Ask a Witch: Everything You Want To Know About Tarot

Illustration by Jihyang Lim

Practice makes perfect

In ”AskWitch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch. If you have a question about all things magickal, contact Herstik on Twitter via @gabyherstik or Instagram@gabyherstik 

Question: I’m new to tarot. I found the perfect deck that I think suits me well, but I don’t really know where to go from here. Do you have any advice?

Answer: I still remember my first tarot deck. I had ordered Maria Shaw’s Tarot Kit for Teens. It came with a basic Rider-Waite tarot deck and a guidebook. I remember feeling bubbles deep in my stomach as I unwrapped the box in the basement of my childhood home in Atlanta. I felt it: This was a door, and I was about to open it.

Over a decade later and not much has changed. I still have that tarot deck, along with many others, but the feeling remains the same: the tarot is like a door I open, again and again, finding something different on the other side each time I look. 

Thanks to the occult hitting the mainstream (and to the internet), starting your journey with tarot is easier than ever before. And the best part? All you really need is a deck to get started. As my journey with the cards has evolved, I’ve been able to connect with some amazing tarot readers. One of them being Theresa Reed, also known as “the Tarot Lady," who has been reading the cards for more than 30 years and boasts an online platform full of insight on everything tarot. Who better to help break down tarot myths than the lady herself? Here, then, are some basics for anyone looking to start or expand their practice with the tarot, with advice from the Tarot Lady herself.

What IS tarot?
The tarot is a deck of cards that was originally created in the 13th century, most likely in Italy. Although it was used, and can still be used, as a card game, the most common form of use is divination or telling the future. The 78-card deck is broken down into two parts, with the first being the Major Arcana. These 22 cards are the most commonly portrayed in the mainstream and include cards like the Moon, Death, and the Devil. The Major Arcana represent major changes and events and are especially vital when they pop up in readings. The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, features four suits: coins or pentacles, wands, cups or chalices, and swords or daggers. These represent situations, people, or experiences. By asking the deck a question and using a certain layout, you’re able to “read the cards” by interpreting the symbols on each one. 

Nothing is ever set in stone
Tarot isn’t going to tell you if you should break up with your boyfriend or what you should eat for breakfast. The cards are maps to parts of ourselves and our unconscious and tell us things that we might not otherwise be willing or able to hear. The cards are like big, obnoxious mirrors reflecting reality in a way that we can't ignore. The most important thing the Tarot Lady has learned in her journey? “Nothing is ever cut in stone. Our lives are built by the choices we make and, every day, we have an opportunity to change course if we don’t like the way things are going. The reins are in our hands, and when we show up 100 percent ready to take personal responsibility for our decisions and lives, the real magic begins.” 

Buy your first deck yourself
I’m picky. You’re probably picky too! After all, no one knows your taste like you. You can, and should, buy your first deck. One of the most important aspects of reading tarot and getting familiar with the cards is having a connection to them. Reed points out that if you’re not working with a deck you love, you probably won’t find that. So take your time and choose one that feels right to you. If you want a more classic looking deck, try the Rider-Waite or Universal Tarot. Hit up your local metaphysical shop or bookstore and look at different options. You can look online too! Check on Etsy and Kickstarter for really creative versions; many independent artists are making some incredible decks. Oh, and trust your gut when you make your selection. This is ALWAYS the golden rule.

Practice makes perfect
Tarot is like anything else: it takes time, skill, and dedication to get really good. It should not be a rushed process. Reed’s advice is to “pull a card for the day, every single day. Take a moment to contemplate what that card might mean. If you need to, look up interpretations in a book you like. At the end of the day, reflect on how that tarot card might have shown up in your life… or not. Drawing a card every day allows you to get familiar with the tarot and it also gives you a chance to see the card in action as you go throughout your day. I still pull a card for the day, every day, and I’ve been doing it for 35 years!”

Don’t forget to practice! Actually doing readings, no matter how nervous or inexperienced you feel, is the best way to learn. Reed also suggests getting a journal to record your readings. That way, not only can you go back and look at where you’ve been right (and also wrong), but you’ll learn more quickly since physically writing everything down helps with your memory. Seeing how the cards interact with what’s happening in your own life is a deeply personal process. Keeping track of this will help you create your own interpretations. 

Take a Class
Thanks to the internet and the New Age, finding a tarot class, either virtually or in real life, is not hard. If you are a more hands-on learner, find someone whose reading style you connect with and take a class. Having this face-to-face connection is often very helpful with intuitive arts like tarot.

You can read for yourself.
Who knows you better than you?! It's totally fine and actually really worthwhile to do your own readings. Listen to what the cards are trying to tell you and write it down. See how it plays out. Try your best to be objective and not to interpret the cards anything other than objectively. It's very tempting when doing your own readings to look for the answers you want to receive. If it's too hard for you to avoid this, then seek out a professional to read your cards for you. But, ideally, practice makes perfect, and you should be able to get to a place where you can read your own cards without falling prey to confirmation bias. 

Death does not mean death
This is honestly one of the first things I tell people in readings. Death is one of my favorite cards; it means transformation. One door closing and another door opening. Having death in a reading is indicative of a big change and a fresh start. Do not be afraid!

Intuition is everything
Repeat after me: There is no right or wrong in tarot. Your personal connection with the cards and your own intuition might mean that your interpretation may be different than what your deck’s guidebook says. And that’s okay! Learning to trust this part of your soul is an important part of your journey, and it will strengthen the more you read. Reed says the biggest secret about tarot is that “it makes you more intuitive!  I’m serious about that! The more you work with the cards, the more you begin to trust your own inner guidance.  Even if you think you’re not 'psychic,' in time, you might be surprised at just how well your sixth sense works. Tarot is a great ally for anyone who wants to develop their intuition.”

So find a deck you love and get to it. Your intuition will thank you.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

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