here's something I've been meaning to talk about for awhile - tarot, and my connection to reading cards. I got my first deck 37 years ago at the (long since defunct) cool local head shop the OM where they sold silver jewelry, leather goods, paraphernalia, posters, groovy clothing, black lights, incense, tarot cards, and various 'adult' items I didn't yet know the use for. of all the things I bought there over my teen years, I only still have this amazing deer suede shirt by Erda, and my Tarot of the Witches deck of tarot cards (scroll down at the link for a deck review).
where did I first learn about tarot? in my mother's shelves of books which included Eden Gray's Tarot Revealed: A Modern Guide to Reading the Tarot Cards? in the library stacks, where I discovered so much more? in the music I listened to, the people I bonded with? or was it in the head shop itself, the first time I saw that High Priestess image in her jewel tones, on the outside of the box, her cold stare beckoning to me from some weird, nightmarish, yet oddly comforting circus-world. I learned many years later from some acquaintances who owned a bookstore that this unique deck by Fergus Hall was featured in the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die. so weird!
in a way, it's cliche to be (part) Roma and read tarot cards, and I did 'work' the exoticism many of my cousins complain about feeling targeted and harassed for before I understood the implications of that sexualized perspective to those without my privilege. now, I feel like plenty of people capitalize on tenuous and non-existent links to marginalized cultures, so why should I feel bad about owning my own cultural heritage, especially when it has nothing to do with my interest in tarot? how my father hated to see me dabbling in the occult; how averse he was to anything that might be interpreted as 'witchcraft' from growing up with a stigma about being Roma, as well as Jewish - a culture which abhors the witch. I used to be the only card-reader I, or anyone in my peer group knew, ever since I started doing readings in the school
library, though the folks I met later at Renaissance fairs, Rainbow gatherings, and pagan camp-outs had more of a connection to esoteric knowledge, and through them my understanding of tarot deepened and grew. even though I've been drawn to other styles and types of tarot decks and spreads, I've mostly only ever used my own deck, other than a few reads with a friend's Celtic Tree Oracle (though there isn't a Celtic bone in my body), and had never read any minor arcana cards because in my deck, those cards are 'pips' - just a picture of the suit with that number of cups/batons/coins/swords on it - rather than the well-known picture cards imbued with symbolic meanings.
|10 of cups on the bottom right is a 'pip' card.|
during my last round of college I met a well-educated, forthright, outspoken, proud young Kale woman from a well-known Flamenco family who taught me what it meant to be an advocate for the Roma people, and through her, I became acquainted with many other Romani scholars, activists, and artists. and wonderful as it was to finally get access to real and empowering information about Roma people and culture, it was just as hard to feel shut down by some of them because tarot card reading/belly dancing/poetry writing/white girl Roma who say G*psy and claim to have Romani grandmothers yet no tradition/language/community get told by more traditional Roma who know who they are and grew up in communities with shared languages to sit down, and stay in our lane. sometimes they'll even call us 'gadje' (non-Roma), because they know how much it hurts. now, I have a great deal of respect for those scholars, activists, and artists, but I also see that I can be proud of my Roma heritage, and still read cards, while being an active voice in the conversation to uplift our communities. I feel that I have a responsibility to speak about Roma issues from where I stand, without what is considered to be a 'traditional' upbringing, and I have every right to do my work for financial gain, as well. why waste my energy envying folks for doing the same work I've felt called to do for so many years, out of some sense of moral conscience, just because someone who doesn't know me said I can't/shouldn't? now that I've had a few years of feeling badly for possibly misrepresenting my own culture in the past when I knew less about it, in a world where so many appropriators are out there doing it every day, and since I now know better and do my best to elevate the narrative, I honestly no longer see any problem with my engaging in a practice I've studied for decades, no matter what ethnicity, religion, or traditional folkways I come from
I believe in using the tarot as a tool to help clear your mind, to think deeply about the situations in your life, and help guide your decisions. there are those who do less and claim more.
