Saturday, August 1, 2015

Plato's Chariot and the Tarot

The Allegory of the Chariot is one coming from Plato, and appears in the Dialogues (in Phaedrus) and later in the Republic, though it's thought to predate Plato, possibly having Egyptian or Mesopotamian origins. Basically, Plato regards the human soul as a kind of composite being, made up of three parts, and he uses the symbol of a chariot to show how they operate. There's a big division here between the higher and lower natures- Plato regarded our own world as flawed and imperfect, and believed an underlying, unseen and more perfect world existed also. Humanity is perhaps unique in that they can move between these two halves, and Plato regarded them as in opposition to each other, curiously. So let's look at the Chariot:
There are two horses, one white, the other black. Notice also that the horses seem to be looking in opposite directions. The chariot driver represents reason and consciousness- the "I", in essence. The white horse represents the pull towards higher, more spiritual things, while the black horse represents an opposing pull towards more earthly, mundane things, with their accompanying dullness of senses and appetites. When the chariot driver lets the black horse dominate (the chariot, according to Plato, is located in the air-from there it can ascend up to the heavens, or down to earth) the soul is given an earthly body, and there we are.
Regardless of which horse the charioteer listens to for direction, that same charioteer remains in control, calling the shots. If the charioteer relinquishes control to one of the horses, the effect is largely the same- the charioteer can either take command, or let the horses do their thing.
Where, you may be thinking, have I seen that image before? I'll use the Radiant Rider-Waite image here, as it's pretty close to Plato's description:
But there are a few differences. Here, the Chariot is pulled by sphinxes, not horses. Is that just to make it look all cool and metaphysical? Not entirely. Sphinxes are themselves composite beings. Here the sphinxes appear to be composed of two animals, man and lion, though interestingly the original sphinxes were composed of four animals, bearing the head of a man, the foreparts of a lion, the hindquarters of a bull, and the talons of an eagle. Each of these animals appears in a couple other places throughout the Majors, representing the four faculties of man as well as the four elements. To borrow a page from Eliphas Levi, we find the four animals represent the four aspects of working one's will:
Man- To Know (Air as the corresponding Element)
Bull- To Will (Earth as the corresponding Element)
Lion- To Dare (Fire as the corresponding Element)
Eagle- To Keep Silent (Water as the corresponding Element)

Back to Plato. He doesn't disparage the role of the black horse, nor that of the white horse. The white horse, left to its own devices, will simply fly upwards, regardless of whether the chariot comes along or not. The black horse will head down to earth, again regardless of whether the chariot comes along or not. It's up to the chariot driver to keep the two in check and moving in the same direction. Let's go back to the Chariot Tarot card for a moment. Looking at the driver, we see that there are no reins on this chariot- all he's holding is a wand, similar to those we see in the World Tarot card. The Magician holds a similar one, and in all three cases, the meaning is the same.
The wand here is a symbol of will- whereas the Magician exercises his will over the four Tarot suits, the charioteer exercises that same will and purpose over the two sphinxes, with their similar natures to the horses in Plato's example. Though energetic, the black horse can pull us down, distracting from what we're trying to do, and as a result, we lose focus and end up wasting energy on impulsive pursuits without a clear direction or focus. Likewise, if we let the white horse have free reign, the result can be restriction, direction without energy and ultimately, thought and ideas without action and manifestation. The key to this is not just will, but rather will that can balance out these opposing forces. Notice the sphinx in the Wheel of Fortune card- its appearance is similar to that of the two pulling the Chariot, but here the sphinx has a sword. The card indicates favorable change, but we see again the need for rational planning, expressed by the sword. In the Tarot the suit of Swords relates to thought and reason, and indicates here a need to plan- to respond to change to make it as advantageous as possible.
It should be clear from observation that we encounter both these black and white sides in everything- in ourselves, and likewise in the world around us. Wait for the perfect set of circumstances, and you'll be waiting a very, very long time. Try to construct and engineer the perfect conditions around you (or within, for that matter) and you'll be running yourself ragged trying to stay in the same spot! So the answer is in that wand- will. Use what you've got, and go for it! Will is a determining factor, and can bring conditions under one direction. Doing that means though you may encounter resistance, you'll still be moving. The World indicates a balance of these things- as the last card in the sequence of Major Arcana, it points to the experience and knowledge of being able to pull all these things together and keep them in balance.
Now, let's take a look at these black and white beasties in a different light. More often than not in the Tarot what we deal with is not good and evil, but rather protagonistic and antagonistic energy- what drives us towards a goal or higher calling, and what pulls us away from that. Self understanding and awareness is key to this, and from there, we can find a higher calling- a direction and purpose in life. Will, once again, is the force that drives us towards that goal and that end. Protagonistic energies and efforts bring us closer to that goal, whatever it may be. Antagonistic energies draw us away, into distractions. But these antagonistic energies are not necessarily bad; just misdirected. Going all the way back to Plato, he doesn't disregard the value of either horse. The energetic nature of the black horse needs simply to be redirected towards a goal, rather than left to its own devices.
Looking at this another way, we find the two horses representing two opposite but complementary principles- expansion and restriction. This too forms a consistent theme in the Tarot. The first place we see this dichotomy is in the High Priestess, sitting between her two pillars.
 It's no coincidence that the two pillars are black and white. The letters B and J refer to the Temple of Solomon, where they were named Boaz (Strength, in a rough translation) and Jachin (Established, in an equally rough translation). In other words, expansion (in the form of strength) and restriction and direction (in the form of established plans). The High Priestess appears early on to clue us in that we need both- the path is between them, not around one or the other. When these two are in balance, we can use both in proportion, and as needed.
Moving along, we see the same pairing in the Empress and Emperor, appearing just after the High Priestess. The Empress represents expansion and nurturing, while the Emperor represents guidance and restriction of that expansion. We need these two together, the Priestess reminds us. If we have just expansion, chaos results as that expansion goes every which way, lacking form, cohesion and direction. If we have just restriction, we have sterility and a crushing of that expansive principle. But put the two together, and we find expansion in accordance with a pattern, and direction- will, in other words.

This duality is also present in the Kabbalah, and is illustrated in the Tree of Life- it shows aspects of manifestation, once again in accordance with will. Here, the will comes from the Divine, and the world is thought to unfold according to a Divine plan. The two extremes on this Tree represent the Empress and Emperor, respectively- these two are likewise mirrored in the High Priestess' pillars. In the diagram, we have two pillars. The left hand pillar is called the Pillar of Severity- restriction and structure. The right hand pillar is the Pillar of Mercy- expansion and growth.
Way down at the bottom in the last circle there we have manifestation- notice that it falls between the two pillars- not on one or the other. The conclusion is that we need both, in proportion. Not all restriction, constantly fighting to keep that white horse in charge, and the black horse subservient- not only will that consume all our energy, but will get us nowhere. Nor is it constantly letting the black horse have free reign- that will drive the chariot all over the place, following every last whim and impulse, without any definite direction or larger goal. And likewise, it won't get us anywhere. So the long and short of it is this- we need that energy, and we need direction, if we're to go anywhere. Life is about balance- yet at the same time, we simply can't just accept whatever comes. Will drives us on, will serves as a road map and guiding star to bring us beyond where we are, and turn potential into actuality.
(images courtesy of the Radiant Waite Tarot)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tarot Of Terror- Laurie Strode/Angel Myers

