Book of Mormon

Okay, so this is mainly a blog about cartomancy. I have other interests, too, one of which is theater. Most follows Sturgeon’s Law, which states 90% of everything is crap. This isn’t.

BOOK OF MORMON. OH. MY. GOD.

I laughed my ass off for two and a half hours. ‘Nuf said. No, seriously, it was absolutely hilarious. It was also surreal as hell.

Traffic was a nightmare because of the ASU game. It was a bitch to get into Gammage’s parking lot. Once I did, I found a nice close space. That parking lot’s tiny anyhow, so unless you plan on arriving at least 90 minutes or so early like I did, expect to park in the structure along McAllister. Just FYI.

So I parked and thought fuck, it’s cold out here! And we got lightning and rain earlier tonight, too! Fortunately it was *after* everyone was getting settled in.

So I sat in the outer lobby and got my ass kicked on Front Mission (DS) until they unlocked the doors and let everyone in. I must be a recognizable face around there. The usher who scanned my ticket was all, ‘You know where you’re going because I’ve seen you here a million times. Enjoy the show!’ Umm, last time I was there was in June for Phantom and then before it was November 2013 for Lion King, but hey, whatever. I *do* know my way around the building though, but I’m rusty.

As soon as we were let in, I made a beeline for the merch booth as always. I like to get whatever I want right out of the starting gate so I get first dibs as well as not needing to wait in a God-awful line. I just got the souvenir brochure which is the one item I ALWAYS get from any show if it’s available. The rest of the stuff I can find elsewhere. It was only $20, and that’s standard. They wanted $20 for the CD, which wasn’t bad, but Amazon wants $14 and I’ll just toss it in the cart next time if I want it. The sheet music went for $30, I can find it for about $15 online, or if I’m patient, wait for it to show up used at Bookman’s for under $10. *shrug* But theater merch is almost always overpriced and I’m used to it. The souvenir brochures, though, aren’t usually available EXCEPT at the show or for overly inflated collector’s prices on places like Ebay. No.

It was a good thing I got it, too, as the standard playbill had no song listings. Good luck finding out who sung what unless one had the souvenir brochure or previous familiarity with the show. I’d seen most of this on YouTube but there was still quite a bit that was new to me, so I was still a BoM n00b. I am a n00b no longer.

My seat was better than I thought it would be. I was on the Grand Tier (1st balcony), Row 2, seat 44, which is about a 30 degree angle from dead center. I could see and hear everything with crystal clarity. I couldn’t control the horizontal or vertical, though. (+1 if you get the reference) Anyway, it was something like middle of the road pricing. I wasn’t happy that one seat cost $112, but it was an early birthday gift and so for that I was happy. The most expensive ones were punching $200. HAAHAH FUCK NO.

So the show starts out with a brief history of Mormonism, starting with the two tribes of Israelites that supposedly struck out and settled North America. Never mind that neither the archaeological or DNA evidence bears that out, but hey, it’s what they believe. So Joseph Smith apparently digs up these golden plates buried in upstate NY 2000 years ago by the angel Moroni, translates them, doesn’t let anyone else see them, publishes them, and BAM a new splinter sect of Christianity is born. Honestly, Joseph Smith was a notorious con artist as well as a ceremonial magician. I don’t doubt the accounts that he saw an angel or spirit who pointed at a spot in the woods and told him to dig up *something.* This is as old as humanity. Maybe they were solid gold engraved plates. Maybe they were pretty chunks of pyrite, which IIRC is common around there. Maybe he ate too much contaminated bread and hallucinated the whole damned thing. There’s no way to tell. What he sold, however, and people are still buying hook, line, and sinker, is a scam story with one hell of a bottle of snake oil included. But I digress.

After the opening history, we start out with our new recruits about to set on their missions (“Hello!”) at the training center in Salt Lake City. Then each piece of fresh meat–I mean Elder–is assigned to their partners for their missions over the next two years (“TWo By Two”). This is a catchy little number that frankly reminded me of being awarded prizes on game shows. It’s also where we meet our two main characters, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham. We also discover that Elder Price is an egotistical bastard who is following the letter of the law, if not the spirit, and is disappointed as hell he can’t go to Orlando and enjoy all the theme parks instead of preaching Mormon doctrine (“You and Me (But Mostly Me)”) Additionally during this number, it becomes clear that Elder Cunningham is a pathological liar and maybe batshit crazy to boot. This plays into the plot in a big way later. Then they say goodbyes at the airport along with a very funny and wrong Lion King parody, and off to Africa they go.

So they lose their luggage and get guns pointed in their faces by the local warlord, General Butt-Fucking Naked. The local villagers point out this is just the way things are around there and blaspheming is how they deal with the hardships in their lives (‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’) and the General’s strange obsession with female circumcision. Price and Cunningham are appalled by all this, and then discover there are other missionaries in the area. The local Mormon leader, McKinley, says that Mormons should be able to simply ‘turn off’ any negative feelings, including McKinley’s own repressed homosexuality (“Turn It Off”) This is an absolutely hilarious over-the-top dance number that ends with everyone in glitter fuschia vests and glitter blue ties. Don’t ask. It’s wrong. And I laughed until I was choking. Price, in the meantime, is beyond confused by all this but Cunningham assures him they’ll succeed in bringing souls into the fold (“I Am Here For You”)

So Price attempts to preach to the natives and just winds up boring them half to death. Unfortunately, his attempts to teach the villagers about Joseph Smith winds up being self-aggrandizing in the extreme (“All American Prophet”) and the villagers declaring religion useless and Price arrogant and extremely irritating. There’s quite a bit of reverse racist humor here. These idiot white Americans wind up in rural Africa without a clue as to how things really are there, and the natives school the newcomers severely. This is especially obvious here. Then theGeneral shows up, demands the circumcision of all women in the village, and shoots a villager in the face when he protests right in front of Cunningham and Price and covering Price in blood. Nabulungi, the village leader’s daughter, hides at home and dreams of an earthly paradise inspired by Price’s description of Salt Lake City (“Sal Tlay Ka Siti”).

The next morning at mission HQ, McKinley panics after getting a message requesting a full progress report on their mission. This gets worse after he realizes that Price and Cunningham have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Price wants to bail and gtfo out of there as he’s mortified by the conditions thy’re all forced to live under, so he requests a transfer back to Orlando. Cunningham states he’ll follow Price anywhere, much to Price’s dismay (“I Am Here For You [Reprise]”). Nabulungi then comes to Cunningham and announces that the villagers are ready to listen to what the missionaries have to say. Cunningham recognizes his opportunity to shine and seizes it in the Act I finale (“Man Up”).

So intermission came and went. The people in front of me left during intermission. They were probably offended–and there’s a lot people could find offensive in this show. Oh well, their loss. I got an even better view of the stage for Act II.

Act II begins with Cunningham admitting that he’s actually never *read* the Book of Mormon because it’s boring. When people begin to leave, he weaves together bits of what he knows about Mormon doctrine as well as science fiction and fantasy stories he’s familiar with in an attempt to relate to the villagers’ struggles (“Making Things Up Again”). During this number, his conscience takes the form of familiar characters and personalities like his father, Joseph Smith, and Yoda. He rationalizes this under the fact that these stories are helping people, so how can that be wrong?

Meanwhile, Price is dreaming he’s in Orlando. Except he thinks he’s in Orlando, but he has no memory of getting there. This turns into a glitter coated nightmare full of people in shiny devil suits, dancing Starbucks cups, Johnny Cochran, and a pink Hitler (“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”)? Jesus also bluntly calls Price a dick and walks away.

Price is severely shaken by all this and decides to re-commit to his mission. None of the other missionaries are surprised by this in the least because they’ve all had the same dream. McKinley also points out that even though the villagers have expressed interest in Mormonism to Cunningham, none will convert unless the General does as well. Price, in his arrogance, is convinced he can convert the General (“I Believe”). The General is beyond unimpressed and he and his henchmen drag Price away. The next time we see Price, he’s having his copy of the Book of Mormon removed from his rectum, along with a comment by the doctor of he’s never seen quite this kind of anal obstruction before.

Meanwhile, Cunningham convinces the villagers to convert. The first to be baptized is Nabulungi (“Baptize Me”). The other missionaries are overjoyed by the villagers’ willingness to convert and feel unity with them (“I Am Africa”). This is another totally reverse racist joke that’s hilarious as hell. It just has to be seen to be understood. Then the General shows up and declares he’s going to kill all the Mormons because they’ll power up the women’s clitorises to defeat him.

Cunningham finds Price drowning his sorrows in a cafe in Kigali. He tells Price that the mission President is physically coming there for a progress report, so they had damned well put a good face on things. Cunningham leaves, and Price reflects on all the broken promises in his life (“Orlando”).

So the mission President shows up and praises Price and Cunningham for their work on behalf of the Mormon Church. Then, the village turns out to have a pageant honoring Joseph Smith and the Mormon beliefs, or at least Mormon Doctrine as told to them by Cunningham (“Joseph Smith American Moses”). The mission President and his staff are mortified and aghast at the distortions in doctrine that Cunningham has taught the villagers. The President is furious and appalled, and orders everyone to pack their bags and head home. Nabulungi is heartbroken and believesthat God has forsaken her (“Hasa Diga Eebowai [Reprise]”). Cunningham is also heartbroken at what he believes to be an utter failure, but Price realizes that while Scripture is important, making sure the message is understood is even more so. Cunningham and Price reconcile and race off to rescue the villagers from the General.

