What a delightful story to re-read on a cold, windy day. I mentioned it here before in a post about magical realism books on Amazon. Published in 2015, this was Carrie Anne Noble’s debut young adult novel and it’s done well. (It has won several awards, has 3,394 ratings on Amazon and is a bestseller in the folklore category.)
There is no cure for being who you really are…
In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions; by night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphaned infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.
One day, Clara discovers iridescent scales just beneath her sister’s skin: Maren is becoming a mermaid and must be taken to the sea or she will die. So Clara, O’Neill, and the mermaid-girl set out for the shore. But the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening Maren.
And always in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
Noble says on her website that her favorite authors are Mervyn Peake, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Ardyth Kennelly, Catherine Cookson, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. If you like any or all of them, you’ll probably enjoy The Mermaid’s Sister as well. Noble published The Gold-Son in 2017.
“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.” – Tom Robbins
I like Tom Robbins’ novels so that probably tells you where I’m coming from on the question of magic. The sins of government and business, we know, but magic isn’t complicit in them. Yet, we scoff at magic. Does anyone use the word “scoff” anymore? Perhaps not, so if you’re too young to know that word, I’ll rephrase: Yet we badmouth magic.
I gotta tell you, I don’t really trust people who scoff (badmouth) magic. I’m sure they mean well even though they might be crazy Or worse.
If you’re a fan of Penn and Teller, you know (I assume) that they’re not doing magic. It’s all tricks, lies, and sleight of hand. They’re fun to watch, though, including on their “Fool Us” television program. At times I thought maybe, just maybe, the late Doug Henning might have snuck a little real magic into his TV performances, but perhaps not.
Perhaps I was influenced too much by the movie “7 Faces of Dr. Lao” in which Lao (Tony Randall) had a mysterious travelling show which featured many acts. The strange thing was, audiences often preferred the sleight of hand to real magic. I was studying magic when that movie came out in 1964 and remember getting really ticked off about the clowns in the audience who preferred some kind of trickery over what Merlin could do.
It became obvious to me as the years zoomed by that those who could do real magic had little or no interest in appearing on TV. I don’t blame them. In fact, students of mysticism and other forms of consciousness-raising are often warned about psychic phenomena. Why? Because such things can derail them from their true goal: merging with, shall we say, the cosmos. Yes, mystics may be able to see the future or tell you how much money you have in your wallet, but all that is beside the point. Once derailed into, say, fortune-telling, the fame of it can cut one off from what was originally his or her true goal.
Magic, as opposed to sleight of hand, seems very natural to me. That’s why it shows up in novels such as Conjure Woman’s Cat and Sarabande. Most readers think it’s just part of the story rather than something they could actually do in their lives. But to perform on TV, I couldn’t do that. I’m too much of an introvert. Plus, doing that would gratify the ego rather than what’s important to oneself.
Yet, today more than ever, I have little trust of government and business that I wonder why such things are so important in so many people’s lives. Folks have been fooled so often, yet they keep going back for more government and business. Meanwhile, the solution (magic) is so danged obvious, it’s a shame more people don’t see it. One need not kowtow to the feds, the rich, or the celebrities: they are paper dragons, lies, and sleight of hand.
Yeah, I know, I’m out here whistling into the wind about all this and unlikely to change anyone’s mind. However, I do hope that some of those who read my books might think, “Hmm, maybe there is something to this magic stuff.”
A readers’ advisory for this collection of nine stories forecasts widely scattered ghosts with a chance of rain. Caution is urged at the following uncertain places: an abandoned mental hospital, the woods behind a pleasant subdivision, a small fishing village, a mountain lake, a long-closed theater undergoing restoration, a feared bridge over a swampy river, a historic district street at dusk, the bedroom of a girl who waited until the last minute to write her book report from an allegedly dead author, and the woods near a conjure woman’s house.
In effect from the words “light of the harvest moon was brilliant” until the last phrase “forever rest in peace,” this advisory includes—but may not be limited to—the Florida Panhandle, northwest Montana, central Illinois, and eastern Missouri.
Widely Scattered Ghosts is available in paperback and e-book at online booksellers and leading bookstores. (If your favorite store doesn’t have it, tell them they can order it from their Ingram catalogue.)
When I was a kid, I read every psychic book I could get my hands on. Some were secular, some were based on religions where mystics were still honored, and others were spiritual in a much different sense than what I saw at church. Somewhere I read that if a person read what I was reading, they’d open themselves up to ghosts and other spirits, precognitive dreams, and waking visions. Well, all that was true enough.
