More Crystal Gem Cartomancy

Final post this week (probably) about this thing I’ve been fiddling around with.

Not much to detail.

Dreamed about food. Maybe indoor meals, but I don’t remember specifics. Did a single-draw about it anyway, to keep in practice.

AMETHYST IS HUNGRY

AMETHYST IS HUNGRY

Then had a couple of dreams that left me feeling as though I’d gone through some epic adventure, but I couldn’t recall the specifics of those, either. Rose Quartz was gigantic in one, and she met her son-self the eponymous Steven Universe of the series, except he had turned into an adorable yellow-brown jackalope.

the Joker card

NO ANSWERS HERE

And then I did my first reading for somebody else with playing cards, modified from a spread in the Little White Book accompanying my usual deck, the Shadowscapes tarot:

img_20160922_193057

Columns left to right: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, Rose Quartz.

Rows, bottom to top: body, heart, mind, spirit.

I couldn’t interpret the Jack of Spades in the column of Pearl, row of spirit. I thought the court cards would be people if not personalities, and when they don’t give off that vibe to me with tarot cards, I think of pages as messages, knights as journeys, and the monarchs as underlying circumstances or movements (I swap the ranks of the Queens of Cups and Pentacles from standard, so the supporting monarchs describe circumstances whereas the highest-ranking monarchs describe movements.)

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Crystal Gem Cartomancy

The following entry may contain triggering material, spoilers for Steven Universe and Soylent Green.

I appreciate how commonplace playing cards are, and I admire fellow whatever-you-call-us’s tips to turn commonplace objects wishcraftsy. Too bad the images are too abstract for me in this case. I’d have the same reader’s block with a lot of tarot “pip decks”. I like them fully-illustrated with some sort of story to make of those images. At the same time, structure mattered a bit, not enough that I’d ever master the Opening of the Key spread. I’d trimmed the Dream Cards (sliced off the borders, had a corner-rounder for them and everything, though I don’t recommend pen cutters—broad bladed box cutters made for cleaner slices) but kept trying to think them into a tarot system anyway, which was awfully limited of me to think. If I hadn’t lost them when I ran away from home, I’d finish the trimming and try to appreciate that deck as a structureless, intuitive oracle. My first reading with the elected major arcana and court cards of that deck was eerily accurate.

When I wondered about Steven Universe as a pop culture pagan thing, my next thought was that there was enough story to fit with something as abstract and structured as a card deck.

Thought Process

I. Each of the suits would be ruled by one of the four survivors of the Gem Wars: Garnet as the balanced heavy-hitter, clubs; Amethyst as the challenger from Earth, spades; Pearl with the structures and lucidity, diamonds; and Rose Quartz as ruling the suit of hearts.

II. What the ones to tens of each suit would mean then got me thinking about numbers as a pure notion. The tarot aces, I would interpret as a pure, nascent form of the suit. The Ace of Cups would be a flash of intuition or interpersonal understanding, the Ace of Swords would be an irritation or epiphany…Maybe tens would symbolize overall excessiveness, but in between I didn’t think to interpret by pip number. I’d learned keywords, and putting a number to the suit would be more a way to organize those keyword concepts, than significant in and of itself.

III. I drew up a spreadsheet to write keywords in as they occurred to me. Ace of Garnet would be stardust, two would be fission, three would be fusion, four would be home because the fandom name for her is Square Mom…Ace of Amethyst would be seed, two would be rejection, three would be curiosity, four would be self…Ace of Pearl would be order, two would be fealty, three would be balance…

IV. What does suit plus number mean to each of them? Once I filled out the table, I thought, I could consider the whole and find general patterns (what’s the three-ness between fusion, curiosity, and balance?)—and then make adjustments to better fit that general pattern.

Except that the suit of Rose Quartz came to mind like: Ace of Rose is love, two is love (healing?), three is love, four is love, five is love (protection?), six is love (honesty? c’mon R.Q. gimme something more specific), seven is love, eight is love, nine is so much love (cosmic?), ten is so much love…

So I got to actually shuffling an actual deck of cards, to find out what meanings I could intuit based on what I knew of the story. The above spread just occurred to me and felt right to do. The question was: What should I know, about all of you and this method?