Furious at Cunningham, Nabulungi tells the other villagers he was eaten by a lion when they ask about his whereabouts. The General appears and Nabulungi is ready to submit to him as well as tell him none of the stories the missionaries told her were true. To her shock, the other villagers admit they knew the stories weren’t true. They accepted them as metaphors and simply went from there. Cunningham appears, tells the others he’s risen from the dead, and then Price and Cunningham drive the General out on the grounds he can’t hurt the undead. They also threaten to invoke Christ to turn the General into a lesbian. They realize they can still help people despite their mission being over, because, after all, they’re Latter Day Saints. Price rallies everyone to work together to make a better world. The show ends with new Elders, including (hilariously) the General, evangelizing Mormonism (“Tomorrow Is a Latter Day”/”Hello! (Reprise)”/”Finale”).

I can’t say there were any real standouts among the cast. This is the first time I’ve seen this live, so I’m not familiar enough with it to make any sort of judgements. This is an Equity tour, though, so these aren’t kids fresh out of school. They know what they’re doing. Everything went smoothly, there weren’t any technical glitches that I knew of, and they got a standing ovation at the end.

I’d gladly see this show again. I didn’t find it blasphemous. I did, however, find it very irreverent. I was raised Catholic. We’ve been making fun of clergy since long before the Reformation. Other denominations, not so much. I forget who said this, but they described BoM as an atheist’s love letter to religion. It very much came off that way. And Price and Cunningham reminded me of a lot of the overachieving Mormon kids I went to high school with. Screw up their mission? Hell no! That’d screw up their free ride through BYU–and I couldn’t say I’d blame them.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. And it did rain–my car was wet when I found it in the parking lot.

This is playing in NYC and London, as well as this tour. See it if you can. You won’t regret it.

To Charge Or Not

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet, Act I, Scene III

There’s always the question of whether or not to charge for readings. Some say it’s a gift from on High, others say it’s a skill. There’s eternal debate on this issue and frankly it drives me nuts.

My answer? Do what feels right for YOU, the reader!! I charge for readings, but I’ve also been doing this virtually my entire life. I’ve spent countless hours reading books on Tarot, and indeed the occult in general, as well as reading cards. I’ve gotten some decks for gifts but I’ve bought most of them on my own time with my own money. I’ve also spent vast amounts of time just reading cards for test readings. This doesn’t count ancillary skills, like listening well and counseling, that are critical to being a good card reader. Sure, the reader can interpret the symbols, but if they don’t LISTEN to their sitter, they’re going to suck. Then it’s time to drop the mike and go home.

That having been said, my fee schedule is a lot more flexible than people realize. I’ve got quite a few people on my barter list and they pay me via things like sushi dinners, drinks at the clubs, etc. I’ve also known most of them since we were all kids. People I haven’t known a long time are only as good as their money is, and I *will* tack on what I feel is an asshole surcharge. In other words, a client argues about my fees, and they go UP, NOT down. Begging for free readings gets a Grumpy Cat and nothing more.

no

Failing to respect that tells me far more about the client than it does about me as a reader. If they continue, they get another Grumpy Cat image:

closerlookI

I also have no problem firing clients if I have to.

So anyway, the moral of the story is that you, the reader, need to decide if you want to charge for readings. If you do, great! The best course of action there is to find out what others in your area are charging, if there are any other readers in your area, and then set a median price. You don’t want to go too low starting out, but you don’t want to overcharge, either. You’ll find a happy medium in time. And if you don’t want to charge for readings, that’s fine too! It’s up to you. Decide what you want and then stick to it. Respect your time and your boundaries and you’ll find others will as well.

An Ancient Question

This is an old question that always pops up with some regularity. How do I shuffle the cards? This sounds like an idiotic question at first, until one realizes that Tarot cards are usually larger than standard playing cards by quite a bit and can be difficult to shuffle. I’ve got small hands, even for a woman, and I prefer riffling over side shuffling.

Riffling is what most people think of when shuffling cards. Half the deck is taken in each hand, and the cards are bent slightly backwards with the stacks slightly touching each other. This interlaces the cards.

Side shuffling is when the deck is taken in hand on its side, a section is removed, and then worked back into the main deck.

Both processes will be repeated until the shuffler feels the cards are thoroughly mixed.

