Tarot Update

It seems as if this month just started, as if only a couple of days ago I started using a new tarot deck, but in another couple of days, I need to pick a new deck to use during April. Well, I don’t have to use a new deck, but that’s one of the reasons for my picking a card every day and for learning the tarot — to use my deceased brother’s tarot collection.

Although I am getting familiar with the tarot, I still don’t quite see how it fits in my life. It’s supposed to be a way to get to know oneself, and unless I am extremely obtuse, I’m not learning anything I don’t already know. Most people think of the tarot as a way of learning the future, or at least how to decide to go forward into the future, but that also doesn’t seem to fit with my life. Partly, of course, I don’t want to know. And partly, I already know the future, if not in specifics, then in general. If the past is anything to go by, the future will bring good things to my life, and it will bring a lot of not so good things. Either way, the knowing isn’t important — it’s being able to deal with what comes that’s important, and the lessons I’ve learned from grief lessons tell me I’ll find a way to accept whatever happens.

Besides, even if the purpose of the tarot was to learn the future, it’s nothing special. We can all learn what the future holds just by living. I mean, tomorrow is today’s future, and when I wake up tomorrow, I will know what the future holds. To a certain extent, anyway. Sometimes things change drastically from morning until night, witness all the people who woke up fine and ended up with The Bob by the evening.

Still, although a deep psychic connection with the tarot eludes me (perhaps because any psychic powers I might have are rather weak), I am continuing with my studies.

To date, the deck I like the most is this month’s deck, The Tarot of the Stars. It’s larger than most, which was a problem until I figured out how to shuffle them, and they aren’t slick enough to easily fan out, but other than that, they seem to be a quintessential tarot deck, with plenty of symbolism if I ever get into that aspect, as well as a key word to help figure out the meaning.

Today’s card was the magician, which is about knowledge, willpower, ability, eloquence, beginnings. It’s about harnessing the magician’s power to create the world you want. It’s about a lot of other things too, depending on whose interpretation you go by, but this brief interpretation seems to fit this particular card.

I still have a couple of dozen decks to try out to see if they speak to me, but so far, this is the closest. Oddly, it’s also the one I gravitated toward at the beginning when I first unpacked the decks, but since the instruction booklet that came with the deck is in an obscure dialect of Italian, I couldn’t use the cards until I developed my own guidebook. Once I’ve gone through all the decks, once I’ve gone through all the cards (some cards still haven’t shown up in my daily reading, though I’ve been doing this since July), and once I’ve started doing multi-card readings and need something to do on the off days (you’re not supposed to do a daily spread for oneself, though I know why) and need something to do the off days, I might try to translate the book via Word and Google.

Meantime, there are still two more days of enjoying this deck before I have the onerous task of picking a new one.

***

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.

Tooting My Own Horn

Today is my 500th day in a row of blogging. I can’t say that I’m proud of everything I’ve written, but I am pleased that I have managed to keep to the discipline of a post a day for so long.

It is also my 222nd day of taroting. I know that’s not a word, but I’m not exactly studying the tarot, nor am I doing what is considered a reading. I am simply picking a card, making a note of all the various interpretations of each card so that when I use a tarot deck where the instructions are in an archaic form of Italian (as a couple of the decks are), I will be able to check my own notes for what each of those cards might mean.

If you don’t know why my interest in the tarot, it’s that I ended up with my deceased brother’s tarot collection, and I started my card-a-day practice as a sort of memorial to him. (In case you missed the posts where I talked about his decks, I have about four dozen different decks, some collectables, some common, some esoteric, and each month I pick a different deck to use to see if there is any one that will speak to me. So far, I haven’t heard a word from any of them.)

And today I’ve folded my 140th origami crane. My intent was to do one a day, thinking that by the end of three years I will have made my senzaburu (1000 origami cranes), but I find myself folding cranes whenever I have a few free minutes because the idea of all those cranes has captured my imagination. The legend is that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will have a wish come true or happiness and eternal good fortune. Since I have no particular wish (except to sell thousands of copies of Bob, The Right Hand of God), I’m aiming for eternal good fortune. Though to be honest, I tend to think I have that now, for which I am grateful.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to hedge my bet. Actually, I think the benefit comes in the folding rather than the finished senzaburu, but since it’s early days yet, I don’t know for sure.