1.) Garnet, top, the multiple possibilities of a foreseeable future. Six of Diamonds.
2.) Amethyst, mid-right, how to attack…erm, approach this issue. Three of Spades.
3.) Pearl, mid-left, what to worry about (plan for or resolve). Two of Clubs.
4.) Rose Quartz, bottom, foundations for healing/growth and protection. Five of Diamonds.

Six from the suit of Pearl in the position of Garnet generate a Sardonyx with a quality of six-ness. This conveyed to me a moderate number of equally likely futures, perfectly calculable but not worthy of the effort. The stakes of choosing one over another path are average.

Three from the suit of Amethyst in the position of Amethyst, with a quality of three-ness. Just do a thing to make a thing happen.

Two from the suit of Garnet in the position of Pearl didn’t come off as a fusion this time, but an irreconcilable distance between reasoning and passion.

Five from the suit of Pearl in the position of Rose Quartz came off more like a suggestion to being humble and charitable…so, I admit this is a slapdash mess and I post it here for anybody who can make something of it to make something of it.

~

I think what I liked most about this reading was that this deck is made of flippy, slippy, plastic card. As I understand to make it called for dredging up fossilized ancestors to fuel some pollution of the air, and it takes so long to break down and become part of the ecosystem again, and even when it does a bit, the tiny plastic bits displace the nutrients in baby seagulls’ digestive systems and whatever other animals accidentally eat it, so they starve without feeling hungry, so the diligent seagull parents never get to see their baby seagulls grow because they die and the seagulls never know what they did wrong by their babies—I don’t like this part. It’s a horrible part.

But when I wondered if plastic cards would be less conducive to cartomancy for not having some distant relation to some earthly autotroph who was wise in the ways of life before getting bleached and dyed with chemicals we make for a shortsighted purpose and then just throw somewhere else, but it’s tree pulp so it’s natural and more magical…and I admit, I usually am more comfortable working with natural materials. It’s the texture, or the smell. It’s usually comfy. I liked shuffling these cards, though…

…I thought I could hear Garnet reminding me that these cards are made of stardust, just like everything else in the corporeal world—and besides, Gems are all about technological innovation. Waterproof playing cards are fine representations of that.

(…but we citizens of the developed and developing worlds accidentally created an artificial island out of garbage…This deck will outlive me and end up there, and our descendants would be crying over soap bars and tomatoes, visiting tree museums, referring to women as “furniture”, and eating Soylent Green. Soylent Green looks like plastic chips.)

…Hrmm…maybe I should have thought up a Steven Universe based divination system using dice in shapes other than cubes. Those can look like gems.

Beginning Mirror Work

The following entry may contain triggering material.

To share anything—performed, expressed, or explained—no matter how artfully, takes something apart from the lived experience. That dissociation remains valuable.

Here comes a thought
that might alarm me
What someone said
and how it harmed me
Something I did
that failed to be charming

Things that I said are suddenly swarming…

and it was just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. We can watch (we can watch) we can watch (we can watch) them go by…from here, from here, from here.

Was this Erstvale, Surreal? Whatever. It had trees on turf. I’ll call it Erstvale. Beyond the corner of my eye, unhorsed ballerinas swathed in gauze and mist keened faintly for blood. The last time I saw them, they seemed to be kicking body parts around, and chasing where the others kicked. There may have been some splattering. Now, they seemed calmer.

(“Soon,” Giselle had crooned at me, “You’ll find out. Any way that takes you as far as that is not your way at all.”

I’d replied, “When that time comes, it would be because I’ll have the luxury of rejecting allies to getting anything done at all. Kill me before that happens.”

But Giselle would rather die than harm anyone, pure and perfect Cinnabon soul that she is—I loathe her.)

Queen Myrtha stood uncharacteristically still in the clearing, and spoke with uncharacteristic legibility. She and Giselle were never too far from one another, even when they seemed so. The Queen held up an unbroken, unstained hand-mirror and silently asked what I saw.

After a moment of looking, I sighed with disappointment. It was the same thing I saw when I started mirror work, tail end of last year. It hasn’t done much since. “I see a mirror.”

YOU CAN’T SEE A MIRROR!!!!!

That sounded more like Queen Myrtha. No quotemarks to contain her speech; it’s as though the fabric of the multiverse is screaming. It comes into mind bypassing the ears. You’d be surprised what you can get used to.

“But,” I said, and pointed, “There’s one. Right there. There it is. Mirror.” If I overthink, of course, a functioning mirror never can show itself: it shows everything else that’s not a mirror. Hypothetically, then, those with vision have never seen a mirror, but only seen reflections in the theoretical object we think up to explain those reflections. We can support this hypothesis by understanding the material, weight, size, shape, texture, taste and temperature of what we may then conclude to be an object—

DESIST LICKING THE MIRROR!!!!!

I couldn’t. The forest I thought was filled with mist was really more like filled with infinitesimally small snowdrop-beads, moving in wreathes. Some things in the Surreal world do function the same way as the Corporeal, maybe because I think they should…even though I don’t want my tongue to have frozen stuck to a warlord fairy queen’s mirror.

It wasn’t a good hypothesis, anyway. A mirror is a tool that we’ve made, so we know mirrors exist, what one is, how it does, why it works. I suspect that so is Myrtha, or else this would just be embarrassing. (And this has never happened to me in the corporeal world. It’s probably not what it’s really like. One day I should go somewhere cold and get my tongue frozen stuck on something. For science.)

~

Mirrorwork takes the approach that everybody is made up of three things:

1.) What you think of yourself.
2.) What others think of you.
3.) What you think others think of you.

No reason this list should exclude “what others think you think they think of you” or “what you think others think you think they think of you” or even “what they think you think they think you think they think of you”. What they each think of themself is their bailiwick.

She raised the hem of her dress slightly and looked down at her shoes.

They couldn’t be real glass, or else she’d be hobbling towards some emergency first aid by now. Nor were they transparent. The human foot is a useful organ but is not, except to some people with highly specialized interests, particularly attractive to look at.

The shoes were mirrors. Dozens of facets caught the light.

Two mirrors on her feet. Magrat vaguely recalled something about . . . about a witch never getting caught between two mirrors, wasn’t it? Something she’d been taught, back when she’d been an ordinary person. Something. . . like . . . a witch should never stand between two mirrors because, because, because the person that walked away might not be the same person. You were spread out among the images, your whole soul was pulled out thin, and somewhere in the distant images a dark part of you would get out and come looking for you, if you weren’t very careful.

—Witches Abroad

The moment Queen Myrtha frees me from the fairyland mirror that has connived my capture, I can move onto more Intermediate Mirrorwork.

Preferably with the Dierne, instead.

The Evil Enchantress of the East Coast


Image by Sophie. Sadly, the official promotional images are rarely as good as the fan-art.

Oh, Once Upon A Time. I have been vacillating between hatecrush and ragequit on this show since the middle of the second season. It’s become a show that personally offends me on so many levels, at too many moments. It’s also given me some of the most resonant poetic imagery I’ve seen in pop culture. The demonstrative power-play of ripping out somebody’s heart and whispering one’s commands to them is chilling because on some level that is sort of what truly happens when something figuratively like it happens…of course the magic of romantic love is fuchsia and gold, and of course the land of eternal youth will have one island full of death skulls and hourglasses.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about The Evil Queen from Snow White’s fairy tale. This show gave her a name (Regina), a redemption arc, and a long-lost sibling in the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shortly after her redemption arc (that is, Regina turning from apocalyptically wrathful to merely snarky) she began to show her care with such heartwarming lines as, “Nobody is allowed to kill you but ME!” While couched in terms of self-aggrandizement and…uh, threat of homicide…viewers who have gotten to know Regina over the episodes can easily take this as her way of saying that she considers you a friend and will protect you.

It’s difficult for me to understand or accept. To spin vitriol like that into something positive can be a trap. In too many ways have verbal abusers tried to dismiss a victim’s perspective with how the victim is just humorless, or should know the abuser well enough by now to somehow know what’s really meant and adjust their reaction accordingly.

