Tuesday, 28 February 2017

All out

Daily Draw: Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarocchi Deck, Four of Coins

Being in control. A way to protect oneself from hurt but the defences don't discriminate so joy can't get in either. How did the craftsman in the three become the curmudgeon in the four. Perhaps his heart got broken. 

For love of you, the air, it hurts,
and my heart,
and my hat, they hurt me.
Who would buy it from me,
this ribbon I am holding,
and this sadness of cotton,
white, for making handkerchiefs with?
Ay, the pain it costs me
to love you as I love you!

Federico Garcia Lorca, 1898-1936

Monday, 27 February 2017


Work. We have been losing food for weeks now. We buy it, hurl it in the abyss that is the larder and when we can't find it buy more stuff which also gets lost. 

Today I've realised this is pathological. So spent the morning throwing away all the tinned stuff that is out of date (ten year old octopus in tomato sauce among other things). 

What's the worst that can happen? An apocalypse and we might need these vital supplies? No matter we can live off pickled onions and sushi ginger. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017


Daily Draw: Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarocchi Deck

Duality. While late medieval communities most feared the material ill effects of witchcraft, inquisitor's manuals from the early fourteenth century reveal a different set of concerns. Chief among them was the desecration, perversion or imitation of the sacraments. This reflects the Church's wider concern with heresy, the possibility of a counter-church capable of polluting christian society. 

Inquisitors were instructed to inquire particularly into the theft of the host or of holy oils. If this was happening at all it was more likely to result in the subversion rather than diabolical inversion of church practices. However the exercise of inquisitors' power was not simply repressive of deviance but also productive of orthodox christian identities. In this context tales of host desecration were used to boost belief in the miracle or transubstantiation. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017


Daily Draw: Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarocchi Deck, Seven of Staves

Competition. A coffee chain is due to open in the village this week. Opinions (or interests) are divided. Two main camps: 'what will this mean for our independent coffee shops?' versus 'what will this add to the value of my house?'. 

Those thinking ca-ching are likely to be disappointed. The arrival of a chain signals not so much the renaissance of an area value wise but the culmination of it. 

I doubt the new place will be able to replicate the warm community atmosphere of the independents. Still it will be an alternative place for people to socialise (or bang on about house prices) in the evening besides the pubs and bars. 

All there was, was money. Everything became money, and money became everything. Money treated us as if we were things, and we died.

Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

Friday, 24 February 2017

Magic cups

Daily Draw: Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarrochi Deck, Nine of Cups

The wild winds and stinging sleet of yesterday have passed over. I've had a great night's sleep and woken to a clear winterspring day. Multiple credits to the bank of wellbeing. Yesterday I was cross at missing my savings target by 20%. Today I'm pleased I've saved 10 times more than last month. 

My cups will be filled in a trot along the canal with R and B also providing the material gain of a good dose of Vitamin D. Historical novel today and theatre visit tomorrow which should whet my wands. Intellectual matters were yesterday and the Page of Swords is my card for March so travelling sword free today. 

Plenty of the luxury this card speaks of...and then postman drops with cheery good morning (much more happy making than a plain hello) and the excellent Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft. It's a history book and not a manual for how to do it. Still it feels like there's magic in the air and it's only 10 am. 

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

W. B. Yeats, 1865 -1939

Thursday, 23 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarocchi Deck, Knave of Swords

This Knave's sword points downwards indicating a person capable of discerning and uncovering the unknown or obscure. The word occult has acquired different connotations now compared with when it emerged in the fifteenth century and simply meant 'covered-over' from the verb occulere 'conceal'. 

In the sixteenth century it was in no way personally inconsistent to be at once a university qualified medical doctor and an occult scientist. That contemporaries did not draw those lines so sharply is evident in the career and writings of Renaissance polymath Girolamo Cardano. 

Until recently Cardano was best known autobiographer, producer of early encyclopaedias, mathematician and astrologer with interests including history, music, dreams and physiognomy.

However his prime purpose was to propose an innovative philosophy of nature based on his concept of subtlety. Subtlety was his way of conceptualising a special characteristic inherent in things which was difficult to grasp by the senses or the intellect. It could be discerned in all manner of difficult and obscure things both natural and man-made. Thus understanding subtlety was the key to knowledge of all in nature and the arts. The kinds of knowledges he had in mind ranged from mechanical principles at work in technological devices to the magus's insights into occult forces in nature. 

