The past is a foreign place

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land ro...

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Franciscan Brothers, Dunstan and Boniface left with Kathy on Sunday, I remembered I had about 30 books on magic, witchcraft and the Tarot lying on a shelf in the bookcase next to the sofa. One day, these books frightened off some perfectly nice Jehovah’s Witnesses. But if the brothers noticed them, they said nothing.  

I have hundreds of books on religion and magic upstairs, but Tarot books I keep downstairs because I like to use the  cards once in a while. I consulted the Tarot deck often when I was still working. Call it superstition if you like, but magic is magic no matter what form it takes.

English: An original card from the tarot deck ...

English: An original card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of Lyon, a classic “Marseilles” deck. The deck dates from 1701-1715. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the fact that some non-believers say magic declined with the rise of science, we all engage in magical thinking from time to time.  Even Newton, who discovered many ‘scientific’ things did it. 

To protect me and mine, I keep crystals hanging in all my windows, and one in my car where the Saint Christopher medallion used to hang.

Think crystals don’t have energy? Guess again. David, who has much knowledge of physics and engineering, built crystal radio sets in the 1930s. After he saw an article in Popular Mechanics he built a radio using tubes. This early experience led to a stint in the Signal Corps during the Korean War and a career with the Bell System as an engineer beginning in the 1950s.

Years ago, I took a History of Science class for my graduate program. One evening, I gave a talk on an article about Newton, and I needed something to take to class for show and tell.  David pulled out an old box containing transistors he bought at an Army Surplus store after the War. (Doesn’t every household need them?)

English: A logarithmic representation of the v...

English: A logarithmic representation of the visible light spectrum. Colour ranges were taken from ‘CRC Handbook of Fundamental Spectroscopic Correlation Charts.’ (CRC Press, 2005.). RGB equivalents from the wikipedia colour pages were used for the gradients. See image:Linear_visible_spectrum.svg for the procedure used to generate the gradient. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Transistors relied on Newton’s description of the spectrum of visible light. I know little about physics, but it seems much of what we think of as mystical has to do with light. What is not known by many is that Newton was trying to uncover the language of God when he made his discovery. He thought seven was the magical number. Lucky seven. Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet or RoyGBiv according to David.

Probability statistics are magical. Ever wonder why seven turns up more than any other number when you roll dice? It has to do with the possible combinations of two die….1+6; 6+1; 5+2′ 2+5; 3+4; 4+3. But why?  No one, especially mathematicians can explain the why


Today, eyes recovered enough for close reading, I began The Silk Road by Valerie Hansen in both hard cover and Kindle. I need the hard cover for the maps and photos, but the Kindle text is easier to read. Plus the little Kindle is much lighter and I can cart it everywhere.

The ruins of an ancient Chinese watchtower fro...

The ruins of an ancient Chinese watchtower from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), located along what was the old line of rammed-earth fortifications in Dunhuang, Gansu province, China, that once stretched from the Hexi Corridor (in Gansu) to the Tarim Basin (in modern Xinjiang). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book includes many color plates, photos taken of archeological finds in Central Eurasia. Hansen in a professor of History (and Art History) at Yale and has spent many years exploring and

Map of the Silk Road, by train, eastbound

Map of the Silk Road, by train, eastbound (Photo credit: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars)

working in western China. The book is especially wonderful if you like reading about ancient people, who believed in many mystical things. Some think the ancestor of the Tarot may have migrated from this area.  

6 thoughts on “The past is a foreign place

  1. Yes, for years I used either the i ching or the cards often. When he was down here, don often read my cards. In a missguided bit of energy, I through my old cards away. Now I need to get new ones. 🙂


    • I never learned how to do the I Ching or Astrology, but took classes from a Wiccan on the Tarot. Love it. I have many decks collected over the years, but use my favorite. Too bad you tossed yours as it probably had much energy after so much use.


  2. I’ve always wondered how to read Tarot cards. We used to play with Ouija boards in college and it would freak me out. I like the idea of having crystals around. Crystals are so beautiful. Now I’m wanting to go out and look for one. Isn’t it amazing how so many things actually originated from China?


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