10 Questions with Sasha Graham

1. What got you started in learning about tarot?

I was born on Halloween. My Iowa grandmother always called me her good witch of the east. I thought since I was a Halloween baby, reading tarot should be my automatic skill or some sort of birthright. Buying my first deck at age 12, I was completely overwhelmed. Part of the reason I wrote Tarot Diva was to hopefully make tarot more accessible to people. Easier for them to grasp.

2. Can you tell my readers what a Tarot Diva is? How is it different from being a tarot reader?

A tarot diva is anyone, male or female, who uses a deck of tarot to illuminate, inspire and empower his or her lives. A tarot diva knows that ultimate knowledge, be it self-knowledge, spiritual knowledge or creative knowledge ultimately resides inside herself. Knowing this lies within, she uses tarot to help her access this divine knowledge.

A tarot reader becomes a tarot diva when she uses tarot to empower herself. A tarot diva puts herself to the test by being as good a reader for herself as she is for her clients. There are loads of tarot diva’s walking around out there!

3. Can the philosophy and perspective of the Tarot Diva be followed by a man, or is being a Tarot Diva just for women?

Men can totally use Tarot Diva! I call them Tarot Devos. Every single sentence in my book can apply to a man. The simple fact of the matter is statically, more women than men read tarot. I attend an annual tarot conference of about 200 tarot practitioners. Something like 98 percent of attendees are women. Tarot is a field dominated by women!

I had no problem writing from a female perspective to a mostly female audience. I adore Hemmingway. Do I let the fact he’s writing from a macho, male point of view keep me from enjoying his work? No way. I trust my male audience enough to understand this as well. Any male reader who is curious enough will open my book and have fun with it.

4. In your book “Tarot Diva” you use images from many different tarot decks, and in the book you talk about exploring the variety of decks that are available. What are some of your favorite tarot decks?

I’m a book collector (tarot, fiction and cookbooks) but not much of a tarot deck collector.

My favorite all time deck is – no surprise – The Halloween Deck by Kippling West. Loves! J’adore! Bowing to it!

Usually, I read with the Rider Waite. Plus, I focused so much on Rider Waite while writing Tarot Diva, it is as if we’ve been glued/fused together.

I’ll examine deeper subconscious issues with Patrick Valenza’s genius Deviant Moon or sometimes when I’m feeling “moody.”

5. Being a Tarot Diva is definitely more than a hobby, it’s like a lifestyle. In your book you suggest recipes for foods that you feel reflect certain cards and aspects of the tarot. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

Ohhhhh, that’s such a hard question because I really put in recipes I love and cook all the time!!!

In the fall, when I’m entertaining a small groups, I love to serve Strength’s Warm Garlic, Brie and Chutney. It works great for like 4 – 6 people.

I serve the Empress Goat Cheese and Cherry Salad for lunch for girlfriends all the time – any season it is purrrrrrfection!

My husband and I worked for years (we are still tinkering) to perfect our Lover’s French Onion Soup. We both love it so much and the smell of caramelized onions is soooooooo divine! We use chicken stock in the summer for a lighter version and beef stock in the winter for a heartier feel.

The Fool’s Croque Madame is my Sunday morning special when I really feel like indulging myself and pretending I’m at a café in Paris.

Gee, can you tell I love to eat??

6. Your book has all kinds of wonderful quotes from women in it. Who are some of your favorite divas, tarot or otherwise?

Madonna all the way! I think the moment my first teenage hormone popped was the second Borderline was released. I can mark every moment of my life by her songs.

Now that Madge is slowing down, I live for Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Beyonce. Give me a strong woman in a pair of stilettos, false eyelashes and a poppy song and she’ll have me dancing around the living room in no time.

I adore all the Broadway Diva’s like Pattie LuPone and Julie Andrews.

Fierce female writers like Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson.

My personal tarot diva’s include the phenomenal Rachel Pollack and the amazing Corrine Kenner. I idolize them both.

I searched for quotes from Madeline Albright cause I think she is one hell of a diva. Sadly, I couldn’t find any that would apply to the book.

Such an honor to quote these amazing women!!!

7. What are your thoughts on the rise in popularity of the “oracle deck” (decks designed for intuitive or psychic work that do not necessarily follow the traditional tarot template)?

