There are different ideas of what tarot is or should be. When asking a tarot practitioner anything to do with tarot, you’ll get a unique answer from practitioner to practitioner. While I personally have my own answers to the hows and whys of tarot, I wanted to bring in the voice of another reader, who has far more experience under her belt that I do.
I interviewed Jordan Langen, a tarot-reader and owner of the mysticism shop, Stone Moon, in Bellingham, Washington. She started her relationship with tarot 15 years ago, and has been reading professionally for nearly ten years. She has since identified and cherished the messages and wisedom of Major Arcana Trump II THe High Priestess.
Her background in spiritual studies sparked after seeing speakers such as Joseph Campbell and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and from her mother’s mutual interest, which led her to numerology and dowsing before settling into tarot.
Joradn offers not only walk-in readings in her downtown shop, but creative guidance with projects such as plot and character readings for writers.
What is tarot?
A form of communication between the conscious and the subconscious self that brings intuitive influences out in a way that it can be manipulated and assessed in an open and clear-headed environment at our disposal.
You say manipulated. What do you mean by that? Doesn’t that bring a negative connotation in people’s minds?
It often does. I often use “manipulate” and people don’t like it. I think to link the conscious with the subconscious and be able to allow that information that out subconscious constantly has at its disposal because of its sensory perception – to take that information that our subconscious has waiting for us and be able to use it to guide our lives in a positive manner.
What is the difference between divination and fortune-telling?
In my opinion, (I’m not a fortune-teller) from a diviner’s perspective who doesn’t have the gift, when someone is a fortune-teller, a querent can go to them seeking specific information.
There are some people that can go into the subconscious realm, go into the suggestive state of their own deeper knowing and contact spirits or outside guardians, and bring back information that is very specific to exactly what the querent wants to know. Fortune-tellers can take that skill or that ability to go between the conscious and the subconscious so clearly, that they can ascertain direct correlations between the dead, relay information such as when the querent’s going to be married, what their partner will look like—all very specific answers to specific questions.
Divination, in my opinion, is the art of being able to look within yourself, to be able to take your own intuitive, subconscious knowing, and see what it is that it is freely given you with less demand on it. It’s this ability to take my intuitive abilities and match with the intuitive abilities of my querent, and be able to take that information and be given a response to the current rhythms at play. Sometimes you do get the ability to be specific about the information you receive, but that’s not always just rooted in. In fact, when a good diviner gives a reading, what they’ll usually hear as an afternote, is, “You know what? I already knew that, but I just needed to have it organized enough so that I can act on the information I already knew.”
How does tarot work?
I look at how tarot works in this way, if you’ll excuse the personal story.
When I was a little girl, I loved to take stuffed animals and critters, and I would put my love into them. I would find that when I put my love into these toys, I could go back, and pick up that love later and feel better, whereas if I picked up a new stuffed animal, I didn’t experience that. So I started thinking that I could start storing my love into things.
When you’re doing tarot, you’re not just storing love into something, you’re storing intention into something. It’s an ability to put energy and different models of energy – whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy—all the different interweaving depths of emotion we experience have a specific signature. That signature can be put into an object.
The purpose of the tarot is to go through and feel that emotion and pull out what you’re drawn to. So you take that emotion that was, say, put into a stuffed animal to give you comfort, and use it to assess what subconscious is saying. That’s the interesting thing about the subconscious self: sure, it speaks many languages, but the main language it speaks is emotion. To be able to take and divide up the different wavelengths of the subconscious by emotions by distinct cards is what it is that the tarot is doing.
How long have you been a reader?
It was my junior year of high school, so about fifteen years now. But it’s far longer than that.
I feel like my mom really put me in the right shoes to be a good reader. I’ve been studying numerology since I was about ten, and working with pendulums since about the same age. My mom would bring me to spirituality classes and I got to go see Joseph Campbell speak, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross—I saw her last conference she spoke at.
My mom also wouldn’t let me go to church until I was ten. Then, when I was able, because I wasn’t allowed to do it, I went to a lot of church after that.
Spiritual studies have been a long part of my life, so I guess that’s how long I’ve been studying tarot.
What kind of readings do you do? What does a standard tarot reading look like for you?
I give intuitive readings. A lot of people want a three-card reading, which is mostly what I give.
They are in a position where they’re looking at past-present-future, and I don’t do that. When we put restrictions on the tarot, we are seeing our situations through a narrowed lens. Unless specifically people come to me saying they want that narrowed lens, I feel it is more important that we let the subconscious have its say opposed to the specifics of only wanting to know this or that.
So when people sit down with me, I don’t ask them questions. I prefer that people tell me nothing about their situation. I also prefer that they don’t specifically think of anything. I want their subconscious to read emotionally.
I have them pull too many cards and narrow them down intuitively to really make sure that they’re giving themselves a time to really feel the emotional charge in the cards, and not randomly grab. I want them to intuitively connect with the cards by having that double filtration process, so to speak. I want to offer people that ability to communicate with their intuitive selves.
Throughout the whole process, I give them as little structure as possible. I give them enough structure to feel secure though. I don’t tell them how to pick their cards, only that they must be face down the whole time. Everything else then is contingent on their own stylistic demands, such as how many cards they pull.
When I explain the cards they’ve picked to them, I try to weave their understanding of the cards like a story. I look at it like a plot. I refer to cards as antagonists, I will refer to the Major Arcana as chapter cards. The reason why is because most people understand the basic break down of a book, and when we look at it in terms we already know, then we can start identifying and making links to things in cards that can brought into mean in our lives every day. Then suddenly, it’s not so unruly and hard to rationalize because it’s being put into a simple manner. I’m weaving the story of their lives, through instinct, so they can relate and use it in a very black and white manner.
