My Earliest Foray in Cartomancy


In Chapter 33, the final chapter of my forthcoming book Holistic Tarot (coming out January, 2015; you can pre-order now!), I talk about how I got started in tarot.

In elementary school I acquired a standard 54-card playing deck from Taiwan that depicted the characters of one of my favorite classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West (西遊記). While writing that chapter, I thought back fondly of those early memories, that large deck in my hands, shuffling carefully so that none of the cards would fall out (as the deck was large for my hands), fanning the cards out and selecting a couple to study, like maybe the characters on each card that had been drawn out into the spread held some meaning to my life. You could say it was my earliest foray in cartomancy.

As I wrote, I worked from my memory of that Journey to the West deck, figuring it was still back on the east coast in my childhood home, if not lost for good. Recently, the Hubby and I cleaned out all our old storage boxes and I stumbled across that Journey to the West deck I talked about in my tarot book. I couldn’t believe it! I had managed to save it all those years and not only save it, but for reasons now lost to me, I bothered to bring it with me when I moved out here to the west coast!


In my memory, the cards were huge and required careful maneuvering. However, now that I have the actual deck in hand, they’re quite small. Gasp. The cards shrunk! That or I grew up.


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Tarot Fortune Telling Fraud in Chinatown

Image source: Oakland Chinatown,
Image source: Oakland Chinatown,

I recount this as calmly as possible. That is said more for my frame of mind than yours.

I had stumbled upon a fortune teller in Chinatown sitting at a makeshift tabletop. The chairs were miniature and when sitting, your knees would be up next to your ears. What had intrigued me to stop and listen in was her method of fortune telling: the tarot. You don’t see tarot divination that often among the Chinese, so of course I had to observe. A young woman about 20-ish years of age and her friend sat across from the fortuneteller. From what I overheard, the question was about love.

The fortune teller used what appeared to be a Marseille-based deck. I couldn’t figure out a discrete way to take photographs, so let’s assume my memory is good and go with the below reenactment, using the CBD Tarot de Marseille.

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A Simple Technique for Marathon Tarot Readings

01 Marathon Reading Technique

Let’s say you’re going to be planted somewhere for an extended period of time to do quick tarot readings. You could be at a corporate event or party– you and your tarot deck being the entertainment for the night; or you’re at a café doing readings for complete strangers for tips and practice; or you’re at a fundraiser doing readings for donations to your favorite non-profit. Whatever the case may be, you don’t have the time to do a full-length Celtic Cross for every jane and joe who walks by but a 1-card or a 3-card spread on the table isn’t going to look quite as impressive. Also, the range of questions you’re going to get in a very short time frame will run the whole gamut, so you still need something versatile.

Well I’ve got a technique you could try out.

02 Miniature RWS with Stones

To demonstrate I’ll be using my miniature Rider Waite, which I carry with me in my purse at all times, but I’m guessing you’ll be using a normal size deck for your reading event. In the baggy with my mini tarot deck are four gemstones.

03 Four Stones

At the top-north point above is a piece of polished and tumbled petrified wood; bottom-south is rose quartz; east is amethyst; and west is green moss agate: Wands-Fire; Cups-Water; Swords-Air; Pentacles-Earth, respectively. These four stones will anchor every reading. I’ll set them out right to left corresponding with IHVH and utilizing a technique derived from the First Operation of the Opening of the Key method.

Continue reading “A Simple Technique for Marathon Tarot Readings”

Being Right vs. Being Insightful: The Role of the Reader

tarot being right being useful

As it tends to happen, many events and thoughts converged recently and prompted me to think about the distinction between being right as a tarot reader and being insightful. There is an irrational and immense pressure on readers to be right, and insufficient attention to whether they are being insightful.

Think on the times a know-it-all has said to you afterward, “See? I was right. I told you so.” And was what they had said helpful to you in any way?

By extension, I dislike it when clients pressure me to tell their fortunes. If something has taken place already, but the results are not yet in, coming to ask me or any so-called fortuneteller or psychic what the results will be is a waste of everybody’s time. Am I pregnant? Was it the right decision? By the same token, if you haven’t done a damn thing about a situation yet, asking me how it will turn out is just as silly. Will I become a millionaire? Such lines of inquiry are precisely what religions discourage, and for good reason. It overrides both faith and free will, and I don’t even mean faith in a greater divine, though I do mean that, too. I mean faith in yourself.

That kind of fortunetelling also causes lazy thinking– it tempts you away from analyzing facts or applying logical reasoning.

The role of a reader is to be insightful, not “right.” My role is to supplement what you already know consciously with information from your subconscious or the collective unconscious that could further help you with your analysis and reasoning.


What spiritual oracles do, the true spiritual purpose of divination, is to illuminate, hence to offer insight. Sight. At every turn in our lives, there are two forks and we must make a decision to walk one of the two forks, and that decision single-handedly governs what other forks open up for us on our path… and, of course, which forks close as a result. It’s about asking for guidance from another who is able to shine a slightly brighter light than the one we have on hand so that we, the seeker of the oracle, might see our own garden of forking paths with greater clarity. Then with that vision, we must take informed action. That is what a spiritual oracle does. Asking me to do anything but that with tarot, with any divination method I study, is equivalent to asking me to do something morally reprehensible, something divergent from my own spiritual path.

I write this because I know I have caved in to the pressures before, and I feel guilty about it. The funny thing is most people in the divination arts are very soft at heart, and when we see somebody hurting, so obviously in need of help, it’s difficult for us to say no. We risk it and try to play the hero, the heroine. We try to help. In the immediate sense, we think we are doing good. However, for me at least, it always ends badly, and for good reason. I’m glad it ends badly. If it continually ended well, I might not learn from the errors and would diverge even farther from my path. I know such uses of divination are not right for me, and harmful to the seeker. What’s more, it results in bad karma for me. It is an active learning process toward wisdom. The purpose for any of this should be to help start the healing, not to tell. We should never be the revelation. At most, we are but a catalyst for that revelation the seeker reaches on his or her own.

Instead of asking “Am I pregnant? Was it the right decision? Will I become a millionaire?,” let’s talk about the subconscious root of why you’re asking these particular questions in the first place. Let’s talk about how you might find success, happiness, and fulfillment. Even if I am right about whether you are pregnant, whether it was the right decision or your future financial status, if I cannot illuminate a path for you toward your success, happiness, and fulfillment, then I have failed. What I strive to do is far more ambitious than fortunetelling. And it isn’t me, it’s what every reader should strive for.

Being right does not help the seeker. The only thing it does is stroke the reader’s ego. And if the reader’s ego needs to be stroked, then the reader is doing something very, very wrong with tarot practice. We help by providing additional information someone can use in rendering a decision. We never provide the decision.