Meet A Millennial Spiritualist Shaping our Perception of Tarot & More
Photo by Siliah J. "Sil" Nelson Since I can remember, tarot cards and anything that had to do with communicating with the deceased or spirits has been taboo. Getting your cards read was a secret that you kept from friends and family. Seldom would you talk about visiting a bruja or going to one of those tarot centers that we see around the city.
At the end of 2014, I met Tatianna Morales, spiritual healer, professional belly dancer and tarot reader. I was blown away when she shared with me that her personal mission was to change the perception of tarot reading and Santeria in our community. Her mission connected with me on so many levels as Santeria is a practice that I experienced first hand growing up. It was pretty confusing as a child to attend weekly Sunday mass at my local Catholic church in Harlem, but then pray to a different altar at home. As I grew older and started to learn more about Afro-Latino history I gained in-depth knowledge of Yoruban Orishas--it all made sense then. Things made sense in my head, but God forbid that I mention some of our beliefs in public--I would get the side eye. For this reason, its wisdom that I keep between myself and Oludumare.
Getting to know Tatianna brought great solace to my spirit as we were able to talk openly about our common grounds. When Tatianna isn't belly dancing, or teaching dance, she's working on her plan to change our perceptions on the healing powers of tarot, one person at a time. Through Urban Illumination, her brand, Tatianna offers her clients Tarot Readings, Oils, Manifestation Candles, and Ritual Herbal Baths. Here's an interview with a modern-day witch, fellow cosmic sistar and Tigress.
What led you into tarot card reading?
It’s crazy how clear this moment is in my memory; I was 6 years old on an adventure with my father in Barnes & Nobles downtown. He was browsing some books and I wandered close by to look for some of my own. I have always had an inquisitive mind regarding any esoteric, spiritual, metaphysical topic/themes and I already scoped out some books about witches. But a Rider Waite tarot deck was propped right in front of that section just begging for my attention. The feeling was immediate and familiar, as if I had no choice but to own that deck. I guess, it was love at first site for a material item but I definitely remember feeling excited and intrigued by the illustrations. I asked my dad if he could buy them for me but he claimed that I wasn’t ready for that and it would be too mature for me. I found a playing card deck at home that night and fulfilled my need to own my cards that way.
Do you consider yourself a psychic?
Of course. We all are. Psychic abilities are innate in every one of us, but just like anything else, some people can tap into that potential with more ease and receptivity than others. Being psychic for the most part is a subtle ability, it’s not like you’re going to levitate things out in the open or manipulate people at will. Are there psychics that can do this? Possibly, but it’s more of a wise skill to develop and practice over time. Dreams, your intuitive feelings and thoughts, the act of creating art; all of these can be considered components of psychic activity.
Where do your skills to connect to a higher consciousness come from?
My faith and heart. I find what I do to be with a purposeful ease and comfort and I’ve questioned myself many whys. Why do I interact with the tarot so effortlessly? Why can I connect with a higher consciousness effortlessly? Where does it come from? Why me? It’s the first area in my life where I felt no doubt whatsoever. I am always willing to be an open vessel for the divine to work through me and deliver its will through me. And that’s pretty much the formula to connecting with a higher source… you have to believe that it exists and practice your beliefs with conviction & expectation.
Tell us about your first deck of cards?
Well, I’ve used my playing card deck for years on friends and that is just as efficient as your “traditional” deck. I ended up being gifted a deck from one of my friends in high school, a beginner set that my friend’s mother found in a stoop sale and gave to her. She didn’t know how to use them and at that time I was on my palm reading game, and she gifted them to me in our business class. I still have them wrapped in a box at home.
What is your favorite card from the deck?
I strongly associate with The High Priestess as she is the combination of our intuition, wisdom and mystical abilities within us, revealing subconscious information and providing enlightenment without logical means. She is our “Higher Self,” teaching us to embrace our feminine and receptive side… she’s all about allowing the universe to provide wonders to you and when you see this card, it is usually an indication that we are growing these characteristics in ourselves or there will be a heightened sense of magic around us. Synchronicities, coincidences and other inexplicable outcomes will occur to grab our attention toward something greater than us and I live for moments like this, so when I see her pop up, I’m overwhelmed with anticipation of what’s to come.
