Thursday 30 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps: 10-12

This is the 4th of 4 posts examining the connection between the first 12 tarot majors and the 12 steps of addiction recovery.  

Steps 1-3
Steps 4-6
Steps 7-9

10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. 

Of Step 10, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, 'We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime' (page 84).

And so we have the Hermit, the tarot major that typifies a life's devotion to pursuing personal (and cosmic) truths through introspection, meditation, and continuous self-reflection, resulting in constant spiritual growth.

There are two prayers in AA that, according to the Big Book, go with Step 11, but I think they fit very well with Step 10, and certainly with the Hermit:

Morning prayer-
God, inspire my thinking, decisions and intuitions today. Help me to relax and take it easy. Free me from doubt and indecision. Guide me through this day and show me my next step. God, show me what I need to do to take care of any problems. I ask all these things that I may be of maximum service to you and my fellow man. In the spirit of the Steps I pray. AMEN

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps: 7-9

This is post 3 of 4 examining how the first 12 tarot majors fit the 12 steps of addiction recovery.

Steps 1-3
Steps 4-6

 7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 

The Lovers card usually shows some type of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden scenario, which we see here, pointedly absent of the angel Gabriel, but with a split-bodied Cupid and a rather hairy looking serpent slithering between Adam's legs. Interesting... But what would Adam and Eve have to do with us 'humbly asking [God] to remove our shortcomings'? It's complicated.

In the Garden of Eden is where our 'shortcomings' emerged. It's there that we became self-aware, and thus where remorse and shame originated. Shortcomings like dishonesty, fear, pride, greed, envy, blame, harmful acts, and resentment -- all of these emerged because of self-awareness, because we learned to compare ourselves to perfection and understood that we could never, ever measure up to it. It's not our imperfections, then, that we need to 'humbly ask [God] to remove' -- it's our shame at being imperfect, and the things we do as a result of that shame.

I told you it was complicated.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps: 4-6

This is post of 2 of 4 in which I attempt to find how the first 12 tarot majors fit in with 12 step recovery. Please see post 1 here.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves. 

Bill W's Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains Step 4 here. (Scroll to page 64 to find where Step 4 begins. It covers pages 64-71, so it's a biggie.) In this step, a lot of soul searching and being honest with oneself takes place.  I think that there is a way the Empress relates to this. The Empress 'brings forth'. She 'gives birth to'. We talk about the Magician having the ability to make things manifest, but the Empress actually does it. She brings forth crops. And when we write down in black and white our resentments, fears, angers and our wrongs, we have produced something real, too. There it is.

There's another way that the Empress relates to this step, and that is the surprising degree to which Step 4 has to do with sexuality, in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Much of the resentment, fear, anger and wrongs of Step 4 is inured in what Bill W calls 'sex power' (1939 lingo). The Empress is acknowledged as representing both fecundity and sexuality. She is the queen of these aspects of self, and if anyone can help us make a 'searching and fearless' inventory of ourselves in these areas, I can't think of a tarot major that would be better equipped for it.

Monday 27 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps: 1-3


This is the first in a series of 4 posts in which I examine how (if at all) the first 12 tarot majors fit in with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (and thus all 12-step recovery programs.)

1. We admitted we were powerless over _______, that our lives had become unmanageable.  

Tarot readers usually think of the Fool as representing  positive energy and possibility, and often overlook his very harmful shadow side. The Fool can equally be impulsive, reckless, heedless, ignoring advice, indiscreet, stupid, lacking in judgement, childish, making bad decisions, and in dire peril of harming both himself and those around him at all times. The Fool can easily embody the bravado and overconfidence of the addict who thinks they've got it all under control, or that no harm can come to them, or that they don't really care whether something harms them or not, and who take no notice at all of the impact of their actions on others, helplessly watching them put themselves in danger.

At some point, the Fool may look down and realise...'Oh my god, I'm taking a step off a cliff! I'm falling off a f**ing cliff! How did I get into this position? Where can I turn? What can I do? How can ever, ever get out of this stupid perilous position I have got myself into?'

The Fool will have admitted that he is powerless over the impulses that got him where he is, and that yes, absolutely, where he stands now, his life has become unmanageable. (Is his little dog codependent, that's another question!)