Early on, I noticed a big difference between real shamans, witches, psychics, and mystics and the way all of these folks were portrayed by the organized church all the way back to the inquisition and such purges as the Cathar Crusade (1209-1229). The church saw these folks as heretics and, strangely, as devil worshippers, even though Satan was, more or less, a Jewish/Christian concept and had nothing to do with the spiritual people in the church’s gunsights. Yet, it served the church’s needs to paint everyone who was different as evil incarnate, a point of view that got picked up by Hollywood’s occult movie producers and writers. I’m always on the warpath when it comes to books and movies that turn ghosts, mystics, shamans, and witches into whatever untrue nastiness the writer or producer can imagine and then proceed to kill them in order to save humanity.
In “real life,” it’s still somewhat dangerous to speak out against these lies. Yes, every once in a while, somebody will say so and so is a witch and then look at me awaiting a wink and a nod of agreement. My response is, “So what?” This throws people for a loop, but they usually will tell me that so and so and so worships the devil. “She doesn’t believe in the devil,” I say. “Well, maybe not,” they respond. Okay, that conversation never goes anywhere good and it tends to get me shunned by a lot of people who think maybe I need to be watched carefully.
Fortunately, most people who read ghost stories–or even that phony occult crap–don’t think the authors are practitioners. And, we’re not. I’m not a conjurer, witch, or shaman. I don’t have an altar in my house covered with herbs, candles, pictures, and other arcane supplies. That’s all in my imagination. What I believe an author should do is tell the stories truly. That is, we can tell stories that fit what actual conjurers, witches, and shamans say and do rather than giving them the powers of, say, Voldemort out of the Harry Potter series along a boatload of evil motives.
Magical realism has given me a genre that works because it shows readers the everyday reality they’re used to seeing and then adds conjurers, witches, and shamans in their “natural habitats” rather than in some highly charged occult setting. My “Florida Folk Magic” series of novels is an example of this. On Monday, my publisher Thomas-Jacob will release Widely Scattered Ghosts,” my new collection of ghost stories. Most of these have something in common with my personal experiences, though my imagination may have strayed a bit.
When compared to the ghosts of horror/occult authors, these stories are very gentle even though you will find sadness and confusion in them along with a bit of humor. They’re not for kids. No, it’s not because of devil worship and gore, but from the psychological themes. Above all, I wanted the stories to be as true as fiction allows, and those of you who’ve tolerated this blog for years will know that I believe fiction is allowed to portray realities that facts cannot touch.
“Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” ― William Blake
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The misdirection of gods and storytellers.
The ancient spells and scrolls of wisdom hidden inside rocks, waiting.
The combined consciousness and will of liked, loving minds, cosmic valentines.
The stars of which we were made and those of future generations
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The alternate universes of our salvation, just a glimpse away.
The new paths seekers have yet to create, bypassing old roads going nowhere.
The magnetic attraction of all that is good toward those who desire it.
The old mysteries that have retreated but are never lost.
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
Praise for the dreamers walking the Earth in cloaks of stars.
Praise for the children who see beyond the worlds of the crib and the classroom.
Praise for the wisdom that releases sons and daughters from the dogma of ancestors.
Praise for the special sight of all who see the souls of every rock and bird and horse.
And blessings for all who stumble and crawl along those crooked roads toward true heaven.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune
I agreed with a lot of the sentiments in Dune. I also extrapolated upon them.
I tend to think we create wherever it is we’re going. If fear is a mind-killer, then I step forward from that thought and think that doubt is also a mind-killer. I’m not against being prepared–as we were taught in the Boy Scouts. Yet, I can’t help but think time spent with negative negative concerns such as fear and doubt is not an example of being prepared. Instead, those repeated concerns not only demonstrate to the universe we have no confidence in what we’re doing (praying, casting a spell, intuiting a situation far away, transmitting healing energies), they also create the very conditions our fear and the doubt are focused upon.
Experts in the I Ching, the book of changes that many use for divination, point out that doing the same reading twice because you doubt the first answer you received will often bring a chiding response from the oracle. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve also seen it happen with Tarot cards.
If I send (serve as a channel for) healing energy multiple times to help a sick friend, what does the second time say about the first and what does the third time say about the first two times? I believe it suggests that we doubt our ability to allow a flow of energy or that we wonder if the first energy we sent knew what it was doing.
Prayer is like that, too, I think. If we ask God on Monday for a certain thing, what’s the result of asking God for the same thing on Tuesday? Does it mean we think She/He didn’t hear us on Monday? Perhaps we are suggesting She/He was too stupid on Monday to know what we were talking about, so we have to offer a wordy explanation on Tuesday? Or, maybe we think God screwed up so we need to give Him/Her another chance to get it right. Out worst doubt is negating our best efforts.
