Continuing my series chatting with diviner friends about their craft, about the weird intricacies of prophecy and prognostication, and musing on how people can get the most out of their readings, I spoke to my dear godbrother Gary Noriyuki of Manticore's Den about - amongst other things! - rituals with clients and the importance of note-taking.
Gary Noriyuki is a diviner, conjureman, tattoo artist, Quimbandeiro, and actual ninja. Born in El Salvador, Gary moved to Texas at 14 years old where he was raised by his mom. Introduced to martial arts - specifically, to Bujinkan Ninjutsu - at the age of 9 years old, he continued to train within that discipline and other martial arts while in Texas. He got a tattoo apprenticeship in 2008 and trained at Los Muertos Tattoo Studio; within a few years he was working on custom tattoo commissions. Along with tattooing, Gary is also a sketch artist and self-taught watercolor artist. An active Conjure practitioner, he was taught by Mama Starr. Excitingly, in the last few years Gary has been merging magical art and tattooing to create spiritual artwork pieces on paper and skin for magical practitioners.
A: Hey brother! One of my favourite things to talk about in these chats is how a practice that might not be immediately obviously relevant to divination is actually useful for a diviner. Now, you're a very talented tattoo artist by trade as well as a professional reader and rootworker, so I thought we'd begin there. Do you feel your skills as a reader and as a tattoo artist inform each other? Does training in one help in doing the other?
G: Yes, I believe so. Being a tattoo artist before coming into occult practices gave me comfort to be in such a close space within a personal and sentimental area of the client.
A sense of trust is built between artist and client. I feel developing that skill in the tattoo world, interacting with many different people every day and learning their ideas or how they got the inspiration for the piece they're getting, and how I have to picture or visualize a piece in my mind and bring it out into paper and skin, could translate into something that informs how I do my readings. I see a pattern of cards or bones and images flash in my mind in a similar way, and bring it out into words for my client. The readings taught me to listen further for vital details that can be put towards the design of the tattoo, creating a unique design. It's as if the spirit of the tattoo is guiding me and letting me know what it needs. I especially feel these visualizations most on custom tattoos and paintings to best honor the spirit of the client or who they are trying to honor. I strive to keep communication with my client to confirm the inspiration of the art piece is going the in the right direction.
A: Oh I love this idea of emphasising the importance of the ritual between client and diviner. And yes, reading is also a deeply personal service. Creating that locus around the client, not only identifying the relevant forces influencing things at that time, but also plotting what to do about them and how to go about putting those plans into action. It's a very sacred thing, being a diviner for someone. I can also see, for big decisions, you are helping someone change themselves in some way: another thing tattooing and divining might have in common.
So the tools of the tattoo artist are well known, but what are you favorite tools for divining?
G: Ahh... for the most part, a deck of playing cards that the conjurewoman Mama Starr gifted me years back when she took me under her wing. Sometimes a set of bones is used with my ancestors, and sometimes a Lenormand Deck by Rana George is used. I can pick up a regular deck of cards and read with those, too, but I favor tools I've prayed over and have been used in past readings to communicate with my ancestors, or decks with sentimental value. Lenormand is still new to me, but quickly connected to and fell in love with it.
I know you do Geomancy as a type of divination, I know little to nothing of it but it’s intriguing to me, what got you into this form of divination?
A: I think I first discovered it in the course of my academic training in the history of early modern magic, and I think what appealed to me was just how easy it was to pick up and begin. Of course, as I've continued to study and practice it, I have also come to appreciate its subtleties and complexities. In an interview with Dr Jenn Zahrt, I likened it to playing the bass guitar - both easy to pick up and offering a lifetime of rewarding exploration to master! As I've continued to develop my practice, I also get a lot out of the astrological magic of geomantic sorcery and spiritwork.
G: What do you recommend for people who might be interested in geomancy? Is there much education of the subject or training in this type of divination?
