They say that you should never buy your own set of tarot cards, that they should always be gifted to you.
Well, if that’s the first rule of tarot, then I broke it right away.
I was fifteen and had spent a good 6 months circling Scorpio Books, in our old-CBD, hesitantly peering into their mysterious, intimidating, tall and very locked, glass display case, which housed their collection of tarot decks and other spiritual curiosities. Never being able to summon the courage to ask for it to be opened for me.
Instead, I’d been borrowing library books on the tarot. Substitutingthe real thing for nights and weekends spent researching the protocols and rituals that surrounded this very grown up and, what felt taboo, subject. Just like anything that’s slightly out-of-reach, which a studious and well-behaved teenager aspires to – love, sex, booze, drugs, and edgy fashion – when you can’t have it, you read about, and study it in every detail that you can, until life finally passes it your way.
Eventually I decided that I was ready for my own tarot deck, and once I’d decided, well I was 100% READY. It was now or never and this was something I couldn’t delay any longer. I couldn’t wait for a birthday or Christmas to be gifted them (not that I’d ever have the courage to ask my parents for some, though I’m sure they would have happily obliged). See, somehow it felt almost as if the rest of my adolescence depended on it – how could I meet boys, finish school, get drunk, learn to drive, or wear red lipstick, unless I had my cards to steer me in the right direction towards them?
So one Saturday morning I put on my coolest, most empowering, outfit (army coat, secondhand kilt that I hacked the bottom six inches off, and studded with safety pins, striped knee high socks, Velvet Underground satchel, black eyeliner), got the bus into town, strode into the bookshop and got up the guts to ask what felt like the biggest, most grown-up question, I’d ever uttered:
“Can I please look inside the glass cabinet?”
I don’t know what I was expecting the staff to do? Would they ID me? Did they think I’d shoplift the cards? Would they lecture me on the dangers of dabbling in the mystic arts? Had I not seen The Craft? What was next, love spells and fire rituals (well, actually it was…)?
I stuttered and I blushed. But they let me in. And once I was in, I knew exactly what I needed. I grabbed my deck, that I’d researched for so long (Rider-Waite, never anything else), and abandoned the cabinet, before they could change their mind and tell me to hand them back.
Two minutes later I emerged from the shop, triumphant and floating with pride, feeling like a critical milestone in my journey to adulthood had just been reached. I had my cards with me like a talisman of my destiny – my very own tarot deck wrapped in a crisp, brown, paper bag, which I hid inside my oversized coat like smuggled contraband.
These still are, and always be my cards.
Although I wasn’t gifted them, like they say you should, I feel that the journey behind their acquisition embodies so much spirit and emotion that, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. That slightly anxious, curious, optimistic, teenage girl, with just a hint of rebellion about her, lives on within them.
And that’s why sometimes we have to put textbook traditions and rituals aside in life, and just create our own.
After all, my cards have always looked after me. And that counts for everything.