And that’s too bad, because there does seem to be a process to it that I also found paralleled in some rituals of Ancient Rome (from Melissa Mohr’s A Brief History of Swearing):

Bullae, the necklaces containing phallus-shaped fascini, were thought to shield their wearers from the evil eye—they had what is called apotropaic (from the Greek meaning “to ward off”) power. Songs containing obscenities could, in the right context, also protect people from evil forces. They were sung when someone’s good fortune was likely to attract invidia, envy or ill will. They offered protection in two ways—the obscenities themselves contained the power to ward off evil, and the songs’ mockery took their subjects down a peg or two, to a level where they no longer invited individa. Victorious generals were serenaded with fescennine songs—their moment of triumph was also a moment of great weakness.

When Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC, for example, he was publicly celebrated for vanquishing the Gauls and publicly mocked for being the cinaedus of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, many years earlier. The obscenity and mockery of these verses were thought to protect Caesar at this vulnerable moment when hundreds, even thousands of people might be watching him with envy.

Okay, I still don’t understand. Maybe ritual obscenities operate like some psychological or spiritual vaccine, but as the corporeal and everything else operate on an increasingly less one-to-one correspondence, I would just as easily say that cussing someone out in any context is spiritually unhygienic. (Maybe I still have a bad taste in my mouth from an argument against trigger warnings that went something like…people who get triggered by things will never learn to tolerate life or to function normally without getting actively triggered as often as possible. Or at least as often as the sort of world and life that got such individuals so traumatized in the first place.) (As far as I could figure out, this was an unironic argument.)

I should also note that the above quoted ritual wasn’t, evidently, very effective. Senators didn’t turn their dagger-like glares and glowers away from Julius Caesar. They just got their hands on actual daggers.

Still, this may have influenced a number of later superstitions about “signs to ward off evil” also being obscene gestures, or statements of forcefully false modesty. I have a feeling that there could be something to it.

*

The Evil Queen, when originally recorded by the brothers Grimm, had been Snow White’s mother. This is interesting, as this character had started the story off with a wish for a child with “hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood” and she basically got the good-looking daughter that she wished for…and then proceeded to enact elaborate and impractical schemes to get rid of (or punish) her daughter for being so good-looking. Even though that was what the queen wished for in the first place.

That’s a definite lot of irony there, that I think is a shame to miss out on in almost all modern versions that turned Snow White’s awful mother into an awful stepmother instead. The implied inevitability of mixed families having more awkwardness settling-in then eclipses any other motivation.

The character of Regina isn’t exactly envious. Her vices are portrayed as some cover-up for grief or loneliness that she believed would be weakness to admit to. She’s been shown as possessive (a slight-but-present distinction) and wrathful…but never covetous.

Zelena—the given name of the Wicked Witch of the West—is the envious one instead. This is why the Wicked Witch of the West, in Once Upon A Time canon, is green. She’s green with envy.

Their respective characteristic vices might not have played off one another in the best way, (and I mean even just on the level of a thematic cohesion,) but when it comes to an examination of the thing and what to do with it, I wonder how it would play out.

It’s less about recognizing the “complex characterization” and more recognizing the “concept characterization” then.

Regina could easily embody the profanity that wards off the destructive properties of invidia.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

The following post contains race and spoilers for Fullmetal Alchemist.

My introduction to alchemy was through a well-paced and accessible primer on its history, philosophy, metaphysics, and practice. I had some prejudice about alchemy being a lot of superstition, prejudices which did dissolve upon taking the interpretation that all the physical acts were metaphors for a more subtle process. Or, at least, that this is more actionable as a system of beliefs (for example: one thing can transform into another thing given an understanding of the potential, the conditions, and the process to reify that potential) rather than units of beliefs (for example: put a rooster’s egg in a snake’s nest and it will hatch into a dragon, go on, just do it, this is a true fact, and if you have no dragon to show for it then it’s because you did it wrong.)

When it comes to fiction, spectacle is better than out-of-fiction practicality. Any rules or explanations for the backwash of pathetic fallacies, no matter how spectacular or subtle, are more likely for the sake of the story. It’s nothing intended or possible to apply to anything beyond that.

But no storyteller can control every audience member’s perspective, and I’m one of the loopy ones.

From Granny Weatherwax, I’ve learned to transform myself into an animal and bypass the law of conservation of mass (by sacrificing some of my human sanity each time…naturally.) To move heat energy, or to manipulate somebody else’s pain as if it were a real physical force instead of a perception, I won’t bother with. To work responsibly within a community is the most important lesson she had to offer…that I don’t have half as much interest in cultivating as I should.

Serafina Pekkala taught me the fiercely held modesty that allows a person to turn invisible, although I didn’t learn it very well and perhaps shouldn’t have started. She taught me better ways to fly in dreams, which I’m tempted to get Freudian about. Kyuubei taught me the basics of some very dangerous arts, that of the Statement of Intent, and how they always come from one’s True Name. Maybe it really doesn’t work that way, but it’s worked for me well enough so far. Harry Dresden and Souji Seta have both given helpful tips for how to conduct oneself in The Otherworlds.

So, when I wonder how else to branch out in alchemy, I find no reason to exclude a fiction that has Alchemist in the title.

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Privilege and Prestige

 

Jack Gleeson, ex-actor (ex for reasons) and scholar of philosophy and theology, reports about 19 minutes and 50 seconds in the following video that 36% of a sample number of 600 adults are afflicted with Celebrity Worship Syndrome, citing a study done by the University of Leicester.

This study recognized a spectrum between admiration for a celebrity in the entertainment and social sphere as a mild form, an intense personal attachment to a celebrity in a medial form, and pathological in the extreme. Milder forms can become extreme with stress and upheaval.

While Gleeson could have spoken extensively about his personal experience, he takes a more bird’s eye perspective when he proposes that advancing media technology proliferated the recognizability and influence of public figures, incorporating Henderson’s societal and economic theory of celebrity, and Jamie Tiranne’s evolutionary psychology theory of celebrity.

“The truest form of charisma is one which receives these powers as a gift by virtue of a natural endowment (…) they may not possess the heroic qualities of a prophet, but as highly visible role models, they have become the object of imitation. Their publicized personality and individual qualities work as a form of quasi-charisma that gains people’s attention while setting them apart on a different echelon.”

Full transcript here.

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Case Studies in Taking Umbrage

 

Iron is an unclean and imperfect body, engendered of Argent-vive [quicksilver] impure, too much fixed, earthy, burning, white and red not clear, and of the like Sulphur: It wants fusion, purity, and weight: It has too much fixed unclean Sulphur, and burning earthiness.

Roger Bacon, “The Mirror of Alchemy” (translated in 1597)

I’ll do my best to resist surrendering the following experiences either to politics or pathology. Both have provided valuable perspectives and served as the cornerstones and keystones of my recovery.

The immediate experience of the downward spiral, however, was psychic. It still doesn’t quite feel right to say “this was how I collected base matter for alchemical processing” because I can’t even see how this leaden thing had any potential to transmute into gold.

Modern fantasy has created characters around what must be a common human phenomenon: Dementors in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, Spectres in Philip Pullman’s Ci’gazze, and the Dromes of Terry Pratchett’s Fairyland. Thieves of happy memories, instincts, and clarity.

It would be so easy to blame those. I could chalk them up to echoes of some entity on a spectrum between inspiration and personal gnosis, and deliberate a similar personification of my own, name them Wallows or Wraths or Wraiths and claim to be haunted.

These are more on the notional, billowy, character (object? item?) end of the personification spectrum though.

The following are personal experiences with a particular sort of billow. The emotions and forms are different each time, so the notion would be something more subtle. I do also associate these billows with emotion, or state of mind, and with the situations in which they manifest. Perhaps these were metaphysical experiences to signify some prodromal depression… or some other neuro-divergence with a hallucinatory aspect that indicated a co-morbidity with actual depression.

I don’t know. Regardless, I feel moved to organization, so I file these under “taking Umbrage” as the main symbol was indeed some sort of darkness, like an umbra.

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