Review: Books of the Dead

Books of the Dead

Required reading for bookworms holding their ground.

Author: Professor Oddfellow, Craig Conley

Independently Published


ISBN #: 979-8488741829

This small (108 page) book is a gem in its own right, a distillation of twenty-four books of the dead from around the world and across the centuries. Books of the Dead are unique in that they act as guidebooks for transition and are filled with mythological archetypes. Somehow, when I think of books of the dead, I am reminded of late-night TV stories from my youth about Egypt and mummies. Scary stories that we all loved to watch!

From the book:

“As night blackens

the emerald earth,

the wheel revolves;

death follows birth.

Strive through the dark

with every breath

to wake past day

and beyond death.”

A variant of a Zen poem

Preserved by Philip Kapleau

In his introduction, Professor Oddfellow notes many guidebooks for the dead presume that death is not an ending but a transitional journey, that requires attentive planning. He references Ptolemy Tompkins (from “The Modern Book of the Dead”) as noting that those who hate and fear death are unable to live happily, while for those who think the right way about death “life loses that gloom and becomes something entirely different: something larger, stranger, and infinitely more promising and positive than we might ever have imagined.”

Professor Oddfellow states that books of the dead are really action-drama-fantasies, with a cast of characters, theatrical journeys, and more. (Remember those late-night TV shows!) They are metaphysical in origin, rich with mythological archetypes that offer a wonderful window into human psychology.

This book is divided into four sections: Ancient and Classical Books of the Dead, Modern Books of the Dead, and “Fictional” Books of the Dead”.   

In his afterword, Professor Oddfellow addresses the two most mystical manuals for guidance in the Otherworld: The Tibetan Book of the Dead and The Egyptian Book of the Dead.

There is also what to me is a very magical appendix that addresses the Tarot as a book of the dead.

“Books of the Dead” was intended to act as a book-reader collaboration, to inspire a deep intuitive understanding of afterlife guides, and to connect with what Jung termed the “both-and” philosophy of the Universal mind. It has accomplished this … and so much more!

© March 2022 Bonnie Cehovet

Reproduction is prohibited without written permission from the author.

Divination by Punctuation

Divination By Punctuation

 Author: Craig Conley

Prof. Oldfellow’s Forgotten Wisdom

Independently Published


ISBN #9781453813140

 “In all beginnings dwells a magic force.”

Hermann Hesse

“Divination By Punctuation” is a project that I have followed since its inception. Craig very graciously agreed to do an interview with me about this particular project to give us some insight into the process – We are very blessed that this work is now available in print form (I dearly love holding a book in my hand, while at the same time wanting to make a living through e-books!). I am deeply honored – and extremely humbled – that I am one of three individuals (along with Tamara Yelin and Gary Barwin) that Craig dedicated this book to. This is probably because I used my Cappie perseverance to nag him to put this work out for public consumption!

A bit about Craig’s background – he is uber intelligent – that is all you need to know! Okay – he is also some other things, like author/artist for the “Punctuated Tarot” and “Trump L’Oeil – Tarot of Portmeirion” ( ), author of “Magic Words – A Dictionary”  (, and “One Letter Words – A Dictionary”. A former college teacher, he is a lexicographer, visionary thinker, and true “Renaissance man”.

From the book:

In ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’ (1928), Manly P. Hall suggests that Tarot cards must be considered in three ways:’ (1) as separate and complete hieroglyphs ,each representing a distinct principle, law, power, or element in Nature; (2) in relation to each other as the effect of one agent operating upon another; and (3) as vowels and consonants of a philosophic alphabet.’

Conley sees Hall as proposing that Tarot cards form “distinct units of meaning”. He quotes Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone as concurring: “The practical language of Tarot is a language of question and answer. In that language, card meanings could be compared to the words, and spreads to the grammar” (Tarot Tips, 2003).

 The point is made that while it is easy to translate (interpret) a Tarot card in isolation, it is more of a challenge to understand the “deep structure” of a Tarot spread that includes several cards. Conley posits that a secondary system of icons can provide visual clues as to how individual cards relate. He goes on to say that just a traditional Tarot imagery distills the archetypes that make up our life, the standard marks and signs of punctuation clarify meaning as our story folds (and that is what the Tarot is – our story, told in our own unique way). In essence, punctuation offers cues on how to understand our life experiences. I liked the quote by poet/veteran punctuation artist Gary Barwin, who considers punctuation marks to be “the secret operatives of language”.  How much better does it get! It does get better – Barwin goes on to say, in relating punctuation marks to the Tarot “We have a deep connection to these little dark marks. Each of them is like a tiny Tarot card, the reading of which depends on the reader. There are many ways to read their miniscule portraits.”

This is much more a workbook than simply a book to be read and digested. After introducing the concept of punctuation and Tarot, we jump right into working with the upright and reversed meanings of the punctuation marks. The way this is done is to draw two Tarot cards, then draw a punctuation card, and place it between them. In this way a sentence is formed.

