“I will never look at a tarot card . . . again”

A New York Times piece about commercial psychics.

Specifically, these are psychics who went to prison for fraud (or worse) and are trying to look good in front of the Parole Board.

She worked out of shops on Ninth Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. In 2009, Ms. Mitchell told a client that a dark spirit was keeping happiness at bay. She asked the client for an $11,450 Rolex watch and a lot of candles and cash to clean the spirits. In all, the client paid $159,205, according to a criminal complaint.

The Rolex should have been a tip-off, no?

But it’s their culture — who are we to judge?

“My culture did not allow me to go to school,” she told parole commissioners. “I never had education. I was to do this fortunetelling business, to make money.”

A lot of otherwise good things go sideways when you start charging money for them.

(Hat-tip: Professor Althouse)

Tarot Cards — They Are for Catholics Too

Thomas L. McDonald, Patheos’ “Technology | Culture | Catholicism” blogger has a five-part series on the history of the Tarot cards. It starts here.

The real history of the Tarot, however, begins in the early 15th century in Italy, and their story is an important part of gaming and cultural history that was lost for centuries. They were created to play games, not tell fortunes. . . . .

Catholics have been conditioned to avoid Tarot because of its New Age and occult connotations. That’s a mistake: Tarot is part of our heritage. It reflects Catholic culture, symbolism, history, and theology. Its images are useful not just for play, but for contemplation, as Catholic mystic Valentin Tomberg explores beautifully in Meditations on the Tarot.

Tarot belongs to us, not to the con artists.

He is absolutely right that there is a great deal of bogus history about the Tarot, involving wild tales of a gallery of paintings of the trumps in a secret hall underneath the Sphinx of Egypt, and so on.

I think too that one of the reasons that ceremonial magicians have struggled to mesh the trumps with the Cabala and so forth is that the Tarot is a hybrid system itself, partly from here and partly from there.

I wrote something on those lines myself once, alas in the pre-Internet era, for Gnosis journal.

Pentagram Pizza: Eat It Back in the Cave

• You knew this was coming: the zombie Tarot deck.

• On cave paintings, art, and cognition.

• More old stuff: were those ancient figurines of voluptuous women goddesses . . . or toys? Don’t suggest the latter to the idol-makers of today.

Have beautiful handwriting by Christmas. You have a whole year now to improve!

A Different A.E. Waite Tarot Deck

Mary K. Greer discusses a forgotten Tarot deck designed by ceremonial magician A.E. Waite, whose collaboration with artist Pamela Coleman Smith produced the Tarot deck probably most commonly used in the past fifty years, at least in the Anglosphere. A new publication with commentary is planned.

The commentary will be based on Waite’s unpublished and extensive commentary on the images, which has led to a complete mapping of Waite’s “secret” correspondences to the Tree of Life. Marcus [Katz] says that this set of correspondences is so blindingly obvious and “makes sense,” such that he believes we will be astounded. It will be interesting to see if the mapping corresponds with the revised Tree of Life described in Decker and Dummett’s book. Also, this clears up a long-running controversy about whether the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was designed with Golden Dawn Tree of Life Associations in mind. My feeling is that it was, as Waite clearly uses these associations in some of his Order papers, but it’s also clear that he wasn’t really satisfied with them.