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Divination


I was spend­ing some time with my par­ents this week­end. They always have the tele­vi­sion going—can’t fall asleep with­out the noise, in fact. So we’re sit­ting there in the liv­ing room chat­ting, and Unsolved Mys­ter­ies came on. Now I sel­dom turn on the tele­vi­sion at my house. I’ve seen exact­ly one episode of Unsolved Mys­ter­ies, and that was because I was in it.

They do this teas­er about how astrologers say Jef­frey Dah­mer was doomed by the stars to be a mon­ster. I per­suad­ed Dad­dy to turn the TV off at that point, so I did­n’t see the sto­ry. For some rea­son, though, it stayed on my mind. The entire idea of doing such a sto­ry was just too ludi­crous to me. What’s the point, any­way?

But if they’re going to do it, they need to go whole hog. Get a numerol­o­gist in there to do his interpretation—he’d prob­a­bly find that Dah­mer should have been the Pope or some­thing. Then they could find a tarot card read­er or maybe a phre­nol­o­gist to come in as a tie break­er! Maybe throw in a lit­tle new age mud wrestling on the side? (With spe­cial, expen­sive, high­ly ther­a­peu­tic mud from one of those fan­cy spas, of course.)

The best state­ment I’ve ever heard about numerol­o­gy was from the inim­itable Green­man, who said “When­ev­er I learn that some­body is real­ly into numerol­o­gy, I feel this incred­i­ble urge to sneak up on them and scream ‘FIVE!’ to see what hap­pens.” I sup­pose you can tell that I’ve nev­er been into that, huh?

I think some tarot decks are very pret­ty. I tru­ly wish Susan Sed­don Boulet had done one before her untime­ly death this year. The sub­ject mat­ter would have been per­fect for her! But I’ve nev­er stud­ied them, or learned to read them, or learned to make heads or tails of read­ings some­one else does for me. They’re just neat to look at, like Annie Sprin­kle’s Post­mod­ern Pin-Ups. Or Mag­ic: The Gath­er­ing cards.

I learned enough about astrol­o­gy in a long-ago fit of enthu­si­asm to real­ize that, like many oth­er things, it can be an excel­lent tool for learn­ing more about your­self, sim­ply because it encour­ages introspection—nothing at all to do with any stars.

I fig­ure all of these things, along with the I Ching and sim­i­lar meth­ods of div­ina­tion, have val­ue as a focus. Some folks absolute­ly will not get out of the way and lis­ten to what they prob­a­bly know sub­con­scious­ly. If they need tarot cards or coins or runes or sticks or what­ev­er to help them get out of their own way, that’s great. But listen—don’t go telling my child that being a Scor­pio means she’ll be ter­ri­bly jeal­ous, okay? I mean, then I’d have to get real­ly angry at you, and since I’m a Scor­pio too, with my moon and almost all my plan­ets in Scor­pio (but with Tau­rus ris­ing), you would­n’t want that, would you?

I went through a peri­od of fas­ci­na­tion with all these things, prob­a­bly due to the fact that my moth­er was absolute­ly pet­ri­fied of them. Had any­one ever brought an Oui­ja board into our home, I’m cer­tain she would have burned it while attack­ing the trans­gres­sor with scrip­ture. After I was grown she found a tarot deck that was a gift from a friend in some of my things and got rid of it with­out so much as ask­ing me, and feels absolute­ly no remorse. One of my cousins gave me a neck­lace with a lit­tle scor­pi­on on it as a birth­day gift when I was 10, and I imme­di­ate­ly hid it—in fact, I nev­er did wear it because I was sure Mom would destroy it when she saw it. I was tru­ly shocked that she saw noth­ing wrong with the movie Juman­ji, which Katie loves—but then, the game is por­trayed as being ter­ri­bly evil, so I sup­pose the moral­i­ty tale feeds right into her own belief sys­tem.

I don’t want to dri­ve Katie into that sort of fas­ci­na­tion by for­bid­ding explo­ration of such things. Crys­tals? Lovely—we have quite a few in our mutu­al rock col­lec­tion, and I have sev­er­al set as jew­el­ry. Tarot cards? I’ll hap­pi­ly dis­cuss the mean­ings of the var­i­ous cards, as well as the mer­it of the art­work, with her all she likes. Astrol­o­gy? Why not—and we can get into why the ancients came up with these sys­tems, the dif­fer­ences in the Greek, Asian, Celtic, Vedic, Lako­ta and oth­er sys­tems, and how the study of astrol­o­gy diverged from that of astron­o­my. (And any­way, I’ve always found it inter­est­ing that she and her father and I were all born in the Year of the Horse (3 dif­fer­ent ones, obvi­ous­ly) and that she and I are both Scor­pios.) Numerol­o­gy? Great prac­tice for arith­metic, and we com­pare the dif­fer­ent mean­ings we get from play­ing with our names, nick­names, etc. Norse runes? More expo­sure than she’s had so far to Norse mythol­o­gy and Teu­ton­ic lan­guages. No mat­ter what we explore togeth­er, I hope she’ll learn to keep her mind open with­out being in dan­ger of hav­ing her brain fall out—to use dis­cern­ment while enjoy­ing her sense of won­der.

You might get the impres­sion that I don’t believe in any­thing oth­er than what we can per­ceive with the stan­dard five sens­es, and that is not the case at all. I know sev­er­al peo­ple who can know and do things that I can­not explain eas­i­ly. I cer­tain­ly believe that there are things we can­not yet mea­sure in the sci­en­tif­ic sense, but our lack of knowl­edge does­n’t negate their exis­tence. I do not ridicule those who find var­i­ous means of div­ina­tion help­ful to them, and I respect their greater knowl­edge on those sub­jects. How­ev­er, I refuse to lose sight of all rea­son, and I’ve seen a few peo­ple look to the stars or num­bers or what­ev­er for The Way (just as oth­ers look to a holy text or a charis­mat­ic leader) rather than look­ing inside them­selves, and I believe it to be dan­ger­ous. We are all a com­bi­na­tion of mind, body, and spirit—and nobody can be tru­ly whole with­out main­tain­ing a healthy bal­ance between all three.

Orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten August 29, 1997