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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

My Great Great Grandma’s Tarot Cards

At the end of 2020 I was given my Great, Great Grandmother’s tarot cards. I hadn’t even known they had existed. I did know, however, about the long history of Spiritualism among the women on my Mother’s side of the family. This is meaningful to me for several reasons. First, it’s incredibly very aligned with my own interests. Growing up using Ouija boards and tarot cards with my friends isn’t so far off from the experiences of my ancestors over a hundred years ago. Second of all, these cards are so well loved and used. They are covered in tape and worn very well.

She even wrote up her own interpretations of the cards, because the guide book definitions weren’t sitting right with her. Her notes are hand typed, dated 1934, and in quite delicate condition.

She had several decks that were passed down to me. They are much different than the modern decks that we use today. But what they do illustrate is the unusual history of Tarot itself. Tarot started as a playing card game in 1500s Italy. It was adopted and transformed into an occult divination game. Though these cards are more recent than some more traditional Tarot decks, they show the evolution of fortune telling practices. You can use them as playing cards if you ignore the messages printed on the fronts. Some only have added messages, and some have small illustrations.

Eliza Thorley died in 1952 and used these cards over and over again. I love the fact that a ritual I found and connected to organically in my childhood, was also a dear ritual for my great, great grandmother. Without knowing her, or being able to talk to her, I can tell how important these cards and the ritual of pulling them was to her.

Some rituals have a cyclical nature. A way of either coming back around within a lifetime, or over generations. We find ritual practices as a way to infuse our lives with intention, a way to create small moments of meaning or reflection. A small moment of magic or breath, no matter what else is going on around us.

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