Tuesday, March 2, 2010

At the Magician’s Table

I like doing new things. It could be the Aries in me. My new thing this past weekend was teaching a class in beginning tarot. And, “Oh, me of little faith!” I was prepared to cancel the class the day before since there were no advance registrations. I knew it might happen that way because people who take tarot classes may not want to start at the very beginning, just getting to know the 78 cards. I figured there might be more interest in my fourth class scheduled this year on beginning reading or perhaps the 3rd one on creativity and tarot.

My prior week had been difficult. My dear friend and boss at my day job had had an accident much more spectacular than my bathtub halfpipe and had sadly not stuck the landing. She “landed” instead in the hospital and out on disability for at least a couple of weeks. We got the word out, sent flowers and presents, kept up with her situation and made sure the team was still running smoothly.

Add to that business travel to the “Mothership” for meetings and software releases,  plus the fact that the software release lasted much longer than anyone had predicted.  Well, by 2 pm on Sunday, an hour before my class was due to start, I was, I thought, drained of energy and intelligence. I had been up at 6 am working each day all week and all weekend and somewhere in there, I flew to southern California and back to northern California.

Then Sunday afternoon I got the call from Angel Heart 4 You (501 First Street, Benicia, CA, 707-745-2024). There were two people who had come in for my class! There’s nothing like mild panic for that extra power boost to get you through the day. Phone Call gives you wings, too!

Quickly I dressed, did what I could to make myself presentable, grabbed decks, printed my bibliography and took off to teach Beginning Tarot – Air: An Introduction to the 78 cards. I spread my own Celtic sarong (now there’s a mixture of cultures!) onto the plastic topped table. I set my course materials and decks of cards down. I grabbed a cold bottle of water from the little refrigerator in the back of the shop. I took my deep breath of fresh air and settled in. I was ready. Since I had brought several versions of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, a glance at the box of each of these showed me the familiar cover picture of The Magician.

Pamela Colman Smith’s depiction of The Magician shows him at his table. By the way, “him” is ambiguous in the RWS deck for The Magician. I learned at the BATS tarot symposium that Pamela’s model for the Magician was her friend and then-famous stage actress Ellen Terry, as celebrated and idolized in her own time as any star today. In my opinion, the best cards contain ambiguity. It is that doorway where intuition and spirit can enter. Otherwise, we’re reciting from a book.

The Magician’s table is set with his tools of alchemy: a sword for air, a wand for fire, a pentacle or coin for earth and a cup for water. The ancients believed that these things in proper combination could create anything. We remember them mostly for the pursuit of turning these basic ingredients into gold. The Magician is ready, in his robe of red and tunic of white, with roses and lilies in front of the table, magic wand (or is it a scroll?) in one hand pointed to the heavens and his other hand poised to the ground. As above, so below. The Magician says, “I WILL.”

This isn’t the child’s defiant, “I will, TOO,” but the statement that the all-important fifth element, the one we can’t touch, of spirit and intent work at the table to combine, tinker, analyze, demonstrate, distill, translate and otherwise affect inanimate objects and unseen forces of nature to make, well, magic of a sort. For a fun take on the fifth element, see the movie by the same name with Bruce Willis, a personal fav.

Sure, the accidental mixture of water and earth is mud, but add the spirit of intent and will, and man can make these into clay, or better still, find naturally occurring clay. Add fire and/or air and the clay becomes hard and the object becomes useful to man, a brick, a vessel, a tile, or artistry. We have the will to manipulate, in that word’s most neutral sense, the world to suit our purposes. The Magician doesn’t tell whether the purposes are worthy or not. He does have the tools and knowledge at his disposal and he calls upon higher power to assist in his efforts. He is ready.

I must confess one of my favorite depictions of The Magician isn’t in tarot at all, but in the Walt Disney movie Fantasia. Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice decides he’s ready for some real action in the magic department while the Sorcerer is out. Soon the castle is flooding and the mops and brooms are in a frenzy to clean up before the boss gets home. It is somewhat reminiscent of my childhood. Sometimes, the apprentice is ready, sometimes not. Naturally, I was hoping my magician moment wasn’t going to flood the castle.

And there I sat at my table with my Magician’s tools, hoping to call upon the alchemy of translating pictures, words and ideas into understanding for my two students. I loved the fact that this first class was intimate. Lynn and Janet were fun, interested and not afraid to ask questions. Only time will tell if my efforts and theirs will be successful. It’s a lot of information to absorb. Carol, the shop owner, said they expressed enjoyment and enthusiasm at the end of the class. Whew, no flood! I never cease to wonder at the magic of learning.

The next class in Tarot Basics – Earth: History, Myth and the Tarot will be on June 6, 2010, from 3 pm to 5 pm (or longer if we all agree) at Angel Heart 4 You, 501 First Street, Benicia, California. To sign up in advance (very much appreciated), please contact AH4Y at 707-745-2024. You need not pay in advance to enroll.

Best wishes.

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