Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The books are perhaps the least useful means of understanding this card. Most of them pick up on the obvious scene in the RWS deck, and give the meaning as something along the lines of prosperity, abundance, and giving or receiving money. They usually also comment on the fact that this card comes fast on the heels of the 'lack of means' (which you will feel free to interpret as you will) depicted in the 5 of Pentacles, and being followed by the learning, productivity, and hard work depicted in the 7 of Pentacles.
Easy, then. But of course not for me. This card actually makes me intensely uncomfortable and it's only now that I've really got to grips with why. For a start I instinctively dislike the man giving money to the two beggars, because of the very obvious power imbalance depicted here. He has surplus to give away and can make that judgement call, and they don't have anything so are forced to beg. If you place that power imbalance at the heart of this card's meaning rather than an unexamined and unquestioned prosperity, this card leaves a much more distasteful aftertaste.
There is a further uncomfortable message buried in this card. If you treat the RWS cards as a progression through the pip cards, the suggestion is that two people in the same position as the disenfranchised people in the 5 of Pentacles have been lucky enough to find a benefactor. The implication is patriarchal and suggestive of a power imbalance which is not likely to be changing any time soon. The 5 and the 6 both present a picture of comfort and lack, of being inside and outside, and I suppose this is the one which suggests the querent is in and has means. That these means are being given away suggests this card presents the querent with a challenge actually to question his own comfort and whether this leaves others outside.
That there is a decision to be made is implied by the scales shown by the man with the money. For some bizarre reason I don't remember ever noticing those scales until I pulled this card for today, last night. I have read a number of different interpretations of those scales on the internet, one of which is that the fact that the sides of the scales are even imply that society is, or ought to be, equal, and thus reinforces my impression that this card is one implying that the querent should review his position in the area of money and see whether it is satisfactory.
If I'm honest I prefer the depiction of this card in the Aquarian tarot (Morgan-Greer, which otherwise follows Aquarian quite closely, here departs and in closer to RWS), which gets rid of the two beggars completely and just has the man with the six coins and the scales. The fact that the beggars are absent could therefore indicate that this is a card of audit in the area of material things, in a broaders sense than merely social justice. In fact the first thought which struck me about the Aquarian depiction of this card was that it could be called the Accountant card!
As I often do, I drew some more cards to clarify the meaning of the card for me personally. In this case I drew two cards to represent the sides of the scales, and thus the specific things I have to balance, audit, consider, etc. I got the King of Pentacles and the Star, both of which initially struck me as making no sense at all. However when I considered them, unusually I could see myself in the King of Pentacles. In my present situation he represents the way in which I have unjobbed myself from my previous unsatisfactory employers (by my taking control of the situation rather than just continuing to go along with it), and the Star represents my cutting myself loose and just seeing what comes next. What I therefore need to audit are my authority and control, with going out into the metaphorical wilderness and putting a foot into the metaphorical water I find there.
Once again, examining my reaction to a personally difficult tarot card has both clarified my own instinctive reaction to the card and revealed a hidden level of meaning for me.
Image credit: https://iambirmingham.co.uk/2015/03/05/birmingham-man-feeds-homeless-as-spider-man/
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Another example is the Justice card, and sure enough my heart sank when I drew it as my daily draw today. The fact that after years of tarot reading, simply pulling a card out of the deck can have such a profound effect on me, reinforces the way in which tarot just goes on and on for ever, the work of the witch is never over, and divination is a much bigger thing than fortune telling. Heigh ho, the universe has presented me with that card today (I genuinely can't remember it ever coming up as my daily draw before) so I'll take the hint that it's time to face up to it.
Justice (XI) is the flip side of the High Priestess (II) because in numerology 1 + 1 = 2. This is what Waite has to say about the connection between the two cards, a quote which incidentally encapsulates my entire difficulty with Justice:
'It will be seen, however, that the figure is seated between pillars, like the High Priestess, and on this account it seems desirable to indicate that the moral principle which deals unto every man according to his works--while, of course, it is in strict analogy with higher things;--differs in its essence from the spiritual justice which is involved in the idea of election. The latter belongs to a mysterious order of Providence, in virtue of which it is possible for certain men to conceive the idea of dedication to the highest things. The operation of this is like the breathing of the Spirit where it wills, and we have no canon of criticism or ground of explanation concerning it. It is analogous to the possession of the fairy gifts and the high gifts and the gracious gifts of the poet: we have them or have not, and their presence is as much a mystery as their absence. The law of Justice is not however involved by either alternative. In conclusion, the pillars of Justice open into one world and the pillars of the High Priestess into another.'
