When Arthur Edward Waite got his now-classic RWS deck painted by Pamela Colman Smith, little did he know that it would emerge as the most popular deck across the globe.
October 2 marked the famed occultist’s birthday. Over the years, the art of reading the cards evolved from one-on-one readings to telephonic readings and even video call sessions. But when the pandemic struck in 2020, one medium helped this craft not only to survive but thrive — social media.
US-based Dee Norman has been reading tarot for more than 30 years. According to her, initially, online readings were viewed as more of a curiosity than as something to take seriously. “But as technology improved, clients have been willing to put more faith in virtual readings. Since the pandemic struck, there has been a distinct uptick in the number of people seeking virtual readings. People are willing to get on camera for video readings instead of phone calls. I think the trend is fantastic because video enhances the connection between the reader and the client and helps develop a collaborative atmosphere,” she says.
Echoing similar thoughts is ace reader from Mumbai, Akshata Khanolkar. “People initially doubted if an online reading will have the same impact as that of a personal reading… On experiencing an online reading, their perspective changed. It is also easier for some people to come back for quick/short readings anytime if they felt like it for follow-up questions.”
While Instagram and Facebook were the main social media platforms where seekers and readers congregated, a new player, Clubhouse, emerged as a popular space. Clubs dedicated to tarot readings and studies sprang up by the dozens.
“I created the Occult Observatory Club in Clubhouse. Establishing my club allowed me to schedule regularly occurring rooms to provide sample readings, discuss the history of tarot and oracle decks, and deck creation,” shares Norman.
Tarot readers had to up their game as, like other businesses, they too had to rely heavily on digital presence to survive.
Antara Dalvi has been tarot reading for 13 years and runs a popular holistic healing business in Thane. Her primary social media tool has been Facebook and she was surprised to receive a huge response.
“During the pandemic, it was only social media which connected me to the world. It gave me an opportunity to be seen all over and created a firm platform for me. I had people connecting to me for tarot readings and healing sessions from all over the globe. And there was a lot of trust that people had in me, even though we never knew each other. I received my fees as well in advance for my tarot and healing sessions,” Dalvi says.
She goes on to add that getting a deeper connect with social media has evolved not only her readings but also herself as a person. “Social media has made me more confident and helped me hold tarot readings and sessions of more than 400-500 people. I am grateful to this platform as it also helped me grow as an individual and on a soul level, too,” Dalvi adds.
Social media helped tarot readers boost their earnings and has also been a hassle-free way to promote themselves. Instagram reels, stories and posts were of big help for Khanolkar. “Creative WhatsApp status messages every day ensured that people became curious. One has to understand that people take time to decide if they need to come to you or not. Consistency is key in keeping your audience hooked. A genuine shout out from a celebrity influencer helped loads,” says Khanolkar.
Norman, too, upped her Insta activity. “I increased my presence and activity on Instagram by posting more regularly and by increasing the variety of post (for example, I made my first reels and story posts). I also participated in Instagram lives doing sample readings,” she says.
Social media has also helped numerous deck creators share their vision and art and even attract funding.
While Norman didn’t create a tarot deck, she successfully launched her Lenormand (another form of cartomancy) deck on Instagram. “Emblemata Lenormand, a deck that I released this year, would never have come to be without new publishing technology, access to DIY tools and social media.”
Scroll through any of your social media, and you will come across ads from “psychic tarot readers”.
Instagram and Clubhouse have been the favourites of readers and their clientele. So, the next time a query is stressing you out, or if you wish to seek clarity over any situation, you can contact any reader across the globe and get divine guidance.
Tarot decks no longer whitewashed
Very few people are aware of this, but there had been a storm brewing in the online tarot community for quite some time. Since tarot became such a global practice, it astonished and upset many readers that almost no tarot deck in the RWS system (except for the 70s classic Morgan Greer) featured people from other races. The Black Lives Matter movement turned the tides for tarot creators as well. Decks like the Light Seers Tarot gained immense popularity. Norman feels the representation of people of colour in tarot card art was long overdue. "It is absolutely thrilling to see all the new decks that are available. Now that independent publishing of decks is possible, we are getting to see gorgeous decks that never would have been picked up by mainstream publishers," Norman says.
“Independent publishing allows more diverse voices to be heard and decks from a variety of perspectives to be born. All the new decks are breathing new life into the tradition,” she adds.