This week I was given an insight. With the passing of the new moon and the wide and prophetic opening of a new Decan period, one that maps to Kenneth Grant's Dark Lord as it is described by Peter Levenda, I threw down for the second time a six controversies spread to help inform the direction I am to take my enchanting for the next ten days. The barriers revealed in my path by the spread were withdrawal, pessimism, and idealism. The day after I pulled a single card and focused on the deeper reason for the intellectual withdrawal the primary spread had shined a light on for me.
The card that the deck produced was the Seven of Wands, in a reversed position. I prefer when the cards take a darker turn. Light and affirmations teach me nothing and my mind always looks past them, which likely negates their effect. No, I like it when cards are reversed and when they tell me where the obstacles in my path are.
The keyword on the Seven of Wands is indecision. Mapping this term back as far as I am able I found that the prefix 'in-' reverses the meaning of the main term. The word 'decide', from the 14th c., originally meant to 'cut off' or the 'cut away', so to me the term indecision really points to a joining of two parts, like a lock and the frame of a door.
A door is the antagonist in the H.P. Lovecraft prose poem, 'Ex Oblivione'. In this short work, a nameless protagonist escapes from drudgery through a life of dreams. This, by now, is a familiar theme in Lovecraft's work. The dream appears to be one of the primary gateways to the world of the spirit for the author. In Ex Oblivione, the hero wanders through enchanted landscapes and always finds himself in the end confronted with an impassable wall, a barrier covered in vines that by his description sound very much like the thick and ancient roots that cover the temples of Angkor Wat.
This wall, or walls like it (could it be one wall that stretches through all of his dreams?) has one key feature, a small bronze gate. There is not description in the story but my mind's eye (the source and definition of the term 'insight') calls up a gate with a lock and seven vertical bars dusted with an ancient patina.
The hero of Ex Oblivione wanders on and continues to obsess about the gate and what is on the other side. A dream-city is called out by name, Zakarion, and one night the hero finds a papyrus that describes all of the places that he had been as well as containing musings on the bronze gate in the ancient wall. I like that Lovecraft here describes Zakarion as a 'dream-city' very specifically, setting it apart from the hero's waking urban existence and giving it a strange type of permanence in an impermanent realm. Why would there be dream-cities if they did not always exist in some way, in some form, and allowed visitors to walk their streets on more then one occasion.
The city and the horrors of urbanity are the underlying them of Ex Oblivione. When reading the papyrus, the nameless and faceless hero reflects on the horrors beyond the gate as they are described and states that the greatest horror of all is the mundane of everyday existence. This fits well with the archetypes inherent in the Seven of Wands, this existing between two worlds and the refusal to be part of the real. In the dreamer, Zakarion and the unnamed city in which he leads a inconsequential existence are joined as a lock and the frame.
There is some light here, and it is brilliant because of the darkness that surrounds it. That is the secret of using the Tarot to hunt and uncover the shadows in oneself. Affirmations and happy readings of good fortune, as Benebell Wen also asserts in her recent appearance on the Thoth - Hermes podcast, are of little use if the purpose of using the Tarot is personal growth. The light that we find when standing in front of Lovecraft's Ancient Alien wall and this tiny bronze door takes on the role of a lure. The author states that
"Doubt and secrecy are the lure of lures..."
And when reading that phrase, there came the spark. Indecision represents a joining of obstacles. The barriers to a perfected and enchanted self are not in a linear progression, allowing us to knock them down like candlestick bowling pins. Certain barriers are joined and can only be addressed at the same time. My previous six controversies spread revealed that self-doubt is one of my barriers. There is little difference between the doubt written down in the Zakarion papyrus about the world beyond the bronze gate and the doubt that I sow within the furrows of my mind.
Seeing where these obstacles are joined isn’t always easy. I tried the same exercise a few days later and asked the deck what if there were any obstacles joined with the obstacle of pessimism. The card I drew was the Four of Cups in the reversed position, a really interesting and somewhat inscrutable card in relation to my question. The Etteilla cards all come with keywords that differ depending on the position of the card (one of the reasons I really like the deck, actually) and the term that faced me was ‘Nouvelles Connaissances’, or ’New Knowledge’. The traditional meaning, as astrosplained by Benebell Wen, says that this card indicates a need to engage with society. When we investigate the keywords we find that in the twelfth century the world knowledge is traced back to mean worship or hold in reverence something superior to oneself. New, or ’niwe’ in Old English, means not so much the opposite of old, it's definition is closer to 'something different'.
Are the worshiping of New Gods the obstacle joined with my pessimism? Could this mean holding empty twenty-first century materialist god forms in reverence is causing my withdrawal from society (American Gods meets Black Mirror?) and returning to the old will reverse the process, will open the bronze gate in the wall of sleep beyond the dream-city, will remove the barrier? I don’t know, the etymology of new keeps tripping me up, my gut tells me that ‘different from the old’ is the key here, not opposite but of a completely different quality, ageless? unborn? I just don’t know.
Sometimes the Tarot are the gate and sometimes, they are the wall.