Category Archives: Esoterica


The Emperor and The Pope are numbers IV and V of the Tarot Trump Cards. I see a link between them.

IV – The Emperor

Old Nobadaddy aloft?
Is that who this is?
The jealous demiurge,
He Who Must Be Worshipped?
Or is it some ruthless ruler of this world?

And why Four? IV –
for Philip IV of France,
who demanded obedience even of Popes?
Believed that everything that was
was his by right. Divine Right.
And seized it, in the name of God.

God? Old Nobadaddy?
But Philip didn’t believe in Nobadaddy,
aloft or anywhere else,
apart that is from himself,
Nobadaddy incarnate here below.

And lo! – Nobadaddy incarnate
all over again
and again and again and again
here below on Earth.

V – The Pope

If that was Philip IV
then this must be Clement V
who, having wined and dined,
sits there holding the sceptre
and wearing the crown
that Jesus declined.

From the throne of
the kingdom of this world
selling the keys
to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The throne and the crown
that Jesus turned down.

The Soul’s Journey: The Beginning – The Fool Steps Out

The Fool is actually the Soul stepping into the unknown at the moment of reincarnation. And I do mean the unknown. I do not subscribe at all to the view that the discarnate soul chooses (in any sense) its own next incarnation.

Nor do I subscribe to the notion that there is justice in the sense of punishment involved – punishment for sins committed in a previous life.

Is Karma then simply a matter of cause and effect? What goes around comes around? In any one life – in this life – if you smoke too much, you might get lung cancer. On the other hand, you might not. And someone who doesn’t smoke might. Reckless drivers can live to a ripe old age, while careful drivers are killed every day on the roads – often by those same reckless drivers, who themselves emerge unscathed.

And from life to life? If we were smokers or reckless drivers, there is no reason whatsoever to think we will suffer the consequences of that in a subsequent life. But if we did in fact die as a result of a car-crash or lung-cancer, in which we might very well be reincarnated with a fear of fast driving or an aversion to cigarette smoke.

In the same way that a fear, an aversion – even a full-blown phobia – might accompany us into a new life, so might guilt. And this what might seem at first glance to be some form of justice or punishment. But we don’t suffer from guilt, in this life or a subsequent one, if we don’t feel guilty. A Hindu who eats some beef, even accidentally, may be consumed by guilt; may believe that he will be reborn as a cow – or as a pig or a dog. May in fact be reborn as a cow or a pig or a dog, I suppose. But I believe he would be much more like to be reborn as a human with a horror of eating beef (or perhaps any meat) even if not now Hindu.

This is where we must decide what we mean by “sin” and the significance of a guilty conscience. Eating beef, for that Hindu and all those hundreds of millions like him, is a “sin”. We can all think of countless other examples deeds considered “sins” at various times in history and in different parts of the world today. “Sins” vary from culture to culture and even from era to era. Guilt, then, is subjective. What I might feel guilty about, you might not, and vice-versa.

A little poem here:


Not because you think you’re very clever –
perhaps you are –

and not because you never
keep your word, filling the air with empty
balloons full of promises,

but because you let the flowers die.

Like Love, Guilt is personal, not universal, and feelings of guilt not subject to any “laws of nature”.

But is there anything that is always and everywhere considered a “sin”? Possibly everyone everywhere would consider matricide a sin. Note the way Orestes is pursued by the Furies after he kills his mother in revenge for her killing of his father.

Orestes Pursued by the Furies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Clytemnestra was murdered by Orestes and the Furies torment him for his crime

What I am getting at here is that while perpetrators of atrocities like genocide and human-trafficking might very well never suffer from a guilty conscience, and such monsters (in our view) as the torturers and heretic-burners of the medieval Inquisition and the present-day ISIS might sincerely believe they were/are doing the will of God/Allah, anyone at all who kills his own mother, for whatever reason, is bound to be condemned, not only by society but by his own conscience.

Guilt is only one aspect of Karma, one relatively minor part of the baggage we bring with us (see that bag the Fool is carrying?) when we step out once more into the unknown. (This is an archetypal image, and must be what John Bunyan had in mind when he gave Pilgrim that burden to bear on his pilgrimage through life.) In that bag, too, are Love and Hate along with traumas like the ones I mentioned earlier. But more of that, and of this whole subject, in other posts still to come …




Major Arcana XIII – DEATH

Death: The End. But is The End really what this card signifies?

Here is the Waite-Smith card. (The Waite-Smith deck is the one most readers use most of the time these days.) Study it carefully.

Here are a couple of others, one from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot (mid-1400s) and the other a typical modern card.

And here is the poem from my Tarot Poems:

XIII – Death

For those who know, and knowing –
not deducing, not surmising,
but knowing – like I know where I grew up,
know the name and face and feel of my first love –
and knowing, know that any attempt to show
this was and is not so is laughable, preposterous, absurd –
For us, Death is merely the end of this,
the beginning of that,
a funeral a rite of passage.

Beyond the Styx, beyond the Land of the Dead,
between the two white watch towers,
the sun is rising.

Clearly the card is not now usually seen as signifying “the end” either of life or of anything else. In the modern card the sun is rising behind the hills and in the Waite-Smith card you have “the two white watch towers” clearly depicted.

But what about that medieval card? Have a look at this fresco, also from the 1400s. It is in the National Gallery of Slovenia.

Dance of Death

Death in medieval times was generally seen as the Great Leveller: Golden lads and girls all must like chimney-sweepers come to dust (Shakespeare). And in the Waite-Smith card, too, neither king nor bishop is spared.  Looked at from that perspective the card is a memento mori: Remember that you have to die, and always bear in mind the transient nature of all earthly goods.


La Fortuna — Jim Hawkey – Historical Novelist

The frontispiece to the Kindle edition of Of Witches, Whores & Alchemists. I see it as depicting Mariana on the Wheel of Fortune. From teenage sex-slave she rises up to become again her father’s daughter, the Lady Marian MacElpin, but then the Wheel turns once more and through no fault of her own, in Live Bait she […]

via La Fortuna — Jim Hawkey – Historical Novelist



It doesn’t have to be this way.
Bound, blindfolded
and penned in by the hard,
the phallic and metallic.
You don’t have to kneel.
You don’t have to obey.

The ground, the earth, is soft beneath
your bare feet. Feel it.
Where water flows and flowers grow
you, too, can go and flourish and be free.
Things don’t have to be this way.

Or is that, perhaps, the sea?
Is the tide on the turn, about to sweep in, swirling
about your legs, your waist, your breast,
your face, and you a virgin, a sacrifice
to the Stoor Worm, the great sea serpent?
Wriggle out of those bonds and run!
You don’t have to do what they say!

Or are you “an adulteress”,
condemned to pay for some man’s “sin”?
Wriggle, quick! Wiggle out of
that ugly brown robe, and run –
or swim! – be a mermaid! – but
do something! – and be free!

You don’t have to stay.
It doesn’t have to be this way.


A long poem this time, but quite an easy read, I think. It is one I wrote a while back and is included in my Selected Poems, which I am in the process of revising.



Alone – exceptionally! –
with a car and ten days free,
I headed not north this time,
but west. Into clouds and rain.

Night came.
In Glastonbury I put up my tent
beneath the Tor 
and headed for the pub.

Next morning – not too early –
I’d had more than a couple of beers –

I walked up the hill,
peered through the mist at Avalon

slowly reverting to marsh and lake,
and dreamt as dreamers do …
then rolled my wet tent
and headed off once more into the rain.

The clouds cleared.
Sunset over Dartmoor.
Blackbirds sang,
fat speckly thrushes without fear,

and high overhead, not larks now
but kestrels. Everywhere, tangled bushes,
brambles, roses,
the scent of wet grass underfoot.

No beer tonight. Lying in the tent,
listening, wondering why
I do not live out here.
Listening. Thinking. Sleeping.

Early, in the bright sun,
up into the hills:
I leave the car,
walk until the grass is dry,

lie down in a tor top – in, yes,
it is concave, a basin,
dry and grassy, private.
I undress,

lie in the sun,
get up and dance, kneel down,
and lie there, live
two, three – four –

ten millennia ago in my poor head:
I am a shaman.
Outcast. Alone.
The huge sky

empty, blue against
the green grass rim
all round, and high,
high overhead

some greater bird, an eagle.
Does it think I’m dead?
Am I dead?
But no. Follow me! it cries,

swoops and hovers, turns,
flies towards some distant tor,
wings swimming in the wind.
I am slow –

not old, but wingless,
shaven, wrinkled,
like a foetus, like a plucked hen,
my soul –

and there’s
a cave, a dark door. I enter –
great wings waft me on –
down, along, alone,

on, down,
deeper, darker,
colder, clammier –
ah, now, up –

and out onto a river bank.
Feet slip, slide
on shingle.
A great bear turns

and looks at me, turns back.
It’s sunrise here.
River water swirls and sparkles,
on my right, hills, forests, in the distance snow,

while to my left a path winds down through bushes.
The bear turns her head again;
regards me: shy, I wish
I had a body to match hers,

thick brown fur, claws
to snatch flying salmon out of the spume,
jaws that crunch, could crunch me. She nods:
there is the path. I am not for her, nor she for me.

Beyond the bushes all is warmer, dryer.
Now the path leads down.
The sun grows hot. Weary,
I close my eyes, stumble,

hear a hiss. Stop. Stare –
but not in terror, in delight – this
lithe Miss
this fork-tongued beauty clad in glossy black and red

might –
but then I see myself
in those hard little eyes.
No, she

is not for me – that mocking wriggle as
she steps aside – nor I for her.
On down through cactuses,
some flowering,

some in fruit,
some seeming past all that,
but all asleep.
I try not to look at them,

prefer to search the sky,
to scan the distant dunes until, quite suddenly,
I am among the dunes – sand,
harsh blue-grey grass: is this my place?

That beetle’s not for me, those ants,
that lizard – those wagtails?
No. Too insubstantial.
(Am I then so substantial?)

Or, look there – seagulls
swooping and soaring over the silent beach
like small white falcons,
foolish, greedy.

A seal catches my eye.
I wade towards her, follow as she dives –
Am I for you? Are you for me?
No, no. Far beneath the distant sunlit surface

she hands me on.
What’s this? Huge,
gleaming white and black.
Again, shyness overwhelms me:

I am not worthy even to serve as food.
The orca’s amusement
is dark but her laugh when it comes
is light: When you see her,

you’ll know her …
There now. That?! But –
It takes us minutes
to swim from end to end of her.

That’s not her.
That’s her body.
She is much like you, but
smaller, sweeter.

Then tell her to leave her body there
and come
to the cave, the tor, with me.
You tell her.

I touched. Come with me.
There is a moment’s hesitation, then:

But one day you
must come down here to be with me.
I will.

I will, yes.
I would like that.
To be a whale,
to have a tongue on which

an elephant might stand.
But not now,
not yet.
In another life. For now –

The great tongue moved,
the sea swirled,
I whirled down
into the dark

saw in the distance
daylight, sunshine.
into blue sky.

Looked round.
The tor top. I was naked still.
Looked round for me.
Looked round for me.

 Yes, there I was,
sitting silhouetted on the rim.
Looked down again,
and it was true. I was

smaller, sweeter.
I was you.
I – you?
looked out across the moor …

I – you?
knelt on the grass in the tor-top
knelt and waited,
I – you

stood up and danced
danced till you turned round
and came to me.

*     *     *

Thirty busy years have passed
since that day.
alone again,

though this time I would rather
not be,
I climb up to the tor-top,
to the shallow basin I remember;

sit there on the rim
where I – you? – sat;
gaze out over the moor;
then in the centre,

screened by height,
take off my clothes,
kneel down, remember being you;
lie back. The sun comes out.

My shrivelled soul,
not just plucked now but old, cold, greasy,
dead as
last night’s barbecued legs and breasts

lies by me.
I should discard it.
Feng shui.
Start over.

“It?” I think – that shrivelled body lying there
as grey as the past
as wrinkled and slow as history,
dares call me it?

I vibrate. I
buzz with indignation.
Shake. Take off –
I need no eagle! –

look back down
on that poor body,
poor vain foolish thing
that thought it was me –

then blue sky, dark tunnel,
shorter, quicker this time, surely,
and the river at sunrise, bright, clean,
but no bear. No matter. I find my way

down through the cactuses –
ah, my lovely, my lithe temptress,
all a-gleam, bejewelled now –
You forgot me! –

I didn’t forget you! –
Wait for me! –
I cannot wait! –
You must! –

The sea calls! –
Stay! –
Come with me then! –
I cannot! –

The sea! –
But do you love me? –
I love you! –
Well then – she turns back to her mirror.

I love, but I cannot wait.
The path leads on,
the dunes
lie all before me

old, grass-covered,
marking the end of time,
the beginning of eternity.
And there, the open sea.