My Tarot Origin Story

A while ago, I updated my About page. Fables Den has undergone many changes, and I wanted to capture how its spirit has evolved–how I have evolved. I realized I needed to tell my story, because I have never done it before. Trying to encapsulate who I am and where I am now seems to call for a return to the beginning.

So here is my origin story. It’s a bit lengthy, and given how modern people have the attention span of a fish (that’s me included, so don’t get mad), I hope you will read until the very end.

Here it is. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

I picked up a tarot deck, and the story began from there.

Sort of. Kind of. It did and it didn’t.

My fascination with tarot cards stemmed from my anime-obsessed childhood. In love with the idea of magical girls wielding magical cards to defeat evil monsters, store energy and foretell the future, I was inevitably attracted to the idea of a deck of cards (in real life!) that could potentially do all of those things.

(Despite my girly obsessions, however, I feel compelled to mention that I was also in love with Dragon Ball Z and other boyish fighterish shenanigans. I was on both sides of the gender spectrum, as far as cartoons went)

My first deck wasn’t a complete deck. The Power Tarot, a book authored by a Taiwanese occultist called Morris, only came with the 22 major arcana cards. The book was given to me by my good friend’s mother as a present. Interestingly, she thought I would enjoy something like this, since she was into astrology herself. It was kind of random: I was into astrology in the sense that I liked to read horoscopes for weekly predictions and personality profiles. I wasn’t particularly close to my friend’s mom, and I wasn’t so spiritually inclined at the time to attract a deck of cards into my life.

But you never know, right? Apparently, there are no such things as coincidences.

I was twelve or thirteen years old at the time, and I didn’t take the subject seriously. I was just a goofy nerdy girl, and most definitely not an old soul or intuitively gifted. It was a fun experience, and I mostly picked up the cards and enjoyed finding out which archetype my birthday corresponded with. I also enjoyed entertaining myself with the cheeky romantic predictions under the Love section. Those predictions were very canned and a few sentences in length, barely scratching at the surface of tarot and what a deck of cards can offer.

I didn’t even know there were actually 78 cards. I didn’t even know the minor arcana existed. How ignorant of me! But heck, it was still pretty cool.

Come to think of it, I really should have been visited by my spirit guides at that point. Should have received some kind of cosmic revelation that unraveled my destiny as tarot reader and lightworker. A mentour should have been introduced to me through sheer synchronicity alone. The grand spark. The magical jumpstart. You know, something. Anything.

Contrary to my narrative impulses: throughout the next two years or so, my tarot timeline was quite uneventful. Other than the occasional shuffles to divine the true feelings of my crush at the time, the deck of cards mostly sat on my bookshelf next to my Harry Potter books. Until the same person (my good friend’s mom, Sunnie) gave me another deck of tarot cards. Again, she thought I would be into this sort of thing.

I wasn’t too hyped because I didn’t find the artwork attractive, but I was excited nevertheless to receive a full deck of cards.

Could this be the hidden sign that I was looking for? Could this be yet another invitation to listen to my intuition? To answer Spirit’s calling? Could this be my second chance to begin my grand narrative of tarot?

Coincidence?

Yeah, probably. My friend’s mom always gave away (and still does) random things that she purchased but never made great use of. It was a random gesture and a perfect example of her practical gifting.

But you were expecting a different answer, no?

Coincidence? I think not. I bet you were just thinking it. Sorry to disappoint you with this boring turn of events. But here’s something that might cheer you up: around that time, I was prepared to take tarot more seriously.

I wanted to look into it more and study the craft. 78 cards! Not just 22 cards–78! I pictured the deck weighing down on my hand and filling in my palm as I shuffled, and I thought it would be wonderful if I could get to know the individual cards and have that knowledge at my disposal. I would be a tarot reader. A carrier of esoteric knowledge. A channel of the divine. A knower of things.

A magical girl with magical powers.

Okay, I lied. To tell you the truth, I had none of those sentiments. Mostly I just thought tarot was kind of cool. And I liked stationary. Tarot cards are by extension a kind of stationary since it’s made of paper.

So I unboxed the tarot deck and looked through the cards. I for the life of me cannot remember which deck it was, but it might have been the Marseilles Tarot since I vaguely remember that the minor arcana consisted of only pip cards and no actual depictions of their themes.

As I looked through the cards, the artwork didn’t inspire me, but I liked the weight of the deck on my hands. There was something very comforting about it, so despite the dull images (sorry, Marseilles peeps!) I was getting more excited with each card.

It was then I discovered that it wasn’t a complete deck. Again. There was a duplicate. Instead of 78 cards, I had 76 cards + 2 of the same card.

WHAT WHY WHUUUUUH!!! @#$&*#@)$&@#)*$&@#)*$&)#@*$&)#@!!!!

I was a compulsive perfectionist, especially when it comes to paper stuff, so that was a huge blow. I remember being so utterly disappointed and angry that I pestered my mother for her credit card so I could purchase a new deck for myself. A new complete deck, dammit. So that was what I did.

You would think my tarot story would finally pick up from here. I would have a beautiful a-ha moment and I would have bonded with the new deck so much that my real tarot story would at last begin. It would be a singular moment that I could not forget. A one of a kind moment in which realities intersected and my Spirit stood at the centre of those intersections and found its core. Those energies and galactic butterflies would have settled in the depths of my heart and reside in the folds of my soul and I would be—

Okay, okay. You get the point.

Without going further with my poetic and spiritual outburst, I can tell you right now that it was most definitely one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. Because on the very night the tarot deck arrived, I placed it next to my pillow (as I did for anything precious and new) and fell asleep next to it.

And I had a nightmare. And another. And another.

That whole night I was running around in circles, chased by invisible monsters, stressed out and frightened by things and images that I no longer recall now. But I remember being scared. And stressed out.

And when I woke up, my first thought was: this tarot deck is evil.

Shakily, I told my dad about the nightmares. My dad was much more energy sensitive than I was, so I trusted him to give me sound advice on any energetic or spiritual matter. A regular meditator, mudra worker, and divine channeler–my dad was the rock star when it came to anything spiritual.

I’m not trying to gloat here, but he’s really awesome. I grew up wanting to be exactly like him.

So I showed him the deck and waited for him to impart wisdom upon me: his daughter, his pupil, his divine disciple. I watched him sort through the cards, scanning each one with his hand and feeling the energetic frequency that each card emitted. My dad paused at the Justice card. Right away, he told me, “Bad vibes.”

He returned the deck to me and asked me what I was going to do with it. I said I wanted nothing to do with it. So I threw it into the trash.

I know, I know. A tarot deck? The trash?

To be fair, I was truly, really, inexorably frightened at the idea of this deck being in my room—in my house. I just couldn’t take it, and I obviously didn’t want to give it to somebody when it was emitting bad, evil vibes!

Now, as an adult, I wonder why that particular tarot deck gave me the shivers.

For the most part, it wasn’t like the images and art styles were demonic, disturbing, bloody or anything in between. They were just very avant-garde, dark and abstract, but I suppose as a kid I overestimated myself and came to find those images disturbing. I mean, I did pick it. I saw the previews and sample images from the tarot webpage, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was buying.

Or maybe those images stirred up the shadow in me, so much that it bled into my dreams and scared me. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the transformative powers of tarot. Maybe I was too young and unstable to work with my ego. (Which made sense, since I just immigrated to Canada at that time, and needing to learn and relearn about my identity on top of trying to survive school with reduced communicative abilities—well, it was very tough on me because I had always been, and still am, a writer and a storyteller. Not being able to communicate with words was painful.) Maybe those nightmares were just a reflection of my hidden anxiety and stress from my immigration experience.

Or, maybe it wasn’t the deck imagery that invited unwanted energy or presence–maybe it was that particular deck. Maybe it picked up the “bad vibes” that my dad was talking about from the people who were selling it. Who knows what hands it’d passed through before it arrived at my house.

Also, it was the Archeon Tarot, in case you were wondering. I looked up the images just now as I am writing this, and they no longer scare me. It’s not a deck that I would personally work with or collect, but the pictures aren’t that creepy. So what was it, then? Where did those nightmares come from? Where did those bad vibes come from?

I suppose I will never know. But I think I did the right thing. Maybe I wasn’t ready to receive a deck of tarot cards. Maybe I needed to be surer of myself. Or maybe my spirit guides were trying to protect me from that negatively charged deck. Whatever it was, it stopped me from delving into the world of tarot.The experience scarred me so much that I refrained from anything “tarot” altogether for the next few years. I went back to my occasional “tell me about my love life!” mode in which I only asked my 22 major arcana deck about my crushes in high school from time to time.

