Category Archives: magic

a tarot card reader in Python

I’ve recently been helping some work colleagues get their heads around Python’s Flash web toolkit, and it seemed like a good opportunity to update my old Ruby tarot card reader to Python.

The app draws one or more randomly selected cards from a dictionary (hash) of 72 Tarot card description and image references.

The card images used are Arthur Waite’s deck, by artist Pamela Colman Smith. According to Wikipedia they are out of copyright in the US now and will be in the UK in 2022.

The source code to this app is here – please feel free to fork or re-use, there are no license restrictions.

extracts from Towards Democracy

Edward Carpenter’s seminal work Towards Democracy has been a constant companion to me since discovering it in the work of Denning and Phillips.  Here’s a passage with magical or alchemical meaning:

“Is there one in all of the world who does not desire to be divinely beautiful?
To have the most perfect body – unerring skill, strength, limpid clearness of mind, as of the sunlight over the hills,
To radiate love wherever he goes, to move in and out, accepted?
The secret lies close to you, so close.

You are that person; it lies close to you, so close – deep down within –
But in Time it shall come forth and be revealed.

Not by accumulating riches, but by giving away what you have,
Shall you become beautiful;
You must undo the wrappings, not case yourself in fresh ones;
Not by multiplying clothes shall you make your body sound and healthy, but rather by discarding them;
Not by multiplying knowledge shall you beautify your mind;
It is not the food that you eat that has to vivify you, but you that have to vivify the food.

Always emergence, and the parting of veils for the hidden to appear;
The child emerges from its mother’s body, and out of that body again in time another child.
When the body which thou now hast falls away, another body shall be already prepared beneath,
And beneath that again another.
Always that which appears last in time is first, and the cause of all – and not that which appears first.


Freedom has to be won afresh every morning,
Every morning thou must put forth thy strength afresh upon the world, to create out of chaos the garden in which thou walkest.
(Behold! I love thee – I wait for thee in thine own garden, lingering till eventide among the bushes;
I tune the lute for thee; I prepare my body for thee, bathing unseen in the limpid waters.)


Wondrous is Man – the human body: to understand and possess this, to create it every day afresh, is to possess all things.
The tongue and all that proceeds from it; spoken and written words, languages, commands, controls, the electric telegraph girdling the earth;
The eyes ordaining, directing; the feet and all that they indicate – the path they travel for years and years;
The passions of the body, the belly and the cry for food, the heaving breasts of love, the phallus, the fleshy thighs,
The erect proud head and neck, the sturdy back, and knees well-knit or wavering; All the interminable attitudes and what they indicate;
Every relation of one man to another, every cringing, bullying, lustful, obscene, pure, honourable, chaste, just and merciful;
The fingers differently shaped according as they handle money for gain or gift;
All the different ramifications and institutions of society which proceed from such one difference in the crook of a finger;
All that proceed from an arrogant or slavish contour of the neck;
All the evil that goes forth from any part of a man’s body which is not possessed by himself, all the devils let loose – from a twist of the tongue or a leer of the eye, or the unmanly act of any member – and swirling into society; all the good which gathers round a man who is clean and strong – the threads drawing from afar to the tips of his fingers, the interpretations in his eyes, all the love which passes through his limbs into heaven;
What it is to command and be Master of this wondrous body with all its passions and powers, to truly possess it – that is to command and possess all things, that is to create.


The art of creation, like every other art, has to be learnt:
Slowly, slowly, through many years, thou buildest up thy body,
And the power that thou now hast (such as it is) to build up this present body, thou hast acquired in the past in other bodies;
So in the future shalt thou use again the power that thou now acquirest.
But the power to build up the body includes all powers.

Do not be dismayed because thou art yet a child of chance, and at the mercy greatly both of Nature and fate;
Because if thou wert not subject to chance, then wouldst thou be Master of thyself; but since thou art not yet Master of thine own passions and powers, in that degree must thou needs be at the mercy of some other power.
And if thou choosest to call that power “Chance”, well and good. It is the angel with whom thou hast to wrestle.


Beware how thou seekest this for thyself and that for thyself. I do not say Seek not, but Beware how thou seekest.
For a soldier who is going on a campaign does not seek what fresh furniture he can carry on his back, but rather what he can leave behind;
Knowing well that every additional thing which he cannot freely use and handle is an impediment to him.
So if thou seekest fame or ease or pleasure or aught for thyself, the image of that thing which thou seekest willcome and cling to thee – and thou wilt have to carry it about;
And the images and powers which thou hast thus evoked will gather round and form for thee a new body – clamouring for sustenance and satisfaction;
And if thou art not able to discard this image now, thou wilt not be able to discard that body then: but will have to carry it about.
Beware then lest it become thy grave and thy prison – instead of thy winged abode, and palace of joy.

