When the cards make no sense.

In the early part of my career as reader I believed that it was my job to read the cards and tell the sitter exactly what they meant. I believed if I was a good reader I would be able to interpret the cards perfectly for them and then they would have all the answers when we were done. And then as time wore on I began to realise that there are in fact always two interpretations happening during any reading. I was interpreting the cards in the context of the question while the client was interpreting what I say in the context of their experience. My interpretation was also getting interpreted, I realised. Initially this frustrated me horribly. I’d hear clients refer to things I had said in previous readings which I’m sure I never said. Perhaps clients misunderstand the real meaning of the reading, I began to worry? I’d become neurotic about using precise language and making sure to spell out every single thing, carefully summarising a reading at the end to help drive the ‘true’ meaning home. But finally it dawned on me that this has always been a natural, healthy part of divination. In fact, now I’d argue, the client’s interpretation works with your interpretation (whether you like it or not) and is vital to the success of the session.

When you realise this you begin to grip the reading less tightly. The anxiety to get all answers from the spread or to make the cards ‘fit’ the situation perfectly begins to relax as you realise that in some sense you are collaborating with the client. You begin listening to the client with both your ears and your heart. This is not to say you are letting the client read themselves. It just means you are aware of the fact that they are also actively working to make sense of the messages you give them and fit them to their own experience. Perversely, this tendency for the sitter to make information fit their situation is the number one criticism used to debunk psychic phenomena. Yet, being conscious of this can help improve the quality of your readings in a very radical way.

For instance, usually you will see a card pattern and know exactly what it means based on your knowledge of the cards and your own intuitive abilities. This is why you have been practising and studying your craft so many years, after all! You can then relay that information with confidence to your client. But to believe that this is the only thing that can and should happen in a card reading is a big mistake. There will always be times (no matter how skilled you are) when a card pattern appears that makes no sense whatsoever. This could fill one with a sense of inadequacy or panic as a reader. It could lead you to freeze, fumble, or worse, free associate wildly - activating that troublesome psychic ability: clairnonsense.

Should a reader be able to interpret every single card pattern that lands in front of her? I say no. The reason is straightforward: you will not and cannot understand every aspect of a client’s life or situation. You may be profoundly intuitive (or psychic) but you will never be omniscient. When a card pattern of this nature appears it’s your chance to loosen up. Relax, stop trying to understand or interpret everything. Be honest and say to the client “I’m not sure what this trio of cards is referring to yet” And then simply talk about the cards as you understand them in that pattern - without making any effort to ‘fit’ it or provide an interpretation yet. You are simply describing what these cards are usually about. The client will automatically begin interpreting what you say. Nine times out of ten you will hear a gasp of recognition. Listen to their responses and you can now begin blending the information with your intuition and the pattern based on what the client has to say (verbally or nonverbally). I call this opening up the reading. And it recognises the inherent wisdom of the client. Reading is about developing sensitivity on all levels - not just the psychic level. You are also reading body language, tone of voice and a myriad of the other signs. Doing so doesn't mean you are cynically cold reading a client. It just means you are paying attention.

If you have to open up the reading in this way with ALL of the cards in the reading then its just going to sound like you are fishing and you probably shouldn't be reading for others yet. And you do not want to begin a reading this way either. I am a firm believer in providing evidence of psychic ability to a client. Especially at the start of the reading I want to provide the client information that I have no way of knowing. This instills confidence and gives the reading a huge energetic boost. So, always start with those patterns that do make most sense. This way you can build on what is clear already if you have to open up the reading a little later on. It should be done with nuance and discretion. Do not underestimate the power of this kind of collaborative interpretation, however. And know that no matter what you say its always going to be reinterpreted by the client anyway. What you want is to be conscious of the dynamic so that it can be turned into a constructive part of the process. If it is done with integrity and transparency it can help illuminate the dark corner of a reading in such a way that your client walks away with the most precious resource in times of trouble: answers.


The Sphinx Gate: a tarot spread

Yes, that's right -The Sphinx Gate is a tarot spread inspired by the 1984 cult classic: The NeverEnding Story. Deal with it!

