Sasha Graham is a pretty brunette and prior to entering the tarot profession, worked as an actress. She majored in Literature and graduated from Hunter College.
Graham is a professional tarot reader.
From her New York office situated in midtown Manhattan and through the dozens of events that she gets booked for, Graham reads for New York's elite. She has read at Fashion's Night Out for corporate clientele such as M. Missoni, Christian Louboutin, and more. Graham is also the author of two popular tarot books, Tarot Diva and 365 Tarot Spreads. After she became a mother, she decided to seize full control over her own schedule, and so she became a tarot professional, juggling her daughter's ballet classes with tarot readings.
On the opposite end of the North American coastline in Vancouver, Canada, Kate of Daily Tarot Girl fame is your down-to-earth girl next door, who also happens to read tarot for a living. Before launching her business, Kate was a fitness instructor and personal trainer. She integrates life coaching with her tarot practice. Kate also teaches tarot classes, so her workday is divided between lesson preparation and private client readings.
Neither Sasha nor Kate would describe themselves as psychic. "I don't trust anyone who calls themselves a psychic," says Sasha, who often reads for celebrities and socialites. "It's old school. It's outdated. It's too general and vague." However, both Sasha and Kate are highly intuitive and have devoted their life's work to honing their intuitions. "Psychic ability, now that's a different story," says Sasha.
Likewise, Jenna Matlin, a vivacious, warm professional reader hailing from Philadelphia, can get an unusual sense about people, how they think, how they move in their worlds, and what their motivations are, and yet she, too, does not describe her work as psychic. "I'm an intuitive," she says, and like any other professional, Jenna has pursued a career doing what she is naturally good at. She has built from the ground up a thriving solo practice as a tarot professional, an intuitive.
So how does one hear the calling to become a tarot reader?
Some are born more athletic than others. Some are born more artistic. In that same way, people like Sasha, Kate, and Jenna are born more intuitive, and, like the doctor who quits his job to pursue his passion in acting or the lawyer who gives up law practice to write thrillers, more and more educated millennials are foregoing a traditional 9-to-5 life to pursue what they've always known they're good at—intuitive work. Today's tarot readers see their practice as spiritual life coaching—guiding others through the use of intuition.
The new rising generation of tarot readers is not the same as yesteryear's psychic fortune tellers. Dwindling are the heavily made-up women in turbans behind beaded curtains muttering about curses. In their place is a steady stream of young professionals with degrees on their walls and corporate backgrounds, but who have taken a decidedly spiritual and entrepreneurial direction with their life's work.
While card readers might have once held themselves out as channeling the dead or possessing occult powers, the modern day tarot professional seems to be taking a more psychological approach. "A tarot reading is a co-creative process that takes place between the client and that client's inner life or higher self," says Jenna, who worked in public administration, specifically in international public policy. Jenna describes tarot as "helping us make sense of the nonlinear space in our lives."
"The pictures on the cards tell you a story, like reading a graphic novel or a series of paintings in a gallery," explains Sasha. "The tarot reader is one who has developed a sophisticated level of skill for reading that story intuitively and can relay that story back to the client in a meaningful way, a way that becomes very specific to the client's own life path."
"Anyone can learn to read tarot cards at a basic level, sure," says Jenna, "but a certain innate skill for intuitive work is needed to see the synchronicities and understand the meanings behind those synchronistic patterns. That's where the sophistication of the tarot professional comes in."
So who exactly goes to see tarot readers these days?
People often assume that bored, superstitious housewives are the main clientele of tarot readers. Not so at all. Kate says it's "often professional people in left brain careers" who come to see her for readings.
Casey, a corporate attorney at a top ten law firm in Los Angeles, confesses that she has gone to see tarot readers for career advice, but notes that it is not about belief in psychic abilities. "It brings a spiritual element to the table," Casey tells me, "and helps me to make sense of why I am in the situation that I am in or how I can push myself to the next level of my career. Yes, it's a lot like therapy or counseling, except the tarot reader is helping me look at the spiritual dimensions. And they're also teaching me to pay closer attention to my own intuitions going forward. I'm learning from them how I can be more intuitive myself."
"I've read for government officials, lawyers, and surgeons," Jenna tells me, though she also makes clear that there is no one "type" of tarot client. "Because I've also read for the struggling, the lost, and the bored."
Theresa Reed, a seasoned professional who has been in the business of tarot for three decades, echoes that sentiment. "My clients come from all walks of life," says Theresa, "I don't have one set client. Every day is a potpourri of different seekers with different needs."
Matt, a New Yorker and investment banker, says that tarot readings can help him to make sense of relationships. He, too, emphasizes that while he's intrigued by tarot cards and the eerily accurate messages they often convey, he remains highly skeptical of psychics. "There's a difference, I think," Matt tells me, "between psychics and tarot readers. There are tarot readers who are very level-headed. You can tell they're intelligent and very professional with what they do. I've never seen a psychic. I don't believe in that kind of stuff."
Hilary Parry, a young copy editor out of Tarrytown, New York, has taken on a second career and become a professional tarot reader. She has always known she was intuitive, but only recently realized that she could make a profession out of it and utilize her innate intuitive skills to help others. "When I read tarot for my clients, I think of it as my intuition talking to their intuition, and the common language between us is tarot." The reading isn't just about the tarot reader using her intuition to help a client, but about the client coming to terms and recognizing his or her own intuitive abilities.
"My greatest joy is not when my clients confirm with me that what I said happened has happened," Hilary tells me, "it is when they tell me that they've picked up their first deck of tarot cards." Hilary sees her role as facilitating intuitive development among her clients and hoping they will be inclined to pick up tarot and learn it for themselves. Jenna also sees intuition as a muscle that can be strengthened. "It's a skill you can learn," she says. Like Hilary, Jenna uses tarot to nurture intuitive development in her clients.
Hilary worked as a copyeditor for years before transitioning into her second career as a tarot reader. She now edits by day, and reads tarot professionally by way of evenings and weekends. Hilary represents the new up and coming generation of tarot readers—educated, rational, and seeking spiritual meaning in the professional work that they do.
Theresa, a veteran tarot reader of over 35 years, is now mentoring the next generation of tarot professionals like Hilary, who learned the ropes of the tarot business from her mentor, Theresa. When asked how the budding millennial professionals Theresa has been mentoring differ from the tarot professionals just one or two decades ago, Theresa notes how lucky the new generation is. "This new generation of tarot readers has a lot more access to information and community than we ever did," she says. Before, a tarot professional would feel limited to his or her geography, but now, a reader in El Paso, Texas can read for a client in Budapest or Tokyo.
"This new generation is also a lot more open-minded, willing to push tarot beyond its traditions," says Theresa, whereas generations past would have been greater sticklers for traditions. Also, while the nature of the professional work itself hasn't changed too much, how that work is characterized has. Tarot readers a generation ago would have seen their work as fortune-telling, divination, and psychic. The new faces of tarot today seem to shy away from those terms and describe their work as a form of life-coaching, as spiritual guidance, and intuitive rather than psychic.
Theresa herself, though, was considered way ahead of her time and so fits right in with the new movement in tarot. She has been incorporating a component of intuitive life coaching into tarot long before the term "life coaching" was even conceived. Her approach to tarot is pragmatic, focused on helping her clients, as she puts it, "strategize" (a very business-centered term for a practice that is not often associated with pragmatism). She has passed on that sensibility to her students like Hilary and thus paved the way for a new generation of tarot readers today, professionals who continue the centuries-old traditions of tarot but temper it with the realities of modern-day life.
The tarot readers of the millennial generation are educated professionals who have decided to take their work schedules into their own hands and start their own businesses, ones founded on their personal passions, spiritual calling, and innate skills.
Sasha Graham is a New York City based tarot reader and author of Tarot Diva and 365 Tarot Spreads. Visit her site at http://www.sashagraham.com.
Kate is a Vancouver based tarot reader and proprietor of Daily Tarot Girl. Visit her site at http://www.daily-tarot-girl.com.
Jenna Matlin is a Philadelphia based tarot reader, proprietor of Queen of Wands Tarot, and author of Have Tarot, Will Travel. Visit her at http://www.queenofwandstarot.net.
Theresa Reed is a Milwaukee based tarot reader renowned as The Tarot Lady and founder of the Professional Mystic, a comprehensive business mentorship program for tarot professionals. Visit her at http://www.thetarotlady.com.
Hilary Parry is a New York based tarot reader and proprietor of Tarot by Hilary. Visit her site at http://tarotbyhilary.com.
About the Author
Benebell Wen is a tarot practitioner and author of Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth (North Atlantic Books, January, 2015). Learn more about her work at www.benebellwen.com