Given the annus horribilis of 2016, I’ve been planning for my first post of 2017 to be a divination into what we can expect in this new year… and I’ve been hoping I’d see something encouraging. I assumed I’d do a Tarot reading, since Tarot is the divination system with which I have the most experience and most confidence. I certainly wasn’t planning on doing a divination by coloring book – I had no idea such a thing was possible.
Several years ago my wife and I decided to stop buying Christmas presents for each other and take a trip instead. It saves us the stress and expense of shopping for things we don’t need and usually don’t want, and we enjoy traveling a lot more than getting more stuff. This year, though, she broke that tradition – she saw something she thought I’d like.
This is Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Coloring Classic by Chellie Carroll. It’s published as a children’s book, but it falls squarely into the new category of adult coloring books (though I would have liked to have had it as a child). Cathy was right – I love it.
Some killjoy critics claim that adult coloring books are an attempt by sheltered, fragile people to avoid growing up. Like those who bash millennials for “adulting” they’re attempting to force their own ideas about adulthood and responsibility onto people who live in a different world. Adult coloring books are a good way to relax and find some temporary pleasure without the need for drugs or alcohol.
So when we left for our Solstice / Christmas trip, I packed the coloring book and a box of colored pencils. And one evening while Cathy was playing with slot machines, I stayed in the hotel room and started coloring.
Now, with the exception of a couple of mandalas at Pagan events, I don’t think I’ve colored anything since second grade, and that was a very long time ago. As I recall, I was good at coloring but far from great – there were always three or four kids whose pictures looked much better than mine. I tried to copy their techniques and I learned a thing or two from them, but mostly they had steadier hands and more patience than me.
It came back very quickly – both the techniques and the insecurities. I remembered things I hadn’t thought about in over 40 years: some pleasant and some unpleasant, but mostly just random events and images buried in the recesses of my brain because I’ve had no reason to recall them.
None of the pictures in Dracula screamed “color me first!” so I started with the first one. And before long, I realized something: coloring isn’t just relaxing, it’s also very focusing.
My mind was on 2016 and all the troubles it’s brought. The deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher had just happened. A few people were screaming “stop anthropomorphizing a year!” and otherwise trying to dismiss the suffering and fear 2016 brought to so many. I was thinking about all the things I have to do in the new year.
I was also trying to pick the right colors for the picture, remember long-forgotten coloring techniques, and add a bit of what I learned in my mechanical drawing classes in engineering school (I learned drafting with pencils and a t-square, not with AutoCAD).
All of a sudden this wasn’t just a picture to color. It was a tool for scrying into the coming year. And it came with a quote from the book:
My friend – Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the Diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.
This is an entry from Jonathan Harker’s journal. It’s on page 4 of my copy of the book – at the very beginning of the story. If you’ve read the book or seen one of the better movie adaptations (the 1992 version by Francis Ford Coppola is my favorite) you know what’s going on. Harker is headed to Castle Dracula to facilitate the Count’s move to London. He’ll meet the vampire and his brides, then narrowly escape the castle and make his way back to England to fight him.
So what does this mean for us at the beginning of 2017? Scry into the picture – what do you see?
Here we are, on this train, headed into the Carpathians. We are on our way to meet the monsters. What will we do when we meet them?
Do not read this literally. Donald Trump is neither Count Dracula nor Vlad the Impaler. Immigrants are not the Sultan’s soldiers invading our homeland. Neither are the Republicans. If you’re reading this politically (or at least, only politically) you’re reading it too narrowly and too materially. Open your eyes – your other eyes. The Veil is shredded. The Otherworld is bleeding through. The metaphysical shift that started in 2011 (by my reckoning, anyway) and that hit us all so hard in 2016 isn’t finished – not by a long shot. We’re still at the beginning of this book.
In 2017 we’re going to meet the monsters. What will we do when we meet them?
If your first impulse is “kill them” then I suggest you’ve spent too much time playing video games and watching bad horror movies. What are monsters but creatures that don’t fit into “proper” society? How many of us have been called monsters and treated like monsters? I hope we’ve learned compassion for those who are different, and for those who are differently different than ourselves. The monsters we are going to meet need not be our enemies.
If your thought is to rescue them then I suggest you think again. Perhaps the Brides of Dracula are in a queer/poly/kinky four-part family that works very nicely for them, thankyouverymuch. Their story was written by their enemies – you might want to hear their side of things. Perhaps the human servants of Dracula have lived in the Carpathian Mountains for so many generations that the idea of being “rescued” to London sounds like kidnapping and torture to them. And maybe they’re grownup individuals who neither need nor want your help.
Whatever monsters you encounter in 2017, do not assume they need rescuing.
If your thought is to ask for their help, again I encourage you to think before speaking. Some of the Otherworldly creatures and forces coming through the shredded veil may very well be monsters who view you as an enemy… or as food. All of them are beings with their own plans and desires. They do not exist to serve you, to help you, or to join your Great Cause – no matter how much you think we’d all be better off if everybody would just get on board with your political, economic, environmental, or religious movement.
If you find hospitality among the monsters, be a proper guest. Be polite, don’t be demanding, accept what you’re offered with gratitude (and depending on where you are, with caution), and leave before you become a burden on your host. Understand that accepting anything is likely to obligate you to reciprocate, perhaps in ways you may not like.
“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” – Dracula to Harker
You, of course, must make your own decisions. You may choose to never get on that carriage to the Borgo Pass and instead catch the next train back to Budapest.
As for me, I’m going to meet the monsters. I’m going to introduce myself politely, and then I’m going to sit and listen. I’m going to pay close attention to what I hear, listen for indications of where we may have common interests, and try to figure out who I can trust and who I can’t.
Because if 2016 is any guide (and I think it is), in 2017 we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of the monsters more times than not. It would be good to have some friends among them when things get (even more) difficult.
In 2017 we’re going to meet the monsters. What will you do when you meet them?