There are many kinds of practitioners of the occult and esoteric. Every single person will give you a different explanation for what they do, and every single person is right, in their own way. The occult and esoteric traditions are not rigidly defined as are many fields of more “traditional” academia, such as, for example, my own fields of history and sociology, not to mention sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. In each of these academic fields, certain ethical, scientific, and methodological guidelines exist and are enforced by institutional boards. Despite what many “scientific skeptics” will tell you, many esoteric and occult practices do in fact have ethical, scientific, and methodological guidelines, though they differ in form and function from more traditional science. Additionally, there are no centralized authorities enforcing these guidelines, allowing for greater diversity among occult and esoteric practitioners.
This means that there is a wide spectrum of opinions about what constitutes esoteric and occult practices, and how they “should” be practiced. Just like all other practitioners of this type, I have my own opinions on the matter. Commonly, though, the fields of alchemy, astrology, tarot, geomancy, ritual and ceremonial magick, any form of divination, and numerology are considered “esoteric” or “occult” practices. I would like to take this time to point out that both of these words mean “hidden;” these practices are generally, by the way they are practiced, shielded from public knowledge and passed down between knowledgeable people.
Being surrounded by academia all of the time, many people – including some of my closest friends – have repeatedly mocked any form of occult or esoteric practices (especially Tarot, which seems to be a trigger for rants on the stupidity of superstition) as “unscientific” and “false,” claiming that they “don’t work.” I usually end conversations on the matter about there.
Whether or not it works all depends on how you perceive the practice. Many of the most devoted occultists and esotericists will say that what they do is a science in and of itself; indeed, many of these practices, most obviously alchemy, were the precursors to modern science. Many aspects of alchemy are merely chemistry in disguise, using different symbols and with different goals. Astrology is incredibly complex (my studies in the subject progress agonizingly slowly due to this) and feels like a science. Almost every single esoteric and occult practice has a great deal of practice, lore, background, and established methodologies behind it, in many cases rivaling the content in many academic disciplines. Its practitioners, however, are free to decide to abide by this background or branch out on their own, leading to, in many instances I think, a growth in these practices greater than many academic disciplines.
I am not one of those practitioners who considers himself a scientist. I never refer to what I do as an “occult science;” rather, I call them “esoteric arts.” Undoubtedly this is influenced by my perception of myself as a wordsmith and an artist of words, characters, plots, and worlds (not so much visual images; those are hard)! In my opinion, esoteric and occult practices, despite many similarities to academic disciplines, more closely resemble arts due to their ability for rapid change, the individualistic flairs they encourage, and the tradition built up behind them consisting of vast amounts of practical experience as opposed to a collection of tested theories. Neither one of these types of traditions are better than the other, a point I shall get back to soon.
Before that, however, there is one more comparison I must make between occult and esoteric practices and the arts, and that is the esoteric emphasis on intuition. In this case, most esoteric arts take a completely different view on intuition than science does. In science, intuition is merely the expression of emotions and current circumstances leading you to think something, perhaps combined with “animal instincts.” In most esoteric arts, intuition can be all of these things, but more importantly, it is also an expression of some kind of fundamental energy, whether you call it a spirit, god, nature, or anything else. I call it the universe. As such, many esoteric arts heavily involve relying upon the intuition as a means of reading and understanding the universe through one’s own subconscious. Artists do a similar thing, I believe, though they use different words to describe it.
It is because of this reliance on intuition primarily that makes me view myself as an artist rather than a scientist. However, this is not to say that there are not esoteric and occult scientists; there definitely are. However, most of them work on occult and esoteric theory as opposed to practice. I am currently at nowhere near that stage of development in my esoteric practices, and am content learning and applying theory to what I consider my art. In time I hope to move up to theory, and I am already starting to develop some ideas. Esoteric theory, in many ways, is an extension of philosophy – but that is a discussion for another day.
Every time I read a Tarot Spread or a Geomantic Chart, I am practicing an art form, not a science, in my opinion. When I make my art, I am drawing upon the world as it is expressed in myself. I believe that the world has a little piece of everyone inside them, and that by using an esoteric art my mind is better able to bring the subconscious forward by using symbols to trigger thoughts I might not otherwise have thought. That is all.
Now, I promised I would come back to the two traditions: one built on logical experimentation (science) and one built on practical experience (art). As I said, I firmly believe that neither is better than the other overall, but each has its place, and it is best when the two are mixed together in moderation. For example, in matters of theory, experimentation clearly takes the lead, and in any kind of artistry practical experience does. However, in the medical field, both are necessary; logical experimentation to develop the theories to lead to the cures, and practical experience on the ground.
The two are halves of the same coin, yet in the modern academic climate, one is almost entirely ignored (experience) and the other praised as the only way forward (experimentation). I believe this is not the best way to proceed. As much as I might disagree with occultist John Michael Greer’s criticisms of much of the Western scientific tradition, he does bring up the point that its flat, outright denial of esoteric and occult symbolism and thought hinders more than helps. Scientists don’t truly understand occult and esoteric practices, and yet still dismiss them out of hand without ever coming to truly understand them. They use only their logical experimentation, which, I might add, is imperfect at best, and are happy to ignore the experience of countless generations of occultists.
So, what am I saying? Science is very good and has gotten us to a great deal of places, and I put a lo of faith in it. Bravo, science! However, its ridicule of things it does not really understand – the esoteric arts being the primary one of these (I won’t bring religion into this right now, as I have my own very harsh views on organized religion) – doesn’t really help anyone, I think, especially if most of these practitioners have accepted science as equally valid, if not in some cases more so, as their own practices. Science should have an open mind, not a closed one.
To boil it all down to a single sentence, I consider myself an academic who studies society, but also an esoteric artist and a wordsmith.
I read a very scary book yesterday: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. As I explained in the first linked post, I was extremely affected by this book, on a level that no other book has ever affected me. Needless to say, it also terrified the living daylights out of me. As I was up at obscenely late (or early, depending on your point of view) hours, not able to sleep, I started contemplating ways to help me deal with my fear. As is common with me, I turned to the tarot, which I find usually calms me down when I am stressed about something.
And so I decided, last night, to design a spread to help me face my fears by contemplating them and moving past them. Fear is a psychosomatic phenomenon; fear is not a mandatory part of being alive. Fear only exists so long as you let it exist, as best explained in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune in the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
What makes fear so scary is, in part our inability to effectively deal with the unknown. By making our fear known, it helps to lessen it. We cannot deal with that which we do not know. Once we know it, it can be treated and dealt with. As such, this spread is designed to help you think about your fear, and hopefully try to move past it.
The spread below has a unique shape, which those of you familiar with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos might recognize. It is the shape of the original Lovecraft Elder Sign (not August Derleth’s rehashed Elder Sign). The Elder Sign was designed by Lovecraft in his short story/novelette “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” to protect its bearers from the Deep Ones. Lovecraft also used it in another instances – such as in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” – as a means to ward off any form of unnatural being. It has since come to be used as a ward or protective force to be employed against any manner of unnatural or eldritch beings.
Since H. P. Lovecraft’s horror is known for portraying the horror of cosmicism – the utter meaninglessness of life in an uncaring, monstrous universe and the vast, unknowable depths of human consciousness and experience from which the eldritch and alien emerge – I felt that it was appropriate that the spread should take the form of his Elder Sign, to ward off the terrible unknown that forms the basis of most fear.
Without further ado, the spread is here:
The spread is divided into three parts: Positions 1, 2, and 3 (the stem) represent the nature of the Fear you are facing, and help to mitigate its impact by understanding what it is. Positions 4 and 5 represent the nature of your possible reactions to the fear, helping get you in the proper mindset to rationalize the Fear and your ultimate course of action with regards to it. Positions 6, 7, and 8 represent the nature of the Courage you need to summon up in order to face your Fear, and as such lie above the Fear and represent what you should ultimately do to allow the Fear to move past you.
When using this spread, as always, deck choice can be key. Colorful, cheerful decks (like the Gummy Bear Tarot, Angel Tarot, Wildwood Tarot) can help bring peace of mind to you if overcoming your fear through action is what you desire. Darker decks (like the Necronomicon and Dark Grimoire decks) can often help overcome your fear through a cathartic-release effect, and might also help you more deeply consider the Fear by giving it more weight. I personally find the latter approach more beneficial, but it’s entirely up to you as the reader (or the querent as the querent).
