I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of fortune telling. I was always into magic and fairy tales, so divination sprung from my natural interest in folklore and the supernatural. When I was in elementary school, I asked my dad to buy me tarot cards , and he had to look around before I got a beautifully illustrated deck from Spencer’s Gifts. I never did learn to use it–I gave a tarot reading for my “How To” presentation in 6th grade Speech class, but that was the only reading I ever gave and I consulted my manual–but I still have it, as well as a Rider-Waite deck with larger cards and a more in-depth booklet. My father’s family has a nifty palm reading story in its history–everyone has a story about supernatural occurrences that they wouldn’t and shouldn’t normally believe, but which they still kinda do just because of the particular person telling them, and this is mine. Veronica Varlow, the burlesque performer, pinup model, and bloggess at Danger Dame, whose Magic Monday rituals I used to religiously transcribe in my dream journal during my high school days, does a monthly “Tarot horoscope” and teaches tarot classes online.
However, I’m also a skeptic, and while I’m open and even partial to the idea of supernatural forces beyond our understanding, I tend to be suspicious of fortune telling as something beyond a fun party trick. I hate, hate, hate the fact that many Americans actually believe astrology is scientific. I did a lot of research on cold reading for a workshop story in fall quarter, and after learning how astonishingly easy it really is to pretend to be ‘psychic’, my distrust of so-called ‘seers’ as anything more than shameless frauds and charlatans only increased. I also tend to associate ‘psychics’ and people interested in them with advocates of the New Age movement, and considering the very real and damaging effects of the popularity of pseudoscience (Dr. Oz and the anti-vaxxers movement being two especially pernicious examples), you can see why my idea of ‘fortune teller’ has become less Pinterest-worthy Romani goddess and more, well:
In a way, though, my research on cold reading (which is fascinating, by the way–this video is my favorite example) only increased my curiosity and desire to get a real, actual reading, fraudulent or not. I’m also interested in the idea that, even if there aren’t actually any spirits to be found in tea leaves or the lines of your palm, a psychic reading could still be useful as an intuitive tool by forcing you to see your questions through a very specific lens. Consider the Ouija board, which I most certainly do not believe is possessed by demons but which actually has in scientific studies to learn more about the subconscious through the very real ideomotor response. (I’ve tried to find people to use Ouija boards with me several times, but they all refused out of fear of demonic retribution. No, really.) Unfortunately, one of the things I learned from my cold reading research is that psychics can be really, really expensive. My creative writing professor had a brilliant suggestion to visit an actual psychic as research for my story, but the woman (named “Jewel”–no, really) was apparently in great demand, as she asked if I had an appointment when I visited her on Halloween.
So when I logged onto Omegle during a period of boredom over the long weekend, and my chat partner turned out to be an amateur tarot reader who was willing to answer any questions I had via the cards, for free, you can imagine my surprise. And my response.
Like me, my reader was procrastinating, so he was happy to do multiple three-card readings. I asked him about the two biggest things I’ve been curious about: when my love life will finally get interesting, and whether my writing career will work out. I also asked if the cards could tell what particular person or relationship I might end up with, so he did a third reading for that as well. Before that, though, he asked for some background info and what exactly I was worried about or wanted.
After the long chat, I tried to get a log from Omegle, but it was actually too long, so I took screenshots instead. Here are how my three readings went down:
FIRST READING (Love)
Past Card: Ten of Coins
Present Card: Ace of Cups
Future Card: The Tower
Ten of Coins represents material wealth and success. The Ace of Cups represents fertility, beauty, love, and happiness, and The Tower, divine destruction: “the end of something, be it good or bad, that has outlived its usefulness, its end overseen by the Divine.”
My reader applied this to the information I had given him to mean that in high school, I had focused on work (what would give me material success) rather than love. Ace of Cups means “you are ripe for the picking in terms of dating: now is the time to do what will make you happy, what will bring you joy. You’re ready for it, whether you know it or not. However, fertility doesn’t last forever. No fruit stays ripe forever. You have to pounce on it.” And the Tower, one of his “favorite cards”, means “the spirits are ready to destroy what is no longer necessary to your life.”
Taken all together and applied in a romantic context, my reading suggests that while, in the past, I had focused on material success, I “really am ready for a relationship” now, whether I realize it or not. And once I jump on the chance before it’s too late, it’ll “result in the destruction of the part of you that’s been putting it off all this time.”
