May 31, 2017

Why Fiverr Sucks

I thought I was finished announcing changes and updates for a while, but I guess I was wrong. Earlier this week, I received an email from my sales platform - Fiverr - that my best-selling Tarot gig had been denied because it was deemed offensive and outside Fiverr's editorial focus. And you know, that's okay - their website is their lair, and it's their choice how to maintain that space. If I had started a gig on Fiverr and they had denied it within the first few months, it wouldn't bother me - their house, their rules. If I don't like their rules, I'll just find a new house.

But what does bother me is when I've been using their sales platform for longer than two years; have been consistently ranked in the top 10 sellers for my category and sometimes as the #1 seller in my category; have pushed my clients to do business with me on Fiverr even when they wanted to pay me directly; built a portfolio of more than 1,800 positive reviews and over 2,000 sales; been a significant contributor to the community forum by writing extensive tutorials on marketing and sales; and have given at least $4,000 of my gross sales in exchange for help marketing, a unified sales and message system, and easy sales processing, and they show me the door without so much as a, "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Because if I had known that the service I'm offering is outside their editorial focus and that they feel like it's offensive, I wouldn't have spent more than two years of my time building my entire self-employed income around Fiverr. Yes, yes - isn't it funny that the psychic didn't see this coming? Call me gullible and naive if you will, but judging by my long string of success - and the vast number of other readers working on Fiverr - it didn't occur to me that I should be worried about my job security.

So you can imagine my surprise when my gig got denied. After much back and forth with customer support to ask why this decision was made, here's the answer I got:

If Sam's response has left you scratching your head, you're not the only one. I mean, seriously: if Customer Support is unable to advise sellers on editorial rules and guidelines that could get their gig denied and in my case literally years of work thrown out with the trash, you'd think this is a good thing for sellers to know, right?

Well, you'd be wrong, and the reason is because Fiverr can't decide what it wants to be when it grows up. Is Fiverr a fun and friendly destination for budget-services and weird, quirky digital gifts? Or is it a sales portal for self-marketed professionals who enjoy the convenience of a unified sales, message, order, and accounting system?

Fiverr is currently running a marketing campaign to recruit sellers to its marketplace and is using the slogan, "In doers we trust:"

And you know, that's a motivating slogan: if you're somebody who doesn't waste time on shallow words and empty dreams but who actually gets shit done, then Fiverr is the place for you! I know it was sure the place for me. By linking my Fiverr seller profile to all my marketing efforts - my blog, my YouTube channel and videos, my social media profiles, and my mailing list - I was able to drive all my clients to process sales through Fiverr. But the reality I discovered is that Fiverr does not, in fact, trust doers. Not even a teensy little bit. Unlike several other freelance portals I could name, Fiverr is seriously paranoid about letting buyers and sellers have direct contact with each other. 

Consider the inbox messaging system: every single message sent on Fiverr is filtered for links and blacklisted words. If you send the wrong kind of link - or sometimes, any links at all - or use the wrong word, Fiverr's messaging filters will scoop up the message and hold it for review. Hey, nothing like having your inbox slowed down by a snooping nanny to help work get done quickly! 

Or consider the guidelines for creating a gig. Suppose you have a service that requires your buyer's telephone number? According to customer support - whom I asked about this very thing - you can only collect your client's telephone number if you say in the title of your gig and in your gig description that you require that kind of personal information, and additionally you can only collect that information on the page for an active order. Same for email addresses - you can't ask for that information if you don't specify that you require it, and if a buyer gives it to you without being asked, Fiverr can still punish the seller for breaking the terms of service.

And consider the terms of service! Fiverr includes in its terms of service that gigs can be denied if they're deemed to be offensive in nature or outside Fiverr's editorial focus. Naturally, you might ask yourself, "So, what exactly constitutes an offensive service, and what is Fiverr's editorial focus?" The answer is, Nobody Knows! Not even customer support, who - as I mentioned above - are unable to advise sellers on the editorial teams rules and guidelines.

After Fiverr denied the gig I'd spent two years building and all the reviews attached to it, they kindly informed me that I was welcome to create new gigs. How generous of them! I'll admit that part of me thinks I should just shrug off this experience and just create a new gig, but the larger part of me thinks that I can't afford to place my financial security in the hands of an editorial team that won't even tell their customer support what their guidelines are for what's allowed. I've got bills to pay, groceries to buy, and other people who depend on my paycheck. Considering the repurcussions that are happening in my life right now as a result of Fiverr's opaque and inconsistent policies on the kind of services they want on their website, I think it'd be foolish to start down that road again.

So from here on out, I'm marketing for my own website and am processing all my own sales. My business mailing list contains a few devoted clients for whose continued support and patronage I'm deeply grateful, but they don't add up to all the people I steered to Fiverr. I'm effectively starting over, and if history is my guide it's probably going to take 6 months to recover half my income.

But it'll be worth it, because I'll be in control of my business - not Fiverr's capricious editorial team - and I alone will be able to say how I'm allowed to work.

All of which is just a long way of saying:


May 30, 2017

News & Politics 5/30/2017

The buck stops anywhere but here

There are people who are saying that the USA is having a political crisis. I disagree. I think that the USA is having an accountability crisis. When something goes wrong, three questions have to be asked: who did it; who's to blame; and, who's taking the fall? Often enough these days, there's a different person for each of those questions and none of them are the ones who matter.

Consider the "accountability crisis" through the lens of the recent revelations that Trump's son in law Jared Kushner wanted to set up a secret back-channel for direct communication with the Russian government. And why am I not surprised? At this point, nothing revealed about Trump & Friends surprises me anymore. The schedule of revelations has become so routine, and the degree of severity remained so constant, that I can't find it in myself to feel any amount of shock or disgust for the fact that Trump certainly knew that his son in law Jared Kushner wanted a line of communication untouchable with a foreign - and arguably hostile - government unpenetrable by the NSA and the FBI.

I expect Trump, his cabinet, his appointees, and his spokespeople to pretend like it's all okay - that's called defending your own interests - but I continue to be sadly impressed by the lengths to which the Republican majority in both the house and senate will pretend this kind of deeply suspicious activity doesn't matter and look the other way. As always, I'm willing to be convinced that there may be a legitimate reason that Kushner was knee-deep with the Russians, but until it's proven so - I'm staying skeptical and if proven to be criminal am curably hopeful that the right person will be held accountable.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Cop

And you know, I don't think that this accountability crisis is limited to federal government - I think it's just a symptom of a larger problem being played out in other levels of government. Don't believe me? Just look at a bill that the Republicans in congress apparently want to pass which would absolve police officers of virtually all accountability for their actions

Anton LaVey once said that cop beats crook, but lawyer beats cop, and it's this rule of law that keeps everybody in their place. Me being who I am, I think this falls in line with one of the most consistent arguments he made: criminals deserve to be punished for their crimes, even when they're the very people charged with catching and punishing criminals.

But what happens when elected officials want to change the law of the land to excuse almost any behavior from law enforcement and make it nearly impossible for them to be held accountable and meaningfully punished for their actions? If, as Lord Acton said, power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely, then removing accountability and even the possibility of meaningful punishment from law enforcement officers will only increase corruption and absuse within law enforcement.

