Why is ev­ery­one an ama­teur tarot-card reader all of a sud­den?

Meredyth Cole re­flects on tarot’s con­tin­ued sig­nif­i­cance in our tech-ob­sessed world.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents - By Meredyth Cole

MOST CHIL­DREN HAVE one of three things un­der their pil­lows at night: baby teeth, for­bid­den books or flash­lights. But when I was lit­tle, you’d have been just as likely to find a pack of my mother’s tarot cards un­der my pil­low as some­thing left for the tooth fairy. I didn’t know what tarot cards were for, but I loved the rich­ness of the colours, as vivid as cough syrup, and the grown-up charge they seemed to carry. I treated them like a pic­ture book, but the cards clued me in to some­thing that was pro­found to my sixyear-old self: Look­ing at them, I sensed, for the first time, that images can carry a mean­ing that is greater than what they de­pict.

As I got older, my mom sup­ple­mented the usual parental talks with well-timed read­ings. Tarot, she ex­plained, sit­ting at our glass din­ing table, a deck in her hands, is the art of us­ing spe­cial­ized cards for div­ina­tion—to gain un­der­stand­ing of a sit­u­a­tion, be it past, present or fu­ture. Through her, I learned the mean­ings of all 78 cards, from the Em­press, an im­age of con­fi­dent wom­an­hood I sorely needed in my teens, to the Death card, which can sym­bol­ize any­thing from di­vorce to trans­fer­ring high schools.

I al­ways main­tained a sense of skep­ti­cism about the process: I did not—and still don’t— be­lieve that flip­ping over a card will pre­dict my fu­ture. But I’m too dreamy to pre­tend that I don’t like the idea of some­thing so mag­i­cal and se­cre­tive. Tarot was dou­bly at­trac­tive be­cause I could learn from my fe­male rel­a­tives. More esoteric than pas­try mak­ing and less te­dious than fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, read­ings were an elab­o­rate way

for the wise women in my fam­ily to give ad­vice or help me tease out in­sights from my own judg­ment. The sense of rit­ual—light­ing can­dles, turn­ing my phone off to cut out dis­trac­tions—the chance to spend time with women I look up to and the op­por­tu­nity to am­plify my in­tu­ition have al­ways been as cru­cial to the prac­tice as any pre­dic­tions (al­though I’m not denying those do hap­pen).

One thing I never could have an­tic­i­pated is how tarot has cap­tured—and con­tin­ues to cap­ture—the col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion. Over the past few months, my so­cial-me­dia feeds and shop­ping haunts have dis­played a grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion with the prac­tice. The hash­tag #tarot has over two mil­lion hits on In­sta­gram, and in­flu­en­tial tarot-cen­tric ac­counts like @the­hood­witch and @starchild­tarot pro­mote an al­lur­ing brand of “ev­ery­day magic.” The (highly ad­dic­tive) web­site tarot­god­dess.com allows you to pull cards from a vir­tual deck, while Skype makes it easy to ar­range per­son­al­ized read­ings from any­where in the world. And when Maria Grazia Chi­uri in­cor­po­rated im­agery from the leg­endary fem­i­nist Motherpeace tarot cards on de­signs in her 2018 Re­sort col­lec­tion, sales of tarot cards spiked. Such is the magic of Dior.

But while tarot is trend­ing, I wouldn’t call it a trend. It’s more a resur­gence—a very old prac­tice ris­ing on the cur­rent of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing ac­ces­si­ble an art that was once rel­e­gated to oc­cult book­shops, board­walks and word of mouth. It might seem like an un­ex­pected pair­ing—a mys­ti­cal rit­ual and tech­nol­ogy— but it’s a per­fect fit. The In­ter­net is a vast net­work of in­for­ma­tion de­signed to de­mys­tify the world. Tarot has the same aim: It’s a spir­i­tual tech­nol­ogy, a tool that of­fers guid­ance to any­one with ques­tions and an open mind.

And 21st-cen­tury minds have a lot to ques­tion. We are so over­sat­u­rated with in­for­ma­tion that it’s hard to be­lieve un­equiv­o­cally in any­thing any­more. When trust in author­ity fig­ures, or even in the very no­tion of truth, fails you, it’s nat­u­ral to look else­where for guid­ance, to crowd­source your coun­sel. The point of tarot is to med­i­tate on your own life, your emo­tions and that thing called “the fu­ture,” which hangs over all of us like a leaky ceil­ing. There are few places, be­sides ther­a­pists’ of­fices and nail sa­lons, that en­cour­age un­bri­dled self-re­flec­tion. “We are all just try­ing to find out who we are and what our pur­pose is,” says Ayla El-Moussa, a San Diego-based pho­tog­ra­pher who also stud­ies psy­chol­ogy and mythol­ogy and is part of a group of me­dia-minded young artists who are reimag­in­ing tarot for the mod­ern psy­che. “The tarot helps us clar­ify things we al­ready know deep down and con­nect back to that in­ner voice,” she says. In other words, it’s about mak­ing sense of an in­ter­nal com­pass rather than try­ing to pin down a fixed path or point.

I no longer sleep with my mom’s tarot cards un­der my pil­low. I’m try­ing, and mostly suc­ceed­ing, to tap into my in­tu­ition unas­sisted. But I can be as mys­te­ri­ous to my­self as a stranger, and when that hap­pens, tarot cards (and the women in my life who wield them) are a pow­er­ful way to get per­spec­tive. We all need some­thing di­vine in our lives—some­thing wise. For a grow­ing num­ber, one an­swer may be tarot. Just look at the hash­tags. n

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