There was a tradition of playing games in our household as we were growing up. My mother was competitive, and reveled in a variety of board and card games. When I became an adult, I more or less left the family system for a time. I decided that playing games was a waste of time. There were more important pursuits. But as I began spending time with my family again, I saw game playing as an important backdrop to positive interaction; a ritual of gathering. Our game of choice became pinochle. We played four-handed with a double deck.
I had a very Zen attitude to playing. I had to be competitive enough to make it fun for everyone, but I made conversation and joviality a higher priority than winning. I believe that attitude helped bring us closer together.
But one day, winning became a high priority for my brother John. He began to openly declare he was going to use Power to get a good playing hand. He had joked about using shamanism to favor the cards before. But this day, I could feel his serious intent. He took a hand carved piece of wood that was shaped like a rattle. He began to shake the “rattle” over the cards. On some level, I thought this was inappropriate, so I silently blocked his magic, like blocking a seer’s vision in the bone game. Our mini-ritual played out, I dealt out the cards. I misdealt, meaning that I did not deal out the correct amount of cards to each person. I had two quick thoughts. The first was that I never misdealt, so the misdeal was somehow connected to my trying to block John’s magic. The second was that we had an understanding that misdeals were thrown in and re-dealt. So I threw in my cards and declared the misdeal.
John was angry. He had been dealt eight aces, two of each suit, which gave him an automatic 100 points in a 250 point game. The odds of getting dealt eight aces in that fashion are extremely slim. I re-dealt the hand, and John was dealt a poor hand. He began to silently fume.
My dad dealt next and misdealt. He tried to deal again, slowly and carefully, but misdealt again. For his next try, he dealt one card at a time, very deliberately under the careful scrutiny of us all. Unbelievably, he misdealt again. We checked all the cards to see if any were sticking together. They weren’t. My dad tried to deal again under the same group scrutiny. He misdealt again. So we counted the cards. All present and accounted for. John attempted a mock deal just to try and figure out what was going wrong. He misdealt as well. We put the cards together by suit to make sure all the cards were there. Again, all present and accounted for. My dad again tried to deal. You guessed it – another misdeal.
I recognized that these extremely unusual circumstances were linked to our playing at magic to influence the game. I felt that John’s anger stuck to the intent of the magic and was creating the misdeals. Call it a curse. I suggested to John that he take the carved wood, the “rattle,” and shake it over the cards to remove his anger over my having misdealt, thus spoiling his perfect 100-point aces. John shook the wood over the cards seriously. Rolen dealt the cards out correctly. “The deal is correct!” he said triumphantly. There were no more misdeals the entire game. John never again tried to use magic to influence one of our games.
During this little event, there was nothing personal at stake. We were only in danger of misplacing a card game (which would have been unfortunate). But the broader lesson should be clear. Strong emotions bind with intent. Intent exerts an influence on outcomes. Unless we are prepared to cleanse negativity, it is possible to get stuck in the shadow of murky and misguided intentions.
The slings and arrows of chaotic intention
I was blessed with a 30-year career in Human Services. I was also fortunate to be in the field at a time when training was ongoing. We often brought in a psychologist to talk about various aspects of counseling and behavior management. One day, she was talking about the power of language. She said that because we were all in human services we tended to be kind with our use of language. She said that was not the norm in the business world. For example, her sister was always zinging her whenever they get together for holidays. Her sister worked in the business world. She tried to confront her sister, but her sister did not understand. But finally, her sister explained: “We do this every day at work. I need to do this so as not to get run over by the other guys in the office.” In other words, zingers were used to enhance power and status. How sad.
I also recall receiving training in de-escalation and appropriate self-defense. The trainer said: “It doesn’t matter if you get screamed at. No one ever died from getting screamed at.” It just so happened that I had read a study only the previous day, and said: “It turns out you can die from getting screamed at. In a study, lab rats literally died from getting screamed at.” Words can hurt, especially when they are laced with anger or intent to harm. They used to call this setting a curse. A premeditated intent to bring chaotic language into an environment will sow the seeds of curse. Bad karma there.
How can the cards be properly dealt? You can probably think of a setting where it might be useful to employ a shamanic or energy-based healing to clean up the antagonistic residue. Another suggestion: carry the antidote in your heart or with a sacred object. The response will then feel guided, perhaps as active silence. I knew someone who reported saying, “Bless you,” and smiled whenever he was put down. I witnessed it once and it was disarming. Another phrase: “Is that so?” And there are “magic words” given in a dream, shamanic journey, fantasy, or alternate reality experience. The word might seem mundane, and you are asked to work it into the conversation. But the word isn’t mundane, because it links to the Dream. Talk your walk.
Cursing the Cards was adapted from Gathering my Life into Feathers