I haven't written about tarot for a while. I haven't done many tarot jobs this year - mainly the odd job for friends. I miss it.
So to set the scene, we have Sting: One of the few songs I know that exist about tarot.
I'll set the scenes. A sunny October day a few years ago.
The cards fell and Vivienne's eyebrows lifted, as they do when she's perplexed. She clicked her tongue. That almost never happens. As a double Scorpio, there is very little that perpexes, moves or shakes Viv. Double Scorpios could skin a live puppy and not feel anything - well, that's the theory of double Scorpios anyway.
We were doing a new spread on karma and the karmic path. Surrounding me, a group of other fledgeling readers, all listening in, half-curious, half-incredulous, wondering what Viv was on about. When it comes to tarot, Viv is one of the best tarot teachers in Australia if not the world. She teaches the straight down the line stuff - she also sometimes looks at some of the more "out there" theories around tarot. The karmic path / past life spread was on of the ones reserved for the "hippy shit" basket as I affectionately refer to some of the more esoteric teachings (even if I normally get a lot out of these snippets). Interesting, but not for your routine readings. I don't think I've ever used the spread again - I'll stick to my normal life cycles and Celtic Crosses and occasionally the Gareth Knight, 'Let's make a mess on the table," spread - really effective, but it uses half the deck.
In front of me, every dark card in the pack.
"Well, it looks like you weren't very nice in your last lifetime." Viv said glibly.
"No shit, Sherlock."
The surrounding spreads in front of the others were somewhat more even. Viv's tongue clicking had set them off and the others in the group started peering over. Looks of consternation came ot a few faces.
The all had spreads with cups and stars and suns and the occasional fool. A few had some of the challenge cards in front of them. The Hanged Man, The Chariot, the eight of cups, the four of swords.
Nope, my dear spread had cards of death, the ace of swords, the ten of swords, the five of cups, the Devil and the Tower, all surrounded by the Queen of Swords.
"Looks like you got up to a bit of mischief your last time round."
""You don't say!"
But this time, I'm feeling a little disconcerted. I've been reading cards for a very long time now. I know what is "normal" and what is just plain wrong. The last time I saw cards like these was the morning of the Boxing Day tsunami. I looked at the cards, went "nah!' and folded the cards. The news came in two hours later.
This morning, my cards sitting in front of me, glaring back with a Margaret Thatcher 1000 mile stare.
"So, what do you see?" asked Viv.
"The cards of a murderer. Somebody's who's killed out of rage, for profit, for pleasure even."
Not a very nice person at all. You might have started a war or two."
"A few others around the table caught on and came for a look."
"Oh, you were a right piece of work."
"And they let you come back."
"And what do you get from all this?"
"It appears I would be atoning for this past life."
"I think you might be right." said Viv.
"Now that is what I call atonement. Geez, with cards like that you've got centuries of karma to cut through.'
I've always liked the theory of karma. You get back what you give out. Be good in one life, get better in another. Be bad in one life, come back as pond slime the next - mind you I'm sure there's some pretty happy pond scum out there. I'm also quite comfortable with reincarnation - coming back to this life from another to fix and repair past patterns. I know not everybody believes in this, and I'm more than fine with that as well. There is also something stupid about those people who believe they were Cleopatra, Henry VIII or Joan of Arc. I don't reckon I was any of these people. I've got an inkling that I've been burned or hanged as a witch a few times, however - just seems to fit.
And it also appears I might have been a self-absorbed, murdering despot at some stage. According to those cards that is.
I also just love what the kabbalists say on how we are reincarnated and know everything about our former lives until just before we are born. Just as we're about to come out from the womb, an angel comes down and taps us on the top lip so we forget. The dip below our noses and above our top lip the mark of the angel making us forget our past lives.
Reincarnation and karma bring all sorts of questions for me. What if you were really bad in a last life? What happens if you were made to do unspeakable acts - say as a soldier or part of a despotic regime, only acting under duress? What if you lead an honorable life, but make one major stuff up - will that come back to haunt you? Is it like the hourglass counters at Hogwarts that keep track of deeds and misdeeds of all, where at the end of the year prizes are given out? Or in this case, better lives?
And who defines what is good and what is bad anyway? Which moral or theosophical code has it correct? There are so many to choose from.
I've often made the comment that I must have done something really wrong in a former life to get where I was a few years ago. I also reckon maybe, in being allegedly "good", in this life, I've managed to shake a bit of the bad juju away. You know, being the friend that I want to be to others, paying my taxes on time, being nice to old people and babies, that sort of thing, my karma credit is back in the black.
I really don't know about this. I love the Jewish idea of having a day of atonement. Yom Kippur, a day of sitting and dwelling on the sins of the year and having them forgiven. Get it out and get it over with for another year of mucking up.
The Christian belief that Christ died for my sins has never sat well with me. I'm responsible for my own life. I'm responsible for what I do and the consequences of my actions. Nobody else has charge of that part of my life.
So where is all this leading? I'm revisiting some past lives at the moment. Looking at what was what. And what is now. Feeling what damages were inflicted. Wanting to atone for the wrongs committed. And wondering when the atonement will finally end.
I think The Panics say it best: