Saturday, March 17, 2018

I'm Doing Something Right

A couple of days ago I walked past one of those charity muggers in the street and he commented that I was the only person he'd seen that day who looked happy. I can only think that it's great to be me.
I continue to leave a trail of disaster in other people's lives. The woman I dislike at work is off sick long term. I suspect that what is afflicting her is her own incompetence and inability to be mistress of her own life. She was recently interviewed for a job which she didn't get and went around saying it was because they didn't interview her properly.
I'm such a bitch.
Oh - the picture is of a slave having his bonds removed.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Lent Book has Found Me

I just knew that publishing my last post would put the message out to the universe and a suitable Lent book would appear. And it is the autobiography of Patricia Crowther, the famous Gardnerian High Priestess of Sheffield.
Personally I'm finding that books about magic are well nigh impossible to read nowadays. I get less and less interested in hearing what other witches have to say about their magic - regular readers will be aware of my philosophy that my magic is my own and yours is yours and once a person develops their own magic there is a limit to what they can learn from other people. I don't, however, have a problem with reading about the practitioners of other 'denominations' of witchcraft.
And many of them seem to be Wiccan. I read Lois Bourne's autobiography forever ago. I've read Gardner's books about Wicca as well as some of Philip Heselton's books about Gardner. You may remember that last summer an attempt to read Doreen Valiente Witch sitting on the canal bank had to be aborted because she had the most peculiar effect of making men walk up and show me their erections. Nor have I neglected the Alexandrians: I was very impressed in Maxine Sanders's book to read about how when she was living in a little village in Ireland she used to come downstairs in the morning to discover a rabbit hanging off the doorknob and a note beginning 'Dear Madam witch...' wanting some magic.
Perhaps this reading books is the modern equivalent of magical people meeting to stop each other going off the rails. It is certainly the equivalent for those who don't have a real community to interact with. I have a real community I could be interacting with but obviously I've taken a dislike to them so don't.
I have only read one chapter and already like Crowther enormously - but then her theatrical background was always going to be a hit with me. One anecdote I particularly like is that Arnold her husband was going home from Gerald Gardner's on the underground one evening. He had an armful of old swords which Gerald had given him, and which weren't wrapped up very well. An old man stopped him and asked him (this was in the 1950s) if he'd just been demobbed from the Boer War!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Lent Book

This year I don't yet have a Lent book. Regular readers will be aware that this is a practice I have borrowed from the Christians and then subverted. As a witch, of course, Lent isn't an event for me, and of course I make sure the books I select are diametrically opposed to the sort of books the Christians select for this time of year. In fact the practice has to be changed to be valid for the witch world view: of course that is because it comes from a world view where the reader is challenged and inspired by a divinely inspired text and the first occurence of the practice I know f is in the Rule of St Benedict where the monk is allocated a book for Lent by the abbot.
I have had some possible books in mind but I haven't been inclined to obtain any of them. Perhaps the most 'suitable' is Bede Griffiths's autobiography which I have considered rereading for many years. I am nervous, however, since I usually find it impossible to return to a book read a long time ago. I did see a manual on masturbation which I thought would be a wonderfully inappropriate choice but prefer my favourite hobby to be dictated by my own whim.
Then today I saw a book in a charity shop which I thought would be perfect: it had some such title as Mood Mapping, but I was put off by a small selection I read in the shop. It was talking about the impact bullying has on relationships. The author may not have thought his generalisation through but he said that bullying is most often inflicted by those of higher intelligence on those of lower intelligence.
There are two things wrong with that statement. Having worked in some complete shit holes i know the anatomy of workplace bullying from the inside and know the evidence is strongy that it mostly occurs when somebody cisn't competent to deal with their situation so consciously of otherwise it gets taken out on everyone else. When I saw this I had just come out of work where the incompetent supervisor I wrote about recently publicly humiliated someone for a mistake (don't wory, her appraisal is tomorrow and I will be forcing the new manager to add that to the list of other issues with her performance).
My real point here is that I found myself in a position where I was faced with an authoritative text which I had the temerity to disagree with and reject as a teacher because I knew better. This may simply be because I am an arrogant bastard but i would like to think that what has actually happened is that I have moved into a place where the authority is within rather than without.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Oppportunities and Surprises

