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The weird and wonderful story of how I became a tarot reader

The weird wonderful story of how I became a tarot reader

Like a good witch, I’m going to start with the moon.

One of my first memories is standing out on the wooden porch of my Queens home with my mom, looking up at the tiny silver disc waxing toward fullness, when an incredible thought exploded in my 4 year old brain: “I will never touch that thing, never hold or understand it. It will always be a million times bigger than me, above me looking down, and it will never die. When I’m under the moon I will always be small, I will always be just a speck under a great mystery in the sky.”

That moment may have begun my love affair with magic, mystery, and the divine, but that is not the road my life ended up taking.

When I was little I saw angels. I don’t know if they were real or imaginary or child-mind confusion, but I knew how to look for them. I knew that there was a god because of them, and by the time I was 12 I had decided to dedicate my life to God as I knew him, in the way I was told I could. I had decided to become a nun. It was the first decision I’d made for the course of my life, and a hard one for my little Scorpio self. My adolescent body longed for touch and my bright heart longed for adventure. But nun it must be, if I were to be a true handmaiden of the Lord, and I plodded through my all-girls Catholic school resigned to that fate.

Until I found music. Truly it was sudden and startling, my first voice lesson with a 23 year old Venezuelan opera-hopeful in a run down music school on the corner of Myrtle Ave. I just wanted to get into the glee club finally, but in that single hour my voice peeled open like a rose, and a new life bloomed right in front of me. I was going to be a singer, and that was my true destiny.

Then, high school was a rush of opening doors. I discovered my love of literature, my skill for composition, my talent for acting, and my true passion for poetry. My teenage years ended up being a mess of competing destinies—writer, singer, actor, scholar—but not one inkling that I would follow the path of magic and mystery, that I would be drawn back to the moon and her radiance.

Eventually I decided a singer I must be. It was the easiest of the options, and the most immediately gratifying. When I sang people turned, they listened, and I could see in their eyes that something in me was special. I dug in, studied opera and musical theatre, and got pretty damn good. But by the time I was 24, I was a failed and failed and failed performer, thoroughly depressed and stuck and desperate. One afternoon I wandered into my grandfather’s attic library in search of a good book, a true book, one that would message my heart back to life.

The book I found that gonged through me when I touched it was C. G. Jung’s The Undiscovered Self—20 pages in and I knew my life would never be the same. I immediately felt the ring of that old calling, that ancient itch to look up into the great mystery above, but also now below, and within, and I entered myself into Jungian analysis a couple months later.

And that’s when my life fell apart. I thought in my sadness and disappointment that it had been falling apart already, but I’d had no idea what “falling apart” really was. The me that I had held together for 24 years, through angel sightings and teenage tears of confusion and the endless roll of rejections shattered in my hands. I was not who I thought I was. My life was not what I thought it was. I had plunged into my life blindly, and it was not the one I was meant for.

I went into a coma for a year. Other than the little work I managed to do, and analysis twice a week, I never left the spot on my bed where I liked to curl up and lay listlessly for hours. I read some, I wrote some, but mostly I just let my heart be still and practice floating in the storm inside me, testing its way back to shore.

When I finally woke up and realized I needed to make a decision about who I was now, the only thing I could imagine doing was working with the awe-striking ideas of Jung, and enrolled in graduate school on a whim—very literally. I applied and was accepted over the span of three weeks, and dove into my studies of history, the occult, archetypology, and femininity with immense enthusiasm.

But deeper down I was horrified by the decision I made. In going back to school I gave up on performing. I gave up on the life I had nearly destroyed myself to build, and I was mangled by guilt and shame and regret. So when I heard about a retreat my local yoga studio was hosting, I signed up on another whim, not really being able to afford it, and missing a friend’s wedding because of it. But somehow I knew I had to go.

On the first night there was a woman there, a friend of the leader, who offered us all tarot readings. I knew about tarot, and was fascinated by it, but I had never had a reading. I walked up to her nervous as hell, my gut in knots, and she asked if I had a question. I nodded and said, “What am I meant to do with my life?” She smirked, shuffled, and sorted out the cards, holding them up one by one, the perfect mirror for my soul. I could feel the magic rising up between us, light and silvery and undeniable, and finally she came to the last card. “The High Priestess. You’re meant to be a healer, to work with spirit. Do you want to be a yoga teacher?” I laughed and shook my head no. But in that moment I knew exactly what I was meant to do with I life. I was meant to hold people’s hands and point up to the moon, directing them toward the great mystery, toward the divine powers within their hearts to heal. It had been my first calling, ineffable, wild, and huge, and I vowed in that moment never to forget it again.

I bought my own deck the moment I got back from the retreat and did a full tarot-study immersion. The cards spoke to me so naturally, I knew instinctively this would be my lifelong tool to connect to spirit and soul. But after a couple years of study and practice something else became clear. My relationship to tarot more than a tool. It was, in fact, a gift. I had a unique and exquisite gift to comprehend and commune with these remarkable collection of archetypes. After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to convince myself this was too crazy, I trepidatiously approached my husband (who’d been watching this transformation with reserved curiosity), and told him I maybe wanted to become a professional tarot reader. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I know.”

I’ve been reading professionally for over a year now, but I feel like I have been working on this path since I was that little girl on my wooden stoop in Queens. I feel so utterly alive when I immerse myself in the tarot, and nothing in all my life has offered me as much meaning and beauty and perfect truth as when I can guide people back to their own hearts, under the precious, glorious glow of magic and moonlight.

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