Sunday 26 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps

12-Step recovery programs are very popular and the amazing thing about them is they seem to apply to and work with any addiction; it doesn't matter what. Tarot is also a system that will fit any mental or spiritual journey, no matter what. So I thought I'd take a look at how the 12 Steps fit in with tarot.

Turns out I'm not the first to look at this. I found this guy's attempt: The 12 Steps of the Tarot, which appears to have been written in 2009, but I don't think he got past step 8. I don't know if he ran out of steam or what. I am not 100% with him on some of his points, but it's worth looking at. He says it is the work of someone called Antony Oliver Smith, but I can't find anymore about that. Tori Hartman has written an e-book called '12 Step Tarot' which correlates tarot cards to the 12 steps, focusing on the minors. I haven't read it and don't have the money to buy it just out of idle curiosity, so I will just have to wonder what her thoughts are. I don't think it's what I had in mind anyway, as she uses the 12 steps as a framework for learning to read tarot, rather than fitting the 12 steps to actual tarot cards (as far as I can tell).

So first let's just take a look at the 12 Steps. They began with Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, and it's good to look at the original wording:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Many people are put off by the God talk in AA/12-step language, and I can understand why that rankles. There are many variations available online,  I found this version at which seems acceptable: 
  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe and to accept that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
  7. With humility and openness sought to eliminate our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through meditation to improve our spiritual awareness and our understanding of the AA way of life and to discover the power to carry out that way of life.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

So those are the 12 steps. Personally, I prefer the original, because I have no trouble with the word 'God' meaning anything that a person wants it to mean.

Now how do the 12 steps fit the tarot? Do the first 12 majors really fit the 12 steps? Could it be that straightforward? Let's take a look over the next few days. My goal is to cover 3 steps and cards per day. :) 

Saturday 25 October 2014

What are my blessings?

Today really is the first day of the rest of my life. The cards I've drawn to day from Sirian Starseed Tarot (Cori 2012) answer the question 'What are my blessings?' They seem to directly refer to this morning's task. It's the first day of a new thing, one of those outside agencies I wrote about earlier in the week, the very first day. It's a new start, the beginning of putting things back together again. Well, that started as soon as things were blown to bits, but you know what I mean.

The Sun (or Solar Deity) will shine his light into the dark corners, refresh the pilgrim spirit, and new perspectives will be seen.

Three major cards, a big deal.

Cori writes of each:

Solar Deity - 'When this key appears it is a hallmark of great things in the works. It is a gloriously beautiful new day.' 

Starseed - 'When this card appears in a reading, it implies that the querent is off on a new quest, unconditionally, knowing that a new experience, an unknown, is about to unfold and become manifest.' 

Hanging Man - 'Hanging man appears to be waiting to be reborn, as many of us describe it, into to a new spiritual consciousness.'

It is a lot to ask of a 1.5 hour meeting, but there is nothing to lose and much to be gained by trying. I feel hopeful. Each day has been the beginning of healing, of course. This day appears particularly auspicious. And even if these cards refer not to today but to general life (because after all, I didn't ask about today, I asked 'What are my blessings?) they are good tidings. They show me good things. Whatever the outcome of this situation, however it turns out, I still have these blessings.

Friday 24 October 2014

Clean anger

 Karma. What a loaded word. So many people think 'karma' means 'paybacks'. No, no, a thousand times no. It does not mean paybacks. I've written about this before.

What's happening to me is not because I deserve it, or because of some 'sin' from a past life, or because my 'negative energy' has 'drawn it to me', or even because of some 'lesson' I need to learn. There is no cosmic tick sheet keeping track of lessons we all need to learn, and meting them out to us in different forms depending on how much pain we have 'earned'. That is bullshit! And I don't believe for one single minute that someone's 'soul' decided to it would be good to born profoundly disabled or to die after a few hours in this world in order to 'learn' some 'lesson'. Bullshit! Bullshit!

What's happening to me is simply what is happening to me. It's not happening for a reason, it is just happening. The way I choose to deal with it, the actions that I take in response, that is my karma. That is what karma means.

The word karma means 'action'. I will show you again the actual scriptural teaching on karma from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

Thursday 23 October 2014

Yeah, we've all been there.

One more thing I have lived through

 Of course there are times in our lives when we think, 'What could there possibly be to celebrate?' It's the worst thing that's ever happened to us, or so we feel at that time, and the very idea of seeing any sort of bright side seems like a betrayal of our own suffering. And yet today we see Three of Chalices from Sirian Starseed Tarot (Cori, 2012).

