The Good Spirit: The Introspective Power of Tarot Cards
A conversation with tarot reader Savannah Olsen
Between horoscope apps, crystals charging on bedside tables, meditation workshops, and anything deemed worthy by Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s safe to say the growing trend towards spirituality has spiked in recent years.
Tarot cards have also fallen into this millennial New Age craze. From pop-up sessions at flea markets, to friends’ roommates doing readings at dinner parties, opportunities for a little life guidance are presenting themselves – and we are saying, yes please. For a society in the midst of peak anxiety, stress and workaholic-ism, seeking affirmation in the form of such rituals couldn’t be more timely.
Savannah Olsen, owner of The Good Spirit in Vancouver, B.C., was 15 when she taught herself how to read tarot using a deck of regular playing cards.
“It became a tool for me when I didn’t feel like talking to anybody or think that anyone would understand. It would help me reflect on something or guide me while going through all those teen moments.”
Fast-forward to her early thirties and Olsen found herself back in her Alberta hometown, rediscovering tarot cards. She started taking her deck everywhere and would practice on anyone she could, from friends to waiters at restaurants. Olsen then discovered an undercurrent of women who were meeting up in the city for weekly ‘tarot nights,’ and realized her calling. In the spring of 2016, Olsen opened The Good Spirit, a full-service tarot reading studio.
Since opening her doors, Olsen and her staff have done readings for a wide range of clientele all seeking answers; everyone from fathers with sons going through depression to career-driven thirty-something women to high-powered investment bankers.
“Love and money are the two biggest things people want to know about. Especially career. Let’s say in our initial conversation someone’s like, ‘I have these job opportunities, one’s here, one’s in Australia,’ or, ‘Do I focus on my own business or do I focus on this instead?’”
During readings, Olsen says she sometimes feels like a meteorologist because she’s looking at probability. “It’s really made me question if I believe in free will or destiny, and I think the answer is both,” she says. “I pull certain cards that are like, ‘Oh this is destined. This person is meant to be in your life, and they always will be.’”
Olsen credits years of practice and her own intuitive gift for the ability to do what she does, and says that by opening the shop, she created a career path for herself that didn’t exist before. “I didn’t even have the words at the time to describe what I was doing, I just felt this calling. There’s not much recognition [in other career fields] given to intuition feeling, higher powers, and being okay with the unknown. These are all lost arts.”
"There’s not much recognition [in other career fields] given to intuition feeling, higher powers, and being okay with the unknown. These are all lost arts”
While they’ve seen a surge in popularity recently, tarot cards have been used for centuries (the first tarot deck used for occult purposes dates back to 1789!). But like anything that becomes Instagram-worthy, these spiritual practices can lose their significance once they become mainstream. Olsen says we should treat tarot cards like the sacred practice they initially were.
“There are rules around that stuff, you’re playing with fire. There needs to be a recognition and respect paid to plants, crystals, and divination tools. Some people may not understand the philosophical aspect of what they’re dealing with.” Anything that’s at a level to be in the public sphere, Olsen says, should and can be found on the shelves at places such as Chapters.
While the majority of Olsen’s experiences have been positive, being in a position to offer someone spiritual guidance hasn’t come without challenges. “I’ll read for someone and they’ll say, ‘Yes, this falls in line with my intuition,’ and then six months to a year goes by and everything you predicted is true.” Olsen has also had people argue with her and say, ‘I don’t see this happening, or ‘that’s not true,’ she says. “I’ve had to be like, ‘Yes, this is difficult but we’re still going to power through.’”
Getting clients to understand that she is merely offering guidance and direction through tarot cards has been one of the greatest obstacles Olsen has faced. “I think sometimes people have the impression that I control their destiny. I’m not going to tell you you’re going to be rich or happy, or marry your crush. That’s not what I do.”
"It’s a fine balance between fortune telling and introspective self-help or self-actualization,” adds Olsen. “The cards are a trigger for my medium shift, my psychic abilities. A lot of times I’ve done a reading and maybe only looked at the cards once.”
"It’s a fine balance between fortune telling and introspective self-help or self-actualization”
My own introduction to tarot cards happened when I was 13. My stepmom gifted me a set of ‘Goddess cards,’ a collection of whimsical images with positive mantras to focus on. Whenever I felt a pang of hormonally-charged emotions or wondered if my crush and I would end up together, I was thankful for the gentle reminders that everything was going to be okay.
Over two decades later, tarot continues to be a welcome method to seeking guidance and calm in an anxiety-ridden world, whether we identify as spiritual or not. Olsen is grateful to be able to offer her intuitive approach to helping people.
Tarot continues to be a welcome method to seeking guidance and calm in an anxiety-ridden world, whether we identify as spiritual or not.
“Cognitive behavioral tarot is what we call what we were doing. There’s a self-help aspect. I want people to come out of a reading feeling elevated,” says Olsen. “We’re looking at blockages and what we can help you with in order to live your best life. My readings are meant to help you find your quickest pathway to joy.”
*The Good Spirit brick and mortar space has since closed, but Olsen continues to offer private readings by appointment. For more information, contact: email@example.com.
Image courtesy of Soulful Stock.