Meditations on the Tarot Chapter I; “The Magician”

The Magician

I finally used this down time to dive into the hefty tome that is “Meditations on the Tarot”, something I have been meaning to do for awhile. For anyone unfamiliar with the opus, it was published posthumously and anonymously and dedicated to the “Unknown Friend”. While it is quite easy these days to find the presumed author with a Google search, I will respect his wishes and leave him unnamed. The book is a journey through Christian Hermeticism, using the Major Arcana of the tarot as a guide through his take on Hermetic philosophy, Christianity, and the confluence of the two.

He starts with the Magician, rather than The Fool, for reasons that make sense for several reasons. The easy reason is it’s the card numbered with “I”, and while that bucks many tarot-readers’ assertion that the The Fool is the first card of the Major Arcana, there is no indication (in the first chapter at least) that the author used the tarot for divinatory purposes or had any inclination to do so.

The bulk of the chapter has to do with the Magician as an “authentic symbol”, in the typological sense, which he differentiates from the mythological sense. A myth, using Cain and Abel (among others) as a reference, is an analogy across time, according to the author. The tarot is, by contrast, an analogy across space, and instead of relating a story that repeats throughout human history, it instead speaks to a sort of perfect archetype. The arcanum, as such is “a ‘ferment’, or an ‘enzyme’ whose presence stimulates the spiritual and psychic life of man.” He surmises that The Magician must come first in the series, as it has to do with the “rapport of personal effort and of spiritual reality”, and therefore is necessary to understand the rest of the arcana. His statement of the meaning of The Magician is as follows.

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden you carry light!

 

He further ties this into the sayings of the Gospels with “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew xi, 30). Much like a tightrope walker, who cannot think of his situation or risk falling, so the author compares the soul who is able to walk this path. One must be able to compartmentalize the intellect to its true purpose and not allow it to interfere where other systems should take over. The Magician’s practical teaching is therefore stated as concentration without effort. The author compels the reader to be analogous to a child, who plays with great concentration, but not to be identical to a child. He encourages the reader to attain “harmony and equilibrium between the spontaneity of the unconscious and the deliberate action of the conscience.”

The chapter concludes with a defense of the Emerald Tablet’s place in the Corpus Hermeticum and Hermeticism’s congruence with Catholic teaching, using the examples of Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure.

So far, this has been a dense but profound read, and I look forward to breaking it down by chapter as I go.

The Passion(fruit) of the Crisis

I went to the local organic/farmers’ market for the first time since all of “this”, and the line at 8am showed me two things.

  1. People are tired of not doing community activities
  2. People are getting bored pretty damn early in the morning
Just have to buy that rainbow kale that’s gonna rot in your crisper!

I mean, why not? That’s the entire reason I was there! I did make some pretty solid sauerkraut from a head of purple cabbage, although the well-meaning purchase of dandelion greens (the new hot green!) was wishful thinking and went into the trash eventually. I have no problem eating weeds.. just faced with the dauntingly giant bundle of weeds, I lost my nerve. I am convinced that, at least for blue-collar Boston kids like me, the farmer’s market is mostly a place where we lie to ourselves. In one day I went from almost zero food waste to a barrel full of rotten plants. The strawberries, most of them, fared better and ended up in a syrup. The passionfruit, what was edible at least (much of it was empty husks when I got home!), I transformed into a syrup of the gods!

It was easy, really. Just spoon out the guts of the passionfruit, add sugar to cover, and muddle the whole mess with a spoon. Let it sit, covered, in a warm space until the sugar and fruit become a syrup. Push the mess through a fine metal strainer until only bare seeds remain. Sweeten to taste, and “Bob’s your uncle!”

This stuff is pretty great on anything, but I turned it into Margaritas.

So, once you’ve made that syrup, here’s the recipe.

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz triple sec or curacao
  • 1/2 oz passionfruit syrup
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Shake, strain into a salted glass

For extra credit, garnish with spent passionfruit husks filled with a about 1/4 oz of syrup and a splash of tequila, lightly mixed! Trust.

