A Cock & Bull Tarot: The Minchiate Etruria

I love Italy a lot. At least I love a lot of Italian things: the food (divine), the art (frighteningly brilliant), antiquities (just such a lot of it), opera (because FEELINGS), the men (well they ARE very well-groomed & know how to drive a Vespa), faux-antique tea trays (yes, they’re a Thing & JUST LEAVE ME ALONE), and above all, Italian cards. Come to think of it, I hardly use any other decks anymore: the Soprafino tarot, the Vera Sibilla oracle (about which I will tell you more in the future), and pretty much my first big tarot love: the Minchiate Etruria (say Ming-kee-AH-tay. Which looks surprisingly like Chinese but it isn’t. Honest!). Although it never really went away from my practice I’m getting reacquainted with it at present, and so I reckoned you might feel like joining me for a light Italian summer snack.

I found my beloved Etruria about nine years ago in a cheap bookstore amid a batch of Lo Scarabeo leftovers, a print from 1996. The original deck itself saw the light in 1725 in Florence, Italy. It was my first non-RWS deck, and it was quite a departure. But I loved everything about it: the baroque art, the bewildering amount of strange majors (or trionfi), the sporadically illustrated pips. Even the LWB that gave meanings so unlike the high-flown esoteric reading style I was used to. Although at first I struggled to make sense of it, when I found The Minchiate Tarot by the late Brian Williams I fell in love even more. This brilliant book (which I will use as the main source for the discussion below) not only explores in great detail the iconographic context & history of these cards, but it also emphasizes its earthy, self-assured, even cocky nature. The book also comes with a modern Minchiate deck illustrated by the author. Recommended!
 
The name Minchiate seems to have been derived from a (lost) gaming term, as originally it was played as a game, a variant of tarocchi . But it also sounds the same as an obscene expletive, or disparaging term for trifles or nonsense. In Dutch we would probably say gelul, talking out of your dick. In English ‘cock & bull’ would be the nearest expression. Not inappropriate for a worldly, chatty, confident & proudly Florentine deck! So let’s take a closer look.
 
The Minchiate Fiorentina is but one of many tarot variants strewn along the path of what we now know as the traditional tarot deck, of which Marseille-type decks are probably the best-known (I will go with the term traditional deck or tarot for clarity’s sake when comparing the Minchiate). The Minchiate deck did not evolve slowly over time like other regional patterns, but it was invented all at once somewhere early in the 16th century. It continued to flourish throughout the 17th & 18th centuries (hence the Etruria edition), and remained a living game until the 1900s. As there is a lot of excellent information about the Minchiate to be found for the enthusiastic student such as this excellent article by Benebell Wen whom we should all adore), I will limit myself here to the trumps & their most glaring divergences from the mainstream tradition.
 
Firstly, the sheer number of trionfi: there are 41 instead of the usual 22. Because of this it is more or less traditional to read trumps & pips separately. I myself hardly bother with the pips when reading this deck. So what are the extras? Well, in addition to the three ecclesiastical Virtues present in the traditional decks (Temperance, Strength, Justice), we also have the four cardinal Virtues as first described by Aristotle: Hope, Prudence, Faith, Charity. This alone firmly makes the Minchiate a product of the Renaissance with its renewed interest in the Classics. Another series of added cards are the twelve signs of the Zodiac, although no one knows how to explain the random order in which they appear. Furthermore we have the Four Elements. 
 
Cards that iconographically diverge from the Marseille-type, but not from Italian pre-Marseille cards, are Wheel of Fortune, Chariot, Time, Hanged Man, Death, Devil, Tower. Time replaces the Hermit, and depicts an elderly male figure on crutches, surrounded by Saturnine symbolism such as the hourglass & kneeling stag. The Tower is traditionally called the House of the Devil (or God, whichever you prefer), and depicts a nude woman running out of a burning building.
 
Curiously the first five trumps (after the Fool) are called I Papi (the Popes), even though there is no Pope to be found! Instead we have two Emperors: the Western & Eastern Emperor. The Popess seems to have been replaced by the Grand Duke, of which both the name & nature are uncertain. It seems that he started out as a Popess or Empress-like figure, but morphed into an androgynous-looking young male. I therefore read him as an ambiguous, mutable figure, capable of change & growth, but also deception. 
 
