The Faeries’ Oracle — 44. Lys of the Shadows

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Brian FroudArtist: Brian Froud

Author: Jessica MacBeth


Interpretation: Healing the shadows. Addictions. Bondage. Self-esteem.


I have now been keeping this blog for a (mere) two and a half months. Done with illustrating cards, the next step is to write about card interpretation and illustrative thought-process. I need to reveal those things which remain occulted in my mind. Today I am using Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle. I had some issues with the deck last time. With that in mind, I ask this pack of fey, “If the goals of this blog are to create a daily entry about a one-card tarot reading in order to facilitate the writing of a book, what is the purpose of reading from non-tarot decks, decks that do not inspire creative writing, and decks that I simply do not enjoy looking at?”


“Good question,” says Lys of the Shadows. I like her.


Lys deals with addicts. She tries to help people develop true self-respect and self-esteem by inspiring practical help for those who need it most. “Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Go out side into the sunlight,” she says. Taking care of one’s self is the most basic sign of self respect. This may be obvious to most of us, but for those living in the shadows of society, they are not easy actions. The best time to deal with addiction is before it happens, when action is merely habit. Lys is brisk with me. “Look at your habits,” she says.


I have this habit that I generally do what I say I am going to do— in general a very good trait. I also have a habit of trying to distribute my attentions fairly— again, not a bad thing. Lest you think I am a conceited self-righteous snot, I acquiesce to having a slew of bad habits not relevant to this discussion.


From the start I have wanted to write a book to go with this deck. Each of my major arcana cards began as a terse aphorism of my own divination. The book will not be the kind that retells the same-same tale of what each card means. I want the book to be one of poetry and short story— an amusement in and of itself. I want to show how my world-view is portrayed each image. I never wanted to change the tarot deck. Its mythological history is too amusing for that. I merely wanted to give old cards new, vibrant personality.


Thus, I have illustrated the Tarot of the Mythology of Me. Mythology becomes absurd when one takes it too literally, too seriously, or too fundamentally. I have spent my life admiring and amused by the mythologies of others, slave to none, faithless to anything outside my own imagination. Endless and beginningless a thing as mythology is, it is liable to take on each aspect of everything around it. Wading through ancient mythology requires hip boots, mental stamina, and a sharp machete.


In asking my question of Lys, I ask for permission to streamline the writing of the Book of the Mythology of Me. She says: “Eliminate what you don’t need. When something has ceased to serve its function— when action no longer brings you closer to your goal— move on.” Thus, with her blessing, I drop this deck from my lineup. I will do likewise with others that cease to serve me in the future. My goal is to write a cohesive, amusing book. These entries are my notes.

The Faeries’ Oracle — 41. Ilbe the Retriever

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Artist: Brian Froud

Author: Jessica MacBeth


“Office of Unclaimed Property, Hopes, and Wishes. Loyalty.”


Oracle decks are different from tarot decks in a number of manners. Mainly, there is no predetermined pattern to the deck,  there is no history behind the cards, and the cards are not used for games.


Oracle decks are similar to a ‘book with all answers,’ where opening a page answers your preset question. In this case, drawing a card tells you which page to open to.


Oracle decks often originate from the author’s passionate belief in one particular area. Some decks, as this one, marry existing imagery to suitable meanings. In general, these cards spring from a desire to tap into the spiritual world to find “insight, wisdom, and joy,” as this deck states.


The author says, Don’t read someone else’s definitions of the cards until you already have some idea of what they mean to you. This is good advice for any work of art, literature, poetry, graffiti, kitsch, tarot card, or ancient spiritual text. Don’t let someone tell you what it means. Figure it out yourself, then listen to others’ opinions. You will gain no insight if you do not allow your inner eye to open. You will gain no wisdom if you always only listen to the words of others— perhaps knowledge, but not wisdom. And joy? What truly gives you joy?


To me, this card looks like an old-man-puppy begging at the table. I used to love Froud’s dreamy images when I was a little girl. As an adult, that which I see in reality is more fantastic than any faerie he could ever dream. I want to tell the card “grow up” and will not let the deck “speak” to me. A few things may be happening: self-censorship, lack of interest in oracle decks, and refusal to assimilate anyone else’s vision of faerie.


Nonetheless, I admit Jessica MacBeth gives good instructions on how to get to know a card. In part, she asks a series of questions which I answer here*:


The creature seems selfishly immature. It is wanting something, whining, trying to make me feel guilty if I do not give what it wishes. This beast has a certain slowness about it. It looks spiritually incomplete, grasping to the leadership of others. I find its wings appealing, because I like wings. I find the tilt of its head unappealing. It makes me want to wring its long neck, but the neck seems rubbery and I get the feeling that if I tried to choke it, the creature would laugh. I find myself fixated on wringing its un-wringable neck and hypnotized by its maniacal laughter into continuing on and on into insanity. It is frustrating. I come across as cruel and crazy—


but this is how we sometimes seem
in both reality and dream.


*Question summary:
1) What is the emotional atmosphere of the card?
2) What might the physical manifestation of this card’s symbols be in someone’s life? What aspect of life does this card symbolize to you?
3) What do you see in the card’s symbols that might represent the card’s mental characteristics?
4) What are the spiritual characteristics of the card’s symbols?
5) What do you find most appealing or comforting about this card?
6) What do you find most unappealing or uncomfortable about this card?
7) What other ideas or impressions do you have of this card?
And she says: if you fail to answer any of these questions, take a break until you can.


The following terms must be defined by YOU: symbol, spiritual & mental characteristics, comforting & uncomfortable, appealing & unappealing. These are opinions and reflections of experience.