May 17, 2017

Satanism 5/18/2017

This kind of meme deserves
to be killed with fire.

Thinking you're free doesn't make you free

There's a lot to be said about will-to-power, but the truth is - barriers exist. Way back when I left Christianity and got into occult studies, New Age, New Thought, and Neo/Paganism, perhaps the largest attraction was the belief that the only barriers to personal success, health, wealth, happiness, and the juicy life are the ones we impose upon ourselves.

In a way, this belief is incredibly motivating because it more or less says that you can change your world by merely changing your mind. This sentiment is prevalent in the New Thought consumerism of "The Secret" (largely championed by the convicted felon James Arthur Ray) and teaches you to believe that thoughts become things, and that if you merely want something badly enough, it'll happen. Oh, yes - they tell you to put actions behind your words - but it's what you think that's most important!

Barriers are real, and exist for a reason.

There are a lot of problems with this kind of thinking, but the one that I'm talking about today is the way that this belief encourages you to ignore both stratification and the balance factor. Just because a kid living on skid row wants to be rich, that doesn't mean he's going to become a titan of industry - chances are excellent that he won't. But he could become a local businessman with a network of regional ties.

In life there are barriers to success. Some can be dismantled, some can be avoided, and then - more often than not - some have to be accepted. For best success in life, don't magically think your way to a better place. Instead, recognize the truth of the level of stratifcation at which you exist, and do your best to thrive within it. There are alturistic and philanthropic people who want to break down barriers and elevate everybody to the position of highest privelege and opportunity. And while I surely understand that it's important to care for the jungle which supports the beasts who live within it, I also think that opportunities should not be given carelessly. So they say, don't cast your pearls before swine. 

Generally speaking, I think that requiring people to raise their level of stratification by proving their worth and demonstrating why they deserve the things they want is a great recipe for rewarding talent and letting those who contribute things of little or no value meditate on success within the walls of their own creation.

Who benefits from barriers?

As Anton LaVey was fond of saying, "Cui bono?" I saw in the news that the Russian government has banned the Jehova's Witnesses from the country. You can read the whole write-up here, but one of the more interesting things to come from it was the acknowledgement that Church of Satan affiliated Satanists are registered with the government and are allowed to stay. Naturally, critics are questioning why Russia is expelling the Witnesses but letting the Satanists stay, but to my eyes it's not terribly surprising because the Russian government is almost literally in bed with the Russian orthodox church, so religions that proslytize and get all-fucking-preachy about how people should be living their lives are not only attacking Russian cultural heritage in the form of Russian orthodoxy, but also challenging the power and authority of the Russian government to set the norm for how people live their lives. Throw in Russia's long history with atheism under the Soviet Union, and you get a strange mix where other religions are tolerated so long as they don't make a scene. 

Hail Rubber Stamp!

For comparison, look at Russia's oh so progressive position on homosexuals and homosexuality: you can be a homosexual and enjoy homosexuality, but you have to stay in the closet and you can't talk about it openly and definitely can't talk about it with kids. See the pattern? It's all to do with who gets to shape public discourse. The Russian government doesn't care that there are Satanists in Russia, they just want to know:
  1. Who and where they are, and
  2. Make sure they're not trying to challenge the government or the church for cultural and administrative authority.
Registering with the government is a great way to gain mainstream credibility - what speaks louder than a stamp of government approval? - but it's also reciprocative approval for an authoritarian system which gets to decide what qualifies as a religion and if it's allowed to openly exist. Who'd have thought that a group of Church of Satan members - people who champion individual rights to expression and opposition to unjust tyranny - would support this kind of rubber-stamping process? Feels a bit short-sighted to me - after all, you never know where that axe is going to fall when it's convenient for the executioner. At any rate, now when anybody accuses Putin of suppressing freedom of religion, he can hold up his registered Satanists as defense. Just goes to show: you can't judge an autocrat by his cover!

May 16, 2017

Tarot Talk 5/17/2017

For folks who have been following me for a while, you'll see that my services have changed, and there're a lot of reasons why. These are the top four reasons:

My income is supporting my lifestyle, but it isn't expanding it. I'm not even a teensy bit ashamed to say that I want to live a life of luxury, and my current sales model isn't going to give that to me.

I want to do more than just work. When all my productive time and energy are dominated by work, this leaves no time or energy for vlogs, essays, finishing my book The Satanic Tarot, and free live-stream hangouts where I can build relationships with my clients.

Not all clients respect my boundaries. Your reading is over when the reading is over, and I don't have time to answer multiple follow-up emails for every reading that I do. I can't be there to hold your hand every step of the way. You must take ownership of your reading and decide what to do with it.

I'm not getting paid for all my work. What I used to do was record clients' readings as an MP3. My rate was $60/hr., and the way it worked was you click "buy," submit your question, I record your reading, and send it back to you. But when I do an MP3 reading, I'm not getting paid for all the time I spend to complete it. For example, this is what happens when you puchase a 15-minute reading @ $60/hr. delivered as an MP3:
  • 2-5 minutes to review the order.
  • 1-2 minutes of small talk before the order
  • 15+ minutes to complete the order
  • ~1 minute of small talk at the end of the order
  • 2-3 minutes to upload the order
  • 5-10 minutes answering follow-up messages via email.
So for $15, I'm not actually doing 15 minutes of work. I'm actually doing 26-36 minutes of work. Gross rate comes to $25 - $35 / hr., and after Fiverr takes its 20% of the gross that means that I'm actually netting $20 - $28 hr - between a third and a half the $60 hr. rate I was charging. For this reason, I've decided that I'm now giving readings over the telephone and by appointment only. Same-day and weekend appointsments are available, but I feel like this is the direction that I really have to go as a reader in order to earn a fair income for the skills I've been developing over the past ~15 years.

I've had a really great two years delivering readings by email as MP3 audio recordings, but the truth is that it's giving me a bad case of burn-out. If I don't adopt a method that's both personally and professionally better for my goals, the only solution will be to walk away from reading professionally - and that's something I really don't want to do. For all these reasons - and more I'll talk about in this week's vlog - making this change isn't an option for me. For all my clients who enjoyed the micro-pay model that I've been using, I'm grateful for your patronage, and I sincerely hope that I can continue to serve you.

Is this the beginning of the end?

I read a lot of bloggers. Were there more Satanic bloggers worth reading, I'd read their blogs - and seriously, tell me if you know any well-written atheist-Satanist bloggers - but for the time being I'm riding the parallels in a lot of Poly/theist and Neo/Pagan blogs. A timely essay I read came from John Beckett, a druid and devotional polytheist, asks the question if it's worth demolishing the figurative towers we've built as a nation and as a culture. 

Religously and philosophically, I don't share much in common with John, but I value his writing because it's frequently thought provoking. If you're a fan of group ritual, then you'll enjoy the notes John shares in his essay. If not, well - skip to the relevant parts. For me, the relvant parts are in the discussion about the Tarot card The Tower which is traditionally interpreted as a collapse and failure of the ego. Yes, the usual representation of the Tower shows people falling to their deaths, and yes, it's a great tragedy.

Just End It Already

But in its way, the Tower is also liberating. Have you ever made yourself ill from eating and drinking too much? And have you ever felt so ill from over indulging that you became nauseated and threw up? Yeah... the Tower is a bit like that. It's awful to feel your insides become your outsides, but don't you feel better when it's over?

As a Satanist, I'm a pretty big fan of the material world - I think it's a fun and satisfying place to live - but I'm also Epicurean in my approach and think that moderation and careful selection are important parts of living a satisfying life. Disposable culture and wanton disregard for the environment are disgusting, and like it or not but the consequences of indiscriminate consumption are here, right now, and they're only going to become more severe. In the immortal word of the Lorax, "Unless..."

Everything comes from something

The trouble with felling Towers is that all the time, resources, and money that went into building them is lost forever, but the benefit is that you're no longer obligated to maintain it - you're free to move in other directions and pursue something else without the taint of a dark monolith hanging over you. As it relates to me, sure - I'm having a Tower moment with my professional practice - but there are other Tower moments I've had with my personal practice. 

It's all too easy and tempting for me as a fortune-teller to poo-poo the tools and practices that I've discarded along the way. As +Theresa Reed points out, remember to acknowledge the tools that got you to where you are. Consider, for example, Bruce Lee and his fighting style jeet kune do. One of the central training philosophies in the system is that empty-hand, no-contact, scripted patterns and training sequences are just "land swimming" and are at best merely aerobic exercise, at worst a preparation to fail in combat. Bruce Lee emphasized person-to-person training and contact fighting, and by all accounts he was an incredible martial artist - he was a rare dragon.

Perspective is important

But what a lot of people forget is that he didn't reach that point as a martial artist without the benefit of the patterns and scripted sequences he learned in the years that he spent practicing wing tsun. Bruce Lee trained with the near-legendary wing tsun instructor Ip Man, and this expert instruction combined with Bruce Lee's own astonishing potential as a fighter is what brought him to the point that he was able to formulate his system of jeet kun do. 

Likewise, there are fortune-tellers like myself who were taught differently when I started than how I'm practicing today. I wouldn't call myself the Bruce Lee of fortune-telling - I'm pretty sure that's +Camelia Elias - but like Theresa Reed says, the point is that the tools you discarded should be remembered for the role they played in your development. So even if you're somebody like me who is borderline nauseated by discussions about spirit and spirituality, there's no way around the fact that the occult stuff you love and have probably repurposed for your own needs almost certainly originated within a spiritual context. Don't commit the Satanic sin of losing perspective or forgetting past orthodoxies - everything came from something, and when it comes to the occult, that something is probably spiritual.

What's the Deal with Yes or No?

Seeing as this is supposed to be a blog about Tarot, the last thing I'm covering today is a short essay from Natalie at Mist & Ether in which she talks about Tarot readings intended to produce only Yes or No results. Like most things, I'm of at least two minds when it comes to Yes-or-No readings.

Yes/No readings are decisive.

On the one hand, I think they're necessary. After all, that's why people get their cards read: they need an answer, right? We've all had readings - and some of us given readings - that spend so much either playing with nuance or just dancing around an answer that they don't actually provide any useful information. There are some people who enjoy the open-ended approach to a reading, but more often than not people who get readings - or who give readings! - need a decisive, closed-end answer that says yes or no and dares to be proven wrong.

Yes/No readings can be shallow. 

But then the problem with Yes/No readings is that the answer is binary: it's a 0 or a 1, and nothing in between. This kind of commitment - "Is that your final answer?" - can be limiting, and Tarot readers being who we are - or me being who I am - don't enjoy making definitive statements that close doors to investigation.

And while I do surely appreciate a direct answer, the world in which we live is in fact non-binary. No matter how often you try to divide the world into a false duopoly of 1's and 0's, the truth remains that there are 2's, 3's, %'s, ☖'s, ☈'s and even ☴'s. The world is a crazy place, and while it's often faster and easier to reduce everything into a 1 or a 0, a binary paradigm leaves much to be desired.

May 15, 2017

News & Politics 5/16/2017

Professional Blame Gamers

The funny thing about responsibility being for the responsible - a frequent opinion among Satanists - is that saying, "I take full responsiblity," or creating justification for irresponsibility from whole cloth doesn't magically absolve you of having to accept the consequences for your actions. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm an independent, and I vote for the people and policies who improve me and mine. Don't do anything for me - or work against me - and you don't get my vote. This juvenile game of shifting the blame or looking for excuses and justification when the consequences are politically impolite is the sort of thing that deserves to be killed with fire.

Case in point, Pat Buchanan is defending fabulist liar and confidence artist Donald Trump by excusing everything Trump says and does by simply blaming it on a conspiracy theory. Clearly, it's the fault of the damned, dirty, liberal media, leftists, and commie, pinko politicians. Clearly, they're just picking on Trump because they can't stand how wonderful he is. Gosh, don't they know it's rude to point out his faults? Let's all shed a tear for the crybaby-in-chief.

The best lies are based in truth.

