Tarot Readings & Other Witchy Shit

GT: The topic of tarot cards and readings has always been a sort of magical mystery to me. I wanted to interview my friend Haley about her experience as she’s an avid tarot gal. She’s also a fellow spiritual queerdo (read: queer weirdo). I knew I wanted her on the blog. During this interview, we explore a bit of her background and introduction to tarot reading. I really had a doubtful attitude about tarot readings that shifted after this interview. You have to read through the article to find out how Haley casually blew my mind while reading my cards!


TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.

My name is Haley Sherif. I graduated this past May from Emerson College with a B.F.A. in creative nonfiction. So far I’ve been published in various places including: Elephant Journal, Eco-Chick, and Perversion. Currently I live in Brooklyn. You can find me dancing along to wordless Christmas at The Strand where I’ve worked for four weeks. One day I hopes to complete and publish my memoir.

What exactly are tarot cards/tarot readings?

Tarot to me is a secondary way to access truths we already have about ourselves and others. It’s a medium to connect with something greater than ourselves: the whole universe.  

A tarot deck is usually 78 cards (22 major cards and 56 minor arcana). Oracle decks can vary, but are usually less than 78 cards. The two can be used in tandem or on their own. One thing I love about tarot is that it’s more up to the user than it is to the maker. A reader can use any deck how they would like to. While there are specific ways a deck may be explained by the maker, a reader might have a totally different way of doing things!

I just got a brand new deck - an Inner Hue Lumina Tarot Deck. IT’S BEAUTIFUL!

Tell us about your start with tarot.

I was a born and bred Upper East Side New Yorker who got everything new out of the box. I had absolutely no experience with ancient practices and the word magic sort of gave me the creeps. I totally had misconceptions (and sometimes still do).

I began learning about tarot three years ago when my friend started studying it. She worked in publishing and loved her work, but decided to quit and become a tarot reader full time. At the time I thought that was so weird because there are a lot of sketchy tarot readers, but now I think it’s so cool! She even opened her own shop: Everyday Magic in Durham, North Carolina.

She was the first person who read tarot for me and has done it five or six times over the last few years. I’d see her when I was at school for writing and what she was doing was attractive to me. She could look at a deck of cards and tell me advice I already knew, but didn’t understand or want to come to terms with. I was unhappy and having difficulty facing that truth.

You took a tarot class. What was that like?

I took a six month course called The Brooklyn Fools with Jeff Hinshaw. He was a great teacher. We met every Thursday from 9-11pm from January to June. It was my last semester of college. I was so tired, but it was awesome. We went over every card in the deck and meditated on them. We’d bring altar items every week on a specific topic and did a drawing every day.

My favorite card is The Fool. It's 0 in the deck, the first card. I love it because I think we're all fools sometimes. I definitely thrive on fool energy: I make decisions right away and just go for them, I am always moving and shaking, and have trouble slowing down and thinking through things. I can't remember what I brought to the altar for The Fools gathering which was our first meeting together, but we would bring significant items that carried that energy. Examples include: crystals, jewelry, animals (yup, someone brought their dog once), photos, etc. If you search #bkfool on Instagram you can see some beautiful photos!

After taking the class, though, I started to believe you could teach yourself the tarot. My teacher was wonderful and I’m glad I studied with him, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Learning and doing it is all about intuition and learning to trust yourself.

Say more about that: intuition and learning to trust yourself.

We all have access to our intuition if we begin to sit with ourselves. Often we hear someone say about something or someone shady, "I knew it in my gut." What we're saying is our bodies knew it before our minds did. The hair pricked up on our arms, we got a bad feeling, we suddenly felt like we just needed to leave. Our bodies know so much more than we do.

Accessing that part of ourselves is a practice in itself. For me, it came as a result of beginning to heal from my childhood. I grew up in a very chaotic home where I had to learn to survive and cope. As a result, I spent many years growing as a human and trying to figure out who the fuck I am. Intuition came from years of having to learn to trust myself.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle Melton, who are two of my favorite authors, both talk about intuition. Both ladies discuss their bathroom floor moments in their respective books, "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Love Warrior." Both of which are awesome! They hear the next right action down on their knees because they're asking for help. They're cashing in their chips. They don't know how to do this alone. I'm a big believe in doing the same at times. I think that voice is our intuition knowing what we need to do next. They refer to these voices as something outside themselves, I find comfort in believing it was something within.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert says: “We don't realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.” 

You don't have to believe in God to believe in your intuition. They can be separate. They can be called whatever you want. They can be dismissed and ignored, but they will never leave. Listening to that tiny little voice is all it takes to read tarot. People will disagree and say there’s a million right ways to do it and a million wrong, but I think it’s simple.

