I was first introduced to the art of Edward Gorey, as were many of my generation, through the opening credits of Mystery! on PBS:
As a kid, I never watched a full episode of the show — by the time Diana Rigg appeared to announce the detective du jour, I’d already wandered away to play with dolls or plot world domination or whatever 5-year-old me did for fun. Incidentally, in college I spent a three-day weekend watching back-to-back Mystery! reruns, specifically because Sarah and I had gotten cast in a (truly baffling) play called The Business of Murder, and it turned out that the only word I couldn’t say in a British accent was “murder,” which (as the title suggests) I had to utter at least once every page. After listening to 72 hours worth of fictional investigators shouting, “My God! Then the mehr-dehr-ehr must be…” that particular conundrum was resolved.
But I digress.
When I was sixteen, I spent six weeks at a summer program in Ithaca, New York, where, in a
head souvenir shop, I came across a poster of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It was love at first macabre sight, and soon I was snatching up copies of Gorey’s picture books wherever I could find them. I also ended up with editions of Dracula, Men and Gods and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats illustrated by Gorey, and if I could just find a living room set upholstered with scenes from The Curious Sofa, my life would be complete.
Recently, I started wondering if Gorey ever created his own Tarot deck. I can’t Tarot my way out of a wet paper sack, but because I felt like there should be an Edward Gorey Tarot deck, I decided there was an Edward Gorey Tarot deck (see how my brain works?), and I set myself to scouring the Internet, where I discovered the laminated gem that is the Fantod Pack.
The Fantod Pack (fantod being defined as “a state of worry or nervous anxiety; irritability”) consists of 20 cards, each with a series of calamitous meanings: For instance, the Waltzing Mouse can indicate loss of jewelry, morbid cravings or disorders of the large intestine, while the Bundle portends inadequate drainage, a broken engagement or a train accident. It quickly becomes clear that the deck was never meant for actual divination — instead, it’s designed to give humorously catastrophic readings, and would actually be quite at home among the light-hearted, DIY oracle books Victorian ladies used to leave lying about in their drawing rooms as amusements (of which I own several, because of course I do).
The problem here is that I am me, and as such, if I buy a fortune-telling deck – satirical or not – I am going to use it to tell some motherfucking fortunes. Consulting the instruction booklet, I noticed that each card corresponds to either a month or a day, so that the querent will have a good idea as to when he or she will be struck down by chilblains (as foretold by the Burning Head). Pulling four cards at random, I wrote down the month/day each signified, broke those down to their numerical values, then went binary and marked them as even (two dots) or odd (one dot). I ended up with the following spread:
If we look at that last column, we have the geomantic figure Laetitia, which translates as joy, good health, auspicious beginnings and luck. So not only did we manage legit divination with the Fantod Pack, but we got a favorable reading as well.
I am… thoroughly impressed with us. But also, I’m kind of cringing at myself, since I’m acting all, “Finally, a unique and convenient way to practice geomancy,” like I don’t already have a drawer full of decks and dice and coins and throwsticks, each of which was, at one time, my favorite (and “last one, I promise, not even looking for another”) method of generating the figures. On the other hand, I sometimes go months without reading and get rusty as all hell, so if it takes an extra deck of cards or set of kitten knucklebones or whatever every now and again to get me back into the only form of divination that’s ever worked for me, I’m willing to roll with that.
Oh, speaking of rolling, please know that my older tools don’t just get tossed out when new ones come along — I’m not that much of a capitalist consumer. In fact, my original geomantic dice recently found their way to my office, where they’ve added a lovely decorative touch to an otherwise utilitarian cauldron:
Assuming his ghost isn’t furious with me, I’d like to think Eddie G. would approve.