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.

Advertisements
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  

ALPHABET POEM RESET

Looking through my Word files I came across a poem I wrote some years ago and thought it would be nice to share it. It’s an alphabet poem, based on those kids’ poems of a word for each letter so they can learn their ABC’s.

My poem forms a kind of credo about some of my basic approaches to life and spirituality (hint–rebellion, desire, and mystery trump obedience, self-denial, and fear).

It was inspired by a more complex alphabetical work by the amazing Megan Guidry.

ASTONISHMENT BOLSTERS CONSCIOUSNESS
Rachel Pollack
for Meghan Guidry

A is for Abel, dead animal boy.
Vegetable Cain cracked his head like a toy.

B is for Bread, insufficient alone.
To live we need whispers, the endless unknown.

C is for Cathars, were they really that great?
Do we love them primarily for who chose them to hate?

D is for David, he sings and he kills,
Praising bright God with each life that he spills.

E is Ecstatic, a challenge to stand
Outside of ourselves, uninhabited land.

F is Forbidden, a very long list.
The more we desire, the more they insist.

G is for Guilt, a most useful tool,
For control more efficient than warm golden rules.

H is Hosanna, a shout to the sky.
Can you follow the voices, and learn how to fly?

I is for Instinct, refused and denied.
All rules and commands are excuses to hide.

J is for Judas, and Jesus, together,
A hard-working team, as jealous as brothers.

K is for Knowledge, a vast leafy tree,
With snakes and bright fruit to delight you and me.

L is for loss, it’s all that we know,
Lose love, and lose health, and hope, last to go.

M is for Mother, Virgin or Great,
She guides us and comforts our miserable state.

N is for Nothing, the ultimate goal.
Pour all our Somethings down a dark hole.

O is for Oh! a cry of delight,
Discovering joy in morning or night.

P is for Presence, indwelling and bright.
The lift of white wings to shelter our fright.

Q is Quiescent, a rare happy state,
The genuine thing so hard to create.

R is for Righteous, the model of good,
Replacing desire with long lists of should.

S is for Satiate, all yearning fulfilled.
Our actual state? Opportunities spilled.

T is for Teachers, whatever their cause.
Listen for love, be wary of laws.

U is unknown, hidden from sight.
Seek it forever, in darkness and light.

V is for Valley, and shadows, and death,
Where we call out “You there?” with each hesitant breath.

W—Wicks, white flames at their tips.
If only our words could burn from our lips.

X is Unknown, the true state of our Earth,
Every step a surprise, from the shock of our birth.

Y yearns for Yes, the end of all doubt,
To banish all No, in victorious rout.

Z is for Zeitgeist, the sum of us all.
Despite our best efforts, we rise and we fall.

Published in: on August 4, 2017 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Protected: An Alphabet Poem

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 2:22 am  Enter your password to view comments.  

TAROT AND REVELATION, DIVINATION IN SPACE

Below is an article the omega Institute asked me to write for their website, to help publicize the two workshops I and Mary Greer will be leading this coming August. The first, August 4-6, is listed at https://www.eomega.org/workshops/masters-of-the-tarot#-workshop-description-block. This is actually a weekend Symposium with five teachers, Theresa Reed, Barbara Moore, Sasha Graham, and Barbara Moore, along with Mary and myself.

The second is our annual 5 day intensive, just me and Mary and a group of wonderful enthusiastic Tarotists. We’ve been doing this for 27 years, and it’s always a great experience. https://www.eomega.org/workshops/tarot-reading-0#-workshop-description-block

Last night I watched the first episode of the new season of the world’s longest-running television drama, Dr. Who. The show is a light-hearted time travel story that, over its 55 years, has become more complex, more mysterious, and more rooted in the wonders of life, death, and identity. Afterward, I thought about the Tarot—what it has meant to me, what it gives us—and it struck me that Dr. Who and his strange time machine, the Tardis, have a lot in common with the Tarot and those of us who read the cards.

Dr. Who appears human, but is different. He has two hearts and can think further and deeper than anyone alive. These are the qualities—idealized—of a Tarot reader, because the Tarot changes us; it opens us and makes us more than what we were. Just as Dr. Who began as a simple children’s show, so the Tarot first entered the world as a game. A card game unlike any other, for it featured an enigmatic extra suit, filled with striking images called triumphs (now known as trumps, or collectively, the Major Arcana). These dramatic figures may have been clear to people at the time, but over the centuries they have become more symbolic, more filled with meaning, and at the same time more mysterious, allowing us to go ever deeper.

The title of the show refers to the fact that no one actually knows the doctor’s name; he is simply that, “the Doctor.” Similarly, we don’t know who created the first Tarot deck, though an artist named Bonifacio Bembo painted the earliest (almost) complete deck that has survived, done in 1450. Since then, there have been literally thousands of Tarots. People have argued over which one might represent the true, absolute deck. But this misses the point, for they are all the Tarot. The Tarot grows and changes with each new deck. This is why so many of us collect them—partly because it’s interesting to see all the new interpretations, but also because the Tarot, and our readings, become deeper and more meaningful with each new deck that touches our minds and hearts.

Similar to the proliferation of Tarot decks, the Doctor has in fact had many bodies—thirteen so far. That is, when one actor has played the Doctor for a period of time, the character seemingly dies, and his body gives off a blinding light, out of which a new figure emerges. Different actor, different clothes, and even though the basic qualities and the memories continue, each one brings his own unique flavor, some darker, some tougher, some more playful. In the same way, each of those thousands of Tarot decks add to what we might call “the eternal Tarot.”

The most famous thing about the Doctor is his “time machine,” a seeming wooden “Police Call Box” known as the Tardis. In the early 1960s (long before cell phones, of course), these sturdy blue phone booths could be found on British street corners. If you were in danger or witnessed a crime, you could dash into one of these booths and call the police.

The letters in Tardis stand for “Time And Relative Dimension In Space” (a nod, presumably, to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). I have used the same letters for the title of this article, with “Space” meaning not the emptiness between planets, but the physical world itself. The great mystery of divination is that it reveals things about our actual lives, unwrapping the secrets of the past and pointing to the future.

In the show, the ordinary humans discover two things about the Tardis. First, and most famously, it’s “bigger on the inside.” People step into what seems to be a narrow wooden box and are stunned to see a vast chamber filled with marvels. The Tarot seems like a simple deck of cards, but as soon as we begin to study and use it we discover large and complex traditions, including astrology, alchemy, Freemasonry, and Kabbalah. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home but never even heard the word Kabbalah until I began to explore the Tarot. At the same time, you do not need to explore any of these traditions to read the cards. The images alone will still be “bigger on the inside,” and show you things about life and your own truth.

The second, more subtle, thing people discover about the Tardis is that it’s not really a box or a machine at all, but a living being. This is something we discover about the Tarot as well. When we mix it, and ask our questions, it seems to come to life. In a recent interview, Osvaldo Menegazzi, one of the world’s premier Tarot artists, said, “You may believe in it or not, but one thing is for sure: The cards speak.”

When I do readings for myself—contrary to popular belief, most Tarot readers read for themselves all the time—I do not try to uncover secrets or make predictions, but instead, seek the wisdom of the cards. Because they “speak” in pictures, we can ponder what they say for a long time. Here are three questions, simple yet challenging.

1. What do I know?

2. What have I forgotten?

3. What do I need to know and must never forget?

We will explore this deceptively simple 3 card “spread” during the 5 day intensive. As for my part in the weekend Symposium–I hope to lead everyone into what I call “Claiming Your Power As A Tarot Reader.” This will include absolute beginners as well as years-long professionals. Mary and I have always made our classes experiential, and open to all levels. Amazingly, this always works.

© 2017 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Published in: on June 1, 2017 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  

READING TAROT THROUGH THE STORIES IN THE CARDS

hermit

The arrival of the Raziel Tarot, created by Robert Place and myself, and based on 3000 years of Jewish myth, teachings and lore, has led me to think about Tarot and stories.

The Raziel Tarot: the Secret Book of Adam and Eve

There are many decks, especially in the modern era, based on stories, often from different cultures. There are several fairy tale decks, decks based on the mythologies of Ireland, Russia, China, India, Arthurian decks, decks based on games and television shows, and on and on.

The famous Rider deck of A. E. Waite and P. C. Smith strikes many people as scenes from stories, especially the Minor Arcana. Maybe the man in the 2 of Wands, looking out from a castle wall, has become bored with his life–or his marriage?–and is fantasizing leaving everything behind. The weeping woman in the 9 of Swords may be grieving the loss of a child, or perhaps that her 2 of Wands husband has run off and left her in the middle of the night.

Some of the Major Arcana cards in the Rider deck have specific story links. Waite describes the High Priestess as the Shkehinah, the female aspect of God in the Kabbalah (this connection becomes much more explicit in the Raziel Tarot). Many see the Magician card as the Greek God Hermes, God of magic, wisdom, and transformation (not to mention swindlers, thieves, and businessmen).

