Suggested Audio ♫
Tex Ritter “Deck of Cards”
I’ve always been quietly fascinated by tarot. These symbolic playing cards first came about in the mid-fifteenth century but took on a far greater meaning around three hundred years later as they became used for the purpose of divination. I’ve never had a reading, neither do I have any great burning desire to change that statistic any time soon, but I’ve also never been one to call poppycock on something so many have a strong belief in. It’s just that the opportunity has never presented itself before now. Should that ever change, then I would do what I do anytime I explore something new – cherry-pick the good and spit out anything disagreeable. But I certainly won’t be dismissing it as mere moonshine. Don’t fancy getting hexed you see.
Considering I’ve been so much about “self-help” of late, I figured it might be an idea to delve a little into the mysterious world of tarot for the purpose of spiritual nourishment and ultimately group hugs. I’ll be first to admit that I know precious little about each card and their respective meanings; but I do like the idea of seeing how a hand-picked selection of signs relate to me personally. Call it building a hand so to speak, choosing the cards that appear to correlate most with my character, and trusting I’ll still be smiling come the river. You see, much like a deck of cards, there are many different shades to my personality.
At risk of coming across too Neeson here, what I do have are a particular set of skills and incompetencies, strengths and weaknesses, distinctions and imperfections – just like any other. I’ve always been fond of the word “quirks”; although “peculiarities” seems to fit the whole tarot vibe better so let’s call them that and get this deck shuffled shall we? Just to be clear, I’m in far too chipper a frame of mind to go dealing myself the death card, so this game will be 100% rigged from the offset. Call me a cheat and I’ll sink your battleship purely by fluke just to prove you wrong. I’m just feeling the fun more than misery this evening. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of my new thing. One thing I can guarantee is that, whichever cards I select, I’m going all-in pre-flop for each of them. Lloyd knows what I’m saying, don’t you Lloyd?
No half measures my good man. Make mine a double and throw in the hair of the dog that bit me, just for the road. I’m feeling devilishly lucky tonight, you see. Given that tonight’s dealer is none other than yours truly, I’d say a royal flush could well be on the river. The one thing I’ll need to look out for is the dreaded Joker card and, to add to the pressure, I hear it comes in numerous different guises. Now let’s not jerk the jester here, I’m at my most chipper when self-effacing and keep my size twenty-sixers handy just in case the opportunity arises to play the buffoon. But after glancing over the 78-strong deck I have at my disposal, one thing has become abundantly clear – you can’t read a tarot card by its cover.
This is where things get problematic. You see, much of a card’s meaning depends on which way it is placed down. For example, in its upright position, the “Strength” card denotes inner power and energy, and represents faith in oneself. Flip that shit into reverse however and it signifies set-back, self-doubt, disharmony and fear of the unknown. Needless to say, the “Wheel of Fortune” card isn’t all about hot hostesses and cash prizes. This is where the risk comes into play as, while my selections will be made according to my personal preference, I plan to flip a coin to determine which way each card lands. I’ve asked myself all manner of uncomfortable questions over the past few years so what are a few more for the purpose of spiritual enlightenment? How are you ever gonna win it if you ain’t even in it? I say bring it!
It just had to be this one. Granted, it’s not one of the more eye-catching designs, but apparently it takes a hermit to spot a hermit card and I spied the hermit card the very moment it began shuffling sheepishly back into the shadows. After calling heads and tossing myself a winner, I shall be tackling this sleeping giant in its upright position and couldn’t be more tickled by the prospect. The reason for this is simple – I just read its meaning and it pretty much sums me up in a nutshell. Actually, make that an acorn as we secret squirrels delight most in the fruit of the oak and “The Hermit” is practically our calling card. I shit you never, that old geezer above with the moth-eaten robes and chin fleece… IT’S FUCKING ME! Which reminds me, I really must treat myself to a lantern.
