I sit in silence across from a stranger. My eyes float across the symbols on the cards between us. The King of Pentacles Reversed. The Ace of Cups Reversed. Five of Pentacles. She is clearly having a rough moment in life. A flush of emotion washes over me, not quite mine. The sensation swells and warm tears pool at the edges of my eyes—just enough to release the feeling, but not so much that they spill out.
“Have you been through a break up or a divorce recently?”
Her eyes widen, and she inhales deeply. Her chin locks under tightened lips. She nods quietly.
“It looks like this might have come with some monetary setbacks and health challenges.”
The tears are hers now. She shares the details that align. I commiserate with sincerity.
The cards continue to turn, offering compassionate guidance toward how she can love herself through this challenge. The messages reflect back to her the very thoughts she has already been mulling over in the past week, and builds up her trust to take the bold steps forward that she is ready for now. Hopefully, she can better attune herself to the part of her higher self that has been speaking to her all along.
It was not my plan to become a professional tarot reader. “Fortune teller” is not a title that leads to accolades of respect from the community. Yet, when I am reading, society’s judgments slip aside as I center myself in the magic of this strange art form. There is no doubt in me when someone sees their life’s path and their thoughts are spoken back to them from someone who had no way of knowing what they needed to hear. It enlivens me every time. I am humbled and grateful to have been placed in such a strange role.
Kismet brought me here. After getting my first reading in New Orleans at 14 years old from a quirky character named Jerrick, I began learning the cards and dabbled through my 20’s. One summer, I stayed with a friend I met while teaching English in Taiwan. Her readings displayed a deeper understanding of how to interrelate all the parts of a spread and channel new meanings. I asked her to teach me in an exchange of knowledge. Our intentional connection created an electric resonance, and all my previous years of befuddlement with the cards dissolved away. I began to feel a sense of magical purpose in this practice.
Soon after, I set off on a road trip across the U.S. My then-boyfriend shared his intuitive prediction that I would read cards in New Orleans. The idea was intimidating. Then the first woman I had a conversation with in the Big Easy showered me with all the information I could possibly need to know about how to set up a table on the square without stepping on the toes of the locals or the legals. The eerie sense of a calling magnified. After hustling around only to find my usual doors to income shut, I decide to take the hints from the universe and head out to Jackson Square.
Setting out my table for the first time terrified me. I aim for Saturday, but chicken out. On Sunday evening, I knocked back a glass of wine, put on a silky top, and lugged my chairs and table to a vacant spot within the legal parameters.
I set up my table and am immediately approached by a short, stark woman with thickly glittered, dark brown skin, wearing a bundle of bright clothes and decadently topped off by a shimmering golden headwrap. She talks and talks at a mile a minute, and then plops a few dollars on my table. I don’t know what for. Seeing my confusion at the payment, she replies, “Oh you know, that’s for listening—you know, for the time.” And continues her verbal marathon.
I listen and nod. She finishes in a flourish, “Oh, you’ll do just fine here, girl. You’re pretty and nice. I like you. You’ll do just fine.”
I offer her a reading, and she nervously pulled back, “Oooeee, I don’t know. Do I have to touch the cards?”
Told she doesn’t have to touch them, she apprehensively agreed. “How about if you shuffle, and I go over there and come back. And then you tell me what’s what?” She circled a nearby column as I laid out the spread, and I gave my first reading for a few dollars more.
After she left, I sat in a state of happy bewilderment. Soon after, a girl on a bicycle with a hot pink bobbed wig stopped in front of me.
“Hello. You’re new here.” I confirm with a guarded nod. “You’re in Jerrick’s spot.”
“What? Oh, sorry. I thought it was on a first-come basis”.
“No, no; he’s off on Sundays. This is just where he normally sits.”
“Wait, did you say Jerrick? Has he been here a long time?”
“Oh yeah, he’s the oldest reader on the square. Been here like 35 years.”
“And this is where he sits?”
I leaned back, bewildered by the coincidence of choosing the exact same spot as the reader who gave me my first reading.
That’s when I let go.
Tarot has taught me to allow myself to be pulled along by a force beyond my own will whenever coincidences flow. This has enhanced the sense of magic and wonder in my daily life. As I get older, I deeply appreciate how reading tarot still zings with youthful delight for the mystery of it all.
Through sharing a laugh and a cry over life’s mysteries with others, tarot regularly overturns my presumptions about humans. It is truly an honor to share in their stories, and listen closer to the quiet voice that wishes us all the best possible future.
This was originally published on HerStory, a site that celebrates women’s personal stories.
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