Secret Knowledge: Tarot

“I’ve always just been interested in divination.”

Divination, soothsaying, clairvoyance–all just different words to describe the universal human need to know what the hell is going to happen next. Juan Elias, coffee roaster extraordinaire, also reads tarot cards, one of the most common forms of fortunetelling.

“The cards are modeled after different archetypes,” Juan says, mythical characters that represent universal aspects of the human experience.  He uses the Rider-Waite deck, first produced in 1909, and the most popular version of the tarot deck in use today.

He starts by finding a quiet place to work, then shuffles the cards and has the subject of the reading cut them. “You want to get their energy into the deck.” If there’s a specific question, he asks it now and then decides the ideal layout, either a simple four card arrangement or a larger, more complex one. He walks through the cards, explaining what he sees and offering interpretations to help guide the subject to the answer they seek.

“Is it psychological, or is it spiritual? I tend to think it’s somewhere in between.” The cards can offer a simple flowchart of possibilities, but they also don’t just feel random; certain congruences and harmonies present themselves, so Juan has developed his sense of intuition and ability to read symbols. Those skills that are also useful beyond tarot:  “There’s a lot of guessing and intuition involved in roasting coffee.”

Science or magic? Maybe a little of both. Einstein called quantum entanglement, “spooky action at a distance,” and two of the quarks are named “charm” and “strange.” But Juan comes down firmly on one point. Ask him a simple question: “Do you believe in ghosts?,” and there’s no hesitation.  

“Yes.”

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