For this installment, I'll be looking at the remake of Halloween, directed by Rob Zombie and released back in 2007. Comparisons between this and John Carpenter's original 1978 release are inevitable, but I thought the remake was not without its own merits. In this, we see a different portrayal of Laurie Strode, and although a director's cut of the sequel to this film gives us a different fate (Laurie doesn't make it) her psychological state and the series of events she goes through make for an interesting story.
A background on Laurie is needed to really understand the whats and whys of what happened to her, and perhaps to provide us with some hope for her future. Laurie Strode was born Angel Myers on or around 1990 to Deborah Myers and an unknown father. She was the youngest of three children, suggesting that her father had been around during the lives of her two older siblings. Judith is her older sister, and is in her teens. She seems to be the only Myers sibling with a clear memory and attachment to the unknown father. Michael is Judith's younger brother, whom she regards as something of an annoyance, but generally has little to do with. Angel is the youngest of the three, and is less than a year old when Michael is taken into psychiatric custody. Michael displays hostility towards Deborah's live-in boyfriend Ronnie White, who is unemployed and has at best a tense relationship with the three Myers children, as well as Deborah herself. Deborah is the only person with a job in the Myers house, working at a local strip club despite the reputation this earns her around the town. Money is a little tight at chez Myers, and this adds to the ever-present tension in the home. Though Michael's teacher suspects something is very much amiss with Michael, Deborah is both unwilling to acknowledge Michael's disturbing behavior both in and out of the house, and too harried to really be able to do much about it. Nonetheless, Michael seems close to his mother, and she does her best to provide for the family.
Michael and "Boo"

 That Halloween, things come to a head. Michael murders Judith, Ronnie and Judith's boyfriend. Deborah is out for the evening, and Michael deliberately spares his sister Angel. Deborah comes home to find Michael calmly waiting on the porch of their home, holding Angel, whom he refers to as "Boo", an affectionate nickname. Michael is taken into psychiatric custody, and continues to deteriorate.
It's interesting to examine Michael's pathology, as it provides a great deal of insight into Laurie's own life. Michael displays symptoms consistent with Type 2 schizophrenia, and the fact that Laurie later develops similar symptoms, albeit later in life, also suggests this. (Schizophrenia is thought to be at least partially genetic). While in the psychiatric hospital, Michael occupies his time making masks, which, as he puts it, hide his "ugliness". He later finally lapses into catatonia, though occasional violent fugue states are present as well.
Deborah later shoots herself, unable to cope with the stigma of being Michael's mother, and the trouble of now having to raise Angel herself. Responding to the emergency call, local law enforcement officer Sheriff Brackett finds Angel alone in the house with Deborah's body, and the baby Angel is later put up for adoption. She is adopted by the Strodes, coincidentally friends of Brackett. Angel's records are sealed by Brackett, and now-Laurie Strode grows up without any knowledge of her biological family.

Michael remains in custody, and finally, when Laurie is in high school, comes back to the town where Laurie now lives and attends school. Laurie does not recognize him, and has no memory of ever being Angel Myers. She is attacked by Michael, who attempts to communicate their relationship to her, but she ultimately escapes.
At this point, Laurie takes a turn for the worse. The Strodes unfortunately did not survive Michael's return to town, and Laurie now begins to develop signs of PTSD stemming from her encounter with Michael, and she becomes increasingly moody and withdrawn. She has moved in with Brackett, and sees a psychiatrist regularly, as well as taking medication. However, lacking any knowledge of her past, what is highly likely a developing schizophrenic state goes largely unnoticed, as Laurie's therapy focuses much more on dealing with her trauma than any underlying psychological condition. A year later, Michael comes back, at which point Laurie's PTSD and nightmares are getting extremely troubling, and she begins to dream of Deborah, indicating some residual memories of her former life. Laurie ends up stabbing and killing Michael, though at a tremendous cost. Prior to killing him, Laurie acknowledges Michael as her brother and tells him she loves him. Laurie ultimately survives, but enters a catatonic state not unlike her older brother, and continues to hallucinate young Michael and Deborah. Whether or not this is actually Deborah, or if a psychic connection exists between Michael and Laurie, remains speculative.
Still adorable, even after a psychotic episode