'Every man according to his works' - actually even that phrase gives me less of a problem than I tend to experience with that card, which suggests to me that I have been reading it with a very personal bias. And the bias is this - our human ideas of justice are bound up with some idea of a higher authority arbitrating on what is right, and therefore justice comes from above. Like the idea of 'rights' in this understanding justice is something which in my humble opinion takes the power away from the individual. If you have to go to some court to have a decision on your rights, the rights themselves and the decision are not made by yourself. Beloved reader, you will feel free to comment at this point that I am an anarchist and my views chip away at the very foundations of civilised society, and you would be right. What is right differs from external notions of legal or social justice, in my humble opinion.
I remember my mother, who had as much difficulty understanding me as anyone else does, commenting to me when I was a child that I was a strange mix of conformity and non-conformity. She had accurately picked up on my burgeoning INFJ thing of having a set of rules in my head which were non-negotiable and not always apparent to anyone else. My approach could easily be mistaken for total conformity to authority, because sometimes my rules happened to match the dictates of external authority; of course when they match it is never for the reason that someone else says so.
Perhaps it is just an INFJ thing that I will never be able to sit easily with this card, because it brings up so many of the concepts which are difficult for INFJs to sit with. I find the other side of this energy - the HIgh Priestess - much more comfortable because it is based on the way I tend to think about things naturally.
So the next difficult question is how the INFJ ought to interact with this energy when he comes across it. I'm already feeling under pressure at this point from the Justice energy to say that the INFJ should hold back his natural instinct to thumb his nose and learn to respect authority which is founded on very good and balanced thinking over centuries. Nah, f*ck that. I didn't incarnate to conform to authority, I incarnated to question authority. Let's pull another card for how the INFJ ought to respond to Justice... Ha! Judgement! The law is an ass and the INFJ responds to a higher power!
There is a tradition associated with the Marseille tarot that the rope around the Justice figure's neck is the rope which hangs the Hanged Man. I can't remember where I read this, but I think it was either in Jodorowsky or another of the Marseille tarot writers. For me this indicates that while Justice may represent the highest authority we have, it is still answerable to a yet higher authority, which isn't bound by ideas of mechanical justice. The fact that the rope is round the neck also indicates a heavy penalty for those who would take on this authority and abuse it, which of course does happen. I don't just mean the legal profession and courts. For me the energy of the Justice card is accessed as often by all sorts of authority figures, for example even social workers, say. The essential role of the INFJ is to remind the figure embodying the Justice energy that they are not the highest arbiter, they are still answerable to others.
The correct response to this energy is perhaps best indicated by an anecdote from the Hound's misspent youth. When I was a Benedictine novice we had a visitor to the monastery who had previously been a monk elsewhere, and entertained us novices by talking to us charismatically about what I now realise was this energy. He also entertained me personally by commenting on Thomas Merton, 'Imagine having that prick in the monastery': this verdict has the Hound's official seal of approval. Anyway, he recounted how he was a monk of a monastery in the US which burnt down on an Easter Sunday one year. After that the abbot wrote to anyone who had made any enquiry at all in the past few years and told them they should go and join. Of course this resulted in the largest noviciate in world history and endless free labour for the rebuilding project. After the rebuilding was done the monastery dismissed all of the people they had taken on because they had got what they wanted out of them: years later the then abbot had something terrible happen to him in return. The visitor pointed to the then Prior and said in front of his face, 'If they screw you over, they'll get screwed over'.
Monday, October 24, 2016
It's so seventies, it's so tacky, but I love this film. I love that the road surface of the inner ring road is its original red colour. I love where you get a glimpse of the pub on stilts next to Moor Street Station. I love Telly Savalas...
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Another tradition I don't follow but have the greatest respect for is the tradition of never reading the tarot for yourself. Again the sensible reason for this is that you are biased in your own reading, and will tend to see what you want to see. I personally know one tarotist who never reads for herself - she gets me to - but I think that this is a tradition which has tended to pass away under pressure from the modern practices of pulling a daily card, more actively reflecting on the cards, and so on.
