Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Tarot Riddles — Tarot of the Absurd

[continued from yesterday’s post]

After purchasing my first deck,

I sat down to learn the meanings of the twenty-two Major Triumphs in order to compose

The Tarot Riddles.

The riddles are not intended to describe the image on the card; they are to describe the essence.

This was my first understanding of the tarot deck. It was from these riddles I began to illustrate

The Tarot of the Absurd.

The Tarot Riddles

 

Download The Tarot Riddles, print them out, cut them up, & put them in order as the Tarot of the Absurd is ordered. The first ten people who take their time to do this will earn themselves either (1) two cute little magnets OR (2) the offer of free shipping on a deck of cards/ $5 off international shipping. (Are there even ten people who read this blog?) And if you just want some cute little magnets (Strength & 7 of Cups), I’m selling business-card sized magnets for $2 each. Any questions? Anyone wanna try? Anyone? Anyone? Hey! Spread the word!

 

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Origin of the Species — Tarot of the Absurd

I did a woodcut print a number of years ago (to be posted in one week) called, “It was Raining Out.” In the image, a boy pulls a girl by the hand. He points to a ladder which leads to the attic. In the attic, there is a trunk. Outside, umbrellas fall like rain.

 

*    *    *

 

It is the attic, the endless attic where all toys go when they are outgrown, where the works of years past are laid to wait for the minds of future generations. There, the treasures are endless.

 

When it rains out, the boy and the girl sneak into the attic, close the door, and open an old wooden trunk, origin of all adventure. In the trunk lie the treasures of the mind, for it is filled with papers— letters, photographs, journals, cards— papers covered in writing and images.

 

One rainy day, the boy picks out a small carved wooden box. A box within a box. He opens it. Inside are slips of paper. On each piece, writ with fine fountain-pen script, is a terse aphorism: a riddle.

 

The girl takes the one on top and reads it aloud. “…”

 

“A riddle,” says the boy. “But what could it mean?” He takes the next, reads it. “…”

 

“I wonder how many there are” says the girl. She dumps the papers and arranges them in a grid on the floor to count. “Twenty-two.”

 

*    *    *

 

The problem was, I had no basis for filling in the ellipses. I had never seen a tarot deck. I knew there were twenty-two pictures. I knew there was a fool. I didn’t think the sixteen faces and forty numbers were actually part of the tarot deck. I had some research to do.

 

I went into a store that specialized in tarot decks and went through their albums of sample cards. Nothing caught my eye. They were all 78-card decks and none of them were special. At last I found a little hand-written booklet with a red lion on the cover and the words, “Twenty-Two Keys of the Tarot.” THIS was what I was looking for.

 

“Do you have the deck for this booklet?” I asked the clerk.

“It’s somewhere in the back,” he said, disappearing through a door beyond the bookshelves. When he returned, he handed me a small white box. “Just one,” he said. “It’s been here for ages. There’s no price on it.”

“May I look?” I asked. I was filled with that nervous sort of energy that happens when everything is absolutely right. It made my hands shake as I opened the box flap, and I was too jittery to see anything beyond the print quality (real ink on real paper) and the hand-written date. The deck was exactly 20 years old. “How much?” I asked.

“Name your price,” said the clerk.

“Ten dollars,” I said, knowing nothing about anything. I wasn’t the sort of person who bought things. The clerk nodded, rung me up, and slipped the deck into a small brown paper bag. I walked home, glowing brilliantly like the sun in the heavens.

Friday, December 7th, 2012

The Devil — Tarot of the Absurd

“Tell me,” said the Young Man, “tell me.”

“Tell me of the Devil.”

“Oh, the Devil,”

spoke the Poet. “Of him I speak with foul mouth

and forked tongue. For when it comes to Devils,

who can speak the truth?”

 

*   *   *

 

A lone man alone, remote in his perversion,

honed in upon his own self-pleasure,

self-centered on the center of his own self,

this Devil has snagged his soul in a noose.

Hooped over in a loop, twisted and bent,

his mind and mouth deformed, reformed to form

a conjoined single-purpose pleasure apparatus

body contorted, diverged from human form,

cloistered in self-worship, his cracked mind

wanders on a twisted pleasure path,

sequestered in mad obsession of

self-consuming passion or rabid addiction

to hedonistic compulsion.

Forsaken and forsaking all society,

this Devil has found Devil’s work

for idle hands and idle mouth to do.

Chained in shackles to the conceit of his desire,

the Devil plays the Devil with himself.

 

 

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

King Rama & Shabari as The Hierophant

I began the image for my Hierophant card long before I read Questioning the Ramayanas: a South Asian Tradition, edited by Paula Richman. If I had illustrated it afterward, the essence of the picture would have been the same, only perhaps with the poor old Shabari with her arm looped over god-king Rama’s shoulder.

 

Before I encountered the tarot deck, I had never heard the word “hierophant,” so I looked it up. The word comes from the greek combination of ta hiera, “the holy,” and phainein, “to show.” Traditionally, the Hierophant interprets sacred mysteries and arcane principles. I understand the Hierophant as one who demonstrates holiness and brings others closer to god.

 

 

To make a very long collection of stories very short, the divine Lord Rama spends a lot of time wandering the forest in exile. One story in his wanderings concerns an old woman named Shabari.

 

Shabari is a low-caste woman who has escaped marriage and exiled herself to the edge of a community of forest-dwelling ascetics. She keeps herself hidden. At night she sweeps the paths an deposits firewood outside the doors of their hut and the men say, “Who has done this?”

 

Their Guru instructs his students to stay awake and apprehend this “thief” who is stealing their merit. So they capture Shabari, who falls at the Sage’s feet in devotion. The Sage realizes she something special and invites her into the ashram. The aesthetics take offense at this. When the Guru dies, he promises Shabari that she will see Lord Rama in her lifetime. Disconsolate, it is this knowledge that keeps her alive.

 

With their Guru gone, the aesthetics get nasty. When one accidentally brushes Shabari as she is sweeping the path to the lake, he berates her for polluting him. When he gets to the lake, he finds it has become polluted with blood and vermin. He blames it on that unlucky woman Shabari instead of his own unclean actions.

 

Every day Shabari spends a great amount of time collecting wild jujube fruit from the forest to serve to Lord Rama in case he should happen to stop by. Jujube are uncultivated. Some are very sweet & some are quite sour, so Shabari tastes each one to make sure it is sweet. Only the sweetest for the God-King! In Hindu tradition, there are clean foods and there are dirty foods. A food tasted by a woman, and a low-caste woman at that, is excessively dirty.

 

Every day she waits, but when she finally hears he is coming, she hides in her hut. Of course he seeks her out. She prostrates before him; he lifts her up. Her sorrow departs and she feeds him fruit. He eats and praises it.

 

Meanwhile all the aesthetics are worried about the polluted lake. Someone suggests they ask Rama for a solution when he gets there. Oh, they learn he is already there, and sitting in the hut of that woman!

 

Their pride is shattered. They go to the hut. Rama instructs to the men to touch Shabari’s feet (yuk! dirty!) and bring her to the lake. When she touches the lake, it is once again clean.

 

This story challenges all Hindu concepts of purity and pollution, ultimately showing that the purest thing is unsullied devotion. The god-king Rama has visited Shabari first not because she follows all those strict rules of being— the highest of which is being a man of high birth— but because she is the most devoted.

 

The moral of my retelling is this: That which brings one closer to god is not following arcane rules and mysteries, but unwavering devotion and love demonstrated through thought and action. Gods love best those who love them best.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Four of Blades — Tarot of the Absurd

4 of blades tarot of the absurd 

Positive:

Rash action oft’ builds to swift retribution;

meditation can lead to a peaceful a solution.

 

Negative:

Standing too long in mute contemplation

leads one from inaction to putrid stagnation.

 

Neutral:

A case of gunpowder-filled lead ammunition

is shot at the ghost of a thought. No fruition.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Two of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

 

Well favored, the Two of Sticks is about planning, progress, decisions and discovery. With such careful steps and the courage to attempt something less than comfortable, these two dancers have managed to find stability and freedom in an apparently precarious pose.

 

Ill favored, with poor planning, these two dancers start to tremble, upsetting their delicate balance. As the future quickly becomes uncertain, they must make a hasty plan to dismount.

