One of my OCD “skills” is comparison buying. If you want to buy something and you want to quickly compare features across different iterations of the same thing to make sure you make the best purchase for your money — go elsewhere. You might be waiting several days as I compare a given product to death.

This is especially true when it comes to electronics. But, as an example, I spent likely over six hours looking at panini grills, comparing features and reviews and quirks embedded within reviews, then cross-checked it and tried to find something else to make sure I wasn’t overlooking a better deal or more features for my buck, or less chance at getting a paperweight shaped like a panini…

And typically, I get progressively more frustrated because I can’t find anything that quite meets my expectations right away, and that grumpiness increases as I comparison shop to force something that appeals to me, but is somehow lacking, to not be as lacking as it appears to be.

So it went this morning with a return to looking at tarot cards (I’ll explain later why I am looking for tarot cards). If money was no object, the Vertigo Deck would be exactly what I needed/wanted and no research would have been needed. However, because it is out of print, used decks are going for no less than $200 and less-used decks are going for $500 and more. With three kids, I can’t justify that kind of purchase unless I were doing tarot readings on a professional basis, which I am assuredly not doing.

I was first drawn to the Dark Woods deck, but reviews discouraged me. It’s the fact that the card stock is pretty inferior and there were many complains about the art separating from the backing. I’ve had that happen on cheap playing cards before, so I definitely didn’t want to pay $30 for a deck that was more for show than being handled.

And this seemed to keep happening with every deck I felt had art that resonated with me and my intended use. Or the decks were incomplete (how can you skip cards in a tarot deck and call it a tarot deck?), which largely implied they were not, in reality, tarot decks. Or the decks were trying to hard to force a theme on the cards (I was looking for a darker deck and too many didn’t get the traditional symbolism down because the artist had a different agenda).

There were a few that I skipped just because I feel they are predictable choices for me. But, in the end, I ended up giving even those some consideration.

I’d finally given up and was trying to decide which publisher of the Rider-Waite deck put out a quality product (I actually greatly dislike the design of the cards, but appreciate the traditional themes embedded in each card) when I stumbled on one of those “yeah, too predictable for Michael to buy” decks. I shrugged, expecting more “meh” to “what is this shit” to “these cards disintegrate in air”.

Instead, I found art I could live with and a theme that wasn’t ugly. Importantly, they did cost $200 and up, but a mere $15. And largely decent reviews.

So, wiping the tears from my eyes, I bought the Crow’s Tarot.

Ravens. Crows. Corvids. Michael Michael Michael. You have a thing for the black beasts, don’t you? Umm, yep.

But this was one of those “I’m going to avoid looking at these because it would be just what people would expect me to get (including myself)” sets. And yet, it fits. Not too dark, but not airy-fairy either. From what I found, the artist kept to the Waite themes, but used crows.


So… what do I need a tarot deck for if I’m not getting it for the purposes of divination?

Would you believe me if I said that a little voice inside my head has started pounding on the walls of its asylum, screaming, “You need a tarot desk motherfucker! Now! Get one! I’ll explain later!”

Well, it doesn’t matter if you believe me. That’s exactly what happened. And I started to think about what the little voice was getting at. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, I’ve learned to listen. He’s right more often than wrong.

What it all comes down to is this — I’ve got a story stuck in my head for years now — and I mean for longer than some of you have been alive. I still haven’t figured it out, but there are certain themes that keep coming back time and again and that little guy is really back at sharing the story he wants to tell. Themes part of this slow-drip leak of story-telling:

  • Doors that open to disparate places, sometimes with walls supporting them, just as often without (free-standing door-frames in nature). Sometimes the door is not a door (usually when it’s ajar, hardy har har).
  • There is a Kafkaesque absurdity in trying to escape some fate.
  • Dreamscapes and thin places (caol ait). Characters experience walk-in moments (as in Song of Susannah, by Stephen King) — travelers not of this realm or time, but making an anachronistic appearance elsewhere.
  • Slipsteam between walls to get from one place to another. Similar, but different than the last bullet point. No major temporal changes, just minor changes on the XYZ-axis, (but not tau)
  • Asinine and absurd MacGuffins. Objects and talismans that are junk, even by the character’s own admission, but are vital to success or failure of an event.
  • Cards. Cards are a role or a tool in the story.

I won’t get into plot elements (this post will go one for far too long if I do that), but these are the reoccurring ghosts that are leaked out into the forefront of my brain. And “cards” has always been a vague notion.

For a while I toyed with Monopoly property cards. That had the kind of absurdity that was needed in that effort, but they didn’t hold up as a tool past the beginning of the story. And the story was another NaNoWriMo flop because the beginning was all that held together as a story. The following ambled aimlessly and even I could see that it was a disaster of a tale unworthy of redemption, so I gave it up. The story was my tale loosely based on The Hunting of the Snark. The best part of it was the title (Fit the Furthermore: Another Agony) and my character’s encounter with the Fremont Troll in Seattle. And the novel way I handled objects needed for when one is hunting a snark. But it was largely rubbish.

Sometimes I’ve played around with the fictional equivalent of Living Card Games (LCGs) like those used to play a card deck-building game based on Lord of the Rings or The Cthulhu Mythos, but none of those panned out either. None of the ideas fit the plot elements I was trying to tie together very well.

I tried traditional playing cards (52 cards in 4 suits) in another couple of versions of stories I toyed around with. Again, that message about cards was pretty strong, but it just seemed a little to much based in traditional magicians and the like. Or gambling. Or family game night…

Then, a week or so ago, that guy inside started making a ruckus. “Hey shithead! Those cards is what I meant!” while I was involved with something that mentioned tarot cards. “Dumbass!”

[he shouts and swears a lot, sorry]

Then I started dreaming about tarot cards, so I knew he meant business and I couldn’t ignore him any longer.

I’m as surprised as anyone that I have a little man inside my head telling me to buy tarot cards and start writing dammit.

[checking tracking information and realize the ETA has not changed to tomorrow and many swears were spoken]

5 thoughts on “Arcana”

  1. On the topic of tarot… I am not a regular reader of tarot but I have a collection of decks. Oracles and books on the topic too. More out of curiosity and aesthetic stimulation, I guess. Have you ever seen Milo Manara’s Erotic Tarot? Excellent illustrations but the meanings seem jumbled at times. Also… The Wild Unknown is an interesting deck. I think it sticks to the traditional meanings for the most part. The Decameron deck is great for a laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I saw the erotic tarot, but didn’t look too closely due to the age of several youngsters around these parts and didn’t want to risk mortifying them via accidentally discovery. The teen would die of shame and she’s already asked if she could take a closer look at the deck when I get it, before I had decided on which deck.

      I’d considered the wild unknown deck. I forget what made me sigh and move on. Probably reviews about the quality of the cardstock. But the art was intriguing.

      I didn’t see the Decameron deck. I’ll have to look.

      I have a Thoth deck somewhere, but it didn’t feel right for this. But did the Arthurian deck I have, which is too steeped in the Matthews’ obsession with Arthur.

      Both are complex and I’m looking for something a bit less busy and less kabbalah influence.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea I was going to be this hooked by your review. That little man in your head was right, you do need to start writing ASAP. I love your rambling, it was rather captivating. It kept leading somewhere, so as well as that… it was also a satisfying read.

    Liked by 1 person

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