Okay, you ready for the spiel? The Hermit aka yours truly feels the need to distance themselves from the everyday hubbub and retreats for the purpose of self-preservation. Through seclusion, The Hermit is freed up for intense introspection, the likes of which can’t be offered up by the physical world around them. Whatever truths we seek, we do so within, searching for a spiritual signpost to follow in the name of higher learning. What we lack in ego, we more than make up for with compassion. Moreover, we use it to assist others on their own paths. However, our quest for personal truth can be easily impeded by social pursuits and this is when we tend to shrink away.
It’s a double-edged sword as, while we need to be around others to learn, teach, live and lead by example, not enough “us time” gradually depletes our energy. This is why we meditate – to reevaluate the direction we’re facing and trust our souls to illuminate the path forward. It just so happens that meditation is my second favorite thing to do that ends in “ation” and traditionally follows the other in the pecking order, curiously enough. As a matter of fact, I’m meditating right this very moment. Just for the record, I can’t wank and type. If I could, then I’d be pulling in a six-digit salary and be spending most of that replacing keyboards. Besides, The Hermit is far too world-weary to self-defile and it’s actually far more pleasurable writing about it than partaking in the act itself. Okay, it’s not. You got me. It’s not easy spinning a yarn with your bollocks on the space bar.
I’m not sure what drew me to the “Five of Cups” but reckon it might have something to do with the shady looking character peering out from behind the hill on the right. Look at those sunken eyes. Could only be the shadow of death, right? Either that or a methed-up Moomin. What do you mean it’s a foot bridge? So it is, my apologies. Anyroad, considering I’ve recently been addressing concerns over my own physical health, this choice seemed a no-brainer to me. I’ve flipped my coin and heads wins out again; thus I shall be tackling this card in its upright position. Something tells me the honeymoon period is officially over and that I’ll need to roll up my emotional sleeves for this one. Starting to regret that third chalice of wine now, you know. Fuck it, if the next two cups make me light-headed, there’s a stream over there I can puke in.
It says here that the Five of Cups indicates deep sorrow and a brush with tragedy or loss. For fuck’s sake, must I really recount my laundry list of personal woes again? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and sussed out it didn’t fit me. Perhaps I’ll keep reading. See if anything else strikes a chord. Regrettably, it appears to be one long exercise in the art of sucking eggs. Dissatisfaction with how things turned out – blah. Pondering what could have been done and what has been lost – more blah. Time to let go of bitter memories and move on – less blah but old news, if I’m honest. Not wishing to appear flippant, but my guilt simply no longer defines me. There are only so many times you can call yourself a cunt before it starts to become a term of endearment.
My decision-making may have been poor on occasion, but never once with the intention of malice. I’m not going to lie bare-faced and suggest that certain recollections aren’t pointy and stabby; not being present to witness your seven-year-old son’s first morning smile never cuts any less deep than the core. But I’ve done the self-forgiveness part now so whatever it is lurking with intent behind yonder hill can go suck a fuck and choke on it. I’ve got a far more agreeable pastime now and it entails not hating my own guts for a living. Even more critically, I have less than no spare time to loathe on others; name and shame them for my own prior failings. It’s called drawing a line under shit, accepting what you cannot change and zeroing in on what you can. No great science.
Couldn’t resist the “Four of Pentacles” as the cavalier in question has clearly gone to great trouble balancing one on his crown and I’m fighting the overwhelming desire to walk past and flick it off. Should he chase down said mobile pentacle, then he’ll be required to step off two others and may well end up fumbling the one he’s holding in his arms like a newborn bairn. Alas, my sole motivation for selection here is the constant quest for shenanigans and my penance is that my lucky two-pence piece just revealed its spread of tail feathers. Thus this particular card will need to be tackled in its reverse position. Given that the Four of Pentacles is primarily about finances, I guess it makes sense to flip it over to the all too familiar sights of no pissing pentacles.
The general gist here appears to be an obsession with thoughts of money. As proud owner of an overdrawn bank account and just enough in my wallet to purchase a pot to piss in, much of what I’m reading is simply not applicable. It mentions something about being miserly and greedy, emotionally closed off and stagnant; none of which I feel relate to me in the slightest. I do however spend rather an unhealthy wedge of time weighing up whether to eBay a kidney just to know the feeling of flushness once again. As sure as bullshit walks, money talks. With me it’s more of a distant whisper; you know, the “here’s what you could have won” variety. Being perpetually destitute doesn’t tally up with my hopes and goals for the future. I’ve got a mansion to acquire, a coal fire to run, blankets to buy, and pizza to order. These few simple pleasures are all I truly need to be rich beyond my dreams at their wildest.
