Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Spirit of the Cards. The Voice of the Dragon. The Madness of Josephine.

This 365 day challenge has reached day 11.  Here's the prompt for today.

Dragon: Envision a dragon. Do you battle him? Or is the dragon friendly? Use descriptive language.

I'm writing this in the silent room of the Literary and Philosophical Society Library.  I was reminded last night that the last time I wrote about a dragon it was a dragon who lived, according to the story, inside this library.  His mischief formed the bulk of a posts from the blog of my soft toy Blob Thing - a toy who hasn't managed to post at all this year.  His blog helped me greatly last year and I had a lot of fun writing it.  Sometimes he related events much as I remembered them.  Sometimes he related a quite different version of history.  And so it was when we came to write about his first visit to this library.  My idea was to write "Here's Blob at the library.  Here's something about the library."  Blob had very different ideas.   I derive great pleasure for the way that blog developed.  You'll find it at  Look out for the library posts, for Blob's adventures in Bothal and Fleetwood.  The library post can be found here.

Here though it the writing for today.  I haven't really stuck to the prompt.  It is about a dragon.  What's come out of my head this morning flooded out from a small seed idea that came to me unexpectedly last night.  This is a story but it's really only the beginning of a story.  A first chapter.  What characters, places and events might follow?  I don't know.  I'd only find out if I continued to type.  As far as the future goes I know of one plot point only:  A dragon would be found.

I hope you find some enjoyment in this chapter of a life that isn't mine but which mirrors my own fascinations in many ways.

One thing also I know:  I need to start writing less.  This story is more than 2500 words long.  I can't keep that up every day.  I'm looking forward to prompt 14.  That will be a poem.  But I want to combine it with a simple art project too.

Dragon picture was found here.  Original source unknown


They were crazy, the lot of them.

I mean, call me a skeptic if you wish but the more I sat with these people and listened to their ideas the crazier it all sounded.  Don't get me wrong.  I liked them.  Sharing a drink with them was a pleasure.  Sharing silent space with them was a thing of intricate beauty, a sacred wholeness shattered only by the sound of Josephine's bell announcing an end to the unexpected revelations that arise in quiet.

Such ideas they had.  A mish-mash of contradictions, dubious devices, debunked principles, and unscientific hogwash.  Astrology, energy healing, and a whole load of frauds they unwittingly and caringly committed.  Homeopathy.  Crystals.  Contacting the dead.  I didn't believe in any of it of course.  Some of them went so far as to believe that the moon was a spaceship built by aliens and they couldn't even begin to contemplate the science behind why we only see one side of our precious satellite.  Totally crazy, deluded, deceived.  Maybe they thought the same of me and prayed that one day I might see the light of a salt lamp or be thunderstruck by sound healing.  Even now, after all that's happened, I still think most of what they talk about verges on lunacy.

Yet I liked them and found their deception a thing of fascination in the same way as I'd find excitement in the rituals of an African tribe or the incantations and beliefs of indigenous Americans.  Each system contains much of beauty no matter how wrong it turns out to be.  The mad people I'd fallen in with though took every system and tried to combine them, simultaneously talking of an almost instant reincarnation and contacting your ancestors.  Believing both requires a colossal suspension of disbelief and yet they seemed to manage it without any difficulty.

Crazy people.  I enjoyed them.  Enjoyed the coffee mornings.  Enjoyed the way that each one of them tried to walk in the ways of love and light and peace, how they were more able to smile and laugh by the people I met elsewhere.  I'd even joined in with a few of their groups.  Lucy's introduction to shamanic journeying was quite a treat and when Graham led a gong bath I found the sounds surprisingly relaxing.  Not sure they cleared my spiritual energies in any way but they were pleasant at least.

It was Josephine who did it.  At the beginning of 2014 she announced that she was going to run a session about animals and she invited me to participate.  She said, "I think you'll enjoy this one and I think we're all going to profit and learn something good about ourselves."  I didn't really want to go.  It would be one more step into craziness.  But then Max went and bought me a ticket - it was only a fiver and there would be free lunch - and said it would be fun and Josephine told me it didn't matter that I didn't believe in it.  I could participate anyway and was welcome to laugh about it later.  I liked Josephine a lot.  Mad as a coot but I knew I could count on her for acceptance and hugs.  Max was nice too although he did talk a bit too much about what he called "esoteric Christianity" and about hidden messages in the Bible and how it all fitted into the Gnostics and their writings.  Sometimes he would get into little arguments with a woman called Dorothy who was almost a fundamentalist in her adherence to The Course in Miracles.  And I think Max fancies me a bit too although he would never say.