I have spent the day waiting in for a plumber. Like most of his ilk he has no sense of time whatsoever. Unfortunately my usual company couldn't do it so I am using a man the building management complany uses, so he ought to be alright, but I'm still not leaving him unaccompanied in my prestigious apartment by leaving the keys with the concierge as he suggested. On arrival all is forgiven - my taste has remained remarkably unchanged since I was fascinated by the man next door's hairy chest as a small child.
Whatever, it is a good thing to have to spend a day in. It is the sort of day where ones attention is brought back to current preoccupations and needs. This is exactly the principle underlying the monastic life - by being stuck in one place and confronted with the Divine, it creates a more single way of looking and an return to the one thing necessary.
Of course I don't need to say that despite predominantly working with only one Goddess who only lets other divinities in by permission, naturally I am not a monotheist, and a single eye is not something I am likely to attain any time soon. I remember when I was a monk myself, my novice master telling me that the thing about the single eye being that it confronts you with yourself and that that is the painful thing. I disagreed then and disagree now. Personally I think I'm wonderful and I also don't have a problem with that.
Rather, I would put the function of the desert day as actually being that it brings to the front of your attention anything in your inner world which requires attention but which you're tending to avoid. It is gratifying when nothing comes up that you're unaware of or that has not been examined before. The thing which has come up is my dissatisfaction with my current job. When I tell you that I have spent my day working on my CV it sounds merely pedestrian, but of course we magical people know that all acts are magical acts and therefore in my case this work actually amounts to putting my will (as described in the last post) into effect.
Regular as clockwork, when someone starts working on their own will the universe knows about it and strange things start happening. Two of these bizarre things have managed to happen in just one day without leaving my own home.
The first was that I wrote an application for a job in my former employers - not with any serious sense of taking it up but just for the interview. I mean, honestly, I knew they were hopeless but there was no mention on the website that it was for internal applicants only until I tried to apply for it. They can't even advertise a job without cocking it up! The universe was wanting to protect me and remind me they are idiots. Nonetheless what I've got is an updated CV and an application all ready to submit for jobs of a similar ilk, which are on my short list of possibilities.
The second was that somebody reappeared in my orbit on grindr. He is one of only two people I have met off grindr, since most of them seem to be even odder than me. My grindr profile at the time said that I was a witch, and he wanted to meet a real witch because he was interested in the subject. My profile no longer says I am a witch because it shows my face and my real name. Imagine my disappointment when I met this ridiculously hot guy off grindr and we only talked about witchcraft! Also - I don't know what it is about me that alcoholics are drawn into my orbit. It must be something about my energy and their energy which interacts. But anyway, he must be back in the city because he's reappeared on my grindr, I've drooled over his instagram pics and have messaged him again to see if he wants to talk about witchcraft again - grin - .

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What's Next...

I am thinking of looking for another job. The deciding reason is that I have a professional disagreement with a new policy my current organisation has unveiled in the past couple of weeks. I'm not wasting my breath telling them they're wrong - or even that they will regret it when the complaints from the public start coming in - it's not a battle I'm prepared to fight.
Nonetheless since working in my current job, which is OK in many ways, I have been interested to see that the itchy feet which afflicted me in my youth have come back with a vengeance. I was a notorious runner away in my twenties. Quite different to this was my approach in the employers I walked out of without notice. I worked for them for over sixteen years! Admittedly a lot of the reason I stayed was sheer pig headedness!
That is not the approach I am going to take now. Nor am I just going to run away - I was seriously contemplating applying for a certain job the other night, who I think would have snapped me up but it would have been a mistake.
How does a witch decide what to do in this situation? Well, I am alerting my manager to the problems raised by the new policy as they come. I know it will change because the organisation I work for is in many ways a work in progress, but at least saying something about it means that I'm as covered as I'm going to get. But I'm going to choose where I go carefully. Even if I get a job soon I will have been there over a year and thus been through a whole cycle of probation and appraisal before leaving, so it won't look as if I'm running away because I'm not performing. Something else keeping me is that I have introduced one of my colleagues to the company - and when she gets off probation in five months I will get paid a bonus of £500 for doing so. Tempting, but not so tempting that it would keep me if my precious INFJ principles were being violated.
Rather I am deciding where to go on witchy principles. What do I *want* to do in my work life? What would give me satisfaction and pleasure? What is it my Will to do to turn a coin? I have drawn up a mental short list of the sort of jobs within my profession I would apply for. But nonetheless the will is out there. I've had the thought that I want an interesting, rewarding job and put that thought out into the universe. What's the betting a perfect, off-the-wall job will just appear out of nowhere?