Trump isn't the problem - he's a symptom - and the GOP majority in both houses of congress is reflective of this problem. With everybody's attention focused on Trump, members of the house and senate are figuratively invisible and are free to discuss - and possibly pass - this kind of authoritarian legislation with little to no unwanted attention.

Entre le dragon 

In other news, the newly elected president of France challenged Trump to speak out against the mistreatment of GLBTQ people living in one of Russia's proxy states, Chrchnya. Even if Putin cared about GLBTQ+ rights, he wouldn't be able to change a thing in Chechnya. Want to know what's really happening here? Macron is trying to start a fight either between Trump and Putin, or between Trump and every other decent person who thinks it's wrong to kill other people for their sexual identity, orientation, or preferences. That only gives you the story that Macron is calling for Trump to take action. 

It doesn't give you the part of the story where Putin has more or less ceded authority of Chechnya to what may as well be tribal leader who aren't even completely loyal to him. This is potentially problematic for Trump, because his election victory was only possible through the support of the religious right who oppose marriage equality and some of them even the existence of GLBTQ+ people. If Trump comes out and condemns what's happening in Chechnya, then he not only throws sand at his alleged patron Vladimir Putin, but at the religious right who supported him. If he stays quiet and doesn't comdemn what's happening, then it's a sign not only to the country but to the rest of the world that at best he's choosing to be silent on the issue, or at worst approves of it.

The article also doesn't tell you that Macron is somebody who not only wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, but who also wants to be seen as strong and capable - desires which arguably manifested Brexit, put Trump in the White House, and carried Duterte to power in the Philippines (among other examples.)

While Macron's challenge to Trump might ultimately be nothing more than empty posturing, it's posturing nonetheless and communicates to everybody who's watching where Macron stands and what he wants to see in the world around him.

Does the world need a policeman?

For me, though, this leads to my final question of the week: to what degree should our national governments be involved in policing the actions of other countries? While our infrastructure is crumbling, public schools are forced to sell cookies for class materials, and public colleges and universities and universities are being cut to ribbons, the military marches on! Politicians keep sending soldiers to secure oil fields bring liberty to the unwashed masses, but they clearly don't care about the lives of those young men and women. After all, they've consistently neglected to give the the Beureau of Veterans' Affairs the funding it needs to treat all the soldiers who come back with broken minds and ruined bodies.

My view on this is complicated, but suffice it to say I think that the country should be spending a whole lot less on projecting military power abroard, and a whole lot more on building domestic power at home. In a way, I guess you could say that I believe in putting America first, but I also believe that means putting all Americans first. We don't have the power - or do we? - to tell other countries how to run their business, so let's not do it. In that regard, I'm something of an isolationist. Instead, let's spend all that money on our own business. Goodness knows there're enough ways to spend it.

via Business Insider

May 25, 2017

Satanism 5/25/2017

Self-Discipline: the Master Key to Success

Forget getting it done right - if you want something done at all, you'll have to do it yourself. Satanism is a religion and philosophy that embraces will-to-power and the development of the individual through personal desire and motivation. A couple items today, both picked up via +Spiral Nature :

First, a parallel in Thelema

And granted, Thelema isn't Satanism, but the sentiment is right at home: 90% of Thelema Satanism is self-discipline. What's the other 10%? I won't speak for the Thelamites, but speaking at least for myself I'd say that the other 10% is up to the individual. After all, if it's not you - it's not you. Amiright?

Second, a short discussion on how to build self-discipline

This essay is mostly centered on how you can develop the discipline to actually do the things that are central to your religion, but you can apply it to plenty of other stuff, too.

Speaking from my days as a martial artist and instructor, I'd add that self-discipline is easy when you're motivated. Kind of like how celibacy is easy when you're monk living in an isolated monastary away from the opposite gender, being disciplined is is actually quite easy when you're motivated. Perhaps it's because I'm a hedonist and am deeply motivated by pleasure, but me being who I am - and what I've observed - I've found that I can put up with a whole lot of sticks so long as there's one big carrot waiting for me at the end of at least one of them.

If I remember what I value and want to achieve above all else, then everything else can fall into place. Naturally, some things will have to be removed from my life to make space, but if they're not things that I really value or genuinely want to achieve - then what's the problem?

Prison is Too Good for Some People

Should convicted pedophiles and murderers live out their lives in prison? Or should people who've proven through their actions that they're far beyond the pale be shuffled off this mortal coil? Such is the argument from Baphomet is my co-Pilot.

As usual, my opinion is that prison is for thieves, vandals, murderers, rapists, and others who are too dangerous to be allowed to walk free and who - as is largely the topic of discussion today - don't have the self-discipline or impulse control to avoid criminality. As usual, I think that the death penalty should be used not as a deterrant to crime - because evidence shows it doesn't actually deter crime - but as a tool of last resort to permanently remove criminals who are beyond second chances from society.

Rape little girls and keep their mudered bodies in your basement? Death.
Like to play with matches and burn down apartment buildings? Death.
Break the world economy and bankrupt hundreds of thousands of people and companies? Death.
Start a war based on a lie and send tens of thousands of young men to die for it? Death.

The death penalty may not keep us any safer by preventing a deoraved criminal from offending the first time, but it can sure keep us safer by preventing a depraved criminal from offending the second time.

Do Not Harm Little Children

But as long as we're talking about crimes that deserve death - such as murder, and especially the murder of children - how does Satanism deal with the reality of child soldiers? The 9th Satanic rule of the earth says that Satanists shouldn't harm little children, but how can a Satanist - or anybody - make the decision to kill a child soldier, or be killed by a child soldier, in armed combat? I read in the news that Canada has issued guidelines and what can be called "best practices" for Canadian forces who meet child soldiers on the battlefield. Now to be fair, Canada isn't telling its troops how to kill child soldiers, but is instead talking about paths to victory that ideally don't involve killing the children - such as trying to deescalate the confrontation, breaking the chain of command by talking with their adult commanders, and finding other ways to get the child to put down the gun.

There are no good answers here

No matter how small a bite you eat from this shit sandwich, you're still eating shit. Who wants to kill kids? Nobody. I know I don't want to kill kids - especially kids who've been conscripted into battle against their will and have no particular choice in the matter. And this isn't just a matter of the boys being forced into uniforms, it's also a matter of the girls being forced into child marriage or even prostitution. Look past the children forced into gears of war, and you'll find adults who are willing to do anything to not only get their military victories but also control their civilian populations. What is an adult soldier supposed to do when faced with a child soldier? Shoot first and ask questions later? Let the child shoot first? 

Satanism in Action?

I don't know that I have any good answers about the question of child soldiers, but I think it's the kind of question that's worth talking about if only to see where the answers will take us. And isn't that an interesting exercise? Following the evolution of Satanic thought as set forth by Anton LaVey, the natural outcome is an authoritarian state with strictly enforced borders, Judge Dredd style law enforcement, and a willingness to either let the waste of society sink to the bottom on their own, or even push them there in the name of stratification.

Enter Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who's been using both government death squards and vigilante gangs to extrajudiciously murder drug dealers and drug users. As much as the literature produced by LaVey waxes on about the need to let weakest links suffer the consequences of their weakness and just die already, combined with the directive that criminals just be punished swiftly and severely for their infractions, it's not hard to see a Satanic parallel in President Duterte.