Cardano did not view the medical teaching and practice from which he made his living merely as a source of income to support his other intellectual pursuits. His medical works were punctuated with many of the interests and beliefs that received full expression in his other writings. Subtlety underpins his ideas about medical understanding and the power to cure. Cardano's belief in astral powers and the significance of the heavenly clock were intellectual principles that profoundly influenced his medicine. 

This is a life that provides an entry point into the interpenetration of sixteenth century medical culture and the wider intellectual universe of natural and moral philosophy, descriptive, mathematical and occult sciences. It also alerts us to the opportunities for and barriers to medical innovation including the clash of old and new traditions, the expected forms of intellectual debate, personal rivalries, institutional pressures and the demands of pedagogy. 

Source: Siraisi, N (1997) The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine, Princeton University Press. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Foolish beginnings

Daily Draw: Pierpont Morgan Visconti Sforza Tarocchi Deck, The Fool

After a chariot ride through various bibliographic databases and an online book store the adventure begins! The Fool is the archetype of innocence. Whereas if the prime purpose of history is to understand why people acted as they did life experience may be an advantage. 

Yesterday I was learning on Coursera about Necromancy (divination through the dead) something practiced almost exclusively by men. Necromancers were mostly clerics because it was a book learned form of magic that required knowledge of Latin. Typically these were clerics in the lowest ranks of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

We have to be careful about about projecting our own world view onto people past. Yet reflecting on my own experiences as a new lecturer might provide some insight. 

I imagine these clerics - not the most eloquent or educated occupying low status positions probably in least desirable parishes far from the main seat of power and without much guidance and supervision. Perhaps pressure to impress their parishioners and convince themselves of their own agency led them in this direction?

It's a hypothesis for which I have no evidence. However I am willing to ask and try to answer what may be a foolish question in the pursuit of knowledge. 

People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools. 

Alice Walker, 1944-

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Which way

Daily Draw: Fairy Tarot Cards, The Chariot

What to get moving with? In yesterday's head space I remembered my half completed Coursera, 'Magic in the Middle Ages'. Picking it up again I found a reference to a recent(ish) book on Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and America. Thinking of doing a study and integrating that with the blog somehow...

I am reminded by this card that at the start of the day my rational brain was telling me the history of witchcraft was a frivolous direction of travel. At its end I was able to apply some of what I had learned about fear, and blame, orthodoxy and heresy, power and domination to the modern work context.

Perhaps my doctoral studies and history are complementary rather than opposing interests. Still I will need to maintain some balance between the one that I really want to pursue and the one that I have to pursue. 

People said things like 'we had to make our own amusements in those days' as if this signified some kind of moral worth, and perhaps it did, but the last thing you wanted a witch to do was get bored and start making her own amusements, because witches sometimes had famously erratic ideas about what was amusing.

Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

Monday, 20 February 2017

Any road

Daily Draw: Fairy Tarot Cards, Awakening/The Hanged Man. 

This is only the second time I have drawn this card since starting daily draws almost a year ago. In this interpretation our man is doing a handstand rather than hanging. The message being to look at things from a different angle. My first reaction - no time for hanging around or handstands today. 

Computer enforced pause...If I'd closed it down properly last night the updates would have been all done by this morning. 

Then I noticed the sash hanging around the fairy's waist is hanging the wrong way. So I turned the card the upside down... Now instead of doing a hand stand he's pushing upwards for headspace. This reminds me ideas need time and space to brew. 

There's a research funding competition deadline next week. Instead of putting it off I'll take a longer look at the criteria now and let the ideas 'cook' in the background while I go about my other tasks. 

I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.
Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898

Sunday, 19 February 2017


Daily Draw: Fairy Tarot Cards, Three of Autumn

This craftsman fairy is hard at work creating three crystal cassia lilies. His plain and functional work wear contrasts with the sparkling crystal. The object de art that he cares about is the one emerging at his fingertips not himself.

The jaunty acorn atop the worker's hat hints at a playful nature. Perhaps it makes him merry so he does a better job. This reminds me that the most improbable things can be made special with a little creative flourish. Mighty oaks grow and all that...

Craft is a starting place, a set of possibilities. It avoids absolutes, certainties, over-robust definitions, solace. It offers places, interstices, where objects and people meet. It is unstable, contingent. It is about experience. It is about desire. It can be beautiful.

Edmund De Waal, 1964 -

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Daily Draw: Fairy Tarot Cards, Eight of Spring/Queen Of Winter

The multitasking fairy on the left is trying to manage eight magical dandelions at once. She will need to prioritise the ones to harvest before they blow away. 