 

I am feeling stuck. I have no plan. I feel as if my balance depends upon a partner whose next move is unknown by anyone but the omniscient. I feel stuck in this posture. Although it is where I want to be, my inability to make a plan makes it seem as if I fail to accomplish anything, ever.

 

I could blame failure of accomplishment on the fact that my baby doesn’t nap without me by her side or holding her, but that seems a cop-out. She’s so cute! How can I blame anything on her? I would rather blame it on the fact that I fail to use my time wisely and I don’t plan anything successfully. Especially not naps.

 

I would like to write a cohesive companion book for this deck. What are the steps I need to take in order to be able to do this successfully? What’s the plan, Shanahan?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Seven of Blades — Tarot of the Absurd

Psst, wanna buy a blade? The Seven of Blades is a card of deception, betrayal and stealth.  This fence sells tasseled daggers from his sturdy overcoat.  What is he hiding? Not much, it seems—

 

Don’t think I’ll tell you how I cheat.

A smile hides secrets that I keep.

Don’t think I’ll tell you where I sneak.

Daylight makes good cover for a thief.

 

Don’t think I’ll tell you what I took.

I walked in, spoke, and then walked out on foot.

Don’t think I’ll tell you I’m a crook.

See for yourself. Why do you not look?

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Six of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

six of wands tarotThe Six of Wands is the card of victory and public recognition. These two people balance proud. They wear V for victory on their varsity sweaters. The winner’s laurel crowns their heads.

 

Victory is a success or a winning that leaves one happy or satisfied. It is, in effect, the sense of accomplishment. Thus, victory is an emotion, for our emotions are our feeling-senses. Q: “How do you feel?” A: “Victorious!”

 

A success or a winning that does not give a sense of accomplishment is not a victory. The public can recognize our acts and cry “victory,” but if we fail to acknowledge our own successes and let ourselves be happy with them, then in essence we never truly allow ourselves to be victorious no matter what the public may cry.

 

*   *   *

 

In my twenties I filled copious journals writing under the premise, “I write, therefore I exist.” My goal was to write myself into history. Pre-history is defined by the period of time before the written record, and history is written by the victors. I wrote to avoid becoming a prehistoric looser.

 

Of course, these days it takes quite a bit of effort to be prehistoric. We are recorded from our birth certificates to our death certificates. We are recorded through utility bills, traffic tickets and insurance payments. We are recorded on attendance sheets, police records, and tax payments. Tho public records, none of this will give us public recognition. Public recognition takes personality.

 

I did not want mere the existence granted by public records. I wanted to stand out: I wanted to be outstanding. No. I wanted to be outstanding, but I did NOT want to stand out. Okay, I wanted to stand out, but I did not want to STICK out. The problem was, I stuck out. I was used to sticking out. In grade school, I stuck out when the goal of every child is to fit in. I stuck out with all sorts of rough edges that fit no where. I stuck out in how I spoke and what I said and how I thought and what I wrote. I stuck out in how I moved and what I wore. I did not fit in: I stuck out. Exceptionally. And no matter how well I did at what I did— and I did do well at what I did— nothing felt like victory.

 

Victory began in the midst of an epic tour-de-USA bicycle ride when I sat atop the highest pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains: the east entrance to Yosemite. “I will always be discontent,” I decided. It seemed to be where I was headed. I made it my purpose. Elated with my decision, I descended into the valley at 35mph, no handed, arms out like eagle wings pulling a trailer on my bicycle. It was fun.

 

Soon, every time I found my self discontent, I was able to think, “This is what I want.” I became content with my discontent. The knowledge that I was where I needed to be made me happy. Eventually, happiness allowed me to recognize my own accomplishments. Eventually, acknowledgement of personal successes let me feel victorious.

 

Now my successes are all much smaller than they used to be. I allow myself a great sense of victory for each one (Yes! The kitchen is clean! The baby is sleeping! VICTORY!) and it all evens out. Secure in my existence, I hardly write anything anymore.

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Six of Coins — Tarot of the Absurd

six of pentacles meaning

Generosity, charity, sharing. Accepting handouts.

