Enchanting Political Consultations

This project is probably my favorite intervention into a political venue as an artist. After being disillusioned by the processes of politics as usual and the inhumane ways in which people treat each other in these spaces, an unexpected idea to read tarot cards at the New Mexico State Legislature during the legislative session came to me.

I had played with tarot cards since I was a teenager, but I had never seriously studied them. I liked the idea of tarot as a deck of archetypes, something that I could engage with as an artist to create narratives. I also liked the potential they had to create spaces for intimacy and honest conversations about the deeper aspects of life. The thought of creating that kind of empathetic and sincere space for reflection in the context of the chaos and deception of the capitol excited me.

I acquired lots of books on the history and meaning of tarot, and I read them. I practiced reading the cards on myself and my friends to become fluent in the symbolism and its meaning. I viewed the cards agnostically, and explained them as such: They are a deck of archetypes, the hero’s journey, all the facets of life we encounter as we live. The value in a reading is what the querent takes from it. The cards are a tool for reflection and understanding that is not an absolute reading of the future, but rather a mechanism to understand forces at work in a situation, and get a different perspective, get some advice on how to navigate it. What resonates with the querent is the message that they need.

I went through bureaucratic channels and got permission to set up a table in one of the wings off the capitol’s rotunda to perform free tarot readings on the ides of March, during the last week of a 60 day legislative session. I made cards to advertise the “enchanting political consultations,” and I distributed them to all the legislative offices the day before I read for people. The secretaries seemed very interested in getting readings.

The first day I read, I hauled my kitchen table and some cheap atmospheric decorations into the capitol and set it up. It took about 5 minutes to get my first customer. He wore a sport coat and had a crew cut. He seemed nervous. The 10 cards he picked included the lovers reversed, justice, and the 10 of swords. I read the cards matter of factly, as I saw them, and he looked at me in awe. He told me that he had just been through a messy divorce, and the cards perfectly reflected everything that was going on, but they gave him hope. He said he was amazed. He went off and told a number of people to go see me.

I didn’t have a break for the next nine and a half hours. People of all ages and backgrounds lined up to get a reading from me. I read for girl scouts, grandfathers, lobbyists, elected officials, state employees, and random passersby.

One of the more memorable readings is pictured above. I read for a lobbyist whose outcome card was “justice.” She literally asked me whether that meant justice working for her or against her if she had done something wrong. I told her it meant justice. Accountability and balance.

A lot of the legislative staffers I read cards for were very sad and unhappy in their jobs. A lot of the same cards kept appearing in the readings, too, cards about deception, illusion, heartbreak, career changes, the establishment, power, and justice. A few women in government pulled cards with lots of wands in them and remarked that the phalluses represented all the patriarchal bullshit they had to contend with. I predicted one elected official’s ascension to higher office.

Most people were interested and engaged by my readings, but there were a few people who walked by and made the sign of the cross to protect them from the scary bruja.

I came back to perform readings on the last day of the session, but only did so briefly. I was exhausted and the demand wasn’t as high as it was the first day. When I was done, I sat in the legislative chambers and watched concurrent filibusters that ran out the clock of the session. It felt like bad theater, only worse, because it was real and impacted people’s lives.

I asked all of the querants to fill out comment cards for me, and you can read those here:

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