For (over and over again) there is nothing that is evil except because a man has not mastery over it; and there is no good thing that is not evil if it have mastery over a man;
And there is no passion or power, or pleasure or pain, or created thing whatsoever, which is not ultimately for man and for his use – or which he need be afraid of, or ashamed at.
The aesthetics and the self-indulgent divide things into good and evil – as it were to throw away the evil;
But things cannot be divided into good and evil, but all are good so soon as they are brought into subjection.
And seest thou not that except for Death thou couldst never overcome Death –
For since by being a slave to things of sense thou hast clothed thyself with a body which thou art not master of, thou wert condemned to a living tomb were that body not to be destroyed.
But now through pain and suffering out of this tomb shalt thou come; and through the experience thou hast acquired shalt build thyself a new and better body;
And so on many times, till thou spreadest thy wings and hast all powers diabolic and angelic concentrated in thy flesh.


And so at last I saw Satan appear before me – magnificent, fully formed.
Feet first, with shining limbs, he glanced down from above among the bushes,
And stood there erect, dark-skinned, with nostrils dilated with passion;
(In the burning intolerable sunlight he stood, and I in the shade of the bushes);

Fierce and scathing the effluence of his eyes, and scornful of dreams and dreamers (he touched a rock hard by and it split with a sound like thunder);
Fierce the magnetic effluence of his dusky flesh; his great foot, well-formed, was planted firm in the sand – with spreading toes;
“Come out,” he said with a taunt, “Art thou afraid to meet me?”

And I answered not, but sprang upon him and smote him; And he smote me a thousand times, and brashed and scorched and slew me as with hands of flame;

And I was glad, for my body lay there dead; and I sprang upon him again with another body: And he turned upon me, and smote me a thousand times and slew that body; And I was glad and sprang upon him again with another body-And with another and another and again another;

And the bodies which I took on yielded before him, and were like cinctures of flame upon me, but I flung them aside; And the pains which I endured in one body were powers which I wielded in the next, and I grew in strength, till at last I stood before him complete, with a body like his own and equal in might – exultant in pride and joy.

Then he ceased, and said “I love thee.” And lo! his form changed, and he leaned backwards and drew me upon him, And bore me up into the air, and floated me over the topmost trees and the ocean, and round the curve of the earth under the moon – till we stood again in Paradise.”

The Song of Uriel

(excerpt from The Song of Sano Taro, by Nancy Fullwood)

Good people of the realm of Earth, I, Uriel, greet you on this evening of grace. I invite you into my realm of White Fire, and beg that you give your undivided attention while I tell a story that is difficult for aught but alchemists to comprehend.

When the gods, under the order of the King, attempted to fuse the seven primal Forces into a sphere of balanced Forces, the experiment failed, in that the Forces took control of their own motion and madness beset them. So vital were they that they heeded not the command to obey the law of harmony in the fusion of their forces, and as harmony is the one law of being, they became lost in chaos when promiscuity became the rule. The gods were sad indeed, for well they knew that these elemental children of the King would destroy themselves and the work which had consumed countless ages would have to be begun all over again. So they held a council, and the master alchemists of the King’s domain announced that there was only one hope of saving the situation. To be sure, the method which must be employed would cause the Forces great suffering, for the law has decreed that when harmony is not regarded, pain results.

The plan, which was decided upon in the council of the gods was this: first the vibratory motion of the mad forces must be lowered, or slowed, if you will, so that they would find themselves in what seemed narrow confines and limitations, because of their slow movement. When the gods succeeded in bringing them to the lowest vibratory movement possible, they had them well in hand. Bear in mind that these elemental children of the King were imbued with Free Will and power of reproduction, so it was a delicate matter to hold them in their right relation to one another. Sad to relate, they knew only lust, which caused them unrest and disintegration. Love was among them but they knew him not because of their lack of balance. Without Love there can be no cohesion. So he who is nameless, though he has been called by various names, each of which is a symbol of the essence of life, which the gods call White Fire and the people call Love, volunteered to give his essence, which is Love, to save the mad forces from destroying themselves. To accomplish this, he spread his essence over and through the dark mass, thus shedding his blood to save them. The alchemy of the gods is profound indeed.

Imagery is the wisest method in which to proceed. I place for your consideration a sphere of dark colour whirling in the other. The sphere was composed of seven elemental forces, separated one from the other. Now Love was in their midst, but only through their harmonious fusion with each other could they become conscious of Love. Love, who brings Hope as handmaiden, is always conscious of himself, so you sense the truth that Love offered himself as a conscious sacrifice to save the mad Forces. Ere this sacrifice could be completed, Love, whose vibration is high and swift, must lower his own movement and fuse himself with the negative Forces whirling in chaos, suffering with them the pain of limitation and lying with them in the grave of dense matter until they were quickened by his Fire, receiving thereby an impulse which will drive them on to perfection.

