December 27, 2015

Left-hand Tarot #2: Trolling the Man

... in which I discuss: getting trolled by problematic clients; one-way relationships; identifying the red flags that always indicate bad clients; friends in high places; stratification; the lesser magic of trolling border guards; knowing limits and how to exploit them; knowing limits and when to stay within them; poetically fuzzy Tarot readings; and expanding your Tarot vocabulary with combinations to describe the strange and unusual.
Scroll down to read the full notes for this week's episode.

Don't go the wrong way on a one-way street or you're going to get hurt.
So, I had this reading with a client today. This is what she sent me:
I recently broke up with "John" and cut all contact completely. It has been already 3 months since we last communicated. The reasons why I broke it off are 1. Commitment issue, 2. Another woman My questions for you are:
  1. Did he already move on ? How is he feeling about me?
  2. Will I hear from him sometime soon?
  3. Do you see we will get back together in the near future?
  4. Is he dating someone now? If so, is he in a good relationship?
  5. Any other things you can tell me about him and me.
So, if you're in my position, what do you see here? While it's easy to just answer the questions as they're presented to me, when I looked at these questions I saw big heapum contradiction (that's a professional term, you know.) This couple has been apart for over three months, and on the one hand you get the impression that she wants to tie up loose ends so she can part ways with an old friend. But on the other hand, she clearly wants to get back with him.

Do you see what I saw in these questions? While every client is unique and every situations is different, there are familiar patterns and common themes that I've seen before. One of those themes is the "one way" relationship where one person has moved on and is clearly no longer in the relationship, but the other person is still in a one-way relationship with the other. Listen, folks: it doesn't matter if you're not sleeping together. Being in a relationship doesn't have nearly as much to do with sex as it has to do with mental and emotional ownership of the other person.

I'm not going to share any intimate details of this reading - that stays confidential forever and ever - but suffice it to say that this was such a one-sided relationship where one party had moved on, but the other had not. I do my best to stay on topic, but sometimes the cards fall out in such a configuration that the message more or less grabs you by the ears and forces you to look in a particular direction. Some clients understand the value in such a reading.

And then, some don't.

This is what I heard back from my client:
Hi, James. Thanks for your reading. I didn't come for you to tell me what's right for me to do although I really appreciate your good intention and what cards are trying to say. What you said are very logical and make sense, but this is something anyone can tell even without trots. Life is not all about making the right decisions and logical choices because we have emotion and hearts. I won't leave 5 stars, but I also won't leave any negative comments. I also don't want another reading, I don't think you can help me. All the best.
So, yeah. The client wasn't upset about the accuracy of the reading, only in how I presented the message. And perhaps that I didn't tell her something about a missing keychain, or maybe a skinned knee (any other high-probability guesses I'm leaving out?) I'm not going to post a transcript of this client's reading because that'd be totally inappropriate, but unless my cold-reading skills have somehow tapped into the power of the interwebs and given me the ability to discern a client's life circumstances through the keyboard, I don't think I said anything that could have been determined from the information she provided me. Maybe she and he will be reunited? Maybe there will be renewed contact? And then, maybe not. At all. Ever.

And of course, this also goes back to what I advertise on my seller profile: I can't promise that you'll like what you see, but you will SEE. If you're looking for a Tarot reader to tell you all broken hearts will be healed, you're going to have to go somewhere else. I always treat my clients respectfully and with dignity, and I always acknowledge that my predictions could be wrong , but my goal isn't to tell you a fanciful story that will agree with your heart's desire and smooth over your emotions. My goal is to tell you exactly what I see in your cards. You may not like it, but I'm going to tell it to you all the same.

If you want somebody to hold your hand and tell you it'll be alright, then you need somebody who talks to angels. But if you want truth, you need somebody who talks to devils.

If you're a professional Tarot reader, then you must learn to identify red flags.
Here's a word of advice to Tarot card readers: use your powers of observation and learn the red flags that always indicate problematic clients who will take advantage of you. Now, I'm not irritated about this particular client. Not really. I've been in sales long enough to know when a deal is going to turn sour, and the key indicator of that is this: customers who don't respect you. Really, it's not rocket science: if your customer doesn't respect you or your time, and starts pushing for special treatment, you know you're going to lose out on your sale. Here's an example of a message I got in my inbox:
Hi! I just ordered a reading from you. Its urgent. Hope you can deliver the reading soon. 
Did you see the red flag? I did. I'm in business to make money, so I'm not going to refuse service to client just because she rubs me the wrong way. I give every client a chance to decide if he (or she, as the case may be) is willing to play ball. But this kind of message is a red flag. Even though this client was actually last on list of orders to complete and by rights should have waited for me to complete every order ahead of hers, I actually completed her order first. Why? Because the sooner I deal with this client's BS, the sooner I can get on to other clients. If you're wondering, this is the message I sent back to the client:
As it happens, I'm logging on to do some work right now, so the answer is yes - you'll get your order soon - but in the future, please remember that if you need a reading as soon as possible, it's better to contact a live psychic via telephone or chat. I use Fiverr's selling platform because with a business of my own and two kids (one of whom not in school yet) I'm not able to respond to orders at a moment's notice. Still, I'm working now, so I'll talk to you soon!
So, what's the timeline here? 30 minutes. I delivered within 30 minutes, which for me is lightning fast. Not even my very best repeat clients get this kind of turn-around time. This client placed an order and immediately sent me a message asking for extra-fast delivery and special treatment. In this situation, the first line of defense is to remind the client that you have boundaries and the client needs to respect them. Also, me being who I am, I don't mind doing the "take back," which in sales-speak is the strategy of telling the client to go shop somewhere else. And why not? She knew perfectly well from my seller profile that I wasn't online, but still wanted to push her way to the top of the list.