One thing I’m under no illusion about is that a change is gonna come. Sounds like pay-dirt material right? Actually, I’m reaching the point where it may be forced upon me. For four years I’ve plied my trade for zilch profit and I’d happily clock up another four if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t wish to be sat where I am currently in 2021. But I heard on the grapevine that the government are growing weary of funding my bog-standard lifestyle with so little return. Nine months I’ve been their bitch, when in truth, they’ve actually been my bitches. Have I been bleeding the economy for my own selfish gain? Negative, I’m bleeding it for my own right to exist. Having ran their rat race gauntlet for over twenty years, I figure the fuckers owe me some back pay. I mean, it’s not like I’m not sweating like a gimp in a sauna for ten hours a day for the peanuts I claim. I work my pentacles off for a cause, it just so happens not to be their one.
That’s it, I’m spitting feathers. Probably not the best time to go pulling the “Death” card I’m guessing but pull it I damn well shall. Apologies for the morbidness of my curiosity but all this talk of business has me backed up like a choirboy with a desire to get down to it. Unless I’m mistaken and human cloning is actually a thing now, we all wind up on the slab eventually. Six weeks before my father died, I watched all five boxsets of Six Feet Under one after the other, and six weeks after he passed, I viewed all five again. Never before have I sobbed so uncontrollably as I did upon its final swan song, two times no less, but I reckon I cried out most of my fear in the process. Let’s not flush me through with formaldehyde just yet, I’ve grown rather accustomed to the land of the living and would like to think there’s sufficient fuel in the tank to go another couple of laps at least. But we’ve all got to go sometime right?
I’m fully aware how fickle mortality is after my first friend in the world Nick died tragically and unexpectedly back in April. Sure I can dodge a few stray bullets but, once the hour cometh for the Reaper’s scythe to strike, the very best I can hope for is a swift and painless demise. I’m of the Plato school of thinking and already submitted my request to be reincarnated as something with wings that doesn’t trample dog excrement into unattended trifles. Whatever my fate may be, I’ll take my meds when the time comes. For the time being, I reckon I’ll call Death’s bluff and tackle the elephant in the room. Bravado aside, I’m mightily relieved to have won the coin toss on this one.
As you’re likely already aware, the Death card isn’t associated exclusively with the end of human life. That isn’t to say it’s not affiliated with something conclusive, more that it doesn’t specify what that thing might actually be. We all reach the end of a chapter at some point and this can prove a positive turning point or the very renewal we’re searching for, provided we remain open to change. This is why it is so critical to eliminate any excess emotional baggage as it’s often this that holds us back from taking a punt, once in a while. Personally I’m all for mixing things up a little as long as nobody gets hurt and, despite its fearsome image, the Death card isn’t nearly as terminal as it sounds. That said, in the small print at the bottom, it does advise keeping in mind that it could indicate someone elderly you know preparing to snuff it. Typical fucking Reaper – just had to slip that one in, didn’t he?
We’ve got my deep-rooted love of all things horror to thank for the “Ten of Swords” getting a run-out as this card resembles a Fangoria cover from way back in the glory days of yesteryear. Now I’m all for acupuncture but something tells me the peasant in this picture has far worse problems than a slipped disc right now. Blame the inner Florence Nightingale in me for the fact that I feel compelled to pick up his ailing body, toss it over my shoulder like Gump, and run him to the nearest medical bay for life saving surgery. Just so there’s no confusion, should the patient be pronounced dead on arrival, I’m stealing his wallet. First things first, I’ve a two-pence piece to flip and, just to prove that my lucky streak is no longer active, we won’t be confronting this one sunny side up.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we just cover negative cycles drawing to a close and and all that “changes in the air” gut rot? I feel cheated, like I just bought a Mars Dark and some bastard turned the lights out before I could get the wrapper off. The only thing I can assume is that ideas were running thin on the ground by the time they got to the swords suit and the farmhand in question wasn’t having any of it so they stabbed him up real good like, just to keep a lid on their vile deception. That said, the last part of the description may actually prove the great redeemer here. I’m skipping past the whole “invaluable lessons” jargon to the bit that touches on improving health. You see, hard habits can be something of a devil to break, and I should know as mine do a disconcerting good impression of shatterproof.
