What is the valley of death? We know it as a poetic expression from the Bible, but what might it mean in reality? What is the limit of the definition of reality anyway, when it comes to the imponderables. In algebra, we have to rely on symbolic placeholders too, as in X and Y.
Is the valley of death a poetic description of the end of life experience, a final sensory experience, a vision explainable in terms of a firing-off of neurons by the dying brain, or could it be something more?
I do not advertise as a psychic or clairvoyant or a medium, but tarot readers may get listed as such because there is no separate listing for Tarot in the telephone directory.
But why don’t I advertise as such? Well, Tarot card reading for divination, strategy and support is the service I undertake to guarantee to deliver, as my professional promise, and this is the bottom line and this service depends on acquired skill underpinned by knowledge. OK. But am I psychic? Yes. So are you, most likely, but psychic insights and experiences happen when they happen. Like a wind that ‘bloweth as it listeth’ – psychic insights may be confidently expected, but cannot be guaranteed.
Learning how to read cards, or any other system of divination, although card reading can facilitate them however, as the reader goes down a rabbit-hole, descending into a sort of Hades, seeking to find the ‘right’ interpretation of the cards in any given context. A reader can be asked absolutely anything about anything, and can never prepare, but only prepare to respond.
Every reader has their own story to tell, about how and why they started to learn to do readings. It need not start with a history of psychic experiences. Not at all. But often, it does and in a way, it did with me
‘The Mind has many corridors’ wrote Emily Dickinson. The world is older and stranger, not only than we do imagine, but more than we can imagine.
All animals are pattern seekers, pattern makers or pattern breakers, whether in order to hunt or to hide. Man is hardwired for the power of pattern, and communicating pattern, and the meanings of pattern, and of breaks in pattern, is the eternal task of storytelling. Man – meaning all of Mankind- is a storytelling animal.
‘In the beginning was the Word’.
The Day I met a Dead Man
Many years before I ever so much as opened a pack of Tarot cards, to be grabbed by the art and story telling embedded in them, I met a dead man on the street, a stranger, though we didn’t so much meet. It was more of a case of receiving a summons.
Leicester, 1988. I had just had coffee with a friend I’d used to work with at the Costume Museum in Wygston’s House, now a restaurant. My friend had been the curator at that time and way, way back, the eponymous Roger Wygston had been a wealthy wool merchant and several times Mayor of Leicester.
“Roger Wygston was born about 1430. His father, William, made the family fortune from the wool trade in the first half of the 1400s. Roger was elected chamberlain in 1459 and mayor of Leicester in 1465, 1471 and 1487. He was Member of Parliament for Leicester in 1473 and 1488. He died at Whitsun 1507.” More HERE
I worked in a little room upstairs, putting the Museum’s collection records, index card system on to computers for the first time, and helped put together an exhibition telling the story of hosiery and featuring our star exhibit, a Coptic sock from about AD 400. It had a bifurcated foot and horizontal stripes in red, brown and green.
I had coffee and a catch up with my friend, and then we said goodbye. I had a legal appointment at the top end of New Walk at 2.00 PM.
There was a time I walked up and down New Walk almost every day, and I worked a short while in the Museum there too. The portico entrance seen here on the right. This one, Wygston’s House and others were all part of the Leicestershire Museums Service run by the County Council.
I was selling a house among other things, with a lot going on at this time, some of it stressful. Anyone reading this may dismiss the following account on those grounds if they feel so inclined. This would be a perfectly reasonable option, if personally somewhat uncomplimentary in relegating the writer to the role of unreliable narrator, but that would certainly be the easiest, least challenging take on it.
Hardly sooner had I set off walking heading off to this appointment than I began to feel peculiar. Not exactly unwell, but certainly not good. There was a crackling in my ears, white noise like an un-tuned radio. Spots started dancing in front of my eyes, fizzing red and black. My body felt weirdly heavy.
I had never fainted in my life to recognize what that felt like, but, thinking maybe I was about to faint, I decided to keep on walking, thinking it would clear my head. But I was unaccountably scrambled, disorientated.
I could not for the life of me, remember or think where I was supposed to be going. I was on autopilot.
My feet took charge, leading me as it were, one step in front of the other until only a few minutes later, I had crossed a busy street.
I followed a small pedestrianized back street round the curved back wall of what was still called Marks & Spencer then, now M & S and then I came to a standstill.
There was a man lying on his back in the narrow street, sprawled across the pavement. A paramedic was attempting resuscitation, another kneeling by them, a small crowd anxiously watching, an ambulance waiting, .
There he lay, defenseless against exposure; an older man, but not exactly elderly, his trousers unbuttoned and unzipped, showing purple underpants, while the paramedics worked on him. His purchases, a few oranges presumably just bought in the market, had rolled out of his striped canvas shopping bag, and into the gutter.
I kept a distance, standing alone, with a blindingly sudden feeling of certainty, a sensation of astonished comprehension, ‘oh, that’s why I came this way. He fetched me.’
The fog rolled back and now I remembered I was on my way to the New Walk. I was by no means far out of my way, but nor would I have naturally thought to come this way.
I knew it was no good them trying to resuscitate him. I remember thinking, ‘he’s not in there anymore’.
I had the feeling, not only was the man not in his body any more, he was standing close beside me, on my right.
I saw nothing, heard nothing and felt nothing in that moment except a pang on his account, but this, with a dissociated neutrality. I think perhaps I was a little shocked, but I wasn’t frightened, only sad, not so much at the suddenness of the man’s death, but that he was caught so unprepared, and was so very frightened, finding himself unable to get back in his body that he had sent an SOS and pulled me off my own path to bring me, a perfect stranger, to where he lay, so abruptly evicted from his own body in a city centre back street on a sunny day.
Maybe it works something like radio waves, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I was tuned in on the right frequency, like the story of the haunted house in my previous post.
I talked to him, and told him he had done the hard bit, and not to try and get back in, that he’d had a most tremendous shock, but it was OK, it was all right, and there was somewhere else he needed to go now, but it was perfectly all right.
Had I thought of it I might have said a prayer. I’m not religious, but words have power across the boundaries of time and space, and who knows what other boundaries.
I reckon that the old Wakes, company, food, alcohol, song, were a wise tradition rooted in this ancient understanding. That the dead might need a bit of time to process what has happened. That they might need encouragement and reassurance before they set off on their lone but universal odyssey once more to greet the rising sun. Read Here about Wakes.
A friend of my mother’s once told her that she had not been close to her father. But after he died and she went to see the body and say goodbye, she thought his face did not look quite right. She felt he looked frightened. The mouth was twisted. She sang to him ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’, and she thought he must have heard her, because his mouth relaxed, and all at once his face looked quite different.
Some go swiftly and easily through the Valley. Others, not so.
The archangels Uriel and Michael are psychopomps; escorting the dead as they ascend back up to the heavens via the Gate of the Gods in the constellation of Capricorn.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the god Hermes or Mercury, would escort the souls to the banks of the River Acheron, or The Styx if you prefer, to wait for Charon the Ferryman and the crossing to the Isle of the Dead and the Fields of Asphodel.
Wiki: Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός, psychopompós, literally meaning the ‘guide of souls’) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to guide them.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
But I didn’t think of that. I was young, inexperienced in such things, too astonished and unprepared. So that was all I said to him, and then I went on my way and I put it out of my mind for a long time to come.
But I hope that he did hear me, however inadequate the response, if only to know that yes, he might have left his body, but he still existed and he stil lhad agency.
The living were still trying to help him, and though they could neither bring him back nor accompany him on his forward journey, whatever that might be, still, he had sent out a distress signal, and someone had received it and responded.
We send them. We receive them. Messages in bottles, sailing to shores near and far.
Some perhaps, farther than we can ever know.