Time Zones, Time Travel

Time itself will end if this clock ever stops–evil and black magic lurk in the shadows of The Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square of Prague. (photo by Joseph O’Neill, 2016)

Time is a mysterious, ever-flowing stream that seems to pool and eddy and tumble forward more quickly some days than others. Some days, we wish that it would flow backwards–even if only a few moments so that we can get on the subway train that is pulling out of the station as we come down the stairs onto the platform.

Folk tales and fairy tales and science fiction take the manipulation of time for granted. A princess can sleep for 100 years. Rip van Winkle can snooze for a 20 year nap. A hero can walk until seven pairs of iron boots wear out. But Aladdin can travel across Asia in the blink of an eye and Beauty can return to the side of her beast before she has drawn a breath. Once Mr. Spock discovered how to whip the star ship Enterprise around the sun to travel through time, it became a trick to use on multiple occasions–sometimes even with whales swimming in the ship’s hull. And the TARDIS of Dr. Who or the Way-Back machine of Peabody and Sherman are on everyone’s Christmas list at some point!

We also want to look further down the stream of time by dealing out cards or examining the lines on our palms. The position of the stars when we are born might effect something that happens more than 30 years later.

We want to control time and it remains forever elusive and just beyond our reach.

But on November 18, 1883 a Connecticut school teacher, Charles F. Dowd, was able to impose a method of human control over Time. He proposed a uniform time zone plan for the U.S. consisting of four zones. We take these time zones for granted now; television stations indicate what time in which time zones their programs will air and we know without being told that planes from the East Coast are in the air for three hours longer than their landing time on the West Coast indicate. We are actually able to land before we take off, sometimes!

Tarot for the New Year (2017)

A tarot spread for the coming year, using the Tarot of Marseille (pub. Lo Scarabeo, 1996).

Many forms of divination were practiced by ancient and medieval societies. Most forms of divination were considered “science” originally but are labelled “magic” in current practice. We laugh at some nowadays while others are still enthusiastically embraced. Some have been long forgotten while others are being rediscovered. The most common forms of divination used today are reading stars and reading cards–astrology and tarot. Until only two or three hundred years ago, everyone agreed that the various aspects of the world were so interconnected that they could not help but influence each other. What early and medieval Christians condemned was using divination as a tool to know what MUST happen, denying the possibility of free will and human agency. (The one method of divination that was ALWAYS forbidden in absolute terms was to open the Bible and point to a random verse in order to discover the will of God!) But the Church used these tools of star-reading and card-reading, as did secular society, to anticipate likely outcomes of probable actions.

What does this 3-card spread reveal about the upcoming year (2017)? A quick and simple reading would be that the 5 of Swords indicates both material loss and loss of hope early in the year, followed by new determination to study and engage in personal growth (the Page of Pentacles/Coins), resulting in a renewed sense of personal integrity and strength to confront our difficulties (Strength). Another reader might see these cards indicating not a linear series of developments but a threefold series of interconnected attitudes that continue to revolve throughout the year.

A 5-card spread for the upcoming year using the Tarot of Marseille deck.

A 5-card spread reveals a slightly more complex reading for 2017. The year begins with the Knight of Wands (reversed), followed in the spring by the 8 of Pentacles/Coins, a summer dominated by the 5 of Pentacles, and concluded by The Chariot in the autumn; the 9 of Cups (reversed) is present throughout the year. The quick-and-easy explication of this spread would warn us against an immature person who is headstrong, bossy or a bully-and a risk-taker, who can do dangerous things and convince others to do dangerous things and who dominates the beginning months of the year. In reaction to this person, everyone else must work harder at self-improvement and personal growth (spring) which forces us to confront our own pride or humility in the summer and take appropriate action based on these realizations. In the autumn, this implies a struggle and an eventual, hard-won victory over enemies, obstacles, nature, the uncertainties inside each of us. But this will require confidence as well as unity of purpose and control (between each of the struggling aspects of our personalities as well as in society as a whole) and, most especially, motivation.

The 9 of Cups (reversed) in the center? The card associated with the fulfillment of all our wishes but in a quiet, muted fashion. This can serve as a motivation for all the struggles we engage in throughout the year as well as indicate the result of those struggles.

When I first dealt these two spreads, I was VERY surprised at how much they reinforce and support each other. Do any other tarot readers out there have additional interpretations to suggest?

Christmas in July? (part 2)

Shrine of the Three Kings (detail), Nicholas of Verdun, gold, silver, and semi-precious stones (1190-1220), Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany.

Shrine of the Three Kings (detail), Nicholas of Verdun, gold, silver, and semi-precious stones (1190-1220), Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany.

The Magi were extremely popular in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They were considered powerful protectors against the “falling sickness” (epilepsy). They were also invoked in all-purpose protective prayers or charms, such as one attributed to Charlemagne.

The Magi were considered to represent the whole of the Gentile world because the three men included an Asian and an African with the European; they underscored the idealized inclusivity of the Christian world. The African magus — and African Christians in Ethiopia, such as the eunuch baptized by the Apostle Phillip in the Acts of the Apostles (8:27) — were looked on as special patrons of the people of Bohemia since both Bohemia and Ethiopia were on the edges of the (western) Christian world. The city of Kandahar in Afghanistan is thought to have been founded by and named for Gaspar, one of the Magi.

The relics of the Magi at Cologne were among the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages. Their presence helped bolster the importance of the Germanic bishops both as supporters of the Popes or in opposition to them.

More information about the Magi in the Middle Ages can be found here and here.

The excellent Journey of the Magi by Richard Trexler might by a good thing to read in anticipation of Christmas. Better to read it NOW, before the hectic pre-holiday season arrives!