Meeting the Mermaid: An Interview With Dame Darcy

I've known Dame Darcy as a comic book writer for years. She was the creative mind behind Meatcake, a mind-blowing comic that mixed romance, mermaids, strange characters with interesting names like Wax Wolf, StregaPrez or Scampi the Selfish Shellfish, Victorian landscapes, tutorials on how to make dolls, goth chicks and whatever else caught her fancy.

She also used elements of the tarot in one of those. In a four panel page, Dame Darcy was able to synthesize the essential about the minors. You can check it out below:

For someone that grew on a steady diet of superheroes, Meatcake was a breath of fresh air and made me realize how much I was attracted to weirdness. Meatcake was dark and funny and campy and strange all at the same time, and you never knew what to expect from the next story. Only that it would be fun.

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Fast forward to 2015. I was browsing some facebook postings and I saw someone talking about a Mermaid deck created by Dame Darcy. The very same Dame Darcy that created those Meatcake comics. Which, of course, meant, that I had to have them. It also meant that another of my favorite comic book creators also had a foot on the magic scene.

And just this year, the Meatcake Bible, which for the first time collected all those Meatcake stories in one single volume, got a nomination for the Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album – Reprint category. While it didn't end up winning the prize, just getting nominated for what is considered "the Oscars of comics" was already quite a feat and a recognition of the quality of her comics work. And it also gave me the perfect reason to reach out to her and bring a little of her mermaidness to you. After all, we're supposed to be a maelstrom here, and what's a maelstrom without some mermaids?

1) What brought you over to tarot and, since you've published a book about it (The Handbook for Hot Witches), magic?

I set a goal, then I trust the Goddess to guide me, every day.
Working towards the goal, I watch for the signs she shows to guide me on the path of least resistance. Repetitive numbers appearing as confirmation is one kind of sign.
The basic outline of my experiences here have been that, sometimes frustrating or infuriating circumstances will lead to an ultimate unexpected reward and one must remember to be patient.
Making a mermaid tarot deck is one way to serve the ancient mermaid Goddess Yamaya and writing an occult book for children on a main stream publisher like Holt makes me so happy!
When I lived in LA I didn't like how my Latina students were treated like second class citizens in what was originally Mexico. And I felt like the billboards with all the white girls weren't honoring diversity and celebrating different kinds of beauty.
My students inspired me to write Hand Book For Hot Witches as well as my FairyGodchildren.

2) In both your Meakcake comics and the Handbook for Hot Witches you've made a point in showing how being different was actually a good thing that brought richness, creativity and diversity to the world. And yet, you've identified yourself as a mermaid, and even put out a Mermaid tarot deck. But mermaids have traditionally been associated with bad omens and dangerous events, the story of the goddess Atargatis who transforms herself into a mermaid after unintentionally murdering her human lover immediately comes to mind. How do you see the mermaid as an agent of change in this world?

Like the ocean, Mermaids can be beautiful mysterious and happy sparkiling creatures, representing the glorious days spent at sea when the weather is clear and bright. Bringing joy and abundance to all who love the sea. It is the source of all life on this planet.
My parent's named me Darcy Megan which means Dark Sea Pearl. How they knew I was going to be a goth mermaid when I grew up is very intuitive of them. And I embrace the dark side of mermaids. Everyone should fear and respect the ocean because Tsunami’s and shipwrecks are not a joke.

All the sad things going on with climate change nowadays and the ocean kills me. I wish plastic had never been invented. Or the corporate jerks who don’t take responsibility for its clean up, and one day they will all be stopped. Ultimately, the ocean will win and humanity will lose if they keep it up.

3) Also in your Handbook for Hot Witches, you've mentioned in passage how witches were related with storytellers and how rhymes and songs were important in spells and chants. Being a tarot reader (and deck maker), what do you think is the song of the tarot?

I made the tarot to be lyrical and romantic like a song, and even in one review someone said they could tell I was a musician.
I think the song of my Mermaid Tarot would be a sea shanty.

4) Browsing through your Mermaid deck, there's a noticeable Waite-Smith (WS) vibe there, specially in the minors. At the same time, the court cards and the majors often deviate from that WS matrix. What made you choose the WS tarot as a backbone for your own deck, and why did you choose to present different images for the Majors (for the most part) and the courts?

The first time I saw a tarot deck was my mom’s classic Ryder Waite from 1971.
I’ll never forget one night Mom’s friend was visiting us in Idaho from LA, and they were in the back room sitting by the fire. My mom’s long light auburn hair hung like a curtain with the fire glowing through it as she placed the cards in front of her friend to tell her a story of her life.
I thought it was very entrancing. When I was a teen witch my Mom bought me my own deck in Highschool, but I lost it sadly.
Then my friend Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland bought me another Rider Waite deck about ten years ago which I still use now.
I loved the atmosphere of the illustrations and have tried to emulate and recreate this kind of drawing style influenced by the Ryder Waite deck as well as illustrations from turn of the century fairytale books in my comics.

5) Comics are a form of visual narrative and the same could be said about the tarot. Both have their own distinct approach, and yet, there are several similarities between them. Having worked with both, how did your comics work and your tarot work influenced each other? And how do you think comics can help with tarot reading skills?

I was raised catholic and I always loved how the catholic church has stained glass windows that tell a visual sequencial narrative like comics.
When I decided to do a tarot deck I was very inspired by the fact it is also another form of sequencial art. And I couldn’t wait to do a nautical themed one with mermaids as the key characters.
The next tarot deck I want to produce will be based on the characters from my comic book Meat Cake.

 

 

You can contact Dame Darcy through her site, here. The Meatcake Bible can be bought over at amazon, at Fantagraphics or through Dame Darcy's online shop. Her tarot deck, now on its third edition, can be bought directly from her also from her shop. As for the Handbook for Hot Witches, you can get it from amazon and Dame Darcy's online shop.

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Raising Up a Fire to Call Me Back Home the

According to the Mayan Calendar, yesterday, the 31st of July, 2017 was the Day of 10 Owls, also known as 10 Ak’Bal. Since this might not say much to most of you, here’s a little explanation: for the Mayans, the Divine Calendar  — also known as the Tzolk'in— was composed of 13 rounds of 20 days each, for a total of 260 days; each day was determined by the particular combination of two inter-locking cycles, one consisting of numbers which runs 13 days, the other cycle consisted of images and lasted 20 days. Now, much like our tarot cards, each number and image was assigned a particular set of meanings. By decoding both, the Mayans would get the information necessary to make the best out of the day.

As yesterday was 10 Ak’bal, that particular day was about Personifying A Private World. Meaning it was about embodying our private world. Now, I’ve been doing some daily readings with the Thoth deck while taking the Tzolk'in into consideration (which you can follow here or here. The cards that came out yesterday were the Princess of Disks and the 7 of Cups and what they had to say was,

'Today's about personifying a private world. Look after yourself; it's about time you cleaned everything that's messing with you.'

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Of course there’s a lot more that could be said about these two cards. In the 7 of Cups we can see all the slime that is dripping from the walls and the cups filling and infecting everything. In a way, it almost looks like things have gone stale and can’t be endured anymore. Which make the need to act all the more pressing.

But the interesting part is what came next. About 30 minutes later, I got a call from my landlord urging me to go quickly to the check my room where I perform my readings as there was some kind of fire in the bar located on the ground floor of my building. Apparently, black smoke had been coming out of the bar for hours and it was be necessary to open doors for the firemen and to check if everything was in order. Nothing came out of it, but that didn’t stop the local news media to hover around trying to get every little dirty detail out of it.

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Truth and dare

Still, it forced me to look once again at the place that I rented more than three years ago with the purpose of establishing a practice in my home city. While this never really took off — specially with me being away for all of  the last year in East Timor — I’ve always resisted the urge to pass it, since I felt such a positive vibe in the place and it was so superbly located I grew attached to it. So it remained… not really abandoned and not really being used.

This also came to mind as I’ve been following Camelia Elias's latest series of tarot prompts, this one about the house. [You might notice how Camelia is a favorite here at Maelstromtarot. She is. In a way, she’s also the precursor of this whole journey as we all met at a Camelia Elias event]. As I was waiting for all the commotion to end and finally re-enter my room, I sat at the coffee reading her prompts and thinking about what to do with the space.

Guided by her first prompt, my first action was to determine where did the local spirit of my room resided in order to thank him for calling me into action. To this I decided to engage one of my all-time favorite decks and also one I haven’t used in years, the Tarot of the Siddhe by the talented Emily Carding.

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The answer was simple: ‘I stand in a place of gatherings. I am by the door, hovering. Protecting it and kindling the fire.’

The implications were clear: the spirit of the place could be found at that bar that caught fire. It did make some sense, as both the bar and my reading room are in the same building. Also according to the cards, the fire was his own doing, marking all of this as a definite call for action.

Should I stay or should I go?

Sometimes, the best questions come from popular culture. The Clash’s song perfectly echoed what I was thinking about: was it worth it to cling to a good vibe and a promise of what was to be? or was it better to just cut my losses and all attachments to the place and be on my way?

Truth be told, I was leaning more to the second answer. After all, the place was in limbo for about 18 months now, and with a new relocation just looming over the horizon, it would most probably remain there for at least another year. Letting it go seemed like the logical thing to do. The spirits, however, had other ideas:

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Things were bleak right now and reaching for that sunny spot there seemed almost like a mirage. Such was the situation, which was accurately portrayed in the Dancer Eight. I also couldn't help noticing the parallel with the 7 of Cups card I drew earlier for the daily remind. Talk about stagnation. And yet… even so I was invited to go beyond all of this and remain at that spot. 'This is a power spot', the cards say. 'Here you will end up channeling the power to move you straight to the sky. Besides, what's the alternative? Trying to figure out how to wrestle with dragons? Well, good luck with that! You will end up bargaining for what is here freely given.' 

'Fair enough', I said. When magic calls, one should answer. No ifs. No buts. Just saying yes will suffice.

I do!

Only one thing to do then: clean the whole place clean and put the show on the road. Offerings of thanks were made to both the local spirits and the ones that were guarding the place. Incenses were lighten and prayers were done. And in the end, a final question, 'How can I honor this place and the ones that inhabit it?'

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'Reside in harmony with this place; do not let go of this connection.'

Good, powerful magic is always simple. Even when it looks complex. If I want something out of it, I must give something of myself. The more present I am here, the more I use it for the gift of sight, the better it will be for the both of us. Talk about stating the obvious! Didn't it called me into coming back? What else should I be expecting?

As I lit the final candle and turned off the lights, a final message appeared. What was also a candle became something more; something greater. And the most appropriate seal imaginable.

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The Following Day, 11 K'an

For the Mayans, the day would always start at sunrise and would go on until the following sunrise. So even though I'm finishing this post at about 3:30 am of the 2nd of August, the corresponding Mayan day is still 11 K'an, which is about Owning a Public World. The cards that came out for this day were The Fool and the Ace of Swords and they spoke about going that extra mile to break through all those boundaries that wouldn't let us move forward. In a way, it does seem about right that tonight's the night when I post this.

🌞

 

 

 

Panda Talk

About two weeks ago I got to go to Madrid to see live pandas. I’ve been wanting to see a panda for a few years now. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in Europe where one can go to see a panda. According to the Wikipedia, only five European Zoos have a panda exhibition and Madrid was one of them. Being the closest one – the visit was supposed to happen during a weekend – Madrid was the logical choice.

This all started a few years ago, when I started to feel a close kinship with bears. Not just pandas, mind you, but any type of bear. But little by little, pandas began gaining my heart until they finally became it. My special animal. In a way, they became my spirit animal and not a day goes by where I won’t do anything to honor them.

The journey to Madrid was uneventful. I had pulled an all-nighter, since I was leaving of the 6:25 am flight to Madrid, but that didn’t matter one bit. Inside, I was glowing and trembling with excitement as the chance to see a live panda became nearer and nearer.

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On the way to Madrid. Me looking out the plane with my Panda

The trip to the Zoo happened the very afternoon of the day that we arrived. I went with some friends of mine and with a newly met couple. It seemed that everything sparkled that day. As I started to see the signboards with the pandas, my heart beat stronger and stronger. With every step I was coming closer to fulfilling this dream of mine and, at the same time, becoming more anxious. More nervous. Until I was finally at the panda site and for a moment, the whole world disappeared and only me and the pandas remained.

There were three pandas in two cages. In the cage at the right, a male panda was sleeping; at the left, a cub and its mother kept passing around the cage. We were separated by a glass, since on the day we went there, they weren’t allowed to roam outside their cage. But that didn’t matter. Or better, it did matter, as I felt uncomfortable to see them confined to a closed space. The cub seemed oblivious to it all, playing around on its own. The she-panda felt uncomfortable too, always walking around left to right, right to left. Every once in a while, the mother would go to the cub and lick it or play with it. This would last a few moments, before the mother would become restless again and would start pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Now, being a tarot reader is all about being able to see the moment when it pops up. To recognize it either in a string of cards or when something pops up in real life. Not just the bad moments or the ones where we feel lost and confused, but also the good moments. The ones that bring us joy and contentment. If there was a moment that qualified , this certainly was it. So I picked up my cards and asked them “what did they have to say to me?”

A three card string was quickly pulled, presenting me with The Sun, The Hermit, The Lovers.

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“You came to us, bringing joy and warmth”, they seemed to say. “We were waiting for you and here you are, bringing your love and radiance to us. Bringing your warmth to us who are so far away from home with only a few leaves to nourish us.”

A message of thanks then. As if the privilege of this meeting was theirs and not mine. But in a way, when we meet someone special isn’t this what happens? Both parties are happy that the moment happened. True, here we aren’t talking about two people. Even so, this was a meeting between the spirit of an animal that held a special place in my heart and myself. A communion of sorts between kindred spirits.

And, as with all good magic, the moment passes and I’m standing in front of a glass watching pandas. The spell had faded on its own, as it should and I was left to wander through the remaining of the Zoo visiting other animals and enjoying my time in Madrid.

As I am writing this, I can’t stop looking at the Hermit card and how it stands out from the reading. true, it’s the only gray card in a colorful spread and yet, it invites me to stop and think about it for a moment. About how things can be accomplished by pausing and taking small steps, making sure with each step of where do I put my foot. The grayness of the background and the lack of any vegetation speak of a solitude so great, but somehow not unbearable. Looking back at my pandas, I’m reminded of how they would spend hours alone in the forests looking for food. You see pandas are slow animals. They eat mainly bambu leaves, which doesn’t give them too much energy, and as such, they tend to keep to themselves and avoid any unnecessary use of energy.

Keeping this in mind, the card of the Hermit seems to say something more. it seems to tell me that my path is slow and that I should understand the value of slowness. The kid in the Sun card can come charging carrying his dreams and celebrating the light above him. But this is not the whole of the story. Whatever dreams I might have, I still need to stop and watch where I’m going. To take time. It’s as if Father Time is my ally and that if I want to achieve my goals, I better start walking instead of running. In a way, this is what happened here. I waited until an occasion presented itself to meet my pandas. The magic of the moment came not because I met them, but because I took the time to nurture our relationship and to slowly build it. Until that moment where I finally got to be face-to-face with them. When Heaven and Earth met, and each was looking to each. The cub to the mother to myself. Me to both of them.

Discovering the Magical World of Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

It’s not everyday that a deck grabs you by the balls and leaves you speechless. It’s even rarer when the same artist manages to do it again and again with every deck she puts out. And yet, this is exactly what happens to me every time I get my hands on one of Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s work. With the forthcoming release of the third edition of the Tarot of the Crone and the reprint of the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, this is exactly the time to spread the word about this wonderful artist.

My first exposition to Ellen’s work came with the Tarot of the Crone. Unlike most decks out there, this one fulfilled all my personal needs. The lines were simple and clear. The colors added to the feel of the card, without overwhelming it. The human figures had expression and body movement. In fact, you could actually feel that these scenes were happening right there in front of you. Even better, the figures were facing us, the readers, inviting us to take our place among them and participate in what they were doing or, perhaps, confronting us with issues unresolved. But the most important thing of all, the one that actually cuts the deal for me is “do these pictures tell a story?” And well… they do! They spoke of ancient mysteries, of our connection to nature and the part women played in that process. They reminded us of what we once held sacred. How the elements of earth, fire, water and air had their role to play in our lives. And how, somewhere along the line, we had severed that connection to revere gods of electrons and statistics.

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The Tarot of the Crone, by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. 2nd edition.

The tarot of the Crone because an instant hit with me. For months, I would use it for every reading I would make, its voice whispering “Break down the mold. Go back to the basics and see where the important stuff lies.” Having started my tarot path as a full-pledged Thothite, this deck delivered the first major clue that the esoteric system with its elegant, complex and clockwork mechanics might not be as formidable as it seemed. Instead, I was asked to look below to the earth and to discover the magic in the little things that Nature continuously throws at us. And for that, I was eternally thankful. Click here for a glimpse of the kind of insights that I would get from the Tarot of the Crone.

A few months later, her second deck, the Dark Goddess Tarot, arrived. The deck presented images of 78 entities – as they aren’t all goddesses  – drawn from various mythologies and legends from around the world. I remembered being excited with this deck because one of the entities portrayed was that of Tlazolteotl, one of the goddesses that had a big impact on my life at that time. The inclusion of Tlazolteotl in the deck made me wonder who else might be in it. And while some of the more popular goddesses have found their way there – like, for example, Shekmet, Isis, Hecate (as Phosphorus), Aphrodite, Kali or Santa Muerte – a number of other interesting, even if less known, entities are there.

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Cards from the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

In all, these 78 cards bring us tales of love, vengeance, loss, pain and fury. If the Tarot of the Crone spoke about our connection about Nature and how far we’ve deviated from it, the Tarot of the Dark Goddess offers us a way back. By following these entities, learning their stories, hearing their advice and acting upon it, we can trace our way back to that communion with the natural world that was pictured in the Tarot of the Crone.

Coincidently or not, the first card of the deck, the Fool is attributed to Sheela Na Gig, figurative carvings of naked women with an exaggerated vagina, that are found throughout Great Britain and Ireland in churches, castles and other buildings. According to the LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies the deck, this card asks us to “Dare to come back to where you began”. For the last card of the deck, the Hag of Earth, Ellen gave us a painting of She Who Watches, a woman turned into stone by a trickster spirit so that she could fulfill her desire to be and stand by her people forever. Referring again to the LWB, the message Ellen gave to this card is “Remember history or more will be lost”. In-between, there’s 76 cards to leads us to this process of journeying back, once we decided to pass the Fool’s invitation.

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The Fool and the Hag of Earth, from the Dark Goddess Tarot. 

With her next deck, we journey to Ancient Creete, home of the Minoan civilization. 78 cards, painted in the style of minoan images, while still maintaining that characteristic Ellen line, propose to show us aspects of the day-to-day lives of people that are in communion with Nature, the Goddesses and themselves. In a sense, this is the next stage of Ellen’s story. After the shamanic visions of the Tarot of the Crone and the journey back home with the assistance of the  various goddesses and mythical figures that populate the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, we suddenly arrive to where we’re supposed to be. And it’s a place filled with light, where everything feels in harmony with everything else. Looking at the images, one can’t stop to wonder why did we ended up diverging from this.

 

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Cards from the Minoan Tarot. Art and conception by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

More or less at the same time, The Kali Tarot Prayer Cards were released. This deck, a set of 22 cards fashioned after the Major Arcana of the Tarot, gives us a glimpse of the work Ellen did with one of the Dark Goddesses present in the her second deck and how these entities can help us navigate to the places suggested by both the Tarot of the Crone and the Minoan Tarot. While this deck can also be used in readings – and to devastating results – it is a  a meditation tool that the deck shows all that its capable of. In every card there’s a painting corresponding to an aspect of Kali. An aspect that somehow can be framed as one of the Major Arcana of the tarot. All the pictures are presented as they are. With no names or numbers to indicate to each the Major Arcana they belong. In what feels like a conscious choice, we are asked to consider the images as they are. To truly read them as images, not as an assortment of keywords or any other tarot luggage that might get in the way. Behind each card, along with the indication of the Major Arcana, there’s a prayer to the goddess. A message, if you will of how we can connect to that goddess or how that particular aspect can help us with our issues.

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Cards from the Kali Tarot Prayer Cards. Art and conception by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

In all, Ellen’s work with the Tarot is unique and deserves your attention. So give yourself a treat and treat yourself to one of her decks. You will not be disappointed.

 

Finding Cards in the Wild

Pretty much every card reader I know finds cards on the ground. Now, this could be a “chicken and egg” sort of thing: which comes first – the reader looking for cards or the cards finding the reader? Personally, I don’t ever actively “look” for cards. But, at the same time, I always pick them up when I see them on the ground. Does this happen to other, non-cartomantic people? Perhaps. But no one else in their right mind would pick up a card off the ground. That’s why people like us exist.

I like the phenomenon of finding cards “in the wild”, so to speak, because it reminds me of a larger concept—that of paying attention. Miguel and I (and both of my tarot mentors) always advocate for simply LOOKING at the cards as the main foundation for reading them. Enrique used to always say to me, “What do you see?” and then if I got too caught up in a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, he’d say “Shelley, just LOOK at the card, don’t read it.”

The photo above is a series of four cards that crossed my path, in the sequence in which I found them. The Five of Cups came one day all on its own, then the 2 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades and – UNO card! – came one after the other on one particular walk.

Can we read anything? Can we apply meaning to things that apparently have no inherent meaning?

Reading cards is like this. We are presented in a completely spontaneous—but conscious and aware—manner with images on paper. We are then charged with telling the story they convey. Although there are certain baseline “meanings” that come from long lines of cartomantic tradition, as far as I know, no one reads UNO cards. And yet, it begs the question: why not?

Exercises like this are useful because they free up our mental space to stretch and expand, allowing us to PLAY with cards and LOOK at them.

We can read this line as a time-sequence of events. Five of Cups to Two of Diamonds to Ten of Spades to UNO – what shall we call it? – going both ways? Reversing course? Twisted in two different directions? You can see how symbolism depends on the interpretation you give to it, based on the context around the question and the surrounding cards.

Here, no question was asked, other than my simple presence on the face of the Earth and being in my environment. Can we remain open to receive messages even when we don’t ask for them?

While developing a tarot teaching course, I created a related exercise. I’ll reprint it here, so you can try it if you want. Let us know how it goes by writing a comment after you complete it.

And by all means, share your interpretations of my cards in the wild! No wrong answers.

When I wrote the following exercise, I hadn’t seen a playing card on the ground for a long time, probably a year or more. What do you think happened after?

Give it a try.

The art of paying attention: can you make something appear?
Some card readers love to find playing cards on the ground. Do they find the cards because they’re actively looking for them, or do the cards find them? Are there cards everywhere that people just don’t notice? Do you create the event by “willing” it to happen? Over the next week—seven days from the time you’re now reading this and bringing the idea into your conscious awareness—are there cards that might cross your path?
Journal exercise:
After seven days, note in your journal whether or not you found any playing cards cross your path this week. If not, do you think it was because you weren’t actively looking or searching them out, or because you simply weren’t paying enough attention? If yes, do you think it’s because you were specifically looking for them, or because you were paying more attention to details in your surroundings in general? Or even because you simply forgot about the exercise and weren’t attached to the outcome? Can we “will” an event to happen, like noticing a playing card, just by bringing it to our conscious minds and focusing on it? Or is it just the opposite: bringing something to our conscious awareness and then letting go of it? How much of our noticing things is random, and how much is intentional?