My friend, the storyteller

Art by Agnes (Author)

There are many types of storytellers. Stories cross formats and platforms, genres and styles.

I have a friend who is a brilliant storyteller. I met her on the first day of university, and we pretty much stuck together after that. We studied together and still meet up quite often, even if it never feels often enough. We have shared many anecdotes over the years, but I think I maybe took her storytelling skills for granted. I’ve always known her to be a keen observer, she’s no stranger to witty remarks, and her punchlines pack the right amount of punch. In short, she is a brilliant storyteller, but I didn’t always know that.

At least, I didn’t realize it until I got a deck of tarot cards. Bear with me. My friend has been reading cards for ages, or as we say in Spanish: ‘’tirando las cartas”/ throwing cards — doesn’t it sound more thrilling? It was always great fun for us, but it wasn’t until I got my own deck that I started to understand why we love it so much. See the thing is, anyone can pick a card and read a line about what the card “represents”. Go on, I dare you. If that is all you get, you’ll most probably regret the money spent on the deck.

Say you pull up three cards and read their meanings:

The high priestess: In the upright position, this card represents intuition, the subconscious mind. If reversed, it reflects secrets, being disconnected from intuition, withdrawal, or silence.

The fool: In the upright position, this card represents beginnings, a fresh start, taking a chance, fearlessness, innocence, spontaneity, and freedom. If reversed, it represents recklessness, risk-taking, fear, or holding back.

The hanged man: In the upright position, this card can mean letting go, taking a pause, seeing things from a new perspective, waiting, or surrendering. In the reverse, it can signal delays, feeling stuck, or indecision.

What do you do with that? If this is all you see, you might not understand the fascination; because reading card meanings is not the same as “reading” the tarot cards. My friend knows what the cards mean. She can tell you what the figures on each card can represent, but she also looks at them and how the images relate to each other, and she uses those elements to tell a story.

Aside from her killer storytelling voice and possessing a much calmer demeanor than I’ll ever muster, her card-throwing skills lie in how she can connect the dots, in real time, sometimes with input and sometimes without.

She sits across from you and asks you to cut the deck. She asks if you have a question or challenge, and lets you choose whether you want to tell her. Even if you do, she won’t say “this is a good omen, this is an absolute yes, or abort mission, this road leads to regret.” Instead, she might tell you that the figures in that card are holding hands, they are moving, they’re smiling, and how this might mean there’s something or someone that is helping you forward. Then she might look at the next card and say up ahead there is a turn, and so on. She’ll explain what the card can symbolize, and she’ll use the elements in the card and how they connect to weave a story.

Not all tarot readers do this. Some will charge you for an “express reading,” and simply spew the card meanings. Some will ask you so many questions you’ll end up wondering what she pulled the cards for if she made you do all the work. Some will not even mention the cards and just give vague remarks.

But my card-throwing friend tells stories. She is a brilliant storyteller.

Sometimes we feed her details. Sometimes we just listen, and she looks at the tarot cards as some would look at a picture book, and she tells us stories we can use to figure out whatever we are figuring out. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take the story seriously enough to pay rapt attention till it’s over. When your card thrower (yes, I’m sticking to the Spanglish here) is as good as my friend, it’s like witnessing a play.

I used to think we loved it because we were looking for some tip or assurance about what was going to happen. Like perhaps we turned to the beautiful designs for some guidance, some indication that we were moving in the right direction, some fatefully delivered clue that we were doing what we were supposed to do. Maybe there is some of that too but, more than anything, today I love seeing her weave the story. And at the end of the day, it’s a little like reading one of those choose-your-own-adventure-books, because you are the one that decides what it means in the end.

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Agnes

Agnes

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Slow runner, fast walker. I have dreamed in different languages. I read a lot. Yes, my curls are real.