SECOND READING (Career)
Past Card: Ten of Cups
Present Cards: King of Swords
Future Card: Two of Coins
Ten of Cups signifies “lasting success and happiness, inspired by the divine.” King of Swords is a clever, fierce, crafty, and perhaps domineering person. Two of Coins represents pleasant change and the meeting of friends: “fluctuation of poles, the coming together of opposites: happiness and sadness, wealth and poverty, etc.”
My reader admitted to being thrown for a loop by Ten of Cups in the past position, saying he would’ve expected to see it in the future. He suggested it might mean I had been on the path to lasting happiness and tranquility, and might still be. However, in the present, the most important factor is someone “clever, fierce, and dominant”, who could be me and what I’m doing for my career/writing, or someone else whose dominant personality has stopped progress in the Ten of Cups. But there will be happiness in my future–not necessarily lasting happiness, but fluctuations. Good times and bad.
THIRD READING (Relationship/Partner)
Past Card: Three of Swords
Present Card: The Star
Future Card: The Queen of Cups
Three of Swords is unhappiness, sorrow, strife, discontent, but also joy in small pleasures. The Star represents divine aid from an unexpected source. The Queen of Coins, someone who is kind, timid, intelligent, and charming, but can also be foolish or changeable.
My reader noted that normally the Three of Swords would be a frightening card, but that he wasn’t too worried since it was in the past position. The Star signifies divine aid, which I may not recognize for what it is right away, which could lead me to disregard it. The future card is the only one that might actually tell me what I could be in for in terms of a potential partner/relationship, though that makes perfect sense. The reader noted the Queen of Cups could represent either my future partner of me (I should’ve asked whether the gender of the card had any significance, but I didn’t).
When I asked what The Star might mean in regards to this particular question, my reader suggested it could very well mean him. After all, “I’m sure you didn’t expect to get relationship and career advice on Omegle, from a tarot reader.” Touché.
I wasn’t totally sure what to make of the readings. My reader definitely seemed to believe what he was telling me, so it was genuine in that sense, but I admit, I still can’t really take the idea of spirits communicating to us via pieces of paper (which actually started as playing cards and have only been used for divination after the 19th century Victorian spiritualism craze, by the way, despite what New Age types will tell you) all that seriously.
I’ll admit, my very first reading–love–left me rather pleased. I was significantly less happy with the second–it’s not terrible, but the rather obvious interpretation of “when you were on the pre-med track, you would’ve become happy, eventually, and not stressed and empty all the time, like you actually were just during 1-hour biology seminars at the thought of staying on this path, but now you’ve gone and messed it up by doing what you love” seemed to confirm all my–not even fears, honestly. It sounds melodramatic, but in 20/20 retrospect I can see that I was never, ever going to be happy while I struggled through all-STEM classes for a future that I didn’t even want. I could see the King of Swords being me, but if it isn’t, there is only one other person it could be, and I don’t think that person has much influence as far as the Career part of my life. Also, it seems a little suspect that my past has been signified by two extremely auspicious and one extremely ominous card (the Three of Swords definitely sounds the closest).
But I do admit, the idea of The Star representing the Omegle tarot readings themselves really tickled me. Even if I don’t know I believe them, the readings gave me a lot to think about. They seemed to confirm my hypothesis that fortune telling can still be useful as a way of discerning your actual feelings. I realized that I would’ve been much, much happier with a mixed Love spread and a favorable Career one, than the other way around, which I actually got. Good to know. Also, the very idea of ancient divination and mediation with the spirits, through Omegle, strikes me as rather delightful.
After the session, I went back to some of Veronica Varlow’s old tarot posts. Turns out The Goddess Tarot–created from Kris Waldherr’s The Book of Goddesses, a lovely book about feminine deities around the world that I have at home–is available as an iPhone app! The full version costs $3.99, but there’s a free Goddess Tarot Lite with only one-card readings and less references. Naturally, I downloaded the Free version. For my first tarot readings…on my iPhone, I asked about the same two major questions on my mind:
On writing/career: “The Eight of Pentacles offers acknowledgment of talent, hard work, and fair payment. Expect to find great satisfaction in any work undertaken at this time. If you are feeling less than enthralled with your career, this card offers an ideal to aim for–perhaps it is time to develop the skills needed for your dream job. This card is also an affirmation of skill for artists and others who work with their hands.”
On love: “Daydreams are necessary to keep our lives full of potential and hope; if we can’t imagine a future, we can’t create it. But the Seven of Cups presents a challenge: it is time to take our fantasies and transform them into reality. Often the more outlandish of our daydreams will dissolve when concealed under the light of day. This is to be expected and even encouraged–the dreams left behind will only be strengthened.”