The Sheridan Douglas Tarot

After many years of rather lazy looking, I have finally found a copy of the Sheridan Douglas tarot at a price I was prepared to pay for it. It is of course a copy of the 2006 edition of this deck originally published in 1972. Perhaps I have confessed here before that there is a bit of an old hippy going on inside me and I quite often feel most at home with the manners, fads, looks and mores of the 1960s and 1970s. Two of my other favourite decks, the Aquarian and Morgan-Greer are both very seventies in appearance, although Morgan-Greer was actually published in 1980.
The history of this deck is available on the internet for those who would like to know. It has perhaps been most influential through the book which it was originally designed to illustrate. Perhaps I should say at the start of this post that it is supposed to be heavily based on the Western magical tradition and particularly the Tree of Life. I would have to admit that while I have dabbled in these things, my own methods of divination are far too freeform to have been shackled by such a single tradition and thus I cannot claim to know enough about the tradition to comment on that aspect of this deck. Nonetheless there is a great tradition of individual magicians taking the materials of ceremonial magic and turning them into the materials of folk magic - this is exactly the magical tradition which was prevalent in British society before the Golden Dawn and then the Wicca came along.
My copy wasn't actually new, it was second hand - I am sure that I have covered my opinion on the use of second hand magical tools at great length here repeatedly, but suffice to say that the joke that the children of the Wicca are greatly loved by the proprietors of magical supply stores, may account for the tradition that everything used in magic should be 'virgin'. *I'm* not a virgin and don't see why the things used in may magic should be, either. In fact I'm convinced that the universe will always come up with what I need at the time I need it.
Even before I had shuffled this deck it had taught me something. That is the wisdom of the tradition that pictorial decks can be rather limiting to the reader, since the reader only gets used to one interpretation of the minors, and can't see the broader perspective of the non-pictorial minors. I genuinely expected this to be a non-pictorial-minors deck, and was surprised to find that it wasn't. When I found it had pictorial minors I was somewhat surprised to find the extent to which some of them differ from the Rider Waite Smith minors, and am afraid I found myself thinking about the RWS ones rather than looking at the pictures. I rather like that this deck has some rather different interpretations:
The deck deals with a card which has always been very difficult for me to read, the 6 of cups, by replacing the poison dwarf with a figure gazing into the bottom layer of a fountain composed of six 'cups' with the water running down from one to the other. Bearing in mind that the traditional meaning of this card is 'the past' I find this a much more confortable reinterpretation of the card without the bizarre graphics of Colman Smith. This and the other images are much simpler than the pictures on the RWS minors which means that there aren't the subtle details in the background which many readers are familiar with from RWS, and there is a sense in which the meaning is simpler, which I think readers will either like or not.
This simplification is perhaps most obvious in the 7 of cups, where the multiple opportunities of the RWS deck are replaced by a figure with six cups staring at a single cup standing on a cliff over an expanse of water. As with many of the cards this subtly changes the meaning and my own reading of the picture would tend to be about desire or avariciousness - this feels like a man who already has a lot but wants it all.
The bloated plutocrat of the RWS 9 of cups is replaced by a nude female figure with hair streaming behind her, looking at one cup while the other eight are lined up next to her.
I really like the reinterpretation of the 10 of cups, which shows two figures dancing with the ten cups arrayed on the ground in front of them. This shifts the meaning of the card away from the nuclear family-orientated version of the RWS deck, while (perhaps unfortunately) making the meaning of the card look much more like the 3 of cups.
The 5 of pentacles is reinterpreted to showing two bare-clothed figures on a plank loose at sea, The pentacles are depicted on five fish which are swimming past. I really like this interpretation of the desperation and lack of resources card.
The 6 of pentacles is completely transformed from the giving-to-the-beggars-with-the-overtones-of-making-a-judgement scene. It shows a man with a fez on his head (and what looks rather like a wand in his belt) indicating the six pentacles laid out on a table in front of him. My first impression was to dislike this card intensely, but actually I like that it is as if he is offering a choice of the pentacles to the reader.
I think my favourite reinterpretation of the RWS cards is found in the 9 of Pentacles. I'm afraid that I must let you into the bizarre world of the inside of my head and tell you that I am accustomed to think of the lady in the RWS 9 of Pentacles as an elderly South African white woman, who enjoyed the life she led under apartheid, remains well rich, but is finding the cold wind of reality which is blowing into her world, rather threatening. In the Sheridan Douglas deck this card is transformed into a man warming his feet at a fire (which has a cauldron simmering on it), while the pentacles are heaped up on the floor in the foreground of the card. It retains the sense I have of this card indicated prosperity and comfort, with the protection they give from the world outside, which can nonetheless intrude at any moment.
The 8 of swords gets a dead seventies reinterpretation in this deck. The figure is topless with big tits for a start. She isn't blindfolded, but gives the impression that her hands are actually bound behind her back, and the eight swords are pointed at her in the air. There are five other things which look rather like snowflakes at the base of the card, but which on closer examination prove to be sets of swords pointing inwards. The background of the card in unrelieved black and this deck dramatically intensifies the pain of this card. The woman can only but look and there is no escape - there are none of the overtones found in RWS that she could get out of this if she liked.
