Derailed

Many years ago I was in graduate school. I had aspirations to be a college professor, and was working toward that goal. I had become frustrated by my career in the restaurant industry, and wanted to do something that was a better use of my innate talents. Continue reading

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The Between Place

I’ve been thinking a lot about the status of a magic-user as one of  “between worlds.” The liminality between the everyday “normal” world and the mysterious and weird world beyond the veil is a hallmark of magic and mysticism. We inhabit that between place, right on and sometimes just over the edge.

And I think that we have certain obligation because we exist at this liminal space. As I said not long ago:

Our role is to bring back knowledge from beyond the boundaries of the “normal.” Our role is to guide people who have approached or crossed those boundaries, then bring them back or push them further. And so you have to bring back what you encounter.

And I think this pretty well describes what I have seen from most magicians, witches, mystics, etc. and how they end up expressing their spiritual reality. In some way, they take advantage of inhabiting that liminal space, and at some point, they help others cope with their own experiences there.

But I’ve been dealing a lot with magic as augmenting my identity rather than defining it. Like a doctor doesn’t continuously heal people, or a pilot isn’t always flying, I have a life that isn’t always spent exploring the realms beyond. Continue reading

Tarot and Decision-Making

Psyche raises an interesting point about the Tarot and decision-making:

The tarot, for all its elaborate imagery and esoteric symbolism, is not sentient. It’s merely another tool.

Psyche talks about decision spreads, and I have used them on many occasions. There are several fantastic spreads that can give you insight as to what may come if you choose one path or another, and I have even adapted spreads to include potential outcomes for three or four options.

But even I have fallen into the trap of asking a tarot deck “Should I take this course of action?”

The answer is never positive, and some decks (especially Crowley!) can get downright abusive if you’re foolish enough to ask a question like that.

The tarot cannot make decision for you. Decks have “personalities,” but this is because the characters of their creators and the systems they are based upon shine through. They are not sentient; they are only tools. And they are tools that show you where you are in the pattern of life, and where you might be if certain events happen. You can use that tool to evaluate where you might end up if you make one decision over another, but it cannot tell you what you should do. Petition your gods if you must, but a deck of cards will not be of help.

Ultimately you make your own decisions. Tarot can help you be more informed when you make them, but you alone must act.

Art

I’ve never liked to call myself an artist.

When I was little, I used to play with clay. The kind that you can get from Crayola, that never dries out and is in bright colors. I would use butter knives and toothpicks to sculpt rather intricate detail into my work. My mother used to bring her friends into my room to show them my elaborate Star Trek sets, which included the entire Enterprise D bridge and crew. The figures were less than an inch tall and had recognizable details, like Worf’s sash and Geordi’s visor.

I always had a lump of clay hidden in my desk in grade school, and would sculpt space shuttles, cars, and Transformers by touch during boring lectures.

In high school, I produced ceramic bowls, plates, and vessels, as well as characters and ships from video games. I once managed to construct a two foot ceramic rat and a large Vic Viper.

Mine didn’t look that cool. I never thought to make the Options, either.

I did paper-mache on wire frames. Some rather simple designs. Oh, and a three-foot tall model of Beavis and Butthead choking each other.

Uh huh huh. It was pretty cool.

I did jewelry work in high school. I made some necklaces and rings. When I was a little older, I made my (now ex) wife’s engagement ring. I even created some pieces for magical use.

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You saw this briefly in my toolbox video. Penny is for scale. That is solid sterling silver.

I’ve done some woodworking. I used to make small altars for stone a candle magic. I even sold a few of them. I once build a double-cube Qabalistic altar on commission for $100.

In grade school I played the violin. And the clarinet. And the slide trombone. I still play my ocarina, and I have a guitar, although I’ve never had the time or money to take lessons. I sing all the damn time, and very frequently filk songs or make up my own random ditties. I have sang ballads to pad thai and odes to tacos.

In middle school, I once created a dummy that I could punch and beat up to release aggression. I sewed it by hand. I’ve helped my partner make period clothes for SCA events, and have constructed my own ritual clothes.

I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’ve written horrible poetry by the truckload, some decent and clever poetry, and most science-fiction themed short stories. I wrote a 50-page novella for a creative writing class in high school. I’m getting back into the practice, and am working on a few short stories and ideas for a few books. And I suppose designing, editing, and writing for the several websites and blogs I’ve had over the years ought to count for something.

I used to do photography. Hidden somewhere are dozens if not hundreds of pictures, of people, landscapes, unusual objects, animals, insects, buildings, vehicles, and whatever else looked interesting. I actually worked as a portrait photographer for a while. And hopefully you’ve seen some of my experiments with videos. I’ve even made some video games before. (RPG Maker FTW!)

And I cook. I cook very well, and I’ve been doing it as an occupation in some form for at least 13 years. Now I am by no means a trained chef, but I cook well, and I take pride in making food that is not only tasty but is presented in a very visually appealing manner.

In high school I was in theater. I can apply my own and other people’s stage makeup. I can set lighting, design sets, and build them. And I can assume a persona and present that to the audience.

And I am a magician. Through imagery, voice, and movement, I commune with the divine. It’s like acting, but the gods are my audience.

 

But I’ve never liked to think of myself as an artist.

A little while ago, I wrote about feeling lost. My Mentor told me that I was struggling because I have the soul of an artist, but I wasn’t making art. I said this about it:

You see, I have equated “art” with “pretension” for some time. I get very annoyed with pagans, witches, and magicians who flaunt their “artist” credentials and drone on about incorporating their art with their magic in some grand project. This has even led me to not think of valid artists as “artists” if they’re not annoying and self absorbed. In my mind, people like Lupa are highly skilled craftsmen (uhhh, craftspersons?) and technicians. Anyone who perfects a technical craft is making art. One of the most beautiful examples I have seen of this was a a cook at a Pizza Hut who flicked his wrist and flipped a 12 inch pizza straight from the pan into the box. That’s art. Bloviating for 20 minutes about your “vision” isn’t.

Art is about seeing connections between things that other may not have seen before. Art is about form and function. Art is about pride and grace. Art is about quality. Art is about creating something that someone else recognizes as valuable because it has a beauty or quality uniquely its own. It is also about capturing the beauty of objects or moments in the world and expressing them in unique or thought-provoking ways. It is all these things and more.

Anything that humans put there hands to with mindfulness, creativity, and passion is art. And I must begrudgingly admit that this includes the self-serving pretentious assholes who ejaculate on trash and present it as a political thesis.

I am an artist. I am owning that fact.

Beware.

Bad News

Psyche at Spiral Nature and Donald Michael Kraig at Llywellyn have offered some advice and considerations for relating potentially bad news during tarot readings. Both advise that the information be given in a manner that is useful to the querent, which may or may not involve avoiding framing the information in direct terms. In both cases, a tarot reading that foretell death had to be given in a constructive and positive manner, so that the querent could go on in their remaining time and not worry about their impending demise. In short, both advised not to tell the querent outright “you’re going to die.”

Both bring up that comparison and distinction that is often made between divination and fortune-telling, that of whether the future is set and can simply be told as if it will happen, or whether the future is not set and the diviner only sees the most probable event. There is a difference of approach here to advising the querent: a fortune teller might say “in three months you will die in a plan crash,” as distinct from advising the querent “celebrate your life in the next three months. An upcoming opportunity to travel may bring a great transition in your life that will make your other problems seem unimportant.” Or something to that effect. The problem here is that when you are dealing with a close and high-probability event, there isn’t much difference between the two views of the future and how to handle it. And it simply depends on how the reader wants to share the information.

Psyche refers to a case from Ottoman Austin Spare:

Consider the following case, reported by Austin Osman Spare in a brief essay, “Mind to Mind and How” (reprinted by Fulgur in Two Tracts on Cartomancy):

I was telling a friend’s fortune, and could ‘see’ that he would die within a few months. Naturally, I did not tell him so, but what I did advise him was to at once put his affairs in order and that in a few months there would be a very great change in his affairs, of which not much could be said. Meantime, there was great happiness for him, though he was to guard against accident. He was happy for the few months that he lived.

This is a drastic case, and it matters little whether or not it is objectively “true” – it is instructive nonetheless; the cards don’t always describe “nice” things.

Naturally, had Spare plainly stated what “seen” it would have greatly alarmed and upset his client, and likely make him miserable for the time that remained. There are some things that tact can’t solve and where no amount of delicacy in describing what has been seen is possible.

In this case, withholding the information obviously had a lot to do with maintaining a positive outlook and experience for the querent.

Kraig offers a similar experience:

The first card was the Death card. Normally, this means positive evolutionary change. But reading the Tarot is more than memorizing a bunch of meanings and repeating them. In my experience it requires the use of intuition, attunement to the person you’re reading for, and attunement to the spiritual energies. I did not like what I was sensing.

Instead of reading the card as I normally do, I turned over the next one. And the next. And the next. They were all cards of endings, terminations, completions, sudden change. Although rare, this reading was predicting her physical death. It might be delayed, but it was coming; and it was coming soon.

This was not fate. There was no prediction of a specific method, date, or time of her demise, only that if she followed the path she was on the result was clear. The challenge before me was how to share this information in a way that would be positive and provide hope for a better future.

[…]

I smiled as benevolently as I could. I told her, “In the next few months your life is going to go through a remarkable change. Everything about your life will alter. You will no longer have to worry about your financial situation and all of your aches and pains will fade away and become unimportant. Spiritually, you will find yourself moving faster and faster on your path, more than you ever dreamed you could, and you’ll feel closer to God. You won’t have to worry about roommates, and you’ll find that you have more time than ever to relax and enjoy being with old friends, especially spiritual friends who can lead you on your path.”

I went on in this direction for several minutes. Every time I looked up from the cards at her she had that same look of hope and wanting more information in her eyes. I think my shirt was almost drenched from the sweat.

After I had finished telling her the complete truth according to the cards in a way I felt she could understand, I asked if she had any questions. “No,” she said, with a look of contentment, “that’s exactly what I thought. I just wanted to make sure. Of all the readers here I was drawn to you. I thought you’d tell me the truth and I believe you have. Thank you so much.”

The woman arose. Now standing a bit taller, she slowly walked out. I believe she had felt she was going to pass over soon, but the lack of confirming information had made her fearful. Now, believing she was moving toward a change that was going to be positive, she was able to face her remaining time on the physical plane with strength and hope for a better, more spiritual future.

Kraig believes that his querent successfully interpreted his reading as predicting her death, and that she was content with that. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know. In Spare’s case, the querent was sent off unaware of what was coming.

And here’s the real question: would it have made a difference in either case to tell them outright? Would sharing news of their death have allowed them to make changes to avoid it?

In Kraig’s case, the woman was elderly and nearing the end of her life. Death may have been inevitable, and she must have been aware that it was nearing. In such a case, Kraig’s actions seem to have been most appropriate. We’re not given the details of Spare’s case, so don’t know the cause of death. If age or some types of illness, such as cancer, it may not have been avoidable. But what if it was due to accidental causes? Could a reading indicating a death by such means warn the querent so that the event could be avoided? Now we’re back into fortune-telling ground, and the trap of predestination. And chasing around an infinite paradox of what-if’s isn’t how I like to operate.

I’ve given readings before where a querent asked about a loved one and their illness, and I’ve told them honestly “It doesn’t look very promising for them to make it. Enjoy the time you have with them and trust that things will work out for the best.” I’ve also had people ask me if they will recover from terminal illnesses, and I’ve had to advise them to get their affairs in order and hope for the best. (And some of them had better outlooks, and some of them made it.)

But that’s a different scenario than an upcoming accidental death.

My mentor once got kicked out of a local psychic fair. He was doing readings, and had a querent ask him inquire about love prospects. The following exchange took place:

Querent: “I want to know about my love life.”

Mentor: “If you don’t change your diet, start exercising, and lose weight right now, you will be dead in six months.”

Querent: *pause* “But what about my love life?”

Mentor: “If you’re dead, you won’t have a love life.”

The fair organizers quoted a policy against “doom and gloom readings” as a reason to kick my mentor out. But he had given the reading as he knew how: direct, straightforward, and giving the querent the opportunity to change the negative event he saw coming up. The querent was disappointed with his reading, but would have likely been just as disappointed with a reading advising him to “Put your affairs in order and don’t worry about love for now, for soon you will be reunited with old friends and family you haven’t seen in a while and will find spiritual peace.” And he was given a chance to avoid a premature death.

 

He didn’t take advantage of that chance, and missed out on any chance he might have had to live long enough to find success in love. He was dead in six months.

In or Through Time

Donald Michael Kraig Presents a very interesting way of viewing and interacting with time: a personal Timeline.

While it is easily possible to map out historical events over time, it is interesting to note that we each have a personal time line. Even though we don’t constantly think about it, when asked we can see our lives as a linear series of events***. Interestingly, this is not merely philosophical. There is actually a physical location to our personal concept of time. Here is a simple exercise to discover your personal time line.

Step One. Think of a happy event from five years ago. Now, going with your first thought, point to where you hold that memory. It may be to your left or right, above or below you, in front of you or behind you. There is no right or wrong here, it’s just a location. If you can’t quickly determine where that past event is located in space, try to locate another event earlier in time, perhaps your birthday party from when you were five years old. If, after a few tries, you cannot locate a past event in space, ask yourself, “If I could locate this past event in space, where would it be?” Point to it quickly. Go with your first thought.

Step Two. Now imagine something taking place in the future. Going with your first thought, point to where you think it will be. If this doesn’t come quickly and easily, try a different event you hope will occur in your future. If its spatial location still doesn’t come quickly and easily, ask yourself, “If I could locate this future event in space, where would it be?” Again, point to it quickly. Go with your first thought.

Step Three. Imagine a line going from that past point in space to the future point in space. This is your personal time line.

I’m a big fan of Pete Carroll‘s theory that time is multi-dimensional, and that what we experience as the present is actually an intersection of probable pasts and probable futures. But Kraig’s model still works even with this understanding, with one problem: I don’t see a line to the future, I see several. My awareness of the probabilistic nature of time and my rejection of determinism don’t seem to let me keep that future location/time to a single option. Some of them are “heavier” or “thicker,” which I’m assuming means more probable, and some of them are very thin and trail off.

Oh, and my line doesn’t seem to go through me, but kind of by me. And Kraig addresses that as well.

For most people, the line is straight. It may go from right to left or left to right. It may go from your front to your back or vice versa. The present may be within you. That is, you may see the past behind you, the present going through part of your body, and the future being ahead of you. This may be on a diagonal. It may go from a lower height (relative to your body) in the past to a greater height in the future. Others may discover that the entire time line is outside of them. They can see it in front of them or turn to see it behind them, running from side to side. Or perhaps it runs along either of your sides, going from back to front or front to back, but never touches you.

[…]

For some people, their time line is completely outside of their bodies. They can see the entire line—past, present, and future—to their sides, in front or behind them, above or below them, etc. At no time does this imagined time line go through their bodies. [Most often, the time line for people in this group forms a line in front of them, going from left to right.]

To be a member of the second group, the time line goes right through you with the present being within you. My personal time line goes from a past that is below the center of my back, to a present that is within me at my heart, and on to a future that extends up and ahead of me. [The most common form of time line is like this, going from back to front with the present being within the body, but unlike my time line it is level.]

My timeline goes from left to right, swinging from somewhat behind me to in front of me and to the right. I think some of this is due to the orientation of my body as I sit at my computer: in facing north, and having spent the last seven years of my life in location west of here, I would expect my line to come from my left. The movement off to the right has interesting implications as to where I may end up living in the next year (although one of the potential lines curves back to the left).

And the fact that my line(s) moves past me but not through me is also interesting, and Kraig assigns significance to this.

If you experience your time line as completely outside of you, NLP describes you as being a Through Time person. The characteristics of a Through Time person include:

  • You are very aware of the value of time.
  • You are very good at planning.
  • You are precise at meeting deadlines.
  • Once you plan something for the future, you can quickly lose interest in it.
  • You may have little connection with the present and often ask what day it is.
  • Problems from the past can bother you for a long time.
  • You’re great at remembering past events.
  • You’re great at remembering birthdays, anniversaries, moon phases, etc.
  • You’re a great researcher.
  • You probably like “oldies” music.
  • You are punctual. If you’re late, you know it and may feel guilty.
  • You may often look at a watch or clock to check the time, although you probably have an internal clock that very accurately knows the time.
  • You have little patience for people who delay you.
  • Perhaps the most important question in your life about anything is, “When?” Answers that involve the past or future are far more interesting than those that involve the present.

If you experience your time line as going through you, NLP describes you as being an In Time person. The characteristics of an In Time person tend to be the opposite of those of a Through Time person and include:

  • You are the life of a party.
  • You only look at a watch or clock if you have to.
  • You get engrossed in what you’re doing and tend to lose track of time.
  • Being late to meetings and appointments is common. You may keep an appointment book (or have a secretary do it for you).
  • You may look at your appointment book and be shocked at everything you have planned.
  • You’re not good at planning.
  • If asked what you’re doing next weekend, you either haven’t planned it or can’t remember what you’ve obligated yourself to do.
  • You tend not to plan ahead.
  • You like to keep your options open.
  • You focus on the present and “live in the now.”
  • You enjoy whatever comes your way.
  • In the future, you may regret things you did in the past, but you don’t worry about it.
  • “Get over it” and “put it behind you” are two of your favorite types of expressions.

As with any binary system, there are some minor problems with this model. I have many characteristics of the “Through Time” personality, but some of the “In Time” as well. (Might this be related to how “close” the line gets without touching? Nah, most likely law of probabilities. I have many more of the Through characteristics than the In.)

This is an interesting exercise that suggests not only that we can perceive our awareness of time, but as Kraig suggests, we can work to change it. I can see traits on both of those lists that seem useful, and others that might seem not so useful. I’d imagine that practicing some of the traits of one personality style might help temper the other’s extremes.

I’m also curious as to how this exercise might be used to influence future possibilities. Perhaps making an effort to shift the future location of the line (or strengthen one possible line over others) would have tangible results.