I’ve also folded various other birds just for fun. Those I’m thinking of hanging in my garage to let me know where to stop and park.

This is all I have to toot about. These things are nothing special, really, except that I am doing them, and they all add up to a daily discipline, proving . . . I don’t know . . . perhaps that I’m alive and kicking and still going strong.

***

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?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

New Month, New Tarot Deck

Every month I’ve been using a different tarot deck in an effort to see if the deck feels the same as the rest, or if it resonates with me. Although I like a couple of the decks better than any of the others, either because of size or feel or the artistry, I haven’t felt any special affinity with any of the cards.

This month’s choice of decks is the Jungian tarot, which is based on archetypal images designed to activate the imagination. According to the designer of the deck, most of the current values assigned to the various cards were arbitrarily developed in the nineteenth century by occult groups. By contrast, he says the attributions in the Jungian Tarot were painstakingly researched in an effort to relate tarot interpretation to more ancient traditions.

Sounds good, right? Well, today’s card, the ten of wands activates my imagination not at all. The image gives me the impression of being weirdly inappropriate since it seems sinister, and the ten of wands is a rather benign card relating to careful management, functioning within a large organization, success, the loneliness that comes from success, and reacting defensively to badly organized ideas. Which is not a whole lot different from the meanings assigned by other tarot interpreters. Most say the card is about success and the perhaps oppressive responsibilities one has to take on because of that success; a need for prioritizing, delegating, and sharing your burdens. (None of which seem to have any relation to my life at all.)

It almost seems as if the major arcana (the cards most people have heard of, such as the fool, the hanged man, the sun, the moon, etc) are the cards that every tarot artist and interpreter spend most time on, and the others are “also rans.” (Which is why so many readings, such as online readings, use only those twenty-two cards rather than all seventy-eight cards.)

When I do graduate from picking just one card to doing a periodic reading (weekly or monthly), chances are I will only use those twenty-two cards until I get familiar with how the cards fit together to show . . . well, to show whatever it is they are supposed to show. I still don’t know. I do know the tarot isn’t really about foretelling the future; it’s more about communicating with our deepest being, but so far, there’s not a hint of what I might be hiding in my innermost depths. It could be I have no such depths. It could be the cards are not speaking to me, and if they are, I haven’t learned to listen. It could be that the whole thing is hokum.

So far, the only imagination it has activated in me is the possibility of using the cards as story telling cards — using each of the face cards as a character, and surrounding them random cards to see how their lives would unfold. But the idea has gone no further than that. Nor have I deepened whatever intuition I might have or learned anything I don’t already know.

But I have the cards, so it does me no harm to pick one every day just to see what I pick.

***

While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

Click here to buy: Unfinished

Thirty Days Hath . . .

Thirty days hath September, April, June and . . . you guessed it. November!

Since this is the thirtieth, tomorrow starts a new month, and that means a new tarot deck for me. I had a hard time deciding which to use of the dozens I own.

Some of the traditional decks passed down from medieval times are too odd and the images too angular and misshapen for my tastes (deriving as they do from traditional woodcuts), and so are many of the decks based on those old cards.

Some of the newer versions, though intending to seem old, using as they do, images from the Renaissance, are often too . . . natural . . . for my tastes. I don’t need to see anatomically correct pictures (or at least anatomically correct enough to know which cards depict males). It seems jarring, though I’m sure there is symbolism in the nudity, perhaps showing the necessity to put off the falsehood of clothes, and be who we are, but I can get that symbolism with clothed images, too, since the raiment people don is also symbolic. (Even in today’s culture, clothes are symbolic, though I doubt people stop to think what it is they are trying to broadcast with their apparel.)

Some of the decks are simply too symbolic, with more icons and Jewish letters and astrologic signs and qabalistic codes than I wish to study right now. I’m still trying to get comfortable with the cards themselves, as well as trying to find the deck that speaks most clearly to me.

So far, the deck I like the most is The Cosmic Tarot, created by Norbert Losche and printed in Germany in 1988. The cards have a hint of the 1920’s about them, and most seem evocative of something, even if not what was intended. The following is the Queen of Wands from that deck:

The deck I decided to use this month is the Egorov Tarot, a Russian-inspired deck that is so very elegant with shiny gold borders and highlights. (Unfortunately, the gold photographed as brown, but you can still see the vast difference between this deck and The Cosmic Tarot.)

Someday, if I get bored or ambitious, it would be interesting to photograph all the queen of wands from all the decks and see how they compare. Meantime, I’m just glad I made the decision which deck to use during the coming month.

***

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What Do I Need to Know Today?

To learn the tarot and to get familiar with the various decks I inherited from my brother, I’ve been picking a card every day, and then researching the meaning. To get the best use of such an undertaking, a person needs to ask a question, though it isn’t necessary. My question — when I remember to ask it — is always, “What do I need to know today?” I find when I don’t ask the question, the card reflects my worries more than anything else. When I do ask . . . well, sometimes I get advice and sometimes not, but it’s hard to figure out from a card what I need to know especially if I don’t know what I need to know because the cards can only tell me what I already know since I am the one interpreting them.

Still, the advice I glean is sometimes spot on, sometimes too general to be useful, and is often something I already I know about me or my life. (I haven’t yet figured out how to discover that which I don’t know about my secret inner workings, even though learning such things is supposedly the best use of the tarot.)

The one suggestion that comes up over and over again in my daily one-card reading is to trust my intuition, trust my intellect, and to stay true to myself. I can’t help but equate this advice to certain current events since my intuition — and intellect — are both at odds with what most other people think, so I tend to doubt myself.

Despite the lack of true knowledge from the tarot about what I need to know each day, it’s still an interesting exercise. Maybe it will open my mind up to this intuition I am supposed to trust. If not, at least the question helps me focus on the day and what I might glean from it.

Forgetting the cards and what they might tell me, I’m curious as to what you might tell me — me specifically, or me as a member of the human race — what I need to know today.

So, what do I need to know today?

What do you need to know?

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Oh, My! The Pressure!

Oh, the pressure!

It’s not just that today is Halloween, because no one comes to the door anyway. The next street over is where the activity is.

It’s not just that I had three big trees to plant, because I had help planting them.

It’s not just that this is the last Saturday before the election that might change our lives forever, because at this point, there’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s not just that daylight savings is ending with all the problems the time change brings because, well . . . there’s nothing I can do about that either. I could of course not change the clocks as I did (didn’t do?) one year when I was young and just deal with the wrong clocks, but since some clocks change themselves nowadays while others don’t, dealing with two different times is more confusion than I need.

It’s not just that today is another warm day in a string of warm days after the big freeze — that’s not where the pressure comes in; it’s that I had to drag out my hoses again as if we were heading toward spring rather than winter.

And oh, yeah, speaking of winter — it’s not just that winter is around the corner.

It’s that tomorrow begins a new month and I have to pick a tarot deck to use for the month. (I pick one card every day to see what it can tell me, though usually what it tells me is that it has nothing to do me with.)

Oh, my! The pressure! It’s not the same for normal people who have but one deck (or not decks at all). I have dozens of them! I suppose I could continue using the deck I’ve been using, though that one doesn’t really speak to me. Actually, none of the decks I’ve used so far seem to strike a chord, so I’ll have to keep trying out the various decks. I figure a month gives each deck a good tryout, and so here I am, back at the beginning of all this roundaboutation with me needing to pick a new tarot deck for November. I guess I’ll just close my eyes and grab one. And voila! That lessens the pressure.

(Out of curiosity, I looked up roundaboutation because MSWord says it’s not a word, and to be honest, I thought I was making it up, but it is actually a word that has been in use since the 1800s. Who knew?)

I hope your day is a lot less pressurized than mine. I’d say Happy Halloween, but I don’t know if saying that is acceptable any more or if it’s been changed to something more specific for those who subscribe to identity politics or something less specific for those who are too sensitive to deal with other people’s business. I sure as heck don’t need that kind of pressure, so I’ll just say, “Have a Happy ___” and let you fill in the blank.

***

Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published! Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Learning the Tarot

I’m still doing my one card a day tarot study, though I’m not sure if I’m learning anything. The whole thing confuses me — if the card tells me what I already know about myself, then it seems unnecessary. It it’s supposed to help me see where I am going, then that too seems unnecessary since I will know what I know when I get there. And if it’s about delving deeper into my psyche and coming in contact with my higher self — well, so far that hasn’t happened.