But then, politicians and politics wouldn't be what they are if it weren't for the mental gymnastics and feats of verbal judo necessary to wrangle people into voting them into office, would it? And that's one of the things that really fascinates me as a fortune-teller: How and Why people lie. I'm not naive enough to say that "Nobody should lie!" As usual, I think that deceit and manipulation are a part of daily life, and the challenge isn't to always tell the truth, but to lie with moderation and for a specific reason.

Nobody's exempt from criticism.

I'm beating up on Trump right now because he's in the news right now, but truthfully - and I'm not lying! - I'd be beating up on Obama or Clinton if it were either of them in the hot-seat. Every politician lies, and no president in the White House is entirely who he or she appears. I happen to think that Obama did a lot of great stuff for the country - for example, the Affordable Care Act - but I'd be willfully blind to ignore the ways he expanded the power of the state to interfere in the lives of private citizens, expanded the size and scope of the drone program, authorized the use of drones to summarily execute US citizens living abroad without trial, and more. Obama wasn't perfect - not by a long shot - but we accepted his falsehoods because on the whole he was satisfying more people than he was disappointing.

Disposable allies are hard to replace.

Trump, on the other hand, has proven himself to be a complete and unmitigated failure of a president within the span of just 100 days. And me being who I am, I think that a large part of that is his inability to lie consistently and his spectacular habit of publicly murdering his surrogates who lie for him for the sole reason that his skin is so thin that he can't endure even the slightest criticism without searching for a scape goat.

I mean, really folks - this is Highschool 101: if you and your friends decide to skip out for the day so you can go smoke weed and drink beer in your parents' basement, you all have to tell the same story about how your car broke down on the way to school and you had to stay with it until the tow-truck came. When your mom smells ganja on your clothes and gets skeptical, you can't break down and blame it all on Stupid Larry because pretty soon Stupid Larry will become Smart Larry who stops covering for you. Who knows? He might even tell your other friends your dirty secrets just to get back on you.

Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.

So by this point, I think we can agree that deceit, falsehood, and manipulation are a part of daily life. Right? Everywhere you go, everybody's trying to get something and it's a never-ending game that spans the spectrum of embellishing the truth, bending the truth, lies by omission, little white lies, outright fantasy, stupefying falsehood, and everything in between. The challenge isn't to find somebody in life who doesn't lie, but to learn how to navaigate varying degrees of falsehood and make the best decision for yourself. 

In that sense, I suppose I'm grateful that Trump has finally come right out and said that nobody can believe anything that anybody says in the White House (including himself.) You get what I mean? Him saying that his press secretaries can't be 100% accurate when his press secretaries are doing nearly 24/7 damage control to re-spin his absurdities into something resembling reality is the most impossible thing I've ever heard. I mean, this is exactly like the door riddle in the movie The Labyrinth where one of the guardians always tells the truth, and one of them always lies, except in the example of Trump's White House, both doors are saying that the other always lies. How's this for a solution? Get a fire axe, cut through the bullshit, and knock both doors the fuck down.

May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

For every Jason Voorhees, there's a Mrs. Voorhees.
We love you, moms, even if you make us totally psychotic.

image via

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, and to everybody who isn't - well, How is your relationship with your mother? If you've got a great relationship with your mother, then by all means - indulge and show your affection. If not, ask yourself - Why? I'm not going to tell you that you must have a great relationship with your mother no matter what, because - let's be honest with ourselves - some mothers just drive their children absolutely and completely insane. Like, to the point that we'd rather put on a hockey mask, stalk horny teenagers, and chop them into tiny pieces with a machete than sit down at the same table with our mother and have a cup of tea. 

But you know, mothers aren't perfect. Sometimes they do their best, and sometimes they don't. You know... they're human... just like you and me. And so the saying goes, mothers are crazy because their children made them that way. As long as we're being honest with ourselves, let's at least take credit for the work we did as children to erode our mothers' sanity as adults. 

Anyway, I won't bludgeon you over the head with that tired old crap about how you should love your mother because it's she who gave you life - that shit gets pretty old by the time you're 15 - but I will remind you that life is precious and time is short. If you want your mother to play a role in your life, then you need to make sure she knows that she's invited to do so. After all, time is running out - it waits for nobody - and you need to make up your mind sooner than later if you're goint to extend that invitation. There might not be time to change your mind if you wait too long.

Regarding Covens

I ran across this today: a fellow asking, "What defines a coven?" Yes, yes - I know that this isn't to do with Satanism or even written by a Satanist - but so much of what I learn about myself is through parallel comparison to other people and traditions. Differences define the indivudual, don't you think? If you want to read all the questions he poses, then you'll have to click through and read his writing - I think it's rather unfair to copy/paste his writing here and deny his fairly earned traffic - so I'll jump straight to my commentary.

I'm going to file this one in the category of, "problems that will never bother a Satanist." I can appreciate that from the author's Wiccan perspective, these are important questions, but from a Satanic perspective I'm confounded. It's been a very long time since I've been anywhere near Wicca - about 11 years, but who's counting? - but these questions combined with my admittedly poor experience give me the impression that for the author who wrote this, community and keeping-people-together are both a means and an end. When I read the questions and the pattern that emerges from them, I get the distinct impression that a coven is a whole bunch of people figuratively locked hand to hand and gathering at set intervals for the sake of gathering.

I mean, If you're going to create a format for the purpose of meeting and worshiping with co-religionists, why would you put the needs of the format (a coven) above the needs of the people who compose it? What little I know or remember from my past dabbles with Wicca over a decade ago, a Wiccan coven isn't just a kind of congregation led by a high mugwump - it's also a working group with specific roles that need to be filled in order for work to be done. And yes, the work to be done depends on the ritual, and yes, the ritual can be changed to require more or less people, but perhaps my clearest take-away from the time I spent in Wicca is that covens are groups who do things as a group and stay together as a group to do group stuff. Did I mention the group? 

What I observed while trying Wicca on for size is that the general air of importance given to the coven format and the need for assigned roles irritated more people than it served. It often resulted in the high mugwump doing nearly all of the work to coordinate coven work, petty in-fighting among those assigned to set coven roles, and simmering resentment among those for whom there simply wasn't room to advance. Throw in the fact that even as pedestrian as Wicca has become, it's still quite difficult to find enough people to form a coven, and you get microscopic autocracies where there's little room to move up, and nothing but a wasteland if you move out. And for people who value unity for the sake of unity, there's not much else that's more terrifying than a wasteland. 

Satanists, on the other hand, have been doing their thing solo virtuoso for decades. In fact, going by the Satanic Bible published in 1969, solitary ritual is the norm - not the exception! So for me, when I read a list of questions like what the author wrote, I'm genuinely confounded. My world view has changed so much over the last 10 years that I can't help but think, Why does anybody need a coven? Why can't individuals who share common interests simply agree to meet together for the pursuit of those common interests? As usual, I'm willing to admit that I may not have eyes to see, so if I'm not seeing this correctly, then you're welcome to leave a comment and tell me why, but this list of questions has been culture shock for me. I had a glimpse into an alien world, and I didn't understand it.

May 12, 2017

My services, they are a changin'

Heads up, folks: changes are coming to the way that I offer my services, and they're coming soon. For logistical reasons, I can't say very much right now - just waiting for some other pieces to fall into place - but when they fall into places, a lot of other pieces are going to follow them. Without giving everything away, there are a few tings I can tell you:
  1. I will be charging more for my services. What can I say? Stuff gets more expensive. Such is life.
  2. I will be giving away free readings every week. I know, I know - I've always poo-pood free work in the past, but this is going to be a little different than what you expected.
  3. I will be spending more time with you, so this means you and a lot of other people will have regular invitations to pick my brain.
Can you guess what this means? If so, leave a comment and see if you can read my mind. 

May 01, 2017

Tarot Blog Hop: Do I combine Tarot with other methods of divination?

For this round of the Tarot Blog Hop, our host Ms. Arwen Lynch asks the question, "Do you combine Tarot with other methods of divination?" The short answer is, no. The long answer is, kinda-sorta yes. Stay with me on this and I promise you'll understand what I mean by the end of the essay!

