When I told my family that I was writing a story about tarot-card readers in Texas, my husband said, “Yikes,” and my eleven-year-old daughter said, “Amazing!” This about sums up the varied emotions conjured by the 78-card tarot deck. The cards have a long history and an underlying logic, but during my happy weeks learning about tarot, I came to understand that the knowledge gained in readings can be as varied as the decks themselves.
A tarot deck contains 22 “major arcana” cards (which can be compared to face cards in a traditional deck) and four suits of “minor arcana”: swords (which relate to the element of air), wands (fire), cups (water), and pentacles (earth). Each minor arcana suit has the cards ace through ten, plus a page, knight, queen, and king. Various “spreads” create meaningful narratives. There’s joy to be found with a deck and an afternoon to toss cards around and learn about them—and yourself. However, if you (like me) have absolutely no idea what a Celtic cross spread with the Tower in the center or a nine of cups up top might mean, a knowledgeable reader or teacher can corral the chaos into a fascinating psychological conversation. Whether or not you believe tarot cards hold spiritual power, the discussions they provoke can surprise and delight. And from Marfa to Texarkana, there’s a reader for you . . . and another for your dog.
Read Your Own Tarot Cards . . .
Some say that you need to be gifted a tarot deck, but I decided to believe the teacher who told me I could just go into a shop and choose a deck that called to me. I have multiple decks—the ones I pick up most often are the inviting, pastel-colored Inner Child Cards, which are based on fairy tales and fun to use with my children since there are no scary messages or images. It’s entirely possible that my kids are just humoring me, but I’ve had some great talks with young girls and teenage boys after pulling three-card spreads representing past, present, and future. I can tell you, for instance, that if you ask a teen boy “What’s up?,” he will say either the word “nothing” or literally nothing. But if you say, “Hmm, an upside down Justice in your future means something to do with a liar,” he will talk for twenty minutes about a recent betrayal that’s been eating him up.
Most tarot readers have favorite decks, and some utilize other accoutrements like candles, crystals, glittering turbans, ritual trays, smudge bundles or sticks (bunches of sage or tiny bits of wood that you light on fire and then extinguish, letting the smoldering smoke make things feel mysterious even when it’s just Wednesday in your kitchen), and velvet tablecloths. While some like leaving cards outside in the moonlight, others recommend an indoor windowsill because: rain. Like setting up a space in which to write a novel, creating a tarot area felt lush and fabulous to me. I like to sit in the Austin sunlight and lay my cards on a deep blue velvet bedspread.
. . . Or Find a Tarot Reader
Across the state, there are readers for all seekers—from curious beginners to novelists with writer’s block to my two miniature schnauzers, whom I understood a whole lot better after they had their cards read with a special dog deck. Read on to find the best match for you, then book an appointment, either in person or via Zoom.
For Ancestral Connection: Addie Broyles
I’ve long been a fan of Austin-based Addie Broyles’s food writing, but when I heard she had experience exploring generational questions, I booked a tarot-reading session. I’d been considering taking a DNA test to help find my ancestors in Ireland. Broyles said she could see me drawn toward female ancestors who liked to fish and laugh, and I knew she was talking about my Savannah relatives, Aunt Georgia and her daughter Little Aunt Georgia. Big Aunt Georgia was a great fisherwoman and an even better party guest. Thanks to my conversation with Broyles, I’ve decided to skip the DNA test for now and head to Savannah this summer.
For the Type A Personality: ChosenEyes
I scheduled a twenty-minute online consultation with Austin-based ChosenEyes, who describes herself as a teacher, creator, and truth teller with more than twenty years of professional experience as a psychic medium. ChosenEyes offers courses like Magikal Ethics, an introduction “to the world of Magick” and the responsibility assumed by those who practice it, and Learning Tarot for Beginners. As I spoke about my life, she shuffled cards and responded to my questions with clarity and kindness. I recorded her and later played the session back to my tarot-skeptic husband, and even he perked up at the part when ChosenEyes said he was about to come into the sunlight.
For Group Learning: Lynn Carroll-Rivera
For Your Furry Friend: Lucky Dog Tarot
Dog fortune teller Sarah Wolf held a crystal before my schnauzer, Schneffles, and my pooch bumped it with her tiny nose, then reached out her paw and landed it on a card from Wolf’s special dog tarot deck. The card told me that Schneffles needed some quiet time alone, and with our puppy, Roux, barking for Wolf’s attention, I could see why. Wolf raises money for local Austin animal shelters with her readings, can often be found at the dog park, and loves to appear at events in her drop-dead fabulous turban.
For the Green Thumb: Ocotillo Botánica
Alexis Smith conducts readings at her shop, a bright, airy space in downtown Marfa. Smith has lived in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert since 2016, and her website says she incorporates “magick and witchcraft” into her practice. She’s also a decorated herbalist and brings plants into her readings. (“[My] first and most powerful teachers are the Plants,” her website reads.) Alongside tarot, she offers a “Plant Spirit Healing” practice, which calls upon the power of nature to realign the body and soul.
For the Curious Beginner: Sister Temperance Tarot
My first tarot reading took place inside a charming 1940s Spartanette trailer in the East Austin backyard of Angeliska, otherwise known as “Sister Temperance.” I hadn’t said a word about my complicated family, but as she described the “swords” I was carrying around, and how I acted as if there were a tiger about to attack me, I was stunned. I left her trailer with excitement and new insight.
For the Lover of Luxury: Paul Kevin Smith
If you could ask the tarot cards to grant you a wish (you can’t), a great choice would be to move into the Lake Austin Spa and spend the remainder of your days watching the mist on the water and sneaking into the spa to use the signature lavender bath salts. I was thrilled to attend a weekly Insights From the Tarot class followed by a private reading by Paul Kevin Smith, who has studied tarot for over two decades. Paul utilized an expert-level fifteen-card spread, speaking in a melodic voice as he explained what the upcoming year might hold. Even though I did eventually have to leave the spa and go home after our session, I was riveted throughout my reading—and grateful that Smith let me ask one last query about whether I would make enough money in the upcoming year to be able to buy a fancy car or a boat. The answer to my last question was the Temperance card, advising balance and moderation, so I guess I should stop searching YachtWorld. Damn.
For Singles and Couples: The Spiritual Bestie
Dallas-based Candy, who goes by the moniker “the Spiritual Bestie,” combines spirituality with practicality in her readings. She considers herself an intuitive reader, able to make an instant connection, and pairs those skills with a degree in psychology and her ongoing training as a marriage and family therapist. She’s as friendly and fun on Zoom as she is on her podcast, Real Talk With the Spiritual Bestie. Her insights into relationships are brilliant, no matter what you want from your love life.
For Creatives: Typewriter Tarot
I am home all day with the fictional characters I’ve created for the novel I’m working on. Sometimes their stories get lost or confused. Austin-based Cecily Sailer has created Typewriter Tarot to help artists like me, providing personalized readings and incredibly helpful workshops such as Tarot for Your Novel.
I now start every writing morning by bringing a cup of coffee to the cottage where I write and opening a deck of cards. I ask, “What do I need to know today?,” choose whichever card I’m drawn to, read a bit about its meaning, and jot down some ideas. I’ve even included a scene in the novel I’m writing, The Peacocks, in which a character is trapped on a plane next to a guy who insists on reading her tarot cards. His comments alarm my fictional character, Sylvie Peacock, and may ruin the wedding I’ve planned for her in a castle in England. Sylvie is currently still stuck on a runway awaiting takeoff, but thanks to tarot cards, the chapter is already magic.