The 2 of swords is made more martial than it is in the RWS - although even in the RWS deck there is a sense of rocky times ahead, of all not being what it seems. Here the nude figure is caught between water and flames, and is flailing around with his two swords, clearly fighting for his life. While this is an intensification of the 'hoodwinked' interpretation of this card, to actual combat, I think it fits better with the martial tendency of the suit of air.
The difficult 3 of swords is interpreted in a way that seems rather different. It was when I first read Waite's comment that the meaning of his heart pierced with swords was too obvious to require comment, that I first realised how annoying he could be. Here three red arms hold three swords in a circular pattern on a plain black background, suggesting an ongoing, cyclical, pointless war of attrition which will never end and will not be good for anyone.
The 4 of swords gets a less ecclesiastical feeling than you get in the RWS - two knights have taken off their helmets, dropped their swords and are playing a game on a table. I do like this impression of having a rest.
The difficult 5 of swords is made even more sinister by the depiction of a lady in  court dress being menaced by five swords. The sinisterness is further increased by the depiction of some menacing eyes staring at her out of the background. The only unfortunate thing about this card is that it looks as if she's already been shot by an arrow in the leg which she is holding on to. While this is clearly different from the swords when you examine it, it is unfortunate that unless you examine it, this card rather looks as if there are six swords, not five.
Anyone who loves the grppvy graphics of the time will love the 6 of Swords which shows a man (dressed apparently in flares) wading through a body of water from one shore where there are four swords (I imagine he has left them there) to the other shore where there are two sowrds sticking up out of the ground. I'm already finding myself interpreting this as him going to collect  the other two swords so that he can return and add them to his collection.
I have always found the RWS 2 and 3 of wands difficult to interpret and particularly difficult to differentiate. This deck more than adequately deals with that problem by having the 2 of wands depict a man rubbing sticks together to make a fire (why has nobody else thought of that as the obvious meaning of two sticks?). The 3 of wands then goes out on a limb somewhat by showing no wands at all, except as they are formed into a ship with a joyous looking dolphin leaping about in front of it. I've always wanted to attach the phrase 'the world is my oyster' to that card, and am glad I have finally found a deck which comes within spitting distance of actually doing so.
The 4 of wands is completely different from the scene in RWS which suggests so many different possibilities, and I feel that this is the one of the changed depictions I like the least. It shows four very different 'wands' lined up against a green background. Suggestive of preparation, perhaps, but rather lacking the lush party imagery of the RWS deck.
The fight in the 5 of wands - which I have seen described over and over again as a pretend fight against all the evidence - is here made brutal. A naked man and woman fight under a pentagram made of wands. The brutality of this card is really quite frightening.
The artist has gone for the triumphal imagery of the 6 of wands alone, and omitted the people surrounding the procession as well as the horse, which in RWS I always feel is sniggering at the man on the horse.
The meaning of 9 of wands is dramatically changed by the complete omission of anything like a bandage or any interpretation of guarding, such as I have seen in other RWS decks. Here the man shouts 'green man' because the wands behind him are all green and he himself has greenery growing around him and twining up his body. Oh, perhaps I should say he is actually green as well. This is a dramatic change in the meaning of the card - to, say, fruition and fecundity - and I actually rather like it.
The 10 of wands draws on the triumphal aspects of this suit - or rather the triumph of the will over everything else - in depicting the Roman fasces alone. I like that.
Perhaps I should say that the Major Arcana re more influenced by the Tarot de Marseille that RWS, in both numbering and design.
In general terms I have a feeling that while this deck is almost legendary, it is one which wouldn't appeal to a lot of people nowadays. I have a feeling that that situation may have been different in the seventies, when decks were hard to come by. It isn't the Rider Waite, it isn't the Marseille, and it certainly isn't Thoth, so it doesn't clearly belong to one of the streams of the modern tarot world.
The art may also be too simplistic for a lot of people. Personally I like the graphic art of the 1960s and 1970s, and I also like simple art, so I am very drawn to the bold lines and solid blocks of plain unshaded colour of this deck. It managed to retain the faux mediaeval setting of the RWS deck, rather than going completely for a seventies look. I like the way the suits are indicated by a small suit symbol on the left of each card with the number. One thing I don't like is that I think the card is more glossy than I would like it to be. It feels overly glossy and smells rather plastic when you get close to it, in my opinion.
So having got through the descriptive bit I have shuffled the deck for the first time asking it why it has come into my life. I always think each tarot deck feels different, even individual decks within a print run, each with their own personality, and this deck's personality feels as if it is diginified and will not give easy answers. Perhaps it is showing its background in ceremonial magic rather than the throw-down-a-few-cards-on-a-pub-table kind of divination I am accustomed to. I shuffled for quite some time before a card came to my attention. The card I have drawn is XIV Temperance. A major, so the deck is going to be telling me things, and temperance of course refers to balance, so I think this deck has come into my life to talk sense to me when I am expecting the tarot to confirm my own opinions. Sigh. Nobody said divination should be comfortable.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