Might Makes Right

And shame on me if you think I'm depraved, but in a way - I can see the perspective and agree with it. The violence and public health problems surrounding the trade and use of drugs are perniciously stubborn, and if existing methods to stamp out supply while discouraging demand are failing, then stronger action needs be taken. So - in a way - I can sympathize with the action being taken.

But, in many ways, I think it's deeply disturbing to see a country's government murdering its citizens without due process under law. I have no great sympathy for smackheads and the disease they spread through the re/use and unsafe disposal of hypodermic needles, but is the problem that drugs are a moral evil that must be stamped out at all costs - or is the problem that they've been needlessly criminalized? Instead of financing a government war against drugs and creating crimes to be solved through police intervention - and we've all seen just how well that's worked - why not decriminalize drugs, create safe-injection centers, and fund needle exchanges at pharmacies? 

Harm Reduction > Criminalizing Drugs

Nobody wants the government has to be in the business of pushing smack, but if I had to choose between an unending war of the state against the people (and all the economic costs that come with it), or a modest proposal to stop filling prisons and graves with people who only want to abuse themselves (and give them a way to poison their own bodies without hurting anybody else), there's be no hesitation - I know which one I'd pick.

There'd also be no hesitation in the choice because the problem with authoritarian governments is that once it's been decided that undesirables can be eliminated by whatever means necessary, then the definition of what it means to be an undesirable always evolves to include opposition politicians, journalists, concerned citizens, counter-culturalists, and anybody else who would challenge authority.

I lean heavily Libertarian in my interpretation of Satanism. There are Satanists who lean heavily authoritarian, and that's their business, but I'll still think they're silly to dream their authoritarian dreams when the religion and philosophy of Satanism that they love are only able to openly exist because of the freedoms they'd so eagerly deny others.

Know Thyself

The best writing about Satanism that I'm reading lately is being written by Neo/Pagans. Remember: Satanism and Neo/Paganism emerged from the same countercultural soup of the 60's, and despite their differences, they share a lot in common. For example, check out this essay by John Halstead published at Humanistic Paganism. There are several striking parallels in this essay between Neo/Paganism and Satanism, and there are some places where you can simply replace Neo/Paganism with Satanism and it still makes sense. Consider the following paragraph in which I've made replacements in bold:
"If we really want to avoid orthodoxy, as we Satanists so often claim, then we need to have more discussion, not less–and some of that discussion needs to be constructively critical. We Satanists need to get comfortable with idea that criticism can be constructive. So long as we avoid criticism, we are vulnerable to self-deceit and groupthink. Sometimes that criticism can come from friends, but sometimes it takes an outsider to challenge us to ask the hardest questions about ourselves and our experiences. When done in a spirit of openness and humility, critical questioning benefits both sides in the conversation, and the community as a whole."
I only changed two words in that paragraph, and yet it still rings strikingly true for Satanism - not just as a religion and philosophy, but also as community cabal of individuals. Scholars and academics recognize Satanism as a religion, and it not only lived on past the death of its founder, but will continue to live on with or without a spokesperson or leading organization to champion its value in the marketplace of ideas. But Satanism - as both a religion and a philosophy - has a long way to go before it can legitimately claim to have the same depth and bredth, or the same degree of maturation and development, as other world religions I could name.

Me being who I am, I don't think it's enough look at how Satanism benefits the individual, or ways that the individual can use Satanism for his or her own advancement. I think that it's really important to ask the self-critical questions of Satanism, and to consider what a Satanic world-view means - not theoretically in terms of Pentagonal Revisionism, not ideally as outlined in various essays, but with the world as it is right now. I have no interest in spiritual political pipe-dreams that may never appear within my lifetime. There are questions worth asking and answers worth examining, but it's going to take a large degree of both self-awareness and self-discipline to follow them through to the end.

If you're such a Satanist who says that Satanism is just a tool-kit and you use only what appeals to you, okay - that's cool - you're welcome to your approach. Me being who I am, though, I struggle to accept the premise that Satanism means something except when it doesn't. Satanism means something - at least to me - and I'm going to figure it out.

May 24, 2017

Alien = Rapey Penis Monster

One of the greatest things about the Alien franchise is how it's totally perverse.

You can Google the Alien franchise to learn more about how it was designed to terrify the white, male psyche with a story about male rape committed by giant penis-headed monsters, but isn't it obvious how grotesque it really is? 

I mean, seriously: they hatch from eggs laid by the one alien that's ever female at a given time: an indomitable woman who reproduces asexually and who has no need for a cock, and nothing ever fucks her. And what hatches from the eggs look like a pair of hands with a giant, mouth-raping penis and a rope-looking, throat-choking tail. 

So after you get face-raped and forced to swallow the fat load forced down your throat, you get to live with the shame of what happened before a slimy, black, penis-headed monster explodes out of your chest who then grows to enormous size and proceeds to run around with its cum-drippy, foreskin-looking mouth-inside-a-mouth gluing anybody it can find into a jizzy, vaginy, bondage cocoon where you get to wait helplessly for a face-raping cock-spider to force a load down your unwilling throat and start the process all over again.

The first and the third Alien movies remembered this truth, and this theme was present if you cared to look for it. But the other Alien movies largely bypassed the FACE RAPEY THROAT CHOKEY SHAME INDUCING CUM DRIPPY BLACK BONDAGE PENIS MONSTER and instead focused on good-old fashioned Hollywood shoot-em-up sci-fi action. Which is fine - directors and studios gotta make money, and if audiences want to see space aliens get blown up, then they're welcome to it.

But the Alien franchise is rooted in sexual terror, and while I can appreciate the direction Ridley Scott took with Prometheus and Covenant for the sake of having broader conversations, I feel like this sacrifices much of what made the Alien franchise terrifying and compelling in the first place. There are plenty of other science-fiction movies which explore the themes present in Prometheus and Covenant, but without the sexual tension in which the Alien franchise was born, the latest additions to the franchise fade into the background.

May 23, 2017

Tarot Talk 5/24/2017

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The shadow knows. And if you've been around the Tarot block long enough, you've met some Tarot readers who think they're the homoerotic love-child of Freud and Jung. And, if you've been around the Tarot block a few times, you'll find people who think it's oh so fashionable and genuine to talk all about their shadow selves, all the shadow work they're doing, and did I mention The Shadow? Here's some helpful advice: nobody wants to listen to you talk about your sads. Keep them to yourself. Seriously: the next time you think you're being edgy and authentic by showing off your figurative naughty bits, stop. The only thing showing off your dark and tainted shadow does is make you look like either a whiny victim or a self-righteous Fisher King. It's tacky. Don't do it.

In totally unrelated news...

There's a Tarot Blog Hop coming up on the 20th of June, and the host of the hop asked everybody to do private shadow work and publish it on their public blogs. Mmm-no, I don't think so. I talk a lot about myself on this blog and on my YouTube channel, but I get to choose what I talk about and the degree to which I share my problems with others - if at all. The choice to either do the assignment as given or simply not participate at all is rather irritating to me - I mean, that's kind of like somebody saying, "Hey, the challenge this week is to set yourself on fire. If you don't want to set yourself completely on fire, you can just burn your little finger with a match, but either way, you're gonna burn." See what I mean? I don't want to burn myself at all! But me being who I am, I'm still participating in the hop. I won't be participating as the host of the hop intended, and yeah - that's a little assholish of me - but I'm curably hopeful that my contribution to the hop will still be appreciated. We'll see what happens.

