Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tarot: 2, 3, 5, and 7 of Swords, Their Relationship and Some Events

Previously on Hound of Hecate...
I have been reading tarot cards for years and years, but since the events of the past year in which I stood up for what was right with my last employers, I have experienced a different experience of tarot. I believe this to happen when the witch reaches one of those decisive points where you either go through with something difficult or you go back to your comfort zone. The payoff is that the tarot has started acting towards me in a way it never has before. My understanding of the cards is developing in ways you will never read in any of the text books, and while I would dearly love to have my name on a text book, my own style and natural approach to writing are better suited to this blog format than to the prolonged, orderly writing a book would require.
My day-to-day deck at the moment is the Aquarian Tarot, which is a deck I have reviewed here and love dearly. While it is broadly in the Rider Waite tradition, it does alter the images slightly, so that if you are used to reading with an actual Rider Waite deck, with reference to all the details, it can feel as if too much is missed off in the Aquarian Tarot. Lately I have had that experience by comparing one of my current 'stalker cards' with Pamela's version. I say one of my stalker cards, I have actually been stalked at length for the past few months by the numbered Swords cards, which I would naturally interpret as meaning that the deck is trying to say something to me related to these cards. It has also made me reflect on the relationship as I see it between these four cards, which perhaps I should say is a relationship you only really see in the RWS-based decks, because of the nature of Pamela Colman Smith's illustrations. So perhaps I had better deal with these cards one at a time in an orderly manner and let the relationships fall into place.

Two of Swords

I shall begin by quoting Waite verbatim, because, frankly, his approach to this card is one you will commonly find underpinning people's understanding of it, but is one which personally I would want to avoid:
'A hoodwinked female figure balances two swords upon her shoulders. Divinatory Meanings: Conformity and the equipoise which it suggests, courage, friendship, concord in a state of arms; another reading gives tenderness, affection, intimacy. The suggestion of harmony and other favourable readings must be considered in a qualified manner, as Swords generally are not symbolical of beneficent forces in human affairs. Reversed: Imposture, falsehood, duplicity, disloyalty.' Source
The Masonically-minded among my readers will recognise a phrase often used by Masons to refer to a particular piece of ritual paraphernalia, and in fact a word which must be rarely if ever used outside of a Masonic context:
Freemasonry is not the originator of the hoodwink.
Religious rites and initiations of civilizations and tribes dating back centuries before the believed or known origins of Freemasonry used blindfolds to represent going from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge).
Hood:  The word, “hood,” in old German and Anglo Saxon refers to a head covering, as in a hat, or helmet.  A hood might also be of cloth. To "hood" is to cover.  Hooded garments have been worn throughout history.
Wink:  The word, “wink,” in old German and Anglo Saxon refers to a closing of the eyes.  The word, “wince,” , is similarly derived from the word "wink".  The word "wink" pertains to the eye.
Therefore, a hood (to cover) wink (eyes) was a head covering designed to cover the eyes. Source
The link above includes images of some very steampunk-looking hoodwinks. The point here of course is that the 2 of Swords indicates a major theme of the Swords suit in the RWS deck, that of not looking, whether voluntarily or otherwise. To Waite the Mason, the hoodwinked woman would indicate that she is awaiting enlightenment, since it is in initiatory contexts that the hoodwink is used in Masonic ritual. I prefer the view of this woman as an initiate awaiting an enlighetnment leading to new understanding, and am opposed to Waite's view that the Swords are generally not benevolent towards humans. While obviously shit happens, and we humans do not operate in a completely free way, as a witch I will resist with every last breath in my body the idea that my future is fated, and will continue to strive to have a hand in it. I see the unpleasant experiences which come our way as tools towards the sort of new understanding the woman in the card is waiting for. After all there is nothing to stop her putting the swords down and taking the blindfold off her eyes.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tarot: the Significance of the Question