You don't need psychic abilities to know what happened next. Can you guess? Almost immediately after delivery, the client requested a refund and offered only three words: Buyer not satisfied. And while some people would be irritated about this, I can honestly say that I did my best to service this client and maintain my professional boundaries. I fully expected her to request a refund, so I wasn't surprised when it happened - I've seen this pattern before, people - and for a $5 order that took up 10 minutes of my time, in real terms, I didn't lose a lot in the process.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why - if you're going to do Tarot professionally - you need a safety release valve in the form of a satisfaction guarantee: because it gives you the ability to get rid of clients you don't want to deal with. This is less problematic if you're running your own sales platform and taking payments directly without a middleman, but if you're like the rest of us, you're probably using a third-party sales platform to process orders and you can't control every aspect of your business.

So all of this is to say, learn to identify red flags when they appear. Manage your exposure, and when you encounter a client who doesn't respect you or your time, finish working with that client as fast as possible so you can move on with your work-day.

Spoiler alert: it's not the powerful stones that bring success, it's the powerful friends.
So in the category of "Tarot happening in the news," Danielle Directo-Meston wrote a piece for LA Racked about Melinda Lee Holm, a Tarot reader and jewelry maker who's having a lot of success. So the story goes, Ms. Holm wanted to help a friend in need. She did a Tarot reading, and the answer was that she should make a piece of jewelry. You may not be surprised to learn that she decided to work jewelry into her Tarot readers, and she now advertises herself as a Tarot reader who "prescribes" healing jewelry. Maybe you're willing to see the best in this situation and think that she was really tapping into a life purpose or "soul calling," and that's what brought her the success she has today along with her connections to television celebrities, but I'm rather pessimistic about this.

I see a long story made very short: she's a Tarot reader who likes to make jewelry and has friends in high places. There's nothing she's doing that hasn't been done by at least a hundred other people. Seriously: have you looked at Etsy lately? Do you know how many people are making custom jewelry tailored to the wearer's psychic needs? The only difference is that she's putting her stones and crystals on finely wrought silver and gold chains, and is in the right place and the right time with the right friends to make her career go where she wants it. Isn't it amazing how people surrounded by money tend to attract more money? Money and influence will always carry the day - no beads, bauble, or bijoux required. Congratulations to her for succeeding on her own terms - we should all be so lucky - but her success here is no miracle.

Let's talk about lesser magic. For folks who aren't familiar with the term, lesser magic is the art of manipulating other people for your own purposes. Or, said simply, being cunning and wily. If the thought of manipulating other people to achieve your own ends makes you shudder with guilt, then you're in the wrong neighborhood and you should find your way back to the well-lit city streets you probably prefer. I've talked about how I use lesser magic in the performance of Tarot, but today I want to share a story about how I apply lesser magic in other areas of my life.