It’s possible the lack is in the tarot itself. After all, the tarot is only a deck of cards — specialized cards, but still just cards. Although each card is assigned a meaning of sorts, a core truth, the cards are open to interpretation, so whatever a person thinks the card means that particular day is the meaning, and that meaning can be different on a different day. This all seems too imprecise and ambiguous for my logical and concrete mind.

It’s possible the lack is in me, not just my inability to intuit any meanings, but my inability to connect with any particular deck. It’s possible I’ll be able to find such a deck — after all, I have dozens of them. Each month I use a different deck, and so far, the ones I’ve used are off-putting. The artwork doesn’t speak to me, and the symbolism of the artwork seems specious at best. Still, I’m sure I will find an affinity with at least one, and then we’ll see if my studies take a different turn.

Having said that, I’ve been keeping track of my daily card, and I do see a pattern to the cards I pick, vague though that pattern might be, because the same cards seems to show up again and again. For example, the king and queen of pentacles show up at least once every month, sometimes two or three times. Since I pick a card randomly, this repetition seems to indicate that more than mere chance is at work. If I used the same deck all the time, I’d think that perhaps the card hadn’t been shuffled well enough or was sticky or had some sort of defect that made the card stand out, but I use a different deck every month.

These two cards do seem to be a reflection of my life. The queen, in a few words, represents someone who is secure in her personal possessions and in her place in life, and the king refers to stability and not having to prove oneself. Since the cards are open to interpretation, and since every tarot writer has assigned various meanings, these few words don’t tell the whole story, but they suffice for the purposes of this article.

Another and seemingly opposite card that I get frequently is the ten of swords which spells ruination, disaster, calamity, though this seems to reflect my thoughts about the current USA situation rather than my own. The card is also a reminder that though I can’t change the actions of another person, I can change how I respond, which seems a timely reminder, for sure.

The cards I pick are mostly swords and pentacles. Very few cups or wands. Very few of the major arcana, though The Tower shows up periodically, which among other things, points to changes — a release of tension that has been building up, a flash of sudden insight, or maybe a warning.

So does any of this mean anything? I don’t know. My daily card pick is helping me get used to the tarot, and it is getting me familiar with the various way experts interpret the cards, so that’s something. The card itself sometimes seems to refer to me, sometimes it seems to refer to what’s going on in the rest of the country, sometimes it seems to be a reflection of my worries. But does it add anything to what I know? Not that I can see.

Sometimes the cards tell me I am more intuitive than I know, other times they seem to think I rely on my intellect. Either way, does it matter?

I do try to find a bit of advice in the daily card, as I did with the ten of swords mentioned above, but these are merely reminders of what I already know.

I suppose it’s possible that after years of study, I might find . . . something. But then, that’s not the point of my studying. I have the cards, and I do find the array of the different decks compelling, and if there is any esoteric knowledge hidden in the cards, I’d like to know what it is. But more than that, it’s about connecting with my deceased brother, the one who collected the cards. “Connecting” might be the wrong word since I’m not trying to connect with him in any psychic way. It’s more that I am connecting with my memory of him, with the private person buried beneath his polarizing personality, the beloved brother I lost way before his death.

That connection, if nothing else, does give my daily card reading a meaning.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Feeling Clunky

I finished rererereading The Wheel of Time and resisted the urge to start over again, mostly because I have library books due and need to read them. I considered returning them unread, but the librarian was kind enough to deliver them and I didn’t think it proper to be so dismissive of her kind gesture.

The Wheel of Time has some hugely glaring faults, not the least being that Robert Jordan fell in love with his world and apparently didn’t want to waste even a single idea that crossed his mind, even if it didn’t fit with the story. He also had the annoying habit of creating characters for no apparent reason, pounding away at unimportant plot points and then simply dropping them, while at the same time, barely touching on some important issues. He seemed to like playing games with his readers and he especially seemed to like being mysterious for the sake of being mysterious, neither of which did anything to move the story along. He also seemed to change his mind about things he set up in early books, so that there are some awkward gear changes in later books.

