The Wineseller’s Secret

Falnama Orakelkaarten

Last Night a wise knower of a mystery secretly said to me:’The Secret of the Wineseller…hidden from you cannot be’

He then said: ‘Be easy with the way that you treat yourself, it is the nature of the world to treat hard-workers heavily’.

He then gave to me the cup which radiated the sky, so that Venus danced and the lute player said: ‘Drink’, repeatedly.

‘O son, listen to advice, do not grieve for the world’s sake: I speak to you advice like a pearl, keep it in your memory’

‘With bleeding heart still show the laughing lip of the cup: if you are wounded, then crying like reed you shouldn’t be’

‘As long as you haven’t been in the veil, you haven’t a hint: where Gabriel gives news, those who’re immature can’t see’

On the carpet of the knowers of the subtle is no pride of self: Man of wisdom, either speak what you know or sit silently’

O Winebringer, give wine: Hafez’s drunken loving was known by Lord of Unity, Forgiver of faults… Concealer of stupidity

This is one of the poems from “Falnama – Divination Book of Hafiz of Shiraz” by Paul Smith. These Persian Poems – or ‘ghazals’- have been used as divination method for centuries. They are believed to have been written by Shams-ud-din (1320 – 1392), who was later named ‘Hafez’. ‘Hafez’ is a title given to someone who has memorized the entire Qur’an, something Shams-ud-din had achieved in 14 ways according to his own claim. How does this relate to Tarot? Well, maybe not in a literal sense. But there is always a way to relate to the Tarot (as well as to wine…. 🙂

I was once browsing a Tarot catalog when I noticed a box of Arabic-looking oracle cards called ‘Falnama’. The description stated that these cards were based on the original miniature cards that were painted on a large scale during the 17th century in workshops in Turkey, Jordan and Persia (Iran). Fortune tellers & sybils used them to give all kinds of advice to people, both on a practical and spiritual level. This ‘system’ originated from the Islamic traditions of poems, stories and verses published in the centuries before by various writers, magicians and clergy. I was immediately fascinated by these cards and I purchased them right away. They have been created by Polat and Asli Canpolat. The deck, however, only came with a small bookelt that you find with any other deck and a book to accompany these cards did not seem to be available.

I’m the kind of person who can’t work with cards if I don’t know what’s up and down, so I searched the internet to see if I was able to find a book on how to interpret these cards. This was not so easy… Falnama was (and is) not ONE system or ONE work, it simply means ‘divination’. It also appears to be a collective name for the books that fortune tellers created themselves, by collecting texts, images, magical spells, astrological connections, prophecies and formulas. A bit like a ‘book of shadows’ of the witches. Usually it was used by ‘scrying’: someone turned up with a question or problem and then the fortune teller opened his book on a random page and interpreted what was on it, according to the situation of the questioner. Later, a cartomancie system was also developed by painting the images on cards (miniatures) and placing them in a spread.

The really interesting books I could find are available in Farsi, Urdu, Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish. There was a beautiful work in English that was written on the occasion of an exhibition in 2009. This book was still available at second-hand book dealers but the prices ranged from $ 1000, = for a hardcover that was still in the foil to $ 375, = for a second-hand paperback. Also the more ‘traditional’ Persian fortune-telling cards had been for sale once, but no longer in stock (or the seller did not ship to Europe). However, I could find a book in English containing 400 verses by Shams-ud-din (Hafez) and and indtrouduction on his life. He seems to have been a kind of ‘Falnama’ authority. As you might also be able to understand the meaning behind the verses intuitively, the poems do seem to be a bit ‘strange’. A lot of them contain Wine: winebringers, winesellers, winehouses and drunk people. Well, I do love wine, so that is good. However if you understand the analogies, they show a different layer and you can see the ‘patterns’.

Wine symbolizes truth, love, knowledge and compassion / grace; Just as “ordinary” wine this kind of wine is able to change someone’s personality. So divine wine changes the unconscious and brings you closer to god. As a result, you are “misted” by love. A  wine merchant is equal to a Divine person (God in human form) and/or someone who is a kind of ‘Spiritual Master’. And a  wine bringer  is also a wise master who brings God’s love, beauty and truth. A  drunkard  is someone who is full of wine: a beloved, wise and beautiful person. Pearls are also well represented: a pearl is the symbol for Divine knowledge, ‘true self’ (unconscious), the inner knowing, the divine ‘essence’ in man. When you know this and read the verse again, you will look at it with a different perspective!

Typically, I have wandered off again from Tarot to Wine to arabic divination. Which is a good thing as I love to use the cards and read the ghazals in Paul Smith’s book. The interpretation of the poem above would be that you should try to walk the bright side more often. Sometimes shit happens but that is the way of the world. Don’t be to hard on yourself when you make mistakes but do try to learn of them. I say ‘cheers’ to that!

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