For example, I live in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which shares a border with Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. To save money, I keep a Michigan-based post office box so my family can send me packages without paying an arm and a leg for international postage. So picking up these packages means that I get the pleasure of interacting with US border guards. Most of these guys are okay, but once in a while I'll get one of the two asshole border guards who act like over-paid mall cops. In these situations, I like to have a little fun. Here's an actual conversation I had a couple days ago when I picked up a package in Michigan:
  • Setting the stage: It was a cold and rainy day. There weren't any other cars ahead of me, so I drove straight up to the first available checkpoint. The last time I approached border control with my window down, the guard peppered me with questions before I could even get my passport ready and I made the predictable mistake of telling him to, "just wait two seconds while I get my passport, okay?" Yeah, that resulted in getting my car searched and sitting around for an hour - not even talking to anybody - until they decided I'd "waited" long enough. Since then, I don't roll down my window before I get to the checkpoint. I come to a full stop, get out my passport, and when I'm ready I roll down my window.
  • Border Guard: Where do you live?
  • Me: Sault, Ontario.
  • BG: Where are you going?
  • Me: Sault, Michigan.
  • BG: You know I'm asking your questions right now, don't you?
  • Me: Yes.
  • BG: Why are you being passive aggressive?
  • Me: I'm not being passive aggressive: I'm just answering your questions.
  • BG: With the shortest possible answer.
  • Me: I used to give longer answers, but the last time I was through here another guard told me he didn't want to hear my life story.
  • BG: Who told you that? Another guard?
  • Me: Yep.
  • BG: ... Where are you going today?
  • Me: The post office.
  • BG: ... Why are you going to the post office?
  • Me: To pick up a package.
  • BG: Who's it from?
  • Me: I don't know. My whole family is sending packages right now.
  • BG: Do you have anything to declare? Food, fruit, nuts, guns, firearms, explosives, money?
  • Me: Nope.
  • BG: The next time you pull up to my booth you have to have your window open.
  • Me: It wasn't safe for me to take my hands off the wheel while I was driving.
  • BG: ...
  • Me: Anyway, it's cold and wet - I'm not going to drive with my window down if I can help it.
  • BG: Have your window open next time.
  • Me: Only if you say please.
  • BG: Excuse me?
  • Me: I'll do anything for a man who says please.
  • BG: You're free to go. (BG returns my passport) 
Now, I don't know how many of you hearing this story make regular border crossings, but if you do have regular contact with US border guards, then I'm sure you can sympathize. And while it might seem that I'm just being a jerk, I assure you that I'm dancing a fine line. I know what these guards can do, and then, I also know what they can't do. I also know that they don't like to look stupid, and especially don't like to look stupid in front of their bosses. As long as I don't make jokes about smuggling undeclared nuts in my pants (which would give them an excuse to hassle me), or get aggressively argumentative (they don't love it when you threaten them), they're not going to take me upstairs because they know I'll create an incident ticket and make them look really stupid.

The point of the story is that lesser magic requires you to understand your limits and know how to work within them for your best results. I happen to know what these border guards should and shouldn't be doing. I also know that the entire border guard service was given a review on the use of force and the importance of saying "please" after a Canadian from British Columbia asked a border guard to say "please," but instead got maced in the face, tackled by six guards, and interrogated for three hours. Now, kudos to him for trolling an asshole border guard, but in that case he wasn't respecting his boundaries.

Like it or not, it's a known reality that people of color (be they from Syria or, in his case, Portugal) don't get second or even first chances with law enforcement. It's not fair, and it's not right, but it's the reality we live in and has to be respected if you want to get through border control without getting treated like a terrorist. Still, kudos to him for forcing the entire US border service to get trained on the importance of saying, "please." And because I'm who I am, and because I know that they know they're supposed to say it, I can tell them to say please and get away with it.

Because I know my limits, the limits of the border guards, and what I can get away with, I've mastered the lesser magic of trolling border guards - and that gives me far more pleasure than it should. Whether you're crossing the border or just dealing with people at work, understanding limits and the scope of yours and others' power is the secret to steering any situation where you want it to go.

Psychic Becky Ann Lee is charged with stealing $200,000
from a wealthy University of Colorado-Boulder student.
On the subject of lesser magic and knowing your limits, let's talk about fraudster Becky Ann Lee who bilked a wealthy client out of more than $200,000. Now, people who read my blog might think from the things I've written that I support the actions of fraudsters like Ms. Lee, but nothing could be further from the truth. I've said before, and I'll say again: I'm an entertainer, and while I absolutely believe that Tarot can be absolutely magical, I also accept the limitations: I still haven't picked any winning lotto numbers or predicted the next school shooting in time to prevent it.

When I provide a service for my clients, I get paid for the time I spend providing the service. That's it. I charge $60/hr. in person at my store, or $30/hr. for online work. It's a modest fee schedule, but it's still enough to support my family and put some money in the bank for a rainy day. There's no great secret to my business success that isn't followed by other successful business people: offer a good service, at a competitive price, and provide good customer service. I don't want to earn as much money as fast as I can no matter the danger to myself and my family. I want to have a career that will pay me for years to come.

After indulgence and personal happiness, self preservation is arguably the most important thing to a Satanist. Disobedience to the law of the land - such as defrauding my clients - is a sure way to not only ruin a life-long career, but also a sure way to ruin my family's security and probably lose out on my own freedom and all the liberties that come with it. I'm happy with the life I live, and while I'm always interested in the next best way I can improve my situation, I know and respect my limits. In that sense, this is a little bit like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet: there's a lot of good food there, and while I could stuff my face to get as much of it as I could, it would only result in physical discomfort. And, some buffet owners being who they are, I'd probably get kicked out after loafing around their restaurant for six hours.

Ms. Lee had a good thing going for herself, but she couldn't say "no" to stuffing her face. She could have lived a happy life with a store that she owns and using her skills to earn an income according to her own preferences, but she disrespected her limits, disobeyed the law, and took advantage of her clients. She killed the goose that laid the golden eggs, and now she's suffering the consequences.