This is my umpteenth attempt at writing this post, but I feel I have something to say even though I can't quite get at it.
There is a saying that the whole purpose of a tarot reading is completed before so much as one card is drawn. This must mean that the real purpose of tarot is served by the things one does other than actually reading the cards, such as cleansing them, shuffling them, treating them with respect, and thinking about the problem.
I have a feeling that the purpose of tarot, in common with all other magical acts, is in some way to affect the magician. And the way tarot does this is by forcing a certain introspection, a setting aside of place and time, and particularly rumination on the question as one is shuffling the cards.
And I think this is probably where tarot has its greatest effect on the reader: it forces a clarification of the question, and more generally of what is going on in the person's head and life. Perhaps in this sense it is as much a method of meditation as, well, actual meditation, because the reader arrives at drawing cards with the mature of the issue already identified. This would mean that this is a (possible the?) major point of a tarot reading: to clarify the mind, clarify the matter, clarify the right question to ask. I often think that tarot doesn't provide pat answers to questions, and perhaps the implication here is that it provides questions instead.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I have read recently that the witch is born out of the needs of her time and is drawn or summoned to the place ehich most needs her particular powers. The other side of this one is of course that the witch will be faced with the same stuff repeatedly until she deals with it. I would also add that in the situation of working magic, sometimes the results confirm or disprove what you thought was happening in the first place, just like a doctor checking his diagnosis if the treatment he has prescribed doesn't work.
I have heard that one of the directors of my former employers is leaving; of course I refer to the one who finally pissed me off enough that I walked out. Funny that. It also confirms for me that despite being well loved in the department I wound up in (by people she has manipulated), another colleague's verdict of her as a turd was right.
I must however deny any magical responsibility for the recent flood in Selly Oak, since a friend thought it had me written all over it. The level of havoc would be very me but I keep my havoc from the innocent.
What is more characteriatic of my magic is giving people what they think they want. Zippy's fate is very me, for example. She's tried to adopt for a second time - the same baby that is, and the council rightly keep taking the baby off her and giving it to members of its own family. Normally I would feel sorry for a woman in this position, but Zippy is so psychopathic that whatever she does will always fail. Easy magic that, then.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tarot: 6 of Cups as Spring Cleaning

Yesterday my card for the day was 6 of Cups. I am quite sure I have written before about what a nightmare of a tarot card that is for me personally, since I believe that I naturally tend to interpret it in an ordinarily 'reversed' sense of referring to the past and the future in all its senses, including the effect of past trauma on the future.
In addition to the theme of being free which has been manifesting in my life recently, there has also been a theme of having a clear out. One of the reasons I am free is that so many things have been cleared out of my life which either no longer serve me or were wrong to start off with. My previous employers is the obvious one, and while not being a hoarder I have had a clear out at home while I have been off work and of course that is one of the classical magical ways to clear away psychic gunk.
There is a universal human way of having a clear out which we all engage in (except Edina Monsoon, who has colonic irrigation) and it is not for nothing that anciently there was a Roman goddess of the sewers, and having a clear out was one of the classic ways of making her an offering. Did I happen to mention that this blog is about real witchcraft and not fluffiness? The point of this physiological function of course is that ironically while faecal matter is the waste from our bodies, it actually can provide nourishment for things further down the food chain, so by having a clear out we are actually creating our own continuing life and future.
This may not seem to have anything to do with the 6 of Cups, but I'm about to make a connection in my own way. The usual association for that card is the past, in other words the things which are gone, and in fact Etteilla's reversed keyword for this card is the future, making the connection in a more subtle way between the past and the future I make above. There is an element of examining the past in this card, and in fact I can now see it as a collection of cups or things from the past, to be examined one by one and being kept or thrown out. The children looking at the cups represent the past and it is not without siginifcance that the adult male figure is walking away from the scene, because he isn't looking over the past but walking away from it to the future. In that light the message of this card is very clearly to look over the past if necessary, and then leave it in the past and move on.
And that is exactly what I plan to do in my own situation. At this point I need to leave the past as it is, and unless my registration body cause me to take action about the problems I experienced in my previous employment, that is where it will remain.
Another aspect of this 'spring cleaning', just as in the case of clearing out the house, is to make ones own psychic space free from other people's junk. That collection of six cups don't necessarily belong in the house, of course, and having a psychic clearout bears a surprising resemblance to clearing out the attic. Some of the junk we find ourselves accumulating can stay, some can find a new home which will appreciate it, and some is of no use to anyone and should be destroyed.
The only difference for the witch is that sometimes we end up carrying other people's psychic junk which they should be dealing with themselves, and I'm finding as I go on that I am sending much more stuff back to sender so that it is in the hands of the person who actually needs to deal with it, even though of course usually the reason it has ended up in my lap is that the person it belongs to doesn't want to deal with it.
So once all the psychic gunk is cleared out of ones life, examined, tidied, and put in its appropriate place, what is left? Ironically what is left is less of my own 'stuff' to deal with than I had to start off with, because the process of dealing with other people's psychic stuff helps me to move on as well, and that is why the 6 of Cups is about both the future as well as the past. I suspect the process of looking over the Cups and moving on overflows into the action of the 7 of Cups and the 8 of Cups, but the 6 of Cups is the card which lays the groundwork for establishing the plan for the future and an essential one so that you don't end up carrying too much of your past around.

Image credit: and both know exactly how he feels and want him right here now!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hidden City: Birmingham Street Fighting School

The warren of back streets between Bristol Street and Hurst Street in Birmingham city centre hold a hidden past. Nowadays they are in the area known as Southside. Of course you may want to call it the Chinese Quarter, or possibly the Gay Village, or the Gay Chinese Side, or whatever. The present conflicted name indicates a conflicted history, and in fact amongst other things it is home to the famous 'Rentboys' Corner' on Kent Street, where the baths used to stand, which the council did nothing to preserve from demolition despite being locally listed. The fact that there was a washing baths there indicates that the area of Wrentham, (Lower) Essex, Kent, and Gooch Streets were at one time a residential area and sure enough my First World War-era map of the area shows a warren of back-to-back courts and some industrial buildings.
By the time of the Second World War the area was in a parlous state. In true Brum fashion my source for this post (credit below) is unsure whether the inhabitants were emptied out in a 1930s redevelopment scheme which halted, or whether the houses were destroyed by bombing, but the illustrations I have found show windowless houses with no inhabitants, allowing the area to be used for manouevres by the GHQ Town Fighting Wing, which was the Home Guard's Street Fighting School. Far from the bumbling old men suggested by Dads Army, they were middle-aged men, who were trained very seriously to defend the country in case of invasion, and it was here in Birmingham it happened.
The school was based at the disused Unitarian Old Meeting church at 130 Bristol Street, and the students were housed at the Institute for the Blind on Carpenter Road in Edgbaston (the equipment list indicates they had to take their own mirrors). The courses in street fighting in case of invasion continued throughout the Second World War and culminated in a major exercise, the 'Battle of Birmingham' in 1944.
It is of course a matter of Brummie pride that not only was the area used to train the Home Guard, but that nothing is recognisable in the area from the 1940s photos I have found. In fact, Wrentham Street is still waiting for revelopment...
Credit: I am completely indebted to for the information and also the pictures.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Aquarian Tarot

Much as I'm loath to admit it, I suspect that there is a bit of a hippie inside me. Many of the elements of the counterculture of the 1960s chime with me in a way which, if it doesn't suggest I was there, suggest that I am plugged into the spirit of the age in an extraordinary way. This is very apparent in the tarot decks with which I feel most comfortable. I originally learned to read with the Morgan-Greer tarot, which while it is sometimes called 'Monty Python does the tarot', was actually published in 1980. Many of the Morgan-Greer images show the influence of the Aquarian Tarot, published in 1970.
in fact the Aquarian tarot wasn't the first tarot David Palladini, its designer, worked on. In the 1960s he contributed art to the Marseille-based Linweave Tarot, which was in part a publicity exercise for the Linweave company's papers. If the Linweave was a full deck of 78 cards, wasn't absolutely huge, and was printed on card rather than paper, it would be my perfect deck, since I like its groovy 1960s art the best of all.
Palladini went on to design the RWS-based Aquarian tarot. Like many of the things I am passionate about this deck tends to be a bit Marmite to tarot readers. While the images are based on the RWS each picture appears closer on the card, so that if you are used to getting lots of meanings from the detail in each RWS card this deck probably isn't for you. The only card where I feel the meaning is changed from the RWS deck is the High Priestess, where we get to see what is happening behind the curtain. Similarly, while I love the art, some people really dislike the palette heavily dominated by oranges, pinks, and browns. There is also a lot of relatively blank space in this tarot; I don't mind that personally, but I have read a lot of reviews which don't take to this deck at all for that reason.
If it may seem as if everything in the garden is uncharacteristically lovely, I just have one word of caution about this deck, which is that I would not advise buying the standard current US Games printing of this deck. I used to have one myself and the problem I have with it is that it is very shinily laminated, to the extent that it smells of plastic and feels like plastic. The plastic smell had not left my deck even after several years of use and was the most noticeable thing about the deck. US Games are obviously capable of producing a deck which doesn't have that synthetic feel and smell, and it is unfortunate that this deck is rather spoiled by its production.
There are two ways to get this deck without the smell. The more expensive one is to get a used or vintage one. Copies of this deck claimed as vintage are available on eBay at a premium. I would just say that sometimes they are claimed as first editions, and if they have the current psychedelic back, they are certainly not first editions, since the first couple of editions either had a plain back or an ourobouros. The cheaper way is to do what I did and buy the current Italian-language edition (ISBN 0880796936) which proves that US Games are capable of producing a tarot deck which while smelling new doesn't feel and smell like a bin bag. Apart from the Italian titles it is otherwise exactly the same as the current standard English-language deck.

My Apartment

In his comment to my post on our concierge's passive-aggressive notes, Inexplicable Device commented that I am the only person he knows who lives in a place with a concierge. All I can say is he's obviously mixing with the wrong sort of people, but his comment has pushed me into writing a post about my flat.
When my poor old ginger tom cat eventually kicked the bucket I sold the two-bed terrace house I had lived in in Bearwood for fifteen years and bought this instead. I had bought the house originally to be near my mother, so what I spelled for me was the way I used to arrange my life around what she wanted rather than what I wanted, and it was actually quite a large house, so energy bills were escalating ridiculously, and I was getting to the point where heating and looking after it were becoming crippling to me.
I hadn't planned on living in the Chinese Quarter (in true witch style I walked past the building I was originaly aiming for the other day and noticed that it has developed an alarming stepped crack in the back wall - gulp), and this flat had actually been on the market for a year when I looked at it. I genuinely can't think why because there really isn't anything wrong with it, except that the previous owner decided to be difficult so I had to exceed his difficultness. When I looked round it just felt like home and I went for it.
The flat is on the second floor - convenient if the lift breaks or I have to jump out in a fire - and looks inwards on a courtyard. It therefore doesn't really have a view, but it means that despite the flat being in a noisy social area of the city centre, it feels secluded and in fact I had to sleep with the radio on to start off with because it was too quiet.
It is a keyworker flat, so it is built into the lease that it must always be sold at a certain proportion of the market value and only to certain classes of workers, which has left me in a very good financial position. In fact my largest outgoing is the ground rent and service charge which isn't that much. I hadn't sussed that because the flat is the size of a shoe box with low ceilings and good insulation it is ridiculously cheap to heat and light: people think it is very expensive to live in the city centre but my bills are lower than they ever were in the suburbs.
In energetic terms the area I live in is surprisingly much calmer than it ought to be. I do vaguely remember what stood here before this building was built - it was a random collection of the sort of industrial buildings which replaced the slum houses when people originally moved out of the city centre. Originally of course, this area was merely fields near the manor house, so it doesn't have the long energy imprint which some areas have. The warren of back-to-back 'courts' which were here until relatively recently must have been a nightmare of conflcting emotions and desperation, and in fact I found from Kelly's directories that very near here the only really long-term business was a pawn brokers. Change is rather the motif, and in fact I recently found an aerial photo from the 1960s and the only pre-war buildings still standing on it are two pubs and the shops which are now a National Trust museum. When you step out into the street the ethos is very much a frendly. busy, one, with the only difference from the usual Birmingham mix being that there is a preponderance of Chinese businesses.
As soon as I moved in I redecorated the whole place in a style which it pleases me to call 'fortune teller's tent'. Not for me the porridge shades in vogue at the moment; I like solid colours, ethnic stuff, and I like my atmosphere dark and mysterious. The electrician asked if I had been a great traveller, and while I hadn't the heart to tell him I'm the world's worst traveller because I get bored and restless on long journeys, I had to explain that the world came to me.
Despite it being so cheap people still think I'm living in the lap of luxury when they visit (as indeed I am, because it's the poshest place I've lived in my life). People are really taken with the slate tiles in the bathroom - and the black grout in between is much lower maintenance than white grout. The flat does have one of my personal indicators of luxury, a separate lighting circuit in the living room, so that when you flick the switch at the door the lamps come on and you don't have to go round and turn them on individually. The fact that these use the old style round-pin plugs would have given my dad much amusement, that I may have a dishwasher but I've still got round-pin plugs.
I don't really like the laminate floors, but elected to cover them with kilims from Ikea rather than have them ripped out. One of my little decorating things is that I hate gloss paint - again this is a thing which would give my mother the screaming abjabs - and I prefer to paint the woodward in the same matt pain I use for the walls and coat it in matt varnish - it makes the ceilings look higher.
Despite its cheapness people do comment that it's very posh to be living in the city centre. And of course there are times on some days, when one is looking out into the compound, drinking a sundowner, that one could wish the cries of the natives being restless were a little further removed.