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THE BOOK OF ORDINARY ORACLES
Use Pocket Change, Popsicle Sticks, a TV Remote, THIS BOOK, and More to Predict the Future and Answer Your Questions
By Lon Milo DuQuette
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2005 Lon Milo DuQuette
All rights reserved.
NO SENSE OF HUMOR? LEAVE MY TENT!
The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
This book was written to be fun. It was fun to write, and I have every confidence that it will be fun for you to read and use. Why a fun book about oracles and divination?
I guess it's because all the other books on this subject aren't very much fun, and so don't offer you the one thing that keeps us all from surrendering to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and sinking daily into cynicism, depression, hopelessness, and despair. That is the gift of laughing at it all—the gift of laughing at ourselves.
That said, please don't think that I am poking fun at the concept of oracles—even ordinary oracles. In fact, I'll bet my Magic 8-Ball that, by the time you've finished reading this little book, your soothsaying abilities will be boosted by several sooths!
Call me romantic, but I still love the word "fortuneteller." It's colorful. It cues in the soul a strum of the guitar and the lilt of a tortured violin. It evokes the smell of patchouli and garlic. It links us through racial memory to every culture's version of the goddess Fortuna—she who turns the great wheel of fortune. Sometimes we're on top of the wheel; sometimes we're not.
The image of the fortuneteller cautions us to, "Yes, take this seriously, but not so seriously that you forget that the goddess Fortuna has a sense of humor."
No sense of humor?
Zenn you offend zee goddess! Leave my tent!
To many of my generation (those of us who grew up in the last millennium), the word "fortuneteller" evokes images of a dark-eyed, colorfully dressed, deeply cleavaged, and heavily bejeweled Gypsy woman. She's a palm or crystal ball reader, or else she parts the veil of the unknown by reading tarot cards or any one of a number of more ordinary objects, such as playing cards, bones, dice, or dominoes.
Unfortunately, this stereotype has become synonymous with confidence scams, fraud, deceit, and larceny. Undeserved as this reputation may be in many cases, it remains an accursed legacy that casts into the twilight fringes of society both the felonious charlatan and the gifted practitioner. You only have to examine local statutes throughout the world to learn that, in many places, professional fortunetelling is a crime. For a significant part of recorded history, it was a crime punishable by death—and that's not funny at all!
So here, at the very beginning of your adventures with ordinary oracles, let's agree that, when I use the word "fortuneteller," I am referring to anyone who, by means of one or more divinatory techniques or oracles, attempts to gain knowledge of hidden things.
In the pages that follow, I share a few anecdotal examples of my attempts to gain knowledge of hidden things, and examine an assortment of common (and perhaps unlikely) divinatory tools and techniques. Some of these ordinary oracles have been used with reverence for centuries and have a rich and complex tradition. Some were created by students of my Monday Night Magick Class as part of an assignment. Some I jùst pulled out of my own twisted magical imagination. All of them are meant to be fun and entertaining, but they are also intended to awaken within you powers of perception that are currently slumbering just beneath your other five senses.
The subject of oracles has not always been a laughing matter. In fact, it is a very serious theme with provocative implications concerning human consciousness, the mind's potential, the fragility of time, and the nature of reality. For the greater part of recorded history, oracles have ordered wars, chosen kings and queens, and dictated the course of empires. So, before we start creating divinatory devices out of ordinary stuff we have around the house, I'm going to share with you the seven secrets every fortuneteller must know and understand.
1. You are more psychic than you think.
2. You are the oracle.
3. There is no future—only the Great Now.
4. The oracle is the Superior Intelligence.
5. The oracle is always right.
6. The question is more important than the answer.
7. Oracles work because they're perfect.
Are you ready? I have turned down the lights. I have lit the candles and incense. My eyes are closed and I am gazing into the future.
I see ... I see ... I see you turning the page.
WHY ORACLES WORK—
SEVEN SECRETS OF FORTUNETELLING
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
I know. "Seven Secrets" sounds overly dramatic and corny. But it just so happens that six weren't enough and eight were too many. When the subject is mystical powers things just work out that way.
Secret #1: Psychic Power? You're Full of It!
Many believe that only certain people have fortunetelling "power." I personally believe that everyone is psychic—some are just more in touch with their psychic abilities than others. I haven't always felt that way. As a young occultist, I was perfectly satisfied to consider myself the most un-psychic person on Earth. A strange little episode in 1974 involving an ill-conceived practical joke forced me to rethink that attitude.
It started quite innocently, while reading tarot cards as a way of regularly earning a good meal for the three DuQuettes at the home of a wealthy acquaintance. Every Sunday, our gracious hostess threw a dinner party at her home at the marina. She invited a broad spectrum of local yogis, Rosicrucians, witches, Theosophists, spoon-benders, and various other aspiring wizards and New Age mystic poseurs. Each Sunday, after enjoying a wonderful dinner and a breath of sea air, I sang for our supper by reading the fortunes of the stuffed and wine-addled dilettantes.
I used the Crowley/Harris Thoth Tarot deck, which, in those days, lent me a certain air of satanic mystery. Even in those days, however, I projected such an image of banal harmlessness that nobody felt too uneasy. In fact, I think most of them secretly enjoyed their weekly brush with the "dark side."
As far as reading cards was concerned, I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing. The cards more or less read themselves. I just laid them out on the dining room table and started talking. I certainly didn't feel that I was tapping into anything more mysterious than carbohydrates and caffeine. What little I knew about the individual cards was enough to start me blathering; then mindless free association took over.
I was amazed to see how the thoughtless bits of babbling that dropped from my lips evoked such looks of surprise and wonder from my querists. More often than not, things that made no sense to me made a lot of sense to my belching clients. At first it was fun, but after a few weeks, things took an uncomfortable turn.
Daphne was an attractive woman in her late twenties and the most devoted of the Sunday regulars. She was the kind of true believer that spiritual conmen pray for—and prey upon. She was addicted to psychic readings, and spent far too much of her time and money getting her aura fluffed and seeking astrological and psychic counseling on every aspect of her life. Our Sunday salon was just one more stop on her weekly quest for someone strange and mysterious to tell her what to think.
From the first just-for-fun tarot reading I gave her, she was totally convinced of my magical omnipotence and psychic omniscience. The more I denied it, the more she raised her eyebrows and cooed to the others in the room, "Oooo! All the really heavy psychics deny it."
To make matters worse, no matter how hard I tried to give her silly and stupid readings, they still turned out to be (according to Daphne) profoundly accurate. Each week, I dug myself deeper and deeper into the pit of this poor woman's delusional projections. I finally decided that, for her own good, I would do something about it.
The day before the next gathering, my wife Constance and I took a long walk and together hatched a plot—a terrible and sophomoric prank that we believed would surely bring Daphne to her senses. Our plan was this:
The next day, before the group sat down to dinner, I would take Daphne aside and tell her I had had a dream about her. Then I would tell her a story so preposterously silly that she and anyone else who might be listening would soon realize I was joking. Theoretically, after we had all shared a big laugh, I'd be able to convince Daphne that I was not the psychic guru she was looking for, and that it was very unwise for her to rely too heavily on the advice and motives of strangers.
By the time Constance and I returned from our walk, we were laughing so hard we were in tears. We concocted a story so outrageously ridiculous—so ludicrous and bizarre—we were positive it would bring Daphne back down to Earth.
That night, I rehearsed the story over and over so I could tell it with a perfectly straight face. It wouldn't be easy, and I knew timing was going to be important to pull this off. I couldn't let Daphne realize too soon that I was pulling her leg. I would need a little time to draw her deep into the phony vision before it became obvious that the whole story was an elaborate joke.
The next day, the three DuQuettes arrived at the party a few minutes late. I immediately approached Daphne (which itself was unusual, because I usually tried to avoid her).
"Daphne, could I talk to you a moment?"
Her face contorted in ecstasy as if she were having a psychic orgasm. This was going to be good.
"Yes, of course, is something wrong?"
We sat down at opposite ends of the living room couch.
"Daphne, last night I had a dream—no—it was more than a dream. Do you knowwhat I mean? It was more like ... more like a vision. It was about you—not you—Daphne—you—but you you. The you that once was you—and still is, obviously, but—isn't. Do you know what I mean?"
Each time I asked, "Do you know what I mean?" she wrinkled her brow knowingly, bit her lower lip, and nodded her head like a dashboard dog. I continued.
"At the beginning of the dream I felt heat on my face—a sweet heat—very, very hot. But it was a dry heat—a desert heat. Somehow I knew I was in ... Babylon."
Daphne gasped. I had her.
"I saw a beautiful little girl—I knew it was you. Your name was Miriam, daughter of Gip."
Up to this point, everything had gone as planned, and I was having fun. But when Daphne's eyes grew as big as saucers and began to fill with tears, I realized that what I was doing was terribly wrong. What was I thinking? This was a cruel and insensitive prank. It wasn't going to be funny at all. This was a real human being I was toying with—a dear soul with feelings. I actually blushed with shame. Poor Daphne was hanging onto every word I said.
I stopped the story and looked to Constance to rescue me. She was as paralyzed as I. I searched for words of explanation—an excuse, an apology.
Daphne, of course, misinterpreted my humiliated silence as the tortured reticence of a sensitive psychic reluctant to reveal a vision of a painful pastlife experience. She moved closer to me on the couch, as if to say, "Go on ... I can take it." Other guests started to gather around us to listen. I was at a complete loss for words. The only thing I could think to do was continue the stupid story and hope for the best.
"... Miriam, the daughter of Gip ... a Hebrew slave girl in Babylon. You were only six years old when your master, a wealthy saffron broker, sold you into service to the priests of the temple of Mabooba, the great Babylonian frog goddess.
"Because you were born with webbed toes, you were regarded as an incarnation of the goddess. The priests doted on you and showered you with many special privileges. It was there, in the gardens of the temple complex, that you blossomed into young womanhood. You especially enjoyed buffing the giant lily pads that grew in the cool and tranquil temple ponds, and netting the sacrificial flies that fed the insatiable appetite of the great goddess."
Daphne clumsily reached into her purse for a tissue, then wiped the mascara-stained tears from her checks. Was she hearing the same things I was saying? I felt like the most evil person on Earth. I nervously hurried the story along so I could get to the ridiculous punch line, which, by now, I was sure nobody was going to appreciate. I vowed silently I would never do anything like this to anyone ever again.
Poor Daphne was now weeping and sliding demonstrably in and out of spiritual ecstasy. I knew that, in just a few moments, when I finally sprung the trap on the poor woman, I was going to be exposed as the biggest bully in the Southern California New Age community. Finally, I neared the end of my stupid story.
"You died most horribly, when renegade priests from the Temple of Ishtar, jealous of the popularity of the frog goddess, disguised themselves as giant tadpoles and broke into the Mabooba complex, stampeding the thousands of huge and bloated votive frogs. They jammed the exits of the temple and yelled "Fire! Fire!" ... popcorn flew ... the film broke ... the projector caught fire ... the screen went blank ... and you and all the daughters of Mabooba were ... flippered to death. Every last one of you croaked."
The room fell as silent as a tomb. No one said a word.
I laughed nervously and almost shouted, "Everybody croaked!"
Daphne stared at the floor for a moment, nodding her head slightly, as if agreeing with some internal voice. She blew her nose with a ladylike little honk, then looked at me with a fragile smile that told me she finally understood where I was coming from. I thought for a moment that maybe this hadn't been such a bad idea after all. I half expected that, at any second, she would break into giggles of self-realization and thank me for helping her see the light. She took a deep breath and cocked her head to the side the way people do before they say something they really want you to hear.
"My name was Miriam."
I wasn't sure what she meant by that. The dreamy, glossy-eyed look on her face soon told me exactly what was happening.
"My name was Miriam. You are the third psychic to tell me this—first, a friend, then a past-life reader last week in Santa Cruz. They both saw it. I was born a Hebrew slave in Babylon, but I renounced my religion and became a pagan temple priestess. The other two didn't have the vision to tell me how I died. For that, I thank you. As you spoke, I could actually see myself there. I felt the heat. I smelled the pond."
I wanted to scream: "Don't you get it? What about the webbed toes? Sacrificial flies? Tadpole costumes? Bloated frog stampede? Popcorn flying?"
But I didn't. I just sat there and surrendered to the possibility that I might be more psychic than I thought, and that maybe, just maybe, Daphne was once Miriam, daughter of Gip, the last Priestess of Mabooba.
Of course, there is no way of proving whether or not that was a bona fide case of psychic ability or just another one of those synchronicities that, from time to time, make us scratch our heads and say "far out!" (Perhaps both phenomena are the same thing.) In any case, the whole episode served to change my way of looking at the mechanics of psychic abilities, and suggested to me that perhaps the key to reading oracles is the ability to become the oracle. To do that, I had to trick myself somehow into stepping out of my own way. I had to learn to train the stupid part of Lon into listening to the wise and all-knowing part of Lon. That's not always easy (the stupid part being as big as it is).
Secret #2: You Are the Oracle
To illustrate this all-important oracular secret, allow me please to share one more little story.
BookExpoAmerica is the book industry's largest annual convention held in the United States. Each year, more than 30,000 bookstore owners, publishers, distributors, authors, and celebrities gather at some big convention center and, for three days, trudge back and forth down endless aisles of booths making their annual purchases and connections.
Several years ago, to help publicize my books, my publisher asked me to appear at the company's booth and give free mini-tarot readings to anyone who wanted one (and believe me, once the sound of shuffling tarot cards poured out into the crowded aisle, everyone within earshot wanted their cards read.)
Excerpted from THE BOOK OF ORDINARY ORACLES by Lon Milo DuQuette. Copyright © 2005 Lon Milo DuQuette. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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