The third tradition is that you must never buy a tarot deck for yourself, and this is the one I want to focus on in this post. Again I am sure there are some lucky readers who read with the deck they inherited from their mother and have never read with another one, but given the number of people showing off their collection of tarot decks on the internet this is another tradition which has clearly gone by the wall.
My own practice is that I will periodically buy a tarot deck which takes my interest. For example at the moment I am getting to know the tarot del fuego which I reviewed recently (and finding that it gives some absolutely blinding readings). I was once given a deck by my Goddess mother: it was a tiny RWS which she brought once when visiting the UK from South Africa and of course I will always keep it and do read with it. It has the slight problem for me that the cards are slightly too small for me to shuffle comfortably, so I tend to use it for magic rather than for divination.
For divination I have several decks, although not an ever-growing collection since I do give decks away that I don't think are going to be long-term friends. They are all ones I have bought myself. My duvet deck, from which I am guaranteed to get insights when I can't from any other deck, is a Morgan-Greer deck. While not the actual one I learned one, which became so disreputable even by my standards that I threw it away, I bought the Morgan-Greer for the reason I would advise anyone to choose a tarot deck, which was that I saw some pictures of it in a tarot book and liked it, and so I bought it.
For me the point of being given a tarot deck is that the tarot is a gift of the universe; sometimes gifts of the universe come in a different way from actually being given them by someone else. My advice would be to look around on the internet and get a deck to which you feel a connection. This may of course require a number of false starts, and fortunately these days it is easy and cheaper than it once was to try a few decks. The actual first deck I ever bought (and at that point nobody would have given me one any way because I didn't know anyone who was into that sort of weird shit) was the Ancient Tarot of Lombardy, which I bought in the Waterstone's on New Street, just because I liked it. It was a pity that I simply couldn't get my head round reading with it!
Of course there is a drawback to the obsessional collection of tarot decks which goes on nowadays. If you have dozens of decks, you will be less likely to make a connection with one reading deck which you stick with for years on end, and in many ways I could hanker after the days when you got a tarot deck with great difficulty, kept it, and there wasn't really going to be an alternative to read with. If that deck was the gift of someone dear to you then it obviously became even more precious.
Sticking to one tarot deck needn't imply a poverty of understanding. Why would you need a lot of decks, anyway? I think it suggests a desire to find that deck that will give perfect readings, after all these are different divination tools we are talking about collecting. For me there is something powerful about the idea of only reading with one deck, and carrying on reading with it for life. The reason this wouldn't impoverish the reader's understanding is that the whole point of tarot reading is that the deck is understood to encompass Everything. Seriously. When you hold a tarot deck in your hands you have to know for real that there is no possibility not contained in that world of 78 cards.
I think this is why it has been interesting for me recently to start doing something which I did in my recent post on the Moon card, and which I am starting to do for other cards - I draw cards to represent the various elements of the card I am wanting to understand. This seems to me a very powerful way for the tarot to explain itself, and show how the parts of a card can interact with the rest of the deck. For example, in the 4 of Pentacles, one could draw four other cards to show exactly what it is one is holding on to so grimly! Like this, it isn't necessary to look outside of the tarot to find explanations of what one is seeing.
This also reflects a tradition of monastic and other 'spiritual' ways: it is important to stop running round to look for an answer. Sometimes you have to sit still and just let the answer come. For me this is probably the most powerful aspect of the tradition of being given a tarot deck, that it is the gift of the universe and there is no need for further seeking.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Swallow Street on the surface seemed to have gone back a long time without leaving any trace of itself, for some reason. It appears on the 1913 Ordnance Survey map of the city centre, where the characteristic pictures of buildings show that there were some at each end, but it didn't look like one of those tiny passages of higgledy-piggledy slums which formerly marked the city centre, so it must have left some trace of itself. First I looked on the internet. There was no history whatsoever. Nothing. Not even someone whose family emigrated to Nova Scotia (or wherever) in 1904 and whose great great grandmother was born above above a nailmaker's in Swallow Street. Literally the only historical reference was the picture from the 1960s which illustrates this post, and which made me think that really there should have been some history for the street, since it looked as if businesses were operated from the houses.
I turned to my 1967-68 Kelly's Directory and found only two entries for Swallow Street:
Here is entrance to Queen's College ch[a]mbers
Stanford & Mann Ltd. st[a]t[io]n[e]rs
I didn't see this almost complete lack of information as discouraging. I joined up the pieces by assuming that everything in the road except the stationers and Queen's College Chambers had been demolished in between the photo being taken and my Kelly's being published. Of course Queen's College Chambers is still there although its address is given as Paradise Street and it is prestigious apartments; it started off as a medical school in 1828 and was one of the colleges which made up the University of Birmingham. The present theological college called the Queen's Foundation was near there too.
I naively thought that it would be simple to find out the historical residents of Swallow Street. I naively thought that some trace of them would have been left in previous Kelly's Directories. I was naturally surprised on arbitrarily choosing the 1930 one in the library to find there was no record of Swallow Street at all. Nothing. It was bizarre that the street was there on the map of 1913, had houses standing in the early 1960s, apparently inhabited by at least one business in 1968 and yet had left no trace in Kelly's at all. I really began to think that I had imagined the street's existence as I went through successive Kelly's and still found absolutely nothing.
The earliest reference in a Kelly's Directory I could find was in 1962, where there were at least a couple of businesses:
12 O'Higgins and Secondini, tailors.
12 Docker F. dance studio
28 Cutler Bob Ltd. turf comm[i]ss[io]n[ing] ag[en]ts
All three of these businesses had vanished in the succeeding six years. There was no indication what was happening at numbers 13 - 27. Swallow Street looked as if it was determined to retain its mystery.
Then I started going through books of the city centre's history by hand (the Hound is not easily deflected when he wants to get to the bottom of a mystery), and finally found the reason for Swallow Street's elusiveness. The simple fact was that nobody noticed it or was bothered about it:
'Some of Birmingham's byways were built as access roads and had nothing more important in them than the back doors of buildings whose frontages were on more prestigious avenues. SWALLOW STREET first appears on Hanson's map of Birmingham in 1778, having been cut around 1750. It linked Hill Street with Suffolk Street and runs parallel to and to the north of Navigation Street, which it slightly pre-dates. The building of the cuttings into New Street Station divided Swallow Street in half, and steam and smoke can be seen rising [referencing the black and white picture of the street] above the bridge parapet on this bitterly cold Friday, 1 February 1963, as a train passes through the last, short, 20-yard cutting before the railway line disappears into the tunnel built by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) and out beyond Monument Lane locomotive shed into the Black Country. Opposite the bridge, beyond the covered timber yard on the left and the elderly gentleman struggling along the snow-covered footpath, is Summer Street, which was on the same line as the present-day Brunel Street. On the right, behind the Morris LD 1-ton van, are buildings that had originally been the offices of the Inland Revenue, while Scruton's the tailor's, founded in 1931, occupies part of the rear of Queen's College Chambers. A 10hp Ford Prefect E493A of about 1952, one of Ford's last 'sit-up-and-beg' motors, which was phased out during the following year, is parked on the left. The winter of 1962-63 was particularly bad, and the snow lay from the end of December until early March. Behind the car is the West End Ballroom on the corner of Suffolk Street and Holliday Street, while coming out of Holliday Street is a Corporation Daimler CVD6 double-decker fitted with a locally-manufactured Metro-Cammell body, leaving its city terminus on the 95 service to Ladywood.' (David Harvey: Birmingham Past and Present, the City Centre Volume 1, 2002, p.16, which is also the source for the black and white picture of Swallow Street, taken facing the other way from the colour picture.)
So, mystery solved. The simple reason Swallow Street didn't appear in the directories was that nothing happened there which would have made an appearance. If it had it would have been a collection of rear entrances. Of course the situation may well have been different before the advent of the railway, but Swallow Street by the twentieth century was already a relic of a vanished past.
There remained one mystery. The colour picture shows the back of the Golden Eagle public house (in fact the 1913 map shows a P.H. on that site). The address of the Golden Eagle was actually in Hill Street, and it turns out that in the twentieth century it was an art deco 1930s rebuilding of whatever was there before. It was one of the buildings over which the conservationists tussled with the demolitionists and the demolitionists won (I believe in the 1980s) because there were apparently unrepairable structural faults with it. It turns out that the Golden Eagle was a pub known for its music and many famous bands of the time played there, but that isn't really a part of Swallow Street. Certainly, looking at the remaining pictures it looks as if it would have been a sexy art deco building, which it is a great pity is lost.