The reason I chose Laurie for a reading is that it's not impossible she can recover sufficiently to live a more or less normal life. There are a number of factors against her here- inherited mental illness as well as circumstance-generated mental illness. But Laurie does not have the early onset that Michael does, indicating that the malady the Myers kids share is partially triggered by stress. Schizophrenia also manifests most commonly in adolescence, though it seems Laurie is highly responsive to a supportive and nurturing home life. The Strodes appear to be great parents, though they are unaware of Laurie's past, as she herself is until much later in life.
So on to Laurie's reading. At the time of the reading, she's sequestered away in a psychiatric facility, and prognosis is unknown. Has she been traumatized beyond hope of recovery? That, dear readers, was the question I sought to answer. I saw two halves to Laurie- the well-adjusted, intelligent and generally optimistic student and the scarred but still tough person she became after her first encounter with Michael.
Circumstances very much factor into her life- first, she has clear-cut PTSD, and finding out she was in fact Michael's sister takes a tremendous toll on her psyche, and we are left hoping that her natural resilience can make a difference. The reading seemed pretty consistent with this- Laurie is not beyond hope, and though there's a lot of work for her to do, I wouldn't call recovery impossible.
So to start off, I decided on a 14-card Celtic Cross spread. The first card that came up for her was the reversed 6 of Wands- the interesting thing about reversals here is that in some cases reversals indicate the energy of this card may be present, but is blocked or muted by something else. This seems to be the case here, as the 6 indicates victory and strength of will, but Laurie simply can't do it on her own.
See what I mean? 
Covering this card and indicating main influences at present was the Ace of Pentacles- Laurie is not without resources, and here this card brought to mind its aspects of Earth, and with Earth, a support network. Laurie is considerably less socially and mentally isolated than Michael was, and in his case, lacking any other relatives to consult, it's entirely possible his underlying issues went unnoticed. Laurie, however, has strong connections to her friends and loved ones, and though she often feels isolated, seems aware of the support she has, and perhaps more than this, remembers a normal life.
The Past position for Laurie held the 9 of Wands, and it seems again much like the image above- Laurie feels overwhelmed by the task she's met with, and unable to cope with all that's required of her on the road out of the hospital and back to some semblance of normality. Nonetheless, Laurie seems aware of having come a very long way under very adverse circumstances, and though she really lacks the means to communicate her feelings and ideas to others, she may not be an entirely lost cause.
The Foundation position here held the Strength card, which, along with the Aspirations card, is an interesting take on her psychological and emotional state. The Aspirations card, which addresses the best outcome of the situation, was the 10 of Cups- a strong indication of family. Ah, but which family, and how does that family affect her? Is it coming to terms with her past, and the fact that Michael is her brother? It seems she has already come to a fatalistic acceptance of that, though whether or not she realizes that her past is just that, past, is not entirely clear. The Foundation card here, where she is coming from, so to speak, is the Strength card. Again, what aspect of Laurie are we looking at here? Is it her ties to the Myers family, which she seems to regard much as her mother did, a stigma to be concealed and avoided, or is it a chance to move beyond that, and prove to herself and others that she's not just a serial murderer's baby sister?
Moving on to the 7th position, and Laurie's future, it's a mixed bag as well. Here the cards were the reversed 9 of Swords and the 4 of Swords. Laurie, it seems, is no slouch mentally, but has a lot to deal with here. I wouldn't expect a quick recovery at all- she has a great deal of underlying issues, but the 4 of Swords tells me that given time, she can gradually come to terms with them. The question is whether she can address and move past her hurt and trauma and come through this storm in one piece, or sink into despair.
The 8th position deals with Laurie's own state of mind, and here was the Page of Cups and the Wheel of Fortune. Again, there's some hope there for the future. The Page of Cups, appearing here with the 4 of Swords previously, gave me a strong sense of her trying to come to terms with having her world turned upside down. I tend to think the hospital environment may be beneficial to her, as much of the stress has been removed from her life, and she can focus on her own thoughts and coming to terms with them. However, there's a danger here also that these thoughts will just tend towards rumination and drive her further down the spiral she seems to be trying to shake free of. The Wheel tells me that it's not impossible that Laurie ultimately will indeed move beyond these things, though the scars, both physical and mental, will always be with her as a reminder of what happened. And therein lies Laurie's challenge- to accept these things and move beyond them.
The 9th position deals with influences, and here was the reversed Hierophant and the 6 of Pentacles- Laurie seems to be a study in contradictions. The reversed Hierophant can be interpreted as her traumatized, scarred state, or her dismissal of the therapy she received- at several points prior to her hospitalization Laurie questions the value of her therapy, expressing frustration at a perceived lack of progress. This frustration no doubt has increased, and Laurie may well be at the point of giving up- it's just too much of a burden for her to try to hang on to the life she once knew. But on the other hand, the 6 of Pentacles points again to the fact that Laurie is well aware she doesn't live in a vacuum. She knows there are people who care about her, and she cares about them too. Although these connections to others are not in and of themselves sufficient to motivate Laurie to shake off her issues and move on, (again, this will be a lengthy and difficult process for her) they are definitely in her mind and definitely leave an impact on her.
Finally, the 10th position provides an outcome. And ultimately, it seems things have a very real possibility of turning around for her. Here was the Lovers and the 10 of Pentacles. Throughout this reading, Pentacles have referred to Laurie's support network- friends, family and perhaps even the psychiatric care she receives. The Laurie we will see on the other side of all this is not the same Laurie that went in, as the Lovers indicate- here, it's a joining together of Laurie's past and present- she can learn, it would seem, to accept the fact that she was once Angel Myers, but is her own person. Her past does not define her, though it does continue to make itself felt, and a big part of Laurie's recovery will be admitting to herself that she needs help with this- she can't just sweep her mental issues under the rug. On the other hand, she doesn't have to go it alone, and seems aware that there are other people who care about her and are willing to help. Looking at the 10 of Pentacles, I see that this goes two ways with her- she wants to be well for them as well as for herself, and the pain she causes them, albeit unintentionally, leaves a mark on her as well. She doesn't want to go back to that state, and though the task is a daunting one, a part of her wants to keep pressing on.
So in the end, Laurie is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, she feels completely overwhelmed by everything that's happened to her, and despairs of ever getting over what has happened. She feels like she will never get past the part of her that she knows to be Angel Myers- blood relative to a psychotic murderer, and fears the same fate for herself. However, another part of her remembers happier times, and this has left her with a degree of natural optimism and hope. The final scene in the sequel, where Laurie is sitting in her hospital room, shows Michael and Deborah appearing to a smiling Laurie. What does this mean to her? Has she given up and decided to follow in her older brother's bloody footsteps, or does this mean something else entirely? It would seem from the cards that Laurie needs to address these specters and find meaning in them- they represent something to her, and that something may well be where she does not want to go again. So given time and sufficient interaction with others, I think Laurie might well one day put the past behind her and move on with life, perhaps even being the stronger for it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Zodiac And the Tarot Courts

This post came about as a result of a question I encountered a while ago- is there a correspondence between the Tarot court cards and the signs of the Zodiac? The answer I came up with is yes, but it's not an exact one. The same problem as drawing parallels between the Tarot and Runes comes up- you're really comparing apples to radial tires in a lot of ways. This is not to say one is superior to the other- not at all. That would be like saying the black keys on the piano are superior to the white keys. Each one has a different focus, and each one can be an invaluable tool for self understanding and learning. Having said that, what issues are there in trying to compare your Sun sign (the most commonly used Zodiac aspect- where the Sun was at the time of your birth) and what Tarot court you fall under. There is a system that uses the date of your birth to calculate which Court card you fall under, and this can also be done with your Sun sign.
However, there are 12 Zodiac signs, and 16 Tarot courts, so some of them do double up- more than one Court can apply to a Sun sign. Before we get too deep into it, there are a couple aspects of the Zodiac signs to take into account. These are reflected likewise in the Courts. The Zodiac is comprised of four elements, and three aspects to those elements. The four elements are the same between the two systems- Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Under the Zodiac, where that element falls can likewise determine what characteristics it takes on. There are cardinal signs, which act to initiate change, fixed signs, which sustain, and mutable signs, which tend to be acted upon rather than to act, as the cardinal signs do. So, to break it down by sign, we get the following:
Aries- Cardinal Fire
Taurus- Fixed Earth
Gemini- Mutable Air
Cancer- Cardinal Water
Leo- Fixed Fire
Virgo- Mutable Earth
Libra- Cardinal Air
Scorpio- Fixed Water
Sagittarius- Mutable Fire
Capricorn- Cardinal Earth
Aquarius- Fixed Air
Pisces- Mutable Water

However, this is really only a partial picture- what about the other planets in your chart? Your natal chart describes where the planets were at the moment of your birth, relative to your position on the face of the Earth, and takes into account time and location. In many ways knowing this can provide a significant amount of information as to what your Tarot Court card is likely to be. Some readers use what is called a Significator- a card from the Courts that is used to indicate the person the reading is for. Again, in some cases (not all, there are other methods) this is based on that very same Sun sign. In both cases, generalizations are made- and there is something of a challenge unique to the Tarot court cards that I'll come to in a minute. First, let's consider the Tarot courts- each one has two aspects, much like the Zodiac signs. These two aspects come from first, the card's position in that particular Court- (Page, Knight, Queen or King) and the suit of that card (Wands, Cups, Swords or Pentacles). Each position, as well as each suit, is assigned a particular element. To break it down this way, the following characteristics are obtained. The position dictates one element, and is common across courts- the suit dictates a second, and is specific to that suit:

Page of Wands- Earth of Fire
Page of Cups- Earth of Water
Page of Swords- Earth of Air
Page of Pentacles- Earth of Earth

Knight of Wands- Air of Fire
Knight of Cups- Air of Water
Knight of Swords- Air of Air
Knight of Pentacles- Air of Earth

Queen of Wands- Water of Fire
Queen of Cups- Water of Water
Queen of Swords-Water of Air
Queen of Pentacles- Water of Earth

King of Wands- Fire of Fire
King of Cups- Fire of Water
King of Swords- Fire of Air
King of Pentacles- Fire of Earth

So, if we take Fire to indicate a Cardinal energy, Air to indicate a Fixed energy, and Water to indicate a Mutable energy, we're still left with Earth. Should we call it a prima materia, the building blocks for the other suits? Consider the aspects of Earth- malleable, subject to influence, yet steady and unchanging. This was a challenge I also ran into, where to put Earth? Water likewise can be a powerful force, but can also be very flexible, mutable and subtle. And look again at the Court cards- Water of Fire, the Queen of Wands, can be flexible and emotionally responsive (as well as emotionally susceptible to the world around her). And it's important to keep in mind too that the Zodiac has this in common with the Tarot- they do predisposition you to certain characteristics or decisions, but do not compel you- they influence, but do not dictate. The choice, as always, is yours.
A rough approximation, however, is possible. Here are the Tarot courts by their respective Zodiac signs:
Aries-King of Wands
Taurus-King of Pentacles, Knight of Pentacles
Gemini-King of Swords
Cancer- King of Cups
Leo- Queen of Wands, Knight of Wands
Virgo-Queen of Pentacles
Libra-Queen of Swords, Knight of Swords
Scorpio- Queen of Cups, Knight of Cups
Sagittarius- Knight of Wands, Page of Wands
Capricorn-Knight of Pentacles,  Page of Pentacles
Aquarius- Knight of Swords, Page of Swords

