The Cards Never Told Me the Computer Would Crash (my adventure learning tarot)

I sat there staring at the spinning wheel of death on my computer and couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. I was trying to register my final score after finishing a test to prove my proficiency with reading Tarot cards, and yet I still did not see this particular obstacle coming. It seems my third eye needs glasses just as desperately as my two earthly ones.

I’ve always had a fascination with the obscure and unusual. I am drawn to stories about the Oracles of Delphi, and tend to dip my toes into the realm of mysticism when dabbling with fantasy projects I’m working on. It also happens that I am a firm believer in jumping down the rabbit hole in search of your interests to see where they lead you. As fortune would have it, when I stumbled across the registration page for the Tarot course I made a decision and dove right in.

Now, tarot makes some people very nervous; the stories surrounding it tend to be dark and a bit creepy, the stereotypical practitioner you see in the movies is generally an odd little duck who points to bad omens before wrapping her thin shawl tightly around her scrawny shoulders, cackling and disappearing into a foggy night. The symbolism on the cards bring to mind stories of the occult. But as it turns out, the truth is a little less dramatic.

Tarot cards can be traced back to the mid-15th century in Europe. At the time they were not considered to be great lightning rods of divination. In fact, their original incarnation was in the form of a card game, which went by several names: trionfi, tarocchi, or tarock. To be fair- games were a very serious business in the age of the Renessaince. The artwork that began to adorn the cards became a point of pride as they made their way across Europe.

When the game traveled to France, the people there were acutely interested in Egyptian and hermetic philosophy and the purpose of the cards began to shift over time. New meanings were ascribed to the illustrations, and the drawings themselves began to change to reflect this thought process. As far as we can tell, some of these earlier iterations were more focused on assisting with inner and personal development as opposed to straightforward fortune telling.

Humans have a stronge desire to make sense of the world that they live in, coupled with an uncanny ability to connect dots where none had previously existed. As time passed and tarot cards became more popular, the narrative attached to them evolved. Authors of the age began to write books and theories about the origins of these divine cards, reinforcing the occult ideas and mystical symbolism painted onto each one. Eliphas Levi wrote The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic in the 1800s; this book is a key piece that led to the modern assumption that tarot had always been tied to the ancient mystical arts around the world, in spite of the lack of true historical documentation.

That being said, there is still a certain allure to the cards that depict the human story so beautifully. The cards portray the characters of our lives- they are full of heroes and villains, successes and failures. Over time they have been given allegorical power that symbolizes our journey from birth to death- adventure, betrayal, love, sacrifice, innocence, and enlightenment. This is where their modern power lies.

I will be honest- I am not the kind of girl who believes that the spirits are whispering to my cards and telling me the secrets of the universe. But I do still fully accept and appreciate that they carry significant power. as I have learned to read them, I have discovered a simple truth: we are all on a journey searching for happiness and enlightenment. The tarot is relatable and vague enough to apply to most situations. What it does is give people permission to view their problems from the safety of a new perspective. You can let your mind wander to what is truly bothering you and glean the meaning that you are looking for. It gives you permission to think and accept the thoughts that you already have buried in your mind. Perhaps you already know that the relationship you are in is toxic to you- the cards help you put those feelings into words. I believe their original use as a tool for self development is still the most accurate one there is.

And, if nothing else, they are a fantastic way to pull a story out of a plot hole you’ve written yourself into. Don’t know what to do with Toby after his shinanigans in chapter three? Pull a card and see what awaits his future. Perhaps it will be a three of swords (heartbreak and betrayal), or the wheel of fortune (aka the karma card), maybe he deserves an eight of cups (leaving the safety of what he knows in search for something better), or, if he’s been really bad, a good ol’ fashioned tower card (a sudden change, the thing that he dreads more than anything coming to pass). The possibilities are truly endless.

So in the spirit of my new certification as a tried-and-true Tarot reader, I decided to do a reading for myself and this blog. It was actually kind of fun. I did a basic 3-card spread (there are literally thousands you can choose from). This is what I got:

Justice in this particular position tells me that there was a large decision in my past that led me to the specific place that I am at in my life. In relation to this blog, the first thing that came to mind was my decision to go back to school full time while attempting to simultaneously work over 40 hours a week, maintaining a fairly busy family/personal life, and still making time to write. It should come as no surprise to anyone (except me) that this plan failed spectacularly. My writing took the biggest hit; I didn’t have the time or the energy after all of my other obligations were done. And while I absolutely loved being back in school, the personal price was too steep. My writing was the way I felt grounded, it filled my soul in a way that nothing else could. Sacrificing that time left me feeling like a rowboat unmoored in the ocean.

It led me directly to card number 2: the five of pentacles. It’s a sad looking card, isn’t it? This one is all about needing help, being down on your luck, and feeling like an outsider. The picture really tells the whole story. That was the very definition of me without my writing. I lost touch with who I was at the moment in my life when I needed it the most. My writing is my soul in physical form; when I sacrificed that I lost the most fundamental part of who I am. I felt one-dimensional, left out of the vibrant colors of my own life. I needed to find my way back.

That desperate need to rediscover my personal joy and creative spirit pushed me right to the final card: the two of wands. This little gem is all about reflection and opportunity. It symbolizes your need to search for the right path to follow. You have the tools and the ability, hell, the world is literally in the palm of your hand. But you have to find your place in this world, you must search for the direction that is calling to you. For me, the answer was simple: find my creativity again, start putting pen to paper and toss these words back out into the world. I missed this, far more than I wanted to admit.

This is the beauty of the cards: they give you the distance you need to admit hard truths. They helped me acknowledge the guilt I felt for abandoning the blog, the fear that paralyzed me these last few months when I couldn’t figure out where to start to get back to it. And the inevitable pride I felt when I finally broke down the wall and took the first step towards myself again- rediscovering the path I never should have left.

The cards may not have told me that the computer was going to crash, but they helped me figure out why I felt like I had crashed. I think I’m okay with that particular plot twist.

When the water rises, you swim (finding beauty where you didn’t look)

You must find beauty where you would least expect it if you want to survive in this world. It’s okay to fall under the heartache, the pain, the anger, the frustrations- but you must always find the strength to search out your reason to stand again. You must open your eyes and search for the beauty that will inspire you to move forward. It will always be there, though you might not always be ready to see it. 

It doesn’t happen very often that the world tosses a perfect analogy into your lap. When the fortuitous hands of fate decide to gift you with a little ironic gem, it is best to grin and say thank you. This past weekend- I found my figurative self in literal nature.

There’s a park by my house that I don’t go to all that often. It’s called Cottonwood Beach because it has a small sandy shore right along the river. During summer, this is where everyone pretends they are lounging alongside the ocean, though we are several hours from it. There’s history along this river; Lewis and Clark traveled through here, and you will see statues and monuments peppered all along their trail. In fact, they even wrote about this particular little beach after spending six days camping there during March and April of 1806. It was in the running to be the winter camp for the group of explorers, but eventually it lost to Fort Clatsop. To commemorate their stay here, we have a park named in their honor, as well as beautiful monuments and statues placed in memory of their fearless pursuit into the unknown. Large cement canoes sit along the upper shore, there’s the outline of an old post, and beautiful walkways to enjoy.





Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my anxiety issues lately, and if I’m honest, I’ve been feeling that persistent burn in virtually all areas of my life. On Saturday, I was starting to feel like I was drowning, slipping under the frustration that I was letting envelope my life. So I did the one thing I know to do in those situations. I called my sister and we went to the park.

What I find so ironic, is that I reached out because I felt that I was figuratively slipping underwater. And then we ventured off to this little park on a beautiful 90 degree day- and this little spot was literally underwater. That’s right- after a few weeks with very little rain, we still managed to flood. Nature has an odd sense of humor, but for once- the irony to be found in this analogy hit me right between the eyes. There was no missing this nudge. 


At first I was a bit annoyed- what were we going to do now? Of course, it was just my luck that the one time I try to go here, there really is no ‘here’ to go to. Well, my dear friends, if there is any lesson you should take from me it is this: if you can’t beat them, join them.


Instead of turning back around like everyone else, we waded in and headed for the little patch of dry ground on the other side. There is something thrilling when you follow an underwater trail (even a gravel one that is only headed straight). We enjoyed the fact that for once the place was calm and quiet. We sat in the partially sunken cement canoes and listened to the calming melody of the river. We watched three different families of geese paddling around right beside us. It turned out to be completely and utterly beautiful. This misadventure that I nearly chalked up to another moment of bad timing and rotten luck wound up being the salve I needed to soothe the panicked voice inside. When I climbed into that cement boat, I was climbing into my own personal life preserver. I found solace in the beauty of a nature that cannot be contained by human elements. I found a moment of clarity in a world that is always running so damn fast.





Sometimes when it seems like the world is turning it’s back on you, when nothing is going right and all you can do is throw up your hands and yell ‘of course!’ Perhaps you should take a moment to stop and really look around. The world could be holding out your saving grace- you just don’t recognize it. There is beauty in every moment, there is an adventure in every story- you just have to find it my friends. I found mine sitting in the bottom of a cement canoe in the middle of a flooded park- the last place I would have thought to look. Imagine how many gifts the world has offered you, and you just walked by without recognizing them. We are guilty of this, but we do not to be. I must always remind myself to slow down and tilt my head so I can see the world from a new angle. It’s all about perspective, my friends. Don’t be afraid to look- you will be disappointed.