Image sources include http://www.jlb2011.co.uk/iob/slides03/index.htm and one I didn't make a note of. Sorry.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
My daily tarot card for today is the three of cups, whose Golden Dawn title is Lord of Abundance, and abundance is also the keyword used on the Crowley Thoth tarot. Perhaps it tells you all that you could ever want to know about me that I get this card and tend to find I can't read what it means. When I say can't read it, I can see that it is three female figures (for some reason I want to call them maidens - whether I think this is because of their youth or because for some reason i think they are virgins I can't tell you - holding cups up and dancing. The picture is plainly a joyous one, and this is borne out by the usual interpretations of this card:
'Description: The Three of Cups represents groups coming together to focus on a common emotional goal. People reach out emotionally to one another. It speaks of a sense of community, and can indicate the time to get more involved by helping. An inner passion for caring may be discovered, and energy put forth toward a goal will be positive and nurturing. It can also signal that this is the time to reach out if things have been particularly rough in the past. This card stands for all forms of support including formal organizations such as counseling or other social services. It's important that when the need for support is recognized that action is taken. This is the best time to do that. Reversed, the Three of Cups suggests that isolation from others is occurring. It is the time to take charge of the situation and to get out into the community. Consider joining a group or organization, and if the need for support is present, seek out the necessary resources.' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_of_Cups)
I am indebted to http://www.tarotteachings.com/three-of-cups.html for making me realise that the cultural image which this card most draws on for Europeans would be Botticelli's Three Graces, who individually represent Spendour, Joviality and Good Cheer, a connection I hadn't made before, although aware that this card clearly referenced something deep inside the psyche. In fact the three thing is an even deeper one for Europeans, going far back into Indo-European culture, where gods and things tend to move between threes and ones. Did the Christians seriously think they'd invented their three in one thing without help? The three graces reference means that I am not inclined to criticise Pam's depiction of three female figures without a male one, since she is clearly drawing on an artistic model which would be intended to press buttons in anyone artistically educated in the European tradition. That said, I will draw on a different reference for the three cups further on in this post.
Pam also borrows the greenery and fruit of the Botticelli picture: in hers they are somewhat decoratively lying around on the ground while the three dance over them. If I wanted to be flippant about this card (and you can tell I do, can't you) I would say that what we were seeing here was the end of a wild party where the decorations have been pulled down onto the floor. The pumpkin is something which has always leapt to my notice in this card - again in European culture the pumpkin comes into season in the autumn and thus indicates the dark side of the year, giving this card a somewhat shadowy and magical implication. If you don't want this card to be witchy, you could of course see the pumpkin as referencing Cinderella riding off in her chariot made from the pumpkin. You may say that that is just as witchy, but hey, this is the Hound's blog, and you can only expect you favourite pantomimes to be deconstructed as far as they will go.
Yet I don't like this orgy of happiness and celebration which the three of cups is often depicted as. The Hound's suspicious mind is suspecting that we are not being told All, and since I don't do reversals, preferring to see the 'upright' and 'reversed' meanings as polar extremes of the spectrum of meanings of one card, I don't mean that there is a reversed meaning which will turn the party on its head.
And here is where I ditch the Three Graces and start looking at the actual three cups. For a start, three cups means something. If you literally only have one cup you are not expecting company and in fact company is unwelcome, since you obviously don't even intend to offer any visitors a cup of tea. If you have two cups, company is expected and catered for. If there are two of you and you have two cups (as in the card preceding this one) you are in the position of not welcoming company, only with two of you. This is the early days of a romantic relationship when anyone who visits feels like a spare dinner: the two figures in the two of cups are focused on each other to the exclusion of everyone else. For a couple to own three cups, they are ready for a visitor and are prepared to make the visitor welcome. I suppose I am making the sociable point in a rather laboured way, but I think I want to refer to the stage of life where people are just getting together as couples and have not yet set up home to any great extent, and their friends may or may not be in couples yet. This is not the card of the dinner party on fine china; this is the card of the Chinese takeaway eaten out of the box on the floor. It is young, there is a comparative lack of resources, but it refers to a time of life which many people look back on fondly as Sex plays its tricks on people, they have children, wonder why they ever went there, get empty nest syndrome, and so on. All of that is in the future in this card.
