Wednesday, August 29, 2012

rota fortuna

How fitting that this common symbol of life's ups and downs, which was universally visible during Europe's middle ages, in manuscripts and carved into the stone walls of churches, should appear among the tarot trumps.

For many years I've conceptualized it as the circuit of an individual lifetime, as opposed to the other great wheel among the trumps, XXI-the World, which is the cycle of all lifetimes.

The wheel of fortune (today we call it "luck") has two components: karma, and the chance occurrence of random events.

Karma is sort of like destiny, but not exactly. For each of us, accumulated karmic results are effects -- the results of choices we've previously made. And of course, the very nature and the specific array of those earlier choices were themselves partly determined by karmic effects which accumulated in our lives up to that time. Thus the specific circumstances of our lives are at least in part an expression of who we are.

It's the meshing of karma with random and chance occurrences that produces the pattern familiar to everyone over the age of ten, and expressed in the old American hymn: Sometimes I'm up; sometimes I'm down.

The card in the lllustration, from the very early Visconti-Sforza deck (Milan, about 1460) conforms to the standard medieval presentation. The substitution of beasts for humans in the Tarot de Marseilles was an unfortunate variation, leading to the degenerated echo of of the original image visible in the confused occultism of most modern decks.

The medieval Wheel of Fortune portrays the karmic component of the cycle, but doesn't account for the undeniable and often crucial element of chance. My own card emphasizes chance, but at the expense of the karmic component. It would require a gifted artist-philosopher indeed to produce an image which comprehensively embraces the elements of this simultaneously simple and very complex concept.

Photo and design of X-Wheel of Fortune ©2012 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer. Click on images for a larger view.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

nine-card spread

The nine-card spread, which I have heard (but not confirmed) is known among the Rom as "the magic square," helps a reader achieve easy and logical interpretation.

It's like this: the bottom rank (horizontal line) is behind; the middle is happening now, the top lies ahead. The files (or vertical columns) are indicators of character: the left vertical is the moon, or the feminine, and the right column is the sun-masculine. The center represents the resulting combination of the two, in a whole human being, with built-in contradictions and conflicts.

This is an especially productive spread to use in a joint reading for a heterosexual couple, with each person represented by a vertical column, and the relationship between them developing through time, as revealed by the relationships in the horizontal ranks.

Studying relationships among the cards present in the two three-card diagonals can yield information as well.

Photo and images on cards ©2010, 2012 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer. Click on the photo for a larger view.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

guarlo and noquiklos, part 1

Not far from here there's a lake whose name has been lost in the slipping-away of time, but today is called Anderson Lake, and not so long ago a monster of the type we call a dragon lived on a rock in that lake. The people who fished and hunted and grew potatoes hereabouts called the solitary beast (for he had no mate) Noquiklos.

And even though, as I said, these things I'm going to tell you were not long ago, the world was much different then than the degraded and dissolute world we inhabit today. The surfaces of the streams were alive with salmon, who constantly dream of the open sea, and so unite the fresh waters with those of the great whulge.

The people hereabouts, being afraid of the beast, as is shown in the name they gave him, which means "demon," stayed far away, but even at a distance they could see the sunlight glinting off his golden scales as he sunned himself on his rock, which was called Tomanawos, and at night they could see the supernatural purple glow of his eyes shining through the forest darkness.

Then a young Chimakum warrior named Guarlo decided to put his fear aside and visit Noquiklos on his rock. He wanted to learn the secret of the animal's power, which had all humans living in fear of him.

Like all other Chimakum children, Guarlo's mother had warned him not to go near "the rock in the lake, or Noquiklos will eat you." But he wrapped his fear up in an otter skin, and stowed it in the  rearmost nook of his canoe, and so paddled out to the rock Tomanawos. But the dragon was nowhere to be seen.

Guarlo beached his canoe in a perfect stillness; not even a breeze was stirring. He walked toward the stone cliff on the rock's landward side, and found a narrow cave opening about as tall as himself. Inside he saw the purple glow of the dragon's eye, and launched an arrow at it, but the beast easily dodged it, and a second shaft bounced harmlessly off the dragon's scales.

Guarlo realized his puny human-being weapons were useless against Noquiklos, and he gave up the fight. With resigned dignity, he backed away from the cave mouth, lay down on the flatness of the rock called Tomanawos, and composed himself to fearlessly meet his death.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

gujarati mama

Way up north, way up in Gujarat,
Where the nights are steamy and the days are hot,
And where the pretty women at,
I met a devotchka with a vonny plott.

But the only problem was she spoke only Gujarati,
And when your Gujarati's spotty makes it kind of hard to party
Yeah. The only problem was she spoke only Gujarati,
And if your Gujarati's missing you won't get any.

