Cards on the Table is a new Agape Editions interview series that introduces readers to different practices and philosophies of Tarot readers from various backgrounds. As an interfaith and literary community, Agape Editions is interested in exploring different cultural and spiritual traditions of Tarot, both for their spirituality and for their engagement with the kind of visual literature the history of Tarot represents. All interviews are conducted by our own Enikő Vághy.
Enikő Vághy: Hello, Fatima, and thank you for agreeing to speak with me about your practice of Tarot for the first interview of the Agape Editions series “Cards on the Table.” First off, could you introduce yourself to our readers and explain how you identify within the spiritual/magickal community?
Fatima Mbodj: I officially started reading Tarot about 16 years ago. Although I use Tarot cards, I am also an intuitive seer, and I identify in those ways, and as a psychic, within the community. I am also a metaphysical priestess, which basically means that I am a minister of spiritual practice—a person who identifies and connects with everything on an energetic level in order to be a conduit for healing and clarity on all levels.
EV: That sounds brilliantly beautiful. And, as a Tarot reader specifically, what Tarot deck do you currently use? How did you come across it and why did you choose it?
FM: I currently use the Goddess Tarot Deck by Kris Waldherr. When I first started I would use the Rider-Waite deck as well as some others, but I came across this deck in a metaphysical store and was super drawn to it because of the divine feminine energy that is connected to it. Every time I would pick a card, it would have an intricate energy attached to it that told a story, and although the other decks had a similar effect, none of them felt like home in the way this deck did. It’s as if I found something that I didn’t know that I was missing. Although I collect decks, The Goddess Deck is definitely my deck of choice. I also love Oracle decks, and I’m in the process of creating one myself, in collaboration with the visual artist Lori F. I will likely use both of those decks together in future readings.
From the forthcoming Oracle Deck by Fatima Mbodj and illustrator Lori F.
EV: I agree with you—Oracle decks are wonderful! Do you have a favorite card—one that you most identify with, or most resonates with you—in the Goddess deck or in your own Oracle deck you’re currently at work on? What would those be?
FM: In my Goddess Tarot, I love the Ace of Cups. It is a great representation of abundance and all good things. The interesting thing is that most of the cards have a different meaning every time I do a spread, so the fact that that one card sticks out with that representation is pretty special. It’s my life card. In the Oracle deck that I’m creating, I would say that the Make a Wish card is my favorite because it’s about taking time out to focus on what you want to manifest and bring into your life. There are so many times in life that it can get easy to not focus on what you want, and that’s a big key to manifestation. So by creating that card, it helps support a person in attracting and being the right energy for what they want.
EV: What drew you to the tradition of reading Tarot? Was it always a part of your environment, growing up, or was it something you discovered by yourself?
FM: The tradition of Tarot feels like something that has been in my bones since as far back as I can remember. I remember coming across decks here and there as young as 8 years old and thinking, “I can read those.” I would get a deck every so often and lay them out and check out what I would see and it wasn’t until I was 19 that one day I laid them out for a friend and I saw an entire story very clearly.
EV: I know that people hold different viewpoints on the Tarot. Some associate the cards with clairvoyance, believing that a good reading can and should predict specific aspects of the future in addition to describing significant elements of the querent’s present situation and identity. Others take a bit of a more secular view, using Tarot for personal meditation. Rather than expecting any literal magic or supernatural experience with a Tarot reading, they believe a reading can be used to consider their circumstances from different viewpoints and uncover inner strength and insight for their present moment—but it’s strength they’ve had inside them all along that doesn’t come to them in any specifically supernatural way. Where does your own personal philosophy of the Tarot fall along this spectrum?
FM: I feel that both of those philosophies can be accurate. It depends on an individual and where they are in life and how open they are. I’ve seen two people use the same deck and have very different experiences. I feel like the Tarot, at the end of the day, is a tool (as compared to it being its own entity). The more you use the cards, the more you give your intuition a chance to strengthen. Tarot has the ability to reveal both the present and the future, but what it will reveal is based on each individual reading. The Tarot can be used in whatever way a person resonates with them. For me the Tarot is a more specific answer-based experience. It usually tells a story that leads to an answer. Answers encompass everything from a “yes” or “no” to an in-depth explanation. If a person is using Tarot and all they want is a guidance to meditate on, that is likely all they will derive from it. I feel that it’s best to just be open and ask for the highest guidance based on what needs to be known and then let the powers that be decide. There is a fine line between knowing too much, too little, and just enough.