Three frosted wine glasses with golden stems float above the surf on a beach. In the background, superimposed on the sky, three little girls with garlands of flowers huddle with their heads together, giggling. They look (disturbingly, in this instance) like members of a wedding party.

According to the LWB, this key (that's what Cori calls the majors) is about friendship and the celebration of unconditional love. It reminds me that from all over the world online and in my real life, too, people have been reaching out to me in concern, asking what's wrong, and extending their well wishes. All of this positive being sent to me can only be helping me to heal and find my feet. I appreciate it more than you know.

'The three opens to the celebration of what comes from sharing emotionally and spiritually with others -- without limitation.' ~ Cori, LWB

Openness is a pivotal part of what has been happening to me lately. Sharing everything without limitation is the only way that my current situation is going to be resolved, or that those of us involved can possibly heal and move forward. We have to be able to share our thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, be able to teach each what we need from the other. It's crucial.

The Indigo Angel card for the day:

'This card reminds you that life will continue long after you've gotten through this challenge and forgotten all about it. The angels ask you to concentrate on the good things in your life and see beyond whatever is going on around you.' 

There will never be a time when I will have 'forgotten all about' this. But if I can release the pain enough in this moment, I can see that there will be a time when it feels like and is a distant memory. It will feel like something that happened to someone else, a story that I was told. (That's the way all my other traumas that are now in the past feel to me, so I am sure that will be the case for this one, too.) 

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that one day this will all be in the past, just one more thing I have lived through. 

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Outside in

This is a beautiful card from Sirian Starseed Tarot (Cori 2013). It's the Hierophant, and it features a statue of Buddha floating between the forepaws of the Sphinx. All the colours of the chakras swirl around them.

"What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?" 

This is the riddle of the Sphinx. It speaks to us of stages of life...Everything we go through is a process. No matter how random and chaotic things seem, there is a process to them. I'm not saying there's a master plan because I do not believe in master plans. But there is a process. We do not have to discover it so much as surrender to it. Allow it to happen.

I'm still in shock and in turmoil. But I am beginning to see that there are things out there than can act as a bridge. Organisations, systems, and bodies that exist to help and to guide, and I can access those. It's the traditional interpretation of the Hierophant.

Now here I differ with the meanings given in Cori's LWB:

Lost my Google Plus

Well, things just get better and better. For some reason my Google Plus ID is gone. So all the people I was following and all my followers are lost. Fortunately Blogger still let me sign in and allowed me to set a new ID - very big of them considering this is my blog and all I did was try to sign in. I've used the same photo but this one is called just 'Carla' and it's not on Google Plus. 

Oh I give up. Who knows if the next time I get on here I'll even be able to get into my blog at all.

All the blogs I was following -- lost. No feed.

Complete and utter crap.

I may come back later to do today's card draw. For now I'm going to make another pot of decaf and get a pillow and blanket and get on the sofa.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Very apt

It's the Three of Orbs (3 of Swords) today from Sirian Starseed. It's also Day 3 since my trauma. I woke up this morning feeling sick and crying. Thankfully, yesterday I went to the GP and was given beta blockers and valium and that controls the anxiety enough that I can actually think rationally.

'Through the dark hour of the soul, when all appears to be dim, and the mind's eye is clouded to the vision of the higher purpose of difficult or painful experiences in life, the light of understanding is within your grasp. The card invites us to conquer the mind's focus on pain and loss, and look to the light, where we can transform our thoughts to acceptance and forward motion.' ~Patricia Cori, LWB

And some really penetrating questions:

What core beliefs or convictions have to be let go of?
How can you accept the pain of your loss and learn from it? 
What fear of separation or infidelity is causing you to suffer? 

I can't share with you the answer to those questions, but I can say that this card strikes deeply where I am at this moment. These are good questions for journaling, I think. Or just for sitting and pondering.

The Indigo Angel card for today:

Another lightning card, interesting. The LWB advises: You're extremely sensitive and can unknowingly absorb a lot of negative energy. This limits your understanding. Step away temporarily and connect with this beautiful planet. 

A walk would probably do me good at that. I may do that. But first I have to coax myself out of my bathrobe and bleary valium-induced haze (and don't think I'm not grateful for that haze right now). 