Podcast Episode 3

2 Bored Bartenders

I sit down with Neil to talk about classic cocktails we researched for our YouTube show 2BoredBartenders, and tell off-color stories. Because sometimes that’s what we do around here. Links below

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cryptic-cocktails/id1491610467#episodeGuid=39366a36-ba3e-49ba-b974-0ec4463c3f2f

Social (experiment) Drinking

Large ice cube is the worst choice for a Margarita.. but it was all I had at the moment!

We are currently part of a social experiment. Now, before you think I have gone off the conspiracy deep-end, it’s a de facto social experiment. I don’t believe that a shadow government of the new world order is behind the current pandemic, but a tidal wave of never-before-seen data is coming. Scientists from every field imaginable will study this moment in history for centuries. So, yes, this is a social experiment.

This little statistic went to market, this little statistic stayed home..

Personally, still riding high on the free time. Burning through Duolingo ‘high school’ level Spanish so I can get to the stuff I that actually need to practice. Their Chinese (Mandarin) lessons have improved quite a bit, so dusting off the neurons and synapses from that semester of it I took twenty years ago too. Man, time flies. SO THAT’S about twenty minutes of the day. Started a video series on cocktails and cocktail history with my roommate, since we’re uniquely qualified for that- he does the spirits knowledge and I focus on the cocktail history. It’s a good chance to practice video editing, even if I only have iMovie, it’s more than enough for my needs. It’s called 2BoredBartenders, and it’s on YouTube. Check it out. Even got a weird ghostly EVP that definitely was not either of us.. it’s about seven minutes in. Not surprised, there is some sort of power vortex around here or something.

Reading some Gurdjieff and Ouspensky through the filter of a fellow named ‘Red Hawk’, and thinking it’s getting to me at the right time. There is a lot of practical advice in his book “Self Observation” that I am trying to put to good use- I recommend it. The thesis of it being that self-observation without judgment as the key to making any progress in the ‘Great Work’ (he just says ‘Work’ but my Crowley side can’t resist). He writes with a great deal of humility, which is refreshing for the genre. Realizing through that book, and meditating daily at least once (using the Headspace app, which I was very resistant to at first, but it has been beneficial at breaking me out of a meditation rut), that the body and its tension are the best indicators of other problems. Working on noticing that more.

On a totally different note, I have also gone back to research some history on drinks that are so part of the canon at this point one hardly thinks about them. The Margarita, for instance, can claim its name from three (or more) different women- but was likely originally named after none of them. Being that ‘margarita’ is a word for daisy, and the drink is basically a tequila daisy (with salt), I agree with David Wondrich (as usual) that this is the most likely scenario. Being a bartender, I also know how bartenders think, and believe it was also actually named after all three ladies (one being Rita Hayworth!). In fact, every pretty woman named Margarita probably ‘had the drink named after them’ for the first two decades of its existence, when a bartender could still pretend he made the damn thing up and she would be none the wiser. Here’s my (pretty standard) take on the drink..

2 parts tequila, 3/4 part each triple sec and fresh lime, quarter part of simple

Shake, salted rim

Simple and effective, and if you want to throw it in a blender, just this once, I won’t tell.. perks of social distancing.

Trying to make Frankincense of it all

photo April Rojas

Just thinking of how cavalier I was when this whole thing hit, making off-hand remarks about the ‘low-lethality’ of this virus, as now we are a bunch of house pets; eating food from a can, playing with our toys, and going out for the occasional walk.

“Wake me up when it gets to 30%” et cetera

Don’t worry, I am in good spirits, and still making the most of this down time. I am not going dark here. But it’s like if someone warned me an invisible murderer was coming to my neighborhood, “but don’t worry.. he only kills about one in a hundred”, would I have laughed it off? I can see the reality of our collective situation dawning, breaking on on most Marbleheads. Some, of course, are still very la-de-da about the whole thing, still trusting in their inner belief in invincibility.

I joke that ‘social-distancing’ is my preferred state. There is truth to that, I enjoy being alone more than most anyone I know. That’s probably because anyone who likes forced small-talk less than me is probably on some Arctic weather station, watching polar bears. Typical bartender sentiment I suppose but not ubiquitous.

via GIPHY

People need each other, though, even introverts. That doesn’t mean I want to go back to having to socialize all the time. I do need people to make toilet paper (hurry!), and keep the utilities going, and produce content to keep me sane. Oh, and eventually to come to the bar and keep me off the streets- I save myself conversationally for them (usually). I suppose you can ask any professional if they want to do what they do for a living for free on their days off, if they do I envy them but guessing that’s pretty rare.

