A Fast Farewell to Faneuil

I decided to try a prolonged fast, after about a month of doing some intermittent fasting, both for health benefits and spiritual ones. The first day was fine, aside from bike tires going flat mysteriously in the sweltering, muggy August air (Palm Springs muggy is the worst). The second day was on a good track, woke up feeling weird, but then fine. It wasn’t until late afternoon that anything actually precipitated.

It started simply enough, finding out that a long-time Boston “restaurant slash tourist trap” was closing, the latest place to blame the current crisis. For me it was a little sad, since I worked next door to the place for most of a decade, and counted many friends amongst the staff. The people who worked there stayed and generally like each other, so that’s something. Sure, locals would rag on it, especially the old-timers, but I myself used to put down a beer or three and a good share of Irish whiskey there on occasion. Usually their staff came to us though. We “tourist trap” folk stuck together, we got no respect from the bougie bartenders.

I started reminiscing, and all of the years I spent working in Faneuil Hall came back to me, all at once. The favorite underground hangout, literally, where we spent most of our time and money most days, eating dollar tacos and chimichangitas, that’s gone now. I miss the lock-ins that we would have before people got big mouths, hanging out with the bad kids doing bad things. I was bummed it closed too suddenly for me to say goodbye, I would have flown out for one more day of pint-glass margaritas with everyone if I had been able. Then it was the things that I could still do but wouldn’t mean the same, the chicken salad subs that we ate almost every day before a shift, usually in the sun because otherwise the bar wouldn’t be open. The grimy little locals bar that somehow hung on, around the corner, where we would sneak to for a shot on our breaks. The walks down Union Street, listening to all the guitar players playing all the overplayed songs, or turning the corner to hear better songs. Playing Buckhunter, or trivia, or darts. Talking to drunk tourists, occasionally kidnapping them to the next bar, always regretting it. Not wanting to go home just yet. The late-night halal place with the merguez subs, best eaten in the little park on top of the Big Dig, looking at the skyline at three AM with a couple of friends and a sneaky bottle of wine. Of course one can’t forget the karaoke, and the “chicken on a stick, one dollar!”, and the Scorpion Bowls. Sometimes we’d explore a bit, go on an adventure down State Street or to the North End, even to Kenmore and the Back Bay, but we generally stuck to our favorite places. Why go anywhere else? We had the best bartenders, and we were the best bartenders.

What’s the point of this nostalgia trip? Well at a certain point in my reminiscing, the fasting kicked in, and some kind of chakra burst open or something, and I had a spiritual realization. It shook me to my core, as all of these images flooded me. Images of most of a decade, of people, of memories, friends, strangers, living, passed on, moved on, still there, all the random faces of people I would see everyday but never knew. All of these years that I thought were wasted time, that I beat myself up over for so long, were meaningful. There was beauty in it, and I have spent so much time dwelling on the wasted money, the wasted time, the ways I hurt myself and others, that I never saw the meaning. The meaning was in the people, still to this day some of the best people I have met are the people I spent that part of my life around. The meaning is in the once foggy, now clear, memories. Even in the often embarrassing stories, certainly in the unbelievable ones.

I just wanted one more chicken salad sub, one more shift, one more shift beer, one more adventure party off into the night. That’s life, that’s why we keep coming back to this plane called existence. We rarely know what the last anything is, and it’s usually so mundane at the time that we don’t even know we’re going to miss it. I mean miss the whole time, the gestalt of it. One place goes, another, and many more will soon, I’d wager. The Faneuil Hall I knew has been gone for years, so that’s not new (I even had to double check the spelling), but I think I can finally process it all from a distance. Hey, it’s when I started blogging, if anyone remembers

http://thewildturkeysandwich.blogspot.com

So, to all the people I used to work with, party with, commiserate with, piss-off, make laugh, I hope you’re all doing well. I am sure I will see a handful of you again, as I have over the years, and that’s always a pleasure.

Farewell, that time of my life. Farewell, Zuma, Cheers, Durgin Park, and the rest..

Be careful doing prolonged fasts on a new moon, you never know when or how the Universe will crack your head open!

[Photo credit Jeff Keegan/Paul Donovan]

The Little Man in the Refrigerator is Dead

“So, I still don’t get it. I said that God didn’t create the universe, and you agreed with me, and I said therefore God isn’t real and you disagreed,” she said with consternation.

“Think of it this way, when you were a kid, did you ever hear that there was a little man in the refrigerator that turned the light on when you opened the door?” he replied, pantomiming the little man flipping a switch.

“Yes, and then I got older and realized there was a little toggle that detected the door, and there was no little man. What’s your point?” She crossed her arms.

“Just because your reason took away the function he was assigned as part of your upbringing does not prove there is no little man inside your refrigerator. He’s just, by your standards, not fulfilling a purpose and therefore no longer exists.”

“So, the little man isn’t dead. He’s just unemployed.” She raised her arms in annoyance.

“Precisely!” He folded his arms across his chest.

“You’re an idiot..”

Blessing Your Devices? Yes!

The computer is a magical tool. The smartphone is the magical tool of the moment. Don’t believe me? Chances are you got riled up today seeing something on that screen today. I know I did. That’s magic. Try doing that to millions of people with a wand and a cup and a pentagram. It may seem like chaotic and malicious magic, and it certainly is, but someone is benefiting from every click. So why don’t many of us bless our computers and smartphones?*

Let’s build an easy blessing..

I generally work in a Catholic grandma meets Western Occult wizard framework, with enough Chaos punk ethos to strip things down to the base necessities. So I am going to start with the basic necessities here. Computers, smartphones, and the internet are all under the umbrella of communication and thought, so Mercurial spirits seem like a good choice. I do the occasional hymn to Hermes, so I will open with that, but feel free to open with anything that seems right. I am going to use the day and hour of Mercury, because I like the shorthand of planetary day and hour. I will close with a Raphael prayer, both for his Mercurial and healing aspects. One could certainly make a case for the other Archangels too, so if that’s your bag go right ahead, but really any prayer of thanks should work.

A basic procedural framework might look like this. Light incense appropriate for Mercurial spirts, or frankincense, candle, glass of water, or other offerings of your preference. Start with an opening prayer or evocation, wave the devices over the smoke saying something along the lines of (using unnamed spirits to keep it universal*);

“Spirits of protection, Spirits of Healing, make this device, this tool, this portal, safe for me, and for my Peace of Mind. Help me to keep my Equilibrium in the sea of things meant to distract me from my Work. Spirits of Communication, help me to express my Thoughts in a way that will be understood and not judged unfairly, and help me do the same for the thoughts of Others. Spirits of Commerce, help my financial ventures thrive in the online marketplace, and make my purchases true. Spirits of Mischief, turn your eyes elsewhere, and do not deceive me through this device. Spirits of Wisdom, guide me always.”

Say it three times over each device. Close the ritual with a prayer, thanking the spirits for their help in the matter. If you work with saints, you could try St. Isadore of Seville, St. Anthony of Padua, or you can be hip and petition Carlos Acutis, who is reportedly on the fast track to becoming the official patron saint of the internet. I don’t know about you, but I want that kid in my corner. Happy travels online, since that’s the best we can do right now anyway

*I got the inspiration to do this from listening to a recent episode of the “Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole” podcast, so only fair to give a little credit

*Thanks to Six Ways by Aiden Wachter to open my eyes to using abstract spirits rather than named spirits for things like this

Using Playing Cards for Readings

Yes, it’s pretty hip right now to be into using playing cards for divination. I feel especially drawn to them lately, as tarot is so in the zeitgeist right now, and I immediately cringe when something dear to me gets big with the masses. Don’t mind me, I am still just an aging punk rocker at heart I guess, getting mad when my favorite band gets big. This too shall pass..

How to read playing cards has always sort of vexed me, having first tried it drunkenly in the North End of Boston at a friend’s apartment after the bars closed around us, about ten years ago. The problem was, I was trying to read it like tarot. I finally realized, through a little research and a paid course (that because of life stuff I never got into past the first video) by Camelia Elias, that I was making it way too hard on myself. I won’t get into her system here, obviously (I wouldn’t be able to anyway), but I do appreciate that she pointed us to Dawn Jackson’s The Wise and Subtle Arte of Reading Cards.

Not sure what the copyright status of this is, so I won’t repost it here (but it’s on the “internet way-back machine” apparently if you’re curious). I can say that I took some excellent basics out of it though. The first rule is that red is good and black is bad. It gets a little deeper with suits, where hearts are love, diamonds are fortune, clubs are work, and spades are troubles- to sum it up roughly. The queens are women, the kings are men, and the jacks are children or messages- easy peasy.

