Confessions of a Tarot Reader
Confessions of a Tarot Reader is a memoir filled with tarot-related anecdotes by Jane Stern, an American food writer and professional tarot reader.
By Jane Stern
Book - 216 pages - Published by skirt!
Review by Kathleen Meadows
Jane is prompt to assure you in the introduction to her book, “Yes I am that Jane Stern, the expert on American road food, the volunteer EMT whose career inspired Kathy Bates to direct and play me in a movie about my life”. Additionally she holds a master’s degree from Yale and possesses a well-established career as a writer. This woman is no slouch. I admit that it was the assurance that she’s a professional writer in her “other” life that ultimately inspired me to buy this book. Too many esoteric practitioners write autobiographies who are unapologetically sloppy and choppy writers. Their work is seldom edited properly (if at all); plagued with run-a-long sentences, poor grammar and in some cases basic, inappropriate word-crafting. Not Jane Stern’s! The grammar, language and construction is professionally neat and tidy. With a modulated flow and rhythm, you can comfortably read this book in several hours.
I wouldn’t describe it as a book that’s hard to put down. It’s not suspenseful or mind boggling and Jane isn’t saying much that any experienced tarot reader wouldn’t already know. Her stories are fun to read however, and in a few instances I surprised myself by laughing out loud. She is just as good at poking fun at herself as she is at anyone else, “After some readings I am ready to pick out my wardrobe for my forthcoming Nobel Prize; other times I wonder who snuck into my bedroom at night and gave me a lobotomy with an ice pick.” This was an apt description of what every tarot reader goes through on the heels of a reading. It’s not a career that leaves you indifferent or bored ever and Jane is brilliant in this book at giving an accurate snapshot of the highs, lows and crazies of this profession.
The Major arcana card images she depicts in the book are taken from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot which also happens to be one of my favourite decks. She provides a full page, full colour picture of each card in the majors and situates these at the centre of her thematic construction. She begins with the Fool and a thorough didactic description of the meaning of the card. Once into the chapter however, she moves on to describing two readings she did for two very different clients and questions where the Fool turned up in the reading. She uses these readings to highlight the different meanings the Fool may convey in a reading. Sprinkled throughout with her somewhat cheeky wisdoms, the stories of these two clients was nicely positioned in the context of the Fool card. You finish this chapter really knowing the meaning of the Fool. Each successive chapter right through to the World card is done in a similar style right through the Major Arcana.
The final chapter, guided by the interpretation of the World card, is truly the most satisfying closure to this delightful book. By way of demonstrating the meaning of the World card Jane humbly offers us a heartfelt glimpse into the end of one her personal and major cycles; her marriage of almost 40 years is abruptly brought to an end when her husband unpredictably (yes, ironic for a Tarot reader but she explains this too) leaves her to marry another woman. She describes her struggle to accept the cycle being at an end along with her fight to discover and establish a new cycle for herself as a single woman. An experience many women must traverse in midlife, the pain of loss, adaptation and growth is profound. What better example of the World card’s meaning I cannot imagine and as an experienced and wise Tarot reader, Jane knew it too. Heartfelt, honest and self-effacing, the author is a woman I would like to know. She has generously offered us not only a book of the Tarot, but a book about herself.
Perhaps it was the affinity I felt to who Jane is that made me feel so connected to her work. I too have a Master’s degree and am a Scorpio. I love to write stories, read the Tarot and am also interested in psychology (Jane says she is from a family of shrinks). We have more in common than I do with most people. I appreciated and related to her sense of humour, values and opinions on most things so as I was reading her book, I felt a simpatico that would likely foster a positive relatedness to the book itself. I highly recommend this book.
Kathleen Meadows, M.A, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master with 20 years reading and teaching the Tarot from a feminist perspective.