I think probably Crowley/Harris actually got the closest to the Golden Dawn's description of this card in Book T (which I here cut and paste from a pdf copy I downloaded from somewhere on the internet and have lost the reference to):
'A WHITE Radiating Hand, as before, holds a group of lotuses or water-lilies, from which two flowers rise on either side of, and overhanging the top cup; pouring into it the white water. Flowers in the same way pour white water into the lower cups. All the cups overflow; the topmost into the two others, and these upon the lower part of the card. Cups are arranged in an erect equilateral triangle. Mercury and Cancer above and below.'
No mention of a pumpkin, you notice, but it does seem very much as if the greenery is the point here, and it is definitely greenery rather than the sort of flowers you see on RWS-derived cards. Just the chalices really. In fact the deck I picked the card from last night is the tarot del fuego, which I reviewed recently, and which has the three chalices one above another, which reminds me of nothing more than a champagne fountain, of the sort I use to illustrate this post.
There is also a complete absence of figures in the Thoth, Golden Dawn, and Tarot del Fuego decks, and the figures are what give me my ultimate difficulty with the RWS depiction of the energy underlying this card. I spoke above about how the three of cups for me represents the couple energy moving into the hospitality energy (I have avoided the baby energy because I would personally tend to see that coming later in the Cups suit, although I wouldn't argue if anyone wanted to see 2 + 1 = 3 utlimately referring to something new being born).
The trouble for me is that the RWS card dpeicts quite a different energy. If you look at the postures of the figures and the way they are holding their cups, it seems to me that they are not united at all. In fact the other two figures seem to be confronting the figure on the left, who to my mind is turning away from the other two, although again that is not an interpretation I would be willing to go to the stake for. The way they are holding the cups implies that the other two are almost confronting the one on the left with their cups, and this is catually depicting an argument. Although, possibly not quite an argument. Perhaps it is the position of a single person going out for a meal with a couple and feeling that the three thing feels awkward... Again, I wouldn't actually go to the stake for that interpretation but it seems to me that this card is depicting an uncomfortable, confrontative, argumentative, unbalanced energy. The other two are making in-jokes which are unintelligible to the third character, who frankly can't wait to go home at the end of the evening.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
You can only imagine how pleasing it was to be right about this. You will also be surprised though to know that I am not actually going to take it to the tribunal mainly for reasons of the costs outweighing whatever I would get financially out of it. You will be equally surprised to know that that is a relief to me and I am not disappointed at all.
What happened was that the instant the solicitor told me I had a valid claim, while not exactly losing all interest, I knew that it was over. I don't need to take it further. I don't have anything to prove. I don't need or want the money I would get. My previous employers are so incompetent that being proved wrong at a tribunal would not make them actually perform properly in future. So there is stays.
Of course if they try to mess up my life in terms of references and what have you I won't hesitate to take legal action, but that hasn't happened.
Uncharacteristically I feel that I have to leave it there. The reason is that I have to be free from them. I know that in leaving them I have done the right thing for myself, and that is what really matters here. To continue to give my old employers psychic house room is to give them an importance in my life that they shouldn't have. So the paperwork is archived in the back of my wardrobe, even with my diary of events. It's over.
Well, to be strictly honest, and to reassure anyone who thought that I was becoming uncharacteristically fluffy, it is almost over for me. The solicitor made the very good point that Zippy's incredible incompetence could well be a matter our registration body would take an interest in so I think I should probably have a word with them and see if they want to take her to a fitness to practice hearing (pause for hysterical laughter).
And then it will be over for me. I say over for me, because of course I have left a web of retributive magic hanging over them. One of my magical altar sisters has said all along that there is going to be a death and that hasn't happened yet. People who have crossed me have had accidents and illness happen to significant others, in proportion as they have been absolute c!nts to me. So while it is over for me and I am free, I doubt very much that there isn't worse to come yet for them. Shame that. It also means that honour has been served, and repayment has been made in a coin other than actual money.