a self-made ceremonial version of PCO Alchemy
Going back to the Playing Card Oracles (PCO) has become a tradition of sorts for me. It occurs naturally. Without me thinking about it. When my mind is overwhelmed, preoccupied, uncentered, or when I’ve been over-saturated with other decks and perhaps even with clients, the PCO slides into my hands with familiar certainty and the repair begins.
Divination is my calling, and cartomancy specifically is a bit of an obsession. I love researching historical decks while supporting new and emerging artists by investing in their art. I enjoy learning new systems of Divination, while always honing my skills. I even experience a sensory, ASMR-like enjoyment from shuffling and handling certain decks.
Although I’ve been reading cards for over 25 years now, I took a sabbatical of a few years, after suffering a massive burn injury while being three months pregnant with my daughter. (Actually I’ve just celebrated my eighth burniversary last week!!!)
The injury itself had nothing to do with my ability to read or shuffle cards. My hands, thank Goodness, weren’t damaged by the fire. Outside of 75% of my skin that was compromised — either due to third-degree burns or because it was used for skin grafting — it was my trust in the Divine that overnight was burnt to ashes, transforming into a rage against everything spiritual I held on a soul-pedestal before the accident.
While I began the long process of rehabilitation, my collection of cards was packed away, per my request, and most of my spiritual possessions given to friends and colleagues.
The following years were spent in healing, both physically and emotionally. Mostly it felt like I was given an infernal membership in a special kind of hell, taking private dance lessons with my demons, as I taught myself how to walk again in real life. The learning curve was steep: from learning about who I really was skin deep, to the fluctuating loyalties of the world around me. I even discovered that it’s possible giving birth in compression garments! (Sorry, burn survivors’ sarcasm.)
However, it is when I saw my daughter for the first time though — a healthy, chubby bun of divine light, with a head full of thick black hair — that I realized inside my chest still existed a heart overflowing with hope, even during the darkest times with my own psyche setting itself on fire.
Fast-forward to a few years later, following a relocation from my beloved Bay Area to the Midwest; to buying a house, to attempting a new career. I was a different woman I thought. Then, out of the blue, I found myself shuffling cards again. I can’t recall how a that PCO deck got out of the trunk and into my hands. But it did. And with it many realizations.
I was aware of the sense of comfort spreading with, as I handled these loose leaves of paper. I missed card reading so much!. And these playing cards have brought an essential part of me back to life.
That fall I dug up the book that came with the cards, and taught myself Ana Cortez’ method. I found her YouTube channel, and later became a student in her online school.
In spring I was fully back to reading cards, rejoining Hoodoo Psychics and AIRR, a magical services organization which I helped founding.
The original PCO deck, as well as the Alchemy addition, hold a comforting sense of clarity to me. The story of my draws unfold naturally, taking shape in the spaces between the suits and the numbers, comparing and contrasting with the colorful characters. Meaning makes itself knows via questions like: “Is there a balance between the red and the black cards? Are all of the suits represented? Can the pips guard their ground against the assertive courts? Is this a prediction of a battle, or an idyllic fairytale of love?”
It’s 10 am, and it is gloomy in Lombard, IL. I woke up with a heavy heart due to dreams of financial crisis and unfinished business. As I sip on fragrantly thick coffee my partner has brewed for me, I instinctually reach for a deck on my nightstand. I shuffle with the intention to make meaning for my state of mind. Is it something external that’s coming at me? Is it spiritual in nature? (In my business witch-wars are as real as gang activity.)
The deck I’m using today is a small PCO Alchemy deck. I’m comforted by the familiar, black and white constellation of the backs, and the way the wholesome paper-stock feels to my fingers.
I draw a vertical, four-card spread — pulling three Clubs and one Spade. The lack in red suits reflects the heaviness of the gloomy weather outside. A confirmation that the cards, my Self, and the world around us is in tune.
The majority of Clubs places a significant emphasis on the Air element, which corresponds to the Thinking Mind. It says loud and clear: “You’re in your head!”
At the top is Sir Galahad (9 of Clubs). He is the “proper” knight, always trying to do the right thing.
Next shows up The Wand (3 of Clubs), looking like an extension of Galahad’s trebuchet, shamelessly revealing my “bi-polar” state of mind. It stresses that I’ve been, without much success, attempting to juggle very positive and very negative thought patterns. If anything, this “Janus” energy is aggravating, and it’s making me slightly cray cray, which is highlighted in the next card, the 5 of Clubs — Wind Cape.
The cards shamelessly telling me that while I imagine my shit has been under control, the truth is that I’m “loosing it.”
Finally, The Sword of Destruction (7 of Spades), actually brings some solace. Even though it’s a a heavy card from a troublesome suit, its redeeming quality pierces at the foot of the spread; a placement where Earth, an element represented by the Spade suit, is dignified. In a way it grounds the other three Air cards. It helps me stay functional, by offering an “out of the self-mindfuckery jail” ticket.
In other words, the cards suggest that accepting the erratic moodiness my current state of mind generates is the first step for healing and stability.
The more I meditate on this, the more the draw makes sense. After all Mercury just went Retrograde, and the Moon is in Gemini.