Available now for intrepid advance readers – A Fool Such As I – not just a Tarot mystery, but a send-up of Neo-Paganism and everything we hold dear – back-cover blurb below!
Advance readers needed – I need feedback on the opening scenes (about 30 pages/9000 words). If you get through it, I would really appreciate feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Even if you don’t get through the section, you might have feedback on where it bogged down.
Interested? Back cover blurb below – and here’s a PDF of the opening scenes:
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Fool Such As I – back cover blurb!
The owner of Arcane Wisdom Magicke Shoppe is dead. His revolutionary new deck, the Trismegistus Meister Tarot, is missing.
Could the culprit be one of the locals on Oracle Street? Perhaps gnostic sage Madame Bluebloodsky? Self-promoting raconteur Alabaster Crockley? Or maybe feminist maven Wendy Womansdaughter, owner of the Wiccan Wonderland?
Did the shifty mountebank from the esoteric street faire have a hand? And what about millionaire Cornelius De Roquefort, founder of the Headstone Eclectic Metaphysical Outlet chain?
Will the Universal Pan-Pagan Interfaith Council – UPPIC, the highest authority in the brave new Pagan world of the Great Return – succeed in hushing up the affair?
Worse yet, is UPPIC looking for a convenient scapegoat?
Join detective and resident custodian Jeff Harrison as he immerses himself in the minutae of Tarot, taxing all of his intuitive and janitorial skills in a desperate attempt to clean up the messy affair – before he faces trial by ordeal!
* * -*
“The funniest Tarot book since Paracelsus.” – E. Levi, Paris
“Deeply insightful – worthy of considerable disrobing!” – A. Crowley, London
“Affirms the value of magic in solving mysteries.” – M. Adler, Isle of Apples
Prologue: The Fool
No mere fool, I.
Indeed, given my grand ambitions upon returning to Key City, one might take me for another order of fool altogether.
Days before, I resumed my old janitorial job at Arcane Wisdom Magicke Shoppe, intent on saving money for a trip to Rome while completing Volumes Two and Three of my magnum opus, Magical Materialism.
How I dreamed of visiting Rome – epicenter of the brave new Pagan world of the Great Return and home to today’s most powerful Earth-based tendencies and formations.
Rome, where I planned in due time to launch my own bold new spiritual tradition, the Newly Realigned Order of the Silver Shining Wheel of Radiance.
These fine plans were about to go up in smoke when magical entrepreneur and Tarot virtuoso Arthur A. Arthur died within days of my arrival, and the tranquility of life on Oracle Street was shattered – perhaps forever.
Soon I would find myself bereft of employer and mentor – and stand deeply entangled in Arthur’s mysterious death.
Instead of focusing my increasingly prodigious labors on the crowning statement of my revolutionary magical materialist theories, I would be immersed in the minutiae of that most ethereal of metaphysical topics, Tarot, taxing all of my intuitive and custodial skills in a desperate attempt to clean up the messy affair – before I faced trial by the ordeal of the hot iron or the ducking chair.
* * *
That I was about to become implicated in Arthur’s death was the fault of my mentor himself, who had drawn my ire several years earlier when he rejected my offer to allow him to co-publish the initial volume of my magnum opus.
Not only did he decline my generous proposition, he apparently never read beyond page 300 of the 2748-page first volume, completely missing the heart of my argument for a materialist interpretation of magical theory and history.
Despite my burning and completely justified outrage at Arthur, I had been careful to veil my muttered asides and bitter denunciations as I swept his shop, often faking a rheumatic cough to obscure expressions of righteous rage.
Soon, in the wake of my preceptor’s demise, I would need to be doubly careful, particularly when the tabloid media came snooping around trying to get the inside dirt on people’s real feelings about Arthur.
Knowing they’d be looking for a scandal, I resolved not to mention that I had contemplated murdering him for his theoretical shortcomings.
What do you take me for, a complete fool?
Before you answer that, perhaps I should introduce myself.
My given name is Jeff Harrison, which is about as unmagical as you can get aside from sharing my patronym with the “mystical Beatle.”
My initiatory name, on the other hand, is so grandiose that I sometimes feel embarrassed to use it publicly.
The nom de guerre was awarded upon induction into the Right Ancient and Anachronistic Siblinghood of the Bristling Broom, in recognition of meritorious completion of my undergraduate degree in the Sacred Janitorial Sciences.
Even though I prided myself on my devoutly Mediterranean lineage, the Celtic-derived initiatory name – Lugh BroomSweeper – could not have been more fitting. Indeed, I revered Lugh as one whose place in the Celtic pantheon rested on just such talents as my own.
* * *
The story is told that Lugh, weary from much jacking of various and sundry trades, approached the abode of the Celtic gods and goddesses and deities of various other genders and persuasions.
He rapped on the door and requested entrance.
If one examines the most ancient sources in the original tongues which no longer exist and must therefore be hermeneutically extrapolated, it is not at all certain that Lugh was applying to be a deity. He probably just wanted to use the restroom, or find a burger joint that was open late.
Be that as it may, the resident gods and goddesses answered thus: “What skill dost thou possess that wouldst warrant accepting thee into our midst?”
“Well,” Lugh respectfully replied, “I know some plumbing.”
“Negatory,” came the word. “We already havest a god of plumbing.”
“I can do a touch of carpentry, including cabinetry and door-hanging,” Lugh said.
“No, sorry, we’re covered.”
“How about tile-work? I’ve got my own tools.”
“Tiles?” came the impatient response. “We’ve got someone. Anything else?”
Lugh pondered long and hard, and finally spoke: “I know how to repair toaster ovens, the kind you always have to throw away because one little knob breaks.”
“Impressive,” came the answer. “But we already have a toaster goddess.”
The ancient ones of the Celtic world were about to slam the door in Lugh’s face.
But one of them – we are not told who, but I always suspected it to have been Morrígu, the shape-shifting, fortune-telling triple goddess of Irish legend – interjected: “Wait! Yes, we have a plumber, a cabinetmaker, a tile-worker, and even a toaster-oven repair deity. But do we have anyone who has ALL of those skills?”
The divine ones turned it over a few times, and realized that Morrígu was right. The gates were thrown open, and with much pageantry Lugh Samildánach (“equal at many arts”) was invited into the abode of the gods and goddesses.
“We welcome and grant you equal status with each and every deity in the Celtic pantheon, with all rites and privileges thereunto,” declared Cernunnos, Lord of the Hunt and host of the gala reception for Lugh. “Oh, and by the way – there’s a light out in the front lobby. Could you check on that?”
Little wonder, I reflected, that a sacred custodial initiate would find a kindred spirit in the legendary Lugh.
Legends notwithstanding, initiations apparently counted for naught these days. After all, no one was initiated into more secret societies than Arthur A. Arthur.
Yet shortly he was to be found stone dead.
And unless I could unravel his final, cryptic Tarot reading, I was in danger of joining him on a one-way trip to the Isle of Apples.
But I get ahead of my story…
Chapter 1: The Magician
I woke with a start, as from a bad dream.
Stupid alarm clock. Left to my own devices I would linger abed as the first rays of rosy-fingered dawn brightened to mid-afternoon.
Unfortunately, living in a room known as the Forester’s Cottage with no windows and only a small crack under the door, I couldn’t count on old Sol to summon me to the day’s labors.
As my head cleared I suddenly remembered why I’d set my alarm – at nine o’clock that morning I was to meet Arthur A. Arthur, Key City’s founding metaphysical entrepreneur and foremost Tarot expert, at Arcane Wisdom Magicke Shoppe.
Arcane Wisdom – where on my return to Key City a few days earlier I resumed my job as substitute assistant maintenance associate – had for over two decades incubated the revitalization of Paganism locally and globally.
Since the advent of the Great Return the little store had become a major Neo-Pagan pilgrimage site, and Arthur himself something of an icon – particularly to those who didn’t have to clean up after him.
Arthur was about to seal his legacy by publishing a radical new divination deck, the Trismegistus Meister Tarot, which wove the myriad threads of the Western magical tradition – alchemy, astrology, Hermeticism, astral magic, Caballistic studies, illusionism, and more – into a seamless tapestry that, according to advance publicity, would unleash intuition and lay bare one’s deepest secrets.
Today was the day we were to deliver graphic artist Persephone Coalschmidt’s hand-painted originals for the epoch-making cards to the printer. As the principal custodian on duty, it was my appointed task to meet Arthur at Arcane Wisdom and accompany him on the momentous errand…
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