It gets a little more complicated than that, of course; you can use her system of number meanings, or the Kabbalah, or your favorite tarot correspondences, or whatever you please.

If you saw my post on using the “Crossed Cartomancy” , I am having fun with the systems from The Book of St Cyprian at the moment. As always, pick the system for the type of reading you want. I wouldn’t use playing cards for Jungian inner journey symbolism readings, but I might use it in place of my RWS deck if I needed to help someone on the fly with a clear answer. It’s great for quick readings in a bar, obviously.. no need to consecrate it. Maybe just find a smoker outside and pass it over the second-hand tobacco (I kid, I kid).

As with most readings, I like a three card layout that shows progression or two sides affecting the middle, depending on the question. For progression readings, Jackson recommends going left to right. A Red Black Red would show “a bump in the road”, and Black Red Red “troubles getting going but smooth sailing after”, for example.

In the case of the three cards I shoddily threw as an example, initial health problems will cause a slow start, but then there will be a path to increased fortune and perhaps one’s true calling. Wait a minute.. that sounds like it’s talking to me. Again. lol. Oh, divination..

I will let you take it from here, but this at least should be enough to dip your toes..

Crossed Cartomancy with St. Cyprian

I have recently been diving into The Book of St Cyprian; The Sorcerer’s Treasure (translated and commentary by José Leitão), with the extra free time granted by the most recent shutdown here in California. St. Cyprian of Antioch has become pretty popular in the English-speaking world of late, but as Leitão shows in his introduction, this saint/spirit has been hugely popular for centuries in Iberia and Latin America. So, I am a little late to the party. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to work with this book, as my attempt to “introduce myself” to this saint didn’t go so well. By “didn’t go so well” I mean I wound up in the hospital with a bizarre acute condition, as well as a couple of other misfortunes that I had a hard time explaining (Earthly explanations being available, for sure, but as to why it all happened within such a short time and all right when I started working with him, there just might be something there). He’s not a guy to mess with lightly. This is good old “down and dirty” magic, magic that gets things done for people who don’t have time to mess around.

I have been messing around with playing card readings over the last year, as traditional tarot is starting to bore me a little to be honest. Tarot is annoyingly part of the zeitgeist right now, as is magic in general- this too shall pass.

I looked at two spreads in the book, and while they both looked interesting, I went with the more stripped-down of the two. It felt cleaner.

I skipped all of the ritual for this spread (below), as it requires that you run the deck by the waves of the ocean at noon on Friday while saying “May the celestial spirits give thee virtue.” Easy enough, but I live in the desert. Also, this was supposed to be for learning purposes and I wasn’t trying to do a reading.

The gist of it is you separate the 8’s, 9’s, 10’s, and all court cards besides the King and Queen of Diamonds, The Queen (or King) of Spades, and the Jack of Hearts. The aces and sevens are the “temptation cards” which are separated and shuffled together. These are placed, facedown, in the center of what will become a cross. The other 24 cards are shuffled and placed faced down into the rest of the cross, 1-2-3-4 the top to bottom, and 5-6-7-8  left to right forming the horizontal. The remaining cards repeat the pattern until gone.

DSC00439

Now you flip the cards over, the ones that oppose each other, starting from the top and bottom, and onto the sides.

The top and bottom cards are 5 of Clubs “out of the house” and 3 of Diamonds “cuddles of love” (heehee). This is interesting, as my lady is away from my house right now. The side cards are 4 of Spades “in the house” and 6 of Spades “captivity”. Holy smokes. Aren’t we all feeling that way right now?!

Once again, it doesn’t matter if you are just trying to make an example spread. Once the cards come out, any cards, in the hands of a reader, it’s gonna give a reading. The rest of the spread continues, out to in, and finally the temptation card is flipped.

The rest of the reading was interesting (not trying to read for myself, I went with the QQKJ set-up rather than the QKKJ the book prescribes for a man), but it was pretty accurate as to some things that have been going on lately. Choose a question for your reading or the cards will choose for you I often say.

This is definitely a fun spread, and I will definitely dedicate a deck to the purpose and consecrate it at some point. Hopefully I am on the Saint’s good side now!

Meditations on the Tarot, Chapter II- The High Priestess

The second chapter of Meditations on the Tarot takes the traditional representation of the High Priestess card and turns it into a metaphor for the mystic, where the figure represents the transfer of spirit into philosophy. The experience of pure, spontaneous creation goes through the stages of “gnosis” and “magic’ on its way to being transfixed in a material fashion as Hermetic philosophy, or the “book” on the lap of the High Priestess.

As the Magician is standing vertically, representing the vertical nature of the spirit, the High Priestess is seated, forming the intersection of the spirit and the material. Through the three tiers of the tiara she wears, the pure experience descends into consciousness, or rather;

Spirit must become divine Breath in place of arbitrary, personal activity, and Water must become a perfect mirror of the divine Breath instead of being agitated by disturbances of the imagination, passions and personal desire.

Meditations on the Tarot, p30

This process the author equates to the rebirth mentioned in the Gospels (John iii, 5), and a “Christian Yoga”, where the practitioner doesn’t strive for the state of “radical deliverance” but reintegration of the active and still elements of consciousness. It’s not a unity but a unity of two, which preserves the mysteries of dualism against monism, with love acting as the “cosmic principle which presupposes duality and postulates its non-substantial but essential unity.”

The author feels strongly that the mystery of the number two is not solely the “origin of evil” as Louis Claude de Saint-Martin asserts, where two centers of contemplation form, one legitimate and one not, but that there is a possibility of two legitimate centers of contemplation stacked vertically. Thusly, the “as above, so below” of the Emerald Tablet can be contemplated simultaneously. Two, for the author, is necessary to make true the Christian principle that “God is Love”. If God did not create something with its own nature, and all of existence were simply God in His own substance, than the concept of Love would be moot, as God would merely be giving Love to Himself.

The author expounds further on the difference between seeking Being versus Love, and to paraphrase, shines some light on the differences between the two available paths of the mystic. One can either seek unity of being with the eternal, or share in the love of the the eternal. The former path gains repose in exchange for feelings, while the latter embraces feeling. Anyone who, like me, has spent some time reading stories of Zen masters will know there is no shortage of interesting characters and feelings in that tradition, so while the author is a bit facile here in terms of falling into that old false-dichotomy of “East vs West”, there is truth there in that there are certainly paths that seek to erase the volatile ego in place of a universal consciousness. The mystical experience the author describes is one where “nothing is extinguished in the human personality but, on the contrary, everything is set ablaze.”

In this light, the author ties back to the Gospels, specifically “All who came before me are thieves and robbers”. (John X, 8). That is to say, the teachers before Jesus promoted depersonalization on the way to mystical revelations. While I have always imagined Jesus was referring to “false messiahs” or even prophets in this phrase (who were stealing his birthright so to speak), and find it unlikely he was referring to Buddhas or yogis, it’s an interesting conjecture.

Returning to the image of the High Priestess, she symbolizes to know, where the Magician symbolizes to dare. She is the gnosis which follows the revelation symbolized by him. If he is the Yod in the tetragrammaton, she is the first , following the progression of a mystic.

He who dares to aspire to the experience of the unique essence of Being will develop the mystical sense or spiritual touch. If he wants not only to live but also to learn to understand what he lives through, he will develop the gnostic sense. And if he wants to put into practice what he has understood from mystical experience, he will develop the magical sense. If, lastly, he wants all that he has experienced, understood, and practiced to be not limited to himself and his time, but to become communicable to others and to be transmitted to future generations, he must develop the Hermetic-philosophical sense, and in practicing it he will “write his book”.

Meditations on the Tarot, p42

Without these in progression, the author contends, each stage is incomplete; magic becomes sorcery, philosophy a “parasitic system of autonomous thought”, gnosis “the corpse of religion”, mysticism “intoxication”. This progression must be there as an organism, lived through one’s whole being.

Here, then is the second stage, the woman seated in contemplation and veiled from that which is above, taking what is received vertically and bringing it to the horizontal plane of existence. The veil is reminiscent of the veils that separate the tiers of Sephiroth on of the Tree of Life, and it would seem that for the author the High Priestess resides in ‘clam ha atziluth, the gnostic world, where pantheism is true and all is God. As an artist can create ex nihilo, and a woman brings new life to the world, so is magic, these epitomize the magic the author refers to, in the next stage of the progression. The experience is transferred to the book, where, as stated in the Emerald Tablet, can be found “the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world”. Rather than being a card merely symbolizing the process of gnosis, the High Priestess is a blueprint of the entire function of a mystic.

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