I read this concerning article recently posted by The Evening Standard.
Please also see articles and radio interviews on my blog of Ex Tarot Card Readers!
‘My mum burst into tears and I was in a little bit of trouble with her, my kids and my partner afterwards,’ Stibbe says. ‘One of the first cards I turned over was the two of cups, which shows a man and a woman and is to do with connection and relationships. No one knew that a week after the event I was getting married. My partner and I weren’t telling anyone because we thought we’d just do it — job done. But when that card came up, I became really enthusiastic and said, “Oh my God, it’s true.” I am a bit of a blurter.’
The whole thing, she continues, ‘was just magical. I think it was the best literary event I’ve ever taken part in — captivating, delightful and funny.’
Stibbe is not alone in changing her opinion of tarot. It is undergoing a major revival. Sales of tarot cards in general are reportedly at their highest level for 50 years. Treadwell’s, the occult bookshop in Bloomsbury, has seen a 50 per cent increase in just the past two years and around half of the store’s customers are under 30 — compared with just 25 per cent in 2010.
‘It seems that everyone is doing it now,’ says Mark Pilkington, co-author of Stars, Fools and Lovers: a lavishly illustrated history of tarot, currently being backed financially at crowdfunded publisher Unbound. ‘People are both seeking to escape the horrors of the endless news cycle, and also to engage in off-screen imaginative practices. In truth tarot has never really gone away as such. It’s just having a visible phase, alongside a wider rediscovery of magic and occultism by a generation that grew up with Harry Potter and friends. And because many aspects of occult history and practice, particularly tarot, are so visually oriented and come with off-the-peg mythologies and histories, it makes them very appealing to the fashion and arts worlds, where most of the activity is taking place.’
Recent cultural references to tarot are everywhere. Poldark’s Aunt Agatha was a keen student of the tarot, as was Emmerdale’s Misty Allbright. There is a highly sought-after tarot deck featuring characters from Twin Peaks. And there are plenty of contemporary books on the subject.
In July, Harper Thorsons published Modern Day Tarot Play by Emma Toynbee (‘a guide to optimising and authenticating our finest and most precious resource… the conscious human mind’). In June, novelist David Keenan published experimental novella To Run Wild in It, accompanied by its own specially designed deck.
‘Most people will put the Fool at the start and the World at the end but because his number is 0, the Fool technically sits anywhere in the deck,’ explains Lensvelt. ‘The Major Arcana can be viewed as a narrative, telling the story of the Fool’s journey from ignorance to enlightenment, overcoming obstacles and diversions and learning lessons along the way.’
For a reading, a number of cards are selected at random and then laid out in a pattern — there are several types of ‘spreads’ — and the reader tells the ‘querent’ or questioner what they mean and how they might relate to their life. Many of today’s practitioners say the cards are less a system of divination than a therapeutic tool.
‘I’m definitely not a fortune teller and the tarot is not some supernatural fortune-telling device which will reveal when you’re going to meet a tall, handsome stranger,’ says Lensvelt. ‘When I’m reading the cards, it’s a little bit like a Rorschach test where I’m presenting images and then seeing how the querent reacts to them. I tell them what those signs and symbols are, what they mean to me and it is then up to them to interpret them as they relate to their own life. It’s a little bit like a sort of mindfulness.’
Novelist and art critic Zoe Pilger, meanwhile, first had a reading in 2014 and was so fascinated by the imagery of the cards that she trained how to read them. ‘What you are seeing in the tarot deck is a series of archetypes representing basic human experiences, which most people at one time or another will come across,’ she enthuses. ‘The tarot shows you a way of explaining your own experience through myth, which is incredibly powerful. There are different levels at which you can engage with it. It can be something fun to have at festivals and parties but, obviously, if someone is genuinely at a crossroads in their life, a private reading is more appropriate.’
But why the sudden peak in interest? Pilger believes the surge in popularity may be linked to increased interest in feminism. ‘Reading the tarot is a very intuitive process and intuition, as opposed to reason, has always been aligned with the feminine,’ she says. ‘Obviously that is problematic but there is something about knowing intuitively, which I think has been oppressed through patriarchy and structures of male domination. The whole process of learning tarot was, for me, about strengthening and learning to trust my intuition. I see tarot as a creative tool rather than a means of forecasting the future.’
She contrasts the cards with the ‘endless conveyor belt of glibness and certainty that is social media’.
‘What tarot does is the opposite,’ she says. ‘It throws open the doors and says, “Listen, there is so much that we don’t know so let’s just, for a moment, pause and acknowledge that we don’t know.”’
Not everyone, however, is a card-carrying believer. Author and journalist Lucy Mangan was another person to get the aformentioned Litwitchure treatment at Port Eliot in July. She dismisses the notion that a reading can provide a querent with any special insight into their life, beyond that afforded by the opportunity to talk about oneself to a sympathetic listener.
‘Of course it can’t,’ she says. ‘It’s nonsense but it is fun and it’s very theatrical and therefore great for an audience. At present everyone is at great pains to emphasise that it’s about storytelling and narrative rather than predicting the future. But my own prediction is that we’re soon going to start seeing people saying, “Well, perhaps there is something supernatural going on.”’
Maybe. Or maybe not. Time — and maybe tarot — will tell.”
I read that post recently! Please also see articles and radio interviews on my blog of Ex Tarot Card Readers!
~ ♡ ~
Former New Age Spiritualist, Laura graduated from Strathclyde University, Scotland, earning a BA Honours degree in Psychology.
Many thanks for taking time to read and share the above post. For similar posts and more about Laura, please visit her blog Our Spiritual Quest.
Laura Maxwell does not necessarily agree with all the information and conclusions presented by friends, guest articles on her blog, TV or radio interviews or her own radio show.
Laura is not paid for writing in books, magazines or appearing on TV, radio or at events. All of her work is of a voluntary nature.
Click on this LINK to see some of her TV interviews.