The Nature of the Fear
Position 1: The Underlying Cause of the Fear/Root of the Fear
As I argued above, the true underlying cause of almost all Fear is the unknown, particularly the intrusion of the unknown or alien into one own’s familiar life. However, it would be, for contemplative purposes, not very useful to assign a place in the spread for this already-defined idea. Instead, the “root” position of this spread represents what, on a deep level, is causing this Fear of the unknown to creep into your life. What insecurity, emotion, though, or feeling is causing this Fear? How did the unknown creep into your life? What aspect of the unknown is it that is scaring you? On the most fundamental level (without just saying “the unknown”), what is it about your current situation that really unnerves you? This position, though a “root” position, is meant to be a very, very abstract concept; Fear is ultimately rooted in the mind. It asks you the question “What am I really afraid of in this situation?”
If this position is inhabited by a Sword, a Prince, or an Ace, then your fear may be buried deeply in your mind, and is a very abstract Fear, as cards with these qualities reinforce this position’s meaning and ask you to focus your attention and thoughts here.
Position 2: The Form the Fear Takes
This position is meant to illustrate the way in which the above underlying cause of Fear appears to you. If your fear is, say, that you will die alone and unloved (the first position), then this position might tell you that this fear makes itself known to you through your recent string of romantic rejections. Another way to view this position is as asking the question “What prompted this Fear to awaken inside you?” This position will hopefully help explain to you how the Fear makes itself known in your life, how it shapes itself, and how it manifests in such a way as to affect you. This position represents the avatar of your Fear, its earthly representative as it descends from the realm of the abstract.
If a Disk, Ten, or Princess appears in this position, your Fear may be grounded inherently in the practical; cards with these qualities reinforce the card in this position, and tell you to focus your attention here. Additionally, if this card is a two or a three, pay special attention here, as this card can represent the potential for the Fear to grow (related to the “Three” position), and also as the first “harmony” of the Fear (the “Two”). Also pay attention to Fours here, as this position also represents the manifestation of Fear.
Position 3: The Effect the Fear Has on You
This is a relatively simple position; it directly helps you understand how the Fear has impacted your life, and what effects it is having on you. Carrying on with our example from above, if the way that the Fear of dying alone and unloved is manifesting itself in your life is that you have been rejected many times recently, the effect that this fear is having on you could be withdrawal and contemplation of your dismal prospects, perhaps thus producing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps the effect that the fear has had on you is that you are becoming more and more desperate to find someone who won’t reject you. Perhaps you are losing sleep over, or feel that your life is out of balance. Think deeply about the card in this position, as it is a reflection of your mental state as you instinctively try and cope with the Fear that you face. This position’s meaning is very broad, and can be interpreted in many ways, depending on the situation.
If this card is a Cup, Queen, or Three, pay extra special attention to the card in this position, as cards with these qualities reinforce this positions meaning in terms of how the Fear is affecting you and your healthy inner life.
The Nature of Your Possible Reactions to the Fear
Position 4: The Reaction That May Benefit You
No card in any spread is guaranteed to fit perfectly, or even well, and so the card in this position represents not “the reaction/mechanism of coping with the Fear that will help you” or “the positive way to react to the Fear,” but rather offers a (usually short-term, but also possibly long-term) course of action that might possibly help you cope with the Fear. This card also serves as a sort of “sum” of the meanings of Cards 6, 7, and 8, representing them in their totality. This position asks you to think about a particular course of action and what benefits it might bring you; it is advice, nothing more, and represents one possibly way to react to your fear. Of course, thinking about the negatives of this reaction is always a positive too, and should definitely be done, though this card’s emphasis is on how to react positively to the Fear, and gives guidance primarily in that regard. Essentially, this position asks you to think how the meanings of its occupying card might help you deal with the fear well. Going along with our example, perhaps this card advises you to take a step back and take some time to contemplate your actions as seen in Position 3; maybe there is something you are doing that you can change so that you won’t be rejected. Maybe it advises you not to worry because there is someone for everyone, and with patience they will come.
If a Four is occupying this position, then pay extra attention to this position, as Fours (representing Chesed and Stability) reinforce this position’s inherent desire to stabilize you among your fear.
Position 5: The Reaction That May Harm You
Like the above, this card has a disclaimer attached to it. The same one as the card above, in fact. Additionally, like the above position, this position is associated with Position 3 in the spread. The difference between Position 3 and Positions 4 and 5 is that Position 3 is meant to get you to think about how the fear has affected your life directly, while Positions 4 and 5 ask you to think about possible courses of actions to more effectively deal with this fear (if you didn’t want/need advice on how to help you overcome your Fear, then you shouldn’t have been doing this spread in the first place). Position 3 is a more immediate reaction, whereas 4 and 5 are more thought-out and considered reactions.
