Magic. It never ceases to enchant me, humble me – and piss me off.
My life right now is basically me bashing out a 3,000-word email to some obliging internet wizard to try to articulate a concept on my mind in order to gauge whether it’s a thing or A Thing. Then I’ll be pointed to something like analogue/psychological marking and be like, ‘Oh. Yeah. Sort of that… So that’s already a thing, is it..? Oh.’.
Rinse and repeat.
It’s quite ego-crushing for a Creative Genius / Dangerous Maniac of my magnitude. But I’m getting used to it.
HOWEVER. One thing I cannot countenance is that someone has, apparently, beaten me to it on even my approach to tarot reading? Whenever I explain my ‘novel’ readings, magicians instruct me to read ‘Tarology’ by Enrique Enriquez.
I’m currently too cross to read this book. Is there nothing in my imagination that hasn’t already been created, refined, systemised, scaled and sold by magicians?!
I present, for the record, my approach to tarot before it is any further sullied by official magic. It’s called ‘Terrible Tarot’ and is entirely of my own invention. So there.
Legend has it that my grandma used to read fortunes using playing cards, as well as palms and tealeaves. She sang in working men’s clubs in the 50s and 60s, and I realise now she was surely mingling with magicians and all sorts of tricksters, so I suspect this is how she learnt. I have fuzzy memories of her performing palmistry on me and she would occasionally frown forebodingly at the tealeaves. But she wouldn’t read cards in my lifetime. This is because she ‘read’ someone’s death, and then they did indeed die – she had chosen not to tell them what she foresaw as I think she felt damned either way, but the subsequent death scared her off for life.
So I guess I had some awareness of reading cards, but it was always laughed off – ‘predicting fortunes’ was something only an irrational, superstitious, silly woman would actually believe in, and this was just grandma being a drama queen.
When I was 19 and a student in York, my regular mopes around the city would take me to a discount bookstore – it’s important we don’t romanticise this, so I really do mean one of those garish publishing outlets that sell autobiographies by yesterday’s reality TV stars on the cheap. I found a book on fortune telling and an accompanying pack of Rider-Waite tarot cards and bought them on a whim – I guess the future was more appealing than my present. But I then hid them in my room and forgot about them as reading tarot and runes and goat entrails was surely a certifiable act?
After university, I moved in with my mum. We went to a psychic fair one weekend, where a psychic ‘predicted’ my future. I can’t remember the medium he used, but it was #classicboringcoldreading – ‘I would meet the man of my dreams imminently, marry aged 25, and have my first child, a boy, aged 27.’ Yawn, yawn, yawn. (I’m now 37, am perpetually single and believe children are an Illuminati conspiracy.)
I was an aspiring screenwriter at the time and the ‘prediction’ that really riled me was that I would become wealthy aged 40, thanks to my husband’s success. WTF?! I still have a cassette tape recording of this ‘prediction’. I’m sure if I were to listen to it, it would reveal all the ways in which I’ve strived to live the polar opposite of the life that unimaginative man laid out for me. People ‘predicting’ fortunes should think on the power, perils and possibilities of their influence – I believe one should try to make the future as unpredictable as possible, and take people beyond the realms of their realities and imagination. Former magician’s assistant Paloma Faith sums up the conundrum rather well in this song, I think: ‘Do you want the truth or something beautiful?’. I’d personally rather give someone a smorgasbord of imaginative misses than propagate the rumour that a woman’s life only has meaning and worth if she snares a man and breeds within a particular bracket of time to get a ‘hit’.
But mum’s interest had been piqued and she badgered me to whip out my tarot deck. The first iteration of ‘Terrible Tarot’ was truly terrible. I would do a Celtic Cross or Horseshoe spread, note the cards and then retreat to my room to write up my prediction using my shitty book of definitions. Then mum or I (it was an exclusive service) would have a couple of pages of notes that ran to the theme of, ‘You’re currently very confused and are awaiting a great change…’. I grew weary of waiting for the promised change from mum’s sofa and upped sticks to Dublin to help start a magazine (aged 25, when I should have been getting married, of course). The book and cards were packed into a box of childish things, forgotten in mum’s loft.
Then, in my mid-30s, I fell down the proverbial rabbit hole. I felt myself compelled to investigate weird shit and generally clatter about behind the scenes of consensus reality. This was met with disapproval and derision. So a watershed moment was taking this beyond the confines of my mind and Google – I finally gave myself permission to do something in real life. But what?
And that’s when I stumbled across my old Rider-Waite deck when clearing some stuff out of mum’s…
(Part II to follow…)