Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Allure of Alleys

Last August: I'm sitting out back, in my newly created little patio/gazebo/folly (haven't landed on the right name for it yet), with a mug of tea steeped from a bright blue package brought back from a plantation in the Azores by friends (already you can see how lovely this is), rustling open the first page of a book called Witches on the Road Tonight by Sherri Holman. Life is scrumptious.

A sudden scritching noise distracts me; two squirrels are chasing each other up and around the neighbour's big linden tree overhanging the alley. Are they playing? Is one chasing the other with intent to hurt? (hope not) Is this squirrel foreplay? They're in another world from where I sit - between us are my back gate, the alley, and the neighbour's back gate.

Alleys. Laneways of mystery. Seducers of the imagination. Pathways for peeking into hidden things. A bit scary. Always interesting.

There was an alley behind our house where I grew up. The garbage truck came through back there. But so did the scary people.
The man who rumbled by in a creaky horse-drawn wagon, blowing his screechy horn to announce his arrival, trading used goods with the housewives in the neighbourhood. (He was called the "sheeny man", or at least that's what it sounded like to my kid ears. I have a feeling that it might've been a derogatory title. My apologies to him and others of his profession if it was.
The hidden men who thrummed slowly by in their cars, pausing at backyards of interest. Would they come back at night to break into our houses and get us?
The rough kids who yelled and crashed their way through, one particularly vivid time swinging a defenceless little garter snake by the tail and bashing its head on the ground. I still shudder picturing that.

The Seven Dials, that slimy seamy stinking cesspool of Victorian crime and crowded humanity. Lots of lightless and choking-yellow-fogged alleys there (according to Dickens and later, Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie), harbouring cutpurses and cutthroats.
(To be clear, the Seven Dials didn't start out bad; it just sort of slid down that way. It was intended to be a great neighbourhood with a centre core of sundials from which seven streets led. And today, it's trendy and cool.)

So, OK, I've mentioned that alleys breed mystery. How to get from there to tarot? I don't know yet. I suppose, for the uninitiated, tarot is mysterious. And sometimes scary. Like alleys.
And there's the flip side - the idea of tarot revealing mystery rather than breeding it.

I'm going off to have a think and a browse through the shelves. See what jumps out at me.

I'm back, with four decks that seem likely to have alleys in them, or people that look like they might inhabit the alleys of my childhood.

First, we have the "types" which, rightly or wrongly, my sheltered kid-self believed might hang out in alleys.
All Hallows Tarot

Tarot of the Burroughs

All Hallows Tarot

Next we have the people who end up walking in the alleys, perhaps ill-advisedly. It's interesting that the only one prepared for a possible alley encounter is also the only one walking there in daylight. 
Most prudent of her.
Bohemian Gothic Tarot

Tarot of the Burroughs

Bohemian Gothic Tarot

And last, the stuff of nightmares. The ones we fear we might find there.  
Dark Grimoire Tarot

Dark Grimoire Tarot

Lest the alleys of the world feel that I'm giving them a bum rap, here's London's Seven Dials as it is now!

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