For example, if we place an Em Dash between the two cards, then the substance of card number one has been interrupted by the substance of card number two. If the punctuation card drawn was an Ellipsis (I love these little guys!), then card number one is going to hit the skids and leave card number two in its wake. With a Guillemet (fast forward symbol) we see card number one speedily advancing towards card number two.

Each punctuation mark is described in both its upright and reversed meanings. Punctuation marks covered include comma, single quotation mark, consecutive dots, ellipsis, bullet, interpunct, semicolon, punctus elevatus, high dot, period, degree, full stop, left square bracket, right square bracket, left parenthesis, right parenthesis, colon, colon separator, ditto mark, double quotation mark, em dash, underscore, asterisk, hodge star, exclamation point, inverted exclamation point, left guillemet, right guillemet, hyphen (prefix), hyphen (suffix), question mark, inverted question mark, forward slash, backslash, caret, caron, sarcasm mark, conditional probability, sharp, hash, falsum, tee, therefore, because, tie, undertie, accolade, right brace, space and move-up bracket.

In looking at punctuation within larger spreads, Conley uses as an example a four card spread that I drew, using the “Shadowscapes Tarot” (Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore).  It was read as a linear spread, with the position definitions (1) body, (2) heart, (3) mind and (4) spirit. The punctuation marks drawn were the Asterisk, Colon and Inverted Exclamation Point. This reading can be seen in the guest blog that Craig wrote here – There is another great sample reading in this chapter using a four card reading done for Tarot reader Tamara Yelsin upon receiving the news of Michael Jackson’s death.

In his chapter on the Major Arcana and punction associations, Conley presents each card with its associated punctuation mar, along with a short quote. From the book:

The Hermit

The square brackets, [ ], form a nest for missing or added material.

 “The Saints’ days marked between brackets [ ], are not appointed by the church.” – Charles Walker, A Prayer Book For The Young.”

 The Major Arcana punctuation associations are:

The Fool – Pilcrow

The Magician – Trademark symbol

The High Priestess – Question Mark

The Empress – Prime Symbol of Mathematics

The Emperor – Ampersand

The Hierophant – Therefore Sign

The Lovers – Section Sign

The Chariot – Space Symbol

Strength – The Brace

The Hermit – Square Brackets

The Wheel of Fortune – Reference Mark

Justice – Percent Sign   

The Hanged Man – Semicolon

Death – Ellipsis

Temperance – Tilde

The Devil – Numero Sign

The Tower – Exclamation Point

The Star – Asterisk

The Moon – Degree Symbol

The Sun – The Bullet

Judgement – Interrobang

The World – Copyright SymbolConley revisits my four card spread, replacing the cards from the “Shadowscapes Tarot” with cards from the “Punctuation Tarot”. He also visits a three-card spread done for Tarot reader Catherine Chapman just after a lunar eclipse.

At the end of the book Conley presents six other unique techniques of divination by punctuation: (1) Decipher Your Dog’s Character by the Punctuation Spots, (2) A Tilde in a Teacup: Punctuate Tealeaf Reading, (3) Automatic Punctuating, (4) Punctuation in Palmistry, (5) Punctuated Cloud Divination and (6) Visionary Punctuation: Mystical Insights.

To see the concept of divination by punctuation at work, check out Craig’s awesome guest post – I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to get a fresh take on the Tarot – especially those who see the Tarot as a living story, and want to be able to write it in their own unique fashion.

 © October 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Interview With Craig Conley

Interview With Craig Conley

Work that Tarotist/lexicographer Craig Conley is currently doing recently crossed my path. I am impressed – as I always am with Craig – and wanted to share this work with you – even though it is not exactly “public property” yet! Craig was very gracious, and did agree to share his thoughts. Enjoy!


BC: I love the unique outlook of your latest work! How did you come up with the idea for the “Punctuated Tarot”?

CC: It all started with a semicolon hieroglyphically flashing in my mind as a reversed Hanged Man, the period symbolizing the head and the comma symbolizing the crooked leg. I immediately worked up a graphic representation of the vision, and my first question was, “Is there an entire Major Arcana of punctuation?” The prospect brought much excitement, as for years I’ve studied the smallest units of our language. I’ve published my surprising findings in such books as One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins, 2005), Ampersand (a history and pictography of our most common coordinating conjunction), Annotated Ellipses, and my popular web series entitled “A Semicolon’s Dream Journal.”

BC: How do you associate the semicolon and the Hanged Man?

CC: I was immediately struck that the reversed Hanged Man is typically associated with an inability to let go. The semicolon of course holds together two closely-related sentences. There’s tremendous tension in that act of fusing two units that can stand alone. The semicolon could be seen as a unifier and a peacemaker, but more and more writers consider the mark to be an unnecessary middleman. The fact that the semicolon is on the verge of becoming extinct in our language makes its Hanged Man appearance all the more poignant.

BC: I love the diversity of punctuation marks that you are working with here! How did they make the grade? In other words, how on earth did the “prime” symbol of mathematics make it in, while the ever popular comma did not?

