Peru, September 2004...
This story starts with an ending. All Good Things come to an end, and this was, in a sense, the beginning of the end. The ending of a trip to distant Peru. A land of cool mountains, warm sunshine, brightly coloured woven gloves and hats for tourists, and llamas. Not all of them were right on our doorstep, least of all right now, being as we were in a hotel in the city of Cuzco. But all these things weren't too far away, and it seemed quite magical. The giant murial of Peruvian history, that stretched three storeys of the converted courtyard in which I sat did nothing to dispell that magic.
It was the last morning of the trip. The last morning in Peru. Over the week or so previously, me and a friend had met up with a handful of strangers. We had trekked over mountains. We had found an ancient city nestled in the mountain tops. When I say found I don't mean we discovered it for the first time in hundreds as years, or this would be a very different story. And I'd have paced the story a little better, saving the news of the discovery for a later chapter. But no, this is the beginning. And it begun with the ending of a Good Thing.
All Bad Things come to an end too. To my friend, she being the one sitting over there not speaking too much to people, the trip had mostly been a Bad Thing. The environment disagreed with her, and she'd fallen ill, so whilst I was spending time bonding with the other trekkers (and sharing alcohol with the guy who became my room-mate for the entire journey), she was mostly feeling really shit. Which was a real shame. In the evenings, when we'd settled into our campsites for the night I'd tried to entertain the two of us with some silly card game I'd created and brought along for the journey. But for the most part card games and the ocassional cheery exchange don't do much to cure Peruvian mountain sickness.
Talking of card games...
I was sitting in one of the comfy chairs they had in the courtyard, between the dining area and the hotel's reception. We had been told to meet here, after breakfast and before leaving, in order to get our luggage sorted, and labelled, and ready to go. The space of time between breakfast and leaving the hotel was an hour or so, and I had plenty of time to kill. So I sat in my chair, facing the murial, shuffling my tarot cards, taking one at random, examining it, putting it back, then repeating the process. If nothing else, it would get people interested in just what the hell I was doing. And it did.
There are a number of reactions made by people who see a pack of tarot cards in your hands. "Do they work?" is a common one. "Can you read them?" is also popular, followed closely by "Will you read mine?" And the answer to all of them is Yes. Yes, they work, inasmuch as they'll tell you something. Just don't expect prophetic visions and mind-reading. Yes, I can read them. I just might have to refer to a book to clarify the finer details. And Yes, I can read yours. What do you want to know?
Several readings later, and I was starting to get into the flow of things. My fellow travellers were interested in what I had to show them. One by one I revealled what the cards had to tell them. And then one man sat down, and asked to have his read. I can't remember his name - we'll call him John, for now.
John requested a simple three card reading - past, present and future - and shuffled the cards until he was comfortable with them. Then he selected three cards, and lay them down in front of him, face down. I reached forward, turning them over in order, one at a time.
The cards told a story. The first card depicted a blue, almost tribal mask, and spoke of hidden emotions, of dreams and fantasies, of truths that wanted exploring but were as yet unseen. The second card, one of the Major Arcnana, was The Chariot, but flipped upside, showing a fear of the ambition and drive the chariot usually symbolises. Perhaps even a literal fear of travel. And the final card revealed a calm face spoke of a resolution with these previous elements, a new understanding and acceptance...
John watched, intently, listening as I turned over each card in turn, revealing the surreal images printed onto the face of each and talking through them, consulting my handy handbook when I'd run out of wonderful insights, in order to see what the professional opinion was.