IT'S TAROT TUESDAY
Welcome John Linwood Grant,
author of dark & weird fiction.
Step into his world of the
English Cunning Folk
and the secrets of the
Deck of Seasons...
**John is the creator and the extremely talented illustrator of the Deck of Seasons
The Deck of Seasons
Symbology works best if it speaks to you in one form or another. Tarot is at heart a product of the medieval period, and much of its symbology has been developed from the original tarocchi games, layer upon layer of esoteric meanings added by different people over the centuries. Occultists, spiritualist movements, romantics. Fine and dandy for many.
But what if that doesn't speak to you? The roots of some of my writing go back to Old English, tales of the weird and the Wyrd. We're talking eight or nine hundred years before the Italians laid out their cards, uncorked the wine and started taking bets. And we're a long way from any supposed connection with Thoth or Egyptian wisdom.
So when I wanted something deeper, that talked of northern Europe, the forests and bleak moorlands, the beasts and the cold. I began to open up the Deck of Seasons in my head, and to use it in story fragments. Over a few years, it even started to become real...
The Deck of Seasons is a core secret of the Cunning Folk, a mainstay of communities from the past. These are what some call the healers and the hexers, the hedge-wizards and the midwives, who served people through long ages. The old man who knows how to turn a sickness; the young woman who can make a deadly birth become a safe one. The practitioners of folk magic, low magic. The toverdokter, the curandero and the hexenmeister. They still exist, so it is said.
And so the Deck of Seasons is not a typical deck. It resonates with its own mysteries. Everything that it is comes from the land itself, from the sea and the storm-clouds. The turning of the seasons, as you might guess, is crucial, and so there are four Truths - The Winter King, The Spring Maiden, The Summer Queen and The Autumn Boy – which affect all other cards and which bear no numbers.
These four are deceptive, for they alter readings in ways which only one of the Cunning Folk can fully understand. For example, The Winter King, drawn over The Swords, is a dominant and cruel pair, which suggests incontestable victory. Yet The Winter King drawn over The Swords and The Skald can mean a defeat which is sung about for centuries, one which is monumental. If the fourth card is The Herd, then it can mean the victory of many, or the defeat of many. And so on...
Incidentally, there is no Death card in the Deck of Seasons, because change is inherent in the entire Deck each season moves into another. As The Winter King gives way to The Spring Maiden, so The Autumn Boy gives way to The Winter King. And resistance to change is quite pointless.
The Deck has four Truths, as mentioned, and twenty Secrets. Four of those Secrets have no reversal (reading different meanings into a card the other way up) because they hold reversal within themselves – The Broken Tower, The Fallen Oak, The Lost Beast and The Drowned Man. How do you know if The Drowned Man means a welcome end to personal suffering, a terrible tragedy, a relief to a beleaguered wife, or a blessing for the hungry sea? Without context you rarely do.
For completeness, it should be said that there are also four suits, Rooks, Hawks, Gulls and Wrens, each of which holds secrets of its own. The Rook King is actually one of the more ominous and powerful cards in the Deck, because it is itself and the whole suit at the same time.
People, humans, are not the core of the Deck of Seasons. Only four Secrets – The Wanderer, The Warrior, The Skald and The Weaver – relate directly to human presence. They may not turn up in a spread, and if they do they may be peripheral. The Deck of Seasons has a message for us. We're not as important as we think we are. Land, sea and storm still rule.
If The Rook King rises, it might just be best to get out of the way.
You can read an extract featuring the Deck of Seasons here. The Summer Rook is the third in its suit:
Bio: “John Linwood Grant lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. He may also have a family. He has an obsession with dark Edwardian tales, such as his period novella A Study in Grey, but he also explores contemporary and folk horror. Recently published stories range from madness in period Virginia to questions about the monsters we ourselves become. His unusual website greydogtales explores weird fiction, weird art and even weirder lurchers.”
The blog itself - http://greydogtales.com/blog/
A Study in Grey - US: https://amzn.com/B01E886IDC
Here's an unseen extract from Hoodoo Man, another Last Edwardian story coming later this year:
She introduced him around, 'The Major', and maybe because he was English, he went down well. Johnny Pane showed him trumpet fingering, and a local poet argued with him about Ezra Pound and T S Eliot, neither of which Dodgson had read, it seemed. She saw that he'd sunk most of a bottle of rum, yet was standing solid, ready, as if he were always expecting something to happen.
They walked back close, but not arm in arm as she had hoped. When they reached the side-door of the Ivory Club, she asked him if he'd be joining her, upstairs.
It was a mistake.
He stiffened, as if listening to some far distant tune, and then he was striding away, a tall figure in the mists of the city.
And me on Facebook, should anyone want to know: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009639409030
John and I are two of the twenty nine paranormal and horror authors participating in the October Frights Blog Hop. If you'd like to read more of John's work, and enter his giveaway, head over to
his blog and join in the hop here.
My October Frights Blog Hop post is here.