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.'

20431519_10155509636802999_9018863755638943363_n.jpg

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.

20429600_10155509716422999_8004161352460715733_n.jpg

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.

IMG_1312.jpg

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:

IMG_1316.jpg

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?'

IMG_1319.jpg

'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.

IMG_1329a.jpg

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.

🌞

 

 

 

Idea Delivery Through Comics and Tarot -1

It’s somewhat hard to return to a project that was quiet for a few months. To get to it again, and start to think of things that might be interesting to put up here. To again devote some time to write them up and present them to the Tarot community at large. But then, we felt the project deserved more than just join the ever-growing limbo of dead blogs that simply exist on the web, it’s creators to lazy to continue them or too lazy to take them out of the web and put them out of their misery. And so, they linger… Half-dead and half-alive, in a suspended animation state while its creators go on to do other stuff. It happened to us. We went on to do other stuff. And all of us left at the same time. But we also didn’t forget about this blog. And so, we’re back.

 

As some of you might know, I recently presented a talk at the U.K. TarotCon last September. It’s subject was one that was very dear to me: Tarot and Comics. Two of my favourite subjects. Now that that presentation is over, I thought it would be a nice idea if I wrote here about some of the things that I talked over there, and probably expand upon it. Since this is supposed to be a pretty long post, I’ve divided it in three parts, of which this is part 1. The remaining parts shall be posted in the next few days. If you happened to attend that conference, think of this as a sort of companion piece; if not, just sit back and enjoy the post.

 

When mentioning tarot and comics, most people will probably think of Promethea. The Alan Moore comic book that started with a Wonder Woman type hero but immediately evolved into an exploration of the Golden Dawn Magickal System. A sort of crash course on tarot and magick. There were 32 issues published and collected in 5 volumes, that you can find here).

Promethea #1. By Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III
Promethea #1. By Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III

What was interesting to the series, is that each issue was based either on a Sephiroth (issues #1-10) or a Major Arcana tarot card (issues #11-32). Of special interest to tarot readers is issue #12, which presents a journey through the Major Arcana tarot cards in 4 different levels. There’s the actual tarot card, created specifically for that issue, as well as a description of the tarot card, how it relates to world history events. But there’s also a word or expression written in Scrabble tiles which is always an anagram for Promethea. And there’s a little anecdote as told by Aleister Crowley divided in 22 parts, with each part attributed to each of the Major Arcana cards. Each page drawn in such a way that when you put them all side by side, you get a giant panel depicting Promethea’s journey through the Major Arcana.

First four Major Arcana cards as depicted in Promethea #12
First four Major Arcana cards as depicted in Promethea #12

But the book doesn’t end here. In issues #5 through #8 (collected in the first and second volumes of the series), you’ll get a brief exploration of the elements and then, of course, you can browse through all the remaining issues and try to figure out how each Major Arcana helped shape that particular issue. In all, it’s an interesting reading and one that might offer a new perspective to your understanding of the cards.

But comic books have more to offer than Promethea. With this in mind, this presentation started with a comic book published in 1978 called Doorway to Nightmare by DC Comics.

Doorway to Nightmare #1, published by DC Comics
Doorway to Nightmare #1, published by DC Comics

What was interesting in this comic book was the presence of a character, Madame Xanadu, who was a tarot reader. In each issue, someone would stumble into her parlour and have their cards read. According to Jack C. Harris, editor of the series, the tarot cards were such an important part of the series, “they were at the very heart of the idea from the beginning”.

The first issue of Doorway to Nightmare is also worth mentioning because of  a text that was published there about the origins of the tarot cards, which is reproduced below. Bill Kunkel, the author, traced the origins of the tarot deck to the fourteenth century and to elements present in Dante’s Divine Comedy. He then goes on to explain how the cards might have evolved and even present a way of reading the Celtic Cross. Now this text does present inaccuracies, and some even blatant, but even so, it is clear that its author tried to present the tarot in a positive light and not as a game to be played at parties for the amusement of guests. Which holds even more value, when one considers that this is a comic book, and as such meant to be read by children and teenagers. Who probably never heard of tarot and, again, probably would forget about it half an hour later after finishing the book.

 

Tarot text that appeared on the first issue of Doorway to Nightmare
Tarot text that appeared on the first issue of Doorway to Nightmare

A few years later, in 1981, a new series starring Madame Xanadu appeared, written by Steve Englehart. Once again, someone comes to Madame Xanadu in search of advice.

Madame Xanadu (1981) 01 - 07 Madame Xanadu (1981) 01 - 08 Madame Xanadu (1981) 01 - 09

It is unfortunate that the first card is wrongly attributed to the Queen of Cups, when in fact, it’s the Princess of Cups. Even so, it is an inspired reading, while it is also interesting to see how the artist, Marshal Rogers framed the sequence, using cards as actual comic book panels and easily leads us through the reading.

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, 1978 saw the release of Marvel Team-Up #76, a comic book which also relies in tarot cards as a story device and does present a Celtic Cross reading. However, it is the cover that is of interest to us, as it features the first time superheroes were depicted as Major Arcanas, with Spider-Man as The Fool, Dr. Strange and his apprentice Clea as The Magician and The High Priestess and Ms. Marvel as The Star. The villain, a sorcerer by the name of Silver Dagger, was represented as Death.

Marvel Team-Up #76
Marvel Team-Up #76

It took almost 30 years, but the first decks featuring characters from comic books were finally here. In 1995, Lo Scarabeo publishes a limited edition Majors-only deck featuring some of Marvel’s superheroes, while at DC, Rachel Pollack and artist Dave McKean put out the Vertigo Tarot, featuring such popular characters as Dream and Death, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; John Constantine from Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, among others.

Marvel Tarot Deck, published by Lo Scarabeo
Marvel Tarot Deck, published by Lo Scarabeo

Nowadays, it’s not so difficult to consider superheroes as archetypes. We have a long history of stories featuring gods and goddesses. For a long time, we used these stories to educate ourselves; to teach us the ways of the world and how to behave in it. As our religious believes changed, so did the stories we told each other. The myths of yesterday started to loose its strength and new stories appeared to substitute them. Stories about extraordinary characters. And stories about people put in extraordinary situations. In 1938, Superman appeared for the very first time. And ever since, kids and teenagers throughout the whole world have once again embraced the idea of super-human power.

Superman can be represent all that’s best in humanity. A being with the powers of god, that only wished to live as a human. A being capable of great deads, that came to our world from another planet. An immigrant, who fought and found its place on Earth whilst never deviating from its moral set of values and believes. Who got its powers from our yellow sun. (For an interesting view on Superman and all that he represents, do check this book). If we were to assign a tarot card to Superman, it would probably be Atu XIX – The Sun.

Looking at the stories behind other popular superheroes, it’s not difficult to find cards that can correspond to them.

With Spiderman, we have a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider. Instead of using his powers for good, he choose to use them for personal gain as a professional wrestler. One day, he could have stopped a burglar, but he choose not to. The same burglar who would murder his Uncle Ben just a few hours later, and teach Spiderman his most valuable lesson:

From Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring the origin and first appearance of Spiderman. Story by Stan Lee; art by Steve Ditko.
From Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring the origin and first appearance of Spiderman. Story by Stan Lee; art by Steve Ditko.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Even today, more than 50 years after his first appearance, writers milk this motto to put Spiderman in situations where he must choose between doing the right thing or doing what he wants. His tarot card? The Hanged Man.

With Green Lantern, we get the story of Hal Jordan, a pilot who is presented with a ring capable of transforming his wishes into reality. Imagination becomes Will and Will becomes Form. Or the Magician.

Green Lantern's Origin.
Green Lantern’s Origin. Published by DC Comics

The Hulk is just another variation of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. A man that harbors within itself a monster that symbolizes the primitive mind. Or The Strength.

The Incredible Hulk #1. Published by Marvel Comics
The Incredible Hulk #1. Published by Marvel Comics

With Batman, we have a man who, as a kid saw his parents murdered, his innocence destroyed. That kid vowed to punish evil wherever it might be and grew so obsessed with it that he devoted every single moment henceforth and every single resource at his disposal to acquire the means to actually fulfil his promise. Or The Devil.

The Legend Of The Batman: Who He Is And How He Came To Be. Published by DC Comics.
The Legend Of The Batman: Who He Is And How He Came To Be. Published by DC Comics.

And the list goes on… Pick a superhero. Any superhero. Look at his personal history and you can easily find a tarot card that corresponds to him.

 

But comics can give us much more than just a new take on tarot archetypes. Join us tomorrow, for part two, where we look at the Hero’s Journey, the Minor Arcana, and how can comics make us see the cards in a different manner. In the meanwhile, feel free to browse the archives.