I was an extremely awkward person in high school, and tarot seemed to be a good distraction when I was drowning in my own thoughts, too busy internalizing and too afraid to make a move. I was shy, so shy that I could not even muster enough courage to say or wave “hi” to people. Being an English learner wasn’t helping, either. I felt“less” because I wasn’t in a regular English class. I felt less because I could no longer tell stories and weave poetry with my words. I could no longer express myself as I was used to when Mandarin was the “common tongue”. I felt less because I used to feel proud of myself for always brimming with words. Words used to be magic. They were my special powers as a magical girl and I used to have lots and lots of them. But now, in Canada where the official language is English, words reflected my despair because instead of having an abundance of them, I didn’t have enough of them.

In short, it really sucked to be an ESL student. I was so pained by my loneliness and silence that I made up a story about myself being the “ghost”. I walked alone and lived alone. I was too cool for my generation and the other “kids” in high school. So it made perfect sense that I was alone. I was supposed to be alone.

But deep down inside, I know that I yearned for social connections and company. I yearned to hear my own voice again.

When I graduated high school, it got simultaneously better and worse. Better, because when I was living in dorm at my university, I was surrounded by lively and interesting people who were super friendly and encouraging. Worse, because university campus was a bigger and more complex social ecosystem and I could not fathom where did all these perfect people come from—eloquent, smart, intelligent, well-dressed, mature-looking, eloquent, verbal, social, expressive, ELOQUENT.

Everything I wasn’t. Everything I yearned to be. I was feeling like a miserable ESL student again. I couldn’t bear looking at myself. The only time I felt safe and comfortable was when I was surrounded by the walls of my dorm room. Because nobody could see me there. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t have to live with the words I wanted to say but never said. I didn’t have to live with my parched throat, my constricted airway, my stunted vocabulary. I didn’t have to face how inadequate I felt, how judged, and how agonizing it was to not be able to find my words and use my voice.

On top of that, I was self-conscious about not being skinny enough. Or not having my bangs fall perfectly on my face. Or not wearing the right brand of boots. Or not looking feminine and gorgeous with lush makeup. Or not being cool and edgy enough to wear my own “brand” and express my personality. Or caring too much about the way I dressed and talked and behaved. The list went on and on and on. Every day, there was a new way to berate myself.

I didn’t believe that the world could receive me and treat me nicely. I didn’t believe that people would just talk to me and not judge me for who I was or was not. I didn’t believe that people didn’t have their agendas, or a negative perception of me. Always, always, they were judging me.

They see me. They see me for who I am. They think I’m worthless.

What an exhausting way to live, right? That was the story I lived in for an entire decade–ever since I immigrated to Canada. My first two years of university were no different, but I really didn’t have any reason to live like that. Everybody was nice to me, in fact. Everybody. I mean, there were personalities that I didn’t agree with, worldviews I didn’t jam with, but they were all nice people. They weren’t mean to me or rude to me. Nothing happened in those two years that validated my innermost fear—that people didn’t want to be around me and they judged me. None of that happened, but still, I was afraid. And stressed. All the time.

One day, my English 220 class ended (it was classical Canadian literature. Beavers and pioneers and the wonders of nature! It’s as boring as you think it is. Sorry Canada!), and I packed up my things and headed back to dorm. It was a 15-minute walk from the northern side of the campus to where I lived. It was one of the most hellish and grueling 15 minutes of my life because for no reason, I was so, so, so tired. And I couldn’t understand why. When I returned to my dorm room, I collapsed on top of my bed. It was an hour class. To be precise, it was a 50-minute class with 10-minute transition time so students could get to their next class. It was the only class I had that day and I had a full luscious 10 hour sleep the night before. I couldn’t explain why I was so spent just from an hour of class and 15 minutes of walking. I thought maybe I just needed more sleep, so that was what I did. I curled up into my bed with my hippo huggie-plushie (which everybody needs to have) and slept.

How is it relevant to my tarot origin story? You may be wondering.

Usually, there is a huge turning point in the story of every lightworker, tarot reader, spiritual teacher, and other big-hearted angels out there who are spreading messages of love and peace and grace. Usually it’s kind of tragic and dramatic. You know, the shit-hits-the-fan kind of tragic and dramatic. Like, somebody dies, somebody loses a job or gets fired, somebody loses a house, somebody betrays their partner, or uh, somebody dies. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when everything goes south and everything turns bitter. And from this shitty hell-hole: Wisdom. Truth. Empowerment.

Well, we are reaching for the turning point and the beginning of my transformation in my story. And I am promising you a story unlike any other.

So be prepared.

Because none of those things happened to me.

Say what?

None of those things happened to me. 

Nobody died (thank God). I didn’t lose my job because I was, for the most part, a student. On that note, I didn’t get “fired” from being a student because I was a nerd and my marks were pretty good. I didn’t lose a house. I wasn’t betrayed by my romantic partner because I was single. I wasn’t betrayed by my friends because they were all very nice people. And again, nobody died.

Har har har. Is this some kind of a joke?

Nope. I’m perfectly serious.

In fact, what happened was:

What the fuck?

I thought to myself.

Followed by: Why am I so tired…for absolutely no reason!?

And then: I don’t want to be tired anymore! This makes no sense!

And that was how everything started. Kind of, sort of.

Kind of anticlimactic–as far as life-changing questions go, right?

No tragedy, no drama, no despair. Just a simple, exasperated question about why I was so sleepy all the time.

And a newfound determination that rose out of that question: I don’t want to live like this anymore.

And then:

I want my life to be better.

Before I knew it, I was consulting the greatest oracle that ever existed: Google.

O Almighty Lord Google, why am I so tired all the time?

Stress (among other things).

Stress. Eyes. People staring. People judging. The way I dressed. The way I looked. The way I wasn’t skinny-socially-acceptible-media-standards-of-beauty-perfect. The way words were stuck in my throat. The way those words came back to haunt me and hurt me for not giving birth to them. The way I was living an inauthentic life trapped in my insecurities and fears in which my voice, wrapped in a perfect cocoon, couldn’t burst free and take flight.

In a few minutes, I self-diagnosed that I was, indeed, suffering from social anxiety and self-esteem issues. Internet is your best doctor, right? And as part of my treatment, I bought a book on social anxiety and self-esteem issues and started giving myself cognitive therapy. I started self-reflecting, addressing the vicious cycles inside my mind, unraveling my fears and my insecurities. I worked with myself and slowly encouraged myself to be less self-critical. I tried to think positively when I was in social situations. I tried not to project my own fear of judgement onto the people I was interacting with.  I also found a forum where people were super supportive of each other about social anxiety and self-esteem issues! Awesome. Hooray. Positivity galore.

That was when tarot found its way back to me.

If you are still reading. You may (still) be expecting to hear a series of miraculous events of synchronicity: bitch-slapped by the universe, wondrous encounters of beautiful strangers, unintentional gifting, etc.

And I wish, I wish I could give you the exact details of how I really, really picked up my first tarot deck, and how positive and cathartic and awakened I felt when I did—but I honestly cannot remember. I only remember that I did some research and it felt like the natural next step for my self-development and spiritual narrative. In a way, tarot had always been there, but I didn’t have a real need of it until much later.

You may decide that my tarot origin story is quite an unremarkable one.

But I love it, despite what you think. I love it because it is mine.

How it started–how it really started, was that one day (after my self-induced epiphany), I decided to research into tarot and I stumbled across Kelly-Ann Maddox’s Trainee Tarot Course on Youtube.

And I fell.

I fell into the poetry that is tarot
I fell into the symbolic layers, the similes
and the metaphors, the cosmic language
that captures the facets of one’s soul
of one’s experience
of being human

All of a sudden: words. Words, words, and words. Words without shapes and form, Words that were new but old, Words that I uttered for the very first time but already knew by heart. Words. 

I was ready to face myself. I was ready to see myself for who I was. I was ready to speak, to find my voice again.I was ready to love myself more. And more. And more.

I was ready. To take a swim in my soul. To make the incredible of self-awareness and self-love.

Why am I so tired!?

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a cry from my spirit telling me to stop living a depleted existence where I felt small, unnoticed, unappreciated, unconfident, and unworthy. There was no reason to live like that. Nobody should live like that. Nobody deserved that kind of existence.

Okay, well.

It was more like:

I saw Kelly-Ann’s video, and I thought: OMG. I like this a lot. Tarot cards can be a spiritual and psychological thing?! IT’S LIKE A MIRROR OF MY MIND AND SOUL.  LIKE IT KNOWS SHIT ABOUT ME AND GIVES ME ADVICE AND STUFF!!!

And really, I just went: This is so cooooooool.Tooooo coooooooooooool. Oh em gee x infinity.

And maybe that was all my Spirit needed to hear.

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