But, that being said, the work really is brilliant. He is one of the few major writers I have heard about in the past few decades who actually spent years researching and building his world before he ever began writing. It’s fun trying to pick out all the symbolism and cultures, philosophies and costumes, influences and archetypes. But more than that, it’s a world of old-fashioned values such as honor and obligation, as well as being a world of less pleasant strictures such as compulsory obedience. But without the bad to push against, the good wouldn’t be as apparent. At times, the writing is almost lyrical, which helps lend an otherworldly air to the work.

I wondered how spending two months reading and rereading such a massive work would affect my interest in books taking place in today’s world, and as I feared, today’s world feels . . . clunky. It’s not just books that feel clunky, to be honest. Other things do too, such as modern methods of doctoring. In Jordan’s world, the “witches” can delve into people and heal them almost immediately instead of having them go through horrendous “therapies,” such as the cancer protocols of today. In some cases and places in The Wheel of Time, thought becomes real, so that one isn’t always battering against the solidity of this world. (Our world truly shouldn’t feel so solid, considering that things are made of atoms and atoms are comprised of a few particles, a bit of energy, and a lot of empty space.)

Still, it’s probably good for me to do something other than spend so much time in a fake world, especially one not of my own making. (Though oddly, my as yet unpublished book is a world of my own creation, which takes our world then breaks it and remakes it in a different way. I can honestly say that Jordan did not influence me in any way since my book was written — and the sequel planned — long before I discovered his works.)

Meantime, I’m still chiseling away at the tarot, picking a card every day and seeing what it means as well as how other tarot artists depict the symbol. (Today’s card is the hierophant, if you’re interested. The word hierophant means “revealer of sacred things,” and the card indicates someone who helps unravel mysteries. It’s also about intuition, i.e.: inner tuition — inner instruction or guidance.)

I almost started a tarot journal today, but who starts a new project on the 28th of the month? It is the beginning of the week, so there is that, but the first of the month is just a few days away, which seems even a better time to start. It also gives me plenty of time to change my mind. If I don’t change my mind, there is the decision of how to do it, whether in a long hand journal, or on line. Long hand is easier in some ways since there is the possibility of hand/brain connections, but online would be easier if I wanted to include images. I considered continuing my tarot studies as part of this blog, adding a bit of my tarot learnings to the bottom of the daily article as I did today, but I have a hunch I am alienating readers who see the tarot as something less than admirable. On the other hand, posting to two blogs every day is a bit much.

On a lighter note, I’ve had a surprise. I thought all the wildflower seeds I planted were defunct, but I think it’s more that our severe drought kept them from germinating, because I found a small patch of bachelor buttons below a gutter drainpipe. I didn’t plant it there, but there it is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

 

Fool’s Journey and Hero’s Journey

I’m still playing around with the tarot decks I inherited from my brother, which seems an appropriate way of counting down the days to the second anniversary of his death. I haven’t been learning anything about him from the cards, though it still interests me that he collected them — not just one deck (which would indicative of curiosity), but so many of them. There are about four dozen different decks, another dozen or so duplicates, plus the triplicates I sent to a sister who also found the fact of the collection fascinating.

I have learned some things about the tarot itself, though. The most obvious lesson is that there’s no consensus on what the individual cards mean since the creators of each deck put their own slant on the cards to match their vision and their artwork. The instructions on how to learn the tarot invariably say to study the picture on the card, to figure out what the card means to you, but if every “sun” card, for example, is different from every other sun card, if the artists have added their own embellishments, then the images become simply pretty pictures to illustrate the simple idea of “sun.”

There’s no consensus on what the various suits of the minor arcana are, either. Normally, they are wands, swords, cups and coins or pentacles, but in the Robot Tarot, the suits are laser, light, void, and scarab; and in the Servants of the Light Tarot, the suits are weapons, spheres, crescents, staves. Even more confusing, there’s no consensus on what constitutes a tarot. Most decks are composed of 78 cards, but some tarot decks comprise only the 22 cards of the major arcana. Or less. Or more. The Deva Tarot has five suits instead of the normal four (the fifth is a suit called Triax and is supposed to represent the ether or the spirit). If the Deva Tarot is a deck that’s beyond the realm of a tarot, does it become a tarot if you remove the additional cards?

