I came across this book purely by chance in our little spiritual book shop in Totnes. The cover called to me. A quick flick through told me this was a book I didn’t know I had been looking for. I reached out to the lovely Michelle and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
The dedication in Modern Tarot reads:
For the Witches who do not know they are Witches.
And for the ones who do.
I cannot put into words exactly why I love this. Perhaps it’s because I love to explore the definition of the word witch (you can read a little here), it means so many things to so many people. My first question to witchy people is always “how do you define the word witch?”
I define witch in a couple ways. Obviously anyone who identifies that way personally, and is engaged in some form of witchcraft as a practice. I also understand it is a European word, and practitioners of color don’t necessarily relate to it, and identify as Brujas, Conjures, and certainly buckets of terms I’m not familiar with.
I also hold the idea of witch as a way someone simply *is*, a manner of being in the world, with certain gifts or proclivities or curiosities, that aligns with my notion of witches as being attuned to other dimensions, mysteries, the uncanny, secret power. I believe there are so many people – largely women, gay men and gender non-conforming people – who simply are this way whether they choose to identify as witches, and cultivate a practice, or not. I come from a family of women who are witches but do not claim that word or the work associated with it. But they *are*. Spiritual people with a relationship to the uncanny and the beyond.
I’ve been practicing Tarot since I was about 12. Something I kept secret to begin with. I focused my study more in my late teens, buying various books which supported my very self-taught understanding (a great one is The Tarot Bible by Sarah Bartlett). This proved particularly useful in understanding positioning and seeking answers to particular questions asked by others.
However, none of them read like this book does! Michelle writes as if you’re sat chatting together, a wise, trusted friend or relative who speaks plainly when you need to be told (some messages are going to be uncomfortable). She uses her own personal experiences to relate you to the cards, giving an insight I feel you only get when working with real people. She makes even the most daunting of readings easier to swallow.
To me her writing style is similar to the voice my favourite deck has for me. I ask a question:
Me: how do I achieve this thing without doing the uncomfortable thing.
The cards: you can’t. Just do the the thing!
Me: ok, what happens if I do the thing?
The cards: it will be hard and uncomfortable, worthwhile because you will learn and grow from the uncomfortable-ness. Then you’ll be awesome again.
Me: fuck sake! Fine! I’ll do the thing!
Obviously my actual questions are not vague like this.
I asked Michelle what inspired her to write her book this way:
I am primarily a memoir writer, and so it’s easy for me to put myself in my writing. And it’s very enjoyable. I thought that my experience here might benefit the book, making it more personal and grounding the cards in a lived life, which is how we use them.
I haven’t had an opportunity to read Michelle’s memoirs or fiction yet. Having enjoyed her voice so much in this book I certainly will do. Upon research she writes in support of LGTBQ+ rights, feminism and all round ‘others’. Which I have always felt part of and spoken of often.
Another thing that really sets this book apart is; its not just a Tarot guide book, it’s a spell book too. Michelle has included a way to really connect with the energy of each card. Be it welcoming and working with or even, overcoming and banishing. Michelle offers rituals and folk magic (or what I would describe as folk magic) methods you can use to enhance your workings with tarot and include within your practice/ daily life.
I asked Michelle why she wanted to include these spells in her book:
I was very aware as I was writing the book that it was being read by people having problems! Daily/regular tarot practices aside, many people come to the tarot when they are anxious and in pain. And it was hard for me not to give them something practical they could do to harness their power and work with the cards they’ve been dealt. No one should feel bereft after a reading, but it’s easy to when you’ve gotten some rough cards. The spells, I hope, remind people that personal power and will also are always at play, and there is always something you can do to ease the effects of a tough time.
Since coming across this book I have used the spells not just when a card comes up in a spread but also, when I want to banish or harness a particular energy for example: to banish negative energy represented in the 5 of cups there is a spell to wash off the negativity, realign with peace and move forward with love. (you’ll have to buy it for the whole spell 😉)
I always feel a deep connection with The Magician. I am actually missing this card from my favourite/primary deck. I believe its leaving me happened for a reason…maybe I’ll share it one day.
I asked Michelle which card resonated with her the most:
[for me it’s] The Star, because I am an Aquarius and it is the major arcana related to that sign. I feel that I do embody a lot of the card’s tendencies toward idealism and inspiration, and when I my nature is making me feel a little too much like a ditzy pollyanna the card helps to remind me that the way I am is valid and an important part of the whole.
So, here you are a truly unique book on Tarot. An inspiring read in general, offering a deeper connection to your own readings and everyday practice. I feel this book offers guidance to support every witch in so many ways. Michelle Tea is funny, honest and insightful. You can follow her Instagram here
I will certainly be on the lookout for more from this author.
Are there any books you refer to regularly. Hit me up in the comments below.