I was first introduced to the art of Edward Gorey, as were many of my generation, through the opening credits of the anthology series Mystery! on PBS. As a kid, I never watched a full episode of the show — by the time Diana Rigg appeared to announce the detective du jour, I’d already wandered away to play with dolls or plot world domination or whatever little me did for fun. But that gleefully sinister animation stuck with me.
In college, I once spent a three-day weekend watching a marathon of Mystery! reruns, because my friend Sarah and I had gotten cast in a (truly baffling) play called The Business of Murder, and it turned out that the only word I couldn’t say in a British accent was “murder,” which, as the title suggests, I had to utter at least once per page. After listening to 72 hours worth of fictional investigators shouting, “My God! Then the mehr-dehr-ehr must be…” that conundrum was resolved.
But I digress.
When I was a junior in high school, I spent six weeks at a summer program in Ithaca, New York, where, in a
head souvenir shop, I came across a poster of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It was love at first macabre sight, and soon I was snatching up copies of Gorey’s picture books wherever I could find them. I also ended up with editions of Dracula, Men and Gods and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats illustrated by Gorey, and if I could just find a living room set upholstered with scenes from The Curious Sofa, my life would be complete.
Recently, I started wondering if Gorey ever created his own Tarot deck. I can’t Tarot my way out of a wet paper sack, but because I felt like there should be an Edward Gorey Tarot deck, I decided there was an Edward Gorey Tarot deck. (See how my brain works?) I set myself to scouring the Internet, where I eventually discovered the laminated grail that is the Fantod Pack.
The Fantod Pack (fantod being defined as “a state of worry or nervous anxiety; irritability”) consists of 20 cards, each with a series of unfavorable meanings: For instance, the Waltzing Mouse can indicate loss of jewelry, morbid cravings or disorders of the large intestine, while the Bundle portends inadequate drainage, a broken engagement or a train accident. It quickly becomes clear that the deck is not meant for serious divination — instead, it’s designed to give humorously catastrophic readings, and would actually be quite at home among the DIY oracle books that Victorian ladies used to leave lying about their drawing rooms as idle amusements (of which I own several, because of course I do).
The problem here is that I am me, and as such, if I buy a fortune-telling deck — satirical or not — I am going to use it to tell some damn fortunes. Consulting the instruction booklet, I noticed that each card corresponds to either a month or a day, so that the querent will have a good idea as to when they will be struck down by chilblains (as foretold by the Burning Head). Pulling four cards at random, I wrote down the month/day each signified, broke those down to their numerical values, then went binary and marked them as even (two dots) or odd (one dot). I ended up with the following spread: If we look at that last column, we have the geomantic figure Laetitia, which translates as joy, good health, favorable beginnings and luck. So not only did we manage legit divination with the Fantod Pack, but we got a positive reading as well.
I am… thoroughly impressed with us. But I’m also kind of cringing at myself, since I’m acting all, “Finally, a unique and convenient way to practice geomancy,” like I don’t already have drawers full of decks and dice and coins and throwsticks (ye Gods, the throwsticks), each of which was, at one time, my favorite, “last one, I promise, not even looking for another” method of generating the figures. On the other hand, I sometimes go months without reading and get rusty as all get-out, so if it takes an extra set of cards or collection of platypus bones or whatever to get me back into the one form of future-casting that’s ever worked for me, I’m willing to roll with that.
Edward Gorey would have been 96 this month (9+6 = 15; 15/3 = 5; it’s the Law of Fives at glorious work), and I will always be grateful for the impression he left not only on me, but on moody teenagers everywhere. And I am also like 85% confident that his ghost isn’t gearing up to haunt the particular hell out of me for taking the Fantod Pack too seriously.
But it probably wouldn’t hurt to do a reading on that.