Hilary Thurston is The Tarotologist, a tarot reader who is passionate about facilitating healing, growth and problem solving. Combining her experience as a tarot reader and a social service worker, Hilary has found a unique approach to tarot, helping to navigate those in emotional crises through interpretation of the symbols and imagery.

We caught up with Hilary this week to find out more about tarot and some of the biggest misconceptions about the practice of reading cards.

SDTC: How did you first discover tarot cards? How has your perspective of them evolved?

HT: I was going through a transformative period in my life following a break up, and I was looking for answers. During this time, the idea of learning how to predict the future was very appealing. I was under the impression that tarot cards could decide my future for me, and that knowing what my future held would give me a feeling of control over the uncertainties in my life.

As I learned how to read the cards, it became clear to me that their ability to predict the future was really their least useful attribute. In my experience, the cards are much more helpful as a method for introspection, to investigate and analyze the energies affecting the present moment, decision, problem or situation.

As the cards opened me up to a deeper connection to my intuition and subconscious processes, I realized their greatest power is to facilitate a deeper understanding of where I am at so that I feel empowered to move forward in a direction that is positive and self-affirming.

Are there any specific cards that speak to you? Is there a certain deck you prefer? Why?

My favourite cards are two Major Arcana energies: The Magician and The Empress. I identify with the characteristics, challenges and strengths represented in both. Major Arcana cards point to major psychological shifts in the human life journey. They carry more transformative, impactful energy than the Minor Arcana (Ace-King of Cups, Wands, Pentacles and Swords).

The Magician calls us to seek the magic within and without, and to recognize ourselves as part of a powerful, energetic whole. The Magician utilizes the attributes of the Cups (emotions), Wands (passion), Pentacles (material well-being) and Swords (intellect) to create a life that empowers themselves and others. The key phrase to remember when this card surfaces is “As Above, So Below.” We are all magicians when we tap into our inner strengths and earthly resources, and we utilize our spiritual capacity to let go of fixation on a particular outcome in lieu of a willingness to be guided by the energies that surround us.

The Empress card speaks to my identity as a queer femme. It encompasses feminine power, strength, resilience and creativity. She is the mother, the sister and the heart of creative expression that exists in all of us. Femininity is an important part of my femme gender expression. Femme folks are indiscriminately marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed the world over, particularly femmes of colour, trans and gender non-conforming femmes, femme elders and femmes with disabilities. In a patriarchal world, empowered femininity is resistance. The Empress embodies this femme reverence that is so lacking in the world.

Do you find your work with tarot similar to the work you do in mental health/addictions? Why or why not?

I find that my counselling skills have made me a better tarot reader. In both tarot and social service work, I focus on active listening, validation and holding space for people who are in crisis, managing difficult events in their lives or simply occupying a position of emotional vulnerability. I have learned through my work as a counsellor that strength grows out of vulnerability. This is not only a counselling framework (Strengths-based Approach) but also a wisdom and a universal truth.

I believe that spirituality is a critical aspect of healing work, which can be lacking in the contemporary clinical approach to mental health and addictions treatment. I have often wished I could use my tarot cards when working with clients!   

What should we keep in mind when selecting a tarot reader?

I think the most important thing to consider is how you respond to their message. It is important to follow your intuition. Try a few readers who are appealing to you or who specialize in the area in which you are looking for guidance. I have always looked for signs – whether it was a psychic service I happened to walk by on an emotionally challenging day, or a key phrase on a website that really resonated with what I was going through.

I would encourage folks to go to a tarot reader who makes you feel equipped to handle your own problem. Those who promise particular outcomes or suggest that you cannot change your fate may lead you down a disempowering path.

What is the biggest misconception about tarot?

One of the biggest and most problematic misconceptions is that tarot is dark magic, evil or spiritually misguided. This idea is rooted in fear of pagan spiritual practices generally, which was historically perpetuated to support the propagation of Christianity in the west. 

In fact, in pre-Christian Europe, spiritual leaders were often wise women who were known as healers in their communities. Tarot cards present a method through which to connect to your higher power, however you understand that in your own spiritual practice.

What would you like us to know about tarot?

Tarot is not scary! The wisdom of the cards always points to the light in a dark situation. The cards may confirm difficulty you are experiencing, but the messages are always intended for your highest good. If you are afraid of facing yourself, you may feel resistance to receiving a reading. In my experience, you always receive the message that you need to hear.

Can you tell us about the most intense/weird/memorable reading you’ve ever done?

It shouldn’t be weird for me anymore, but I am still amazed when cards fly out of the deck. Jumper cards always affirm my belief in magic because they so accurately speak to the energy in the room or the issue at hand. An example is when I was reading at a bachelorette party and the Three of Cups (which means celebration, partying and bonding with women friends) flew out of the deck to land in the middle of the table of party guests just as we are getting started. There are similar moments in every reading that I always find to be intense, weird and memorable! It’s one of the reasons I am forever enchanted with tarot.

The Tarotologist is available for individual sessions or group events, ranging from bachelorette parties to corporate team-building sessions. Contact thetarotologist@gmail.com for more information about offerings! Follow on Facebook and Instagram (@thetarologist).