EV: As a professional Tarot reader, have you ever encountered any type of difficulties or occupational hazards? Have you ever seen “bad news” in a reading that you had to give someone? Have you ever had someone react negatively to something you saw and shared with them, even if it wasn’t necessarily negative? Because no job or profession is flawless, what are the less-perfect aspects of being a Tarot reader by trade, and how do you handle them when they arise?
FM: Well, for the most part, people can feel the truth, so even if it’s not desirable information, it’s not usually horrible. The worst is when someone will ask the same question 10 different ways to try and finagle an answer they desire. It’s funny because once what they are doing is pointed out to them they usually laugh and we get to another level of understanding and acceptance. If someone is absolutely ridiculous, they usually don’t even make it in front of me because, well, the Universe is good… and also I wouldn’t read for them.
EV: Tell me a little bit about the rituals of your practice as a Tarot reader. When you are getting ready to work—that is, to give someone a reading—is there anything you do to “get ready” beforehand? Are there any specific things you like to do during a reading, or after? Is there any particular type of environment you require or prefer to be at your best (or most comfortable) as a reader? Any little steps you take or observe to help get yourself in the right mindset to go to work in the morning (for some people, for example, even just a cup of coffee is their morning ritual before going to work)?
FM: I usually just like to make sure that I’m in a quiet area so I won’t be disturbed. If I am doing a public event, I might use a clearing spray that I make and also put some salt water nearby to absorb any icky energy. I love love love candle energy so I will usually light an Awakening or Peace candle from the Intention Candle Collection that I make in order to set the energetic tone. At the end of the day, I always try to take a salt bath or shower with special herbs and crystals to clear the energy as well. As far as preparing, I can do anything from a light meditation to just roll out of bed 10 min before a phone session!
EV: How has the tradition of Tarot enhanced your life? Could you share with us a reading you’ve given, or been given, that was particularly special for you in some way?
FM: I don’t remember the majority of the information that I channel during my readings. I’m quite happy about that because I would be walking around deeply immersed in lives that aren’t mine and yet I’d be emotionally and mentally experiencing it and I don’t know if that would leave enough room for my own life experiences.
The most moving reading that I ever got happened before I was in the profession. It was about the person that I was interested in at the time. Let’s just say that the truth will set you free and your soul can always identify the truth if you are open. That happened in that reading and I made some decisions that led to an even more awesome life while sidestepping what I believe would have been time-consuming annoyances. It’s because of how that reading helped me that I realized the effect a good reading can have on a person’s life. It’s one of the major reasons that I love what I do because I have firsthand seen how a life can be transformed in a really positive way.
Also, I have found that for myself and many of my clients that using an Oracle deck is a great way to keep it simple and get quick clarity. With Tarot, you can pull one card and it can be interpreted many different ways if you’re doing it for yourself, whereas an Oracle deck will usually just jump to the point of where your energy needs to be even if it’s different than where you were trying to go. I’ve gotten a lot of that same feedback from people who use Oracle cards specifically.
EV: Thank you so much for sharing your time and wisdom with us! In closing, do you have any advice for Tarot readers who are just starting out on their own journeys, respectively, of learning to read the Tarot?
FM: I would tell anyone new to the Tarot world professionally that the more practice that you get, the more that you will uncover the gifts that you have. Practice so that your relationship to the cards and your intuition will turn into an organic experience as compared to something that just came out of a book. Try just laying out the cards and getting your own interpretation of what the cards are saying and then compare it to the book. Don’t be afraid to assign the meanings as you feel it because as long as it’s in alignment with the situation or person that you are reading, that is all that matters!
Enikő Vághy is currently a graduate student at Binghamton University, studying English literature and creative writing. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Street Light Press and Paterson Literary Review, among others. A proud descendant of immigrants and factory workers, Enikő uses poetry to share her personal history and bond with people from various walks of life. She firmly believes that when women unite, anything epic is possible—to her, Agape Editions represents this power perfectly.