Interesting question. Any device that increases psychic or intuitive work is a good thing. I just adore the history, occult and otherwise, attached to tarot decks. The Trumps who sprang to life in the Renaissance really float my boat.

8. What do you feel is the best advice you can offer to someone considering learning tarot?

Don’t be afraid to read the card. Trust yourself and your first instinct. Allow yourself to weave stories about what you see. Don’t be indecisive. Take risks.

Then take this exact same advice for cards and apply it to your life.

9. With your book “Tarot Diva” now out for public consumption, have you considered doing a “Tarot Diva” tarot deck?

You know, I’ve been asked this question. Unless a seriously gifted artist came knocking at my door, I don’t know this is something I’d pursue. There are so many amazing decks out there. What would I really have to add? The power of tarot comes when it takes shape in your subconscious. I have no idea how I could put that on a card. It would be like painting a dream . . .

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Okay, I’ve got a good one. Where do you think Tarot is going? What direction is it moving in?

It’s hard to say because my perspective is skewed. I get loads of emails from readers, authors, and publishers about tarot, so in my mind, tarot seems to be on an upward trend. However, I’m not sure outside of my warm, wonderful, Buffet bubble. If me and my blog achieved global domination (and it is on the “to do” list), I would definitely make certain that tarot had every opportunity to achieve “market saturation” (as the ad execs would say).

About Sasha Graham:
Sasha Graham was born in Saranac Lake, NY, to a free spirited hippie mother and moved 27 times during her childhood. Settling in Manhattan in the late 80’s, Sasha acted in B-horror films, received a BA in Literature at Hunter College and began working with Tarot. Sasha now organizes tarot events, teaches tarot classes and provides tarot outreach to young people all over NYC. You can learn more at www.sashagraham.com

Attention Albany, NY area readers! Sasha Graham will be at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza on Saturday June 4, 2011 at 3pm signing books and doing one card tarot readings! For more information, visit The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza website!

Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day (You Can Decide Who the Clock in Question Is)

Look, it’s finally happening…the me and Billy Graham blog!  I almost bumped it again because of the “Evangelical Manifesto” press conference, but then I thought maybe I should actually read the manifesto before writing about it. 
 
Perhaps it’s hard to imagine, but I recently came across some advice Rev. Billy Graham gave someone, and I kind of agree.  I know, spooky.
 
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an Ask Dr. Graham section, weird but true.  The column I read involved a Mrs. N.D. writing to Graham about her recently passed husband.  Her friend says she knows a psychic that can put her in touch with a loved one who has passed, and asks if there is any reason to not visit this psychic.
 
Well, Graham advises against it, of course.  First he explains that much of what passes for psychic activity is actually fraudulent, so she would be wasting her money.  Then he goes on to play the usual song of “Let no one be found among you who…is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”  Party poopers.
 
If Mrs. N.D. had asked me, I would have also advised her against it.  I truly believe there are people with psychic abilities, but I also believe that the profession of psychic is a nebulous one that is rife for abuse.  When you visit most psychics they emphasize that it’s “for entertainment purposes only” and although I try not to make light of psychic readings I do try to put them into a perspective.  I would not let anyone’s opinion, regardless of how informed; blindly tell me how to live my life or what to believe.  Sure, a psychic may knows things that you don’t, but you know, my Mom does too and I don’t let her tell me what to do (much).  I view the advice of a psychic the same as I view advice from my Mom, well intended.
 
And then there is the matter of who she wanted to speak to.  That’s risky business in my book.  Penn Juliette kind of sums it up on his show “Penn & Teller: Bullshit”.  He talks about how when someone dies, you have the memories of them.  Some are good, some are bad, but they are all 100% true and real memories.  When you ask a psychic to communicate with that person after they passed, whatever that psychic tells you rewrites your history of that person and your relationship with them.  In my opinion, that’s too big of a chance to take.  I would talk to a psychic about my love life, or my career, but I don’t think I would trust a stranger with the memory of someone I loved.  Maybe that’s just me.
 
So, there you have it, Graham and I would actually have given this woman the same advice.  For different reasons, but still, we agreed.  Yep, definitely scary.