a friend of mine recently downsized their home, so they gifted me a number of different tarot decks, some of which I was able to pass on to other people who needed them. soon after that, I felt a strong draw towards Katelan Foisy's P7: Planetarium workshops she does with her friend Sherene, during which I really reconnected with that way of being 'witchy' - getting back to my cards, burning candles & herbs, charging and using crystals in ritual, working with the moon, engaging with astrology, sigils, goddess energy, chakras, dreams...it was refreshingly inspiring. during that time, I'd been seeing a flyer for Shea's tarot group at the library, and didn't manage to get to it in person before it went online for the pandemic - which I'm glad it did, as it's been great to have what amounts to a women's group to connect with regularly this past year! so through that online group, I've been renewing my relationship with the major arcana from a more diverse and mature perspective, bringing in all I've learned through both my academic and independent research in family systems theory, mythology, folklore, ethnography, storytelling, and collective and personal experience. I'm also learning how to work with the minors which obviously opens up a whole new level of understanding for me after all these years, which has been deeply gratifying.
the deck I've been working with the most right now is Tarot of a Moon Garden as it's the only deck I have that's based on Pamela Coleman Smith's artwork, though it's a bit fairie-cartooney for me, and...not quite right. I've been wanting to get a deck that speaks to my newer understanding of what a deck can be - like the the Thoth deck I've been wanting to work with for at least 30 years, now - and I had recently become aware of The Hoodoo Tarot through Katelan, who I didn't at first realize had done the artwork, or had done a previous Oracle deck with Tayannah Lee McQuillar (the Sibyls Oraculum). I didn't want to buy it, though, because something I read made me feel like the deck was only really meant for a certain population, and that as a non-white white person, it isn't a population I belong to, so I promoted it out of my love for it, but did what I thought was staying in my lane by not buying it.
"The Hoodoo Tarot is a Gorgeous deck, and I keep going back to look at it! I was recently lamenting the lack of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color on tarot decks in general, and while I have no knowledge of, nor cultural connection to, Hoodoo (or Rootwork), I am still Very drawn to this deck, and would love to work with it!" - Oct. 2019
during a recent wander through Barnes & Noble, I was pleased to see The Hoodoo Tarot on the shelf with a few other forward-thinking decks I recently became aware of, and it occurred to me...first of all, right on Tayannah & Katelan! and if they're selling that deck in Barnes & Noble, hopefully to enough people to earn them a good living along with the other work they do, then as someone who deeply respects the traditions and cultures of others stemming from a history of having my own misunderstood and disrespected, I can certainly work with this deck, too. I didn't have enough in the budget to buy it right then, but after receiving some monetary gifts for my recent birthday, I excitedly went back for it.
I'm also learning to branch out from the classic 10-card Celtic cross and exploring different spreads. the Celtic Tree Oracle uses a fairly elaborate 15-card set-up, and Froud's Faerie Oracle uses one and three card pulls for beginner basics, then encourages dabblers to use their intuition to draw cards about a situation or conflict, and formulate a series of deeper questions based on the number of cards drawn. some of the folks I follow on instagram will posts links to different spreads from other readers, but I can't always tell what the source is, and as a librarian's kid who's spent time in academics, if I can't cite it, I won't reference it. and though I'm not new to doing this work, I'm new to advertising online that I do it, and I realize that not only is there a learning curve, but there are SO many others out there with much more business acumen and advertising savvy doing the same thing, and it's rather daunting...and I certainly don't want to step on any toes! in that spirit, I'll share some of my favorite online resources: Biddy Tarot is a cache of clear, concise card meanings, a variety of spreads, and on her instagram she posts daily/weekly/monthly card pulls (and more). the weekly readings from moonandcactus - also on instagram - are great, and I like 3am.tarot for spreads and card meanings. Meg's (3am.tarot) seasonal tarotscopes on autostraddle are really meaningful for me, and her instagram crystal pairings make me really think about what I'm looking to clarify. I've been doing full and new moon readings lately, and seasonal readings as I try to gain more understanding about astrology, which isn't a field I've worked with much past learning the basics of my own signs, stars, and planets.
so, this is my way of saying that I am once again going to be offering tarot card readings! the decks I currently work with are: Tarot of the Witches, The Celtic Tree Oracle, The Fairy Oracle, the Lover's Tarot, and Tarot of a Moon Garden (I won't be using The Hoodoo Tarot for readings just yet as it's new to me, and I want to take some time to get to know it first). get in touch with me so we can work together - and since I'm all about helping people connect with their own cultural heritage, I'm happy to help you figure out what that is, and which deck or decks would be right for you for a reading. also, the best way for me to do this work is by giving something back to the various organizations that also seek to reconnect folks to their heritage/culture, and preserve it, so we can figure out how that might look for you, as well. following is a list of organizations I believe in, and am happy to support, and please let me know if there's another group/organization you'd like to see on this list. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
5% of your reading fee can go towards: