My mother was an excellent tea leaf reader. She had some theatrical experience and read the leaves in a dramatic voice. Mother seemed to really believe what she was seeing in those little, drowned leaves.
“There's a house. I see someone going in. Oh, there's a tree hanging over the house. It casts a dark shadow...” and on it went. We looked forward to these thrilling sessions which she didn't do too often. Fortune telling to me, at that time, was fun.
This may have influenced my own involvement in Astrology, which I studied rather carefully. I was not good at math and Astrology is, if nothing else, mathematical. I did manage to get the rudiments down and I started reading charts for people, not just their personalities, which were always interesting, but present, past and FUTURE!
I was just a teenager. This was a sport to me, a novelty, something to bring attention to myself and give me a sense of importance.
A lady who lived nearby, in our Veteran's Land Act subdivision of Sprucedale, had two adopted children. One of them was a 'difficult' case. He was quite unmanageable. This boy would throw his books away on the way home from school. He would walk in muddy puddles and then march around the dining room table grinding the mud into the rug. He seemed to be daring his adopted parents to hit him, as if he wanted to be hit to affirm something. He must have had the experience that everyone did hit him eventually. Perhaps he wondered why these people weren't hitting him too. For whatever reason, he absolutely had to test them in many ways. He'd run off and be found sleeping on the side of a dry ditch. This testing went on and on. Her husband had a heart condition, They didn't want to send the boy back to the institution. She was desperate, quite literally desperate, to know how things would turn out and asked a teenage girl who did horoscopes what his future would be.
Reluctantly, I cast his horoscope. Virtually everything in it was in the House of Prisons and Institutions. The boy would be institutionalized for his whole life. I know now that many convicts have subtle brain injuries that came from being beaten about the head as children or from alcoholic mothers. This may have been part of his problem. I knew that I could not give his young adoptive mother such bad news.
Whether you believe or don't believe in Astrology is not the point. The reading just came out that way and I could not tell her the what the result was, so I gave up Astrology for a while. I didn't need that karma dogging me.
I didn't think too much about fortune telling again until I moved to New York City in 1959 and started doing fortunes again. My best friend, A.H. was an apprentice Astrologer. He later turned professional.
A.H. was fascinated by the movements of the planets and he developed his own Sidereal system of Astrology. He stuck by it quite closely and it worked for him.
My own Astrological efforts used to annoy him because he was, I guess you could say, a scientific Astrologer. It was all by the numbers and very carefully plotted. I was an intuitive Astrologer. I used a chart like a crystal ball, a sort of starting place where anything could happen. A.H. and I used to have a game where one or the other of us would present a chart of someone known to both of us and I would have to guess which acquaintance it was. A lot of the time I could beat him because this was an area where intuitive Astrology worked well.
We would sit with friends over espresso coffee at our favourite East Village coffeehouse, Les Deux Megots, and talk shop about Astrology into the wee hours, to the bemusement of the acting manager who was not mystically inclined. Coffee houses were very popular in the 60s, but not so much on the Lower East side. Les Deux Megots was the only one of its kind in the area. (More on Les Deux Megots http://www.chefjuke.com/mom/drop1a.html)
A.H.'s father, Russell Blackwell, was a member of my Anarchist group and had been in the Spanish Civil War. Their ancestors, A.H.'s and Russell's, had come over on the Mayflower, so they were gentry of a sort, although by no means well-to-do. Living on the Lower East Side at that time in the 60s meant you were not wealthy.
I learned the hard way that when you tell someone’s fortune they give you all kinds of clues as to what they want to hear. Involuntary movements, intake of breath, facial expressions, words. Eventually, I would only do a reading if the subject promised not to speak. I would do the reading with my back turned to them so as not to pick up on their freely-given clues as to what they wanted to hear. This is something to think about in case you are having your fortune read. Don't prompt the person telling your fortune.
I began studying occultism at that time as background for a book I was writing called "Murder by Magic", a really dreadful first novel. Never mind. I learned many things and one of them was the importance of fortune telling in occultism. I moved back to Toronto, had some hard times and then I settled in, got a decent job and had some leisure time. 'Mudder Bar De Door', when I have leisure time!
I joined the O.T.O. which was a occult order, was initiated to a small Degree and learned that these people and this particular philosophy of magic placed great emphasis on fortune telling of various kinds. There was something called Gematria which was derived from Jewish mysticism and involved finding hidden meanings in the numerical value of words. These folks would sometimes change their names so the Gematria would come out more favourably. Fortunately, my own name was in the lifeboat, so to speak, so no change was required.
The Lodge Master at that time was an Astrologer with some good 'creds' . Other members read Tarot. I did Tarot for a while.
Tarot readings are sort of about the future but they are more like a weather report for the soul. That phrase is a steal from Truman Capote. In New York City he came on TV to give a weather report as a way of plugging a play of his currently in production. He was was billed that night as an addition to the weather man. What he gave was a 'weather report for the soul' and this phrase stayed in in my mind. The New York TV station personnel didn't 'get it', by the way.
When push comes to shove that's what fortune telling is all about. It's not so much about what is going to happen in the future because, oh my golly, that is such a collection of variables. It's more about the state of where you are right now with certain strong inclination lines indicated. Paracelsus, one of the world's greatest astrologers, said: "The stars incline; they do not compel", which meant the element of free will was not eliminated.
Astrology and fortune telling give you a mirror to look at yourself. Perhaps it is a fun house mirror but a mirror none the less. You can look at yourself in a different way and from a different angle. It makes you think about yourself, about where you're at, about the state of your soul, your body and your mind. When you're doing Tarot, Astrology or whatever, all three - body, mind and spirit - come together. There's no split up between practitioners of disciplines - medical doctor, psychologist, priest. It's all combined, as it should be. This holistic approach and the new point of view you get are probably the most important things about reading cards, the runes or the stars.