zoemaat@hvc.rr.com. I also hope to do an exercise inspired by the suggestion from Simone Grace Seoul’s teacher.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES and QUOTATIONS
Or, WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TAROT

1. Seeing and saying are almost the same word. In Hebrew or Arabic style, they both would be SNG. Can we Say if we don’t see? Can we See if we don’t say?

2. In Tarot begins responsibilities. This is a paraphrase of a famous story title, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by Delmore Schwartz. What is the responsibility of a Tarot reader? What is not the reader’s responsibility?

3. “You ask me for a reading. I tell you not your future but a seed for a dream.” Simone Grace Seol, Korean Tarot reader. What is a seed for a dream? How do we tell that to someone?

4. And from her teacher: “Look at them in a relaxed state and say out loud what you see.”
An exercise, and a way of reading:
Have deck in front of you face down.
Close eyes, and breathe, to put yourself “in a relaxed state.”
Let yourself feel energy of deck, and of top card. Do not try to guess what it
might be, or mean.
Turn over card. Staying in relaxed state, simply look at it.
Say what you see. Not what you think it means, but just what you see.

4. “There is no knowing for a fact. The only dependable things are looking and listening.”
Richard Powers, novelist, in “The Overstory”

5. “The First Directive” (as used in my fiction, in various contexts, since 1980’s)
See what there is to see.
Hear what there is to hear.
Touch whatever you touch.
Speak the thing you must speak.

As way to read Tarot. This can be done as a spread, for the way you read cards, but also these are questions to keep in mind when reading for others.
1. What is the essential thing to see, in a single card, in the reading.
2. What message are the cards telling us? How can we hear it?
How can we hear what the querent is trying to say to us? How can we bring
that to the reading?
3. What is the thing in the reading, in the querent’s life, that we must truly touch?
How can we touch it/them?
4. What is the essential truth of the reading? How do we make sure to speak it?

Notice there is no “Feel what there is to feel.” This was not conscious, but obviously deliberate. But your guess as to why ss as good as mine! And notice that feeling is part of the way to read cards described above.

Published in: on May 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

WHAT IS THE TAROT FOR? SOME MATERIAL FROM READERS STUDIO

As many here know I was one of the featured presenters, with Mary K. Greer and Benebell Wen, at this year’s annual Readers Studio conference in New York. This is a great event, and I have been to all but one of them (I was ill that year) since the beginning, when Mary Greer and I were presenters. So it was special for me, and I wanted to do something special. Rather than narrow myself to a single topic that I could fully cover in the 2 1/2 hours we each had, I wanted to open it up, look at basics, and what’s special.

For several weeks I took lots of notes, writing many pages in my journal about subjects I might cover, readings we might do, aspects of Tarot in people’s lives. Then i wrote up five pages of handouts, covering many, though not all, of those topics. When we began I told everyone that I did not expect to do it all, but I wanted them to have it. Now i want to share some of that here.

The first page of the material was a list of uses people have found in the Tarot. I titled it the same as this post. Here it is. I hope people will feel moved to comment, question, discuss, and especially add things I missed. I should mention that a number of the items came from suggestions made by my friend Zoe Matoff, who is a brilliant and dedicated Tarotist.

I should also mention that I do not necessarily endorse some of the things. They are simply ways people have used the Tarot.

WHAT IS THE TAROT FOR?
Ways People Have Used The Tarot

Playing a game
Fortune-telling
Scamming people
Advice from a wise friend
Healing—through advice from a reading, or directly through the images
Astral travel
Travel to other worlds or stories
Travel on the Tree(s) of Life
Saving lives
Saving yourself
Spying
Discovering secrets—in others or yourself, or in the world.
Self-knowledge
Art—Tarot as an art form or using Tarot to inspire new art
Story-telling, writing, poetry
Honoring/Speaking to/Summoning the dead
Honoring/Speaking to/Summoning spirits, demons, or angels
Controlling spirits, demons, or angels
Visual form of magical doctrines
Magical doorways
Identifying threats or issues in a person’s life, and what to do about them
Legal, medical, financial direction, or decisions
Meditation
Insh’Allah—discovering the divine will
Arguing with God
To go out and come back

The last is deliberately mysterious and suggestive. I would be interested to know people’s reactions to it.

