Friday, March 10, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: A Visit to a Cunning Woman

I saw the sign as I passed by and I thought to myself, "Why not?" Visits to "cunning folk" (the term used between the 15-20th century) have long been held in disrepute, particularly in Christian societies, as they were deemed to be in league with the Devil. They are practitioners of folk medicine, folk magic, and divination. My orientation to such individuals and practice has been that they were taboo, until somewhere along the line I considered them as presenting another reality among various realities. As such, I viewed their craft with a mixture of curiosity, doubt, awe, and humor. I had long nursed a certain curiosity of having my palms read, not because of any interest in my unknown future, but with a view to experiencing the forbidden - an attitude typical of my persona ever since I was a child. In this particular instance, Faust and Macbeth came to mind, but for some reason Odysseus having himself tied to the bow of his ship in order to hear the Sirens also came to mind. I preferred identification with the latter in this case. 

The woman wanted to explain to me what I could expect from my five dollar reading. I told her that I cared not to know and to get on with her task. She said she saw the number ninety, meaning that's my life expectancy, not that that information grabbed me in any way. Then she informed me that I am or was supposed to be a very successful businessman in charge of a large organization and wanted to know what happened. I told her I was in the least bit interested in business and financial success and that I would probably give it all away anyway. She saw several women in my life and asked me about the "one that got away." I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. She also wanted to know about my father, for she saw something, she said. I told her that I was not going there and reminded her that she was the one who was supposed to be doing the talking. My favorite bit was when she said that I had gone off my path and that because of that my energy was out of balance. She showed me the deep, clear line in my left palm that represented my path from which diverged a very faint line. I told her I do not like to travel the beaten path or the path everyone thinks I should take, the broad road to perdition, but that I preferred the road rarely taken (or not taken, the one that makes all the difference - Robert Frost), the narrow road that leads to living, to the unknown, to adventure. She gave me a perplexed look, for clearly I was not following the script. A few minutes later I walked out of the little place, a smile on my face and reflecting on that stop along my divergent path.

[photo art by Ric Couchman]