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The Wit to Woo-woo

As I mentioned in another blog entry, I’ve been delving much more into the world of tarot. Previously, I have preferred Scott Grossberg’s Deck of Shadows in combination with the Vitruvian Square. For those of you who haven’t seen Scott’s Deck of Shadows (DoS) you can check it out here:

http://thinkingmagically.com/deck_of_shadows.html

It’s an oracle deck and I like it because it facilitates an intuitive reading to any degree of detail required by a sitter especially when combined with other oracles through The Vitruvian Square.
I became fascinated by reading and readers quite some time ago. My nan, ferocious Irish catholic though she was, used to read tea leaves for friends and family and was a renowned judge of form for the Grand National, picking the winner by sight alone, a reputed nine consecutive years. All I knew back then was that my grandmother was amazingly beloved by her betting brothers, had a sharp tongue, named all the birds in her garden (who ate out of her hand) and that she was a great teller of tales with the uncanny ability to hit you squarely about the head with a Dr. Scholl sandal accurately from any distance. I often watched her read for people using her vitreous china teacups, spooning tea out of her tin caddy and remember the rapt attention of her querents. I used to love her story telling sessions of her childhood in Ireland and the fairy folk. She was probably the main reason I made a pilgrimage to the Eire, backpacking about and visiting famous Celtic sites including fairy barrows and kissing the Blarney Stone!
When I grew older, I became much more reason-based in my relationship to reading, readers, oracles and divination. I still occupy a hearty position of skepticism with regards clairvoyants, clairaudients and faith healers however, I still appreciate a good reader. To me, a reader facilitates a feedback loop to your subconscious or since that term is so fluid, your sublimated concerns. Through the tarot (or I Ching, Numerology or other oracles) you are re-presented with your self, ideas and thoughts or plans that may have been placed outside your conscious attention. The job of the reader for me then, is, much like a hypnotist, to re-frame a person’s awareness and understanding and then to allow the sitter to ponder and take ownership of their altered understanding or perhaps to affect some change. I should state here, very clearly, that when I read, I do not tell people what to do, in fact, a good deal of the time I am listening. One of the criticisms often levelled at psychics (and there is a thorny term) and readers is that they are giving poor or dangerous advice, that in effect, they are unqualified counsellors. I’ve enjoyed a fair few readings in my time and a couple have been verging on the above critique, some have been ridiculous, most however, are just facilitating a process, and are very careful not to inform, nor comment on areas such as health, money and large life decisions. In the Far East interestingly, it is much more commonplace for folk to ask and expect readers to tell them information and advice on matters financial and medical and stuff such as lucky, auspicious numbers, lotto predictions and signs and portents to look for. I am sometimes amazed by the frothing ire reserved by certain skeptics for readers, you would think that they are up there with Pol Pot or Torquemada such is the invective and bile that is vented at them. Whilst I get it, that there are unscrupulous readers or psychics and that they can harm individuals and families with dangerous advice, I think the majority of readers are careful, considerate folk who market what they do as entertainment and have far less ranging effect on the populace than politicians, criminals and controlling corporations. None of the readers I visited were responsible for cutting pensions, allowing fuel providers to charge carte blanche, hitting people over the head with a crow bar, raping and killing children, polluting the environment nor forcing families in developing countries to work fourteen hour shifts in dangerous, jerry-built factories. But I suppose some of them do fleece punters out of the occasional twenty five quid. I’ve always been very clear on those who imagine that they are talking to your dead relatives, or Grief Farmers, as I call them. I don’t like them, they can cause pain, prolong grief and are being false or deluded in their claims (although, again, I’ve seen people have cathartic moments during these exhibitions even though this is not to my taste). Emotionally draining yes, but in the same league as politicos? As the arms trade or Big Pharma? I’m not so sure.

