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.