Monday 20 October 2014

Ten of Orbs (10 of Swords) from Sirian Starseed Tarot (North Atlantic Books, 2012). Very apt for right now. The swords aren't in his back, but they might as well be. They're not though. He can survive. I will, too.

Bad things are happening and I have no control over them. But there are things I can control, and I am going to focus on those.

It's a very bad time, a traumatic time.

I decided to draw an angel card and it just stabbed me even more painfully, though I hope the message is true:

Sirian Starseed Tarot (Cori 2012).
Indigo Angel Oracle (Virtue 2013).

Saturday 18 October 2014

If you check out the sidebar to the right, you'll see I've added a 'Like my Facebook page' widget. (You may have to scroll down to find it). Please if you like my blog or if you've had a reading from me that was helpful to you, would you click it? I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks so much!

Friday 17 October 2014

March up to the gate and bid it open - 7 of Wands

'You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light

Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the face of the earth or the sky

Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate and bid it open'

The 7 of Wands is traditionally about self-defense, or proving oneself through some sort of trial. Today's card from Deviant Moon Tarot (US Games 2013) has a similar sensibility, but the trial is over in this depiction. 

'A bewildered child has been lost in the thicket for several days. Against overwhelming odds, she finally discovers a path that will lead her home. Seven blooming wands mark the end of her ordeal.' ~ Patrick Valenza, LWB

I'm really glad it's Friday, but I can't help but think how fast weeks go by these days. Weeks seem to go by as fast as days used to when I was a kid. I wonder why that is. Do you remember how summer break used to last forever? All those endless glorious days, and when the school finally started again, you felt like it had been an age since you were there. Well, I suppose that's natural. When you're only 10 years old, a year is 10% of your entire life so far! No wonder a week or a summer seems so long. When you're getting on to 50, it doesn't feel like such a significant chunk. :) 

But anyway, this card is about finding your way out or overcoming obstacles. What obstacles are you facing, or what 'thicket' are you feeling lost in right now? The card assures you that you can find your way out, if you don't lose faith in your own ability. Don't doubt yourself. You're nearly there! 

Thursday 16 October 2014

Grail Shrimp? Deviant Moon Knight of Cups

The knights in Deviant Moon Tarot (US Games 2013) all ride a steed of some sort (Knight of Wands rides a giant bug, Knight of Swords a horse, Knight of Pentacles a mechanical steam-powered conveyance) except our Knight of Cups, who seems himself to be some sort of sea creature clad in armour. Maybe he's thrown himself so much into his element that he's become part of it (water).

'The loyal knight presents his find to the world: the gift of hope. His long search has taken him over and under a boundless sea. His once magnificent armour now bears a green patina. This journey has changed not only his body, but his soul as well.' ~ Patrick Valenza, LWB

So, he has evolved over the course of his quest.

This interpretation differs somewhat from the traditional view of the Knight of Cups as an adolescent figure overwhelmed by his own passions and emotions, much like Romeo, impetuous and histrionic. The Deviant Moon's Knight of Cups seems to have completed his grail quest, and holds his resulting treasure reverently, with both hands.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Best laid plans

7 of Swords 

'The harlequin attempts to swallow his swords in a dramatic display of skill, yet his plan is flawed. The rope which binds the blades is frayed and will soon break, leaving him in a tragic predicament.' ~ Patrick Valenza, Deviant Moon Tarot LWB (US Games 2013)

He does appear to be in considerable peril, but I wonder what happened to his right foot!

The divinatory meanings given in the LWB are: ill-conceived plans, a path to failure, a poor attempt. These are a bit different from the usual RWS meanings of cunning, deception, or the more innocent pursuit of knowledge (study).

Thoth tradition names this card Lord of Futility, which doesn't quite have the same feeling as this particular interpretation of 7 of Swords, as Lord of Futility is more about feeling too doubtful to take a decisive course of action. The figure in this card doesn't seem to doubt his abilities, in fact may be overconfident and not seeing all the factors involved in his current course of action, nor their possible consequences. On the other hand, few activities seem more futile than sword swallowing.

This leads me to the following questions for today:

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Emperor keeps shining his influence today

Well, I've heard that Red Bull gives you energy. I think that little critter's meant to be a ram, though. Or it ought to be for this card. Oh well!

