Ed. note: This is the second “Magic Fresno” post written by Jol Devitro. Click here to read part one, which introduces The Brass Unicorn shop and pranic healing practices.
Our tour of Magic Fresno continues today with a glimpse into the Tarot, that storied and mysterious set of cards used for consultational and divinational purposes since at least the 18th century, maybe even longer, depending on whom you ask.
What’s magic about the Tarot is that it employs universal symbols and centuries of accrued meaning to locate any given individual on their own life’s path, as well as provides a road map for changing direction.
According to Kathryn Barile, who since 1980 has been holding space (psychic and retail) in Fresno for magic, esoteric wisdom, and diverse healing traditions via her shop The Brass Unicorn, “I define magic as Crowley would define magic, which is the science and art of consciously and intentionally causing change to occur.”
In that respect, any time someone lights a candle, says a prayer, casts a spell, or sets action in motion in accord with one’s aspiration, one is participating in magic.
Psychic Faire will offer readings
Ms. Barile has recent firsthand experience manifesting a long-lived dream. “Getting that new building was an act of intention,” Kathryn says, pointing to her shop’s new spot at 1007 N. Van Ness. “It took me over a year of focus to keep plucking away at it.”
On Saturday, April 21, the Brass Unicorn will host a Psychic Faire—the first at its new location. Several Tarot readers will be amongst the assembled, and Fresno’s curious will have the opportunity to get some psychic feedback that could be life-changing. What matters mightily is what the recipient of the reading brings to the table. As with all magic, Kathryn says, “you have to be open to be susceptible.”
On regular business days, Ms. Barile herself offers 15-minute tarot readings in her shop by appointment. She also offers a bewitching assortment of Tarot decks for sale to practitioners.
Cards as “scary” as you want them to be
Fresno native Kelli Glazebrook is a Tarot reader as well (and a FresYes.com contributor). She also plans to be at the Psychic Faire, but she’s quick to point out that she’s still an amateur. In other words, she doesn’t yet charge for readings, but she’s been reading for herself and her friends for around five years now, and she’s recently found a teacher to work with.
When I confessed my sense of awe and trepidation around approaching the subject, Ms. Glazebrook, in an interview she was kind enough to give me at Yellow Mug Coffee last weekend, was quick to dispel my fears and demystify the cards. “They’re literally just cards with pictures on them, and they’re only as scary as you make them to be,” she says. She notes that Hollywood is one source of some folks’ nervousness about approaching the Tarot.
Another is the Church. I admitted that during my 13 years of Catholic schooling, I came to regard everything occult as implicitly satanic, and mysteries of the occult were shrouded in fear for me. Kelli gets it. She says she also grew up in a Christian tradition and was steered away from her leanings toward the Tarot. That just made her more curious, though, and eventually she found her way to her first deck. Now she has many. And recently she found out that her great-grandmother was a Tarot reader a century ago. “She had straight-up séances in her house sometimes,” she gushes.
Kelli tells me the original Tarot deck came from Renaissance Italy, where the cards were used for a game called tarocco, a likely progenitor of the term we know. Over the centuries, as it bounced around Europe, the Tarot evolved, both visually and in terms of the meanings it came to carry. Scholars linked it to ancient Egypt (Book of Thoth) in the 18th Century and then to the Kabbalah in the 19th century, by which point Tarot reading became a widespread phenomenon, as popular interest in the occult flourished.
As it’s evolved, though, Tarot reading has become a bit like a therapy session, where the reader and the recipient of the reading are working together to do some basic personal navigation and hopefully attain some realizations. “These cards are essentially mirrors,” Kelli tells me. “They just reflect back to you the energy and questions…they give you a lens” through which to view your life and/or specific problems or situations. Rather than telling the future, the cards tell you where you are, where the path you’re on is leading, and what characteristics you might work on should you wish to change direction.
Kelli adds that Tarot provides an opportunity to “jolt yourself out of your everyday, and the swirl of thoughts that are always in you.” The cards, and the reader’s interpretation of them, can challenge the recipient to “Pay attention; think about your life; think about your goals; think about the patterns that you’re in and how you can change them.” Basically, it encourages a degree of mindfulness, which in itself is enormously beneficial.
As we peruse her Rider-Waite-Smith deck, a rendition of the Tarot she considers “the basic, iconic, the one you kind of learn on,” Kelli breaks it down for me. The Tarot consists of 78 cards, 22 of which make up the Major Arcana, which represent “major energies in your life… life-changing type events, or things that keep visiting you over and over again.” And then there are the Minor Arcana cards, which Kelli classifies as representing “your day-to-day life,” noting that they can be very helpful for dealing with the everyday situations and internal attitudes that might be bogging us down.
“They have Tarot cards for literally almost any fandom or any story,” Kelli tells me, revealing a recent acquisition she was particularly thrilled about, a “Game of Thrones”-themed Tarot deck.
“Part of the skill of being a reader is putting cards that you draw together into a story. Like, if I see this card, which is the Ten of Swords, where somebody’s been backstabbed, and this could be you or, depending on where it is in the reading, it could be you doing it to someone else. Then I’d be like, ‘Why is this energy coming up? What have you been doing? Have you been talking? Has someone been talking about you?’
“It really depends on the person and the energy they bring, and also how strong the cards are. Some people want to tell you their whole life story before they sit down; other people don’t want to tell you anything.”
Tarot readers each have their own style, and, to Kelli, “the good thing about it is you can kind of find someone that kind of clicks with what you want. I know some that are straight-up hardcore ‘change your life, get your life together’ kind of ones, and ones that are more gentle and nurturing and ‘let’s talk about what the cards are saying, dear.’ ”
Kelli sees herself as an “older-sister” type of reader, meaning that she’d be giving you “advice but not smacking you over the head with it; but after a while, if I keep seeing the same thing in the cards, I’m gonna be like, ‘Okay, girl…’ ”
Learn much more about the Tarot and many other esoteric practices at The Brass Unicorn’s Psychic Faire happening this Saturday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 1007 N. Van Ness in the Tower District. This will be the first faire hosted at the shop’s new location. Tarot reading, Aura Photography, Rune, Angel and Psychic Readings, Pranic Healing, Astrological Services, and other fabulous phenomena will be available.
For Further Reading: Kathryn Barile recommends Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer.
My bibliography and inspirational credit for this piece includes Working with the Tarot by Sarah Bartlett, The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin, and Michelle Tea’s Modern Tarot. I’d also like to thank my two gracious interviewees, Kathryn Barile and Kelli Glazebrook, for helping me begin to wrap my head around a previously mystifying subject.