 

Relatively fresh out of college, where I survived by studying hard, running fast and having virtually no social life (unless you consider brief midnight visits with the vending machine social), I set out to Alaska to plant trees. I set out to Alaska to plant trees because planting trees sounded adventuresome and romantic, and other than my need for adventure and romance, I was entirely devoid of direction. Despite having graduated with high honors, a double major, and the scholar-athlete of the year award, I was ignorant of most things and relatively immature.

 

I learned the basics of migrant labor amidst the cruel chaos of breaking up with my boyfriend in a relatively public arena. I learned the taste of water straight from a mountain stream. I learned how to cook over a fire and why it was that the pot called the kettle black (the kettle was black! but so was the pot…). I learned the feeling of dressing in cold wet dirty socks first thing in the morning to work in the rain. I learned the power of skinny-dipping unbashfully. And, having for the first time in my life met generous people, I learned how to take advantage of other people’s generosity. Eventually I learned the rudiments of generosity myself. I can’t say I was quick.

 

Sunshine was the most generous person at camp. She is the sort who, finding herself with the daunting task of some epic journey, might take along a totally unprepared companion and share everything she owns rather than face the journey on her own. I was the sort of person who, finding myself slightly over-prepared, would take on the journey on my own rather than face the task of caring for someone else. Strangely, we found ourselves friends. I spouted lots of book-smart things and she demonstrated generosity.

 

One time, relatively early on in the summer, Sunshine went to the store to buy a chair and came back with two tiny folding chairs. I did not go to the store to buy a chair because I was perfectly comfortable sitting on the ground and thought I’d better save my money. Sunshine set both chairs up near the fire.

“Why did you buy two chairs?” asked Jon.

“One for me, and one for a friend,” said Sunshine.

“One for a friend,” snickered Jon.

One for a friend! I thought it was brilliant! Sunshine prepared for friends, and friends came. I prepared for solitude, and solitude came. Sunshine spent the rest of the summer showing me generosity. I spent the summer adoring her. Underprepared, we went into the wilderness together. The experience has made us friends forever.

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Ten of Coins — Tarot of the Absurd

feedback farm alaskaFamily. Security, wealth, and accomplishment. Sustainability: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

 

Wealth can loosely be defined as a stockpile of resources. Income, on the other hand, is resource flow. The resources that determine wealth are relative. They differ between societies and among different groups of a single society. It is therefore impossible to come up with a definition of wealth that we can all agree on.

 

Popular culture looks at property holdings, investments and bank accounts as a measure of wealth. Wealth is generally defined as a personal accumulation of resources that both allows us to live with less stress and gives us a better shot at regenerating healthy progeny. Wealth is limited to certain individuals, at the expense of others.

 

By this measure, environmental assets are not counted as a part of wealth. Thus, the economic contribution of the public commons is not seen to exist until it ceases to exist, at which point those who exploited it to obtain personal wealth complain of an income drop and those who used it for subsistence are destitute. Such is the tragedy of the commons

 

A more holistic measure of wealth would be one’s dedication to sustainable natural resource management and the greater good of future generations: planetary wealth. This is the only definition that allows everyone living on the planet to be wealthy without poverty, if only we could just all get along. (In Utopia, everyone is wealthy.)

 

Any definition of wealth that allows rampant depletion of natural resources for individual empowerment fails in the long run, as it allows one’s offspring to live in an environment of depleted wealth, thereby offering them a smaller chance at success. Family is integral to the definition of the Ten of Coins. For those following this course of action who have no offspring, I have not one decent argument against unmitigated selfishness. I can only offer up a curse— may you have a lousy after-life.

 

 

“I once met a billionaire at a cocktail party (one of the grocery Lords Sainsbury) and was dying to ask if he thought he was rich, but I was young and too shy. I’ve never met anyone else who thought he or she was rich, presumably because they spend most of their time at cocktail parties with people who are richer. (Example: Lord Egremont’s brother, who used to steal toilet paper when he stayed at Petworth, one of the great houses of England, but Lord Egremont’s family would go through his luggage and steal it back.) So [wealth] is not a particularly useful term in political discourse, except to define those people who can afford, through lobbying and lawyers, to pay less than their fair share of taxes.”

— James Papp of New York, reader of the New York Times

 

 

What is the difference between wealth and income?

  

What is the wealth of the top 1%?

  

Who are the 99%?

  

Where do I fall on the income curve?