Okay, deep, dark revelations time – my childhood was pretty dark much of the time. I know I’ve alluded to some things and outright stated others but to say it was a clusterfuck would be an understatement. My family was poor – I mean Mom sold blood for money poor. My parents were underage when I was born (16 & 17) and by the time they were 22 there were four kids. My father was an immature ass and bully for most of his life – at least as far as his family was concerned. We put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Only it really wasn’t funny.

I was battered and bruised physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. For many years I believed that this was my fault; that I had done something or said something to bring this on me. Even most of my friends had no idea what went on in my house because who the hell wants to be the freak at that age. All I wanted to do was fit in and believe me that was already difficult enough without all of that shit being exposed. As a result of these experiences, I engaged in some very risky behaviors. I drank a lot! In fact, while in high school I had a few incidences of black out drunks and can’t remember anything. I was smart enough or scared enough not to try drugs more serious than the occasional joint but I took enough risks and chances to ensure that I could have easily become a statistic.

My parents had no clue how to handle me. Even my father, who was quick to beat the crap out of me should he feel the need, didn’t know how to stop me from going in the local bar. One night, after learning that I had been hanging out in the bar (I was about 15 at the time), he brought me back down to “prove” to me why it wasn’t safe. When we walked in my father was greeted by a number of patrons (including some who were rather criminal). When they learned I was his daughter they assured him they’d keep an eye out for me. So, I pointed out to my father that I was probably safer in that bar than anywhere else in the neighborhood. The fact that he accepted my statement and started playing darts rather than outing my true age to the bartender gives you a good idea how clueless he was as a parent.

Why am I bringing all this up? Simple, because one of the epiphanies I had at the 2016 Readers’ Studio is the fact that I was carrying the shame and guilt for events that were not mine to carry. I did nothing wrong. I was blameless in what was done to me. I was a child, powerless and defenseless. Even admitting that now is giving me palpitations. I preferred to take the blame on myself because it gave me the illusion of having some control, some power in this situation. What a load of crap! I was a child. I should have been protected by my parents not needed protection from them. Even as I write this I can feel rage flood through me at how bruised and beaten that poor little girl was. It took me a long time to realize that I was still that bruised, beaten, traumatized little girl.

Those experiences made me feel weak and made me determined never to feel that defenseless and weak again. Instead, I became aggressive – each offense resulted in a physical response. That often mean I got into fist fights with boys I knew. I eventually acquired the nickname “The Nutcracker” because I did not appreciate being groped by adolescent males. Believe me, taking punches from those boys was nowhere near as painful as taking them from my father. I probably would have continued down this path of aggressive, self-destructive behavior and binge drinking but I met my husband. I realize how amazingly lucky I was in meeting the hubby. I was 16 at the time and he was 24. He could have easily controlled and abused me – I was already primed for that kind of relationship. Instead, he defended me, protected me and made me question some of my more self-destructive behaviors. He encouraged me to do things for me not because of the expectations of others.

So here I am at 50 (facing 51) and I’ve finally been able to accept that none of that was my fault (well okay the binge drinking and aggressiveness but I’m giving myself a break because I had poorly developed coping skills). I don’t need to bear any of the shame or blame for those situations. I did not ask to be abused or molested. There was nothing inherently “wrong” with me that drew these types of people to me. Who knows, maybe my light was so bright that they felt jealous and had to dim it, tarnish it in some way. I cannot understand their motivations and no longer care. All I know is that I have shed myself of the blame and shame I carried for years. I feel lighter and more hopeful. I’m a survivor; I’m strong and resilient and I won’t let those experiences define or defeat me anymore.

Once again, this is something that has been incubating in me since last year’s Readers’ Studio. All three presenters (Heatherleigh Navarre, Barbara Moore & Sasha Graham, who were all amazing!) focused on shadow work. It was an awesome experience because each session managed to enhance and build upon the energy from the other sessions. Quite a lot of magical power was unleashed that weekend. As we worked through the exercises and listened to the presenters I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized that I had no problem working with the darker side of human nature because I’ve been so exposed to it during my lifetime; it’s familiar territory.

