CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Cautious or Optimistic
King of Hearts of War and Peace
As I Was, As I Am
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers


A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
How to Write a Blank Book
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Non-Circulating Books
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Postcard Transformations
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Answers, Questioned
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Separated at Birth?
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Strange Prayers for Strange Times
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
Temporal Anomalies
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
We Are All Snowflakes
What I Now Know
What's In a Name
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In


August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006


Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
December 2, 2019

Glued Snippets (permalink)

Your Own Self-Assembling Divination Deck

by Craig Conley, a.k.a. Prof. Oddfellow

One of the best-kept secrets of cartomancy is that anyone may have an eerily personalized, fully illustrated deck of illuminating archetypal imagery and divinatory statements that virtually assembles itself.  Even non-artists, non-writers, and the prophetically-challenged are eligible.  The key is a certain sort of public domain book, technically on an unrelated topic and therefore the perfect preserver of the secret.  With a little old-school cutting and pasting onto index cards (the preferred method) or some higher-tech scanning for glossy print-on-demand decks, a one-of-a-kind soothsaying system will manifest before your eyes as if you were a genie granting your own wish.
Here is the innermost chamber of the heart of the secret: we find our crucial material in old books of children's theatrical productions, full of time-honored, archetypal characters as well as illustrations (provided as guidance for costuming) and pithily-worded dialogue that, taken out of context, works rather amazingly as predictive aphorisms.  Such books are freely available in the archives of virtual libraries, though a more exciting and providential method is to discover one in an antiquarian shop's dramaturgical corner.
To give a sense of the sorts of material one may pull from, consider these evocative casts of characters found in The Magic Sea Shell and Other Plays by John Farrar, 1923.  One may choose a particular character from one play and others from separate plays, as certain names and imagery spark intrigue.  It's an intuitive process that is completely natural and effortless.  When a particular figure calls to you, you'll most certainly notice it.
The Spirit of the Shrine
A Child of Pan
The Mikumwess, an Indian Elf
The Spirit of Dreams
The Spirit of the Wind
The Spirit of the Forest
The Spirit of Mischief
The Spirit of Sport
The Spirit of Youth

The Moon
The Sun
The Stars
The Clouds
The Winds
The Rain
The Mountains
The Foothills
The Lily
The Pearl

The Old Man of the Sea
The Mermaid
The Sailor Boy
The Octopus
The Shark

Old Man February
Lady Fair
Leap Year Baby

Poison Ivy
Queen Wild Rose
Trumpet Flowers
As additional examples, here are some characters encountered in The Shadow Garden (a Phantasy) and Other Plays by Madison Julius Cawein, 1910:
A Man
Dead Dreams
Shadow of the Past

The Shadow of a Man
The Shadow of a Woman
The Soul of a Child
The Shadow of a Dream
Elves of the Moonlight
Elves of the Starlight
The Wind
The Fountain
The Grass
The Dew
The Firefly
The Cricket
The Moth
The Beetle
The Rose
The August Lily

A Witch, Representing Mortal Sin
The Spirit of Evil
The Spirit of Good
A Woodcutter, Ignorance
A Little Boy and Girl, Representing Innocence
Lob and Hob, Ministers of Evil
A Demon in the Form of an Ape: the Witch's Familiar
An Owl, a Cock, and a Cat: Imps
The construction of a deck will involve snipping the character's name, illustration, and a fragment of dialogue that seems to speak a universal truth or offers either an affirmation or a timely warning.

Pictured here is the archetype of Wealth, from Home Plays by Cecil Henry Bullivant, 1911.  He's not quite as psychedelic as he might appear at a glance, for the "LSD" actually refers to Britain's pre-decimal monetary values of "pounds, shillings, pence," from the Latin "librae, solidi, denarii."  He comes complete with a quatrain of dialogue that identifies his influence: "My name is Wealth.  My power untold, for I am made of glittering gold.  And as I go upon my way, with money-bags the world I sway."
As other examples of pairing dialogue to characters, the play featuring Dead Dreams has them say: "Let us in.  We freeze.  Why have you barred us out?  Our wings are torn, and our long hair drops constantly with rain."  Such a statement could encourage the querent to recall an aspiration that was somehow forgotten or otherwise abandoned along the way.  The character Hope offers a very positive promise: "Fear not.  Be comforted.  Peace keep thy soul.  Despair and Grief can touch thee never more."  The character Love has this heartening message: "Have courage.  Death is swallowed up in me."  The character Evil counsels to burn away that which offends you: "Let fire have its way.  Strew it around. … Let it rage and roar.  Sow its red seeds about, and let them spring and blossom crimson to the crimson moon."
Consider this sample card featuring The Night Moth, from the St. Nicholas Book of Plays and Operettas, 1905.  The moth fairy says that all through the summer she curled within the petals of a lily, and when the lily finally withered, she slipped away like dew.  This could serve as a reminder to take advantage of and enjoy resources while they last, then move on when an inevitable cycle comes to fruition.
Dialogue is one thing, but one may also include interesting stage directions from a script.  Here are some examples from The White Christmas and Other Merry Christmas Plays by Walter Ben Hare, 1917: "Lights all on full."  "Low rumbles of thunder are heard."  "Ghost exits unseen."  "The cheers are given."  "Soft chimes.  As these chimes die away in the distance a concealed choir is heard singing."  

