I’m a believer.
All my life, I never understood why some people felt the need to have regular sessions with a reader. Until I met Erin K. Smith of Vardo Tarot. After a life-changing session that started me on a path of deep self-healing, I can honestly say that the insight and wisdom she’s imparted has been priceless. Since then, I’ve had several sessions with her and each one has moved me closer and closer to my true happiness.
As Erin has said to me, it’s all about finding a reader who speaks your language. I liken it to therapy, just with a different set of tools. I personally was never interested in getting a reading so that someone could “predict my future”. (I believe in free will anyway.) But if you’re looking for someone who can cut right to the core of the issue and uncover your innermost feelings and desires better than you could, if you’re looking for uplifting inspiration and practical tools to make real changes in your life, then you’ve come to the right place. To witness Erin at work is to witness something magical. You can just feel the raw energy come through her words.
To top it off, the stunning Vardo caravan provides a beautiful sacred space for the experience. Whether you’re a design geek or not, the intricate love and care that went into every fine detail is hard not to appreciate. Inspired by 14th century French caravans, the vehicle is decked out with real wood, stained glass windows, and worldly artifacts of the mystical realm.
I paid a visit to Erin’s home on the east side to chat about how she got on this path, what it’s really like to be a tarot reader, and exciting new projects in the works.
It takes a certain level of intuition to be considered a great reader. Have you always known you had a gift? Do you recall any significant moments in your life when you knew this is what you're supposed to be doing?
Intuition is the key to a successful reading. Anyone can learn the meaning of the cards. It’s like learning a language. Intuition is the difference between memorizing words and being able to formulate them into poetry. It is my belief that intuition is something that we all possess. Much of the time, people grow to ignore that information because it tends to be discouraged in society.I was tapped in at an early age and explored intuitive insights through art and dreams, and then later in my teens, through the Tarot. It was common for me to have precognition of spaces when I was a child. I would dream about a place I had never been to and then at some later date I would visit that place and know everything about it. This was such a common occurrence I don’t remember exactly when it began. Around the time I hit puberty it intensified. I remember practicing telepathy with my friend at the age of 13.
We would trade off thinking of a color, and then trying to guess what the other person was visualizing. It was clear to me that practice was the key to honing these abilities. I grew up in a time where there was no internet. I couldn’t Google these experiences and put them into a context. I often say, if I had been raised in a different culture I might have been taught to work with that energy more consciously but instead I was raised by scientists. Needless to say, they didn’t understand or encourage my gifts. At this point, I believe my parents have come to appreciate what I do even if they don’t entirely understand it.
I have always known in some way that I was meant to counsel people, even before I was ready to accept it as a career path. I am extremely sensitive to people’s emotional states. To some degree, it feels less like intuition and more like deep listening. I began reading cards for people in a more serious capacity around six years ago. At that point, I considered it a hobby. I was set decorating at the time and suffering from a lack of meaning in my work. It felt like a of dark night of the soul. I began studying with a Tarot teacher and it was like the lights came on. The more I read for others the more convinced I was that this was my true calling. The feedback I received was tremendous.
When I’m reading, it’s like I’m channeling. The words come out in a stream of consciousness.
I think most people secretly wonder what life is like for an intuitive. Do you consider yourself psychic? What does it feel like when you're doing a reading? Do you constantly get hit with messages or visions? Do you have crazy dreams or premonitions? Do tell!
Again, I think most people are intuitively inclined if they are willing to listen. It does require turning off your internal editor. What I’ve learned to do over the years is to allow impressions to arise without judgement. When I begin a reading, I visualize the person in front of me to tap into their energy field. Each person’s energetic signature is unique. I then ask for assistance from my guides and once that channel is opened I feel the energy flow through me. I do get hits of information, usually in the form of a story that has a strong emotional pull. When I’m reading it’s like I’m channeling. The words come out in a stream of consciousness. I know from experience to trust that the right message is coming through for the person before me. I do want to say, that I have a strong code of ethics around this process. It’s not appropriate for me to “read” people without their consent. I engage this process when a person comes to me for guidance but I tend to shut it down when I’m walking around in the world. People are entitled to energetic privacy. I’m clear not to offer unsolicited advice based on impressions that may come through in my daily dealings. This was taught to me by my Tarot mentor.
The caravan is absolutely divine and has become iconic for you. It's so impressive that you hand built it, and it's easy to see the influence of your past career as a set decorator. Can you tell us about the process of building it and what sparked the idea?
The caravan was definitely a divine inspiration. It literally came to me in a vision. Once I made the decision to read Tarot professionally, it simply seemed like the next right indicated step. The experience of building it was truly magical. It took a year to complete and was mostly constructed by my dear friend Corey Swartsel. There were a few other people who worked on the caravan including Corey’s Dad, who is a master carpenter, but mostly it was he and I putting in steady effort between our various TV jobs. At that point, I’d known Corey for almost ten years. He and I are very close. That bond increased exponentially during the time that we spent working out the details of construction. Corey is an artist in his own right. He deeply understood the vision I had for the caravan. I showed him my research on 14th Century Caravans from France and I directed him to look at a book called, Rolling Homes, which featured tiny houses on wheels from the 70’s.
