Saturday, December 18, 2010

Karmic Wrist-Slap


When you see Justice in symbolic iconography, she is often depicted with scales.  They represent, of course, balance.  Hers is the cosmic force of karma which is the means of keeping human behavior in equilibrium.  Sometimes people can go years and years doing underhanded crap and it seems maybe Justice isn't looking.  But given the right moment, she sneaks up on situations and people and delivers her backhand with aplomb.  It is meant to be corrective, not retributive, so we must be careful when celebrating someone getting what was coming to them.  It's not always the hand of Justice.  Sometimes it's just the Wheel turning, and Providence is simply dealing one a normal dose of life's vicissitudes.  We need to watch our own attitudes and judgments, lest we become too haughty and presumptuous, such as some well-known political televangelists who seem to enjoy pointing out that earthquakes in Haiti are the direct result of the population's practice of Voodoo, or that AIDS is Justice for a homosexual lifestyle.  That kind of arrogance sets one up for a karmic backhand of your own.  It's all about Balance and taking a wide-angle view.  That scale is wielded by a goddess, not a mortal, who sees over time and into hearts and intentions.  We, being quite myopic and unable to hear all the evidence that she is privy to, can't begin to fully assess the final decree.

Often she lends a gentle warning, a smack on the wrist, rather than a full on backhand slap upside the head.  Sometimes it's so gentle it goes unnoticed, but we are wiser to pay attention.  Recently Theresa Reed published a wonderful post on her blog, The Tarot Lady, called "The F Word."  It pretty much sums up the way I and many other tarot readers feel about reclaiming the fortune telling aspect of tarot.  There does seem to be a strong sense in the tarot community of distancing from predictive readings, of "telling the future," and yet those of us who read professionally can attest that most of our clients come to us wanting us to read their future.  I wholeheartedly support Theresa's statements.   I got pissy  four years ago at a tarot conference because fortune telling and divination seemed to be addressed as so "passe," that the only acceptable and worthy use of reading tarot was for one's own "spiritual enlightenment." I left the table in a hurry lest I said something I'd regret. I went out for a smoke and found a small clan of tarot readers who likewise felt the same. It was comforting, but we felt "rebellious,"  as if we weren't in the center of things but in the margins. Well, that's ok with me.  The margins are where I've lived my whole life, so what makes practicing tarot any different? Fortune tellers are, and forever will be, margin dwellers. Celebrate it if you dare and if you identify with it. I don't care to legitimize it for it may lose its magic otherwise. Dance in the margins and offer your gifts to those who visit there.  

Then came the karmic nudge.  Two days later, Theresa blogged again.  This time, her post "Medium Low" described a scene in a television reality show where a well-known psychic medium showed herself in a most undesirable light.  While I know that kind of thing makes for good TV, it also embarrasses those of us in the fortune-telling community that work hard to maintain a respectable and ethical environment.  She wrote:
The grand irony is that I had just written an article on reclaiming the dignity of the psychic profession (“The F Word”), when along comes this “psychic” (of some renown apparently) displaying behavior that would be considered abhorrent to anyone, but which is particularly shameful and harmful when done by someone who represents the profession on television in front of millions of viewers.

I don't know if anyone else felt the nudge, but I did.  In my fervor for reclaiming the fortune teller moniker in all its glory, this was a stern reminder of why the term has fallen into disfavor.  Psychics and tarot readers are human and as such we are prone to mistakes and showing our less than attractive sides.  But then there are those, and I'm not saying this woman on the show is such a one, who seem to make it their mission to downgrade the profession.  Some think its an easy way to make a few bucks, to tell clients what they want to hear, to pretend to read their futures, to do cold readings with much ado and flourish.   Clear away the smoke and mirrors and you find...nothing of substance.  The general public knows this and expects fortune tellers to be all fluff and no genuine substance.  We're entertaining and all, but that's about it.  Maybe Justice wanted me to know that there is a reason for this perception and not to dismiss it casually.  I need to likewise respect the well-founded impression that the public holds for tarot readers while simultaneously do my best to counter it by being genuine and by offering more than smoke and mirrors.  Also, there is good reason why some tarot readers opt out of doing predictive readings.  Some have found them to be of little practical value and have chosen not to offer them because they've found their own personal gift and strength is in a form of life coaching using tarot.  People who seek out their services tend to be the kind of people who want that kind of reading and those who want more predictive readings simply move on to another kind of reader.

The point is, there are many reasons why fortune telling has earned its reputation and it takes more than a simple statement of reclamation to tidy up its image.  I'm not saying it can't be done, but I don't think it will ever be considered entirely legitimate.  I'm not sure we should even want it to be.  The appeal of fortune telling lies in its mystery and magical otherworldly aura.  It rightfully belongs in the margins, in that liminal place where the High Priestess dwells, between acceptable and non-acceptable.  As long as one is comfortable in the margins I think there is where fortune telling becomes respected.  It will always be something doubted by skeptics, but then again, even mainstream professions like psychology have their skeptics, too. 

Justice broadens my view in ways no one else can.  She helps me view all sides of an issue with the least amount of bias I can muster.  She helps keep my own views in balance and the lessons she has taught me have been the most significant in my life.  She never fails to remind me when my mind is becoming too narrow, my sight too myopic, or my stance too dogmatic.  She tells me all is not what it seems, there is much to be considered before rendering judgment and her authority will not be usurped by the likes of mortals, that we are all simply subjects of her cosmic court and as such are vulnerable to her decrees as well.  Luckily for us, her aim is to help us grow and become more whole, more compassionate, more divine.  Her drive is not to punish but to correct, to balance, and we are more liable to avoid the more severe sentences if we respond positively to the lighter ones. 

Credits: Justice tarot card from The Classic Tarot By Carlo DellaRocca, a reproduction of a Milanese deck, dated 1835. Published by Lo Scarabeo 2000


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