Welcome to Welton: Kim (7/11)

(Read the previous scenes here.)

Several dozen of my fellow freshmen had shown up to the first meeting of the Div Club. A month and a half into the quarter, that number had dropped sharply. We might not be as dangerous as the pyros, but we weren’t as exciting, either.

At least, to anybody who wasn’t a hard-core divination geek. People still showed to the occasional meeting, and Akila told me they got lots of messages from students wanting to set up individual readings, but when it came to regular attendance, there were only maybe thirty of us—freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

When I mentioned that to Liesel, she just grinned and said, “Thirty of you, eh?”

All right, so I already counted myself as one of the regulars. And it might be true that I’d tried to argue my advisor into letting me squeeze in a seminar on Shang oracle bones alongside Introduction to Divination and a sortilege practicum. Apparently Welton had a policy against freshmen taking six courses in their first term, though—and besides, the seminar was meant for upperclassmen.

The seminar was being taught by a visiting professor, though, and I was still annoyed that I wouldn’t get another chance to take it. Div Club might be a good place to find out about obscure prophetic methods, but even for them—us—scapulimancy was out there.

Akila had promised to introduce me to a new kind of deck, though, one that wasn’t tarot-based. After the co-presidents had dealt with organizational business, she and I went off to the side for her to show me the cards.

“They’re mythological,” she said, spreading them out for me, “but rather than each one representing a single cluster of concepts, they’re intended to connect to other cards in the deck. So if you draw Amaterasu, she resonates with Susano-o and Tsukiyomi, because they share myths—but she also resonates with Apollo and Ra and Tonatiuh, because of the solar connection, and with gods who reflect other aspects of Amaterasu’s nature. So you have to consider the spread as a whole, even more than usual, to pull out where the connections are.”

I thought it through, chewing on my lower lip. “You mean, if Amaterasu shows up with Apollo, it might suggest something about the moon, or maybe a brother or sister, because both of them are paired with a lunar sibling. But if Ra shows up instead, it’s more likely to be something about—oh, leadership or nationalism or something, because of the connection with the emperors on one hand and the pharaohs on the other.”

“Right,” Akila said. “If you’ve got a question you want answered, I can walk you through it.”

I definitely wanted a demonstration. All the card systems I knew were like Akila had said, with each card representing a more or less coherent set of ideas, rather the assortment attributed to gods. The cards always modified each other, of course, but this sounded a lot more interconnected than I was used to.

The question was, well, what question to ask. “Just do a general reading for me,” I said at last. Everything I could think of was either too trivial, or too personal for me to share it with Akila. “My birthday is tomorrow; might as well do the reading for that tonight.”

“Happy birthday in advance, then,” she said with a smile, before taking a deep breath and closing her eyes to center herself.

Once we had shuffled and cut the deck, she began to lay out the cards in a circle. Six of them, with space for a final card in the center. “I like to use the seventh as the capstone,” she said, when she saw me looking puzzled. “Sort of a final thought for the reading.”

“Ah, I get it. Usually I put a signifier there, and I do it first.”

“A lot of people do,” Akila said. “You might try this approach, though, and see what it gets you. Anyway, what do we have here?”

What we had was Hermes reversed, Ganesha reversed, Loki, Brigit, Thoth, and Papa Legba. Akila and I both frowned over the cards, thinking them through.

“Well,” Akila said at last. “Ganesha is the one who removes obstacles, and he’s reversed. That part is clear: whatever’s in your way is going to stay there, at least for the near future. And the obstacle in question is Hermes reversed. Are you having trouble communicating with someone, or are there money problems?”

I shook my head, eyes unfocusing slightly as I stared at the cards. “No, but I know what it means. I’m supposed to consider the whole spread, right?” My hand hovered over Thoth, not touching. These were Akila’s cards; she wouldn’t want me contaminating them. “Hermes Trismegistus. A syncretization of these two, and the origin of hermetic magic. My mother wants me to study CM, but I’m going to major in divination.”