I’ve probably hinted or even outright stated this before on this blog, but the fact of the matter is that much of my childhood was exposed to the darker side of human nature. My household was one of alcoholism, abuse (emotional, psychological, physical and sexual) and poverty. Most of my childhood friends came from similar backgrounds. We didn’t realize things were screwed up because this is the way it had always been for us. It’s not until I share tales of our exploits and get horrified looks from listeners that I realize how violent, dark and different my childhood was compared to many others.

I have learned to thrive in darkness, like a flower that blooms at night. It has become my milieu; I am comfortable in its environs. What I tend to avoid is the light, the gentle, the calmer approach to things. While sitting at Readers’ Studio I realize that one of my strengths is that I can help someone find their way through their own darkness. I can embrace and accept this side of their nature and help them work through it and find their way to wholeness. I can serve as the guide across the River Styx but I prefer not to accompany them back to the light. I prefer the shadows. I trust the darkness; I know what to watch for and what to expect. The light is something unfamiliar and untrustworthy. Random acts of kindness and spontaneous acts of generosity make me twitchy and a bit suspicious (something I am working on changing).

This realization also forced me to understand that my ability to endure and survive this experiences does not mean everyone can do so. It doesn’t make those who get lost in the shadows or who fear them weaker than me, simply different. I a bit like a colorblind person who doesn’t miss color because she has never seen them. I don’t miss the light side because it isn’t something I had a lot of experience with growing up. As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends who have slowly exposed me to the benefits of the light side and I am more grateful to them than words can express but it hasn’t shifted my orientation much.

Maybe in a way, I’m like the Tarot version of a sin eater. I can absorb the darkness or shadow side that others fear so much and help them learn to become more comfortable with it too. Hmm, maybe I’m more like a dark side Brita filter, helping purify the dark side so it’s more fully appreciated.

Let’s face it – there are a lot of folks out there working the light side of the street. They try to convince us that it’s healthier and more positive. In my experience, it’s much healthier to embrace both sides. As Star Trek (yes I love classic Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry was a genius, and I plan to use examples from the show as often as possible) showed, humanity needs its darker side; messier, more violent shadow side. Without it we risk becoming indecisive martyrs, trying to harm none – that’s just not possible. I think we need to accept that every action has consequences, some good and some bad. In some ways, every choice we make has the potential to harm others. That is just how life works. If you are offered a job that means all the other applicants were rejected – someone was harmed. Get over it. Instead of ignoring or denying the shadow side, try working with it a bit. You don’t need to immerse yourself in it but try accepting and acknowledging it and learn what its energy can do for you. I think you’ll be surprised.

Mansions of the Moon Tarot Moon

Mansions of the Moon Tarot

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The Book says: The three-faced goddess Hecate and her associations with the Moon. The Moon stands for the collective unconscious.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: Here again is an image of a guardian and a guide, but also a sentinel and protector. Hecate is the guardian of the crossroads. She may not tell you which crossroads to take but she may be willing to help you illuminate your options. The presence of Cerberus is both ominous and reassuring. He is a frightening sight to behold and yet one of his tasks is to prevent those who are not ready from entering the Underworld. Perhaps he serves the same function here. If we are not ready to face certain truths that will be revealed during this journey, Cerberus will chase us away from them. Just as Hecate will aid us in our journey – not by being sympathetic and allowing us to turn in fear, but by forcing us to face the truths we avoid and helping us learn how to handle them. She is not a warm and fuzzy type goddess but she can be benevolent and healing.

This card reminds me that sometimes we need to work in the dark, turning over rocks and facing whatever lies beneath. Hiding from the truth doesn’t change it or make it go away, it weakens us. Hecate’s torch can help illuminate some of those shadows and make the unknown just a little less fearsome. To me this card is about looking with the dark center of our heart and facing it. It’s time to do away with self-delusions and the fantasies to which we cling. Now is our opportunity to look that darkness in the face and see what is revealed. Only by going deep within ourselves can we find the truth about who we are.

