On the cards and in your hands

Soothsaying as practiced and experienced in Montreal

Sun Tarot is remarkably different from the few occult shops I’ve visited before – small tents at folk festivals, crammed with charms and bottles and dogs. In a sunny basement on Parc, nestled under a restaurant next to a fishmonger, I was greeted by Jason. Instead of being asked to step behind the black curtains at the back of the room, he asked me to sit down at a velvet-covered table in the foyer.

Our session was accompanied by the chattering songs of a number of budgies in the window. Jason, reading from my astrological chart and tarot cards, gave me little specific information about my future, and what he did say wasn’t concrete. Instead, what I came away with was a compendium of good advice. Jason was a neutral stranger – I didn’t spill my life story to him, but he asked such specific questions and gave such specific ways to proceed – based on what the chart told him, that I was able to draw tangible suggestions. I can’t tell yet how accurate or otherwise his predictions may be, as I only went this past Tuesday.

The whole experience did not feel mystic, spiritual, or occult. Jason wasn’t trying to convert me, or impress me with spookily accurate details about my life. Nor could his readings be written off as general enough to apply to everyone – the common skeptical view of fortune telling, and one that certainly was my own perception of the field after reading too many horoscopes in old copies of 24 Heures on the bus. The Sun Tarot website describes their mandate: “Just as each person is unique, so is each reading. It can be a question, a need or clarification. All points of view are valid and respected. The mystical, spiritual, or mundane – the choice is yours,” and this is the atmosphere I felt.

Jason first came across the occult when he was 15 years old. After trying a communications spell that resulted in falling down several flights of stairs, and being arrested (the police mistook him for somebody else), he threw the spell into the sewer. But, he said, “the spell worked, invariably” – twenty years later, he had conquered his shyness. Despite initial skepticism he continued to study astrology, using early computer programs in the eighties to write and then sell astrological charts.

But it took longer for Jason to get into the occult that Sun Tarot now also focuses on. “I was not all that open… I remember one day somebody said they were burning black candles. I thought, burning black candles? That’s witchcraft, you know, that’s fucked up… Despite having this openness I was pretty closed-minded on some levels. Then over time I got involved in a spiritualist church. I went there for a while and a man read for me.” This reader’s predictions – while “so wrong” at the time – all happened: the new woman, going back to university, becoming a very good tarot reader. “I put a lot of energy into learning it…it’s a lot of effort.” This led him to a job in an occult shop in Montreal, and finally to the place he runs now.

I asked about the usual demographic. Four Ph.D. math students in the past week, Jason noted, and none of them knew each other. College professors, professional people, even a psychiatrist once – and “dancers, hookers, criminals. So a broad spectrum of people.” Although more women come in than men, he said, he prefers reading men. “Some of the nicest, and maybe more serious life-affirming decisions have been made with men.”

Our curiosity for the future is insatiable, and demand for soothsayers will continue as long as this trait lasts. “People have been doing my line of work since the beginning of time,” Jason pointed out. “Can you peer into the future?” he asked rhetorically. “To some degree you can. We all have archetypes…So [with] our ability to tap into an archetype, we’re able to push the window a little bit forward. If you work with people, a question and an answer in this moment in time is absolutely true for this moment in time… But when you leave, your life continues on. So it’s the decisions you make along the way that are going to show us your outcome.”

Sun Tarot is at 5012a Parc. Phone 514 313 9767 for more information.