An Imagination of Tarot History– Part Three

Islamic Mysticism is known as Sufism and practitioners are called Sufis. It is a belief and practice by which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge [19].

“The first stage of Sufism appeared in pious circles as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (661–749). From their practice of constantly meditating on the words in the Qurʾān (the Islamic holy book) about Doomsday, the ascetics became known as “those who always weep” and those who considered this world “a hut of sorrows.” They were distinguished by their scrupulous fulfillment of the injunctions of the Qurʾān and tradition, by many acts of piety, and especially by a predilection for night prayers.” [19]


taweez: Good Luck & Protection

Sufism is based on the idea that Allah is a disinterested god with neither hope for the future as fear of hell [19].

Sufi means ‘pure’ and believes there are ‘7 planes of existence’. Practitioners engage existence as multi dimensional [20].  Sufism deals specifically with direct connection to a creator god or original consciousness. 

Rumi is a well known Sufi poet.

Sufism intersects with Christian Hermits (mystics), plus cultures of Europe and India [19]. Sufis practice trance and magic, especially as it is practiced in India [19] [21].

Christianity is anchored in mystical practice also [22], prophecy itself is a mystical practice. Christianity is born as a reformation of Judaism, also a religion with a strong mystical backbone [23]. Religions of the world contain mystical practices and attempts to see visions and make direct connections to a divine state through varieties of prayer, meditation, trance, dance, and drumming. 

The mystical is universal and its practice is found at every intersection within this imagination of  Tarot History. The Eurasian Steppe is steeped in magic as is Chinese culture during 900 b.c.e to 1400 b.c.e and certainly beyond those time frames, but definitely during this era when cultures were trading and integrating and conquering in constant succession along the Steppe.

The mystics of all these backgrounds met amid the exchanges of culture created by nomadic tribalism, empire building, and the long wars of the Crusades, of course.  

Mystics generally perform divination as part of their practice or follow the words of prophetic characters like Jesus. 

As for the Kipchaks, their name means ‘Hollow Tree’. According to them, inside a hollow tree, their original human ancestress gave birth to her son [24].

As these cultures meet and exchange much integration of practice and ritual converge in ways we may only imagine.

NEXT . . . We go to Egypt and find the card suits that survive until our present.









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An Imagination of Tarot History– Part Two

At this point I imagine the Kipchaks as practitioners of what modern times might call shamanism and likely also Tengrism, to be engaged in forms of mysticism that would include divination and forms of ‘vision questing’. I also imagine that they are in possession of playing cards, the yezi ge perhaps specifically, or other types of cards that may have circulated at this time along the Eurasian Steppe [10].

The Kipchaks do not have a land of origin, their language is considered Turkic, but there are many languages that fall under that title [11]. The Kipchaks and their history does not form anything close to a straight line. They were nomadic conquerors who conquered through assimilation to the sedentary cultures they conquered [12] [13]. In this way, I am imagining here, the Kipchaks acquired a great deal of language, religious practice, and cultural ephemera, to say nothing of a variety of racial and national identities. Eventually, the Kipchaks, at least some of them, join with another nomadic confederation known as the Cumans [10].

0727191036Modern ideas of lineage break like pie crust with just this simple look at history along the Eurasian Steppe. Nationalism, race, and religion become muffled by the sheer activity that happens in these ancient civilizations. Technologies in language, mysticism, tools, animal husbandry, and general processes are trading and integrating from both the eastern and the western seaboards– from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea [14].

At this point in my imagining, the physical playing card is placed into the hands of the Kipchaks in Manchuria, just outside of Beijing, and/or the machine technology to create them is passed along, sometime between 900 B.C.E and 1200 B.C.E. 

In the early 12th century the Mongols begin taking power along the Euraisian Steppe [15], eventually the Mongols become one of history’s most brutal conquering powers, but for my purpose here I am mostly interested in how their growing power might have affected the Kipchaks and their enslavement as Mamluks or warrior slaves. 

The Mongols combined forces with the Kipchaks to defeat the Alans, then the Kipchaks attempted to overthrow the Mongols, but the Kipchaks lost the overthrow and, it would seem, their identity. Some Kipchaks flee to Russia, Hungary, and Iraq, while others among the Kipchaks become mercenaries in Europe. It is that later group of Kipchaks, the mercenaries, that are eventually captured as slave warriors and brought to Egypt among other nations [16] [17].

The ‘slave warrior’ is known as Mamluk [18] and were taken from a variety of cultures and were considered to hold a higher status than other enslaved persons. Several Mamluk Dynasties appear in history. The Kipchaks and other nomadic confederations were skilled at assimilating to sedentary cultures and then overthrowing those cultures. I imagine here that enslaving nomadic tribes or confederacies with this deep knowledge of politics and warcraft would risk that they would eventually come to power. The fact that these dynasties are referred to as Mamluk Dynasties might be a way of pointing out a certain truth in this regard. 

The Mamluks are descended from a variety of ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds. While they are generally– from what I can tell– working/warring in service to the spread of Christiandom, they are not necessarily Christians themselves or not originally Christian and the Kipchaks, at least, are mimics of dominant cultures as a means to infiltrate and come to dominate those cultures. 

Our next stop will be a brief look at mysticism in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as all of these religions play a role in Egyptian culture during the Mamluk Empire and form the roots of modern mysticism. After that we will move on to the Mamluk overthrow of Egypt and the development of the playing cards that contain numbers.










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An Imagination of Tarot History- Part One

The first note I ever took on the History of Tarot was from Rachel Pollack: “No one knows.”

Being more fascinated by the potential to create future through Tarot Philosophy than in the history of and development of that Philosophy, I was content with the basic truth. No one does know exactly or roughly how the modern Tarot Deck and modern Tarot Philosophy came to be.

Tarot is a deck of cards that is in fact a book, to paraphrase Paul Foster Case, it tells an endless number of stories and has its own narrative arc, its own private and permanent mystery of origin. Tarot Philosophy is the never ending story of life in its many perceived and lived personalities and experience and the deck itself has a story of its path that we may only imagine.

This imagining begins with the advent of the physical card itself. 

The invention of cards as a physical object first appear (possibly) in China sometime prior to 907 B.C.E., which marked the end of the Tang Dynasty [1]. The original cards were made of hemp paper and decorated by the use of ink and woodblock printing. The paper and the printing were both developed under the same dynasty sometime between 650-670 B.C.E. [2]. 

0726191248It is believed by some that the cards were used to play the ‘leaf game’, or yezi ge, a game referenced in some writings, though the rules of play are unknown. The word ‘leaf’ may refer to the cards themselves or maybe yezi ge was originally played using actual organic leaves or it may be a reference to pages (leaves) in a book and was a game played with the book and a set of dice [2]. In any case, these early cards did not contain numbers or suits.

According to game historian David Parlett, playing cards with suits and numbers appear in Europe by way of Egypt, numbered cards originating out of the Mamluk Empire [3] [4], but let’s back up for a moment and consider some travels the playing card may have taken.

When we reference ‘an idea whose time has come’, I suspect we mean that someone or several someones are bound to think of it. When a certain number and type of information, inventions, and set of goals come into focus, new ideas are born because someone or many someones are bound to think them up. 

The invention of the playing card is bound to enter the minds of those in the midst of the necessary technology to press paper. I think it possible, inevitable really, for the playing card to enter the human world at several points, but for fun and for interest I decided I wanted to try to deliver the playing card from China to Egypt.

Enter here: The Kipchaks. The Kipchaks were a nomadic people, a confederation or tribe that occupied/travelled along what was known as the Eurasian Steppe [5] [6] which was once known as Silk Road and now referred to as the Eurasian Land Bridge [7]. 

At the time of 800-900 BCE, there were a number of confederations or tribes along the Eurasian Steppe that were known as Nomadic Empires [7] and while these empires roved, they often conquered non nomadic societies by assimilating to the sedentary culture before overthrowing the society and establishing their own Capital Cities [8]. 

The Kipchaks interest me in this imagining of Tarot History as it is possible that some Kipchaks originated along Chinese borders [5] and because they practice what we might call ‘shamanism’ in our modern language [9], meaning mysticism and practice that involves altered states of consciousness. The Kipchaks are eventually conquered by the Mongols and go a number of directions geographically, politically, and spiritually [5]. 

It is the Kipchak influence in Egypt that we will look at next…











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review: SLEEPER CELL BY Michael Quess Moore


Cover Art By: Rontherin Ratliff


In a collection of carefully orchestrated poems titled Sleeper CellMichael Quess Moore constructs a text that brings forward palpable sense within the body. On the page these words stop the eye and ask to be read again and again and again. On the page these words will make the heart race.

Michael Quess Moore also takes Sleeper Cell to the stage as a work of performance that made a powerful and successful debut as part of Infringe Festival in New Orleans in 2017. This is a poet who can capture our attention and speak directly to the places inside us that knows when we hear something truthful.

This writing is exactly the kind of dangerous American culture needs. Words, beats, movements that disrupt our acceptance of trauma and how it resides in the body and the actions of that body are dangerous works in all the right ways. Any work that teaches the power of identifying pain and feeling the grief of loss, any work that actively moves the spirit toward healing and its inherent dignity is dangerous because it shifts our attention from shaming targets to naming crimes and the perpetrators of those crimes.

From the title piece, Sleeper Cell

rekindled in kind  


Michael Quess Moore Performing Sleeper Cell 2017. Photo By: LadyBabyMiss

in kinsmen through thyme

and this is our season

to unearth truth like treason

from each root to each region

of a family tree ablaze


Readers are carried forward from here on a trip through time and feeling that seeks, and often forges, the right sequence of words and ideas that open pictures too vast to capture any other way. 

On the page these words lead the reader through a series of revealings and juxtapositions that build both an urgency to consciously acknowledge and dismantle the white supremacy so deeply rooted in the ‘American Dream’ the hum of it resonates in everything we touch, and the assurance that disruption of the notion of that same dream has its own hum. 

In performance this collection builds an emotional grasp that spans centuries and locates the consistency and relentlessness of white supremacy from circumstance to circumstance, from generation to generation, from system to system.

We hear the poetic field notes of a frustrated educator:


our children are a poisoned harvest

ripened out of season . . .

who will tend this garden better . . .

than those who sprouted from it themselves . . . ?


Michael Quess Moore Performing Sleeper Cell 2017 Photo By: LadyBabyMiss


We are gifted with a letter to Whitney Houston that anchors her memory in what she gave to the world and shines a light on the way media narratives directed its audiences (i.e. all of us) to view her as a clown in a tragic circus. These words refuse that command and reach out to her spirit instead:



Dear Whitney,

your song remains, evergreen

will sing us through seasons to come

we don’t know what torturous angles

broke your heavenly wings angel

turned your temple to cage

you felt you had to flee, but your spirit

has finally escaped its vessel

and is from . . . to life everlasting

Readers are taken to a world half-dreamed and half lived where ancestors tell the stories that were never recorded, tell of desires still lingering, and wrongs so long and complete no amount of recompense will suffice in the face of what otherwise might have been. Ancestors and bones speak and the earth rumbles.


Michael Quess Moore Performing Sleeper Cell Photo By: LadyBabyMiss


In performance the piece titled Obesity lands perfectly and hits hard. The hungers that can not be fed with food are well established and placed on a landscape of scarcities of every variety save low nutrition and highly addictive foods. The trap of it is made so very clear in this work, a handful of lines delivers a full picture because that is what the best of poets can do when they work.

Michael Quess Moore is a performer with presence and power. You will heal something and break something, some will learn and some will meet within a shared pain. This is the best of poetry on a stage and I hope a recording will be forthcoming from this artist.

Sleeper Cell is both immediate and archival. Memory and story have been carried by beat and rhyme and meter for centuries of human life. We need these stories in just this form as a record. As American history sheds its ‘image’ as a colonizer in the continued colonial project to erase stories of brutal and genocidal oppressions even as these atrocities increase in intensity and scope, we need archives we can carry in our minds and bones.

You know how truth feels when you hear it. Michael Quess Moore will help you remember how to use your natural senses as compass.

Sleeper Cell is a collection of well crafted poems, a necessary archive, and most importantly a key for those who need his words as a mirror of self in the world. This is a book that reads as if you can hear it and the work translates beautifully as a passionate song presented fearlessly and alone on a dark stage.

Read Sleeper Cell and give it away too. Especially to the young people in your life.