The NeverEnding Story has a special place in my heart. I watched it obsessively as a kid, and I continue to watch it every so often as an adult. It still manages to thrill me. I believe there is some real magic to be found in this kids' movie.

This spread is based on the tests that the hero Atreyu must pass through to reach the Southern Oracle who holds the secret - the key - to his quest. As such, the spread is read to discover the secret to completing YOUR quest. This could be a spiritual quest, or some important goal that is at the forefront of your mind but somehow still alludes you. It could be your life's purpose. Or your ideal mate. Fantasia can be taken as a representation of all our childhood hopes and dreams, systematically being devoured by grinding myopic attitudes at large in our culture (the Nothing). This could be a fitting allegory for depression, among other things. And like Atreyu we must complete our quest..

The spread has been designed to create that same sense of tension and revelation as you move through the two gates; the Sphinx Gate of self-worth and the frightening Magic Mirror Gate, until you are finally are given the secret to completing your quest by the Southern Oracle.

Are you ready?!

*****[4]*******[3]***** <------ The Southern Oracle

*********[2]***********<-------The Magic Mirror Gate

*********[1]*********** <------ The Sphinx Gate of self-worth


A) The Falkor Card
B)The Gmork Card

1)The Sphinx Gate of self-worth: what do I REALLY think of myself?
2)The Mirror Gate: who am I REALLY?

3)The secret you need to know to complete YOUR quest.
4)What you need to DO with that knowledge, now!

How to read the spread:

The cards are shuffled then placed face-down and revealed step by step (starting with card #1) moving first through the two gates to finally meet the Southern Oracle at the top of the spread. I will explain when card A and B are read in a moment... Before flipping over card 1 and then card 2 to pass through the Sphinx Gate of self-worth and the Terrifying Mirror Gate, you should pause for a moment, close your eyes and ask yourself the gate questions:

1) Sphinx Gate of Self-Worth: what do I REALLY think of myself?
2) Mirror Gate: who am I REALLY?

Close your eyes and ask each question above to yourself with a sincere and inquisitive heart and feel your way into its meaning. Then when you are ready, after each question - flip over each gate card in turn to reveal the truth.
If the truth freaks you out do not despair! Immediately turn over the Falkor card (A). Falcor is Atreyu's luck dragon and always believes in Atreyu because he knows his true potential - as such he represents what the Greeks called the Agatha Daimon (the good guardian angel). The Falkor card in the spread represents your ideal self, your highest potential - what you CAN become. This card should ALWAYS be interpreted its most empowering light. If the truth revealed by either gate is disheartening allow the Falkor card to balance your vision of yourself, so you can integrate the knowledge of your total being and thus grow stronger in your quest.

Similarly, if the either gate reveals something wonderful - well done! You should affirm the good in yourself with this discovery. You should not grow complacent however, because we are always being tested and the Nothing grows stronger! Which means that if either of the two gates reveals something good you should flip over the dreaded Gmork card (B). The Gmork is the agent of the Nothing bent on destroying Fantasia (your dreams). The Gmork card shows you where you could potentially stumble in your quest, your weaknesses or your blind spot. It represents what the Greeks called the Caco, or Evil, Daimon - this is the shadow self. The parts which are hidden, denied or toxic. By bringing any positive revelation given by the gates into balance with the message of the Gmork card you can achieve greater balance and personal power.
Finally, having been tested by the the two gates you stand before the Southern Oracle! You should flip over card 3 and 4 to discover what the SECRET to successfully completing your quest is, and very importantly, what you should DO with this knowledge. Card 4 therefor should be interpreted as a concrete action you should decide on (right now) and TAKE using the knowledge you have gained from this spread.

In conclusion:

If done with a heroic heart the revelation given by the Southern Oracle cards will build on the discoveries of the two gates. There should be a real 'Aha' moment at the end. This doesn't necessarily mean what has been discovered, or what must still be done, will be easy! No true quest is easy - even Atreyu almost fails and sees Fantasia nearly entirely consumed by the Nothing. However, like Atreyu you must not give up and the knowledge you have gained will ultimately empower you to successfully complete your quest IN SPITE of any difficulties. The Nothing can be defeated and your dreams can always still come true. This is the path the true hero must walk.