I was lying low for awhile in Ahmedabad
With a bum leg and a bad case of I-don't-cares.
Then she came and looked into my eyes,
Blew out all four tires and both spares.

But the only problem was she spoke only Gujarati...


Monday, August 20, 2012

the lady pope

A couple of historical figures have been suggested as models for the Lady Pope. Except the famous "Pope Joan" wasn't really historical, and Guglielma of Bohemia, a legendary Visconti relative of the late 13th century, are both discussed by Rachel Pollack on page 29 of her "Complete Illustrated Guide."

Also, the Lady Pope in modern times has morphed into a high priestess, but I wonder, was she a high priestess before she was a pope? The archetype of the wise, powerful, mysterious woman is embedded deep in our past and our minds.

The priestess image is older than tarot, or dirt, for that matter. Consider this from Robert Graves, the poet, historian and cultural anthropologist: "The whole of neolithic Europe, to judge from surviving artifacts and myths, had a remarkably homogeneous system of religous ideas, based on worship of the many-titled mother goddess, who was also known in Syria and Libya.

"Ancient Europe had no gods. The great goddess was regarded as immortal, changeless, and omnipotent; and the concept of fatherhood had not been introduced into religious thought. She took lovers, but for pleasure, not to provide her children with a father. Men feared, adored, and obeyed the matriarch.

"Not only the moon, but (to judge from Hemera of Greece and Grainne of Ireland) the sun, were the goddess's celestial symbols. In earlier Greek myth, however, the sun yields precedence to the moon -- which inspires the greater superstitious fear, does not grow dimmer as the year wanes, and is credited with the power to grant or deny water to the fields." (note: Farmers in many parts of the world still plant according to the phases of the moon.)

"The tribal Nymph, it seems, chose an annual lover from her entourage of young men, a king to be sacrificed when the year ended; making him a symbol of fertility, rather than the object of her erotic pleasure. His sprinkled blood served to fructify trees, crops, and flocks, and his flesh was torn and eaten raw by the Queen's fellow-nymphs -- priestesses wearing the masks of bitches, mares, or sows."

This old gal's got a lot of high-powered, juicy juju, and she'll change your life if she's in it. She knows what's in our minds, even though she's not always aware of her own power; she's your fondest dream or sometimes your worst nightmare; she's intuition; she's the moon in all its phases.

Tarot card, The Female Pope, ©2001, 2012 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

living with parkinson's

People often say of this illness that "Some days are better and some are worse," and I've found this not only true, but that good days and bad days follow each other like daylight and darkness.

 Yesterday was a very nasty piece of work, I can tell you. Today I've been up for an hour during which I might easily pretend there's nothing wrong with me.

 This gives me something to look forward to -- an easy and fun time for the next 12 hours or so. So I've got a lot on my plate today. The main task today is to clean up the fence line and dig up the potatoes, of which there are a multitude, and I surely won't be able to do it tomorrow.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

sutra on breath awareness

The method of being fully aware of breathing, if developed and practiced continuously, will have great rewards and bring advantages. What is the way to develop and practice continuously the method of Full Awareness of breathing so that the practice will be rewarding and offer great benefit?

Breathing in I know I am breathing in, Breathing out I know I am breathing out

Breathing in a long breath I know I am breathing a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath, Breathing out a short breath know I am breathing out a short breath.

Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.

Breathing in, I experience joy. Breathing out, I experience joy.

Breathing in, I experience happiness. Breathing out, I experience happiness.

Breathing in, I am aware of the feeling [that is present now]. Breathing out, I am aware of the feeling [that is present now].

Breathing in, I calm the feeling [that is present now]. Breathing out, I calm the feeling [that is present now].

Breathing in, I am aware of the activity of the mind [that is present now]. Breathing out, I am aware of the activity of the mind [that is present now].

Breathing in, my mind experiences happiness. Breathing out, my mind experiences happiness.

Breathing in, I concentrate fully on the mind's activity. Breathing out, I concentrate fully on the mind's activity.

Breathing in, I liberate the activity of my mind. Breathing out, I liberate the activity of my mind.

Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of everthing. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of everything.

That is the practice of conscious breathing, whose function is to calm the body and mind, to bring about right mindfulness, looking deeply, with clear and single-minded perception, so that the practitioner is in a position to pass through all the doors that lead to liberation.

--The Buddha
Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

midweek gambit

I got this graveyard woman, you know, she keeps my kids,
But my soulful mama, you know, she keeps me hid...

--B. Dylan, "From a Buick 6"

Seven spades appeared in another reading recently, in someone else's cards. It's a warning that challenges lie ahead, in the area of health, or work, or both. Since the left-hand card indicates trends which are likely to be receding into the past, I'll say it's referencing my recent respiratory problems, now much improved.

Dominating the center of this abbreviated spread is the enormous presence of the Lady Pope. How like her!

Thirteen says of this card that she "is about keeping things hidden behind the curtain." I see this as key to the female Pope, just as she herself stays concealed, enclosed by all the phases of the moon. Thirteen also says she urges us "to silently reflect on (our) feelings."

OK, I'll try.

Last and certainly not least comes the potent image of the Magician, or conjuror -- the guy who can make something out of nothing and pull rabbits out of hats, if necessary. The important thing to keep in mind about him is, he may be a real magic man, or he might be a con artist, like a lot of the guys who have booths at a fair. He may even have attributes of both.

He's doing okay. He's working for a living, hence a trickster, like Don Draper.

How can you tell whether he's sincere? Well, since the Magician in my deck is also a self-portrait, you can believe me when I tell you that I would never steer you wrong. You have my absolute assurances on that.

Because this tarot deck has 74 rather than 78 cards, the probability that any single card drawn will be a trump or the Fool card is 22/74, or about 30 percent. The probability that two  cards in a three-card reading will be trumps, as is the case above, is thus 22/74 x 22/74 or .297 x .297 -- it will occur eight percent of the time. 

The likelihood of drawing three trumps to a three-card spread is faint, but it happens an average of approximately 26 times in every thousand.

Click on the image for a larger view. Photo and images on cards ©2012 by Dave B, a.k.a. Catboxer.

Monday, August 06, 2012

balm & frog under birdbath

This lovely lemon balm shrub is growing beneath a birdbath which sits on an iron tripod next to m'lady's backyard deck. A tiny frog lives in the balm bush, and sometimes comes out to take the sun on the rim of the basin or the plank nearest.

Frogs are symbolically potent, and play richly in literature, myth, and dreams. Above all the frog symbolizes transformation, because of the animal's life-cycle metamorphosis from aquatic tadpole to an air-breathing terrestrial creature.

The frog can also serve as an emblem of creativity, fertility, and intuition. He reminds us to exercise patience in the time of transformation.

Basin and balm bush photo ©2012 by Miss Moneypenny.


Saturday, August 04, 2012


We keep getting repetition in our readings, and I don't see how it could be a random coincidence. S. shuffles the cards thoroughly before each reading (7 times) then divides the deck twice, making three piles.

Then she holds her outstretched palm over each of the three stacks in succession, searching out the one that seems to be generating warmth. Then I check the three piles the same way, and so far I've always sensed heat rising from the same group of cards she's chosen.

So what's the mathematical possibility, using this method of selection, of a querent having the same card show up in a three-card spread three out of four consecutive months? My deck has 74 cards (I dispensed with the usual four-courts tarot configuration in favor of 13-card suits with king-queen-jack). Any statistics whizzes out there who might help with this?

Starting with the bottom line (earth, and S.'s cards) we see the nine diamonds on the left. This is a straightforward money/material card, signaling the ending of a way of making money. She had the same card in May (in the center) and June (on the right). Since she retired from a decades-long job at the end of May, this is appropriate, if a little disconcerting. She's still dreaming of being stuck in the old job site, however, hence  nine diamonds is still, against the odds, popping up in her spread.

In the center of the same line, seven spades indicates serious challenges in the areas of work or health. Recently, m'lady took a serious fall, and now has sciatica on the right side, that extremely painful impingement of the large sciatic nerve running down the outside of the right leg. I see an orthopedic doctor in her near future.

Her monthly spread ends with the ace of diamonds -- "Pennies from Heaven" -- and a new way of making income, or the desire for such new horizons. I can see this happeing, post-sciatica.

Turning to my cards, the upper (sky) line, we start with the eight clubs, a sign of intense mental focus, and one of the three "fixed" cards among the suits. Fixed cards tend to have an extremely strong, emphatic, and somewhat rigid nature.

The Fool is back in the middle. I drew this symbol of the homeless wanderer to my spread in November and December of 2010, again in March of 2011, and now he's returned to his accustomed spot in my spread a year and a half later. I wasn't actually homeless during any of those months, but I felt that way, and now I feel that way again, as I prepare to move back across the water once more.

Finally, the eight spades is a payoff card, and shows regular and      consistent habits relating to health and work coming to fruition.  Since I'm a yoga practitioner and teacher, this is a very hopeful sign. I recently resumed teaching after a long layoff, and the class went well enough for me to feel optimistic about reinforcing my training and continuing to move in this direction.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Photo and images on cards ©2012 by catboxer, a.k.a. Dave B