Wheel of Change Moon

Wheel of Change Moon

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
ISBN #0-89281-609-0

 

The Book says: When this card is a part of your reading you are experiencing a kind of foreshadowing: an intuition, suspicion, and fear of what is to come. This card signifies a time in which shadow aspects of your personality or things that are hidden in darkness are developing a life of their own. Sometimes these things are positive, creative aspects of the personality and lead to a deep appreciation of our talents and our humanity. Whatever is at work in the darkness, it is time to pay attention, as the opportunity for real growth is present. Follow the cycle of the moon and try to recognize its development from new to full and its return to full. Watch how it becomes visible in the daylight hours and use its phases to help you illuminate your own situation. The Moon card represents inner process, and these processes work well with the help of symbols; the moon’s changeability is just such a transformative process and a visual tool for growth and change.

TarotBroad’s Buzz:  To me this Moon card symbolizes the mysteries of the unconscious and the hidden aspects of the human psyche – those things we only dare to address in the darkness of the night. Very often the Moon is associated with women’s mysteries and women’s cycles. I’ve never really felt that connection myself. To me the Moon is more of a psychological card; a card that forces us to face the things that scare us deep down inside. The Moon is about the unknown and our terror of things that go bump in the night.

It has always amazed me how familiar things appear so much more threatening and fearsome in the dark. This card represents the darkness present in the human soul and our ability to do horrible things to each other. At the same time The Moon symbolizes dreams and intuition, trusting our inner voice and inner wisdom but even that can seem like a scary, alien landscape. We are so often taught that there must be a rational explanation for everything. However even if mysterious things can be explained in a rational way, that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible explanation. Look at crop circles and UFO sightings. There are rational and logical explanations for both of these phenomena but that doesn’t necessarily mean these are the only possibility.

The Moon didn’t become any less magical and mystical just because humans landed there. It is still a beacon in the night; a light which guides us through the darkness and helps us find our way. The Moon may not be able to make all the darkness and scariness disappear but its presence helps reassure us that we are not alone. I remember as a child being convinced the moon followed me home. How many people wish for the moon. The moon is the keeper of our deepest dreams, our secret desires and our hidden shames. Perhaps the moon can eventually help us realize that there is a time to face and address these desires, dreams and shames otherwise we don’t allow ourselves to transform and move to the next level. It may be a messy, frightening prospect but the moon will help guide us along the path.

I’ve been working with this deck on and off for several months now and thought it was about time to write a review. In the interests of transparency I will confess that I consider Ellen a friend however I don’t believe that will impact my impression of this deck.

I was privy to the fact that Ellen was working on a Dark Goddess themed tarot a few years ago. I remember chatting with her about the project and what goddesses might fit the energies of various cards (not that I’m in any way implying I influenced the creation of this deck). I thought it was a great idea and couldn’t wait to see how Ellen manifested this concept. It was worth the wait.

The deck is a traditional Tarot deck with 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards divided into 4 suits – Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The court cards are Amazon, Siren, Witch and Hag. Ellen tapped into goddesses from a wide range of world cultures – Irish, Norse, Aztec, Inuit, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Indian and more. In the companion book (which I highly recommend purchasing if you get this deck), Ellen writes about each individual goddess’ mythos as well as what it might mean if she appears in your reading and some ways to connect with her energies. Ellen’s art is classically simple with a palette that uses bright and neutral colors to create engaging images that are rather unexpected in a deck devoted to dark goddesses. It’s a refreshing break from the moody, gothic-inspired dark decks that are out there.

Dark Goddess Ace of Earth Dark Goddess 4 of AirDark Goddess Siren of Earth

One of the things I find intriguing about this deck is that many of the goddesses included are not traditionally thought of as “dark”. For example Gaia, Nut and Baubo come to mind as goddesses who might not be considered dark. However when one looks at the myths and legends connected to these goddesses it becomes clearer that even the brightest goddess has her dark side. This makes sense when you consider that even the sweetest, kindest humans have their dark sides too.

I’ve been working with this deck for several weeks now as part of a personal journey. Each day that I use it I come to appreciate its energies even more. I’ve always been drawn to dark goddesses, in fact I consider The Morrigan one of my matron deities. This deck has helped me grow more familiar with these dark goddesses as well as introduced me to some with whom I was totally unfamiliar. Would I make changes to this deck? Of course I would if I had created it – then again that’s true of most decks and in no way detracts from Ellen’s accomplishment. She has managed to bring the darkness into the light and allow us to explore and connect with its energies in ways that are not frightening or threatening. She has helped introduce these powerful, awesome goddesses to an audience that might never have learned about them otherwise and can now work with their energies to heal, grow and explore their own internal darkness as well as help guide others. If you have any interest at all in working with goddess energies then I strongly recommend adding this deck to your collection.

I’ve been finding myself considering a lot of different things lately. I’ve been a bit unmotivated because I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m not sure why but dealing with it is proving challenging. My intention to begin maintaining a journal has also been derailed. I have good intentions but when the time comes to actually write, I procrastinate. I’m not sure what the resistance is but it’s annoying.

I’m also finding myself drawn to film noir and noir novels; stuff like Sin City and Mike Hammer. I’ve always had a fondness for the genre. Andrew Vachss’ Burke novels and Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder books are two of my favorite series. They describe a world where “good guys” can be corrupt and brutal and “bad guys” may have a higher moral and ethical code. I’m very familiar and comfortable with that world. Growing up in my neighborhood I was well aware that cops weren’t always law-abiding and some criminals were actually pretty decent human beings. I don’t subscribe to the delusion that all criminals are really Robin Hoods at heart or that all cops are dirty but I’m well aware that those possibilities exist.

In some ways I’m rather surprised I enjoy noir tales. As someone who prefers not to deal in shades of gray it’s interesting to me because noir tales are awash in gray and shadows. Nothing is clear, nothing is absolute. It’s world filled with moral ambiguity and rampant examples of situational ethics. The very behaviors that make a character a hero in one tale might condemn her to villainy in another.

Maybe my forays into noirish realms are a way for me to explore these gray, shady areas of life. There are few real-life circumstances that are clear-cut, black and white issues. Shades of gray (aside from being the title of a widely popular, poorly written book) describe most human experiences. Is Yahweh always good? Is Satan always bad? Do the ends always justify the means? I wish there were clear, simple answers to these questions but there aren’t. What film noir and hard-boiled noir novels do for m is allow me to consider this different viewpoint and live it vicariously through the characters. They allow me to learn what motives and drives them. Why they made the choices they did and behave the way they do. They may not be pretty or have happy endings but I find them enthralling and captivating. In fact I think they can be summed up by the phrase “no one here gets out alive”. Whether the characters are “good” or “bad” the one thing you can be sure is that death comes for them all in the end. Sometimes that all the comfort available in life.

Wildwood 3 of Bows

The hooded figure on this card holds up his hand as he stands before a large tree just beyond two staves planted in the ground serving as a gateway.  Is he greeting me or warning me back?   He seems to guard a path that splits off behind him.  Is he a guardian of the crossroads?  How does his energy merge with the energy of this card?

The keyword on this cards is fulfillment.  In traditional Tarot interpretation it is often seen as representing projects or creative endeavors coming to fruition; seeing the fruits of our efforts come back to us.  In this card I get a sense that this hooded man is both guardian and guide.  Our efforts have brought us to this point but now the choice to go on must be made and he is there to remind us that all choices carry some peril with them.

Behind him on the left side the road seems to dip a bit lower while on the right it rises up.  Will the lower path take us to the Underworld?  For me, today, that is the sense I am getting.  With each week that passes I get a stronger sense that shadow work and embracing the dark side is becoming more important to me.  There are dark sides to myself and to the world that I still need to explore.  I’m very curious about this dark side.  I’ve always been partially drawn to it but I resisted its call because part of me felt that I needed to stay on a more “normal” path.  I was already odd enough without adding a layer of darkness.

