Since we have been stuck at home for a while now I have been getting deep into my Netflix queue and catching back on both some good and bad shows. Among those I was long overdo to watch was the last season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix.
And there, early in season two (Season 2 Episode 4 to be exact) an episode featuring a tarot reader. I was thrilled to see what kind of portrayal this show would offer. I find the perception of tarot in pop culture to be interesting. Over and over in older movies or scary movies, there’s this trope of an old, haggard-looking reader who pulls the Death card and predicts the death of our beloved characters. I wanted to tease out a couple of recent references of tarot in the media to explore what is accurate and inaccurate about these portrayals.
In this episode, a mysterious Tarot reader arrives at Dr Serberous’ House of Horrors seemingly out of nowhere. She rushes in from the rain and asks if she could give some readings.
A few moments later, Sabrina arrives, and is offered a reading which she skeptically decides to sit in for. The reader draws the magician card and says that he’s a handsome trickster that few women can resist. Then she draws the 3 of swords and the tower reversed.
Sabrina is transported into a daydream/alternate world where she suspects her boyfriend, Nick, might still be seeing his exes or sharing private information about their relationship with those same exes. In a fit of frustration she refuses to be his assistant in his magic show act for the school talent show. However when the talent show comes, her jealousy gets the best of her again and she volunteers to be an assistant for his last trick. The trick makes her float in the air on her own, which is at first exciting. Then, one of Nick’s exes increases the power of the spell and she keeps floating up, through the roof of the school, and through the atmosphere until she’s floating through space, frozen solid.
We are taken back to the present moment where a stunned Sabrina says to the tarot reader, “That’s not actually going to happen, is it? I’m not going to freeze to death in outer space?”
“We don’t read the cards, child, the cards read us. They whisper secret truths. In this case it’s not the boy you need to fear. Believe your trickster and him alone. You need not fear the dark path…”
Next, Sabrina’s friend Theo sits down for a reading. The readers pulls the Knight of Swords and The Wheel of Fortune and Theo is transported into a daydream/alternate reality. Theo, who also happens to speak and communicate with spirits, gets advice from an ancestor to use the magic that Sabrina’s family has access to, to help him fully transition into his truest form.
In the middle of the night, he sneaks into the Spellman house, finds a spell to help with gender transition and completes it on his own. When he wakes in the morning, he is finally in the body that aligns with how he feels and he is thrilled. By the end of the day, things have taken a terrifying shift, as he discovers that a side-effect of the spell has started to turn his body into a tree.
When he comes back to the present moment with the reader, she advises him that it’s a warning to not try to do everything on his own, and to reach out for help early on, to get the support he needs with the process.
The cut-away daydreams are a pretty dramatic representation of a reading but this whole episode, as character after character gets their readings, we see how the cards are just presenting information about what we might experience if we follow a particular path. The characters get insight into their fears and what might be clouding their perceptions. They also get advice that reinforces what they already know in their hearts.
Sabrina gets reminded that lying once doesn’t mean that person is always a liar. Theo learns that he has the love and support of a lot of people who want to see him get what he wants but in a safe and supported way. And each of the rest of the characters get their concerns validated while also getting some direction and confirmation of their own intuitive hunches.
I really appreciated this representation of the tarot. The show itself goes through a bit of a spookier, creepier lense but in general the way that tarot is presented is more in line with my reading style.
No, I don’t transport my clients to an alternate reality where their worst fears play out. What I do see is that so many clients come in with very real fear in their hearts. They want guidance, and often they are afraid they will hear that their greatest fear will come true.
I’ve had several people tell me they aren’t ready for a reading yet because they aren’t prepared to hear what they might be fearing. (I even have people who are nervous to be around me now because they are afraid I’m going to “sense” something about them that they might not want me to.)
There’s a lot of wisdom in waiting to have a reading until you can be totally open. I find that the best readings come from clients being really willing to question their desired outcome. Often, we are missing some part of the bigger picture and tarot offers the opportunity to focus on that.
What I particularly liked is that the reader in this episode didn’t tell the characters what to do, but offered them information to inform their decisions. This is something I have always said. Tarot is about getting more information to inform your decisions, not about the cards or the reader making the decision for you. It is a practice in empowerment.
The whole thing is ruined a bit by the reader having an agenda in each of the readings she gives. Good tarot really involves removing your own opinion and ego from the equation, but as far as everything I’ve seen in movies and TV shows this wasn’t too bad.
Overall I found this episode to be accurate in its portrayal of tarot. I do wish we could do without the old, haggard, lady-in a-turban trope and the idea of tarot only being done in a creepy environment. However, in terms of how tarot is typically portrayed in the media, I really liked this use of the cards to move the plot along and offer each character insight into their concerns, even if the show is cheesy.
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