Kage Baker read her horoscope every day. That’s because, she said, it was right there on the L A Times funny pages with the other daily nonsense. Had she had to search for it, I doubt she would have bothered. Certainly, whatever it said each morning was gone from her memory by lunch.
Oddly – or maybe not – she knew the characteristics of the various zodiacal signs, and cast a rather good natal horoscope herself. It was something she had picked up in her teenaged years, along with reading Tarot cards. She continued casting natal horoscopes for such friends as had new babies and would appreciate them, and did the forecasts up all proper with coloured ink and careful calligraphy. It was rather nicer than another stuffed teddy or sherbet-coloured onesie. She never expressed any faith in the things herself, but she knew how to do it correctly – and growing up in the latter half of the 20th Century, and on the fringes of several art scenes, she found it was a valued skill.
Kage was quite good at reading the Tarot cards, though, and there she maintained a small but precise faith. She would never take money for a reading, because the woman who had taught her had also told her that doing it for money would negate the power of the cards. It was barter or good wishes or nothing at all: but she got lots of schoolmates to keep her in Doritos and Coke in high school.
Later on, at Renaissance Faires, she also eschewed payment: because there were several very talented readers trying to make an actual living at it among the crafts people, and she didn’t want to take away their custom. But she would sometimes do a reading for a friend, for a pint of ale. She also watched her few patrons, though, and if they were clearly not following the cards’ advice – she’d drop them; gently and politely, but quite permanently.
As Kage always said, in her warning prologue to a reading: Be careful, because the cards never lie. The old Gypsy woman, she’s full of shit: but the cards never lie.
I’m not sure how many people believed her, thinking it was all a part of her spiel. She meant it, though, and the rare folks she 86’d probably figured it out eventually. I would like to go on record as stating that I did believe her – although she never read the cards much for me, except sometimes as an exhibit or to practice a new configuration. She said I was too close to the center (i.e., her) to be seen clearly. I learned a lot about the cards, though, from watching her.
Kage favoured the Waite deck. She admired the artistry of several others, but was leery of decks where prettiness obscured the basic symbology of the cards. She said the origin of the cards was handed down from an ancient time of divine guidance, but that the gods worried that the the meanings would get blurred or forgotten. So they cast the divinatory images as a deck of cards, because – according to the gods – men would be less likely to forget something they could use as a vice …
At that point, she’d usually start singing some song about gamblers, just so you didn’t miss the point. We did a nice version of House of the Rising Sun.
Kage could read fortunes using a regulation playing deck, but usually didn’t bother. We did use the Minor Arcana for endless games of poker and gin in the Inn Yard, though, until someone located a reproduction of an old German playing deck. Kage won a suspicious amount of the time. She’s the only person I ever saw get dealt a natural winning hand of 11-card gin.
Kage would have enjoyed seeing the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, currently burning its way down into the West. Anything that only happens at 800-year intervals is more than worth taking a look at. Also, she used the legend of Time (Saturn) eating his children until one child, (Jupiter) gave him a terminal bellyache as one of the founding myths taught to baby Operatives by the Company. Besides, she could have used her classy nautical brass spyglass on it, and seen at least 3 or 4 of the Jovian moons, as well as Saturn’s rings.
Tonight, you can still see the blazon of the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Western sky – it’s not as big or clear as it was on the Solstice, or so I am told, but to the naked eye there is not much diminution obvious. If your sky is unclouded (most of California is not, alas) you can still see the great jewel of the distant Father and Son reunion. Certainly, I would want to keep the old bastard at least 450 million miles away from me, if Saturn were my daddy.
In the Midwinter meantime, Dear Readers, we have now passed the winter solstice. Rejoice! The earth has balanced satisfactorily on her toes, and now we are falling into light for next half year. May it be a good year, a better year than the last several; a banner year, a Jubilee. May the harvest be enormous and shared equally; may every wanted birth come to healthy term, and no unwanted one imperil any apron-band. May peace reign a little more than it has lately, and no new wars come to our unwilling hands. May all our hearts be warmed with love and buttressed with courage, and all our loved ones come safely home to shelter in our arms.
That would be a Grand Conjunction.