“And The Devil Makes Three”
MauiTime — January 27, 2011– Volume 14, Issue 32
by Anu Yagi
“Pleased to meet you / hope you guess my name / But what’s puzzling you / is the nature of my game.”
– “Sympathy For The Devil,” The Rolling Stones
Don’t furrow your brow like that,” Nana always lovingly chides, 50 years my senior and somehow looking better for it. “The creases will stay put.” Sure enough, she’s right—and written with the wrinkles across my forehead is the word “skeptic.” Vanity notwithstanding, it’s a badge I wear proudly (hopefully offset by the heart I wear on my sleeve).
But reading this column will likely browbeat an undeserved wrinkle upon poor, pentecostal Nana. Because in the spirit of this week’s Mind, Body, Spirit issue, I got a tarot card reading—and liked it.
Sure, tarot sounds harmless—even commonplace—to many. But there are those (Nana included) who who see it as part of the occult, an access point for The Devil.
Shaking myself of the guilt I’m sure a skeptic should not have, I climbed the stairs above Cafe Des Amis to Paia’s new Psychedelic Emporium. After all, I told myself, this is just a journalistic quest for column fodder (perhaps galvanized by all the spooning I’ve been doing back here with Caeriel Crestin). And if I’m going to run into Satan’s embrace, it’ll be through my self-guided misadventures and sailor’s tongue. Truly the only thing I’m worried about—other than hurting my family’s feelings—is how to remain polite if this tarot reader turns out to be a quack looking to fleece me.
Honestly, I was expecting disappointment. Tarot began purely as a European card game, and had no reputable link to divination prior to the 18th century. Plus, at least one etymological theory traces the word “tarot” to Bologna, Italy. Seriously.
I was imagining sitting cross-legged on Persian rugs, choking on incense smog while a warty old woman divined destiny from a set of shabby cards. How wrong I was.
Suzy Q is an enviably fit rock n’ roll mom with a blonde pixie bob who’s been reading tarot cards since she was a kid. She and one of her five sons teamed up to open the Paia shop—which mostly sells pipes and concert posters—last Monday. Far from a musty den, the store is bright and OCD clean, with a shoji screen sectioning off a big wooden table where we sat for the reading. Suzy is refreshingly candid. “Some people just enjoy this as parlor trick, some people get real meaning out of it,” she says. Readings are $20, $15 for kama‘aina (having priced a few psychic-ish offerings in preparation for this column, I can tell you that’s a steal).
Suzy daubs essential lemongrass oil on my wrists and asks me to breathe deeply and focus on my question.
Oh crap. I’m supposed to have a question? I’m full of questions about tarot, but it didn’t occur to me to come prepared with a question for tarot.
Suzy assures me the question can be about anything—and that it’s best kept private. It’s her job to read the cards, she says, not me. So I close my eyes and think—really think—and manage to rattle around multifarious ideas about everything I’m not accomplishing but wish I was. OK. It’s not really a question. But at least it’s an idea of something I’ve been questioning.
Suzy asks me to cut the deck of 78 cards into however many piles I want, then she reassembles them. “I always tell people that life is so random,” she explains. “You think you’ve got it all stacked up, and it goes back differently.”
She lays out just the top-ten cards in an orientation called the Celtic cross. Frankly, as she makes patient explanation, I can’t help but read meaning into each card and its placement—from the Three of Swords representing how people perceive me as having had great sorrow to my hopes and dreams convoluted by the opportunity-laden but indecisive Seven of Cups.
And so I find myself falling in love with tarot, in all its beautiful, archetypal, dare I say magical glory. The cards didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but it was fun to draw coincidence from chaos and bring to boil some things that had been on the back burner of my mind.
Speaking of which, there’s my “final outcome” card: The Devil. When Suzy revealed the card, I giggled a little at the internal irony. She told me not to worry. See, with tarot, The Devil isn’t coming to get you—it is you. “It’s nothing anyone or anything does to us. It’s what we do to ourselves,” says Suzy. It’s every bad habit, every addiction, every turn in tumble dry when you’re already wrung out. And your “final outcome”is never really the end all be all. If it’s good, embrace it. If it’s bad, watch out for it.
So I guess I’d better still worry about what evil taro forebodes, just in a different way.
Still: sorry, Nana. ■
In tarot, there are 56 minor arcana cards “pertaining to life’s petty, every day issues,” says Suzy, and 22 major arcana “which represent really big picture stuff.” The Magician, The Star, and The Devil were all major arcana in my reading, in my “distant past,” “future,” and “final outcome,” respectively. Want to read all the notes from my reading? CLICK HERE.