It's the Emperor from Deviant Moon Tarot (US Games 2013) today. Apart from his strange chin and Gene Simmons boots, this character looks almost normal. The symbols on the card are all familiar, too. The chess board is often associated with Emperor; we see it in several decks, denoting the Emperor's black and white view of things, his military skills (ability to out think his adversaries, stay one step ahead of the game to keep a firm hold on his empire). The turrets and castle walls in the background show his power and wealth, which we also see in his purple robe with ermine trim. All very familiar.

'Dominating all that is around him, the Emperor sits with confidence. Although pleased with his achievements, he looks towards other areas of conquest.' ~Patrick Valenza, Deviant Moon LWB

The recent full moon was in Aries, or Emperor, and it looks like his influence continues. Now here's something to contemplate:

Monday 13 October 2014

Can you give too much?

It seems redundant to keep writing, 'What a weird image,' but I truly can't think of anything else to say when I draw a card from Deviant Moon Tarot (US Games 2013). Today's card is 6 of Pentacles:

'Compassion for the plight of the dead has led a wealthy man into the cemetery. Meeting a soul who longs for the material world, the man offers one of his six pentacles in an open act of generosity'. ~ LWB, Patrick Valenza. 

Riiight, okay, that's weird.

I know, I know. The guy's got three legs. He's got one arm reaching from his chest like out of a first floor window. His other hands are coming out of his back. It's weird!

It gets weirder, though. According to the LWB, the textures of the clothing of the figures in this deck are taken from graveyards of eastern Long Island, and the architecture of the buildings in the cards comes from photography of a 'local abandoned insane asylum.' You what? That's pretty weird.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Deck Review - Deviant Moon Tarot

Steampunk. Nightmare Before Christmas. Hieronymus Bosch. Where the Wild Things Are. The clockwork visions of a disturbed Victorian 5-year-old. Deviant Moon Tarot.

I've put off buying this deck for years. It was weird, it was dark, it was unsettling -- it was voted Number One Tarot Deck of All Time a few years in a row by the purple site, which annoyed me. How could it come out ahead of the Rider Waite Smith that it was clearly based on? So I thought, screw it. Who needs more darkness in their lives?

But this year, I couldn't face a month of readings with the Halloween Tarot (Kipling West, US Games). And yet, I always want to use appropriately themed decks in the weeks leading up to Samhain. So I put feelers out to other tarotists for suggestions of a dark deck and Deviant Moon came enough that I bit the bullet and purchased. The borderless edition looked more appealing than the older one, so I got that.

It's a weird deck. It is not the best tarot deck of all time. But it is a good one.

Friday 10 October 2014

Full Moon in Aries Emperor Reading

                               1. How am I an Emperor?
                               2. How am I not an Emperor?
                               3. Where do I need to take charge?
                               4. What will help me do that?
                               5. How am I weak?
                               6. How am I strong?

I really don't think I like this reading at all--and it is those uncomfortable readings that we need to pay most attention to. This one has brought up some of my shadow aspects, things about myself I don't like to look at.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Share a Spread Sunday - Full Moon in Aries

Full Moon in Aries
8 October 2014

This week the full moon is in Aries, which is associated with the Emperor. I thought it would be fun to look at a 'wisdom reading' from Rachel Pollack's 'Tarot Wisdom'.

First of all, the Emperor, according to Rachel, can be interpreted four ways:

1. The laws of society
2. Divine law
3. Daddy
4. Zeus and other kings of the gods

These are pretty standard interpretations, nothing earth-shattering there. The Emperor can be rules, authority, hierarchy, power; the abstract principles of universal laws (such as physics) and/or Creator God; the masculine principle or father figures; or a king of the gods from any pantheon.

So are you feeling manly this week or what? In what ways might you need to take command of a situation, take a leadership role, or act with intent and purpose?

In fact, you could use the questions above for your Full Moon Spread, but I'm going to use the questions from Rachel Pollack's book, and they include a 'wisdom reading'. These are questions that go beyond the personal. These are audacious questions that boldly ask for very BIG answers, questions like 'What is love?' 'What is the meaning of Time?' or 'Who is God?'

This is Rachel's 'personal spread' based on the Emperor: 

1. How am I an Emperor?
2. How am I not an Emperor?
3. Where do I need to take charge?
4. What will help me do that?
5. How am I weak?
6. How am I strong?