What has been your most revealing card reading to date?
I’m grateful to have many readings that hit the spot for my clients but I’m generally in an altered state of consciousness while I give readings and/or I read people so frequently that I seldom remember the details of their reading…which is why I urge people to write their sessions down or record for future reference. For the most part, people do come back to me saying that I did “foresee” some events that happened in detail, which I always find surreal. All of my readings are confidential, between my clients and I, but I remember one reading that happened last summer with an individual who had a substance abuse problem. This was an “on-the-spot” reading where I had just met this person and they needed some answers. After a 30 minute session, I was able to provide some clarity and insight into this person’s life, thankfully. But then the unexpected happened and I started channeling her dead grandmother who was waiting to give her some messages about spirituality and her current lifestyle. It was so accurate that this person was moved to tears explaining to me that my description and her words were spot on, as if her grandmother were right there in the room. I had never experienced a reading like that where I received such exact messages and images from beyond so effortlessly and with a strong purpose as if that lady wanted to drive a message to her grandchild while she still could. I try not to discredit any experience, especially with spiritual matters. I think a big part of that is being open and accepting of the emotions I’ll have to encounter in any moment: fear, doubt, wonder, discomfort, love, hope, etc. and not fighting it. Many people equate spirit with something that is separate from us; I don’t perceive any division which gives me comfort and a sense of grounded control. Whatever occurs in the external is a result of my internal process and the willingness to dive and explore to learn more of what I am and how I contribute and create the world around me, feeds me. I’m ecstatic to have been receptive to the energy and message of her deceased grandmother but that’s an ability I’ll develop at time when I’m more understanding of that process.
How did you feel when you first realized that you had clients?
Haha, it’s dope how I have a good amount of clients now a bit surreal that I get to do what I love and people actively seek me for guidance. I’ve always had a side system going on since childhood. I would exchange my card readings or palm readings at lunch during elementary school for a pudding pack, a slice of cake or an apple; anything really for a fair trade. But I didn’t really start to get serious about my ability until close to two years ago. When that started happening I felt a strong moral responsibility to provide all the messages I possibly could and to ensure that my client would be leaving our session feeling lighter, clearer, enlightened and more purposefully empowered in their life. What I do is something that everyone can do for themselves; instead of creating an attachment to what the tarot offers, it’s important to remind individuals of the immense power they wield naturally and how they choose to consciously or subconsciously use it.
What are the most common questions that people ask you?
That’s the thing. Most people don’t know how to ask questions, they expect me to read minds. The tarot is a tool that shows your soul and all its components: the good, the bad, all the cycles, patterns & unconscious habits in between. It is not a mind reading game or a fortune-telling game but an ancient divination practice that can assist you in gaining a higher consciousness, thus divining what lies best in your favor according to your current thought, feelings, emotional and action-oriented imprints in your life. Many people are fearful to know themselves or to admit that they might want to discover something that may not be what they thought. A question asked in the right way can give you much wisdom and with the tarot the possibilities are endless. If I get someone who doesn’t know what to ask, I usually tell them that I will pull out some cards to see what spirit wants to advise them. For individuals that do know, I sometimes assist them in formulating a question that can give them more information as to what they are really trying to get at, instead of asking a passive-aggressive question with no clear direction. A lot of topics that come up are mostly are regarding love: Will they find it? When will they find it? What should they do with it? Why can’t they find it? If they don’t like it so when is the next one coming? Which lover should they choose? etc. Destiny is another big topic. Things like whether or not they are on the right path and should continue what they’re doing? Of course, money and family gets brought up often as well.
Do you carry anything with you when you head to a reading?
A clear mind, open heart, my tarot cards, a prayer and some oddities like whatever crystals I’m vibing on for that session and my jewelry that keeps me grounded. Sometimes I’ll bring a Palo Santo stick or sage to clear out the energy but that’s if we’re in a space that allows me to burn the herb.
How do you feel about knowing bad news first?
