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