Published in: on May 3, 2018 at 12:07 am  Comments (7)  

OMEGA 2018 IS CLOSER THAN WE THINK!

Omega just sent the links for people to see the descriptions for my and Mary K Greer’s annual Tarot extravaganza–a 3 day symposium, “Master of the Tarot,” and a 5 day intensive, called this year “The Never Ending Tarot.”

Here is what I wrote on Facebook:

The Omega Institute catalog arrived today, and as always it was exciting to see the summer workshops take a step closer to reality.

Mary K. Greer and i have been teaching there for 28 years now, and in recent years we’ve had the joy of hosting Masters of the Tarot, a symposium and workshop with three other teachers each year. This year the group includes Liz Dean, Melissa Ceynowa, and George Koury. That’s Aug. 3-5.

And then right after that,Mary and I conduct a 5 day intensive on reading the cards, titled this year The Never Ending Tarot. This title was suggested by Judith Zoe Matoff, and is also the title of a long-running online deck overseen by Joao Caldeira. I like ti very much, because it encapsulates what I wrote in my book “Tarot Wisdom.” “The one thing we can say for certain is that we will never come to the end of it.”

Here are the two links:
Weekend conference: https://www.eomega.org/workshops/masters-of-the-tarot-0

Five Day: https://www.eomega.org/workshops/the-never-ending-tarot

And here are the comments from Zoe, who sent the info out to our mailing lists:

I am pleased that Mary and Rachel chose my suggested titlle for the 5-day event. And I am especially pleased about the weekend conference. Not only will Mary and Rachel be sharing their wisdom, but their co-teachers are a notable and exciting bunch. George Koury, an accomplished Tarotist and teacher is among them.. George attends Rachel’s workshops whenever he can. He is so much in demand around the world we were lucky to pin him down for this time to be with us. I won’t say more about the other teachers — though I know you will recognize them because they are accomplished contributors to the Tarot community in many capacities. We want you to read through the links for your enjoyment and consideration.

As for the 5-day (Yay! I love the 5-day seminar!) when it is Mary and Rachel All the Time, I can’t say enough great things.. These two illustrious teachers shine in their wisdom and generosity. As a team, they just magnify each other’s gifts and spirit! They’ve been teaching together at Omega for almost 30 years. It’s no wonder that Omega wants them to return year after year. The students fall in love with them.

If possible, I recommend that you plan to participate in both events. They will offer diferent things. If you can only attend one, it will be a difficult decision. I know I couldn’t make that decision easily.

I find it so easy to be at Omega. It is enlivening without being draining. A review of Omega’s catalogue and/or website is advised. There are opportunities beyond the workshops, such as the Wellness Center, where you can go for healing and further relaxation. The gift shop is popular and features the works of all of the Tarot authors during their time at Omega. We regularly haunt the cafe when workshops are not in session. It really becomes a community that thrives way beyond the Omega event..

If you would like a printed copy of the Omega catalogue, go to the website: eomega.org. Registration is open now!

Published in: on March 5, 2018 at 10:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

THE FACTS OF OUR WORLD

I just put something on Facebook, and I want to put it here as well, because it seems important to me, and I want a more permanent record. Here it is:

I’m going to do something a little strange here–quote the opening paragraph of a book I found on the “New Books” shelf of my local library.

The book is called “The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts,” by Susan Brind Morrow. I have no connection with her, but I want to quote her because what she says strikes me as very important. It is about reality, and the illusion that we have invented the world we live in.

I sometimes like to say to people that noon is not an arbitrary concept but a fundamental fact of our world. It is the same every single day, and we just give it that name. It is the moment when the sun stands highest in the sky, and in the northern hemisphere it is always, no matter the season, no matter the day, due south from wherever you are.

