I'm standing in an aisle in my local herb shop consumed by a feeling of guilt. The Tarot cards on the shelf in front of me mine as well be XXX magazines. It never occurred to me to explore Tarot cards in my former life as a pastor. If I had, I would have driven to the next state over for fear of being seen. Or arrested.
I pick up a deck acutely aware of the woman at the register standing behind me. I can feel her eyes in the back of my head. Why is she looking at me? She comes over to ask if I need help and without waiting for an answer, begins offering suggestions. "Oh, this one is very popular!" She points to a deck of Goddess-themed cards. "Of course, the woman who created the cards later renounced them and became a Christian."
"That's strange," I say, missing the irony of the situation.
It was only after reading Priestdaddy that I arrive here, holding a box of Tarot cards ignoring the "You're going to hell" teachings of my Christian upbringing. All I know about Tarot cards is that they may or may not have something to do with Wicca. I've known one Wiccan in my lifetime. Eleanor was her name. By day she worked as a nurse and by night she died her hair red and followed the phases of the moon. We were part of an interfaith group in Kentucky, along with a Unitarian Universalist, a Jain, and a Episcopal priest who wore gold-framed Gucci glasses and liked to talk about his "queer fascination" with other faiths. Maybe that's all this is, I tell myself, a queer fascination.
I choose a black and gold box that's bigger than the others, as though it's grounded in something substantive, like reality. The back of the box says it's based on the original deck of Tarot created as playing cards in the 1500s for Italian royalty. I read the hardback book that comes with the deck. I'm relieved when the author uses words like symbolism, metaphor, intuition, and archetype, while espousing the theories of my favorite psychologist, Carl Jung. The author says the cards are portals to the unconscious. Thank God. I can't cope with portals to anywhere else.
It's only after reading Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood's hilarious and stunning memoir, that I arrive at this place. Lockwood's book contains exactly one reference to Tarot cards. Yet this one reference by an insanely gifted writer was enough to make me feel like I had permission to branch out beyond my Christian upbringing. This annoys me. How did I get to be a forty-year-old who still feels like she needs permission to be something other than her parents' version of normal? Maybe some day I'll trust myself more than I trust the opinions of others. But for now there is a certain grace that comes in finding someone who offers a vision of a life that transcends the one I think I'm allowed to have. In certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, one needs to (b)uck tradition.