A History of Tarot (mine)

In the beginning, I was an Astrologer.  A lonely one.   I started out with sun signs like everyone else (Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs”- an excellent introductory book, btw) but then went on to take lessons, read charts, do research and eventually have my own clients. I took a lot of guff for it.  Family, friends, even strangers were not shy about sharing their thoughts with me. “That’s only for gullible people, isn’t it?” “Hmmn, we thought you were smarter than that.”  “Pure superstition!”  Or my favorite, “You’ll be going to hell if you keep that up.”  During this period I took a job working for Weiser’s, the well known esoteric bookstore in lower Manhattan, owned by leading occult publisher Samuel Weiser.  I was given the job of overseeing the large astrology section and ‘keeping an eye’ on the tarot.  Up until that point my exposure to tarot had been minimal – one chapter in a Sybil Leek book and the little white pamphlet enclosed in a Marseille deck given to me by a coworker at my previous job. I did a few readings for myself with them, without having any real knowledge about them, and the readings were accurate enough, but the design gave me a headache and after awhile I put them aside.  Really,  I was too happily overwhelmed with all the astrology material now in front of me every day to do much more than glance through the occasional tarot book that caught my eye.  My clientele grew and about two years later I went to work for a specialty occult business,  also in Manhattan, which provided not only a job, but a reading space for my established client base and a platform to attract new ones.  Yay!  The only glitch was that I had to also be ready and willing to read Tarot. At a professional level.  In two weeks.  I had taken a few informal classes by then, but was essentially still a neophyte.  Talk about a learning curve, I knew I had arrived at mine.

I don’t remember the first Tarot reading I did there.  Or the second or third.  I was not an inexperienced reader (of charts) but I do recall feeling like a bit of an imposter every time I started shuffling those cards.  And with my boss listening unobtrusively (but in plain view of the client) nearby, not to mention the necessary time constraints imposed by the venue…well, I did enjoy rising to the challenge…but…whew….it was a lot of pressure.

For the next 5 and a half years I read tarot on a mostly full time basis.  I got to know other tarot readers too, and was continually surprised by all the variations of what constitutes a good one.  I knew I was a hybrid, an intuitive type with a strong love of book knowledge, a fascination for prediction, and an enthusiasm for keen analysis.  While these traits have served me well and are in fact necessary ones for the Uranian art of Astrology, things are a bit different on the more Neptunian landscape of Tarot.  I met some great taroists who didn’t read much of anything (some couldn’t), others who could wax and weave their way through volumes of arcane esoterica, of the type available to buy or view by appointment only at Weiser’s.  Yes, they were very different styles of reading, but equally impressive in their own unique way, and the (Leonine) snob in me was quickly and quite rightfully, silenced.

My journey in Astrology began early and developed slowly and comfortably, first on my own timetable, with limited materials, later in a more formal and structured sense through some excellent teachers and other resources I found along the way. The  journey with Tarot was different.  More like The Fool, followed by the Chariot, with a bit of the Tower and the Moon thrown in.  Grabbing the reins and riding that wave.  Thirty-something years later and I’m still holding on.  It’s a process. Feel free to wade in if the spirit calls you (and if it wants you, it will call).  It’s admittedly a challenge to attain any sort of mastery over those cards.  But the current is wide and the water is fine.