That being said, Position 5 is the opposite of Position 4. Where Position 4 asks you to examine a reaction to your fear that might help you, this position asks you to examine a reaction that you should avoid, as it may harm you or even increase the power that the Fear you are experiencing holds over you. Keeping with our example, this position might tell the querent that their Fear will only be made worse if he continues going out to singles bars, or perhaps that solitude isn’t the answer for now. This position asks you to consider a possible course of action and the negative outcomes it might bring (though, again, always think about the positives too!).
If a Five is present in this position, ponder it carefully, as Fives (Geburah and Destabilizing Motion) represent the energies present in this position.
The Nature of the Courage You Need to Face Your Fear
Position 6: The Source of Your Courage
The three cards making up the final part of the Elder Sign mirror the three cards making up the stem. Position 6 asks you to examine the source of your Courage; where will you or should you draw the energy from to face your Fear? Will it be drawn from within you, or from without? Will it come from friends? A significant other? Family? The community? Your pets? Going back to our ubiquitous example, perhaps our querent will draw the courage needed to face his problem from his dog, whom he realizes loves him unconditionally. Perhaps we will realize that he will always have his family. Perhaps he will realize that there is more to life than love, and will do what he can without it. If the source of your Courage is abstract, then likely a Sword or Wand will appear here. If the source is more grounded, a Cup or Disk will likely appear here. If the source is grounded, then this position also will help you determine from what physical objects your Courage will come from.
If Wands/Fire is present in this position, then your Courage in part comes from your indomitable will. If Cups/Water is, you draw it from your inner strength. If Swords/Air is, then it will come from your mindset, your rationale, and your principles of truth and reason. If Disks/Earth is, then it will come from those around you and your environment. Additionally, if a Six, Nine, Ten, or Ace is present in this position, then the source of Courage is especially strong and likely will not let you down. A Six indicates that your source is well-balanced and centered, a Nine that your Source is complete and full, a Ten that your Source is rooted firmly in the ground, and an Ace that your source is bottomless and overflows with energy.
Position 7: The Form Your Courage Takes
This position mirrors Position 2, but applies to Courage rather than Fear. If Position 6 explains where your courage is drawn from, this Position represents how it will manifest itself in terms of your ultimate reaction to the Fear. This card is linked closely to Position 4, as it helps you understand the best course of outcome for dealing with your fear. Position 4 gets you on the right track and offers one possible reaction, usually short-term, but Position 7 represents the longer-term process that will help you permanently deal with your Fear. If Positions 4 and 7 reinforce each other, than the Fear will be relatively simple to conquer; if they negate each other, then your Fear may be more difficult to conquer. Remember, however, that fear is always conquerable. It’s in your head. Sure, if an object is the source of the Fear, it can still harm you, but once you soar above bodily and hormonal reactions to it, the choice to Fear becomes yours alone.
This card represents how the Courage will imbue you and allow you to face your Fear. If we return to our example for the penultimate time, our brave querent perhaps decides that no matter what happens, he will always have his dog to return to, and so is emboldened by this to let slide rejections; he knows that he matters to someone, and so if someone rejects him, he thinks that it’s ultimately their loss, not his. In this case, the Form Courage takes for him is self-esteem.
If a Seven is in this position, be wary! Sevens in this position indicate a possible false sense of Courage, not truly drawn from your source, and might fail you in the end. This is not necessarily the case, but it is a distinct possibility, so be warned! Reversed cards in this position also mean that there might be a hurdle or blockage at first making it difficult for the Courage to manifest itself in your life.
Position 8: The End Result of Conquering Your Fear
The is the summation card, and represents the changes that you will see in your life once the Fear has been conquered by your Courage. This is a broad card, and can mean anything, but it is essentially a summation of the previous seven cards and the lasting effect that they will have on you. Returning to our example for the last time, perhaps this card tells our querent that by overcoming his Fear using the Courage of his Self-Esteem, he will become a more confident person who will succeed in the world, and as a result of this grow to be loved by more and more people, until he dies as a beloved member of the community.
If this card is a Nine or a Ten, pay special attention to it, as this process will make you stronger in the end. If this card is a Seven, the process may actually weaken you (what doesn’t kill you does sometimes make you weaker). If an Eight is occupying this position, it cautions you not to over-react to the conquest of your fear, and reminds you to remain balanced afterward.