Is tarot interdisciplinary, or is it solitary? Is it strictly cards, or does it incorporate other mediums?
It is totally interdisciplinary. It uses many languages that already exist in a combination style that’s easy to use. That’s why the premise of card-reading has expanded the way it has, and why it’s one of the most popular forms of divination. You can be good at many different genres and still be good at tarot. It’s numerology, astrology, it’s Kabala, a series of other things—the elements—it’s so many things.
For me, on a mental level, I might not have a complete depth of knowledge of astrology because it’s very deep. But on a basis of numerology and reading the situation in an image, I’m very good at that. So I can take my skill set and target it that way. In fact, you can take the interdisciplinary study of your choice and decipher it that way.
If you don’t know anything at all about astrology or numerology, or any of the various fields that are incumbent in the tarot, all of those things were preconsidered and tied together by previous people, and we’re just looking at the previous picture that they derived. We’re standing on their shoulders.
How accurate are tarot cards?
Tarot are in essence very accurate for that one snapshot. It’s answering a static picture of something that is constantly fluxing and moving all the time. But it is a challenge. What if you, the reader, see that in your future the Empress, and you get the Empress all the time in your own readings. Then, worry because you might be over nurturing, one of the messages of the Empress. Then what if you have a querent, and because of the redundancy of the Empress, you are leery to help that person as much as you had originally intended. You have to deliberately stay on the path you were on in order to fulfill that future.
But like all things, you should take everything with a grain of salt. And furthermore, first and foremost, we are the navigators of our life, and after I read for someone, it’s their choice how they’re going to live their life after that reading. So it can be almost eerie and scary, and so emotionally on point that it can stab you in the nest of your emotions without you knowing that was a thing.
On the other hand, sometimes people are consciously closed off. I’ve had a number of readings where I felt that I was on the mark, and could feel that it was accurate, then the querent told me at the end that my reading made no sense. However, those are rare.
Many people are dubious of the Death and Devil card. How do you respond to that?
Ultimately, it’s important that when we receive negative cards, if I’m reading for myself, I have to be able to see how it is that the card is a tool that’s serving me.
For an example, one of the cards I personally dislike is the Five of Coins. I don’t like feeling helpless with my money situations. I want to feel well off and comfortable. Or even social acceptance, which I think is another aspect of the Five of Coins. You have to overlook the “oh my god, my future card is the Five of Coins, that is emphasizing me being poor,” response. Instead, you have to focus on the understanding that the Five of Coins is me learning my lesson about my sparse financial matters over the last six months, condensing it in a way that is ultimately leading me to a greater understanding of how I can use that knowledge to help me save money better.
I have to look at that challenge as a way of me being presented with the tools that I need for success, because the universe gives you what you believe out of it. So if I feel that I never have any time, and that I’m always working, then I create more work. It’s important consciously be grateful for the moments off, or take moments to enjoy walking to work on an otherwise busy day to enjoy the sun. But always be able to look at a situation as a gift.
I’m learning the power of what my day off really means because I have to work hard for it. The tarot is giving me the gift of what I really want by giving me this challenge of the Five of Coins.
What are the ethics of a reader?
Well, these are my code of ethics (and this should no way reflect on other people, because this is just what I’ve set forth for myself):
- I feel that a reader should not only be able to know the definition of the cards, but know the connections, and without looking it up in a book. If they’re charging money, then there should be no books involved. I feel like it’s not just about the static reading of cards.
What I give is an intermingling. A book will give static meaning of cards. But as a reader, it’s very important that you paint a picture. You have to see how the Queen of Swords gets along with the Two of Swords. How the Queen of Wands relates to the Queen of Coins, and know the similarities between the two. And also, the differences, the key distinctions between each card, should be well structured and have an in-depth personality that is reflective of their style.
I feel that someone should put their energy into each individual card, to give it personality, and that is a manifestation of my experiences. My Five of Swords from a deck I used three years ago will be different than the Five of Swords for a deck that I use now because it is a derived energy from all the situations of that Five of Swords into a derived topic. It’s an ever-changing situation. You never should want to give the same definition of a card every time. It’s really challenging when two people sit down for two readings and get the same card, you have to really be sure that the Five of Swords sounds different the first time then it does the second time. It has to be unique and with other cards in account.
- As a reader you also have to be unbiased. It’s important that you offer an unobjective view of the situation. You have to cancel out our opinion if you have it. It’s important to give someone a genuine black and white view of their situation, and the second you bring your opinion into it is the second you muddle the reader.
- You should never be pushy. For example, never try to sell remedies that act as the answer to the problems brought up in your reading. Someone should never feel that their fate is within you, and they should feel that they can find the answers and solutions they need within themselves. I don’t want to be a crutch. I want to give people enough confidence within themselves that they learn to find their own solution.
That’s what makes a good tarot reader—just wanting to see people be the best and to get what it is they’re looking for. Sometimes if I think another store is going to have better quality of say garnet that they’re looking for, I will send my client to that other business, even if I, myself, sell garnet.
What is something you wish interviewers would ask you?
What not to do when getting a tarot reading, I think is something I wish I could get asked.
You can find Jordan Langen’s website at www.TheStoneMoon.com, visit her in her shop in Bellingham, Washington (the pit-stop city between Seattle and Vancouver), and like her on Facebook: Mystic Jordan/