The deck came to mind as I sat in the Place Des Vosges on the weekend with my latest divinatory toy, the Sibilla Oracle. (Specifically the Scarabeo ones as per Jason’s description. The different versions had always made me wonder… And now I know.)
You see I had taken them there to calibrate them.
Established wisdom suggests you somehow ‘attune’ with your new divinatory device… By either sleeping with it, wrapping it in something and leaving it outside in the moonlight, ‘feeding’ it… Basically anything you would do to a new puppy.
This has never been enough for me. It’s what you would call ‘necessary but not sufficient’. Your brain already possesses an amazing ability to sort and classify images… All it takes to capitalize on this ability is a couple of hours work.
I hit on calibration by accident.
Step 1: Be somewhere pretty or significant
I was fourteen and visiting the South Island of New Zealand on a ski trip. The mountain was closed due to high winds so I had the day to kill in the enormous front room of a farmhouse that stared out across the extremely flat Canterbury Plains and straight up at the Southern Alps. (You will have seen them in Lord of The Rings. They’re movie stars now.)
Something about the young, bursting energy of the South Island matched up with quite a number of the images in the cards which went on to match the divinatory meanings that would subsequently develop in my head.
The next few days presented a string of visual synchronicities which I took as confirmation. (I didn’t at the time, I was new. I took them as proof of my awesomeness.)
Five years later I did the same thing with the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot in… Funnily enough… New Orleans. Again. Great results, lots of synchronicities.
The Sibilla cards was a bit different.
It was more about seeing if I could locate the symbols in their original context because they are quite new to me.
I broadly know what each Tarot card means so it’s easier to jump from deck to deck. It’s about fine tuning the subtle meaning of ‘The Fool’ or the ‘Two of Swords’ as it sits in the context of a new narrative. Hence, calibrating.
The Sibilla cards are quite different. I wanted to understand the significance of a ‘city house’ -for example- by seeing it in its proper physical context. (I’m pretty sure the picture is of the street to the northwest of the Place Des Vosges.)
The key is to find a location that matches the overall story or ‘energy’ (ugh) of the divination device.
Step 2: teach your brain a new alphabet
Amazing what you will fill your time with when you’re sitting in a working farmhouse watching the air spirits and the mountain spirits do crazy battle above you in the distance.
- Shuffle the cards. (Or bag the runes or whatever.)
- Reveal the first one. Know what it means? Put it in a pile on the right.
- Reveal the next one. What about that? If you know it, put it on top of the other card. If not, start a second pile on the left.
- Go through the whole deck in this fashion.
- When you get to the end, pick up the ‘unknown’ pile, shuffle and start again. If you know it this time, it goes on the right. If you still don’t, it goes on the left.
- Repeat until you don’t have a left hand pile anymore.
You can do this by ‘intuiting’ the meaning of each card/rune, you can do it by matching it to a meaning written in a booklet… It’s all beside the point.
The point is you are teaching your brain that a picture of a woman in a silly hat riding side saddle on a donkey means “domestic travel.” (I do love these cards.)
Repeat as many times as you can over a number of sittings.
Step 3: Mark the occasion
The weather was still bad the next day so the family went on a walk through the strange, wonderful temperate rainforest which confused me by being at the foot of mountains covered in snow and glaciers. (Imladris indeed.)
So I got to leave a food offering behind a tree as ‘thanks’. (Look, I was fourteen and all turned around with various Wiccan ideas. You try practicing anything alone in a coal mining town in Australia.)
The Voodoo cards were marked by an offering at Marie Laveau’s tomb.
The Sibilla deck was sealed in place with wine. Because, conveniently, I had not only remembered to bring the cards but a picnic blanket and a €4 bottle of Bordeaux.
See card 27 for how it turned out.