Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Death's Head

Noogs, who loves bones, was begging for a book on them yesterday at the library. She has her favorite book on the subject, but I can only read Inside the Human Body so many times before ossification sets in, so I was ready to mix it up with something new. And so I picked up The Big Book of Bones by Claire Llewellyn, mostly because of the engaging photo of a skeleton on a bicycle on the cover. And indeed, we found the book basically satisfactory until we came to the last pages on "Scary Skeletons", on cultural representations of skeletons. There in vivid color was an image of the tarot card Death.

Now, I'm not a superstitious person. I don't hold with fears about the number 13 or black cats (actually, we own one, and he does bring us misfortune, but mostly of the hairball-on-the-carpet variety). But I'm not cavalier either. I wouldn't play with a ouija board or allow one in my house, and I won't mess around with tarot cards or fortune-telling or horoscopes (though most of the garden-variety ones in the paper don't seem to be channelling anything more dangerous than The Onion.) Tim Powers said it best in an interview with

Dave: As a writer known for books about the supernatural, how do you deal with that disbelief? Many of your fans must believe in it - not all of them, but some certainly.

Powers: I have a sort of back door in my skepticism in that I'm a practicing Roman Catholic, and though I'm generalizing, Catholics do have a sort of double-barreled view of the supernatural which is: "I don't believe a word of it" and "I wouldn't touch it." So I'm totally skeptical and totally scared of it at the same time.

For one book, Last Call, I had to buy a set of tarot cards because I needed to look at the pictures. I think it's silly nonsense, like astrology. But I wouldn't shuffle that deck in my house. I think it's nonsense, and I also think it's scary. Maybe my readers
have that in common with me; maybe they don't so much believe it as they wouldn't necessarily play with it.

After reading Last Call, Darwin and I were curious to reference some of the images mentioned, while not really wanting a deck of tarot cards in the house. So we bought a set of Minchiate cards -- a kind of pre-tarot game. This was before we had children, or we probably wouldn't have indulged our curiosity; now we keep them high on a shelf and don't let the girls look at them or play with them. We haven't looked at them in ages, and if it ever came to where the girls were getting into them, we'd throw them out.

Darwin wanted to go out to the library himself this evening, so I had him return that bones book and pick up a different one for Noogs. She hadn't paid much attention to the tarot image except to say that the skeleton was smiling, but I just didn't like the idea of exposing the girls to tarot images. Some doors shouldn't be opened even casually.


Anonymous said...

It vaguely creeps me out to think that I used to act out elaborate stories with my parents' deck of tarot cards when I was eight or nine. Luckily no eldritch forces have shown up to kidnap me yet...

Anonymous said...

I've never had any experiences with any of that stuff. I've heard stories of needing a priest to come bless the house after a rousing game with a ouiga board. Another friend reported a glass candle holder shattering.

I wouldn't touch these things except to put them in the garbage (or a fire). They seem to have a connection to the Evil One.

Anonymous said...

Just so it's clear: Rose's dad bought those Tarot cards during his bachelor days as an adjunct to a literary discussion of The Greater Trumps by Charles Williams.

I don't think we knew that you'd found them and were playing with them.

Tim Powers pretty much expresses my views about things like Tarot cards. I don't believe in them, but I wouldn't fool around with them. Not even for "fun".

Which kind of ties into a reply to Big Tex. He says:

"I wouldn't touch these things except to put them in the garbage (or a fire). They seem to have a connection to the Evil One."

I don't think Tarot cards have any intrinsic connection to the Evil One. That would attribute too much power to Satan. In themselves, they're just printed pieces of paper. What makes Tarot cards a conduit for evil is using them because by doing so we are opening ourselves to Satan's influence. He doesn't need much of an opening -- which is why I don't think people should even fool around with them for "just for fun."