So, here's a story about myself: When I was in high school, I found that I really enjoyed language classes. I thrived in the English class, but I also enjoyed foreign languages and took a semester of German plus the equivalent of six semesters of Spanish. I say the equivalent because I went on a three-week exchange trip to Costa Rica after I finished Spanish 1-2. When I came back for Spanish 3-4, my fluency was so far beyond what was being taught at that level that I skipped to Spanish 5-6. At this time, I was also looking ahead to life after high school and had enlisted in the Marine Corps where I received a year of intensive language instruction in Russian, and later I dabbled in Latin and also achieved some fluency in Esperanto.

So, yes... I'm a language nerd. And I'm not telling you that to brag - I'm guessing you probably don't care - but it's important to this essay because my experience learning and speaking languages at a really formative time in my life when I was really just beginning to develop a world-view shaped how I understand the things and people around me. 

What I found is that languages are games played according to their rules. Some games have a lot of special rules and exceptions to the rules - English and French come to mind. Other games are highly regular, or even if they have a lot of rules, they follow their rules consistently - Esperanto and Russian come to mind. Learning to speak different languages required me to learn lots of different rules, and as an extension of that, learn how the rules go together. Russian is Russian because it follows Russian rules. English is English because it follows English rules. Russian and English don't go together - the word order is different, their case systems operate differently, there are three genders in Russian (and none in English), and so on. You can't mix the languages - the Russian square doesn't fit into the English circle, do you get it? 

English, Russian, Spanish, German, Latin, and any other language you can name works because it follows its own rules, and its rules exist for a reason: to communicate meaningfully and with precision. Just like some languages don't translate well from one into the other or have words that simply don't exist in other languages, I think that some methods of divination just don't work together and are stronger when used individually. That's one reason why I don't use anything except Tarot - I don't want to have to speak two different languages in divination and try to translate one into the other.

But getting back to the discussion about rules: me being who I am and the experiences that I've had, I look to find the rules of whoever and whatever I'm working with. Consistency is important to me, and while I can surely appreciate that a person or thing might play by rules which incorporate a certain amount of chaos, that's okay as long as I understand that the chaos is part of the rules. But if you think that I'm an advocate for universal orthodoxy, then you'd be wrong. Or at least, partly wrong: I'm an advocate for personal orthodoxy. I think that every fortune-teller should choose for him or herself the rules which govern his or her language and be passionately committed to following those rules until such time as he or she decides to re-write the rules.

More specifically, what this means to me is that if you want to use just Tarot, then you're welcome to it. Or if you want to use Tarot, numerology, astrology, tea leaves, palmistry, bones, and pendulum dowsing - you should do it. Or at least, you should do it so long as the combination of different systems produces answers that are both meaningful and precise. Or if you prefer answers that are vague and mysterious, that's okay too - if that's what you're trying to achieve. I don't like to combine methods of divination because I find that their rules disagree and it's more trouble than it's worth to try and translate bones into numerology, or astrology into pendulum dowsing. And so on.

But that doesn't mean that they can't be combined at all! Speaking for myself, Tarot is the only method of divination that I use, but it's not just Tarot. I've created for myself my own method of reading the cards which incorporates numerology informed by the 9 Satanic Statements, astrological lessons from the 12 houses of the Zodiac, and elemental dignities to show waxing, full, and waning properties as well as how each card either acts or is acted upon. I'm very orthodox in my divination - I use what works for me and I don't use anything else - but the system that I'm using is itself syncretized from multiple other systems.

I don't use any other methods of divination not just because I think that they're incompatible languages with contradictory rules, but also because I feel like I can get all the meaningful and precise answers that I need with the language that I've created for myself. I understand that different kinds of answers can be produced by different methods of divination when used in their entirety as they're intended to be used, but for the kind of needs I have both as a sitter and as a fortune-teller - the Tarot does it all. So this is what I meant when I said at the start of this essay "no" and "kinda-sorta yes:" I'm using principles found in other methods of divination, but I'm not actually using any of those other methods themselves.

Which is all just a long way of saying that Tarot is my love, my angle. I don't treat it like potato.

Left-hand Tarot 5/1/2017: Who Am I?

