The High Priestess. The Hermit. The Lovers. The Magician.
No, these are not the nicknames of my gallivanting entourage; they are a few of the many characters that make up a deck of tarot cards. To some, tarot readings seem like dabbling in witchcraft or merely a scam, but when you are drunkenly wandering the streets of New Orleans, an adventure into the occult awaits around every corner.
For those of you who have never gotten their cards read, let me explain the basics. Tarot cards are believed to have originated in northern Italy during the late 14th century as tools of divination. The tarot cards are used to gain insight into the past, present, or future of an individual. The person seeking the answers begins by formulating 3 questions, draws the cards, and the redder/fortune teller interprets the cards as answers to these questions. There are tons of deck variations depending on the practitioner’s interest. Be it baseball, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, cats, or spooky shit- there is a deck of cards for you.
Before my arrival to New Orleans, I had the pleasure of having one particularly traumatizing tarot experience at a local fundraising event. The University’s Mardi Gras Ball is supposed to be a fun filled night adorned with masks, tuxedos, and all-around good times. After my feet were too sore to dance any longer, my date and I stumbled into the tarot reader’s musty tent. We settled in our seats and waited for a welcoming greeting that never came. Instead, the woman behind the crystal ball asked permission to speak candidly as she instructed us to part a deck of cards. She laid the cards down explaining how she was used to one on one experiences.
That’s what we all said before college, sweetheart!
We quickly agreed, it’s a party, what could go wrong? She began flipping cards over and revealing a future filled with riches, fame, and adventure for my date. If this is what was in store for him, I was surely bound to become president or an astronaut! As she turned my cards, the tone of the reading shifted drastically. She predicted a future filled with all kinds of demises for me. Way to be a party pooper, lady. I promptly exited the tent in a huff and proceeded to drown my sorrows in vodka.
Though I knew that she was full of shit, I found myself thinking back to that particular night any time something went wrong. From an untimely break up, to a stubbed toe, to long lines at the DMV, I constantly wondered “is my misfortune coming true?”
Months later, my friends and I drunkenly stumbled into Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo in New Orleans. With some Hurricane courage in me, I left the creepy shop with an appointment for a tarot card reading. I arrived that evening, not any more sober than before, and paced the store as I waited anxiously. The walls were eerily lined with voodoo dolls, blessed chicken feet, mojo bags, and other more traditional souvenirs. I sobered up instantly as I heard my name be called by a beautiful tatted up lady at the back. She pulled back a black heavy curtain and said,
“Josh will see you now.”
I couldn’t help to giggle- Josh? Really. That’s one hell of a mystical name.
Behind the curtain sat a stocky white guy rocking a fedora and a welcoming smile. My reluctance must have been quite apparent because he asked me if I felt okay. In all honesty, I did not. The sugar from all those hurricanes was mixing with my anxiety of potentially having that crazy bitch’s prophecy confirmed by Josh.
Josh invited me to have a seat and asked if I had ever had my cards read before. As I nodded, he left me with a very interesting tarot lesson that I remember to this day. Whatever the cards say, be it good or bad, it is based on your current actions. So, if you continue your current path, your fortune is more likely to come true. However, if you consciously or unconsciously alter your path, you can change your future. Tarot cards are a tool to see what life could bring, but they are not hexes or declarations of doom.
Josh went on to provide me a fun and interesting session. I enjoyed his reading and was pleasantly surprised by some of the things he mentioned. Among them were very specific details he would have never known about my life, some lighthearted teasing about my temper, and most importantly a delightful forecast for my future. Perhaps in a future post I will share more about a very personal and meaningful reading. I walked out of the shop with a lifted spirit but not without placing a special offering at Marie Laveau’s altar.
Five years after that fundraising event, my date is far from living the rockstar life, and if you must know, I am doing just fine. While I don’t expect this adventure to make a believer out of you, I hope that you take this important lesson with you: You are the sole architect of your future- no one, not even a crazy bitch at a party, can shape it for you. Life happens, it is how you react to it that makes the difference. And if you dare to believe in magic, don’t be afraid to wander into 739 Bourbon Street next time you are in New Orleans; you never know what awaits you behind the curtain.