If Akila was any good, her gift would tell her there was more to it than that. I wasn’t about to explain, though. We didn’t know each other well enough, and besides, the rest of the Div Club was ten feet away, busy with their own readings and conversations. But Akila was experienced enough with divination to also know that pressing the client rarely helped. She only said, “That’s an issue you’re not going to be able to resolve yet. But Loki follows Ganesha. In another context, it could mean trouble, but you’ve got other tricksters in here. I think it’s suggesting that you should just route around the problem, at least for now.”

“And get to Brigit,” I said, nodding. “She’s prophecy-related, but it might be wishful thinking on my part to read her as validating my choice of major.” After all, the whole point of having Akila read for me was that my own interpretation might be biased.

She drew another deep breath. It seemed to be part of how she focused on the hints from her gift. “I don’t think it is, actually—wishful thinking, that is. She’s not the only one in here that’s prophecy-related. I’m getting an echo of that from Thoth, and Papa Legba has associations with Orunmila, who’s the one who brought Ifá to the world.”

I squelched the urge to ask about Ifá. There was controversy about teaching it at universities, and I didn’t know where Akila stood on that issue. Besides, I had to focus on this reading, not all the other divinatory methods I wanted to be learning. “So I should put my energy into divination, and Thoth’s presence means my studies will go well.”

She grinned at me. “Which one of us is doing this reading, me or you?”

“Sorry,” I said, putting my hands up. “I didn’t mean to horn in.”

“No, not at all. You’re doing really well. Most people would have more trouble with cards they don’t know, especially on a reading for themselves.” Akila laughed and gestured at the spread. “Even if this was telling you not to major in divination, I’d probably encourage you to do it.”

“Well, it isn’t like what they forecast is fixed anyway.” I cocked my head and considered Papa Legba. “Crossroads. A choice of paths.” Divination or CM? I’d made that choice already, though.

“Mmmm.” Akila frowned, then drew in another deep breath. “Connection to the world of spirits, too. He resonates with Hermes on that front. Let’s see what the final card says.” She drew it from her deck and laid it in the center.

Lugh of the Long Hand. Another Irish god, like Brigit. Not particularly prophetic, but he was associated with the Otherworld, which might connect to Papa Legba. The problem was, Lugh was one of those gods with enough built-up associations that in divinatory terms, he could represent damn near anything.

I sighed, defeated. Whatever meaning was in that card, my gift couldn’t tease it out. So much for interpreting for myself.

When I looked up at Akila, though, her mouth twisted in wry apology. “Sorry. Lugh’s a hard one to read, and I’m really not sure what he means here. Something to do with the Otherworld—so, with magic in any form, whether CM or divination or whatever—and I guess there’s a choice for you to make, or at least something that might fall out in different ways. I can’t tell what it is, though.” She swept the cards up and returned them to her deck. “We could try again, if you like. Use Lugh as the significator, and see what else we get.”

My stomach growled, and she laughed. “Yeah, not right now,” I said. “I think food needs to come first. But thanks for showing me the cards; I’m really tempted to get my own deck.”

“You totally should,” Akila said, getting up from the floor. “And there’s a class Bradley teaches every other year, on alternative cartomancy. That’s where I heard about this deck, actually. I bet you’d like it.”

One more for the list. Twelve terms at Welton were not going to be enough for me to take all the divination classes I wanted, not if I also wanted to fill out my requirements and get my diploma.

But there was always graduate school. Smiling to myself, I went to find dinner.


(“Welcome to Welton” is a series of teaser scenes. Teasers for what? The answer to that, my friends, is coming on September 18th. Check back each weekday for a new scene!)



About Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for inspiration. She recently misapplied her professors' hard work to the short novel Driftwood and Turning Darkness Into Light, a sequel to the Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent. She is the author of several other series, over sixty short stories, and the New Worlds series of worldbuilding guides; as half of M.A. Carrick, she has written The Mask of Mirrors, first in the Rook and Rose trilogy. For more information, visit swantower.com, Twitter @swan_tower, or her Patreon.


Welcome to Welton: Kim (7/11) — 8 Comments

  1. Oh cool – not too much info-dumping, just some nice dropped concepts (with a handy example of how it could work) into the conversation and a reading which hopefully in the future will make me look back and say – oh so that is what it meant ^^.

  2. Pingback: Presenting: Lies and Prophecy | Book View Cafe Blog