So, what's new with me? I got a reading with +Benebell Wen this week. Now, usually I'm a massive cheapskate and refuse to pay money for anything that either I can do for myself or has even the barest hint that it won't live up to my expectations. What can I say? I have very high and possibly unfair expectations when money is involved. I suspect that my cheap-skate-ness will only become more severe as I get older, and that doesn't bode well for my grandchildren. At any rate, I've been stewing over a private concern that's been defying my ability to remain objective and out of long-standing admiration of her writing as well as an interest in seeing how other readers operate, I purchased a reading with Ms. Wen. Well... short answer is, I've got a long way to go in my role as a Tarot reader if I'm going to approach the level of service that I got from Ms. Wen. Absolutely top-notch reading, and quite useful, too.

The long answer is that I got this reading not only to get an impartial perspective on a stubborn problem, but also to get an idea how it is that Ms. Wen does her readings. Perspective is easy to lose and difficult to gain, so as part of my self-guided professional development I try to see what othe readers are doing. What sort of focus emerges in their readings? How do they form the narrative? How specific or general are their answers? How do they communicate a message from the information in the cards? And so on. If you want to hear about the specifics of my reading, then you'll have to watch the video above. But comparing my reading style to what I observed from Ms. Wen, a few things jumped out at me:

First, Ms. Wen is very strong at seeing the big picture both in length and bredth. She very effectively reduces large pieces into comprehensible chunks. This might just be a strength in my particular reading since I wasn't asking a question that had to do with an immediate concern, but the observation is still true: she shined a bright light on the shadowed masses moving in the darkness and gave me a good look at what was stalking just outside of my vision. Comparing my reading style to hers - or at least to this particular reading that I got from her - she's better than I am at seeing the big picture.

Second, her approach to the reading - while direct and merciless - had the slow rhythm of floating down the lazy river. She spends a lot of time explaining not just what she sees, but what method she used to get that information, why she chose that method, and even mentioning historical references to the method. Which is cool - it's a like being on a guided tour of a Tarot museum in which the final exhibit is my own question - but compared to her, my reading style is more like a barrel ride down Niagara Falls. Ms. Wen surely isn't wrong to approach Tarot as she will - after all, her reading style is a synthesis of her life experiences, communication method, and what she believes will best serve the client. 

But me being who I am and how I've developed as a reader, I've become somebody who doesn't care to spend time teaching the client how I read the cards. In a way, I look at a Tarot reading like a carnival ride: the client is the carnival-goer, and I'm the ride operator. I don't think it's necessary for me to interrupt the carnival-goer mid-ride on the tilt-o-whirl to tell him about how each arm of the ride is held together by inter-locking bolts, the amount of force within the ride's hydraulic pistons, how many light-bulbs decorate the ride, and so on. I see my job as merely operating the ride, and if the carnival-goer wants to learn more, they can find me later. You know what I mean?

My reading style has been largely influenced by my sometimes-hobby writing flash fiction - short-short stories of less than 1,000 words. In this kind of writing exercise, brevity is mandatory. Every word must be essential, and any word that doesn't serve a specific purpose is ruthlessly murdered. This writing exercise taught me as a Tarot reader that pre-ambles are a waste of time. Just launch into the story and let the details emerge as I go! 

My reading style has also been largely influenced by the method in which I deliver my readings: MP3 audio recordings in which I charge by the minute. Clients pay up-front, and then I have to fit their answer into however much time is available. After I finish the small-talk of greeting my client and stating what I intend to do in the reading, I'm immediately into the reading because the clock is running down. Tick tock!

What kind of Tarot reader would I be today if my practice had carried me in a different direction? I suppose there's always time to change my approach and learn to deliver my readings differently, but for better or for worse I've learned to love my rapid-fire delivery. Perhaps my greatest weakness that I've observed in comparing my work to Ms. Wen's is that I've de-prioritized methods to see broad movements and long expanses of time. So much of the work that I do is in the very short term - almost never touching the past, frequently addressing only the present, and treating the future with a laissez-faire attitude. But then, that's what I've been trying to develop, right? A Satanic approach which focuses on what's here and now - and not what's already happened or has yet to appear.