Dark and Dreary

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but it was a dark and dreary day, which is almost as bad. I’d planned to clean today, but in the gloom, the dust wasn’t visible, so I put it off. As a friend said, the dust will still be there when I’m ready.

I did go for a walk, but it was just a walk. A grey walk. Skies were gray, streets were gray, the buildings I passed, despite their color, all seemed gray, too. You’d think with all this talk of gray, my perceptions were gray, too, but no. It was truly the lowering clouds that created the gloom. I’m fine, though come to think of it, I am dressed in a gray jacket to help stave off the chill. The house does keep its temperature, but there’s always that spell when the temperature drops and before the heater kicks in to remind me of the cold.

The only thing in my mind of interest — to me, anyway — is my ongoing study of the tarot. (If a few minutes a day can be called a “study.”)

The card I picked today to represent my situation was the 11 of Trumps. In some decks, this card is called Justice, while the 8 of Trumps is called Fortitude. In some decks, the 11 of Trumps is called Fortitude or Lust, while the 8 of Trumps is called Justice. In this deck, the card is called Lust for Life, because supposedly Aleister Crowley, the occult scholar, who updated the tarot at the beginning of the last century, thought that naming the card either Strength or Lust would limit its function in the eyes of many to the material plane. In essence, though, the card is about spiritual strength (linking up with spiritual roots), mental strength (courage and fortitude in the face of difficulties), and physical strength (stamina, resistance to ailments, and applying effort with joyful purpose — hence, Lust for Life).

To me, all this shows the rather arbitrary nature of the tarot. It seems as if most people are okay with the shifting sands upon which the tarot is built, but I need more of a foundation. Without a foundation, one can only blindly follow those who have gone before, who have blindly followed those who have gone before, who have . . . etc, etc. Then you get to people like Crowley who don’t blindly follow, but recreate everything according to his own mystical and “magickal” (the word he used to describe himself) inclinations.

If, as so many books about the Tarot say, that they are a help for mediation, then shouldn’t any stack of cards help? Christmas cards, birthday cards, get well cards — I bet there are enough out there to create a “Hallmark” version of the tarot.

And for those who use the simple explanations of the cards, such as justice or fortitude or strength, when doing a reading, then shouldn’t a plain deck of cards with just those words on them mean the same as the “official” picture/symbol cards?

And if the cards are about getting in touch with our own spiritual roots, then . . . I don’t know. I’m obviously missing a big part of the big picture when it comes to the tarot. I suppose if I stick with it long enough, something will click, and I’ll suddenly get the whole tarot thing, but so far, that’s not happening. Maybe when I find the deck that speaks to me (this particular deck definitely is not it) and stick with it for a while, I might start sensing some of what I am supposed to sense. Meantime, it’s a good daily discipline, as is writing this blog even when (like today!) I have nothing to say.

I do have one thing to add to the “nothing to say.” Not about the tarot but about the gloom. There’s no more gray to this day, no more dreary. Night fell while I was writing this post, and now it’s dark, or as dark as it can be with all the outdoor (and indoor) lighting.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

The Magickal Tarot

The tarot deck I am using this month is called The Magickal Tarot, though I’m not sure what makes it magical other than that the cards are supposed to be symbolic representations of the seventy-eight non-physical entities that rule the inner workings of the cosmos. Whatever that means. And anyway, if it’s true that the tarot is a representative of those entities, all tarot decks would be just as magical.

It’s a strange deck, at least to my eyes, with weird artwork. What makes it even stranger is that the artist used an interpretation of symbolism derived from Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, so by all rights, I should have skipped this deck and gone straight to Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck, but I chose this deck because it seemed to be an interesting look at the cards. Instead of a single interpretation of each card, he broke it down into three separate sections per card, a moral level, a mental level, and a material level, which I thought would give me a greater understanding of the cards. Unfortunately, he only did this for the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment).

For the minor arcana (the fifty-two cards that are similar to a regular pack of cards plus an extra face card per suit) he did what everyone else does — gives a simple interpretation.

Even worse, from my point of view, the interpretation of the card in the book is often at odds with the card itself.

For example, today’s card was the ten of cups, which is basically a card of good fortune and success, harmony and fulfillment. And yet the card itself mentions satiety and conflicting elements. The difference could be one of interpretation — after all, the artist didn’t write the book, he only created the cards.

Still, for all the drawbacks, I’ll stick with the deck. Who knows, I might learn something I wouldn’t otherwise know if I had passed on it. Besides, the month will be over soon, and I’ll be able to use a different deck, perhaps one that really does seem magical.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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Aleister Crowley was an early twentieth century occultist and magician who unabashedly did what he wanted, and hence earned the name, “the wickedest man in the world.” I have no idea how wicked he really was, but I do know he thought his work was good because it freed people from earthly rules and opened them to spiritual experiences. He was heavily involved in a secret group called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and designed a tarot deck that is used to this day. (I somehow ended up with a slew of his decks in three different sizes, but because a couple of the images on the cards creep me out, I haven’t yet used any of those decks.)

Crowley even founded his own religion based on the idea that the key principle of life was the pursuit of each individual’s will. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)

He was a great proponent of magic, which he defined as, “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”

And that’s the point I’ve been leading up to.

I find Crowley’s definition of magic provocative because it basically turns art and writing (and even just living) into magic, which of course, we already knew. We take something that doesn’t exist — a story or a painting — and out of our own will, we bring it forth into the world. Truly magical. By this definition, almost anything can be magic — a garden, a family, a friendship. And, again, of course these things are all magic.

We normally think of magic as legerdemain — conjuring tricks — or even something otherworldly, where a person can conjure something into being without trickery and using only his or her mind.

I’d love to have that sort of magic — conjuring something from nothing but the energy around me.

I had to stop there and think. Would I really want that sort of magic? To be honest, I don’t know. I like the sort of every day magic we pretend to understand. (I say “pretend” because does anyone really understand where a story or a piece of art comes from?)

In many respects, this blog is magic. I can write down whatever I am thinking, and potentially, people all over the world can peak into the world I have created.

Because I have willed it, so it is.

Very magical!


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.