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The hundred secret senses

In religious and spiritual terms, when old and new worlds meet and the old world gets assimilated by the new some of it is still allowed to slip through the cracks. Through the folktales. Through traditions.

Like going into the forest to cut down a sapling and burning it on Christmas Day while making wishes for the following year. Like reading omens of the future in tea leaves and coffee grounds. Like tying red threads to the chubby wrists of children to ward off the evil eye. All still things alive and well and being practised in the modern-day Orthodoxly Christian Serbia without inner conflict by people who consider themselves Christians. Things change form, change their names, but they live in niches, find ways of existing.

In the old Russia where my grandmother's family came from, women didn't have a lot of power except in childbearing, and in ability to foresee the future and have prophetic dreams. This continued, was allowed despite the stringent stance of the Russian Orthodox Church. There was alway powerful threads of mysticism running close to the surface of the Eastern Christianities and women... women were viewed often as Other and Unknowable and Hysterical and therefore allowed to get away with acts of apparent Illogic Strangeness.

And so they did thank God, quite openly. Generations and generations back (from as long as my grandmother can remember) our family has been rife with prophetic dreamers and ghost-seers. Warnings, messages, goodbyes were exchanged, received. Beneath the overt Christianity folktales, and old forests and inner senses made their own rules, dealt their own counsel. The messages appeared differently to everyone, but most of the women could hear them. Interpret dreams and flights of birds and forms moving through light and shadow on the outskirts of vision.

Prophetic dreams have never come to me. Certainly powerful dreams with messages about my own hopes and fears and longings and yearnings and inner processes, but not actual omen-bearing dreams. My own intuition worked differently, with the arrival of an awareness deep inside me. Quiet, but absolutely clear (which isn't to say I didn't fight or ignore those messages I disliked).

Over the years of trying to be a rationalist and a scientist and grappling with a Neptune-Saturn square my intuition was dismissed and driven underground. I spat on anything intangible, I attempted to defend myself against what I perceived as the random cruelties and injustices of the world by dealing with only absolute certainties.

But the secret senses are patient, and kind. They are not lost, they do not rust. When I stopped fighting them, and invited them back into my life they came.

It began with dreams of a deck of cards such as I had never seen before. It was in Sheffield, the year 2000 and night after night I would have the same dream ( a version of my dream of heaven) in whch I walk into a mysterious shop, or a market full of fabrics and books and treasures and find beautiful cards even though I could not make out any of their detail except the back - a midnight blue with golden stars. I woke up each day seized with incredibly powerful urges to go and find these, except I had no idea where to look. For three days I did nothing about it, and the dreams continued every night until I yielded and took myself to town and walked into the first bookshop I encountered which happened to have a prominent display of various tarot decks.

In that moment inside I felt like singing. I knew I had found what I had been looking for, and I was like a kid unleashed into a candy shop, a bookworm given free reign of the most magnificent library in the world. I could not get enough, and I picked up a deck whose back was somewhat similar to the one in my dream and skipped off home to play with my new treasure. Except I could not understand the cards. They seemed like the product of someone's drug sessions dreams and to me they were alien. I could not make out their language or their messages. It was like being presented with a familiar story in Chinese. The characters simply made no sense.

I washed down my sense of dissapointment with television, but my dreams of the cards peristed until I set forth to search a second time and finally found what I didn't completely know I was looking for. Seeing those cards was like coming home. I understood the symbols. They spoke to me. Their details told endless stories.

When I began to do experimental readings for people everyone (most of all me) was astounded when the stuff I said appeared not only accurate but to come true. This was a bit of a problem for me because I had no rational explanation of how tarot readings worked, or why they worked regardless of the method I used or the fact that I didn't really know any card meanings or much story of symbols.

As the list of satisfied customers grew so did my confidence and my ability to listen to my own intuition.

Nowadays reading Tarot is no longer an attempt to support myself or build a reputation or gain experience. I no longer read at fairs, or in shops. The readings are sporadic and unhurried and always a pleasure.

Tarot to me is a way of unwinding. From the moment of lighting candles, and meeting clients and laying down the cards I am loosening my hold on my desires and fears and the hundreds of random thoughts which like to march around or play on a loop through my head. I am breathing deeply, relaxing, loosening my hold on myself and the world. Taking my mind to a driftier, softer place. Like floating in water. Like sitting in a patch of sunlight with your eyes closed, feeling the heat on your skin. Like translating the scents of salt and cypress and stone that the wind brings from the sea.

Time slows down. My breath slows down. Everything seems softer coloured. I empty my mind. I ask to be given information my client needs to hear. And I prepare to listen.

Reading Tarot is like playing an instrument, hearing a piece of music. I often find myself closing my eyes to better make out the notes I feel on the edge of my senses. Most often the messages are subtle, faint. I test them, run them through what the cards and the deep, quiet space inside myself is teling me. Imagine myself a harpist running my fingers over the strings, pulling chords, testing them for harmony and tune. Weaving them together to produce meaning. A story. A message for someone.

A funny feeling, doing it right, connecting with someone and being connected. A gift, a joy. Like a song coming together inside me, music I can almost hear. Each note falling like petals into my outstreched hands, a star arcing itself into silence, diving to the place within me that's bottomless. Turning silver and moonlit as fish. Released, and swimming away.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
Speaking of the Hundred Secret Senses, have you read the novel by that name written by Amy Tan?
May. 8th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
Yes. :)
I rather like Amy Tan.
May. 8th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
I've always loved her theme of Grandmother-Mother-Daughter =)

It helped me understand a lot about my maternal grandmother and my mother (even though I'm not my mother's daughter)...
May. 11th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Heh, me too. I found that strange intiially how much of its themes in Chinese culture could easily relate to Balkan ones.
May. 8th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
I love that book.

I also love Tarot cards, read properly, like my Mother used to do. She was very good : )
May. 11th, 2007 12:59 pm (UTC)
Do you ever try reading them yourself?
May. 11th, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
No, I haven't ... I am rather in awe of them, whereas Mother always treated them with respect, but in a very matter of fact way. I may try, though ....
May. 8th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
I know it doesn't work this way, but you make it sound so cool that I really want a "thing" of my own now. :-) Don't worry, I'm sure I'll forget about it soon. (Though I never seem to completely forget...)
May. 11th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
I think everyone can have a thing. :) It's just a matter of finding the thing that works for you...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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