I happened to be free on the evening of the session so decided that I'd attend and see what manner of nonsense they would be playing with.  I'd been promised that we would all be helped to get in contact with our spirit guide animal.  And that sounded even more ridiculous than the usual spirit guide business of finding out that a native American or an Egyptian priest or Tibetan lama is watching over you.  An animal too?  I could only laugh at such a concept.  There wasn't some disembodied kangaroo bouncing along beside me keeping me safe.  No slug, snail or salamander was guiding me towards enlightenment.  It was going to be an entertaining evening watching all those very earnest and honest people try to contact a goose.

The evening didn't go quite as planned.  Not for me at least.  To begin with it was fine.  There were a dozen of us there, each looking forward to whatever soup Josephine had made for us.  There was some joking - a regular thing - that the soup would be the best part of the evening.  Before the session we sat with drinks and biscuits and chatted about the world, our days and about future events.  Someone was looking forward to an astrology group that was starting and I heard about a big speaker who was coming to the UFOlogy group the following week to talk about the secret battle between the reptilians and the ninth dimension Venusians and how that related to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  Seriously.  That was the topic.  People really believe these things.  I suppose I shouldn't ridicule them too much.  After all, there are a few things I believe now that I never would have dreamed were real.

Once we had eventually finished our drinks - and I do think that the social side of these groups is almost more important to everyone than anything else - we gathered in the circle.  Josephine welcomed us and thanked us before giving a short introduction.  She said that during the evening we would, if we wished, be aided into finding our spirit animal.  Or one of our animals.  We could then take our animal as a symbol and apply it to our life.  Or, if we wished, we could be aided into contacting our animal so we would be able to call on our animal when we wished and know that we were not alone.  I didn't mind the symbol bit too much but all that calling business sounded very strange.  I thought I'd just watch that part, observe all the nice people entering more fully into delusion.

After that introduction we were invited to sit in silence and meditate for a while, calming ourselves and asking for the grace to be able to listen and receive whatever was meant for us that night.  Incense had been lit and the lights were dimmed.  It was so peaceful.  There's something very special about a shared silence, something that most people have forgotten about but yearn for.

Then the session began.  Very simply.  Josephine had a big set of cards.  On each one was a picture of an animal and the name of the animal too just in case you didn't know what a snake looked like.  I'd had a look through the cards when I arrived and some of the animals were a surprise to me.  I'd expected powerful animals and they were all there - lion, tiger, dolphin, eagle, scorpion, those sorts of beasts.  But others seemed disappointingly mundane.  I found a rabbit, a mouse, a sparrow, a jellyfish and even a goldfish.  Who would want to be guided by a goldfish?

We were invited to pass the cards round the circle.  We were told to hold the cards gently and to ask for light and for our animal to guide us.  To close our eyes and get used to the feel of the cards in our hand.  And then, when we felt the time was right, we should - using whatever method we liked except for throwing them on the floor - draw out one card, holding it to our heart and not looking at it until the circle was completed.  Afterwards we would, in turn, look at our cards and discuss what the symbolism of that animal might mean to us.  And then we would seek to meet our animals.  Josephine said we would be allowed to take our cards away with us too.

When the cards were passed to me I took them and held them and did as instructed, asked for my animal even though I didn't believe there was an animal to ask.  I was the atheist calling out to God in distress.  I was the brokenhearted singing a love song to an empty room.  I fiddled with those cards and actually tried to make it look like I was fiddling with intent.  I'm almost ashamed to admit that.  I put on a bit of a show, subtly, to people whose eyes were probably as closed as mine.

And then it happened.

I felt a tingling pass through my hands and down my fingers and a burning as I ran my fingers through the pack.  I heard a voice telling me to trust the burning, that it would lead me to my card.  Well I was so surprised that I nearly broke the one rule and threw the cards on the floor.  Managing to hold on I noticed that the burning was only there in one part of the pack so I pulled out those cards.  I then felt each one of them in turn.  They were all cool, the temperature you might expect a piece of laminated card to be.  Apart from one card which felt so hot that it was slightly painful to touch it.

I withdrew my card, placed it to my heart and passed on the pack to the next person.