Other than that, I think the DA said it best:
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said investigators are looking into the possibility that there are more victims. "If you go to someone to read your palm or tarot cards, that's not illegal," he told the newspaper. "If they start manipulating the relationship to mislead or take advantage, then it can lead to criminal charges."
There's a lot to be said about writing poetry based on Tarot cards,
but poetry-as-a-Tarot-reading is a commodity that I can't sell.
Camelia Elias of Taroflexions recently wrote a post about the nature of intuition and what role it plays in Tarot. Now, all credit to Camelia Elias at Tarotflexions - the lady's an encyclopedia of knowledge and is both very experienced and totally passionate about Tarot - but I'm not sure I get her reading style. I suppose if you're as much of a writer as she is, and if you've been in Tarot for as long as she has, your reading style will change appropriately, but her poetic style just doesn't connect with me. Again, it's not criticism of her specifically - she's clearly doing very well for herself, so if anything I should take some notes from her.

Incidentally, her "Tarot & Magic" course is happening right now. It's a seven-week course, and sign-up fee is $100, which isn't a lot for the kind of instruction she's offering, but I couldn't justify the cost because her ad copy (and even speaking to her in person via email) doesn't in any way quantify what would be taught in the course. Shame on me if I couldn't see the value, but I can't justify spending $100 when I can't explain to my myself or even to my wife what I'm getting out of it. To give you an idea of what a reading from her is like, you can look at the writing she publishes on her blog. My feeling is that it's like eating a marshmallow-covered jello salad:
Intuition is the Pope’s declaration, the winner’s proclamation, and the Angel’s annunciation. You can listen to it, go with it, and get it from beyond. When the Angel blows his trumpet, you want to rise up and dance. You may be unsure of the steps, but you can follow the score. I bet the Angel follows a method, a set notation for his blasting. But the way you end up dancing to this music is entirely up to you.
I'm not crazy, right? Do you get the same feeling? I look at that and I can't even make sense of what she said. I really can't. Again, maybe I just don't have eyes to read, but this kind of message is so far from my own practical reading style that I seriously don't even understand what she's trying to say here. If you're only slightly observant, you'll also notice that her message about the nature of intuition is a poetic description of the picture on the cards. Shame on me for nay-saying picture-based readings, but really: if all you're doing is making flowery statements about the pictures in front of you, then even the latest issue of Old Nick Magazine would do.

Maybe she gets to give these kinds of readings because she's at a place in her career where she sells herself without the need for an intermediary and can tell clients to bugger off if they don't like what their readings, but if I gave readings like this I guarantee you I'd also be giving a lot of refunds.  But then, this really feeds back into the discussion that I've been having through this entire episode: stratification and knowing your limits (be they narrow or generous.) Ms. Elias sits at a much higher level of stratification than do I, and that means she gets a lot more power in saying how she does business and what kind of clients to attract. To quote the sage, "It's good to be the king." Or in this case, the queen. Long live the queen.
The Lonely Hearts Club is good business for Tarot readers.
And for my Tarot reading segment today, let's talk about expanding our vocabulary. A recent post by touched on this very thing when they posted an article asking readers to think about the cards in their deck, and more specifically, which ones can describe reconciliation between lovers. Incidentally, if you have any hope of becoming a professional Tarot reader, you must become skilled at answering questions about relationships-gone-wrong. Relationship issues will be your bread-and-butter, and some readers even focus exclusively on relationships and won't advertise that they read for anything else at all. If you can't (or won't) read for these kinds of questions, then reading Tarot as a profession may not be the place for you. In case anybody is wondering, "lonely hearts" questions are my absolute least favorite questions. I'm sure I'll complain about this in more detail some other day.

But the reason I brought it up is because - if you're a picture-based reader - then this is a good exercise to really identify what's happening in your cards and see how different pictures can all express the same core concept but with a different emphasis. Really, when you think about it, any of the 78 cards could conceivably talk about reunification, it just depends on how you look at them and what sort of nuance you're going to find. 

