Rashunda Tramble is a long-time, dear friend I've never met in person. She’s an American writer and tarot reader living in Zurich and the creator of Stay Woke Tarot. She’s also my personal tarot reader. With over 20 years in tarot practice, she helps me through quandaries, showing me the cards I’ve pored over for almost two decades through a different lens.
Below, we talk about how we feel about the recent mainstream interest in the occult, spiritual practices, and what on earth a tarot reader actually does.
Sarah Faith Gottesdiener: You've been a reader and an occult practitioner for decades. What have these practices offered you?
Rashunda Tramble: They’ve offered me the tools to slowly unravel the threads of societal conditioning from my being. It’s like some type of malevolent strain of spiritual kudzu had wrapped itself around my DNA and I had no way of knowing because it had been there since birth. Using tarot, astrology, and other divinatory tools, I’ve been able to find the why behind a lot of my thinking patterns and decisions and use those whys to untangle the spiritual kudzu.
Do you have any go-to rituals or current spiritual practices that are sustaining you now?
I’m continuing the rituals and practices I set in place decades ago. I spend a few moments each morning in front of my altar. I’ll light a candle and some incense, say a prayer to the Black Madonna - I have a statue of her on my altar - then pull my card of the day. I also incorporate rituals into daily tasks such as applying makeup. For example, when I apply lipstick, I’ll say something like, “Holy Mother (again, invoking the Black Madonna) help me open my mouth when I should say something, and keep it shut when I don’t”. I’m pretty practical with my prayers.
I'd love to hear about the moment, or time period, where you could no longer ignore that tarot was going to be a big part of your life.
Ha! I have to thank my husband for getting me to that point, and it happened very recently. Before then, when people would ask me what I do, I would just say “freelance writer”. My husband and I had a meeting with some people a few weeks ago where the question came up again. I hemmed and hawed, then my husband said, “She’s a professional tarot reader. That’s her job.” And he said it with pride. When we left, I said, “I can’t believe you blurted it out like that.” He laughed and said, “Honey, everyone knows. And if they don’t, they’ll find out sooner or later”. I think that’s when the coin dropped that I couldn’t ignore tarot—and to be honest, I didn’t want to anymore. I’m over half-a-century old. If I’m still concerned about what people think of me and what I do, then I’ve got a problem.
I love what I do, and I feel lucky to be able to do it for so many people.
Most people have all kinds of (relatively inaccurate) ideas of what tarot readers do. What would you say we do? Is there anything that is in line with the stereotypes?
I can only say what I do because there are so many types of tarot readers now. I help the people I read for find the answers to their why, or at least point them in the right direction. I help them by using tarot images, archetypes, and even their own stories to discover what they already know but didn’t know they knew. If that makes sense.:-)
Nine times out of ten, once we get to the last card in the reading, the person isn't merely interested in what's happening in the future. They want to create and direct their own future. They want to make it happen. I help them get to that point.
In terms of the stereotypes, I’ve yet to meet a reader who fits the Hollywood movie stereotype (including you). I’m sure there are some out there, though. Maybe it’s because I’m such an introvert, and I just haven't run into them. Maybe it’s because I’m such an introvert and I have a hard time meeting and talking to people in real life. For example, I don’t do well at tarot conventions at all because I’m shit-scared of talking one-on-one to anyone! I do it, but I’m extremely self-conscious. I suck at carrying on conversations during meet-and-greet times. I stand there looking like a damned idiot trying to hold a glass of Sprite in one hand, cake in another, and two decks of cards under my arms.
I don’t think I answered your question :-)
You've been a practitioner for decades, long before this current resurgence of all things spiritual. Personally, I find it at once heartening: how wonderful that more folks are embracing unorthodox, anarchist-styled spirituality and beliefs, coming back to their ancestral lineage to practice magic, and prioritizing their intuition. How exciting to see archetypes and practices evolve and become more accessible!
At the same time, I am often filled with dismay over the lack of old-school, wise, and experienced practitioners highlighted in the media, and the flattening that capitalism brings anything that has entered the arena of consumerism. What is your take on all this? Are you also both excited and a little underwhelmed? Why?
Like you, I’m really excited to see more people stepping into their spiritual power and embracing these systems. It’s great. And yep, just like you, it’s so damned disheartening to see people who supposedly honour the “old ways” have such a lack of respect for older people. It’s completely illogical. And the effect of capitalism is just sick.
But you know something? I’m shifting my focus. I used to be angry about this subject. I used to scream and holler about older practitioners having a “seat at the table” when it comes to representation. Now, I think, “Do I need to be at that table? That table doesn’t even belong to me. Why should I beg to be given a chance to offer my time, talent, experience, and skin colour to people who don’t even want me there? Perhaps I need to find my own land, plant my own trees, and use the wood to build my own damned table so I can do what I want.”
I’m so damned tired of asking, pleading, and begging people to do the right thing.
You are a card-carrying member of Mensa, whip smart, and have had a long and vibrant career in esteemed and well-known places that have nothing to do with magic or intuition on paper. I'm wondering if you could share any similarities between your "muggle" life and your magical life? Any tensions you've had? As a sceptic, I'm always curious about how other practitioners reconcile their wariness with their beliefs.
I wouldn’t call myself whip smart. I’m just a good test taker. In terms of similarities between marketing and communications and being a professional tarot reader; both use some type of media to transfer a message. Marketing and communications use television, billboards, social media, etc. Tarot readers use tarot cards. The goal for both is to get you to do something. In marketing, it’s mostly to get you to buy something. For tarot, at least for me, the goal is to get you to think.
This leads to the tension question you asked. The longer I stayed in marketing and communications, the more I thought to myself, “Do I really want to be part of this for the rest of my life?” I think what really did it for me was the performative black square marketing campaign that a lot of companies did after George Floyd was murdered. There were companies in which I had first-hand knowledge of their racist, misogynistic practices that had the audacity to post the square and announce that they “stood against racism” yet not change a damned thing about how they treated black people in their ranks. And yes, for a lot of companies, the black square was a marketing campaign where they even tracked metrics, clicks, sentiment, etc.
That was it for me.
So, no. I never reconciled. I tried but couldn’t do it anymore. I had to follow my heart, my values, and my intuition—which is why I now feel comfortable saying I’m a professional tarot reader.
Find Rashunda Tramble here: https://www.staywoketarot.com
Sarah Faith Gottesdiener is an artist, designer, writer,
teacher, and Tarot Reader. Her artwork and designs are based in the
spiritual, feminist, and mystical. Her book from St. Martin’s Press, The Moon Book, was published this year.
Find Sarah here: modernwomenprojects.com