Well that was strange.  What the hell had just happened?  Was there really something in this spirit animal nonsense?  I didn't see how there could be but I knew that something had just happened to me.  Unless my own head had invented it all.  That wasn't beyond the realms of psychological possibility.  "Yes," I thought, "That must be it."  I told myself it was so but was pretty disquieted as the cards continued round the circle and I decided that I'd like to move on to the soup there and then or better yet have stayed home.

After what seemed like hours the cards were back in Josephine's hands.  She didn't take a card - she said she already talked with her animals every day.  She invited us to discuss the experience of finding our card and I stayed silent.  Then the circle began again, the discovery of animals and explanation.  I was fourth in line.  The first person, whose name I didn't know, had drawn a squirrel.  Josephine took care to explain the card.  I confess that I didn't take any of it in.  It was clear that she knew her stuff, though it was stuff and nonsense.  "You're being watched over and aided by a dead squirrel."  I thought it ridiculous.  The second person drew the eagle card and was very pleased with it and the squirrel person admitted to being a little jealous.  The third person was Max and his card showed the image of a beetle.

Then it was my turn.  I turned over my card and I saw a fabulously well drawn picture of a black dragon breathing fire and flying over a mountain range.  "Just my luck," I said, "To get a mythological animal.  My guide doesn't even exist.  I'm surprised it's not a unicorn."

Josephine looked very surprised.  "But that's impossible," she said.  "Are you playing one of your fun tricks?  There isn't a dragon card.  Every card in this pack shows an animal that lives in Britain, one you could go and find.  There's no dragon.  I don't understand this at all."

I turned the card over again to be sure.  And Josephine was right.  The card didn't belong in the pack.  The design on the back was entirely different from that on the other cards and I could have sworn it moved slightly as I watched.

"Well I don't know how that got in there, I must apologise to you.  I'm so sorry."  She held out the pack to me and said, "Would you like to draw another card and have a real animal to guide you?  Think about it as we continue round the circle.  And keep that card anyway, that's fine."

As the circle continued, with an otter, a magpie, a grey seal and whatever animals followed on, I looked at my dragon card more closely.  When I turned the card over I thought that the dragon's head was more angled towards me than it had been.  He was magnificent and whoever had painted the image was very talented indeed.  Every scale seemed to shine through the laminate and the way the artist had brought out the colours in the flame was astonishing.  The mountains too seemed almost alive and I could nearly trick myself into believing I could smell the air and hear the water trickling along streams and gushing down waterfalls.  I could almost feel the earth under my bare feet and hear song birds and crickets.  And that dragon.  He seemed to be looking at me no matter which angle I looked at him from.  I've always been impressed by that artistic trick and was never able to master it myself.  All the faces I've tried painting seem to be staring out blankly in one direction.  Somehow I can't catch the vibrancy of the masters.

I turned the card over and over and each time front and back seemed subtly transformed.  The surface seemed to changed temperature and texture as I ran my fingers across it although I knew it was just that bare laminate on a sheet of card.  I closed my eyes to listen to how the textures felt and as I listened I heard a voice speaking to me and saying, "You will come to the mountains and there you will meet me.  Keep the card safe, it will guide you.  I am calling.  We have work to do."

The next voice I heard was Josephine's saying, "Would you like another card, or shall we move on?"  I agreed that we should move on.  I would keep this card and stick it on the shelf about the TV and each time I saw it I would be reminded at the tricks my head could play on me.  Josephine kept saying, "I honestly don't understand it at all.  You've got a mystery card.  I know you were just going to sit and watch the next bit so that's okay.  You wouldn't be able to contact a dragon anyway.  They've got lots of symbolic meaning but they're not real of course."  Spoken by a woman who believes she's in contact with aliens.

I sat and watched and looked at my dragon every now and again, happy that I'd have such a work of art to take away as a souvenir.  My stomach started to rumble and I began to think more of soup than spirit and found myself wondering whether it had stopped raining and which bus I would catch to get home.  Perhaps others were thinking about soup too.  I'd like to think it's not just me whose mind has such practical priorities.

Later we sat together and ate a most delicious tomato soup with onion and lots of garlic.  We talked about the evening, about the strangeness of my dragon, about all the other animals.  And we talked of soup too, of people's hopes that the traffic on the bridge would be better on the way home.  It was the highlight of the evening as we smiled and felt a closeness.  It seemed a shame to break up and go home but that time came.

Before leaving we closed the circle, as they say.  We stood and held hands.  A few words were said, silence was kept, and then Josephine ended the evening with a blessing.

In the silence I heard the voice again.  It simply said, "Remember me and come."

[2673 words.  After the picture.]

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