A Very Unofficial Guide to the Tarot: Prelude

So I’m home from work, and thus have a glass of pomegranate booze (which seems appropriately mythological, and while I’m unsure how much I can drink before I have to spend six months in a chill and dark underworld, I already live in New England so it’s not like that will be new). I have also reset my WP password to be yet another string of obscenities, because oh my God with this letter plus number plus nonalphanumeric symbol plus case changes plus your mom–like, can we give up and just read my retinas already?


There was a lot of interest in Drunk Izzy Explains the Tarot, so I’ll be doing that. The Tarot being pretty large, this is gonna be a multi-part post, interspersed with blog tour stuff when Highland Dragon Warrior gets released next week (9/5, and did you notice how I worked that in? Drunk Izzy: SMOOTH). The first part of this is going to be something of a disclaimer, so Izzy and Pomegranate Booze Explain The General Principles.

Drunk Izzy swears a lot, so be warned.

1) The Tarot. Like playing cards but with–okay, if you don’t know what the Tarot is, at all, please leave now and come back when you’ve seen a movie.

There is a “theory” that the Tarot came to us from ancient Egypt because ancient Egypt was where things came from back when and “tarot” means “royal road” and blah blah Thoth probably that guy’s always involved in occult shenanigans. This “theory” is what we call “bullshit” and anyone recounting it seriously will also tell you a lot about their former life in Atlantis, if you give them the chance.*

The Tarot actually started as playing cards in 14something (too late for any of my Dawn of the Highland Dragon novels, sadly /BLATANT PLUG) in Italy. They still play Tarot-the-game in some parts of Europe; I tried to learn it for a LARP once and it’s fuckoff complicated. You can also theoretically tell fortunes with playing cards, because really any significantly random system can be used for prophecy (credit to Robert Mathiesen for that statement, which is one of the few things I actually remember from college classes), because of either Occult Theory Goes Here or Psychological Inkblot Theory Goes Here, or both.

(Tomato Nation did a column on using iTunes to tell the future. It’s kinda great; most of her stuff is.)

Wiki says that “The singular term is tarocco, which means a type of blood orange in modern Italian.” I did not know that. I don’t know if you can tell fortunes with blood oranges, but I would absolutely watch a YouTube video of someone trying.

2) Because of Theory Stuff, any given Tarot card can have a lot of variant meanings, depending on its place in the layout, the questioner, the reader, and the deck itself. Like, the Hierophant card in the Robin Wood deck (which I enjoy) has the additional meaning of “Robin Wood is a total hippie and has Issues with organized religion”; any card in a Thoth deck has the additional meaning of “…fucking Crowley, man, what even with that guy**”; and the Lisa Frank Tarot has the additional meaning of “I do not remember dropping acid, but this is great, and also 1992.”***

3) Everyone and their mother has a method of reading. I learned mine, and the associated meanings, post-college. It doesn’t involve reversed cards; as far as I can tell, the meaning of reversals is generally “this thing, only negative, or maybe the opposite of this thing, depending, jazzhands”. They are totally a valid thing for other people, but I don’t know what to do with them and therefore will not be covering them here.

Which is to say: everything I’m about to describe, while I’m drawing from my own training and way too many random occult books and so forth, is basically down to my opinion. If you learned another meaning, awesome! I am not the authority on All Things Occult, or even All Things Tarot; nobody really is.

Except Thoth.


Next Time: The Fool, The Magician, and the High Priestess, which should be the opening of a “…walk into a bar,” joke.

* Atlantis: if anyone mentions Atlantis seriously and they’re not talking about Plato, Robert Anton Wilson, or Aquaman, that is a good time to suddenly remember that your drink needs refreshing over on the other side of the party. Atlantis, in occult crowds, is like the coloration on a coral snake: Nature’s way of warning innocent passers-by that JUST NO.

**The best way to describe Crowley is that the late 18somethings didn’t have metal bands as a way to get laid and shock The Establishment, so dude became an occultist instead.

***Sadly, the Lisa Frank Tarot has no physical form and also only has the Major Arcana. If the author were to kickstart a full version, I would chip in so fast.

A Further Note

Which I’d forgotten to include before: namely, that the town where I vacation is both near the casserole-intensive part of the Midwest (though not yet in “hot dish” country) and a college town. As such, it’s settled on an ethnic food compromise whereby it has both Mexican and Indian restaurants*, but the proprietors are prepared to largely serve my people, such that I, the second-biggest spice wuss I know, can go in and order chicken korma or enchiladas and not bother requesting that they be made mild.