Happy questing dear tarot friends and may your luck dragon always find you!


In Memory of Dr E

The online hoodoo community is reeling after the devastating news that Dr E has passed so unexpectedly. Eddy was a colleague and a friend - my heart goes out to his family and partner at this, the saddest of times. I'll always remember Eddy for his tirelessness work in AIRR and in the extended spiritual community; his fearless integrity and his sense of humour.

Eternal Light and Progress to you, dear friend.


Amsterdam Tarot Show

Past, present, future ALL REVEALED later today at the Amsterdam Tarot Show. I will be doing readings!! So come and see what promises to be an incredible art exhibition, and also get some cards flipped! Cafe de Cantine (Rietlandpark 373, 1019 EM Amsterdam)


Pendulum says "NO!"

I didn't always used to be a crappy dowser.

When I decided to take my vocation as reader seriously and found myself a mentor, I soon became seduced by the promising swing of the pendulum. Shirley, the septuagenerian card reader who had adopted me as her student, was a fierce dowser. She also was an annoying dowser. Aside from the excellent use she put the tool to in readings to refine time frames and other handy specifics - that bloody pendulum would get whipped out for everything; to choose new decks of cards; buy books; and even make dinner decisions. If there was any doubt about what should happen next, out the amethyst bauble would come from the mysterious depths of her handbag. Any protestations as to the pendulum's choice of, say, location for our sunday walk on the beach would produce a sharp look from Shirley.

"But Noordhoek beach is so lovely and quiet this time of day, Shirlz" I'd say.
"The pendulum says no" Shirley would state as a matter-of-fact.

I would restrain the urge to grab the amethyst dangling in front of my face and fling it out the car window. The pendulum had the final word, and that was that. Perhaps that's why Shirley's pendulum was so accurate in readings. For Shirley that pendulum was more than a crystal dangling from a chain. It was a natural law. Resultantly, I got my own pendulum and started practicing based on my mentor's instruction. The results were lackluster at best. I couldn't trust the damn thing. You see, in order to get accurate dowsing responses you need to trust. And, perversely, in order to trust you need accurate answers. A veritable divinatory chicken and egg scenario for a doubting Thomas such as I.

After a few weeks of frustration I had an idea. I asked Shirley to ritually bestow upon me the ability to dowse. With a raised eyebrow, my cranky mentor agreed. We created a small ceremony and I went upon one knee as a knight might before his queen. Shirley took her pendulum in hand, as did I. She then lay the other hand on my shoulder and as we swung our pendulums together in unison she declared that from this day forth I would be a dowser.

To our surprise it actually worked. I started getting accurate, consistent dowsing responses. I wasn't prospecting for minerals yet, mind you, but I was well on my way to a good solid level of dowsing proficiency. Thrilled to have another arrow in my quiver I enthusiastically set about working with the pendulum in a variety of settings. Time moved on and I eventually moved to Europe. Intercontinental phone-calls are expensive, Shirley was clueless with the internet and eventually Shirley and I lost touch. I suspect that her kids moved her to a different retirement home. The pendulum took a back seat to my study of geomancy for a while and when I decided to take it up again two years later the ability was gone. It was as if losing touch with Shirley had broken the spell and whatever she had bestowed on me that day had slipped away. I was a crappy, doubting dowser again.

In fact, I was worse than crappy. In one test, I performed far better with random guesses than with dowsing! Deeply discouraged I packed up my pendulum with the grim acceptance that the pendulum would never work for me again.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I receive a particularly vivid dream in which I am taken to some kind of secret lodge where I am introduced to a smartly dressed gentleman with a continental accent who describes himself as a "master diviner" and proceeds to show me a variety strange dowsing implements. Most of these devices I have never seen before. I woke from that dream with the knowledge that a new guide had been incorporated into my cuadro. Not an uncommon event for a spiritist medium - but a dowsing guide? For the worlds worst dowser?