Pictured here is the Spirit of Dreams (The Magic Sea Shell and Other Plays), who blows and tosses a large bubble.  As a fortune telling card, she might encourage one to "sleep on it" and make a decision the next day.  Her line, "Bubble!  Bubble!  Whither flying?" might direct one to pay attention to "which way the wind blows" in the sense of discovering information about a situation before taking action.
Rather than ask a particular question, the preferred way to use this sort of divination system is to first think of a short title for the personal drama in which you find yourself.  There’s no incorrect way to do this — simply attempt to encompass your situation in two to four words.  “What Happens in Vegas” might be an appropriate title for concerns about an upcoming vacation to Nevada.  “A Question of Romance” might serve if you are worried about a love interest.  “The Agreement” might be a title involving a commitment or a contract.  “All Through the House" might denominate a domestic issue.  “Hurry Up and Wait” might address a particular limbo.  “What Goes Around” might be an appropriate title for a reading intended to identify what’s about to come around.  “Cat and Mouse” might be appropriate for thwarting an opponent.  “The Promotion” might name a work-related issue.  For a more general reading, try a broader title like “That’s Life” or “The Way of the World.”  Once you have settled on a title, draw cards to initiate your character set and script.  Every reading becomes a unique script to shed light upon one’s particular situation.  That’s because “Theatre reveals what is behind so-called reality” (The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Directing, 2013) and also because a text “exists only as an event that reveals the reader’s self” (James Machor and Philip Goldstein, “Theoretical Accounts of Reception,” in Reception Study, 2001).

A spread of cards with snippets of conversation forms its own miniature script.  How could a collaged dialogue make sense?  “A text can make sense and someone can make sense of a text.  If a text which at first did not make sense comes to make sense, it is because someone has made sense of it” (Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs, 1981).  “We make sense of a text by relating it to the context of our knowledge, emotions, and experience.  But since such contexts will be different for particular readers, so interpretations will vary also” (Peter Verdonk, Stylistics, 2002).  Deconstructionism “holds that a reader is free to find meaning in a text that the writer did not intend and — in making the interpreter a partner in the creation of copy — seeks to replace the stability of logic with the fluidity of paradox” (William Saffire, No Uncertain Terms, 2004).
The composition of the cast of characters may offer important insights into the nature of your reading.  For example, is there a “cold” tone to the scene with figures like Jack Frost, Santa, or a tin soldier?  Are several grandparents and other elders present, indicating wisdom or authority?  Is there a preponderance of mothers and nursemaids to suggest nurturance?  Have mysterious or frightful spirits and ghosts made themselves known?  Do children predominate, suggesting naivety or new beginnings?  Are several Irishmen present, traditionally associated with luck?  Musicians may appear, suggesting the importance of timing and harmony.  Clowns might also congregate, to lighten the tone.  Characters might hold walking sticks or crutches, indicating sources of support.  If any carry umbrellas, they're prepared for inclemency.  Look also at the directions characters face.  Are most or all facing left, or right, or forward?  Such alignments may be meaningful to your situation.

Old books of theatrical entertainments for children are treasure troves of quintessential personae who spring from our deepest wells of folk wisdom.  They are preserved in a liminal space, a threshold of time.  Over long centuries they have continued to surface in retellings and re-imaginings of humanity's profoundest narratives.  There is no one "right" or "wrong" combination of such figures.  We conjure characters from old plays as portentous ghosts of holy days past, in the grand tradition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  This system brings to life forgotten characters from plays that may no longer be performed on stage, and their scripts are newly invigorated via a process of natural selection as we combine disparate dialogues into literally cutting-edge creations.  Though we call these characters ghosts, they are more accurately archetypes, which are “neither entirely natural nor super-natural” (Derek Steinberg, Consciousness Reconnected, 2006).  Simply put, “An archetype is an awareness of what is yet unknown” (Cynthia Ashperger, The Rhythm of Space and the Sound of Time, 2008).

To see us out, here's a character from The White Christmas and Other Merry Christmas Plays.  He says, "For I'm the Wishing Man.  I have wishbones on my fingers, I have myst'ry in my eyes, my clothes are trimmed with horseshoes, and they're stained with magic dyes.  My pocket's full of rabbits' feet, and clover leaves and charms; for luck I've got a big black cat all tattooed on my arms."  Good luck!
Craig Conley is actually related to a playing card, as his second cousin is Elizabeth of York, immortalized as the Queen of Hearts.  Conley is author of Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books), The Young Wizard's Hexopedia, and dozens of other works on magical, mysterious topics.  His website is
> read more from Glued Snippets . . .
#divination #fortune telling #archetypes
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Pinterest

Original Content Copyright © 2020 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.