I have linked the Star card to the Greek Goddess Persephone, who was taken by Death (card 13) into the dark Underworld, and then returned for part of every year to her mother Demeter, Goddess of Life (card 3, the Empress).

Do I do this with every client? Some just want simple answers to questions. But suppose we based a whole reading style on the stories in the cards, and how they illuminate the person’s issues? This can be especially valuable with decks where the cards very specifically show tales or myths.

With the Raziel Tarot how might it open up our readings if we know that King Solomon is the Magician, or that his lover, the Queen of Sheba, is on the Strength card?

A person facing a challenge might get extra meaning from the Hermit card (shown above), knowing that it pictures Moses at the Burning Bush, where God tells Moses he must go to Egypt and confront the most powerful king in all the world. The story in this card challenges us to ask, “What mission or task am I called to accept? What is it that I cannot refuse, or pretend doesn’t exist?”

In the story, Moses asks what is God’s name (he knows that Pharaoh will ask this), and God says–in the standard English version–“I am that I am.” If we turn this question around to ourselves, we might ask “Who am I in this moment? What in my life right now cannot be denied or explained away?”

Interestingly, modern scholars tell us that what God says to Moses is more like “I will be what I will be,” or “I am becoming what I am becoming.” Here we might ask ourselves, “What is changing or growing in me, in my job, my life, my family? What am I becoming?

Sometimes the story in a card can powerfully affirm something important in a person’s life. About three years ago I discovered I had cancer–Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be precise. I was very sick by the time the disease was diagnosed and was not sure what would happen to me. But then the chemo took effect and I began to improve. After I received a report that the cacer was in remission I decided to do a Tarot reading.

I chose the Tarot of Delphi, in which each card is a 19th century painting from Greek or Roman mythology. Stores, beautifully rendered. The card that came out was the 8 of Wands. The painting shows the God Hermes–a favorite of mine, ax sell as the Magician–returning the Goddess Persephone–the Star, which is my birth card–from the dark world of the dead to the bright land of the living. There is no explanation, no fortune telling formula, no list of traditional meanings, that could have said more to me at that moment than that picture–that story–of life rescued from death.

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm  Comments (4)  

READING FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE RAZIEL TAROT

Raziel Launch reading

Above is a reading I did in honor of the launch of the Indiegogo campaign for the Raziel Tarot Major Arcana special edition. The spread was a variant on Zoe Matoff’s Don’do/Do three-card spread, where the center card is first, then the card on the left, then the right, while the fourth card is the bottom of the deck. Zoe calls that “what’s at the bottom of this.”

The big difference here, however, is that the cards on either side of the center are not “don’t do” and “do,” but simply supporting energies for the central card, which represents the basic situation.

I actually looked at the bottom card, Strength, first, so I will discuss that first. The Strength card shows the Queen of Sheba, guarded by her lion, an animal associated with Goddesses throughout the ancient Mediterranean. There is an Ethiopian legend (the land of Sa’ba included parts of Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula) that King Solomon gave the Queen a ring engraved with the Lion of Judah, which then passed through the ages to Haile Selassie.

Sheba came to test Solomon’s legendary wisdom, and he surpassed all her expectations. Thus, part of this Strength card, as the root of the reading, is that the Raziel Tarot is a kind of treasure chest of wisdom and lore. I do not say this to brag about my or Robert Place’s great knowledge, but rather because the deck is based on the thousands of years of Jewish myth, mysticism (Kabbalah and other traditions), magic, and tradition.

The central card of the actual three card reading is The Sun, card 19. The image is based on the Tarot of Marseilles Sun card (compared to many other cards, such as The Lovers on the right, which are based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). It shows two young people rising from the shards of a broken bowl and celebrating the light.

The idea comes from the Kabbalistic myth known as the “breaking of the vessels.” Very briefly, this teaches that at Creation, God’s light traveled through the ten “vessels” on the Tree of Life. Vessels 4-9, however, could not contain such power and broke, with the pieces falling into 10, the material world. Restoration comes when each of us liberates our own inner light. Publication of the deck is a kind of liberation of its inner light.

The Sun card also comes after a series of trials in the cards before it, and shows the joy of having passed the tests (helped by the wisdom and knowledge of Strength). For Robert and myself, of course, the publication of the Major Arcana cards is indeed a joyous event. The deck was a labor of love, but definitely labor, and for me, this period working on it has also seen me struggle with cancer. Recently I finished a very intense second round of chemo, so the publication of the Raziel Tarot is joyous on many levels.

To the left we see the Hanged Man. The image comes from a Jewish myth of an angel named Shemhazai, who suspends himself, upside-down, between Heaven and Earth, either (there are two versions) to atone for falling to temptation, or to offer himself as a kind of sacrifice to plead with God not to destroy all humanity in the Flood.

What strikes me most in this reading is the idea of a link between Heaven and Earth. The deck is based on stories and mystical teachings, and yet it is still a traditional Tarot deck, based in many ways on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Notice the stony ground at his feet. So many people come to the cards when we have troubles, when life feels like stones. But then there is the light beyond the face. Because the Raziel Tarot is linked to spiritual ideas and stories, it can bring us to a greater awareness, and a sense that readings about our personal problems can lead us to something beyond ourselves.

To the right we see The Lovers. The picture (inspired by the Rider Lovers) shows the central myth underlying the deck–that an angel named Raziel (“God is my secret”) gave a book–some say a magical stone–to Adam and Eve when they had to leave the Garden. This book of secrets revealed both the mysteries of the cosmos, and all future events. This is also the central myth of Tarot for at least 230 years–that it reveals the hidden structure of existence, yet also can be used for divination.

On one level, the card’s presence here simply marks the fact that Robert and I are giving this new deck to the world, the way Raziel gave the Book to our ancestors. On another, it celebrates the deck as a deck based in love as well as secrets.

Here is the link for the Indiegogo campaign for the deck: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-raziel-tarot-majors-edition-cards/x/116526#/

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm  Comments (2)  

MARCUS KATZ AND TALI GOODWIN ON THE RAZIEL TAROT

As the Raziel Tarot Major Arcana edition approaches its launch date, we sent an advance copy of the book to Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin, founders of Tarot Professionals and Tarosophy. They were kind enough to give it a very thoughtful read and write a careful comment. I decided I wanted to share that here. It also can be found at http://www.burningserpent.com, where we’ve just opened a page for the Raziel Tarot.

Here’s Marcus and Tali:

The Raziel Tarot is a stunning presentation of significant mystical narratives bound within the tarot deck. In the precise artwork of Robert Place, Rachel Pollack has re-told the tales of spiritual ascent and glorious unification, through the lens of Judaic myth. In doing so, these cards provide us an illustrated architecture of paradise through which we may ascend and descend in our own life story through every shuffle and spread.

Rachel writes that the deck deals with the “great theme” of genuine reunification and liberation; and also the Shekinah, the presence of god most often depicted as feminine. The leading Kabbalistic scholar Moshe Idel in his ‘Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism’ explores the process of reunification through spiritual ascent and this deck provides us a means of realising that ascent; it is indeed a “palace built for her [the divine spirit of Shekinah], namely a sanctuary for her holiness, sanctified and inscribed with all the inscriptions of the supernal sanctuary” (Sepher ha-Temunah).

Should a tarot deck work with Jewish themes? None other than the great Kabbalist and mystic Abulafia wrote “know that most of the visions of which Raziel saw are based on the Name of God and its gnosis” and scholar Gershom Scholem continues, “the identity of prophecy with the love of God also finds its proof in the mysticism of numbers” (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 138). Rachel points out that divination does indeed come from the divine, and prophecy is an essential if occluded element of Jewish myth.

The story-telling element of both Judaism and the tarot is merged together and emphasized in Rachel’s text accompanying the deck. This provides ample opportunity for the reader to explore the midrash, or narrative, of the process of spiritual development through the kabbalistic framework naturally underpinning the deck. This kabbalah is woven lightly but powerfully through Robert’s illustrations and is an ideal gateway into the avenues and orchards of that profound subject.

A final note that Robert’s artwork again meets the challenge of presenting the most enigmatic of concepts in the most accessible manner; his World card, illustrating not only the “Bride of the Earth” but also “the King” with whom she is united, is a triumph of illustration.

Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin
Authors; The Magister, The Magician’s Kabbalah, Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot, Abiding in the Sanctuary.

Published in: on August 4, 2016 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  

MASS CIRCULATION SQUARED–A Poem About Einstein

Recently I was having an email discussion with my nephew about science, and in particular Einstein. It reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago (around the time of “A Prayer For Art”–see below), in which I imagined that Einstein was a cartoonist and his great theories were a syndicated strip. The inspiration for this was the way his “gendanken-experimenten” (“thought experiments”) were sometimes shown in popular books about Relativity in a cartoon-like fashion.

Is there a connection to my usual subject matter? Well, in my book Forest Of Souls, I have a chapter in which I write about Special Relativity as the great Gnostic text of the twentieth century, based on the idea that only the speed of light is absolute, and therefore all the things we assume are real, such as matter, form, and time, are in fact, relative. And then I related this to the famous question in esoteric Tarot as to where the Fool goes, before all the other cards, or next to last.