Neither of us had ever undertaken a project of that magnitude and it was a bit daunting at times. The first thing we did after I purchased the truck was to cut the roof off with a sawzall. We were all in at that point, there was no going back. There were plenty of people who thought that what we were doing was crazy, but he and I never doubted the importance of our work. We took it very seriously, using only real wood and stained glass to give the interior a feeling of old world authenticity. There was great attention to detail paid in the sourcing of all the materials that we used. The cabinets were found at Habitat for Humanity. It took many months to strip off the multiple layers of paint and refinish them. I found the hardware at numerous salvage yards around the city. I always had an eye out for things we might need from shutters, to door knobs. The end result speaks for itself. The caravan beckons people to come inside and see what the cards may hold for them. It is a safe space for people to receive their message, something a kin to a rolling church.
Is there a particular tarot card you really identify with at the moment? Or do you have a "favorite"?
I can’t say that I have a favorite card. Each card is an archetypal representation of different states of consciousness or being. All are valid in the human experience. The card that feels most relevant to me at this time is the Magician in the Major Arcana. The Magician represents the manifestation of material reality based on where you direct your will. The implication is that where ever you focus your time and attention is where you will see tangible results in your life. It is a card that highlights personal power and also personal responsibility. If you’re not happy with what you are creating it places the impetus for change firmly on your shoulders. It lets us know that we are powerful creators of our own reality, so it is important to become conscious of our choices. To act rather than re-act. It also signifies aligning yourself with your highest good, rather than petty ego impulses. “As above, so below” is the motto of the Magician.
The caravan beckons people to come inside and see what the cards may hold for them. It is a safe space for people to receive their message, something akin to a rolling church.
You're also in the midst of creating an amazing wood-burned deck of cards! Tell us more about them and what the creative process is like.
It has been extremely rewarding to work on my own Tarot deck. I submerge myself in the energy of each card as I create it, entering a state of meditation to translate the traditional meanings into a visual format that is personal to me. It has deepened my relationship to the practice of reading cards. My artwork is fairly graphic, simple line drawings mostly, that borrow heavily from the Rider/Waite deck. I love Pamela Coleman Smith’s artwork originally published in 1909. My pencil drawings, once worked out compositionally, get burned into a 9” x 15” piece of wood using a pyrography tool. The smell of burnt wood is divine. It makes for a rich sensory experience.
For those newer to tarot, they may not be aware that there are so many different decks out there! Can you name a few of your favorites?
There are so many beautiful and unique Tarot decks in the world. People who appreciate Tarot as a practice, tend to like collecting cards from various countries and time periods. I am no exception. There have been some interesting decks that I have discovered in the last couple of years. One of my favorites is the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot that was put out by a design team called Uusi. The artists are Linnea Gits and Peter Dunham. The deck is made from oil paintings by Gits and is hand lettered by Dunham. The effect is exquisite. They feel both modern and old world at the same time.
Another deck which is hugely popular is the Wild Unknown by Kim Krans. These drawings appear to vibrate in a celebration of line and pattern. The traditional meaning of the cards is retained but the visual vernacular is translated into nature symbolism.
A deck that was personally presented to me by the artist, Marisa de la Pena, is called Circo Tarot, and delights me every time I engage it. Her style is almost in the realm of outsider art. It is playful and primitive. Adventurous in its use of color and not afraid to explore the meaning of the cards through humor.
An older deck I enjoy is the Aquarian Tarot first published in the 1970’s. The imagery closely aligns with the Rider Wait deck and even corresponds stylistically in its nod to Art Deco.
I’ve already mentioned my reverence for the Rider/Waite Tarot, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. I feel I should also reference the Thoth deck by Alister Crowley, with artwork executed by Frieda Harris. This is a magnificent deck which presents a haunting and complex interpretation of the traditional meanings.
You mentioned you're also a certified Reiki practitioner. Do you have other tools that inform your practice as a reader? Can you explain to us novices what reiki healing is, exactly?
My meditation practice has been instrumental in developing my skill as a reader. I was formally trained in Vipassana by my teacher and Tarot mentor Michael Taft around ten years ago. Nothing is more effective at allowing you to reach deep states of concentration and sensory clarity like a regular meditation practice. Reiki is a powerful tool in its own right and definitely helps me to be a better reader. It allows me to attune to subtle energies and channel them at will during a reading. Reiki was rediscovered by a monastic named Mikao Usui in the late 1800’s. He set out to discover the method that Christ used to perform hands on healing. This technique was transmitted to him on the 21st day of his meditation and fasting at the top of a mountain in the Kori Yama region. Through attunements a student receives the ability to channel life force energy or Chi to help facilitate a person in healing. This energy flows though me when I perform a session. It is not my energy. I am allowed to make use of this universal flow to aid others in healing themselves. It’s an important distinction. I’m not doing the healing, I’m acting as a channel much like I do when I’m reading Tarot cards.
Any tips for other aspiring readers out there?
Practice, practice, practice. Read a lot. Pull cards for others more than for yourself. It’s easier to be objective about the message when it is for someone else.
Lastly, the world feels like it's getting turned upside down of late. I know you often turn to the cards for wisdom. Any overarching advice or pearls of wisdom you can share about the state of humanity we are currently in?
The message that I keep getting, over and over, is that we are out of balance. What we are currently experiencing is a, much needed, course correction, to right the ship if you will. This dramatic shift is causing a certain amount of chaos. It is important to accept that this is part of the process of becoming whole, within ourselves and as a society. Don’t give up hope, and don’t quit before the miracle happens.
Complete the sentences:
I dream...in color.
I hope...for a world where all can prosper symbiotically.
I fear...that greed will destroy the planet, but I hope for a spiritual AWAKENING.