I myself live in the Northeast of the United States in a lovely state called New Jersey. I'm surrounded by major cities like Philadephia to the west, New York City to the North and Washington D.C. to the south. These are very liberal areas (including New Jersey) with tons of religious and cultural diversity. You don't get a ton of backlash for having New Age beliefs and I find reading Tarot here has not gotten me kicked out of any places or discrimated aganist too much. So I started to wonder what it must be like to have to read Tarot in an area where it is predomintly Christian, and not just Christian, but Evangelical Christian. Being one of the many factions of Christianity, this is a group of people described by the Insitute for the Study of American Evangelists as "...all Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. British historian David Bebbington approaches evangelicalism from this direction and notes four specific hallmarks of evangelical religion: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross". Evangelical Christianity is a tradition that is alive and well in the United States and has been very big since the end of World War II. While the US remains a predominantly Christian nation, there are areas that are much more conservative and and have a high concentration of very religious Christians. I interviewed Mark of Grounding Force Tarot about his experience living up in very conservative Christian Central California.
How did you get into Tarot?
I happened across my first deck while browsing at the Haunted Bookshop in Arizona. It was the Thoth, and I purchased it almost as an immediate reaction. I’ve been a student ever since. I saw tarot in various imagery, including record covers growing up. I’ve been fascinated with everything metaphysical or dubbed, “occult” for my entire life.
Have you come out to your family and friends? How were you received?
My father is a retired minister and Vietnam veteran. He not only finds them interesting now, after much explanation and massaging of the concept, but he even flipped through one of my decks and appreciated th artwork.
Do not underestimate the capacity for growth and acceptance amongst those who truly care for you. We must help one another evolve if possible, and that takes becoming both honest and a bit vulnerable.
Have you gotten any backlash from your community or family and friends?
I have a tattoo on my chest of a tarot related symbol and one woman screamed at me that I was a witch, but I got the general impression that she would use that term with anyone who didn’t fit into her paradigm on a daily basis. Light joking aside, my family is quite accepting and numerous people have participated in a reading for barter or as a paying client. Most people are fascinated due to a relatively minimal amount of exposure in the area, although some do balk or exhibit nervousness. This simultaneous fascinating mixed with fear is indicative of how important it is for Tarot to have a presence in the central valley of California.
Do you have a lot of religious clients?
No, but I serve a lot of the Hispanic community and what I would call “recovering catholics.” Mostly children, 18 and over of course, of more traditional religious families. They often approach with some fear and a vast amount of misconceptions. But that is part of the work involved, not only opening them up to channels within themselves, but improving the overall understanding and appreciation for art, non-customary methods of growth and interpersonal exploration.
Have you encountered any interesting situations with clients having to do with the fact that you live in such a conservative Christian area?
I serve remotely people from Turkey to Chicago, from Cuba to locally. The interesting situations to mention is really the fact that, despite being in a heavily fundamentalist and conservative region of the west coast, receptivity is high. People appreciate the process. I think that is noteworthy observation; I encourage anywho who wants to venture into tarot in any capacity to do so regardless of their local climate, so long as they ouwit those who oppose them.
Do you communicate with other spiritual professionals in your area?
A few in my area, but more online. I have a small but reliable support network considering my personal study and use of tarot is more predominant in my life than business is. Then again, without maintaing my own connection to the process I would not be of much help to others.
What do you see as the future perception of tarot in your area?
It will continue to grow and improve as exposure increases and the region grows larger. There are local bookstores such as barnes & Noble, as well as independent new age shops, that sell a considerably impressive amount of tarot decks in the area. This will only expand in the future based on my estimates, due to the fact that there is plenty of room from growth.
I want to thank Mark of Grounding Force Tarot and you can read more about Grounding Force tarot at GroundingForce.net.