Writer Michelle Tea has been acclaimed for penning evocative memoirs and inventive novels, but fans of the author’s genre spanning works like Valencia, Rent Girl, and How to Grow Up might be surprised to know that Tea has another passion: Tarot. A student of the art for over twenty five years (even reading for strangers in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district before her writing career took off), Tea has finally united her talents into Modern Tarot: Connecting to Your Higher Self Through the Wisdom of the Cards. Part self help, part mystical guide, the book (released this month) is designed to help the modern spiritual seeker use Tarot to harness the power of healing and transformation. Noting that oftentimes the enigmatic nature, mystic connotations, or even gender dynamics of Tarot explainers can sometimes make it feel unapproachable to a 21st century audience, Tea says that she felt compelled to create an all inclusive book that would be accessible to current devotees and interested beginners alike. “There are a lot of really good Tarot books out there, she explains, “but so many of them seem rooted in another era. I felt like I really wanted to find a way to get my approach to Tarot out there, and create something that would resonate with people’s modern lives.”
That down to earth philosophy is present throughout the book, with spells, rituals, and practical applications attached to every card. For example, upon pulling the Death card (an especially intimidating card for new readers) Tea recommends creating a box in the style of your favorite spirit guide or protector—in her case, Stevie Nicks. According to the book, “Something in your mind clicks and says, Oh hey, wait, you put that in your Stevie Nicks box. Stevie Nicks is taking care of that for you now, so you can let that go. Letting go is the easiest and swiftest way through the Death card.” This kind of real world advice, along with Tea’s conversational “witchy friend you’d want to get drink tea with” provides a genuinely informative guide that puts the power in the hands of the reader (and hey, who doesn’t need a Stevie Nicks box. We all need a Stevie Nicks box). The inclusion of the spells (which run the gamut from moon charged crystal water to recipes for a protective bath) grew out of a desire to help the reader take the wisdom of the cards into their daily lives. As a creator and writer, Tea also says that crafting the spells felt more akin to poetry than the non fiction she’s best known for.
The book features cheeky illustrations from artist Amanda Verwey (think a Queen of Cups covered in tattoos, or a Knight of Cups wearing a fish print gown), but it’s designed to be used with any deck. While she acknowledges that it’s important to keep a sense of authenticity regarding esoteric arts, for Tea, modernizing Tarot with a little bit of humor and kitsch is “an expansion of what this tool can do for more people. When most people get the High Priestess, for example, they aren’t going to go into a temple to meditate. So how do you interpret that for someone in a new way? This is a living, breathing art form that has been around for centuries, so it was really important to me to find a way to provide meaning for people who are using it today.”