With that in mind, let's talk about different ways to express both common and uncommon topics. What follows is my interpretation of the cards according to my own method of reading them, so chances are excellent that you won't agree with me. Still, it's a good exercise for getting the brain moving and I encourage you to think about the same questions on your own time. Pay special attention to the pip cards and how they express their dignities, as well as how the trump cards emphasize or diminish the other pips or fight between themselves; the answers should be entertaining. Ultimately, even though you won't read the cards the same way that I do, this will be a good exercise in understanding more about how you read your own cards - which, in the end, is what really matters.
  1. Reconciliation between lovers: Ace of Spades + 3 of Clubs: Our Ace of Spades brings happiness and satisfaction in a relationship and compliments the 3 of Clubs who reminds those in the union of why they came back together. Depending on where this union is positioned in the reading, it definitely says reunification, but the emphasis here is on celebrating what's good about the relationship.
  2. Throwing a Curse: Magician + Death: Face it: there's times when a simple "fuck you right in the asshole" just isn't strong enough to express your contempt for somebody who truly deserves punishment. In this case, the Magician creates chaos and disorder in the life of the target who in turn suffers debilitating limitations. But be warned, Magician: life emerges from chaos. Be certain your curse does what you intend or your target my rise again even stronger than before.
  3. Cheating on your spouse: 7 of Clubs + 6 of Hearts: The adventurous 7 of Clubs goes after desires and personal pleasure at the expense of the emotional trust and intimate bonds already formed. This aggressive pleasure seeking throws all responsibility in the trash, and in this particular combination, the person hurt the most is the cheater him- or her-self. Other combinations would shift the emphasis to the betrayed spouse, but this combinations shows the mistake of ruining a good thing and losing the privileges that come along with it.
And that's it for this week: if you liked this episode, leave a comment or buy a reading. If you didn't like this episode, leave a comment and don't buy a reading. Whatever. But I'm still here, and you're welcome to share something with me that you think I'll find interesting. If it's worthwhile, I'll talk about it on my next episode. See you soon.

December 22, 2015

Left Hand Tarot #1: Angel Trumpets and Devil Trombones

... in which I discuss: Cold reading; violence in Tarot; arguing with a Tarot reader; the value of saying exactly what you mean; punishing stupid questions; offending fluffy bunnies; dealing with ignorant people who can't stop from saying ignorant things; Jewish mysticism; and one practical tip for increasing the quality of your Tarot readings.
Scroll down to read the full notes for this week's episode.

long island medium
Teresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium,
who makes a lot of money pretending to talk to dead people.
Welcome to episode #1 of Left-hand Tarot! To get us started, let's dive straight into a taboo conversation among Tarot readers: cold reading. So this Tarot blogger Benebell wrote an article with a few thoughts about "social inductive reasoning," which includes NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) which itself also has huge overlap with cold reading. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: fantasy is as necessary as truth, and while I do believe there's a certain magic to the Tarot, I also know I haven't won the lottery or predicted the next terrorist attack. So for those reasons, I embrace the fantasy but accept the reality. Part of accepting the reality is being honest with myself and acknowledging that I've learned a lot of cold reading skills without ever intending to learn how to cold read.

So you say you're "highly intuitive?" I say you've got a keen sense of observation, and I also say it's an important skill for self preservation and navigating complex social dynamics. And, so I've said before, it also makes you both a better entertainer and a better Tarot reader. After all, if the Tarot is supposed to reflect reality, then your skills of observation - or "social inductive reasoning" - are a complementary tool to help you see reality as it is - and seeing reality as it is? Hell, that's why people get Tarot readings.

But to elaborate, there's a difference between pure cold reading - which may use a deck of Tarot cards as a prop to instill confidence in the mark - and the performance of the spectacle of Tarot - which may use cold reading to provide context to the message. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you can talk to the dead, then you've got a lot of cold case murders to solve. But what's that? When you talk to the dead all they want to say is "I still love my family so much, and I'll be with you forever, and oh gosh, so sorry to hurry, but time is running out, and I'll see you again on the other side?" Well, I call bullshit. There's a lot of stuff that I'm willing to entertain as a Tarot reader, but pretending to talk to the dead isn't one of them.

Malcolm McDowell Clockwork Orange
Become a terror to your enemies
I'm working my way through every two-card combination in a deck of Tarot cards, and I'm on the Magician right now. This passage came to me today while exploring the combination of the Magician and Strength. This isn't a RWS-based interpretation because I'm working off a different system of numerology, so depending on how you read the Tarot your definition will be something different. Still, I thought this passage was striking and wanted to share it. 
Magician + Strength: There's no danger so terrifying as that which you can't name or see. No danger so terrifying as the formless shadow moving in the darkness. You shine a light, and it moves somewhere else, but you never did get rid of it, did you? If you want to be a terror to your enemies, become the shifting, formless foe. For your enemies to win, they have to define your defeat. If you elude definition, you can never be clearly defeated.
The reason I'm sharing this today is because of something I've talked about before and +Twisted Tarot Tales has also touched on recently: if we assume that the Tarot is capable of expressing any aspect of existence, then that means it isn't just butterfly farts and unicorn poops. That means that the Tarot must also include grief, sadness, violence, and even depravity. 

The Tarot is certainly capable of expressing beauty, kindness, and generosity, but it must also be capable of describing the dark depths of the soul. I happen to think that kitty cats and white light fairies have their place in Tarot, but I also happen to think it's a mistake to use them exclusively. Likewise, I think it's wrong to craft a deck that swings so far to the other side that it only includes the sort of things you wish you'd never seen.