Putting away the tarot and magical stuff for awhile, no sense greasing the wheels of reality right now. Meditation and prayer is the name of the game, with an occasional fast and some incense of course! Finally got a jar of all-natural, sustainably harvested, organic, yadda yadda frankincense. It’s fresh enough to eat, not that I recommend it, but if it comes to that.. (insert just kidding/not kidding emoji here). I really recommend the good stuff, I’ll never go back. Great solar incense for clearing energy and as an offering works for pretty much any benevolent spirit. You don’t always have to sage you know!

Useful tip of the week, save all your veggie bits that you’re not going to eat.. carrot peels, celery leaves, onion skins, herbs. Throw them in a freezer bag. When you fill a couple of good-sized bags, sweat all of the heartier stuff in a stock pot (you see where I am going), with a little oil and some dried spices. Bring it to a boil, turn down to a low simmer. I like to add a little soy sauce or Worcestershire. Strain it after a couple of hours and you have a rich veggie stock to make rice, soup, or even boost those ramen packs. There might even be actual nutrients in it!

We, as a household of sorts, are trying to go as close to zero food waste as possible. I even turned some stale hot dog buns into amazing croutons today. If you want more stuff like this, especially with pickling or fermenting, leave a comment!

The Fast and the Cure I/us

No better time than the present to get back to blogging, eh?

How about some practical advice from your favorite bartender/magician in these weird days?

Actually, first can I talk about that? about how weird these days are? These are the strangest times I have lived through (and that’s from a guy who hangs out with spirits), and it’s only going to get weirder. I am sure you feel the same. Empty shelves, empty streets, animals retaking the streets, being constantly bombarded with images of disease, etc. Not working. That is the weirdest part, weirder than the empty shelves, or the leaf blowers and gas hedge trimmers that never stop in Palm Springs- even during a pandemic. Gotta make sure those bougainvillea’s look tidy! For once at least I am up early enough that I don’t want to murder those earnest fellows for doing their jobs. That in itself is weird enough. Well, if you have to be quarantined, Palm Springs in late March is not the worst place I suppose..

Try and find all the butterflies..

I am realizing how often I go to the grocery store, just out of boredom, as a habit. I mean I did this before the pandemic happened, and during the first few days of the quarantine. It became sort of a scavenger hunt as the days went on, trying to cobble together a meal plan out of what’s left on the shelves and whatever my roommate shlepped home from his seventh CostCo trip in four days (slight exaggeration). I have been doing a lot of pickling; but then we all eat pickles, we four trapped in this apartment together. We try not to let our situation become “The Thing”, looking suspiciously at each other with every new symptom. Waiting to see when (if) the checks come.

On to the advice:

On Fasting

It is important that we fast during this pandemic. I don’t mean dietarily, although I can recommend that highly and am practicing that intermittentently to boost immunity; I mean in everything. Take a break from the following each day, perhaps; streaming services, newsfeeds, social media, television, just for an hour. Deny yourself the dopamine rush of turning on a screen, or set hours where you don’t. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to sit in stillness. Realize you have very little agency to stop a world crisis (even if you are a world leader) and take a moment for mindfulness. Breathe. Find a quiet corner, or a quiet path, and sit or walk. Who knows, you might discover a beautiful patch of morning glory sacred datura blooming where the rains washed out the sand last spring.

If you can’t find quiet, make a quiet space in your own mind. It takes a little practice. There are things that little device in your pocket can do besides waste your time and/or terrify you. Try out a meditation app, or learn a language, or hell.. start a blog! If you keep running to the fridge or the store every time you get bored, you’ll end up bloated and broke with a pantry full of things you are never going to willingly eat when this is over.

I am going to come out of this better than I went in. I hope the same for all of us. Imagine a world wiser, kinder, more grateful for what we have, more mindful. Now that the shelves have been emptied and there is nothing we have to do, we can remake our lives. Be what you want to see. That’s my plan.

[edit: Just found out I was misinformed and this is actually jimsonweed, but that’s ok. Doesn’t change the beauty of the plant, or the experience of discovery. Actually it gives me a great idea for a new post, this is some seriously witchy stuff with crazy history!]