Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Lesbian Vampire Killers of 1871

The Page of Cups, or Knave of Holy Water,  from Vampire Tarot by Robert Place, is represented by the fictional character Carmilla, from the novella of the same name by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Published in 1871 and inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem 'Christabel', the novella introduces the first lesbian vampire. So! All those 60s and 70s horror flicks like 'Vampires' (1974) , Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Blood and Roses (1960) were not just sleazy exploitation films -- they come from a long tradition of lesbian vampires, a tradition that predates the creation of Dracula (which didn't appear until 1897). In fact, the first screen lesbian vampire appeared in 1936 in a film called 'Dracula's Daughter', and Carmilla herself appears for the first time on the silver screen in the above-mentioned movie 'Blood and Roses'.

The 1871 novella 'Carmilla' concerns itself with the (seemingly) 19-year-old young woman called Carmilla who is taken into the home of narrator Laura, after Carmilla is involved in a carriage crash just outside Laura's home. Carmilla's mother says she is on urgent business and cannot delay, and Laura's father agrees, after Laura's urging,  to allow Carmilla to convalesce in their home.  Bad plan. Find a full plot summary here: Carmilla Plot Summary. And if you want to go all out and read the whole thing, it is online here:  Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. If you don't have time for either, allow me: Carmilla and Laura become constant companions. Laura finds Carmilla both beautiful and repulsive. Laura has disturbing dreams. She and Carmilla do quite a bit of kanoodling (as much as 19th century literary sensibilities would allow), though not always willingly on Laura's part. Laura discovers a portrait of one of her own ancestors, Mircalla of Karnstein, painted in 1698, who looks exactly like Carmilla. Carmilla begins to bloom with health while Laura fades. A family friend, General Spielsdorf, tells a tale of how his own niece had had a friend called Millarca who bloomed while the niece faded, and finally died from it. He had seen Millarca draining the niece of her last drop of life blood. The General and Carmilla recognise each other and fight. She wins and runs away. Then Baron Vordenberg, vampire killer, turns up, they hunt Carmilla in her lair and drive a stake through her heart. The End.

Now, how that can be the Page of Cups is up to Robert Place to explain. He writes, 'The card represents someone or something that is alluring and magically influential but that may not be what he or she seems.' Not very Page of Cupsy, but we'll go with that.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The First Vampire in English Prose - Lord Ruthven

This week we'll look at court cards from Robert Place's Vampire Tarot. Today's card is Lord Ruthven, the Knave of Garlic Flowers (or Page of Pentacles).

I wanted to share Lord Ruthven with you because he dispels the belief that the 'original' literary vampire is a hideous monster, and that the sexy, seductive vampire is a more modern development. Lord Ruthven (pronounced 'Rivven') comes from very early in the literary vampire world. In fact, he is the very first vampire portrayed in English prose, featuring in a novella called 'The Vampyre' by John Polidori, written in 1816 and published in 1819. That is nearly 80 years before Stoker's book 'Dracula' appeared (1897). So let us hear no more about handsome vampires being a contemporary invention for little girls in their early teens. It just ain't so.

There is no disputing, however, that Lord Ruthven is a thoroughly nasty bloke. He does not strive with guilt or long for the light. He's no Louis or Angel. He uses his beauty and charisma to prey on hapless women, and he has a vindictive streak which makes him enjoy lengthy and complicated ways to inflict mental pain on his victims. He doesn't just pounce on them on the street and drain their blood. He also encourages vice in practice though seems to abhor it in manner. There is something about his pallid skin and dead grey eyes that horrifies, but women (and men) find themselves irresistibly attracted to him despite this. He, however, is choosy.

'The Vampyre', having been written in 1816, isn't exactly effortless prose, but if you are interested in the vampire in literature, I urge you to read it. Here it is: The Vampyre. For those who are not interested, a plot summary:

Aubrey, a young Englishman, meets Lord Ruthven, a man of mysterious origins who has entered London society. Aubrey accompanies Ruthven to Rome, but leaves him after Ruthven seduces the daughter of a mutual acquaintance. Aubrey travels to Greece, where he becomes attracted to Ianthe, an innkeeper's daughter. Ianthe tells Aubrey about the legends of the vampire. Ruthven arrives at the scene and shortly thereafter Ianthe is killed by a vampire. Aubrey does not connect Ruthven with the murder and rejoins him in his travels. The pair is attacked by bandits and Ruthven is mortally wounded. Before he dies, Ruthven makes Aubrey swear an oath that he will not mention his death or anything else he knows about Ruthven for a year and a day. Looking back, Aubrey realizes that everyone whom Ruthven met ended up suffering.Aubrey returns to London and is amazed when Ruthven appears shortly thereafter, alive and well. Ruthven reminds Aubrey of his oath to keep his death a secret. Ruthven then begins to seduce Aubrey's sister while Aubrey, helpless to protect his sister, has a nervous breakdown. Ruthven and Aubrey's sister are engaged to marry on the day the oath ends. Just before he dies, Aubrey writes a letter to his sister revealing Ruthven's history, but it does not arrive in time. Ruthven marries Aubrey's sister. On the wedding night, she is discovered dead, drained of her blood — and Ruthven has vanished.

So we see a kind of cautionary tale about a deeply evil being who encourages licentiousness, gambling and other vices of dissipation, seduces the innocent and libertine alike to their ruin or even death. The vampire is the dangerous outsider, the foreigner who comes in to our orderly, peaceful system and causes havoc.

He's not a monster who climbs walls. That was Dracula, and he wasn't the first. He wasn't even the second. That was Carmilla. More about her in the next post.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Book Review - Chakra Wisdom Toolkit by Tori Hartman

Chakra Wisdom Oracle Toolkit: A 52 Week Journey of Self-Discovery with the Lost Fables 
Tori Hartman (Watkins Publishing, 2014)

Back in May I reviewed an oracle deck called Chakra Wisdom by Tori Hartman  and then ran a giveaway for the deck (Congratulations, Delphine Sutherland!). The publisher has sent me a sold-separately companion book to review. Here are my thoughts.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Share a Spread Sunday - Hello Autumn

That autumn feeling is in the air, so let's greet it with a 3-card spread. What does autumn have in store for you? Why not try this spread. I'd love to hear your results. And if you'd like me to read for you using this spread, just click on Order an Email Reading or Book a Live Reading above and let's get started! 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Ten Things I Used to Believe about Tarot

All I've got to say about a ‘pivotal realisation’ in my tarot life can be summed up as this: Don't believe everything you read.

When I started out with tarot, like most people, I started by reading books. Then I discovered a certain purple website where certain folk dispensed certain advice with great certainty. Being a bit of a swot, I wanted to get everything right, and so I followed all instructions carefully. Here I unveil for you: 

Things I Used to Believe Before I Stopped Believing 

Everything I Read

Friday, 26 September 2014

Elven Queen

I'd never heard of this character until I saw her in The Wicca Deck (Morningstar, US Games 2014). The companion book makes no explanation, but some sources I've found say the 'Queen of Elphame' is mentioned in witchcraft trial transcripts, where she is said to be a form taken on by the Devil. She also appears in a few Scottish ballads, such as Thomas the Rhymer: 

True Thomas lay oer yond grassy bank,
  And he beheld a ladie gay,
A ladie that was brisk and bold,
  Come riding oer the fernie brae.
True Thomas he took off his hat,
  And bowed him low down till his knee:
“All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
  For your peer on earth I never did see.”
“O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says,
  “That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
  And I’m come here for to visit thee.

Apparently, Elphame means Elfland.  In the image, above the cave or doorway the Queen has presumably just emerged from, are the words 'Thierna na oge'. Again, the companion book makes no explanation of this. I googled it and to my surprise, I got a lot of hits from DC Comics! Apparently it is named as one of the 'five lost cities of Atlantis' in the Aquaman comics. Ha! Further searching brought up this:  Fairy Legends - Thierna na Oge. According to this source, Thierna na oge is a city or palace under water, which was submerged by the water from a spring or well as a result of the king their trying to horde the water for himself. After much clicking and frowning, I found this: Tir na nOg, Land of the Young. Which makes more sense if we're talking about elves or faeries! Those who live in Tir na nOg are the Tuatha De Danaan, at last a term I've heard! These are the faery folk or deities of pre-Christian Ireland. And it looks like Queen of Elphame is their queen, at least in this card. Not that the companion book would tell you ANY of that. 

Instead, it says that is the leader of the fairy and little people and is also known as Morrigan and embodies the Triple Goddess as well as Morgan le Fay and the Lady of the Lake. It's certainly Wicca to take various strands and stir them up together like that.

She's meant to be telling me today that 'magic and beauty' are touch me. 'Seek the magic in all situations and call upon the Elven Queen to guide your journey,' it says. 

Well. Okay. :) 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Why are we here?

Well, the bad news is I didn't get the job I went for yesterday. It was quite demoralising. But oh well. You just have keep going, don't you.

Today's card from Wicca Deck (Morningstar, US Games 2014) is The High Priest. In Wicca, the High Priest is the consort of the High Priestess, in a traditional coven. In this deck the High Priest represents 'Guardianship, wisdom and guidance.' In light of yesterday's disappointment, this bit from the companion book is remarkably apt: 'You may have experienced humbling situations. Pick yourself up and stand true to your higher purpose, then reach for the stars, confident that you, too, have a reason to be here.'

The reason I'm here is because I'm here. Same for you. I personally do not believe that each of us is sent here 'for a reason'. That would not only mean we have no control over our lives, but that we need to search for what that 'one thing' is and then strive to fulfill it. Whereas, realising that there isn't a specific mission to be accomplished in our individual life experience frees us to do absolutely anything we want with our lives. Anything. There's no particular thing I am meant to be or do, except to be alive and to stay alive for as long as I am alive. I am here, just because I am here. Same as a flower, or a tree, or a river. Same as a deer or a whale or an eagle. I came into existence, and I exist. Existence itself is a deep enough meaning for an eternity of pondering; we don't need to define it beyond that.

Existence and life -- these are the higher purpose. Life just is because it is. I find that beautiful and freeing.