Now here is what Susan Morrow writes:

“You can see this every day. It is both time and place at once. It is of transcendent beauty. It is the agent of transformation. It is the origin of all things. It is so familiar that it is known by all. Yet so familiar it is forgotten and unseen. But even forgotten it is the one essential thing: the dawn.”

Published in: on February 22, 2018 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  

TAROT READING SCENE IN MY BOOK “THE FISSURE KING”

My new book, The Fissure King–A Novel In Five Stories

is a noir fantasy, rather than a book about divination or Tarot, but it does have one scene with a Tarot reading that I had a lot of fun writing, and thought I might share it here.

It comes in a long flashback towards the end of the book, where we learn how the hero, Jack Shade, became a “Traveler,” the order of magicians, shamans, witches, and sorcerers who go back to the very beginnings of humanity, but who are also completely modern (they have their own dark web, for instance, called Jinn-net, and special apps on their phones). In the flashback we learn how young Jack never felt he belonged where he was, and how this leads him to run off with a carnival that comes to his town.

But first, the head of the carnival tells Jack he should get his fortune told from the carny’s resident fortune teller, Madame Clara.

So here is the scene:

The fair lasted six nights, Tuesday to Sunday. On the third night Jack worked out who ran things, a tall white man, skinny, with thinning hair and black-rimmed glasses. He wore black jeans and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, and with the sleeves rolled up. A lot of the time he sat on a wooden stool near the ring toss, but every now and then he would stroll around the booths and machines. He had a trick of seeing everything while looking at nothing. Some of the workers called him “Marty,” but most said “Mr. Green.”
On the fourth night, with half the crowd at the costumed pig contest, Jack went up to Marty Green, who was sitting on his stool, looking at spread sheets. “Excuse me, Mr. Green?” Jack said.
For a couple of seconds Green seemed not to notice, then he slowly lifted his head. “Yeah?”
“Umm, there’s a guy in a brown suit walking around. I think he’s a cop.”
“Really? You don’t say.”
Shit, Jack thought. Green knew that, of course he did. Like all sixteen year old boys, the one thing Jack hated most was humiliation. He was about to leave when Green asked “What’s your name, kid?”
“Jack. Jack Shade.”
“Huh. Sharp-eyed Jack. You’re okay, kid. Thanks.” He went back to his spread sheet. Jack didn’t know what to do, so he started to walk away. Without looking up, Green said “Did you get your fortune told?”
“Nah,” said Jack, “I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“Yeah? Well, you might want to try it. And tell Clara it’s on me.”
“I can pay for it.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Umm, okay. Thanks.”
He didn’t visit Clara until the next night, the fifth. It was Saturday, and crowded, and Jack had to wait online behind a group of white girls his age—they managed to shoot glances at him, and he managed not to notice—and a middle-aged grim-faced Latina woman. Jack tried to guess what she’d come to ask, and almost immediately he could hear her tight voice in his head: “I want to know if my husband is cheating on me.”
Finally it was his turn through the velvet curtain. The booth was flimsy, aluminum sides and roofs that could be set up easily and taken down, but the walls inside were covered with the same symbols as outside. Mme. Clara herself was a short dark-skinned white woman in a shimmery long blue dress, with several fake silver necklaces and a transparent blue scarf draped over her dyed black hair. Jack figured she was supposed to be a Gypsy, but she looked a lot like Mrs. Parke, his homeroom teacher, who was a light-skinned brunette, so he figured Clara had dyed her hair and used a tanning bed. He kind of liked the idea of a white woman who made herself look darker. On a small wooden table in front of her, covered in a black cloth with yellow stars, sat a small crystal ball on a white cushion, a teapot and an empty cup, some thin sticks, and a pack of cards face down. A sign pinned to the cloth declared “Mme. Clara, Sees All! Tells all!” and then in smaller letters, “For entertainment purposes only.”
As Jack sat down on the wooden chair across from her the woman said, in an obviously fake accent, “Good evening. How may Mme. Clara help you?”
Jack said “I want to know what I should do.”
She nodded, “Ah. I sense a girl is involved.”
“What? No. That’s not—I just—some weird shit has been happening, and I want to know what to do about it.”
She looked a bit uncertain, then said, “Do you wish tea leaves? Or the palm? With such a deep question, perhaps only the cards will do.”
Jack guessed that the cards cost the most. “Sure,” he said. She was just picking up the deck when he added, “Oh, Mr. Green, Martin, he wanted me to tell you that this was on him.”
She hesitated a second before picking up the deck. “Very well,” she said. She began to mix the cards.
Jack said “Shouldn’t I be doing that?”
“Oh no,” she said, her accent thicker than ever. “Only reader must touch cards.” Quickly, as if she wanted to get it over with and return to people who were paying, she set down six cards. Some of them just looked like a collection of swords or cups, but the others looked like old-fashioned paintings, with titles he could read, even upside down. One, called the Lovers, showed some guy standing between a couple of women, with Cupid about to shoot an arrow at the poor sucker. The second, called the Wheel of Fortune, showed a bear turning the crank on a big wooden wheel, with monkeys in clothes going up one side and down the other. Jack wondered if it was a circus act. The third was that “Juggler” guy.