The Queen of Winter is prepared to release all things that cause more drama than joy in her life. Although she appears to sit in icy solitude there are a surrounding troop of helpers almost invisible to the naked eye. Just as she has hitched her wagon to a star they hang their stars around her. 

The frosty assumption that I have and can achieve everything by myself might need to thaw out a little. As might my over prioritisation of the life of the mind. 

The Queen's starry sleigh is a brilliant reminder there are more than just words making up the world. Things matter too. Someone put their heart and soul into making that vehicle. Could the page of a book be so beautiful?

Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

Friday, 17 February 2017

Do Do Do Dooo

Daily Draw: Fairy Tarot Cards, Princess of Spring/The Sun

I wasn't sure which deck to go with, picked up this one and the cards were so eager to get out of the box I went with it...

The first one that leapt out was the Princess of Spring, a lovely exuberant card and then the Sun came to meet her with a loud hoot. 

Wake up! Spring and Summer are coming! 

Pulling on my red boots and getting out into the sunshine. Walk the dogs, hair appointment, then off to meet a friend to celebrate her new job. Should be a good day. 

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.

Ernest Hemmingway, 1899-1961. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Daily Draw; The Shaman's Oracle, The Shaman of Foresight

The Shaman of Foresight is kind of scout bringing back reports of what lies ahead. For our ancestors I can see the value of knowing what disaster to prepare for - war, fire, famine or a plague of frogs. 

According to the book foresight means being prepared for every eventuality. Really is that possible? 

My dad tried to be. For any given action he would anticipate the worst possible outcome and so did nothing and was quite good at encouraging others to do the same. 

Being cautious by nurture my reaction to the card is recalcitrant. I do think through the implications of my actions but have worked hard to unlearn an over morose outlook. Worrying never prevented any of the downs in life it just intrudes into the present and erodes the future. 

In some ways the worst has already happened, illness in the family, death, the usual. 

If more is coming fine I can't stop it but for today I am not going to worry about it. Pah to the plague of frogs...

Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.

Corrie Ten Boom, 1901-1983

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Is it a problem?

Daily Draw: The Shaman's Oracle: The Hunter of Dreams. 

According to the book seeking a true dream is a vital part of living. Is it? 

No big dreams to report. Which makes me wonder if I'm jaded and hopeless or just experienced? 

When I think of things I wanted to do...

1. Be a magazine journalist - not achieved - now a dying industry
2. Work in an art gallery - did that wasn't as glamorous as I thought. 
3. Do a PhD - almost and moaning about it
4. Work in a university - like it but doesn't make me ecstatically happy (sometimes like working in a pound shop)

The Hunter of Dreams promises to protect us as we transcend ourselves and realise our innermost hopes.  I can think of no great dream that would lead to a compete state of everlasting satisfaction only interests and an openness to new experiences. 

One thing I do miss is a feeling of shy optimism as a young woman living in a big city studying and earning my own money. Pleased with what I was doing with my life and hopeful I could do more. Breathing possibilities in the evening air that I couldn't or didn't dare put into words. 

Perhaps the hunter is here to remind me of this. As much chance of retrieving my 24 inch waist...

And those were the days of roses
Poetry and prose and Martha
All I had was you and all you had was me
There was no tomorrows
We'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day

Tom Waits, 1949 - 

Monday, 13 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Shaman's Oracle, Ancestor of Guidance. 

Echoes of ancient paths. Having Irish ancestry on both sides it is quite hard to trace old family history. Anyway earlier generations might not want me prying into their lives...

There are at least two generations of teachers before me and some members of the family have been pleased to offer this service without pay or position. In so doing they have enriched other lives. 

Granny was a great dressmaker and I wouldn't be surprised to find a draper, tailor or milliner going further back. Love of fashion is in our bones. I refuse to accept it is trivial. Dressing well is self-respect and shows respect for others. 

At least three grandparents grew up on the coast and travelled for employment. I am proud of the Irish work ethic. 

According to the guidebook the Ancestor of Guidance says 'because I am of your family...I know well the deepest places of your heart and soul, and stand ready to assist you in discovering the path you need to follow'

These are the threads that loop through my life. Pursuit of knowledge, hard work, history, the coast, Irishness and always a good coat, bag and shoes. 

The spiritual path which is the ancestor's main concern will unfold in and amongst that. 

