Baudelaire. The Effective Work Habits of Doomed Debauchees. Jaffa Cakes better than Absinthe. Cats.


Recent post have been too short. So this one is too long.

A letter to my daughter about Tarot cards. Which turned into a ramble round Baudelaire, Cats and home birth. Guest starring Richard Dawkins.

The Housewives Tarot Three of Wands. (from the stylish and witty American 50s pack.)

3 of wands

A housewife and her cleaning implements. (Or homemaker, primary care giver or gender-fluid cleaning consultant.) Satisfaction in finished work. Pause before further progress.

Baudelaire was a decadent French poet from when it was cool to self destruct young, in sordid if exotic poverty (Paris. late 19th century. Actually, it was rubbish even then. Much better to die of an overdose of Jaffa Cakes. In your 90s. Somewhere comfortable).

He is the Daddy of proto-Goth Emo romanticism. (a hotly contested title), also the inspiration for the poetic musings of Uncle Monty in Withnail and I. He probably would have liked the Tarot’s blend of Egyptian magic, gypsy legend and the rest of the rubbish, whoops, slightly speculative hippy nonsense which can be enlightening even if it isn’t strictly ‘true’, as in provable by science, mathematics or logic. However, he is just about relevant here as he wrote a brilliant poem about Egyptian deities in the shape of Cats. (This just in! He was interested in ‘Satanism’; as all occultism was termed at the time, one (duff) poem is called The Litanies of Satan, so he definitely would have seen Tarot cards. Look, Baudelaire is this week’s subject. C’est ça.)

It’s been a while since I read him (who was quoted by T.S. Eliot who DID include Tarot in The Wasteland, I hope I have now established a connection between him and this week’s card and have covered up for not being that inspired by the Three of Wands, I never did like housecleaning. Which I probably don’t have to tell you). I now avoid anything to do with drunken excess or the outer limits. I’m more concerned with survival rather than emulating my earlier heroes such as Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation or other doomed romantics. As for Emo or the latest generation of bloodless dweebs with acoustic guitars, like that buffoon I played with at the festival: military service is the only solution.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that dissolute dreamer Baudelaire wrote something that could have come from a business manual – perhaps The Effective Work Habits of Doomed Debauchees: ‘Inspiration comes of working every day’.

INSPIRATION COMES FROM WORKING EVERY DAY (which does tie in with the work theme of the Three of Wands.)

(He also wrote, ‘always be a poet, even in prose’. Very good, but poetry is only possible with a day job. There’s rarely any money in sparkling or elegant prose, in fact it gets on people’s nerves, as they often want a chat with someone who’s had the same experiences as themselves, preferably in everyday language. Having said that, ‘Always be a poet, even in prose.’ Encore! ‘Always be a poet, even in prose.’)

Has my memory become so bad I don’t even notice repetition? No. THE BEST WAY OF REMEMBERING ANYTHING NEW IS TO REPEAT IT THREE TIMES. Which brings us back to:

The THREE of Wands. (A tenuous, indeed desperate, link.) The simple satisfaction of a job well done. A homemaker with his or her cleaning implements, pauses after housecleaning. Or perhaps after revising a first draft, maybe before scrubbing out some dirt you’ve only just noticed.

Then it may be time to commune with household pets such as…

Cats                                        Baudelaire

They are alike, prim scholar and perfervid lover:
When comes the season of decay, they both decide
Upon sweet, husky cats to be the household pride;
Cats choose, like them, to sit, and like them, shudder.

Like partisans of carnal dalliance and science,
They search for silence and the shadowings of dread;
Hell well might harness them as horses for the dead,
If it could bend their native proudness in compliance.

In reverie they emulate the noble mood
Of giant sphinxes stretched in depths of solitude
Who seem to slumber in a never-ending dream;

Within their fertile loins a sparkling magic lies;
Finer than any sand are dusts of gold that gleam,
Vague starpoints, in the mystic iris of their eyes.

Card 8, Strength, usually has a strong woman holding the open jaws of a big cat, otherwise known as a lion. This is embarrassing to me now but I remember showing Mum this card just before Raph’s birth, (when I was a lot more new age, having just given up drinking, which lasted for eight and a half years) At least it prevented me from running around shouting ‘Don’t PANIC!’ (They used to tell men to boil water, to get them out of the way.)

Mum was incredibly strong in both births, almost certainly without any mystical assistance. Unless I invoked Aslan and he was hovering discreetly nearby, like a leonine Jeeves. Actually, one of the beauties of the Tarot, and imagery in general, whatever effects it may have as an affirmation or a spell: it helps you remember stuff. And it’s good brain training to learn the 78 cards, their meanings, how they differ in various packs, how the spreads work etc so I should probably stop apologizing for my mystic hobby. I blame Richard Dawkins, the miserable bastard. Spoiling everyone’s fun.

Love, Dad

ps Baudelaire inspired an Anime and a Manga