Perhaps the most significant passage to me on an intimate level is the one that touches on the ever-looming possibility of bad news and harnessing the emotional brawn to ride it through. Take it from The Hermit, I have purposely removed myself from any potentially harmful situations over the past couple of weeks to focus on getting me fit and well. I realized I couldn’t do this without a 100% safe environment and all was going rather swimmingly until the weekend, when events involving my precious boy conspired against me in the most cruel fashion. I’m not about to go into the specifics but, needless to say, I needed all the inner muscle I could muster not to drop off the wagon directly into the path of a pack of crazy horses. But the worst this bogus bulletin had out of me was a vague wobble. I may be some way from Buddhist material at this point, but that still counts as progress in my book.
Remember the Joker card I spoke about earlier? Well I reckon I’ve got to the bottom of its alternative identity and it feels only right and just that “The Fool” completes today’s hand. Of the 206 bones in my endoskeleton; none enjoy a tickle more than the funny one. Anyone perusing my work who doesn’t possess a functioning sense of humor is pissing in a wind tunnel wearing rice paper chinos I’m afraid. It’s not that I can’t be serious, so much as it’s just not my default setting. This should be a cakewalk then, particularly given that the coin toss has decided to throw me a bone and approach this card in its upright position. Got my clown shoes at the ready, have refilled my squirty flower, now I just need to get the hang of this tricycle and dodge any airborne vegetables hurtling towards me. Just another day at the big top for a self-confessed buffoon such as I.
Just to clarify, The Fool card refers to a jester, not in fact somebody totally gormless. We’re dreamers and idealists by nature, looking to achieve great things and undeterred by just how long a road that might be. Three words that jump out at me instantly are curiosity, spontaneity and optimism – all of which I feel come across in my writing. I’m inquisitive as to where the boundaries of my imagination may lie, prepared to stick my neck out and test them, and believe wholeheartedly in my ability to tease them out further. While my kind are often bemoaned for our lack of experience when it comes to acknowledging life’s numerous pitfalls, it’s this same freshness to the scene that makes anything seem possible, resulting in improbable dreams becoming achievable. I’d rather play the fool and expand my horizons some than sit in a glass house all stony-faced.
I’d like to call to the stand a fellow imbecile to demonstrate the benefits of foolishness. Wile E. Coyote is curious as to how Road Runner will taste between two slices of granary bread, spontaneous enough to blow his entire life savings on shoddy ACME products in order to bag himself this turbo bird, and refuses to be dissuaded by the ever-ballooning cost of his medical bills. Granted, he’s never once managed to catch this cuckoo, but we cannot help but adore him for his never-say-die spirit. Road Runner may have double the Twitter followers and be verified by the powers that be, but he’s a fucking bird after all and therefore supplied “special bonuses”. One of these days, Wile E. Coyote will likely succumb to internal bleeding and ironically wind up buzzard meal, but at least he’ll have a handful of real friends to mourn him when he’s gone. I know which of the two I’d rather be.
So there you have it. Admittedly mine may not appear the strongest hand to go all-in with as it comprises a solemn looking old geezer, an inebriated wayfarer, a pentacle whore, death on horseback, one stabbed up bumpkin, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But I reckon I self-dealt it for a reason, you know. You see, there will always be method to my madness, even when I haven’t the faintest idea what that is at the time. As for Tarot, well the jury never adjourned for me in the first place. I’d prefer to air on the side of curiosity, be spontaneous when the chance presents itself, and believe that there is magic after all. And if that makes me a fool, well then feel free to…
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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