How many crutches do we need?

Aeon Trump Card. Thoth Deck

Some say that Tarot cards, I Ching hexagrams, thrown bones, and other methods of uncovering the future only tell us what we already know, showing us that we do not trust what we know or that it’s buried deep in our minds and needs to be remembered. So we have these crutches, then.

In general, I think many of us know what we should be doing, but put it off by leaning on various other crutches while we decide whether or not to do it. It’s as though the thing we know we should do seems risky and we need to make sure one way or another that it’s not as dangerous as it appears.

I Ching Hexagram 1

So we do research–books, websites, experts, college courses, etc.–all of which are good to a point but then, as we delay moving ahead, become more crutches. Spouses can become crutches, so too, siblings and parents and our next-door neighbors and colleagues and best friends. They don’t want us to change, leave town, become involved in a cause they’re less sure of, or even miss bowling night.

Most people who employ the usual crutches to “see” the future agree that the future is not fixed, but that it represents what will probably happen if nothing is done to alter it. I think that’s probably true, but add that I also think we’re creating that future knowingly or unknowingly. It’s better I think to realize we’re doing that rather than blundering ahead and then being “surprised” at what happens. Pretending that we don’t know we did it–created that future–is another crutch or, perhaps, a civilized form of plausible deniability.

Sometimes people who have been drunk wake up and can’t believe they did the things sober people claim they did while they were drunk. Since they don’t remember it, they can claim in the middle of their hangovers that they’re not responsible for whatever happened. Do you suppose we might do this even when we’re not drunk?

I suspect so. Being drunk is a crutch, I think, as is going through life acting like we’re drunk even when we’re sober. I wonder: are we afraid to make commitments, to take this job rather than that job, adopt viewpoint ABC rather than viewpoint XZY? As long as we don’t commit, we probably feel free to make another choice later. Some people like keeping their options open, often until “outside forces” start eliminating those options.

A belief in fate is, perhaps, a large crutch. We say the cruel hand of fate caused whatever it caused or that life got in the way, believing that’s absolution. A comforting thought, but I don’t buy it. Who caused this “fate,” I want to ask?

We don’t need Tarot cards or coins/yarrow stalks and an I Ching book to tell us the answer because we already know.

–Malcolm

“Fate’s Arrows,” the latest novel in the Folk Magic Series, is on sale on Kindle today for only 99₵.

Today’s Tarot Reading: Everything’s going to hell in a handbasket

Wikipedia photo

I’ll confess, I didn’t do this reading myself. I went out to tarot.com which is kind of a fun site and checked to see what my three-card free reading would be. I learned that the world’s leadership has collapsed and that I should stay alert.

Okay, I can stay alert.

I’ve had decks of tarot cards in my desk since I was in high school. I enjoy the symbolism a lot. The 78 cards cover almost all of life’s situations. When the cards appear to fail, the problem is usually the person reading the cards.

Readers must always recognize that the future isn’t engraved in stone. The cards indicate what will happen based on current conditions. You’ll find the same thing to be true if you use the I Ching, the book of changes, to ask questions about current conditions or the so-called future.

I’ve gotten rusty using either oracle because I discovered a long time ago that I can see the situation better through meditation than on relying on either the Tarot cards or on the I Ching’s hexagrams. In either case, the probable future related to your question always comes from you. The cards and hexagrams are crutches, so to speak. Perhaps “guides” is a better world.

When I was in high school, the country was gripped by one of those recurring new age fads in which folks were reading cards and the I Ching and trying to become one with the universe. As I’ve gotten older, oracles have become less important to me because I realize that I am creating the future events that I will soon experience in everyday life.

While I think oracles can provide a lot of guidance, it’s been helpful to me to leave them behind for the most part. I feel confident that I am on the right path. So I don’t need to keep checking my Tarot deck or my copy of the I Ching to see if I’m right. At some point, constant checking translates into uncertainty and doubt, and once we’re preoccupied with those feelings, we are going to hell in a handbasket.

I find that I’m usually aware of signs, the cries of birds and the appearance of clouds and winds and blowing leaves. I see this as no different than an inner-city dweller being streetwise to possible dangers around the corner or a farmer being aware of changes that might affect the sowing of seeds or the harvesting of crops. Some would say I’m superstitious. Possibly so.

When we become attuned to our environment, whether it’s a mountain town or a big-city suburb, we certainly know better where it’s safe to walk and where it’s not safe to walk. Yes, the Tarot cards can tell me that. But my thoughts are faster.

The whole shebang–whether you call it “the future” or “the big picture” comes down to trusting oneself. Conjure women used to say that if you have to keep checking on how your latest spell is proceeding, you’re signifying doubt

In Frank Hebert’s novel Dune, we were told that fear is the mind killer. That resonated with me when I read it back in 1965. It still does. I also think doubt is a mind killer because it counteracts the positive thoughts we have about a specific project or the future in general.

Symbols tend to resonate with us. Some say that’s like hitting one tuning fork with a mallet and having a nearby tuning fork make the same sound. Art impacts us. Stories impact us. So do “chance” meetings with others or odd changes in the weather or the pictures we find on a Tarot card deck. All that is like computer input. Consciously or subconsciously those symbols alert us to probabilities and help us find our way through the ever-shifting maze of life.

–Malcolm

My novel “Lena” continues on sale for 99 cents through October 5th.