Being in a community of other witches has also helped me. Instagram has a great community. We’re better together than alone. I’m a baby witch. An aspiring witch. I believe that carrying a rock in my pocket is going to get me through the day. I like rituals like buying a crystal when I’m nervous. They help me to connect.

What does reading tarot for yourself and others look like?

Reading for myself: I will probably sage my deck (cover it in cleansing smoke), shuffle it, meditate on an intention, and pull a card or two. I don’t like to read for myself and I don’t do it often. While I trust my intuition, I don't really trust my intentions all the time, especially if I am wanting a specific outcome. When I do pull the cards basically say, "no bitch."

I use the tarot when I feel like I need it, but I’m not pulling the cards to see if i’m going to date someone in the next three days. That’s not the way I want to use the tarot. I think there are just certain things that you need to let the universe take care of on it’s own. I have had the experiences where I’ve craved instantaneous information and thought i could get it/it could make me better, but it never does.

Reading for others: Usually I do half hour or hour readings. I ask them what their intention is for the readings. I try to speak from my gut and share what the cards are saying. Sometimes it takes some time for me to get going, but I get there… I get plugged in to what the universe is saying through them. I think it’s probably most similar to when people tell their stories in 12 step meetings. It’s a feeling that something beyond me takes over. It’s really cool.

When I read for others, I share more about my own experience to make the reading more tangible.  I'm not going to say you're broken if I don't first tell you I am too. I think it's unfair. I think we gotta level the playing field a little bit. I'm reading Glennon Doyle Melton's, "Carry On" right now and she has a moment where she's like, we all put our guards up and the only way to even hope yours goes down, is to pull mine down first. If I am open and honest, I hope my friend/client will be too.

What do you say to critics?

What’s working for you in your life? Is it running, 12 step meetings, religious confession, writing, tarot? We all have ways we try to heal, comfort, and connect. We all have to do what’s best for us. I’m respectful of the fact that people have certain practices that work for them. I don’t question if something works for people.

Cool, I could read for you and maybe it’d change. If you’re not “believing” tarot it’s probably because you’re closing yourself off to it. If you go to a tarot reading thinking “this shit isn’t going to work,” you’re probably right. Your attitude facilitates the outcome.

The reader can say whatever they want, but the person whose cards are being read needs to be ready to hear it. For example, I was told I should stop drinking so much and I wasn’t ready to hear it. We’re stubborn human beings. We like to push back on what we don’t agree with.

How can people learn tarot themselves?

Buy a deck. Read for someone. Just do it. A lot of people start with the Rider-Waite deck. I’d suggest using whatever deck feels good to you. Our level of connectedness shifts depending on how we’re living our lives. If we’re constantly high or drunk, in a negative place, or with negative people, our connection to our intuition is weakened. If we’re surrounded by positive people, having conversations with God, reading good books, and doing what’s good for our soul, our connection to our intuition heightens.

Can you read my cards? Specific to work?

The 3 of Pentacles was pulled.

Do what you need to do to make sure you’re being good to yourself. If you feel like your job is something you need to stick out, I would say make sure you’re doing what you need to do in order to stay emotionally wealthy. Remember whatever emotional currency you’re using to excel at work, you’re losing that bank elsewhere in your life.

Make sure you’re not letting someone else dictate the place you need to be in and what you’re doing. Make sure you say “no, that’s not what I need to be doing.”

Don’t fall back on old habits. Despite familiarity, bad habits don’t equate comfort. If you do fall back on bad habits, recognize them for what they are. Next time fall back on something healthier. Leave work when you’re supposed to leave work. Come into work later if you have to. Don’t worry about a couple extra hundred dollars. This might not make you monetarily rich, but you don’t want to lose the part of yourself that’s healthy and happy. You need to think of your emotional well-being first.


GT: At first, I was like “okay, this reading is very vague and universal advice. Fine.” THEN, she started getting closer and closer to what was going on without me saying a word. Actually, all I said was: “I’m curious about work. That’s my intention.” That’s it - Haley didn’t know anything about my current work situation.

She introduced this concept of emotional currency that I hadn’t heard ANYONE use prior to these last few months. It’s actually been a theme for me lately. My sponsor has been saying it to me left and right. “Do you have the emotional currency in the bank? No? Then, that action is not worth it.”

Just a few hours prior to Haley reading my cards, I had a mandatory conversation with HR at my work about how my pay is changing and I’m now eligible for overtime. I panicked and began to fantasize about how I could return to my old workaholic ways and make so much money. I got myself all wound up all day. Cried to my new boss. Exhausted myself. Then, Haley reminded me (having no idea this was all going on) that there are more important things than stockpiling money… my emotional well-being, for example.

Hm, so I guess tarot works for me, as I was willing to hear it!