There is no Empress either, but before anyone complains about the gender balance in this deck: the Chariot depicts a nude Victory instead of the usual Martian male, the angel in Fame (Judgement, about which more in a minute) is distinctly female, and the four cardinal Virtues are of course all ladies as well. Moreover, the pip suits of Coins & Cups have Fantine (maidens) instead of Pages. So there.
 
A number of trumps have quite distinct iconographies as compared to traditional decks. However, I’m picking my two favourites here: the World & Fame, which replaces Judgement. The World does not depict a simpering world soul enshrined in a floating bower, but a fully nude Amor triumphantly standing on the Globe, bearing his arrow & a crown. This harks back to the Love card, in which a kneeling lover receives a crown from either the object of his adoration or the Goddess of Love herself (and who is to say those two are different beings?), while being shot at by Amor. Love makes the World go round is what these cards are saying, and what a glorious, perilous affair it is. 
 
However, to the Florentine mind this is not even the highest ideal yet: the final trump is Fama, Fame, also called the Angel or the Trumpets. In the Etruria deck this angel is a woman blowing on two trumpets, floating above a recognizable Florence, and sporting the De’Medici family crest. So still better than Love is Fame, when the whole city (which is the whole world you need anyway, at least when you live in Florence) talks about you. Even if it’s only cock & bull. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
 
My love for the worldly message of this deck has NO BOUNDS, people: no Pope or Popess, Amor ruling the world, and what your neighbours say about you completely negates the Judgement at the End of Days. 
And that’s before even trying to read them! 
 
So let’s look at an example. This is a reading I recently did for a client. As you can see I added charms to this reading, which are very well received by the baroque images of the Etruria. This is the ‘traditional’ spread from the LWB: three trumps for the main story, more or less past-present-future, but to be read loosely as a story. Four pips around it, past, present, future developments or challenges, and outcome.
 
The client felt at a loss about where her life should be going: to leave her situation including her relationship, or not? To me, World at the centre with Amor on top of a crossroads of sorts, reflects this conundrum. The figure is holding the Cross & the Heart charms, meaning a choice between shouldering the burden & following your heart. Amor being at the heart of this reading is significant in itself of course. The Mask covering his face indicates that the querent does not feel the love anymore, and she feels fake & insincere. 
 
Taurus to the left, looking wistfully at the Chariot that I pulled as a sight card, shows that the querent has found stability that they now find stifling (Elephant, Cloud), and would rather move along (Star charm). Also, the Chariot explains why the querent is reluctant to move from a secure spot, after some abrupt movement earlier on. However, from the cards to the right it is clear that she will eventually make the dreaded move: House of the Devil shows a woman running from a dire situation, with the Man charm covering the figure pulling her back in.
 
The woman figure got the Oyster & Pearl charm, showing that deep down she already knows that she needs to leave. The Water card shows the Ship, meaning a new adventure, and also a literal journey. So she will definitely move away. The Ship also got the Compass, meaning a new direction. With the Roman numeral X at the heart of the Chariot, the World crossroads, and the Compass, this means three Crossroads in a row. Obviously there is a lot of emphasis on choosing a new path.
 
Looking at the pips, we see the painful situation that the querent has left behind, before she found her present stability that has now turned stagnant: Three of Swords, with Dragon covering the wolf that suckles the children. This situation was toxic, not nurturing, and she did well to leave it behind (Skull, Dagger). In the present we find the Seven of Cups, with four accompanying charms. The Cups show an illusory relationship, and the Lion staring at the Moon & Ring but ignoring the Apple that would actually nurture him tells us that the querent is using her Strength to keep herself in an unhealthy situation. 
 
We already saw that she will likely move away, and if she does so she will receive a gift, as illustrated by the Three of Coins. She will be dealt a lucky Hand, and find a nurturing & prosperous situation (Peacock/Empress). Moreover, with the Seer’s Eye & the Hand of Cards, the Three indicates that she will be able to expand her card reading business some more. 
 
The outcome looks very good indeed: the Eight of Coins shows her happy & secure amid a warm community. With Butterfly & Raven it is clear that her ancestral spirits are fully on board with this transformation. Locket & Witch Plant show gifts & growth yet to be revealed, and confirm that loss & stagnation are diminishing factors, even though the querent will need to continue her internal work.
 
So that is a clear, concise reading that you can make as detailed as you want, with just this simple spread! However, I mainly use the trumps in freestyle storytelling readings, or sometimes in a Grand Tableau, using all the charms as well. Endless possibilities! If you take the trouble to get to know these intriguing cards, you will be well rewarded.
Buon’appetito!
 
Want your own Minchiate reading? You can choose between several in my shop!
 
 
 
 
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Much At Stake: Vamps on Fire

After my fellow Stirrers have talked about the first three suits of the Minor Arcana, it falls to me to set forth about the Wands, Staves, Batons, Staffs, or… Stakes? Yes! Some of you may be aware of my work with the Vampire Tarot by Robert M. Place. Far from being a gimmicky deck, it has proven to be very profound. Quite apart from the darkly stunning artwork, it is extremely good at Shadow work & spotting negative patterns. Moreover, the Vampyrs usually speak to me in a poetic & evocative voice, the better to get Their message across. I have blogged here & here about my work with this deck.

Place relates the literary Vampire theme to the tarot in a very interesting way (again see my review about it). The four suits consist of the means of combating the Vampires, symbols of the Shadow Self. The suits reflect the Jungian division of the four functions of consciousness, with Knives for Thinking (Air), Garlic Flowers for Sensation (Earth), Holy Water for Intuition (Water), and our subject today, Stakes for Feeling (Fire). In Jungian thinking, feelings are not emotions. Quoting from the Vampire Tarot Guidebook: “Feeling is a decision making function that determines if something is good or bad and motivates one to action, symbolised by Fire. The basic feelings are love and hate”.

Of course the Vampyrs immediately wanted in on any discussion of Their own cards, and so I’m letting Them tell the story of the Stakes. I used my charm set for further illustration of what each card wants to say, just as i do in my Vampire Tarot Readings. So let the sinning singing commence…

The Heart wants what it wants
And it will Bleed if it does not get it
A Stake through the Heart will produce
An immediate reaction:
For some, Pleasure
For others, Pain
A Cross, a Burden
Or a sign of Hope
Which one is it
And what will you do about it
Little Mortal:
Rip it out
Have done with it?
Or let it take root
So it can either make you grow
Or have you fester?

Ah yes, once you are bitten
Little Morsel Mortal
You toss & turn in Torment
No sleep
Only Dream
No rest for the Wicked
Trouble in Paradise
It will bring its own reward
A juicy prize
Worth flapping Our wings to pieces for
Against the cold, hard Glass
Until it shatters
And Two will dream one Dream

Three Stakes will summon
Three hungry Wolves
Either Friend or Foe
Who will they devour:
Your Enemy
Or You?
To Us it is the same
If they but leave a bite for Us
Only a nibble
Just a Taste
But We digress

The Four shows you Mina
Both Sacrifice & Priestess
Who came so close
To being one of Us
She drank the Blood
Consumed Immortality
Bound herself to the Master
And He to her

If that is not Commitment
We do not know what is
Not all Love is Eternal
But Ours certainly is
Ah, sweet Mina
How did Eternity Taste
Will you ever forget
Or yearn Forever?
And more importantly
Will We?

Five of Stakes to form a Hand
To express what one Desires
To guide
Or to manipulate
Perform a Trick
Or true Sorcery
An open Hand can bring a Gift
Bring forth Creation
Or Illusion
Look carefully, dear Mortal
To See which is which
And to Know when to Give
When to Receive
And when to hit back

A Crown fit for a Master
Admiration & Respect
Is what the Six of Stakes will bring you
A Circle of admirers
Well-earned & well-deserved
Well done, little Mortal
Enjoy your time
On your little pedestal
You have your pick
Of all Three Brides
Just leave some for Us
(Just a drop
Only a lick
Ah yes)

No good can come
From any Seven
When will you Mortals learn
That Seven is Deceit
Or Tears
Or even Death
Seven Stakes will bring a Quarrel
Ugly, deadly
Throat torn out
So you are devoid of Voice
Devoid of Power

No good can come
Of this kind of Conflict
When you see this card
Do not even try
Arguments will not win this
Only Force & Violence
So flee the scene
(We like a Scene
Ah yes
It makes Us hungry
Leave this sort of thing to Us
While you live another day)

Summon your Strength
And all your Courage
For the Eight of Stakes brings Duty
And not always a pleasant one
To drive a Stake through someone’s Heart
Someone who is not quite a Corpse
And may still Bleed
It takes a particular sense of Duty
A peculiar kind of Discipline
To see it through
To destroy Illusion
That what is not Life
Nor Death
It will bring rewards, oh yes
And yet may leave you hollow

Only fair, then
That after Eight comes Nine
After building Strength
Will come Surrender
Sacrifice of You
Instead of the Other
Here is the Fire
The pure Power
That was promised by the Stakes
The Sun, the Pyre
True Death
Letting go

Let it burn you away
Reduce you to Ashes
And leave nothing behind
But a good deed done
A Light for the World
We Immortals fear the Fire
But We know that Light
Beyond Our Darkness
Oh yes

It is what keeps us going
Throughout Eternity
It wakes us from our Slumber
When all seems lost
Returned to Dust
It is both what burns Us up
And what rekindles Life
Makes Us crawl out of that Coffin
Break out of Our Tomb
Pull out all Ten Stakes

Our own Choice really:
Will We stay buried
Or live again?
And you, little Mortal
Are you a Bone discarded
Or a Seed planted?

And so, when reduced to Our very Essence
We meet the Court ruling the Stakes
The ones in whom the Fire burns
For better or for worse:

The Knave & the Knight
The Poet & his Creation:
Ligeia, the Fatal Woman
Whose Passion conquered Death
With a hypnotic Gorgon stare
For she has seen that Light
Inside the Dark
Inside herself
And inside you

Poor Poet Poe
How your Raven whispers
Fills your mind with Stories
And your Heart with Dreams
Such Vision, such Intensity
To dream up a Ligeia
And many ladies like her
Forever dying
But refusing to stay Dead
What does that say about you

The King & Queen
They do not need each other
Facing away from each other
And yet so alike
And aligned
Charlotte Stoker
Both inspired & inspiring
A Teacher & a Guide
A Wise woman
With the Patience to
See you through the Fire

And the King, Franz Liszt
Ah yes, a man who ruled
Wherever he went
With his Genius
His pure Charisma
A man who set the tone
Quite literally too
Be wary of his Melodies
They might sweep you away
So strong his Fire is
Ah yes
We like him a lot
What does that tell you

And now the Night beckons Us
With her soft star light
Such a Comfort
After being so close to Fire
Too close for Comfort really
We do not like the Stakes
That have Us Bleed
Or Burn
And so We leave you, little Mortal

But We are watching from the Shadows
As We have always been
How you Shine
The Warmth of you, it draws Us
Ah yes
Just a Taste
A nibble
One drop only

Is that so much to ask?

Do you think you need some proper vampsplaining? You can order your very own dark, poetic Revamp Your Life Vampire Tarot Reading here.

Now on special offer for only € 37,50! I’m sure the Immortals will welcome you with open jaws claws arms… 

 

 

The Wrong Truth: On Knowing When To Lie (Which Is Never)

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What do you do when one job ends & you need to eat? You apply for another job! As I want to be a fulltime tarot reader from now on I decided, more or less on a whim, to have a go at a spiritual chat service. You know, one of those things where you can get a reading from a number of different psychics, mediums & fortunetellers, via phone or chat. As I like to write I reckoned that chat would be the best option for me. Never mind the New Agey website that talked about Twin Flames a lot (don’t get me started), a job is a job.

So I filled out an application, and the next day I got a phone call inviting me to do a test reading then & there, without even asking me if that would be convenient for me. I put that down to a flattering enthusiasm on my prospective boss’ part. We settled on an hour later.

In a brief preliminary Lenormand line, without a specific question, I got this: Man, Key, Coffin (see picture above). Uh-oh. Something ending, with a man turning the key. It looked like I would have to deliver some tough news.

My test client was a woman working at the spiritual website. She asked for a general reading for the next three months or so, with an emphasis on work & relationship. The cards showed a choice to be made, a change and/or an ending. This could apply to her work as well as her relationship in my view, but bearing in mind the Lenormand preliminary I decided to focus on the relationship. I did a second line specifically about that, and it became clear that the relationship isn’t that healthy, they keep each other bound, and the man will indicate he wants out first.

The To Do card was actually Death: best sever the knot yourself instead of waiting for him to give you the news! It won’t surprise you that this second spread was with the Noblet Marseille. Blunt as fuck. It brilliantly pointed out that that first general line of five wasn’t about the client’s job after all. So in total I now had THREE readings all saying the same. Clear as crystal, if not as pretty.

And so I told her what I saw, matter-of-factly but not especially insensitive. The thing is, when such a strong issue comes out of the cards, especially without even a question asked, almost always the client will admit they already know that things aren’t right. I therefore assumed that my sitter would at least have a feeling that her relationship wasn’t going all that well.

A complicating factor was of course that this was all a test. So when my client asked whether she & her partner weren’t Twin Flames after all, then, I wasn’t even sure if she was serious. With her relationship so plainly in trouble, could anyone calling themselves a spiritual counsellor really believe she & her partner were meant to be forever eternally?

But test or no, for me there was still only one answer possible. I therefore explained to her exactly what I think of Twin Flames, Soulmates etc.: which is NOT that they are meant to stick together all their lives. On the contrary, such significant others usually give you a Learning Moment (i.e. they break your heart) & then move on, leaving you to lick your wounds & grow tougher skin.

I refrained from pointing out that it’s downright irresponsible & dangerous to tell people they should stick it out with whichever Soulmate they are encumbered at any given point. From my own experience & what I have seen from other couples this is a recipe for disaster. Like I said, DON’T GET ME STARTED. Especially when that website actually makes money of this whole concept it’s better not. I thought I was being pretty diplomatic. Haha ARIES.

Okay, says she, apparently accepting my answer, my colleague will call you back & give you feedback. So the man I spoke to earlier calls, and of course it turns out that my boss-to-be is also my CLIENT’S PARTNER. Oopsie.

What then followed was a bewildering & slightly unpleasant discussion, in which I was told the following things:
-You are simply WRONG
-You don’t ask enough confirmation questions
-You don’t care enough about how the message may affect the sitter

When I cautiously questioned his impartiality (after all, he didn’t really need to tell me he was the partner in order to evaluate this reading! Also he sounded & felt upset to me), and that I got the same message THREE FUCKING TIMES (well I didn’t say fucking), he says that CLEARLY something is off in my energy or that there is some interference or other, making me ALL WRONG.

It was just all so absurd to me that I quickly ended the conversation for fear of laughing at him, which would have been unkind. I admit I was a bit rattled as to my accuracy, so I grabbed the Vera Sibilla for some extra confirmation :

mde
Obviously in three months time he’ll offer me the job again at a double rate…

The spiritual counsellor feels attracted to the idea of going away; the union will come apart. Sad, but nonetheless true. Interestingly the Sacerdote, being the King of Spades, can also mean an ex. So he’s attracted to becoming an ex.

I also gave the points he made some consideration, as this could well be a Learning Moment for me (oh dear gods IS THIS MAN MY SOULMATE). It is true that I am used to working mainly unilaterally, via audios & written reports, so I considered it possible that my customary directness might not work as well in this bilateral medium. As for not caring enough, believe me I do. I’m not good at the whole detachment thing AT ALL. I just don’t let it influence the message itself.

Of course I asked the cards: Should I change my style of delivery?

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Showing some tough love…

The answer is, a big NO. You shine a clear light with great authority, even if you bring an uncomfortable truth that forces people to make tough decisions. DO: keep everything as it is. DON’T: change a damn thing.

It would seem that if I had lied, or modified the message, I might have been hired. Is the lesson, always lie to your future boss? NEVER. In fact, at the moment I feel reaffirmed in my task of being a teller of Truth. I should toughen up more, not less.

Because, as long as we’re being brutally honest here: I do find it difficult to deliver this kind of devastating truth when sitting next to an unsuspecting stranger, and having to deliver this kind of message to their face instead of safely from behind my computer. Definitely something to chew on. After all, the Dutch word for ‘fortuneteller’, waarzegster, literally means ‘truth teller’. It’s all in the job.

What else did I learn? Well, not to work for this kind of channel which is aiming to keep people chatting endlessly! To which end giving such straight answers would be counterproductive. And that I may have been needed to deliver a Truth out of the blue…

As for those initial Lenormand cards: a man is the key to an ending. His relationship, but as it turns out, also my chatting career! See, and that’s why reading cards never gets boring…

Need some Truth Telling of your own? Visit my shop to book a reading!

Schooled by the Cards: On Unnecessary Clarification

Well, I’m probably just asking for it. When you get out the Noblet Marseille to ask about l’amour, somebody is going to get a spanking. Humiliating as this is, I thought I’d share this example with you because it illustrates beautifully the use of sight cards for clarification. Among other things.

What are sight cards? When you read a line or string of cards, or even a spread of single cards, one important aspect to observe is the interactions between the cards. Who is looking at whom, who is moving towards or away from what, etc. When you have outward facing cards not looking at anyone in particular, you can draw a sight card to see what your marginal figure is ogling. This can be very illuminating, and the fascinating thing is that it often happens (at least to me) that the original ensemble would not have been complete without them & takes on new depth & meaning. Not in this case however, as I shall now relate.

The situation is as follows. I’m in a very Delicate Phase with a Certain Someone. The cards have already told me several times to let the Someone take the lead. However, this is not my style of doing things at all. For all my nice manners I’m a bossy Aries type who likes to barge in & start giving orders. So I have this idea that I can get the Someone to get crackin’ by giving him a present. (Let’s not go into what it actually is. Best to avoid emotional scarring & the expensive lawsuits that might ensue for the nice people at Maelstrom Tarot.) In my view this is a pretty delicate way of enforcing enticing him to do the right thing. What I think is right, anyway.

Best check with the cards first though, no? Allright: Dear cards, is it a good idea to give the Certain Someone my present?

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Pffff… Men. Such ninnies.

Temperance – The Lovers – The Devil. Dear oh dear. Prevarication, hesitation, being in a bind. No bueno. Yes but but, what if I’m being too negative? There’s no such thing as a bad card, right? (By the same logic there’s no good cards either, but let’s roll with it). So what’s that dilly-dallying Temperance looking at while trying not to spill a drop? The Tower. Ah. So there is sense in moderation: any meddling will see the whole thing tumbling down. No wonder Lovers & Devil look eerily similar. Fear rules him more than Love.

But, but, what if we see this as a symmetrical reading, with the Lovers representing a choice between moderation & brutal PASSION? Moderation inspired by fear, Passion fueled by? The Devil is looking straight at us, but whatevs. Clarification card: the Chariot. Another duo in a bind, for one thing. And try as I might, Devil & Chariot doesn’t feel positive at all to me. The poor Someone will feel put upon, rushed & overwhelmed if I ram my gift down his throat. What a ninny.

Luckily there’s still a way out: the To Do or Advice card! Which produces the Emperor. HA I KNEW IT I AM TO TAKE ACTION AFTER ALL. Ooh goody there’s even room for a sight card to prove how right I am: Justice! See? I need to take action (Emperor) & make the decisions here (Justice). But no, even to me in my fevered state that makes no sense, quite apart from the main cards I’m already forgetting to take into account. The Emperor is obviously the Someone, I even have gotten this card for him before. And he looks at Justice because he needs to be the one to decide, for whatever reasons he has.

This Aries has trouble swallowing this. But after chewing on this most unsatisfactory answer, I draw the outcome card. Usually I don’t bother with a Do Not card as that is mostly just the opposite of the To Do, and we can figure that out for ourselves. What will happen if I go with the proposed course of action (or non-action in this case)? The Star: you will get your wish. You will be the one receiving the gift. But, looking at how the Star’s patient pouring of her vessels reflects Temperance’s perpetual flow, it may be a while. Patience is needed, or it will all be water down the drain.

But, but! The Star is looking into the distance! What does she see? Quick, draw a sight card! RESCUE BECKONS!

Nah. I have learned my lesson. The Star shines her light clear enough. She is the sight card.

So that is how I got schooled by the cards. Morale: know when to stop asking for clarification or you will get a spanking.

Also, dating is FAR MORE EXASPERATING than I remembered.

Do you use sight cards for clarification? Or what other tricks do you have? Dating tips? Share in the comments!

Need a spanking reading too? Visit my shop!