Editor: The following is an interview with OB’s own Kelsey Lynore, a progressive tarot card reader who describes herself politically as a “communitarian anarchist”. Kelsey runs her own tarot blog, The Tarot Nook and is the author of a series here at the OB Rag, entitled “Word to the Wise“.
By Kelsey Lynore
1. What is a Tarot reader?
A Tarot reader is a storyteller who uses a Tarot deck as a narrative constraint.
A Tarot deck is made up of 78 cards — 22 Major Arcana, 16 Court Cards, and the remaining 40 are called Pips or Minor Arcana – which function as a pictorial compendium of human consciousness and experience. The stories are structured according to Tarot spreads — fixed layouts which are chosen in accordance with the needs and concerns of the client. Tarot cards aren’t so cultured on their own, but the spreads socialize them; that’s their artificial structure. So there’s a nature/nurture aspect to this, where a card alone will speak a series of potential meanings, and its position and relation to other cards will dictate which is utilized.
I think Tarot is best understood as one part Rorschach and one part Cut-Up Technique. By this I mean to indicate that like psychoanalysis, the meaning of a Tarot reading is overtly subjective. And like the methods used in Dada and Surrealism, the order is apparently random, but that apparent randomness in no way precludes meaning, gravity or import. On the contrary, it can be completely revolutionary.
Finally, if we’re talking about the valence of the moniker “Tarot reader” I’m inclined to think it on a par with the moniker “Lawyer” or “Attorney.” Perhaps a criminal, perhaps a saint… you just never know until you do. My clients, however, have referred to me variously as an Oracle, a Pythia, a Psychic Sherpa, a Counselor, and “better than a Psychologist” whenever they’re feeling more exclamatory.
2. How do you do it?
I work entirely online either via Skype or Google Hangout, and I use the Universal Dali Deck. When the session commences, I first talk with my client and they tell me as much or as little as they like concerning why they have come to me. Then I concentrate, shuffle, and ask them questions about themselves based on what they’ve already told me. Finally, I have them give me numbers to choose their cards. I lay the cards out face down in their spread…
Then the reading begins. As I reveal each card, I show it to them, tell them its meaning, and they give me feedback, associations, yeas, nays, etc. By the end of the reading, it’s a cohesive whole. We’ve re-told their story together, and that generally changes the story sufficiently that they feel clearer and more empowered in relation to it. You can actually watch how I work here. Private readings are no different than the public Anti-Film Tarot Art Project videos, save the introductory spiel concerning what is and what is not relevant to Tarot. Private clients don’t need to hear that – they’re not potential YouTube commenters.
3. Why do you do it?
Because memory doesn’t function in a linear fashion.
Have you ever heard of COEX Systems? It was a term coined by Stanislav Grof which posits that memory is organized in accordance with associations. Thus, there are a series of nodal points or root experiences within each of us that have served to organize all of our subsequent experience, like a filing system. Some have lots of layers, and some have none. Some have strong roots, and some have weak. Some experiences… we simply don’t yet know where to put them! But our thought is organized in accordance with these systems of associations. It structures our thought and thereby gives rise to new thoughts, just as form will dictate content, or more precisely, what information can become content.
This is how language functions, the way a dictionary defines a word by way of more words. This is the significance of Proust’s famous Madeleine, as well as his passages on music. You hear a song and it takes you back. The music acts as a trigger for a COEX system, a feeling that houses all memories which have been categorized in accordance with that feeling, and sometimes it’s a flood.
Interestingly, when you look at memory and identity from this perspective, you quickly see that we all have PTSD, only minus the Traumatic Stress for the lucky ones. But we necessarily have a Post (dis)Order of some sort. It’s simply a question of early life experience, subsequent life events, and psychological infrastructure.
This is why oracles generally work so well. They trigger our memories from a safe distance, and coax us to reconsider our filing system, maybe clean it up, get more specific, separate some stuff up, reconsider our attributed meanings or headings, and catch the loose files that drift or get lost behind a bookcase.