NOPP Gus Bennett shoot- Quess (1)

Michael Quess Moore Photo By: Guss Bennett


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Cover Art By: Melora Kuhn Title: Bunny Ears

The Bunny Suit and Other Stories (Stone Hole Press 2017) by Carolyn Michaels Kerr is that book; the one you want to give to everyone you know. These seven, interconnected stories offer the reader companionship and humor on a search for the meanings within intimacy and the losses inherent in its aftermath. Each story offers a space of reprieve, be it gathering around a warm kiln or picking up an old vice or lying face down in a bunny suit, this is an author who knows where we go when we don’t know where to go.

These stories are warm and subtle, highlighting what connects us to one another even during those experiences of life that must be faced alone. This is a wildly successful collection of stories written with skill and depth.

In the title story, The Bunny Suit, we are brought along to discover a strange secret left by a deceased husband. Of course it is his bunny suit, the one he wore all over town, the one his now widow had seen him wear all over said town and never knew it was her husband inside. The narrator explains: “I was about to tell you that the discovery was the equivalent of finding out that your husband has been having an affair, but let’s be honest: it was exactly like finding out your husband owned a bunny suit.”

The narrator climbs into the bunny suit herself and moves around town, just as her husband must have, grappling with the fact that only she and he were aware that they had broken up just before his illness brought them back together for the end. It is the kind of secret that interjects an ocean between ourselves and the rest of life. It is the kind of secret that might make a person want to curl-up in a bunny suit, forever.

This story, like the others, carries us over an awkward terrain of intimacy, loss, and the


Carolyn Michaels Kerr

unfathomable mystery of life with a welcoming compassion. These characters are at once complex and fully accessible.

In another story titled Andrea Lamb, we are seduced not by Andrea, but by Valerie, our narrator. Valerie is a mature, married woman, an artist who tells the reader she is looking for something more kinetic in her work. All we need are those words to tell us that things are about to get interesting. This is skillful writing and excellent storytelling. We follow Valerie as she longs for and resists the company of Andrea Lamb, a sparkling mirage of a woman upon whom nearly anything could be projected. Andrea Lamb also happens to be rich and openly provides venues for money making and culture indulgence to both Valerie and her husband.

bunnysuitcoverfinalAndrea Lamb is almost a thriller in the sense that we know our narrator is careening toward an emotional eruption that may or may not break apart the very best she has created in her life and it is tense because we know we could be her, we could shake our own foundations just as surely. What if we decide we need something more kinetic? What if we can not resist what we know is dangerous? What happens then?

Carolyn Michaels Kerr has created a collection of stories made highly visual by the brevity of her descriptions and poignancy of the objects she chooses to mention and maneuver. This is an author who trusts her audience with a capacity for emotional creativity and empathy. The result is a neat and well handled series of stories that illustrate how deeply strange it is to be human. Put this book on your shelf because you will want to return to it again and even again.
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Meet your fearless publisher: Carolyn Bardos



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KOOK TEFLON: Talking Across The Veils

Kook Teflon is in a continous state of motion. She is a dollmaker, videographer, IMG_7081photographer, and muscian among other more esoteric callings. She is a Hoo Doo Practitioner, a Rootworker and a Witch who does readings and is even trained to conduct depossesions if necessary. Fortunately, according to Ms. Kook, this is rarely needed.

Kook Teflon has a presence that quietly entrances you. Yes she has a sweet smile and a loving attitude, but it is the bright lights that surround her life force that really draw you into her sphere of energy. 

Enjoy learning more about Kook and follow her on Facebook for tons of cool photography and art and happenings.

Cunning Crow Apothecary

MICHELLE: What is your first memory of having an extra sensory experience? How old were you, what did the adults around you say, if anything?

KOOK: When i was about 3 my mother said i sat on her lap and started telling her stories about my life before i arrived before i came down here, she said it gave her chills and i told her all about some ancestors that had passed away before i was born, our family is Hungarian and we have alot of people with clairvoyance,  so the adults in my life were always encouraging. I feel lucky!

The house we lived in from when i was 4-12 is when i first recall my personal extra IMG_7079sensory encounters, the house was paranormally active.  My dreams have always been foretelling and still are to this day.

M: You were speaking of your ancestors from the beginning. I know you are a dollmaker and the ancestors are a key aspect of this art and craft. What is your process like in conceiving and building your dolls?

KOOK: The ancestors have always been so important to me in all my processes of art and in magic, My grandmother had a huge part in raising me and we would spend days together and she would tell me the details of her immediate family, she was so scared that their stories would be lost.  She taught me all my sewing n creative crafty skills, i feel she is with me for many of my pieces……

I also danse heavily in the dark which wasn’t her thing, i am very connected with the LOA / Ghede, Laveau, I am also a Priestess of Hekate.  These spirits  also tell me their stories and guide me in my creations.

Since I am a Hoodoo Practitioner I use  specific organic plants that are always placed inside my dolls that charge them, which includes a  a eucalyptus nut that is retrieved from a tree planted in the 1860’s by Mary Ellen Pleasant (1817-1904).  

A woman that was 6’1 and had a green eye n’ a brown eye, that would dress as a man and ride ahead of the underground railroad to keep the coast clear and played a huge part in the abolitionist  movement,

she was born into slavery and her mother was murdered in front of her for being a vodou priestess, she grew up in Nantucket and the family that owned her educated her and included her as part of their family, she married into money and as a widower inherited $30 million dollars, her second husband was the cousin of Marie Laveau, who advised her on settling in SF. She was able to pay for persons freedom and help start their business’s there. She even fought the city to ride the trolley and won!

I charge all my dolls with these nuts!!

IMG_7080M: That’s a beautiful honor. You are such a lighted being. It just shoots out of you. One of the most captivating thing about your presence is this big love. It is so palpable. You are connected to the dark as you describe you above. What are you pulling from the shadows? How is it informing or contrasting this bouyant presence that is you? That may be an over complicated ask– but what does dark mean to you?

K: Aww you are so sweet.. I have lots of love and compassion… i’ve always understood where the Angels are and why the Demons are the way they are from a very young age, When i say dark i mean the dead, the lost souls, necromancers…..I’ve always felt comfortable around them and wanna hear their stories, mostly it seems they have been misunderstood.

I have always been different and i know lots of people are , again i am lucky that i was raised with a mother that was a practitioner, a believer and encouraged me to always be my true self and top put myself out there be vulnerable but also have boundaries. And respecting the differences in others.

In high school she’d put together tarot parties ( she was a reader) and have me do past life readings, it was a little intense for me at 15, people would start weeping and so i stopped. I know now it was because i was striking a chord of truth.

M: You do work on sites where there are reports of activity? Do you help clear/understand and move lingering spirits? What are you seeking when you work with ‘place’?

K: Yes i worked for many years in the infamous Butterworth Mortuary here in Seattle, IMG_7082for the most part i am the only one that took groups in. I would tell the history, the stories and the deaths that occurred here in the downtown area when seattle was settled. Some very intense situations happened in my 5 year there, it’d be quiet for 2 or 3 months and then boom everytime i’d go in it would be active, that is a place that the spirits can not be exorcised, it is definitely a portal.

The spirits were getting a lil too attached so i resigned, but when i do go in and help spirits cross over or make an agreement with them to chill out i do it with full compassion! Normally they just wanna be heard and have something to say.

I call on my ancestors n psychopomps for protection and guidance whenever i enter a known active space that i have been invited to. I seek to help the living and the dead be heard and empower them to cross over if they haven’t, which is pretty interesting!

If its demonic i would normally have the owner’s contact a church cause that is outta my zone, at least for now it is.

Prior to the mortuary i hosted a monthly death show and would tell the audience about ol mourning traditions and how in modern times especially in America it is frowned upon to mourn more than a week, proper healing takes time and you must grieve. I also had a public access show in Seattle from 2007-2009 called ‘Ill Famed Spirits” i would focus on stories and hauntings in different neighborhoods. I grew alot during that period of time.

Currently I’ve been contacted by a few businesses to come in and help, I had to remove a Witch Ladder from a cafe door that noone else was willing to touch, i just called on Hekate and she helped me get it to the river.

M: You were used to these energies being around, you just listened from the start like IMG_7078anything else around you. Your sympathy developed before fear. I love that you do this and your viewpoint on it all. To help both the living and the dead through a balancing of communication between worlds. I have to ask, what is a psychopomp?

K: Yeah last year i walked into a shop and there was a tarot reader, i sat down next to her and she said “wow you have a caravan of spirits with you, and the difference between you and others is that you speak to them all and communicate & have a relationship with each one so they are all heard and feel important”, everyone is a badass and i like helping reignite that in others or remind them through my healing practice, i went through major loss,grief n divorce in 2012-2014 and as hellish as it was i grew from it and healed and know that one of my reason in this journey is to help others with the most compassion and holding space for them in these times, i spent the last 5 years in constant training, workshops, i even became an initiate to conduct Deposessions, i’ve done a few so far and it is the best feeling to help others and help the dead pass on. I also did a medium ship and learned boundries…

A psychopomp are the spirits that greet you when you die and help you cross the river to the veil, for example Baron Samedi, Grim Reaper and Hekate….they aren’t gonna take you if you’re not ready but they make the transition alot easier and smoother xx

M: What is the basic theory behind the deposessions that you are doing? What are some of the symptoms you look for?

K: My teacher Ylva Mara Radziszewski that taught the depo’s is so amazing and I realized i had been doing this on a lower level for many years but what i learned is that approaching the client and spirit with thee upmost respect and compassion is key, i currently see about 3-7 clients a week and in the last 4 months there are only 2 that i felt where in need of an immediate depo,

They are both successful,highly intelligent persons. But during our sessions i could tell IMG_7084 (2)someone else was answering their questions, and they’d go back and forth with thoughts. Normally the signs are also insomnia, lethargy, a sudden pain or craving for a food you wouldn’t normally eat, strange thoughts that even the client is aware not normal. Also they have normally tried medical and professional help.

When i say possessed it isn’t like in the scene of what Hollywood portrays or how a demonic one would be, it’s usually a spirit that jumps in while you’re at the store, bar or move into a new house it can happen anywhere and the spirits sometimes don’t even realize they are in the human body. So you go thru a few meditative procedures and talk them out and to cross over. Some of them have keen memories of their prior lives, some are foggy or we even experienced an extra terrestrial.

M: What fascinating and fulfilling work. We are all lucky you had a good support system. What would you say is the most important thing your clients take with them when they leave a session?

K: My reviews so far from clients have brought tears to my eyes,

IMG_7083 (1)Most important thing is reminding em they are a complete badass regardless of what they’ve been thru they have the power!!!

Ive literally had clients leave the apothecary and message me saying they got a positive email/call/text about what we just worked on and their minds are blown,

Embracing their ancestors and leaving with a lesson of focus and honoring their path cause they are in charge of their story!

M: If someone feels like they have a presence around them that they want to engage, what would you advise?

K: First I’d advise to check electrical circuits, loose floor boards, also ask if they are on any medications, has their sleep patterns changed? From there i would contact someone local that has experience to help, and if they ask for huge sums of money before a consultation or visit then be weary. Also a good housecleaning, clutter n dust will literally attract spirits.

Some refer to these as goblins, gremlins or just unwanted spirits. They also love stagnant water, so if in your yard you have any dump out the containers etc that are holding an stagnant waters.  Pay attention if you’re an antique or vintage collector because there can be residual or actual intelligent hauntings attached to these items.

M: Kook, thank you for sharing these words with me. Your way of being in the world and relating to people is in itself instructive and it just does something special to us all, though I’m not sure exactly what I even mean. And maybe that is it right there– restoration of the dignity of our deep and personal mystery. Thank you my friend, thank you very much for that.

Watch Some New Videos from Kook Teflon Here:






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SPIRIT OF THE SWEETGRASS: A talk with Casey Leigh

IMG_4634There is a rhythm to a reading from Casey Leigh. She is methodical and thoughtful in what she brings into the space of her reading work. I recommend the experience very much.

Casey read for me one beautiful afternoon and it brought me to a heightened awareness, it woke me up to the day and to the steps ahead. The colors were a little brighter and my hearing was a little sharper. Her readings are clear and generous. I left her company with the good sense to keep myself open for what was comming and set myself free from what was going behind. 

Casey Leigh lives in New Orleans she is a former Tarot Reader for Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo and continues to accept private clients locally. 