Pisces- Knight of Cups, Page of Cups

So where does this doubling up come from? Notice that only some of the Zodiac signs have one Court, while others have two. This is due to the fact that the Courts are divided by elements, not by the characteristics of cardinal, fixed or mutable. The assignments of the Courts here reflects what their commonly accepted characteristics are- how they work, in other words, and how this is similar to the elements and how they likewise operate. 
Confused yet? Hopefully not. But like I said, here we have two different systems. They share common characteristics, but do not dovetail exactly. One interesting aspect is that the Zodiac operates on a fixed system- the stars and planets are more or less able to be calculated in terms of their position, and move through fixed orbits. The Tarot courts have as their focus the individual person, and well, that's a whole other can of worms. People can change, and can occupy multiple roles at a given point in time. 

See what I mean? 

One of the most notable changes is maturity- in many cases a Page is considered a less mature person, a Knight somewhat more so, until finally that person moves through the course of their life to arrive at a King or Queen. This too is consistent with the characteristics of the elements of these cards, though in the Zodiac these signs do not change. The positions of the planets (relative to the Earth, that is) do change, and in many ways we could consider this a parallel path to the evolution we see in the Tarot courts. It's important to note also that the Tarot court card that applies to you in any given situation can and does change- starting a new job or beginning a college career may put you in a very Page frame of mind- successes, hard work and dedication, riding high on a recent victory can likewise put you in a Kingly state of mind, or a Queenly one. People change from day to day, and the situation you are in may emphasize a particular characteristic, or particular set of strengths and personality characteristics you may have. It's certainly possible to occupy multiple Courts at the same time- you may rule the roost as a Queen of Pentacles, but your drive and determination at your job as you press on for that promotion puts you squarely in Knight of Swords territory. What card is you? They both are. We all contain aspects of these cards, to a greater or lesser extent, in the unique mix and combination that makes us who we are. Sounds familiar? It sounds a good deal like an astrological natal chart to me. What influences come together to make you who you are?
To tie it all together, there are similarities between the two systems, perhaps because once again we see the common factors in human experience. However, there is a different method and different focus here. Astrology points to external influences on a person, in this case where the planetary bodies are relative to where you started from. The Tarot brings environmental factors into it as well, as well as mental factors. Again, one system is not necessarily better than another, but does have a different focus. Which one works best? That depends on the question, and what you're looking to learn. We are surrounded by influences, and some of these can be much more persuasive than others, while different factors can be compelling on one person and completely overlooked by another. We live in the midst of a vast, complicated system of interaction and influences, and in the middle sits us- on a journey to understanding and enlightenment. Let your light shine, fellow seekers!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tarot Of Terror- Herbert West, MD

West and his reanimation serum

Today's offering comes from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft, and stands out as one of the better film adaptations of his stories. There are significant differences between the Herbert West of the original story and the West of the movies- whereas the original story spans an entire lifetime, the three movies (Reanimator, Bride of Reanimator and the regrettable Beyond Reanimator) cover a matter of years. West does not seem to age more than say, ten years during the course of the films, so we can assume these events are fairly close in time, and we're conveniently left with West wandering off into the night at the end of the third movie, leaving us to wonder what happens to him.
Well, wonder no more. Let's start with a brief recap of the events of West's life as they are related in the films. When the first movie begins, Herbert West is a medical student in Switzerland, studying under one Hans Gruber, with a special focus on death. West is interesting in that he has a fanatical obsession with defeating death, regarding it as an enemy of the medical profession, something to be defeated rather than accepted, at one point stating he believes conquering death to be "every doctor's dream". Why the obsession with death? Though not explicitly stated in the movies, it's been said by writers that West's parents were killed in a car accident when he was a boy, leaving him an orphan and leaving a deep impression that has carried over to his medical career. As the movie opens, West and Gruber are in mid-experiment, and we learn West has been testing a serum on Gruber in hopes of bringing him back to life. The results are rather explosive, quite literally, and West denies killing Gruber. After this, he transfers to Miskatonic Medical School in Arkham, Massachussetts (a fictional school and town) and picks up his course of study where he left off, falling almost instantly into disagreement with one of Miskatonic's instructors, Dr. Carl Hill, who is under a cloud of suspicion regarding possible plagiarism of Gruber's work on brain death. West meets up with and becomes roommates with a fellow student, Dan Cain, who becomes West's assistant in his experiments. West, we learn, has developed a chemical serum that he believes can restart biological processes, which West believes should restore life to recently deceased living things, though the reaction is unpredictable and almost inevitably violent and uncontrollable. Cain, excited and shocked by West's work, goes to the dean of the medical school, at which point the dean expels West and rescinds Cain's student loan, effectively blocking either from continuing in any capacity at Miskatonic. The dean then is attacked by one of West's experiments in the hospital morgue at Miskatonic, at which point West uses the same method to reanimate the dean, claiming that the dean's "freshness" will possibly lead to a more successful and controlled reanimation. This doesn't seem to work, though the reanimation is successful. Like the others, the dean comes back apparently brain damaged and violent.
West later murders Dr. Hill by decapitation after he attempts to claim West's discovery as his own, (maybe there was something to those accusations of plagiarism after all) and reanimates his head and body, which both come back to life. It's interesting that both Hill's head and body retain full memory, with little or none of the psychosis and violence of West's other experiments. A conflict later ensues at the hospital, later becoming termed the "Miskatonic Massacre", though West and Cain do escape, going on to graduate and become involved in humanitarian work in Peru, later returning to Miskatonic, this time as staff doctors. West, having realized the possibility of reanimating parts of bodies, (and are we really surprised at the Frankenstein reference?) and embarks on a new project- a composite female, composed of whatever West and Cain can smuggle from the graveyard adjacent to their home and the hospital morgue. The results are predictably unstable, and don't last long, due to, as West notes, "tissue rejection."
"But does my HMO cover this?"
West and his reanimated nemesis, Carl Hill