In order to design this spread, I came up first with the idea, then the symbol I wanted to use, then the layout, and then attached cursory meanings to the cards. I then laid out a spread, and adjusted the meanings slightly to better suit the energies as they were displayed before me (I switched positions 4 and 5 from the initial reading). In the end, the result of my initial spread – my Fear about House of Leaves – was as follows, using the Dark Grimoire Tarot:
Position 1 – Four of Wands [Reversed]: The root cause of my Fear is an inability to be complete; the House of Leaves reminded me of the essential state of loneliness that we all experience in the world, that we can never escape from; it is impossible to completely “know” somebody. Everybody is, in the end, the unknown.
Position 2 – Four of Swords [Reversed]: The form my Fear took was that of an inability to obtain restful sleep, or any kind of truce or break. Quite literally, the book made it impossible for me to sleep, and as its messages ring constantly in my mind, the Fear gnaws at my mind. I am surrounded by people, and their unknowable nature constantly reminds me of how alone I am and how alien the world is. I have no respite from these thoughts, and thus the Fear is with me always, and the Fear manifests itself as a constant presence and sense of restlessness and unease with everything.
Position 3 – Ten of Pentacles: The effect that the Fear had on me was to render my material Wealth (from my family) meaningless, and illustrate how life means nothing without deep connections to others, no matter what you own. However, complete connections with others are impossible, and so the contradiction of the Tens emerge: I want that which I cannot have, and so am unsatisfied, and am affected by my fear by becoming unhappy, wanting more, and realizing that having everything is both futile and impossible.
Position 4 – The Hermit: This Hermit advises me not to seek a period of withdrawal and contemplation in order to rationally sort out my fears and discover who I really am. While this could help – as we are all, ultimately, inherently alone – it would also hurt me by depriving me of the support of others. As this fear is about a lack of connection to others, cutting myself off from them could be disastrous, even though I know my bonds to others will never be pure and complete.
Position 5 – Two of Vessels: This card advises me to seek out a companion to confide in and share my Fear with, thereby lessening the burden and reminding me that while on the ultimate level we are all inherently alone, on more superficial (in the literal, not connotative, sense of the word) levels, there are always others to support us. This is the course of action I ended up taking, and it worked.
Position 6 – Six of Swords [Reversed]: My Courage will come from logic and reason. In the end, my confidante calmed me with exactly this; she sat me down and logically explained why I shouldn’t be afraid. Usually this doesn’t work with me, but combined with the calming effect of my confidante (and her humour), this did wonders. The card is reversed because the logic and rationale of Science was not enough on its own to banish the fears; the influence of the Two of Vessels was also needed.
Position 7 – Nine of Cups: The Courage took the form of Happiness, as I realized that I would be okay even if I was on a fundamental level alone, because I would always have people who loved me, and that that was the best anyone could do. Therefore, I could unblock Completion (the Four of Wands) and be happy and content.
Position 8 – The Fool: As a result of confronting and defeating my Fears, I will be ready to move on with my life, no longer worrying too much about being alone and alien to others. However, this card also reminds me of the cyclical nature of everything, and how another Fear will eventually take the place of the old one – but hopefully I will be ready and brave enough to face it.
Hopefully this spread is helpful!
Those of you who have been following this blog know that my mind has been, in almost all of the previous readings I have posted here, been preoccupied with the Occupy Movement across the globe, and reading its widespread effects in the spreads. I was reflecting on the current state of the Movement – it seems to have lost a lot of momentum and has certainly dropped from the media radar and much public knowledge – and contrasting that with what I had predicted. I seem to have been rather off-kilter in my predictions (though I did think that it was maybe possible for the Movement to go into a “dormant” phase; this could very well be it), only to re-emerge more brightly in the future. However, I am anything but infallible, and may very well have misread the cards based on my situation in a place where I could not see the full picture.
If we look at Marx’s theories of Revolution, the Revolution to overthrow the governing classes must be composed of the workers united in one consciousness. As a Teaching Assistant in my Social Theories class insightfully pointed out, the Occupy Movement was made up of middle-class college students primarily, and when the working class did get involved, segregation in the Occupy camp occurred. Nothing was really solved, and the working class was still excluded and left out. This might account for why it has appeared to flop so badly.