Get to know Casey Leigh a little in this great talk I was lucky enough to share with her:

MICHELLE: So, you are a kid. Do you live in the city? Country? Is there religion? Give usalchemwedoldpic some basics on where you were and where you were coming from when you had the first experience that you would now consider to be part of your abilities? What was that experience?

CASEY: i grew up in a small rural town in alberta, a french catholic town, went to catholic school all my life because that was the only school. but my family wasn’t french or catholic so I guess I was destined to be a freak from the beginning!

I didn’t grow up going to church or with any kind of spiritual practice but my mom has always nurtured my interest in the realm of Spirit. i grew up in the prairies of alberta and was always very drawn to the indigenous traditions there. she would take me to see the drummers and dancers. she had some friends who were Cree elders and when I was six they took me out to pick sweetgrass and taught me to pray to the four directions, and to the spirit of the sweetgrass. that had a deep impact on my psyche, and was a stark contrast to my catholic school education. also my grandmother is very psychic and she works with the cards. I was the only grandchild to show interest in them and she bought me my first deck when i was 13.

MICHELLE: Talk about the four directions a bit. Do you call to them in prayer?

CASEY: the four directions, or six really, and the elements that correspond are definitely a big part of how i pray. calling on the directions creates that sacred space, the container to do the work in.

MICHELLE: And Sweetgrass? Tell us about this a little. What is your relationship with Sweetgrass like?

colorwheelCASEY: It grows where i come from but not where i live now. and it’s not part of the tradition or heritage that i personally come from. but when i participate in ceremony in indigenous spaces sweetgrass is a medicine that is used and the smell of it is so evocative and grounding to me. besides the work it is doing as a medicine in ceremony, holding it in my hands feels like a connection to my prairie roots, which feel a little far away out here in the swamps.

MICHELLE: What deck did your grandmother give you? Was there significance in the number 13?

CASEY: i don’t remember what it was called, it was an art deck and i used it for awhile but i have always been kind of a rigid traditionalist when it comes to the cards and i really wanted to get my hands on the rider-waite. that was before i heard of the thoth deck! but she gave it to me wrapped in silk with a moonstone. i still keep my cards wrapped in silk. i think there probably is a significance to me being 13 but not sure what that is except it’s such a magickal number! and it was right around when i started bleeding, which feels more significant.

MICHELLE: That’s beautiful. I know you are a fan of the Thoth Deck. Those are my usual cards. Let’s talk about this deck for a minute. What do you find so valuable about it at this juncture in time?

CASEY: i think that deck is timeless! it’s like a book that is different every time you open it. It never fails to blow my mind. it feels like a living entity that changes with the times, and that’s real magick.

MICHELLE: I agree with that. Frieda Harris made such beautiful use of geometry in the


THOTH DECK / The Fool / Artwork by: Freida Harris

artwork that I always feel like it’s good for me to look at the cards. I feel like they are always talking– living like you say. I read with multiple decks and the Thoth is always the one I keep in my hands. It is the deck that does the ‘whispering’ to me. That’s how I think of it. What is a card you strongly identify with? What does it mean to you? How does it fit into your life as a story?

CASEY: That definitely changes all the time! I feel like The Star is one that continually comes up with me, and feels like an old friend in a reading. right now the hanged man is the one that won’t leave me alone. that’s probably because i’m stubborn, and am currently butting my head against some wall i can’t see yet!

MICHELLE: How did you come to take clients and read cards professionally? Talk about sitting at the table and doing the readings.

CASEY: haha well, i never would have gotten there of my own volition, so i think Spirit had a hand in my current profession.

i have a tattoo that is a line from the ‘charge of the goddess’ and i was in a hot tub a long time ago and this person was staring at me, which was sort of creeping me out, but then he asked me about my tattoo and he knew the ‘charge of the goddess’ so we started talking about witchy things and then he just looked past me for a second and asked ‘do you read cards’, which caught me off guard, and i said yes, and he said ‘do you want a job?’ and i said no but he told me if i changed my mind i should go talk to him, because he was the head reader at a shop in the French Quarter, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and he’d give me a job.

to make a long story shorter, i was working at a coffee shop in the marigny for 5$ an hour and a friend convinced me that i should go try it out because at least it would make a good story. 9 years later i’m still doing it, although thankfully at my kitchen table and not in a shop on bourbon street. i am a homebody and i like the peace and quiet of my own house, and the ability to choose who i let into my space. I think working at the shop in the quarter taught me about having boundaries like no other experience in my life. It was an intensive education! and it taught me about how to be a reader. but sitting at my own table, in my own space allows me to let go in a way that i never could working there. i also worked at the Island of Salvation Botanica for a while, but i really like working on my own time, in my own space.