Philadelphia Psychics: Screwed, and then Not So Much

Originally Posted 5-03-07 

On Friday April 27, 2007 news sources started reporting that Philadelphia police were alerted to a 30 year old law banning fortune-for "gain or lucre".  The exact damning phrase is "A person who pretends for gain or lucre to tell fortunes or predict future events by cards, tokens, the inspection of the head or hands of any person."

As of the writing of this blog at least 16 Philadelphia based fortune tellers have been shut down with the promise of more to come.  The law has been in place since 1971, but apparently no one was aware of its existence until recently.  News outlets are reporting that the law was first brought to the attention of the police.  The police approached the Department of Licenses and Inspections who were shocked to find that in fact, yes, the practice of fortune telling for money was illegal.  It is considered a third degree misdemeanor.  It also should be noted that they are not making arrests or issuing fines, but will if the offending individuals attempt to return to work.  Bummer for all those they issued business licenses to, eh?

A city official has been quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying, "Most psychics were con artists who prey on vulnerable people."  A sentiment that I’m sure skeptics and rationalists world wide are agreeing with, and cheering this new development on for.  The difference being, the skeptics I like, such as James Randi, are man enough to put their name with their quotes.  (It’s one of many reasons I love him.  James call me, I adore you.)

But was Philadelphia being ravaged by charlatan psychics?  I’m not going to sit here and say that every psychic is legit and not in it for the money.  On the other hand, I think that many psychics and fortune tellers view their chosen occupation as an entertainment and something that is filling a specific need in our modern society.  It is a sad but true statement that some psychics take advantage of needy and desperate individuals, but I think it’s an equally true statement that people will also get taken advantage of by doctors, lawyers, and a host of other professionals.  Just because one doctor screwed their patient certainly doesn’t mean I view all doctors as quacks.  I think we can afford to extend the same courtesy to fortune tellers and psychics.  When any of these professionals take advantage of or mistreats one of their clients, the wronged person has the option to sue … and the same happens with psychics.  (They can also be reported to the Better Business Bureau.)

I have had one psychic reading so far in my life.  I paid $25 for a unique experience.  I have spent that amount of money many times over for all kinds of experiences in the forms of books, movies, concerts, and more recently things like seances and travel to religious observances.  Although perhaps sometimes let down by the purchase, I never felt taken advantage of for having spent the money for the experience.  Except for when I bought the movie "Alone in the Dark", if I could’ve taken someone to court over that loss of funds I would have.

What I’m trying to say is this, visiting a fortune teller or psychic should be viewed perhaps more as an entertainment based experience.  Sure, listen to what the psychic has to say, many of them wish nothing more than to help and support you, but by no means allow a fortune teller to run your life.  The good ones wouldn’t want you to let them.  Visiting a psychic or fortune teller should be a rewarding experience that you may want to repeat, much like seeing the movie "Serenity" (three times in the theater).  It should never take over the entirety of your life, much like the movie "Serenity" (don’t ask how many times on dvd).

Come on Philadelphia, they were local businessmen and women.  Paying for licenses, paying their taxes, voting in elections, and being a part of your local economy.  Can’t something be done to help them out?

UPDATE:

Apparently something can be done!  Starting May 3, 2007 news sources out of Philadelphia began reporting that psychics and fortune tellers operating within the city are going back to work.  Monica Mitchell, who runs a psychic shop in Manayunk, PA, was rightfully peeved and instead of sitting around whining about it, like I was doing, she took action.  She lawyered up, and thanks to her attorney John Raimondi, psychics in Philadelphia have a second lease on their business lives.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer Raimondi filed a request last week for a restraining order and preliminary injunction on the ground that the statue could be invoked only in cases of fraud.  He is quoted as saying, "What we said is the law is part of the crimes code.  You have to prove that someone has been taken advantage of, and you can’t expect L & I (Licenses and Inspections) to enforce that."

The City Solicitor’s Office agreed with Raimondi and advised the L & I to back off because the state law banning fortune tellers seemed better suited to fraud prosecution than to regulation. 

Hopefully, this means things will settle down for the storefront psychics and fortune tellers in Philadelphia.  We’ll keep you posted…..

