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.

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