Being married to an American has its advantages. Particularly if they are not a Trump supporter. One of the top three advantages (the list of disadvantages covers almost two sides of paper, but we don't have time for that now) is going to New York for Christmas every other year, spending time with his wonderful family and rediscovering the most dynamic city I know.
One place we unfailingly visit every time we're in NYC is the Strand bookstore in Union Square. Many of you will know it — a magical treasure trove of wonder and escapism (minus the crowds). Last Christmas, we were wandering around the Strand in silence, perfectly content to spend hour upon hour sheltering from the biting cold. Suddenly, as I was meandering in the basement (definitely not shoving people out of my way, that would be very un-Strand-like), one small table caught my eye. It was called Esoteric Books.
Now, I have a degree in English Literature, and I'm not ashamed to admit I had no idea what 'esoteric' actually meant until recently. I now think it's something akin to 'mysterious spirituality' but I'm still largely unsure. On this table were lots of books (surprise!), and lots of decks of tarot cards. I was instantly curious, and drawn to one book in particular called 'The Creative Tarot' by Jessa Crispin. It was bright yellow, the title font was hipster-ish, and the author looked sarcastic. That was enough for me, so off I trotted to the cash register (tills).
'The Creative Tarot' became the first non-fiction book I have EVER finished. I started it on the flight home, and read it fairly obsessively until I finished. Along the way, I bought my first tarot deck, stalked Jessa Crispin online relentlessly, wondering if she might be my best friend one day, and fell in love with tarot. Something about the funny, witty writing style and the description of tarot as 'a story about life and what we experience' completely made sense to me. And so, I started learning to read tarot myself, throwing myself in to it as I do with everything, practicing on my long, long-suffering husband and friends and getting over-excited about all the pretty pictures on all the different decks.
Then, last week, I started a brilliant online course by Little Red Tarot, and spent some time answering questions about why I was interested in tarot and what it means to me. Now, I know there are a huge variety of opinions, perspectives and beliefs out there about tarot (as there is about everything, like it or not), and we must all respect each other's opinions, perspectives and beliefs. But I liked the way the questions on the course were written, so I thought I would share some of my answers with people. Ya know, just in case you're interested.
When did you first come across tarot?
When my friend Becky did a reading for me years ago in France, when we were students. I can't recall a single thing about that though, except worrying Becky might be a witch, so the first meaningful encounter with tarot was a couple of years back, when Becky read for me once again in St James' Park in London. Then came the Creative Tarot book. I loved the concept of the different energies represented by each card, and how the combination of cards tells a story.
Why do you want to learn tarot?
To help other people explore new ways of understanding themselves and the experiences they have, day in day out. I love the realisations that people have when I explain the story of a particular card, and the 'meaningful coincidences' that come up in every single reading. I want to use tarot as a tool in coaching, to help people face up to truths they might be ignoring. It's comforting in some way, because the cards represent the whole range of human experiences, so there's a sense of 'it's ok, it's normal' when you see your experience in ink.
How do you feel about tarot in three words? (I ignored the three words bit. No surprise there.)
Natural. Revealing. Fun. Exciting. Engaging
For you, what is the main purpose of tarot?
To empower people to make choices about their behaviours and actions, based on a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
What do you NOT believe about tarot?
I don't believe it channels spirits, unless you count our subconscious as a spirit (which maybe you do). I don't believe it predicts the future, because the future is not fixed — it's a result of the understanding we gain of the past, and the choices we make in the present. I don't believe there is anything intrinsically anti-religious or 'bad' about tarot - the cards are just ink on paper, a tool for intuition.
What are the most important qualities for a tarot reader?
Exactly the same qualities as those of a good life coach...
Humanity: a belief in the inherent goodness of every person, and the power we all have to make our own choices.
Detachment: I think you need to help someone understand the story that emerges from the cards without being attached to whether it's 'positive' or 'negative'. This is exactly why I struggle to read for myself or my husband, an example being the first time I read for him and announced 'ok, so according to the cards you need to stop getting in the way of my plans and schedules, and do the washing up more often. Oh, and this card is the Nine of Swords. It means your life is a nightmare. Enjoy.'
Intuition: paying attention to it.
Humility: Despite much evidence to the contrary, I have no interest in being some type of oracle.
So there we go. Hopefully this has offered a new perspective on what tarot is about, or reaffirmed some stuff you already knew. If anyone is interested in hearing more, get in touch!