I’m a tarot reader. I answer questions for a living. Anything you can think of is a question I’ve heard from my clients over the years, from the mundane to the metaphysical to the far out.
They ask me not only Will I get the job? and Is he the one? (typical predictive questions), but also Why am I here? and What’s my life purpose? That’s the mystical or metaphysical stuff. I’ve also fielded questions about the existence of Bigfoot and life on other planets (for extra-cosmic clientele). But mostly it’s the quotidian, the personal, the two biggies: love and work.
What I’d never imagined, however, was a global pandemic. So far, I haven’t seen a dramatic increase or decrease in business. I didn’t run a fancy “pandemic special” (tarot for the low low price of $9.99!), but I did reduce my hourly rate once everyone in New York City but essential workers was told to stay home.
It’s been mostly business as usual for me, except that now every tarot reading, every phone call, has a guest on the line: coronavirus.
In late April, over the course of a single day, I had three clients call me seeking guidance as they tried to navigate the new reality of love and money and meaning during lockdown.
The first was a woman I’ll call Annalise. She’s single, middle-aged and in love with a married middle-aged man. They starting seeing each other pre-pandemic and now she’s anxious, afraid. She wants to know when they’ll see each other again.
Annalise doesn’t want to be talked out of it. I know the risks, she says. I have needs, she says. I love him.
Her question is really three questions. Will I see him soon? When will I see him? Is it over?
I shuffle my cards. I pick three. I lay them out on the table in front of me. I don’t always share what cards I see (though I will if a client asks), because tarot reading isn’t literal for me, even though the cards have pictures on them. The cards are a jumping-off point. They make me feel things, and what I feel with Annalise is that they will see each other relatively soon.
Card one shows a scene of someone walking away. Or are they walking toward us? It’s ambiguous. What I know is that there is action here ― someone on the move!
The next card shows two people gazing into each other’s eyes. They are toasting. Their glasses touch. Their hands touch. Looks like a date to me.
The third card has a name, whereas the previous two just had numbers. This card is the Lovers, which shows a naked couple blessed by a huge fuzzy-haired angel. Card three sums it up for me, although I was already feeling certain, building a case. This ain’t over. Not by a long shot. I’m thinking a July meeting if not June. It’s soon.
Annalise starts to cry. I tell her I get it. I tell her it’s hard. She wants to move on to other topics then: her two dogs, work (she’s a social worker), and what to do for her birthday, which she’ll be spending alone this year.
Ninety minutes later I’ve got the preacher on the phone. That’s what I call him. He’s a repeat client. I’ve read his cards every couple of months for the past four years, easily. He’s the spiritual director of a small church in upstate New York.
The preacher can’t preach, he tells me. At least not in person. He misses the intimacy of gathering, setting up the folding chairs, the choir. He misses each pale Eucharist. He’s widowed, sheltering alone, like Annalise. He tells me this call isn’t for therapy (he has a shrink now, a good one), and reassures me that he’s not gonna ask my most popular question these days: When will things be normal again?
I need a little hope, he says. What you got?
My intuition tells me to pull just one card for this question. It’s the Star card, which I am relieved to see, as the tarot has its share of foreboding images. It depicts a background of blue sky and shiny stars and a naked woman pouring water from two pitchers onto the ground.
Tarot readers are like rabbis. We sometimes disagree on the fine and not-so-fine points of what the details of each card mean, but I can tell you that most readers agree on the basics of the Star ― naked water lady notwithstanding.
It’s about the future. You have one, I say. This is the promise of the Star. Renewal. Hope. Recovery. Hard times over. Eventually.
He exhales loudly. It’s like a sigh. As with Annalise, he wants to talk about other things. I encourage him to think about what he wants to do once it’s safe again. More flowers, he says. So many more flowers. I want to bring God’s beauty into God’s house. Make a shopping list, I suggest. All the beautiful things.
The third and last call of the day is Ellen, an essential worker at a warehouse the size of a few football fields. She had emailed to schedule what’s become our regular Thursday session. I was surprised to hear from her because of a recent prediction I’d made for her. My timing was off by about a month.
Ellen had been worried about losing her job (which she did lose). In the cards, I had seen her moving on, but not yet, not yet. Her question: She wanted to know how long she’d be unemployed. Would a job be coming her way soon? I still trust you, she says. I’ll just subtract 30 days from any timeline you give me.
I was relieved to see that the cards were kind, like every other reading I’d done that day. It’s not always like that. It’s not a given that good news, good cards, will come.
“Love and hope and desire and dreams. These things will go on. They will outlive the virus. I’m certain of that.”
And for Ellen I did things a little differently. Instead of pulling a few cards at a time and interpreting just those, I’d throw down a whole bunch, a storm of cards, and then put them back in the deck. Throw down, put back, throw down, put back. I was looking for a story.
Like Annalise and her lover meeting again, I didn’t think it would be long before Ellen had a new gig. The cards kept showing me Knights. The tarot has a royal court, including Knights and Kings and Queens. Two of the Knights are speedy, in a hurry, and those were the ones I kept seeing. The Knight of Wands. The Knight of Swords. Fast fast fast. I also saw the Chariot card, which depicts its namesake and is a card of victory despite a bumpy road or car trip. No defeat for you. It was a quick call. That was all she wanted to know.
After client three, the workday is done. I hop off my chair. I close the computer. When it comes to tarot, I don’t have many pre- or post-reading rituals, but I always leave the room.
I make an evening plan. I’ll check in later with social media, tweet (hello tarot lovers!), post an Instagram photo. Maybe go for a quick walk, then eat dinner: Here’s an empty Brooklyn street at sunset. Here’s my crunchy cereal. These snapshots are supposed to be sweet, but also true. Signs of life.
The questions my clients are asking, like my own daily life, don’t seem all that different from pre-pandemic times. I’m still on the phone talking to folks about love and hope and desire and dreams. What they want most. And yet everything is different now.
I catch up with the news, get into bed without my phone, decide to sleep early. But I can’t stop thinking about them ― the people I spoke to today, and yesterday, and the day before, and all of April and March, all the way back to the first time I saw a headline about a new pneumonia-type illness. They didn’t know what it was.
Love and hope and desire and dreams. These things will go on. They will outlive the virus. I’m certain of that. The hard part right now is now ― and figuring out how to live.
Permission was given by the individuals mentioned in this piece. Names and identifying details have been changed.
Aliza Einhorn is an astrologer, tarot reader and poet (MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop). She’s the author of “The Little Book of Saturn” and has a new book on the way, a guide for seekers, witches and other spiritual misfits. Find her at @moonplutonyc and moonplutoastrology.
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