Or perhaps there is another explanation; Marx was far from infallible. If he had been completely correct, the Great Depression would have resulted probably in a Communist Revolution in the United States. As far as we know, that did not happen. So, I decided to ask the cards for clarification, and went with a deck I use very little: The Dark Grimoire Deck.
I used the standard Celtic Cross Spread, and got this:
Card 1 – Central Factor: Ace of Wands
The Ace of Wands is a fiery card, filled with the pure spirit and will of Fire. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, the Ace of Wands is the cover of the Book of Light, representing creativity and sexuality. The central factor in determining the current state of the occupy Movement appears to be the pure sexual/fiery energy of creativity. But on whose part – the Occupiers or the Occupied? Is the current state of the Occupy Movement a result of the fiery ideological counterattack by the media and the right? Or is it perhaps a result of the fire of the movement starting strong and burning with a passion and then burning out? Or, perhaps it is a combination of the two; as rhetoric against the Occupy Movement grew (both sides began to criticize it, though for different reasons), the Movement itself began to splinter under pressure, and as the media shifted its attention away from it, like a fire the Occupy Movement began to gutter out, until like a flame its strength and power had ebbed away.
This card also represents the cover of a book. It tells us that the Occupy Movement has this fiery energy and creativity, but also that the book hasn’t completely opened yet. This seems to support my earlier conclusions about the Movement entering a “dormant” phase; the real story has not even begun yet.
Card 2 – Supporting Factor: The Lovers
This card indicates two personalities coming together and bonding, in some form or another. In this case, this bond, I think could be between two distinct personalities of the Occupy Movement: its middle-class personality and its revolutionary personality, coming together to create a revolution of the middle class. This revolution would look very different from a working class revolution, and would not have the same intensity as a working class revolution would. Perhaps this mismatched relationship is part of the cause for the movement’s recent downturn. Another interesting aspect of this card in the Dark Grimoire deck is that a third figure appears on the art, looking on the two lovers, creating a sense of impending doom. Who is this third figure? In this case, it could very well be the working class, which has been excluded from this revolutionary relationship through segregation in the camps and middle-class dominance of the Movement. In this situation, this card seems to have a more ominous and less positive connotation, and becomes a card of exclusion rather than bonding.
There are other relationships that this card could indicate. The Occupy Movement’s bond with the left and its strong association with it in a country with conservative leanings could also account for their current situation. The third figure in this case would be the right-wing in the United States, who have been left out of the Occupy Movement even though many conservatives would benefit from its success. This exclusion allows the media to delegitimize the Movement by associating it with politics rather than economic justice. It could also indicate the alliance of conservatives and liberals in striking down the Movement, making the third figure the Movement itself.
Card 3 – Past Influence: Two of Wands [Reversed]
So what laid in the Occupy Movement’s past? The Two of Wands – reversed. The Two of Wands is associated with domination and power, and this card in this position could indicate that the Movement in the past had power and the potential to change things, but perhaps no longer; this power is receding, either permanently or temporarily. Interestingly, both the Ace and Deuce of Wands appear in this spread; the Ace is in the present, and the Deuce in the past. This indicates a retrograde storyline; the book was opened and the story was read (the Two), but then the reader (in this case, social consciousness) rejected the storyline and shut the book, bringing it back to its cover.
This raises the question: why was the storyline rejected? Maybe, as Marx would likely theorize, the conditions weren’t right yet. Perhaps Marx is completely wrong, and the Occupy Movement’s aims will never be accomplished. Maybe the story will open again, and maybe not.
The Two of Wands is in this case Reversed, which is important to keep in mind. Perhaps that is why the storyline was rejected; perhaps the power that the Occupy Movement displayed earlier was false, and it appeared to be larger than it actually was (I believe I myself fell into this trap). This would account, I believe, for why the book closed; the Movement did not have the power it claimed as a result of leaving out important factors (as indicated by the Lovers), and so was destined to fail – for the moment. The book still exists, as indicated by the presence of the Ace of Wands. The art of the Two of Wands in this deck shows two men plotting something around a table, which hints that perhaps the movement was less spontaneous than it has been presented as – and perhaps reinforcing that the lack of inclusion of working-class individuals hurt the Movement (the figures in the image are distinctly scholarly).
Card 4 – Future Influence: The Magician
In the future we have the card that serves as the cover image of this deck: the Magician. The Magician is a card of manipulation, a master of esoteric secrets, and a channel of the divine or supernatural. He serves as a bridge between the realms of illusory reality and true reality. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, he is portrayed as writing a book. The Magician is, therefore, the person writing the story.