Which is one of the reasons why I like Marseilles-style decks that only have illustrations for the trump cards. As soon as you draw a picture, you crystallize the card's meaning into that picture and make it difficult - if not impossible - for any other interpretation to emerge. There's a place for both "light" and "dark" in the Tarot, and to deny either one is a foolish choice.

Unlike in Monty Python's Argument Clinic
I don't get paid to argue.
Let's talk about getting a Tarot reading from the client's perspective. If you're getting a card reading, good luck: I hope you find everything you're looking for. And to help you get what you want, be aware of unhelpful attitudes that you bring to the experience. Another blogger, The Tarot Lady, recently wrote a short article about unhelpful attitudes that get in the way of enjoying yourself during a reading, and while I think she did some good writing, I'd add one more to the list: arguing with the Tarot reader. In all the years I've read cards, I've had less than five such clients, but they stick out like sore thumbs and for reasons I struggle to rationalize they still irritate me.

Listen, folks: it's called fortune telling for a reason. If you already know your future, and are already certain of what will or won't happen, then why are you getting your cards read? If you go to a fortune teller and hear something you don't know or hear something that's unexpected, isn't that the whole fucking point of the reading? To find out things you don't know? Now, if the reading was just nonsense and didn't make a lick of sense, then you're within rights to tell the reader, "Hey, this reading sucked and I want my money back." In our digital age, you can usually get a refund if you tell your reader that you'll leave an honest review on his or her Google+ page (if they have a physical location) or on his or her seller page (if he or she is selling via a platform like Etsy, Fiverr, eBay, etc.)

If I was having a bad focus day and did a shit job performing your reading, odds are excellent that I won't charge you for the reading and refund your money before you ask because I know it was a shit reading. And that doesn't happen often because I tend not to work when I'm not rested. But if you just don't like what I predicted? Well, shame on you for asking me to tell it to you in the first place.

If you've got something to say, just say it.
You don't need to dress it up with Tarot.
So many just plain weird Tarot-related articles in the news. In this one, a school superintendent received a gift of two Tarot cards - the Fool and Death - from the husband of another board member who would later vote to not keep him in his current position for another three years. As it happened, the superintendent still got enough votes to keep his job so I guess the Tarot didn't count for much anyway. So the sender of the cards said, he wanted to use the cards to inspire a discussion about change and foolish decisions, but from what I can see in the article, that's not what was understood. Not much else to talk about here, just another weird incident of Tarot happening in public places.

Don't ask stupid questions
And yes, stupid questions deserve to be punished.
In other news, there's an article out about Mr. Enrique Enriquez, a Tarot reader who's getting some attention for his movie Tarology. The article I saw includes a discussion about his prices and how he charges for a reading. Have a look:
Mr. Enrique’s rate sheet for readings is a lengthy note about fees that begins, “The cost of consulting the tarot varies accordingly to the nature of the questions asked.” It goes on, “As a general rule, an unimaginative question will be charged twice the price of an imaginative one,” and, “any puerile pursuit will be punished by a high fee. Such fee will decrease proportionately to the percentage of marvel implicit in the question, to the extent that an absolutely wonderful question will be answered for free.” At the end, though, his overall rule: “pay what you think this is worth.”
Speaking as a Tarot reader who does at least four readings a day, I sympathize with Mr. Enrique's rate sheet. Anybody who says that there are no wrong questions clearly hasn't seen the questions that frequently appear in my order queue. Granted, I don't tell people their questions are stupid, but I do tell them when I think it's worthwhile to expand their line of inquiry. I do my best.

Shh! Don't disturb the fluffy bunny - it can't handle 
anything that might be potentially worrisome.
Kudos to Beth at Little Red Tarot for being a successful Tarot professional - clearly she's doing a lot right and connecting with her intended audience - but clearly I'm not a member of that audience because this Tarot card arrangement she put together in an article I read about finding guidance during the Sagittarius New Moon just screams all kinds of silly to me. You can read the full blog post to see the context, but these positions just make me cringe:
Fear, Hope, Transform, Release, Create
I've been there with these kinds of arrangements, and done them more than a few times, and let me tell you: there's a reason I stopped using this sort of emotional, higher path, etc. language. Partly I stopped using this kind of language in my readings because I thought it was just silly, but the biggest reason why I stopped using it is because of this:

The client doesn't have a damn clue what I'm talking about.

Hell, depending on the question (if one is even asked) I might not even know what I'm talking about. This sort of pseudo-psychoanalytical babble is the very thing that makes me roll my eyes at Tarot readers. I haven't had readings like this in a long time, but when I did receive a reading like this (usually as part of a free reading swap) I was usually not impressed with the content that was produced.

There are people who actively seek these kinds of readings, and judging from this author's website there's at least one reader who makes a fair bit of money giving these kinds of readings, but you won't catch me laying this spread.