Friday the 13th: the Myth, the Legend, the Legacy

Gloom, despair and agony on me

Deep dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair and agony on me

In 1976, a New Yorker named Daz Baxter was reportedly so afraid of Friday the 13th that he opted to play it safe and stay in bed where no harm could befall him. That same day he was was killed when the floor of his apartment building collapsed. Coincidence, or is this date fated to truly exude the madness and mayhem of the unlucky?

In 1993 the British Medical Journal published an article aptly titled ‘Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Heath?’ The goal of the researchers was to determine the relationship between health, behavior and superstition surrounding this particular day in the U.K. To do this they opted to review hospital admissions stemming from auto accidents, while taking into account the volume of traffic, on two different Fridays: the 6th and the 13th. Now, surprisingly, there were consistently fewer people who braved the roads on the 13th, and yet hospital admission for accidents was significantly higher, showing an increased risk of 52% when compared to the 6th. But is this a sign of the unlucky spirit of the day, or a simple matter of psychology where we believe we are unlucky, and therefore we fulfil our own prophecy?

There is a name for those who fear this day, a name that causes my soul to squirm and shiver when attempting to pronounce it: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Today I went on a quest to discover the origins of this little holiday that captures the imagination and inspires many horror films and scary stories. What I found was surprising, and perhaps a bit vague. So grab a drink and let’s break it down.

The infamous number 13:

The theories and negative associations surrounding this number are plentiful. If 13 people sit down to dine, the first to rise will be soon to die. The Turks had such a fear of this number that it became practically nonexistent in their language. It takes 13 witches to make up a full coven. If you have 13 letters in your name, then you have the devil’s luck. Want a few examples to think over after you have counted the letters in your own? Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Albert De Salvo (the Boston stranger), Aileen Wuornos (murdered 7 men in one year and said she’d do it again), Saddam Hussein, Lavinia Fisher (the first American serial killer who poisoned guests at her boarding house), Osama bin Laden; I am sure the list goes on. The fear of 13 has even carried into our modern society; many cities do not have a 13th street or avenue, and many building don’t possess a 13th floor.

Now, not all cultures despise the number. The Chinese always regarded it as lucky, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs. Even today: I am a big fan of a baker’s dozen where I can get 13 tasty treats instead of 12. But why is there a general dislike of something as unassuming as a number across history and cultures?

To answer that in part, we have to take it back to the Egyptians. Remember how I said that they thought it was a lucky number? Egyptians believed that life itself was meant to be a quest for spiritual ascension, as do so many religions. They believed that this spiritual journey could be broken down into stages; 12 in this life and the 13th beyond, which they viewed as their eternal afterlife. As such, they associated 13 with death, but in their views it was meant as a desirable and glorious thing. As time passed and subsequent cultures rose and fell, the original association between the number thirteen and the nature of death remained strong. What weakened, however, was the light that it was viewed in. People forgot the spiritual context of a happy and glorious afterlife, and began to fill in that empty space with their internal fears of death itself. That fear bred a mistrust and general distaste for the number it was connected with.

Another theory centering around the vilification of the number 13, interestingly enough, ties into the ever raging battle of the sexes. The number 13 represented femininity and was revered within prehistoric worship. As an example, it can be seen in a Stone Age carving known as the earth mother of Laussel, found near the Lascaux caves in France and is often cited as an iconic matriarchal spirit. This carving depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn that bears 13 notches. The number 13 corresponds to the number of lunar (menstraul) cycles in a year. It is thought that the matriarchal number fell out of favor as many societies and religions found themselves leaning more towards a patriarchal viewpoint. 


The religious connotations related to the number 13 carry over into Christianity as well. The predominate story is centered around the Last Supper. There were thirteen in attendance. One of the disciples then betrayed Jesus Christ, leading to the crucifixion. To add an interesting twist, shall I mention the fact that the crucifixion itself was said to take place on a Friday? Ah yes, it appears that the plot thickens. Let us carry on with this thread.

The Fear of Friday:

Personally, I have never been afraid of Friday, nay, I revere and uphold this day as the oh-so-sacred end point of my working week, and my occasional day for lovely happy hours filled with hummus plates, cheesy tots and blue moons at my favorite Irish pub. But the love for this day has not always existed.

Old wives tales and general theory abound when it comes to this particular day of the week. It is said that if you change the bed on a Friday it will bring you bad dreams. Cutting your nails will lead to bad luck and sorrow. If you start a trip on a Friday you will encounter misfortune. Relating to this, ships that set sail on this day will encounter bad luck. There is even an urban myth stating that the Royal Navy once attempted to dispel this fear amongst their sailors so they created the H.M.S Friday. The story goes that they made a point to handle all major events on Fridays; they commissioned and named the ship, laid the keel, launched the vessel, selected the crew and captain, and embarked on its maiden voyage- all on separate Fridays just to prove the point that the superstitious fear was unfounded. The story concludes that, once it set sail, the ship was never seen or heard from again. This story survived under the guise of fact for many years and was spread through such notable publications as ‘The Reader’s Digest’ before additional research was done to conclude that the ship itself never actually existed. 

So once again, where does this fear stem from? Once again, there are deep ties to religion when it comes to the fear of a Friday. In terms of Christianity, Fridays were generally no-good, awful, very bad days. As I mentioned before, the crucifixion is said to have taken place on this day. It is also believed that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, the Great Flood, the tying of tongues at the Tower of Babel, the destruction of the Temple of Solomon; all took place on Fridays. 

It was also considered a sabbath day in many other pre-Christian religions. This meant that when Christianity took hold in many of these territories, that day became somewhat vilified by the father’s of the church due to its ‘heathen associations.’ In an attempt to discredit the day and ensure that fellow christians would not begin to follow the practice of a Friday sabbath, it was decried the ‘witch’s sabbath,’ a distasteful connotation in a superstitious era.

Another tie to the witchy word happens to stem from its very name. The word Friday is derived from a Norse deity who was worshipped on the 6th day. Depending on the story you read, she was either known as Frigga (the goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (the goddess of sex and fertility). These two dieties became intertwined with one another throughout the myths, and are still difficult to differentiate. The goddesses are associated with Venus, the Roman goddess of love. This association meant that those who believed in her felt that Friday was an especially lucky day to get married, as it was her day. Once again, this was to change when Christianity made it to the show. As I said earlier, it discredit the heathen practices. It was re-named the witch’s sabbath. During this vilification process, Freya herself was depicted as a witch. Alongside her, her sacred animal, the cat, was rebranded as the witch’s pet, an association that maintains to this day. From then on, Freya’s day of love was recast as a day of evil intentions and ill omens.

It was not just religion that cast a dark pallor over the day, however. These undertones existed in other cultures as well, thought wether by coincidence or design is yet unknown. It became a recognized day of death. In pagan Rome it was their execution day, which morphed into Hangman’s Day in Britain. The bloody stains could not be easily washed from the fabric of our beloved Friday.

What Brought Friday and the 13th Together at Last?

So we have two separate histories marked by fear and apprehension. But what brought these two together in solemn matrimony? That’s hard to tell, though theories abound. One, admittedly not my personal favorite, circles back to our undercurrent of religion. This concept has arisen in well-published novels, such as The DaVinci Code. The theory itself surrounds historical events, in the form of the decimation and mass arrests of the Knights Templar, which took place on Friday the 13th. Now, I’m not going to spend extensive time on this theory because I don’t find it particularly compelling or plausible. At the time, the events were not cast as a major event, and they would have had little effect over the superstitions and colloquial terminology of the day. While religion has a strong holding over the original superstitions of the two separately, I don’t think they can claim credit for the joining of the ideas.

Another belief stems from a book published in 1907, written by Thomas Lawson. It is simply titled ‘Friday, the Thirteenth,’ and is about dirty dealings in the stock market. It sold relatively well for its time, and some have attributed the origins of the real Friday the 13th to this book. Though in actuality, it appears unlikely that the author came up with the idea himself, as the context of the story nods to the idea of the unlucky day as being one already known in the public conscious. Though, there is a good likelihood that he helped spread its universality. So for that we can thank him (or curse him, depending on your personal beliefs).

Personally, I follow a simple theory, though far less romantic; that people noticed a similar thread between the two and noticed when they coincided on a calendar. Think about it; Friday’s have historically been viewed as unlucky. The 13th has been viewed in the same light. So it stands to reason that when you combine the two, you come up with unlucky multiplied by two. When viewing a calendar it would be easy to spot the anomaly, and given people’s perceptions of the two distinct ideas, it isn’t a far stretch to assume that they would then view the day as one to be doubly dreaded. After all, in the 1898 edition of the ‘Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ there is no mention of Friday the 13th, though there are separate sections listed for each unlucky title. It wasn’t until later editions that they were combined under one heading. This seems to be a natural progression in the superstitious trends.

This year we will see two occassions to fear the day; the first is right here in January, and our next is nestled snugly in October, a rather fitting month if you ask me. So whether you are one to march boldly out your front door and dare the day to do its worst, or whether you prefer to roll up in bubble wrap and avoid public transportation for the intervening 24 hours, may you be safe and have fun. Just remember, our fears have only the amount of power we grant them.