Dusting Off my Old Tarot Cards
by Noah Lugeons
As many of you know, I spent a number of years drowning in spiritual woo before finally admitting to myself that it was all bullshit. And when I look back on those years it occurs to me that my conversion to reason probably would have happened a lot sooner if it wasn’t for those damned Tarot Cards.
I got my first set at the ripe and impressionable age of 14 from a friend. He’d bought them a year or two earlier along with a little book on how to read them. He never used them and I was fascinated so he told me to keep them.
It’s important to note that I never read a book about cold reading. I never read a book along the lines of “How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Psychic” or “How to Bullshit Your Way Through a Tarot Reading”. I read books that claimed that Tarot cards were magical incarnations of universal symbology that would act as a window to the spirit world. By and large the books would just give you horoscope-style platitudes you could associate with each card and left it to the reader to figure out cold-reading on their own.
And as it turns out, that’s not hard to do. In fact, it’s so easy that one can reasonably learn cold-reading without ever realizing that they were doing it. This is certainly facilitated by the fact that virtually everyone I ever had the occasion to read Tarot for really, really wanted them to be magical. They were always quite accommodating in my unconscious desire to trick them. And even when I walked away from a reading saying “well, I guess the magic just wasn’t there this time”, my querent was quick to dissuade me by telling me how amazing the experience was. And instead of responding with an incredulous “really?” I’d smile and nod and tell myself that I must have been wrong.
Of course, the subject of the reading wasn’t the only one desperate to be fooled. I wanted to wield magical powers at least as much as the people I was reading them for so I was willing to seize on just about any shred of dubious evidence that confirmed that. It was a mutual feedback loop of horseshit and it kept me satisfied for a decade.
To be perfectly honest, I kept reading the cards long after I’d admitted to myself that they were nonsense and I did so with the paper-thin justification that I was still giving good advice. Somehow I decided that misleading people about the very nature of the universe was okay as long as it came with a generically positive message.
I can’t pinpoint when that stopped being enough for me, but it was at least a decade ago. And while I haven’t had occasion to use them in ten years the memories and the beautiful artwork of my favorite deck has made them impossible to part with.
So fast-forward to about a month ago. I was listening to Cognitive Dissonance and Cecil was talking about having never been to a psychic. He said he’d love to have the experience to draw on, but he’d be damned if he was ever going to financially support those charlatans. So I sent along a message letting him know that I’d be happy to give him a Tarot reading over Skype sometime if he was serious about it.
Well, after a bit of back and forth, he invited me on his show to give a simultaneous reading to both him and his co-host. We’ll be recording it this Thursday, so over the last few days I’ve knocked the dust off of my old cards, brushed up on a few of the zodiacal associations and did a few practice readings. And much like rewatching a film I loved as a child, I was overwhelmed the entire time by just how mind-numbingly stupid the whole practice is. How could I ever have enjoyed this? How could I ever have bought into this? And how could I have ever fooled anyone else in to buying it?
I suppose that it’s possible I’m just not as sharp with them as I once was. Maybe I’ve just lost the magic. And, far more likely, maybe I was embarrassingly stupid ten years ago. Whichever is the case, I have to admit that I’m happy about it. After all, the worst thing I could be when doing a Tarot reading on a skeptical show is convincing.
No word yet on when the episode will be available, but as soon as I’ve got a link in hand I’ll be posting it here, Facebook and Twitter.