Try This: Thrift Store Tarot

Photo by  Charisse Kenion  on  Unsplash

I've been reading a wonderful book by Robert Moss called Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicities in Everyday Life. In it, Moss explores the ways in which we can engage with the world to find meaning, spiritual guidance, and richness. It's a theme that obviously resonates with me, both as a tarot reader and a seeker. Indeed, there are many similarities between Moss' approach and tarot. We use the cards to identify patterns and symbols in our lives. Why not extend this gaze outwards?

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I was delighted to find out that Moss is also a fan of the tarot. Early in the book he introduces the idea of "Sidewalk Tarot," the practice of posing a question or theme to the world and seeing what signs come your way. I've been practicing this frequently and have been enjoying the expansive curiosity it brings to my awareness. Now I'm seeing things I'd never notice before, paying attention to the sights, sounds, and snippets of conversation that flow around me.

It's also inspired me to adapt Moss' idea to one of my favorite pass-times: thrifting. Since my college days I've spent days perusing the racks and shelves of all sorts of thrifty places: swap shops, antique stores, and the bevy of secondhand shops in Durham (including the incredibly named "Everything But Grannie's Panties.") 

I find browsing for treasures uniquely calming. I can relax into myself and satisfy that primordial hunter-gatherer instinct. Instead of mammoths, I'm looking for bakelite jewelry, vintage dresses, and all manners of delightful doo-dads. Or scary/delightful doo-dads: I have a huge soft spot for demonic-looking ceramic animals like this bluebird sugar dish. What can I say, I'm a woman of many interests.

And now I can add "mystical insights" to my wishlist. I decided to try out Moss' technique in a thrift shop because, if you think about it, what place is more chock-full of symbols? You have the meanings of all manner of figurines, the associations that come from different eras, memories awakened by poufy-sleeved dresses from the 80s, and words upon words in stacks of books. 

The rules are simple. Post a question or set an intention like "what do I need to know about ____" or "show me insight into _____" before you enter the store. Let yourself get swept into the meditative task of browsing. Don't try to force associations or observations. Think of this as shuffling the tarot deck. Wander around a while, touch some blouses, and flip through some books. 

Once in this relaxed state, notice what you're drawn to and don't overthink it. Whatever item or memory or insight sticks out the most is the most important. Jot these down in a notebook, snap a photo, or commit them to memory. 

After you've left the store, take a moment to journal about your experience. What messages might these observations or items be telling you? Let them percolate and see what you discover!