In other words, the tarot seems a rather arbitrary tool depending on what deck you use, what system of meaning you apply, what you read into the cards, and your own inclinations.

(This kind of reminds me of when I decided to learn the names of birds. After a while it began to seem laborious and arbitrary, especially when it dawned on me these were simply names humans gave the birds, not what the birds called themselves, and in no way imparted a sense of “birdness.” To this day, I only know a few common names, though I do have a bird book if I want to know more.)

However, there is one underlying, non-arbitrary aspect of the tarot: as story-telling cards. I was reading about the Major Arcana (the twenty-two trump cards) and discovered that they tell a story — the fool’s journey, from naivete to wisdom. And suddenly I understood — the fool’s journey is nothing more than the hero’s journey. See? Story!!

More than that, how the cards are laid out tell a story — the story of a person’s future; the story of their past, perhaps; maybe even a deeper story of their self. And since there are infinite possible layouts (and infinity squared when you take into consideration all the various types of cards and decks and meanings), there are an infinite number of stories.

So my idea of using the cards to write a story is not at all farfetched. I used the hero’s journey to tell the story of Daughter Am I, and I could use the fool’s journey to write a completely different sort of story. Each character could be assigned a role based on the Major Arcana, or I could do a reading for each character to see what their particular needs are. Or both.

Meantime, I’m on my own fool’s journey when it comes to the tarot. I’ve been doing a one-card reading for myself every day to get familiar with the cards. My question is always, “What do I need to know today?”

So far, the cards aren’t letting me in on any secrets, but the cards do seem to reflect my reflections. For example, today’s card was the sun card, which, according to the particular deck I used, means enlightenment, especially artistic enlightenment. Although card didn’t answer my question, simply reflected it, the card did answer my unasked question: Why should I blog about today?

So, arbitrary or not, the tarot, even in the simplest practice, has meaning.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Life, Death, and Tarot

According to what I’ve been reading about the tarot, there are infinite meanings to each deck, each spread, even each card depending on how it falls and how the reader reads it and what s/he reads into it. Such a lack of logic and unpermutability offends my sense of rightness (though it shouldn’t since in my own life I rebel against absolutes and allow myself to live however my personal wind blows).

If I ever do learn to use any of the decks, especially as they are supposed to be used — as a way to look inside oneself (at least that’s the impression I get for their true use) — I will need that intuition because some of the instruction booklets that come with a few of the more esoteric decks are written in Italian. Online translation programs help, but not when, as in one case, the booklet is written in an archaic version of the language that no one seems able to interpret. Too bad — it’s a lovely deck, with beautiful imagery, and all sorts of mystical symbols on the cards that are missing from other such decks. In another deck with an Italian instruction book, the suits are completely unfamiliar (lasers and scarabs. light and the void.) And one deck has an additional suit, which makes for an unwieldy stack of cards.

I’ve been spreading out the decks themselves, instead of the individual cards, to see if I can learn anything about the brother who collected them. I know he was interested in a world of things, both practical and mystical, and yet, since he was homeless, I have to wonder if he ever got a chance to use any of the things he collected, or if they were all for a future he never got to live.

The timing is right to be thinking about him — next month, it will be two years since he died. It’s not just his death that gives me pause, but that the death of this homeless man was instrumental in my gaining a home. (A change in my attitude, perhaps, from never wanting to own a house to thinking it would be a good idea, from believing it was impossible, to finding a way to make it work.) And then there is the age difference I mentioned a few days ago: growing up, he was always older and more knowledgeable, and no matter how old I got, there he was . . . a year older, too.

Well, he’s not getting any older, and I am. I’ve now lived a year longer than he did, and knowing that I caught up to him and beyond brings me no comfort.

Oddly, though, he does. Bring me comfort, I mean. Despite my being ambivalent about what if anything besides energy survives after death, I sometimes sense that he is watching out for me as he wanted to do in life but never quite managed. Obviously, I have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not, but this feeling allows me to live fearlessly in a house by myself.

It’s hard to know the truth of oneself, let alone another person, but here I am, moving the tarot decks around, trying to see . . . something. This is the second time I’ve done this — the first time was a couple of years ago when I first got the cards. Maybe this time — or the next — will bring enlightenment. I hope so. It would certainly be easier than actually learning how to use the cards.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.