You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind

Irish saying 

Sunday, 12 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Shaman's Oracle, Hunter of Abundance

I think many of the distasteful political behaviours in the workplace stem from an urge to over-consume which this card warns against. 

That may be scrambling over everyone else to get the rise that pays for status symbols like a large house or car. Or everyday over-consumption of praise or honours. A mean spiritedness that can't bear to see others recognised for their good work. I've never understood that mentality. 

I'm quite content to get really good at this role before going for the next promotion. Happy with a modest but comfortable home. I don't crave praise taking satisfaction from a job well done. 

There is a warning in this card and it chimes with one I received from a good colleague last week. There are one or two individuals who still want to take away what I have. It would be wise to take a little more for myself before the onslaught begins again... 

I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Dancing not delving

Daily Draw: The Shaman's Oracle, Dancer of Reconciliation 

Today I am off to meet a relative from a branch of the family that I haven't seen in fifteen years. I'm feeling a little apprehensive. Is it too soon as we have only been back in touch a couple of months. Or unwise? 

My late twenties were a time of turmoil struggling singlehanded with a caring responsibility that the family thrust upon me. It proved completely beyond my capabilities (and was probably beyond anyone else's too). Ultimately it came down to survival. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by walking away. I've never recovered mentally. 

Drawing this card provide me with a nudge of confidence. The relative I am going to meet has had a difficult time too making one of the biggest and bravest changes a person can make. I don't know who I'm going to meet...

While the card speaks of righting old wrongs and grievances there is no need. The past can't be undone and it is what we do now that matters. I am hoping that the beautiful historic city of York will keep us distracted from raking up family history. 

This will be a dance of reconciliation and not a full on embrace. It is important to stay safe and respect each others boundaries. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Faeries Oracle, Sylvanius/A Collective of Pixies

Sylvanius popped up again today. I was planning to return to this card as I could have written pages more or more analytically about it. So he came to meet me and I refused the offer as what I want to write is complex and not sure I could nail it in 15 minutes this morning. 

The second card I drew was A Collective of Pixies. Their message is that what is needed is a merry approach to duty. We can choose to treat duty as oppressive or we can do it happily. The book says when we choose the first attitude the energy and results are different from when we choose the latter. Also that anyone and anything that comes in contact with the results will be affected by the attitude so we make the world better or worse and do the same to ourselves. 

Hmmm. Struggling to feel merry about going in to work for the third day in what is supposed to be my week off. The work I have done is to the requisite standard and would not be any better had I had a happy song in my head while doing it. As for seeking the cooperation of coworkers... if other people had done their jobs I could have had my holiday. 

I suppose the burning question is why did I turn down Sylvanius's merry offer to be someone else's drudge? 

The martyr sacrifices themselves entirely in vain. Or rather not in vain; for they make the selfish more selfish, the lazy more lazy, the narrow narrower

Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

R.A.R.R. Random Research Absorbing Rare Resource

Daily Draw: The Faeries' Oracle, The Rarr

The Rarr is pure energy full of bouncy enthusiasm. He doesn't discriminate very well which means he often goes off on tangents. 

Intellectual curiosity and a thirst for learning are to be encouraged. Cool discernment also helps. Years ago when a topic of curiosity arose we had to take a trip to the library and hope there was a book that could help. This put space between the initial urge for knowledge and the object of research. Time when we could discern whether the effort was worth it. 

Now in the age of the internet it is so easy to off scurrying for information that we probably don't need. I spent 20 minutes this morning looking up jelly fish - may come in handy sometime if I don't forget what I read...

This card reminds me that information is not knowledge. Knowledge is when we understand something and are able to do something with that. It is the product of perserverance and why subjects such as history, languages, science are known as disciplines

Monday, 6 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Faeries'  Oracle, The Lady of the Harvest,

keywords: Completion, grief, loss, harvest, release

I was struggling to equate harvest with loss. But then I've never been a farmer...Currently there are reports of a vegetable shortage. If we go off prices in the local store a sudden 200% shortfall in crops...

There is also a conspiracy theory circulating that because we voted to come out of Europe the Europeans are withholding their vegetables. I recall quite a political hoohah in the 70s about buying British apples instead of French Golden delicious. But I think the main conspiracy now is supermarkets taking advantage.

Not all harvests are of equal value but time spent dwelling on the 'loss' is less time  to plant and tend the new crop. But I am not a farmer.

Rambling post - full of a stinking cold.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


Daily Draw: The Faeries' Oracle: Ilbe the Retriever

This is Ilbe, Office of Unclaimed Property, Hopes and Wishes. He retrieves and safeguards our forgotten dreams. I imagine him in his cubby with long lost hopes and wishes, neatly parcelled and labelled with the owner's name.  His storage space is not infinite and he every so often he checks the dates on the parcels, tutting and shaking his head as he moves along the shelves. 

Ilbe wants us to know that our dreams are within reach but will need a little more work. We may think we are not ready for this or we might have given up hope altogether. This is when Ilbe becomes impatient issuing reminders, in the form of events and happenstances, that what we thought we had lost can now be retrieved. 

I will never ask you 
to bring me precious gifts 
but I will ask you
to become worthy of receiving gifts

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Masks and Masquerades

Daily Draw: The Faeries' Oracle, Sylvanius

Sylvanious says 'your face is not your truth'. As the book explains others project what they like and dislike about themselves, their hopes, fears and misunderstandings upon us. It is easy to accept these false projections as our reality when it is really only a partial picture of ourself. 

Although we are pretty much stuck with the face we are born with (soft, hard, conventionally good looking, unusual etc.) which may partly determine whether others respond favourably to us, there are masks we can wear. Make up being a fairly innocuous way to show your best face to the world. 

There are others - careful image management for political purposes, choosing what face to show to whom. I have been badly hurt a couple of times by devious individuals who have succeeded in convincing anyone who mattered that they were a nice people when they were nothing of the sort. 

So why let our views of ourselves be limited by those who care nothing for us... 

The message of this card is to dare to look in the real mirror that the world holds up but also inwards at our true selves. As we begin to shed the false and misleading beliefs we have accepted about ourselves we may find out we are better than we thought. 

Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.

Jean Cocteau

Friday, 3 February 2017

Arval Parrot

Daily Draw: The Faeries' Oracle: Arval Parrot

Arval Parrot points to the glowing light in his throat - the energy centre for communication. The tips of his fingers and eyebrows also glow indicating the importance of non-verbal communication. He urges us to 'listen' to body language as well as incomplete sentences and unfinished thoughts and try to discover the meaning of these signals. 

When we see or hear someone struggling to express something it is easy to 'helpfully' complete the sentence for them. True listening is different. In coaching conversations we pause and wait for the other person to finish or we repeat and reflect back to check that we have understood correctly. We watch for non-verbal cues that tell us our partner in dialogue is thinking. In these moments as half thought thoughts tumble forth there may be magic. 

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

W. B. Yeats, 1865-1939

Thursday, 2 February 2017

My greatest challenge

Daily Draw: The Faeries Oracle, Ta'Om the Poet

Ta'Om has boundless curiosity and a fast mind. His presence indicates writing so as to persuade others and an outpouring of ideas. These two can be in tension with each other. If the outpouring is too large or too fast it can be hard to persuade others. 

If my academic mind wasn't so quick the doctoral thesis would be complete by now. Idea after idea developed, extended, critiqued, dismissed, replaced. All the time the headwork covering its own traces. Or as a colleague has suggested I may have four theses instead of one...

Ta'Om reminds me that if I'm going to succeed as an academic I'll need to manage this tendency to race ahead and allow others time to catch up or learn to run backwards to meet them once in a while. Also I need the courage to share my work in smaller parcels defending it as it stands instead of forever anticipating objections that might never be raised. 

Diligently we collect and store our harvest
unaware that hungry mice empty our coffers every day.
The ego operates in like fashion,
silently, with devastating effect.
Rumi, 1207-1273

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Daily Draw; Victorian Fairy Tarot, Two of Spring

Here we see a fairy lady immersed in sketching the first Birch tree catkins of Spring. In time the soft catkins will disperse their pollen upon the zephyrs of Spring advancing the seasons growth. This reminded me of how language pollinates itself. Travelling, finding fertile ground, travelling further still. 

Catkins being such a great word I looked up the etymology. Apparently the origin is late sixteenth century from the Dutch 'katteken' (kitten) because of the fronds' resemblance to kitten's tails. 

The use of the word in books in English peaked around 1800 and again around 1900. Since then it has been in steady decline - usage in 2000 was at the lowest level since 1796. It's a shame. I'm going to try and sneak it in to at least three conversations over the next few weeks and hope it flies...

In warm weather both leaves and catkins exhale a delicious aromatic perfume

Leopold Hartley Grindon,  (1859) The Manchester Flora: A Companion to Walks and Wild Flowers, London: William White.