Occult Symbolism
derived from symbolism in literature and the ancient world





Greek Mythology

The Bible

John Senior

Joseph Warren Beach

Joseph Campbell

MIDI Handel







Richmond, VA. is not just the capitol of historical hotheads. A heart-skip moment occurred during the Satellite Communications hearing when the judge asked witness John Malone to refrain from poetic speech. The former president of TCI was known for such expressions as “snarky-babble-talk” and “global bio-technosphere”. The poet in me was incensed and outraged, especially when only a short time ago, judge Ito in his technospherical courtroom declared OJ 's DREAM to be admissible into evidence. What an example of political twisting and bias. Same thing with the whole hanging chad fiasco. As Al Gore says, when one's income depends on the outcome you know who's going to win.

What is it about dreams and goals that differs so sharply with poetry and prophecy. Only the literate buttoned-down citizen goal-seeker can have a dream as well as political legitimacy, while the desert dwelling water-hole poet-prophet must beg for a pittance and a soap box to stand on. The bias between these gulfs of thought and practice is clear the world over, tis not a local phenom. Easy to dismiss as obvious but not so easy when compared to historical evidence. There was a time and place when dreams could get you burned at the stake and only the words of the prophets were tolerated. Poetry has moved the world in the past and even has a few listeners on Sundays between 11 AM  and 12 noon. Some would go on to say that The Book of Revelations (apocalyptic speech) has more speculative fiction than any Sci-Fi story ever written. 

Like many poets and artists I talk and reference the Bible all the time, but solemnly swear on it that I'm not a Bible freak, and that I only go to church for weddings and funerals. The Bible, as much as I respect it, has never been much more than a desk reference object in my arsenal of desk references. It sits next to my Roget's, and my  American Heritage dictionary, my foreign and dead language collection, Mythology books, and such rare and marvelous lit critics as John Senior and Joseph Warren Beach. Though my first poets were Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot and Lawrence Ferlanghetti, I have not ventured much farther out and beyond than say, Gary Snyder, Naomi Nye (she has a new name now) and Robert Haas.  I haven't bought a copy of Poetry Magazine but I struggle to keep up with Best American Poetry each year. I'm interested in writing and not so much people who write. I don't feel the need to learn the secret of their success. I don't go in for vanity presses, schools of poetry, or Poet's and Writer's type rags. P&W is a much better venue for advertising time-shares or a poetic get-away.

Literature in the USA has come down to a trickling symbolic fountain called "The Great American Novel" (or novella) It sits next to same great American waste basket as the great American Epic and the great American poetry collection. We can not all thrive on news stories like Lowell Thomas and John Dos Passos. I was probably one of the last American public school students to have literature and poetry force-fed to a starving mind. My family's knowledge and appreciation of literature and poetry was abysmal and went little farther than pulp, sensation and Lewis Caroll's Jabberwocky. (and news stories) In college I read every poet, every Sci-Fi, every speculative prophet I could find in the library.

I never heard of Trendology even though I read all of Marshall McLuhan's books and found myself buying into them as though they were a panacea of wisdom that everyone should know about, but Trendology is where I always end up. I have not read this book I am making an example of. Don't let the glossy PIE chart fool you. It could be twenty black birds or clam cobbler. Try it you might like it or let's get Mikey. (who still lives and did not explode from an overdose of Pop Rocks and soda) Faith Popcorn is also a Trendologist whom I respect but I think you have to swear an oath of allegiance to her before you can get her advice. She's not like me, spilling and brimming with ideas freely given away. As Tom Stewart Ford says, "Nobody has as many great ideas as Jimmy Warner", but if he wants to disclaim that statement, I don't mind. This essay is not about me or anyone in particular. I'm an American writer with an independent American mind. Independence is the all-American symbol. It's the stubborn, feisty independence you find in Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck.

Literature has for most of us left the taste of dry toast in our mouths, a cardboard cereal impression, great wall of text, I believe is the current expression. Who reads this stuff?: 10% of the world population is one estimate. Sounds like a global failure to educate students about anything let alone stir things up everywhere. Hearsay, I believe is the most relied on medium of the day. That, of course, is a gigantic game of pass-it-on. Both the fog content and the gibberish content explode exponentially.  Jabberwocky babble talk spreads like wildfire. There is an abstract appreciation of it in art, advertising and media art of all kinds. It drives everything from soap opera to product marketing. Reputation is insignificant as long as it looks good, smells good, and won't kill you. If it CAN kill you there's still a niche for it in cyberspace somewhere. The mesmerizing flame is cleverness, often mistaken for ancient wisdom.

Writers today have a know-it-all, self-conscious but not self aware, albeit condescending attitude towards subjects that could become symbol but which resist being hijacked for such a shallow cause. Bret Easton Ellis, Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, and David Foster Wallace are, perhaps, most well known for the post modern attitude. I have the same problem, knowing what I know and standing against the cold, hard background of "who cares". Ultimately it is the writer who must care in some small way either for his audience or the future of writing. It has always been ok to write about something you know nothing about and see where it takes you, see who salutes or listen for the sound of raspberries and boos. Me and some other poets are often accused of writing porno poetry because of sexual references. My sax acts publically ridiculing what man and music have become.

 Symbols always deal with big issues, birth, death, sex, religion, politics, money and I would add lastly, symbol number seven - spirit. These are my favorite things. Of these death, sex and religion seem to have more potential for humor because of the survival struggle built-in to their causes. Survival can be one of the most open-end, creative processes humans do. Birth, politics and money are just the typical, expected things humans resort to when youthful, altruistic, faith-based creativity goes bust. Faith in one's self and unfocused spirituality require lots of energy. This leads like the Fool Tarot symbol to folly and disappointment or to the ultimate heaven on earth. Survival, like the Devil Tarot card leads to bondage, entrapment or some semblance of a responsible life.

Spirit lives in a superior relation to all other human qualities and actions, namely that of transcendent and cosmic power that comes from meditation and contemplation of life itself and all its correspondences and connections to everything that makes a life come to life, sparks the inner limits of personhood and personality, empowers people to reach beyond themselves and be happy with that form of expanded mentality. One can have a mind that reacts to fears and follows the common path, or a mind that obsesses and lives in an imaginative future of dismal prospects, or best of all, a declarative, menu mind of choice and selectivity – which would you choose? A declarative mind-set is more likely to suspend judgment, reserve opinion, be deferential and a patient  brainstorm negotiator. Spirit is the swinging door of all creative effort.
I wish to say that I’m no longer sensitive to the pedestrian dismissal of creative and unusual diction, literary sub-reference, and poetic speech. In the wrong venue or hands of the inexperienced practitioner it pisses people off.  

The point I wish to make concerns the using and interpreting of symbol when your profession tends to get in the way. For a Tarot reader, the cards are not understood by the client and it's not your job to explain them - unless the client wants to be your student. Your job is to translate the ideas into topics and areas of the client's life that they can relate to. This essay is hardly the kind of subject the client is interested in. Never-the-less, wisdom of any kind is useful to pass on if you sense a problem that could have an intellectual solution. Living with gypsies, I heard repeatedly, "Oh, we're going to have to move", every time someone was dealt the Tower card. Symbols are not one layer thick and cannot have a single interpretation. They are not allegorical with a four layer structure although they relate to that pre-medieval ideal of the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire. Tarot has evolved into a more American standard of meditative symbolism that if imaged properly can heal the weary and confused victims of contemporary society, assuming that your clients trust you. It is, after all, a voo-doo-like belief system that evokes symbols for healing whether the client knows the symbolism or not. The trust lies in your ability to interpret correctly and convey the proper curative psychology.

All this sounds like “it’s just a symbol”, but for those who use imagery for their own self-healing, I assure you that the mind is the strongest doctor. You cannot dismiss this practice as a venue for charlatans and weak minded believers. Minds are as strong as they need to be, given the motivation and desire to be healed. It is best not to be poetic or use poetic language to get your ideas across to a client. If you insist on the occult, mysterioso approach you better have a layman’s down-to-earth translation on stand-by.