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first person

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by April Dela Noche Milne

Most people see the same faces when they go to work every morning, but a typical day at my job can include a Hells Angel, a CIA operative or a celebrity.

For more than 30 years, I’ve been a professional tarot card reader, but I’m not your average psychic. I call it “woo woo without the cuckoo” because my style of tarot isn’t cheesy fortune-telling – it’s using the cards to tell the story of you.

Tarot points out what’s possible in your life as well as the work that still needs to be done. But these aren’t predictions, they’re soul messages. ⁣With so much uncertainty in our lives, we need to hear these messages more than ever.

Tarot has been with me through every stage of my adult life, from university student to corporate bigwig and I’ve been using that original deck for almost 35 years (I’ve known my cards longer than my husband and kids). I now give readings to people around the world, in-person and online, but it took years for me to get to this point.

There was only one store in Calgary during the 1980s that sold tarot cards and crystals – along with bongs and rolling papers – and psychics were discovered through friends of friends. That’s how I found Erica: a legit spell-casting, crystal-ball-gazing witch. Her psychic readings were relatable rather than terrifying and she eventually mentored me when I got my own tarot deck.

In the beginning, my “readings” consisted of me pulling cards for friends and consulting the instructions that came with the deck.⁣ “Does this make any sense to you?”⁣ I’d mutter as we stared at the cards, me desperate for validation and my friend completely confused. ⁣The best tarot training (aside from being mentored by an actual witch) came a few years later when I lost that little instruction book. I was forced to rely on my intuition. Doing tarot without backup was terrifying at first, but also liberating. Once I found the book a few years later, I realized I didn’t need it because I was developing a dialogue with tarot that continues to this day. My cards tell stories that don’t always align with standard tarot definitions, but they’re still rooted in the ancient meanings and, more importantly, they resonate with the person being read in ways that are helpful and uplifting rather than disturbing or cheesy.

As a young mom living in the suburbs of Toronto, “Tarot Card Reader” didn’t seem like a viable career option, so I put my communications degree to use and got a corporate job. For more than a decade, I lived a double life – creating marketing plans by day and giving tarot readings by night. But my obsession still managed to permeate my vocation. Tarot kept me from getting fired from at least two “real” jobs because I took my clients out for lunch and gave them readings instead of talking shop.

Word spread about “Lori who does tarot,” which evolved into Tarot Lori and I started doing individual readings as well as parties (I call them “Spiritual Soirees”). Plenty of my tarot gigs have been challenging, discouraging or weird. You might be thinking, “You read tarot cards, it was always gonna be weird!” And you are correct. But some encounters stand out, even to me.

One was on Halloween at a home in one of Toronto’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, but the home was really more of a castle. I spotted the turret from a block away and lanterns lit the path to the entrance: a front door twice as tall as me with a gargoyle knocker the size of my steering wheel. The only thing missing was a moat.

The butler led me up a winding stone staircase to the top of the turret (my office for the evening). The hosts were lovely and the rest of the night was as normal as doing tarot readings in the tower of an urban castle can be, confirming that you never know what’s happening behind closed doors (or drawbridges).

Conversely, I once arrived to do readings for a woman I assumed was an accountant, but turned out to be a highly sought-after dominatrix. Her walkout basement had been converted into a sex dungeon, with stunning lakeshore views as well as an assortment of spikes, clamps, whips, seatless chairs and an upright coffin lined with red satin. I did tarot upstairs (the basement was off-limits to her guests until I left) and everyone was a delight to read; further proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover (also, Canadians can be kinky).

Regardless of who or where I’m reading, I make it clear that tarot tells you what you need to know – not necessarily what you want to know. For example, I won’t tell you when you’re getting married (that’s fortune-telling and also ridiculous), but I will point out where healing needs to occur in order to welcome a healthy romantic relationship. A tarot reading is a conversation with your soul, I’m simply the interpreter.

There are no “bad” tarot cards (only bad tarot-card readers), but some cards are definitely less fun (or more difficult) than others. I never avoid or feel guilty talking about the hard stuff because I know how transformational a tarot reading can be; avoiding these topics would be irresponsible.

People often seek me out during times of loss or upheaval, and these challenging cards validate their experience and offer homework to help navigate tricky times, or a shift in perspective that can ease a burden.

Doing tarot full-time is incredibly rewarding, exhilarating and exhausting. It’s not just the physical strain that comes from talking for hours on end, but also the energetic depletion that makes my brain feel like I just wrote the LSAT (by the end of a reading, I have visible sweat stains). Regardless of how tired I am before or after a reading, once I start pulling cards it’s like a light switches on inside me and I could talk forever.

I could never not do tarot readings and I now recognize this as my mission. Tarot isn’t fake predictions or a quick fix for your problems, but pulling cards can give you immediate insight and guidance, allowing you to make a decision or take action from a place of confidence. Tarot meets you where you’re at – it can be a fun thing to try with friends or a catalyst for profound awareness and expansion.

A lot has happened since my first reading with a witch, and my life has taken some interesting turns. Through it all, tarot has been my north star, guiding me home to myself.

Lori Simeunovic lives in Oakville, Ont.