It’s a strange limbo.

*It also has sushi, but I have reservations about eating raw fish more than fifty miles from an ocean, because I myself am many years removed from college, and so is my digestive system. Alas, time wounds us all.


And now, notes from my recent vacation.

  • Watched a lot of “Columbo” with my parents, also “Breaking Away.” A keen observer of the romance industry might note that there are no novels purposely set in the 1970s. A keen observer of the 1970s will not be surprised by this. I’m frankly surprised that the human race, or at least that portion of it living in, and dressing in the styles of, the United States managed to reproduce at all.

    “That is *not* the tie of an honest man,” was a thing I said. More than once.

  • I’ve gotten some questions about my customs-of-the-mid-Atlantic WASP post, largely about cocktails (bunch of lushes that we all are on this blog/my FB) and I can confirm that the adherence to the seasons is multigenerational and instant. (“Oh, what is it you drink in the fall?” someone asked my grandfather, and he instantly said “Manhattans.” Because some things in life must remain certain.) Furthermore:
    • Gin and Tonics are the only drink that contains ice cubes. You chill the glasses for Manhattans, and, presumably, the vodka for martinis.
    • There is a complex hierarchy of gin. However, it is also sinful to use good gin in a G&T.
    • We Do Not Drink Triple Sec In This Household.
  • The number of people, in 2017, who are surprised by the need to take their shoes off and their laptops out when going through airport security is…impressive. Rather than the “pay ten bucks extra and get the speedy line” bit, I support an initiative where those of us who have flown and/or lived outside a cave in the last ten years can pass a simple test and then get to go through before everyone who seems to be on Rumspringa Week.
  • Read Wintersong, a historical fantasy with Goblin King romance, which I liked, and Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls, a sequel to A Dirty Job, which I loved. (Moore does a really good line of urban fantasy, as a rule.) Also re-read The Shining, as I do every so often with King’s books, and it remains basically fantastic, albeit Wendy is flat-out idiotic at one point.
  • Worked on the new and idiosyncratic project, which I’ve posted a bit of earlier; my heroes have now fought Totally Not a Balrog in Texas, using video games, because of course they did.
  • Importantly: did not have to cook for myself at any time.

Posts in the near future will include How Feminism Helps Any Legit Men’s Issue, Izzy And A Bottle of Pomegranate Liquor Explain Tarot Cards (which may need more than one post), and anything you want to suggest.


This is not the week to post light-hearted pop cultural things, I’m thinking. At least not for me.

As a generic white chick, I believe that everything I could say has been said elsewhere, so I will briefly state my official position: neo-Nazis are bad, “disaffected young men/women” who just kinda sorta happen to hang out with neo-Nazis are not really worth distinguishing from same (like, being merely a cheerleader for white supremacy instead of the QB does not actually get you points) and also are pathetic in a way where I actually don’t feel at all sorry for them, calling for genocide/slavery/etc is not “free speech,” and Indiana Jones had the right idea about a lot of things. (Though other peoples’ artifacts should probably remain where they are, and also snakes are pretty neat, really.)

Furthermore, most of the statues people are freaking out defending went up considerably after the Civil War as a stupid passive-aggressive statement against civil rights.  And a lot of them, as per this post a friend linked me to, are both cheaply made and goddamn terrifying (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/08/hollow), like, not even in a societal implications way (although there’s that) but in the sense that they’ve bought a summer home in the Uncanny Valley.

So yeah. Later, once I’ve thought it out, I may post something about the times when “loyalty” is not a virtue; still later, there will likely be vacation observations, including Notes on Watching Columbo With My Parents, Further Customs of My People Such As The Hierarchy of Gin, and maybe my ranking of paranormal dude types. For the moment, this is my post.

Also, the Southern Poverty Law Center (https://www.splcenter.org/) has been doing wonderful work, and could use a donation.

If you would like a distraction, though, and God knows I’ve needed one from time to time, my latest recommendation is We Rate Dogs, or Googling “snakes in hats”. They’re snakes! In hats!

Rites of My People

Been a while! I’m hoping to get back to a regular schedule now, though. (Also, if you have any subjects you’d like me to write about, please let me know via email or comments–I draw a blank, some weeks.) And as I’m going on vacation this weekend, and a friend said I should, I’m going to describe the Dance of WASP Non-Obligation: one I learned mostly from my dad’s people (and my mom, so either this also extends to Boston Irish Catholics  or Mom acclimated really well over the years) but which was also familiar to a friend from an older generation in the actual Midwest.

See, those of my ancestry on one side of the family, perhaps in internal psychological compensation for hundreds of years of actually invading people’s land and taking their stuff on a national basis, have established the following guidelines:

1) Being a Bother *might* be the worst possible thing you can do, rivaled only by Making a Scene. You know how serial killers’ neighbors go on TV and say that Mr. Human Pancreas Casserole “kept to himself” and “never bothered anyone”? That’s kind of the ideal, except for the cannibalism–in part because that kind of thing, as the song says, is almost sure to cause a scene.
2) You, as a host, are obligated to offer refreshments.
3) You, as a guest, must assume that any offer made is only out of obligation, and actually fulfilling it would involve a level of effort, on the host’s part, somewhere between “raising a barn” and “donating a kidney.”
4) You, as a host, must assume that your guests are assuming this, and secretly are yearning in their very soul after whatever you’re offering.

This leads to the following exchange, where A is the host and B is the guest.

A: “Would you like a cup of tea?”

B: “Oh, no thank you. I’m good.”
A: “Are you sure? I was going to make one for myself…”
B: “…well, if you’re making one anyhow…”

Accepting the first offer is too close to asking, and One Never Asks For Refreshments. (One may, in desperate circumstances, ask for money or blood, but never refreshments. One of my first memories is asking one of Dad’s colleagues for gumdrops out of a bowl on her desk, and Mom reading me a mild version of the riot act, because You Wait To Be Offered.*)

The basic principle here is that, well, if a beverage is going to manifest in your general location, you can drink it. You just can’t, you know, take steps to actualize said manifestation.

This is almost entirely mandatory, every time, with the following exceptions:

1) A may pre-empt the first exchange, as follows: “I was going to make myself a cup of tea. Would you care for any?” or “While I’m up, can I get you a beer?”

2) If A and B are immediate family, the task is pretty simple, and A is already getting up. “Mom, while you’re in the kitchen, can you bring me back an orange?”

3) If the invitation to A’s house was specifically for refreshments, and then it goes into Double Secret Overtime Probation Coffee Rules, to wit:

You can’t be the first one to suggest a specific beverage. (In this day and age, if your host offers a choice of wines, you *can* opt for water, but that’s it.) You definitely can’t ask if your host *has* a specific beverage: They Are Not Running a Restaurant. If your host offers a list of choices, you can theoretically pick one nobody’s chosen yet, but in practice everyone feels weird about being the first person to ask for tea or decaf when everyone else is having coffee, so someone in the household usually needs to go for that in order to break the ice.


Q. How the hell long does it take to get a drink?

A. I have known the procurement of a cup of tea to last a good ten minutes before anyone puts the kettle on.

Q. How does this intersect with that meme about sexual consent and tea?

A. Either it demonstrates the failure of any given metaphor to account for the rich and varied tapestry of human existence, while still functioning well at making its point, or it demonstrates why Casanova was not a WASP from the Pittsburgh suburbs. Probably both.

Q. What about cocktails?

A. Oh Jesus that’s an entire book. Suffice it to say that a) one drinks what’s poured, b) mostly the host will have the shaker prepared a good fifteen minutes before anyone shows up, and c) no, you don’t get options, you drink what the season dictates you drink, lest people start drinking gin and tonics in November, which is the sort of thing that leads directly to anarchy and communism.

*This is pretty much true of any situation involving pleasure or convenience. There was a giant post about “ask” versus “guess” culture a while back, vis-a-vis someone wanting to stay with a friend while vacationing in New York, and I found both options culturally *horrifying*: if you *have* to go to New York, like for a job interview, that’s one thing, but if you’re just vacationing, the only option is to go ahead and book a hotel room, then tell your friend that you’ll be there from X to Y if they want to get lunch sometime, then go through a version of the Dance involving “Are you sure I won’t be a bother?” and “No, we’d love to have you!” If your friend has already issued a “you’re totally welcome to crash any time you’re up here” generic-invite, that’s one thing, though you still have to add “but I can totally get a hotel room if that doesn’t work for you” and so forth when you do ask.

One Does Not Drop Hints.