So, I’ll end with an example of a reading as entertainment that I performed the other day. I was performing in a London venue strolling around offering hypnotism, pendulum and tarot. I asked a lady if she’d like a single card tarot reading. She replied by stating ‘yes, that’s fine, but I don’t believe in tarot’. I countered ‘that’s fine, because the tarot believes in you!’ She laughed and we sat. She mixed the cards and picked a single card (I do single card readings at these events following excellent advice from Paul Voodini an you can check out his amazing material at: http://www.readerofminds.co.uk/)
which turned out to be the High Priestess. I gave an intuitive reading (and by that I mean I riff off the card meaning and anything that the imagery is giving me) and about a minute in, she burst into tears. I stopped straight away, her friend sitting next to her gave her a cuddle and we allowed the tears to subside. This was a Christmas party and corporate event, I didn’t want her upset and I suggested that we’d touched a nerve and that perhaps we should finish with a positive piece of ESP. We had a much more light-hearted moment where we examined coincidence and we were back to smiles. As I made to leave, after asking again if she was alright, she stopped me and insisted on telling me her circumstances. I won’t share the details but it had to do with leaving and moving onto pastures new, a re-focus of energies in a newer, more positive direction. Evidently, the reading had highlighted her decision and made the moment poignant but she told me it had also confirmed in her mind that it was the right choice and she was off to celebrate with her friends that she would miss so much.
And that sums up why I appreciate tarot, and oracles in general. They are not particularly mystical to me, rather a set of tools that allow you to reflect. They give you a pause that we so seldom get in the haze, daze, rush and rumble of modern life. They give you the space to examine the unexamined (or under-examined) and allow a little insight into how your mind works, your personality, preferences and a little rapport as we realise our hopes, dreams, aspirations and worries are incredibly similar.
You are not alone in this, even if your mileage may vary.

Sifting the void.

Mental Notes

So last weekend I attended a meeting of the shadowy, clandestine group known as Psycrets (The British Society of Mystery Entertainers) and their bi-annual series of lectures Tabula Mentis.
I don’t propose to tell you much about the meeting but suffice to say it was an illuminating and gratifying day spent in the market town of Hitchin.
Quite a few folk ask me the question ‘what exactly is a mystery performer?’
There isn’t an easy answer to that question as the jury is out amongst mentalists and performers of mystery. The term is a broad brush stroke that covers many individuals, some who indulge a passion for psychology, others who look to prestidigitation and the art of conjuring, others still, practice more esoteric arts or are full-timer readers of the Tarot or other oracles and some folk are psychics.
A lot of us combine it all.
We are an inclusive bunch, respectful of each others views and skill-sets. The common thread then, is a love of mystery and the possibilities inherent in presenting mystery in an entertaining format.
Throughout the day I was struck by how much I like these people. I enjoy the camaraderie, the Craic and the minute attention to detail given to words, gestures, signs, symbols, ideas and stationery. The palpable excitement when someone receives, exchanges or gives knowledge.
I am also always slightly relieved that most of these insanely clever people I meet are practicing mystery performance instead of turning their abilities to crime and politics.
There is something beautiful about mystery, the absurdness of our existence, the fleeting scrabble for understanding that constitutes our lives and those profoundly affecting moments where you pause and let the wonder of your reality permeate your consciousness.

What details can I tell you about the meeting?
Nothing.
You’ll have to live with the mystery.

Needles and pins

Yesterday was an incredible day for me. So much so, that I am still fairly fizzing with energy. As part of my ongoing commitment to training, learning and growing as a performer, I attended an event organised by headhacking (www.headhacking.com) training a group of fellow mystery performers in the art of sideshow skills. We were a small number, huddled around a strange and compelling collection of gin traps, staple guns, mousetraps, nails and nail beds, buckets of broken glass and syringes on a bright but breezy Derbyshire morning.

Sideshow has always fascinated me, and I remember many years ago watching the Enigma and Jim Rose as well as performers in Covent Garden and being stunned, delighted, shocked and surprised about what these people could do. Our tutor for the day is a seasoned performer Tristan Stothard and I have to compliment him on an excellent series of workshops building in complexity and challenge to the final pinnacle of the ‘Human Pincushion’ act. Basically, piercing yourself with needles which is something I never thought I would do as up until yesterday I had a phobic reaction to needles, syringes and anything pointy and medical-looking. I still have a healthy respect for said items but already I feel different about them. We weren’t exactly achieving the state that I’ve seen in Asia with penitents at Thaipusam, but it was a profound step for me, to get to know myself a little better and understand that there is so much more to us than we think.
In one of the morning breaks, I even broke a chopstick between my palms in an ‘iron palm’ moment! I shall try the neck next!

The video above shows a few highlights, and I don’t really want to talk about specifics other than to say that having laid on a bed of nails, on broken glass with someone standing on my head, washing with glass and stapling my arm, I am excited as I have ever been and already am looking at integrating elements of my new learnings into a new show.

Sideshow: a staple of mentalism!

An Evening of Mystery

Being in the mystery business means that I have a fair few mysterious friends. Amongst these there are two gents from Tamworth: Christopher Gould and Anthony Black. They’ve been running a monthly evening of mystery entertainment in a local bar in Tamworth and I decided to go along to the last one.
It’s about an hour and fifteen from where I live, so I popped in the car and shot up the motorway arriving a little into the first act. Hypno guru and all-around chi devil Anthony Jacquin was in attendance along with another name in mentalism Fraser Parker, whom I knew of but had not previously met. There was already a lot of table hopping in effect and the audience were fairly buzzing by the time I arrived.

Christopher and Anthony have a penchant for the more magikal and bizarre and this was apparent throughout the evening. They had also invited more friends and what friends too! None other than Gothic dark knight and silverware nemesis Dee Christopher and the irrepressible life force known as Peter Turner. The venue itself was a small one, which made for intimate presentations and good audience rapport and it was a testament to the skill of the performers that although this was a pub and people were involved in the business of drinking, they duly sat up and paid attention during the action. I’ll talk a little about the performances in no particular order.
Pete delivered some incredible revelatory material, hard-hitting, no-nonsense mind reading with poignant and personal stories. A delight to watch. He is the human equivalent of magnesium, fizzing, bright and with a little bit of danger making you want not to get too close! Dee opted to frazzle the assorted public with metal bending-some of which took place in the hands of volunteers- and a routine with cards redolent of a Vulcan mind meld. Dee was the dark to Peter’s light and a nice counterpoint in delivery and energy. Christopher bestrode the stage like the evil half child of Mick Fleetwood and Mephistopheles complete with silver ram’s head cane and hoodoo swank. Christopher tried out an esoteric experiment in determinism which yielded some very interesting results. The whole evening was enjoyed by the local crowd, some of which, it was apparent had come to a previous evening. Finally Snr. Black hit the stage with a homage to the bearded lady! I told you they like bizarre, right? Well, Antonella, in a rare moment of theatrical grace gave birth to a child on stage, the union of an imagined (or was it?) night of passion with an unfortunate in the audience. The father was asked to name the child, only to find that Antonella had correctly predicted the father’s choice!

A great evening loaded with wit, wonder and broken waters- and the best thing? It’s all happening again next month and it’s completely free.
Seriously, if you live anywhere near Tamworth, you owe it to yourself to get along.
The next event is I believe, on the first of August at The Wherever Bar.

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The Banbury Affair

A few weeks ago I decided to start promoting myself and my services in a much more visible way. I went to the local paper and asked local journalist Martin Elverly if he would be good enough to hold onto an envelope containing a series of future event predictions I had made in a hypnotic state. Whilst at the offices of The Banbury Guardian, I asked him to sign one of the slips containing the predictions, to seal the envelope, sign across the flap and place it into a second, larger envelope, which was again sealed by Martin with adhesive stickers placed around the edges and on the flap to prevent tampering. This envelope was then taken by Martin and placed into the safe of The Guardian and we agreed to meet two weeks hence in the town centre to open the envelopes and see if it was possible for me to predict the news headlines.
Martin was kind enough to run the story and we met as agreed, two weeks down the line.

I never again touched the envelope, nor it’s contents. On the day of the revelation, we stood in a chilly Banbury town centre whilst the clock struck twelve noon and Martin and a helper dragooned into service from the street, a passer-by, read out the predictions.

How did I do?

Well, I remember thinking that one of my predictions had definitely came in earlier than expected. A prediction about the nuclear test in North Korea, I missed on one prediction involving questioning a random passer-by but was almost spot on with three other predictions including the front page of The Mail and the back page of The Times.
Well, nobody’s perfect!

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What is totally excellent, is that the local theatre The Mill Arts Centre has booked in ‘Your Place or Mind’ on the 13th of June! Which just goes to show, you can’t always see everything that’s in store.

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Indescribable… Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It………The Blog.

A formless mass that accrues as it goes and terrorises the masses – sounds about right.

Welcome to my blog. I hope this will be a stream of communication and not merely a series of nattering, yattering comments from me. I’m sure they’ll be in effect but I also hope to have a dialogue and to create a space where people can talk with me about subjects we find mutually interesting. A good friend of mine asked me why I hadn’t blogged before- he stated that he was shocked that I hadn’t already created a veritable mountain of digital prose and I answered that to do this kind of caper I imagine you have to be dedicated to it. I didn’t have the time.

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