The days of creation are of great length. Three days passed ere Love’s seed was planted in the very heart of the Earth. Then, trembling with ecstasy, Love cried: “It is finished!” and the motion of the planet Earth was quickened and Earth shone with dawning light and Love rejoiced.

Be not dismayed at the lack of understanding of the people. I speak truth when I say that when it was known that Love had volunteered to lower his swift motion that the rebellious children might be saved, I, Uriel, volunteered to become the body of Love, the great unifying or cohesive principle in the universe. Only thus could Love’s swift motion contact the discordant forces, and through the crossing of them with his essence, bring about their transmutation by quickening their movement. So, clothed with Love’s fire, I fell like a burning faggot into chaos, pledged to remain Love’s channel of expression until he brought his sacrifice to completion, and the seven primal Forces were saved in spite of themselves.

Love’s burial in matter has been the keynote of all religions which have stirred the spirit of the people of Earth, and the profound belief, though often unconscious, in the resurrection of matter through Love has kept Hope alive within them, and when Hope lives within the people the gods are assured that they will seek understanding and find it. Adieu

I, Uriel, have spoken.

a tarot card reader in Sinatra

The Hermit

This started out as a command line script when I was fiddling around with hashes in Ruby. Then a friend at work got me interested in Sinatra as a lightweight alternative to Rails so I had a crack at converting this ruby script to a web app. Turned out it was pretty straightforward:

(source code is here:

The Terdjih Bend of Ahmed Hatif of Ishfahan

Love I give to you complete
now myself in every part,
For your beauty holds my heart
and my life is at your feet.

To wrest mountains in twain, less were the task than if out of your power called I my soul.
O what would you with me? – peace? – it is yours: or war? – here is my life, do as you will!
Possessed, haunted by love, seeking your face, last night dazed and enrapt far did I roam.
The fire guiding my heart, craving your sight, at last led to a true Temple of Fire:
And some there for a right gathered I saw in light not of this earth, splendour divine.
The Chief Mage I beheld lighting the flames, behind followed the young priests of the shrine:
The young mages had delicate silver faces and rose cheeks; and they spoke gently and low.
With harp, lute and sitar, timbrel and flute, with flames, roses and wine, spices outbreathed.
The Cup-Bearer, as night’s heaven suberb, his face shadowed by rich tresses, stood nigh:
And heart-cheering the glad Singing-man called his sweet-chanted replies over the throng.
The young priests and the old, servant and sage, in shared fervour of work aided the rite.
And shamefaced for my creed then did I hide behind kindly a wall: O, but they saw!
“Who hides?” questioned the Elder. One replied, “A poor lover, for whom love has no rest.”
“A cup give him of wine,” came the decree, “Although here uninvited has he come.”
The Cup-Bearer, the Fire-Worshipper, then to me proffered the sweet fire of the wine.
I scarce drank, when at once foundered my sense; and all knowledge of faith, heresy, fled.
At this, reeling, I fell. Drunken the void for me echoed with words: unknown the tongue,
Unknown, yea, but most clear: out of my limbs they seemed springing, and out, forth from my veins:-

One is he unchangingly,
one, and being’s all in one:
He, the peerless sole and sun,
one in all of deity.

If the sword should be my fate,
strewn apart my limbs in death,
Truly from my fleeting breath
love it could not separate.

A hundred, O my Love! lives would I yield for one smile of your mouth: mine were the gain!
My father bids me return, bids me be wise and tread easier ways, wander no more.
O peace, father, be yours! Love is my road and this, this is the one wisdom for me
O Love! shall not the spheres bid them have done, the tongues striving to draw me from my life?
I spoke once to a Christian girl at the church (One day questing my steps thither were led):-
“All hail, captress of mine! See, it is I whose limbs swing on the symbol at your throat!
Now where, seeking for God, find you not One? Or where seeking for one, find it in three?”
A smile brightened her face, hearing my words, and still smiling with soft lips she replied:-
“Are you mystic indeed? – knower of truth? Then not infidel name us of the Church!
The one timeless, the First Beauty, we know, in triple mirror reflects glorious its light.
The same source is in all, one is the fire yet truth owns that the flames, equal, are three.
Again: satin, brocade, silk, they are three, but all know that their true substance is one.”
Yet more should I have heard, more had I said, when thus, sudden and clear, sounded the bells:-

One is he unchangingly,
one, and being’s all in one:
He, the peerless sole and sun,
one in all of deity.

Herbs there be for fever’s aid,
amulets, and rites divine:
Naught can heal such hurt as mine
yet I live, and unafraid.

Last night, troubled at heart, under the skies of dusk forth to the bright tavern I went,
And there found I a glad company met: himself let it, the old genial Host.
He sat midmost of all, ringed with his friends while some drank, other some tippled no more.
These last sat or reclined, lost to all sense, with thoughts silent and mute innocent lips;
Their eyes fixed upon God, truth in their ears, and all bathed in a light not of the world;
While those friends who yet drank, each unto each lifted cup, and gave thanks each unto each.
The harp thrillingly rang; sparkled the cup; not earth offered, nor heaven, other desire.
I bowed then to the Host, saying, “With you to whom angels have spoken, would I speak:
Behold, I am possessed, stricken by love: can you out of your skill bring me some aid?”
His gaze scanned me; his mouth smiling replied, “Indeed, traveller, hail! Greetings to you
Who on Reason has set servitude’s yoke! For you blushes the Daughter of the Vine”
Said I, “Fevered, I burn: give me to drink, a cool draught to allay merciless fires!
Last night, seeking my Love, knew I no rest: I called over the land, echo replied,
I sought skyward, and night’s self was aflame – O, not such another night’s anguish be this!”
At that, he to my hand proffered the cup and said “Take, but have care: prudently sip.”
I drank. Reason and strict purpose their bonds at once loosened, and fled far from my mind.
With new consciousness then clearly I saw, the One Truth I beheld filling all forms,
And lo! Out of the vast height of the skies a swift angel I heard. this was the song:

One is he unchangingly,
one, and being’s all in one:
He, the peerless sole and sun,
one in all of deity.

O my brothers, open wide
eyes which you in heart posses:
You shall see the bodiless
Soul-of-Things on every side.

Your feet treading the harsh courtyards of love, the far hills are for you gardened with flowers.
When all things that you see, see you with love, then all things that you love soon will you see.
Lo some, beggars, the world’s sovereignty scorn and walk, proudly and barefoot, on the stars:
And bareheaded, with torn garments, go some beyond stars, to the last uttermost Sphere:
Or one atom divide, lo you shall find a new sun in its heart hidden, ablaze!
For love shall you perchance sacrifice all: no least fragment, i swear, thus shall you lose!
In love’s crucible quite melted your heart, its fire know for the soul’s alchemy true.
Released thus from the straight confines of earth, in bliss shall you behold limitless worlds:
And sights which you shall see, eye never saw, and sounds which you shall hear, ear never heard.
To such height you shall scale, ocean and earth with all creatures, as one shall you perceive:
Yet when full on the one fix you your gaze, revealed there you shall find myriad lives.
And when, body and soul, you shall belong to One out of all worlds, this shall you know:

One is he unchangingly,
one, and being’s all in one:
He, the peerless sole and sun,
one in all of deity.

Love I give to you complete
now myself in every part,
For your beauty holds my heart
and my life is at your feet.

Ye wise men of the world, do you not see the bright Sweetheart-of-All, there at your door?
Behold, veilless she stands, waiting. She smiles, and through portal and pane radiant shines.
The sun flames in the east: blindly you reach a hand, seeking a torch. Open your eyes!
O come forth from the thick night you have made! The skies brim with the sweet wonder of light.
In this garden’s delight eddies the stream among roses and thorns, nourishing all.
And one water, itself colourless, flows to raise blossoms of all colours to life.
O bring journey-bread, come, take you the road and seek what may befall, seek for your love!
The dear name of the Friend, morning to night repeat you and repeat, evening to dawn.
And where you shall arrive, Reason is lame and not Gabriel’s self comes as your peer.
Behold, this is the way, this is the prize: if yours, Man, is the quest, here is the road!
If not, fair is the world, bright are the skies and kind-hearted your girl: seek you no more.
But O, Hatif! be sure this is the truth: – These strange drunkards, and cup-bearers, and priests,
These fire-temples and inns, lover and sage, the veiled signs of a high secret they show.
And when you in your life surely attain the full mystery, know this is its heart:

One is he unchangingly,
one, and being’s all in one:
He, the peerless sole and sun,
one in all of deity.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus

True, without falsehood, certain and most true, that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for the performance of the miracles of the One Thing.

And as all things are from One, by the mediation of One, so all things have their birth from this One Thing by adaptation.

The Sun is its father, the Moon its mother, the Wind carries it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.

This is the father of all perfection, or consummation of the whole world.

Its power is integrating, if it be turned into earth.

Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, suavely, and with great ingenuity.

It ascends from earth to heaven and descends again to earth, and receives the power of the superiors and of the inferiors.

So thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all obscurity flee before thee.

This is the strong force of all forces, overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing.

So the world was created.

Hence were all wonderful adaptations, of which this is the manner.

Therefore am I called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.

What I have to tell is completed, concerning the operation of the Sun.