Regarding Tricksters and Magicians

Remember the Magician of the Tarot? Its earliest origins show him not as a Magician, but a Juggler: a street performer who at best is an entertainer but more frequently a trickster, confidence artist, or even a thief. How many people would acknowledge the reality of a juggler and street performer? It wasn't for nothing that the Juggler was put at the start of the 22 trumps, and the sense of him being a trickster and potentially untrustworthy person casts a new light on the sainted Magician which so many Tarot readers equate merely with initiative, power, personal mastery, and awareness.

Tricksters are frustrating: they're not what they appear to be and you can't ever really trust them, but the gift of the trickster is that it demands you pay attention and look closely at the world around you. Nothing like having an egg fall on your head to make you look closely at doors before you open them, or an illusion that makes you question whether your eyes are telling you the truth. Tricksters may be not be deeply loved and appreciated, but they perform a necessary service by reminding us of the importance of critically evaluating the world in which we live and the people that we meet. 

Didn't See That One Coming

Isn't it a funny joke? The psychic who couldn't predict that a client was nothing but trouble. I picked up this essay by Lisa Boswell from in which she talks about all the times readers get scammed by clients who find ways to get free work or steal their money back through payment disputes. Speaking as somebody who reads professionally, I agree with a lot of what the author says here, although unlike her assertion that readers just aren't listening to their psychic intuition about a client, I think it's Lesser Magic 101: problem clients almost always foreshadow the problems they'll cause by the way they treat the reader. Clients who are pushy, ask for discounts, demand special treatment, expect fast delivery or same-day service when it's not available, and just plain talk down to you are all waving red flags that consistently indicate a client you'll regret.

I've gotten pretty good at identifying problem clients, but for reasons the author discusses - I just want to get paid, you know? - I've been willing to ignore warning signs and do the reading anyway. As it happens, I recently reached my limit for tolerating red-flag clients when one of them asked my Satanic opinion on abortion (I think it's the woman's right to choose, on demand, no apologies). I didn't like the way he was treating me, but it seemed harmless enough so I indulged him. Turns out, no good deed goes unpunished: he didn't like the answer, haranged me via email, and then initiated a charge-back to recover the measley $15 I charged for the reading.

Scammers don't like to climb walls

This is one of the reasons that I've raised my hourly rate, increased my minimum purchase, and now work by telephone only: problem clients are nearly always also impatient clients who aren't willing to front-end the money, wait for an appointment, and speak with me in person. Problem clients prefer to wield their lesser magic against on-demand Tarot readers who work by email or text-chat, so the best and nearly 100% successful way to kill problem clients totally dead is to make them climb walls built from high minimum buy-in, appointments only, and live readings where they can't hide on the other end of an email address. There's nothing they hate more than having to actually deal with the person they intend to cheat.

News & Politics 5/23/2017

Illuminati conspiracies in 3... 2... 1...

Definitely Not Satanic!

So, in what's perhaps the strangest news of the week, President el-Sisi, King Abdulaziz Al Saud, and President Trump all joined hands on a glowing orb representing Earth. Clearly, any hope they had for having a conversation about international dialogue or friendship between nations was almost immediately drowned in conspiracy theories of Illuminati code signals being transmitted through mass media or a Satanic ritual being conducted in plain sight. In case anybody was wondering, the Church of Satan stepped in to let people know that it wasn't a Satanic ritual, but that hasn't stopped people from speculating.

Demonic Crack in the Earth!

And as if this photograph itself wasn't enough to get the conspiracy theorists spinning their heads at 30,000 revolutions per minutes, less than 24 hours after this weird-but-definitely-not-Satanic orb ritual, a sinkhole opened on the front lawn of the so-called "Southern White House," the Mar-a-Lago resort. Seriously, I couldn't make this up if I tried. Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction. If you prefer a rational explanation, then it might have something to do with a broken water pipe that fed the sprinkler system, but where's the fun in that? C'mon, people! There's money to be made here, and this conspiracy won't spin itself!

Look Over Here, Not Over There

And now, for something completely different: while everybody was gawking at a weird orb ceremony (that will probably get whoever imagined it fired) and laughing about the timing of a sink-hole on Trump's Florida resort, a special counsel has been named to investigate Trump & Friends for alleged ties to the Russian government. I don't think that Trump is a particularly intelligent person, but he has demonstrated a talent for knowing how to command people to LOOK - an essential skill in lesser magic. 

After he dismissed the FBI director and later bragged to the Russians that he did it to take the heat off the investigation into his campaign, there were a lot of folks on both sides of the political spectrum who thought that was really uncool. And like a lot of these people - though not all for the same reasons - I'm happy to know that a special counsel has been assigned to the invesgitation.

But different people are celebrating this decision for different reasons. For those like myself, we're celebrating because we're hopeful that a president who is deeply unqualified for the job and by all observable evidence totally lacks the composure to do the duties assigned him will be held accountable for his actions. Folks who support Trump & Friends are cheering this decision because they're hopeful that the accusations against Trump will be disproven.

You can click through to read the relevant parts, but the language surrounding the scope of the special counsel's invesigtation is rather narrow. Yes, there's the opportunity for the investigation to take new turns based on what evidence they discover, but this isn't an open-ended goose chase. A rather narrow scope has been assigned, and the potential is definitely there for the investigation to be completed and the special counsel to be able to say that he didn't find evidence that matched the given criteria: "Well, I found a lot of red circle pegs, but none of them fit into the blue triangle holes, so strictly speaking - there's nothing to see here."

Is This Trump's Death Spiral?

Will Trump bragging to the Russians about his efforts to stall the Comey investigation be the hair that broke the camel's elephant's back? I wish I could say confidently that this is going to be the singular event that throws Trump out of office, but every time I think Trump has done the unspeakable, the GOP merely wrings their hands and does nothing about it. The fact that the GOP is willing to put up with him in the hope that they can get some tax cuts passed before the 2018 mid-term elections is terrifying to me. 

Clearly, Trump himself isn't the problem - he's only a symptom of a greater problem. If it weren't Trump, it'd be somebody else like him. Me being who I am, I'm hopeful that this will lead to impeachment, but me being who I am, I'm not hopeful that any of the men in line to replace him would do very much better for the country.

A Clean Environment Matters

As an example of what I mean that Trump is only a symptom of a larger problem, consider the arsonist put in charge of the fire department Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, who has been gutting rules meant to hold major polluters accountable for their actions. There are Satanists who just shrug at the actions of the rich and powerful - "beyond my level of stratification," or "Might makes right," they'll say. And you know, I think they're full of shit.

Mmm, nothing satisfies like a tall glass of cancer poured stright from the tap, or a breath of fresh asthma as it rolls in on the morning fog. Boy oh boy, I sure do love living in a world where the rich and powerful just get to do whatever they like, because "law of the jungle," or something like that. Well you know what else is "law of the jungle?" When the animals that live in the jungle decide to hunt and kill the person who's destroying the jungle. There is no Jungle 2.0 to replace the one we already have. There is nowhere else. Criminals deserve to be held accountable for their crimes, especially when these crimes poison the very air we breathe, water we drink, and land on which we live and grow our food.

