People keep asking me how I got into reading tarot cards. I had a card reading, it came true, so I was interested! My story is in the Preface from my book INTRODUCTION TO TAROT:
I was 17 years old when I first sought answers from the tarot. I inquired about working as a florist to support myself while I studied painting at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The final outcome card was the 8 of cups. It showed a dissatisfied person walking away, wearing a heavy cloak. Because I had already paid a deposit for classes, I ignored the tarot’s prognosis and attended floral arts school for the summer, received certification, and got a job at the Bismarck Hotel that autumn.
My experience working as a florist did not fulfill my expectation of working with the beauty of nature. All bouquets were copied from a floral delivery book. Creativity and sculpture with flowers (or Japanese ikibana) was discouraged. After handling hundreds of roses, I learned to watch for thorns instead of admiring the blossoms, which had no scent because they were hothouse buds. Adding to my dissatisfaction was my irritable boss. When I tried to talk to him about his bitter disposition, he screamed at me for the last time and I quit. I left the hotel as the cold Chicago wind blew down the street. I headed to the subway station, and was putting up the collar of my heavy winter coat when it hit me – I was reenacting the exact picture on the 8 of Cups! I was actually living the tarot.
Because the reading came true, I had to have my own tarot deck and learn to read the cards. I went to the only place I knew of that sold tarot cards in Chicago, the Occult Bookshop located on North State Street. I entered the store, which I can only describe as witchy. It was stocked from floor to ceiling with every imaginable occult item, from pure and healing to negative and creepy. There were astrology maps, candles, oils, brews and elixirs, costumes, capes, and what appeared to be stuffed and mounted animals. I asked to see the tarot decks, and the large Thoth deck intrigued me. Its shamanic imagery perfectly mirrored the energy of the Occult Bookstore.
I purchased the Thoth deck and Aleister Crowley’s BOOK OF THOTH. I read the book cover to cover that night. I understood it because of my childhood interest in fairy tales, mythology, Egyptian archeology, and my hobby (bordering on obsession) foreign languages. I had attended Hebrew school as a child, studied Latin in high school, and was reading Ezra Pound’s translations from the Chinese when I was a teen. But, for me, Crowley resonated more than Pound, for he used symbols in a practical manner. Although I enjoyed reading about tarot, I discovered that one could understand what the cards meant simply by looking at the pictures.
My newfound interest in tarot was not well received. I was told that tarot was “the work of the devil”. People actually said to me “You will burn in hell!” and “Get thee behind me, Satan!” I felt like a pioneer keeping alive the ancient mysteries. I didn’t mind the “you will burn in hell” curses because hell was the accuser’s personal vision, not mine. But the unsolicited and unwelcome attempts to cast out my demons really did upset me.
In 1980, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to attend graduate school. People were even more anti-tarot there than in Chicago. I finished my studies and then pulled tarot cards to determine a better place for me to live where my soul would be content. My choices were either New York City or San Francisco. New York was the Wheel of Fortune. San Francisco was the Ace of Cups. Both are excellent cards. But I chose the Ace of Cups because I am a Pisces with a grand water trine in my birth chart (Sun in Pisces trine Jupiter and Uranus in Cancer trine Saturn in Scorpio). I realized that in New York I would make more money, but I followed my heart.
On New Year’s day 1983, I moved to San Francisco. The reaction to my interest in tarot cards was the opposite of what I experienced in Chicago and Tucson. Many people asked me to read tarot for them. In 1986, I resigned from my job as an artist and became a professional tarot card reader. (I’ve found it more fulfilling to read tarot than to paint.) Soon my clients asked me to teach them how to read tarot cards. I typed up a few notes and passed them out in my classes. Eventually the notes grew and ended up as this book.
I invite you to join me and share the mystery.