The Queen of Swords for Twisted Tarot
Tales features the Japanese 
"slit mouth woman"
Among my favorite Tarot bloggers lately is +Twisted Tarot Tales. This guy and his wife produce some really fun indie Tarot decks. Their latest deck is the Horror Tarot, and it's, well... horrifying. It includes comic-book style representations of horrifying, scary, and frightening stuff from books, TV, and movies from around the world. For reasons that I won't elaborate in this article, the artist has been getting some negative attention surrounding the content he puts in his cards. Spoiler alert: some fluffy bunnies don't like comic-book style horror. So the author wrote an article that touches on the subject of violence but also the subject of race and culture in Tarot. For example: in the article there's a picture of the Hermit card which shows a white man escaped from prison. He's sticking out his thumb to hitch a ride, but his arm is still handcuffed and has the severed hand of another white man still locked in the other cuff.

The artist, +Twisted Tarot Tales, explained why it would create conflict to show a black man as the convict, and even more conflict to show a white man with a black man's hand in the cuff, etc. Regardless of the combination, somebody's going to take offense.

Still: it could absolutely work as a white man with a black man's hand hanging from the cuff assuming that the broader message worked into the card was about the isolating effects of refusing to integrate with other communities. Mr. White Man can have it his way, but he'll end up separated and the worse for wear.

Or, you could depict a black man with a white man's hand hanging from the cuff in a broader context of liberation and freedom (there are plenty of wrongful imprisonments and other social dynamics that could be worked into it.) As usual, everything depends on context.

But all this comes back to the core message: somebody's going to take offense. Even if they're not upset at how the subject in the picture is portrayed, they may get offended that the subject is portrayed at all. Which more or less leads me to my next discussion...

So you should stop and think before you say something ignorant.
So, when I was discussing my project to write a summary of every two-card combination in the tarot, I got an interesting a stupid response. We'll just call this person Anonymous Asshole:
2 cards signifies nothing unless you're asking a VERY simplistic q.. Study Tree of Life readings & those of astrological houses. They're WAY more complete. Then there are chakra readings & paths ON the tree, etc.. Go BEYOND what's taught & discover your own--that's the REAL purpose of reading--at all.
Let's take this line by line...
  1. 2 cards signifies nothing unless you're asking a VERY simplistic q..: First of all, I'm not talking about readings performed from only two cards. I'm talking about messages produced by two-card combinations. The reading as a whole depends on context, but the message within the reading also depends on context and every other card's relation to the key significator. In other words, it doesn't matter how many cards are in the full arrangement, because you're not reading all the cards at once: you're reading them two at a time. Learning to read two-card combinations is the most basic and fundamental skill to becoming a Tarot reader.
  2. Study Tree of Life readings & those of astrological houses. They're WAY more complete.: Thank-you very much for your condescension, but Jewish mysticism is as useful to me as an asshole on my elbow. Which is to say, not at all important. And before anybody invokes Godwin's Law, this has nothing to do with racism. Racism is a herd mentality unsuitable for anybody who would walk the left-hand path. Jewish mysticism has its place, and for some people it's going to be the best thing since illustrated pips, but it's so foreign that it doesn't carry any meaning for me. Hell, Norse and British mythology are the same way for me: they have absolutely no appeal to me because they don't connect with me and my history in any way. But I will second you on the matter of the astrological houses: I use them in my readings, but they're not positions on the table: they're already embedded in the cards.
  3. And on that subject: Let's get something straight: while the Tree of Life and astrological houses have their place in occult philosophies, using them as a diagram to show you how to lay your cards on the table is a superficial tool to add dimension to your Tarot. When I talk about reinventing the Tarot, I'm not talking about creating a new version of the Celtic Cross (which I happen to think is duplicitous and unwieldy), I'm talking about changing the very meaning of the cards themselves. This isn't a re-imagination of the Rider-Waite-Smith template, this is a completely fresh approach from entirely different source material. So if you think that finding the right way to lay down the cards is important, you go right ahead and do that, but until you change the language of the cards themselves, it doesn't matter what arrangement you pick because the vocabulary that composes the language of your Tarot will continue to say the same thing.
  4. Then there are chakra readings & paths ON the tree, etc..: Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a fan of syncretism and hacking your Tarot practice to make it work the way you want. But the occult granola bar that is the union of Jewish and Hindu mysticism is all kinds of silly. Yes, I know full well that there are people who like to do the pathworking of the Tree of Life combined with the mind-body union of the chakra system, but Jewish and Hindu mysticism emerged from very different times and places. Just as you'd notice a clash when eating matzah with pakora, you're going to find a similar conflict when trying to get Abraham in bed with Buddha. As always, if it works for you, then you keep right on doing it, but Jewish and Hindu mysticism are so foreign and unpalatable to me that they'll never have a place in my practice.
  5. Go BEYOND what's taught & discover your own--that's the REAL purpose of reading--at all.: Seriously? Did you bother to even read anything I've written on my Google+ profile before you opened your mouth to tell me that I'm being shallow and unimaginative?
So I turned a mirror to the face of this Anonymous Asshole and talked to her in the same tone she talked to me and stated the obvious: that she didn't know the first thing about my project. She didn't think that was very nice. She cussed me out and then accused me of being a troll, which I think is funny, because if talking to people in the same tone they talk to me qualifies me as being a troll, then she's got very thin skin.