To be specific, I don't believe that we have a duty to preserve the Earth, or that there's some kind of holy calling to care for the land. My position is that choices have consequences, and when it comes to polluting the environment, we don't just have to live with the consequences - we can actually die with them, too. I lean Libertarian in most of my political opinions, but when it comes to the envionrment the truth is that my neighbor's pollution can and does affect me. Therefore, I think that when it comes to the natural environment none of us can afford a lassiez faire attitude.

For good reasons, a lot of us are deeply concerned about Trump, but we're forgetting the & Friends part of this package deal. It's not just Trump who's playing the system to line his pockets and make money for his buddies: it's also trump's appointees who are using their positions to figuratively and sometimes literally rob the government and do away with rules specifically created to hold rich and powerful criminals accountable for their actions.

May 17, 2017

Satanism 5/18/2017

This kind of meme deserves
to be killed with fire.

Thinking you're free doesn't make you free

There's a lot to be said about will-to-power, but the truth is - barriers exist. Way back when I left Christianity and got into occult studies, New Age, New Thought, and Neo/Paganism, perhaps the largest attraction was the belief that the only barriers to personal success, health, wealth, happiness, and the juicy life are the ones we impose upon ourselves.

In a way, this belief is incredibly motivating because it more or less says that you can change your world by merely changing your mind. This sentiment is prevalent in the New Thought consumerism of "The Secret" (largely championed by the convicted felon James Arthur Ray) and teaches you to believe that thoughts become things, and that if you merely want something badly enough, it'll happen. Oh, yes - they tell you to put actions behind your words - but it's what you think that's most important!

Barriers are real, and exist for a reason.

There are a lot of problems with this kind of thinking, but the one that I'm talking about today is the way that this belief encourages you to ignore both stratification and the balance factor. Just because a kid living on skid row wants to be rich, that doesn't mean he's going to become a titan of industry - chances are excellent that he won't. But he could become a local businessman with a network of regional ties.

In life there are barriers to success. Some can be dismantled, some can be avoided, and then - more often than not - some have to be accepted. For best success in life, don't magically think your way to a better place. Instead, recognize the truth of the level of stratifcation at which you exist, and do your best to thrive within it. There are alturistic and philanthropic people who want to break down barriers and elevate everybody to the position of highest privelege and opportunity. And while I surely understand that it's important to care for the jungle which supports the beasts who live within it, I also think that opportunities should not be given carelessly. So they say, don't cast your pearls before swine. 

Generally speaking, I think that requiring people to raise their level of stratification by proving their worth and demonstrating why they deserve the things they want is a great recipe for rewarding talent and letting those who contribute things of little or no value meditate on success within the walls of their own creation.

Who benefits from barriers?

As Anton LaVey was fond of saying, "Cui bono?" I saw in the news that the Russian government has banned the Jehova's Witnesses from the country. You can read the whole write-up here, but one of the more interesting things to come from it was the acknowledgement that Church of Satan affiliated Satanists are registered with the government and are allowed to stay. Naturally, critics are questioning why Russia is expelling the Witnesses but letting the Satanists stay, but to my eyes it's not terribly surprising because the Russian government is almost literally in bed with the Russian orthodox church, so religions that proslytize and get all-fucking-preachy about how people should be living their lives are not only attacking Russian cultural heritage in the form of Russian orthodoxy, but also challenging the power and authority of the Russian government to set the norm for how people live their lives. Throw in Russia's long history with atheism under the Soviet Union, and you get a strange mix where other religions are tolerated so long as they don't make a scene. 

Hail Rubber Stamp!

For comparison, look at Russia's oh so progressive position on homosexuals and homosexuality: you can be a homosexual and enjoy homosexuality, but you have to stay in the closet and you can't talk about it openly and definitely can't talk about it with kids. See the pattern? It's all to do with who gets to shape public discourse. The Russian government doesn't care that there are Satanists in Russia, they just want to know:
  1. Who and where they are, and
  2. Make sure they're not trying to challenge the government or the church for cultural and administrative authority.
Registering with the government is a great way to gain mainstream credibility - what speaks louder than a stamp of government approval? - but it's also reciprocative approval for an authoritarian system which gets to decide what qualifies as a religion and if it's allowed to openly exist. Who'd have thought that a group of Church of Satan members - people who champion individual rights to expression and opposition to unjust tyranny - would support this kind of rubber-stamping process? Feels a bit short-sighted to me - after all, you never know where that axe is going to fall when it's convenient for the executioner. At any rate, now when anybody accuses Putin of suppressing freedom of religion, he can hold up his registered Satanists as defense. Just goes to show: you can't judge an autocrat by his cover!

May 16, 2017

Tarot Talk 5/17/2017

For folks who have been following me for a while, you'll see that my services have changed, and there're a lot of reasons why. These are the top four reasons:

My income is supporting my lifestyle, but it isn't expanding it. I'm not even a teensy bit ashamed to say that I want to live a life of luxury, and my current sales model isn't going to give that to me.

I want to do more than just work. When all my productive time and energy are dominated by work, this leaves no time or energy for vlogs, essays, finishing my book The Satanic Tarot, and free live-stream hangouts where I can build relationships with my clients.

Not all clients respect my boundaries. Your reading is over when the reading is over, and I don't have time to answer multiple follow-up emails for every reading that I do. I can't be there to hold your hand every step of the way. You must take ownership of your reading and decide what to do with it.

I'm not getting paid for all my work. What I used to do was record clients' readings as an MP3. My rate was $60/hr., and the way it worked was you click "buy," submit your question, I record your reading, and send it back to you. But when I do an MP3 reading, I'm not getting paid for all the time I spend to complete it. For example, this is what happens when you puchase a 15-minute reading @ $60/hr. delivered as an MP3:
  • 2-5 minutes to review the order.
  • 1-2 minutes of small talk before the order
  • 15+ minutes to complete the order
  • ~1 minute of small talk at the end of the order
  • 2-3 minutes to upload the order
  • 5-10 minutes answering follow-up messages via email.
So for $15, I'm not actually doing 15 minutes of work. I'm actually doing 26-36 minutes of work. Gross rate comes to $25 - $35 / hr., and after Fiverr takes its 20% of the gross that means that I'm actually netting $20 - $28 hr - between a third and a half the $60 hr. rate I was charging. For this reason, I've decided that I'm now giving readings over the telephone and by appointment only. Same-day and weekend appointsments are available, but I feel like this is the direction that I really have to go as a reader in order to earn a fair income for the skills I've been developing over the past ~15 years.

I've had a really great two years delivering readings by email as MP3 audio recordings, but the truth is that it's giving me a bad case of burn-out. If I don't adopt a method that's both personally and professionally better for my goals, the only solution will be to walk away from reading professionally - and that's something I really don't want to do. For all these reasons - and more I'll talk about in this week's vlog - making this change isn't an option for me. For all my clients who enjoyed the micro-pay model that I've been using, I'm grateful for your patronage, and I sincerely hope that I can continue to serve you.

Is this the beginning of the end?

I read a lot of bloggers. Were there more Satanic bloggers worth reading, I'd read their blogs - and seriously, tell me if you know any well-written atheist-Satanist bloggers - but for the time being I'm riding the parallels in a lot of Poly/theist and Neo/Pagan blogs. A timely essay I read came from John Beckett, a druid and devotional polytheist, asks the question if it's worth demolishing the figurative towers we've built as a nation and as a culture. 