But what story, do you ask? He is writing the story that we all read and experience. Everyone has their own magician, writing their life story, but in this case, the energy of the Magician is powerful enough to manifest itself in a spread, in the position of the Future. The influence of the Magician is rising, and will eventually become a dominant force in the occupy Movement. We can hope. This, to me, indicates that in the future the Occupy Movement will resurge and will begin to write the story of the world, indicating its success.
However, I am biased. I want the Occupy Movement to succeed. What if, instead, the Magician is indicating that the opponents of the Movement will be writing the story? Nothing is specified. In the present moment, the opponents of the Movement are writing the story; politicians, the media, and conservatives dominate the discussion, and even liberals discredit the movement, writing the Movement’s history for it. Perhaps the Magician indicates that this trend will continue into the future.
So, then, who in this situation is the Magician?
Turning to the cards themselves, I noticed that the Major Arcana from I to IV are all present, and in very close proximity to each other. This, to me, seems to indicate that the prevailing story of the Occupy Movement is that of the Major Arcana, and is a coming of age story for the Movement. The Magician serves as a teacher for the Movement, which to me indicates that the Magician refers to those others writing the history’s Movement: the media and politicians. The Movement will hopefully learn from this experience, and move onward and forward, for the Magician is a teacher. Adversity and the active manipulation of your Movement by others can serve as a fine teacher.
Card 5 – Unconscious Influence: The Hanged Man
This card has darker connotations than normal in the Dark Grimoire Deck. It actually depicts a Hanged Man. This, to me, says that the hidden, underlying causes of the Movement’s current state is despair of some kind; the artwork on the card evokes ideas of suicide (quite obviously, really) and depression. Perhaps the Movement has ceased in most of its efforts because it could see how badly the odds were stacked against them, and support began to ebb as it became clear that nothing would change as a result of their actions. This supports my early theory of classifying the Movement as a flame: burning hot and bright, then simmering down quickly and burning out.
This card could also indicate that the Movement is merely biding its time and waiting; after all, the Hanged Man is card of going with the flow. Perhaps the Movement is waiting to gain more legitimacy, waiting to see what happens, and then resurge again when the time is right. This card seems to indicate that the current state of affairs is temporary, and that beneath the surface, the spirit of the Movement remains alive, but in an unrecognizable state. The time was not right for the Movement (again reinforcing what has already been said), and so the Hanged man came to have unconscious influence.
Card 6 – Conscious Influence: The High Priestess
The High Priestess, in the Dark Grimoire Deck, stands with the book the Magician wrote in her hand, reading it first and holding its secrets in her heart and mind. The High Priestess here is the first to interpret and fully comprehend the Magician’s words – perhaps even better than the Magician himself. She is an initiator of mysteries, and another channel of the divine. As a conscious influence, this card to me seems to indicate that the Occupy Movement is inspired by higher morals and ideals from a higher plane (economic justice), and that its current state relates to these ideals. Perhaps the segregation of the Movement between middle and working class Americans violated this ideals, and in order to maintain its legitimacy, the Movement had to lie low until it once again came in tune with this divine inspiration.
Perhaps this card could also indicate that the Movement is acting as a reader of the world, and is carefully watching everything said about it, and has realized that perhaps a better time for the Movement will come later. Perhaps they have subdued themselves because of signs they have seen; violent crackdowns, negative media coverage, and abundant criticisms of the Movement. They are taking a more passive stance, and reading the world again to determine when the time will again be right. This reinforces the themes of waiting and passivity found in the Hanged Man.
Card 7 – The Movement’s Own Perspective: Ace of Swords
Another Ace makes itself known, indicating that perhaps the Movement has a lot of unrealized potential; the Movement’s story has not yet even really begun. The Ace of Swords is the Ace of Demons, corresponding to the realms of thought and control. The Movement perhaps believes that it is in control of its own fate, and believes that it will fail or succeed based purely upon its own merits, actions, and mental attitudes. The reason for the present situation of the Movement is not because its opponents are doing better, but rather it is because the members of the Movement itself are failing in some way. As this card represents how the Movement itself feels about the situation, I find the above unlikely. Rather, I think that this card indicates that the Movement is aware of the control that the media, corporations, and the privatized political systems have in this country, and so are choosing to wait until they are weaker before rising up to strike again. Or, at the very least, the Movement believes this to be true. This card I am unable to shed much light on, as I am not an Occupier myself.