And those loose files that drift are really interesting to me. You’ve heard that Bergson quote: “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”? Well, he said that off the back of Freud’s Trauma Theory, with the upshot being that knowledge is always a pattern – or if you prefer, two events are necessary to create a memory. Are those two events the same? No. That would be impossible. But they do get filed together and given a similar meaning and value. They create a pattern. They are “similar,” which means they are also “different” from something else. But if you’ve only encountered something once, you can’t classify it. You must have something to compare it with.
Tarot, as a compendium of fundamental transcultural narratives, triggers COEX Systems and works to trap floating experience. All oracles do. That’s why they work. And for those who say they don’t, I must insist – from a psychological standpoint, they absolutely do!
4. What’s your philosophy?
Politically, I’m a communitarian Anarchist. I think the US should seriously reconsider Athenian democracy minus the slavery, which would function like jury duty wherein every citizen participates. I have no idea why democracy makes people think of representation. No wait, I do know why – A propagandized educational system that grooms for obedience.
Life experience has also resulted in me being a very strong Feminist and very pro-Immigrant.
I’ve noted since my 30s that American culture is rife with victim blaming across the board – the weakest are always blamed – which I attribute to a profound cultural cowardice, a need to feel in control, and a rather serious taboo or prohibition on the speech of victims, to such an extent that we must all be survivors. But not everyone survives! I judge that. If I could change anything with the snap of my fingers, I’d change that first; there’s no doubt in my mind that a revolution would necessarily precipitate.
To that end, I see my work with Tarot as an extension of a communitarian Anarchist ideology. I reorganize narratives for a living – I think Fanon would approve.
5. IF you’re a leftist, isn’t Tarot reading against the materialism of leftism?
Hahaha. Whatever “leftist” thinks so, hasn’t touched Capital, vol. 1. You can’t get 40 pages in without being overwhelmed by the mysticism of the marketplace and money, and that’s not even capitalism, much less “late capitalism.” Yikes! Money is nothing but a fictional medium.
No, I think there’s a very silly conflation that some people make of the “real” with the “material.” Fictions have real effects. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have nations, money, advertisements, identities, or even lawyers. After all, how “material” is the law? Is the law real? Does it exist?
The law is not material… but it is real… but it doesn’t truly exist. You can’t point to it. And yet, there are life and death consequences… and they even differ for different people depending on location, skin color, gender, class, etc. (More myth!) So the law isn’t real, nor is it objective. It’s actually nothing more than a power structure. The real violence was done before the laws were even in place because laws at once protect and proclaim who “wins.” That’s what they do! So, these people can go here but not there – but that other group of people can go both here and there because they’re a special group who have the “law on their side.” Do the laws not sound like gods? And do we not plead before them? Enter the lawyer… maybe s/he can work something out. How magical!
Maybe that’s why Christ said: “For where two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Maybe it’s simply that wherever two or more are gathered together in ideation, that idea will somehow have real consequences and thereby make itself manifest. That’s the base logic of all rallies, riots, revolutions, and religious ceremonies… isn’t it?
However, the materialist of which you speak wouldn’t see that, S/he’d have to disavow all myth — all art, all fiction, all fantasy, all psychology, all religion, all storytelling, all brands, all marketing, all law, all theory, all money, all concept of identity, etc. and would ultimately end by disavowing science, itself. (Are the clades real?)
Finally, this hypothetical materialist would also have to believe that his/her senses and technology (sense enhancements) were peak. That they could know all if they only decided to, up to and including what it feels like to be a lion.
Such a materialist would be highly irrational and amazingly unsocialized. And that “materialism” has become so terribly misunderstood – why in the world should materialism preclude myth as an either/or proposition? — reveals the extent to which dominant ideologies – fictional thought structures – have very real effects. That’s where Tarot comes in.