A few years ago, I get a call from a former student. She’s figured out that I’m pagan, or into magic, or whatever, and she wants to meet me to talk about some of this stuff. We meet at a Friendly’s — a New England chain restaurant ‘famous’ for ice cream, more upscale than McDonald’s but not as nice as an Applebee’s. We talk about magic, and Tarot for a while.
Young miss finally asks if I’ll teach her some magic, and I say sure. I grab my dirty knife, and I put it on the east side of my place mat. “This is the Air Dagger,” I say. “It’s the Sword of the Tarot deck, and it’s the intellectual powers that the universe has placed at your disposal. Language and symbol, grammar and rhetoric, the powers of mind and logic and rational thought.”
We had an extra straw, so I put that on the south side of my placemat. “Here is the Wand of Fire,” I said. “It’s the Wands of the Tarot deck, and it represents your passion and your drive, your willpower, and your energy levels. You can’t throw your energy into everything, or you’ll burn yourself out; even if you throw your energy into only a couple of things, you’ll eventually burn out and die anyway. You can use your energy to draw things to you –” and here I slurped some water from my glass using the straw already in it – “Or to project force at the things that you need to project power at.” And here I used the paper sleeve of the unused straw to project a little paper ball at her. ”Your passion and your drive are limited, but also incredibly powerful.”
I put my coffee cup on the west side of my placemat. “And here’s the chalice. The Cups of the Tarot deck. It’s your emotional life — your desires, your fears, your jealousies. You’re the container for all of the watery energies of your life. Shake the cup, and you become turbulent.” I shook the cup, and then we waited. “Or learn to find inner peace, and wait for the inner waters to become still.”
I had a dirty plate that I put on the north side of the placemat. “And here’s your pentacle. Look, it’s where your bread is buttered. You need to be fed, because you’ve got a physical body. You need coin to buy your bread, or you need to recognize that you’re in a world that needs you to work. Traditionally, the pentacle is painted in five colors — white, for spirit, and dirty yellow, dirty red, dirty blue and dirty green or black for the elements in the world. Your life is going to require all your intellectual gifts, all your passion, all your emotion, and all your physical capacities. Your work in the world is going to involve combinations of those powers. And spirit, too. Don’t forget that you’re a part of all that is.”
She accepted this lesson with a startling degree of equanimity and good humor — as though I’d just given her the keys to the universe, which in a sense, I had. Even then, though, she had one question. ”So what about spirit, or the aether, or whatever you call it? The astral plane?”
I gestured around us. “It’s the diner. Everyone in here’s got a placemat, in front of them, right? Everyone in here has a knife and a glass, and a plate, and a straw. They’ll give you new ones if you lose yours, even. And everyone’s got to pay, one way or another, to leave. But just because there’s a menu, doesn’t mean you know what the meal is going to be like. You could have sat down with anyone in the place, tonight, and learned something new about the world, and the tools of their power would be carelessly strewn on the table.”
I pulled a lighter from my pocket, somewhere, and flicked it once (so as not to alarm the waitress); then put it down amidst the circle. ”And here is the lantern, the eternal flame which is the Light of God. All the powers are present.” I gestured at the Four Tools of the Diner on the table in front of us, again. “So here we are, with the four elemental tools on the altar, in a lawfully-constituted if somewhat-irregular circle. We stand in a place of power, in a time not of earth. What is your will?”
(photo at Ms. Florence Diner, Florence, MA, today. I was reminded of this lesson, today, and I figured it was time to write it up.I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you never make the Four Tools of the magician, you’ll likely never be a magician in truth. But if you can’t improvise with whatever is at hand, then you’ll also never be a magician, either. Crossposted from Tumblr.