Carla just glanced at the cards and then said, “You are a good person, brave, but the people in your life do not understand you. They do not see the true you. You will face many hardships in life, but also joy. You will find a great love, lose it, and find another.”
“What?” Jack said. “You’re talking shit. You could say that to anybody.”
Clara glared at him. “How dare you? I have told fortunes for the great and powerful. I—”
“There’s a cop walking around outside. You want me to get him and tell him you’re scamming people?”
She crossed her arms and smirked. “Go ahead,” she said, her accent slipping. “He got his cut already. Besides, how could I scam you when you didn’t pay anything?”
“That’s right,” Jack said. “Mr. Green sent me here. How do you think he’ll like it if I tell him you just used your standard shit on me?” He leaned forward. “Do it for real. Come on.”
Her hands trembled slightly as she picked up the cards she’d turned over, put them back, shuffled the deck, cut it into three stacks, put them back together, and shuffled some more.
“Quit stalling,” Jack said.
“Shut up. You want this ‘for real,’ you have to let me do it.” Finally she turned over four cards. The Juggler was there again, and the Lovers, but now Death, which showed a skeleton wearing a cloak and wielding a scythe, and then the Moon, with a couple of wolves or dogs howling at the Moon. She stared at them, then murmured “You have abilities you might not know about.”
“I’m starting to guess.”
“You will learn. Someone—someone will train you. And then you will find love. And believe you are happy.”
“Love.” The idea seemed remote to Jack. He just wanted to know where he belonged.
She said, “But you will lose almost everything. I’m sorry.” Jack shrugged. “And wander. In…strange places.” Now her hand hovered over the deck, uncertain, it seemed, whether to turn over another card. Finally, she did, then jerked her hand away as if the card had caught fire. “Fuck!” she said.
“What?” Jack said. “What’s wrong?” He stared at the card. It was called “The Drowned Sailor,” and showed the body of a man washed up face down on a beach. “What is it? What does it mean?”
“No, no,” she said. “It’s not what it fucking means. It just shouldn’t be here.”
“Why not?”
“Because it doesn’t exist! It’s not part of the deck.”
Jack frowned. “What do you mean?”
She placed a fingertip on the face down pile. “This is the Tarot deck. Seventy-eight cards. Four suits of fourteen cards each, plus twenty-two extras. Got that?” Jack nodded. She held up The Lovers. “See this? Number six. Six out of twenty-two.” She reached for The Drowned Sailor, but only pointed at it. “What is this one? What’s the goddamn number?”
Jack leaned over to see better, and noticed that Clara pulled back, as if afraid he’d touch her. “XXV,” he said, “twenty-five.”
“Right! But there’s only twenty-two of them! It’s not part of the deck.”
“So what? You slipped it in with the others.”
“No, no, no. It doesn’t—Please listen. This card, this thing, was not in the deck when we started. And if I put it back, and we look through the whole deck, it won’t be there. I swear.”
Jack said, “But what does it mean?”
Carla pulled away. “Oh no,” she said.
“What? Tell me.”
“You didn’t say ‘that’s ridiculous,’ or call me a liar. Or a crook.” Jack stared at her. “Oh Jesus,” she said, “you’re one of them, aren’t you?”
“One of what?”
“A Traveler.”
If you want to be a traveler too…
Jack said, “What is a traveler?”
“You think I can tell you that?”
“Then you’re not—”
“I’m just a fucking fortune teller.” In her fake accent, she said “Knows all, tells all.”
“Then tell me what this means. This card you say you’ve never seen before.”
In her normal voice again she said, “I didn’t say that. I’ve seen it once. And before that I heard about it. From other readers. I didn’t believe it, of course. I figured they were screwing with me. And then there it was.”
“So what does it mean?”
She closed her eyes a moment, concentrated. “There is someone—someone you need to find. Not now. You will know when it happens. Something with water. And loss.” She stopped.
“Great. That’s it?”
“I’m sorry.”
“Take another one.”
“What?”
“Another card. Come on.”
She sighed. “I don’t think that it will—” She stopped as she picked up the next card, looked at it, then dropped it as if it was on fire. “What the fuck?” she said.
“Christ,” Jack said. He looked down at an ornately dressed woman riding in a chariot drawn by a pair of swans. A crown adorned her head, and in her outstretched hand she held an enormous eye that seemed to stare at the viewer. “Don’t tell me,” he said. “Another card that doesn’t exist?”
“Yes,” she whispered. Then, her voice rough, “I don’t know what this is. I’ve never even heard of it.”
Jack said, “Well, gee, let me guess. She’s wearing a goddamn crown, and holding an eye, so maybe she’s the Queen of Eyes.”
Clara said “What did you do to my cards?”
Jack threw up his hands. “That’s it. Enough of this shit. You can’t tell me anything, can you? But even as he got up to leave, he knew it wasn’t true. In his mind, he heard her say “You’re one of them. A Traveler.”
Outside the booth, a small line of people were waiting for their fortunes to be told. “Don’t waste your time,” he said. “She’s nuts.” They all stared at him but didn’t step from their places.