Time goes on, and we find West in prison for his involvement in the affairs of the Miskatonic Massacre. A new doctor joins the prison staff and recruits West as an assistant, and we learn that his sister was killed when he was a boy- by one of the bodies Hill reanimated in an effort to get revenge on West. Again, West continues his experiments, this time attempting (unsuccessfully) to stabilize the reanimated bodies. This fails to work, and chaos breaks out in the prison as once again West's experiments get loose. In the confusion, West escapes prison and simply wanders off into the night, for parts unknown.
What we know of West is that he is brilliant, but bordering on the sociopathic, not above manipulating anyone and everyone close to him to further his experiments, which have taken on the level of obsession with him, crowding out everything else. West appears to have no close friends or family, and regards science as a kind of religion. He even sacrifices his own health, at one point making use of a diluted version of his reanimating serum to allow him to continue working without sleep. He is, despite this, dedicated and meticulous in his work, and full of pride at all his accomplishments, and believes his work is for the greater good of mankind. What we see in West is first, a devoted student of science with more than a touch of ego thrown into the mix, equaled only by a formidable intellect, untempered though it is by any kind of conscience. West regards the human body as largely mechanical, simply a collection of parts to be replaced as needed.
Moving on to the reading, I chose the Necronomicon Tarot (seemed fitting) and used a Celtic Cross spread. Starting at the beginning, the present situation card was the 5 of Cups. Interestingly, the suit of Cups seems to form something of a backdrop for West. The suit represents emotions- a strange motivation for such a scientific and calculating mind, but nonetheless West does indeed display drive, passion and commitment to his work, however misguided he may be. The 5 here tells of making the best of a bad situation. West seems to be spurred on by difficulties and adversity, often adopting an "I'll show them!" mentality in his work. Given perhaps different circumstances, West may well have been a brilliant and effective physician. As it is, the 5 can also be seen as his outcome- this overwhelming devotion to science and ego is ultimately what destroys him.
Covering this was the High Priestess- another card one might not expect to see there. The Priestess tells of secrets hidden in plain sight- what struck me about this card was that it seems to fit with the 5 in indicating what West could have been- ultimately the purpose of medicine (i.e. heal the body, alleviate suffering) seems to elude him, crowded out by his experimentation at any cost.
The past position here held the Empress, one of three Major Arcana cards appearing in this reading. Again, what I see here is two halves of West- on the one, the heartless, calculating scientist and on the other the brilliant healer. But like West himself, this Empress energy of support and growth does have its down side. West's unusual pursuits, and his successful experiments push him further and further in his desire to master death. An aspect of the Empress can be (but not always) uncontrolled growth and expansion, and this is precisely what first, drives West, and second, ultimately causes his ruin.
Moving on to the Foundation position, we find the Chariot. Contributing that brilliant mind and determination, West is pretty much unstoppable on his course- having chosen it, he will use his brilliance not necessarily for the good of mankind, but for his own ends, much as the charioteer guides and manipulates the forces at his disposal. In much of West's reading, the reversals of these cards are hinted at, but not explicitly stated, and here we see the same. Reversed, the Empress points to rampant growth and expansion, uncontrolled and without the needed limitations that ensure continued and safe development. Reversed, the Chariot points to things going haywire, the charioteer losing control of the vehicle, and more often than not, destruction and harm following close. West either is unable to predict the disastrous outcome of his experiments or simply doesn't care. As we have seen, there is that monumental ego driving him on.
The Aspirations position here held the 3 of Swords, again pointing to some underlying motivation for his actions, quite possibly the loss of his parents. West is by and large not a happy person unless in control, and in this context I think it's safe to assume that loss of control West felt at the death of his parents, or for that matter any death he may have seen during his time as a student, left a lasting mark on his psyche.
"The hip bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the... wait, is that right? 

On to the Near Future- here we find the King of Pentacles. Again, can we completely write off West as a disaster? No, as he consistently demonstrates an ability to get by, no matter what his circumstances, be it the depths of a South American war, prison, or getting back on his feet after the events surrounding Gruber's death. Though driven mercilessly by his own mind, West is a practical and thorough scientist, and his ideas, in the right context and properly tempered by conscience and common sense, might well have provided lasting contributions to medical science. Looking beyond West's escape from prison, we can expect two things- first, he'll land on his proverbial feet, and more than likely continue experimentation, hopefully without bringing chaos and reanimated bodies wherever he goes. We see this also in the 7th position, also pointing towards the future, as here was the 8 of Wands. Whatever conflict, pangs of conscience or doubts West has are swept away in his certainty that he knows what he's doing and knows he will succeed. Again, looking forwards, West will not let the minor inconvenience of being a fugitive slow him down- there's work to be done!
The next position deals with hopes and fears, and here we find the 6 of Cups. The 6 often is an indication of nostalgia, in some ways- drawing strength and inspiration from the past, though in West's case it seems that this too has two halves. Whatever demons West has inherited from his past remain with him, and continue to drive him on. This reading overall does seem to point to West having some lasting scars on his psyche, which might well explain a great deal about his motivations and perspectives.
The 9th position, dealing with hidden influences, likewise offers an interesting view of West, as here was the Ace of Cups. The Ace relates back to the Empress, as in both cases we have potential- raw energy, in this case more specifically West's drive and passion for his work. He isn't necessarily evil per se, and wherever we find him at present, his original choice of vocation was a noble one. The Hippocratic Oath may well have been tossed aside in West's mania for fame and success, but nonetheless that desire to defeat death has a noble beginning. Could his escape from prison change him, giving him a new outlook, after seeing yet again what trouble his experimentation has brought? Judging from what we've seen of West's character and mental makeup, probably not. West is noticeably resistant to change, and retains his viewpoint and motives in the face of and in spite of evidence that a new approach would greatly benefit him.
Finally, the 10th position and the outcome. The card here was the 6 of Pentacles, pointing to little change in West, but nonetheless continued success in his experiments, however unconventionally he may measure that success. West, it seems, truly believes in what he is doing, and results only push him further and deeper into his experiments. Ultimately West's story will continue much as it always has- experimentation, lack of boundaries and precautions, and a future filled with more arcane and clandestine laboratory work. Interestingly, we see also that West is not above using his own body to serve his taskmaster, science. Experimentation and attempts to prolong his own life and consciousness are almost certain, and this driven, passionate but perhaps ultimately misguided figure has a long if not entirely happy future ahead of him.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mercury Retrograde- A Few Helpful Hints

It's that time of year (well, one of several times of the year) when the planet Mercury goes retrograde- it appears to be moving backwards relative to us here on Earth. This is often considered the time to go hide under the bed and wait for it to blow over (it ends July 7th of this year). But there are a few things to keep in mind here- first of all, as with everything in life, there are pros and cons. Having this time can be a useful period of self-examination and introspection, even if things seem to be going sour. First, let's take a look at what most people try to avoid during this time. Mercury appears in the Zodiac as the planet of communication- where it appears on your chart influences how you communicate, how effectively you communicate and listen, and where strengths are. Remember also that the planets can influence- they do not control. Free will is, as always, an important factor. So communication may be off, you may not find what you need, things may just generally not work out for you. So what do you do? Often the universe gives you lessons in with troubles, so what can you take from this time?
First, what areas are giving you difficulty? And why? There are several Tarot cards to keep in mind, all Major Arcana cards, that can help to clarify things during this time. First, the High Priestess, who represents wisdom and secrets hidden in plain sight. In terms of this time, it's easy to get tunnel vision, and see only things that aren't working out, troubles and sources of stress. The High Priestess tells us to take a step back- what are we missing because of stress?
Courtesy of Egypt Urnash, from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
I chose this image not because the author is kind of a hero of mine (yes, just went all geeky fanboy there) but because of what's in this card. Two women? Yes, but look behind them at all the screens, showing different images, and all the conduits and wires back there, as well as the machinery in the foreground. All this is pointing to a lot more going on, and this is often the message the High Priestess tells us- don't look at what your eyes are drawn to, but what else is around. Say you're troubled by a relationship- you're constantly bickering, you wonder why in seven hells this person can't just agree that you're right and have done with it. The short and easy answer is, why are they not listening to ME? But consider the nature of the question. What aspect of the situation are you not seeing because you're so wrapped up in your own point of view? In this way, though you still might be disagreeing, at least you can gain some understanding from the situation. Same thing with Mercury; poor communication can be something to work on, instead of retreating into more typical patterns of thought.
Next, moving in sequence, we encounter the Hermit, number 9 in the Majors. The Hermit is, in some ways, a transition from the High Priestess, as the Hermit represents looking within yourself, illuminating hidden areas of your life. Notice that the Hermit carries a staff and lantern- the lantern indicates bringing things to light that were hidden by the dark. Going back to our example, were you so caught up in the negative that you missed something? It's ok if so, we all do it now and again! But a big part of the Hermit is fearlessness, one aspect of the staff he carries. This Hermit has the will and determination to see what the truth is, even if it hurts. And this too is an aspect of Mercury's retrograde- it can be a time to examine the past, to bring up old hurts and sore spots you may be holding on to. Not for the faint of heart, this can be a tough time, but worth it for the insight and understanding it engenders.
From the Dragon Mind of Zen Tarot
So again, there's an up side to this. What hidden writing and lost secrets will you uncover during this time? Well, that's up to you! But the Hermit and the High Priestess work together here, as the High Priestess poses the riddle (What am I missing in this situation?) and the Hermit represents the determination to go out and get that knowledge.
Third, we have the Hanged Man. Here's a card that tells of sacrifice and tough times (I'm noticing a theme here) but that sacrifice is for a reason. Here, what the Hanged Man gains is insight and new perspective. Similar to the Hermit in this regard, the Hanged Man is in some ways an evolution of the Hermit here. The Hermit goes out and finds, the Hanged Man takes on the challenge this new knowledge represents. Sometimes the sacrifice we make is that of our comfort zone- new knowledge means we come to look at the world in a different way, and things cease to be the same. We change, in other words, and that change can be scary. I chose this version of the Hanged Man from the Vertigo Tarot, as it is portrayed by Shade, from the comics of the same name. Shade goes through several reincarnations, either going back of his own accord or being forced back, and in addition to losing his mind on more than one occasion, developing a split personality, sort of, and removing his own heart, well, he does his best to set things right.
One of many versions of The Changing Man
So long story short, the Hanged Man can be a tough card to deal with, and in my experience rarely are we called upon to remove vital organs, change sex (well, involuntarily, anyway) and come back from the dead. But nonetheless, there are difficult times in life. Yet again, what can we learn from these times? It may be that we become stronger, more able to cope with these things, and ultimately develop a broader perspective on our time here. What we take away can become useful tools, or can become a helpful resource for others going through their own tough times.
Mercury going retrograde can be a tough time, and I'm sure we all know tough times aren't limited to the motions of the planets around us. But it's not what we go through, but how we go through it and what we can take away that determines our experience. Remember, life is a learning experience- nothing you learned from and gained from is ever truly wasted.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tarot Of Terror- Norman Bates

This week brings us a classic- Norman Bates from the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. There are some differences between the book the movie was based on and the film, and though there doesn't seem to be too many significant changes, I'll stick to the film version here. Norman Bates is an interesting study, as he has a laundry list of psychiatric problems that contribute to his eventual end. A brief rundown of his life brings up a good deal of these. The Bates family lived together until Norman's father died, at which point it's just Norman and his mother, Norma. Norma suffers from extreme paranoia, delusions to some extent, and inflicts emotional and psychological abuse on Norman. Norma's mental illness seems to be exacerbated by stress, as the Bates Motel has been through some dire financial straits. Judging from the history of mental illness in the Bates family (Norman inherits a great deal of Mom's issues), I'd say the root cause is schizophrenia, possibly coupled with bipolar depression. In Norman's case, the onset is really at adolescence, when he first commits murder, and this is the point at which most inherited mental illnesses take effect. At any rate, Norman is brought up very much under his mother's spell, more specifically under her delusions- all women (except her, that is) are evil, and sex is evil as well. Norman, being young and impressionable, believes her, and internalizes these ideas. Things go on this way until Norma meets Joe Considine, and the two begin a relationship. Norman, insane with jealous rage, kills both of them by poisoning, then makes it look like a suicide.
At this point, things really go downhill for Norman, as his apparent schizophrenia is joined with dissociative personality disorder- he takes on his mother's persona, (incidentally, this is where much of our knowledge of Norma's personality comes from) and preserves her corpse, having inherited the family business of running the Bates Motel. Dissociative personality disorder is essentially taking on a different personality in order to avoid dealing with something traumatic- not unheard of in abuse cases, though Norman's is unique in that he becomes the abuser, as he is unable to deal with the guilt of having committed the murders, and perhaps because having lived so long under his mother's influence has left him unable to function in the world without her. This idea is lent some credit in that Norman supports his "mother", who he tells everyone is an invalid and confined to the house, yet retains an iron grip on Norman. His Norman persona goes about business as usual, though his Mother persona remains intensely jealous of Norman, and continues on in the same vein of delusions as she did in life. Whether Norman is aware of Mother as a part of himself is unclear- he appears to regard her as completely separate, and addresses the corpse as his mother- the Norman persona seems to be unaware of his mental state, as is Norma, who is more concerned with protecting her own existence than helping Norman. Again, this is interesting because dissociative personalities usually have some benefit- they allow the person to cope or address something that they otherwise are unable to handle. At any rate, Norman and Mother converse regularly, also not unheard of with this type of illness. Mother will attack anyone (especially women) that she or Norman sees as a threat. Given the extent of Mother's delusions, well, there's not too many people who make the cut, pun not intended. Mother continues to murder anyone Norman even considers reaching out to, and Norman, ever the dutiful son, covers up the murders. Finally, the situation is discovered, and Norman is hospitalized, unfortunately only after his Norman persona (his normal self, the shy but nice guy who runs the motel) is all but destroyed, and all that remains is Mother.

Norman is eventually deemed sane enough to be released, and continues to fight against his domineering Mother persona, whose main goal is to keep Norman under her thumb, so to speak. Norman shows strong evidence of wanting to just settle down and live a normal life, often rebelling against Mother whenever he can.
Interestingly, we have a birth date for Norman, which allows us a rough view of his Zodiac chart- he was born on April 12, 1934, making him settled firmly in Aries as his main sign, with Taurus as his ascendant- Norman evidently inherited his Mom's strong will and determination, yet is really not a bad guy- under different circumstances, he would have probably turned the motel around and made it a success- Aries is a Fire sign, characterized by drive, will and determination, and Taurus is an Earth sign, likewise marked by determination, and also practicality, good decision making, and in many cases, a good head for business. Doing a reading for Norman was challenging- am I reading for Norman, Mother, or both? Well, the short answer is both, as they are really different sides of the same person. Norman is the public face of this person, whereas Mother represents his darker half- he wants what anyone else wants, to fall in love, have a relationship, be a young swinging guy having a good time, but Mother won't let him go out and get corrupted by the world- remember that Norman has really internalized Mother's delusions about the world- it's not a nice place, and Norman, being a nice boy, has no place there.
For Norman, I did a Celtic Cross reading, and the results were pretty interesting. Norman is a fairly complex character, and not really, deep down, a bad person. The first card, dealing with the present, is the 2 of Pentacles. The main focus here is balance, and the emphasis here is on Norman's day to day life. He's lived this way so long, with Mother constantly breathing down his neck, that he can at least get by, if not entirely the life he wants; it tells me that Norman has to some extent accepted his situation. But the problem is, this is not a permanent solution, and Norman remains one stressful event away from slipping back into letting Mother take over. Covering this was the Judgment card, telling me that there just might be hope for Norman yet. Judgment deals with moving upwards from his situation to hopefully bringing his two halves together- Norman really wants control, but perhaps is unable to face the guilt and the fact that it was him who committed the murders- it seems that a part of Norman, or at least Mother, is aware of that, yet knows that until Norman can address that, he will remain the way he is- divided.
Does this sweater make me look fat? 