Card 8 – Society’s Perspective: Two of Swords [Reversed]
Interesting that the Two of Swords immediately follows the Ace. Perhaps the book of Swords – the Book of Control – has been opened by someone other than the Occupy Movement. Perhaps Society has opened the book and is reading and interpreting it in its own way, and thereby seizing control of the Movement’s future. The artwork shows Erich Zann (from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann”) playing his violin while blindfolded, indicating a blind devotion and a search for inner tranquility that may be shattered at any moment by the Demons standing below him. Peace is fragile, this card reminds us, and society is getting this message as well. This card, to me, indicates that society realizes that there is a serious problem, and that the Occupy Movement has helped to raise awareness of this problem, even if it did not accomplish what it set out to do. This card is also reversed, indicating that perhaps the influence of the Occupy Movement on society’s perspective is hidden and not obvious, manifesting itself in a greater awareness of social issues in the country.
Interestingly, both Twos that appear in this spread are reversed. This seems to indicate that the story of the Movement has begun, at least in part, but that we are having trouble progressing past the beginning – perhaps due to flaws within the Movement itself, or because it has such powerful opponents. The fact that Erich Zann is blindfolded also has significance. The card is reversed, which could indicate that the blindfold will soon be coming off, and that society perceives the Occupy Movement as inherently flawed and silly, but at the same time as bringing something in dire need of attention to light: social inequalities in the United States and the world. Now that the Occupy Movement has done that, it is receding, as that goal has been accomplished, which might explain the Movement’s current state.
Card 9 – Advice/Hopes/Fears: The Emperor
The Emperor is a bringer of justice and order, as well as a symbol of power and authority. It reinforces the theme of fire we have seen throughout the spread as well. In this case, the Occupy Movement probably fears the order imposed upon them by the police, politicians, and the media, and the laws of society as a whole. What it hopes for is the justice that the Emperor brings to everyone. What it could do better is bring this justice to their own movement, end segregation within its camps, and come up with more ideas than just throwing out a lot of the old system. Perhaps if smaller concrete goals could be imagined (as difficult as this would be, given the broad goals of the Movement now), more might be accomplished, changing the order and sense of justice incrementally.
Card 10 – Summation: The Empress
The Empress is companion to the Emperor. She welcomes the Emperor’s subjects and nurtures them, preparing them for the indoctrination of the Hierophant and for her husband’s acceptance. This card in this position tells us that if things continue as they are, the Empress is the result. This seems at odds with the rest of the reading; the nurturing mother figure of the Empress?
Keep in mind that this reading is not examining the trajectory of the Movement as its primary focus. Rather, I am examining the factors behind its current situation. In this case, this summary card to me indicates that the Occupy Movement is in its current state in order to better care for its members and society as a whole. Its tactics have proved largely ineffective, and its members are fleeing the Movement. Many members of the Movement need to obtain jobs and money, and so leave the Movement, weakening it in order to nurture themselves – maybe so that later they can give back to the Movement. The Movement is also drawing a lot of fire, and a lot of arrests have been made, so perhaps the Movement is lying low to give its members time to recover and nurse themselves back to health, so that the movement can continue fighting.
Three things drew my attention immediately about this spread. The first was the presence of a large number of Major Arcana, indicating that large forces are behind the Movement’s current situation, perhaps many beyond its control. The second was that there were no Court Cards, indicating that strong personalities or individuals were not involved; this is a reminder that the Movement has no real “leader.” The third thing I noticed was that there were no Minor Arcana cards above the Two, which seems to suggest that the Occupy Movement is only the first stage in a much longer process, as its story has only just been opened.
So, in summary, the Occupy Movement is in its current state because it has burned itself out and faces poor publicity as a result of others writing its story, and is now sitting back and biding its time, waiting for the proper moment to rise again and allowing itself to lick its wounds and heal from the assaults on it. In the end, the Occupy Movement is only the first chaper – the opening lines and cover – of the book telling the history of the world, one forged in Fire and Air, the only two appearing elements in the spread. Emotions and Practicality are not the true essence of the Movement, but rather fiery willpower combined with lofty ideals. These things are necessary before the full revolution will occur, but we have a long way to go before we reach our final destination…