Modern Tarot

Outside of The Raven’s Wing. Photo by Andrew Milham.

For many people, tarot can be conducive to finding out problems within their life. Be it relationship advice or a reassurance that the future has favorable things in store, tarot can be a good form of healing or boost of self-confidence. Tarot first appeared as a gift for the Duke of Milan’s family around 1440, and is a deck of cards originally used to play card games with. However since the 1800s, tarot has been used primarily as a medium for divination and cartomancy, a way of fortune telling using cards. In most English speaking countries, tarot cards are mainly used for novelty and divination purposes, and there are many kinds of decks one can make using the 78 cards present. Tarot is closely related to astrology, a field of study that claims to provide information about human affairs and terrestrial events from the movement and positions of celestial objects, like other planets. Because of this, many stores that offer tarot also have astrological readings, tarot readings, and other mystical services. Although there is debate on whether these readings actively engage with the supernatural, they can give people self-confidence to face problems, and can provide a spiritual aspect to people’s lives. Despite having a very old origin, tarot is more mainstream than one would think, with 76 shops in Portland that sell tarot cards according to Google Maps. Many shops are very close to each other, some only being separated by a couple blocks. An employee of the Raven’s Wing named Iris Belle said, “I learned to read tarot from my mother when I was 15, so I’ve known tarot for about 25 years. My first job was at a place like this.” The store sells more than just tarot cards. She said, “We sell crystals, candles, herbs, ritual tools, ceremonial blades, and wands. Some materials are handmade, but some are made by local artists.” When asked about the tarot cards and readings they sell, Belle said that most people do not buy tarot cards for themselves, they mostly received them as gifts. “It’s just a superstition, but some people believe that to unlock tarot, someone has to gift you a deck.” When asked about the tarot readings offered, Belle stated that they use their intuition a lot when doing readings. “My clientele are mostly people that identify as female, but we have many regulars from the three years we have been here. We charge 60 dollars for half an hour and 100 dollars for an hour for readings, and although that may seem spendy we know that we are worth it because we take tarot very seriously.” Besides local shops, some tarot experts do work online. One such individual is April Haapala. “I believe in esoteric tarot, the perception of the inner work a human being has to achieve to associate with the soul. Associating with the soul leads to contact with the higher mind, and the universal experience of it.” On tarot, Haapala said, “Tarot is essentially using cards in a story to capture a snapshot in time. Everyone has energy, the tarot card just quantifies it in a person with cards. It’s very powerful, it’s not a game. After questioned about how Haapala got into tarot, she elaborated on her past with the cards. “I was always interested in the supernatural, and I grew up with astrology. I currently work part-time with an online community, and do voice chats or pre recorded sessions using the video conferencing app Zoom.” Haapala also stated that “The main things I get asked for help with are romantic or self-help issues.” Lastly, she recommends anyone getting started with tarot to look up the Rider Waite deck online. Overall, tarot is an infrequently talked about section of Portland’s somewhat large mystical community. Tarot can be a harmless outlet to blow off some steam, or a replacement for religious fulfillment in one’s life. Although the supernatural element seems somewhat hard to believe, feeling that one is being supernaturally guided can lead to increased self-confidence, which is certainly a benefit for anyone in today’s seemingly dour society. Anyone looking for a new hobby over winter break should pick up tarot, the storied card game with an astrological background.    

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