 

 

 

 

Hoodoo Nuances: Rising and Falling Clock Hands

“When both clock hands are rising, cast spells of a positive or uplifting nature; when both clock hands are falling, cast spells that are meant to cast off evil and keep enemies down. But you must not perform magic when one clock hand is rising and another is falling. For Example: if the time is 10:40 the hands are rising, if the time is 2:15 the hands are falling, if it’s 5:45 do not do any magic because the hands are doing both.”

– Moon Phases in Hoodoo Magic from the “Spiritual Illumination” blog.

Years ago when more people were conscious of moon phases, rising and falling tides, solstices and equinoxes, and the flow of the seasons, farmers, fishermen and others who depended on nature for their livelihood, referred to their almanacs to that they were planting, harvesting, and fishing by the signs. For example, as the Natural Events Almanac mentions by way of introduction, “Planting by the signs is a fairly straight forward operation. You plant aboveground crops (lettuce, peas, tomatoes, etc.) when the moon is waxing (growing) from New to Full Moon. Underground crops (beets, radishes carrots, potatoes, etc.) are planted when the moon is waning from Full to New Moon. However, true gardening by the signs is a bit more complicated.”

While the I Ching (book of changes) seems fairly remote from hoodoo, it emphasizes aligning ones life and choices with the natural flow of change, the direction the universe is heading at the moment you ask the oracle a question.   The idea here, which is deeply understood by conjurers, works (for spells, gathering/planing herbs, collecting rain water) and by old farmers and fishermen is that success is more likely when you go with the flow rather than against it.

Taking note of the hands of a traditional clock–which I suspect some day soon people will no longer know how to read–fine-tunes one’s work with the flow of time hour by hour. Like planting and fishing, some work is best done under waxing (growing) moments and some is best done under waning moments.

Conjurers base their practices on what works for them. To some extent this is intuitive inasmuch as you can, with practice, feel the moon’s changes without looking out the window, sense high tides and low tides without referring to a tidal clock, and understand the hours without looking at the positions of the sun and moon–or the hands on your clock.

The “old-time” conjurer woman who posts at Spiritual Illumination believes that “the three most important timing considerations in hoodoo are the day of the week, the time of day, and the time of the moon. Of less importance (generally) are the positions of the planets and the day of the year.” This is a personal preference and differs from person to person.

As a writer, I like conjuring nuances because they add depth to my series of folk magic novels. Personal experience has shown me that notions about time, moon and tides are not superstition because–let us say–that if one works with oracles like the I Ching, the Kabbalist’s Tree of Life, Tarot Cards, and meditation, the flow of time and space and energy become very evident when it comes to their impact on what we are doing. So, it’s not surprising that hoodoo practitioners are very conscious of the benefits of going with the flow.

In some ways, our attitudes about life are a form of conjure in that consciously or subconsciously, our minds are creating the future. What works for the hoodoo practitioner works for all of us.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hoodoo/crime novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

 

 

Tarot cards after all these years

“Tarot reading is an excellent way to learn more about one’s self, have a closer look at your inner self or to examine your very own intentions and ambitions.”

Raven’s Tarot Site

I’ve been tinkering with the I Ching and the Tarot since I was in high school. I don’t do readings for other people. In fact, most people don’t know that I know anything about these divination systems because once they know, they walk on the other side of the street whenever they see you.

knightofswordsI was happy that C. LaVielle contributed a Tarot and storytelling guest post on January 11th because she focused one of the reasons I like both the I Ching and the Tarot: understanding the characters in my stories.

Like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, both the I Ching and the Tarot present ways of looking at the world. The Tarot, of course, is closely linked to the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists.  The future isn’t fixed. At least I don’t think it is. So I don’t use any of these ways of looking at the world for predicting the future. In fact, they tell me what I know that I don’t know that I know. That is to say, they tell me what the unconscious part of me knows to be true even though the conscious part of me hasn’t figured it out yet.

My sun sign is Leo and the card representing me in the Tarot is the Knight of Swords (called King of Swords in most decks). This is why the URL for this site includes “knight of swords.” When I do Tarot readings for myself, the knight is me. When I do readings about novels I’m writing, the knight is always the logic of the story, cruel at times, to be sure, but nonetheless the fiery part of air as the card is described.

As a character in one of my novels said, he doesn’t want to see the future because that would spoil the surprise. It would also impact what he (or any of us) choose to do right now. Our power is always in the now. I see that, but the characters in my stories don’t always notice it. Plus, seeing the future would give us the false idea the whole shebang out there is engraved in stone when, actually, nothing except epitaphs are engraved in stone.

As a knight of swords, I’m a trickster (among other things), so that means I’m always stirring things up. That’s one reason I write fiction–to stir things up. That’s also why I like my Tarot deck: it shows me that even when I don’t consciously know I’m doing it, I’m stirring things up–and creating ideas that I let other people carry out to completion after I’ve wandered off to something new.

I see this as the author’s first duty–sowing seeds, suggesting things that bother people while making them think, suggesting that things aren’t what they appear to be, telling people that whatever goes bump in the night is real, finding the story inside everything that happens.

It’s one hell of a thing to do, but somebody’s got to do it. Fortunately, my Tarot deck “advises me” when it’s time to step back before the mob shows up on my door step.

–Malcolm