Tarot and I? We go waaaaaaaay back. When I was a kid, my grandma picked up a few boxes full of volumes of that Man Myth & Magic series from the 1970’s at a garage sale. She never had any interest in the occult that I knew about, but I’m pretty sure they must have been a good bargain. They entered my parents house in a big box that sat in my little brother’s closet for months and months. My dad, like his mother, can’t resist a bargain either. Our bookshelves at home were filled with volume upon volume of series of Time Life books, from the ones on The Old West to Fighter Jets. He intended to read them, and promptly forgot about them. My brother and I discovered these weird, dusty old books, and were fascinated by them. There was a section on tarot that I kept coming back to. It intrigued me for some reason. I had some foggy idea that the mysterious “gypsy” fortunetellers from cartoons and movies used tarot cards. I thought it was cool! Just like using a Ouijia board, or waterskiing, I wanted to try it.
My mom was very religious when I was a kid. These books made her unbearably weary. When she found out that my brother and I had been reading them, and that my grandmother had allowed it, they promptly disappeared. There was a small vindication for me in the fact that we also had a Reader’s Digest Book in the box called “Into The Unknown”. Basically, it was a short collection of articles on psychic phenomena, hauntings, UFO’s, and other topics of wild interest to curious ten year olds. There was a two page article on tarot, showing the Major Arcana from the Rider-Waite-Smith fanned out for display. My little brother and I would close our eyes, ask questions, and blindly point to a card on the page. It was fun, but it was no substitute for a real deck that I was not allowed to have.
From junior high to high school, I pleaded and cajoled my mom to let me have a tarot deck. I had no idea where someone could find one, but I trusted that adults were supposed to know such things. When taking a basic psychology in highschool, we got to do a project on a number of topics relevant to the subject. For whatever reason, the “psychological implications of divination” were amongst the topics. I was stoked… I finally had a real excuse! Hah! My poor was intensely uncomfortable with the idea. “But honey, tarot cards are part of the occult! It’s just not something you should play around with. It’s not right.” I ended up doing my project on Palmistry instead. I wasn’t a terribly rebellious child or teen, at least not outwardly. I did all of my seething on the inside. I took on my duties as the oldest (and I hate to say it, but also the smartest) of three. My younger brother and sister were very difficult kids, and I accepted my fate at a very young age. I was the responsible one. I may have disagreed with my mother, but I couldn’t bear to hurt her. I didn’t understand why it was so important to me. It was as if I knew this crazy pack of cards was the key to understanding something that I very much wanted to know. I longed to have some kind of spiritual connection to something, but in the Protestant tradition I grew up in, it just wasn’t there for me.
When I was in college and home for Christmas, I’d found a Rider Waite deck at a bookstore near campus. I was constantly broke and hungry, as college students are won’t to be, and I didn’t really have the extra $12 to spend. It was 1995, and I only made $4.25 an hour selling plastic shoes. I spent the money anyways. The bright yellow box, and the Magician’s confidently incredulous smirk got to me. I saw no need to tell my mom… I was an adult, dammit! I could do whatever I wanted! I wasn’t going to flaunt it, of course. A few days later, we had a very serious winter storm with intense winds that knocked numerous powerlines down. My family didn’t have power for close to five days, and we huddled around the woodstove in the living room, draped in blankets, trying to keep warm. I was itching to play with the cards, but wanted to do so out of Mom’s Way, but it was far too dark and cold with no heat or power. We were snowed in during part of the storm, and flashlight batteries were to be conserved as much as possible. I decided that I just couldn’t handle knowing that the one thing I’d always wanted was sitting in my back pack untouched, while I re-read old back issues of National Geographic. I hadn’t brought any books with me. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and had worked through my parents meager bookshelf three or four times over. The only thing I skipped were the Time Life books. Amazin’ Fighter Jets of the World don’t have the evocative allure of mom’s collection of unread Danielle Steele novels. I decided to say “Screw it!”, and I got the cards out. I love my mom, and I didn’t want to hurt her or make her worry. Yet I also wanted to know why what to me was a simple pack of playing cards with extra pictures were so frightening. It was very hard for her. “Oh… I don’t know about those things. I wish you hadn’t have done that!”. I wasn’t mean about it, but I told her plainly. “Mom, you have to let me figure that out on my own. I promise that I’m not going to do anything dangerous. Please just trust me, and don’t worry so much. They’re just cards!”
Well… they are more than just cards now, aren’t they? My curiosity in tarot did open up other doors for me. It always has worked that way. One thing leads to another, and you find yourself dating a chaos magician with a Wiccan roomate, who want you to read for them. Philosophically, my world got a little bit bigger from that interaction. Tarot was a conversation starter that lead to some conversations that have set the course of my entire life. I’m not even kidding.
I started reading a little, mostly badly. I began collecting decks when I could. I never really liked the RWS. I didn’t really meet “the one” until a few years later when the Thoth deck came knocking at my door.
It was love… although that kind of love is often cruel. Later on, I ended up moving across the country, and didn’t so much as pick up a deck for four or five years. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.
A couple of years ago, I thought about how long it had been since I’d read. I also thought that it was about damn time that I learned to do it better. I began collecting decks again. I began reading again. I took some classes. I read some books. I remembered why I’d once loved it so much.
I still feel intimidated at times. I often get stuck in readings. Sometimes I feel like I suck. I remind myself, it’s a process. In the search to find “the one deck”, I’ve amassed quite a collection. The Thoth deck is a beast of a deck, and it does not lend itself well to lighter subjects for me. It’s best for the big issues. I’m glad to be here.
My mom has gone through her own journey over the last 15 years. She’s changed in a lot of really good ways. She is fascinated by tarot, and even gets a professional reading a few time a year. I got her her first deck not long ago. I went with the Enchanted Tarot (part of the Tarot Discovery kit). It’s a nice package, and it’s a very sweet and gentle deck. I thought she’d enjoy it and not be overwhelmed. She recently got a reading from a local professional reader that I’ve taken a few classes with. When the reader found out who my mom was, she told her “You should have your daughter read for you! She’s really good!”. My mom told me this with pride.
Again, I’m glad to be here now.