HSI Seance

“The people at the Holistic Studies Institute were incredibly friendly and a lot of fun. They hold weekly séances (Fridays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 6:00 pm) and I have every intention of visiting them for one of those sooner rather than later.” – Rebecca “A Moveable Feast: HSI” 10/02/06

Well sooner just happened. On Friday January 19, 2007 I headed back to the Holistic Studies Institute in Albany, NY to attend one of their séances. My husband Jim, who has gone with me on every Magical Buffet field trip, was unable to go with me on this one. As a testament to how cool Jim is, it took 3 members of the Northern NY Paranormal Research Society and one of their friends to compensate for his absence! That’s right, I brought together two great groups that go great together, the Holistic Studies Institute and the Northern NY Paranormal Research Society. If you know the NNYPRS, you know they never turn down a chance to check out any paranormal experience!

Just like my first visit to HSI, things were not as anticipated in a very good way. It looked like the renovations on their offices were either complete or very close to it. The space is a wonderful mix of metaphysically homey and professionally officey, is it any wonder why I like these guys? Things there were bustling as people were leaving from the healing circle that just got done and people were showing up for the evening’s séance. In that bustle, Dave (NNYPRS Albany Team Leader), Dan (Team Member), Misty (Team Member), her friend, and myself made our way into the sacred space set up at the back of their offices.

The lights were dimmed and relaxing music was being played. A large group of people started coming in and grabbing chairs that lined the walls of the room. In the center of the room was a small table with two Spirit Trumpets sitting on it, and later a chair was positioned near it so spirits could take a seat there if they chose to. The room is wonderfully multi-functional. That evening it was being used for a séance, but other times it serves as a church, and others a classroom.

Charlene Robbins was leading the séance. The first thing she did was split up our motley group, which might seem a bit odd, but it was done for a reason. Since we all knew each other we could be sharing the same energies, which could confuse the mediums from being able to determine exactly who certain messages were intended. So after we all split up, the séance began.

Charlene first gave us all a little information about HSI and their séances. Someone came around to collect donations. We were all told to put ourselves in an open position, which meant arms down and feet on the floor, a difficult task for a leg crosser like myself! Then all of the lights were turned off and the music was turned up.

We started out with what I will describe as a group guided meditation. Charlene guided all of us to an open and relaxed state. I have to confess, I am notoriously bad at relaxation and meditation, so I was not as relaxed as I probably should have been at the end of the opening. After that, Charlene began getting in contact with spirits.

For obvious reasons, I agreed not to write about messages relayed to people at the séance. These can be of a personal nature, and although I’m not naming everyone there, most people would probably not like me airing their spiritual laundry in a public forum. Here is what I will share with you.

Charlene was the lead medium, but HSI helps people get in touch with their psychic abilities and there were other HSI people there that also acted as mediums. They were encouraged to share impressions they were getting with others. In fact, if anyone felt they were seeing or experiencing anything of note they were encouraged to share with the group. It made for a séance, but also an educational experience for those interested in exploring their possible inclinations towards mediumship.

I wish I could say that I saw some mind blowing physical manifestations, but alas none were to be had. That’s okay though, the Holistic Studies Institute does not endorse the use of any of the tricks that gave Spiritualists of the past a bad name. This means that sometimes there are no big surprises, but what it also means is that if something happens….something actually happens. Also, not being that psychically aware, there could have been spirits forming a cheerleading pyramid in the middle of the room and more than likely I would have been oblivious!

The séance lasted about an hour and a half, and was worth the time for the relaxation practices alone! Just like the last time, the folks at the Albany, NY Holistic Studies Institute were friendly, kind, and just gosh darned likeable!

Just like I mentioned the last time I wrote about HSI, they hold weekly séances (Fridays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 6:00 pm), except on the weekends they hold their psychic fairs. To learn more about the whens and wheres I encourage you to visit: www.holisticstudies.com.

HSI

On Saturday October 28th Jim and I hopped in the car and took the much shorter trip to visit The Holistic Studies Institute in Albany, NY. We were visiting them to attend their Halloween Psychic Fair. Avid readers should note that this drive took us 15 minutes (even in the pouring rain) as opposed to the 3-4 hour drive we took on our last adventure!

