Once upon a time…
It was easiest with the drunk girls. You know the ones – they travel in packs dressed in sparkly tops, fake lashes, short skirts, and wobbly heels. On weekends, I have come to expect them after 10 PM. They burst through the door, giggling, peering into the darkened reading room with glassy cow eyes. They probably expect a fallen angel or a witch to peek out from behind the velvet curtain.
But it’s just me here – and the cards.
“We’re here for the $30 special!” they gush.
My smile doesn’t reach my eyes. I know what they want – otherworldly comfort. So I give it to them with a dash of theatre – eyes dark and rimmed in kohl, unblinking. I hold their gaze with an authority they’d rather not question.
“Yes, your boyfriend-ex-boyfriend-fiancé-husband-ex-husband still loves you. He’s been preoccupied with work-bills-traveling-porn-sports-his friends. He is learning profound soul lessons around worthiness. Soon his heart’s affections will be rekindled and burn with the same passion for you as when you first met. You had a past life together. You are Soul Mates. Be patient.”
They exhale, wondering how I could know the sorrows lodged deep within their troubled hearts. With teary eyes, they nod with relief, yearning for tangible confirmation.
“Let’s see what the Tarot cards say…”
I slowly flip over the King and Queen of Cups.
“A Divine pair. This is very good. Your man is becoming more in tune with his inner self. He wants to work things through in his own time. Perhaps before the next full moon, you’ll see his attention and affection increase. Pulling the Queen is telling us you must show him divine grace and understanding.”
More tears. More nods.
Complicit in my embellishment, the cheeky tarot cards reveal an upside-down king instead of one that’s right side up. Classic reversal. None of what I said will happen or come true; his heart is closed – both the cards and I know it. Frankly, deep down so does the woman in question.
So what is the real truth? Your boyfriend-fiancé-husband would gladly dump you if it were convenient for him to do so. If you are a side-chick, you deserve to be left on read. If you have to ask me if he loves you, then he doesn’t. And no, your ex isn’t coming back, he’s your ex for a reason. Cut the cords, release the connection, delete his social media, reclaim your energy and your dignity, and move on.
Yes – that would be the truth. That truth would save them a lot of heartache. But they don’t want to hear the truth so the cards and I never tell them what they need to hear. Since when is there money to be made by telling people the truth?
“Perhaps you’d like to see my selections of love tokens? A rose crystal or a garnet amulet would help immensely.” They nod again. If one of the inebriated women buys something, then they all will. They coo, holding up jars of ointments, sticks of incense, mystical trinkets, and good luck charms. Dutifully, I cater to the weakest-willed one in the group, the one who desperately wants to believe that someone knows something positive about her future.
The middle-aged men come after work – alone, hands jammed in their pockets. They have passed by my shop several times before. They walk away the first time, but they eventually always come back. Their fathers are dead, their wives are cold, their children are distant, and they have no real friends. Maybe golf buddies? Maybe a co-worker to talk about the game at lunch. But who can they go to for guidance and direction?
Middle-aged men aren’t afraid of much – except for looking weak. With me, they can pay for the privilege of letting their guard down, if only for a moment. Financial worries etch lines around their haggard faces. Their spouses are disappointed in them. Their offspring require payments for therapists, rehabilitation programs, and unaffordable schools. Wasn’t it their job to keep everyone safe? These resigned, silent men watch closely as I shuffle and reshuffle the cards.
I flip over the Ten of Pentacles, symbolising the ultimate financial success and stability; a secure family, where everyone is provided for. The tarot cards are mocking my client now, and I smack them on the glass table – ostensibly to get them into an orderly pile. Behave, I threaten. But the cards listen to me as well as this man’s children listen to him. I exaggerate to give him peace, quoting scripture of all things.
“The cards remind you that you may give your children your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you, for life does not go backward. You are the bow from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. Demonstrate mindfully. The cards say patience is required at this point. Do not lose hope.”
The man and I look at each other. He remains silent, pays my fee, and leaves without a word.
Hope. Bah! My nights teeter between the sacred and the profane; the sublime and the ridiculous; the temporal and the eternal; the petty and the serious. Drunk girls and sad dads – all framed around love and hate, good and evil, purpose and meaning and nihilism.
My door is wide open on a quiet night, hoping to entice someone to come in. Frankly, the cards and I are bored with each other. They are tired of my questions, and I am tired of their answers. We both know good and evil have access to the truth – and that truth is the truth – the truth is fixed. You cannot argue with what is. I shuffle and reshuffle the cards. The tarot cards try to slip from my fingers but my hands are too agile. I do not hear the woman entering the reading room. When I look up, I am startled by her piercing gaze.
“I’m—I’m sorry,” I stammer “We’re closed.”
“Deal the cards for me,” she appeals, putting down a substantial sum of money.
I hate her, but I must do as she requests.
With our eyes on each other, I flip over the first card – a reversed messenger of Death. We look at the upside-down skeleton, dressed in black armour, riding a white horse. I look at her drawn face devoid of emotion.
“Ah yes, I am resistant to change. It’s true,” she says.
I turn over the next card. Another messenger of Death, but this card is right side up.
“And another change is coming. You would think both of us have had enough change for one lifetime. Mothers with dead sons shouldn’t have to experience much more, don’t you think?”
My jaw tightens, yet I remain silent.
“Ask the cards again.”
“The cards will not tell us.”
“I need to know where my son is – even if you don’t care where your bastard burns.”
My eyes blaze; a dozen curses for her and her own wretched son on my lips. The cards grow cold in my hands. She’s cruel, but she has a point. My son was a bastard in every sense of the word. I clench my teeth and firmly shuffle the tarot cards, eyes downcast.
Both the cards and I want her to leave.
“Ask the cards.”
“The cards will not tell us, Alexandra.”
“Deal the cards now,” she orders, placing more money on the glass table. Again, I am bound to deal.
I shuffle the cards much faster this time. They warm in my hands at first, then glow hotter with each pass. The edges of the cards flicker like hot embers as I deftly shuffle, over and over.
One card flips out of the deck and I place it face up without looking.
The woman looks at the card in disgust. With a pass of her hand, she changes the card to The Judgment, depicting Archangel Gabriel blowing his horn of reckoning over the graves of dead men. The ghouls emerging from the open graves on the card look suspiciously like our sons.
I stand and walk towards the door.
The tarot cards have had enough, too. Another card flips over on its own accord: The Empress, symbolising unconditional love and maternal care. Oh how I loved my son!
Enraged by unchecked grief, the woman reaches out to pass her hand over the card to change it to The Devil, but the glass table shatters in shards that cover the woman from head to toe.
As soon as she leaves, the reading room’s lights flicker and grow brighter.
The tarot cards have arranged themselves into a tidy pile on the floor. I take a deep breath and flip over the first one. The Hermit.
The deck makes me laugh.
“So I am, my dear friend. But in the afterlife, we will be reunited with my son, won’t we?”
I flip the next card over and see the Ace of Pentacles. One of the best cards in the deck!
With teary eyes and a laugh, I nod with relief.
“The sea tells you everything will be fine. The mountains tell you it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Moral of the Story:
Sometimes a wise word or the comfort of a new insight can make all the difference. Even the most secure people have moments of self-doubt, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. Whether you need a little or lots of validation, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us did not receive reassurance growing up. We didn’t get the memo that we have worth and value and that we’re OK just as we are. As a result, we may have a reassurance deficit, which propels us to continually look outside ourselves for validation to help us feel grounded. If you grew up with a heavy dose of criticism or neglect, you may not have developed a secure internal base. If you did not have a safe and healthy attachment style with your primary caregivers, it is unlikely you will have a stable inner platform from which to operate confidently in an unpredictable world.
It takes courage to reach out and ask for support when needed. However, be careful about taking too much time when seeking a friend’s reassurance. People have limited time and attention spans. Use your intuition about when it feels like enough or check in occasionally to see if your friend has reached a limit. Ask them to tell you when they have – a good friend will tell you. Whether it’s exercising, journaling, or talking to a therapist, we’re always looking for everyday activities to boost our mental health. Tools like Tarot and other instruments of divination can be helpful in getting in touch with your highest self. Unless you know what you are doing, please only read for yourself. A personal tarot practice is about creating a process of perspective-taking. It’s developing the ability to examine your struggles and goals from different outlooks and see things from different angles. In this way, you can gain the clarity and reassurance of a new perspective to expand your sense of awareness and knowledge.
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?””Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Affirmation: The answers within me come to my awareness with ease.
I allow my thoughts to be free. The past is over. I am at peace. I now discover how wonderful I am. I choose to love and enjoy myself. I lovingly take care of my body, my mind, and my emotions. I love and approve of myself. It is safe for me to care for myself. I live in the now. Each moment is new. I choose to see my self-worth. I trust the process of life. Only right and good action is taking place in my life. I easily and comfortably release that which I no longer need in life. I am safe, I relax and let life flow joyously. It is safe now for me to take charge of my own life. I choose to be free. I trust that right action is always taking place in my life. I am at peace. I gently flow with life and each new experience. All is well. I calm my thoughts and I am serene. I see with eyes of love. There is a harmonious solution, and I accept it now. My understanding is clear, and I am willing to change with the times. I am safe and all is well.
“Few things are more comforting to the soul than the voice of someone who loves us.”