Monday, June 8, 2009

And This Is Not Our Fate

As interested as I am in "alternative" belief systems, I had always wanted to experience a Tarot reading for myself and never had the opportunity to partake. The concept - your fate being literally dealt out by the protective (or exploitive) hands of a stranger, as if to casually pull each meaningful symbol from the ether itself, and placing it on an intricate celtic drape in front of you - holds a great deal of appeal. It's an interesting blend of subjective interpretation, thrill based on chance, and metaphysical insight - even if you don't buy into it completely. I, along with fellow Gentlemen Jason Heat, had the opportunity to quell my longstanding curiosity over this ages-old practice of card divination with interesting results.

My first impression of Tarot was prototypical of someone raised surrounded by the principles of Abrahamic religions - Tarot is probably a scam, despite the compelling fun in wanting to believe if only for a moment. This wasn't enough to stop my interest completely and I even developed a fun little theory on the principles by which Tarot (and fortune cookies) worked. It was nothing no one else had come up with: the universe works in an intricate series of patterns and cycles of which things like Tarot, by their very nature (discussed above), could play out in front of you as a part of that pattern. I shared this theory with a good friend back in high school after her first professional Tarot reading. I've forgotten the psychic's name, but her reading basically boiled down to:

"I can tell you're a very bright and good person. You're not here for yourself, I get so many people who come in consumed with personal problems, and that's not why you're here. I feel like I need to tell you something - and you won't like it. That, in the end, you're going to end up all alone."

From what I could tell, she didn't take it too seriously and I told her it was ridiculous, to be sure. I explained to her my theory just to give her a hard time and we smirked it off. Still, if I remember the story, then I figure she probably remembers it as well. I hope it doesn't bother her too much. I wonder if she ever tried Tarot again.

Ever since, I've been interested in experiencing my own reading and Saturday night afforded me that possibility. And, to my surprise, by candle light at a birthday party on an apartment patio in Silver Spring. Go figure. The dealer/spiritual adviser's name was Bethany, a young woman who had been practicing since she was 12 years old and genuinely enjoyed using Tarot to help others. Normally she charged a fee, but she was willing to entertain my fancy and give me a "spiritual check-up" after I asked politely. I was very appreciative, especially since it hit me when we started that what I had asked her to do was the equivalent of asking a psychiatrist to give me a free mental rundown after discovering one at a bar. I'm not remotely regretful, however, because the entire process was absolutely pleasant and Bethany was surprisingly accurate. Were some of the cards pulled from the deck a little vague? Sure. But, most weren't, and the ones that were tied together very well into the overall tapestry Bethany had dealt for me. She honed in on emotional and intellectual stressors left over from law school - one card specifically referenced a recently resolved issue concerning whether or not I was good enough to return (I am, by the way. Just to clarify). My favorite card was The Card of Strength, meant for those who use their strengths positively - taming the lion naturally, as opposed to beating it down with weapons.

The Card of Strength

I was pleased. I even stayed to check out other readings (including one for Jason) and, what's more intriguing, everyone else's didn't apply to me at all. My reading was my reading, which told me two things: 1) Bethany is VERY good at what she does and 2) Being, and remaining, open minded has its advantages. Tarot helped me effectively address, analyze, and focus on positive changes for the future. I see nothing wrong with that, despite popular opposition and insistence regarding cooky scam-artistry.

In Turkey, we have a similar cultural analogue in reading coffee grinds. Turkish Coffee is extremely strong, served in tiny cups, with the grounds floating in the beverage. When you've finished, the grounds have settled at the bottom, so you turn the cup over before the grounds cool and allow them to drip down the sides. After the drippings cool, a trained reader can see into the patterns left behind and, supposedly, provide general or specific hints about the future. At the very least, it's a fun ice breaker/coffee house activity. My grandmother was very adept at reading grinds - one of the best - and she was a believer. About 15 years before she passed, she read her own grinds and what she saw frightened her so much that she planned on never reading grinds again. She never told anyone what she saw, just that she was done for fear that she would see the same thing for herself or anyone else. She wouldn't read another coffee cup until shortly before she died.

A relative of mine was stressed - he had started smoking again, he was wrongfully fired from his job, and he was seeking suit. My relative, if I'm not mistaken, chose not to believe in such things and took a leap of faith in visiting my grandmother and asking her to read his grinds. My grandmother, at the sight of him, welcomed him in and poured him his coffee. I'm not sure how the outcome played out, but I assume she was able to offer him assurance. She was good at reading, after all. And, my relative is now doing a lot better. My grandmother, unfortunately, died several weeks afterwards. It must have felt good to use that gift to help someone close to her.

Interesting, isn't it? The human race, as a whole, has continuously asked God/Cthulu/the Unconscious/the Abyss to help answer various problems of many different types. Whether you believe of not, it's hard to deny noticing those little patterns that aid and guide us along the grand path called life. Or, is it all an illusion built by confirmation bias, hindsight, self-affirmation, and cryptic guess-work? As always, Gentle Readers, post below.

Updated: 6/09/2009

I ran into Bethany last night and she gave me her card. Anyone interested in contacting her can do so with the information below:

Bethany Moore

Aradia B
poet, activist, interfaith priestess


Meg said...

I'm going to send this along to Bethany, I'm sure she'll be pleased :) I, too, enjoyed my spiritual checkup, and she was spot on. Not to mention, I think you were my Five of Cups.

Damo said...

Oz, Bethany is a good friend of mine. I'm notoriously open-minded about things like this, but always ready to be the skeptic and see nothing at all. I was astonished when Bethany did my tarot reading a couple months ago. It was spot on.

I'm sure there are fakers out there, but Bethany has a gift. She's on another level.

Jstone said...

you gotta have a good poker face to get a bad tarot reading.

Jason Heat said...

I almost wrote about this as well and decided not to. Suffice it to say she was extraordinarilly specific about my life.

beatnik77 said...

I truly appreciate all the praise from everyone about this gift I am more than happy to share. Even after so many years reading the cards, I am still often amazed by the accuracy and intensity of the interpretations.

Matt Lindeboom said...

My philosophy regarding the metaphysical seems to be similar Ozkirbas's. Though that did not stop me from letting a Thai tarot card reader -- a woman whom I was tutoring in English at the time -- read what her tarot cards said about me.

What should have stopped me was that her English was not yet improved enough where a proper Tarot card reading could be achieved; and my Thai was barely conversational.

She was, however, able to tell me if I dated a Thai woman, I would make this woman pregnant. Indeed, if that were not shocking enough, another mystery woman would then try to kill me out of jealousy. It could also have been the same woman I was dating though. We lost many of the details in translation.

Our tutoring sessions continued without another tarot card reading, though the experience was exhilarating for all the mystery and novelty it afforded me. And while I say I don't put much stock in the spirit world, I did not date one Thai women while I was in South East Asia.

B.Graham said...

I think I'm going to give this Bethany a look-up... very interesting article