I have been known to joke that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling stream.  To some degree this is true because this is the persona I don when I interact with people.  I’ve tried being more withholding and aloof but it never seems to work.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that I developed over the years to hide my shyness and genuine introverted nature.  As a child I would much rather lose myself in books of fantasy or mythology than interact with peers.  With rare exception, I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand kids my own age.  I still don’t understand many of the drives and desires that motivate my peers.  Although there are times when I desire company and people, most times I am find being alone.  I find myself seeking answers to supernatural phenomenon and mythical creatures such as Sasquatch and UFOs.  I’ve already mentioned my fascination with serial killers and criminal behavior.  The darker side of human nature calls me.

I remember many years ago when I read The Mists of Avalon that Viviennne (at least I believe it was Vivienne) mentions that there are four faces to the Goddess and that Morgause manifested the fourth face – the dark mother.  This concept has called to me since.  As a child I understood Medea’s choice to kill her children in revenge for Jason’s betrayal.  As an adult I understand the rage and pain that drove Betty Broderick to shoot her husband and his new trophy wife.  I am not condoning these behaviors but I do understand them.  I identified with Persephone as Queen of the Underworld.  The need to separate from one’s mother and forge an independent identity (even if it is somewhat forced upon you) resonated with me.  I connect with Sekmet’s rampage through Egypt until she is calmed by blood-colored beer.  Even now I am (in many ways) dealing with death and dying on a daily basis.  I have walked through many dark places both internal and external and emerged transformed.  Maybe the message for me today is that my focus needs to be on finding a way to use those experiences to help and heal others.  It’s a lot to process.

Dark Goddess Siren of Air

I wasn’t sure what to write about for Shadow Side Saturday.  It’s not that I can’t find lots of dark things in my life it’s that I don’t necessarily feel the desire to share them with anyone.  So I decided to ask the Dark Goddess Tarot what I can write about and I drew the Siren of Air – Lilith.  At first I wasn’t sure what she was telling me.  Then I got an email letting me know that a movie I  requested was mailed to me.  The movie is The Stepford Wives, the original version.  This movie focuses on a community of men who seek to create wives who are the antithesis of Lilith’s energy.  They are submissive and subservient, catering to their husbands’ needs and putting their own on hold.  In fact once they are transformed they don’t even acknowledge having needs.  Of course they also happen to be highly sophisticated androids.

That made me wonder if that’s what men truly want?  I think there is always a layer of this desire in men.  They can feel emasculated if their wife is more successful or accomplished.  In it’s most violent form, this attitude manifests itself as an abusive partner however it cal also subtly pervade various aspects of our lives.  How many women in the work world have been overtly or subtly told that she was behaving in an unfeminine way or is excluding by the “boys”.  Even today these kind of behaviors and attitudes exist.

While working on a paper for my psych degree I read the book Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller.  One concept she put forth that struck me to the core is that even men who will never rape benefit from the fear of rape.  She points out that rape is sometimes an effective tool for dominating (not just women, it is quite effective with men too).  If women are afraid that certain behaviors might cause them to be raped, they will avoid those behaviors.  Even now we read stories that imply or outright state a woman brought it on herself.  Why was she out so late?  What was she dressed that way?

Things are changing – there are many more men willing to be the stay at home parent but they are still in the minority.  And while the men are praised for getting in touch with their nurturing side, the women are often castigated and view as exhibiting aberrant behavior for not being satisfied with the fulfilling life of a stay at home mother.  Attitudes towards rape of all types as well as domestic violence are being treated more seriously.

This is where Lilith comes in.  Lilith is the patroness of those women; those who are honest enough with themselves to admit they won’t be satisfied to be a stay at home parent.  Lilith understands the need to be true to yourself and claim your power.  In a world where women are still marginalized or penalized for trying to claim their independence, Lilith defiantly walks (or flies) her own path).  In a world where women are convinced they need to stay youthful looking and beautiful; where no price is to high to pay to achieve these goals, Lilith doesn’t care what you think of her appearance.

She terrifies men because they can’t control her or dominate her.  Lilith stands up for all women and shrieks “I won’t be boxed in or dominated!!”  She’s rather like Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction when she declares “I won’t be ignored”.  Lilith may reproduce but she doesn’t mother.  She consorts with demons and demands to be on top.  Lilith won’t let someone else dictate her life or sexual preferences.  She may be frightening and dark but she’s also powerful and fierce.  She is free and independent and that might be considered dark but it is very appealing to me.  So let’s take a moment today to embrace this dark goddess and honor her fiercely free and frighteningly forceful approach to claiming her power.

Serial killers & cult leaders- I’ve been interested in serial killers and other societal deviants for a long time.  I can still remember reading the book Helter Skelter when I was about 10 years old.  I can vividly recall the fear and terror that gripped NYC when the Son of Sam David Berkowitz was randomly killing in the late 70s.  The Jonestown massacre in Guyana still holds a fascination for me.   I even studied forensic psychology in college (in fact I have a masters degree in it).  I’ve often wondered what is says about me that I am drawn to such darkness in human nature.

Even while studying psychology I knew I had no desire to be a therapist.  I just wasn’t sympathetic to the neurosis and petty problems of most folks (what can I say – I was very arrogant and fairly young).  I didn’t even necessarily want to work with the criminal population.  I think my pursuit of a  psychology degree was an effort to understand what makes people tick.  I was drawn to the darker aspects of human behavior because on some level I believed if I understood it then I could avoid falling victim to it.  The fact that I had already fallen victim to one act of violence as a child was also a motivating factor.

It seems to me that humans believe we are civilized and intelligent enough to rise above our more animal nature.  However two psychologists, Stanley Milgrom and Phillip Zimbardo, each conducted a well-known and disturbing experiment looking at how humans behave in various situation.  Milgrim’s experiment studied human behavior in response to authority figures.  He set up various scenarios but the core of this experiment was that the subject was put in a room and instructed to ask questions of another person and to issue a shock if the answer was incorrect.  The results were disturbing – in the initial study 65% of the subjects administered the highest shock voltage even when clearly uncomfortable.  Over the years this experiment was replicated in different cultures and with different parameters but with very similar results.  It makes me wonder why we are so willing to take actions we consider unethical or uncomfortable because an authority figure instructed us to do so.

Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Study, an experiment in which volunteers were randomly assigned to either the guard or the prisoner group.  Neither group was given much instruction in how to behave or what to do but it quickly became apparently that left to their own devices, the “guards” began acting sadistically and cruelly.  The “prisoners” began exhibiting signs of depression and rage.  The experiment, scheduled to run for two weeks, was canceled after 6 days because the results were disturbing and it was decided it was causing harm to the volunteers.

What fascinates and frightens me about both these experiments is how quickly we are willing to commit cruel, sadistic and atrocious acts either because we have been told to do so or because we feel that our “role” requires it of us.  Some elements of this may be due to the influence of peers or an internal desire to appease authority figures but it forces me to wonder just how civilized and humane we really are.  Is our willingness to engage in these behaviors really the result of a deep, hidden and unacknowledged desire to hurt others?  Maybe we all have a dark side that revels in cruelty and viciousness.  We learn to control it over time because we learn that such behaviors are unacceptable but those desires are still there – dormant and awaiting a chance to express themselves.  We all want to believe we would never commit certain acts but in reality I think that we might depending upon circumstances.

In fact I believe that one of the reasons some people need Lucifer or Satan is because it’s an effective way to project those nasty, dark, vicious aspects of our personality onto an external figure.  We’re not evil, we did something evil due to Satanic influences.  Or like the young accusers of Salem who behaved in shocking, socially unacceptable ways claiming witches were making them do it.  It’s always the fault of someone or something outside of ourselves.  It’s also made me realize that humans will use various excuses – “I was following orders”, “it’s my job” and even “the devil made me do it” to excuse viciousness and cruelty.  It’s why some are drawn to cults – they can submit to a more dominant personality and not feel the need to make decisions or be responsible for their behaviors.

One thing I’ve learned about my explorations into the dark side of the human psyche is that awareness of it helps me restrain it.  Not all the time but enough to be considered tolerable.  I am fully cognizant of my dark side.  Sometimes I even embrace it and allow it some form of expression that won’t hurt anyone else.  What I’ve also accepted is that it’s not the result of the influence of anyone or anything else.  It’s part of who I am.  It is also not an excuse for cruel or vicious behavior.  Knowing the cause of something is not an excuse.  Having an addiction does not excuse the behaviors that result.  Instead of trying to correct the behaviors we have a tendency for find excuses for them (which is a topic for another day).  I think it’s time to cut through the bullshit.  We’re all a blend of dark and light.  We all have mean, vicious aspects to our personalities.  What makes us human is our ability to know that and change our behaviors so that we aren’t hurting others simply because we feel like it.  We have the ability to shine light on the darkness and not lose ourselves in its embrace.

Dark Carnival 2 of Duckets Dark Carnival Queen of Axes

Dark Carnival Tarot
Created by Rachel Paul
Self-Published

Dark Carnival Strength

I first learned about the Dark Carnival Tarot at the 2013 Readers’ Studio when I won a print of the Strength card from this deck.  When I looked at the image I was blown away by the art.  It has a graffiti style with a very gritty, urban, edgy feel to it.  The cards drew me into a surreal landscape that is both familiar and frightening.

In the companion book, Rachel introduces the reader to the Dark Carnival/Juggalo worldview with its bizarre face paint, supportive community and sometimes gratuitously violent imagery.  I had never heard of this movement before and found it interesting.  I may never enter Juggalo-world myself but, other than the music, it’s not all that different from the one in which I grew up.  Perhaps that’s why this deck appeals to me so much.  Despite its otherworldly, sometimes creepy imagery, I have a feeling this deck will kick me in the teeth when necessary to force me to face facts and not sugar coat my bullshit.

The suits in this deck are Gats, Faygos (you have no idea how excited I was to realize I know what Faygos are –  they make a diet chocolate soda I love), Axes and Duckets rather than Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.  Each suit is inspired by a Juggalo musical artist:  Gats – Violent J; Faygos – Shaggy 2 Dope; Axes – Twiztid and Duckets – Blaze.

Dark Carnival King of Duckets Dark Carnival Warrior of Faygos

The Court Cards are either real or symbolic characters who populate the Dark Carnival/Juggalo world with names like Big Baby Sweets (King of Duckets) and Boondox (Warrior of Faygos).  Even as I write this I have no idea who these artists are but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m sure knowing gives the reader additional insights into the meanings of these cards and the energies behind their imagery but I don’t think it’s essential.  I know who Insane Clown Posse is and I’ve heard of a few of the other groups but this a lifestyle with which I’m totally unfamiliar.  It rather reminds me of a grittier, more urban group of Deadheads but that might be quite a superficial understanding.

Dark Carnival Juggla Dark Carnival Emperor

The Majors are Juggalo takes on the familiar archetypes.  Most maintain their traditional names with some having a more Dark Carnival tag added on.  For example The Magician becomes The Juggla, The Emperor is aka The Carnival of Carnage, The Star is aka The Spirit of Detroit.  Even amidst the chaotic, violent, vivid imagery there is depth, hope and insight.  Although the companion book is written in a manner reminiscent of a gangsta rap song, it has a similar depth of feeling, rawness and emotional honestly.  There is something searing and honest in this deck.

Dark Carnival Star

Rachel Paul is not trying to sugar-coat anything or pretty up reality.  She is tearing back the curtain and saying “this is my world, my reality and welcome to it.”  She reminds us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that life can bloom in the middle of a garbage strewn lot.  This deck proudly proclaims “the world is full of chaos and craziness but if you can find the truth at its core you will also find depth, meaning and beauty.”  This deck reminds us that there are various worldviews and lifestyles out there.  Each is just as valid and legitimate as another.  The Dark Carnival Tarot offers a glimpse into one of them.

I’ve used this deck for my daily draw for the past few days and must say I find it easy to read.  Although the companion book offers additional insights and background information, I think anyone familiar with Tarot could use this deck right out of the bag.  The art might not be to everyone’s tastes but if you are open to its energies I think this deck will prove quite useful for shadow work or pushing you beyond your usual preconceived notions.  So take a chance and step in the tent of the Dark Carnival Tarot.  Who knows what wonders might be revealed to you?

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