A: If folks are interested in geomancy - and, considering Agrippa called it "the most accurate" of divinations systems, I'm more surprised when people aren't interested in geomancy! - there are a couple of excellent texts and resources. John Michael Greer's The Art and Practice of Geomancy is I think the best first geomancy book. It will teach you a lot: from the absolute basics, to some excellent advanced techniques for interpretation, and even some ritual meditation, scrying and magic. Cracking stuff. For those interested in other modern handbooks of geomancy, I put together this short bibliography for them here. I've also put a whole bunch of scans of early modern geomancy manuals online here for folks to download and study the geomancy which was considered so accurate and popular during and following the Renaissance. People should also check out Sam Block's Digital Ambler blog, which is easily the most informed, innovative, and useful collection of material on geomancy freely available on the web. Sam is a dear friend as well as a fellow geomancer and colleague, and his dedication to the art is clear. Oh, his Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is also full of great discussion, and well worth checking out. Finally though, if folks want to learn geomancy properly, my Geomancy Foundation course starts its second time around in February. It is eight jam-packed hours of tuition, discussion, and support designed to get people not just familiar but comfortable setting and interpreting charts for themselves and others. You can read a testimonial about it here, and book yourself a place here.
Speaking of supporting people in how to improve their use of divination, do you have any advice for people thinking about how to get the most out of their readings? How to phrase questions or what to reasonably expect, etc?
G: I'd say, keep it simple and direct. It's best to phrase things up in a single question at a time, write them down on a notepad so you don't forget them during a reading, and take notes during the session. A lot of information can be hard to remember and taking notes can make things so much better for the client especially after the session is done. They can go back and read key notes that can help them remember it in the long run. Expect a session to be opened with my spirits. Offerings are given to them and a few prayers are said for the ancestors of the client. After this, you are allowed to ask your questions. If it's through email, a report is sent to the client after a session is opened on their behalf. Here I write notes based on the questions of the client and a report is typed up and sent to the client along with photos of the session.
A: I know some diviners who work in part-possession states who have no idea what was said five minutes after the reading, so making notes is not only useful, it's sometimes essential!
In my last Reading Room chat with Sonia Ana Ortiz, we spoke about how she thoroughly recommended muay thai or similar martial arts training to diviners. I know you take your martial arts very seriously. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.
G: I can agree with her, specially traditional martial arts. Nowadays we see martial arts as a sport and mostly for competition, but traditional martial arts with spiritual roots can help the practitioner expand on their divination, and other spiritual practices. I come from a Ninjutsu and Jujutsu background; I started martial arts when I was little in a Bujinkan dojo in San Salvador, I learned of the spiritual practices within the Art. At the time, since I was very little, I didn’t completely understand that part, but years later it became clear that it was important to look into concepts like ”Kuji in” and “Kuji Kiri” - nine seals of power and mysterious arts centered on the concept of life force that flows within, with many mysterious hand gestures and lore behind them. It didn’t take long before this further sparked my interest into the beliefs behind the Art. Jujutsu, Kenjutsu (swordsmanship) and further training in Ninjutsu came much later when I joined a school in Texas under Sensei Terry Ham at Pasadena Dojo.
Sensei Terry and I could spend hours talking about spiritual points of view and practices that go hand in hand with our everyday living as martial artists. This I can say translates as well with divination into our everyday life in one way or another: there’s always a thought that reminds me of such things. I would encourage anyone to try a martial art for sure: to gain focus and discipline that can help in their spiritual practices and divination.
A: Ok, I've got one more question for you: are there any questions you refuse to answer? Either for ethical or practical reasons?
I honestly avoid questions that have to do health outcome. I’m a true believer that people should deal with the mundane first before skipping that part and going straight to a diviner. Numerous times I’ve run into this issue and always refer them to seek medical assistance as I believe I am in no position to give such answer, and feel it would not be responsible for me to take on such questions.
A: Oh yes, that's such a good point. We are not a replacement for medical experts or diagnosis.
Gary Noriyuki can be found on them Facebooks, on the YouTubes, and Instagram on @garynori and @manticoresden, and he can be booked for consultations and artwork by phone on (860)919-7698 and e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. Gary is currently a guest spot artist at Lucky Soul Tattoo at Woodbridge, CT; by appointment only.