Drive down any major thoroughfare in Memphis and you'll see the occasional storefront with a neon sign advertising "tarot readings" or "fortune telling." What you may not foresee, if curiosity gets the best of you and you find yourself inside one of these establishments, is that the price of learning what lies ahead can be steep.
But you don't have to pay someone to read your cards. According to local tarot expert Cindy McMullin, anyone can learn. She'll be teaching a beginner's class at the New Age bookstore Spiritual Freedom on Thursday, January 12th.
"Many people have been conditioned to think of tarot as a horror-movie kind of thing," says McMullin. "In fact, it's not so much a tool for fortune telling as it is a tool for self-examination and spiritual development."
So how does it work?
McMullin says the artwork on the cards contains universal symbols that tap into the human subconscious. These symbols can represent the elements (earth, wind, fire, and water), states of consciousness, or numerology. McMullin believes that deep down all people connect with these symbols.
"The symbols take us to the level where we are plugged into all things -- each other, the past, present, and future," says McMullin. "The symbols on the cards help access that pool of knowledge we already possess."
Before a reading, the seeker (the person whose cards are being read) focuses on a question. McMullin believes the energy of that question goes into the cards. That energy, combined with the symbols on the cards, results in a reading that examines one's life path.
In the class, students will learn the origins of the tarot, the various suits of cards, the meaning of common symbols, a few tarot spreads or layouts, and how to mentally prepare for a reading.
McMullin asks all students to bring a Rider-Waite tarot deck, one of the most common brands, because suits and symbols on other decks can vary. Spiritual Freedom will also be selling the decks in the store.
McMullin's tarot class is the first in a series of classes at Spiritual Freedom this month. The bookstore, which specializes in texts on alternative religions, spirituality, and conscious living, will also offer classes on drum-making on January 14th, the shamanistic practice of animal medicine on January 19th, and "indigo children" (a special group of kids believed to operate on a higher vibrational frequency than other humans) on January 28th.
"Spiritual Freedom is a conscious-living store that was created to enlighten humanity of evolutionary change," says co-owner Jack Armstrong. "We're here to help people who are searching for something."
Spiritual Freedom opened in April 2005 and began offering classes in October. It also has weekly Spiritual Cinema Nights on Saturdays, at which various films and documentaries with spiritual and conscious-living themes are shown.
Besides selling books and offering classes, the store doubles as a healing center. Called Maggie's World, customers can migrate to the back of the store for reiki or energy healing, a session in a massage chair, or an exercise session on a vibrating machine called the Power Pad. The Power Pad is said to work muscles as they'd be worked in a strenuous workout while the person using the machine remains completely still.
"One side of the store is more ethereal and the other is more focused on nature-based philosophy," says Armstrong. "We're hoping to appeal to people who are into New Age and psychic stuff and anyone interested in raising their consciousness -- anybody searching for something out-of-the-ordinary."