Upon arrival we were greeted by Cathy, one of the people that helped organize the event. For those of you that have never attended a psychic fair, like myself, I have to tell you that it was not what I was expecting. I imagined booths of psychics lined up hawking their wares, cajoling you to try them. Instead I found an inviting and much more professional atmosphere. What happens at an H.S.I. fair is that you sign up on a list for a reading, which is only $25, and you’re given a time and a psychic on a little chit of paper. Then you wait, but it’s not a dull wait. They offer you refreshments like coffee and cookies, and they have various types of healers that give complimentary healings (more fun with that later). Also, when their office space is isn’t being renovated, which it is currently undergoing, they have a book store that sells new and used books. So there is plenty to do and see before you are within 10 feet of one of the psychics!

I had a reading set up with Lorrie De Marco for 1pm. I was told that she not only does readings, but she teaches the first year course in Psychic Development at H.S.I. At 1pm I was taken to a room that was reserved for readings. So not the psychic free for all I was imagining! Lorrie was very friendly. She asked me to give her a personal item, one that has only belonged to me. Lorrie asked me my first name and my date of birth and away we went. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what occurred during my reading, it was my reading…go get your own! I do want to tell you that Lorrie was a warm, comforting woman and I had a wonderful time speaking with her.

After the reading, I went around the corner to visit the healers. There were three vivacious women waiting for me. I was offered the option of Reiki Healing or Therapeutic Touch. I opted for Therapeutic Touch, which meant that I got worked over by Susan Ikenhoffer. She told me that most people after receiving Therapeutic Touch tend to be very relaxed, that was my experience too. Once Jim was done taking pictures of us that is!

The people at the Holistic Studies Institute were incredibly friendly and a lot of fun. They hold weekly séances (Fridays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 6:00 pm) and I have every intention of visiting them for one of those sooner rather than later.

To learn more about the Holistic Studies Institute visit them at: www.holisticstudies.com
While you’re there you can sign up for their free newsletter that will give you a complete list of their numerous events and courses that they offer.

Since I had never had a reading before I was given a leaflet entitled, “How to Get the Most Out of Your Psychic Reading.” I figured I would share it with you, in case you visit H.S.I. for a reading.

*Seek a Psychic’s assistance when there is a sincere need.
*Be open-minded. Do not try to “test” a psychic or come with a “prove it to me attitude.” Judge the reading as it is being given to you. Listen calmly.
*Don’t make a psychic guess what you want from your reading. This only wastes valuable time in which your psychic could be answering your questions.
*Be prepared with a list of meaningful questions whether in writing or in your mind. This will help stimulate psychic impressions.
*Don’t expect a psychic to read your mind. It is your responsibility to ASK specific questions.
*Topics your psychic can tune into may include: travel, employment/career, family, friends, spirit family, spirituality, finances, health, relationships/romance, and education.
*Give your psychic an object that you own. This object should not be previously owned or any part of it previously owned by any other person. A watch, jewelry, keys, etc. work the best. This personal object will help the psychic get closer to your energy and use it as fuel for the reading.
*You may want to bring in photos. Psychics can draw a lot of information from a photo. Photos may be of living or deceased persons.
*Psychics do not see everything. However, they should tell you everything they see. If they see something negative, they will tell you, but they will also tell you how you can change or avoid the negative event. A code of ethics for a truly professional psychic should embody the saying “ to be forewarned is to be forearmed.” This is one of the great values in going to a psychic. They can help prevent possible problems.
*Most psychics are also mediums. This means that they will receive information from your deceased loved ones. Your psychic may refer to these important people as “spirits”. You may want to give your psychic the name of your loved one in spirit, enabling them to tune in to the name and possibly give you a message from that person.
*Keep in mind, psychics are human beings like everyone else. Psychics are not always correct. However, most of our clients at H.S.I. return for more readings because they are pleased with our 80%-100% accuracy rate. By most standards this accuracy is exceedingly high.
*Psychics at H.S.I. do not use Tarot cards. Our experience tells us that Tarot cards and other such props are less accurate and tend to be very general.
Enjoy yourself and have a great reading!

I did enjoy myself and I had a great reading!