The participants in the tarot workshop choose from a row of overturned cards at random. Grouped in pairs, they take turns interpreting three or four of their partners’ cards to gain insights on their past, present and future.
The point of the activity is as practical as it is mystical; participants seek to find solutions to their problems and shortcomings. The results of their enquiries, whether it be about love, wealth or other aspects of life, are as unexpected as they are uncanny. One hand unveiled by the reader turns out to be the nine of wands, showing the subject’s determination to hold on to her loved one. Another card is the nine of pentacles, indicating the promise of prosperity for the subject.
These mystical seekers were among eight people who joined a workshop held by the Light Givers, a community specializing in reading tarot cards. Founded by digital marketing consultant Nanies Effendy and tarot reader Audifax in June 2013, the group seeks to help young people realize their potential.
“[Light Givers] believe that we are born with our share of luck, much of which we are often unaware. That luck is the ‘light’ that shines inside each and every one of us,” explains the community in its mission statement, though it added that one’s free will also determine their life’s direction, as do experiences and traumas. “We convey our program in a fun format of psychological consultation through fortune telling, whether it be tarot, zodiac, palmistry and so on. This format is accessible and has won us a thriving fan base. Most of all, we aim to help the young realize their potential, and be a place they can turn to when they face problems and feel alone.”
Since its founding, Light Givers has been offering monthly workshops costing Rp 350,000 ($30). The sessions, which can accommodate five to 12 participants, include an introduction to the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, and the 56 cards that make up the Minor Arcana. The former, which comprises well known symbols like The Lovers, The Devil and Death, symbolizes the functions of thinking, feeling, sense and intuition. On the other hand, the Minor Arcana of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles are elemental, representing Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
“For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think tarot cards are images of superstition, fortune telling and other irrational elements. But the cards aren’t as random as they look, since they reflect both the collective and individual subconscious and how they work,” says Audiofax. “The subconscious works quicker than the conscious mind. What tarot does is train people to hone and control it.”
Fellow tarot reader Rendy Fudoh agrees with Light Givers co-founder.
“What drew me to tarot is its philosophy. When I learn about tarot cards, I can learn about everything else, such as religion, culture and other aspects of life. It gives me a better perspective about their backgrounds, much of which are shaped by the subconscious,” says the mentalist and magician, who was inspired to try his hand at tarot after reading a book on magic and mentalism by Dedy Corbuzier, an Indonesian mover in both fields.
“One can also do many things with tarot, like put together a story, perform some magic tricks, and use it for counseling. We can even use it for self hypnosis.”
Depicting symbols of the elements and emotions, tarot cards carry a psychological weight beyond their fortune telling capacities.
“Tarot cards have many practical benefits, as they predate the archetypes highlighted in Jungian psychology by thousands of years. Aside from learning about symbols and archetypes, one can also learn about ‘hierarchy,’” says tarot reader Aryo Nugroho, a practicing lawyer. “Hierarchies define people’s places in the world, whether they’re made to lead, find their style or know their place in life. The reader can also define their character through the card’s symbolism. For instance, some of my women friends identify themselves with the High Priestess and the Hierophant, since the former symbolizes the ancient Earth goddesses while the latter symbolizes faith and undisputed truths.”
One participant, Nurul, a psychology major at Tarumanegara University, was quick to perceive how the cards can change her perspective.
“The insights I gained from tarot adds a new dimension to the inner workings of the human psyche that I previously got from the study of graphology, or studying people’s handwriting. Tarot goes deeper into the subconscious, whereas graphology is wider in scope and is less detailed or in depth,” she says. “Its approach of pairing our persons with strangers help us understand ourselves and our future, as they have no preconceptions about us. I’m certain that the use of tarots will be very useful should I take graduate studies in counseling.”
The confidence Nurul gave to Light Givers is shared by thousands of others. The community’s participation in a number of events, like the 2013 Social Media Festival, University of Indonesia’s Festival Budaya or Cultural Festival, as well as Hai Day, which they often stage in cooperation with the Klub Tarot Jakarta and Tarot Institut, ensures an increasing number of enthusiasts. To date, its Twitter page @LightGivers has a following of nearly 5,600 people.
“Our tarot readers are college and high school students, who also make up most of our followers on Twitter and Facebook. Many are drawn to the tarots after they try out readings at social festivals. Other clients are executives who use the cards to uncover issues they can’t discuss with their loved ones” says Nanies. “Social media outlets help spread the word about us. However, our promotional vehicle is still through word of mouth.”
While Light Givers Corps lived up to its name and enlightened thousands of young people about tarot, the group still has its fair share of challenges.
“The practice of reading tarot cards continues to be dogged by public perceptions of it as a superstition. For instance, one person at the Social Media festival questioned our participation there, on the grounds that we’re carrying out a superstitious activity like fortune telling,” Rendy lamented. “People like these find superstition easier to believe in. Tarot works by intuition, which is far less tangible for them. They are also too lazy to learn the difference, or that tarot can be used to tackle life’s major challenges. We might as well disregard them and continue what we’re doing.”
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe on April 27, 2014