Lucy Mangan

“Can tarot bring about the future we want?”

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Lucy Mangan
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Lucy Mangan shares her first experience with tarot…

I had my tarot read a few weeks ago. Don’t disown me, let me explain. It was for work. I was doing an event at a book festival and two young women – best friends Fiona Lensvelt and Jennifer Cowie, who have formed themselves into a literary tarot cabaret and consultancy called Litwitchure – asked if I’d do the sisterly thing and support their entrepreneurial endeavour by hopping on stage and turning over ten cards with them. Well, what could I say? 

I said, “no”. Then they said “Please?” And then I said, “As long as you promise me you don’t believe in it and I don’t have to pretend I do?” And they said, “We don’t think we can predict the future and it’s fine that you don’t either.” 

Tarot, once the preserve of Gypsy Petulengro along Blackpool front and heavily scarved hippies in tents, is making a comeback. Instagram is full of the endlessly photogenic spreads, fashion designers are increasingly inspired by tarot’s rich but macabre aesthetic, and card readers are an increasingly common device in fiction at the moment.

It’s not hard to see why. 

The idea of finding solutions in something otherworldly always takes on a special allure when this world seems to be failing at every turn.

So, I turned over my cards from the pack. They included one that showed nine swords hanging over someone’s head in bed, representing anxiety. I said I felt that anyone with only nine anxieties hanging over them was doing pretty well in life, but apparently it’s not generally considered a positive card. 

I drew The Sun in the “what you need” position and argued that I didn’t need to get skin cancer. But supposedly it represents embracing joy and frivolity. And I got The Devil in the ‘strength’ position and apparently should not have been as heartened by this as I was. But really – what’s stronger than the devil? Bring him on, I say. And cover up lest the joy distract you.

The idea of finding solutions in something otherworldly always takes on a special allure when this world seems to be failing at every turn

What did I learn? Well, first of all, nothing. The act of turning over random cards simply confirmed to me that it is the act of turning over 10 random cards. Any suggestion that it illuminates the future will result in me showing you my own card, on which I have drawn a generously-sized set of bollocks.

What it does do is give you a new way of looking at and understanding yourself. It is impossible not to interpret something – be it a painting, a novel, an interaction between a couple of people on the street – and not learn something about yourself. It’s just that usually we are not required to articulate or focus on it. I probably should work on becoming someone a bit more able to embrace the happiness in life rather than concentrate on its carcinogens, and a bit less able to see the upside of the devil. 

It’s important to remember that any other 10 cards would have vouchsafed me just as much insight, as long as I was talking to a Fiona or a Jen while I did it. Like horoscopes, each is designed to snag something within the many.

It’s tempting, of course, to turn elsewhere when the rational brief to which society has customarily cleaved seems to be paying fewer dividends every day. But the answer to madness is not to take refuge in more madness. It’s closer and more conscious scrutiny of everything, that will bring about the future we want. That’s what the turn of the cards showed me. Though the odd walk in the sun might help too. 

Images: Unsplash