Personally, I prefer riffle shuffling and will only do side shuffling with decks that are absolutely huge, like my Octopus Press Marseille. A lot of readers don’t like riffling as it can bend the cards over time. I’ve found that if it’s done gently, the cards *may* warp, but only slightly. Side shuffling has actually split some of my cards even though it was done gently. So I encourage my sitters to riffle shuffle only as I’m not into repairing or replacing decks unless I absolutely have to. It’s also a lot of fun to hand an irritating client a brand new, very slick plastic coated deck, and watch them spray the cards all over the floor. This usually results in an entertaining game of 78 pick up. Well, entertaining for me, not so much for them, usually.

Tarot cards are paper products, like playing cards are. They’re all plastic coated these days but still made out of paper. They call things like this ephemera in the antique trade, along with such things as newspaper clippings, posters, and the like. Even the most gentle handling will eventually wear them out, so keep this in mind when you use your own decks. I will discuss care, feeding, and storage in future posts.

Richard Cavendish – The Tarot

So I’ve finished The Tarot by Richard Cavendish. I got it about a week ago–I ordered it from Amazon but wondered why it took two weeks to get here. Once I got it, I read the mailing label and it came from the UK. So that explains that.

I got the hardcover edition for the princely sum of $7 including shipping. Technically, it was free, as I redeemed points on My Coke Rewards for a free Amazon gift card. So that was a definite bonus. My copy is considered to be in ‘good’ condition, though honestly I’d classify it as ‘very good’ as the only real wear other than slight yellowing of the pages was a few minor tears in the dust jacket that I repaired. It’s available in softcover too, but this book is also out of print to the best of my knowledge. If you want a copy, I suggest you get one as soon as you find one in a condition that’s to your liking.

So the content page is this:
Author’s Note

SECTION ONE – History
Origins and Legends
The Universal Key

SECTION TWO – Interpretation
The Cabala
The Twenty Two Trumps
Meditation

SECTION THREE – Divination
The Cards and Their Meanings
Layouts and Readings
Notes to References in the Text
Bibliography
Illustrations Acknowledgements
Index

The introductory section that introduces the history of the cards is quite an entertaining read. It goes into some depth about them and explodes some of the myths that have grown up around them.

The overwhelming majority of the book is the second section that deals with the 22 Trumps/Major Arcana. He goes into quite a bit of detail about the symbolism of each card, which is both entertaining and useful. Unfortunately, the pip/Minor Arcana cards don’t get the attention of the 22 Majors. They never do. *shakes head* I honestly, though, would buy this book for this section alone. The part on meditation is actually fairly brief. Then again, there’s not much one can say when it’s an experience unique to each individual, so I had to consider that, too.

The third and final section is what most people will buy this book and Tarot cards for, and that is divination. He explains briefly the suits and each card’s meaning within that suit. He also includes brief descriptions of each of the Majors and how they can also be used in divination. After this, he gives several spreads and practice readings to try. I’ve been reading cards longer than a good number of you have been alive, and I always find sections like this useful. Some of the meanings are not the ‘traditional’ ones, necessarily, but that’s not a bad thing. They seem to stick very close to the ones Eden Gray gives in her books much of the time.

Another real strength of this book is the illustrations. It’s lushly illustrated throughout with both black and white and colour plates. Quite a few historical decks get decent representation here. As for ‘modern’ decks, this book was originally published in 1975, so a lot of the decks current readers may use obviously weren’t designed or published yet. But if you like looking at various historical decks, this book is also worth it for the plates of those alone.

There weren’t many flaws I could really find with this. One big one, though. is that some of this material has been superseded by newer work. That happens and there’s nothing that can be done about this. Another is an issue with Cavendish as an author. Evidently he’s still alive and kicking and in his 80s, God bless him. But I have some of his other works like the Encyclopaedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology, 1974 and The Black Arts and one thing I do NOT like about him is his fawning admiration of Crowley. Aleister Crowley is probably not someone I would have liked very much–I probably would have beaten the crap out of him before I turned him in for stealing–but he *did* have some good ideas that seem quaint now, but were way way ahead of their time in their day. Knowing this, I’m surprised the Thoth deck wasn’t really represented here. Anyway, know that Cavendish is a Crowley fanboy and take everything he writes about Crowley in that light. If you do so, you should be fine with this and his other works.

http://www.amazon.com/Tarot-Richar…/…/185152021X/ref=sr_1_2…

Hello world!

Hi Everyone!

I’m Cat, and I’m a cartomancer. This means I tell fortunes with cards, basically. Tarot is the best known form of this, but playing cards are a close second. Lenormand is a European system that’s only now catching on in the States, but has been known across the pond for a couple hundred years now. I also am learning the Zigeuner Gypsy cards.

I’m also handy with runes, though that doesn’t fall under cartomancy because it’s not with cards. It falls under sortilege, or the casting of lots. I’ve found them to be unnervingly accurate over the years.

So poke around, take your time, and if you like what you see, subscribe!

Let’s learn together.