Religously and philosophically, I don't share much in common with John, but I value his writing because it's frequently thought provoking. If you're a fan of group ritual, then you'll enjoy the notes John shares in his essay. If not, well - skip to the relevant parts. For me, the relvant parts are in the discussion about the Tarot card The Tower which is traditionally interpreted as a collapse and failure of the ego. Yes, the usual representation of the Tower shows people falling to their deaths, and yes, it's a great tragedy.

Just End It Already

But in its way, the Tower is also liberating. Have you ever made yourself ill from eating and drinking too much? And have you ever felt so ill from over indulging that you became nauseated and threw up? Yeah... the Tower is a bit like that. It's awful to feel your insides become your outsides, but don't you feel better when it's over?

As a Satanist, I'm a pretty big fan of the material world - I think it's a fun and satisfying place to live - but I'm also Epicurean in my approach and think that moderation and careful selection are important parts of living a satisfying life. Disposable culture and wanton disregard for the environment are disgusting, and like it or not but the consequences of indiscriminate consumption are here, right now, and they're only going to become more severe. In the immortal word of the Lorax, "Unless..."

Everything comes from something

The trouble with felling Towers is that all the time, resources, and money that went into building them is lost forever, but the benefit is that you're no longer obligated to maintain it - you're free to move in other directions and pursue something else without the taint of a dark monolith hanging over you. As it relates to me, sure - I'm having a Tower moment with my professional practice - but there are other Tower moments I've had with my personal practice. 

It's all too easy and tempting for me as a fortune-teller to poo-poo the tools and practices that I've discarded along the way. As +Theresa Reed points out, remember to acknowledge the tools that got you to where you are. Consider, for example, Bruce Lee and his fighting style jeet kune do. One of the central training philosophies in the system is that empty-hand, no-contact, scripted patterns and training sequences are just "land swimming" and are at best merely aerobic exercise, at worst a preparation to fail in combat. Bruce Lee emphasized person-to-person training and contact fighting, and by all accounts he was an incredible martial artist - he was a rare dragon.

Perspective is important

But what a lot of people forget is that he didn't reach that point as a martial artist without the benefit of the patterns and scripted sequences he learned in the years that he spent practicing wing tsun. Bruce Lee trained with the near-legendary wing tsun instructor Ip Man, and this expert instruction combined with Bruce Lee's own astonishing potential as a fighter is what brought him to the point that he was able to formulate his system of jeet kun do. 

Likewise, there are fortune-tellers like myself who were taught differently when I started than how I'm practicing today. I wouldn't call myself the Bruce Lee of fortune-telling - I'm pretty sure that's +Camelia Elias - but like Theresa Reed says, the point is that the tools you discarded should be remembered for the role they played in your development. So even if you're somebody like me who is borderline nauseated by discussions about spirit and spirituality, there's no way around the fact that the occult stuff you love and have probably repurposed for your own needs almost certainly originated within a spiritual context. Don't commit the Satanic sin of losing perspective or forgetting past orthodoxies - everything came from something, and when it comes to the occult, that something is probably spiritual.

What's the Deal with Yes or No?

Seeing as this is supposed to be a blog about Tarot, the last thing I'm covering today is a short essay from Natalie at Mist & Ether in which she talks about Tarot readings intended to produce only Yes or No results. Like most things, I'm of at least two minds when it comes to Yes-or-No readings.

Yes/No readings are decisive.

On the one hand, I think they're necessary. After all, that's why people get their cards read: they need an answer, right? We've all had readings - and some of us given readings - that spend so much either playing with nuance or just dancing around an answer that they don't actually provide any useful information. There are some people who enjoy the open-ended approach to a reading, but more often than not people who get readings - or who give readings! - need a decisive, closed-end answer that says yes or no and dares to be proven wrong.

Yes/No readings can be shallow. 

But then the problem with Yes/No readings is that the answer is binary: it's a 0 or a 1, and nothing in between. This kind of commitment - "Is that your final answer?" - can be limiting, and Tarot readers being who we are - or me being who I am - don't enjoy making definitive statements that close doors to investigation.

And while I do surely appreciate a direct answer, the world in which we live is in fact non-binary. No matter how often you try to divide the world into a false duopoly of 1's and 0's, the truth remains that there are 2's, 3's, %'s, ☖'s, ☈'s and even ☴'s. The world is a crazy place, and while it's often faster and easier to reduce everything into a 1 or a 0, a binary paradigm leaves much to be desired.

May 15, 2017

News & Politics 5/16/2017

Professional Blame Gamers

The funny thing about responsibility being for the responsible - a frequent opinion among Satanists - is that saying, "I take full responsiblity," or creating justification for irresponsibility from whole cloth doesn't magically absolve you of having to accept the consequences for your actions. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm an independent, and I vote for the people and policies who improve me and mine. Don't do anything for me - or work against me - and you don't get my vote. This juvenile game of shifting the blame or looking for excuses and justification when the consequences are politically impolite is the sort of thing that deserves to be killed with fire.

Case in point, Pat Buchanan is defending fabulist liar and confidence artist Donald Trump by excusing everything Trump says and does by simply blaming it on a conspiracy theory. Clearly, it's the fault of the damned, dirty, liberal media, leftists, and commie, pinko politicians. Clearly, they're just picking on Trump because they can't stand how wonderful he is. Gosh, don't they know it's rude to point out his faults? Let's all shed a tear for the crybaby-in-chief.

The best lies are based in truth.

But then, politicians and politics wouldn't be what they are if it weren't for the mental gymnastics and feats of verbal judo necessary to wrangle people into voting them into office, would it? And that's one of the things that really fascinates me as a fortune-teller: How and Why people lie. I'm not naive enough to say that "Nobody should lie!" As usual, I think that deceit and manipulation are a part of daily life, and the challenge isn't to always tell the truth, but to lie with moderation and for a specific reason.

Nobody's exempt from criticism.

I'm beating up on Trump right now because he's in the news right now, but truthfully - and I'm not lying! - I'd be beating up on Obama or Clinton if it were either of them in the hot-seat. Every politician lies, and no president in the White House is entirely who he or she appears. I happen to think that Obama did a lot of great stuff for the country - for example, the Affordable Care Act - but I'd be willfully blind to ignore the ways he expanded the power of the state to interfere in the lives of private citizens, expanded the size and scope of the drone program, authorized the use of drones to summarily execute US citizens living abroad without trial, and more. Obama wasn't perfect - not by a long shot - but we accepted his falsehoods because on the whole he was satisfying more people than he was disappointing.

Disposable allies are hard to replace.

Trump, on the other hand, has proven himself to be a complete and unmitigated failure of a president within the span of just 100 days. And me being who I am, I think that a large part of that is his inability to lie consistently and his spectacular habit of publicly murdering his surrogates who lie for him for the sole reason that his skin is so thin that he can't endure even the slightest criticism without searching for a scape goat.

I mean, really folks - this is Highschool 101: if you and your friends decide to skip out for the day so you can go smoke weed and drink beer in your parents' basement, you all have to tell the same story about how your car broke down on the way to school and you had to stay with it until the tow-truck came. When your mom smells ganja on your clothes and gets skeptical, you can't break down and blame it all on Stupid Larry because pretty soon Stupid Larry will become Smart Larry who stops covering for you. Who knows? He might even tell your other friends your dirty secrets just to get back on you.

Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.

So by this point, I think we can agree that deceit, falsehood, and manipulation are a part of daily life. Right? Everywhere you go, everybody's trying to get something and it's a never-ending game that spans the spectrum of embellishing the truth, bending the truth, lies by omission, little white lies, outright fantasy, stupefying falsehood, and everything in between. The challenge isn't to find somebody in life who doesn't lie, but to learn how to navaigate varying degrees of falsehood and make the best decision for yourself. 

In that sense, I suppose I'm grateful that Trump has finally come right out and said that nobody can believe anything that anybody says in the White House (including himself.) You get what I mean? Him saying that his press secretaries can't be 100% accurate when his press secretaries are doing nearly 24/7 damage control to re-spin his absurdities into something resembling reality is the most impossible thing I've ever heard. I mean, this is exactly like the door riddle in the movie The Labyrinth where one of the guardians always tells the truth, and one of them always lies, except in the example of Trump's White House, both doors are saying that the other always lies. How's this for a solution? Get a fire axe, cut through the bullshit, and knock both doors the fuck down.

May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

For every Jason Voorhees, there's a Mrs. Voorhees.
We love you, moms, even if you make us totally psychotic.

image via

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, and to everybody who isn't - well, How is your relationship with your mother? If you've got a great relationship with your mother, then by all means - indulge and show your affection. If not, ask yourself - Why? I'm not going to tell you that you must have a great relationship with your mother no matter what, because - let's be honest with ourselves - some mothers just drive their children absolutely and completely insane. Like, to the point that we'd rather put on a hockey mask, stalk horny teenagers, and chop them into tiny pieces with a machete than sit down at the same table with our mother and have a cup of tea. 

But you know, mothers aren't perfect. Sometimes they do their best, and sometimes they don't. You know... they're human... just like you and me. And so the saying goes, mothers are crazy because their children made them that way. As long as we're being honest with ourselves, let's at least take credit for the work we did as children to erode our mothers' sanity as adults. 

Anyway, I won't bludgeon you over the head with that tired old crap about how you should love your mother because it's she who gave you life - that shit gets pretty old by the time you're 15 - but I will remind you that life is precious and time is short. If you want your mother to play a role in your life, then you need to make sure she knows that she's invited to do so. After all, time is running out - it waits for nobody - and you need to make up your mind sooner than later if you're goint to extend that invitation. There might not be time to change your mind if you wait too long.

Regarding Covens

I ran across this today: a fellow asking, "What defines a coven?" Yes, yes - I know that this isn't to do with Satanism or even written by a Satanist - but so much of what I learn about myself is through parallel comparison to other people and traditions. Differences define the indivudual, don't you think? If you want to read all the questions he poses, then you'll have to click through and read his writing - I think it's rather unfair to copy/paste his writing here and deny his fairly earned traffic - so I'll jump straight to my commentary.

I'm going to file this one in the category of, "problems that will never bother a Satanist." I can appreciate that from the author's Wiccan perspective, these are important questions, but from a Satanic perspective I'm confounded. It's been a very long time since I've been anywhere near Wicca - about 11 years, but who's counting? - but these questions combined with my admittedly poor experience give me the impression that for the author who wrote this, community and keeping-people-together are both a means and an end. When I read the questions and the pattern that emerges from them, I get the distinct impression that a coven is a whole bunch of people figuratively locked hand to hand and gathering at set intervals for the sake of gathering.

I mean, If you're going to create a format for the purpose of meeting and worshiping with co-religionists, why would you put the needs of the format (a coven) above the needs of the people who compose it? What little I know or remember from my past dabbles with Wicca over a decade ago, a Wiccan coven isn't just a kind of congregation led by a high mugwump - it's also a working group with specific roles that need to be filled in order for work to be done. And yes, the work to be done depends on the ritual, and yes, the ritual can be changed to require more or less people, but perhaps my clearest take-away from the time I spent in Wicca is that covens are groups who do things as a group and stay together as a group to do group stuff. Did I mention the group? 

What I observed while trying Wicca on for size is that the general air of importance given to the coven format and the need for assigned roles irritated more people than it served. It often resulted in the high mugwump doing nearly all of the work to coordinate coven work, petty in-fighting among those assigned to set coven roles, and simmering resentment among those for whom there simply wasn't room to advance. Throw in the fact that even as pedestrian as Wicca has become, it's still quite difficult to find enough people to form a coven, and you get microscopic autocracies where there's little room to move up, and nothing but a wasteland if you move out. And for people who value unity for the sake of unity, there's not much else that's more terrifying than a wasteland. 

Satanists, on the other hand, have been doing their thing solo virtuoso for decades. In fact, going by the Satanic Bible published in 1969, solitary ritual is the norm - not the exception! So for me, when I read a list of questions like what the author wrote, I'm genuinely confounded. My world view has changed so much over the last 10 years that I can't help but think, Why does anybody need a coven? Why can't individuals who share common interests simply agree to meet together for the pursuit of those common interests? As usual, I'm willing to admit that I may not have eyes to see, so if I'm not seeing this correctly, then you're welcome to leave a comment and tell me why, but this list of questions has been culture shock for me. I had a glimpse into an alien world, and I didn't understand it.

May 12, 2017

My services, they are a changin'

Heads up, folks: changes are coming to the way that I offer my services, and they're coming soon. For logistical reasons, I can't say very much right now - just waiting for some other pieces to fall into place - but when they fall into places, a lot of other pieces are going to follow them. Without giving everything away, there are a few tings I can tell you:
  1. I will be charging more for my services. What can I say? Stuff gets more expensive. Such is life.
  2. I will be giving away free readings every week. I know, I know - I've always poo-pood free work in the past, but this is going to be a little different than what you expected.
  3. I will be spending more time with you, so this means you and a lot of other people will have regular invitations to pick my brain.
Can you guess what this means? If so, leave a comment and see if you can read my mind. 

May 01, 2017

Tarot Blog Hop: Do I combine Tarot with other methods of divination?

For this round of the Tarot Blog Hop, our host Ms. Arwen Lynch asks the question, "Do you combine Tarot with other methods of divination?" The short answer is, no. The long answer is, kinda-sorta yes. Stay with me on this and I promise you'll understand what I mean by the end of the essay!

So, here's a story about myself: When I was in high school, I found that I really enjoyed language classes. I thrived in the English class, but I also enjoyed foreign languages and took a semester of German plus the equivalent of six semesters of Spanish. I say the equivalent because I went on a three-week exchange trip to Costa Rica after I finished Spanish 1-2. When I came back for Spanish 3-4, my fluency was so far beyond what was being taught at that level that I skipped to Spanish 5-6. At this time, I was also looking ahead to life after high school and had enlisted in the Marine Corps where I received a year of intensive language instruction in Russian, and later I dabbled in Latin and also achieved some fluency in Esperanto.

So, yes... I'm a language nerd. And I'm not telling you that to brag - I'm guessing you probably don't care - but it's important to this essay because my experience learning and speaking languages at a really formative time in my life when I was really just beginning to develop a world-view shaped how I understand the things and people around me. 

What I found is that languages are games played according to their rules. Some games have a lot of special rules and exceptions to the rules - English and French come to mind. Other games are highly regular, or even if they have a lot of rules, they follow their rules consistently - Esperanto and Russian come to mind. Learning to speak different languages required me to learn lots of different rules, and as an extension of that, learn how the rules go together. Russian is Russian because it follows Russian rules. English is English because it follows English rules. Russian and English don't go together - the word order is different, their case systems operate differently, there are three genders in Russian (and none in English), and so on. You can't mix the languages - the Russian square doesn't fit into the English circle, do you get it? 

English, Russian, Spanish, German, Latin, and any other language you can name works because it follows its own rules, and its rules exist for a reason: to communicate meaningfully and with precision. Just like some languages don't translate well from one into the other or have words that simply don't exist in other languages, I think that some methods of divination just don't work together and are stronger when used individually. That's one reason why I don't use anything except Tarot - I don't want to have to speak two different languages in divination and try to translate one into the other.

But getting back to the discussion about rules: me being who I am and the experiences that I've had, I look to find the rules of whoever and whatever I'm working with. Consistency is important to me, and while I can surely appreciate that a person or thing might play by rules which incorporate a certain amount of chaos, that's okay as long as I understand that the chaos is part of the rules. But if you think that I'm an advocate for universal orthodoxy, then you'd be wrong. Or at least, partly wrong: I'm an advocate for personal orthodoxy. I think that every fortune-teller should choose for him or herself the rules which govern his or her language and be passionately committed to following those rules until such time as he or she decides to re-write the rules.

More specifically, what this means to me is that if you want to use just Tarot, then you're welcome to it. Or if you want to use Tarot, numerology, astrology, tea leaves, palmistry, bones, and pendulum dowsing - you should do it. Or at least, you should do it so long as the combination of different systems produces answers that are both meaningful and precise. Or if you prefer answers that are vague and mysterious, that's okay too - if that's what you're trying to achieve. I don't like to combine methods of divination because I find that their rules disagree and it's more trouble than it's worth to try and translate bones into numerology, or astrology into pendulum dowsing. And so on.

But that doesn't mean that they can't be combined at all! Speaking for myself, Tarot is the only method of divination that I use, but it's not just Tarot. I've created for myself my own method of reading the cards which incorporates numerology informed by the 9 Satanic Statements, astrological lessons from the 12 houses of the Zodiac, and elemental dignities to show waxing, full, and waning properties as well as how each card either acts or is acted upon. I'm very orthodox in my divination - I use what works for me and I don't use anything else - but the system that I'm using is itself syncretized from multiple other systems.

I don't use any other methods of divination not just because I think that they're incompatible languages with contradictory rules, but also because I feel like I can get all the meaningful and precise answers that I need with the language that I've created for myself. I understand that different kinds of answers can be produced by different methods of divination when used in their entirety as they're intended to be used, but for the kind of needs I have both as a sitter and as a fortune-teller - the Tarot does it all. So this is what I meant when I said at the start of this essay "no" and "kinda-sorta yes:" I'm using principles found in other methods of divination, but I'm not actually using any of those other methods themselves.

Which is all just a long way of saying that Tarot is my love, my angle. I don't treat it like potato.

Left-hand Tarot 5/1/2017: Who Am I?

So, what's new with me? I got a reading with +Benebell Wen this week. Now, usually I'm a massive cheapskate and refuse to pay money for anything that either I can do for myself or has even the barest hint that it won't live up to my expectations. What can I say? I have very high and possibly unfair expectations when money is involved. I suspect that my cheap-skate-ness will only become more severe as I get older, and that doesn't bode well for my grandchildren. At any rate, I've been stewing over a private concern that's been defying my ability to remain objective and out of long-standing admiration of her writing as well as an interest in seeing how other readers operate, I purchased a reading with Ms. Wen. Well... short answer is, I've got a long way to go in my role as a Tarot reader if I'm going to approach the level of service that I got from Ms. Wen. Absolutely top-notch reading, and quite useful, too.

The long answer is that I got this reading not only to get an impartial perspective on a stubborn problem, but also to get an idea how it is that Ms. Wen does her readings. Perspective is easy to lose and difficult to gain, so as part of my self-guided professional development I try to see what othe readers are doing. What sort of focus emerges in their readings? How do they form the narrative? How specific or general are their answers? How do they communicate a message from the information in the cards? And so on. If you want to hear about the specifics of my reading, then you'll have to watch the video above. But comparing my reading style to what I observed from Ms. Wen, a few things jumped out at me:

First, Ms. Wen is very strong at seeing the big picture both in length and bredth. She very effectively reduces large pieces into comprehensible chunks. This might just be a strength in my particular reading since I wasn't asking a question that had to do with an immediate concern, but the observation is still true: she shined a bright light on the shadowed masses moving in the darkness and gave me a good look at what was stalking just outside of my vision. Comparing my reading style to hers - or at least to this particular reading that I got from her - she's better than I am at seeing the big picture.

Second, her approach to the reading - while direct and merciless - had the slow rhythm of floating down the lazy river. She spends a lot of time explaining not just what she sees, but what method she used to get that information, why she chose that method, and even mentioning historical references to the method. Which is cool - it's a like being on a guided tour of a Tarot museum in which the final exhibit is my own question - but compared to her, my reading style is more like a barrel ride down Niagara Falls. Ms. Wen surely isn't wrong to approach Tarot as she will - after all, her reading style is a synthesis of her life experiences, communication method, and what she believes will best serve the client. 

But me being who I am and how I've developed as a reader, I've become somebody who doesn't care to spend time teaching the client how I read the cards. In a way, I look at a Tarot reading like a carnival ride: the client is the carnival-goer, and I'm the ride operator. I don't think it's necessary for me to interrupt the carnival-goer mid-ride on the tilt-o-whirl to tell him about how each arm of the ride is held together by inter-locking bolts, the amount of force within the ride's hydraulic pistons, how many light-bulbs decorate the ride, and so on. I see my job as merely operating the ride, and if the carnival-goer wants to learn more, they can find me later. You know what I mean?

My reading style has been largely influenced by my sometimes-hobby writing flash fiction - short-short stories of less than 1,000 words. In this kind of writing exercise, brevity is mandatory. Every word must be essential, and any word that doesn't serve a specific purpose is ruthlessly murdered. This writing exercise taught me as a Tarot reader that pre-ambles are a waste of time. Just launch into the story and let the details emerge as I go! 

My reading style has also been largely influenced by the method in which I deliver my readings: MP3 audio recordings in which I charge by the minute. Clients pay up-front, and then I have to fit their answer into however much time is available. After I finish the small-talk of greeting my client and stating what I intend to do in the reading, I'm immediately into the reading because the clock is running down. Tick tock!

What kind of Tarot reader would I be today if my practice had carried me in a different direction? I suppose there's always time to change my approach and learn to deliver my readings differently, but for better or for worse I've learned to love my rapid-fire delivery. Perhaps my greatest weakness that I've observed in comparing my work to Ms. Wen's is that I've de-prioritized methods to see broad movements and long expanses of time. So much of the work that I do is in the very short term - almost never touching the past, frequently addressing only the present, and treating the future with a laissez-faire attitude. But then, that's what I've been trying to develop, right? A Satanic approach which focuses on what's here and now - and not what's already happened or has yet to appear.