Not long ago, after I was published for the second or third time in The Cartomancer and had made a few appearances in the American Tarot Association’s monthly and quarterly publications, while at the same time seeing my professional reading career display tiny sparks of life (so what has changed?), my sister-in-law said to me “You’re going to be famous!” My silent response to that was “Yeah, right!”
The tarot pond is a fairly small one as these things go in the wider world, and the big fish aren’t hard to spot. I’d be surprised if the global population of hardcore practitioners, true believers and casual hangers-on tops a million. Those who have reached even a modicum of fame are the leviathans of our species: Mary K. Greer, Rachel Pollack; Caitlin Matthews; Lon Milo DuQuette; Anthony Louis; Joan Bunning; Dusty White; Benebell Wen; and a host of others. (Now don’t get your shorts in a bunch, I’m just browsing the Amazon tarot book list and picking out best-selling names I recognize, not trying to convince anyone of their superiority; I know many unpublished thinkers who deserve to be). All of these people have gained a sizeable reputation and a certain commercial success (although Caitlin’s recent comment about the size of her last royalty check makes that last point debatable). The rest of us are just cruising the shallows, nibbling on their leavings.
Oh, I forgot Jess Karlin (aka Glenn Wright) . . . no, no, of course I’m kidding, just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention. (If you don’t remember him, his infamous – and reprehensible – argument was that the problem with the professional tarot crowd of today is that there are too many women involved and they’re all practicing what he called “carto-feminism.” That and his snide personal attacks on the late “Bunny Bob” – his sarcastic term – O’Neill.) As a male in a predominantly female field I find it a tempting observation, but I’ve never felt that way. What’s that old, faintly-racist, back-handed compliment? “Some of my best friends are <insert minority here>.” I can hear Arlo Guthrie in the background going “And they all moved away from him . . .”
If I had been seeking fame and fortune I would have stayed in central Connecticut, where I was a contemporary of Anthony Louis in the mid-70s, instead of rusticating in the wilds of New Hampshire for 38 years (this was well before the emergence of on-line communities). After retiring in 2010 and joining Aeclectic Tarot in 2011, I began making a dent in the awareness of some of the more visible figures in our art through my forum contributions. Then it all imploded with the demise of Aeclectic and I set off on my own with this blog. Only recently have I discovered a couple of excellent Facebook groups where some of the “giants of tarot” may occasionally be encountered.
At this point in time I would be perfectly content with occasionally seeing my name in print, hobnobbing on-line with the truly (and nearly) great, building a blog following larger than the 200-odd (as in “approximate,” that is, not “strange” as far as I can tell) regular visitors I have now, and running a modest divination practice. That should be plenty to stave off metaphysical ennui; as an ex-engineering manager/professional technical and legal writer and lapsed Mensan (I don’t want to pay the $70 annual membership fee just to rub elbows with them in pubs) with mental horsepower to burn, I need a persistent and stimulating intellectual challenge, nothing more. Fame is for the young, who have a whole lifetime ahead of them to enjoy it; for us geezers it’s more of an inconvenience, especially if there is no money involved. Maybe I should write that book, but it just seems like so much work when I can toss off a three-paragraph essay every day and then take a nap. On the other hand, James Ricklef turned his regular ATA tarot gig into a book, so why not?