The next card deals with the Past, and here was the 4 of Cups, telling us that there is definitely a genuine family bond among the Bates family- Norma, as much as she was able to, really did love Norman and really did care about him, despite causing him so much harm. Earlier intervention would have saved Norman from a world of trouble, and perhaps even saved Norma's life. But despite this, the 4 tells us that the wagon of love broke under the hay of life- it was too little too late, and things went sour for Norman. Nonetheless, there is a message of a mixed blessing here, as Norman did gain from the experience, learning to fend for himself, though he relies heavily on Mother to do this.
In the Foundation position, we see Norman's nature come through, and a ray of hope- here was the Knight of Pentacles. Norman seems to have strong Earth associations, as Pentacles pop up frequently in the reading. The emphasis of the Knight here is on introspection and development. This tells me first and foremost that Norman really does want to get "better", and to be free from his mother/Mother's influence, both in terms of mental illness and the psychological scars she has left. But again, lacking a support system (apart from Mother, that is) Norman really has no one to rely on other than himself. If Norman can become strong enough to replace Mother as the dominant personality, perhaps Norman will find the strength to address his underlying issues. This is always something of a dicey area for readers, as we don't want to bring up anything too painful, and this seems to be the root of Norman's problem- that he can't come to terms with these things.
There were a lot of reversed (upside down) cards from here on out in this reading, indicating a lot of blocked energy- here we see a lot of Norman, and the blocking is created by Mother; she wants to maintain control, while Norman, though desiring to be free, often lacks the strength to take on Mother alone. The next card to come up was the Near Future- here was the reversed 10 of Pentacles- whatever Norman manages to accomplish in terms of steps towards a quiet, peaceful life will always have Mother hanging over it like a shadow- again, until he can work through these issues and come to terms with them. Going back once more to the Knight, I don't think this is entirely out of the question. This, I would say, is what Norman needs to focus on- that process of self-examination, and eventual healing of his own mind. The future for Norman is actually not too bad, and I think the determination and hard work he puts in mean he might possibly come out on top.
The Aspirations position, the best or desired outcome, held the Moon, again in a reversed position. Norman needs to "wake up"- to see past the illusions he himself has helped to create, and in so doing, get past the shock of knowing he is capable of murder, and capable of harming others. His Mother persona will, when it's in her (his?) interest, play the harmless old lady, but under that exterior lies a cold and calculating mind. In some ways, this is not a bad asset to have. If Mother is this much of a quick study, it tells me that Norman is highly intelligent, and capable of abstract reasoning and self-examination.
The 7th position, the Future, holds the 7 of Pentacles, also reversed. The reversal here indicates a stagnation- Norman isn't going to get better unless he can take on Mother, and without the resources to do so, (which Mother will fight tooth and nail, as s/he knows it will be the functional end of her) Norman can't move forwards- whatever gains he makes are small ones, and Mother will remain running the show. Judging from what we know of the life and times of Norma, it seems this is her ultimate end and desire- to remain in control. Unfortunately, Norman's best interests take a back seat to this desire for control.
The 8th position is interesting, as this indicates hopes and fears- here the message seems to be that to some extent Mother and Norman are both accepting of the situation, even desiring to keep it the way it is, as the card here was the Empress reversed, indicating control to the point of smothering- think of a really overbearing mother, trying to control every aspect of a child's life. But of course, there is an element of rebellion here- that kid will start to look for opportunities to rebel, and look for ways to get out from under that tight control. This seems to indicate both halves of Norman- Mother's desire to remain in control, oblivious or unwilling to acknowledge the harm she causes Norman (not to mention the murder victims), and Norman's desire to rebel, even if it's in some childish and ultimately ineffective way. But then again, we now know Norman is capable of self-examination- it'll be a long and difficult road, but I think there's still hope for Norman yet.
The 9th position deals with hidden influences- things that come to bear on the situation, but are not obvious, and here was the reversed Ace of Swords. The message here is that there is at least the beginnings of the insight Norman needs, as the card is very much about potential, and most importantly, new ideas. Again, the reversal does indicate a blocking of this energy, but nonetheless in this case the fact that it comes up at all is a good indication. The whole problem again seems to be that Norman is simply not strong enough to take the steps needed to regain control- he's just not there yet, though he begins to grasp what he needs to do, and this small spark might well become a fire for him. Being an Aries, Norman is never one to give up, and though he may not be strong enough to tackle Mother, he won't give an inch either.
Finally, the outcome. This reading has kind of a shortage of hope, but nonetheless, in time and with psychological help, I wouldn't completely write off Norman Bates. The final card here was the reversed 2 of Wands. This tells me that down the line we can expect Norman (the persona, that is) to become more and more defiant, if not stronger- perhaps ultimately leading to a showdown between Norman and Mother- much of this will be dependent on Norman's decision- will he decide that he can accept what happened and what he did, or will he simply regress into his own shell, still unable to come to terms with what happened? Unfortunately, that's all that Mother needs to remain in control. However, one interesting aspect is that Norman seems to know (and disapproves) of what Mother does- he doesn't really want to kill people, especially not a woman he likes, and this breeds resentment and anger towards Mother in Norman's half of the mind. But again, what this ultimately comes down to is whether or not Norman can accept the truth. He's spent a long time running from it, and this very much shows up in the reading. Should he be finally able to accept what happened, his life will begin to change, and it's at that point that finally Norman will begin to heal the rift in himself.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tarot Of Terror- Helen Lyle

This week's installment doesn't take us too far from the world of Clive Barker, as today's scream queen is Helen Lyle, the protagonist of the film Candyman, also based on a short story by Clive Barker, this one titled The Forbidden. So before we hit the cards, a brief rundown of Helen's life and times is in order.
Helen is a graduate student from the University of Illinois, and determined to make her mark on academia with her awesome thesis. She picks urban legends as her topic, such as the "Bloody Mary" story, the babysitter who receives threatening phone calls that are actually coming from inside the house... we all have heard them in some variation or other. Her research leads her to a local legend, that of Candyman- stand in front of a mirror, say his name five times, and he will appear, one hand missing, with a hook in its place, and kill whoever calls him. 
Just because you're an immortal murderer bent on vengeance doesn't mean you can't be dapper, too
As Helen delves deeper into the legend, we learn that she sometimes puts determination and courage ahead of common sense, and her research takes her to the less savory neighborhood of Cabrini Green, where she befriends some locals who add to her knowledge of the legend. Ann Marie is a dedicated, hardworking single mom who lives with her infant son Anthony, and Jake is a young boy who seems to be growing up too fast. Helen's research attracts the attention of Candyman himself, who, we learn, is very much real and none too happy about Helen trying to debunk his legend. In fact, it's this very legend that gives him his life. He tells Helen, "I am the writing on the wall; the whisper in the classroom. Without these things, I am nothing." In order to continue his legend, he propositions Helen to become his victim- thereby adding to his legend, and perhaps securing the same kind of immortality for her that he himself has. Discussing his condition, he asks Helen point blank "Why do you want to live? If you would learn just a little from me, you would not beg to live. I am a rumor. It is a blessed condition, believe me. To be whispered about at street corners. To live in other peoples' dreams, but not have to be." Helen, however, refuses, so Candyman begins killing off her friends and acquaintances, framing Helen for the murders. This isn't that difficult when you can pretty much disappear at will, after all. Helen is framed for the disappearance of Anthony, as well as all of the murders of her friends. Interestingly, it's never clear whether Helen actually committed the murders, but evidence is leaning strongly towards her as the guilty party. Meanwhile, her husband is out having an affair with a younger woman, so really isn't too up on what's going on in her life. Helen is finally institutionalized until she can be declared mentally competent to stand trial, where she loses a month or so in a drug-induced haze, finally escaping the institution with a little help from Candyman. Off she goes, returning home to find her husband, Trevor, has wasted no time and all but moved in his new girlfriend. With nowhere to go, Helen wanders back to Cabrini Green, where preparations are in order for a bonfire- there's a huge pile of junk, wood and whatnot in a vacant lot. Helen hears a baby, and realizes Anthony is in the pile. Determined to save his life, she grabs a large hook lying conveniently by and begins attacking the pile, but to no avail. Anthony is still stuck inside, and so in she goes. Jake, the young boy who contributed to Helen's research, shows up just in time to see a figure with a hook disappearing into the junk pile, and draws the obvious conclusion- Candyman is in the pile, and so the bonfire is going to be a little early this year. Residents of Cabrini Green come out in droves, drawn by their shared fear of this legend, and light the pile on fire. Helen, meanwhile, struggles to finally save Anthony, reaching him just in time. She manages to escape the burning pile, but not without cost. Severely burned on her head and body, Helen later finally dies of her injuries, but manages to save Anthony. At her funeral and interment, the residents who started the fire show up, and Jake drops the same metal hook Helen used to try and free Anthony into her grave. Is this a gesture of thanks, of regret, or finality? We're left to draw our own conclusions.
Now on to the less than faithful husband. It seems all is not well in Paradise, as new girlfriend is growing increasingly resentful of Trevor's continuing mourning of Helen. Sure, he might be a creep, but at least he has a conscience. Trevor stands before a mirror, contemplating presumably the train wreck his life has become, and inadvertently says Helen's name five times. Oops. Helen appears behind him, her head a mass of scar tissue, but her face untouched, and, hook in hand, well, gets back at her cheating husband. It seems she has taken on the same abilities and rules as Candyman, and become part of the urban legend herself. 
At this point, the run of Trevor's thoughts are "oops."
Now, on to the reading. Helen is a surprisingly sympathetic character, and develops across the course of her story. At first she shows a lot of Knight of Swords personality traits- determination, leadership (even if it's in the wrong direction) and single-minded stubbornness. Perhaps in many ways this leads up to her end. What she doesn't understand, she just plows through, although ultimately her heart is in the right place. For her reading, I chose a Celtic Cross spread- here goes.
The first card to come up, the present situation, was the Fool. This seems to make a good deal of sense, as Helen really gets in over her head, but makes good use of her resources, both internal and external. A lot of her expectations and assumptions fall apart, and she finds herself in many ways out of her depth. Likewise, at the end of the movie, it's a whole new ball game for her, and she no doubt needs to learn a whole new set of rules and adapt to a whole new existence as a figure of legend.
Covering this, indicating influences on the situation, was the 9 of Pentacles. This is interesting, as there's a message of coming into one's own and reaping the benefits of hard work. There's a repeated theme throughout the movie- "It Was Always You, Helen". How much of this is destiny, and how much is Helen's own doing is never clear, but the path she is on does seem to go only one way. And ultimately, Helen gets back at Trevor, who seems too busy keeping his paramour and wife from running into each other to be much concerned about Helen's life and increasingly reckless behavior. 
The Past position held, big surprise, the Knight of Swords. Helen is an avid and dedicated researcher, and is absolutely fearless in venturing into places wiser men may well fear to tread. She explores murder sites, camera at the ready, and delves deep into the Candyman legend with a sheer determination that's admirable, if ill-advised. Perhaps Helen could have used a little more discretion in how and what she researched, but one telling scene occurs when she is discussing her thesis with another academic who previously wrote on the same subject, telling him "We're about to bury you". Academic cutthroat-ery aside, this shows Helen's determination and will in finding her story and setting herself thoroughly off the path to "academic Bolivia", as her rival warns. Much like with the Knight of Swords, Helen throws caution to the wind and runs for her prize. 
The next card to come up is in the Foundation position- what's going on to bring all this about? Here was the reversed Ace of Pentacles, perhaps pointing to a great opportunity, as such an important piece of research as a graduate thesis certainly is, but combine this with the Knight of Swords, and red flags start going up. Are you certain you know what you're doing? This is a strong call to take a break, slow your steed down and look around. Re-evaluation of the situation is called for, though Helen's Knight-like nature isn't long on examination and second-guessing. 
Next up comes the Aspirations position, with another Pentacles card- here, the Page of Pentacles. Definitely a student figure, the Page represents what Helen hopes to accomplish, and the circumstances she tries to bring about. She is idealistic in her drive for a great thesis, and hopes this will pave the way for further research and a prosperous future for her. She wants to get noticed, in other words, and wants to take all her available resources to do so. This is certainly a noble enough goal, but what she lacks is discretion and understanding. Pages are students, and while determined to succeed, may do so at a very high cost that could be avoided. Well, mistakes are to learn from, after all. 
Now, on to what the future may hold for Helen. The Near Future position holds the 7 of Swords, indicating that it may be too late for reflection; Helen may well feel conflicted about her new role as urban legend, rumor and generally being whispered about on streetcorners and classrooms. But nonetheless, she now has to adapt to this new set of circumstances. When that Knight of Swords experiences doubt and uncertainty, that 7 of Swords comes through, with its message of self-doubt and self-undermining. But nonetheless, the future is not entirely bleak, as Helen shows a consistent and thorough ability to overcome and rise above adversity, either from herself or others.
The 8th position tells us of Hopes and Fears- here, we see the 8 of Wands, indicating that Helen needs to re-align that sense of determination and purpose, and in so doing, find a new goal and new reason for her life. It may well be vengeance, much as her predecessor had- he was unjustly murdered horribly, and now is able to wreak vengeance on the world in his odd afterlife.
The next position deals with Hidden Influences, and here was the 2 of Swords, pointing to the fact that perhaps, after all, It Was Always You, Helen. Faced with the decision of whether or not to continue, whether or not to abandon her project as too dangerous, Helen chose to press on, thus creating the circumstances she finds herself in. Perhaps she can take this as a lesson learned; perhaps not. Nonetheless, she will be faced with decisions again, perhaps whether or not to follow in Candyman's footsteps, or to add to the legend, as after all, she did save a baby. Where her aspect of the legend goes remains to be seen- perhaps even as a foil to Candyman's vengeance?
Finally, the Outcome, a bittersweet one for Helen, as here was the 5 of Cups. There are perks, it would seem, to her situation, but at the same time, it means giving up any semblance of the life she once had. It's a whole new ball game for Helen, and the first stop on this new legend for her is Trevor- judging from Trevor's ongoing grief, it seems there may well have been something there worth saving after all. However, what jumps out at me about this card is that the 5 of Cups, despite being an indication of tough emotional times, can also be a valuable learning experience. Has Helen grown from all this? There's a lot of unanswered questions here, though I'm fairly confident Helen will find a way to better her situation, and use it for good rather than simple vengeance. Her legend may well give her existence, but can that work for good? Can she become a kind of protector figure instead of one to be feared? It would seem that though the same rules apply, fortune is not the same for everyone.