In each MUSE interview we take time to explore the lives + creative processes of the folks who inspire us to live each day most wildly and authentically, close to the Earth and to our own Spirits. It is our pleasure to share with you now, our first ever MUSE interview with Erin K. Smith of Vardo Tarot!
Since I first caught wind of the magic that is Vardo tarot, I was intensely curious about the visionary woman behind this enchanting concept which spoke to me so deeply. An ancient idea indeed, and one that I live out each day through La Abeja's Traveling Medicine Show, it is a rare and precious thing to come across other healers, dreamers, and seers sharing their gifts in a similarly nomadic fashion. Vardo Tarot, the business of, Los Angeles based, Erin K. Smith is housed in a truly exquisite space--a totally redone delivery-type truck, complete with epic rainbow-hued stained glass doors and handcrafted woodwork throughout to compliment the wisdom + guidance Erin offers in her readings. I can't wait to get to LA one of these days and sit with this treasure of a woman for a one-on-one reading, but for now, she was kind enough to share a glimpse into her world with us by answering a few of my questions. Enjoy!
Tell me a bit about your personal history and mythology.
How did you first connect with the art of reading Tarot?
My first introduction to the Tarot was when I was 15 years old. My friend, Emily Force, had a Rider/ Waite deck from the ‘70’s that she would take out and do readings for me. She kept it in a wooden box wrapped in silk velvet. There was such a strong sense of magic and ritual that I felt in connection to the Tarot. The cards portrayed in fine detail every aspect of human consciousness. I was always attracted to topics that sparked my interest in life’s mysteries. My childhood friend Monica and I would spend long hours lying on the Austin Rec Center tennis courts practicing our ESP. One of us would think of a color, the other had to see what it was. When I was really little, I had the ability to dream of an unfamiliar place that I would later visit. These experiences were both disturbing and exhilarating. I’ve been investigating such things ever since.
Art played a huge role in connecting me to the divine. I would make drawings and they would reveal to me the deepest parts of myself, things I wasn’t consciously aware of at the time. The flow state I enter into while making art is similar to what happens when I’m reading cards for people. It’s not surprising that I’ve come to marry art and mysticism as my path in life.
What is your favorite deck to work with and why?
I use different decks for different reasons. Most often I use the Rider/Waite deck. It’s beautifully illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, in both the major and minor arcanas. Each card tells a story. I think it’s helpful for people to see the cards in all their detail.
I don’t really like reading my own cards, but when I do, I use the Aquarian deck. It helps me to grock into a different headspace so that I can receive the message devoid of my personal agenda.
Is there a specific Tarot card that you identify with as your archetypal card?
At the moment I’m gravitating towards The Lovers. I’m feeling the need to balance the polarities in my life. The Lovers card embodies a striving for unification. It’s the alchemical marriage of masculine and feminine aspects.
Where does the name Vardo Tarot come from?
Vardo means caravan in Romani. I chose it to pay homage to the 14th century caravans that originally brought Tarot to the people.
How does the unique space which houses Vardo Tarot inform your readings?
I’ve been earning a living for the last seventeen years as a set decorator for film and TV. I know from experience that environment is everything. The aesthetics of a space deeply effect the action that takes place in it. Building a dedicated facility for reading the cards was important to me; as important as the readings themselves. I knew that if I could control the energy in the environment, people would be able to receive their reading on a deeper level.
What is your guiding vision for Vardo Tarot?
How has this evolved since you first began and where are your dreams leading you now?
When I first started reading cards professionally I was working out of my house. The space was cozy and intimate and I enjoyed receiving people in my home. I knew though, if I wanted to expand to a wider audience, I would have to move to a different space. That’s how the idea for the truck was born. I was inspired by the food truck culture that was growing up around the city. It made sense to put my business in a vehicle, practically and historically. I really see Tarot as a tool for psychological and emotional healing. They provide insight. Eventually I would like to add other modalities to my repertoire, in addition to Tarot and Reiki.
As someone holding a powerful space for others through your readings,
what are the ways you practice protecting, cleansing, and nourishing yourself.
I have several things that I do to stay awake as a human being. Most importantly I have a daily meditation practice that I’ve been doing for the last seven years. Meditation allows me to be present to whatever is arising in the moment. It helps me to attune to the person sitting in front of me. I’m also a Reiki practitioner. Learning Reiki really expanded my ability to channel energy. I also participate in cleansing ceremonies through a sweat lodge run by a couple in the Chumash tribe.
What advice can you share with those who wish to learn more reading Tarot?
Do you have any favorite resources to share or techniques for connecting with the wisdom of the cards?
Develop a relationship with the cards. It is suggested that when starting out you should sleep with them under your pillow. Draw a new card every day and observe what comes up for you while you’re working with that energy. Tarot is largely about developing your intuition. Learning what the cards mean is important but only one part of the equation. Also don’t be afraid to work with a teacher. I’ve had a few Tarot mentors over the years and each one of them has been instrumental in my growth as a reader. Finally, I love to read every Tarot book I can get my hands on. I particularly like The Way of the Tarot by Alejandro Jororowsky and The Crowley Tarot/ the Handbook to the Cards By Alister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris.