Welcome to the second installment of Atlas Obscura’s new advice column, Ask Zardulu. If you have a life, love, money, family, spiritual, moral or myth-based dilemma, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org, and specify if you want your name to be used. (For more information on Zardulu’s mysterious work as a myth-making artist and media hoaxtress, look here.) Questions are edited for length and clarity.
ZARDULU: My daughter and I have a trip booked to Turkey and Jordan at the end of September and beginning of October. Because of the many bombings in Turkey and trouble in Syria, our loved ones are asking us not to go. We are very keen to shop the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, to swim in the Dead Sea, ride camels at Wadi Rum and have a cocktail at Petra. Will everything be all right?
ROBIN: I have drawn four cards from the tarot, one to represent your dilemma, one for the right choice, one for the wrong choice and the final card for the outcome. The first card is the Ace of Pentacles. It shows a hand appearing from a cloud holding a coin, symbolizing the wealth of experience available to you on this trip. In the background is an archway, the dilemma being whether you should pass through and travel to the mountains beyond.
The second card I have drawn, the Seven of Cups, represents the right choice. It shows a person standing before a collection of fantastic objects, symbolizing the architecture, artifacts and experiences you will have. However, in one of the cups lurks a fork-tongued dragon, suggesting that someone on your trip may attempt to lie and manipulate you.
The third card I have drawn represents the wrong choice, it is the Seven of Swords. It shows a thief stealing from an encampment as its guards seem to be conversing in the background. Perhaps this is the dragon from the Seven of Cups appearing to us in another form. This further emphasizes that you must be wary of people you meet on your trip and remain in charge of where you go and what you do. Change your routine on a daily basis, leaving and arriving at different times. Do not leave any of your valuables unattended.
The fourth card I have drawn represents the outcome: The Hermit. It shows an older man holding a lantern to light the way, symbolic of the wisdom you will gain and how it will illuminate your life’s path. It is clear that you should go forward with your plans to go on this trip.
ZARDULU: After 20 years of marriage my husband and I are considering a divorce. Is there any way we can move forward together and if so, how do we rekindle our love?
DEAR DOROTHY: Twenty years is quite an adventure and I imagine you’ve both emerged from it much different than when you started, and so has your relationship.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to go back and do it all over again, but there are some good alternatives. Choose a place with a positive energy to meet your husband, away from the stresses of your everyday lives. Prepare to discuss all the things about each other that you fell in love with. While you’re doing so, use the powerful expression of emotion to assist in the consecration of talismans dedicated to Venus, goddess of love.
You’ll first need to acquire enough clay to make two silver dollar sized talisman (oven-fireable polymer is the easiest option.) Before you begin sharing, you will both carve the seal of Venus from Cornelius Agrippa’s 16th century magickal grimoire, De occulta philosophia libri tres, onto one side of each talisman and your names on the other. Put a small hole at the top and lay them gently on top of each other with your names facing. Place them between you while you share. When you are finished, place your hands over the talismans and say out loud:
“I charge these talismans in the name of Venus, goddess of love, may they be consecrated by the love between us. So mote it be.”
Now, separate the talismans, bring them home and fire them in whatever manner your clay requires. String them on a necklace or bracelet, each of you wearing the one with the other’s name on it. Not only will this serve to call upon the blessings of Venus to heal your relationship, it will be a reminder, through all the stresses of life, of the love that was, and always will be, between the two of you.
Why is the Earth dying?
Signed, Sad Woman
DEAR SAD WOMAN: Through most of our history there has been profound spiritual connection with nature. Our myths told of gods who lived among us on the top of mountains, in the forests and under the seas. They were embodied by the plants and animals that lived there and, when they gave their lives to nourish us, we participated in rituals to show our deep respect.
As civilization has expanded, our myths have been replaced by ones that better suited our political and economic leaders. These myths no longer suggest any spiritual significance in the mountains, forests or seas and these once sacred places have become industrial resources, to be subjugated and stripped of their living essence for financial gain. This change in our mythological thinking is why, as you’ve suggested, the world is dying.
ZARDULU: My whole life I have been plagued with the inability to genuinely connect and offer empathy to people who complain with no intent to actually face these people they are gossiping about.
I guess my advice seeking from you regards what I might be able to do in addition to confronting the gossiper because I still create anxiety within myself with the belief that I am doing something socially unacceptable and wrong because I’m not listening to gossip.
Rationally I understand that I’m breaking a social taboo especially within female social circles but for some reason I can’t get it within my emotional and psychological self to believe I’m not a bad person for doing this.
Seems like you and Carl Jung are really good at teaching a more flowing conscious acceptance. I eagerly await your weird knowledge!
DEAR LAURA: You’re not a bad person but I’m afraid you might end up on the lonely island of Sarpedon with the Gorgons: Medusa, Stheno and Euryale. None of them were bad people either, they just turned everyone they met into stone.
Myth observers tend to focus on the Gorgon’s victims but think of their own isolation: they have effectively walled themselves off from humanity with those rock stares. You risk the same outcome. Gossip is a behavior that humans have evolved over eons. Ancestors who chose confrontation were not as successful as their gossiping counterparts. Meaning, confrontations got them killed more often than the gossip. So, I agree that trying to achieve a flowing, conscious acceptance of it is the most realistic option. What your mentor has suggested, stopping people in the middle of a conversation and insisting they act a certain way, seems very aggressive and contradictory to your goal.
As much as I’d like to hope that my explanation of gossip will help you, there is some other underlying fear or insecurity that also needs to be dealt with. You seem to be open to therapy, so I suggest working to uncover it with the help of a psychologist. Since you mentioned Carl Jung, a quote of his comes to mind: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
DEAR ZARDULU: I am the middle-aged offspring-on-duty with my elderly mother. I have two siblings who are uninterested and unwilling to be involved in this endeavor. She lives in a facility where she has rides and meals provided, friends, and a pleasant apartment. For the moment her physical needs are taken care of. However, she seems to need more and more and MORE attention, time, and social support—again, I realize this is normal.
I am becoming more and more bitter and drained. I have explained this to my siblings, in fact begged them to telephone her twice a month. They agreed to and then just did not do it.
I don’t want to resent my mother or siblings, but I do. The fact is I never liked my mom, at any age. I have never enjoyed her company. She’s always been demanding, critical, judgmental, stern, and self-absorbed. The loss of inhibition as she ages has done nothing to soften these qualities. I try to just show up, make the calls, and go through the motions, but I feel trapped and angry a lot of the time, and occasionally I have snapped at her, which I don’t want to do.
Now I am starting to dislike myself for the amount of resentment and anger I’m carrying, and have basically written my siblings off. I’m not even sure what the question is here—is there a way to have relief, or at least peace with myself and still honor my obligations and responsibilities?
Crabby and Weary
DEAR CRABBY AND WEARY:
To represent your journey through the past, present and future I have drawn from the tarot the Seven of Wands, the High Priestess, and the Eight of Cups. The Seven of Wands shows a giant man, towering over a landscape and holding a staff in a defensive posture. This tells me that you have always been a supportive person, and like the giant, you have left the comfort of your usual surroundings to perform this role many times.
As we move toward the present we have the High Priestess, showing a religious figure seated before a pair of pillars. Like you, she has a high moral character and does great good in the world. However, something is calling her back to the temple for her own personal growth and it is time for you to do the same. As we look to the future we see the Eight of Cups. It shows a man with his head bowed, retreating into the distance.
It’s difficult to find the right amount of time to spend with a parent, but there could be no clearer sign: you’re spending too much. As you’ve said, your mother is doing well, her meals are provided, she has friends and a pleasant apartment. You are not being neglectful by spending less time with her. If you feel some sadness and regret as wean yourself off, just remember, once a better balance is achieved you will see yourself, your mother, and your siblings in a more positive light.