Here’s the poem. I hope people enjoy it.

MASS CIRCULATION SQUARED

Cartoonist Al
Drew a feature for the Daily News.
Syndicated popups
Worming holes in scientific worlds.

Style a bit like Eisner’s,
Characters a lot like King Aroo—
Yup Yop in a spaceship
Going ninety per cent the speed of light.

“I’m one of those animals that never forgets,”
Says Mr. Elephant,
Flying backwards round the Sun,
Cranking his trunk
As he tries to remember
The images of soul
Expanding to infinity.

There was a young lady named Bright—

Hey, Einstein, where’s that Sunday feature,
The one about the schmuck
That flies to Betelgeuse
And comes back younger than his grandson?

Good work, Al,
But you gotta speed production
Or your mass will never make it to infinity.

He was working in a patent office,
Testing railroads, rocket ships, and elevators,
When he sold his strip to the Zurich Chronicle.

The Special Theory of Relativity,
Biggest thing since Peanuts.
If Lucy yanks away the football
At the speed of light—

On a ship jerking in a hurricane
Eddington counts the blackness
In the heart of Suns,
Sends a telegram to Einstein
At the comicbook convention:
Mercury is flying in an elevator!

Children swinging from his hair—
Flash bulbs leaping at his eyes—

He falls asleep in a railroad car,
Synchronizing watches with his brother
In the center of the Earth.

At the speed of darkness,
Vision expands to eternity.

They canceled that, you know,
Worried it would scare the kids.

So they ran an old Doonesbury,
Duke and Zonker swimming to Andromeda,
While Einstein rocked in Lurianic darkness,
Throwing dice with God.

Published in: on February 21, 2016 at 3:45 am  Comments (4)  

A POEM AND A BLESSING ABOUT ART–Part Two

The Prayer For Art in Part One was both serious and tongue-in-cheek, a recognition of the sense that so many creative people have, of there never being enough time to do everything they would like to do (as well as a recognition of everything other people are doing).

The Blessing is more direct. I created it one night to express a deep sense of gratitude I felt after a breakthrough on a novella I’m writing, “The Fissure King.” I wanted a way to express that powerful experience virtually every creative person has (and I am using “creative” in the broadest possible sense), of something moving through them.

It is no accident that I drew on my Jewish background during the period I am working intensely with Robert Place to create The Raziel Tarot, based on Jewish lore and traditions.

The words, and the very idea, come directly from the Jewish tradition of saying blessings for pretty much everything. There’s a whole long list that observant Jews say every morning, and another list for during the day (especially at meals), and then another list for special occasions, and still more for particular situations.

The traditional Hebrew blessing begins B’ruchah Atah Adonai, Eloheynu, melech ha’olam usually translated as “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, king of the world,” followed by words for the particular situation.

(A quick comment about “Adonai.” This word, originally Ugaritic, is the plural of “Adon,” or “Lord,” in the same way that “Elohim” usually translated as God, actually is plural, “gods.” Adonai was originally a kind of substitute word for the most sacred Name, the so-called “Tetragrammaton,” YHVH. For traditional Jews, Adonai itself became so holy they do not say it or write it except in prayer. I mean no disrespect in using it here.)

In recent years, feminist Jews have created a kind of female version of this opening phrase, drawing on the idea of the Shekinah as the feminine aspect of God. We should recognize that while many Jews assume the God of the Torah is completely male, a Father and King, there is a very ancient tradition that sees God as encompassing female as well as male energy.

The term Shekhinah originally meant the “in-dwelling Presence,” the divine energy that went into the Ark of the Covenant. Over time, however, this word, especially in Kabbalah, came to mean the female aspect of the divine, sometimes called The Sabbath Bride.

In The Raziel Tarot she appears on several cards, envisioned as a woman in The High Priestess and the Justice card, and as a spirit coming to the aged Moses on the Death card.

One version of a female-centered blessing begins B’ruchah Ath Yah, Shekinah Ruach Ha-Olam, or “Blessed are You, Shekhinah [Presence], breath [or soul] of the world.” This is the opening I used for my own blessing of gratitude, for creativity–and for healing.

So, after that too long intro (!), here is my Blessing. it came to me as a gift, and in that spirit I offer it to any who might find it meaningful.

B’ruchah Ath Yah
Shekhinah Ruach ha-Olam

Blessed are you, God,
Presence, Breath of the World

Who has traveled through me,
And delivered me gifts.

Published in: on February 13, 2016 at 4:50 am  Comments (1)