August 10, 2018

What happens when you remove a card from your Tarot deck?

tarot satanism fortune telling
Do you see what I see?

The title of this post is both more and less than you might have assumed. It is less than you assumed because my inclusion of numerological principles within Tarot is no secret, but it is more than you assumed because in this instance my act of hacking the Tarot is not a matter of altering the insides of my 78-card chaos computer, but of actually removing cards.

I've long had an interest in the principles of numerology, and this is what has inspired some of my most productive thinking about the Tarot (and how to use it), but I was never actually interested in numerology itself and the formulas and long-winded calculations used by numerologists. Given that no numerologist has yet won the lottery -- a pure numbers game that ought to be a numerologist's delight? -- I think it's safe to say that the formulas and calculations are hokum, but for me they fall into the category of useful hokum and that's why I periodically review the occult foundations which informed my understanding of the Tarot.

During one of my periodic reviews which take place every few years, it occurred to me that 10 is only a permutation of 1. Do you see how this works? Through the numerological process of reduction (which is actually addition), the digits of a number (or a word converted to numbers) are added together over and over until something between 1 and 9 remains. In this instance, 10 is represented by the following equation: 10 = 1 + 0 =1. Or written with numerological shorthand, 10/1.

Because 9 is a critical number for me in my understanding of the pips -- they're all based on my understanding of the 9 Satanic Statements -- this means that 10 is the odd number out. Combined with the numerological observation that 10 is only a permutation of 1, this makes 10 doubly conspicuous which lead me to think, "Why don't I just remove it?" So I did: I removed all four 10's from my Tarot deck so that each suit of pips would number only 1 through 9.

But so say I, hacking the Tarot is like eating potato chips: you can't make just one change. Because of the five years I spent reading with just playing cards, I've developed a fondness for reading with 12 face cards instead of 16, so as long as I'm cutting cards from the deck I also removed the four Slaves (what other people typically call the Pages, or even the Princesses), leaving only the Jacks, Queens, and Kings. 

Finally, because I've been in a mood where I want everything in my deck to have a set meaning, or at least a set rule for how it behaves within a reading, I removed my wild card, the Joker (what other people typically call the Fool.) Granted, yes -- the Joker does have a set definition for nearly all other readers -- but for me, the Joker is a wild card with no set definition. That plus the fact that I never read with Jokers when I used playing cards, I decided to hack the Joker from the deck, too.

In the end, this left me with a 69-card deck composed of 21 trumps (forming a perfect, self-contained septenary), 36 pips (1-9 among among four suits), and 12 faces (J/Q/K among three suits). If you're studying along at home and are curious to know how this changes the configuration of the royal court, this is what I'm doing:
  • King: 4 < 9 > 2
  • Jack: 3 < 5 > 7
  • Queen: 8 < 1 > 6
All other rules for the royal court remain in effect: trumps produce fixed values based on the middle numbers, same and complimentary suits produce cardinal values based on the right numbers, neutral and opposite suits produce mutable values based on the left numbers. Rules for support and antagonism are unchanged.
Where was I? Yes... hacking the Tarot. In the end, this leaves me with a 69-card deck which strictly speaking isn't that far away from a 78-card deck, but even a small change can make a big difference. I mean, ever tasted the difference between 1% milk and 2% milk? The difference of 1% in milk-fat is quite noticeable, wouldn't you say? So when I removed 9 cards from the deck, this changed the deck in a few ways.

First and most obviously, a 69-card deck is no longer a Tarot. In order for a deck to be called a Tarot, it must be 78 cards composed of 22 trumps numbered 0 to 21 in ascending order, 40 pips divided equally among four suits in ascending order, and 16 faces divided equally among four suits and arranged in ascending order. Remove four pips, four faces, and a trump, and it's not a Tarot anymore. Hell, lacking the four 10's which I removed for my own pleasure, it's not even a regular playing deck anymore. But you know what the great thing is about being a Tarot reader? There are no Tarot police, and I'm free to experiment with, and hack away at, my Tarot deck as much as I please if it serves my purposes.

Second and less obviously, subtracting 9 cards changes the distribution and ever so slightly increases the odds of drawing almost any of the remaining cards. For example, in a 78-card deck, each card individually composes 1.2% of total deck, but in a 69-card deck this is increased to 1.4% of the total deck. Trumps were 28%, but now 30%. The pips were 51%, but now 52%. All face cards were 20.5%, but now 17%. In this newly adjusted distribution, I'm more slightly more likely to draw trumps and pips, and slightly less likely to draw faces.

Third and much less obviously, this change in distribution does something that I personally enjoy quite a lot: it creates much more frequent overlap among the cards. One of the things that I really enjoy doing during a Tarot reading is to form connections between cards based on shared septenaries (for trumps), or suit and value (for pips and faces.) Connecting number to number by shared value, connecting cards by shared suits, connecting trumps by shared septenary, and above all pointing out the conflict and opposition between any of the cards based on their neutral, complimentary, or polar opposition according to suit, number, or septenary is just fascinating. This sort of hunting is like a Dorito for my brain, and is so satisfying to me. 

Removing the poorly unified 10 (which never did fit very well into my 9 Satanic statements, and which is also considered only a permutation of 1), reducing the number of faces to match the configuration I prefer among playing cards, and removing the Fool to create a self-contained grand tableau of trumps is just a delight to me because it's like making Tarot new again. This creates an opportunity for me to not only attempt to improve or refine my approach to the Tarot, but this also recreates the feeling of novelty and discovery that has long since diminished for me.

Does this mean that I'm no longer a Tarot reader (since, after all, I'm not using a 78-card deck anymore)? Nope: Tarot reader I was, Tarot reader I am, and Tarot reader I will remain. I'll call myself what I like even if I have to ignore a few technicalities in the process. But me being who I am, it's very likely that I'll reintroduce the subtracted cards back into the deck during my next review in about two years. Of course, it's also very likely that in two years I might be doing something completely different.

So say I, a change is as good as a rest.

August 01, 2018

August 2018: Purpose-Driven Social Media

facebook mind control
Somebody must have removed the social
media chip from this mind control device?
Remember that thing called lesser magic? Sure you do: it's the subtle manipulation of people and circumstances through wile and guile for the purpose of guiding choices and events toward your preferred outcome. Lesser magic informs a large part of my approach to fortune-telling -- not that this is any secret given that I've written an entire book on the subject -- but to an extent it also informs a large part of my world-view. I'll accept that there are dangers in always looking for a third-side perspective and trying to be savvy to others' lesser magic -- if I'm convinced that there's always a different truth just beneath the surface of evident reality and am always on guard against being hoodwinked, then this predisposes me to paranoia and accepting conspiracy theories -- but I still think it's important to be aware of how others are attempting to influence how I use my limited time and energy.

Perfect example of this is social media, and here's my sharpest opinion yet: social media is an addictive drug, and the platforms where one uses social media are pushers. I'll be the first to say that there's no such thing as social media addiction -- after all, "addiction" is a specific, clinical term which discusses chemical changes within the body -- but there's absolutely such a thing as social media compulsion, and it's absolutely by design. The companies who create platforms to host social media interactions are deliberately creating their own Skinner boxes which compel users to repeatedly check for status updates, renew for fresh content, and above all to feel anxious that they're missing out on something important. Throw into the mix the fact that users of social media are curating their feeds to persuade others (and maybe even themselves?) that they're more attractive, successful, powerful, or other quality, and this creates an environment where users constantly questioning their own beauty, success, accomplishments, or self worth, and it quickly becomes unhealthy.

Or at least, it does for me. A rule that I've been diligently trying to follow not just on this blog but in my life generally is to speak only for myself, and to be very careful about making universal statements. Sure enough, I've got some broad opinions, but I try to be specific when I'm making a personal statement, versus what I believe to be universally applicable to everybody, everywhere. And while there's a small body of academic research (and a large body of anecdotal evidence) commenting on the worst aspects of social media, what I can say from my own experience is that it's remarkably difficult for me to withstand the lesser magic of social media pushers.

I think you probably know how this goes: I tell myself, "I'll only follow this one community." But next thing I know, I'm following 20 communities. I tell myself, "I'm only going to upvote or like the things I enjoy, and downvote or just ignore the stuff I don't enjoy." But next thing I know, I'm waist-deep into the comment section and arguing with random strangers about the average airspeed of an unladen swallow (both African and European.) I tell myself, "But it's okay, because social media keeps me in touch with the thought communities that are important to me." Next thing I know, I'm refreshing feeds every hour searching for the new post that makes the hours spent searching for it worthwhile. I tell myself, "I love this!," and yet, by using an app to record my moods in conjunction with how I spend my time, social media is something I do not enjoy (if you're curious to know, I've learned that my best moods are experienced when I'm doing mundane housework.)

Yeah, social media... no matter what I tell myself, I can't argue with the evidence that my mood consistently suffers when I use social media, and scrolling through feeds is particularly bad for me. I mean, if I want to just instantly feel depressed, lonely, and unimportant, then all I need do is load up the nearest social media feed and just start scrolling -- the effect is almost immediate. Me being who I am, I don't enjoy feeling sad or isolated, and yet... there I am, scrolling away, and wondering why I keep doing something that I don't enjoy. Boy howdy, that sure sounds like the behavior of an addict, doesn't it? The pushers wouldn't have it any other way: they have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profit, even if that means encouraging compulsive behavior in their users. 

But I've got a personal responsibility to myself, and after probably more than a year and a half of talking about how I'm reducing my use of social media, I've finally conquered that particular compulsion and I did so with one rule: Any use of social media must be driven by purpose. That is, I must have a specific and compelling reason to visit a social web, and that specific and compelling reason should be intimately connected to something that I'm already doing in real life, something whose existence is not dependent on social media. Do you see how this works? Following this principle, I should never be in the position that I'm randomly scrolling through a feed or mindlessly reviewing status updates. The only reason that I should get onto a social web is because I have a valid need or compelling reason to do so based on a specific interest or activity which is not rooted in an online community, and once I've asked a question in order to resolve my need or reason, I leave the social web and wait for an answer.

An example of this is my interest in Esperanto, a planned language intended to promote communication between countries, cultures, and people. There are a lot of very busy groups, forums, and channels I could join for access to basically unlimited interactions, but what purpose would it serve? What am I gaining from sifting through an infinite feed of status updates hoping to stumble onto the equivalent of a needle in a haystack? It's a fucking waste of time. In this example the way I observe the principle of purpose-driven social media is by joining only a select number of groups and turning on notifications. If I have a question about the language or a special event, I can visit the relevant group to ask my question and then leave. With notifications turned on, I don't even have to visit the website to read responses to my questions or stay updated about the latest events and announcements -- they come straight to my email inbox where I can review them at my own leisure and outside the confines of the pusher's drug den.

The fundamental principles of purpose-driven social media are to reduce compulsion, increase productivity, and preserve happiness. After using a diary-method to cross-reference my moods against my activities and learning that social media is something that increases compulsion, decreases productivity, and erodes happiness, I've found it much easier to fight back against the lesser magic of social media and develop my own strategies of making it work for me on my own terms. This does nothing to change my opinion that social media is a drug being dispensed by money-minded pushers, but if I'm aware of the lesser magic they're working against me to sell their dope, then I know how to counter their rituals and deny them the compulsion they desire.

I'm done wasting my time, and purpose-driven use of social media is how I stay happy, productive, and healthy. If you ever feel like the pushers are taking advantage of you with their lesser magic, then who knows? Maybe you'd benefit from a policy of purpose-driven social media, too.