Do you ever hear Tarot readers who talk in a, uh... round-about way?
In other news, Charis Felice at shared a Christmas/New Year reading. Now, the reason I bring this up isn't because the reading itself is something special, but because I think it's instructive. When you look at the reading, you'll notice something about: the author spends a lot of time talking about the cards themselves and what the cards mean, but not a lot of time actually talking about the message itself. See the difference? The author is talking about the cards, not about the message. If you want to become a stronger reader, a good exercise is this: when you perform a reading, don't use the names of any of the cards on the table. The moment you start talking about the cards, you turn away from the reading and into teaching and that gets in the way of the message. Try that the next time you do a reading and I think you'll find that the quality of your message improves dramatically.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I've got for you this week. If you've got anything to add, leave a comment, send me an email, or even start a conversation with me on Google+. See you next time.

December 18, 2015

Welcome to the Left-hand Tarot

satanic tarot satanism

This being the very first post on this blog, I thought I'd introduce myself and tell you a little bit more about me. My name's James. I live with my wife and two daughters in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and six months out of the year I hate the weather. Not that there's anything I can do change that, but at least my wife bakes really amazing biscuits and cooks really awesome pork stew. Lemme tell ya, that really gets me through the winter months. I'm a professional cartomancer in the sense that reading Tarot is my profession and it's how I earn a living. I work online but I also offer readings locally via the business my wife and I run together.

I've been into Tarot for about 15 years. I started with a Rider-Waite-Smith based interpretation of the cards, and it worked well for me for a really long time. Me being who I am, I couldn't leave well enough alone, and I had to start tinkering. So the first big change I made was to replace the 22 trumps with the modern astrological significance of the 10 planets of the Solar System and the 12 signs of the Zodiac. That was fun and it worked well for me for a long time, but once I started hacking the Tarot to make it say what I wanted, I had to do more, so the next step was to change my interpretation of the pip cards. For that, I abandoned the RWS Tarot entirely and took my inspiration from the medieval numerology outlined by Henry Cornelius Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

And again, that worked really well for me for a long time, but after ~10 years of Tarot, I was ready for a break and stopped reading the Tarot in favor of reading playing cards. This lead me to the next step in my Tarot studies which involved the use of the order-three Square of Saturn. I followed this method for ~5 years, and the Square of Saturn became a central fixture in how I read the cards. I'll elaborate on this more later.

The most recent change I made to my reading style was within the last year.

First, I wanted to come back to reading Tarot cards again. Reading with a deck of plain playing cards has its beauty, and part of that is that it tends to stay on topic. But then, 52 cards formed from one deck can't communicate the same things as 78 cards formed from two decks. I wanted the added nuance of the 22 trumps. When I returned to Tarot for the sake of the 22 extra trumps, I reworked those according to their position on a spectrum of chaos and order, with three layers to show how their influence is expressed. I'll elaborate on this later.

Second, I changed my numerology from what I learned studying Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy to what I learned studying Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible. There's more to it than that, but the time for revealing all my tricks will have to wait.

All of this is to say, I'm trying to create a new Tarot. Not a new Tarot spread, or some method of laying the cards out in a certain order. In the words of Anton LaVey, I'm not interested in "shuffling pasteboards to foretell a future that has lost any meaning." I intend to craft a tool for the spectacle of divination. A tool that will capture the imagination and aid the magician in the performance of both lesser and greater magic. I'm not content to use a system of Tarot composed in the language of the right-hand path. Don't give me an angel trumpet and tell me I can use it to play music written for a devil trombone. The Tarot is an instrument from the devil's orchestra and I intend to play it masterfully.

And that, dear reader, is the purpose of Left Hand Tarot: it is my place to talk about Tarot, divination, and lesser magic from a Satanic perspective. As long as I can remember to do so, my goal is to do an episode every week. The format is pretty lazy, too: I'm going to consolidate all the Tarot-related stuff that I talk about on my Google+ page from the previous week, make it into a blog post, and then do a video where I run my mouth about the exact same thing.

If you love what I'm doing, that's great. Leave a comment or buy a Tarot reading.

If you hate what I'm doing, that's great. Leave a comment or don't buy a Tarot reading.


But I am going to do it, and seeing as this is the Internet, you're welcome to come along for the journey no matter how you feel about my driving skills. See you there.