Thursday, January 31, 2013

living in the tarot

It's the queen of spades, of course, but I call this card "Hortensia" because it's a portrait of the woman who was my classroom aide for a number of years.

 Hortensia suffered a terrible loss about the year 2000, when her oldest daughter, a married woman with chldren, died in a late-night car crash on a rural road.

 Sorrow became a permanent part of the mother's personality, but she wore it well. She accepted the loss, and accepted she would never get over it. It was a beautiful thing to see, but I didn't understand how or why that could be until now.

 If we contrast Hortensia's graceful mater dolorosa with the rule of forced optimism in our own culture, our cultural conditioning is found lacking. She was born in the USA, but Hortensia is Latina through and through and through, Tejana to be precise, and of that older, deeper, and in many respects wiser culture.

 My own circumstances don't involve the kind of trauma my friend and associate went through, but they do cause some to despair. I'm reaching the time of life old Siddhartha was always bluntly talking about, the part where we all die. I've got a couple chronic illnesses that aren't going to go away, plus the usual blues that comes to old men, and goes

I used to be a lover, baby in my younger days... Ooh-hooooooooooooooooooooo, in my younger days,
 Now I'm old and feeble, but I still got my lovin ways.

(--Texas Alexander with Cannon's Jug Stompers, "Rooster Crowin Blues) 

I've got no reason to feel optimistic. On the other hand, it's never a good idea to despair. Life sucks, but even when it does it's almost always better than not-life, and plus this world might be the only one where the sunshine is.

 When it comes to tarot cards, I'm definitely in the exoteric camp, admiring the work of real scholars like Stuart Kaplan and Michael Dummett, who is a skeptic besides. Dummett's grasp of history is comprehensive, but I don't share his skepticism about oracles.

 I've used tarot effectively as an oracle and predictor of events, but its greatest value is as an advisor. That function of the cards certainly shines for me this month.          

Photo and tarot card ©2001, 2013 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer. Click on the picture for a larger view.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

for feburary, 2013

As promised...

See below, and mouse click on photo for a larger view.

Photo and images on cards ©2001, 2013 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer,.


strange days

Weird stuff today today. Decided to read for February, and for some reason got out my old Marseilles-style cards instead of my own.

 My Marseilles-style deck is actually a Besançon tarot, from the town of Besançon in the south of La France, which means it's not an orthodox deck. The cardmaker replaced two of the traditional images in order to keep the Church authorities off his back. The local archbishop said two trumps, the pope, and the female pope, were blasphemous abominations & c., so the printer, Renault, swapped them out for Roman gods, Jupiter and Juno.

 A while back I decided I could read with this lovely vintage deck of cards, but that either of the two "fake" tarot trumps showing up in a reading would void it. The old cards didn't feel right when I was shuffling them. They're five inches long and 2-3/4 wide (my cards are 4" x 3"), and felt eerie and unfamiliar passing through the hand. And sure enough, Juno turned up, so scratch that one.

I went back to my own cards, which have become so easy to read, and drew three cards for the month of February, a balanced reading with a pip, a face card, and a trump.

The pip, nine diamonds, is straight forward enough, signifying the end of a way of making money, but I already knew my teaching days are behind me.

The Queen of Spades, Lady Hortensia, is self-mastery. At my age and in my circumstances, what else is there?

The beautiful star is hope. It may be irrational as hell, but without it we're sunk.

A picture of the spread will follow.


Monday, January 14, 2013

an emperor for our time

I'm always looking for pictures that could serve as modern tarot cards, especially trumps. Here's "The General" by Saul Steinberg (1970), which I see as a 21st-century trump IV -- the emperor.

The general, like the emperor, is the ultimate secular authority. He speaks in a thick, nearly impenetrable bureaucratic jargon, a formula for fabricating engines of destruction. He is considerably less human than the emperor, almost robotic. It's a sign of the times.

It would be a fun project to look for tarot trump images in the great artworks of our own and earlier times, like this one.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

card back

This is the image I used for the backs of the cards in my self-designed deck of tarots. 

It was not originally intended as part of a deck of cards, but was simply something I doodled on an idle summer's afternoon in San Francisco years ago.

I drew and colored it in 1968 using pencil, a double-zero Rapidograph borrowed from my artist girlfriend, and magic markers on paper. It's 5" x 7", so it fit perfectly for use with my original tarot images, which are also five by seven.

The fronts of the cards were done between 1997 and 2001.

Click on the image to get a larger view. Photo and drawing ©2001, 2012 by Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013


Right. Well I managed to get a better image of this read (see post immediately below), but as the image has gotten clearer the meaning has gotten cloudier. These cards must be someone else's. The momentum of the spread is toward romantic love. I'm going to be 69 years old this year, so that makes no sense at all.

The second theme in this layout is learning and study, which fits better  with the true state of affairs. There's also a subtext of fiscal prudence and financial stability. I guess it's pretty much in the ballpark except the hearts. Unless I'm misreading them.

But I don't think I am, and that looks like someone else's life. But whose?

Click on the picture for a bigger view. Photo and images on cards ©2012, 2001 by Dave B a.k.a. catboxer.