I let the dream marinate for a couple of days before digging out the troubling cherrywood pendulum.

I asked my principle guide to 'bring in' the new guide as I fired up my pendulum. What followed could only be described as the worst dowsing test the world has ever seen. Every single dowsing response wrong. Dead wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG! Unimpressed by my new guide's influence I stuffed the pendulum back in its pouch, swearing under my breath. The situation had created an intense cognitive dissonance. On the one hand I was certain that this guide's arrival was important, on the other, the sheer earth-shaterring badness of my dowsing was undeniable.

I do not like being bad at anything.

As is the way of spiritual guides I started getting whispers in my ear along with this nagging urge to take up the pendulum and swing it. Flashes of it would come accompanied by a satisfied joyful feeling at the prospect of its wooden contours in my hand. What was the point, I'd ask myself? More whispers. No, I don't want to. Go on. But why? In my minds eye flashed the my most recent disaster of a dowsing test. Why was he showing me that? Again the session flashed before my eyes. Listen, I say to the new guide. I don't know what you are playing at but I got almost every single answer in that test WRONG. I would have been better off had I chosen the OPPOSITE of what the pendulum had indicated!

And then it dawned on me. The pendulum would have been correct if I had chosen the opposite answers. Could it be that my dowsing responses had in fact reversed direction as I crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere? At this thought I received what could only be described as a telepathic 'duh' from the new guide.

I gingerly took out the cherrywood pendulum and set up a new test attempting to locate a randomly concealed card amongst several stacks of cards, reversing the answers to my dowsing response: this time anti-clockwise = yes and clockwise = no.

Would you like to guess what happened next? The majority of tests were a success. And by a far greater margin than I have ever scored before, even at my best. More than enough to ensure me that I am back in the dowsing saddle again. What's most interesting is that results in frivolous tests - even for master dowsers - can be notoriously variable. Thats because the very nature of a test implies doubt; the outcome is unimportant; and there usually is some skepticism involved. Nonetheless, one needs to do some legitimate 'frivolous' testing in order to know you are getting a solid amount of valid dowsing responses. This then establishes confidence which in turn allows you to apply the skill to more serious pursuits.

A few quick pendulum dowsing tips:

  1. Attempt to contact a spiritual guide that can assist, if you are thick skulled like me.
  2. One of the beautiful things about dowsing is that it provides direct answers to questions through the ideomotor effect in arm and hand of the dowser. When the dowsing response is correctly calibrated your body is bypassing your conscious mind and receiving information from the unconscious mind which in turn is receiving information from the superconscious mind (if you choose to use that model). I personally choose to believe that tiny fairies are twerking in the tendons of my arm. Whatever you believe, when the dowsing response is well calibrated you will notice answers that surprise you in their spontaneity. Which means you should cultivate an expectant attitude of not knowing the answer. Preconceptions will pollute the response, just as they do with clairvoyance and card reading.
  3. Focus on the question as you ask it. Don't just say it. Feel it. The dowsing response is a yay or a nay based on that felt question. When I get an incorrect answer now it's usually because I spaced out when posing the question.
  4. Enjoy the motion of the swinging pendulum. Sounds odd, but first play with it - when your "yes" response brings pleasure and your "no" response brings coolness or indifference then the wires are connecting.
  5. Don't give up. It isn't as easy as it is made out to be. Getting a response is one thing, getting and accurate response to a real query is another. 
  6. Devise tests. Find lost objects etc. Part of being a good reader is providing proof - not just to yourself but to others. It's all good and well to check if your chakras are open or if you are standing over a lay-line but these kinds of things can't be corroborated. 
  7. Don't be too hard on yourself with tests. You should aim for a result beyond the probability of random guessing, but 100% accuracy rare even for master dowsers. As I said, tests are diagnostic - and by their nature discourage accuracy.  

(This post is dedicated to my friend and mentor Shirley Addlington - wherever she may be in this world or the next)