95,000 Page Views Guest Post: from Our Bodies, Ourselves

As is my custom when this blog passess a significant number of page views (in this case the arbitrary figure of 95,000, but it's my blog and can only be expected to be odd), I have a guest post. This one is by a group of socialist lesbians in London and was written in the 1970s.
'Gays were once moderately content to restrict their expression of homosexuality to their leisure time, perhaps because they assumed that heterosexuals expressed their sexuality only in their 'own' time. But we have come to realise that heterosexuals express their sexuality at every moment, and that their dismissal of our openness about declaring our lesbianism at work and in public as 'ramming it down their throats' is quite unjust, for their sexuality confronts us at every turn, whether or not their are acting in a specifically sexual way. The endless assumptions by heterosexuals that they are the 'normal' people has [sic] constantly to be challenged. This is why gay people are beginning to organise themselves in their places of work, understanding that the issue of sexuality must be raised in and through their unions. Otherwise aggression and victimisation of gays will continue explicitly and implicitly in every working situation. Lesbianism is not a spare-time private activity that waits until the lights are low.'
Sex: A Political Statement
'As a group we do not see personal relationships as cordoned off from our political struggle, nor as private sanctuary from an otherwise hostile world. We feel that the struggle in personal relationships is completely interrelated with the class struggle and the struggle against male dominance. Sexual relationships can reproduce class and sex divisions, and notions such as 'property' and 'dominance' have to be combated in our day-to-day contact with others, and in ourselves.
'As women and as lesbians we have had our sexuality defined and distorted and have internalised false definitions of ourselves. Thus the first step is to re-define our sexuality and to destroy the idea of lesbianism as an inferior form of heterosexuality. We are disclaiming the need for male substitution in any form, whether by imitating oppressive heterosexual roles, or directly in our sexual activity by seeing lesbian sex as a form of deprivation, or of envy of the penis. We do not see penetration as the ultimate and inevitable climax to sexual activity, nor do we see sexual activity as being a gradual progression towards orgasm.
'We are exploring ways of relating sexually which are uncompetitive and which do not adhere to qualitative notions of performance, and trying to explore forms of reciprocity which we create together instead of having preconceived standards of something which amounts to 'satisfaction' and 'being good in bed'. We want to release our sexual responses and activities from the over-concern with orgasms as the test for the viability of a sexual experience.
'We are rejecting the competitive basis of meeting each other with ideas of success and failure, and we are looking for alternatives in which mutual freedom and communication are the basis, so that each sexual encounter can be experienced as a fresh recreation, rather than a habit or a ritual.'
Lesbian Perspectives, by a group of socialist lesbians in London, in Boston Women's Health Book Collective (British edition by Angela Phillips and Jill Rakusen): Our Bodies Ourselves. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1978. Pp. 98, 105-6.