Everything that reveals itself can be changed with free will and awareness. If I see something, I say something and I’m not going to project “good or bad” judgment on what I see because that incident or circumstance could potentially be the best thing that will ever happen to that individual. I don’t know. It is my responsibility to be an honest deliverer and a tactful one at that. I have the privilege of peering into the souls of individuals, being more intimate with them than they are with perhaps their own family and friends and handling their hopes, dreams, fears and emotions face to face. There is an immense amount of sensitivity, compassion and care that I have to impart in my work but I never hide anything from my clients. There is nothing to hide or fear, just information to learn from.
Do you think that spirituality is getting gentrified like other things around us?
Interesting point. It’s important to note that most of what people consider “new age” information, ritual practice, “alternative” medicine and healing, was never the other option, all of this was very inherent in our lifestyles. It has been a part of our genealogy, culture and bloodline from ancestral days. Our origins stem from Africa so all of these different modalities of connecting to spirit, ritual practices, cultural mythologies and stories pertain to the whole of us- whether you accept it or not. Ritual and magic is very prevalent in most Black, African and Latin/Hispanic households: from homemade remedies with curing herbs and plants known as “remedios,” praise songs, observation of saints’ birthdays, lighting a candle for our deceased family members, to superstitions, biblical prayers, psalm recitation for empowerment and healing, there are endless examples of our connection and faith to the unknown.
There is this fad now that is basically spiritual gentrification, we see dope accessories and apparel with these geometric designs and symbols pertaining to the messages of our ancestors and civilizations before us, yet some don’t seek to understand the historical depth and intention of that sign. It is an intriguing market to some that see only profit out of it. I personally don’t see anything wrong with finding financial opportunities, within reason, but with that desire comes the responsibility to educate, empower and inspire your target. Spirituality is an independent journey; the concept relies on you discovering your own self-autonomy, owning your power and aligning with it as a higher source. When one deviates from its main message it becomes a factor to control the masses, to divide us from our power and to blind us from our potential. If you want to promote spirituality, great! But don’t participate in cultural appropriation; give credit where credit’s due. To believe that you are the originator of any idea/concept is pretty ridiculous. Find a means to be of service, create a new vision that promotes harmony, inner peace and is progressive and helpful for all lives. We forget that we are born with immense power to create worlds, our hopes and our dreams- there is a force out there that oppresses this reality so doing all you can to remind people of their power, can make all the difference.
Ritual is a way of communicating with the sacred and the unknown, and acknowledging that much of manifesting anything is a partnership with the divine. It is co-creation with an unknown force, acknowledging that you are accountable and responsible for your choices in life and that you have elements that can help you along the way if you allow them to. It allows you to orchestrate your own stories and reality with the assistance of energy, nature and spirit. Something I notice often is the separation of practices: Paganism, Native American Spirituality, HooDoo, Santeria, Candomble, Vodou, Witchcraft, Palo Mayombe, Energy Work, etc; they all contain their own particular shapes, rhythms and modes of operating but essentially it is all the same, it all leads back to source. I don’t see many ethnic women, or ethnic individuals for that matter, featured in this recent revival and developing “spiritual magic" movement and much of that is probably due to our subversive status in society, the taboo of our art form and the skewed misconceptions that people hold, even within our own families & ethnicities, regarding spiritual practice and belief systems.
It is a beautiful thing to see people rejoicing over different beliefs and ways of perceiving the divine; it allows us to connect over the human condition, our struggles, our quest for belonging and establishing some purpose and understanding over our lives and identities. We have businesses that are pro-anything metaphysical or ethnically orientated, but it lacking in credibility and soul. What I am working towards with my business, My Urban Illumination is the unification and awareness of our past practices. In time I plan to provide a space of all magical denominations to conjugate that is tolerant, informative and supportive of progression and of those who seek enlightenment, self-growth by honoring their roots and planting a new vision for themselves and others. To use these tools as a therapeutic practice and educate you on how you can heal and help yourself.
Until then, I don’t feel that spiritual beliefs and practices that deviate for today’s norm are to be hidden or ashamed of; it’s time to be heard, to share your personal experiences and wisdom with others and to be open to new possibilities in perceiving yourself, the world around you and the divine.
If you're searching for someone to read your cards, Tatianna is your girl. To know more about Tatianna Morales and her healing practices follow her blog. Her website, MyUrbanIllumination.com will be launching in a little over 2 weeks.
Stay tuned for a FearlessLeon x My Urban Illumination collaboration ∇