In conjure, we say that when you cast a spell, don’t look back. Why would one look back anyway? There’s no reason to look back unless one thinks s/he crewed up the spell the first time. The double whammy here is that thinking one screwed up the spell only serves to screw up the spell. As in, say, foot track magic, the magic isn’t just the powder one places in the path of the intended target, it’s his/her intentions for that powder. Looking back weakens your intentions.
I’ve seen people fail when trying to use the law of attraction, first because they say they are trying to use it rather than using it, and second, because after their positive affirmations, they go through the rest of the day filled with doubts and other negative thoughts. If one works to attract money and then worries about getting evicted from his/her apartment for non-payment of the rent, the negative thought becomes a stronger affirmation than the positive thought.
The worst that can come of all this doubt is that one ends up believing prayers and magic and positive thinking don’t work. Oh, they always work. It’s just that one’s lack of belief has become the strongest spell they are using.
Sooner or later, most good cooks throw away their recipe books. What they know is not rote memorization, but an understanding of food, the impact of heat and cold, and the results of mixing one thing with another.
Effective Tarot card readers throw away books that list the standard meanings of each card because they have discovered that the card is a prompt–or perhaps a spirit–that directs the reader to his/her own intuition and knowledge.
Personally, I don’t believe the future is fixed in place, so I’m going to see a reading (whether it comes from the I Ching, Tarot Cards, Bones, or some other system) as a story about what is now the case or is developing. How the reader sees this matter will also impact how they react to either the so-called standard meanings of the cards and/or to their intuitive glimpses into the question on their minds that is prompted by seeing the cards in a certain order.
In time, the reader no longer needs the cards. That’s much simpler, but perhaps a long time coming for many people who pick up a Tarot deck and wonder if it will speak to them.
I am influenced when I look at the cards by knowing that they are “ruled” by the elements Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. Fire and Air are considered active. The Swords suit (modern-day spades) is within the realm of Air. Knights are always considered the fiery/active part of each element. The active nature of a Knight is shown in the movement of the figure on the card. As described on Raven Tarot, “The element of Air is the pure mind, the thought and the intellect, synthesis and analysis, the proceeding of the amorphous spirit of Fire and the unconscious emotion of Water into definitions and concepts. Air is both structure and conscious realization, both formation and abstraction.”
Other readers come to the Tarot with other basic ideas and they will be influenced by those and they will find the cards to be catalysts to their intuition in a somewhat different way, though they “should” more or less come to the same conclusions about a subject as I do.
Some people “learn the cards” by meditating on each one and allowing ideas about each card to come to them without actively trying to “figure out the card.” Others do multiple readings about things they will know in the “future” and see how what they saw in the “spread” (the card’s layout on the table) coincides to the unfolding future. When one does this, it helps to do readings about others because if you do them about yourself, you can always change the way things unfold an invalidate the reading.
The Card as a Doorway
In my imagination, I visualize being in a nondescript room with a large doorway in it that’s painted like the card I want to learn more about. After I’ve relaxed and gotten rid of all the general chatter going on inside my head, I walk to the door and open it. What do I see outside? What do I hear? First impressions are important because they simply are and haven’t had time to get twisted into logical deductions about what’s going on. When I open the door painted like the Knight of Swords card, I see swirling fog, sometimes by day and sometimes by night, and hear the sound of the wind.
Sometimes my intuition leads me to sit on the doorstep there–as we’re supposed to do at a railroad crossing–and Stop, Look, and Listen. Sometimes my intuition leads me to step outside, and when I do that, I’m usually in the sky, swirling around like a leaf in the wind with no control of its own. There’s no fear in this, no sensation of falling, and no worry that I might be carried so far away from the door, I won’t know how to get back. Since this is “my card” in Tarot readings and as I see myself generally, floating, swirling, sailing, and tumbling in pure air is a basic, womb-like experience. I’m often content to do nothing and just soak of the nourishment of the moment.
I can exert control if I like, though it’s more intuitive than logical. Rather than, say, deciding to fly over a specific place, I simply wonder “what’s down there” or “what else is up here.” I might see cities and oceans the way I would seem them from a plane or stars the way I might see them through the lens of a telescope. Air carries me whither it wants to.
Doing this kind of meditation is not unique to me. Many intuitives have said that Tarot cards are, for them, like windows or doorways. I suppose, though, that I bring a shaman’s journey technique and, rather than seeing figurative worlds or literal places, I see what’s outside the door of each card.
And, in a sense, whenever we do a Tarot reading, we are looking at what’s outside the doorway of the present moment and our present time and current place.