THOTH DECK / Lust / Artwork by: Frieda Harris

MICHELLE: What is ‘charge of the goddess’?

CASEY: The charge of the goddess is arguably either the channeled words of the goddess or a composed/inspired poem, credited to doreen valiente. it’s a liturgical piece used as invocation in a lot of modern traditions of witchcraft. i used to have it memorised! i had a dream once where i saw one of the lines as a tattoo on my body so of course i immediately went and did that. 

MICHELLE: Talk about the experience of reading. Do you see? Hear? This is a tough one to describe, I know, but I always learn when other readers and psychics talk about their impressions and how the work of it looks/sounds.

CASEY: i think at this point i’m using the cards more as a crutch, but they’re like old friends, and just shuffling them takes me to the place where i can listen. and they’re so beautiful! i hear most of what i say to people.. i call them my little birdies. and i see things too, but i would say i’m more clairaudient. i’m still learning to get out of the way. shuffling the cards also helps me circumvent my internal censor, that voice that tries to talk you out of believing what you’re hearing

MICHELLE: Ahhh! Shuffling. I understand this completely. It’s an act that balances my mind, I think. I think shuffling cards is a great way to come down from stressful or traumatic interactions.

So, let’s get technically speaking here. How do you perceive the court cards– especially in terms of gender? It’s an important topic of the times and I’ll be asking all of us something along these lines. How do you bring the court into your readings?

CASEY: i think the court cards are a great example of how the deck works as a living magickal book. the court cards each hold two of the elements (except for the four that have only one!) and so gender is fluid in the cards, just like it is in the world. personality shows up as a balance of elements rather than something out of a constructed binary.

when i pull court cards for a person i look at the elements represented and see how that plays into their personality and how they perceive and move through the world. i feel like the court cards are a great representation of how we can all hold both the feminine and the masculine, in different balance. i guess when court cards show up in a reading i see it one of three ways – representing the core personality of the person i’m reading for, their state of being at that particular moment in time, or an important person acting in their life. whenever i teach classes on the cards, the court cards are always the most perplexing. to explain, and to understand!

MICHELLE: I know. That’s why I’m asking. Ha-ha. I love what you are teaching here. What about the Hierarchy aspect, the kings and queens? How do you read the ‘system’, so to speak, how does it pertain to our psyche? Or not?

CASEY: That’s a tough one.. the idea of hierarchy is diametrically opposed to my politics


Book of Keys / Ace of Swords / Artwork by Michelle Embree

and my own psyche! i might just stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it in the cards too. I see the difference between the different court positions more as division of function and strengths. just briefly, the knights seem to be ones to set things in motion but maybe aren’t the ones to see something through all the way. queens don’t necessarily have the idea but they hold the container to get the work done. princes are the doers and princesses see things through to the end. that’s just an example, or more like piece of how i see them.

MICHELLE: What card gives you the hardest read? For me, it’s that four of cups. I have my standards for reading it at this point, but it pauses me every time I see it. What card gives you a hard time?

CASEY: For a long time the devil was the hardest one for me. I don’t like to see any of the cards as entirely good or bad, and i struggled with seeing the shining side of the devil for such a long time.

MICHELLE: The World. Final card in the Major Arcana. As a stand alone story, what does it mean to you?

CASEY: well in the thoth deck it’s called the universe, because crowley always has to make things bigger than they were! i see that card as being the hinge-point between an ending and a beginning. like the space between two breaths – the archetypal pause between dissolution and creation. in a person’s life, it usually feels like crossing a major threshold, like making a choice at the crossroads and moving into a new phase.

MICHELLE: Beautiful. Very beautiful interpretations. Thank you for taking time to talk to me today.

Get a reading with Casey Leigh: 504-813-0148


Casey Leigh // Photo By Sarah Danzinger


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