But then as a last question, she throws in one that is really a 'wisdom reading':

7. What are the rules? 

Do you dare to do a draw on that question? I am going to be looking at both spreads this week.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Deck Review - Halloween Oracle

Halloween Oracle by Stacey Demarco and Jimmy Manton 
(Blue Angel 2014)

I'm growing quite fond of oracles by Blue Angel Publishing. For one thing, they come in a standard size box of sturdy construction and the cards are of consistent style and quality. I like that. I like the way a line of Blue Angel boxes looks lined up on the shelf. We've all got our kinks. 

What's included
Attractive standard size Blue Angel oracle box, black on the outside with orange on the inside, a 36 card oracle deck and an 80 page companion book that fits inside the box. As usual, the cards are smaller than the box and a liner to make them fit is not included. The book fits over the cards and sits snugly inside the box. I was surprised that the deck is only 36 cards as Blue Angel usually includes 44 cards, and goodness knows there is plenty of Halloween material to come up with more than 44 cards! A curious decision.

Friday 3 October 2014

This ain't the Love Boat, Captain!

Looks, it's the Knave of Knives, or Page of Swords, from Robert Place's Vampire Tarot. She's called the Nightmare of Life in Death, and she comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' first published in 1798 in Coleridge's pivotal collection 'Lyrical Ballads.' It only ushered in the Romantic Period! It's from this poem that the phrase 'albatross around my neck' originated. But it also happens to be the very first appearance in English literature of a vampire. (The first vampire in English prose was Lord Ruthven. Nightmare Life in Death came earlier.)

You probably read 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' in high school, unless you went to a state school in the UK after GCSEs came in, in which case you probably only read Simon Armitage and whatever other bits and bobs were in your AQA handbook. (I'm no fan of the  methods and curriculum of English teaching in the UK, which is why I quit.) If you're American (or went to a grammar school), you may have vague memories of reading a LONG, sing-song poem with the words 'Water, water everywhere nor any a drop to drink.' That's the one.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Lesbian Vampire Killers of 1871

The Page of Cups, or Knave of Holy Water,  from Vampire Tarot by Robert Place, is represented by the fictional character Carmilla, from the novella of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Published in 1871 and inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem 'Christabel', the novella introduces the first lesbian vampire. So! All those 60s and 70s horror flicks like 'Vampires' (1974) , Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Blood and Roses (1960) were not just sleazy exploitation films -- they come from a long tradition of lesbian vampires, a tradition that predates the creation of Dracula (which didn't appear until 1897). In fact, the first screen lesbian vampire appeared in 1936 in a film called 'Dracula's Daughter', and Carmilla herself appears for the first time on the silver screen in the above-mentioned movie 'Blood and Roses'.

The 1871 novella 'Carmilla' concerns itself with the (seemingly) 19-year-old young woman called Carmilla who is taken into the home of narrator Laura, after Carmilla is involved in a carriage crash just outside Laura's home. Carmilla's mother says she is on urgent business and cannot delay, and Laura's father agrees, after Laura's urging,  to allow Carmilla to convalesce in their home.  Bad plan. Find a full plot summary here: Carmilla Plot Summary. And if you want to go all out and read the whole thing, it is online here:  Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. If you don't have time for either, allow me: Carmilla and Laura become constant companions. Laura finds Carmilla both beautiful and repulsive. Laura has disturbing dreams. She and Carmilla do quite a bit of kanoodling (as much as 19th century literary sensibilities would allow), though not always willingly on Laura's part. Laura discovers a portrait of one of her own ancestors, Mircalla of Karnstein, painted in 1698, who looks exactly like Carmilla. Carmilla begins to bloom with health while Laura fades. A family friend, General Spielsdorf, tells a tale of how his own niece had had a friend called Millarca who bloomed while the niece faded, and finally died from it. He had seen Millarca draining the niece of her last drop of life blood. The General and Carmilla recognise each other and fight. She wins and runs away. Then Baron Vordenberg, vampire killer, turns up, they hunt Carmilla in her lair and drive a stake through her heart. The End.

Now, how that can be the Page of Cups is up to Robert Place to explain. He writes, 'The card represents someone or something that is alluring and magically influential but that may not be what he or she seems.' Not very Page of Cupsy, but we'll go with that.