Published in: on November 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

THE SHADOW COURT–A PASSAGE FROM MY STORY “INVISIBLE CITIES,” IN TRIBUTE TO JORGE LUIS BORGES

Today is the birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the great figures of 20th century world literature. His speculative stories and fantastical essays (always hard to discern the boundaries between them) are often described as the foundation of magical realism. But they are really unique and of themselves.

Borges was a character in my time travel graphic novel, Time Breakers, co-created with artist Chris Weston (soon to be released in a deluxe Italian edition). He appears there simply as Luis, the Blind Librarian who has read everything. Borges did indeed become blind while serving as head librarian of the Argentine National Library. If I was a Puritan I might say it was punishment for accepting the post from the Peronista government. Luckily for me (Borges is long since caring), I am not a Puritan.

By a kind of deliberate coincidence, I had planned today to work on a short story titled “Visible Cities,” itself a tribute to Italo Calvino, whose books include–beside “Invisible Cities”–the great Tarot novel, “The Castle of Crossed Destinies.” The passage I wrote struck me as at least as much Borgesian as Calvinoesque. so I offer it here as tribute to one of my literary heroes.

The Shadow Court, also known as the Court of Shadows, or the City of Shadows, did not show up in any Linear maps, though the Travelers had marked it in their Atlas of Invisible Places. As with the City of Age, the people who lived there, old as well as young, were not actually unseen, they just believed themselves to be. Not just unseen, but non-existent. What they did consider real was shadows. You did not exist, only your shadow did. To move through the streets, to talk to anyone or conduct business, or teach a class, to sit at home alone and read a book, to make love, even to sleep, you needed at least one, preferably more, light sources to cast your shadow. Indeed, if someone fell asleep and woke up to discover that their bedside lights had burned out, they would flail about in terror, or else lie frozen until the Sun came up and they could see even a sliver of shadow. When a woman gave birth the midwives positioned lamps to make sure that the baby’s shadow emerged from the shadow of the mother’s thighs.

Published in: on August 24, 2017 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment