Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tarot: Six of Cups and The Lovers manifesting in the Minors

That's the trouble with being in one of those phases where you go into accelerated occult learning mode, the universe throws so much at you in one go that it's difficult to keep up. And not only that, but the lessons are related to each other, at least in the rather strange interconnected world of the magical person.
Hard on the heels of the 6 of Pentacles as my daily draw comes the 6 of Cups. What the 6 of Pentacles had for me on this time round was that it is a card of balancing, accounting, and obviously for us English speakers accounting has a specific connotation of making the books and money balance, hence the scales which occur in the RWS depiction of the 6 of Pentacles. The connection between that card of and the 6 of Cups is that this card is also indicating a sense of balancing and accounting for me.
As usual, book definitions first. I find Etteilla's keywords for this card particularly interesting: right way up it means the past, and reversed it means the future. The past, of course, suggests reviewing what has happened in the past, and this card therefore has an implication of learning from the past in order to reframe the future. You will of course note that I don't do predictive readings as such; I'm a witch, not a fortune teller, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let a little thing like Fate dictate what happens to me.
Of course the necessity of examining the past is never a comfortable one. I have been told in the past that I have a bias towards interpreting this card in a 'reversed' sort of way anyway. I personally tend to think of it as the 'get in the car, I have candy' card, which is about as reversed as you can get, and sure enough I find that whenever anyone is screwed up by their past this card will occur in a spread. Take Zippy, my erstwhile 'manager', for example: it is amazing how often the subject of incest comes up in her conversation, and this card will always appear in any spread about her. I'm using her as an example, because she continues not to learn from previous experience and is hell-bent on trying to play happy families with her obviously gay husband and her repeated failed attempts to have the happy family life she craves.
I use her as an example to bring up the point of this card for me. The reality is that family life (and the watery, emotional accounting which this card implies will take place in the context of some sort of family for everyone) is often not happy, and unfortunately our society makes it difficult for us to come to terms with this fact. 'Honour your father and mother' says the Bible, and unfortunately this tenet is often understood in the light of the Christian imperative to forgive, so that it can be unconsciously twisted so that abuse is ignored or swept under the carpet.
For me this card has a very clear message of 'honour your father and mother', but I have picked up the Biblical precept and run with it to a place which a lot of people wouldn't like. To honour your father and mother means not to forget the legacy they have left you. Not just in a cerebral way of thinking about it (more a swordy sort of thing) but in a way which acknowledges the emotions as well. Sometimes this legacy will be a difficult one, even if it doesn't include stuff which the world would necessarily consider abuse. They f!ck you up, your mum and dad, and this is the card which indicates a need to acknowledge that, or the fact of it happening, or the fact of having worked through it and sitting with it.
The sixes for me all involve this element of stopping and thinking about it: not surprisingly since they relate to the Major Arcana VI: The Lovers, which traditionally shows three figures rather than the two idyllic figures depicted in the RWS tarot. The third figure is the mother in law, and this card traditionally indicated a decision, specifically the sort of decisions young adults make in deciding to go off on their own to make their own family. Traditionally the card places it in the context of a young man deciding between his mother and his lover (and I will leave the complex relationships and emotions which could be indicated by this dynamic to the reader's imagination). The six of Cups comes into play here, because while we humans all make our own mistakes in addition to repeating some of the ones ingrained into us by our parents, there is an element in this card of learning from the past, coming to terms with it in whatever way the querent is comfortable with, and not letting the past influence the future. This is the way to move on from my sense of discomfort with this card: I have been reading it in a context of being f!cked up by your parents and winding up living in a way which was dictated by the past. To move on, you have to sit with the past, learn from it, but not let it dictate the future.

Image credit:

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Haunting of New Street Station

I wasn't going to write a blog post about the notoriously haunted Birmingham New Street Station, for the simple reason that other people have already written about the subject to exhaustion, but since the station has rightly made it on to a list of the most haunted in the British Isles ahead of Hallowe'en/Samhain, I thought I would weigh in and try to draw the reader's attention to the best resources on the haunting.
Ghosts were very much my own introduction to the call of the weird, as a very young baby witch. I have only recently discovered that other people read my childhood books as obsessively as I did myself ( and that those same books seem to have engendered an enduring fondness among the people brought up on them. My father collected clocks, and I remember being terribly excited the night one of them struck thirteen at midnight, which was of course through some mechanical fault. As a teenager I discovered Harry Price's books about Borley Rectory in the library, and have never looked back. I can truthfully say that the only book about Borley I have not read is James Turner's My Life With Borley Rectory, and that is just because opportunity has not presented itself.
I do really believe that lives, emotions and events can imprint themselves on a place. I would lean towards the theory that most 'ghosts' are embedded residual energy rather than the 'spirits' of dead people. That said, I do believe that I have encountered the spirits of dead people, some of whom seem to be bound to a particular place for some reason. I have no evidence for this assertion whatsoever. I am not clairvoyant; I just know that that energy is there, for absolutely no reason, and while sometimes it is bizarrely confirmed by someone else encountering the same thing, as a rule these experiences will never be susceptible to empirical scientific proof, which is exactly as it should be. I mean, if I was dead and pissed off enough not to want or be able to move on, I'd hide if any investigators appeared, wouldn't you?
But first let me step aside and let Andy Foster give you the vanilla history:
'New Street station was built in 1849-54 as a 'Grand Central' station for through services, to replace the termini of the London & Birmingham, Grand Junction, and Midland railways on the edge of the town - Curzon Street, Vauxhall, and Lawley Street. The site was densely built up with shops, chapels (including the Old Meeting of 1689 and 1795) and some of the town's worst slums. The station was owned by the London & North Western Railway - the amalgamation of the London & Birmingham and the Grand Junction - but Midland trains used it from the start. The station buildings facing Stephenson Street, designed by John Livock, were a handsome restrained block in the Italianate style of Charles Barry, incorporating the Queens Hotel. A public footbridge across the platforms replaced the lost streets of Peck Lane and Lower Pinfold Street.
'In 1881-5 the station was extended southwards and Station Street, aligned on the W entrance of the Market Hall, built along its S side. In its final form, the N, North Western side was separated from the S, Midland, side by a road, the Queen's Drive. The North Western side had a single-span iron trussed-arch roof with a maximum width of 212 ft (65 metres), the largest in the UK when built. It was designed by E.A. Cowper of Fox, Henderson & Co., the firm which built Paxton's Crystal Palace. After the Charing Cross station roof collapse of 1905, Cowper's roof was strengthened with additional tie bars in 1907. It was destroyed by bombing in 1940. The remainder of the station was demolished in 1964-6.' (Andy Foster: Pevsner Architectural Guides: Birmingham. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005, p.110)
New Street Station actually presents an interesting energetic pattern, and in fact one in which it would be a bit difficult for its history not to lead to a great haunting, since all the elements of the myths are there. The original station was built on the site of a teeming slum (check), which was actually cleaned up on purpose to build the station because it was so lawless and dangerous (check). The area of the town was called the Froggery because it was a naturally lower part of the plateau on which Birmingham stands, it was notorious for its damp unhelathy coniditions (check) on land which would in any other circumstances not have been considered very desirable (check) and its lower positioning made it a natural connection to the rails coming from the surrounding areas. A Jewish cemetery was displaced (check) to build the station, and there have been a number of suicides at the station (check). Of course a railway station is always naturally a place of transitions and strong emotions (check). That upstart tale of Borley Rectory (which was anyway too good to be true) fades into significance as a ghost story in comparison to the sheer amount of classic ghost story material in New Street Station.
I am heavily indebted to Mike Lockley's article on the ghosts of platform four (address below) for this information. Lockely paints a wonderful picture of the deceased engine driver Walter Hartles sitting on the platform, who shot himself in the chest with a revolver at the age of sixty-eight. He was found in a waiting room with the gun at his feet, and this amount of detail is available because his great granddaughter went on a ghost tour of the station and realised that she was related to the person being talked about.
The famous ghost is of course Claude who poisoned himself and is often seen on trains bound for Crewe. He poisoned himself. These two gentleman are only two of the four suicides on platform four.
I should say that I myself have never seen either of these entities. A more common experience, which I have had there myself, is a feeling of a presence behind you, and when you turn round there is no-one there. The difficulty is, of course, is that while a busy railway terminal provides the perfect energetic conditions for all sorts of odd entities to cling onto, it also provides the absolutely worst conditions to experience them, let alone in any sort of controlled way. I think the best time to do so is on a weekday evening after 11pm. The shops are shut and the few remaining passengers are concentrated on getting the last train to their destination. The station takes on a different atmosphere at that point, and you are more likely to pick up on the remnants of previous events with the corner of your mind's eye. The only concern I would have is that given the sheer volume of history there, you may find yourself picking up on a real nasty...
Credits: for the information about people's experiences on platform four. for the image.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tarot: Six of Pentacles

Well, the difficult cards for me are coming thick and fast. Hard on the heels of me pulling Justice as my daily draw a few days ago and being forced to face up to my own ambivalent approach to authority, today I get the 6 of Pentacles and am forced to see its connection to Justice and also to face my own attitude to it.
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:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tarot: Justice and the INFJ

One of the most fruitful things about reading the tarot cards is that since the cards are a world, the reader gets some idea of their place in that world and reactions to the other parts of the world. The fact that a particular card just doesn't chime with you at all or you have an averse reaction to it can indicate things about yourself, your past experiences and your behaviours, including sometimes the more difficult 'shadow' side of the personality which we are not always aware of. An example for me which I have written about here before is my reaction to the Emperor card, which both reflects my own daddy issues and ambivalent INFJ attitude to authority.
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

Time Travel: Telly Savalas on Birmingham

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

On Being Given a Tarot Deck

There are a number of traditions which are associated with the tarot. I wouldn't personally call them superstitions although I don't follow any of them myself, since they usually have a firm grounding in occult science. Wrapping the cards in a silk scarf is one of them. Nothing wrong with treating your divination tool as something that should be treated with respect, given luxury surroundings, and protected from the surrounding vibrations. I don't want to imply that tarot cards should ever attain the sort of status of scripture, but if you compare the way Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib - you can't even have it in the house unless you have a room for it on its own and you have to maintain various rituals of dressing it and putting it away at night - or the way Muslims treat the Quran, the point is clear that the tarotist should treat the tarot with respect. Personally mine tend to live on a shelf in the wardrobe in the boxes they came in. I'm not averse to carrying them around in my pocket nor to reading them on say a pub table. But then you wouldn't expect the Hound to do it the way anyone else does, would you?
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

Time Travel: Swallow Street

There was me thinking that this would be a relatively simple time travel post, and you wouldn't believe the difficulty I have had getting to the bottom of this historical mystery. I have even had to resort to a hand job in the library to get to the bottom of Swallow Street - but enough with the innuendo, on with the mystery. My interest was first aroused by Brunel Street, which runs at an angle between Navigation Street and Suffolk Street Queensway; you won't discover a time travel post about that one because I've discovered that it is actually a relatively new street which appeared while Manzoni's boys were joyously going round the city centre with a bulldozer. And what started my interest in Brunel Street was that I remember it from trips to the city centre with my parents. I remember going to Allegro Music and also I remember Gino's, which I thought terribly sophisticated at the time. Anyway, I hadn't noticed then that Brunel Street intersects with a street called Swallow Street which runs between Suffolk Street Queensway and Hill Street. It is not an unsubstantial street by any means; in fact I think I had always assumed that it was one of those empty patches of land left over in the post-war rebuilding of the city, but it is only recently that I noticed it has a proper street name.
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 and one I didn't make a note of. Sorry.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tarot: Three of Cups

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.' (
I am indebted to 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

Freedom (Again)

The theme of being free from slavery of all sorts has been recurring repeatedly for me over the past year. Yesterday I went to see a solicitor to enquire about the possibility of claiming for constructive dismissal from my previous employers at the tribunal. I am delighted to say that of course the Hound was right, and by repeated acts of ridiculousness my employers broke the contract between us, and I have a claim that is provable.
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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tarot: By the Light of the Moon Spread

The Moon. Now there's a tarot card which gets a bad press. I feel the Tarot Community have largely overcome the Hollywood approach to the Death card to the extent that it is difficult to see it as referring to actual death these days, but because the Moon doesn't get such a bad press from the outside world, there hasn't been any reputation to 'reclaim'. My own Goddess mother refers to it as the anus card and sees it as referring to all the sh*t coming out and going down the drain. Here, however, is what Waite has to say about this card:
'The distinction between this card and some of the conventional types is that the moon is increasing on what is called the side of mercy, to the right of the observer. It has sixteen chief and sixteen secondary rays. The card represents life of the imagination apart from life of the spirit. The path between the towers is the issue into the unknown. The dog and wolf are the fears of the natural mind in the presence of that place of exit, when there is only reflected light to guide it.
'The last reference is a key to another form of symbolism. The intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is the unknown mystery which it cannot shew forth. It illuminates our animal nature, types of which are represented below--the dog, the wolf and that which comes up out of the deeps, the nameless and hideous tendency which is lower than the savage beast. It strives to attain manifestation, symbolized by crawling from the abyss of water to the land, but as a rule it sinks back whence it came. The face of the mind directs a calm gaze upon the unrest below; the dew of thought falls; the message is: Peace, be still; and it may be that there shall come a calm upon the animal nature, while the abyss beneath shall cease from giving up a form.' (
The life of the imagination. Tendencies lower than the beast. Our animal nature. So far so creepy, but Waite's interpretation leaves me thinking that the tendency tends to be to interpret this card in a 'reversed' meaning. I think a valid interpretation of this card is that the querent is imagining things not quite as they are, but I would not like that interpretation to be the only thing this card means. Personally, I have written before about how I don't usually do reversals in tarot, preferring the two extremes of meaning to refer to a dynamic tension within the meaning of the card. What tends to be overlooked in interpreting the Moon card is that the mind calms the animal nature here, and the light of mercy is shed on our base tendencies.
A more detailed dealing with the symbolism is given by Eden Gray, a classic tarot author whose writing I have only just discovered for myself:
'"The moon in three phases watches over the landscape. From the pool of Cosmic Mind stuff in the foreground, a crayfish appears, symbolizing the early stages of conscious unfoldment. The wolf is nature's untamed creation; the dog is the result of adaptation to life with man. In the back-ground, halfway up the path, are the twin towers Man has erected to protect himself from his hostile environment. The Moon will lead him along the rugged path, past the towers, to the final heights of attainment, if he will be guided by her reflected light and listen to the voice of the subconscious. Once again, the falling drops are yods, representing the,descent of the Life-force from above into the material existence. This is the key of sleep and dreams. The Moon's three phases of intuition concern body, mind and spirit. The Moon Mother watches over the birth of Spirit into material manifestation. The number 18 consists of the digits 1 and 8, which add up to 9, thus becoming the second 9 and indicating the second initiation, The Hermit was the first 9 on the path. The Fool is still on his journey - learning, falling back, and then again advancing." (
For Gray the point is much more the journey, and she makes the Moon a true counterpart of The Hermit. Unusually for me I have devised a tarot spread (I tend to be more free form as a rule, and merely throw some cards down and see how they relate to each other) based on Gray's interpretations of the elements of this card, to capitalise on the appearance of this card in your life and turn it into a means of transformation. If you only wanted to know some elements of this card as they manifest in your life, say the defences you have put up, you can reduce the number of cards. Needless to say this is a spread which you wouldn't want to do too often, and perhaps only at times of great difficulty, where you don't feel like anything surrounding you is real. The cards should be shuffled, and cut or selected according to your own method and should be laid out in the pattern indicated on the illustration to represent elements of the moon card. The various positions represent:
1. The Moon itself. This refers to what is watching over your transformation. It can mean a divinity or if the card is one with a particular resonance for the querent it could mean a particular person, alive or dead, or it could even be an attribute or a situation. This is what will preside over the transformation and journey.
2. The yods. How the entity or situation in position 1 will help you on your journey. If it is a court card, as so often it may refer to a real person or a particular attitude to your situation.
3 and 4. The pillars. In the RWS deck the towers on this card are first seen on the Death card, indicating that we are nearing the end of the journey. In this reading, these cards represent the things we do to protect ourselves from our own vulnerability to the hostile environment about us. These cards will refer to the social constructs we use which prevent us reaching our destination at the end of the path. They may be thought patterns or expectations.
5. The path. This is the way we must go. It refers to the action we must take, despite not being able to see the end of the journey, to get to clarity and the next step. There is an irony in the Moon card, which may underlie the dislike many people feel for it, in that the end of the journey is death, and so is inescapable. This card therefore accesses both people's greatest fears and also ontological beliefs about what happens after death.
6. The dog. This card refers to the socially acceptable ways we stop ourselves progressing along the path. For example it may refer to one of those repeated ways of behaving we find ourselves slipping into with significant others, but which drive us up the wall and which we really want to change.
7. The wolf. This card will almost certainly be embarrassing, as revealing the querent's animal nature. This is what your instincts want you to do rather than your consciousness. This isn't even what you want to do, it refers to the fight or flight reaction at its most instinctual.
8. The crayfish. The card here shows the earliest stage of our understanding of what we are imagining. It may refer to the initial thing which has made the querent realise that there is something wrong with the situation or that all is not what it seems.
9. The waters, representing Cosmic Mind Stuff. The card in this position indicates the background to the situation and will reveal the sort of things going on which we may not be aware of. (If you want you could add another card or cards here to represent the rocks, which for Sandra Thomson represent the ways society keeps unconscious material walled in. These would represent the *really* basic thoughts and desires which you wouldn't want to own up to!)
My advice would be to read the cards in the order 9-1, even though I have numbered them the other way round and would suggest laying them out in that order so that you start with what the moon represents. I deliberately haven't put in a position for the destaination at the end of the path, although I suppose you could do if you wanted to. Personally I like not to know too much of what is on the horizon. And what I personally have learned from doing this is that this card can be intensely transformative and also that devising tarot spreads can be a good way of getting to know the elements of a card and how they manifest in our lives! And I won't be publishing the spread I did for myself, I wouldn't like to be that embarrassed...

The Tarot is Everything

"It's said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That's of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it's said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance."
From Charles Williams: The Greater Trumps

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tarot: Wands Where There Aren't Any

As I commented in my last post, my daily tarot draw today is the Fool, and that card just keeps on giving and giving. In addition to the question of belongings, I can't believe that I have never noticed that the Fool is holding a great big Wand. It was actually in the Morgan-Greer tarot that I first noticed it, since in addition to the wand his pack is strung on he is also using another wand as a walking stick, and I took from that the idea that the Fool has a sense of dominion just as is implied in the the 2 of Wands, as well as being supported by Will in some way. Interestingly there aren't the symbols of other suits present in the same way in the Fool, so for the first time I suspected that the Fool is somehow slightly biased elementally.
This discovery of course set me off on a voyage of exploration in the rest of the decks I have in the flat (fewer at the moment than there have been at times in the past), both to see how the Fool is depicted and also to discover further non-Wands suit cards which depict wands.
Since the Tarot del Fuego is biased towards fire there are of course a lot of flames and wandy stuff going on, as I was fully expecting in that deck. The Morgan-Greer tarot in which I first noticed the Fool's wand was the one with the most. I was disappointed to discover that the Aquarian tarot didn't have many Wands outside of the suit at all, perhaps because of the particular perspective the artist has used. I was disappointed because for me the Wands of the Aquarian tarot are the most suggestive of those of any deck, and not to beat about the bush, what I see in them is the head of an erect penis emerging from a foreskin. Have a look at the deck and I defy you not to see that now. Of course it represents potency, virility, strength, ambition, fertility, and so on. While the Hound in no way shies away from grown up subjects, you will no doubt be relieved to hear that I will not be following through and showing my own erect penis here. If you particularly want to see one I've heard a rumour the internet is full of pictures of them.
Anyway, despite the differences between decks the one I have chosen for this post is the Rider-Waite-Smith, since it is the original of a whole raft of tarot decks. If you really want to see wands in a tarot card it can be very tempting to see them potentially wherever there is a tree in the card. The artistic style can make things look more like wands (as they do in the Morgan-Greer) so I have restricted myself to the RWS cards which prominently feature things which look like the wands of the suit of Wands.
I have made an exception for two cards only, since the wands are described in the deck as wands and there are two cards where the characters are holding actualy magic wands, even though they don't look like the wands of the suit symbol. These cards are the Magician and the World, interestingly at the beginning and end of the Major Arcana. I wouldn't go to the stake (ha! another wand) for this connection, but this is what one of my favourite tarot authors has to say about wands generally:
'Wands represent power or authority. They can indicate a high or special level of training, or special skills and abilities, as in a magic wand. In fairy tales wands - magic objects which can transform or redeem people - are symbols of the Self. In ancient Celtic mythology, wands were the symbols of the Druids' power over the elements and other material things. Mythologically related to straight lines and sticks (one of humankind's simplest and oldest instruments), wands embody the symbology of power and intensity. Sticks appearing in fairy tales often symbolically extend a character's will power and purposeiveness "beyond mere momentary impulses."' (Sandra A Thomson: Pictures from the Heart, St Martin's Griffin, New York, 2003, p. 377)
The wands held by the characters who open the Major Arcana and 'close' it to allow another cycle, therefore both hold the magical instrument of transformation. The wands they hold are a more 'magical' version of the rough sticks held by the other major arcana cards who have wands, and no doubt if Waite was alive and had a blogger account he could make some comment on that. I have also selected the wands held by the three other Major card figures, the Fool, the Hanged Man and the Hermit, because they look like the wands of the suit cards, although obviously they have a different purpose in these cards, and have struck me as being as it were wands that are hidden in the cards. This is what Thomson says about the suit of Wands:
'Also called clubs, staves, rods, or batons, Wands cards depict experiences related to creative ideas, inner vision, and the necessary passion for the development of enterprise. They are associated with Jung's intuitive function and usually with the element of fire, the most energetic and transforming of the four "energies" and a symbol of the human will or willpower.
'The ancients believed the fire element or principle to be present in persons who possessed sharp, active actions or reactions. Fire energy definitely is not passive, but exists in reactions that propel or push something, or someone, forward. Wands cards often emphasize the future, although fire energy is usually what we need more of to help us get out of bed on Monday mornings. Fire reactions or activities take on a dynamic leadership role, never waiting for the "mood to strike" before getting down to creative work. They have the qualities of dramatic intensity and inspiration, which can also be unstable in situations or relationships. Wands cards speak of getting things going, or energizing and transforming, not because of logic or thinking but because our inner being tells us to.' (Ibid, p. 378)
In the case of the Fool, the Wand energy is brought into service to suspend his possessions; Thomson says that the most common of interpretations of the pack's contents is that it contains unused or unavailable knowledge, since it is behind him and he is not looking towards it. The fact that it is suspended from a wand suggests that an effort of willpower is the key to opening up that unused knowledge.
The Hermit leans on his 'wand' as he walks along. There is a strange connection between the light in his lamp and the connection with the fire energy of his wand, and yet a lot of the commentary on this card focuses on the light rather than the staff/wand. The Hermit's wand appears at another turning point in the Major Arcana; as Thomson puts it: 'Coming ninth in the Major Arcana, The Hermit likely does not signal the end of a journey, but rather indicates that there are times when we/he reach some pinnacle of enlightenment or insight that is complete within itself or, perhaps, inspires further introspective exploration (ibid, p. 187). That is exactly the kind of exploration that the Fool needs to do by means of his Will to access the unavailable knowledge stored in his pack.
The connection between the Hermit's hand and the earth via the wand is brought to its fulness by the fact that the Hanged Man is connected to the earth and completely supported by 'wands'. The continued inner transformational work is indicated by the way his body is in the shape of the alchemical symbol for sulphur. Thomson tells us that there is a connection between this card and the wand-bearing figure in The World, whose body makes the same shape, only the other way up, and that for members of the Golden Dawn this card would have evoked the Adeptus Minor Ritual in which the candidate was bound to a cross. The themes of transformation by means of introspection (which may seem to be far from the fiery significance of the wands cards indicated above) continue through these Major Arcana cards showing 'wands'.
I referred above to the connection I made between the Fool in the Morgan-Greer tarot and the 2 of Wands with its suggestion of dominion; the RWS tarot could be seen to make a similar connection to the 2 of Wands with the 5 of Pentacles, not usually a card which is seen to refer to dominion. One of the two figures is fully supported by Wands, and I am very interested to see that that is a possible alternative reading for this card, or an undercurrent to its Golden Dawn meaning of 'material trouble'. Perhaps the card is subtly suggesting that the people could do with seeing their material trouble as an opportunity for transformation, since the means of transformation, the will, is what is actually supporting one of the characters.
The final card I have identified with a 'wand' in it is very interesting since it is a sword card, which in the RWS deck refers to the element of air and of course that element would interact with the element of fire by heightening it! The boat is additionally passing through waters (a pool of emotions?) towards the earth on the opposite bank so this card actually indicates all four elements. Of course we can easily draw on the symbolism of the other cards discussed here to suggest that the water represents exactly the sort of introspection necessary by will (the punt is actually in the pool. Perfect!) required to access the unusable knowledge of the Fool.
I have found this exercise of looking for one suit symbol in cards not belonging to the suit, an interesting way of making unexpected connections between cards and coming to some alternative readings. This technique is probably used more often to make connections because of a particular symbol (a pillar, for example) recurring in different cards. In this case it is about the Will as accessing the unseen knowledge in the Fool's pack as a way to introspection and transformation. In the case of my particular daily draw and the theme of reversing the confusions which have gone before, which I am interpreting as referring to life as well as to a tarot reading, this deeper insight creates a milieu of initiation and transformation, confirming that I am in a turning point of my life and the gunk of the past has passed.

Not Minimal and Not Simple

There is a movement afoot in the world which I have tried to avoid writing about for fear of seemingly to be uncharacteristically bitchy (shut up). It is the movement towards simpliclity of living, which is paired with a desire to use the earth's resources responsibly or minimally, and morphs at one extreme into a desire to live as minimally as possible. I am not going to reference it because I do actually like the woman who writes the blog which spurred me on to writing this post. I was re-reading one of the woman's posts, in which she talks about her long-standing desire to live as simply as possible, with as little as possible and she describes what her ideal possessions and living space would be like. She says that she wants to be able to live so that all her possessions fit into one medium-sized suitcase. She calmly avoids the fact that she lives in a shared household and eats shared meals off shared plates, because she believes that they don't belong to her, they belong to the house. Where I really lost sympathy for her position is when she said that in her ideal world scenario she wouldn't need to have plates and bowls at all because she could buy a salad from Marks and Spencer and reuse the bowl it came in.
It was the specificity of the salad from Marks and Spencer which did it. You see, the simple life, or minimal life comes horrendously expensive, and that is the first thing which is wrong with this world view. The people who talk about ethics in their consumption are the ones with th money to make choices and choose the relatively more expensive options of organic and so on. The option to live like that is also a privilege of the rich: the poor, the really poor, the people caught in poverty traps which they can't get out of, want more, would dearly love more, and their lifestyle choices tend to be characterised by choosing more over choosing quality. Of course this is a huge generalisation but my gander is up and I think it is a generalisation which in general terms will stand.
The quest for simplicity and being 'right-sized' sounds like a highly moral one, but it also has its dangers, and these are inherent in the relentless pursuit of smallness. I may be overstating it, but the pursuit of smallness leads as its natural conclusion to anorexia. I mean that quite seriously. I don't want to lead a life where I spend my time taking up as little as possible, I want to lead a life where my place is the right size for me and I can enjoy abundance without it infringing on anyone else. I mean that word abundance in deadly earnest, incidentally. What doesn't impress me about contrived minimalism is that it is another ridiculously expensive and consuming way of life. In my own situation it makes good economic sense to have enough clothes so that I can run the washing machine only when it is full and enough plates and pots that I can run the dishwasher only when it is full. To do otherwise is ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong, I don't want a life of conspicuous over-consumption: in fact a considerable number of my possessions are second-hand and a lot of my clothes have holes in. I periodically have a clear out and get rid of stuff which no longer serves me. My motivation in that is purely so as not to go through life encumbered with lots of stuff I am keeping just in case, which was very much my mother's modus vivandi. Magically, having a clean out is a great tradition, a wonderful way of clearing up ones space, and recently I have even thrown out The List and my collection of newspaper articles about rapists and what have you, which used to reside on the altar. I instinctively felt that it was time to change and move on to a new phase. In case you're wondering what I did with the cuttings was simply put them in the bin. This may seem somewhat unmagical but that was what felt right, so that the Goddess can continue to attend to these people in the rubbish dump. I just don't want a load of clutter in my life and have got rid of a lot more things which don't serve me.
My daily tarot card today is the Fool. I am intrigued by the way that that card just keeps on giving no matter how often I draw it. One of the things about him is of course that he is carrying a staff with a kerchief thingy containing, presumably his few belongings. I drew this card using my old faithful Morgan-Greer deck, which despite being my second copy of that deck is beginning to look a bit elderly, not least because I have written on it; Etteilla's keywords on the card front, and Liber T keywords and comments from Waite on the back. I was especially intrigued to see that Waite's comment on the Fool is that this card reverses all the confusions which have preceded it, exactly a statement of what I want my life to be at the moment. I was trying to think about a word to describe how I would like that life to be, especially in the light of the Golden Dawn's design of the Fool, a child holding a wolf's leash between a yellow rose bush. I thought first of the clarity with which children can think, without the confusing layers of interpretation and convention we adults develop. The word I thought of was simplicity, but I don't like that word for what I want in my life, because for me it has too many connotations of a contrived decorative simplicity. Minimalism is out for the same reason. Intentionality is another word with too many existing connotations, although frankly I have given up the attempt to find a word which hasn't been used by the rest of the English-speaking world before I can get to it.
Regular readers will know that I have a great admiration for the concept of plainness: plain speaking, thinking, dressing, living, although this word tends to be co-opted by the Quakers and while I find individual Quakers admiral I find I tend to dislike the actual culture of Quakerism which has its own politics and grows disproportionately powerful 'heavy Friends'. Regular readers will know that I detest the very concept of 'spirituality', no matter how well meant as implying a divorce from the embodied world, which is where I want my 'spirituality' to manifest. Thus I don't want a word for my approach which implies that it is a spiritual thing alone. And then the word 'singleness' struck me.
It chimes with the monastic tradition, and yet this singleness is about as magical a word as you can get. In all magical traditions there is a sense of focusing on your will, and this failure to think singly is the cause of a lot of failure in magic. For the hedge-witch the word has a special significance as implying the venerable tradition of the witch living alone, working alone, being singled out, and all that jazz.
I am very gratified to have found a word to describe how I want my life to be. Of course finding my one true will and doing it and nothing else will require more work. I feel I am edging towards it by the way so much dross is being cast out of my life, and when I find out what it is no doubt I will post it here...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I have recently thought again about this Eric Gill quote. I find it unsatisfying in many ways.
Despite the few individuals in our world who live without money, it is futile to try for an alternative to a monetary economy at this point.
We are therefore faced with the need to make money and there are only really the alternatives of working for oneself (risky, and without even the chance of paid sickness and holidays) and working for someone else.
In my misspent youth I would have said that being paid money for doing something instantly devalues it to the level of the money and no more. I can now see the amateur's many drawbacks and that monetary recompense can mean higher standards and hence more pride.
Why is it impossible to have the best of both worlds? Since being offered another job I have found myself in the unaccustomed position of being very chuffed to get the job and grateful to my new employers. In comparison to the unalloyed contempt I feel for my previous employers this has meant a marked change in my attitude to my new job (which I haven't started yet).
The moral here is that it is possible to have a job which isn't a drudge. The job I've got is very specialised, do I'm thinking if I don't take to it I needn't stay forever. But the universe clearly has a lesson for me about work, exchange, duty, and ownership, and it's a breath of fresh air.
Now just in case anyone is thinking I'm unaccustomedly happy and may be unwell, you have no cause for concern. My claim for constructive dismissal has been presented to my last employers by the Acas conciliation service with a view to taking it to the tribunal.
And of course I will make a success of my new job: I have people to prove wrong!

Monday, October 10, 2016

My Twitter

In addition to this blog I have set up a twitter account. I am @Houndofhecate and you are very welcome to stalk, sorry, follow me there.
It is to provide me with a slightly different way of communicating my thoughts (the blog format encourages my tendency towards verbosity) and pictures. I did think of a tumblr but that medium seems to be only for porn. Now you may say, But Hound, you went straight onto Triga Films's twitter, and of course you would be right, despite my hurt that they never replied to my application to model. I don't claim to be consistent (as an INFJ I know where the rules are and expect other people to work it out) and can always claim that any alerts are because Stephen Fry has just tweeted!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

60,000 Page Views Guest Post by Pamela Colman Smith

I am delighted to welcome one of the great heroes on the modern magical movement as the author of our guest post to celebrate 60,000 views of this blog. The piece is geared towards the art student, but surely we magical people understand that we practice the highest art, and that magic is hidden inside all things... Pamela was of course the artist of one of the major tarot decks of the twentieth century, and her writing here is taken as the closest she has got as leaving instructions in how to read it. I am also particularly fascinated by the more philoosophical things she says here, about life as about art.


ALL you students who are just beginning your work in an Art School. Stop-think! First make sure in your own mind what end you wish to work for. Do you know? Perhaps you have not decided. You will leave all that to the time when you have learned to draw and leave the school-a crippled tool-ready to begin your serious work and have a studio-and all the rest of it. Do not wait till then! Put in a corner of your mind an idea-such as, "I wish to paint portraits." Just keep that idea in the corner, and do not forget that it is there. Call it up sometimes and review your work in front of it. Thus-" Am I working at the right beginning for this branch of art? Am I studying the faces of all the people I see-trying to find out their character-imagining
how I should paint them if I were to do so? Am I trying to show more of their character than appears on the surface ? Can I see it? No. But how shall I find it ?' Look for it. When you see a portrait of an historical person, note the dress, the type of face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose, for often pose will date a picture as correctly as the hair or
clothes. Remember the date, if the picture is dated; if not, place it in your mind as second half of the fourteenth century, or first half of the eighteenth, and so on. If you are not sure of the period, make a pencil sketch and take it with you to some reference library. Once a week make a point of looking up all the clothes you have seen (or wish to draw in some composition, perhaps). Some day when you may have a novel to illustrate and a character to portray, you will
remember, "Oh, yes, a dress of the kind worn by so and so in the portrait by so and so-that type-or-no! Somewhat more lively."
Go and see all the plays you can. For the stage is a great school-or should be-to the illustrator-as well as to others. First watch the simple forms of joy, of fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body, then the face-but that can come afterward.
As an exercise draw a composition of fear or sadness, or great sorrow, quite simply, do not bother about details now, but in a few lines tell your story. Then show it to any one of your friends, or family, or fellow students, and ask them if they can tell you what it is meant to portray. You will soon get to know how to make it tell its tale. After you have found how to tell a simple story, put in more details, the face, and indicate the dress. Next time you go to the play look at the clothes, hat, cloak, armor, belt, sword, dagger, rings, boots, jewels. Watch how the cloak swings when the person walks, how the hands are used. See if you can judge if the clothes are correct, or if they are worn correctly; for they are often ruined by the way they are put on. An actor should be able to show the period and manner of the time in the way he puts on his clothes, as well as the way he 
uses his hands, head, legs.

THIS may be beside the mark, think you! "Of what use is the stage to me? I am to be an illustrator of books! The stage is false, exaggerated, unreal," you say. So are a great many pictures in books, and the books, too, for that matter. The stage has taught me almost all I know of clothes, of action and of pictorial gestures. Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! And make other people when they look at your drawing feel it too! Make your training at your art school your a b c. You must learn to hold a brush, to mix paint, to draw in perspective, and study anatomy.Keep an open mind to all things. Hear all the music you can, good music, for sound and form are more closely connected than we know. Think good thoughts of beautiful things, colors, sounds, places, not mean thoughts. When you see a lot of dirty people in a crowd, do not remember only the dirt, but the great spirit that is in them all, and the power that they represent. For through ugliness is beauty sometimes found. Lately I have seen a play, ugly, passionate, realistic, brutal. All through that play I felt that ugly things may be true to nature, but surely it is through evil, that we realize good. The far-off scent of morning air, the blue mountains, the sunshine, the flowers, of a country I once lived in, seemed to rise before me-and there on the stage was a woman sitting on a chair, her body stiff, her eyes rolling, a wonderfully realisticpicture of a fit. I believe that in the so-called "composition class" the future of many a student lies. (Professor Arthur Dow, of Columbia University, has proved this, and through his influence I believe a good many schools have begun to teach composition first.) But let the student begin young, and with all the necessary aids for the broadening of his mind. Composition first, and all the other rules and rudiments, in order as they come. As much literature, music, drama as possible (all to be thought of in relation to that idea so safely tucked away in the corner of the student's mind), to be worked at from the vantage point of knowing what they are to aid. I wish here to say how grateful I am to the writer of an article in an American magazine (Putman'3 Monthly for July, 1907). "An Appreciation and a Protest." An appreciation of Albert Sterner, and a protest against the "ultra-sweetness and oppressive propriety admired alike by the 'publisher and the public," and "individuality
discreetly suppressed.'
0! the prudishness and pompous falseness of a great mass of intelligent people! I do not hold that "the incessant roar of high-power presses" is alone to blame for the stifling of life, but for a lack of inspiration. For it is a land of power, a land of unkempt uproar-full of life, force,
Lift up your ideals, you weaklings, and force a way out of that thunderous clamor of the steam press, the hurrying herd of blind humanity, noise, dust, strife, seething toil-there is power! The imprisoned Titans underneath the soil, grinding, writhing-take your strength from them, throw aside your petty drawing room point of view. I do not want to see riotous, clumsy ugliness suddenly spring up, but a fine noble power shining through your work. The illustrations that I see in the magazines by the younger people are all dignified and well, carefully and conscientiously drawn, -but their appalling clumsiness is quite beyond me,-their lack of charm and grace. I do not mean by charm, prettiness, but an appreciation of beauty. Ugliness is beauty, but with a difference, a nobleness that speaks through all the hard crust of convention. I have heard it said that half the world has nothing to say. Perhaps the other half has, but it is afraid to speak. Banish fear, brace your courage, place your ideal high up with the sun, away from the dirt and squalor and ugliness around you and let that power that makes "the roar of the high-power presses" enter into your work-energy- courage-life--love. Use your wits, use your eyes. Perhaps you use your physical eyes too much and only see the mask. Find eyes within, look for the door into the unknown country.
"High over cap" on a fairy horse-ride on your Quest-for what we are all seeking-Beauty. Beauty of thought first, beauty of feeling, beauty of form, beauty of color, beauty of sound, appreciation, joy, and the power of showing it to others.