CC: Esoteric symbols seemed a natural fit for the Tarot. But old standards are there, too. For example, the ampersand simply demanded a place on The Emperor card, as folklore traces the sign’s name to mean “Emperor’s hand.” And since the word “asterisk” means “little star,” it demanded its rightful place in the Tarot heavens. Some of my esoteric choices may well challenge the common definition of “punctuation,” but all are punctuation in the crucial sense of being emblems of disambiguation. And that’s key to the purpose of this project. Tarot cards are like rebus puzzles in that the spread of their pictures forms coded sentences. Punctuation helps to bring clarity to the meaning of sentences. Just as traditional Tarot imagery distills the archetypes of our quest for wholeness, the standard marks and signs of punctuation elucidate meaning as our story unfolds.

BC: Not to be obtuse, but how do punctuation marks offer keys to unlocking cryptic Tarot messages? Have you been visioning with Uncle Al, perhaps?

CC: The Latin root of “punctuation” means to “point out” and to “bring to a point.” Punctuation marks help us to pinpoint the precise structure of the sentences that constitute our life story. Punctuation helps to organize and emphasize the themes at play. It assists us to comprehend the relationships that exist between nouns (the people, places, and things in our lives) and verbs (actions and occurrences). Punctuation offers cues on how to understand the course of our experiences.

BC: Aside from keeping our words flowing, exactly what does punctuation do for us?

CC: Ultimately, it’s about breathing. Punctuation is emphatic about pauses, whether brief or prolonged. Pauses invite us to linger on meaning, to reflect, to reevaluate. A pause gifts us with time to think twice. A pause offers a place to stand and to withstand.

BC: Why did you choose a question mark to represent The High Priestess? The first thing that pops into my head is that “there is no uncertainty with this lady”!

CC: My choice there was informed by my Mystery School background—a question mark representing uncertainty in the sense of mystique. It is a riddle as opposed to a quandary. The haziness of the veil doesn’t imply unclarity.

BC: How did the Fool come to be represented by a paragraph mark (pilcrow)?

CC: That was an irresistible choice, as the pilcrow denotes a new train of thought. Quite interestingly, the traditional Chinese paragraph sign is a thin circle—the same symbol as the character for “zero.” And so there’s actually an historical precedent for linking The Fool, the numeral zero, and the paragraph sign.

BC: What are your favorite cards of the Punctuated Tarot?

CC: I’m beguiled by The Hermit’s lantern, which is comprised of square brackets. Rather poetically, the square brackets form a nest for missing material. They have another use: it sometimes happens in writing that a parenthetical phrase occurs within another parenthetical phrase, and in such cases square brackets appear within the outer parentheses. Therefore, in a Tarot spread, square brackets can symbolize “deeper nesting.” Most commonly, square brackets enclose words added by someone besides the original author. And so they offer a sheltered realm for adding your own two cents when someone else is dictating.

Another favorite is the space symbol on The Chariot. The space symbol is a blank area. Figuratively, it signifies the dimensions within which things move. One might say that the chariot is inseparable from the road it traverses.

I’m also especially fond of Temperance’s tilde, which literally indicates a change in pronunciation and figuratively signifies a pronounced change. And Death’s ellipsis foreshadows an intentional omission or a trailing off.

BC: What guided your artistic choices?

CC: Much of the Punctuated Tarot artwork recalls the Tarot of Marseilles. But I wanted the imagery to be eclectic, in keeping with the diversity of punctuation symbols. The Death card, for instance, features Mors, the Roman personification of death. The Lovers card is based upon Psyche and Cupid on Mount Olympus. The Sun depicts a sundial from a formal garden in Bedfordhsire, England. Other cards, such as The Moon, The Star, The Fool, and The High Priestess are wholly original art.

BC: Are you going to do the Minor Arcana? If so, what approach are you going to take?

CC: The Minor Arcana is proving to be a challenge, but the double dagger symbol was an obvious choice for the Two of Swords. It indicates a transition state in Chemistry. I’d certainly love to develop a full Tarot deck of punctuation marks. It’s a work in progress.

BC: How do you recommend using the “Punctuated Tarot”? I can see it being used as a comparative deck, and as a primary reading deck for specific issues, insight or personal growth.

CC: Yes, I see the deck being used for specific issues, especially when one finds one’s life story to be seemingly stalled in a punctuated pause. Is the pause a marker between chapters, or a footnoted digression, or some sort of connecting line to a new idea? Is it the calm before the storm or a gentle trailing off? During those uncomfortable delays and silences, the iconic language of punctuation can give us a sense of the durations and the connections.

BC: You have a site that you are developing to present the Punctuated Tarot ( What are your plans here?

CC: The page offers a growing introduction to the project, brief explanations of each card, and an online three-card reading. I’m open to visitor suggestions on how the page can grow.

I want to thank Craig for taking the time to discuss his latest project. In playing around with it myself, I have found that new layers if information open up as my perspective on the cards open up. I hope that each of you finds something in Craig’s work that opens things up for you too!

An eccentric lexicographer and scholar, Craig Conley is author of the Tarot of Portmeirion, Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books) and One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins). His website is

Note: Craig has a wonderful post on Tarotist Catherine Chapman’s site – Enjoy!

© June 2010 Bonnie Cehovet